Category Archives: Nature

Summer Storm

Suddenly, after days of idyllic summer weather, Mother Nature turned her back on us.  Today has been like a day in July (mid-winter here).  Blustery almost gale force winds, trees blown over, pots blown off the deck and smashed and motorists warned against driving.

So a good day to do nothing but stay inside with a good book.  I’ve now succumbed to reading books on my iPad.  For months (years?) I resisted but when the Architect was ill in hospital it seemed easier to carry my iPad rather than a book.  In any case, I had the iPad to communicate with friends so..

I have read quite a few books since I moved here.  I’ve always found it a  good way to escape.  And I do like thrillers I’ve discovered – I guess I always knew this anyway.

So today was such a day.  I rose this morning made tea and toast and went back to bed, where I stayed for the rest of the morning. I was part way through a book entitled “Dead Wood” written by  Dan Ames.  This author was unknown to me and I now find that this book is the first in a series of four all of which are available to read on a kindle or in my case an iPad. So that’s where I stayed for the morning reading until I finished the book.

The story is told by John Rockne a disgraced police officer now turned private investigator.  Yes, I know there are many stories about police officers who become PIs but bear with me.  The young policeman was only six weeks out of training when he makes a terrible mistake that leads to the death of a young man. The mistake is perfectly understandable but we are simply told that he was suspended and his badge and gun were never returned to him.

A maker of fabulous guitars is killed and Rockne is approached by the father of the victim to find who killed his daughter and our hero suddenly finds himself the target of a violent ex-convict.  The twists and turns of the case kept me glued to the iPad for hours.

I’ve now downloaded the next book in the series – Hard Rock.  So if this weather doesn’t improve I shall spend tomorrow reading it.  And who knows.  There are two more books in the series.  I may just not do anything but read fr the next few days.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,
you gotta put up with the rain.”
Dolly Parton

What a Wonderful World

Crying baby

Still feeling a bit under the weather and sorry for myself.

So instead of writing a blog post I thought I would share this advert from the BBC that was sent to me by a friend today.  Click here to listen and watch
David Attenborough at his best.  Enjoy!

And this is what makes my world wonderful

Three boys

Child labour?

James and me

James sharing his muddy hands with Granma!

Two boys working
James and Jae

I Spy

As with most of my friends of my age I find that I now need to wear my glasses from almost the time I get up in the morning until I go to sleep.  The one notable exception is my elder sister who , while needing glasses in her early years now no longer even needs her specs for reading.  How fair is that?

And now I notice that each of my children, and their spouses, need glasses for reading.

So with my glasses on am I seeing any more clearly?  Looking around my world I see that there is still strife and war; still hungry children; still abused children and still homeless people.

But today, we didn’t need our glasses on to see the pod of Orca whales spotted in Wellington harbour; they were swimming about 100 metres off shore this afternoon.

Orcas

Orca whales in Wellington Harbour

Earlier reports had them on the other side of the harbour.  A local man, with a friend visiting from Hawaii spotted the pod .  Apparently they followed the pod for about 90 minutes.  He also said dolphins were playing with the Orcas and they could be seen diving alongside the whales.

According to the Department of Conservation  Orcas come into the Wellington Harbour several times a year.  We are told the whales could have been following the coast line of the North Island and followed it into the harbour.  Or they could be taking shelter from turbulent conditions in open sea.

We are also told by DOC that while commonly called ”killer whales”, Orcas are actually large dolphins.

But we obviously didn’t have our glasses on when some shady deals were being made.  The Serious Fraud Office has revealed it is investigating another failed finance company over alleged related party deals.

SFO chief executive Adam Feeley this afternoon said a probe had begun into the affairs of NZF Group, including commercial and residential loan provider NZF Money that collapsed in July last year owing debenture holders $16.4 million.

How many more of these finance companies are going to be in the spotlight in the coming months.  And how many people have lost or will lose their retirement funds having invested in these companies.

And I shall need my spectacles to see the upcoming movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  We have seen the trailer for this movie every time we have been to the cinema recently and I am really looking forward to it.

The blurb tells us the story follows a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.

So what else do I see through these spectacles?

I visited the library today and picked up a couple of books by a writer new to me, Charles Finch.  My elder sister told me about him a weeks or so ago and then today I read this post from Marie at My Life, Such as It is.  I now have both this book September Society and the earlier one in the series A Beautiful Blue Death to read.

September Society book coverA Beautiful Blue Death book coverSo now I am off to bed with a cup of coffee to read about the antics and adventures of this “Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer”, Charles Lennox.  I hope the stories are as interesting as I am led to believe by Marie and my sister, Christine.

“The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside didn’t indicate or promise, and which the other kind couldn’t detect.” Mark Twain.

One Year On

Today in New Zealand, there is only one thing uppermost in everybody’s mind.  Christchurch and the big one.

Map of New Zealand

On February 22 2011 at 12.51 pm a devastating 6.3 earthquake shook Christchurch, killing 185 people and bringing chaos to NZ second largest city.

Today around the country and around the world, services and memorials are being held to mark this day and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives but also to those who made a difference – emergency workers, medical personnel, first responders, police etc.

Of course, all newspapers in New Zealand are carrying the quake as headline stories  Here’s what our Wellington papers the Dominion Post has to say:

“Today is a day for remembering. It is also a day for learning.

It is a day for remembering the students, office workers and passers-by who lost their lives when Christchurch was struck by New Zealand’s worst natural disaster since the 1931 Napier earthquake.

It is a day to remember the courage of medical professionals and ordinary citizens who risked their lives to help survivors trapped in precariously balanced rubble.

It is a day to acknowledge the forbearance of Christchurch’s inhabitants. It is a day to remember the search and rescue teams that came from Japan, Australia, the United States, Taiwan, Great Britain and Singapore to help search for survivors.

And it is a day to learn the lessons of February 22, 2011. New Zealand sits atop the boundary of two major tectonic plates  the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. Earthquakes are inevitable. The only uncertainty is when and where they will occur.

In Christchurch people died needlessly in some cases because buildings failed to cope with stresses they were supposed to be able to withstand, in others because unreinforced masonry buildings damaged by the September 4 quake that preceded February 22 were allowed to stand despite presenting an increased risk to the public and in yet others because of the narrow brief given to engineers.

Instead of being asked whether buildings were safe to occupy, they were asked whether buildings had been structurally weakened by the earlier quake.

For some, the difference between a few words proved the difference between life and death. Cost and the preservation of historic buildings were put above public safety.

The tension between cost and safety is not unique to Christchurch. Here in the capital, the Wellington City Council estimates there are about 435 “earthquake-prone” unreinforced masonry buildings.

Another 350 buildings, built between 1940 and 1979, are classified as “earthquake risk”. To bring both groups up to 67 per cent of the standard for new buildings would cost close to $2.5 billion.

Plainly, that is unaffordable. Building owners have to be able to recoup expenditure through rents. Older buildings, no matter how structurally sound, are not going to generate the same returns as modern, purpose-built premises.

However, doing nothing is not an option either. Hard decisions have to be made and they have to be made soon. There is no telling when an earthquake will strike Wellington.

Some older buildings should be strengthened to preserve the character of the city. Others must be demolished because of the hazard they present, not just to occupants, but to passers-by.

With judicious planning what springs up in their wake can be just as much an adornment to the city as what was knocked down.

The Christchurch quakes were unexpected. Before the first quake struck seismologists were unaware of the faultline that lay buried beneath the city. The same cannot be said of Wellington.

A big one is coming. When it arrives we must be ready.”

Christchurch Cathedral after 22.02.11

Christchurch Cathedral is probably the most recognisable iconic building in Christchurch and there is strong resolve to rebuild a Cathedral in the City’s centre if the land is found to be stable.

Pause and Reflect

New Year’s Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.
Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.  ~Mark Twain

New Year’s Eve in Wellington wasn’t so much a damp squid as a soaking wet one.  The usual celebratory fireworks display on the waterfront was cancelled because of the atrocious weather we have been having over the past few days.

But here in NZ we are not surprised that the summer lasted only a few days in fact three in total – 23, 24 and 25 December.  Then the rain set in.   And it has rained here in the capital ever since.

This year has seen many things happening to our small nation on the far side of the world.

Map of New Zealand

In February we had an earthquake in Christchurch of 6.3 magnitude on the Richter scale.  This earthquake killed 181 people and caused widespread damage to an area that was already devastated in the September 2010 earthquake.  This quake has been followed by regular quakes in the months since.

In May a tornado hit the Auckland region – a very brief burst but causing spectacular damage.

In June two more earthquakes hit the Christchurch region.  The result of these earthquakes is that many buildings have been deemed unsafe and many of the historic buildings that made up the city centre will have to be destroyed.

Residents of some parts of the city were just getting used to the idea that they may have to leave their homes, while some lucky (?) ones were told they could stay when a 5.8 magnitude quake hit them on December 23rd.

On December 14, the Nelson region (about 255 miles/159 kms from Christchurch) was hit with flash flooding causing a multi-million  dollar trail of damage and having people evacuated from their homes.  This was followed with more torrential rain causing more flooding on December 28.

Mother nature’s violent farewell to 2011 wasn’t restricted to the rain. Christchurch residents were battered by three large aftershocks, including a magnitude 4.8 quake 10km northeast of Lyttelton at 1.44pm on December 31.

Of course these happenings fade into insignificance compared to the damage and destruction Mother Nature has caused around the world.  Floods, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes.  So the prize for the most active member of the community in 2011 must go to Mother Nature.

And we must ask ourselves what are we doing to this earth of ours that has caused these things to happen in the past year.  May 2012 bring a more peaceful and settled year for everybody living on this crowded planet of ours.

Wild weather

Angry Mother Nature

The Pohutakawa Tree

Pohutakawa tree

Image via Wikipedia

“I think perhaps I’ll never see
A more magnificent  tree
Than our pohutakawa on display
With gorgeous blooms each Christmas Day.

Those dangling roots in search will cling
To cliff or rocks or anything
And nature put this gem so long ago
Where other trees just couldn’t grow.

Thus in pohutakawa’s ancient past
A gene had formed to make it last
And claim today triumphantly
That it’s New Zealand’s Christmas-tree.”

When noodling (my elder sister’s word) around thinking about what to write today’s post on, I came across this poem.  I don’t know the author but it was in a collection of New Zealand poems on http://homepages.xnet.co.nz/~hardy/poetryNewZealand.html.

The Pohutakawa is regarded as our New Zealand Christmas tree and the Maoris say that if they produce plentiful blossoms then we shall have a good summer.  This year, summer has been late in coming but has now arrived.

So happy Christmas to all.  And by the way, for those interested, I have a new cast on today that looks like Santa’s boot.  Loads of fun in the orthopedic department today – everybody was in holiday mood.  And the good news was that I was in and out, x-rayed, new cast and all in just over one hour!  Whoo hoo.

Santa boot

I have many more attractive shoes!

A Walk in the Bush

View of bush

Bush as it was before settlers came

It had been a beautiful morning and I had been at the computer for hours.  So I decided to take Madam for a walk in the bush.  What is ‘the bush’? In New Zealand, it is the native forest, which once covered most of the land. Dense and dark, it was alive with birds, insects and lizards, but sometimes impenetrable to humans.

Much of it was cleared by the settlers but here in Wellington we are fortunate to have the Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton’s Bush Reserve.  This is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to New Zealand native plants.

BushwalkThe reserve consists of 100 hectares of native forest, and five hectares of plant collections. Some of Wellington’s oldest trees are here, including an 800-year-old rimu.  The reserve is owned and managed by the Wellington City Council

Bushwalk 4

The area now known as Otari Wilton’s bush was originally covered in forest.  The name “Otari” is Māori for “Place of Snares”.  The bush/forest was cleared by the settlers for farming and timber.  Then in 1860 a far-sighted local farmer, Job Wilton, fenced off a 7 hectare block of land from cattle.  This was the beginning of the reserve.

Bushwalk

Paths have been created to allow one to walk freely in among the trees.

Bushwalk

This is a native NZ flax with strange bright flowers growing on it.  I couldn’t find the name tag for the plant alas.

By the time we arrived it had started to rain but the dense bush gave good shelter to us.  At first I was surprised that there was little birdsong but once the rain stopped the birds came out and we saw many of them flying around.  Native birds here include tui, kereru, fantail, silver eye, kingfisher, grey warbler and morepork.

We spent about an hour wandering the paths and taking photos with my trust i-phone – how I love that small phone.  Then it was time to go home, but Madam aka Lotte and I shall return again soon.

Home again

Another exciting day for one small dog, comes to an end and she finds somewhere to rest her tired little legs.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

More Scorpions

Scorpion

Via Wikipedia

Those danged scorpions are certainly buzzing around my brain today.  I am on a rant about the oil spill in the Tauranga Harbour.  I wrote about this a few days ago and this disaster is unfolding as we speak read.

The ship ran aground last Wednesday.  It was a clear, calm, sunny spring day in the beautiful harbour.  Astrolabe, the reef on which the boat foundered, is apparently well documented in all charts available for these waters.  We are told the auto pilot was on at the time of the grounding.  So, where was the crew?  Questions are being asked about this and also whether the master had been drinking and where he was at the time.

We hear that the master has been arrested overnight and charged under Section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act.  This covers “Dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products.”  According to the Dominion Post (our local newspaper) he has been charged with “operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk” under the Act.

Rena

Photo - Dominion Post showing containers sliding into the ocean.

And now today we hear that some seventy containers have slipped into the sea; some are floating and some are sinking.  These containers will certainly cause shipping hazards and no doubt the wreckage of these (and any other) containers will wash up onto the pristine beaches of Mount Manganui and Papamoa.  These two beaches are already covered with oil and the wild life is greatly affected by the spill.

Attempts to remove the oil from the ship have been hampered because of the bad weather.  And the weather forecast for the next few days isn’t good.  Swells of up to 5metres are expected, with rain and high winds.

The crew was taken off the ship yesterday because of safety concerns.

So this disaster is unfolding in front of us.  The Environment Minister, Nick Smith, has said that this was New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.  The ramifications of the master’s actions will resound around our country for many months and years.

The residents of Mount Maunganui where the oil has reached land, are taking matters into their own hands and cleaning up the beach, even though authorities have asked them not to.  They are not prepared to wait for the official cleanup.  A public health notice has been posted warning that the oil is toxic and should not come  in contact with the skin. From the video it is clear that people are not heeding this warning and are removing the oil globules with their unprotected hands.

Massey University’s wildlife centre in Palmerston North is being temporarily shut down as all of its staff are helping the animals affected by the Tauranga oil spill.   Speaking from the spill response centre in Mt Maunganui, wildlife centre director Dr Brett Gartrell said the centre would be closed from Friday, though two staff would stay until then to release animals there back to their homes.

Dr Gattrell said “Only common species had come in so far, but there were grave concerns for the endangered New Zealand dotterel. There were 60 pairs of the birds in the area, which made up a substantial part of their total population of 1700.  He added that “They’re the most endangered birds that are in this area.”

The wildlife centre was working with the Department of Conservation to establish if there was any need to pre-emptively capture the birds to avoid oiling.

I understand from my blogging friends that not much has been reported about this around the world.  Yesterday on BBC News there was a clip (from Sydney, Australia) about it.  But it is a major disaster and I shall continue to keep you updated on it as it unfolds.

A Disaster Unfolding

Tauranga

There is a major environmental disaster looming just 410 ms (about 260 miles) away from here.  In the lovely Bay of Plenty harbour of Tauranga, a ship has gone aground carrying 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

Read the report in the Dominion Post this morning.

I have told you before about the pristine beaches that abound around our country.  Tauranga has fabulous beaches and is a favourite place for all manner of water activities.  Families flock to its beaches in the summer months.

Dolphins

Dolphins and whales regularly visit this harbour and surrounds, many species of game fish are in the waters as well as the smaller fish that call these waters home.

“Tauranga marine life expert Graeme Butler said the fuel leak into the pristine waters was already a disaster.
This could not have happened at a worse time, coming into spring and the breeding season,” he said. “This is going to have a significant impact for many years to come.”
Mr Butler, who owns and operates a whale-watching and dolphin watching charter out of Tauranga, said the waters around the ship were teeming with rare and endangered wildlife.
“A blue whale and her calf were spotted in the area where the ship is only last week,” he said.”

We are coming up to Labour Day (24 October) and many will have planned to travel there for the long weekend.  No doubt those plans will be affected as will the livelihood and hopes, of the businesses in the region.

We are told by Government Ministers and spokespersons for a variety of organisations, that all is being done as quickly as possible, but are we seeing the beginnings of another Gulf of Mexico situation here?  Have we learned nothing in the intervening months about transporting vast amounts of oil through our waters?

Added to the oil problem we are told that the ship is carrying ‘hazardous cargo’ but what the nature of this is we are not told. We will have to wait and see what news of this is shared with us the people who are most affected.

Sunsets and Sunrises

Sunset

Ducks on the lake at sunset

“Sunsets are the prelude to another beautiful day.  And whatever happens the sun will rise tomorrow.”
Judith Baxter

We know that whatever has happened in our lives today the sun will set and then tomorrow the sun will rise again bringing a brand new day with its promise.  This is immutable a constant in our lives and cannot be changed.

We might want this day to last for longer than 24 hours because we are enjoying it so much or we might not want tomorrow to come because we dread what it might/will bring.  But we cannot stop time; we cannot stop one day moving into the next.  We can only hope that each new day will bring some joy into our lives.

As the song says :

“Sunrise sunset sunrise sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise sunset sunrise sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.”

And would we want it any other way?  In this ever changing world these two things, sunset and sunrise are immutable.  We can rely on these things happening even when everything else in our lives seem to be off-key or out of balance.

I love the quote from Max Lucado, author, preacher  1955 –

“Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leaves you speechless, remain that way. Say nothing, and listen as heaven whispers, “Do you like it? I did it just for you.”

It applies equally to sunsets.

This post was inspired by the Island Traveler.  Read his post on sunsets here.
His photographs are magical and his accompanying words are worth reading.