Dear Friends,

In this second journal entry on the Chatham Islands, there will be a bit more touring around the island to some interesting historic places as well as great sites to challenge the photographers to produce their best pix. At the end of the last blog, I promised shipwrecks and seals, flowers and fungi, wekas and whalepots, so here goes…

Just to set the scene, here’s another map of the Chatham Islands – the places I visit in this story are all in the north of the island including Port Hutt on Petre Bay, Kaingaroa, the Hapupu Reserve on Hanson Bay, and Point Manning.

First off, we spent one early morning wandering in a rolling tussock covered coastal area photographing the sunlight on the akeake trees.  At other opportune moments we stopped to take other akeake groves or capture the gnarled trunks and twisted limbs of individual trees.

A calm morning along the coast as we drove to find akeake trees to photograph

Trunks and canopies sculpted by the wind

Julie and Joanna in action  Photo – Adrienne White 

The best of my photos that morning with the sun just catching the top leaves of the tree,
and the shadow following the line of the hillock

Later in the day, a paddock full of trees captured our attention.  Photo – Jules Paice

Another stop was at the Hapupu Historic Reserve where we were able to wander through some lovely karake forest with a goal to see the ancient dendroglyphs which are Moriori tree carvings called momori-rakau which are among the few remaining visible signs of pre-European-contact Moriori culture. The carvings depict Moriori karapuna (ancestors) and symbols of the natural world, such as patiki (flounder) and the hopo (albatross). In a late 1998 review, 82 trees with carvings were found. The numbers of momori rakau have been steadily declining due to the aging of the host trees, stock grazing, wind and, in earlier years, people removing the carvings as souvenirs.

The path through the forest

Fungi on the rotten logs alongside the track

More colorful fungi caught my eye

One of the dendroglyphs still recognizable on the trunk of a tree 

There were also many wekas rustling through the undergrowth of the forest, and in the little glades

The weka, also known as the Maori Hen or woodhen is a flightless bird species of the rail family and is endemic to New Zealand.
They are sturdy brown birds, about the size of a chicken with sturdy legs and reduced wings. As omnivores, they feed mainly on invertebrates and fruit. Weka usually lay eggs between August and January and both sexes help to incubate. Their relatively large, reddish-brown beak is about 5 cm (2.0 in) long, stout and tapered, and used as a weapon. The pointed tail is near-constantly being flicked, a sign of unease characteristic of the rail family.

We enjoyed a visit to Port Hutt which was one of the main harbours during the early European and Maori settlement of the islands. It is now home to only a handful of people with a fishing fleet of just four vessels involved in crayfishing, long-lining and paua harvesting.

The Fetty T which is grounded alongside the wharf at Port Hutt is now only useful as a perch for the seagulls 

One of the locals cleaning the growth of the bottom of his boat

A glimpse into life in Port Hutt when I peeped into the verandah of a cottage by the beach

A freshly caught kina (sea urchin) 

The flesh of the kina being scooped out of the shell, several making up a ‘feed’ for that evening’s meal

Harvested paua shells showing off the beautiful colors of the inner shell

The rusting hulk of the Thomas Currell in the harbour with a hovering seagull made for an interesting shot

The Thomas Currell was built in 1919 as an Admiralty standard class trawler, but was first used as a minesweeper before being engaged in fishing and carrying its cargo to Germany.  She was bought by an Auckland company in 1922 and trawled the Hauraki Gulf for many years before being requisitioned by the navy as a minesweeper again during WW2. In 1945 she was reconverted to commence to trawling again. During the crayfish boom the 1960s she came down to the Chatham Islands as extra freezer space.

Another view of this formidable, much used minesweeper / trawler

All along the shore there were rusty chains and anchors … 

… as well as bright buoys, knotted ropes and crayfish pots recalling the colorful past of the port

Looking away from the waters of the port, I spied a colorful plant between the cabbage trees

Asking the homeowner politely, we came closer and saw it was a magnificent yucca

A closer look at the beautiful yellow flowers

Not far from Port Hutt is the Admiral Farm and Garden which was a lovely spot to wander and try our hand at doing some close-up and macro shots of the flowers there. Some 30 years ago, Lois and Val Croon, planted macrocarpas and other pine trees around two acres of their farm to provide shelter for the house and garden. The strong winds that sweep across the island’s low topography make gardening difficult but with boundary shelter a micro-climate is developed that allows anything and everything to grow. It was such a pleasure to meander along the paths and enjoy the fruit trees and flowers.

Plenty of honey bees in and out of the flowerbeds and a bit of a breeze added an extra challenge for the photographers 

Such beautiful colors and shapes, an endless variety

A place to sit and contemplate the day and enjoy the flowers …. 

… and watch the ducks paddling about in the little pond

A beautiful burst of colour against the greenery in the garden

One day we had a picnic lunch and spent the middle of the day at Muirson’s farm, east of Kaingaroa where there was a treasure trove of early farm machinery, old cars and even planes

The fuselage and various other bits and pieces of this plane

Inside a dusty shed, there was a Sunderland flying boat being rebuilt

Tasman Empire Airways (TEAL) initially serviced the Chathams by air during the 1950s and 1960s using flying boats. With the withdrawal of TEAL, the RNZAF maintained an infrequent service with Short Sunderland flying boats. NZ4111 was damaged on takeoff from Te Whanga Lagoon on 4 November 1959 and remains as a wreck on the island. The last flight by RNZAF flying boats was on 22 March 1967.

Rusty iron circles in the grass

Old farm building and rusty winch 

A detail of the wood and lichen on the window frame of the old shed above

A lichen covered, sagging gate beckoned – what lay beyond?

A landcover which must have been perfect for the roads and paddocks of the island, but now sadly well past it

Right on the north-eastern point of the island is Munning Point Conservation area. A short walk along a shell track through regenerating coastal forest and shrublands with many flax bushes we came to some spectacular schist rocks and a seal colony. NZ furseals are abundant here and with the pups present in summer, they proved to be great entertainment, as they sunned themselves or splashed in the sheltered waters inside the outer reef.

Don’t come too close, our pups are here

An inquisitive young pup checks us out, others laze about on the rocks

Cooling off. In the summer the adults enter the water frequently to reduce the heat that builds up in their blubber and fur

The rocky schist shoreline created some wonderful wave patterns 

Inland it was almost like a moon landscape with the striated schist outcrops.
Our redoubtable leader Lesley checking how far her charges had wandered as they looked for new subjects to capture.

Just look at the colour in the breaking of the waves as they roll into shore

Not far from here, is Mission Bay which is the site of a settlement of a group of five German Moravian Missionaries, all scholars and tradesmen, who arrived from NZ in 1843. They attempted to convert their Maori neighbors but had no success. They opened a school but this did not work either, so they turned their attention to farming, shipbuilding and trading. They established gardens in the swampy land behind the shore, grazed sheep on the hillsides and supplied fresh meat and vegetables to visiting whalers and sealers.

The remains of a chimney with a rusted blubber cauldron alongside

How remote and lonely a spot this must have been for those hopeful missionaries

It was sheep farming then, and this is still a key factor in the farming throughout the Chathams, for the meat and for the wool. As we drove along the island roads and through paddocks, careful to open and close the gates, the sheep stared at us, skedaddled away or simply took their time to get out of our way.

We had a chance to see the oldest shearing shed in the islands, no longer used, but an interesting piece of history 

Sheep were sheltered under the old shed but scarpered when we approached

Inside, the shearing blades still hanging, towels and broken chairs, wool bales held the atmosphere of bygone days 

As did an old packet of roll-up cigarette papers left on the lanolin-stained floor boards

One of our last stops was at the old wharf in the Kaingaroa Harbour. The harbour is a relatively sheltered anchorage and was used from the earliest days by sealers, whalers and trading ships. There was a Moriori village located here when Lieutenant Broughton called here in 1791. The population here has grown and waned several times. In the 1960s there were 50-60 boats in the harbour, but today just 10 fishing boats form the local fleet.

Several reefs around the entrance to the harbour can make the entry difficult, and the shoreline is rocky 

Another view of the wharf and slipway

A fishing boat arrived, docked and unloaded while we were there

The catch and equipment was loaded on a trolley and pushed up the rails of the wharf

Unloading at the top of the wharf

This young fisherman proudly showing off his catch

All in all, the trip to the Chatham Islands was a real treat, not only for the photography but it was also an opportunity to meet many of the local islanders, sample the delicious seafood, to take in the magnificent land and coastal scenery and see some of the wildlife as well.

The Chatham Islanders refer to themselves as the ‘wekas’ to differ themselves from their fellow NZers who are the ‘kiwis’ on what they call West Island, otherwise known as mainland New Zealand.  The sign below by the Waitangi Hotel, probably refers to the birds, but maybe it also is a sign to watch out for those venturing out of the pub on a Saturday night.

A uniquely Chatham road sign

But it seems that they also feel very closely related to the seas around their shores, and their cars invariably carry the name of one of the fish or other sea creatures that surround their island.

The white pointer, the bluebottle, the hammerhead and thresher sharks and the delicious orange roughy. Nuff said.

Our last morning in the islands, we were privileged to witness a magnificent double rainbow arching over Waitangi harbour

I hope you have enjoyed my meandering through the island, and the ‘artistic’ and other photos to present a glimpse of the beautiful and remote Chatham Islands.  A big thank you to Lesley Whyte of ‘Women in Photography’ who lead this expedition, and to the others in the group who were such fun to be with and learn from.

Please drop a comment below if you feel so inclined.

Farewell, until my next trip…

All good wishes you, my friends and followers.