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Friday, September 21, 2018

Wellington Museum


In the old days the lovely old-style museum in the historic Bond Store, on Wellington's waterfront, was known as the Maritime Museum of Wellington.  Then, when the very good National Maritime Museum in Auckland got its "National" status, a name-change had to be contemplated, and our museum became the Museum of Wellington, City and Sea.

Ponderous, I admit.  Now, it is simply known as Wellington Museum, but it is just as great.  And it has recently been voted one of the top 50 museums in the world.

And it is free.  And it is in easy walking distance of the cruise shuttle bus stops.  If the shuttle stops in Wakefield Street, at the i-Site, an ambassador will direct you to the waterfront, where you can traipse north to Queen's Wharf, where the museum sits on the corner of the access to the city.

If you are decanted on Lambton Quay, near the Old Government House, an ambassador will direct you to Featherston Street, where an easy walk will take you south to Queen's Wharf, where the museum dominates the entry.

There are all kinds of reasons to visit this museum, quite apart from the clean, handy restrooms, and the extremely tempting and well-laid-out gift shop.  The museum itself is a revelation of our colonial past.

We paid one of our many visits yesterday, to check the latest offerings with the extremely helpful young man in reception.  First, as he reminded us, the museum will open an hour early -- at 9 a.m. -- on cruise ship days.  Second, he recommended that after entering via the Bond Store (watch for the rat and the cat!) the tour should start at the top, in the newly created Attic.  And yes, there is an elevator.

The Attic
It’s here that the weird, worrisome and wonderful stories of Wellington’s history take centre stage. Displaying fantastical creations from lions to flying saucers, this steampunk-styled exhibit space is a museum experience with a difference. The Attic begs you to be curious. To explore. To listen. Even to time-travel. And to be totally engaged. You never know what you’ll find. 
Ngā HauStashed in The Attic is a time machine, Ngā Hau, which combines the magic of cinema with installation art. Spinning and clanking its way through time, Ngā Hau takes you on a journey through Wellington’s history, where you meet significant characters who share their stories with you. Ngā Hau breathes life into our history – you’ll be captivated!
Ngā Hau was developed by Perceptual Engineering in conjunction with Wellington Museum.
The Frederick de Jersey Clere RoomWellington Museum (The Bond Store) was designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere. Inside The Attic is a room dedicated to The English-born architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, where you’ll learn about the planning and design of the building, and see its original blueprints. The Bond Store is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in New Zealand

Further down the building are the Wahine Room, where a film relating the sad story of the Wahine shipwreck in Wellington Harbor runs at regular intervals.  And of course, our Maori past is not forgotten.

Ngā HekeExplore different perspectives and alternative histories, journeys and migrations. This exhibition showcases our most prized taonga, Te Whanganui a Tara (The Great Harbour of Tara), and contemporary work from Māori artists and poets. With a gallery-like feel and strong graphics, this space is set to stimulate, question and interact.
A Millennium AgoA Millennium Ago – Māori Stories from Way Back uses intriguing theatrical illusionistic techniques to tell Māori creation legends.

And of course there is much space devoted to Wellington's colorful maritime past.

You can see a series of photographs in this gallery -- courtesy of TripAdvisor, where reviewers have put it in the top 15 great things to do in Wellington.

And yes, it is possible to have your own private guided tour.  It is called the "Cup of Curiosity Tour." Discover Wellington's cool and quirky stories as you tour the museum from top to bottom, and finish with a great cup of coffee and a delicious treat.  

The tours begin at the reception counter at 10:15 a.m.  You should allow 90 minutes (ideal for cruisers) and costs $29 for adults, and $21 for children.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sunk by liquefaction

A terrifying maritime warning from the BBC

One wonders how often it happened in the past ... when one thinks of the sailing ships that vanished without trace.

Think of a dangerous cargo, and toxic waste or explosives might come to mind.But granular cargoes such as crushed ore and mineral sands are responsible for the loss of numerous ships every year. On average, 10 ‘solid bulk cargo’ carriers have been lost at sea each year for the last decade.Solid bulk cargoes – defined as granular materials loaded directly into a ship’s hold – can suddenly turn from a solid state into a liquid state, a process known as liquefaction. And this can be disastrous for any ship carrying them – and their crew.

In 2015, the 56,000-tonne bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter rapidly sunk around 300km (187 miles) south-west of Vietnam, with only one of its 19-strong crew surviving. This prompted warnings from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) about the possible liquefaction of the relatively new solid bulk cargo bauxite (an aluminium ore).

A lot is known about the physics of the liquefaction of granular materials from geotechnical and earthquake engineering. The vigorous shaking of the Earth causes pressure in the ground water to increase to such a level that the soil ‘liquefies’. Yet despite our understanding of this phenomenon, and the guidelines in place to prevent it occurring, it is still causing ships to sink and taking their crew with them.

Solid bulk cargoes are typically ‘two-phase’ materials as they contain water between the solid particles. When the particles can touch, the friction between them makes the material act like a solid (even though there is liquid present). But when the water pressure rises, these inter-particle forces reduce and the strength of the material decreases. When the friction is reduced to zero, the material acts like a liquid (even though the solid particles are still present).

A solid bulk cargo that is apparently stable on the quayside can liquefy because pressures in the water between the particles build up as it is loaded onto the ship. This is especially likely if, as is common practice, the cargo is loaded with a conveyor belt from the quayside into the hold, which can involve a fall of significant height. The vibration and motion of the ship from the engine and the sea during the voyage can also increase the water pressure and lead to liquefaction of the cargo.

When a solid bulk cargo liquefies, it can shift or slosh inside a ship’s hold, making the vessel less stable. A liquefied cargo can shift completely to one side of the hold. If it regains its strength and reverts to a solid state, the cargo will remain in the shifted position, causing the ship to permanently tilt or ‘list’ in the water. The cargo can then liquefy again and shift further, increasing the angle of list.

At some point, the angle of list becomes so great that water enters the hull through the hatch covers, or the vessel is no longer stable enough to recover from the rolling motion caused by the waves. Water can also move from within the cargo to its surface as a result of liquefaction and subsequent sloshing of this free water can further impact the vessel’s stability. Unless the sloshing can be stopped, the ship is in danger of sinking.

The International Maritime Organisation has codes governing how much moisture is allowed in solid bulk cargo in order to prevent liquefaction. So why does it still happen?

The technical answer is that the existing guidance on stowing and shipping solid bulk cargoes is too simplistic.

Liquefaction potential depends not just on how much moisture is in a bulk cargo but also other material characteristics, such as the particle size distribution, the ratio of the volume of solid particles to water and the relative density of the cargo, as well as the method of loading and the motions of the vessel during the voyage.

The production and transport of new materials, such as bauxite, and increased processing of traditional ores before they are transported, means more cargo is being carried whose material behaviour is not well understood. This increases the risk of cargo liquefaction.

Commercial agendas also play a role. For example, pressure to load vessels quickly leads to more hard loading even though it risks raising the water pressure in the cargoes. And pressure to deliver the same tonnage of cargo as was loaded may discourage the crew of the vessel draining cargoes during the voyage.

To tackle these problems, the shipping industry needs to better understand the material behaviour of solid bulk cargoes now being transported and prescribe appropriate testing. New technology could help. Sensors in a ship’s hold could monitor the water pressure of the bulk cargo. Or the surface of the cargo could be monitored, for example using lasers, to identify any changes in its position.

The challenge is developing a technology that is cheap enough, quick to install and robust enough to survive loading and unloading of the cargo. If these challenges can be overcome, combining data on the water pressure and movement of the cargo with information on the weather and the ship’s movements could produce a real-time warning of whether the cargo was about to liquefy.

The crew could then act to prevent the water pressure in the cargo rising too much, for example, by draining water from the cargo holds (to reduce water pressure) or changing course of the vessel to avoid particularly bad weather (to reduce ship motions). Or if that were not possible, they could evacuate the vessel. In this way, this phenomenon of solid bulk cargo liquefaction could be overcome, and fewer ships and crew would be lost at sea.

And perhaps the old whalemen knew what they were doing when they stored their cargo in casks...

Bumper cruise season for Wellington

With the shuttle stops shuffled ...

While it used to be possible to walk to downtown Wellington, it is no longer possible, while the walkway is being repaired of earthquake damage.  But not to fear -- free, frequent shuttles are provided.

However, the local bus system is being adapted, meaning that the old shuttle stop, right by David Jones department store, is no longer available.  Plus, 2018-2019 is going to be a bumper season. 

With Wellington’s growing reputation as a cruise-friendly destination, the region is expecting a record number of passengers this season. On several days, more than 5000 passengers will arrive on multiple ships meaning a new traffic plan has been put in place to improve the visitor experience of those being shuttled from their ships into the Wellington Central Business District. On peak days two shuttle stops will operate, one at the North end of Lambton Quay and the other on Wakefield Street. This will allow passengers to be spread out across the city and reduce congestion.  It will also let the tour operators pick up their clients much more easily.

The stop outside the Old Government House (a historic site) is wonderfully convenient for visiting Old St Pauls, Parliament, the National Library, and Archives.

The stop in Wakefield Street is handy to Te Papa, the waterfront, the famously quirky Cuba Street Quarter, dozens of great coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and really interesting shopping.  It is also right next to the i-Site, where all kinds of advice is freely given.
New cruise shuttle stops
cruise map1
Northern Lambton Quay outside Old Government Buildings – Stop One
Photo credit: Imagery & Map data ©2018 Google
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Northern Lambton Quay outside Old Government Buildings – Stop One
Photo credit: ©2018 Google
cruise map2
Wakefield Street bus stop – Stop Two
Photo credit: Imagery & Map data ©2018 Google
cruise map2.2

For more information visit

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Teenager leads campaign to clear the ocean of plastic

Cleanup boom towed out of San Francisco

From RadioNZ

By David Shukman - BBC science editor
When a Dutch teenager went swimming in the sea in Greece seven years ago, he was shocked to see more plastic than fish.
In fact, Boyan Slat was so appalled by the pollution that he soon started to campaign for the oceans to be cleaned up.
For a long time, few people took him seriously. Here was a university drop-out with a far-fetched idea that surely could never work.
But this weekend, backed by major investment and some massive engineering, a vast plastic collection system is being towed out of San Francisco Bay.
Until now, the focus of plastic litter campaigns has been on beaches, with volunteers all over the world lifting bags and bottles from shorelines.
Never before has anyone gone further by trying to clear the stuff from the middle of an ocean and, despite sea trials and computer modelling, no-one knows if the experiment will work.
Some experts worry that the effort is a distraction from the more pressing task of stopping more plastic getting into the sea in the first place, and that the operation may cause real harm to marine life.
But Boyan and his team at The Ocean Cleanup non-profit believe the sheer scale of plastic out there demands that action be taken.
No caption
The technology has been developed with support from the Dutch government. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

So what they are trying to do?

Their target is the eastern Pacific and what's called the Great Garbage Patch, where circular currents have concentrated plastic in one large area.
The aim is to halve the amount of pollution in the patch every five years so that by 2040 almost all of it will be gone.
"We feel we're in a great hurry," says Lonneke Holierhoek, the project's chief operating officer.
I'm meeting her at the project's headquarters in Rotterdam in offices that are far bigger than I expected. The Dutch government is a major backer, along with some wealthy companies and investors.
The project, with a budget of at least €20 million, has grown from a young man's vision to a serious international enterprise.
There's a faint smell of seaweed and rubbish. On the desks and the floor are boxes brimming with fragments of plastic hauled from the sea on earlier expeditions, a reminder of the task ahead.
"If we don't do it," Lonneke tells me, "all this plastic will start breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces - and the smaller the pieces are, the more harmful and the harder to extract from the marine environment."
As an engineer who spent the past two decades working on offshore projects, she's not a campaigner but someone with a wealth of experience working with huge structures out at sea.
For her, the project is a determined effort to reverse the tide of pollution. "Rather than talking about it or contributing to problems or protesting against it, it's actually trying to solve it."

How will the project work?

The key point is that the collection system is passive - there are no motors, no machines. Instead, it'll drift, acting like an artificial coastline, gently gathering any plastic in its path.
Like a giant snake, made up of sections of tube, it's 600 metres long and will float in a giant 'U' shape. Beneath it a screen will hang down 3m.
Because the plastic is floating just at or slightly below the surface, it only drifts with the force of the ocean currents. But because the collection system is also being shifted by the wind and waves, it should travel about one knot faster, shepherding the plastic into a dense mass.
Fish should be able to swim underneath and, since the device has smooth surfaces, the hope is that no wildlife will become entangled.
On-board cameras will keep watch, and every six weeks or so a ship will travel out to scoop up the concentrated tangle of plastic and take it back to dry land to be recycled.
The plan is to use the recovered material to make a range of products to be deliberately marketed as "made from ocean plastic" and sold at a premium price.

What are the downsides?

Some experts I've spoken to are worried that marine life might suffer.
Anything drifting in the sea soon gets coated in algae, attracting plankton which draw in small fish and then bigger ones. Industrial fishing fleets actually deploy "fish aggregation devices" to act as lures.
Lonneke Holierhoek has an answer. An independent environmental study found that the impact can be minimised, she says, for example by making a noise just before the plastic is lifted out to scare away fish.
But Sue Kinsey of the Marine Conservation Society is among those who aren't convinced. She admires the passion and inspiration behind the project but says it could be harmful.
"The major problem is those creatures that passively float in the ocean that can't actually move out of the way - once they're in this array, they're going to be trapped there unable to move," she says.
She also says it's more cost-effective to clean up beaches instead and focus on preventing more plastic reaching the oceans.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, September 8, 2018 –  The Ocean Cleanup Soon to Begin Removing Plastic Pollution from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch  - Photo: Pierre AUGIER for The OCEAN CLEANUP
Even those who question the approach applaud Boyan Slat's passion. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup / Pierre Augier
Prof Richard Lampitt of the UK's National Oceanography Centre also applauds the project for raising awareness but reckons much of the plastic that gets into the sea sinks relatively quickly so that the effort won't be able to make much of a difference.
And he also highlights the carbon cost of building 60 of the collection devices, as the plan calls for, and the shuttling of the ships back and forth, all to retrieve an estimated 8000 tonnes of plastic a year.
"The cost/benefit ratio does not look at all attractive," Prof Lampitt says.
Back in Rotterdam, one of the project's scientists, Laurent Lebreton, is convinced the effort is worth it, and he shows me two examples of plastic waste impacting the natural world.
A small piece of white coral has grown around the fibres of an old fishing net - a surprisingly shocking sight. And on the jagged edge of a plastic bottle there are unmistakeable tooth marks left by a fish that's taken a bite.
"That plastic gets swallowed and the fish gets eaten and the plastic enters the food chain and ends up on our plates," he says.
"The solution is - one - making sure plastic doesn't get into the natural environment, and - two - clean up the legacy plastic that's been accumulating since the 1950s."
It'll take three weeks for the system to be towed out to the Great Garbage Patch some 2000km off the coast of California. The first sense of how it's performing should be clear later this year.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

First woman in the Antarctic

The BBC reports the presence of an unknown number of corpses, deep in Antarctic ice.  Most, of course, are of scientists and explorers, and all of them, naturally, are men.

No, not quite all.  One is of a woman.

At Livingston Island, among the South Shetlands off the Antarctic Peninsula, a human skull and femur have been lying near the shore for 175 years. They are the oldest human remains ever found in Antarctica.

The bones were discovered on the beach in the 1980s. Chilean researchers found that they belonged to a woman who died when she was about 21 years old. She was an indigenous person from southern Chile, 1,000km (620 miles) away.  Analysis of the bones suggested that she died between 1819 and 1825. The earlier end of that range would put her among the very first people to have been in Antarctica.

So, how did she get there?  That is the question.  Obviously, it was not by canoe.  She was carried by some European or American shipmaster, perhaps as a guide and navigator, just as Captain James Cook carried Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator, back in 1769, and Lewis and Clark recruited Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman, in 1804.

So, who was that captain?  There are several possibilities.

One is Captain William Smith of Blyth, Northumberland, an experienced mariner who had learned his trade in the tough Greenland whalefishery.  In 1819, when he was in command of the British merchant brig Williams, he took an unusual route from Buenos Aires to his destination, Valparaiso, Chile, by sailing south of Cape Horn.  On 19 February, he sighted Williams Point, the northeast extremity of Livingston Island. Thus Livingston Island became the first land ever discovered south of the 60th southern latitude. Smith revisited the South Shetlands, landed on King George Island on 16 October 1819, and claimed possession for Britain.

And then there is Captain Joaquín de Toledo y Parra, who was in command of  the Spanish Navy ship San Telmo, which sank in September 1819 whilst trying to go through the Drake Passage. Parts of her presumed wreckage were found months later by sealers on the north coast of Livingston Island.

The 644 officers, soldiers and seamen (and perhaps one American-Indian woman) lost on board the San Telmo were the first known people to die in Antarctica, as parts of her wreckage were found months later by the early sealers visiting Livingston Island. Indeed, if somebody of the San Telmo survived to set foot there they would have been the first known person in history to reach Antarctica.
San Telmo Island off the north coast of Livingston Island is named after the ship.

And then there is Edward Bransfield was born in Ballinacurra, County Cork, Ireland, about 1785.  At the age of 18 he was working on his father's fishing sloop when a British Navy press gang swooped down.  Being thrust into the rough lower quarters of a Royal Navy ship could have broken his spirit, but instead he thrived.  Somewhat poetically, one of his messmates on his first berth,  the 110-gun first rate ship of the line HMS Ville de Paris, was 12-year-old William Edward Parry, who also became a noted Polar explorer.  Bransfield was rated as an able seaman in 1805 and was appointed to the 110-gun first rate HMS Royal Sovereign (which had taken part in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805); he was promoted in 1806 to able seaman, then 2nd master's mate in 1808, midshipman in 1808, clerk in 1809, and midshipman again in 1811. By 1812 he had achieved the rank of second master, and in the same year he was made acting master on HMS Goldfinch, a 10-gun Cherokee-class brig-sloop.
Between the years 1814 and 1816, he served briefly, as sailing master on many fifth rate ships. On 21 February 1816, he was appointed master of the 50-gun fourth rate HMS Severn, leading it in the Bombardment of Algiers.
During September 1817, he was appointed master of HMS Andromache under the command of Captain W H Shirreff. It was during this tour of duty that he was posted to the Royal Navy's new Pacific Squadron off Valparaíso in Chile.  While there, the Williams arrived, along with the news of William Smith's discovery, and Bransfield's captain, William Shirreff, decided that someone should make a proper chart of the islands.  So he  chartered the brig, put Bransfield in command, and sent him south.  Did Edward take a local woman with him?  As a guide?
 But, at this stage, there are other possibilities -- because the islands teemed with seals, and seal fur was very valuable at the time.

The first sealing ship to operate in the area was the brig Espirito Santo, chartered by British merchants in Buenos Aires. The ship arrived at Rugged Island off Livingston Island, where its British crew landed on Christmas Day 1819, and claimed the islands for King George III. A narrative of the events was published by the brig's master, Joseph Herring, in the July 1820 edition of the Imperial Magazine

Then came the American brig Hersilia, commanded by Captain James Sheffield (with second mate Nathaniel Palmer), the first US sealer in the South Shetlands.

Palmer, the son of a Stonington, Connecticut, shipwright, started off in the coastal shipping trade, and perhaps would have had an ordinary seafaring life if he had not joined Sheffield's expedition.  Sealing was an awful business, rough and hard as well as violent and grisly, but it must have suited him, because the following year, at the age of just twenty, he was put in command of a sloop, Hero, in a sealing expedition headed by Benjamin Pendleton (a man to become famous in the Australian sealing business).  

They reached the South Shetlands in November 1820, but found its seal population decimated. Palmer’s experience with the area, and the small size of the Hero, made him the ideal candidate to search for new rookeries. He sailed south from Deception Island on November 17 and sighted land at Orleans Channel, becoming the third person to sight the Antarctic continent.  The peninsula he charted is now known as Palmer Land.

Sealing was definitely profitable.  Nathaniel Palmer made enough out of his sealing ventures to invest on fast sailing ships, specializing in crack voyages to China, and becoming one of the designers of the brilliant craft that were known as clipper ships. 

So, was it Palmer who carried a native woman to the South Shetland Islands, or another sealer like him?  Sealers in Australia did have the reputation of kidnapping Aboriginal woman and taking them to remote rookeries, to build huts and cook, and labor at stretching seal skins and scraping off the meat and fat.   However, it is more likely that she was taken by one of the early sealing captains as a guide and translator, and thus had a more respectable role, like Tupaia and Sacagawea. 

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the truth will ever be revealed.  Sealing logs and journals are very rare, as it was a very secretive trade.. Records were not kept -- because a rival captain might grab those records, meaning that the original discoverer would return to the rookery to find that every single seal had been killed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Old Saint Paul's Cathedral

This wonderful old wooden "Gothic" cathedral is part of my youth.  As teenagers, we were escorted there in a neat, demure line, wearing gloves and hats!  A more enduring memory is the American friend I took there quite recently as part of a glimpse of Wellington, who to my amazement dissolved into tears.  He was a Marine in the big second world war, stationed in Wellington before the assault on the Coral Sea.  The battalion had left their banner, and there it was hanging in the rafters, alongside the US flag, a memory of a significant part of his youth. 

You can read all about it HERE

Old St. Paul's is easy to visit on a one-day taste of Wellington, being in walking distance of everywhere.   Here is the information

Most tours will call there, if only for a photo stop.  The Walking Tour (see a previous post) is particularly good.

And here is an update of the hours:

They're now open to the public from 10 am to 5 pm, please note they do accept earlier bookings from 9 am for tour operators. 

Old St Paul’s will be closing on a few statutory holidays, they're: 
1. New Year’s Day – January 1st 
2. Good Friday – April 19th 
3. Anzac Day – April 25th 
4. Queen’s Birthday – June 6th 
5. Labour Day – October 22th
6. Christmas Day – December 25th 
7. Boxing Day – December 26th 

Old St Paul’s will remain open for the following statutory holidays : 
1. Day after New Year’s Day – January 2nd 
2. Wellington Anniversary – January 21st 
3. Waitangi Day – February 6th 
4. Easter Monday – April 21st 

For any further details, please see their website

Wellington rated Top Spot by Lonely Planet

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

5000-year-old medical practice

It may be yet another anniversary ....

Science Magazine reports that investigation of a Copper-Age corpse (the "Iceman") may reveal surprisingly sophisticated antique medical methods.

Ötzi, the 5300-year-old “Iceman” discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991, was a medical mess. His teeth were rotting, he had a bad stomach bug, and his knees were beginning to degenerate—not to mention the arrow in his back that probably killed him. Now, a new study concludes the herbs and tattoos he seems to have used to treat his ailments may have been common around this time, suggesting a sophisticated culture of health care at this point in human history.
Previous studies have found that Ötzi carried a number of suspected medicines either on him or in him. Fastened to leather bands in his equipment, researchers found the birch polypore fungus, which the Iceman may have used to calm inflammation or as an antibiotic. Scientists also found bracken fern in his stomach, which can be used to treat intestinal parasites such as tapeworm. And Ötzi was covered with 61 tattoos (such as the one on his back, pictured above) including dotlike points around joints, which some researchers believe may have been used as pain treatment akin to an early form of acupuncture.
In the new study, scientists took a closer look at Ötzi’s tattoos. Some lines and dots were directly over his wrist and ankles which suffered from degenerative diseases, and many correspond to traditional acupuncture points, they report in the International Journal of Paleopathology. The markings would have taken a long time to produce, and this sophisticated practice—along with the variety of herbs and medicines—would have likely been developed through a dedicated, systematic trial-and-error approach that was passed down through generations in the society in which Ötzi lived, the team concludes.