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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hong Kong - The Great Chinese Melting Pot

The vibrant and bustling seaport of Hong Kong has enjoyed a prominent part in the grand opera of Asia. Roderick Eime travelled to Hong Kong for a whirlwind tour of the sights, sounds and smells of the former British colony and discovered a bright and brassy city with a long and colourful history

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kiriwina Encounter


We heard the pounding of the drums over the buzz of the outboard motor as the tiny Zodiac deposited us on the beach at Kiriwina Island. Clearly something was afoot.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Decapitator



The Moche civilisation were an advanced agricultural and deeply superstitious people living on the northern coast of Peru, some 500 kilometres north of the capital, Lima. Only in the last decade are scientists discovering and analysing the recent haul of artefacts unearthed from unlooted tombs found near the city of Trujillo.

Previous finds had been heavily vandalised and plundered since the demise of the Moche empire around 800 AD. It was known from their enormous mud brick pyramids, that the Moche were advanced in ceramics and metallurgy, producing many beautifully ornate items that discoverers have labelled "museum quality". The motifs found have raised more questions than answers surrounding the Moche's obviously complex beliefs and rituals.

One of the most puzzling icons of the Moche is a recurring symbol featuring an intensely grotesque face represented in mosaics, friezes and ceramics. This fearsome character has become known as the "decapitator" after very recent excavations of the Huaca Cao Viejo at the site known as El Brujo (the Wizard). As the workers carefully dusted the intricate friezes, nightmarish images of brutal sacrifice and carnage emerged.

Featured in glorious colour interpretations by National Geographic magazine, author Peter Gwin let his imagination loose when describing how he imagined the scene in the plaza of "The Temple of Doom";

For prisoners of the Moche, Huaca Cao Viejo's elaborate art was likely among the last sights they saw. Naked, bleeding, and bound with nooses, they were led into the ceremonial plaza. Perhaps they heard the Pacific surf rolling onto the beach in the distance; perhaps all they heard was the pounding of their own hearts. Once inside they witnessed one of history's most gruesome sacrificial rites. A Moche priest adorned in gold slit their throats one by one. Those in line who didn't turn away or faint saw a priestess catch the blood in a golden goblet for the priest to drink. Scholars know about these ceremonies by studying Moche artwork, like the frieze of naked prisoners discovered on Huaca Cao Viejo's plaza wall. Bones of sacrifice victims—incorporated into the frieze and buried under the plaza floor—show evidence of extreme torture before the grisly executions.


Photo Left: Captives in the Spotlight
Photograph by Ira Block - National Geographic Magazine

Frozen in clay—and inspiring dread—life-size depictions of naked men bound with ropes around their necks trudge across a wall of Huaca Cao Viejo's ceremonial plaza. Scholars have found similar portrayals on Moche ceramics, but don't know whether the captives were sacrificial victims chosen from among locals or prisoners taken during battle. Human bones showing signs of torture have been found incorporated into this frieze, a hint at the horrors that occurred here. More From National Geographic



Themes of amputation and decapitation feature largely throughout Mochan imagery and sculpture. Scholars continue to debate the significance of these representations. Were they ritual punishment, crude surgery or some other mysterious sacrificial rite? A great many bones have been unearthed with mutilated and truncated limbs, lending support to the theory that this brutal practice was widespread within the culture.

Without a written language, the only clues to the mystery of this long-vanished culture come from their vivid and disturbing art which can be seen (if you dare!) at many of the accessible sites in this archeologically rich region.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Kids from Snowy River

Article from: ninemsn

The Kids from Snowy River: "There are many ways to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. One of the most rewarding is from the back of a horse.

Aussie and world folklore is rich with horse stories. The 40,000 Horsemen, The Man from Snowy River and Gallipoli feature hordes of brave horses and riders in heroic action. Then there's National Velvet, The Black Stallion and even The Saddle Club to pull at our heartstrings."

Water Safety

Article from: ninemsn
Water Safety: "The water quickly rushed up past my head, muffling my pathetic screams. My skinny arms flailed uselessly as I tried to get a grip on anything at all. I managed one or two more panicked, gurgling yelps, but I was going under."

Mummy, I feel sick

Article from: ninemsn
Mummy, I feel sick: "The bane of any travelling parent has to be travel sickness. Some adults seem to be acutely susceptible to travel and motion sickness but it is especially so with children, mainly because they are unable to recognise the symptoms and do not know how to respond."

Calling Super Nanny

Calling Super Nanny: "Every parent has to deal with children's 'tanties'. Yelling, screaming and the occasional foul language are bad enough at home, but a nightmare scenario when travelling. Unruly children will spoil your own holiday and if you're travelling with a group, can have adverse effects on your companions."

Biggles flies again

Article from: ninemsn
Biggles flies again: "Nothing beats the sound of a huge radial engine as it bursts into life. The raw noise immediately creates an aura of excitement and anticipation."

All Aboard!

Article from: ninemsn
All Aboard!: "Every boy loves a steam train and it seems girls are pretty keen on the noisy coal-fired monsters too."

Back to nature with ecotourism

Back to nature with ecotourism: "Once upon a time, staying at a caravan park or campground was a hit-and-miss affair. Musty cabins, smelly shower blocks and grumpy caretakers are what many of us remember of caravanning in the '60s, '70s and even '80s."

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

Busy shopping malls, unfamiliar surroundings and crowded airports can be intimidating places. Losing kids in the middle of all that is downright nerve-wracking.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oceanic Princess

Oceanic Princess

Following on from their successful inaugural programme in 2005, Coral Princes Cruises’ brand new, 76-passenger expedition yacht, Oceanic Princess returns to The Kimberley, Across the Top of Australia, plus Papua New Guinea, Melanesia and New Zealand in 2006.

The growing list of destinations include; Alotau, Sepik, Madang and Rabaul in PNG, (Two 10 night itineraries) the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Noumea (One 13 night itinerary) and a semi-circumnavigation of New Zealand (Five 12 night itineraries). Glowing passenger reports cite excellent (fully inclusive) land excursions, dining and cultural experiences as well as the ease and expertise in which they are conducted.

Oceanic Princess is the first Australian-flagged vessel to cruise internationally in over 50 years.

Coral Princess Cruises continue to operate their original two vessels, Coral Princess and Coral Princess II, on the well-established Kimberley, Top End, Cape York and Great Barrier Reef itineraries.

Phone: 1800 079 545 (Toll Free within Australia)

Web: www.coralprincess.com.au

A Tangled Tale of Tangiers (précis) or “He Escaped with a Kaftan and His Life!”

by Roderick Eime (from an eight-week, school sponsored tour of Europe in 1977-78)

As naïve 16 year olds on a merry train jaunt, we knew little of the turmoil the rampaging Baader-Meinhof Gang and Red Army Factions were wreaking on Europe in late 1977 – that was until one of our little group was baled up and interrogated at length. Apparently his German name, long hair and Australian passport were a suspicious mix. We heard later that one of the fleeing Bader Meinhof terrorists had been arrested with a fake or stolen Australian passport.

With a rattled Paul returned to us we continued our Eurail journey through France and Spain, spurning hotels and hygiene until we reached the southern Spanish port of Algeciras where we were to make our brave foray to Tangiers the following day.

We expected some shenanigans, but couldn’t foresee having to walk in a tight circle around Marilyn to thwart the many lustful lunges at her from gangs of wharf urchins.

Normally outspoken and sassy, Marilyn was reduced to a quivering wreck by her tormentors, one of whom relished the great discomfort he caused staring her out with his grotesquely vacant eye socket. “Chicky! chicky!” they taunted, grabbing for her golden curls or tight jeans. Marilyn recoiled in utter horror, wincing, twitching, screaming, and unwittingly fuelling their violations.

We’d also evaded, we thought, an obvious charlatan who clearly prayed on vulnerable types like us arriving goggle-eyed off the ferry. Draped in a full-length kaftan, Mohammed Schmarmi tried his darnedest to hook us up with one of his little tykes who, we were sure, was determined to shangai us and hold us captive until we paid his uncle triple price for some crappy trinket we didn’t want.

Extricated from the mayhem of the port we found the relative calm of the “old city” and immediately got totally lost in the narrow, labyrinthine alleyways. Seeing our distress, a benevolent local walked us back to the port and into the hands of the “traders”.

Clutching our booty of camel wool kaftans and sundry loot, we scampered smugly back to the port (late) to find the ticket booths closed. Mhd Smarmy was waiting, rubbing his grubby hands together, knowing that the only way we could get back to Spain was to pay “his price” for a ticket. Faced with the unsavoury prospect of spending the night in Tangiers, we unloaded all our remaining cash for what was effectively a ransom payment. As we trudged to the waiting ferry we caught sight of him once more , high-fiving his ticket cronies and celebrating one more “victory” over the infidel invaders.

Welwitschia – The Desert Dwelling Fossil




By Dennis Collaton - World Adventurer

"It is out of the question the most wonderful plant ever brought to this country, and one of the ugliest."

Such was the response of the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1863 when presented with a Welwitschia mirabilis.

With such a reputation, you can imagine my wonder and awe when, spread-eagled across the sand of the harsh Namib desert – there it was.

“Stop the bus!” I yelled, and as the door of our air-conditioned carriage swung open, we were immediately blasted with dry desert heat of this famous natural wasteland. Yet despite this arid desolation, the Welwitschia flourishes, even though it may not look that way!

This primitive member of the cone-bearing gymnosperms is a remarkable denizen of the coastal desert regions of Namibia and Angola. So devoid of rain is this place, that our living fossil must rely on the scant morning fogs to provide the moisture in an otherwise forbidding moonscape.

Welwitschia mirabilis plants are unusual for their large, straplike leaves that grow continuously along the ground. During its entire life, each plant produces only two leaves, which often split into many segments as a result of the leaves being whipped by the wind. Carbon-14 datings of the largest plants have shown that some individuals are over 1500 years old!

Because plants of Welwitschia form a large and deep taproot, they present challenges to those who would grow them indoors under glass. The most common method of cultivation is to pot the plant into a long upright section of ceramic drainage pipe.

To any casual observer the Namib Naukluft National Park is a largely flat 23,000 hectare sand pit, yet it is one of the largest reserves in Southern Africa. Eland, Oryx, springbok and cheetah make their home in the Namib, as well as the strange vascular plants described here. Entry is by special permit only. Despite occasional sightings by European explorers, so totally inhospitable and forlorn was this region, that the 15th Century Portuguese traders and explorers almost completely ignored it.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Germans annexed the region as part of an unseemly European colony snatch and stuck it out until they lost the lot after WW1. One hundred years ago, a lowly rail worker delighted the Kaiser when he stumbled on a few loose diamonds in the sand and unwittingly uncovered one of the richest diamond fields in the world.

Today, Namibia is a modern independent republic, with a delightfully anachronistic German hangover. This vast, sparse country is home to a dozen varied ethnic groups with such evocative and colourful names as the Kavango, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama and Basters.

Shiny New Newcastle

Shiny New Newcastle

by Roderick Eime - OUTthere Magazine

Smelly, smoky buses, noisy old cars and shabby, grimy storefronts is what I remember of Newcastle when I first visited the no-nonsense steel and coal city in the late 1970s. Definitely not the sort of place you’d ever consider for a holiday.

Today, I can barely recognise Hunter Street. A stylish, harbourside promenade graces the foreshore along with sparkling new apartments, Scratchley’s exclusive restaurant and the immaculate, brand new Crowne Plaza – all part of a multi-million dollar facelift for this once glum industrial city.

In line with similar waterfront rejuvenations like Port Adelaide, Wollongong and even Cardiff in Wales, these once simply utilitarian ports had all the appeal of a post-industrial scrapyard. Newcastle is in the midst of beautification scheme that is more than skin deep.

Newcastle Council’s Economic and Tourism Development team are working overtime to present their city as an attractive hub, not just for a quick weekend away, but also as a vibrant business hub for new investment.

Whilst retaining the crucial functionality of Australia’s oldest commercial port, Newcastle is reinventing its marine and nautical lifestyles in way more conducive to the needs and expectations of the modern world. Beautifully renovated Victorian and Edwardian buildings retain the charm of downtown, while smart hotel developments exploit the fantastic beachfront environment.

Australia’s second oldest city has plenty around town for the history and art buffs – and it’s all within easy walk from the centre of town.

• Cooks Hill: the local art precinct, stroll amongst the many funky galleries, cafes and boutiques.
• The Junction: at least window-shop this upmarket retail precinct, the haunt of Newcastle’s increasing population of the well-to-do.
• Hamilton: Newcastle’s cosmopolitan hub was largely rebuilt after the 1989 earthquake. Loaf along colourful Beaumont Street and soak up the Mediterranean lifestyle.

For those looking for something a little more immersive, a range of very accessible activities include:

• Scenic helicopter joyflights: Spot whales and dolphins off shore, or take a longer trip to the Hunter Valley or Port Stephens
• Learn to Surf: Hook up with a former world circuit pro, Daniel Frodsham, and learn to hang ten.
• Go kayaking: Jump in a sea kayak and explore the harbour up close.
• Youloe-ta: Explore a 5 hectare bush tucker garden with local Aboriginals. Book ahead for ceremonial dancing and other activities.
• Fort Scratchly: the only Australian coastal fort to fire its guns in anger. This historic Crimean War-era fort is now an enthralling museum.

Just out of the town is the world famous Hunter Valley with all it has to offer, and to the north, the vast and highly significant 2500 year old Stockton sand dunes of Port Stephens.

Based in an oasis in the middle of this vast sea of rolling dunes is “Sand Safaris”, an adventure tour operator with a distinct difference. After a short, but intense safety and riding instruction, we spent two hours aboard 350cc ‘Quad Bikes’ exploring the seemingly endless expanse of sand that continues to grow and consume the coastal forests at Stockton Beach.

Far from a free-for-all “hoonfest”, Sand Safaris encourages you to enjoy your ride and have fun without resorting to wild, hair-raising exploits – not that you need be tempted. The near vertical drop into the massive sand bowl was enough to keep the adrenaline junkies quiet for a moment or two!

In a convoy of up to twelve machines on the “Coastal Desert Discovery Tour”, you’ll see the fascinating WWII defence relics, the largest shipwreck on the shores of Australia (Sygna) as well as the sheer beauty of these huge sand formations.

For More Info:

Newcastle Tourism
www.visitnewcastle.com.au
Ph: 02 4974 2999

Crowne Plaza Newcastle
www.newcastle.crowneplaza.com
Ph: 02 4907 5000

Sand Safaris Active Adventure Tours
www.sandsafaris.com.au
Ph: 02 4965 0215

The Blue Tarp Resort

Roderick Eime (Get Up 'n' Go Magazine) suggests you consider the portable canvas option for your next road trip.

After Mum and Dad told me their camping stories from the ‘50s, pitching a tent somewhere in the great Aussie outback was about the last thing I ever wanted to. But on a 4WD trip to Cape York recently, I rediscovered the primal joys of sleeping under canvas miles from the nearest streetlight or flush toilet.

As you flick through the pages of your favourite travel magazine (yes, this one!) gazing longingly at the golden, palm lined beaches and the lush forest destinations, you might be thinking these exotic locations are the exclusive realm of the rich and famous. Maybe, not! Camping has long been a favourite Australian pastime and an accepted means of visiting places a long way from home without running up exorbitant hotel and resort bills.

I’ll confess that on our tour to the “tip”, we mixed and matched our digs. From the glamour of swish Bloomfield Lodge, to a humpy on the beach at Munbah we truly experienced the extremes of accommodation options. Yet, it was the camping experience that defined our journey.

Sure, camping isn’t for everyone, but you might find it makes an enriching and cost effective alternative for that dreamed-of road trip across the country. By alternating tent, cabin, motel and resort, you can spoil yourself occasionally while keeping a lid on expenses.

My mum, now well into her seventies, rediscovered the joys of camping when she and a friend spent two years exploring the far corners of the continent in a station wagon packed with camping gear.

“Well, darling,” Mum recalls, “we really enjoyed ourselves. It was a relaxing, fun holiday. But we didn’t go without our comforts.”

In those two years, Mum covered the length and breadth of the country, ticking off favourite locations like Charters Towers, Alice Springs, Hughenden, Arkaroola and Kings Canyon.

“We only pitched the tents when we intended to stay more than a couple of nights. It’s a bit of a pest putting them up and down every day, so we’d get a cabin if we were just passing through.”

“Come on Mum,” I implored, “there must have been something you didn’t like.”

“Not really love. We were pretty well prepared and we chose our locations and weather very carefully.”

Knowing your destination and its climate is a key to enjoyable camping. Do your homework and visit locations during their most agreeable weather. For example, the Outback is gorgeous mid-year when the weather is mild and rainfall at its lowest.

Mum rattled off her list of camping must-haves and I compared it with mine.

Tent (one per person); fully-floored with insect netting. Blow-up mattresses. Doona, sheets and pillow (I took a sleeping bag and camp stretcher). Long extension cord, power board with appliances; Jug, toaster, electric skillet, hot plate (or gas primus), portable telly, fan heater. Other useful inclusions; Cut down occasional table for inside tent, hair dryer, reading lamp and/or torch.

Exterior accessories were kept to a minimum, but included folding chairs and table, kitchenware and washing up kit.

Take your pick with food. Alternate eating out at pubs and cafés with cooking yourself. Fresh meat, fish and vegetables where available and tins of soup and stew for the remote spots.

“What about, you know, ones and twos?” I delicately enquired.

“Well we had that sorted too. Let’s just say we had the modern equivalent of a chamber pot when I didn’t feel like going outside.”

Around the country there are serviced campgrounds (showers, electricity, pool, cabins etc) and caravan parks or, for the more adventurous, unserviced grounds deep within National Parks and Reserves with perhaps a “long drop” and a rainwater tank.

Some parks create an instant community, complete with social nights, sausage sizzles and happy hours while others are simply quiet retreats. Or choose somewhere on your own and enjoy the solace and seclusion of a night under the stars with just the sound of a breeze in the trees and birds as your alarm clock.

“After my experiences in the ‘50s, I never thought I’d camp again, but the gear is just so much better now and the caravan parks and campgrounds are almost like resorts now with restaurants, games rooms and activities,” says Mum, “Boy, we did it rough back then!”

A road trip doesn’t mean a remake of “The Long Long Trailer”, instead travel light and lean and consider the camping option to extend your trip and keep costs down.

The Emperors of Snow Hill Discovered

Report by Roderick Eime - World Adventurer

The world’s largest penguin, the Emperor, lives exclusively in the deepest regions of Antarctica, right? Wrong!

In November 2004, the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, encountered substantial numbers of Emperor Penguins in the water around the ship at 64 degrees south. Take a look at your atlas. The Antarctic Circle is 66 degrees! What were they? A new tropical breed of Emperor Penguin?

Frank ToddFrank Todd, ornithologist, author and naturalist guide aboard the Khlebikov, had heard stories of “lost” Emperors way up toward the tip of the Peninsula, on the Weddell Sea (eastern) side. In December 1893, Norwegian Captain Carl Larsen reported “numerous” Emperors in a colony on the fast ice (as in 'stuck fast') at around 67 degrees. In the last decade, the disintegrating ice shelf probably caused this colony to scatter and some, it would appear, headed north in search of more stable breeding grounds, or ice as in the case of Emperors.

Keen to confirm, or otherwise, the existence of a new colony so far north, Frank and other members of the scientific team boarded the Khlebnikov’s jet helicopters for a reconnaissance. Following their instincts and some earlier reports by Argentinean scientists, the colony was located on the ice a few hundred metres off the southern shore of Snow Hill Island.

The party landed, and after some initial data collection, brought back the awestruck passengers, split into small groups, to observe this incredible expedition bonus. They would have clambered like schoolchildren to see just one Emperor Penguin and not one of them could possibly have imagined finding a large (8,000 birds, Frank reckons) colony on this trip so far north. What’s more, they were without doubt, the first humans to visit this colony on foot.

“It was pleasing to see the colony in such good shape, “says Frank, “we counted 3885 downy chicks about a month old, almost all healthy and attended by a parent.”

Eager to preserve the integrity of the colony, passengers were landed behind a large iceberg to shield the birds from the noise and scary imagery of a Russian helicopter. Despite what was almost certainly these animals’ first encounter with humans, their innate curiosity took over and soon Emperors were standing to attention and marching over for a closer look at the new visitors, occasionally trumpeting their royal presence.

With this new colony now properly documented, number 44 of 45 known, Snow Hill Island will become a regular fixture on the Kapitan Khlebnikov’s expedition calendar. Previously, Penguin fans had to travel as far as 72 degrees on the other side of the continent for a look at a decent flock of Emperors. What once took over 20 days, can now be achieved in less than a fortnight, with plenty of time for exploring.

The Weddell Sea in November is still shaking off the last of its wintry hangover, and dense ice around the islands is common. This limits access to only the toughest of ice vessels, the icebreaker, and Khlebnikov is currently the only one operating passenger journeys to Antarctica at that time.

Emperor Penguin Fast Facts

  • The Emperor Penguin is the only bird that never sets foot on land, preferring to breed on the ice and swim in the sea.
  • The majority of all known Emperor Penguins, approximately 200,000 pairs, live their entire lives below the Antarctic Circle.
  • After mating, the male Emperor incubates the egg alone during winter while the female returns to the sea to feed. He loses around half of his 40kg weight in the process.
  • They eat mainly small fish and crustaceans and can dive to 300 metres.
  • Although Emperor Penguins are not classified as endangered, their numbers are decreasing. Scientists do not know why.

The Great Hong Kong Camera Scam

On a recent trip to Hong Kong, a colleague related to me his perplexing experience after an attempt to purchase a camera.

“I’ve just had the most bizarre experience,” he said, clearly disturbed by the event.

My friend had attempted to purchase a particular Nikon DSLR camera from a prominent, Nathan Road camera store.

He’d done all his research and really had his heart set on this unit. He also had existing Nikon lenses he could use.

After some protracted haggling, as is the norm, he ended up with a price that was some $1000 less than the Sydney price he was quoted, plus he had a lens and sundry accessories thrown in.

Next, the assistant wanted his credit card details for an up-front payment prior to delivery of the goods. The camera, he explained, was not in stock and he needed a firm sale before he went to get it. Not entirely happy with this arrangement, my friend (wisely) insisted on sighting the goods before payment.

Hearing this exchange, a more senior assistant moved in to close the sale.

“Why do you want this camera?” he berated my friend. “It’s no good. Rubbish. You want this one,” and proceeded to extol the limitless virtue of the new Canon product.

Of course, this new Canon was a lot more money and came without the goodies he’d been promised with the Nikon.

“My staff has made a mistake,” he retorted bluntly, tearing up the order form for the Nikon. “.. and what sort of job you do?”

And here’s where things took a nasty turn.

“I’m a journalist,” my not-too-discrete friend replied, whereupon he was virtually man-handled out of the store.

The moral of the story: If the price seems too good, then it probably is. Beware!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cook's Dark Paradise

Cook’s Dark Paradise

By Roderick Eime - World Adventurer

When the world’s greatest navigator needed a break from the rigours of exploring, he headed to New Zealand’s lush South Island. But his idyllic sanctuary held a dark and terrifying secret that struck mortal fear into his men.


The land of the long white cloud was little more than a figment of the cartographers’ imagination when Lieutenant James Cook sailed into the eastern coastline on his way home from Tahiti in October 1769. Seizing the opportunity to further expand his realm of exploration, Cook spent the next seven months circumnavigating the two islands and created charts so accurate, it took the advent of satellite mapping to improve upon them.

In January, Cook had completed his charting of the western coast of the North Island and, whilst sailing due south, discovered what he mistook for a large harbour. In a rare moment of self-aggrandisement, Cook named the strait after himself, but the ferocious seas soon had him looking for shelter. He aimed Endeavour into a small inlet and was quickly overwhelmed by the stunning topography of the seemingly endless narrow waterways.

Eager to go ashore and doubtlessly urged on by botanists Banks and Solander, Cook pushed his tired ship into a cove for rest, resupply and repairs. While the scientists frolicked amongst the giant ferns, Cook set out to explore on foot and was soon climbing the nearest hill for a better look of his new found paradise. All around him was lush forest replete with giant trees ideal for a ship’s mast. Fresh water and edible greens were plentiful and fat fish virtually jumped on the hook. Taking stock of his wonderful surroundings, Cook named the area Queen Charlotte Sound after his king’s consort and the little bay where his ship was anchored, Endeavour Cove.

So impressed with his find, Cook would come back again and again to rest his People (crew), his ships and himself in this cove on his next two monumental voyages. His much envied record of keeping a healthy crew, free from scurvy is due in large part to his judicious use of layovers such as Queen Charlotte Sound.

But this otherwise perfect retreat had a sinister dark side. Cook was one of the few early world explorers to cultivate relatively healthy and mutually beneficial relations with the local people he encountered. Although directly descended from his friends in Otaheite (Tahiti), the Maori were five hundred years apart and much more fearsome and warlike. Typically, in their brazen displays of indifference, they would paddle out in a long canoe and pelt Endeavour with volleys of rocks and sharp stones. On one occasion, Cook weakened and retaliated, killing three warriors in the process. He never forgave himself for this lapse and wrote in his journal “I can by no means justify my conduct for attacking and killing the people.”

His men, however, were far less sentimental about the welfare of the ‘savages’, especially after the unsettling discovery of human remains in one of the Maori camps. To drive the point home, one of the inhabitants grabbed a fresh femur and proceeded to chomp voraciously on it for his guests’ entertainment. That event alone sowed seeds of horror and dismay amongst his crew. They literally trembled in their bunks at the thought of becoming a Maori main course.

During his landmark second voyage aboard Resolution (1772-1775), Cook became separated from his escorting ship, Adventure. Captain Furneaux of Adventure, although impressively credentialed, was no Cook. Stubborn and narrow-minded, he kept a poor ship and his crew suffered badly from scurvy despite Cook’s emphatic advice about diet.

During the homeward leg, Furneaux was beset by a storm and forced to return to Queen Charlotte Sound. Eager to leave, but short on supplies of scurvy grass, Furneaux sent a crew of nine to gather the life-saving antiscorbutic plant. The crew failed to return and a second boat, under Lt. Burney, was sent to find them the next day. The scene that Burney witnessed was one of total horror. Shoes, fragments of oars and baskets of roasted flesh lay strewn on the beach. A tattooed hand, complete with the owner’s initials was another grisly find and irrefutable evidence of the event.

An enraged Burney and his men spent the next few hours vainly chasing the scattered Maori, firing shots and destroying the few canoes they had left behind before finally retreating at dusk and returning to Adventure with the “melancholy news”.

The “Grass Cove Massacre” as it became known, was later investigated by Cook on his return in 1777. Despite the apprehension of a likely culprit, Chief Kahura, and something of a show trial, the matter was allowed to drop in favour of continued relations with the Maori and the implied belief that the English were not altogether blameless having “perhaps contributed to their own demise.”

Was Cook guilty of a political cover-up? Or did he seek to erase or excuse the event in order to preserve his own cherished memories of this Eden of the South?




Cook's Pacific Encounters

Address: National Museum of Australia, Acton, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 2601

Captain James Cook’s three 18th century voyages to the Pacific changed the world. Cook’s Pacific Encounters showcases an extraordinary selectionof Pacific Islands artefacts which were taken back to England from these voyages. An exhibition of rare, 18th century, functional and spiritual objects collected in the Pacific islands byCaptain James Cook on his second and third voyages. The 300 objects are rich in craftsmanship and spiritual power and were given as gifts or traded with Cook by indigenous people from locations including Tonga, Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Event Date:
Start Date: 2006-07-01
End Date: 2006-09-10
Frequency: ONCE ONLY
Contact Details:
Telephone Enquiries: +61 02 6208 5000
URL Enquiries: www.nma.gov.au
Opening Times: Daily 9am - 5pm

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mao and Then



Many pasts catching up with China.

Few countries have a history to match China, and few are changing as fast. Roderick Eime tramps Beijing from the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square and finds the past overlaid by an exciting, dynamic future.