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’.
Lawrie 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.
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.
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.
Lawrie 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Antarctic themed activities for the October school holidays.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and books by Alex Preston
Having kept notebooks over many, many years, Preston has collected the words of dozens of writers. Each chapter is arranged around a bird, each bird illustrated by Neil Gower. The Guardian gives this book a rave review:
Memoir, or rather memory, gilds the narrative. The most moving chapter describes Preston’s father, bedbound with lymphoma, as he watches a family of collared doves on the rooftop opposite his window. He is woken by a fledgling dove on the windowsill inside the bedroom and tries to rescue the bird. Describing himself in the third person, Preston’s father writes: “Placid and accepting, she allows his right hand to embrace her body… while he emanates all he can in telepathic sedation. It, or something like it, must be working, for her wings remain static and spread, her breast neither heaving nor fluttering … How warm to the touch. He wants to stretch the moment to eternity.” This, perhaps, is the essence of the book, this longing for communion, for connection with things other than ourselves.
Basic Mathematics: An Introduction by Alan Graham
I reserved this book on a whim…I am not known for my mathematical ability and thought that it was about time I tackled what could almost be called a phobia. I must confess to scanning this book and promptly returned it, obviously I will need some more indepth counselling before I can tackle my “issues”. However, in the brief time that this book held my attention I did think it was very user-friendly, tackled basic concepts, and would be especially useful if you were struggling with keeping up with your school age children’s maths.
Honar: The Arkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art A very disappointing cover hides a luscious book documenting the Afkhami collection of Iranian art. The art in the collection is incredibly varied and at times surprising. Each artist has their own essay, plus there are well written and interesting chapters devoted to the collection itself and to Iranian art history.
What’s Your Bias? The Surprising science of why we vote the way we do by Lee De-Wit
We may think that we make rational decisions when it comes to voting but apparently we are just as much affected by our personality traits and unconscious biases as we are by what the news media and political debates are telling us. Perhaps you want to know more about why you think Jacinda is just the ticket or what it is about Bill that makes him irresistible? Apparently you will get to know more about yourself and the bigger political picture!
With the election looming, now would be a good time to find out what the issues are facing New Zealand. A good place to start would be our Critical Issues Collection from Bridget Williams Books.
First off before you vote for a new Prime Minister (technically we didn’t vote for Bill at the last election) you may want to read The 9th Floor: Conversations with Five New Zealand Prime Ministers. Based on the acclaimed RNZ podcast series, and including new material, The 9th Floor by journalists Guyon Espiner and Tim Watkin presents in-depth interviews with five former Prime Ministers of New Zealand. Geoffrey Palmer, Mike Moore, Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley, and Helen Clark reflect on their time occupying the prime ministerial offices on the 9th floor of the Beehive. Their recollections are a fascinating record of the decisions that shaped modern New Zealand.
After reading this about some of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers, you then have the option of reading about some of the other top issues in the upcoming election. The Critical Issues Collection has tackled all the major topics including the environment, child poverty, housing, immigration, health and the economy.
So what’s the deal with all this seed swapping that’s propagating across our libraries? Well, it’s been growing quietly for a while, and I was there when it all began…
It all started just after the February 2011 earthquake, as so many other interesting projects did. When my usual library (the Central Library) was closed, I was reassigned along with my colleagues – first to emergency response related duties, and then to help out at other suburban libraries as they reopened and experienced increased patronage.
So, I found myself on a bus to Lyttelton! On my first day my new colleague Lizzie greeted me with “So you’re the person who gets all the new garden books on hold before me!” From that welcome followed many hours of gardening talk; through aftershocks, closures, and long Friday afternoon desk shifts (often involving customers in the discussion).
A bit before spring of 2011 Lizzie uttered the fateful words “Hey, we could do a seed swap!” and The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap was born. It has been brightening up our early spring days at Lyttelton ever since. Our swap has includes seeds and seedlings (and even baby fruit and native trees on occasion) and we have the Lyttelton Community Gardens on board too.
I left the libraries for four years, but couldn’t stay away and was delighted to discover on my return that not only had The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap thrived, but it had put out runners to Akaroa and Hornby Libraries – and this year, with the help and enthusiasm of Remy at Spreydon Library, it’s popping up at Spreydon and South libraries too! Check out the times and dates for your nearest seed swap now.
If your garden is anything like mine, gardening would be a wet and muddy and not that appealing. So container gardening or planning is as far as I am willing to go at the moment. The library has heaps of eMagazines that you can borrow free via RBdigital Magazines or PressReader.
To celebrate the season of growing and greenery, in September we are hosting seed swaps. Bring in your leftover seeds to Lyttelton, Spreydon, South, Hornby or Akaroa Library and we’ll put them out to share. Find out more.
It’s nearly Spring (yay) and to celebrate the season of growing and greenery, we are hosting seed swaps. Bring in your leftover seeds to Lyttelton, Spreydon, South, Hornby or Akaroa Library and we’ll put them out to share.
We welcome vegetable, herb, flower, native, and heritage seeds. You can bring any spare potted-up seedlings. Seeds can be dropped in anytime before or during seed swap week. If you’re bringing in seedlings, please drop them off at the beginning of the week.
Pop! Bang! That’s what happened – literally – when a group of New Zealand children’s authors and illustrators presented inspiring talks to hundreds of Canterbury school children, just ahead of the announcement of the 2017 winners of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Several of the nominated authors and illustrators toured the country speaking to school children about their work and craft. Hosted in conjunction with WORD Christchurch, they addressed primary and intermediate students who came from across Canterbury to hear them speak at St. Margaret’s College. They talked about what it takes to be a writer and/or illustrator and what keeps them inspired and shared their working processes, all with the aim of sparking readers and the next generation of writers and illustrators. We share some of the highlights here.
Session One: Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot
“Any change for good is powered by fury and passion to make the world a better place” says Tania Roxborogh, and this idea is a driving force behind the story in her book about the Bastion Point occupation for Scholastic’s My New Zealand Story series, told from a child’s point of view.
Through the process of researching and writing this book, Roxborogh was reminded that: “Retelling history is never straightforward” because “people lie, self-edit, and mis-remember” and that “people remember different things.” She added that there is also the problem of bias in New Zealand media – from the right wing as well as the left wing – which she had to take into consideration when researching for this book.
When Roxborogh visited Bastion Point to help her find her point of view for the story, she found herself humbled, prompting her to ask: “What right do I even have to tell this story?” She realised, however, that regardless of who she was, the story of the protesters was a story worth telling.
Roxborogh teaches English and Drama at a Canterbury high school and has written over 50 books.
Snark – Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock … and its tragic aftermath.
Elliot’s illustrated book was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, and the Jabberwock and his presentation of museum-like artefacts and the stories he told about them would have had some in the audience wondering if his tale of the mission to discover the snark was true or not.
Elliot says he spent time living in a cottage inside Edinburgh Zoo and you have to wonder if this influenced his work illustrating weird and wonderous creatures.
For The Impossible Boy, Agnew asked: “What if a kid believes in something so much that his faith in it makes it real?” like Peter Pan’s belief in fairies, and on the flipside, “if you were an imaginary friend, what if you discovered you weren’t real?”
Agnew recommended using a little bit of non-fiction to make your fiction more real. In this case, she used the war-torn streets of Beirut in Lebanon as the inspiration for her setting of the story.
Various authors at the event talked about the hard parts of writing, when you feel like quitting or at least taking a break. Writing can take time! Agnew wrote 100 drafts of her book over 6 to 8 years. She says if you’re stuck, consider what Einstein said: You don’t solve a problem by looking at it in the same way, try looking at things from a new angle.
Agnew fits writing into her job as a primary school teacher by getting up at 5:30am to write before the school day starts. What inspired her to become a writer? Agnew “grew up in a house full of books” and her dad was a journalist who writes non-fiction, but really, she says, she “just wanted to do it.”
In the first session with Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot I felt an overall theme of the elusive – of capturing the elusive writing spark, capturing the Snark, and elusive invisible friends. Another theme that came through for me was the theme of imagination: imagine if someone was trying to take your land, imagine wondrous creatures and lands, imagine how an imaginary friend would feel if they discovered they weren’t real. Imagine.
Session Two: Des Hunt, Jenny Cooper and Simon Pollard
Des Hunt has a love of adventure stories, science, New Zealand animals and he combines all of these into his stories. Sunken Forest was inspired by a real life summer camp he went on when he was 15 at Lake Waikaremoana, a trip that was memorable partly for sparking his interest in geology. The lake was formed during an earthquake landslide that drowned the forest. Standing tree trunks eerily remain there underwater today. Also trapped there are eels which can’t make their way back to sea to migrate to the Pacific islands to lay eggs. Unable to leave, they grow exponentially large.
In Sunken Forest, one such eel befriends Matt, who is sent to boot camp after his father, a boy racer, is sentenced to prison. At camp, Matt has to deal with bullies and getting the blame for things he didn’t do.
In his talk, Des Hunt totally engaged his audience from beginning to end, by which time he had them on the edge of their seats. He cleverly demonstrated the idea of building tension in a story by blowing up a balloon… about to burst at any moment. How do you really build tension in a story? He says: Add conflict and injustice, a disaster and… Pop!… an explosive climax.
While many of those who spoke at the event started writing or drawing as early as their primary school years, surprisingly Des only published his first fiction book when he was about 50 years old but has since written heaps of books. His passion for writing is now so strong that he can’t imagine doing anything else and he hopes to be an author until he dies. This is good news for my young son who was so inspired by Des Hunt’s presentation he immediately went and read Sunken Forest, despite never having independently read a chapter book without pictures in it before. Des certainly inspired him reader to take his reading engagement to a higher level.
It was fantastic to see instant booktalking success in action! Des tours schools doing writing workshops so see if your school can be added to his schedule.
She especially does a lot of research for illustrating the war stories, hiring models and WWI artefacts and taking hundreds of photos to draw from so she could get the details correct. The war stories she works on are “hard to illustrate because they are so sad” but equally she says, they are “really satisfying.” She added: “Sometimes the hardest and most challenging things you work on were the most rewarding.”
This was a sentiment shared by several of the speakers. Getting to a finished product takes times and many drafts! She tries 6 – 10 layouts before she has a rough drawing and after that, a finished painting may take up to 6 hours.
Pollard is a spider expert, lecturing as an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury and he has been working with spiders for 30 to 40 years. He is interested in telling stories about what spiders get up to and recently worked with WETA Workshop on the impressive display of oversized bugs for the Bug Lab show at Te Papa Museum.
Pollard is an engaging speaker and really brings bugs to life. He told stories (complete with eek-inducing pictures) about the jewel wasp that immobilises and enslaves a cockroach so it can use it as a living nursery, laying its eggs in it to hatch. Ingenious, but gross. We also heard about the clever Japanese honey bees that kill their enemy, the Japanese hornet, by gathering together in a ball around one and quivering – the heat of their buzzing wings stops the wasp from secreting their signal for more wasps to attack them.
Then there’s the insect that looks like a spider, but isn’t, just to scare off predators. After learning all these fun facts, we were left marvelling at the magic of the natural world.
Primary and intermediate students from all over Christchurch lined up to ask lots of questions of the authors and illustrators after they spoke. Here are their inquisitive questions, and answers aimed at inspiring young readers, writers and artists.
What were some of your favourite books (growing up and now) and what writers would you recommend?
An integral part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is the HELL Reading Challenge, now in its fourth year. It has been hugely successful in getting kids reading and enjoying the pleasure of stories (and pizza). Kids can pick up their reading challenge cards at Christchurch City Libraries (until December 2017).