Back in Riverton, Otago, New Zealand, in 1848, a schooner of 180 tons was launched. Champagne being short, she was christened with a bottle of rum, and named Amazon, to the shouts of many Maori spectators. She was the first vessel to be built there, and her owner and builder, Captain Howell, was properly proud of her. And her first voyage must be one of the strangest on record.
Her crew, except for a couple of mates, was entirely Maori. They sailed her to Akaroa, the site of a failed attempt to make New Zealand French, where a party of the disappointed Gallic settlers hired Howell to carry them to Tahiti.
Howell and his Maori crew successfully landed the Frenchmen at Matavai Bay, but then found that the island was buzzing with the news of the discovery of gold up the Sacramento River, in California. Captain Howell wasn't interested, but the Maori seamen wanted to sail there, to see some of this "gold" stuff that they had never heard of before. There were men on the wharves of Papeete clamoring to buy passage to San Francisco, too, so Captain Howell gave in, and with a crew so eager to see what California was like, they made a very swift passage.
They sailed up the river, and set to digging for gold themselves. And they were successful. They struck it so rich that their camp attracted every ruffian in the valley. The Maoris seemed easy game -- which they were most emphatically not. In the melee, however, one of the ship's mates was killed. So Captain Howell decided to go back to the schooner, and sail her home to New Zealand.
The Maoris made no objection. In fact, they had been highly disappointed when they first saw what gold looked like. They wondered why they had sailed so far, they said, when there was plenty of that stuff back in Otago, New Zealand. Howell, as he said later, was struck dumb by this. But then when they got back to Riverton his Maori seamen refused to take him to the areas where gold could be found.
They had seen too many of the bad things gold could do to men, they said.
From an item in the Evening Post of Wellington, 18 December 1937.
The apartment's government valuation was $1.6 million. That value has been reduced by $900,000 because a neighbor built a fort for his children. From Dominion Post
A Wellington couple have seen their million-dollar harbour views
stripped away after the council signed off on an imposing playground
Peter and Sylvia Aitchison, who live in an apartment
on Roseneath's sought after Maida Vale Rd, accuse the Wellington City
Council of failing them in allowing the large wooden structure to be
built on their boundary line.
The fort-like structure has
completely blocked their view of Wellington Harbour, instead leaving
them with a close-up view of wooden planking.
The Aitchisons went to the council when they became aware the owner
of the neighbouring property, David Walmsley, planned to build the large
wooden play area.
They argued that resource consent was needed but the council disagreed saying the structure met district plan requirements.
turreted fort went up in a "considerable flurry of activity" and the
Aitchisons took their dispute with the council to the Environment Court,
court documents show.
They argued before the court that the structure, more than 11m long and up to 4m high, had "walled them in".
It had led to a loss of natural light and direct sun, as well as impacting on their privacy andproperty value.
It also had adverse effects on their health and well-being, they said.
City Planning and Design manager Warren Ulusele said while the council
understood the impact of the structure on the Aitchisons, it was bound
to follow the district plan.
He admitted there was an option for
the council to go to the Resource Management Act and ask for resource
consent when considering structures that posed significant adverse
effects, he said.
This process had a very high threshold and was not an an option taken lightly, Ulusele said.
However, the Environment Court said this was indeed a case for resource consent.
council had made a mistake when it had decided the boundary between the
two properties was at the top of a sloping retaining wall instead of
at the bottom.
This impacted the height calculations and position of the structure in relation to building recession planes, the court said.
of the structure's height being 2.5m from ground level on the
Walmsley's property, which is permitted, it was 2.5m from the ground
level of the Aitchisons' land.
Ulusele said the council would
respect the Environment Court ruling, which would have significant
impacts on future residential developments on sloping land in
The district plan would have to be reviewed in light
of the Environment Court's ruling, and structures that would have been
approved could be knocked back in future, he said.
Neither the Aitchisons nor Walmsley could be reached for comment.
Another shuddersome thought is the racket of children racing along that boardwalk on the other side of the fence.
Well, Island of the Lost has received its three-hundredth review on Amazon ... and a five-star one, too.
Many thanks to all of those who take the time to review my books online. It's more intimate than a professional newspaper review, somehow, and because of that can be heart-warming -- or heart-breaking! But this is one of the former.
One of the best books that I have read, September 16, 2015
Pasha, Book 15 of the Kydd Sea Adventures is now available as a trade paperback!
Will Kydd be forced to lay siege to the great city of Constantinople?
Thomas Kydd and the crew of L'Aurore
bid farewell to the balmy waters of the Caribbean. Once home, Kydd
finds his exploits are the talk of London and he and his best friend and
confidential secretary, Nicholas Renzi, must part ways for good.
ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Charles Arbuthnot, reports that the
French (in an attempt to secure a vital passage to India) have been
whipping up anti-English sentiment and actively wooing the Turks; Kydd
is sent to the Dardanelles.
currents, unreliable winds, and giant bombards, Kydd rescues the
ambassador. But as the fleet waits for a response to their ultimatum,
the French help strengthen Turkish defenses and an attempted coup lands
Renzi in prison!
Book 15--The Kydd Sea Adventures
Tyger, Book 16 of the Kydd Sea Adventures is coming soon!
Available on, or before, October 1st as an ebook and in hardcover by November 1st--
court martial of Sir Home Popham is underway at Portsmouth. When
Captain Sir Thomas Kydd's sympathy for his former commanding officer's
unauthorized actions in the doomed occupation of Buenos Aires becomes
known, Kydd finds himself athwart some very powerful people.
At odds with the Admiralty-and with his frigate L'Aurore unfit for sea--Kydd is given a new commission that many hope will destroy his career. Tyger has recently mutinied and instead of dispersing her crew the ship is immediately pressed into service in the North Sea.
an untested and untrustworthy crew Kydd becomes entangled in Napoleon's
invasion of Prussia and the only way for him to avoid disgrace is to
gamble on a crazy mission to snatch a Prussian division out of the jaws
of Napoleon's advancing army.
Will Kydd return home once more a hero, or will he face his own court martial?
Maritime expert Joan Druett provides readers with an engaging mix of
classic mystery and colourful seafaring adventure in a unique mystery to
launch her popular Wiki Coffin series.
In the ocean of mystery fiction, it can be hard for an author, no matter
how talented, to stand out. Druett manages to create something
enjoyably unique in A WATERY GRAVE, both in her evocation of the
nineteenth century maritime setting, and her creation of a fabulous
protagonist, Wiki Coffin.
It is 1838, and part-New Zealand Maori, part-American Wiki Coffin is
scheduled to embark with the US Exploring Expedition from Virginia when
he finds a woman's body in a boat and is mistakenly arrested for murder.
The Expedition is a big deal - seven ships packed with astronomers,
map-makers, naturalists, and sailors, all tasked with charting the
uncharted waters (and lands) of the South Seas - but has been much
delayed by politics. Wiki is on board as a translator, but his skin
colour sees him blamed for the killing, so the ships sail without him.
When Wiki is exonerated and freed, the local sheriff in Virginia sends
him to catch up to the Expedition, having been deputised to find the
real killer on board one of the seven ships.
Druett, an experienced non-fiction maritime writer, marvellously
combines mystery and history in a unique crime novel setting. She
vividly evokes nineteenth-century seafaring life as Wiki goes about
observing and investigating his fellow expedition-ers - finding a good
balance between weaving in interesting details that provide colour and
texture, and not going information-overboard to such an extent it drowns
Overall, I felt I was learning plenty about the setting (time and place)
along the way, but in a fun and organic way; Druett creates a great
atmosphere for her mystery. After rejoining the expedition, Wiki is
confronted by an apparent suicide, then a deadly accident, in addition
to the original murder. Compared to some other crime writers, the
mystery plot in A WATERY GRAVE isn't as complex, puzzling, or
fast-paced, but I still enjoyed how it unfolded, with plenty of
suspects, clues, and red herrings on the way to a satisfying conclusion.
Along with her superb touch for setting, Druett has a knack for crafting
intriguing characters, from our hero Wiki to many others on board.
Based on the real-life expedition, with a fictional ship added, Druett
mixes historical and fictional figures throughout her tale. There's a
beguiling mix of personalities, motivations, and perspectives amongst
the Expedition's officers, scientists, and sailors, and I particularly
enjoyed how we not only get to know Wiki a little more as the story
progresses, but that our perception of various characters changes subtly
as Wiki learns more. No cardboard cut-outs or movable pieces here.
Overall, Druett has created an intriguing and entertaining mystery,
drenched in maritime colour, with a terrific and engaging lead who I
will have no hesitation in following throughout more adventures.
I originally read this book and wrote a short review for the Herald on Sunday newspaper
back in 2010/2011. This review is a more in-depth look at my thoughts
on what is a very enjoyable read, less constrained by print word
The massed yawn continues. Our millionaire ex-futures trader prime minister is determined to go out with (a) a knighthood, and (b) the massed approval of his business roundtable mates and (c) the reputation of the bloke who changed the New Zealand flag.
First he budgeted $26 million to the project. Then was appointed a committee to have a look at lots of designs. Please note this committee does not have a single vexillologist. Lovely word. It means an expert in flags and their designs. Which the committee thinks it can do without. It makes you think of the old saying that a camel was a beast designed by a committee.
And now they have come down to the shortlist of four. Pictured above. Please note that it is really a shortlist of two -- the fern vs the koru, the last of which is going to look really strange when frayed. As flags do. Our PM, described above, wants the fern, so he has been given a choice of three. Is this democracy?
Opinions, all negative, abound, but Dominion Post columnist Rosemary McLeod published a particularly brilliant commentary today.
"OPINION: They are not alone. I, too, could have had truly lousy ideas for a flag," she begins.
could have doodled kowhai blossom in a blue sky, a lactating cow peeing
into a murky river, or that wretched buzzy bee we trot out as a Kiwi
So what does she think of the Final Four?
"The designs aren't even amusing; $26 million wasted is not a
parlour game. They demonstrate exactly why we've never done a new flag
since adopting the current one in 1902, and shouldn't do it now. And
think of what $26 million could have done for kids in need."
And now for the nitty-gritty.
assume this elaborate prank was the brainwave of rich businessmen, among
whom the prime minister moves, whom he thinks are in touch with the
mysterious thing called real people, and who are enchanted with
"Branding used to apply to businesses and products, but
now applies to human beings, like the All Blacks, who have become not
sportsmen so much as marketing tools in underpants. We are sold market
forces, and their friend branding, as rational things and therefore
good. And with them comes that awesome thing, the printed business
mission statement. You see it everywhere, stuck to the office wall while
staff beneath it yawn and pick their noses.
"Well, market forces made little kids chimney sweeps in the 19th
century, because they'd work 15-hour days for next to nothing, and if
they dropped dead it didn't matter. Market forces had women crawling
through mines half-naked to drag out the coal, and yet more tots
employed to open and shut trap doors for the loaded coal carts.
were cheap labour. Even hookers earned peanuts, because there were so
many desperate competitors. Starvation is a great motivator, as well as a
great market force I dare say."
A friend showed me this picture of an artwork, being curious to know some thing about (a) the ship and (b) the artist. A google hunt revealed that the ship is the Aristides, and that the artist was Arthur Chidley. And, that another copy, apparently black and white, is held in a museum in Newcastle, New South Wales.
The tiny silhouette on the horizon balances the weight of the subject, making it a satisfying study. Very nice indeed.
But who was the artist? He seems to belong to the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. Quite a large number of his works have been up for sale in a number of galleries, and can be printed off on demand. Chidley illustrated a couple of books, and contributed to a set of military cards that were produced soon after the First World War. It seems that he illustrated calendars, too. But there the information stops.
The ship itself is much easier. Lars Bruzelius, on his invaluable site, provides the bones of her history.
An iron full-rigged ship built in 1876 by Walter Hood & Co., Aberdeen.
Dimensions 260'0"×39'5"×34'5" and 1721 GRT, 1661 NRT and 1498 tons
Launched at the shipyard of Walter Hood & Co., Aberdeen, for Aberdeen White Star Line (G. Thompson & Co.), Aberdeen.
Assigned the official British Reg. No. 70454 and signal PVQC.
Captain R. Kemball late of the Thermopylae (1868) was given command of the new ship.
1876 July 6 - September 18
Sailed from London to Port Phillip in 74 days,
1876 November 28 - February 17
Sailed from Melbourne to London in 81 days.
Sailed from London to Sydney in 85 days.
Captain Spalding replaced Capt. Kemball.
1903 May 28
Sailed from Caleta Buena with a cargo of nitrate for San Francisco and disappeared on route.
So she was fast, and she was comfortable. And she carried hundreds of passengers to a new life in the "lucky country."