The shipboard diary of Henry Bottle

Ship Himalaya
HIMALAYA. [picture] : 1008 tons. Built at Sunderland. Sold to America and renamed Star of Peru. Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.
In 1879 a young man named Henry Garmston Bottle undertook a great, but not uncommon journey from London to Lyttelton aboard the Himalaya.

He kept a diary while on board, and wrote several letters to his family back in England, to his father (My dear Papa), his sister Nellie and his brother Fred.

His shipboard diary is largely an unsentimental and factual account but it nevertheless conjures up fascinating images and vignettes of life onboard ship for months at a time. The following are some excerpts from his shipboard diary which covers 11 January – 14 April 1879.

21st – Vessel rolled very much when at breakfast the whole table was cleared and some things broken, running down coast of Portugal, pigs got loose had a spree.

24th – Heavy gale during night could not sleep. Off Str of Gibralter, went on deck & got drenched from head to foot by a sea, about 1ft of water in our cabin.

25th – Pig died, thrown overboard, saw a shark eat it

8th – Lat 4 Long 22 N Heat 96. 97 miles killed a rat in our cabin, slept on deck

Unsurprisingly there’s an awful lot of people being sick to start with and a surprising number of animal escapees including one passenger’s canary.

My dear Papa, letter from Henry Bottle to his fatherSimilarly his letters offer a glimpse into the “excitements” of life on board the Himalaya like this description of bad weather in a letter to his father dated 10 February 1879 –

We had a heavy gale yesterday morning it came on all at once & the wind blew & it rained as I never saw it before it came down in streams like pailfulls we all took our shoes & stockings off rolled our trousers up put macktos [mackintoshes] on, no hat & went on deck to catch water we caught a good lot. The gale lasted an hour.

You can read more about Henry Bottle’s journey and his life in Oamaru and Waimate in his digitised papers.

Whakataukī – Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Rāmere

Tēnā koutou katoa
Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa

Ko te reo te taikura ō te whakaaro marama
Language is the key to understanding

He pai ake te iti i te kore
A little is better than none

Whakataukī are a wonderful way of expressing yourself, sharing thoughts, feelings, perceptions and ideas. We are all familiar with a range of proverbs that we may use without even thinking about their origins. Whakataukī are similar – a quick and effective way to rely a message and use te reo Māori.

Cover for The Raupō book of Māori Proverbs Cover of People of the Land Cover of The Reed book Cover of Nga Pepeha

In the spirit of this year’s kaupapa, here is one for your whānau:

Ka nui taku aroha ki a koe
My love for you knows no bounds

Whakataukī are used everywhere in te Ao Māori and one way of regularly using te Reo Māori is to have a few up your sleeve for frequent use.

Find whakataukī in our collection.

Do you have a whakataukī that you use regularly?

Kōrerorero mai, karawhiua!

A beautiful place to die

Cover of A Beautiful Place to DieI’ve read a couple of books recently at opposite ends of the reading spectrum – one’s funny and character-driven, and one’s dark and atmospheric. The first you’ve probably heard of already — Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One (not as sappy as it sounds! If you enjoy Liane Moriarty or Raffaella Barker you’ll love it) — but the second I hadn’t noticed before, although that’s probably due to my reading prejudices. And I wouldn’t have picked it up off the shelf, because look at that cover! What is it with all books set in Africa having the same look, whether romance or mystery?! It’s always a silhouette of a tree against the sky, probably with a sunset, maybe a giraffe. Come on, publishers, up your game.

Cover of African SkiesCover of In Search of AfricaCover of Into the Lion's DenCover of Ivory

I’m not usually much of a crime reader — I definitely veer towards the Dorothy Sayers end of the crime spectrum — but after reading a review of Malla Nunn’s first novel, A Beautiful Place to Die, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. A Beautiful Place to Die kicks off a series of four books (so far), all featuring detective Emmanuel Cooper and all set in 1950s apartheid South Africa.

As has happened to me before, and as could probably be guessed from the title, I’ve fallen in love with the setting. The descriptions of the landscape are so evocative, the tension between such a beautiful country and its ugly laws so captivating, I couldn’t put it down. Even a murder investigation is influenced by apartheid laws in so many ways — Cooper is challenged by his superiors when he investigates white suspects, as upholding the institution of racism is deemed more important than bringing a killer to justice. As might be expected there is a lot of violence simmering beneath the surface.

If you enjoy your crime with a bit of armchair travel and racial politics, this is the book for you! Or if you prefer funny stories about dysfunctional families like The One Plus One, please tell me your favourites in the comments. I’ll need something a bit lighter when I finish Blessed Are the Dead!

Quick questions with Margaret Wilson

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyMargaret Wilson is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August to speak on The Struggle for Sovererignty. This event is part of the Shifting Points of View – WORD Christchurch at the Christchurch Arts Festival.  Margaret is Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Waikato, and she has been an MP and Speaker of Parliament. She will be in conversation with Dr Bronwyn Hayward, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury.

This session is timely and relevant:

In the era of public choice and free markets, and when widespread public protest against global treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is having little effect, does the New Zealand state still have the best interests of its individual citizens at heart? Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Thanks to Margaret for answering our quick questions.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I’m looking forward to meeting people in Christchurch who share my values.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are essential for a democratic community – they provide pleasure, knowledge and well being for a community. (My sister is a librarian!)

What would be your “desert island book”?

I would take the bible and the Koran to try understand why religion is so important to so many people.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

If I had the time and money I would tour the world watching cricket.


Success is such a loaded word. When I see the word on the cover of a publication, I’m almost always suspicious and repelled. And I suspect you are too.

Cover of OutliersBut! Please, PLEEEEEAAASE, don’t be put off journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success.

Fundamentally, Mr Gladwell uncovers the critical drivers of success – the fortune of being in the right place, at the right time, in the right era.

He does this without detracting from people’s raw talent and hard work, as it goes well beyond any facile treatment of people just being “lucky”. It’s a fascinating read, as he profiles all sorts of pioneering people: the Beatles, sports people, Bill Gates and other tech giants. Just to name a few.  He delves into their backgrounds, upbringings, geographic environments etc, and identifies how such circumstances scaffold their paths to success.

“Accumulative Advantage” and success

The book starts off discussing what Gladwell terms “Accumulate Advantage” which basically describes the various benefits and gains arbitrarily afforded to certain people, groups, or individuals, and how such benefits propel such people into success.

Gladwell illustrates this in a wee yarn about Canadian pro ice hockey players.  The majority of first class players in Canada are born at the start of the calendar year. This is significant because the youth hockey leagues in Canada compartmentalize the age group competitions by each calendar year – kids born in January of a particular year play in the same class as those born in December of that same year. What this means is that kids born in January, February, March are more mature than those born later in the year (December etc), and therefore, such kids are stronger, faster and more coordinated than their younger contemporaries – so they are considered to be “better athletes”. The “better athletes” are then selected for regional representation, and as a result, get selected for special teams and professional development.
THEREFORE, a small advantage at a young age (quite simply, being almost a year older than other kids) accumulates massively after several years of professional development in special programmes.

Gladwell argues that this particular example of “Accumulative Advantage” is underpinned by an arbitrary and overlooked indicator – age.  Such observations may sound like nothing special, but when 70% of pro hockey players in Canada are born in the early months of a calendar year, one starts to question what success in certain professions is contingent upon.

The 10,000 hour principle and success

Other similar examinations to Accumulated Advantage (backed by research) share a common important theme, known as the 10,000 hour principle – the idea that to become a master of something, you have to do it for a minimum of 10,000 hours.

Gladwell goes on to demonstrate through various anecdotes the bizarre circumstances successful people found themselves in in their formative years, and how the “planets aligned” to afford them the experience of 10,000 hours worth of training in a particular field. For example, in his younger years, Bill Gates just happened to have pretty much exclusive access to a new type of computer with “mainframe” technology, which allowed him to learn programming as a youth in the 1960s. This was a period when almost no-one, except a small group of kids, had access to computers which enabled them to learn programming for almost unlimited periods of time.
The result being that by the time the computer revolution kicked off in the 70s, these guys were perfectly placed to be at the forefront of the movement.

Gladwell asserts that Mr Gates and others would not have founded such companies if they weren’t in the right place, at the right time, in the right era.

In fact, here’s a list of the most pioneering software tech people of our generation and when they were born (all in an 18 month window around 1955):

Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder : 28 October 1955
Bill Joy, SUN Co-Founder: 8 November 1954
Scott McNealy, SUN Co-Founder: 13 November 1954
Steve Jobs, Founder Apple: 24 February 1955
Eric Schmidt, Google & Novell CEO: 27 April 1955
Paul Allen, Microsoft Founder: 21 January 1953
Steve Balmer, Microsoft Founder: 24 March 1956
Vinod Khosla, SUN Co-Founder: 28  January 1955
Andy Bechtolsheim, SUN Co-Founder: 30 September 1955

AGAIN, age and era being a critical driver of success – and if you had access to the small amount of computers in the USA at the time then you were in the box seat!

Outliers was an influential bestseller for a reason – it’s very stimulating and gets you thinking about the circumstantial reasons for success, without dismissing hard work and innovation.