100 years ago today: Antarctic explorers remembered

A hundred years ago, on 9 February 1917, two very different Antarctic stories were being celebrated in New Zealand.

Robert Falcon Scott statue
Robert Falcon Scott memorial, Scott Reserve, corner of Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace [ca. 1917] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0033
In Christchurch on 9 February 1917 a statue to honour the Antarctic explorer Robert Scott was unveiled.

The Scott Memorial Statue stood on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace and had been commissioned by the Council in 1913. Sculpted by Scott’s widow Kathleen, the 3-tonne, 2.6 metre high white marble statue of Scott in polar dress stood on a plinth inscribed with words from Scott’s farewell message ‘I do not regret this journey which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.’ A bronze plaque records his name and those of his companions who died on the expedition to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Scott’s statue remained in place until it was thrown off its plinth and damaged during the 22nd February 2011 earthquake. The broken statue was removed and in January 2016 it was put on display again at Canterbury Museum’s special exhibition, Quake City. Today, on the centenary of its unveiling, restoration plans for the repair of the statue were announced.

Meanwhile in another part of New Zealand a group from a very different Antarctic expedition were being welcomed to Wellington. On 9 February 1917 the Aurora arrived in New Zealand after returning from a rescue mission of the Ross Sea party from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

This group had been tasked with laying a series of supply depots for the final part of Shackleton’s proposed route across Antarctica, with the Aurora used for transport and carrying supplies. While anchored at Cape Evans in May 1915 the Aurora became frozen into the shore ice and after a severe gale it broke its moorings and was carried out to sea attached to an ice-floe. This left a ten-man sledding team marooned ashore where they would remain for nearly two years. The Aurora eventually broke free from the ice but then had to sail to New Zealand for repairs.

The ship Aurora at Port Chalmers , 1916
The ship Aurora at Port Chalmers. Ref: 1/2-012189-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22592954

In December 1916, after repairs, and under the command of Captain J.K. Davis, the Aurora returned to rescue those left behind, leaving Port Chalmers bound for McMurdo Sound. The Aurora arrived at Cape Evans on 10th January 1917, and found seven surviving members of the Ross Sea party. You can read news reports of the ship’s arrival on Papers Past.

Further information

Looking ahead to SCAPE 8 – New intimacies

I love the biennial public art festival SCAPE. You can read about what’s coming, but there is nothing like seeing the art in situ. I disagree with Christopher Moore’s column in The Press. Our central city is the ultimate canvas – art within it gives us a sense of possibility, of imagination, of beauty. We need that.

Stay by Antony Gormley is the legacy public artwork, joining such Christchurch landmarks as:

Treehouses for Swamp Dwellers by Julia Morison (2014)
House for Swamp dwellers by Julia Morison

Kaleidoscopic Nights by Rachael Dewhirst (2013)
Kaleidoscopic Nights - Rachael Dewhirst SCAPE mural

Passing time by Anton Parsons (2010/2011)
Passing time

Flour power by Regan Gentry (2008)
Flour Power

Nucleus by Phil Price (2006)
Phil Price Nucleus - Manchester Street and High Street

SCAPE 8 New Intimacies takes place from 3 October to 15 November 2015. Explore the public programme of events and new site-specific art works created for SCAPE 8.

There has been a flurry of media coverage. Try these to get a good sense of what’s on its way:

SCAPE Public Art installs free-to-view public art in Christchurch. SCAPE have gifted 9 permanent artworks and commissioned more than 160 temporary works.


The sailor of Victoria Square: Captain James Cook

83 years ago today on 10 August 1932 the Captain Cook statue in Victoria Square created by local sculptor William Trethewey was unveiled by the Governor-General of the time, Lord Bledisloe.

Unveiling of the Captain Cook statue in Victoria Square by the Governor-General

It is a marble figure on a granite base, the inscription upon which reads –

James Cook, Captain, Royal Navy, circumnavigator who first hoisted the British flag in New Zealand and explored her seas and coasts, 1769–70, 1773–4, 1777

Although the statue survived Christchurch’s quakes undamaged, his dignity has taken something of a blow recently as he currently sports a jaunty, distinctly Cantabrian hat.Captain Cook with traffic cone hat

Though his environs and view may have changed a bit in recent years, still he stands, looking always towards the sea…

For more about Captain Cook

Art is on the street – experience SCAPE Public Art

SCAPE 7 – the splendid public art adventure – is coming to an end. You should take the chance to check it out before it goes if you haven’t already. And if you have, it’s definitely worth another look.

Here are some of my faves of this year’s crop:
t-OWN planning by Roslisham Ismail aka Ise – a nifty collage effect artwork that overlooks the Re:START Mall.
t-OWN planning by Roslisham Ismail aka Ise

Miranda Parkes’ Fielder on various sites in town.
Miranda Parks SCAPE

Though some art goes, SCAPE also gives us permanent pieces.
This year we have Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers by Julia Morison.
Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers

And other pieces of public art you can thank SCAPE for:

Phil Price’s Nucleus
Phil Price Nucleus - Manchester Street and High Street

Passing time by Anton Parsons
Passing time

Flour power by Regan Gentry.
Flour Power

Thanks to the SCAPE Public Art team. Not only have they brought brilliant art into the city, they have also put on a programme of educational events and have shown heaps of kids and adults around the public art of Christchurch. Onya SCAPE.


The Lambs’ Book of Life (Folder Wall)Sunday the 14th August. The snow held off and Scape was launched successfully, surely a huge relief for the 6th Biennial of Art in Public Space, postponed twice due to earthquakes.

Art lovers gathered in the TelstraClear Club in Hagley Park to mark the heartbreak and hard work involved,  to celebrate the achievement of making it actually happen and to set off to see the works in situ.

We all got a copy of the handsome programme, archival documents in themselves with the many alterations and amendments added as circumstances changed. Lead by the Town Cryer and exhorted to keep it orderly (wasted words to an art crowd – no sooner underway than wandering willy-nilly among the traffic).

First stop was The Lambs’  Book of Life (Folder Wall), the enormous Darryn George work  on the Christchurch Civic Offices Building Montreal Street Wall. Based on “an internal view of a filing cabinet drawer with the receding label tabs of suspended folders seen as a metaphor for the function of records and registers”, the sheer scale of the work is quite overwhelming.

After a musical interlude from a small brass band on bicycles and the spectacular sight of a trailer load of red balloons launched into a sky that was still blue, we were off to Gardensity, Ash Keating’s work designed before the September 4th earthquake. This “fictional property development which houses new condensed, sustainable living located in Cathedral Square”,  is spookily timely considering the very recent launch of the Draft City Plan, but it does look to disobey the height restrictions (just a bit). It’s on the forecourt of the Art Gallery.

The final work on the walking tour was my particular favourite, Ahmet Ogut’s Waiting for a Bus. A “gently rotating carousel (that) provides an invitation for people to sit, stop and observe the slowly unfolding view of the altered city surrounding them”. The small brass band had nipped around the back way, taken up the invitation and were in fact gently rotating, much to the fascination of passersby. This one is outside the Museum, where there surely is an unfolding view of a very altered Arts Centre.

Get out,  have a look and tell – what’s your favourite?