Mona Anderson’s tale of High Country life

A River Rules My Life has been re-released!

Originally published in 1963, Mona Anderson’s unique perspective of a woman’s experience on a South Island farm brings to life the High Country of days gone by.

Deep in the Rolleston Ranges, in the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, Mount Algidus Station is isolated between the mighty and dangerous Wilberforce and Rakaia rivers.

Mona crosses the Wilberforce as a new bride in the 1930s to start her life in this harsh environment. To get to her new home she must ride a dray cart for hours in a freezing wind – perched on top of all her worldly possessions – including a piano!

Mona’s observations of everything from errant cooks to brave horses are quite matter of fact and entertaining, while sad events are accepted as a part of life.

When World War II takes away many farmhands never to return, Mona and her husband Ron are stretched to do many jobs, and Mona has to muck in – feeding the men, and working alongside them – often on horseback.

Poetry and “back country” ditties pepper the tale, including one written by the author. Most notable are these lines written by a young hand leaving to join the Army:

Oh land of river, rock and spur / Of sunkissed hills and sky so blue / I, a humble musterer, Will ever leave my heart with you. / Tho I dwell beneath some distant sky / My memory will ever turn / To mates I knew in days gone by / And evenings when the camp fires burn. / For I am leaving you this day / To return again. But who can tell, / For good or bad. I cannot say.  Mount Algidus, I wish you well.

The charm of this book includes quaint “station names” for many local features; such as Bustmegall (Bust my gall) Creek, More-rain Hut and Boulderstone Creek (the Rolleston). Mistake ‘Hill’, at 7000 feet illustrates the Southern capacity for understatement.

Filled with thrills and spills (no-one is spared a dip in the Wilberforce), this book is a cornerstone of New Zealand back country life and a must for your holiday reading list.

More information

A River Rules My Life
by Mona Anderson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775541141

Christchurch Photo Hunt 2017 – The winners

Christchurch Photo Hunt poster 2017Plains, Port Hills & Peninsula – Finding our way was the theme for 2017.

This year we had some excellent individual photographs and collections submitted telling wonderful stories of people, family and Christchurch. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and contributing to our photographic history.

This year’s judges were Sarah Snelling the Digital Curation Librarian and Masha Oliver, Information Librarian at Central Manchester Library joined by Jacqui Stewart from the Kete Christchurch Team. They met on 27 November to decide on the winners in the categories of Places – Your landmarks in time, Your People – How we lived, and an overall winner.

All category winners and highly commended entries win a book prize.

This year’s entries

Photographs date from 1913 to October 2017 and it has been a great to receive so many photographs from the 1960s, 70s and 1980s. Of note is the collection of photographs from Cynthia Roberts. These photos document women involved in the Christchurch Women’s Resource Centre in the 1970s.

The judges noted that this year the photos reflected Christchurch’s social history, depicting everything from anti-nuclear awareness and anti-mining protesting to Cantabrians at work and play. We also see buildings and landscapes that have been lost due to development and earthquakes.

Several entries are recent photographs beautifully highlighting the magnificent landscape we live in.

Overall winner

Rehua Marae, 1980. Cynthia Roberts. 

Rehua Marae, 1980
Hui at Rehua Marae. Carolyn with pram, 1980. Rehua Marae by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

This image was awarded the overall winner for multiple reasons. One of the judges commented that so much was being told by the photograph it has an almost illustrative quality to it. A strong composition is balanced by the people in the foreground.  This photograph was taken in 1980 and shows Māori, Pākehā, a family group and people of different age groups. The woman with the pram and suitcase fits in with the “finding our way” theme. The image shows people in places and a sense of community spirit.

This photograph is part of a wider collection that Cynthia submitted focusing on people in the 1970s and 1980s. Our digital heritage collection has really been enhanced by Cynthia’s photographs.

People

Winner

Group by Lyttelton Harbour, 1948. Doug Bovett.

Group by Lyttelton Harbour
Group by Lyttelton Harbour by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

Doug’s image is part of a wider collection of twelve photographs taken by his mother in the late 1940s. The collection shows pictures of a group of friends that caught the daily train from Rangiora to Papanui High School and went tramping and socialised together, showing what young people did in their leisure time.

The judges fell in love with the images of young women enjoying themselves and living life in post WWII Christchurch.

It was noted that this photograph has a feeling of a modern selfie and that really not much changes in 69 years. Teenagers still hang out and take photos of themselves. It was also commented that the clothing was not the active wear and shoes we wear now but everyday clothes, maybe even school uniform.

This collection continued the story of a photograph on Kete Christchurch that we published as a post card for this year’s Photo Hunt. Doug’s collection has told more of that story.

People – Highly commended

Making a Yogi Bear Snowman in the evening, 1976. June Hunt.

Making a Yogi Bear Snowman in the evening
Making a Yogi Bear Snowman in the evening by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ

June Hunt’s photograph of the snowman was highly commended as this photo and her other submissions show her story and everyday family life in 1970s Christchurch. The excitement of the first snow, the clothes people wore and what people did in their leisure time.

Masons preparing stone for the Memorial Church Tai Tapu, 1930s. Bryan Bates.

Masons preparing stone for the Memorial Church Tai Tapu
Masons preparing stone for the Memorial Church Tai Tapu by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ license

This photograph was judged as highly commended as it tells such a lot about what was happening in post-WWI New Zealand. We can see what men wore to work – craftsmen doing a trade that may have been in its decline. The depiction of stonemasons working on stone to build a church when so many of our stone churches has gone after the earthquakes is also significant.

Leader of the band, 1913. Name withheld

Leader of the band, 1913
Leader of the band by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

This photograph is one of the oldest we received this year. It shows Fredrick Wilson the leader of the Stanmore Brass band in 1913.  The Wilson family ran the tearooms at the Sign of the Bellbird and Fredrick also helped Harry Ell build the walking tracks.

The image shows what people did in their leisure time and a bygone era when nearly every suburb had a brass band.

Charlotte on a motorbike. 1923. L Sullivan.

Charlotte on a motorbike, ca. 1923
Charlotte on a motorbike. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

Charlotte is 18 years old and dressed in her boyfriend’s clothes riding his motorbike that she liked riding fast. The photograph was awarded a highly commended. It shows an adventurous young woman who had a long life in Christchurch. She travelled throughout Canterbury on the back of her boyfriend’s bike, “finding their way”.

This photograph continues the theme of many of this year’s submissions, strong women enjoying life in Christchurch.

Places

The images in this category included landscapes, images of Banks Peninsula, interiors and buildings.

Winner

Rugby match at Lancaster Park. 1960. Des Pinn

Rugby Match at Lancaster Park
Rugby Match at Lancaster Park. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

This image was chosen for several reasons. It shows a crowd at a rugby game at Lancaster Park – they may be leaving after a game. Socially it reminds us of what many people did regularly on a Saturday afternoon, what people wore and what people did in their leisure time.

A judge also commented that it feels like the crowd escapes the photo.

Places – Highly commended

Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Co. Ltd, 1979. Alan Tunnicliffe.

Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Co. Ltd
Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Co.Ltd by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

This photograph was taken in 1979. We have very few photos of the city at this time and the photograph shows a lost city scape, specifically the east side of Manchester Street between Allen and Eaton Streets.

Shag Rock, Sumner Beach, 2009. Phil Le Cren

Shag Rock, Sumner Beach, 2009
Shag Rock, Sumner Beach, 2009 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

An image of iconic Sumner at sunset. Taken in 2009 the landscape was dramatically altered by the earthquakes.

Men’s Toiletries Department at Hays, 1960. Des Pinn.

Men's Toiletries Department at Hays.
Men’s Toiletries Department at Hays. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

This a unique image as it shows the interior of a shop in 1960, and it shows a display introducing Old Spice.

Totara tree, 1995. Merle Conaghan.

Totara tree
Totara tree by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ License

Merle’s photographs taken while out on Banks Peninsula with her walking group have added greatly to our collection. She highlights the varied landscape found on Banks Peninsula, from the coast to the rugged hills.

The Totara tree looks like a sign pointing in several ways tying in nicely with the “finding our way” theme.

We welcome submissions of photos, information and stories to Kete Christchurch at any time.

The prison camp, Hanmer Springs: Picturing Canterbury

The prison camp, Hanmer Springs (1904). File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0004.

Between 1900 and 1901 reserve land was set aside in Hanmer Springs for planting exotic trees to supply the Christchurch market. Planting of radiata pine and Douglas fir began in 1902-1903 and prison labour was used 1903-1913. There were 25 prisoners here in 1904, most of whom had asked to serve their sentence at Hanmer. Conditions were the same as a city prison, the only difference being the men got an additional four marks a week remission for industry.

See The Press, 10 September 1904, p. 3; The Weekly Press, 24 March 1909, p. 67.

Do you have any photographs of Hanmer? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

A natural quartet

I’ve recently been delving into some “recreational non-fiction” reading!

Recreational non-fiction is what you might call stories based on fact that read as easily as a novel. This can be particularly true of memoir or biographies, and I’ve come across four such titles that I would like to recommend to you, the Christchurch reading public!

They’re all based around the topic of the natural world, they all read like adventure tales, and they all have a common link; the idea that we should all spend more time in and around nature, observe, engage, and enjoy.

We certainly don’t all need to go to the extreme lengths that these authors do – you don’t, for example, need to be the man responsible for dangling Sir David Attenborough 180ft in the upper canopy of one of the world remotest rainforests! You also don’t need to chase errant wild stags through the outskirts of London during the storm of the decade! And you definitely don’t need to be the man behind the push for Cpt. William Bligh to set off on his ill-fated voyage in the Bounty to take breadfruit from the Pacific Islands and take it to the Americas as cheap fodder for slave owners!

No, we can just sit back on a sunny spring day and enjoy stories of nature and travel, real stories told by real people who actually wrote the words themselves (apart from Linnaeus and Banks of course, their stories are ably told by Oxford historian Patricia Fara)

A Natural Quartet

List created by DevilStateDan

Four books about the natural world that you just can’t miss!

Cover of Sex, Botany and EmpireSex, Botany & Empire

The amazing story behind two giant names in natural science; Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks. Just how great were they? Were they true champions of natural science, conservation, and preservation? Or were they subject to their own particular biases and egos in their work, striving to become something more than they were..? This book is a great insight and a brilliant read, giving context to the lives and journeys of these two names so famous now that we forget how recent their work actually is!

Cover of The man who climbs treesThe Man Who Climbs Trees

This is a series of stories that follows a man around the globe as he climbs some of the tallest trees in the world! He regularly works for the BBC to help produce some of the amazing images of the flora and fauna to be found in forest canopies seen in their Planet Earth series, he has a brilliant outlook on nature and conservation, and is a very talented storyteller – his tales read like boys-own adventures as he navigates all kinds of perils (weather, insects, primates, you name it!) to provide safe vertical passage through the forests of the world. If you like the natural world then this is a memoir too good to miss!

Cover of Adventures of a young naturalistAdventures of A Young Naturalist

The story of David Attenborough’s fist major nature assignment as he travels into remote parts (pre-internet or mobile phone coverage!) to obtain vision of some of the creatures of the earth that humans have only ever read about in books. Written by the man himself, his voice is clear and present in every word as he deals with the perils of travelling the wilds of the earth for the betterment of natural science.

Cover of Park lifePark Life

John Bartram stands as the longest serving gamekeeper of the illustrious and ecologically-fragile Richmond Park – a secluded nature reserve in the midst of the busyness of London. He tells of his journey to get to the job and the lifetime of work and memories he has obtained along the way. It is written in a very matter-of-fact manner which serves well to remind the reader that nature is on our doorstep and to stop now and then to treasure it.

And if these stories have piqued your interest in the natural world but you’re wanting to read more about OUR natural world, then perhaps try one of these beaut magazines available through Christchurch City Libraries… they’re full of the same fascination and excitement of discovery as the old stories but with the added advantage that they’re the stories of our own generation, in and of our own region.

Climate Change is Real! says Orca: Idiot Gods by David Zindell

“I am the eye with which the universe / Beholds itself and knows itself divine.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn of Apollo

CoverDavid Zindell you have filled my heart to overflowing. This book Idiot Gods is different  – a lyrical story on climate change from the point of view of a whale. An Orca, to be exact, named Arjuna. With Conservation Week just behind us, this is the perfect summer read.

Neverness author David Zindell immerses the reader in the complex and deeply spiritual currents of thought from the mind of his unlikely hero. Deeply disturbed by a chain of tragic events in the ocean, Arjuna realises that humans are responsible for the breakdown and destruction of Earth. Or Ocean, as Orca call it.

Guided by the songs of the ocean and his ancestors that link him to all creation, Arjuna tries to communicate this to the human race. His attempts to raise the alarm land him in the ‘poisoned pools’ of captivity. Could this experience be part of his life’s song? Or the final bars?

“You want to be closer to our people – you even want our love! How, though, should you think that trapping us in the pools of the Sea Circuses of the world and feeding us dead, drugged food will result in feelings of amity and accord?” (p.276)

“Why can you not find such satisfaction through communing with other humans? Instead, you seek validation through swimming with us and slathering upon us effusive affections. If we respond in kind, or indeed in any way, you take that as affirmation of your own specialness and worthiness to be loved.” (p.276)

With a solid knowledge of oceanography – and a great imagination –  Zindell raises the issue of human hubris, assumed superiority, cruelty to each other and the creatures they share the planet with.

“I see an entire species that lives off itself. Like sharks devouring each other, you eat each other’s labour, money, time, sweat, tears, hopes and dreams.” (p.260)

The trials of life in a polluted sea are painted in stark detail: an ocean empty of fish, filled instead with ships waging war on each other and whales.

“And the bull-whales gather their women and whale-claves in a ring / When danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood / And range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat / Encircling their huddled monsters of love”.
D.H. Lawrence, Whales Weep Not.

The Orcas’ experience of madness and depression in captivity is told with a poignancy that I found incredibly moving. Can Arjuna communicate the things he desperately wants to tell us? Or could war with humans be the only solution?

Find more in our collection

Related links

New York = SuperVenice: 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Sometimes it’s tough to step out of your comfort zone. We all have out preferred authors, genres and styles and it is very easy to stay in our little bubble and miss out on gems from the genres we avoid. I am very guilty of this. I generally gravitate to small, personal stories and biographies ignoring the genres of fantasy, mystery and science fiction. Especially science fiction, which often strikes me as dry, impersonal, intimidating (I was rubbish at science) and not a lot of fun.  However, we all know change is good and really, can a genre be all bad? Thinking it is about time I expanded my horizons, I decided to give New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robertson a go and I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.

2140 takes place in New York City after climate change has radically altered the face of the planet. Sea levels have risen 50 feet killing millions in the process. 2140 looks at the lives of people living in the city that has been nicknamed “SuperVenice”. Streets have become canals and people travel in skywalks between high rise buildings or ride the streets on boats or jetskis.

2140 weaves together the lives of the residents of Met Life Tower, to bring to life a city that is both post-apocalyptic and rather utopian. The lives of all these characters eventually tell a story that warns the reader of the dangers of environmental and political inaction. Aside from the obvious references to our response (or lack thereof) to climate change the book draws parallels to the world’s recent financial crisis’s and the problems of unchecked capitalism.

The detail in 2140 is extraordinary with the imagined histories of the future New York, its people and its infrastructure exhaustively and lovingly laid out by an anonymous narrator throughout the book. It’s the kind of obsessive detail and back story that is so often found in sci-fi that I often find hard to take and that some readers might find a bit of a slog to get through. In this case, for me, it all added to the realism and drew me further into the story.

2140 is an engaging and thought-provoking book filled with big ideas and big messages. It’s both a dire warning of what might happen if the world does not act quickly to curb climate change and a hopeful vision of humanity adapting and thriving even after the worst has happened. If you are a sci-fi fan you should absolutely read it, if like me you are generally not a sci-fi reader, give it a go. The story is compelling and the characters relatable, relevant and most of all, human. No science degree required.

New York 2140
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9780356508764

Simon
New Brighton Library

Bonsai!

Have you ever come across an activity or hobby that surprises you by the extent of the passion felt by those who are involved, and by the global reach and organisation behind the hobby? I’m not talking about Star Trek conventions or Cosplay in general, but rather the world of Bonsai. A gathering of Bonsai enthusiasts matches anything Star Trek fans can generate in terms of excitement and passion, but without the funny uniforms or prosthetics.

I was lucky enough to be able to organise a few days off from my library duties and attend the recent National Bonsai Show and Convention in Dunedin on 7th and 8th October.

Perhaps you’re surprised that there is a National Bonsai show? There’s even a New Zealand Bonsai Association to oversee all things bonsai. This is not Japan, it’s true, but there are still plenty of people in New Zealand who would travel significant distances for such a gathering. And what a mixed lot they were! The Bonsai bug bites all equally – that gathering had everyone from a retired professor of agricultural systems to a carpenter, and, of course, a librarian. All were united by a passion for bonsai, regardless of background.

The convention had two main attractions for most, the national show itself, and the demonstrations and workshops with the famous (in the bonsai world anyway) bonsai professional Bjorn Bjorholm the first non-Japanese bonsai professional to work in Japan. Now based in the United States, Bjorn travels extensively to different parts of the world giving talks and demonstrations, so a chance to sit in with an acknowledged master was not to be missed.

Curious about the bonsai thing? The library can be your friend. There are a good range of books in the library covering the history, the aesthetic principles and the hands-on techniques. The library also offers access to articles from the best known English language Bonsai magazine, the Bonsai Journal.

And if you fancied finding out a bit more and maybe getting some hands on time with trees in the company of like-minded mini tree enthusiasts, why not go along to a local Bonsai club meeting? There are two clubs in Christchurch, both listed in the CINCH (Community Information Christchurch) database. See you there!

Ah, the serenity of the West Coast

This Labour Weekend I’m off to the West Coast of our South Island again. I get an itch to escape to there fairly often and this time it felt like it had been too long since last visit. There is something wholly relaxing about leaving your busy city life for the wilds of ‘the Coast’.

Here are some West Coast reads:

97808647389509780473291273978047315546909087086450790009757187713583618772281179780957955981

Be safe on our roads this holidays.

Remembering Lawrie Metcalf – Plantsman

Lawrie Metcalf passed away on 18 August 2017. 

Cover of A garden centuryLawrie Metcalf had a long association with the Christchurch Botanic Gardens as the Assistant Curator from 1955 – 68 and the Assistant Director from 1968 -1977. It was important to him to demonstrate how gardeners could incorporate natives into their garden and create a garden that truly reflected New Zealand, something uniquely our own.

We can thank Lawrie for the native plant display in the Botanic Garden which was created to showcase what can be done with our native plants. Just like walking through a piece of bush this garden is the ideal place to take tourists to see native plants in a natural setting and an is an inspiration for the home gardener wanting to incorporate natives into their garden. He created displays that not only looked magnificent but also educated the visitor, placing the gardens on a solid scientific footing he also collected plants from throughout the country.

Cover of A Photographic Guide to Trees of New Zealand Cover of A photographic guide to alpine plants of new zealand Cover of A photographic guide to ferns of New Zealand

As the botanist with the Canterbury Museum he collected live plants and herbarium specimens on expeditions to alpine areas in the South Island expanding scientific understanding of what grew there. Lawrie expanded the international seed exchange programme to send native plant seeds to hundreds of botanic gardens, receiving seeds from around the world to trial at the botanic gardens. Later moving to Invercargill, as Director of Parks and Recreation for the Invercargill City Council, he continued his work establishing a sub-antarctic collection at Queens Park.

Lawrie was born in Christchurch and while at school Dr L.W. McCaskill (1900–1985) got him interested in growing native plants. He undertook his horticultural training and has gone on to greatly inspire young horticulturalists many of whom went on to hold senior positions. In his semi-retirement he ran a nursery in Nelson with his wife Lena and continued to publish books.

Cover of The cultivation of New Zealand Native Grasses Cover of The propagation of New Zealand Native Plants

Lawrie had a crucial role in the registration of cultivars of New Zealand native plants, dedicating 55 years to the task during which he published an international register of over 800 hebes.

He was president of the Canterbury Botanical Society and was awarded the Cockayne Gold Medal, The Loder Cup, Ian Galloway Outstanding Achievement Award, Veitch Memorial Medal and the Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for services to horticulture and conservation. In addition his work was acknowledged earlier this year with the naming of the herbarium at the Botanic Gardens the Lawrie Metcalf Herbarium by the Christchurch City Council.

Cover of The cultivation of New Zealand trees and shrubsLawrie used his love of photography in his many books the most well-known of which is The cultivation of New Zealand trees and shrubs, originally published in 1972. This book gave Kiwis the knowledge of how to identify, grow and care for natives with confidence and was written in a way anyone could understand.

The landscaping trend towards natives shows no sign of abating and Metcalf’s books on native plants, trees and shrubs, alpines, grasses, ground covers, ferns and hebes, all written in a practical style and imparting a wealth of scientific knowledge,  will continue to inspire New Zealand gardeners and horticulturalists for years to come.

Further reading

Antarctic Season Opening 2017

With temperatures that can fall to -60 degrees celsius, months without sunlight, and a desert landscape nearly devoid of moisture, the continent of Antarctica is perhaps the most desolate place on earth. Yet every September, foreign scientists and military personnel descend upon the city of Christchurch in preparation for their journey to this frozen landscape. In doing so they are continuing a tradition which is well over a century old.

Situated at a latitude of 43.5321 South, Christchurch is one of the five official world gateway cities for Antarctica. By the end of September, the first flights to the ice start to depart from Christchurch International Airport. The city marks this occasion with a series of programmes and events known as Antarctic Season Opening.

Passengers leaving Christchurch for McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on NZ LC130, 22 November 2005. Photo by Mike Rodgers, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ license.

Historic beginnings

Christchurch was first used as a port of call for scientific teams journeying to the Antarctic during the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-1904), also known as the Discovery Expedition. Led by Robert Falcon Scott, the Discovery arrived in Lyttelton on 29 November 1901.

During his time in Christchurch, Scott was a guest at the Rhodes family home in Merivale, Te Koraha. To assist the expedition, a magnetic observatory was constructed in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to allow the members to conduct magnetic surveys. Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour was used to keep the expedition’s 23 Siberian dogs in quarrantine. The kennels where these dogs were housed have recently been restored.

Prior to his departure, Scott wrote a letter to the Town Clerk of Christchurch, thanking the people of Canterbury for their hospitality and the donation of sheep to his expedition. The city remained in the memory of the men during their time on the ice, with fish trap hole number 3, used by marine biologist Thomas Vere Hodgson to capture samples of marine life, being renamed “Christchurch”.

Ernest Shackleton, who had served on the Discovery Expedition, also made use of Lyttelton during his Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909). As with the previous journey, Quail Island acted as a quarantine station for the expedition’s dogs and Manchurian ponies.

The Nimrod leaving Lyttelton for the Antarctic, 1908
The Nimrod leaving Lyttelton for the Antarctic, 1908. Mary Boyle, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

Historic footage shows the ponies being loaded on to the Nimrod against the backdrop of Lyttelton port. Departing from Lyttelton on New Year’s Day 1908, the Nimrod was towed to the Antarctic Circle by the Koonya which had been loaned by the New Zealand Government. Shackleton’s Whisky from this expedition was recently discovered in 2007 and thawed out in a temperature controlled room at the Canterbury Museum. On his return from the Antarctic, Shackleton donated money raised during one of his lectures to the foundation of the Christchurch Girls’ Training Hostel.

Robert Falcon Scott returned to Christchurch in October 1910 at the beginning of his ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913). Mules from the hill station of Simla in India were donated by the Indian government in 1911 and housed on Quail Island prior to the expedition’s departure. Following the death of Scott, a statue carved by his widow, Kathleen Scott, was shipped to New Zealand in 1916 and unveiled on 9 February 1917.

Later that month, on 24 February, after returning from his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917), Shackleton planted an oak on the grounds of Christchurch Girls’ Training Hostel.

International Geophysical Year 1957

In preparation for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957 various nations prepared to send teams of scientists to the Antarctic. The cooperation of the nations would eventually lead to the establishment of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.

New Zealand contributed to the IGY by playing an important role in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1955-1958). Sir Edmund Hillary led the New Zealanders who oversaw the establishment of Scott Base. While laying supply depots for the British party that was crossing Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, Hillary, Murray Ellis, Peter Mulgrew and Derek Wright reached the South Pole on 4 January 1958 in converted Ferguson tractors. This was the first overland expedition to reach the pole since Scott and Amundsen. The Tucker Sno-cat, named Able, which was used in the crossing by the Trans-Antarctic Expedition leader, Vivian Fuchs, is now housed in the Canterbury Museum.

Deep Freeze hangar
Deep Freeze hangar, by David O’Malley is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ License.

Known as cheech to the Americans based there, Christchurch became the base for the United States own contributions to the IGY. Between October and December 1955, US aircraft arrived at Wigram to prepare for Operation Deep Freeze I (1955-1956). On 10 December, the US navy icebreaker, USS Glacier departed from Lyttelton Harbour. On 20 December, in the early hours of the morning, two ski-equipped Lockheed P2V-2N Neptunes took off from what was then Harewood airport (now Christchurch International Airport). Fourteen hours later, the first of the two Neptunes successfully landed at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

For its role in Operation Deep Freeze, the United States gifted the Native American totem pole (carved in 1959) which stood in Little Hagley Park until 1980 when it was transferred to the entrance of the airport.

Wishing to highlight the strategic role it played in Antarctic operations, the Christchurch International Airport opened the International Antarctic Centre, with its main feature, the Antarctic Attraction, in 1992.

Despite many different organisations with connections to Antarctica being based in Christchurch, there was no local body to act as a mediator between them. In order to coordinate the efforts of these various groups, an Antarctic City Strategy was developed by the Christchurch City Council which, in 2016, led to the establishment of the Antarctic Office.

Find out more