Archive for the 'Andy Palmer' Category

Another ride…

Otago Central Rail Trail between Wedderburn and Ranfurly

Otago Central Rail Trail between Wedderburn and Ranfurly

Jock wasn’t the only Te Ara staffer to spend some of his Christmas break on the seat of a bicycle. I spent a few days enjoying the Otago Central Rail Trail.

I ride less than Jock, but my relationship with the bicycle is somewhat different from his. I’ve always enjoyed cycling. As soon as I was old enough to ride on the roads, I rode to school pretty much every day, regardless of the weather. The trip to primary school was under a kilometre, college was about two-and-a-half kilometres; but I wasn’t allowed to ride to intermediate as it was deemed too far (and there was a free bus).

I would also ride for pleasure in the holidays and, when I got my 12-speed, would think nothing of the 40-kilometre round trip to Days Bay, or a similarly long ride someplace else (or noplace else if, I felt like it). When I got my first mountain bike I was happy to take that for a ride in the hills – my favourite ride (not that I’ve done it for a while) is up to the Brooklyn wind turbine then down to Red Rocks and back home via Island Bay.

The Otago Central Rail Trail had long been in my plans and when the opportunity arose to do it this year I wasn’t going to turn it down. Our group based ourselves in Naseby which isn’t actually on the rail trail and involved lots of shuttling various vehicles to and from the day’s start and end points. But it meant we were flexible to do the track however we wanted, deciding which legs to do based on the weather, energy levels etc.

Trail sign at Wedderburn

Trail sign at Wedderburn

The first day was a slow start, only a short stretch as a warm up, mainly downhill – Wedderburn to Kokonga, 31.5 kilometres. However, at about the halfway point of leg one we met a rain storm. I got to Ranfurly without getting too wet but as the rain settled in, and with cars at Wedderburn and Kokonga I realised someone (i.e. me) would have to ride back to Wedderburn in order to rescue the others from the weather.

The next day we woke to snow!!

Snow at Naseby. In summer.

Snow at Naseby. In summer.

We decided to do the picturesque leg from Wedderburn to Ōmakau, 41.1 kilometres. It was a little chilly and we had a constant headwind, breeze really, but it was a pleasant enough ride and the scenery was at times spectacular. We also got to see the Poolburn viaduct and tunnels and the older tunnellers’ camp.

45° south sign west of Wedderburn

45° south sign west of Wedderburn

A close-up of the sign

A close-up of the sign

Poolburn viaduct

Poolburn viaduct

The next day was Kokonga to Middlemarch (the traditional finishing point of the trail), 41.9 kilometres. This included a lovely little trip along a gorge of the Taieri River, and through Hyde, past the site of the Hyde rail disaster and the Hyde rail disaster memorial. Fortunately we all managed an incident free ride.

Hyde rail disaster memorial

Hyde rail disaster memorial

Arriving in Middlemarch

Arriving in Middlemarch

Day four was Ōmakau to Clyde (the traditional starting point of the trail), 37.2 kilometres. It was the hottest day, reaching 35 degrees in Alexandra, though it felt much hotter than that on the exposed track coming into Clyde. I just love the parched, rocky landscape around that part of the country, and even the intense heat wasn’t enough to dampen my enjoyment of it.

'The parched, rocky landscape': hills around Chatto Creek and Galloway

'The parched, rocky landscape': hills around Chatto Creek and Galloway

As the only one in the group not to have done the trail before, I did the last day on my own, just so I could say I completed the whole thing. Ranfurly to Tiroiti, 25.5 kilometres. While I only needed to stop at Kokonga, I wanted to revisit the lovely little Taieri River gorge again. And a good thing too as the Ranfurly to Kokonga stretch is the dullest stretch, not helped by the howling headwind I had, so that last bit of gorgeous scenery made me happy.

The little Taieri River gorge (which I’m not sure has an actual name) on the way to Tiroiti

The little Taieri River gorge (which I’m not sure has an actual name) on the way to Tiroiti

The track is classed as easy, and it is, with those nice steady gradients that trains needed to tackle hills. And every day we took it easy, with regular stops, long lunches and just enjoying the surrounds. We could have done most of it in half the time, but we weren’t in any rush and it was a nice way to do it. And with the long southern summer days we also had time to do a bit of exploring farther afield on the way home to Naseby.

The trail between Ranfurly and Kokonga, showing one of the little info huts (though I’m not entirely sure if this one had anything in it)

The trail between Ranfurly and Kokonga, showing one of the little info huts (though I’m not entirely sure if this one had anything in it)

All along the trail are huts containing historical information about the area you’re passing through, not that I bothered much with that, I was just having fun being on the bike again. So much so that when we visited Hanmer Springs a few days later I forewent a trip to the hot pools with the group for a ride up Jacks Pass on the bike. It was a stupid idea, but that’s another story…

Island life

Nicole Whaitiri, of Moriori descent, admires a Moriori tree carving in a Chatham Islands forest

Nicole Whaitiri, of Moriori descent, admires a Moriori tree carving in a Chatham Islands forest (click for image credit)

Over a period of almost 10 years we’ve documented New Zealand’s places from top to bottom, and last week we published our coverage of four remote places – New Zealand’s offshore islands (including Stewart Island/Rakiura, which is not so far off shore).

The very notion of an island evokes romantic visions – as Places theme editor Malcolm McKinnon remarked when launching this group of stories, these places ‘conjure up all the images and fantasies associated with desert islands, treasure islands or made-up islands’. And yet images of white sands, turquoise waters and piña coladas on the beach are somewhat off target when it comes to the subantarctic islands, which sit in the roaring forties and furious fifties and are prone to vicious, howling storms – or the Chatham Islands, with their peat bogs and cloudy weather.

Yet the histories of all these places bear witness to humans’ dreams of island life. The human history of the subantarctic islands is largely one of thwarted dreams – a fascinating tale of Polynesian seafarers, European sealers, castaways, shiploads of British settlers (who built a settlement on Auckland Island, but lasted less than three years), wartime coast-watchers, meteorologists and hopeful but unsuccessful farmers. The only group who managed to stick it out longer than five years were Māori and Moriori from the Chatham Islands. The subantarctics remain home to massive numbers of seabirds, seals and sea lions, as well as colourful and eye-catching megaherbs.

Humans have had more success on the Chatham Islands, continuously occupied by Moriori from the 1400s. These peaceable people were devastated after the arrival of Māori in the 1830s, but today are seeing a resurgence of their culture, with Kōpinga marae opening in 2005. The Chathams are the size of greater Auckland, but with a population of just 660.

Stewart Island, the country’s third main island, was named Rakiura by Māori for its glowing skies, and is just an hour by ferry from Bluff. Famous for its tītī (muttonbird) harvest, it’s a mecca for trampers, with Rakiura National Park covering about 85% of the island.

The volcanic Kermadec Islands, at the northernmost reaches of New Zealand’s territory, have a mild subtropical climate – and a captivating (if intermittent) human history. Polynesian visitors came from the 1300s; European whalers plundered the waters; the Bell family farmed Raoul Island from 1878; and Germans used the Kermadecs as a hideout during the First World War. Today the islands are a nature reserve where the only human residents are Department of Conservation staff – but the avian population is booming.

We hope you enjoy the stories of these remote and remarkable places as much as we enjoyed working on them.

Malcolm, map man

Malcolm launches the last of the Places entries

Malcolm launches the last of the Places entries

On Wednesday night Te Ara launched its offshore islands entries. This was both a proud and sad occasion for Te Ara. We are proud because the completion of those entries means that we now have the whole of New Zealand covered in our Places theme. This fine collection of accurate, beautifully illustrated information represents a signal contribution to the exploration of this country’s history and culture. The 22 regions covered have been the work of many people, but the person who has overseen it and must take much of the credit is Malcolm McKinnon.

This is where the sadness comes in, because the completion of Places meant that on Wednesday we also farewelled Malcolm, who for nine years, following Claudia Orange’s departure, has been the theme editor of Places. A distinguished historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of New Zealand (and indeed world) history, Malcolm had also been trained as a geographer. He brought those skills to bear on his magnificent reference work, The New Zealand historical atlas (1997), where every one of the 100 plates invites hours of absorbing study. With his mastery of time and place, Malcolm was the ideal person to oversee the Places theme.

He did so brilliantly – writing no less then five of the entries:

  • Bay of Plenty, the very first place, which we launched in Tauranga to an expectant crowd of 11!
  • Manawatū–Horowhenua, which Malcolm made really interesting, thus overturning my Wellington-centred prejudice that it was the country’s most boring region
  • Volcanic Plateau, which attracted particular enthusiasm from the tourist operators of the region
  • Otago, where Malcolm’s Scots heritage came to the fore, and the locals, about 150 of them, just loved the entry at the Dunedin launch
  • Marlborough, in which, as always, Malcolm took the reader expertly from Wairau iwi to wine.

Malcolm also made a huge commitment to the other Places entries. With impeccable judgement he helped choose the authors and then used all his very considerable powers of diplomacy to work with them, checked and read many times every word they produced, wrote most of the captions, took a leading role in selecting resources (working first with Shirley Williams and then Janine Faulknor),  took part in heated debates about the entry colour schemes, and attended most of the launches. Above all, he liberally sprinkled every entry with maps – of geology, landforms, vegetation, iwi locations, military engagements, government boundaries, and inevitably rail lines.  The Places entries reflect his skills on every page.

Nor was this all. Malcolm has been a marvellous colleague in the Te Ara team. He read every entry in all the other themes too, and would draw on his huge knowledge to pick up errors or suggest more felicitous wordings, all expressed in his minuscule handwriting. He was a constant source of information and bibliographic advice to the whole team. He also made special contributions to the Economy and the City theme – where he was the theme editor for the economy part and turned all that scary economics jargon into clear English – and to the Government and Nation theme, where he worked closely with the theme editors, Nigel Roberts and Stephen Levine.

And of course he was our go-to map man. Any Te Ara map went to Malcolm for sign-off, and all of them are very much clearer and more accurate as a result.

I personally have now worked with Malcolm in various roles for some 40 years. I cannot believe that I will not work with him again in the future. I can be a fairly forthright person at times, but I cannot in all honesty remember one serious disagreement over that time; and I can remember countless occasions when I have learnt heaps from him. So thank you Malcolm for your enormous contribution to Te Ara. It has been a privilege and a delight working with you.  Your wisdom, your respect for the truth of time and place, and your human generosity have greatly improved the encyclopedia and made working here so much more enjoyable for all concerned.

Faster, higher, stronger: New Zealand at the Olympics

by Peter Clayworth and Andy Palmer

New Zealand's rowing eights with their gold medals, 1972 (click for image credits)

New Zealand's rowing eights with their gold medals, 1972 (click for image credit)

The 30th Olympic Games begins in London this Friday. To mark the occasion, Te Ara has just launched its story on the Olympic and Commonwealth games. Written by renowned sports writer Joseph Romanos, it covers a century of New Zealand’s involvement in the games. It sets out the achievements of our athletes, including many of the fascinating stories behind their triumphs and tragedies at the games.

New Zealand athletes first competed at the 1908 London Olympics. The three New Zealanders were part of a combined Australasian team, with Harry Kerr winning our first medal, a bronze in the 3,500-metre walk. The 1908 team marched in the opening ceremony behind an Australian flag, but the flag bearer was New Zealand hurdler Henry Murray.

From 1920 New Zealand entered its own teams in the Olympics. At the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics welterweight boxer Ted Morgan was the first member of a New Zealand team to win a gold medal. Morgan remains our only boxing gold medallist, but light-heavyweight boxer Kevin Barry was awarded a silver medal in highly controversial circumstances. At the 1984 Los Angeles games, Barry fought in the semi-final against the great American boxer Evander Holyfield, the favourite to win the gold medal. Barry was clearly outmatched and near the end of the second round was floored. As Holyfield’s knockout punch was thrown after the referee had called a break, the American was promptly disqualified. The mostly local crowd was outraged; the boxers and the referee had to be escorted from the ring by police. The match was awarded to Barry, but as a knockout victim he could not box in the final. He was therefore automatically awarded the silver medal. Barry went on to manage heavyweight boxer David Tua, who had been the bronze medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

For New Zealanders the highlight of the 1936 Berlin Olympics was Jack Lovelock‘s victory in the 1,500 metres. Berlin was also notable for political controversy, with the games being used as a propaganda showcase for the Nazi regime. In the USA there was serious debate on whether to boycott the games in protest at Nazi anti-Semitism. In the end American athletes, including the great Jesse Owens, did compete at Berlin.

Political controversies have continued to dog the Olympics. New Zealand became the target of a boycott movement in 1976, as African countries withdrew from the Montreal Olympics in protest at the tour of South Africa, then under an apartheid regime, by the All Black rugby team. John Walker‘s triumph at Montreal, winning the gold medal in the 1,500 metres, was somewhat dimmed by the absence of top African runners.

At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics Yvette Williams won the long jump, the first gold medal for a New Zealand woman athlete. Her first two attempts were ‘no jumps’, so Williams third jump was a do-or-die effort. Williams also came 10th in the discus and sixth in the shot put. Her long jump victory remained New Zealand’s only gold medal in field events until Valerie Adams (at that time Valerie Vili) won the shot put gold at Beijing in 2008.

The rowing eight won New Zealand’s only gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Their triumph is remembered as much for events at the medal ceremony as for those on water. For the first time ‘God defend New Zealand‘ was played at the ceremony in place of ‘God save the Queen’. This was not, however, the first time ‘God defend New Zealand’ had been played at the Olympics. When Yvette Williams was awarded her gold medal in 1952, the Finnish band played both ‘God save the Queen’ and ‘God defend New Zealand.

New Zealand's sailing medallists, 1992: (L–R) Leslie Egnot, Rod Davis, Don Cowie, Craig Monk and Jan Shearer. (Click for image credit)

New Zealand's sailing medallists, 1992: (L–R) Leslie Egnot, Rod Davis, Don Cowie, Craig Monk and Jan Shearer. (Click for image credit)

New Zealand has achieved a high proportion of its gold medal victories on the water, with wins in rowing, canoeing, boardsailing and yachting. In a strange case at the 1984 Los Angeles games, Russell Coutts almost missed out on the gold medal for the Finn class competition. The rules stated that sailors had to have less than 20 kilograms of gear. At the end of the races the judges were preparing to disqualify Coutts as his wet gear was just over the allowable limit. Coutts had to carefully dry out his gear and reweigh it. As it then came in just under the 20-kilogram limit he was awarded the gold medal.

One of the best New Zealand Olympic stories must be that of the unexpected victory of the 1976 men’s hockey team. After coming second in their pool, the team beat the Netherlands 2–1 in the semi-finals and came up against Australia in the final. At half-time the teams were locked at 0–0, but seven minutes into the second half captain Tony Ineson scored the only goal of the game to get New Zealand the gold medal.

Remarkably, prior to the games, the team wasn’t considered a medal prospect. Equally remarkable is the fact that five members of the team were coached by Canterbury coach Cyril Walter. But the most remarkable aspect of this story is that the New Zealand team had to desperately defend their lead in the closing minutes of the game, none more valiantly than goalie Trevor Manning, who played the last 10 minutes with a smashed kneecap.

Olympics and Olympians

In a few days’ time we’re going to publish our story on the Olympic and Commonwealth games, just in time for the opening of the London Olympics. But we already have quite a bit of information on New Zealand’s involvement in the Olympics, especially in biographies of Olympic athletes from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, and also on our sister site, NZHistory.

New Zealand has a long history of involvement in the Olympic Games, starting in London in 1908, when three athletes competed as part of an ‘Australasian’ team. Success came early when Harry Kerr finished third in the 3,500-metre walk, becoming New Zealand’s first Olympic medallist. Since then, the hopes of the nation have been carried by some extraordinary people both on and off the sports field.

At Stockholm in 1912, freestyle swimmer Malcolm Champion became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic gold medal, albeit swimming as part of an Australasian team in the 4 x 200-metre relay alongside three Australian team mates.

One of our greatest ever athletes, Anthony Wilding, only managed a bronze medal at the same games. However, between 1907 and 1914 he was Wimbledon singles champion four times, Wimbledon doubles champion four times, and Davis Cup champion (again as part of an Australasian team) four times. Sadly, like many of his generation, Wilding was killed in action in the First World War, on 9 May 1915 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve-Chapelle, France.

Violet Walrond, New Zealand's first woman Olympian

Violet Walrond, New Zealand's first woman Olympian (click for image credit)

The first official New Zealand team headed to Antwerp in 1920, with four athletes including 15-year-old swimmer Violet Walrond, our first female Olympian, who finished fifth in the 100-metre freestyle final.

At the 1924 Paris Olympics New Zealand runner Arthur Porritt won bronze in the 100-metre sprint. He finished behind Englishman Harold Abrahams and American Jackson Scholz in a race immortalised in the 1981 film Chariots of fire. Allegedly out of modesty, Porritt refused permission for his name to be used in the film so his character was renamed ‘Tom Watson’. Porritt went on to manage the 1936 New Zealand Olympic team and later in life was appointed New Zealand’s governor general.

Our first gold medallist was boxer Ted Morgan. Although selected as a lightweight, Morgan put on weight during the voyage from New Zealand and had to box in the welterweight class against opponents somewhat heavier than him.

Ted Morgan, Olympic gold medallist

Ted Morgan, Olympic gold medallist (click for image credit)

The Olympics have given us stories of triumph, from the overlooked walker Norman Read, to the renowned long jumper Yvette Williams. And stories of tragedy, especially that of Jack Lovelock, 1936 Olympic champion whose tragic death 13 years later still inspires both speculation and artistic interpretation.

Often the unsung heroes of most sporting endeavours are the coaches and administrators, and New Zealand has had its fair share of characters there too. Longtime New Zealand Rugby Football Union member Ces Blazey also served 24 years on the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association as a member of its council.

Then there was the man who presided over New Zealand’s golden era in track and field during the 1960s, Arthur Lydiard. The highlight of his own running career came when he was selected for the 1950 Auckland Empire Games marathon, though he came a disappointing 13th. Lydiard started coaching in 1953, and his methods saw gold medal success at the 1960 Rome Olympics for Peter Snell (800 metres) and Murray Halberg (5,000 metres), and bronze for Barry Magee in the marathon. Snell went on to double gold at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Since 1908 more than 1,000 athletes have represented New Zealand at the Olympic Games and most of them haven’t been podium winners. But occasionally an exceptional athlete has, for one reason or another, not even attended the games, such as runner Randolph Rose, arguably our greatest ever non-Olympian.

These are just a sample of the Olympic stories you can uncover on Te Ara, the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, and NZHistory. And no doubt some more stories will be made over the next couple of weeks as 184 athletes represent New Zealand at the 2012 London Olympics.