Monday, 26 May 2014

New Zealand’s first disaster communications conference

Extensive and effective communications in the community disaster preparedness phase is crucial as is appropriate risk reduction measures, and, once a disaster strikes targeted communication by all available means is vital in saving lives, property and stock.At the Auckland conference, Peter Rekers  reflected on the paradox that while 20% of post-disaster recommendations are usually devoted to communications only 1% or less of funding in disaster management is actually spent on boosting communications.This means we need to be communicating better before disasters so evacuation, self-help measures, rescue, relief and eventual recovery are done seamlessly. The UNISDR issued this press statement below. A real pleasure to see my old friend Denis McClean here in New Zealand, and now in Christchurch and I will meet him later today.

(from left to right) Panel discussion at today's session of New Zealand's first disaster communications conference: Denis McClean, Head of Communications, UNISDR; Robert Jensen, Homeland Security, USA; Sir Bob Parker, former Mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand; and Mark Crosweller, Director-General, Emergency Management, Australia. (Photo: UNISDR)
AUCKLAND, 22 May 2014 - Australia’s Emergency Media and Public Affairs (EMPA) organization was born out of a desire to share lessons learned after Cyclone Larry in 2006 and it has been doing that every year since in unique style through its annual conferences.

“We are the only organization in the world dedicated to improving public communications in disasters and bridging the gap between practitioners and researchers. And this is the biggest conference we have ever had,” said Peter Rekers, EMPA founder and chairman, at the opening today of New Zealand’s first Disaster Communications Conference inspired by the success of the Australian events. The New Zealand event is the first EMPA conference held outside Australia.

Mr. Rekers also reflected on the paradox that while 20% of post-disaster recommendations are usually devoted to communications only 1% or less of funding in disaster management is actually spent on boosting communications.

Over 150 disaster communicators from the public and private sectors have come together today and tomorrow to reflect, analyse and share experiences and to listen to a wide range of speakers. There was a strong focus in today’s keynote address on the lessons learned from the earthquakes which hit Christchurch between September 2010 and February 2011 killing 185 people and causing economic losses of $16 billion.

John Hamilton, the Civil Defence supremo appointed National Controller during the government-declared State of Emergency, said communications were vital to successful emergency management and response during what was the country’s biggest civil defence emergency in almost eighty years and it also put to the test new civil defence legislation passed in 2003.

The emergency response was helped in the first days by the fact that the weather remained good, road access was possible and the airport remained open. Mobile phone operations and electricity services were restored relatively quickly.

He outlined a key challenge around getting information back to the operations centre from outlying affected communities. Mr. Hamilton reflected that with hindsight more could have been done to encourage and engage the private sector as an important element in restoring community life.

He also said the time required to feed information to the media was underestimated and was an area where professional communicators could play a vital delegated role. Mr. Hamilton anticipated that in future disasters there would be an explosion in demands on disaster communications from social media. Honesty, judgement, agility and compassion were key to emergency management and communications had to have the resources to keep up with the speed of developments.

Sir Bob Parker, the renowned Mayor of Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes, relived those hours and stressed the importance of going beyond the media and taking to the streets to meet with people and keep them informed, something that was done particularly in the first six days after the February 22 earthquake.

He paid tribute to the staff and volunteers who visited 60,000 to 70,000 people in the first 30 days of the emergency, gathering and disseminating information. Sir Bob added that honesty is the most important thing that people want from disaster communications.

Mark Crosweller, Director-General, Emergency Management Australia, spoke about the ethical principles he had developed over his 30 year career and cited as number one, maintaining the public’s trust and confidence in the face of adversity. He stressed the importance of communications in that process. There is nothing worse than zero situational awareness and zero information in a disaster situation.

It was important to respect the hazard, accept the inevitability and act accordingly but the reality is that we are often limited by our experience, knowledge and imagination in how we manage disasters, he said.

In a panel discussion on ensuring that political leaders prioritized disaster communications in emergencies, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Robert Jensen said political leadership was vital to public confidence and praised President Barack Obama for the strong support he has given to emergency management during events such as Super Storm Sandy.

Denis McClean, UNISDR Head of Communications, cited how economic losses from disasters are increasingly driving political commitment to invest in reducing disaster risks and building resilience. He pointed out that failures in disaster communications concerning seismic risk and tsunami warnings have led to criminal prosecutions, another incentive to political leaders to prioritize the function.

The EMPA Conference has been organized with the support of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Christchurch City Council,

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Antarctic huskies honoured as part of celebrating Lyttelton’s Antarctic links

 “Lyttelton has the strongest Antarctic links of any where in New Zealand yet we don’t celebrate them” said Sue Stubenvoll.
Sue has initiated a Lyttelton community based project, under the auspices of the New Zealand Antarctic Society’s Canterbury branch, to change all of that. To celebrate our Antarctic heritage the project team proposes to erect a bronze replica of a life size [or slightly larger] Antarctic sled dog in Lyttelton. This is wonderful news for those of us who worked with the Scott Base huskies.
Mike and Kulak, Scott Base huskies. During the summer of 1969-70, they were the two best dogs in the team Photo: Bob McKerrow

A recent visit by Sue Stubenvoll to Tasmania showed her how much more Tasmanians celebrate their Antarctic links than we do. It inspired her to initiate a project at home through the New Zealand Antarctic Society. “Hobart has statues, fountains, and sculptures on the walls of buildings, festivals, a trail and wonderful second-hand book shops. They have named a precinct on the dockside after Mawson, which has an ice-skating rink and a new replica of Mawson’s hut. They’re enthusiastic Antarcticans “, she said.
Sue sees Lyttelton as the jewel in NZ’s Antarctic crown with historic and continuing links to Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and our World Heritage sub-Antarctic islands.
On shore the Lyttelton Historical Museum includes an extensive Antarctic and maritime collection. The Steam Tug Lyttelton escorted Shackleton’s Nimrod to the Heads in 1907, the Lyttelton Dry Dock was used by Discovery, Morning and Terra Nova for repairs, Quail Island housed heroic era expeditions’ sled dogs and ponies and the Timeball station improved  marine navigational precision. 

 Chris Knott leaving the dog lines at Scott Base, for a training trip 1969. : Bob McKerrow

Many Lytteltonians served under Scott, Shackleton, Hillary and on major  expeditions to this day, while the Port of Lyttelton continues to service vessels working in Antarctic waters. “Scott recorded the wholehearted support he received from Lyttelton, which gave free wharfage and support to his expedition, a tradition of service still held today,” she said.

The Antarctic Society Canterbury branch hopes the project will bring the port’s Antarctic roles to life for visitors and residents.
“The dog is something kids can sit on and rub its nose yellow. Visitors can have their photo taken sitting on it with Quail Island behind” Sue said. Quail Island is significant because that is where the statue’s heroic era predecessors were trained. One dog, DEEK, returned to New Zealand after the International Geophysical Year was conserved and has appeared in Lyttelton and Canterbury Museums.
Sled dogs seem to epitomize the courage, tenacity and comradeship of all those who work in the Antarctic, values shared by Lytteltonians and visiting seafarers.
To fullfill this vision and direct the project a small team of local volunteers has been formed under the auspices of the New Zealand Antarctic Society. Its chair is Councillor Andrew Turner. Committee members are Dr Ursula Rack, Commander
Bryan Shankland, Interim Head of school Liza Rossie
and Information Centre Chair and Project Lyttelton representative Wendy Everingham. 

Having worked with the huskies in Antarctica and was the one who erecived the last of the Scott Base huskies in Lyttelton in 1987, Iwould like to share this article I wrote on the Scott Base huskies.

                The last Antarctic Huskies - from Scott Base 

Mike and Kulak, Scott Base huskies. During the summer of 1969-70, they were the two best dogs on my team. Chris Knott used Rangi as his lead dog. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Polar medals, knighthoods, and a host of accolades have been bestowed on those who have carved their names in Antarctic ice, but of the hundreds of faithful huskies who pulled their hearts out opening up the New Zealand sector of Antarctica, what is their memorial?

A lone husky in Central Park New York, honours one husky, Balto, who in 1925 saved a community in Alaska from Diphtheria. Huskies at Scott base saved one New Zealander, George Marsh from dying of Diphtheria, but no bugles or no drums for them !

After heated newspapers debates in January 1986 when the DSIR’s Antarctic Division announced they were pulling the huskies out of Antarctica, not a lot has been written about them since. In this article I attempt to give the full history of huskies that lived at Scott Base and played such in vital role in surveying and exploring the New Zealand sector of Antarctica.

Two of the best: Rangi (left) and Oscar (right) 1969 Scott Base. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The start of New Zealand’s involvement in acquiring dogs for pulling sledges in Antarctica starts in 1955 when mountain guide at Franz Josef, Harry Ayres was selected by Sir Edmund Hillary for the first New Zealand Antarctic Expedition. Harry was attached initially to the Australian Antarctic Expedition engaged in the relief of Mawson Station where the Australians had promised 26 huskies, bred at Mawson.

Finding money for the expedition and for the dogs in particular, was difficult. The government gave a grant of 50,000 pounds but the rest of the money was raised by the strenuous efforts of innumerable district committees and private individuals. The greatest per capita enthusiasm was shown by children. The boys of Wellington College contributed $300, enough to pay for a sledge and a dog. Some youngsters raised money by rearing and selling guinea pigs and tadpoles! With the expedition running on a shoe string budget, Harry left Sydney aboard the Ice-breaker Kista Dan. He sailed on to Melbourne, passed by Heard Island with its amazing sheer pinnacle of rock, ‘Big Ben’. Before reaching Antarctica, the Soviets who were establishing their first Antarctic base made contact with the ship. At Mawson, Harry had his first opportunity to learn something about huskies. These dogs were the descendants of huskies of Greenland-Labrador cross (Malamutes) that were presented to the Australians by the ill-fated ship, the Commandant Charcot, which failed to reach the Antarctic in 1949 as part of the French Government’s attempt to establish a base in Antarctica. The dogs were off -loaded in Hobart.

Harry Ayres and Murray Douglas, two top dog handlers

Harry Ayres returned with 26 huskies via Kerguelen Island, a French Antarctic Base, arriving in Melbourne in March 1956. The final stage to New Zealand was abroad a Bristol Freighter which flew to Brisbane, Norfolk Island, Auckland and finally Christchurch. By now the dogs were tired and upset by the noise and heat. The final stage of the journey was by army truck to Mount Cook where they were tethered in a wire enclosure beyond the Hooker Bridge from March to June 1956. Today, the place is named Husky Flat. In June, Harry Ayres was joined my Murray Douglas and two men Hillary selected from the UK: Dr George Marsh and Lt. Commander Richard Brooke.

                                                               Richard Brookes

They were both experienced dog handlers having spent seven years in the Polar Regions. The dogs were kept fit, most days they pulled an old car without an engine up to Ball Hutt and back, much to the amazement of bewildered tourists. Some trips over the hooker flats were attempted but inevitably the dogs would become entangled in the Matagouri bushes. It was with some relief for both dogs and handlers when they moved up the Tasman Glacier to Malte Brun Hutt in June 1956. The conditions were so much better with the dogs spanned out in the snow around the hut.

While the first 26 huskies, which were soon to become 34 with the arrival of puppies, were enjoying the snow of the Tasman Glacier, 12 more huskies were being loaded into the HMNZS Endeavour on the 18th of August 1956 at Butler’s Wharf on the South Bank of Thames just below the Tower Bridge. The huskies were housed in kennels on the ship foredeck and, except for a spell of rough water in the Bay of Biscay when they were all sick, they withstood the long journey to New Zealand well, via Kingston, Jamaica, Panama Canal and Tahiti.

In Tahiti the crew and the dogs received traditional Tahitian hospitality with each of the dogs being garlanded with flowers. After eight weeks out from London the dogs landed in Auckland where they were quarantined in Auckland Zoo until they went south.

Fifteen husky pups, bred at the Auckland Zoo, were about nine months old when they arrived at Mt. Cook for the further training. One reliable source believes these pups were bred from descendants of the dogs used by Admiral Richard Byrd for his 1928-30 Expedition to Antarctica.

On 21 December 1956 when the HMNZS Endeavour, left Bluff she carried with her most of the men and dogs ready to set up New Zealand’s first base in Antarctica, Twenty-four of the remaining dogs, mostly the untrained dogs from Greenland and some of the Auckland Zoo pups, were taken to Scott base aboard the American cargo ship the SS. Private John R. Towie a WW2 Victory Class cargo ship.

On January 5 1957, the majority of the 61 huskies set their paws on Antarctic ice. After some local training trips with the dog teams a longer trip commenced. On 19 January 1957 three teams left Scott Base to cross the McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves to the Skelton Glacier, but five days later they were back. George Marsh got terribly sick a few days out and with poor radio communications, Brooke and Peter Mulgrew made a mercy dash back to get medical help. Sensing the urgency, the dogs covered the 50 km back to Scott base in just over seven hours, a speed of just over 7km an hour. Marsh was airlifted out the next day suffering from diphtheria

                                                                 Dr George Marsh

This was not the first time huskies have been involved in life-saving action against diphtheria. A monument of the most famous Greenland Husky of all, Ba lto, in Central Park New York, keeps the courageous image of this breed alive. Photoof Balto below.

In 1925, the gold rush town of Nome in Alaska, was threatened by a diphtheria epidemic in the middle of a dark winter, and the only way to save the lives of over 2,000 inhabitants, was to get a twenty pound packet of diphtheria anti- toxin over a trail that usually took 25 days. The word was flashed out by telegraph from Nenana, Alaska to diphtheria stricken Nome, over 674 miles of the roughest, most desolate country in the world. The route was known as the Iditarod mail trail, now a famous dog sled race.

The dog drivers were predominantly Innuit, Athabascan Indians and Scandinavians. The little Norwegian Sepal with his lead dog Togo, made 84 miles in one day. Gunnar Kasson ran the last 55 miles to Nome, with 13 dogs. He left in total darkness and in an 80 mph wind driven snow storm. The lead dog Balto an Inuit Siberian, put his nose down and sniffed and felt his way along the hidden trail. In the tradition of the great Innuit huskies, Balto, ears flattened against his head, to keep out the driving snow, nose working to pick up the trail, guided his team, driver and serum to Nome. When they reached their destination at 5.30 am on February 2nd, the half frozen Kasson collapsed by his battered dog team and began pulling ice from Balto’s frozen feet. “Balto”, he was heard to mumble…..” Damn fine dog.”

A seal is butchered by Richard Brooke for some hungry dogs, (plus some seal liver for the dog handlers, see on the right!) Spring Journey, at the Stranded Moraines, Sept. 1957. Photo. Bernie Gunn.

During the summer of 1957, the New Zealand expedition huskies went on many trips with their drivers moulding and training them into solid teams.. However, training the dogs had its moments. Bob Millar describes one of those periods when the dogs would do nothing right. “ Dog trouble was with us yesterday and it looks like it will be another problem day. “ We were so exasperated that we turned a bitch loose and the dogs, like a pack of rugby forwards, surged forward, never noticing the 1000 pound load behind them.”

At Midwinter's Eve,1957 Bob Miller deputy leader says a few words. Bob, or Sir J Holmes as he later became, was an artilleryman in the desert in the war. On left is Dr Trevor Hatherton, geophysist and IGY chief. On right is Dr Ron Balham, our resident biologist. He also was co-opted for a time into driving tractors to the Pole.

The greatest feat of exploration in Antarctica by New Zealanders using dog teams was the Northern Party of The Trans Antarctic Expeditions (1955-58) which left Scott Base on the 4th of October 1957, comprising, Brooke, Gunn, Warren and Douglas.

The Northern Party at Corner Peak, Feb. 1958. Photo: Bernie Gunn

They returned to Scott base on February 6th 1958 having travelled over 1000 miles by dog sledge and had obtained the information required for the preliminary geological and topological mapping of 20,000 square miles of rugged mountain country. In terms of knowledge gained, geological, exploratory and topographical, this journey might well be regarded as the most rewarding in Antarctic history. A tribute to the two teams of huskies that pulled all the equipment, food and supplies for 127 days.

A photo taken by Bernie Gunn when he used dogs on an expedition to climb Mount Huggins.

By late 1959 the dog population at Scott Base had dwindled to 26 dogs. The New Zealanders, realising the usefulness of the dogs for field work, decided to search for more dogs. In May 1960, Wally Herbert, Dr. Hugh Simpson and Myrtle Simpson (a New Zealander) were driving through Arctic Norway and in an old Austin van, planning to explore Spitzenbergen. Wally and Hugh had spent many years in Antarctica together. Late in May they arrived in Tromso, the northern-most village in Norway, renowned as a starting point for Arctic expeditions, having seen Nansen, Amundsen, Sverdrup and many others depart here by ship for the unknown. In this remote Arctic village, Wally Herbert received a telegramme from the New Zealand Government asking him to go to Greenland and buy twelve dogs for the NZ Antarctic Expedition, and transport them via the USA, Hawaii, Fiji and Christchurch to Scott Base where he was invited to join the expedition for two summers and one winter.

An early Antarctic Husky listening to a grammaphone. Photo taken by Herbert Ponting on Scott's Terra Nova Expedition.

Wally carried on with his expedition on Spitzenberge (now Svalbard) for a few weeks, before he had to kayak along the coast to Longyaerbyen to catch a boat back to Norway. Three weeks later he arrived in Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland. He made his way to Jacobshavn which had a dog population of over 3000: two dogs to every human being. This village had supplied dogs to many polar expeditions and there was always great excitement when ‘Kabloona’s’ (whitemen) came to buy dogs. Wally recalls his days in Jacobshavn, “the villagers were delightful old rogues to deal with when it came to buying dogs, and some of my happiest recollections of Greenland are the wranglings between dog owners and myself through interpreters. I often received the most incongruous answers that were presumably lost in the translation, but by drawing portraits of dog owners and priming them just before the final purchase with a crate of beer, I eventually got the dogs I wanted.”

The Greenland huskies were flown south aboard a Globemaster of the US Military Air Transport Service from California, arriving at Scott Base at the end of October 1960.

The 1963-64 summers saw the end of an era in Antarctica with the introduction of ‘Tin Dogs’, motor toboggans, winding up a decade of dramatic journeys by dog sledge. It was fitting that Bob (Sir Holmes) Miller, Ed Hillary’s deputy on the TAE, led the last major New Zealand dog sledge expedition. In 101 days, this expedition collection over 500 geological specimens from 145 localities, occupied over 50 stations. In all they sledged 1600 miles and surveyed 49,000 square miles of previously unmapped country.

From 1964 onwards, most New Zealand field parties moved about by motor toboggan. The dog teams continued to be used for short scientific and field trips of a recreational nature.

When I arrived at Scott Base in October 1969 I did numerous trips with Chris Knott the dog handler.

Chris Knott, dog handler Scott Base 1969-70, hitching up a team to the sledge at Scott Base, Photo: Bob McKerrow

Often we would set off with a team each and race over the ice shelf towards Mt. Lister and Huggins, or visit the Shackleton and Scott Huts at Cape Royds and Cape Evans. In a strange way, although being a science technician, I became the second dog handler and helped Chris to train, to feed them, and to assist him with the unpleasant tasks of killing aging seals to feed them over the winter. My lead dog was Rangi and he was an enormously strong dog and I spent many sunny evenings down at the dog lines talking to the dogs one by one, but Rangi always got special attention.

Chris Knott leaving the dog lines at Scott Base, for a training trip 1969. : Bob McKerrow

From 1970 onwards, efforts were made to acquire dogs from other Antarctic bases to minimise in-breeding. In 1975 a bitch and a dog came in by Twin Otter from the British Base Rothera. They evidently mated in the air over the South Pole and their progeny were successfully integrated into the Scott Base teams. In 1979 pairs of huskies were exchanged between Mawson Station and Scott Base.

In January 1986 when the DSIR’s Antarctic Division announced they were pulling the huskies out of Antarctica, Christchurch newspapers debated the issue at length. While this debate was raging, I was slugging it out on the Arctic Ocean with 49 huskies, as a member of Will Steger’s International North Pole Expedition. During the training period and on the expedition, Will often quizzed me on Antarctica and of his dream to cross the continent with dogs.

Will Steger driving a team of dogs on his 1986 North Pole Expedition

When I returned to New Zealand I saw an opportunity for the Scott Base dogs to be kept together, and to go to a good home with Will Steger, the veteran Arctic explorer, at his homestead near Ely Minnesota where he runs a dog sledding outdoor centre. I began negotiations on behalf of Will Steger with Bob Thomson, Director of NZ Antarctic Division. That was in the days before New Zealand’s Antarctic bureaucracy had reached its politically correct zenith, and the deal was finally sealed with a handshake and a few beers with Bob Thomson. The Scott Base Huskies’ had their last winter in Antarctica in 1986.

The author, Bob McKerrow on a training trip with Will Steger on Baffin Island in 1986.Photo: Will Steger

The last outing by the Scott Base dog team was on 17 January 1987.

The dogs on the team were: Jens, Bjorn, Footrots, Odin, Kiri, Nimrod, Tania, Stareek, Julick, Monty, Herbie, Casper. Tama and Rehua

Each name has a history. Monty after Colin Monteath a mountaineer and Antarctic traveller, Odin after Mt. Odin overlooking Vanda station and named by Colin Bull, Nimrod after Shackleton’s ship. Arnold Heine, veteran of countless trips in Antarctica, calculates there have been between 500 and 600 named dogs at Scott Base in the 30 years they have been in the NZ sector of Antarctica.

Arnold Heine on Mt. Marmsworth in 1957. Photo: Bernie Gunn

Grant Gillespie, the last dog handler sent me an envelope with the names of all the dogs, a special post mark, and Ross Dependency stamps, and the words:

Carried on the last dog sledge journey made in Antarctica by the Scott Base Dogs – 17 January 1987.

On February 4 1987 at midday, the US ship the Greenwave, entered Lyttelton Harbour delivering the last 14 Scott Base huskies. Accompanying them, was Grant Gillespie, the last dog handler. Watching on the wharf were many people who had close association with the huskies such as Murray Douglas, who, with moist eyes, spoke to me about his days training the first Scott Base Huskies at Mount Cook and then accompanying them to Scott Base in 1956-57, veterinarian David Marshall who had worked with the health of the dogs for over 12 years. Pete Cleary, dog handler at British Antarctic bases for two years, and dog handler at Scott Base in 1978-79, Richard Balm dog handler in 1985-86, Eric Saxby who had done so much in organising the return of the dogs, and Bob Thomson, Director of Antarctic Division, were there. One 81 year old woman I spoke to said she saw the dogs off in 1956 and was pleased to welcome their off spring back.

This was the type of terrain the Antarctic huskies excelled in, rugged, at altitude and remote. Taken near the Beardsmore Glacier.Photo: Bob McKerrow

As I boarded the ship to help take the dogs off, I was impressed with their condition. They were excited and looking at me with anticipation. I spent a lot of time at Will Steger’s homestead on a Lake near Ely, Minnesota in preparation for the 1986 North Pole expedition, and knew they would have a great home there, and a possibility of returning to Antarctica with Will.

David Marshall checked each dog as we put them in cages and loaded them onto a truck. Murray Douglas took great interest and remarked “: They looked similar to the ones he took down.” My two daughters, Tania and Kira helped Grant, Eric and I load the dogs on the truck. Eric drove the truck as I sat on the deck with 14 howling dogs in cages; a curious traffic officer passed on a motor bike and stood up on his footrests and gazed at the dogs, and decided that asking questions would not help anyone.

Man and dog in Antarctica. Photo: Bob McKerrow

We got the dogs to the airport and we lugged their cages into a refrigerated chamber. The dogs were now mine. Will Steger said he would pay for the air freight to the US, but the money had not arrived. It was 5 pm. I knew if I presented my American Express Card, the woman on the counter would phone Amex HQ in Auckland, and from previous experience, I would be declined. I knew from previous experienced the office closed at 5.30 pm in Auckland, so I dithered around pretending to be examining the dog’s condition. At about 5.45 pm I presented my Amex card and the women said, “ I think the office for verification is closed. Do you have a good credit rating ?” Deliberately lying through my teeth, I said “I am wealthy, no problem “ and she gave me a bill for NZ$ 25,000. Will’s money came into my account a few days later.

Grant Gillespie had agreed to fly with the dogs via Nadi, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Denver, finally arriving in Aspen Colorado on 25 February 1987. Sadly, on arrival it was discovered that one dog had died, it was Stareek, a seven and a half year male. Stareek was the name of one of Scott’s dogs and in Russian means “ The old man.” The old man had led his team all the way to the US, and an autopsy revealed he had died of stress. All the other dogs arrived in perfect condition.

Keizo Funatsu describes meeting the dogs at Snowmass Colorado for the first time. “ I worked for Krabloonik Kennel there and Grant brought them over before they went to Minnesota. They had never seen trees and were fascinated by them, and slowly learned to take a pee on trees! “

Grant settled the dogs in at Will Steger’s homestead in Ely Minnesota before returning to New Zealand some months later.

Two years later, five of the 13 Scott Base dogs were selected for an arduous crossing of Antarctica with Will Steger’s International Trans-Antarctic expedition

In March 1990, Will Steger completed what no man had ever before attempted: the crossing of Antarctica on foot using dogs to pull the sledges. Steger and his International Trans-Antarctica Team performed an extraordinary feat of endurance covering 3741 miles.

In his book Crossing Antarctica, Will Steger describes the performance of the former Scott Base Dogs:

“Kenzo’s team is the unruliest of the three, comprised of the five Antarctic dogs and seven from the Homestead…”

The five Antarctic dogs were: Bjorn the leader, Odin, Monty, Herbie and Casper. Of the thirty six dogs that set out on the Trans Antarctic journey, only twelve completed the full 3,741 miles. Three of them were from Scott Base, Bjorn, Monty and Herbie. Their Antarctic births at New Zealand’s Scott Base, strong genes and acclimatisation were a key factor. Monty was taken by Kenzo back to Japan, along with another dog, Kinta, to Osaka, where Kenzo used them as the foundation for a new dog team that he used at an outdoor centre he set up.

Five years later fear of the impact of dogs on wildlife led to a new clause in the Antarctic treaty: 'Dogs shall not be introduced onto land or ice shelves and dogs currently in those areas shall be removed by April 1994.' The last dogs were removed from Antarctica on 22 February 1994, 96 years after huskies were first used for transport in Antarctica during the Southern Cross expedition under the Norwegian, Carsten Borchgrevink, in 1898 -1900
Fittingly, to close the story, I quote from the letter I received from Kenzo Funatsu on 1 September 2009

Hello Bob,
I am Keizo Funatsu. I received an email from Will Steger about you. I had the New Zealand Antarctica dogs during the Trans-Antarctic expedition 20 years ago. I have been living in Alaska for 15 years. I miss all Antarctic dogs. Their power was incredible compare to Alaskan huskies here.

Monty and Herbie were brothers, both 4 years old and strong dogs. Bjorn was one of the leaders and the oldest dog in the Antarctica team. I think he was 6 years old. Those three Antarctic dogs completed the journey. Casper and Odin flew back when the airplane came to us on our way the South Pole. Odin got frost bite and I forgot why Casper flew out.

Bjorn was 8 years old when he completed the Antarctic trip. He was a good leader.
Monty and Herbie were strong fighters but they were steady workers and cute dogs.
All male Antarctica dogs were fighters among them but it was fun to work with.

Monty went to Japan to breed with some other dogs in Hokkaido, the northern-most island in Japan. Monty bred with the offspring of the dogs which Naomi Uemura brought back from his trip in the Arctic. Naomi was a famous Japanese explorer who died on the Mt. Denali right after his successful first solo winter ascent.

Kinta who came from the Eskimo village in Canada completed the journey and went to Japan. Kinta went to Hokkaido and worked for the outdoor school there.

For me the journey is completed. The off spring of the New Zealand’s Scott Base dogs returned to their rightful place, the northern parts of the world after 31 years of useful work in Antarctica. For posterity, I list the names of the last Scott Base dogs and their details:

Thanks to David Harrowfield, Colin Monteath, Arnold Heine, Grant Gillespie, Will Steger, Keizo Funatsu and Gary Lewis for assistance with his article


Name Date of birth Sire
Odin m 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Tania f 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Casper m 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Herb m 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Monty m 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Kiri f 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Bjorn m 15-12-82 Tama and Helga
Footrots m 09-09-81 Julick and Abbe
Tama m 02-06-80 Muff and Cherry
Stereek m 09-12-79 Muff and Kiritea
Rehua f 14-06-79 Dick and Karen
Nimrod m 14-06-79 Dick and Karen
Julick m 14-06-09 Dick and Karen
Jens m 28-7-78 Huka and Kuia

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

UN’s new push to revolutionise business world’s approach to disaster risk

This new initiative brings together leading names in business, investment, insurance, the public sector, business education and civil society to develop global standards and promote risk-sensitive investment.
I was pleased to see this press release on how the business sector can engage more in disaster risk reduction, and especially my former boss at IFRC, Margareta Wahlstrom, and assisted by Denis McClean, are leading this initiative.
NEW YORK, 19 May 2014 – Following on a statement by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that “economic losses are out of control and can only be reduced in partnership with the private sector,” the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today launched the R!SE Initiative to mainstream disaster risk management into corporate planning and investment decision-making.

The R!SE initiative brings together leading names in business, investment, insurance, the public sector, business education and civil society to develop and promote global standards on risk metrics and voluntary industry standards for disaster risk-sensitive investment following ten years of record-breaking economic losses and disruption.

This new partnership comprises: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Florida International University (FIU), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), AECOM and Willis.

Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, congratulated business leaders and UNISDR on the launch of R!SE, stating that this initiative “provides a new formula for averting economic losses from disasters, which are a major brake on economic growth and development. Because R!SE brings together businesses, investors, insurers, public bodies and educators, it can be the catalyst we need to bring lasting change to how we approach risk.”

Margareta Wahlström, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), explained: “Corporate planners and investment decision-makers must be aware of disaster risk. They owe it to their employees and shareholders. Managing disaster risk is good for the world’s economy and will help avoid job losses and reverses in economic development from events which are largely predictable in scale and scope whether its floods, storms or earthquakes. There are consequences for ignoring the principles of good land-use and building regulations in any business.

“The goal of the R!SE Initiative is to revolutionize the way the world does business. Disaster risk is not natural but is produced by investment decisions and the range of factors that influence those decisions. Embedding disaster risk management in business processes is key to resilience, competitiveness and sustainability.”

By 2020, the R!SE Initiative will have reached out to a minimum of 1,000 asset owners and investment managers, 200 insurers and re-insurers and 100 global businesses in at least 50 cities and 20 countries.

PwC will build on work already carried out with 14 of the world’s largest corporations, including Walmart and Citibank, to develop a robust approach to disaster risk management and create voluntary industry standards which will strengthen social demand for disaster risk-sensitive products.

The Economist Intelligence Unit will develop risk analysis for economic and business forecasts that include disaster risk. The methodologies will leverage its experience in developing country-level operational risk ratings seeking to score countries based on the likelihood that their business operating environment will suffer disruptions in the event of a disaster. In doing so, it will examine how to allow Annual Average Loss and Probable Maximum Loss figures, available from the UNISDR Global Risk Model, to be factored into investment decisions.

Florida International University will take the lead on supporting academic institutions, training centres and business associations in improving their curricula on business risk management, particularly in MBA programmes.

The United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment will engage major institutional investors, such as sovereign wealth and pension funds, to consider disaster risk in their investment portfolios. The aim is to have at least 1,000 investment managers committed to disaster risk-sensitive investments by 2020.

AECOM will support local business communities, municipalities and cities to measure and improve city-level disaster preparedness across 50 cities initially. AECOM and IBM have already developed a city Resiliency Score Card for use by 1,800 cities and towns involved in UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign.

Willis will support the goal of increasing access to optimal and sustainable disaster insurance, particularly in emerging economies. By 2020, 50 businesses will have benefitted and 200 (re-) insurers will have revised the pricing of risk based on state-of-the-art risk data. It will further support the correct pricing of risk and the development of insurance incentives for disaster risk reduction.


The UN’s 3rd Global Assessment Report Creating Shared Value: the Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction demonstrated that economic losses from disasters so far this century are 50% higher than previous estimates: in the range of a massive $2.5 trillion. Private investment largely determines disaster risk: 70-85% of overall investment is made by the private sector including annual institutional investments worth more than $80 trillion globally.
20 May 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Why were we fighting ? Monte Cassino

Members of the 18th Battalion hitch a ride in a Sherman tank belonging to the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade during the advance through northern Italy in late 1944.

Thirty-eight New Zealand war veterans will be in Italy this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino. The veterans, all in their 90s and accompanied by a medical support team, left New Zealand yesterday.
In Cassino they will attend a service of remembrance at the Cassino railway sation and the New Zealand national commemorative service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. 

 Men of 28th (Māori) Battalion marching north of Faenza, Italy, in January 1945. They are moving out of the line approximately 2 km from the enemy-held Castel Bolognese.

The veterans are expected to be joined by Prince Harry at the New Zealand service on May 18.

They will also attend a private service at the Abbey of Monte Cassino and have a guided battlefield tour.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae is attending the commemorations, along with Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman and Chief of Army Major General Davenport Gawn.
A total of 2176 New Zealanders lost their lives in Italy during World War II, and 456 are buried in Cassino.
The Battle of Monte Cassino is regarded as one of the hardest-fought battles of the war.
German defenders were driven from their positions but at a high cost, including the loss of 352 New Zealand lives and 1200 wounded. 


 Cassino - the Italian campaign

 A defender's dream
Augmented by the Germans' meticulous deployment of minefields, fortifications and flooding though demolition of stop-banks, Cassino was a defender's dream and an attacking army's nightmare. New Zealand involvement in this challenging task was in part due to the failure of the American 5th Army's attempt to bypass the German front line by staging a seaborne attack at Anzio, south of Rome. An initial attack by American forces on Cassino in January had already met with heavy losses and a failure to break through to the Liri Valley.

Temporarily heading a New Zealand Corps bolstered by the inclusion of the 4th Indian Division, Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg now steeled himself and his forces for the battle ahead. Desperate to minimise casualties, he requested a massive bombardment of the German defences to precede the assault by his troops. This was approved by the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, General Sir Harold Alexander. The subsequent aerial bombardment on 15 February laid waste the historic monastery and its environs.
Controversy about this decision would persist long after the war was over. Tragically for the waiting New Zealand soldiers, most of the German defenders survived and exploited the ruins of the town and monastery to create an even more formidable set of defences.

The 17 February attack

Adding to the New Zealand Corps’ woes, the aerial bombardment took place a day and a half before the corps was prepared to mount an attack. They nevertheless proceeded with the plan, which involved the Indian Division attacking Cassino from the north, while the New Zealanders were to attack the town from the south with the hope of punching an opening for the Allies into the Liri Valley. Due to the Germans’ demolition of floodbanks south of Cassino, only one New Zealand battalion was able to cross the flooded Rapido in the southern attack. It fell to the 28th (Māori) Battalion to initiate the attack on the town's well-defended railway station south of the town on 17 February.
After one of the fiercest and costliest battles fought by the unit during the war, men of the battalion seized positions in and around the station. But the equally courageous engineers following behind them were unable to clear a path through the flooded terrain for reinforcements. Without support, the isolated Māori soldiers were forced to withdraw after a withering counter-attack by German infantry backed by tanks. It was the first of a number of setbacks for the New Zealanders at Cassino.

Further assaults fail

A series of other brave but unsuccessful assaults ensued. After another heavy bombardment, New Zealand forces fought their way into the devastated town from the north on 15 March. Once again, the Germans put up tenacious resistance from hidden positions in the maze of rubble that was once Cassino. In creating ideal positions for enemy snipers and hindering access for New Zealand’s armoured support, the bombing of the town had proved to be counter-productive. After eight days of fighting from one shattered building to the next, Freyberg decided the cost was proving too high and he ordered his troops to stop their attack. Shortly afterwards in early April, the New Zealand Division withdrew from the Cassino area, having suffered 343 deaths and over 600 wounded.

Cassino finally falls

Cassino finally fell in  May 1944 to British and Polish troops, with support from New Zealand artillery. The Gustav Line was finally breached. Allied forces entered Rome on 4 June, two days before the D-Day landings in Normandy. The success of the cross-channel invasion meant that the Italian campaign became a secondary theatre of operations, with seven Allied divisions redeployed to France in August 1944. The Italian campaign's main purpose was now to divert part of the German war effort and to tie down forces which might otherwise have been used to defend France and Germany itself.

 Why were we fighting ?

Baldrick the incorrigible star in Blackadder said " War is a terrible thing."
Never a truer statement.

My father fought in the 2nd World War and was on that terrible battle for Monte Cassino as part of New Zealand's 23rd Battalion.

Recently my brother and his wife visited Monte Cassino and laid five roses there, one each on behalf of his five children. Private James William Godfrey McKerrow fought gallantly on Monte Cassino and saw a huge number of his friends die around him. He was wounded, but able to continue fighting. Dad spoke little of the war, but would often get nostalgic at Christmas time as he remembered the Christmas he spent in a trench on Monte Cassino. He told me how there was a half day cease fire and he and his comrades crossed the frontline to celebrate Christmas with the German soldiers they had been trying to kill for the past few months. Dad said. " they were good men like our soldiers, fathers and sons like us. " He said rather sadly to me, " I wondered then and still do now, why we were fighting ? "

My Dad told me how they swapped precious gifts such as chocolate, sweets, canned meat and cigarettes. They also sang songs in tehir own languages.

I have worked for the Red Cross for more than 40 years years and have seen first hand the Vietnam War, the war that created Bangladesh, wars in Ethiopia, India/Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. My Dad's words turn over in my head, " Why were we fighting ? "

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

What disaster expert Bill Nicol says about recovery in Tacloban after six months.

Today I posted this 'six months before and after' video on my blog showing the recovery in Tacloban, following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan. A drone was used to do the filming and opens up so many possibilities for the future monitoring of disaster recovery.

 In response to this video comparison, Bill Nicol,  a disaster management expert gave this very accurate response on the six months recovery in Tacloban by observing the video footage from the comfort of his Canberra home in Australia.This is what Bill said.

Very interesting comparison and comparison methodology, Bob. Thanks for providing it. The material offers a visible demonstration (i.e. real transparency) allowing some immediate analysis without recourse to any form of statistical assessment. This is my own instant take. The economic infrastructure (roads = logistical arteries) have been re-established as a priority and, with it, the local economy (road traffic) is rebuilding. People have reclaimed their land holdings, so land boundaries were either not destroyed or there is sufficient community agreement on who owns what to allow people to work out who has the right to what space. Much of the debris have been cleared allowing re-habitation, so that part of recovery has gone well. Policy makers have either not imposed or not reinforced restrictions on returning to the same locations, the corollaries of which are that (1) land planning lags behind rehabilitation demonstrated by the ships that are still grounded and will be difficult/impossible to move once permanent housing is rebuilt although presently the primary shelter remains transitional, (2) the community remains vulnerable to the next storm surge and (3) developers will not be able to get their hands on the land cheaply. The surrounding agricultural land is replenishing after salt water inundation suggesting there has been plenty of rain since Yolanda to leach out the salt, so local food production should quickly return and, with it, the local economy. Aside from the road, the major recovery work has been done by the community alone or with the assistance of civil society, which should not be a problem if it frees the authorities to rebuild their own capacities and develop more coherent plans for the future. All in all, therefore, encouraging progress with some interesting twists and turns.

 It is now becoming conceivable with the use of  'drones' that disaster assessment can be done remotely thus cutting huge amounts of money spend by sending in national and foreign experts to view from the ground. An inexpensive drone could do the job much more cheaply..

Six months on from Typhoon Haiyan, The Telegraph’s Lewis Whyld, who covered its immediate aftermath with an unmanned drone, returned to see how the worst affected city is recovering. This is what he said.

“The drone has allowed us to retrace our exact steps six month later,” said Whyld. “Previously with a static camera on the ground you wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
The new images, gathered over 10 days and around 20 hours of flight time, offer a bird’s eye view of how Tacloban has changed.
Much of the debris has now been cleared from its once body-lined streets. But other parts of the city that were completely levelled remained “pretty much untouched,” Whyld said.
A lack of government housing for the displaced means many have been forced to return to the vulnerable coastal areas that bore the brunt of the typhoon.
“Aid workers who are there are saying that the main thing is housing. Food and electricity is available and people have access to health care. What is really lacking is housing,” said Whyld.
“There are signs up and everybody knows the rule that you can’t build near the sea but it is blindingly obviously that they are doing that. The first thing I saw was that everyone is rebuilding exactly where they were living previously. At the moment it is really up in the air for a lot of families.”
Perhaps I am droning on too much but what a new and fascinating disaster management tool