Monday, 20 January 2014

Matiu/Somes Island

And other weekend adventures. Well one way of not feeling the first big earthquake since I arrived is to be out on the water. Not so good if there's a tsunami I suspect. So the earth, very thankfully, didn't move for me and all was still standing at my place after a 6.3 earthquake based just north of where I am. There was some damage done it seems, very scary given the comment someone on the ferry made: We missed out this time, she commented to the child with her, but there will be more!

I'm not a big fan of earthquakes. I had this discussion with a friend as I was on my way south, he had never been in an earthquake and didn't know why it was such a big deal. The big deal is the sheer unpredictability. No one really knows when and where they are going to strike, although New Zealand is not called the shaky isles for nothing. We are a land form pushed up on a fault line with volcanoes, both active and extinct, and an impressively jagged mountain range right down the middle of the South Island.

Or Te Wai Pounamu. Aotearoa, the land with the long white cloud hiding the snowy mountains. Such a treat to fly over when one has been away for a while. I visited Matiu Island, renamed Somes Island by the NZ Company, with the Wellywalkers group. Meeting up with Diana and Rachel from the zoo walk. On the way over we had quite a chat about names and belonging and self determination, the use of the original names for places not just the names given by those who came later.

Matiu Island has an amazing history captured here on Stuff by Nicola Toki, here is a small portion of her article.

"The human history of Matiu Somes goes back about a thousand years, when Kupe arrived in the Wellington Harbour and named the island for his daughter Matiu. 
Before European settlement there were two Maori pa sited on the island - but ultimately the island inhabitation was one of a refuge, since there was little fresh water on the island. However, in wartime, the island made a robust defence spot, with 360-degree views and being surrounded by water. 
In 1997 the New Zealand Geographic Board gave the island the official bilingual name of Matiu/Somes in recognition of its dual Maori and European history. In 2009 the Treaty settlement with Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika transferred ownership of all three Wellington Harbour islands to the iwi.
In 1839, the New Zealand Company took over Matiu and renamed it Somes after Joseph Somes, its deputy governor and financier. In 1866 the first lighthouse and first harbour light for Wellington Harbour was erected on the island.
The European story of Matiu Somes is a colourful and interesting one too.  After the island was "purchased", it had an early career as a human quarantine station. Many poor souls who'd endured the arduous trip to New Zealand by ship had to stop off on Somes to go through quarantine, which started with being put in a "smoke house", where things like sulphur were burnt in a brick room to smoke out any illness.
Matiu Somes became an animal quarantine station in 1893, and this activity continued for a century. Any new or potentially risky animals were quarantined there (or when there was too much livestock on the island, extra animals were quarantined on a boat anchored off the island). Our animal quarantine expertise became state of the art and helped to put us at the top of the biosecurity ranks."

I've reviewed my photos of the day and they are really disappointing. Some because my lens cover was badly marked from the windy outing the day before and many because I didn't have my settings quite right. Seagulls are quite hard to capture, I wanted a Johnathon Livingstone Seagull moment and didn't quite make it. This is a series of photos as we negotiated cross seagulls protecting their chicks. They were not very impressed and dive bombed the first one moving past. More will follow, for now it's an early night for an early morning start.

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