Tuesday, 28 June 2011

252.48 kms of challenges, obstacles, hard work and success

Women from Kolavil village in Akkarapattu at a hygiene promotion programme. Photo: Mahieash Johnney

Last week I travelled in the Ampara district in eastern Sri Lanka where the people have been affected by conflict for more than 25 years, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and earlier this year, flooding.
Life is tough in this part of the world, but the reslience and fortitude of the people inspired me greatly. Here is

A diary note by Mahieash Johnney – IFRC Communications & Information manager

As you drive along the road from Ampara to Pottuvil in Eastern Sri Lanka, one thing that sticks out is, that this is just another rural landscape of the island. Acres and acres of green paddy, men and women equally traveling in bicycles and farmers herding water buffaloes; sights that are very common in these parts of the island.

As a journalist, I did travel the same route in mid-2005. The sight then was very different…. Any direction you set your eyes, all you could see was rubble. Despite it was several months since the tsunami, it was like yesterday. The very few who were on the road had an eerie look in their faces which echoed the hopelessness, which was a sight you hardly forget.

The tragedy that struck left scars in people’s hearts. Wreaking their livelihoods, destroying the very little they had and even taking thousands and thousands of innocent lives. The tsunami that came ashore of Eastern Sri Lanka did changed everything, however failed to wash away the determination and the spirits of people, which is what is evident today.

What the Red Cross did…

When the tsunami struck almost 7 years ago, Sri Lanka lost over 45,000 lives and over 500,000 were displaced.

The economic impact from the disaster stood at over 1 billion dollars in Sri Lanka. The Government launched a 3.5 billion dollar reconstruction drive in which the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) along with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) and other partner national societies committed to over 750 million CHF reconstruction programme in the island.

Today as the Red Cross Movement puts its final touches to operation it has managed to provide support to almost 2 million Sri Lankans who were affected by the Asian Tsunami, in terms of shelter, water and sanitation, health and care, livelihood and psychological support.

The final lap…

The only running project yet to be completed as of now is the Water & Sanitation programme that has managed to give clean drinking water for over 75,000 people in the Eastern seaboard. This feat was achieved by laying over 250.48 kms of pipeline.

I was travelling with the Head of Delegation of IFRC Bob McKerrow who toured the area to monitor the impact of the project. “What I saw inspired me and made me realise as to what we humanitarians do every day does matter. It has indeed been a painstaking and an ardours task of getting this project off the ground. However as we now have reached the final lap, I take in pride to say that we have had the best team of professionals, volunteers and staff in order to get this done.”

We went to the village Kolavil 3 in Akkaraipattu, which is around 45 kms north of Pottuvil to meet several beneficiaries in order to asses our work. By the time, we arrived at the village there were around 30 women, children and men sitting in front of a Hindu temple also known as a Kovil.

Here we met Sushila, a 33-year-old mother of 2. She was also among the crowd that came to the village meeting that day. She was very much eager to speak to us and tell us how glad that she and her family now have access to clean drinking water.

“There were times that we walked miles and miles to the water post provided by the local authority. With my kid it is very difficult as I am the only one at home in the daytime. Therefore, I have to carry him, go, and come back with another pot of water. Life was difficult then. But after the Red Cross took steps to bring water to our village, I thank God for that” says Sushila.

She later had a conversation with Bob and explained their difficulties and problems before water reached their village.

Child to child hygiene promotion

Alongside the Water & Sanitation programme, the Red Cross movement also launched a hygiene promotion programme in order to make sure that not only do we provide safe water but also promote cleanliness and self-hygiene.

This promotion programme mainly ran in schools, encouraging children to be clean and using a child-to-child method where a single student who learns from school will go and coach another student in or outside the school in order to disseminate the message.

We managed to visit over four schools, which the programme was running. For the record, the hygiene promotion programme is running in over 28 schools in the east. We saw toilets in good format, clean tidy and very hygienic. School children were taught the importance of cleanliness by supporting teachers who have managed to adopt the programme even after the official period the programme was running came to an end.

One of the key messages taught in these areas were about safe guarding water. Under a theme Safe water, save lives teaches the students to be concern of their daily habits. From simple messages like washing hands to messages like safe guarding water was taught in these schools.

“We see a significant increase in children’s behaviour since we got water to the school,” says Principal Upali Ravindra who is in charge of the Pottuvil Sinhala Secondary School. “There is a clear difference in children’s attitude. They are more confident, cleaner, and most importantly healthier and the attendance to school has certainly increased. However, you analyse these facts it comes down to one revelation. This was possible because of clean water we have received, and my sincere thanks go out to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the International Red Cross Movement for taking steps to help the children”

Our volunteers

For over 7 years, the tsunami programme of the Red Cross Movement has been running in eastern Sri Lanka. Over 10 million dollars were spent for the project; however, the scope of the work and the impact of the project have spread to more than over a million people in various parts of this island.

For this to be possible there has always been one crucial ingredient. It is our volunteers. For over 75 years in its existence, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in its entirety has depended on volunteers. Over 300 volunteers alone have taken the task of disseminating and helping out the Water and Sanitation project in the East. The Head of Delegation of IFRC Bob McKerrow stopped by in order to see into their welfare and to thank them for a job well done.

“It’s because of people like you that we have reached the final feat of our project. You have contributed to its success,” says Bob. “I wholeheartedly thank you for the time and commitment put towards the success of this project. Almost over 150 years ago when Henry Dunant first volunteered to the welfare of the most vulnerable he would have never thought that all these years later that volunteers like you would have helped more people who were battered by a tsunami. What you have done is quite inspiring, and all because of you what we do here in the east does matter”

In conclusion

The tsunami operation of the Red Cross Movement in Sri Lanka has changed lives of millions of Sri Lankans. The achievement it gained has always been through various obstacles and challenges. Not everything is perfect, as there are more requests, more challenges and more obstacles at hand as the project moves on to its final phase.

During our visit, we received several requests, the most immediate one being where several beneficiaries requesting the Red Cross to help them to get water connections from the National Water Board by paying the connection charges.

It was always the understanding that the Water Board will provide the connections for a nominal charge however, the rates shot up and the people were not in a place to spend a large amount to gain access to safe drinking water. Hence, the Red Cross managed to advocate and bring down the price so that the people would experience the benefits of this massive project.

The final phase of the water and sanitation project of the Red Cross Movement will be handed over to the public in the latter part of July 2011.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Water pipes, hygiene promotion, surfing and wild elephants

What a memorable trip to Ampara district last week to  monitor a large array of Red Cross funded tsunami recovery projects ranging from a huge  water supply system with 252.48 km of pipe delivering water to over 70,000 people, houses, sewerage treatment plants, schools and a large base  hospital built by the Finnish Red Cross in Pottuvil. But most impressive was the hygiene promotion programmes in the schools and coastal villages which has improved the health of children dramatically. I spoke to many school principals and teachers who say the hygiene promotion programmes, the new toilets with running water that the Red Cross provided to the schools, has improved the health and attitude of the children significantly.
It is so good to see school children in Pottuvil so healthy, clean and happy.  The children take home key hygiene messages to their families which has huge impact on community health. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A visit to Addalchenai school where all pupils are involved in the Red Cross hygiene promotion programme
The sign informs people of the massive Red Cross water supply programme in coastal Ampara district of Sri Lanka. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A million litres of clean water is stored in this Red Cross holding tank and is topped up automatically when it gets below half full. Photo: Bob McKerrow
And who supervises these water suppliy projects? Juhani Efraimsson from Finland shows me the detailed plans of the pipelines. Juhani, Rebecca and their watsan team are very productive unit.

Clean toilets are part of the Red Cross hygiene promotion programme in Sri Lanka and the schools take pride in keeping them clean, using water from the Red Cross funded water supply. Photo: Bob McKerrow
In the centre is the teacher who is a Red Cross volunteer and runs the hygiene promotion programme in the Pottuvil school. Rebecca Kabura, from Kenya, is on the right. Rebecca is an amazingly committed and talented IFRC hygiene promoter who has earned the respect of every village person she comes in to contact with.

A hygiene promotion meeting of women in a village outside of Pottuvil where they discuss ways of improving health and hygiene. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Water promotion by a sign informing of a hole in the ground. Can messages be more basic than this? Photo: Bob McKerrow
Volunteers are the backbone of the Sri Lanka Red Cross. Yours truly talking to volunteers in Pottuvil.
While travelling through this beautiful coastal area you come across so many tourist spots that are bringing livelihoods to local communities. This is taken at Arugam Bay, Ampara District, Sri Lanka. A surfer enjoying the early morning waves. A world championship event has been held here and is soon to be held again. Photo: Bob McKerrow
A lone surfer prowls the beach at Arugum Bay looking for the best surf: Photo: Bob McKerrow
We also found time to see many wild elephants as we travelled through Ampara and neighbouring districts who are becomung a problem. The Ampara branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross are running a risk reduction programme protecting people from being killed by elephants. Already I have crammed too much into this posting so will follow up on this one later. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Monday, 20 June 2011

Elephant risk reduction programme in Sri Lanka

Our work in Sri Lanka varies from supporting internally displaced people in the north, finishing many tsunami construction projects such as schools, hospitals and community facilities such as water supplies for the many housing estates we built, flood victims etc., but I never thought Red Cross would get involved with elephants.

A wild elephant near Nugelanda village. The elephants have been forced out of their natural habitats as a result of illegal logging.

Tomorrow I am heading off to Ampara district to see the outstanding work of the Ampara branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross  which ranges from a risk reduction programme protecting people from being killed by elephants and a huge water supply programme which is bringing clean water to over 250,000 people. With over 300 kims of pipeline, this programme costing almost US $ 10 million, has a large hygiene promotion programme for all the people benefitting from the clean water.

I am travelling with our Communications Manager, Mahieash Johnney who recently wrote this article which will give you an idea of how the Red Cross works in protecting people from elephants.

When the sun goes down for the day people in Nugelanda, Ampara, Sri Lanka, begins a battle, a battle against nature, a battle against a giant, a battle to stay alive. For over 10 years these people have shared the same space with the wild elephants and managed to co-exist while cultivating and living their lives.

However since the reserves in and around Nugelanda began to fall victim to illegal loggers and others who clear land for illegal cultivation, these wild jumbos began to move into areas where people inhabit.

During the months from August to October the invasion from wild elephants into Nugelanda village has increased drastically, due to the crop season for the paddy cultivated in the area. Once the villages harness their crops they store the paddy in their houses prior to selling. Wild elephants are attracted to the smell of paddy and invade the village in order to eat it and destroying everything that gets in its way.

Human tragedy
For the past two months over 13 people have been killed by wild elephant attacks in Nugelanda and at the adjacent 39th Colony villages. In one instance a family living in the 39th Colony, comprising 3 women 3 children and a man also experienced a wild elephant attack which left 3 dead.

Ranjani who is 38 years old has been living in the 39th Colony for over 15 years. They have witnessed the area go under the control of the LTTE and also the Government military’s offensive to clear the area.
Ranjani stands near the wall of her house that was crushed by a wild elephant, which resulted in the death of her mother.

They are no strangers to wild elephant attacks as the little hut they live in has in many times been crushed by several wild elephants, one of the many reasons for them to rebuild the hut with clay.

On the 15th of October 2010, after dinner all in Ranjani’s family squeezed into the hut in order to get some sleep. At around 11 in the night they heard as to something is passing by their house. Minutes later the left wall, the one which here mother was sleeping close to collapsed and a wild elephant crashed into the hut. Her feeble mother who was sleeping close by couldn’t even get up and run, before that the wild elephant put its paw and crushed her to death.

"It was a horrific experience to see such a wild animal inside our house. We didn’t even have time to help my mother, she was close to the wall the elephant crushed her in front of our eyes” said Ranjani with a tear in her eye.

At this moment everyone else in the house started to scream and managed to scare the elephant away. However it was too late for Ranjani’s mother, who was killed on the spot by the wild elephant. Two of her children were also severely injured when the wall fell over them.

Wild elephant attacks

With the reduction of their habitats elephant populations have broken up and some herds have got pocketed in small patches of jungle. With their movement restricted, especially when food and water resources are depleted, elephants wander into new cultivated areas, which were their former habitat, in search of food. Elephants find ready source of food in these cultivated areas, but wild elephants are unwelcome neighbors in agricultural areas.

This has often been viewed as the crux of the human-elephant conflict. Since 1950, a minimum of 4,200 elephants have perished in the wild as a direct result of the conflict between man and elephant in Sri Lanka. The conflict has escalated in the recent past. During the last twelve years alone, a total of 1,464 elephants were killed, with 672 humans being killed by elephants. (Data from Department of Wildlife Conservation)

In Nugelanda and in the 39th Colony around 13 people were killed the most recent have been a 17 year old boy who went to the market to buy fish. On his way home he met with a wild elephant that has smashed him on the road. He was hospitalized with severe injuries and later succumbed to them.

Nugelanda village has recently suffered an increase in elephant attacks, particularly during harvest time. Rice paddy is stored in houses before being sold. Elephants are attracted to the smell, and destroy everything that gets in their

Red Cross action

Currently the Ampara branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has already begun helping these people to combat this treat of wild elephants. As an immediate measure due to the influx of threat of these wild beasts, they have begun to distribute a high powerful torches which has been the only effective solution in order to chase away the elephants.

“We are in the process of putting a more effective plan to work in these areas. Of course funding has been an issue. What we suggest is empowering the villages by giving them torch lights and also helping them to come up with a risk reduction plan by helping them to build store rooms so that the wild elephants will not break into the houses” says Nilanka Dissanayake, the Disaster Risk Reduction Programme Manager of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Ampara branch.

Further on he said that the branch is also in conversation with the Wild Life Authority about an electric fence covering an area of 7km covering two villages, the Nugelanda village and the 39th Colony

The Ampara branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has started to distribute a powerful torch which has proved the only effective way to chase away the elephants.

The Branch Executive Officer of the Ampara SLRCS branch Prashantha Udaya Kumara says “We know that there is much to do. Step by step we are helping these people to combat this crisis. We do have several obstacles to overcome, like finding proper funding for a task like this. However we will do the needful to help these vulnerable people”

Meanwhile the branch has also completed a disaster preparedness plan with the aid from German Red Cross covering 6 areas of the district looking into various disasters like flooding, drought, wild elephant attacks and ramifications of global warming.

Wild elephants enjoy the space  and food to graze, well away from people. Your donations can help give elephants a better life, and help protect people who are regularly killed by elephant attacks.

Save the elephants, protect the people, donate now.

I will keep you posted on our visit to Ampara.

Friday, 17 June 2011

107 gruelling games in 18 months: 1888-89

You've gotta see this clip on Warbrick, based on a true story of the 1888-89 New Zealand Natives rugby tour of Great Britain and the team's captain Joe Warbrick, directed by brothers Meihana and Pere Durie,

The clip below finds the Natives at the end of a gruelling 18-month tour that involved 107 games. Ravaged by injuries and illness, they attempt to field a team for one last game.

 When Warbrick arrives in the changing sheds, he ignores the pleas of his team manager to call the game off and instead sets about preparing his men for the match.

An inspiring true story that was told with the help of Warbrick's family, it's something that could help inspire the All Blacks as they attempt to win the Rugby World Cup this year.

Warbrick, which was named Best Short Film at the 2009 Wairoa Maori Film Festival, is the 10th film to be hosted on Stuff during its short film season.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

From bullet holes to herb gardens

Sivapalam Sundaram, a local fisherman, recalls his time in the internally displaced person camp. Photo: Nadeeka Arambewela, Australian Red Cross

My Australian Red Cross colleague Nadeeks Arambewela recently visited Northern Province, Sri Lanka, and found hope in the most unlikely of places – a conflict and tsunami ravaged community who are ready to rebuild their lives. The Red Cross has a large integrated programme building 2000 houses, providing water and sanitation, livelihoods and first aid training.

An idyllic seaside village open to the clear waters of the Bay of Bengal framed by the occasional palm tree and glaringly white sand, Mamunai village in Sri Lanka is stunning. It’s the stuff of postcards, but despite its superficial beauty, Mamunai village cannot convincingly hide its battle scars. The evidence of a 30 year conflict and the destructive force of the 2004 tsunami that destroyed the entire village and killed so many, is everywhere.

The people who live here are desperately poor. Most of the villagers live in makeshift shelters; built with tin sheets and weaved palm fronds or tarpaulins provided by the Sri Lankan Government and non governmental organisations. The makeshift houses provide shelter, but no security and do little to keep a family cool in the searing heat.

The day we visit it’s hot; stinking hot. The air rising from the small tarmac road appears to tremble. The sun is unrelenting and our straw hats wilt in protest.

Despite the heat, Sivapalam Sundaram, (left) a local fisherman, walks barefoot across the burning sand to meet us along with some other village leaders. His weather-worn face glistens in the sun and his shock of white hair betrays his age. He says to me quietly: “We need help.”

This man – along with the rest of the village – has seen and been through things that most of us cannot even imagine. In our conversation he softly tells us of his time in the internally displaced person camp and the loss of his wife and one of his sons in the tsunami.

It’s people like Sivapalam and the villagers of Mamunai who have been through conflict and the devastation the tsunami that will be working with Australian Red Cross through the Post Conflict Recovery Program. Some 350 owner-driven (self-built?) houses in the Vadamarachchi East area will be funded alongside a livelihood component to strengthen the community’s resilience. It is anticipated that all the houses will be water tight by the end of this year, just before the monsoonal rains arrive.

We are given a tour of Sivapalam’s makeshift shelter where he lives with his son, daughter-in-law and grandchild. Its three rooms are delicately held together with dried palms that stand little chance of lasting through the rainy season.

The small kitchen garden roughly fencing in herbs and medicinal plants to the side of the house comes as a surprise. The plants appear strong and bold – a striking contrast to their surroundings. It’s perhaps a perfect analogy for the impact that the Post Conflict Recovery Program will have on this community.

During our visit, Sivapalam occasionally smiles gently but does not say much. When we get ready to leave, he reaches out to shake our hands and as he does, he says, “nandri” (thank you). It seems to carry the weight of a thousand words of hope, where until now there has been little.

By Nadeeka Arambewela in Sri Lanka
Australian Red Cross has contributed to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s (IFRC) Post Conflict Recovery Program in Sri Lanka, specifically supporting tsunami and conflict ravaged communities in Vadamarachchi East (Northern Province). Australian Red Cross’contribution will fund approximately 350 houses alongside a livelihood program bringing relief and security to hundreds of families.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Damage to Timeball Station in Lyttelton

FINAL BLOW: The Timeball Station at Lyttelton was still standing despite incurring more damage from the 1pm aftershock yesterday, 13 June 2011. The earthquake at 2.20pm almost destroyed the historic building. The photo above was taken after the 2.20 pm quake.

Lyttelton's historic Timeball Station tower collapsed during yesterday's (13 June 11) 2.20pm earthquake while contractors were working on the site.
The Timeball station has strong links with Antactica as Shackleton, Scott and Mawson set their chronometres by the Timeball machine at before departing for Antartica. The world-famous Timeball Station, one of only five left in the world.

Work to dismantle the 1876 building, which was badly damaged in the September 4 quake and suffered more damage in February, began two weeks ago.

Workmen from Smiths Cranes were elevated in a cage when the magnitude-5.5 quake hit yesterday, but were uninjured.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust chief executive Bruce Chapman said while some of the building was still standing, the site was too dangerous to assess. It was too early to speculate on the building's future, he said.

"The absolute priority is ensuring public safety. Considerable care and attention had gone into the dismantling process to safeguard people as best as possible," he said.

Trust project manager Paul McGahan said the new damage was "`substantial".

"The mast and timeball is down the slope, near the gate at the front. There were two containers that did prevent material going forward and onto the road," he said. Contractors and staff were safe, McGahan said.
"It was pretty nerve-racking. Contractors had just gone up in a cage to try and put a containment net around the front of the timeball," he said.

"The crane operator got them down pretty quickly and, fortunately, there was no-one up there on the second occasion."

The iconic Timeball Station in Lyttleton was partially destroyed by 22 February 2011 earthquake
Sledging in Winchester St, Lyttelton, prior to the departure of the Terra Nova on its second voyage, 1910.

Port of Lyttelton
Famous Antarctic explorers and  sailors Scott, Shackleton and Mawson  chose the Port of Lyttelton as the New Zealand base for their Discovery, Nimrod and Terra Nova expeditions. Scott was reportedly given two choices of base for his first expedition: Melbourne and Christchurch - each of which had a magnetic observatory. He may have chosen Christchurch simply because it was closer to the Antarctic, but the presence of his cousin, R.J. Scott, a Professor of Engineering at the University of Canterbury, may also have had an influence. As in Port Chalmers, there were generous offers of goods and services from the Harbour Board and local businesses. Scott and Shackleton were rewarded with similar generosity on their subsequent expeditions, as was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition when its ship the Aurora called at Lyttelton in 1912.
It was a town where my granfather was a publican and fisherman and served Antarctic sailors such as Tom Crean, Lashley, Frank Wild  and Edgar Evans at his bar, said my Father, who was born there in 1910.
Petty Officer Edgar Evans had once more been enjoying a drink ashore in Lyttelton  and when he returned to the ship, he fell off the gangplank just as the Bishop of Christchurch was about to go aboard to bless the ship and her crew.
Morning, Discovery and Terra Nova at the Port of Lyttelton during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904.

The statue of Robert Falcon Scott taken in early 2010 before the series of continuing earthquakes started in September 2010 in Christchurch

The historic statue of Robert Falcon Scott was toppled by the earthquake on 22 Febraury 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.


For those of you interested in Antarctic history, here is an update written following the earthquake that hit Christchurch and environs on 22 February 2011. That quake did some signicant damage to places and sites with Antarctic connections. Below are bits and pieces from various sources that note the damage. The most recent reports appear first. Among the correspondents: Jonothan Davis, Rick Dehmel, David Harrowfield, Stephen Hicks, Michael Rosove, John Splettstoeser, Liz Truswell.
The latest issue of Antarctic—The Publication of the New Zealand Antarctic Society gives some further details on how Antarctic sites fared in the earthquake (the cover photograph shows a portion of the devastated Scott statue). Natalie Cadenhead comments: "Some parts will be restored to their former glory, including the marble statue of Robert Falcon Scott which was cast down in the quake. The Christchurch City Council, with help from heritage experts, has carefully collected and stored all the pieces until it can be conserved and restored."

She also says the "Canterbury Museum (where I work as a curator) had no power, water or sewerage, no access for the first few weeks after the quake, and limited access since…

"He [Anthony Wright, Director of the Canterbury Museum] believes that the vast majority of collections, including the significant Antarctic collections are safe. 'The Heart of the Great Alone' exhibition from the Royal Collection is intact and is on its way back to Britain."

"The Lyttelton Museum building has been severely damaged…Wigram Air Force Museum, which was not damaged, oeffered assistance and with the help of Canterbury Museum staff, structural engineers, civil defence and the volunteer fire brigade removed all objects from the Antarctic Gallery…The collections will be safely stored at the Air Force Museum until Canterbury Museum is able to assess them for conservation requirements and an assessment on the future of the Lyttelton Museum building can be carried out."

6 May 201l)
"I have just returned from a meeting of our New Zealand Antarctic Society and got the first report on Scott's statue. He has indeed been toppled, frontwards apparently. His arm has been broken (not the first time) and his face got beat up as well. This area is still off limits to the public and I cannot personally vouch for this report other than to say it has credibility. When I am able to get photos I will send you some.

The Canterbury Museum's Antarctic collection on display is OK. The condition of items in the vault is not yet known.

The Lyttelton Museum was badly damaged and will probably have to be demolished. It's collection is intact and has been shifted to the Air Force Museum at Wigram.

(14 March 2011)
"Devastation is total in so many places and the human cost is only starting to be realised both in lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. There is an emotional drain just being in the city area, seeing the devastation, the challenges of getting to where you are needed and then getting anything done.

We were all…either in or very close to the central business district and simply finding out if we were all ok…took a while. Certainly all shook up and bounced around…

How the city will recover—wow, who knows. it will certainly be different. The [Canterbury] museum is closed indefinitely…the 'Heart of the Great Alone' exhibition was still in the McDougall Gallery and who knows what has happened inside but the buildings have not been red stickered which is a great relief. Anything red stickered is a no go zone and basically for demolition, in some cases the demolition is done straight away for safety without people going in to get belongings or commercial stock, a yellow sticker is damage but can enter, green is operational. We've heard various accounts of the Scott Statue, and as so many others are over thought it would be too but most of the coverage does not show that area of town which I think will be pretty trashed too. And many many people have simply packed up and left, will they come back—I wonder. In some cases I doubt it very much."

(1 March 2011)

Canterbury Museum I spoke with ____ and he says that the museum is badly damaged. His big bookshelf fell over him but, because he was on the phone to me, he was in a part of his office where a pillar stopped it from crushing him. He had to crawl out of his office. The exhibitions are in total disarray with many shaking apart and the glass in the big display cases having 'exploded'. I don't know about the structural integrity of the building but part of the facade around the front door has fallen off and Rolleston (at least his statue) has fallen on his head. To make matters worse, the sprinklers came on which means that the collections are wet. Of course no-one has been able to check any collections and won't be able to for ages which means collections may start going mouldy. It seems certain that the museum will be shut to the public for months. Staff like Paul are simply leaving the city with their family until the water systems in the city are back up and running. Additionally the museum server is completely out of action so no staff will be able to access their work e-mails, even from outside the museum. But the good and remarkable news is that no staff or visitors were hurt apparently.

(25 February 2011)

Scott Statue No doubt you have heard many stories of the tragedy of the devastating Christchurch earthquake. Amongst all the devastation the 1917 Robert Scott statue in Worcester Boulevard has fallen off it plinth. I have been able to get very little information as to how many pieces it is in, however if all bits are saved and stored it could be repaired. Maybe the international Antarctic community could help via your web site to save it.

(24 February 2011)

Much is still to come out but with the entire area within the four avenues cordoned off and anyone entering immediately arrested. It will be some time before the situation is fully known.

Our wonderful Cathedral (spire gone and other parts severely damaged); provincial and other historic buildings in extremely bad shape; Captain Scott was toppled off his base; Canterbury Museum I gather has damage (uncertain about The Queen's exhibit in the Robert McDougall Art Gallery behind the museum, as no public announcement yet on either) and I fear for Lyttelton Museum, the town having been at the epi-centre. The Timeball Station from 1860's there trashed.

(23 February 2011)

Canterbury Museum Following the February 22 earthquake, Canterbury Museum will remain closed until further notice. Staff are asked to wait for news from their managers regarding the Museum's situation. Updated information will also be provided in this section of the website as it becomes available.

(22 February 2011). From the Museum's website: http://www.canterburymuseum.com/news)

Two Antarctic "sites" in Christchurch damaged: The tower of Christ Church Cathedral (lots of Antarctic connections)

was destroyed and Kathleen Scott's marble statue of her husband was toppled.

(22 February 2011)

Canterbury Museum

Staff are all OK. Apparently the sprinklers were activated and lots of loose things moved around in the staff areas. The situation in the public and storage areas is unknown but presumed to be 'a mess' and some bits have fallen off the building. With the whole central city cordoned off, they do not expect to get back in until after the weekend. The museum server is completely out of action so no staff will be able to access their work e-mails, even from outside the museum.

Lyttelton Museum

Has been closed since the September earthquake, and apparently suffered additional damage on Boxing Day. We have no information as yet, but fear it is now even worse.

Lyttelton's Timeball Station, photographed in December 2008.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Two powerful earthquakes rock Christchurch again 13 June 2011.

                                         Houses on the cliff above Redcliffs School

BREAKING NEWS:  2300 hrs New Zealand time: : GNS Science is warning of more aftershocks in coming days as thousands of people face a night without power after magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes rocked Christchurch.

The magnitude 5.5 quake struck at 1pm, 10 kilometres east of Christchurch at Taylor's Mistake beach, at a depth of 11 kilometres, and sent people scrambling for cover. It was followed at 2.20pm by a more powerful magnitude 6 quake, centred 10 kilometres southeast of the city and 9km underground.

At least 40 people were injured in the earthquakes today, including two who were injured seriously, Radio New Zealand reported. At least ten people were taken to Christchurch Hospital with injuries due to falling building material after the 1pm quake.

Other residents from the devastated city cried in the streets and hugged their children.
Police said there had been no deaths.

Lines company Orion said 20,000 homes and businesses in eastern Christchurch were without power at 7pm. It was unlikely power would be restored to them overnight.
The company said crews were making good progress in restoring electricity to the city. The earthquakes had initially knocked out power to 56,000 homes and business.

Canterbury District Health Board advised that all water must now be boiled and residents should use chemical toilets or portaloos.

Christchurch City Council has set up a welfare centre at Cowles Stadium, where beds are available, for people who have had to leave their homes.
 A house taken down by a rockfall in Sumner, near Shag Rock corner. (Photo: Stuff.co.nz)

Shortly after I got news of the earthquake, I just phoned my daughter Ruia who lives in my house in Christchurch, but she was out of town.  Then I spoke to Gavin McDermott, my son-in-law who was at work when it struck and he said " the whole building rocked and shook very hard." He went on to say that many people in Christchurch are stressed and scared by so many aftershocks since the big one which caused massive destruction on 22 February this year.

My good friend Marja wrote this on her blog:

Liquifaction pooring into the streets as you see above. Serious rock falls in Sumner and other places, people evacuated, 50.000 people without power, many without water, Buildings fell down, most luckily in the central city etc

At 1 pm a 5.5 quake struck. I was at work and everything was shaking like hell. It was frightening. Luckily it didn't take too long and we could breath again. I had a client, no time for lunch, so I had to hop over to the shop for some food after 2 pm. I talked to a shop keeper who said that a building in Stanmore street had collapsed with 2 people in it. Later it was found that the building had been cleared. Anyway I got my lunch, stood at the zebra and the violent shaking started at 2.20 pm A 6.0 magnitude I learned later. I nearly fell down. It was if you stood on a ship in a wild storm. It was scary and I said loudly shit to a man next to me. Yes he said calmly, staring into nowhere.. The power was off at work, people came out from under the table. We all went home.

Dust rises from rock falls of Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour moments after the second large shock.

A series of dozens of aftershocks have hit Canterbury following the devastating February 22 earthquake where 182 people died, and a damaging magnitude 7.1 earthquake with no fatalities last September.

The February 22 quake measured magnitude 6.3 and left 100,000 homes damaged - 10,000 beyond repair. Christchurch's CBD was left in ruins, with 900 buildings to be demolished.

City council staff at the Art Gallery's civil defence headquarters said the 2.20pm aftershock was "very very significant" and a number of buildings had collapsed in the red zone.

Emergency teams confirmed the leaning Hotel Grand Chancellor had tipped further over.

The Art Centre's historic clock tower has lost its clockface. It has shattered and fallen to the ground.

Art Centre director Ken Franklin saw the clockface collapse. "I saw stuff coming down off the front of the clock tower. It was all coming down.

"It was a very uncomfortable place to be because I was trapped [between the clock tower] and the fence."

There had been "quite a lot" more damage to gables already broken in the February quake and more stone collapsed in the Great Hall.

This is the collapsed building (Photo: Amanda South)

The tower of Lyttelton's historic timeball station fell down in today's second quake.

Mayor Bob Parker told Radio NZ today's second large quake was bigger than the 1pm one.

"Thank God we had evacuated the red zone.

"We are being enveloped with dust. It is very very scary.

"We need to get a picture of what is really happening and to make a call on where we need to send our essential services."

More masonry has fallen from the Christchurch Catheral in the afternoon's second much larger quake, sending up large clouds of dust.

There are also reports that another building in Lichfield Street has fallen down.

Line company Orion said power was out to approximately 54,000 customers across Christchurch following the 6.0 magnitude quake.

Todays quakes have grounded all flights to and from Christchurch Airport.

Quakes since 1pm:
- 2.40pm: magnitude 4.9 quake, 10km east of Christchurch, at a depth of 10km.

- 2.20pm: magnitude 6 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 9km.

- 1.28pm: magnitude 3.4 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 9km.

- 1.08pm: magnitude 4.4 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 11km.

- 1pm: magnitude 5.5 quake, 10km east of Christchurch, at a depth of 11km.


Six people were taken to Christchurch Hospital with moderately serious injuries due to falling building material after the 1pm earthquake.

Two men who had been salvaging windows from the St Johns Church in the central city were reported to have received cuts and bruises and were taken to hospital.

St John staff member Alistair Drye said the two men were ok, but shaken.
"The walls fell down around them," he said.

The church had been severely damaged in February's earthquake and was set to be demolished.

The front of the church on the corner of Hereford and Madras Streets collapsed in today's shakes.

Police said there were no reports of injuries following the second aftershock.

Some roads and bridges were closed due to further damage or liquefaction.

Canterbury police communication manager Stephen Hill said police were moving to evacuate the red zone.

St John Ambulance said several ambulances were operating in the city and some were on stand by.

A police spokesman said a building on the corner of Stanmore and Worcester streets had collapsed. Police had feared people were trapped, but a search established this was not the case.

The 5.5 magnitude quake followed a 4.3 tremor, 10km north of Darfield, half an hour earlier, and was followed by a magnitude 4.4 earthquake eight minutes later 10 kilometres southeast of the CBD.

Fire Service spokesman Dan Coward said there had been countless callouts to burst pipes, especially in the Sumner area where many locals were "freaked out".

He said fire crews were investigating a number of suspected fires and the smell of smoke in various sites around the city.

Orion said power has been lost to about 10,000 homes in the eastern suburbs.

Dust has billowed out of the inner city red zone, indicating the collapse of buildings.

Further masonry has reportedly fallen from buildings in the damaged Arts Centre.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said officials were "still in the information gathering stage" but the city was unlikely to be plunged back into a state of emergency.

"We were lucky it didn't go on for longer. But something as sharp and violent as that would have damaged stone buildings."

He said there were unconfirmed reports of injuries within the cordon where dozens of demolition contractors have been working.
Parker said all the inner city buildings had been evacuated.

Significant rockfalls have been seen in Sumner and Taylors Mistake and land and cellphone lines were down in many of the beachside suburbs and in the Heathcote Valley.

Liquefaction had been reported across the eastern suburbs and as far away as Kaiapoi.
Sirens were sounding throughout the inner city and helicopters are flying over the red zone. Ambulances were racing along streets at the edge of the cordon to reach the injured.

Telephone networks reported lines overloading, and requesting users to text message rather than call. Telephone, Telstra and Vodafone all report congestion.

Vacant shops on the western side of Stanmore Road, that were red stickered after the February quake, have partially collapsed.

Police officers were at the scene in hard hats cordoning off the area.

Dominos Pizza assistant manager Renee Murray said the buildings had partially collapsed.

"All the shops have fallen down,'' she said. "Half of the roof has fallen in. They have not fully collapsed.''
Rocks have fallen again from the cliff face behind Redcliffs School.
GNS Science seismologist Dr Bill Fry said the initial 5.5-magnitude might change after further analysis.

The very sharp quake appeared to be located towards the eastern end of the Port Hills fault that caused the February 22 earthquake, but it was too early to say that with any certainty, he said.

All staff at the Art Gallery, currently being used by earthquake and council officials, were evacuated.

Students at Burnside High, Christ's College, St Margarets, and St Andrews College, were also sent out of buildings to the safety of playing fields.

There were evacuations at Canterbury University, Westfield Riccarton mall and Pak 'n Save Wainoni.
Staff at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority have evacuated their Papanui building and won't return until a structural engineer has assessed it, a civil defence spokesman said.

Canterbury University law student Jennifer Jones was on the second floor of the university library when the quake hit. "It started off not too bad but then all the books started flying off the shelves. You've got 11 floors above you so everyone got out pretty quickly."

The university has been evacuated and will be closed for the rest of the day. Jennifer says exams start next week so students will probably have to look for somewhere else to study. She got in her car and drove home to Riccarton and said it was chaos on the streets with police cars heading off in all different directions.

One Pak 'n Save Wainoni worker said items had been thrown from the shelves and the floor was littered with food and broken glass.

"It was pretty freaky. It felt like it was right under the supermarket," she said.

Sumner Supervalue supermarket is closed while staff clear fallen stock.

Residents in Beckenham and Merivale said crockery smashed and shelves were emptied.

More liquefaction has been reported in Christchurch's eastern suburbs.

In the Liggins St area of Horseshoe Lake the ground was bubbling, with sand spurting out of the ground, as happened in the first two major quakes, a resident said.

My favourite city and my home town in New Zealand, Christchurch, rocked again my two powerful earthquakes today.

Press reporter Marc Greenhill was in Brooker Ave, Burwood, when the 6.0 struck.
He was talking to one of the residents who was trying to clean liquefaction out of his lounge from the 1pm quake when the second one struck.

"The road split down the middle and seven or eight mini geysers spurted liquefaction and water onto the road."

Within a minute the whole street was flooded and several cars were trapped.

Water levels rose above the gutter and across the pavement and up into driveways.

A woman came screaming out of her home as liquefaction silt and water poured out into gardens.
Anthony Surynt was inside an electrical workshop in Sydenham, near the city centre, when the magnitude 6 quake hit.

"Racks that didn't come down in the last earthquake came down and everyone was out on the street this time," he says.

"This one gave us a bit of a warning before it hit. I struggled to stand up. It lasted a bit longer than the last one but it was much more violent. There are still aftershocks going on now."

A witness near the tunnel said the 1pm quake dislodged rocks from the Port Hills above, some which looked to be as big as car tyres.

Central Christchurch resident Jon Hicks said "everything come out of the fridge" during the quake.

Other items had fallen over inside his home, but power and water supplies were still working as normal, he said.

Anthony Surynt was working in a electrical workshop in Sydenham, close to the CBD, when the quake hit. He says it came on really fast and lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds. "It was quite quick. I wouldn't be surprised if another building came down."

He says it didn't feel as big as the February 22 quake but compared it to the September quake. Surynt ran out of the building as soon as he felt the earthquake, fearful of all the electrical equipment in the workshop. He has now gone back to work.

Christchurch east MP Aaron Gilmore said he was just getting out of the car when the quake hit and couldn't work out what was going on.

"I could see the ground rise on the road, it was a bit freaky."

There was cracking in the wall of his North New Brighton office that hadn't been there in the last quake and more liquefaction and water.

"I was here for that last 5.5 quake and it definitely felt bigger," Gilmore said.

Lorraine Hill, who lives in Taylor's Mistake, said she was thrown out of bed by the earthquake's force.
"It was enough to throw me on the floor and have great difficulty getting up," she said.

"It's just our nerves, we haven't had one that big for so long."

Christchurch resident Amy Brown was home alone when the latest quake hit.

She said she was frightened and ran to a door frame for cover.
"It was like February. Things started to fall out of the pantry."

She urgently got in contact with her husband, and both checked on their children at school.

Meika Gale was working at Buns Bakery in Woolston when the quake hit and says some of the roof collapsed into the shop. She says some drinks fell out out of the chiller but there isn't any major damage.

She says it was a "really violent shake" that lasted about 30 seconds.
Meika was preoccupied with trying to get hold of her former partner who is looking after their four-year-old daughter but phone lines are restricted.
Twitter user Nathanael Boehm said his two level house "swayed heaps". "Was up and ready to leap out a window if it started coming down.

"That would have been bloody close to a 6 magnitude quake. Heart going mental. Hope everyone ok!"

Other Twitter users also reported smashed items in their houses and car alarms being set of by the aftershock.

Richard Derham reported walking through the Arts Centre carpark and seeing "a couple of hundred cars start dancing".

Special thanks to stuff.co.nz for permission to use some text and photos.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

This time 43 years ago!

Forty three years has passed so quickly, but while that old thief of a clock may have stolen some years, the memories and photographs remain vivid as yesterday. Virtually to this day, in 1968, a bunch of young and enthuisiastic New Zealand mountaineers arrived at the foot of many unclimbed Andean summits in Peru, the mountain range was the Cordillera Vilcabamba. See the location on the map below..

We were seven young New Zealanders and one Englishman who had mortgaged our souls and hearts to have a last chance at a beavy of unclimbed mountains. I recall our leader Ken McNatty telling me " With nearly all major mountains in the world having been climbed, you'll never get another chance in history to climb so many peaks for the first time." I sold everything I had and took a loan for a thousand new Zealand dollars, half a year's salary in those days.

The peaks of Pumasillo and Sacsarayoc in the Cordillera Vilcabamba taken from Paccha.

I was 19 when I left New Zealand, (Read posting on departing NZ and travel to Peru)and 20 when I stood on my first virgin Andean summit, 43 years ago. Here is the extract from my diary of the first two climbs we did in the Andes.

Wednesday 5 June 2008

Paul Green, Ken McNatty and I left our base camp (situated at 4200 m) early morning with bulging 40 kg mountain mules packs and headed down valley and forked sou’west into the valley that we believe leads to the unclimbed peak, Cupola. 5200 m. We were hoping to do the first ascent by the south ridge. We had yet to set foot on an Andean Glacier, or snow yet, so were we being too optimistic ? We made hard work of the heavy loads and at 4 pm, we camped on the smow-line . Above, the twisted icefall streaked longitudinally with avalanche debris, and the skyline ridge dotted with bulges resembling Athenic helmets, were taking on the soft red and purple shades as the sun set. We erected our tent and put on down jackets, drank tea, as we looked for a route.

Thursday 6 June 2008
Slept in patches. We awoke at 5am and crawled out of the tent. A clear sky and the stars were dancing heel and toe. It would soon dawn a glorious day. Wolfed down breakfast and started the climb at 6am.. We threaded our way through a steepish icefall which led us out onto a glacier. We then had to negotiate an ice face that led onto a rocky buttress which tested our rusty climbing skills to the utmost Once on top of the buttress, a knife edge snow arĂȘte led to the summit. I couldn’t contain my joy. In twenty minutes or so and we would be on top of out first Andean summit, an unclimbed summit at that. The ridge was exposed and dropped away with alrming abruptness. We moved carefully, but surely, belaying all the way with three on the rope. Ken McNatty and Paul Green are solid climbers and a joy to be with. Sonn we stepped on thye summit. We had climbed 2000 feet in four hours. The view from the top was breathtaking. Similtaneously we saw a huge needle in front of us and we all started talking at once. "Does it have a name and can we climb it ?" We consulted the map and it was an unnamed and unclimbed peak between us and Nevado Blanco, the next named peak on the map. This was exciting stuff discovering an unnamed peak. We agreed that we would attempt to climb it tomorrow and if successful, we would call it La Aguja, "the Needle" because of its pointed spire. We were at 5,200 metres and La Aguja we estimated it to be at least 150 m higher.

Looking from the summit of Cupola to La Aguja

Our descent was uneventful and we got back to our camp at mid afternoon for a rest and preparation for tomorrow for La Aguja. It was an exciting day and my thoughts were on La Aguja. Would we be able to find a route up and how safe would that tottering ridge be ? These thoughts swirled like mist round and round in my head as I fell asleep.

Friday 7 June 1968
I stirred about 4 a.m and peeked out the tent door. A star-studded sky greeted me. The climb was on. We were well prepared. We had heated milk the night before and put it in a Thermos Flask. So breakfast was Wheetbix with hot milk and some biscuits washed down with tea. We were away by 6 a.m. We found a good route through the glacier to the snow field beneath the towering Needle, We looked at the possible routes. We decided to attempt the south ridge which is on the right-hand side of the photo posted above. We had to negotiate the tricky mushrooms on the ridge which took time to negotiate. With three on one rope, you move slowly. As I belayed I would look around the whole massif and take in the view. At one stage Paul shouted out,” Watch me and your belay, not the mountains,” as he caught me being a tourist and not a mountaineer. We had a series of fragile mushrooms to negotiate and with the hot sun beating down, the tops were beginning to melt and break. We needed to move more quickly. The summit seemed hours away.

Negotiating the tricky mushrooms on the south ridge of La Aguja.

After negotiating the mushroom flecked ridge, we came to to final 100 metre pinnacle, a mixture of rock and snow. Paul Green, who had recently done one of the few ascents of the Coxcomb ridge of Mt. Aspiring in New Zealand,, eagerly volunteered to lead the final summit push. He climbed his way up a narrow gap between rock and ice, using both to get the required purchase as he steadily climbed towards the summit. This super piece of climbing took an hour. We quickly joined him and then it was a further hour of climbing to the summit. We all stood atop this precarious summit, which was threatening to topple at any moment

Bob McKerrow  leading out along the ridge of La Aguja with Ken McNatty roped to him. Paul took the photo. Paul did the lead to the summit between the snow and rock on the left side of the Needle

A second first ascent in two days and the honour fell to us to name it, 'La Aguja', the needle. Our vantage afforded an amazing view of the Pumasillo and Panta Massif. Looking about at the mass of peaks, many unclimbed summits, faces and ridges, we were in for another three months of exciting climbing. On the descent we encountered white-out conditions but we picked up our morning’s footprints and we gingerly picked our way back to base without incident Providence had been with us so far. Two first ascents in two days.
Saturday 8 June 1968
At 5 am it was snowing. We decided to wait the day out sleeping, reading a brewing tea. The next morning it was still snowing so we decided to go back to base camp to let the snow settle, consolidate and freeze as it is very avalanche prone on the high mountains for days after heavy snow falls.

A camp, high on La Aguja. The success of the expedition was due to the fact we put in high camps, and started early before the snow got soft and started avalamching.
Ourr fast improving Spanish was going to be of little help as we hit the alto plano, where descendents of the Incas, the Quetchua Indians lived and spoke only Quetchua. As the weeks rolled by, we spent a lot of time with the two Quetchua families in the valley, headed by Juan and Simien digging a potato field below.

Juan Pablo and his daughter Nellie.

Four of the eight of us on the walk in. Bob McKerrow, Pete Goodwin, Mac Riding and Paul Green.

The most difficult climb I did in the Andes with John E.S Lawrence an English climber who did many major climbs in Europe, Himalayas, Antarctica and New Zealand before I teamed up with him. I found it strange that the other six people in the expedition either were overawed by John's reputation or just didn't want to climb with him. Being the youngest member of the expedition, I jumped at the opportunity to climb with John when he asked me. We did a few warm up climbs on peaks at a little over 5000 metres to get to know each other and develop good rope handling and belay techniques. Recently  John Lawrence reminded me of this difficult climb:

"...do you remember that tense descent on Mellizos north face where on the way down we dodged streaming, chunky gulley avalanches by hopping sideways onto the comforting rockface, and sitting pegged to the granite for hours, huddled, hummingbird antics beside us, meanwhile nestling the image between our feet of welcoming red tents on the ledge way, way, way down below us... as I recall it, we set a little `roulette', or standard.... something like ten minutes with no big stuff, and five minutes with no stuff at all before we felt it safe to resume our descent down the steep couloir..."

Bob McKerrow on the summit of Mellizos after the first ascent with John E. E. S. Lawrence of the North Face.

Bob McKerrow leading through a rock band, which gave access to the icy summit: Photo: J.E.S Lawrence

John take on the descent is very accurate. After the ascent of Mellizos we did the second ascent of Torayoc (climbed for the first time a week earlier by our team) and then went on to try the unclimbed north ridge of Pumasillo.
 John writes about this climb:
"furthermore, on that epic ascent up onto Pumasillo's N ridge (phew!)... my memory was of those awesome, apocolyptic faces beneath us on both sides of our tiny stances on that tottering crap of a ridge with no belays at all to speak of... and geez, no wonder they all said it would never be climbed... and to my knowledge still hasn't!! I would truly welcome your own take on your memories....”

Putting in a high camp from where we John Lawrence and I attempted the unclimbed north ridge of Pumasillo:

So forty-three years ago the dream of a young man came true spending four months climbing hitherto, so many unclimbed mountains, and learning what big expeditions entailed.

Why were we one of the most successful expeditions in the Andes? No big names, no egos, and most of us had started in the dense bush before graduating to the high mountains. We knew the art of carrying bags of cement to build huts, ran club trips, some were chief guides of tramping (bushwalking) clubs and above all, we believed that team work would see us through.

We also realised quickly that in the winter in Peru, avalanches are rare in the morning but by early afternoon the snow slopes become unstable. So our approach was to put in high camps like the one above which we climbed Torayoc and the Nu Nu from. These high camps enabled us to get on the summits early and off the mountain before the avalanches started. Also when the weather was good, we could stay high and climb two or three neighbouring mountains from the same high camp. Leadership and organisation was another key factor. Ken McNatty, on reflection, was a man with vision and sound judgement, who quietly led bunch of strong individuals. Today he is one of New Zealand;s leading scientist and a marathon runner at 60 +. And Paul Green and his Wellingtonian clubmates from the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering club. Al Higgins, Pete Goodwin and Mac Riding, were strong organisers. They packed 2 tonne of equipment and food that came with us by boat.

In addition, we all had crash courses in Spanish, enhanced by courting beautiful young lasses on the boat from Panama, to Columbia, Equador and through the Boulevards of Lima, as we waited for our mountaineering equipment to arrive.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. (continue below)

Today, two Grade 5 Classes at the Overseas School of Colombo graduated, and start High School in two months time. The principal, Areta Williams read this delightful piece from the incomparable Dr. Seuss. My son Ablai, is in the middle of the back row, with white shirt and black tie. I think Dr. Suess wrote this for adults too!

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.                                                                           
                                                                                      Ablai and his best friend Dean below  

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Thanks to Primary Principal Adam Campbell and Ablai's teacher Colin Powell for being such a positive influence on Ablai and his class, and teaching them to take curiousity into inquiry, and inquiry into applied exploration and humanity. And thanks also for teaching him that mysterious game, cricket.