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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Little known, yet deadliest disaster at sea

From Francine Uenuma

By the time the Soviet Union advanced on Germany’s eastern front in January of 1945, it was clear the advantage in World War II was with the Allies. The fall of the Third Reich was by this point inevitable; Berlin would succumb within months. Among the German populace, stories of rape and murder by vengeful Soviet forces inspired dread; the specter of relentless punishment pushed many living in the Red Army’s path to abandon their homes and make a bid for safety.
The province of East Prussia, soon to be partitioned between the Soviet Union and Poland, bore witness to what the Germans called Operation Hannibal, a massive evacuation effort to ferry civilians, soldiers and equipment back to safety via the Baltic Sea. German civilians seeking an escape from the advancing Soviets converged on the port city of Gotenhafen (now Gdynia, Poland), where the former luxury ocean liner Wilhelm Gustloff was docked. The new arrivals overwhelmed the city, but there was no turning them back. If they could get to the dock and if they could get on board, the Gustloff offered them a voyage away from besieged East Prussia.
“They said to have a ticket to the Gustloff is half of your salvation,” ship passenger Heinz Schön recalled in an episode of the early 2000s Discovery Channel series “Unsolved History.” “It was Noah’s Ark.”
The problem, however, was that the Soviet navy lay in wait for any transports that crossed their path and sank the Gustloff 75 years ago this week in what is likely the greatest maritime disaster in history. The death toll from its sinking numbered in the thousands, some put it as high as 9,000, far eclipsing those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined.
Most of the Gustloff’s estimated 10,000 passengers—which included U-boat trainees and members of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary—would die just hours after they boarded on January 30, 1945. The stories of the survivors and the memory of the many dead were largely lost in the fog of the closing war, amid pervasive devastation and in a climate where the victors would be little inclined to feel sympathy with a populace considered Nazis—or at the very least, Nazis by association.
Before the war, the 25,000-ton Wilhelm Gustloff had been used “to give vacationing Nazis ocean-going luxury,” the Associated Press noted shortly after its 1937 christening, part of the “Strength Through Joy” movement meant to reward loyal workers. The ship was named in honor of a Nazi leader in Switzerland who had been assassinated by a Jewish medical student the year before; Adolf Hitler had told mourners at Gustloff’s funeral that he would be in “the ranks of our nation’s immortal martyrs.”
Adolf Hitler passes <em>Wilhelm Gustloff</em> crew lined up on the lower promenade deck while touring the ship on March 29, 1938.
Adolf Hitler passes Wilhelm Gustloff crew lined up on the lower promenade deck while touring the ship on March 29, 1938. (Courtesy of the Wilhelm Gustloff Museum)
The realities of war meant that instead of a vacationing vessel the Gustloff was soon used as a barracks; it had not been maintained in seaworthy condition for years before it was hastily repurposed for mass evacuation. Despite having earlier been prohibited from fleeing, German citizens understood by the end of January that no other choice existed. The Soviet advance south of them had cut off land routes; their best chance at escape was on the Baltic Sea.
Initially German officials issued and checked for tickets, but in the chaos and panic, the cold, exhausted, hungry and increasingly desperate pressed on board the ship and crammed into any available space. Without a reliable passenger manifest, the exact number of people onboard during the sinking will never be known, but what is beyond doubt is that when this vessel—built for less than 2,000 people—pushed off at midday on the 30th of January, it was many times over its intended capacity.
Early on, the ship’s senior officers faced a series of undesirable trade-offs. Float through the mine-laden shallower waters, or the submarine-infested deeper waters? Snow, sleet and wind conspired to challenge the crew and sicken the already beleaguered passengers. Captain Paul Vollrath, who served as senior second officer, later wrote in his account in Sea Breezes magazine that adequate escort ships were simply not available “in spite of a submarine warning having been circulated and being imminent in the very area we were to pass through.” After dark, to Vollrath’s dismay, the ship’s navigation lights were turned on—increasing visibility but making the massive ship a beacon for lurking enemy submarines lurking.
Later that evening, as the Gustloff pushed into the sea and westward toward relative safety in the German city of Kiel, Hitler delivered what would be his last radio address and commanded the nation “to gird themselves with a yet greater, harder spirit of resistance,” sparing none: “I expect all women and girls to continue supporting this struggle with utmost fanaticism.” His futile exhortations were carried on the airwaves—and broadcast on the Gustloff itself—12 years to the day of when he formally assumed power on January 30, 1933.
A ticket for the <em>Gustloff</em> from someone who didn't board the ship at the last minute.
A ticket for the Gustloff from someone who didn't board the ship at the last minute. (Courtesy of the Wilhelm Gustloff Museum)
Soon the nearby Soviet submarine S-13, under the command of Alexander Marinesko, who was in a tenuous position with his own chain of command after his mission was delayed by his land-based alcohol consumption habits, spotted the large, illuminated ship. It presented an easy target for a commander who could use a boost to his reputation. “He thought he would be a real hero for doing it,” says Cathryn J. Prince, author of Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the S-13 unleashed three torpedoes, each inscribed with messages conveying the Soviets’ desire for revenge for the suffering inflicted on the Soviet populace by Nazi forces earlier in the war. These explosions impacted crew living quarters, the swimming pool area that housed members of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary, and finally the engine room and lower decks, dealing the ship its fatal blows and trapping many occupants with no means of escape.
The Gustloff was soon the scene of a mad scramble for survival. Even for those who could get off the mortally wounded ship and seek safety in the open water, the sheer number of passengers far exceeded the capacity of the life rafts. Survivor Horst Woit, who was just 10 years old, saw people—many of them children—trampled to death in an effort to get up the stairs and on to an available lifeboat (the ship was tilted toward the port side, so none of the lifeboats on the starboard side were accessible). After cutting the ropes with a knife he had taken from his uncle’s uniform, Woit was one of the lucky few on a boat moving away from the Gustloff. “A lot of the people jumped. And then they all tried to get on to the lifeboat and of course they pull you over and they get hit in the head with a paddle, and they get hit on the hands,” Woit told BBC Witness. “[It was] just gruesome, just awful. Most of them died.”
Mere feet separated the spared and the doomed. “Perhaps the decision not to take any more people and leave them to their fate was the hardest I ever had to make,” Vollrath wrote. “Here was comparative safety inside the boat, on the other side certain death.”
For those who remained on deck, it was becoming apparent that death in the freezing water was imminent. Schön, who ultimately devoted years to studying the shipwreck he had survived, later recounted in a documentary on the National Geographic Channel the agonizing decision of a father hanging off the listing ship—still wearing his swastika arm band—to shoot his wife and children. He ran out of bullets when he put the gun to his own head. “And then he let go and slide after his dead wife and his children across the icy, snow-covered deck, and over the side,” Schön recalled.
As German rescue boats summoned by the Gustloff’s crew approached to pick up survivors, they faced the same dilemma as those in lifeboats: who to pick up, and when to stop. They, too, were at risk from the S-13. Torpedo boat commander Robert Hering, aboard the T-36, had to make the decision to leave many more behind when his boat was at full capacity. He then had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid suffering the same fate as the Gustloff.
Just over an hour after the S-13’s torpedoes hit, the Gustloff sunk into the sea.
By the next morning, the waters surrounding the Gustloff were filled with bodies, many of them those of children whose lifejackets caused them to float upside down. Only one known survivor emerged from the floating graveyard—an infant wrapped tightly in blankets aboard a lifeboat, surrounded by deceased passengers. (The officer who found the infant would adopt and raise the boy). Of the passengers who had boarded the previous day a mere fraction—roughly 1,000—had survived.
Despite the magnitude of the tragedy, in the frenzied closing months of the war it would receive little attention. This may be partially attributed to the sheer pace and staggering death tolls happening across the European theater. Yet neither side—a Nazi Germany near defeat, nor a Soviet Union on its way to brutal victory—had an incentive to widely broadcast the deaths of so many citizens. It would be weeks before word of the Gustloff reached the United States, and then only a few short wire stories appeared citing snippets from Finnish radio broadcasts.
Furthermore, the Gustloff, though its toll is considered the highest, was not the only ship to go down in the Baltic during Operation Hannibal. Weeks later, the General von Steuben was also sunk by Marinesko (the credit he sought was slow in coming—his reputation didn’t recover in his lifetime, but he would be posthumously celebrated for his wartime actions.) In the spring, the sinking of the Goya would add another 7,000 to the Baltic toll; the Cap Arcona was sunk by British forces with 4,500 concentration camp prisoners on board.
In context, the Gustloff was another tragedy in a war full of losses. By then, “there was a stigma about discussing any sort of German suffering during the war after everything the Nazis did to the rest of Europe,” Edward Petruskevich, curator of the online Wilhelm Gustloff Museum, writes in an e-mail. “The Gustloff was just another casualty of war along with the countless other large ships sunk on the German side.”
Even if the details of the Gustloff or other German ships had been more widely or immediately known, considering the reigning public sentiment in the United States and other Allied countries it may not have elicited much sympathy. After years of total war, the fall of the Third Reich meant that German civilians also found themselves on the other side of a Manichean divide.
“I think there was that inability to look at the humanity of people who were the foe,” says Prince.
But whatever category those Wilhelm Gustloff victims fit into—U-boat trainees, Women’s Naval Auxiliary Members, Hitler Youth, reluctant conscripts, German civilians, mothers and children—they were part of a maritime tragedy that has yet to be rivaled in scale. In little over an hour, Vollrath wrote, the Gustloff had “dragged love, hope, and wishes down to the bottom of the sea.”

Monday, January 13, 2020

New cruise ships on the way

Well, one would have thought that there were plenty of cruise ships plowing the oceans already, but no, there are more to come -- some huge, others offering unusual attractions, while others will venture in the iciest regions of this planet ... as long as they survive global warming.

According to Cruise Critic, cruisers will be spoiled for choice this year.

The cruise industry keeps on growing, with 19 new cruise ships coming to the high seas in 2020, including two from brand-new cruise lines -- Virgin Voyages and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection -- and a first-in-class ship from Carnival Cruise Line that will boast the first rollercoaster at sea.
New ships for 2020 range in size from 100-passenger expedition boats to three mega-ships, the largest of which can hold 6,600-passengers when full. Small ships continue to grow, with just seven of the 19 new ships carrying more than 1,000 cruisers.
Noteworthy onboard attractions on 2020's new cruise ships include the aforementioned roller coaster, multislide water parks, a tattoo parlour, vertical skydiving and restaurants from Emeril Lagasse and Shaquille O'Neal.
Read on for our comprehensive list of the new cruise ships coming in 2020:

Scarlet Lady

March 2020
Artist rendering of Scarlet Lady (Image: Virgin Voyages)
Probably the most anticipated new cruise ship in several years, Scarlet Lady will be the first vessel from Virgin Voyages, which is billing itself as an alternative to traditional cruising, with new hip terminology (passengers are referred to as sailors, balconies are terraces and cruises are called voyages).
Offering an adults-only (18+) experience and such onboard attractions as a tattoo parlor, Champagne on demand (just shake your phone), free dining -- with no dress code -- in nine distinct restaurants, a gratuity-free environment, robust spa and fitness offerings, and late-night events and gigs unlike anything else at sea, Scarlet Lady has been designed to appeal to travelers who have never been on a cruise before -- and show them how much fun it can be.
Scarlet Lady Itineraries: Caribbean

Mardi Gras

August 2020
SportSquare on Carnival Mardi Gras (Image: Carnival Cruise Line)
Tell the world you're putting a roller coaster on a cruise ship and it's all anyone wants to talk about, but Carnival's 2020 ship, Mardi Gras, has more to offer than BOLT. The biggest cruise ship Carnival has ever launched (it'll hold some 6,600 people at full capacity), the ship will feature six distinctly themed zones, including a New Orleans-inspired French Quarter and the Italy-themed La Piazza.
The ship will also have the line's strongest suite offering, with 32 suites having access to a private enclave called Loft 19, which will feature a full-service bar and a private pool. Other cool attractions on Mardi Gras will be the first at-sea version of Shaquille O'Neal's Big Chicken Restaurant (available on a complimentary basis) and an extra-fee Cajun eatery from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
Mardi Gras Itineraries: Caribbean, Canada and New England, Baltic Sea, Transatlantic

Odyssey of the Seas

October 2020
Aerial rendering of Royal Caribbean's colorful two-level pool deck on Odyssey of the Seas
The first Quantum Ultra Class ship to sail in the Western Hemisphere, Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas will offer all of the same knockout attractions you can find on near-sister ships Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas (FlowRider, RipCord by iFlyNorth Star), with a few ultracool additions like the Sky Pad virtual reality trampoline experience, Splashaway Bay water park and an augmented reality playground in the SeaPlex.
The ship will also offer tons of dining options, among them many Royal Caribbean signatures such as Chop's Grille, Izumi, Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, El Loco Fresh and Wonderland. On top of that, Odyssey will be the first Royal Caribbean ship in North America to offer the hibachi-style Teppanyaki restaurant.
Odyssey of the Seas Itineraries: Caribbean, Mediterranean

Celebrity Apex

April 2020
Celebrity Apex (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)
The second in Celebrity's Edge Class of ships, Celebrity Apex will be nearly identical to Celebrity Edge, with the revolutionary Magic Carpet, infinite veranda cabins, The Retreat suites-only enclave and Eden day-to-night lounge experience. Also, as on Edge, Apex will feature four included dining rooms, each with a distinct theme and select menu items only available there.
Celebrity hasn't yet revealed what, if any, differences there will be between Edge and Apex, but expect one or two additions.
Celebrity Apex Itineraries: British Isles and Western Europe, Caribbean, Mediterranean

Enchanted Princess

June 2020
Enchanted Princess at Night (Photo: Princess Cruises)
Enchanted Princess will be Princes Cruises' fifth Royal-class ship. Like all its sister ships, it will have a multistory Piazza atrium, adults-only Sanctuary and the glass-bottomed SeaWalk, but like Sky Princess it will also have two Sky Suites, for-rent private cabanas in the Sanctuary, a Princess Live! cafe and a much larger Thermal Suite.
New to the line will be a stand-alone Salty Dog Gastropub, a rustic-style eatery where cruisers can catch a sporting event, while noshing on menu items created by chef Ernesto Uchimura. Returning favorites will include Crown Grill and Sabatini's. Not much more has been revealed about Enchanted Princess, but expect to see a new Jim Hansen show debut onboard.
Enchanted Princess will also feature the line's OceanMedallion technology, which brings a digital-concierge element to the cruise experience.
Enchanted Princess Itineraries: Caribbean, Mediterranean


June 2020
Artist rendering of Ritz-Carlton's Evrima (Image: Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)
Among the luxury cruising segment, the 298-passenger Evrima, the first of three yachts from the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, is the most eagerly awaited vessel. Among the highlights you'll find on the ship will be nine dining venues, including seafood and steak, Asian and a fine-dining restaurant with a five-course degustation menu; six suite styles, all with balconies; two pools; a full-service spa and fitness center; and highly inclusive fares that include alcoholic beverages, onboard gratuities and Wi-Fi.
Other new luxury cruise ships to look forward to in 2020 include Seven Seas Splendor (February), Silver Moon (July) and Sea Cloud Spirit (August).
Evrima Itineraries: Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Canada and New England

Iona (May 2020), Spirit of Adventure (August 2020), and MSC Virtuosa (September 2020)

Iona (Image: P&O Cruises)
Three Europe-based ships will debut in 2020, with two targeted specifically for cruisers in the U.K. and a third for passengers worldwide.
P&O Cruises' Iona will be the largest-ever ship purpose-built for the U.K. market. It will hold 5,200 passengers at double occupancy and will be the first P&O ship with a Lanai deck, an outdoor, covered promenade that will feature an alfresco restaurant and bar space. It will have 30 eateries (with seven being extra-fee specialty options), 12 bars and four swimming pools (including one indoors). Other highlights will be the SkyDome, which creates a space flooded with natural light and will also be home to aerial shows; The 710 Club, a new adults-only space; and Ocean Studios, where passengers can watch classic and new blockbuster movies on four movie screens.
The 999-passenger Spirit of Adventure will be a second new-build (and sister to Spirit of Discovery, which came out in 2019) from Saga Cruises, a line that promotes itself to English travelers who are aged 50+. The line hasn't revealed too many details, but it has said the ship will have two new restaurants -- a Nepalese venue and Amalfi, which offers up high-end Italian cuisine.
The second in MSC Cruises' Meraviglia Plus class, MSC Virtuosa will be one of the largest ships in MSC's fleet, equal only in size to MSC Grandiosa. Among the highlights onboard will be two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows created exclusively for MSC. It will also have a large suites-only MSC Yacht Club, an indoor promenade with digital sky ceiling, an indoor amusement park, outdoor water park and plenty of dining and bar venues for cruisers to choose from.
Iona itineraries: Norwegian Fjords, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Canary Islands
Spirit of Adventures itineraries: Baltic, Western Europe, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Canary Islands
MSC Virtuosa itineraries: Mediterranean

Expedition Ships

Artist rendering of Quark Expeditions Ultramarine (Image: Quark Expeditions)
The expedition cruise explosion that began in 2019 continues in 2020 with nine new expedition ships debuting around the world. All but one (Silver Origin) are being built to sail in polar waters, with the others having ice-class ratings that allow them to linger longer in Antarctica. All will be small, ranging from the 100-passenger Silver Origin to the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor and Ocean Victory.
Most of the ships are part of the burgeoning luxury expedition movement that blends expedition-style cruising (Zodiacs, wet/dry landings, hikes) with high levels of service, gourmet cuisine and luxury amenities. Two of these luxury vessels also feature high-tech "toys" in the form of helicopters on two ships (Crystal Endeavor and Ultramarine), and a submarine on one (Crystal Endeavor). Others are notable for their low environmental footprint (Hurtigruten's MS Fridtjof Nansen is the second of the line's new hybrid-powered ships).
A few represent firsts for their lines: National Geographic Endurance (which has the highest ice class of all the new ships) is Lindblad's first polar new-build; Crystal Endeavor is Crystal's first-ever expedition ship; Ocean Victory will enable Victory Cruise Lines to sail to Alaska for the first time; and Ultramarine will be the first ship owned by Quark Expeditions, rather than chartered. Others, like Ponant's Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier are additional ships in classes introduced over the past two years.
National Geographic Endurance itineraries: Norwegian Fjords, Svalbard, Northwest Passage, Iceland and Greenland, Antarctica and Patagonia
Fridtjof Nansen itineraries: Antarctica, Western European coast, Greenland, Norway, Iceland
Le Bellot itineraries: Antarctica, Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, Baltic Sea, South Pacific
Le Jacques Cartier itineraries: Mediterranean, Middle East, Baltic, Africa
Crystal Endeavor itineraries: Alaska, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand
Silver Origin itineraries: Galapagos
Ocean Victory itineraries: Antarctica (Albatross Travel), Alaska (Victory Cruise Lines)
Ultramarine itineraries: Antarctica

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Winter Quarterdeck out now

Quarterdeck, a terrific maritime newsletter edited by the inimitable George Jepson, is always worth a read, and the winter edition is outstanding.  Not only does it feature an interview with Alaric Bond, along with a review of his exciting new book, Hellfire Corner, but another Old Salt Press author, Chris Durbin (author of Perilous Shore), has an article on the history of British landing craft.

Download it here, or read it online.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Terrific account of early contact between European and Maori

By Sally Blundell in the New Zealand Listener

--Fish, salted meat, perhaps some crayfish, probably some fur seal. The first Christmas dinner in the first Pākehā settlement in New Zealand would have been high in protein but low in trimmings. Just weeks after being dropped off on Anchor Island in Dusky Sound on December 1, 1792, the gang of 12 sealers had to make do with what they could forage or catch.

Still, it was a banquet in comparison to the festive fare that Captain James Cook and his Endeavour crew downed in a storm near the top of the North Island on Christmas Day, 1769. The gannet pie on offer tasted “somewhere between rotten leather and fishy beef” washed down with lashings of alcohol – launching an enduring Kiwi tradition of over-indulging on Christmas Day and nursing hangovers on Boxing Day.
Twenty-three years on, the 12 hardy sealers in Dusky Sound continued to live off the land and sea for 10 long months before being picked up by the Britannia and sailing out of our history books.
Today, their story is told only by the few artefacts left behind: a simple forge, a hand-wrought iron nail, a fitting for a mast or spar and fragments of a ceramic vessel with hand-lettering appearing to include the word “Street”.
This thin record is featured in Pākehā Settlements in a Māori World: New Zealand Archaeology 1769-1860, a riveting and encyclopaedic catalogue by archaeologist Ian Smith of the broken, the worn out, the discarded and the abandoned – buttons, iron nails, broken dolls, lacing hooks, chips of dinnerware and hundreds of clay tobacco pipes.
Together they tell the story of the earliest European arrivals in this country – sealers, whalers, runaways, timber merchants, missionaries and early settlers – from Cook’s first visit to 1860, when Pākehā outnumbered Māori for the first time. It’s a captivating but often overlooked story of early contact reliance, interaction and exchange.
“In the popular imagination you have Cook, then the missionaries, then the Treaty of Waitangi, and then we are into the historical world,” says Smith. “Books tend to concentrate on the land wars if they look at encounters at all, but otherwise [focus] predominantly on Pākehā against the environment, the pioneering man alone or the family out in the bush, pitted against nature, rather than encountering the Māori world.”
But archaeological discoveries from those first nine decades of European arrival, settlement and cultural interaction show this period in New Zealand history to be an important time of “becoming”. He cites a single thin, imperfectly shaped fish lure, bent from a piece of copper alloy some time in the early 1840s, then uncovered in 2005 on a sandy beach on the west coast of Māhia Peninsula, where the Te Hoe whaling station once operated.
“As a traditional form reproduced in an imported material it materialises the hybrid nature of cultural exchange going on. If there was one item that said a whole lot of what I was trying to say, that would be it.”
 European-influenced housing at Pūtiki Pā, Whanganui. Image/Watercolour by John Gilfillan, Alexander Turnbull Library, C-142-003
Such artefacts set New Zealand on a very different course from that of other colonised countries. “The way things worked out in New Zealand is a bit different. By the time New Zealand was colonised, the British were pretty reluctant colonialists – they came with a relatively soft hand and the notion of a treaty. They encountered a culture that was extremely sure of its own place in the world and that could see the benefits in the things these strangers were bringing – and probably also the dangers.
“But I think the nature of the encounter was much more evenly balanced than, say, the Australian example. Australia has almost an identical timeframe, apart from the convict side of things. It had sealing and whaling and gold rushes, but the nature of cultural encounter was quite different – both while it took place and in its longer-term outcomes.
“In New Zealand, you had about 50 years of Pākehā living here prior to the Treaty, and for most of that time, Pākehā knew they were here at the will or whim of Māori – who could wipe them out should they choose to. I think that engendered a certain amount of respect.
“There were probably plenty of Pākehā who paid lip service to that notion and changed their point of view when the political balance of power changed but, at least at that time, there was a recognition of equality. For Māori and Pākehā, there were things to be got out of the relationship, so it was valued. Then we have the 1860s wars and land confiscations, and a century of white hegemony in which the Māori world was pretty much ignored.”
Charles Heaphy,1839. Image/Alexander Turnbull Library

The bicultural turn in the 1970s, he says, may signify a return to these earliest interactions. “I am not sure why I think this, but something about the way things happened in that earlier period seems to have come back in the past 50 years, when people have given Māori their place back in the world.”
Material evidence from that earlier period is thin on – and under – the ground. Any physical reminders of Cook’s first visit to New Zealand 250 years ago have been eroded, corroded or blown away (axe-cut tree stumps in Dusky Sound, last recorded in 1963, are all that remained of Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand, in 1773). The first tangible evidence of European presence in New Zealand is a single anchor, one of four lost from the St Jean Baptiste (French explorer Jean-François-Marie de Surville’s ship) during a storm in 1769, discovered on a sandy seabed in Doubtless Bay in 1974. A second anchor was found three months later; the other two are yet to be discovered.
From the early 1800s, sealing gangs, shore whalers and timber and flax merchants left a deeper archaeological footprint. Items found in caves, wells, overgrown hearths and shattered foundations – a knife blade, leather from a handmade boot, parts of a Chinese rice bowl, fragments of cloth and ever more pipes – tell a largely unwritten story of survival, self-sufficiency and hardship.
As the size and number of these early Pākehā settlements grew, so too did their reliance on, and interaction with, local Māori as partners, traders, workers, domestic staff or simply neighbours. The excavation of a midden on Mana Island close to the home of Ngāti Toa chief Te Rangihaeata, who lived on the island from the early 1820s until about 1844, revealed traditional stone and bone artefacts, including fragments of adzes and bone fish hooks, alongside a stash of imported copper and iron nails, bits of glass, gunflints and broken chinaware.
Te Aro foreshore in the 1840s. Image/Watercolour by Robert Park, Alexander Turnbull Library, B-078-016
Investigations at Papāhīhu, a small kāinga on the banks of Pūkaki Creek less than 10km from Ōnehunga, revealed two waves of occupation, one around the 16th century and the other between 1835 and 1863 during a time of increasing Pākehā settlement. Findings from this later phase demonstrate the selective adoption of Western materials and technologies, including clay pipes, alcohol bottles, rectangular postholes clearly dug with metal spades and fragments of iron cooking pots. The remains of earth ovens and a relative scarcity of ceramic kitchenware, however, suggest the local indigenous population was taking advantage of the new things on offer, “but not at the expense of their traditional material culture”.
In 1823, Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, just west of Stewart Island/Rakiura, was selected by Ngāi Tahu as an integrated mixed-race settlement for some 33 Pākehā men and 24 Māori women and their children. Earth ovens, stone flakes from traditional cutting tools, the remains of kai moana – barracouta, blue cod, muttonbirds, penguins, occasionally fur seals and sea lions – and the relative scarcity of ceramic dinnerware suggest the Pākehā men adapted to a Māori lifestyle little changed from the 14th and 15th centuries. Evidence of European influence was limited to potato gardens, introduced mint, alcohol and those ubiquitous pipes.
Permanent settlement by Europeans began with the arrival of missionaries in 1814, and, from this point, the archaeological record becomes richer. The legacy of the 23 men, women and children who settled in the mission station at Hohi in the Bay of Islands – a twine spinner, locally made earthenware, evidence of vegetable gardens and pencils and tablets – illustrate the “civilising” mission of the small settlement and the housing, culture and economy of this “foundational” Pākehā community, including its interactions with its Māori hosts.
Ian Smith. Photo/Ian Dove/Supplied
By the end of the 1820s, the archaeological record shows a new kind of multi-function settlement. In the Bay of Islands, at the Ngāti Manu village on Kororāreka beach, coopers, blacksmiths and sawyers lived within the palisaded enclosures of different hapū. Archaeological remains from this formative period in Russell’s history are difficult to disentangle from those of later 19th-century occupation, but two sites – Alexander Gray’s grog shop and Rewa’s pā, the last of the Māori settlements on the Kororāreka foreshore – have been confidently assigned to this time. The site of the grog shop has thrown up, unsurprisingly, a concentration of glass, buttons and pipes (the excavation of two cesspits found clay pipes more common in one latrine, and what appears to be a perfume bottle in the other, raising the possibility of his and hers facilities). From Rewa’s pā, on the same site, a small stone adze, fragments of a patu, case-gin bottles, gunflints, bone-handled cutlery and china plates show the extent to which Western domestic practices were taking place within the pā.
During the early colonial phase from 1820 to 1840, the record gets richer again. Archaeological investigations and a magnetometer survey of Ōkaito, the first short-lived seat of colonial government upstream from Kororāreka, reveal a substantial settlement comprising New Zealand’s first Government House, a store, blacksmith shop, jetty and boatbuilding shed. Bought by Governor Hobson in 1840, the site contained part of a woven flax kit; the butt of a fowling shotgun; several dark-olive glass bottles, presumably used for alcohol; and a thin, fluted medicine bottle, perhaps used for laudanum or other opium-based treatment (Hobson was ill during the last 10 months of his stay there).
By 1849, eight years after the capital moved to Auckland, the Pākehā population stood at about 2000, or 2.5% of the estimated Māori population. Just 10 years later, new colonisation settlement schemes had tilted the population balance and Pākehā outnumbered Māori for the first time.
Opened in 1851, Rangiātea Church, in Ōtaki, blended English and Māori architecture. Image/ATL

Smith’s book sifts through the material evidence to paint a picture of bicultural life in New Zealand up to this point. He also rifles through the accounts of earlier non-Māori visitors – Portuguese, Spanish, Tamils, Chinese. All, he concludes, lie “in the realm of fantasy”. But the book also applauds archaeology itself: its ability to give voice to those who did not, or perhaps could not, write; to shine a light not only on official occasions or momentous events, but also on the everyday lives of ordinary people; and to extract information from the slimmest of evidence. In 1988, Smith was part of a team excavating the central Auckland site where the Sky Tower now stands. The discovery of two sections of a perimeter ditch opened up the story of Fort Ligar, built in 1845 by Aucklanders fearful of attack from the north, then promptly abandoned, razed and built over. “I had no knowledge of this fort. The last time it was mentioned in the history books was about 1890 – it had been lost and forgotten.”
Such finds, writes Smith, “seldom fail to grip those who encounter the objects and the stories they embody”. In a year commemorating the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Endeavour, and those first bloody interactions on the beach at Tūranganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay, such finds also push out the story of New Zealand to include the largely forgotten history of early cultural and material exchange.
“If we can see in our own history the way that relationship has developed and evolved, and if we can recognise the good and the bad in confronting our past, that is when you get beyond the beach.”

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Guest post by cyanotype artist Robert A. Schaefer, Jr


What is identity?  The way you see yourself, or the way others see you?  Is it the sum of your past, or a vision of your hopes and ambitions, a picture of what you want to be?

The Dictionary of American English defines Identity as who someone is; the qualities which make him/her different from other people.  

Renowned American cyanotype artist Robert Schaefer has his own interpretation.  As he explains -- 

This series of images uses body parts including those of gender and gender alteration in its focus on the subject of Identity.

Robert A. Schaefer, Jr. began learning about photography while he was studying architecture  at Auburn University in Alabama, his home state, and continued to do so at the Technische Universität of Munich, Germany.  In photography he became a visual explorer in love with layering with his work focusing on a prominent interplay between spatial planes and a central image.  Visual layers are then added to that image with each layer being clearly visible but at the same time transparent. The essence of each image makes it unique – a frozen moment in time. 

While still in Germany, Schaefer had one-person exhibitions in the Amerika Hauses (the cultural part of the American Embassy) in Munich, Hamburg, Hannover and Frankfurt as well as Kulturhaus in Graz, Austria.   In 1999 – 2000 he had a 25-year retrospective at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Alabama. Curator Peter Baldaia described the city images in the exhibition catalogue as “formal abstractions of the urban landscape.” 

The cyanotype was invented in England in 1842 by Sir John Herschel three years after the discovery of the Daguerreotype.  Lyle Rexer in his book Photography's Antiquarian Avant-garde (published by Abrams in 2002) commenting on Schaefer's cyanotype says, "The work of former architect Robert Schaefer marries the process to a Machine Age aesthetic of urban geometrics and industrial technologies. Schaefer also reverses himself with a blue neo-impressionism; images that might have originated in the Photo-Secession and photography's embrace of painting."

In 2010 Schaefer had exhibitions at the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan in Delhi, India and the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh, India of images he took in India in 2009 and printed with the cyanotype process.  In 2013, he spent the month of June in Can Serrat, a residency outside Barcelona, Spain producing cyanotypes of photographs taken in Barcelona. He was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Fine Art Category in the 2014 Moscow International Foto Awards. Schaefer taught photography for twelve years at New York University before he moved to New Orleans, LA in 2015. In 2015 the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University purchased one of his cyanotypes for their collection, and in 2016 one of his cyanotypes was selected for inclusion in the Alternative Photography Exhibition at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, OR. His image of a Southern

Plantation House was part of a group exhibition at the Brickworks Gallery in Atlanta, GA in 2017, and in the same year he was included in the group exhibition “Art Through the Lens: at the Yaiser Art Center in Paducah, KY,  He still teaches Cyanotype Workshops at The Penumbra Foundation/Center for Alternative Photography in New York City, and In November 2018,  he instructed a Cyanotype Workshop at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Also, in 2018 he was awarded second place for Cityscapes as part of the exhibition at the New York Center For Photographic Art, New York, NY.  In January of 2019, Schaefer was a guest teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and part of a group show of five guest artist/teachers at the Kirschman Art Center within the NOCCA Institute.  

Later that year, Schaefer was awarded an honorable mention for “The Photographic Nude” shown at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, OR. September 28th was World Cyanotype Day, and to celebrate it, Schaefer was one of the instructors who helped over fifty workshop participants make their own cyanotypes at The Healing Center in New Orleans (2372 Saint Claude Ave.) and many of these cyanotype flags are on view in The Healing Center’s lobby through March 1, 2020. His work is represented by the Domeischel Gallery ( in New York City.

As readers of this blog might know, I have been a Big Fan of his work for many years.  Through his art, he paints the world a haunting blue, contributes to photo magazines, and sees New York through an artist's lens.  "Identity" is just the latest in his list of creative accomplishments.