…and waiting, also Lyttelton Port

…and waiting, also Lyttelton Port

Photo of Lyttelton Port with Discovery expedition berthed, from nzhistory.net

 We’ve been “extended” several times now. It’s our third day of extension, Monday 1/11/16 in NZ and we were supposed to get on the airport shuttle at 5:45. That was extended 4 hours so we did a repeat of Saturday, back to sleep then out for a good breakfast at Hummingbird in the Container mall, where we are now recognized (and where they have really good coffee, baked goods, and yogurt). During breakfast we were extended another 2 hours, which meant we would need to check out of our hotel then possibly check back in if we were extended again or if our airport shuttle “boomerangs”–we fully expect not to go today. We’ve been weather watching and they are in a Condition 2 right now @ McMurdo. That could change. I would rather not go today than get partway there and get boomeranged back. 

There’s absolutely nothing one can do about this; it happens. We heard about a group that was stuck in our hotel for 2 weeks. But that was for a Winfly (winter) mission, and timing those must be very tricky indeed. No matter what though I need to get to the CDC today and swap out some dirty clothes for clean, also get my camera backpack. My deepest regret was leaving that because I would like to be practicing shots with the new Sony A7sii while on the endless Christchurch walks we’ve been taking. I have only my phone. Rookie tip #1: keep your work equipment at your hotel no matter if you think you’re leaving right away.

Saturday we went up in the Mt. Cavendish gondola and had a nice view over Christchurch as well as down to the port of Lyttelton. This was the port that Scott’s Discovery and Terra Nova as well as Shackleton’s Nimrod in between used as NZ base. Scott had a cousin in Christchurch teaching at the University of Canterbury, and the expeditions made use of the magnetic observatory there. According to Professor Fyfe they also consulted other resources in the Canterbury museum. I’ve been reading a paper by Fiona Wills about the museum’s collections of Antarctic artifacts that says its first exhibition on Antarctica was in 1904.  Here is her work, a great resource: http://www.anta.canterbury.ac.nz/documents/GCAS_10/Projects/Fiona_Wills.pdf

Shuttle should leave in an hour–fingers crossed–so I’ll try to upload some photos and sign off for awhile.

Lyttelton Port now, from Mt. Cavendish. It was badly damaged in the quake; see http://www.rebuildchristchurch.co.nz/blog/2014/7/port-lyttelton-now-and-the-plan


Statue of Captain James Cook in Victoria Park, Christchurch. Commissioned to resolve the question of the existence of a southern continent on his second voyage (1772-1775) he famously said that if it existed,  “I make bold to declare that the world will derive no benefit from it.” Wrongo.


Later: extended till Tuesday AM. After a round of sink laundry, I’m headed to the CDC for my camera. To save a few bucks, this will entail a trip on a free International Antarctic Centre bus with penguin manikins on top of it. I make bold to declare that we will get to the southern continent eventually, Captain Cook.


Christchurch, Part II

Christchurch, Part II

Photo of a video installation from the Spectrum Street Art Festval, Christchurch 

This entry honors the artists and artfulness of Christchurch’s re-imagining. But a story first, about iconic images and rebuilding, or not.  Our jet boat captain told us this. 

Christchurch’s cathedral is perhaps its most iconic image, and it was horribly damaged in the quake. It is now an icon of that quake. Fenced off, danger signs everywhere, there it sits, smack in the center of town in Cathedral Square, reminding everyone of how bad the quake was (to be honest, that’s everywhere–but this is an icon, as well as a place of worship, and its ruined appearance has got to inflict a different kind of pain. It reminds me of the Berlin Cathedral only leaving that ruined was a decision, and a very different sort of reminder). Everyone who visits here photographs the ruined cathedral, of course. You can’t come here without doing a degree of disaster tourism. I have very mixed feelings on that score.  Anyway, the story:

The cathedral is in limbo, nothing being done, because the heritage folks want it restored and put back the way it was, but that would cost twice as many millions. The Church owns it and wants to build another cathedral and bulldoze what is left of this one, for half the cost. Even with the insurance, there is a 20 million NZ$ shortfall for the latter,  and the former  is much further out of reach. Various compromises have been suggested, including saving part of the structure that was less damaged, but it is all tied up in court now. So there it sits, decaying, complicatedly, for many now an icon of frustration.

Several blocks away is the Cardboard Cathedral, and across the street from that the 185 Empty Chairs memorial on the site where once stood a church that was lost in the quake (actually the second site for the chairs, which were moved from their original site of yet another lost church). These are both quite pointedly impermanent, and allude to greater impermanences.  The Cardboard Cathedral is labeled “transitional.” There are lots of “pop up” enterprises around and of course the cranes, broken buildings, and buckled pavement can’t stay.  So it makes sense that so much of the zeitgeist of the art is young, impermanent (and often ironic, and sometimes angry–but even when so, future-oriented and thus hopeful).

There are also fascinating often colorful experiments (diversions?) with public and commercial space in Christchurch: free solar charging tables for phones, a dance pad/juke box modeled after a laundromat but out in the open among ruins, brightly colored plastic sheep that are more cheerful versions of hazard comes and barricades, the famous shipping container mall (and shipping container bars and restaurants here and there). My favorite is more permanent–I hope–The Margaret Mahy Family Playground with all kinds of slides and trampolines and play gizmos we wandered into accidentally. It was full of families having a lot of fun, and looked like a very diverse bunch of people, socioeconically, racially, internationally. 


 Cardboard cathedral 

I’m having trouble uploading photos to the blog but will try to add some of the street art later. Meanwhile here is a link to the Street Art fesival’s website. http://streetart.co.nz

I’m a bit behind on entries. We’re supposed to fly to the ice today but the time keeps getting moved. Actually timeS since apparently we are going separately, if we go today.



Photo here, an outdoor installation art/memorial to the earthquake victims.

After a very long journey, including a 17-hour flight from Dallas to Sydney, we arrived in Christchurch. My inner clock is pretty confused. We are 19 hours ahead of the time at home so it’s as if we lost a day in transit, crossing the international date line.  Also the equator so we have flipped seasons. 

Christchurch’s downtown, where we are staying, is a re-work in progress. The earthquake was 5 years ago, and as we know from our own disasters, recovery is uphill through molasses and pain.  What’s so remarkable here is how much public art–a lot of it guerilla art–and space have led the way, or at least marked the way. Downtown bristles with cranes and construction sounds, but there is still a lot, a whole lot, of wreckage and spaces-where-something-once-was, including the plinth for the Scott statue that his widow Kathleeen Scott had placed here in 1917, sans Scott. We asked after him and nobody seemed to know–but there are bright cheerful young people working in the tourism trade who seemed to have come here quite recently, so they wouldn’t know. We finally located a tiny sign on the Bridge of Remembrance that said Scott had snapped off at the ankles in the quake and was being reconstructed somewhere. Here is what it looked like:


 And here it is now, a void on a plinth (across from a mural of penguins). One could read this absence as a re-enactment, in a way. 
Christchurch has been amazing.  Alongside and amidst the construction noise and wreckage there is so much public art, so much creativity. There is also a very handy respite from the noise and reminders, a world-class botanic garden in huge Hadley Park, right downtown. And at one edge there is the fabulous Canterbury Museum with its Antarctic exploration collections. We were fortunate, very fortunate, to meet with Roger Fyfe, archeologist and curator responsible for making the restoration of the historic huts important and underway. He has conserved, and enabled conservation, of so much of the history that concerns us in this project. And he was marvelous, warm, witty, enthusiastic, full of stories. He has already emailed us the catalogue of a giant Ponting exhibition the museum had outdoors a few years ago. And his stories of digging various artifacts out of the ice! He has what I am experiencing everywhere in Christchurch, a philosophy of engagement and public access to history, to art, to heritage. The museum’s collections of artifacts was likewise wonderful. Edgar Evans’ parka. Wilson’s microscope. Shackleton’s impossibly weird motor sledge. On and on. 

More on Christchurch coming. I must get ready for a boat trip we have booked, into the coastal estuaries.

Correction: our jet boat trip was on the lower Waimakariri’s braided river system. Not estuaries. Fascinating and pretty darn thrilling. I have few photos because I was holding on for dear life.