Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bringing the community to Capital for flood lessons learned.

Mr. D.M. Senabanda from Welangolla village in Matale District addressing Red Cross volunteers and staff in Colombo today on how he, as a flood affected community member, viewed the Red Cross relief and recovery efforts.

Evidence based impact, resilience, beneficiary communication the jargon flows thick and fast in the humanitarian sector.

Today the Sri Lanka Red Cross/IFRC supported Post Flood Recovery operation drew to a close with a Lessons Learned meeting and a celebration. Great to see government officials from remote areas participating and people from communities who benefitted from the programme. Here is Mr. D.M. Senabanda from Welangolla village in Matale District addressing us all and telling us what we did well, and where we can improve. In his own way, he touched on community resilience and how the Red Cross were the first in his community to augment their first response efforts with mobile clinics. Like many others, Mr. Senabanda received funding for an owner driven houses and a livelihood grant. Yes, we do lessons learned at community level, but is is so good to bring in people from communities to our meetings so a wider audience of volunteers and staff can learn at all levels. Maybe Mr. Senabanda should be at the Davos meeting?

One of our field volunteers addressing all the participants at today's Red Cross Flood Recovery lesson's Learned meeting.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ang Tharkay - the Father of all Sherpa guides and mountaineers

Ang Tharkay (right) with Bob McKerrow (left) taken at Ang Tharkay's farm at Simbhanjayang, South of Kathmandu in 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Being woken up on a frosty morning at first light by Ang Tharkay with a mug of hot tea at his farm, south of Kathmandu, on 23 April 1975, is a memory that remains vivid in my mind. With a broad smile he handed me the tea, made in the Sherpa manner with sugar and milk boiled together. He greeted me in English and Tibetan.

I somehow had a flashback to photos of Eric Shipton in the 1930s and this is how he must have been woken up on his expeditions by the very same man. We had a breakfast of chapati and eggs from his farm. He had risen before day break and had milked cows and goats. Ang Tharkay was about 69 and I twenty seven.

We talked of the great climbers he went on expeditions with: Eric Shipton, Sir Edmund Hillary, Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, Lionel Lachnel, Lionel Terray, Cmdr.Kohli and others. You could see he had a soft spot for Shiption and the French expeditions he had been on.

“ I left Kathmandu by car about 1230 for Ang Tharkay’s farm with his son Dawa who I had met in Kathmandu some weeks earlier. The first 10 km out of Kathmandu is over a good road then a short climb up to a pass, then the road plunges down into a very fertile valley. About two and a half hours up to Daman which is at about 8,000 feet, and then up to a pass some 200 feet higher, then the road descents to the Terai. It is a 15 minute walk from the road to his farm through beautiful bush. All the way you are kept under survelence of his trusty Tibetan dogs. His farm is surrounded by steep country on three sides, the lower side drops away steeply.

This distinquished mountain guide came out to greet me with a huge smile and gave me a shy hug. He showed me round the farm where potatoes are his main crop and a variety of vegetables and has many fruit trees. A herd of 30 cows graze on the hillsides. I noticed his English was quite broken and preferred to speak in Tibetan to his son Dawa who translated much of the time. He explained how he grows a special millet for making a favouritre Nepali drink, Rakshi and Chang. His house is sturdy and simple, very much in the Sherpa style.

After watching the cows being milked, I pitched my tent and I retired inside with Dawa and his famous Father.

We talked of the great climbers he went on expeditions with: Eric Shipton, Sir Edmund Hillary, Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, Lionel Lachnel, Lionel Terray, Cmdr. Kohli and others. You could see he had a soft spot for Shipton and the French expeditions he had been on. He spoke with great pride of the 11 years he spent with Eric Shipton who he described as a very tough man, who ate little and was very strong, starting in 1931.

He spoke of his most famous expedition, the French Expedition in 1950 led by Maurice Herzog to Annapurna. Ang Tharkay spent much of his time carrying off Herzog who contracted severe frostbite. He said that in 1931 they were paid one quarter of an Indian Rupeee a day. They were paid five rupees per joint lost by frostbite and between 500 and 1000 rupees to your family if you lost your life. Then in 1975, he said “ now the family gets paid 100,000 Indian Rupees if a Sherpa loses his life.”

We drank his quality chang late into the nnight talking of all the great climbers, expeditions and significant people he met.

Born and raised in Khumbu, later migrating to Darjeeling, Ang Tharkay’s first expedition was to Kangchenjunga in 1931. He was on Everest in 1933, 1935, and 1938, when he was cook and Sirdar, having been formally made Sirdar for the first time on Nanda Devi in 1934. He was exceptional as both climber and sirdar, and his character won high praise from all who knew him.

I spent the morning with Ang Tharkay helping him with chores around the farm and I left about midday for Biratnagar, where I had work to do.

Photo left: Ang Tharkay at the age of 20 in Darjeeling. Photo. RGSS

Ang Tharkay, who died in Kathmandu on July 28th 1981, belonged to the first generation of elite climbing Sherpas. Born in 1908 in Khunde in the Year of the Monkey (according to the Tibetan calendar) Ang Tharkay went to Darjeeling at the age of twelve in search of work with expeditions

He accompanied Eric Shipton on eight of his pre-war expeditions in the Himalaya, including four on the northern route to Everest. Ang Tharkay had seen the days when high altitude porters were paid six annas compensation for each finger they lost by frost bite. And if the injury was really bad, and a porter could not walk back to Darjeeling, he was entitled by contract to receive a pony and one rupee compensation. Sherpas received blankets for high altitude camps, and sleeping bags were issued only during emergencies.

Mt. Everest and the west ridge, taken from Kallar Pattar 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

When Nepal was opened to expeditions, and the first reconnaissance groups traveled up the Dudh Kosi to Solu Khumbu, Ang Tharkay was with them. He had shed his traditional Sherpa pigtail, and dressed in smart woolen breeches, "but had same, shy reticence and quite humour", that Shipton remembered. He joined Eric Shipton, and Edmund Hillary on their 1951 expedition in which they tackled the treacherous Khumbu ice fall, the gateway to the southern route to Everest, and paved the way for the first successful ascent two years later. The expedition then went on to explore the upper reaches of the Imja Valley, the Hongu Basin, and then crossed the Tesi Tapcha into Rolwa Jing. Shipton was impressed by Ang Tharkay, and was moved to remark that he regarded his chief Sherpa as "a man of outstanding character and ability".

Ang Tharkay also took part in another epoch making Himalaya climb, the French Expedition to Annapurna in 1950, lead by Maurice Herzog. He reached the top camp above the "Sickle" on the north face of the first eight-thousander to be climbed.

After this, he was sent for training in technical climbing in Switzerland by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. Although he was invited by Herzog to bring his wife along to France, it is indication of Ang Tharkey's forthrightness that he refused to take his wife to save his "Bara Sahib" extra expense.

Ama Dablam, taken on the march in to Everest base camp. 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

In 1954, Ang Tharkay resigned from the HMI and set up his own business taking trekkers up to Kangchenjunga. In 1962, he became the oldest man to have climbed up to eight thousand meters, when he made it to the South Col with the Indian Everest Expedition. Although he then retired from active mountaineering,

The year I first met him. 1975, Ang Tharkay took a party up to the Annapurna Sanctuary , and sirdared the French Expedition to Dhaulagiri in 1978, at the age of 70.

I remember how active he was,  virtually running round his farm to do his daily work, always with a smile on his face.As a young mountaineer sitting at the foot of a Guru in every sense of the word, I learnt so much from him. Simplicity, mental toughness, simple diet, hard work, humour, family, friendship, and above all, humility.

At seventy three years young, Ang was still extremely fit, and many remember the cheerful waves he gave from his bicycle on Durbar Marg. (He never rode in cars if he could help it). Ang Tharkay was looking forward to a quiet retirement in his orchard and farm in Simbhanjayang, when he was suddenly hospitalized and died of cancer.

In Eric Shipton's classice, A Blank On the Map Shipton describes his exploration of the Karakoram's Shaksgam and  N side area of K2 in 1937. This was a very small expedition that consisted only of Shipton, H. W. Tilman, M. A. Spender, J. B. Auden, seven Sherpas (under Sirdar Ang Tharkay), and four Balti porters. This five-month expedition mapped 1,800 square miles of rugged, glaciated, uninhabited country containing many of the world's most spectacular mountains

Ang Tharkay and a young brother. Tilman commented that his stews and curries were masterpieces, but that cooking was only one of his abilities, as he was responsible for porters, gave advice and invariably carried the biggest loads highest. RGS , 1938.

In a 1954 autobiography of Ang Thrace, Mémoires d'un Sherpa , it says that Ang Tharkay was Tenzing’s landlord in Darjeeling and also his mentor. Ang Tharkay accompanied Shipton on eight expeditions and was also a sirdar [leader] on the 1950 French expedition to Annapurna, led

He went to Annapurna with the French in 1950, to Everest in 1951, to Cho Oyu in 1952, to both Dhaulagiri and Nun in 1953, to Makalu in 1954, and finally to Everest with the Indians in 1962.

In 1955:he joined an  an Indian expedition from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling makes the second ascent of Kamet on July 6. Major Narendra D. Jayal led the party; Jayal, Ang Tharkay, Da Namgyal, Ang Temba, and Hlakpa Dorje comprised the summit team. Their route followed the ridge linking Abi Gamin and Kamet.

Crossing the Lumding La  (4520 m) with Neema Sherpa. This was a journey I did with Murray Jones and a Sherpani called Domalay in 1975, when we had an unsuccessful attempt on Kwangde. Photo: Bob McKerrow

I was first drawn to Ang Tharkay in my early teens when I saw a photo of diminutive Ang Tharkay, carrying a large, frost bitten French climber, Gaston Rebuffat, on his back down the mountainside from a high camp on Mt. Annapurna.

When I lived in Kathmandu for nine months in 1975, I visited Ang Tharkay on his farm a number of times, and it was always a joy to meet this modest mountain man.

Having been born in the barren Solo Khumbu, (photo below) the lush green grass and trees of his farm in Simbhanjayang, south of Kathmandu, was an oasis. He was close enough to meet old climbing friends from abroad,  fellow Sherpa's from earlier climbs, yet being able to go to his farm when he wanted peace, quiet and self sufficviency.

The first time I visited Ang Tharkay was with his son Pemba who I had met in Kathmandu.

Later that year before I returned to Switzerland, Ang Tharkay was very distraught. The wife and daughter of his old climbing partner Ed Hillary, had died in a terrible plane crash in Kathmandu. He had made a special and swift visit into Kathmandu to comfort Sir Ed, Peter and Sarah. I remember that tragic day well as I was in Kathmandu and heard the plane crash and got the news an hour later. I joined a group of friends to give what support we could to a grieving Hillary family.

As a young man I had the privilige of meeting the two greatest early-era Sherpas,  Ang Tharkay and Tenzing Norgay. I met Tenzing in 1972 in The Mall in Darjeeling and we sat on a wall talking about his climbing career. Tenzing seemed a much more complex man than Ang Tharkay. At the risk of sounding disrespectful, I felt Tenzing had problems handling fame and status, whereas Ang Tharkay seemed totally unaffected by it, and found simple things like farming, cycling and being with family, more than satisfied his small needs. In my youthful mind, Ang Tharkay was the Father of the modern day climbing Sherpa

Two of my favourite Sherpa guides. Domalay (l) and Neema (r) who accompanied Murray Jones and I on a trip in 1975. They both worked for the Ed Hillary hospital in Kunde. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Friday, 27 January 2012

Birds in Sri Lanka

On the trip to Jaffna and down the western coast of Kilinochchi in the last few days I came across a lot of migratory birds near Maveliterai on the border of Jaffna and Kilinochchi district . Above and below the Painted Stork
This small island contains descriptions of 435 bird species including 110 migratory species. It has 26% of the total number of birds identified world wide.. During the Migratory period from November to February birds visit Sri Lanka. There are three main fly ways, Eastern, Western and via Andaman islands. Sri Lanka is a major migratory bird’s point because it is the last land mass of the world

                                                          The great white egret

A pelican on the Lake outside my apartment in Colombo.

                                                               Layard Parakeet

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

One day in the north of Sri Lanka

I left Colombo this morning at 6 a.m. and we travelled via Vavuniya, Killinochchi over Elephant Pass and down to Jaffna. I love this part of Sri Lanka and my good friend Dr, Mahesh who is with me, lived here as a boy and knows it well.

I first visited the north of Sri Lanka in June 2010 when I first arrived to take up a new poosting with the Red Cross (IFRC) and I travelled with Tissa Abbeywickrama. Col. Madu and Barry Armstrong.

At that juncture, we were just starting the Sri Lanka Red Cross Post Conflict Recovery Programme (PCRP) and I recall vividly visiting villages in Kilinochchi where people were living in hovels or very poor temporary shelter. On that trip we handed out letters saying that the bearer would receive a house, water supply, a toilet and a grant for livelihoods.

The 25 year long war had only finished a year earlier and people were worn-out, still confused and struggling to survive. The Government was doing all it could to help and working with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, JAICA, the UN and other bi lateral partners, infrastructure was being rebuilt after the region was totally flattened by a brutal war.
Barry Armstrong (l) and Tissa Abbeywickrama (r) talking to two villagers in Vivekanandam Nagar in Kilinochchi. Their makeshift shelter in the backgtound. Within a year they had a new Red Cross house. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The first house underway in Vivekananda Nagar July 2010. Today we have completed 300 in this village. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A year later, Sept 2011, Vimala Rani with her family at the door of her new houses. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Vimala Rani outside her new Red Cross house. All families get a water supply, a toilet and a livelihood grant. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Today we were back in Kilinochchi with Nadeka Arambewela (Australian Red Cross)
 right) with Vimala Rani on her right and three of her five children. She explained how her  life had changed with her house, water and sanitation and the livelihood grant she received.

Our two doctors and public health specialists Bhanu and Mahesh found a problem with the well and when I left they were still looking into it.
Thavarani who lost her husband during the war and badly disabled by a mortar, lives in Krishnapuram. Here she is with her three children 1 year ago outside a rough temporary shelter. Today she has a new house and the livelihood rant has enabled her to be self sufficient. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Arrived in Jaffna at 7pm tonight to be met by our team who had been surveying islands off Jaffna where families urgently need houses. The team is led by Nimal Silva 2nd from right. Tomorrow at 7 am we head off  to the islands with them.

Photos: Bob McKerrow IFRC

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Old Comrade

"I hope when I die the sky is grey" one of New Zealand's best poets once wrote,  and he did die a few years back when the sky was grey. My favourite poet, together with Denis Glover.

I REMEMBER IN 1979 CUTTING ONE OF HIS GREAT POEMS OUT OF THE NZ LISTENER, DATED OCTOBER 27 TO BE PRECISE. Hone Tuwhare was one of New Zealand's most popular, most read and oozing with a sense of who we are as a people.

Old Comrade

Like frightened girls, the years

ran in thickening to panic-stations

and the days ran out for Jim

as he walked past them. and beyond

Why, only a few days ago, hatless

immaculately tied and overcoated,

tied on , Jim shouldered his way out

of the Crown into the wind

at the corner of Rattray Street: he

didn't hear me call out. Jim was


Shoulders bunched, tartan scarf whipping

Jim leaned into the wind. The wind leaned

right back and then pulled away. Jim fell.

He didn't feel the hardness or coldness

of the pavement, for, like an old friend

come back, the wind held him as he fell.

Well, there was no magic tolling of the

bell, and the skies never opened up, But

the ground did...

At the graveside, no one wanted to add

or subtract. No one - except the capitalist

who never even looked up from the counting

his worthless paper money. But, you know

I reckon old Marx would make room for him

Lenin, throw another log on the fire,

and, Mao, like a full moon rising poor a bowl

of tea, offer Jim a cigarette. Bet on it

Friday, 20 January 2012

Gujarat earthquake 18 years later

Buildings collapsed crushing people and destroying livelihoods in Bhuj and for a radius of over 150 km.

Today, 26 January 2019, India will celebrate its Independence Day, and many will remember with great sadness the tragic earthquake which struck Gujarat mid-morning on 26 January 2001.

I was based in New Delhi as the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies regional delegation for South Asia and headed the Red Cross earthquake relief and recovery operation in Gujarat and I lived in Bhuj in a tent for 1 month..

 6 March 2001

The last 35 days have been the toughest of my life. More difficult than the North Pole expedition of 86, tougher than any mountain I've climbed. The first 5 days I had no sleep and since then for the last 30 days I've survived with a handful of hours every night. God knows how I've kept it up. Finally I am having this weekend off after having spent the last 14 days in Bhuj and Bachau. The dust, the dirt and stench of decomposing bodies permeates every pore of your body. People speak of a death toll of over 50,000 now which I can readily believe.

Running and coordinating a team of over 150 foreign delegates, supervising a 350-bed hospital plus two other field hospitals, getting vital relief goods out to over a million of the worst affected people, organising pycho-social counselling teams, orthoppaedic centres for those 2000 or more children who lost limbs has been a momentous challenge. We now have a team of highly trained professionals from 21 countries working together with the Indian Red Cross.

The Gernman Red Cross water sanitation team provided water for the 400 bed Finnish-Norwegian Red Cross hospital in Bhuj with the most up to date operating theatre and fantastic after care.

Phil Goff, our Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived last night and is travelling today with the NZ High Commissioner and a top level mission from NZ, from Delhi to Bhuj on our plane (which we have chartered for the first 3 months) to see our operation. As I desperately need some time to myself I have sent my deputy, Alan Bradbury, another NZ'er with them to show them round. I have dinner with them when they get back

Ablai my son and Naila are well. Naila's Mum is here at the moment which has been good as she has been able to support her while I've been away. But what was it like in and around Bhuj??

In a narrow street behind a school in Bhuj town, a crowd of people wait anxiously for the arrival of an Indian Red Cross truck. It might not sound much but this truck will bring enough tents to provide shelter for a minimum of 2,300 people.

This distribution of tents is the second one of the day by the Indian Red Cross in Bhuj and the supply cannot meet the demand. Wherever one looks in the town, there is rubble. Bhuj has suffered terribly from the earthquake that hit western India two weeks ago. A town with a population of more than 150,000 people, it had one of the highest official death tolls with a minimum of 6,000 people killed while the number of injured was put at more than 60,000.

Among those waiting slightly apart is a woman holding a baby in a bundle. Hina Chanchal's husband is among the crowd of men surrounding Indian Red Cross officials to see if they are on the list of people who will be given tents.

Like all the others there, Hina lost her home in the earthquake. Although none of her family was killed, she saw the teenage daughter of a neighbour die after being trapped under the debris for several hours. She too had a narrow escape after having to run back inside the house to get her baby.

"It is almost as if God had put a protective corridor around me," she says. "Everyone in front of me and behind me had debris falling on them. I and my baby seemed to have a clear escape route."

Now she and her family of 8 that includes her mother and sister, live by the side of a street. The nights are cold in Gujarat at this time of the year and with each passing day spent living in the open, their desperation at their plight increases.

The mother and the first baby born in the Red Cross Field Hospital, Red Cross Camp, Bhuj.

The sad tragedy is that there are so many people just like Hina. The crowd at the distribution point are vociferous and jostle each other but a small contingent of policemen keep them in check. The earthquake has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. And all of them have their own desperate story.

One man, a welder who had his own business, no longer has a home or a business. After making sure his family won't have to sleep under the stars in a tent sent by the French Red Cross, he will leave them to search for work in a town 40 kilometres away.

The loss of everything that one has worked so hard for is difficult to take. But amidst the despair, there is a happy smile.

"The Red Cross is doing a fantastic job, keep up the good work," says Vijay Kantilal Mandalia as he leaves the area, carrying a tent in his arms.

He too has lost his building supplies business as well as his home.

"We were happy before, we had achieved something. Now we have nothing and are living on a road. Whatever possessions survived the earthquake, didn't survive the looters. The clothes I am wearing, I have borrowed, even the shoes," he says. "What shall we do? I just don't know."

Nevertheless, he is relieved he has a tent. "I knew before the earthquake of the work of the Red Cross. I knew I could go to them for help," he says. "We don't need food, just shelter. Nobody else has given us shelter - until now."

The Indian Red Cross has so far distributed more than 67,300 blankets, 4,200 tents and 6,100 tarpaulins sent from donor Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. With the International Federation targeting 300,000 in its appeal for Gujarat's earthquake victims, the emergency relief operation is set to continue for a few months still.

Patrick Fuller, who was our communications man in Delhi at the time the earthquake struck, wrote this:  

Friday 26th January was meant to be a day of celebration across India. But as Republic Day parades were getting underway in towns and villages across the country at 8:40 am disaster struck. At the time I was making a cup of tea in my suburban Delhi home, looking forward to a leisurely day with my family. Suddenly there was a low rumbling which lasted for about 15 seconds. The kitchen cupboards shook and I could only assume that it must have been a 21 gun salute from the military parade. As I turned on the TV a news flash announced that an earthquake had struck the north eastern State of Gujarat with tremors being felt as far afield as the State of Uttar Pradesh, 1500 kms away. Initial casualties were reported to be low, 40-50 killed in Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujurat. I instinctively called Bob McKerrow, the head of delegation and sent a quick e-mail to notify the disaster response unit at the Federation headquarters in Geneva. Information began to filter in from Indian Red Cross branches in the quake zone and by 10:30 it became apparent that the potential scale of this disaster could be awesome. A colleague from Reuters called to say the situation looked a lot worse and the death toll could reach into the thousands. Myself, Bob and Alan Bradbury, our regional disaster preparedness delegate, had already activated our operations cell at the delegation and within three hours of the disaster our colleagues in Geneva had issued an alert to the international donor community and a preliminary appeal was launched later that day for 2 million Swiss francs.

Arriving the next morning on the first flight in to Ahmedabad, Alan and myself couldn’t help wondering whether the disaster had been exaggerated. Buildings along the road from the airport to the Red Cross office appeared untouched and the everyday bustle in the streets seemed normal. The next few hours proved us wrong as we set about assessing the scale of destruction in different pockets of the city. Wherever a building had collapsed tension was high with local residents and police struggling to hold back the crowds of curious onlookers. A ten storey building appeared to have been sliced in two. One half had collapsed, the other half remained standing with bisected rooms open to the sky , exposing the final, private moments of former residents. In one flat an unmade bed, in another a kitchen table with the remains of uneaten breakfasts. Friends, relatives and neighbours scrabbled desperately in the rubble below in the hope of finding anyone alive. Two men rushed into the site carrying a car jack in the vain hope that it would lift a huge concrete slab under which the cries of a child had been heard.

Ahmedabad was bad but Alan and I knew that there was worse to come. The epicenter of the quake was over 400 kms away near the ancient city of Bhuj in the district of Kutch. No information had emerged from Bhuj, but we knew that power and telecommunications were down and the airport was closed. It was decided that I would head off by road to Bhuj while Alan set about establishing a logistics cell at the Indian Red Cross office in Ahmedabad. What followed was a road trip from hell. Our vehicle broke down twice and we finally limped into Bhuj eleven hours later with the driver almost asleep at the wheel. Before we even reached Bhuj, I sensed the worst. Passing the junctions with the towns of Bachau and Anjar hundreds of ghostly figures were encamped by the road. At the sight of our vehicle many leapt into the road, desperately trying to wave us down in the hope that we could provide some help. As we approached Bhuj the driver slammed on the brakes. An overturned bus lay on its side on the road ahead. In the dark the bus had careered into a gaping crack caused by the quake which zigzagged across the road.

At 02:00 on Sunday morning we arrived to what seemed like a ghost town. Empty streets shrouded in darkness, the only signs of life being groups of people crouched around small fires on each street corner. We found the local branch of the Indian Red Cross where the Branch secretary Dr. Morbia and his extended family were sleeping in the backs of cars or on mattresses in the middle of the street. Everyone in Bhuj was too frightened to return to their homes. I joined them in the dirt, but despite being exhausted, sleep didn’t come easily. Adrenalin was pumping through my system and it was bitterly cold. No sooner had I dropped off I was awoken by a violent judder at 06:30. The neighbourhood came alive with a cacophony of children's screams and excited chatter. The people of Bhuj were scared. They had lived through twenty seconds of horror the previous morning and were worried that their nightmare would be repeated.

As we headed to the District Collectors offices the next morning the scale of damage was evident, we passed a girls school which had been flattened, an office building lent precariously out into the middle of the road and an ancient Hindu temple, its pillars dismembered, lay collapsed like a classical ruin. The streets were choked with fleeing residents sat atop their salvaged possessions on trucks and tractor trailers. To add to the chaos anxious relatives were coming in to the town to search for their families. The scene at the district administration based at the collectors offices was pandemonium. I met the State Minister of Health, who was overall responsible for the Governments emergency response operation. The message I got was clear, do anything you want to help but do it fast. Everyone had been traumatised by this disaster. Most had lost friends or relatives and few had slept during the past 48 hours. I asked the Minister for a meeting later in the day, he pointed to his 4-wheeled drive and said ‘come and find me in my office’.

During those initial few days I felt a huge weight of responsibility. It was my role together with colleagues of the Indian Red Cross to feed back information to our teams in Delhi and Geneva. Based on this information they would be guaging their response to the disaster. The immediate needs were evident, the remaining population of Bhuj were camped outside the remains of their homes, in the backs of cars or in small tent cities dotted around the town. Hundreds of thousands of people would need tents or plastic sheeting to make into shelters. Blankets would be a priority as the nights were bitter and the medical needs of those who had been injured during the quake had to be addressed without delay. My only link with the outside world was a satellite-phone that I had carried from Delhi. Plugged into a car battery I made contact with Delhi and reported back on my initial findings. I discovered that an emergency task force had already been assembled by the Federation and was on its way to Bhuj. Then came the press calls. Somehow the international media had decided that I was the first international relief worker to have reached Bhuj and the phone began to ring red hot with interview requests. In between meetings and interviews I found time to visit some of the most stricken areas around Bhuj. The old part of the city had been decimated. A population of 60-70,000 people had simply vanished. Thousands were presumed dead and thousands had simply fled the city. An army bulldozer up ahead was clearing a passage through the narrow lanes which were choked with debris. The odor of decaying bodies had already begun to seep into the air and as I climbed over a pile of rubble my foot sank into something soft. Fearing the worst, I looked down and realised I was climbing over the back of a huge bull that had been crushed by falling masonry. Walking down an empty passageway I heard an alarm clock go off, it was 9 o’clock am. The clocks unfortunate owner had probably been asleep when the quake struck, oblivious to their own fate.

24 hours after my arrival in Bhuj the first of the team had arrived. Helvor Lauritzen, the team leader from the Norwegian Red Cross and a veteran of relief operations in Turkey and Goma, had flown in to take control. The next day the remainder of the team arrived, Colin, a logistics expert sent by the British Red Cross, Inigo a relief administrator from the Spanish Red Cross, Giuseppe from the Italian red Cross and Richard from the German Red Cross who would carry out the medical assessment and Gunther a water and sanitation expert from the Austrian Red Cross. I found it remarkable that within a couple of days of the disaster, this team had come from all corners of Europe to assemble in a remote Indian town to spearhead what would be a huge operation. Realising the scale of the disaster the Federation now issued a revised appeal for 25.5 million swiss francs, with the intention of reaching 300,000 people in the coming four months with non-food relief supplies.

Within 50 hours the first international relief supplies began to arrive from all directions. A convoy of trucks rolled in with 30 tons of blankets and plastic sheeting that the Swiss Red Cross had flown in to Ahmedabad and more trucks were en route with supplies from the Indian Red Cross warehouse in Delhi. On Tuesday the first cargo flights began to arrive directly into Bhuj airport. One of the first flights came from the British Red Cross which was funded by DFID (Department for International Development) loaded with blankets and plastic sheeting. An ERU (emergency response unit) from the Finnish Red Cross landed with a medical team and part of the 400 bed field hospital that would be set up in Bhuj. The logistical hurdles were immense. The lack of lifting gear at the airport meant that we were reliant upon volunteers from the Indian Red Cross to offload the aircraft, many of whom were in a state of shock. Trucks and cars were in short supply as most trucks had been comandeered by the authorities and truck drivers from Ahmedabad were reluctant to travel to Bhuj. During the next 48 hours we were struggling to cope with the influx of flights and took it in turns to maintain a 24 vigil at the airstrip. Every morning I awoke from my bundle of blankets on the cold ground to the sight of Colin Blakemore, our logistician, his boots poking out of the end of a large cardboard box into which he had crept exhausted at the end of each night.

By Thursday the field hospital was up and running with the first patients waiting outside. The camp that we had set up around the hospital site was really taking shape, resembling something from the TV series ‘MASH’. Tents to house the delegates had sprung up everywhere along side giant rub-halls used for storing the relief goods. In the space of a week over 90 delegates from Red Cross Societies around the world had arrived in Bhuj, each with a specific function. The British Red Cross had sent in an ERU of logisticians, the Germans a water and sanitation ERU that provided clean water supply to the hospital. The Norwegian and Finnish ERUs were establishing the field hospital and the Japanese Red Cross had sent in a team with a mobile medical camp. As fresh supplies arrived at the camp, convoys of trucks began to roll out of the compound each morning laden with blankets and tents for distribution in outlying villages.

It had been one of the most intense weeks of my life, an emotional roller coaster with a succession of highs and lows. Perhaps the biggest paradox of such disasters is the level of humour that abounds. Journalists and aid workers alike we were all shocked by what we had seen, but our experiences were shared through moments of laughter - perhaps an instinctive coping mechanism to counter our distress. I knew it was time to go when I got a call from my wife Jo following a live TV interview with Matt Frei of the BBC. “You looked like death warmed up and you sounded so desperate”, she said, and she was right. I looked in the mirror for the first time and hardly recognised myself under the stubble and dirt. Flying back to Delhi I reflected on some of the remarkable people I had met during the week. The volunteer doctors that I met at the soup kitchen where the town's population used to take lunch, rich and poor together. They had had no water for four days and had resorted to drinking the saline drips meant for their patients. The young soldier who walked into my tent to volunteer. It was apparent that he was in shock yet every day he mobilised a force of 50 other volunteers who worked relentlessly at the airport offloading the planes. The two young backpackers Siobhan and Zak who had traveled nonstop for hundreds of miles from Pondicherry in South India. Within an hour of arriving they were putting up tents and loading trucks. The army surgeon who single-handedly had carried out 45 amputations in the first twenty four hours, the list is endless.. . While thousands died, the stoicism of the survivors constantly amazed me and some of the survival stories were almost beyond belief. A man who had been sleeping on his charpoy (wood and rope bed) on a rooftop was catapulted together with his bed into a tree, escaping unscathed. The woman who was taking a bath when the earthquake struck. Together with her bath she plunged through three floors and stepped out with a few scratches. The true scale of this tragedy will never be known. Tens of thousands died on that fateful day and over a million lost their homes. The thousands of freshly shaved scalps that can be seen across Kutch today are testimony to the massive loss. In Hindu tradition, families who have lost loved ones undergo a ritual shaving to mark a ten day mourning period. Ironically there is now a shortage of barbers in Bhuj.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Bill Denz - the coffee jar and Vern Leader.

Bill Denz - Bold Beyond Belief - the biography.

BILL DENZ (1951-1983)

So here we are twenty eight years after the original hard man of New Zealand climbing was killed in the Himalayas at the age of just 32, the story of this legendary mountaineer has been recorded in a book titled: Bold Beyond Belief: Bill Denz New Zealand’s Mountain Warrior. The book was released in Wellington on 5 December 2011 and is published by Maxim Books.

I was fortunate having tramped and climbed with Bill Denz. The first trip I did with him must have been late 1966 or early 1967 when we were on an Otago Tramping and mountaineering Club trip up the Rees and Dart, and Ketth McIvor took Bill under our wing. But Keith and I were more interested in Bill's sister Abigail and her friend that made up the larger party.

On Boxing Day 1970 when Jim Cowie and I were in Pioneer Hut, we teamed up with Chris Fraser and Bill Denz and climbed Glacier Peak, and then we headed for Douglas with Bill roping up with Jim Cowie, and I with Chris Fraser. I am quoted in the 1991 NZ Alpine Journal and in the book as writing,

" He wasn't a pretty climber but what he lacked in technique he more than compenstaed for with sheer drive and raw guts. We climbed Glacier Peak (3002m( and Mt. Douglas (3007) on Boxing Day, and the next day Bill traversed Mt Tasman with a sixty-pound pack to Plateau Hut, on the east side of the main divide."

I wrote in my climbing diary at that time"that Bill would either kill himself in the next year or go on to be a great climber."

When I lived at Mt Cook from late 71 to mid 1973, I got to know Bill quite well.and was a frequent visitor at the Parks Board House 1 where Kevin Carroll, Dick Whitley, Faye Kerr and I lived. In fact he invited me on some of his outrageous first ascents, but being on standby for mountain rescue I felt guilty taking time off, and sub consciously I wanted to live. I knew Bill was pushing the limits with very basic gear, and I felt his number could come up at any time and I didn't want to go with him. I think that is how many climbers felt about Bill in his first few years.

However on one ocassion he took a large coffee jar from the house which he used as a water bottle on his new route on Mt. Cook. Some weeks later when I did a Grand Traverse with Aat Vervoorn, when we guided 64 year old Vern Leader, we discovered the infamous coffee jar on the ridge. You had to admire Bill for the sheer audacity and guts of this young emerging mountaineer. I enjoyed a number of good evenings with Bill and paying for all the beer, as he loudly told all assembled what he was going to do next.

Vern Leader, 44 years older than Bill at the time, probably identified with Bill Denz better than most, despite the age gap. Vern who did a number of large first ascent solo climbs in the Earnslaw group, had written up his climbs in the NZAJ, and was publicly criticised in NZAC publications for dangerous practices. So when we found Bill Denz's abandoned coffee jar, Vern understood better than most, what solo climbing was about, and the flak you get for being bold.

Aoraki Mt. Cook. The south face, the Hillary ridge, the Caroline face and the east ridge, route well-known to Bill. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Paul Maxim has spent the last three years painstakingly researching and writing this biography. Complete with the full co-operation of Bill’s family, the biography traces Denz’s life from his formative years through to that final expedition to Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. The book covers, in Denz’s own words and from recollections from friends and associates and climbers throughout the world, his ground breaking years in the Southern Alps, the rock walls of the Darrans and Yosemite and his epic mountain adventures in Alaska, Patagonia, Nepal and Tibet.

At 328 pages, with over 100 pictures (including 16 full colour plates) and a Foreword from renowned international mountaineer Greg Child, BOLD BEYOND BELIEF is the story about a kiwi climber whose attitude, passion, drive and vision is unique in the 150 year history of New Zealand mountaineering. For further information go to: http://www.billdenzmountaineer.com/
Bill Denz country: The Balfour. Photo: Bob McKerrow

About Bill Denz

Bill Denz (1951-1983) was a New Zealand mountaineer who enjoyed a short but stellar climbing career that was terminated by an avalanche on Makalu in October 1983. Denz grew up in Dunedin where he displayed a precocious interest in the outdoors. He began rock climbing as a teenager and started climbing big peaks in the Aoraki/Mt Cook area in December 1970. During the next five years Denz completed many new routes, winter firsts and solo ascents in the region, including the first ascent (with Bryan Pooley) of Mt Tasman’s Balfour Face and soloing two extraordinarily bold lines on the South Face and Caroline Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook.
The south face of Hicks: Photo: Bob McKerrow

Winter first ascents include the South Face of Douglas, the Sheila Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the North and South Faces of Hicks (all via new routes). In 1973 Denz turned his attention to the Darran Mountains where he was involved in the first ascent of the formidable Adelaide Face of Marian, which was the first climb in New Zealand to involve ‘big wall’ climbing techniques. During the next five years Denz put up over 20 new routes in the Darrans. In July 1983 Denz returned to the area to complete (with Kim Logan in epic circumstances) the first winter ascent of the severe South Face of Sabre.

Much of Denz’s final years of climbing were spent abroad. From bases in North America he completed ascents of 15 big walls in Yosemite and Alaska, including early repeats of Tis-sa-ack, Excalibur and Pacific Ocean Wall and the first ascent of Kichatna Spire’s East Face. He also made several first ascents of peaks in the Chugach Range. As a soloist he completed two expeditions to Patagonia (where he came within a whisker of claiming the first solo ascent of Cerro Torre) and in Nepal completed a four day traverse over Kusum Kanguru (6369m), making the first ascent of the high peak along the way. Denz also ventured into Tibet (illegally) to attempt Menlungtse (7181m). His inclusion on Peter Hillary’s Makalu expedition was the first of a series of planned expeditions to attempt 8,000 metre peaks.

Never a top free climber, Denz’s forte was climbing bold ice routes (often solo), difficult big walls and severe mixed alpine climbs. Early in his career Denz was quick to associate himself with climbers such as Bryan Pooley and Murray Judge whose alpine and rock skills were superior to his and from whom he could build his skills. Once considered brash and aggressive, Denz, by the time of his death, had matured into an immensely experienced and extremely capable mountaineer. His death at the age of 32 robbed New Zealand mountaineering of one of its greatest ever climbers.

Each person remembers Bill in his or her own way. Over the Christmas - New year in NZ 2011-12, we had a BBQ with Kim Logan and his charming wife Glennys, and 13 year old boy Inia. While our boys played cricket on the golf course in front of Kim's house, we talked about climbing and especially Bill Denz. Bill and Kim did some great climbs together and the more Kim talked about Bill, I could see his eyes misting a little and the emotion coming through. Kim fetched a small memorial to Bill, a photo of a mountain, a photo of Bill, and Bill's favourite poem alongside written by Thomas Babington which I quote below. I took a quick picture on my mobile and whilst a little blurred and only snaps part of the poem, it says something powerful.

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
`To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods?'”

Thomas Babington

Glacier Peak, Mt. Douglas, Haidinger and Haast was where I first climbed with bill and his partner Chris Fraser in December 1970. Photo: Bob McKerrow

This is the best biography I have read on a NZ mountaineer and the world of mountaineering is more richer, more colourful for the outstanding writing of Paul Maxim.

Friday, 13 January 2012

My first major mountaineering trip 1967

After boiling water for tea, I dry my socks in the Rockburn  valley. Robyn Armstrong (left). February 1967 Photo: John Armstrong.

I dreamed of being a successful mountaineer from my early teens and whilst I climbed small mountains including Turner Peak the year before, I decided to join John Armstrong and Robyn Norton on a 3 week expedition in 1967 into the very remote Forgotten River,/Ollivine ice plateau area, a 4 to 5 day walk from the nearest road.

Robyn crossing Cow Saddle. Photo: John Armstrong

We had five days of inclement weather in Forgotten River and during one slight clearance we climbed up to intervention Saddle at 5,800 feet and got a glimpse into the Barrier valley. I was with John Armstrong and Robyn Nortontwo very competent Dunedin mountain travellers.

During the first part of the trip while I was answering the call of nature during a rainstorm, John proposed to Robyn and they were married a year after our return..With such poor weather, we needed to move as food was running low. We went down the Forgotten River,  to the Olivine Flats, up the Olivine River then crossed Cow Saddle, and camped at the foot of Niobe 7645 and Poseidon 7340 feet. These were mighty mountains and I could hardly sleep that night before we set off on the climb. We got away at 5 a.m. on that early morning and found some deer trails that took us to a water fall. From there we scrammbled over rocky slopes until we reached the snow field. We decided to head for the Park Pass Glacier which was quite broken with a number of crevasses. First we climbed two unnamed peaks with spot heights of 6897 and 6710 feet, and then turned our attention to Poseidon. The climb was quite tricky as a thick layer of snow was melting on the rock and beginning to slide. Moving on fixed belays we reached the summit shortly after Midday. It was a thrill to stand on the top of Poseidon Peak, 7340 feet high. The view was stupendous looking over the Dart River, Lake Wakatipu, and over the huge expanse of Fiordland. We could see Mt. Aspiring, the twin peaks of Earnslaw and the majestic Madeline and Tutuko. The descent was arduous and we were tired and dehydrated. According to Robyn who wrote to me a few days ago, I fell down a small crevasse and they hauled me out. We reached our small yellow deerstalkers tent at 8 pm at night.
A view from Park Pass Glacier. Poseidon Peak 7,340 feet on the left, and the two other unnamed peaks 6,897 feet in the centre and 6,720 feet at the far right, that we climbed in February 1967.

I loved the name of Poseidon for according to the Poseidon myths he had a palace under the sea with an enormous stable filled with white horses who pulled his chariot over the ocean. "White horses" is an old expression referring to the white part of a breaking wave, and I suppose since I climbed this mighty mountain in 1967 I have ridden, bucked and surfed the white horses of waves, organisations, political parties and my life has been a series olf breakthrough events and initiatives. Yes this trip and climbing Poseidon was to prove a turning point in my life, and I learned a lot from John, a wise and capable leader.

Sitting somewhere between Fogotten River and Park Pass when I was a totally a carefree 18 year old and the world was at my feet. Photo: John Armstrong.

From Park Pass we made our was down the Rockburn, named by my explorer/surveyor Great Grand Father James McKerrow. It was a treachorous valley with precipitous sides and difficult bluffs to negotiate. We expected to reach the Dart River early on the last afternoon but there was a paragraph missing from 'Moir's Guide book' and it took an extra five hours to reach the flooded river on nightfall, and we had a difficult crossing to safety and comfort on the other side..

Robyn Norton (Armstrong) who was a very strong tramper, with  solid snow and ice skills did well on our 3 week journey.  John and Robyn's daughters carried on the family love of the outdoors with daughter  Jenny the eldest winning gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 470 sailing class. Robyn and John still do a lot of ocean sailing and will be soon off to Stewart Island.

John Armstrong (right) the leader of our 1967 expedition was a strong climber, tramper and navigator. Two years earlier he led the 'freedom walk' on the Milford tarck which broke the Government's Tourist hotel Corporation's stranglehold on the track and opened it up to the average 'Kiwi' to walk theirown  land, previously the preserve of rich foreigners. I was on that trip and met Robyn for the first timehoto: Robyn Armstrong..

Sadly, climate change has had a huge effect on our snowfields and glaciers in New Zealand. Poseidon Peak to the left of centre top. The above photo taken in 2006 shows the effect of climate change as a proglacial lake in front of Parks Pass which started to form in 1986 and part of the receding glacier tongue appears to be floating. My good friend from Antarctica Trevor Chinn has been studying and recording this feature for years. (photo: Dorothea Stumm)
A photo I took on January 1st this year of Poseidon Peak from the high point in Pigeon Island in Lake Wakatipu.Photo: Bob McKerrow

One thing I remember clearly about that expedition 44 years ago was a shortage of paper.

How well I remember running out of toilet paper after 2 weeks or so and was carrying rather romantic letters from three girlfriends that I was trying to decide which one I really wanted to develop a serious relationship with.  Each of the three letters  written to me just before I left were more than 7 pages, so I soon narrowed the three letters down to one as the trip progressed, and I kept it. Jocelyn was the winner and we saw a lot of each other for a year after that. Sometimes romance has to be reduced to a common and practical level.

I got a message from Robyn reminding me of another incident on that trip. "One other thing I remember from that trip. You were reading a book which was the most fantastic book you had ever read, and promised to lend it to me when you finished. You finished as we reached the Dart and was so disgusted with the ending you ripped the book up and buried on the Dart Flats! Do you remember that?"

Unfortunately I do not recall that incident as I love books, and to destroy a book is unlike me. But at 18, the passion, feelings are all part of the maturing process I suppose.

Mt. Chaos left, and Poseidon Peak right from the Dart River.(Permission to use from naturesp)

Note: Many thanks to Robyn and John Armstrong for supplying me these photos over the past few days. Somehow, we had lost contact for 40 years or more.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

When you are dog tired and your wife threatens divorce - TGLL.

When you are dog tired after 3 months of running a disaster relief operation, exhausted from having early recovery planning thrust on you, your wife is threatening to divorce you, then suddenly your boss comes along and in a chirpy mood and says "you will be the right person to run the recovery operation" you crumple on a heap on the ground and look for guidance from above. Having been in that type of situation many times, your first thought is "why didn't we plan this better at the outset?"
So today was an exciting day for me in what I call a crucial part in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami legacy as I am with my Red Cross colleagues Dr Mahesh Gunasekera, Gothami Chandrarathna and Colin Fernandes at a Stakeholder Consultation workshop to review the recovery practitioner  handbook. 
The whole toolkit process has three components:

# Development of Handbook for Recovery Program Practitioners

#Technical Guidelines on “Build back better”, Scoping Document

# Development of Training course curriculum on recovery program implementation targeted at national and local agencies/institutions responsible for recovery

So seven years after the tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, most of the tsunami recovery work is over, but capturing the good practices and lessons learned is still continuing and this workshop is trialing the draft handbook.  Hopefully this toolkit/recovery handbook will ensure there will be improved recovery planning for future large-scale recovery operations, reduce staff melt-down and avoid divorces from overwork and absence from the family.

In the publication The Tsunami Legacy - Innovation Breakthroughs and Change , the last chapter poses the question, "Will we do better next time?"

We have a moral duty to ensure that future generations have access to our tsunami lessons learned to ensure mistakes are not repeated and good practices improved upon.

The IFRC has contributed US $250,000 towards the development of the below listed Tsunami Global Lessons Learned (TGLL) initiatives and have been active throughout the process.

1. A publication that records cross border experiences, the good practices and lessons learned so that future leaders, practitioners , administrators can learn and use the good practices, especially ones that accelerate recovery operations.

2. To make a documentary to be released on the 5th anniversary of the tsunami that will reach as many people as possible around the world by showing it on Discovery TV, and once shown, as many other TV channels around the world.

3. A toolkit/handbook for practitioners, Government administrators, NGO , INGO and community leaders.

Items one and two have been completed some time ago but the toolkit is the final product.

So how did all this start ? Way back in earlier 2007 Dr.Kuntoro Mangkusubroto (above with Jerry Talbot special adviser to SG of IFRC for tsunami) the Minister of Tsunami in Indonesia had the vision to call together a group of about ten of us working on the tsunami recovery operation in Indonesia, to what he called a tsunami legacy workshop. Out of this initiative over a delicious breakfast, the idea of a Global Lessons Learned steering committee was born.

Leading disaster officials from India, Sri Lanka, Maldives , Thailand and Indonesia were brought to Bangkok where they Decided to come up with 3 key key initiatives:

Today I was the keynote speaker at the meeting and here I am promoting that superb publication that every disaster practicioner should have, 'The Tsunami Legacy.' Zaffran IFRC

So as the tsunami operation nears a close, it really is both exciting as it is reassuring, to see that a learning legacy will be left thanks to the vision of Dr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Minister for tsunami Indonesia, supported by the governments of the tsunami affected countries, the UN, especially Satya Tripathi and IFRC. I am sure this recovery practitioners manual will guide people to plan for better recovery operations that provide an integrated recovery package to affected communities in a timely manner.

If you want to participate in this project and give your input to the current draft, contact Sudhir Kumar: suhir@adpc.net or gp directly to the website: the ADPC website:

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Why and how do we name things?

During my 3 week holiday I spent time travelling through country that my Great Grand Father explored between 1861-63 at the head of Lae Wanaka and Wakatipu.
Above we see the Routeburn, Caples, Rock Brun, Beans Burn, the Rees and the Dart valleys he explored, surveyed and named. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The west and east peaks of Mt. Earnslaw. Photo: Bob McKerrow. 

James McKerrow was a prolific namer of features he surveyed. Over the years I have tried to climb, walk, raft or kayak, or just look and photograph the places he named..The map below conveys the extent of his work over one of the remotest parts of New Zealand.

Since much of the country over which he passed was virgin, McKerrow took on himself the task of naming prominent features of the landscape. The policy employed in this work he described thus:

“ In naming of objects, those already in use in the district were always adopted, they are generally defined to a few creeks or perhaps a hill or two in the vicinity of the respective stations. The other names I either endeavoured to make descriptive or suggestive: this, in the case of the more prominent peaks, appears to me to be of much consequence to the traveller, for they become so many finger posts pointing the way. The great landmarks, Leaning Rock, Double Cone, and Black Peak, I found of much service in determining my whereabouts at the beginning of the survey; their names are legible in characters not to be mistaken”(1).

“ A great number of descriptive names were given thus: Cathedral Peaks, The Monument, the Beehive, the Crown, the Coronet, Tooth Peaks, Twin Peaks, the Minarets, Mt. Sentinel, Titan Rocks, Spire Peak, and so on and so on……

The mountain ranges were named after distinguished men in science, literature, travel and position, such as Kepler, Humbolt, Murchison,. Livingstone,, Forbes ( Professor of Natural Philosophy 60 years ago at Edinburgh, an authority on glaciers), Hunter (John, Anatomist) Sturt (Australian Explorer), Albert ( late Prince Consort)) Eglinton (Lord Lieutentant of Ireland and Lord Rector Glasgow University), Richardson (Sir John),Thomson, Hector, Garvie, Buchanan (local and well known), Goldie Hill and Bryce Burn were after my two men who were true and faithful throughout.” (2)

“ An island in Lake Manawa-pori is Poman, named in 1862 by James McKerrow, after the principal Island or “mainland” of Orkney Islands in Scotland.,” with a view to help the rhythm of the future poets, who will describe in flowing numbers the charms of beautiful Manapouri, as McKerrow prophesises…….

The Freeman was named by Mr. McKerrow in honour of Mr. Freeman Jackson, a very early runholder (3)….When Mr. James McKerrow was engaged with reconnoitring surveys during the years 1861-63, he named a number of places.” A few of these he named in the Wakatipu and Te Anau districts as follows: He gave the name Caples to one of the branches of the Greenstone, rivers….McKerrow named the Lingstone Mountains after Mr. D. Livingstine, the celebrated African explorer. David Peak(6802 ft/)in memory of Dr. Livingston’s christian name, Moffat Peak (5848 ft) , an African missionary and father-in-law of Livingstone. Eglinton River and Mountain after the Earl of Eglinton and Winton at that time Lord Lieutenanr of Ireland. Skelmorlie Peak (5933 ft.) and Larg Peak (5555 ft.)are both Ayrshire names. Mount Christina (8675 ft.) after a girl who was companion to Mrs. McKerrow in his absence. Clinto River, Te Anau, after one of the family names of the Duke of Newcastle, who was Colonial Secretary in 1863. Worsely Creek, North Fiord, Te Anau, named after the sheep farmer who drayed the boar for the surveyors from Manapouri Lake to Re Anau. Nurse Creek, after another sheep farmer, Lakes McKellar and Gunn after David McKellar and George Gunn….. Lake Fergus was named after Hon. T. Fergus in 1863. Bob’s cove was named after Bob Fortune, Mr. Rees’s boatman” (4)

“ In the Doon, Dean Hill, Bean Forrest, Afton and other Scottish names Mr. McKerrow honoured the land of his birth,(5) Mt. Pisgah was taken from the bible. It was the vantage point from which the promised land was seen.(6).

In his book, Otago Placenames (7), Mr. H. Beattie gives an exhaustive list of Mcerrow’s placenames. “ Besides J.T. Thomson, the most popular name giver in our history was probably James McKerrow”, he states. Mr. Beattie goes on to list more than 220 place names which are associated with McKerrow’s labours.

(1) Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, July 23,1862. P 16.

(2) Letter to Hocken.

(3) Roberts, W.H.S. Place Names and Early of Otago and Southland, P.32.

" " Maori nomenclature, Early History of Otago. P.47

(4) Roberts. P.48. Roberts does not make it absolutely clear whether or not McKerrow gives the last two names.

(5) Kilmarnock Standard, 22nd August, 1903/

(6) McKerrow’s Reminiscences.

(7) Beattie, H. Otago Place Names, Pp. 78-86.

By 1861 there were several newly established sheep stations on the south end of the lake, when James McKerrow first arrived to carry out survey work. In 1862 McKerrow surveyed the lake in a whaleboat.