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Kay McKenzie Cooke / Bluff '06 Report

Excerpts from Kay McKenzie Cooke’s April amd May 2006 commentaries on Bluff 06. Kay’s homepage is here.


Tuesday 25th April; Anzac Day; 2006

Lest I Forget

How to put into words the past four days? Images scramble around in my brain, looking for a roost. A little processing is in order. Already events have slipped into the past. Already the present is tussling with the future. It is making a sound like heavy rain washing on to our corrugated-iron roof. In fact, heavy rain is washing on to our corrugated iron roof, with a sound like the present tussling with the future. It is all a little palindromical. (Maybe I've just made that word up, but I'll let it lie for now - check it later and change it if necessary when I feel more alert.)

The present remains paramount, for I start my new job tomorrow. I need to get an early night - a good sleep. I need to rest my jumping brain cells.

In a way, it's a kind of letting go of the recent past and trusting it to take care of itself.

In another way, it is a silent, mental scramble where memories that insist on being recorded, predominate.

And again, it is of course a type of overload. For how can one's mind take on board so much and then responsibly let it out in a steady, measured stream, without a little distance?

Sorry to go all zen on you! It's not like the normally, acceptably pragmatic and practical person that I am, to be so vague, so existential. Wow! I didn't even know I could be ... it makes me feel very ... 'poetic'. Which is not a good thing. I find such pretension annoying in others, and to discover it in myself, I can't help but feel a tinge of failure - of defeat, of disappointment.

Is this is what the trip away has done to me? A trip to my home? My place? Southland the capital of pragmatism? Taken me and shaken me and dropped me? Made me write things only a hippie from Laurel Canyon would feel good about writing?

Suffice to say at this moment in time (24 hours after arriving back) that it was a most memorable few days. A most fantastic time. Beautiful in many ways. And it may sound like a cliche, but until I can order my thoughts into some logical order and conclusion, it must remain indescribable. (When I look at that word, it looks as if it's not spelt right - it looks too formal there on the page. How can such an ugly-looking word do the thoughts and splinters in my memory justice?) Maybe the word I want is - undescribed. Is that even a word? I am tired ...

‘My memory card is full,’ I've heard digital-camera-owners say. And right now, for me, this is an apt description of my condition.


Saturday, 6th May, 2006

Bluff: Day One

I don't know why it has been so hard for me to report back about the Writer's Symposium event down in Bluff and Stewart Island. (It was a whole three weeks ago now.) Hindsight has perhaps endowed it with too much.

I will now attempt to begin my report:

We picked Richard up from his flat at a little after 8.00 a.m. on the morning of Friday 21st April, and set off.

Richard is very entertaining company - and I don't mean that in a flippant way. He is interesting and intensive, without being exhausting, which is a feat in itself. He is very adamant and informative about the proposed wind farms in the Maniototo and his opposition to them. Perhaps, as he says, there is a conspiracy entered upon by Electrocorp and other corporations to dupe the public about just what is going on in the Maniototo with regards to the wind-farm project. I feel very guilty about my head-in-the-sand approach to things political when I talk to an opponent of the corporate world such as Richard. When I attempted to explain that I am not by nature a political animal, Richard commented how strange the term 'political animal' is.

As we travelled on into Southland, I found it fascinating to have Richard pointing out familiar places as places where slaughters occurred largely insitigated and carried out by a psyhcopathic, war mongering Maori chief from the north (whose name escapes me.) The landscape so familiar to me as a born Southlander, suddenly unravelled to take on a whole new perspective.

Even the ruddy, flowing, red tussock which I always make a point of looking out for whenever I travel back down south, took on an extra dimension after Richard pointed out how endangered it is.

We entered Invercargill's wide, clean streets. I'm very fond of this southern city with a road that literally ends up running out on to Oreti Beach's wide aspect of ocean; where light, sky and sand meet in an expanse that stretches for miles of beautiful, soft space.

The road from Invercargill to Bluff travels between water and marsh. There is an impression of sky and silver light and grass and ground free to ramble. In the distance, the Tiwai aluminium smelter points a clumsy, concrete finger to the sky. With a long causeway running out to it, it stands a little apart, as if unsure of its welcome. We travelled under a wide Southland sky to where the sea settled inside a sheltered, rumpty, rusty port. Small, nondescript, wooden houses with sagging roofs and flaking windowsills snuggled on hills above the harbour.

Cilla's place was our first point of destination. When we arrived, Martin Edmond and Jack Ross were there sitting with her at her kitchen table. I couldn't help sneaking a glance at the coal range mentioned in one of my favourite poems of Cilla's. Her house felt familiar - it reminded me of houses from my childhood, the wooden walls steeped in history. A house that has escaped the axe and breathes its relief.


Monday 8th May, 2006

Bluff Day One ... cont'd

After a cup of tea and a bit of a chat, Robert and I left Richard at Cilla's, and travelled back out to Invercargill to check into our motel. We decided it'd be better to stay off the marae where most others were staying, as we had a wedding to go to on the Saturday, and in order to make getting ready for that and travelling to it etc. a little easier, it was more convenient to be independent. Besides we were treating this weekend partly as a celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, so we didn't particularly like the idea of sharing that celebration with thirty others - no matter how nice they were!

For any readers I happen to have from overseas - and I know you're out there! - a marae is a Maori meeting house and intrinsic to the Maori way of life. Opening up their 'home' to visitors is their way of showing aroha - love - and a way for Pakeha (non-Maori) to gain some sense of what it means to be Maori.

A marae is a special place built by the particular tribe to whom it belongs and is a place for them to get together, talk together, sing together, eat together and stay together. Part of staying on a marae is that everyone sleeps in the open floor space of the meeting house. It is kind of like a hall, a church and a home, all built into one area. To Maori it is an important extension of themselves as a tribe or whanau (family).

Wooden carvings, woven mats/wall hangings, carved rafter beams and other images that evoke the ancestral heritage of the particular marae you are staying on, are a big part of a marae. Every marae has its own history and stories of who has gone before and who is following on. The ancestors are known by name, the family tree, or whakapapa, is taught to every child who belongs to the marae. The ancestors are acknowledged and encompassed at all times. It's all a little strange; yet can be at times, strangely comforting.

I am part-Maori (one sixteenth) but estranged from the Maori tribes to which I belong. This has happened not because of any falling out, but more because over the years as inter-marriage with Europeans occurred, the non-Maori side has superseded any Maori heritage, which has become lost. I tend to regard myself as a New Zealander who has Maori relatives way back - along with Scottish, English and Irish.


When we arrived back at Bluff, a thin, cold wind was blowing off the harbour. We suspected that the knot of shivering people we could see ahead were the various writers assembling at the gates of the marae ready to be welcomed on. Some of us were already regretting the lack of a warm, winter jacket. There were some, 'They told us it would be cold - but I had no idea it would be THIS cold', expressions on some of the North Islanders' faces.

David Howard was there in his role of father duck - a role he performed admirably the whole weekend until, by the end, he was a rather tired and frazzled father duck in need of a quiet pond somewhere in which to fully recover and settle his bedraggled feathers. As Robert commented later, it must be like herding cats trying to organise poets.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman was there armed with an impressive-looking, carved walking stick. His confidence helped me to feel I could safely shelter behind his impressive knowledge of te reo (the maori language) and maoritanga (customs).

We wandered up the path towards the tall building with its hexagonal, perspex roof. The Bluff marae (Te Rau Aroha) is a new building with modernistic artwork, weaving, carving and sculptures done by the artist / carver who designed the marae at the Te Papa Museum, Wellington.

We shuffled together as close as strangers who are meant to be a group can shuffle closely together. I was trying to remember to remain behind the men, and in front of the younger women ... it was getting a little difficult to remember everything. I was also reminding myself to take off my shoes before entering the building. Jeffrey's wife Jeanette performed the call - karanga - on our behalf. There is also a call from the women of the marae who stand at the entrance and call us on. The karanga has a haunting, musical sound as the Maori words are called out in a sing-song voice with a lilting drop at the end. To me it carries the sound of crying or mourning and makes for a goosebumpy moment.

I did remember to take off my shoes before entering the meeting house - hard not to as everyone else did too of course. The welcoming ceremony with songs and speeches was carried out with due decorum and respect. Jeffrey did an admirable job. When it came time for us to reply to their song with our song, we sang quite beautifully I thought; especially since we hadn't practised together.

It was a gentle welcome. Cilla was there as part of the welcomers - part of the marae. It is her marae and it was due to her that we were able to be there. After the hongi - the traditional hugging and shaking of hands and touching of foreheads and noses with the hosts - we were told to treat the place as our home, and that it was now time for kai - food; tucker!

Over the meal and wine, we caught up with people - John Dolan, Emma Neale, Jacob Edmond, Rob Allan, Jeanne Bernhardt ... John had been out to look at Orepuki already (my old home town.) His first impressions of Southland were very favourable - he loved it, he said. Invercargill, Orepuki ... He sounded as if he wondered why no-one had ever told him before how great the place was. Put it down to Southland reticence. You don't boast, show off; you let people find out for themselves. If they like it, well and good, and if they don't, well, that's just their hard cheese isn't it?

Putting Southland down is a popular pastime: it gets a lot of negative press. 'Who would want to live way down there?' It's so cold.' ' Invercargill's so boring.' It doesn't help that most people brought up in Southland, leave - like I did.

I felt surprisingly proud of this Southland that John was so impressed with. ‘In Invercargill there were even kids in mohawks, busking on the streets,’ he said.


That night there was a general mingling. I found it interesting to talk with Jeanne and Tahlia who were both also part of John's 1997(?) University of Otago poetry workshop paper. There were some funny stories - what a riot it was ( apparantly.) I must admit, I never knew quite how riotous until we started reminiscing.

There was a buzzy, friendly feel about the room. People were warming up to the weekend and what it was all about. It wasn't so much about the papers that were going to be presented or any great idea such as : 'What Is Poetry?' Rather it was about people and sharing ideas, thoughts and impressions - breaking down barriers of shyness and awkwardness and maybe even a certain level of unfounded mistrust or scepticism. Writers are just people after all.

Cilla's poetry cd - The Wind Harp - was launched. She has the perfect voice for reading poetry with music. Music suits the way her voice lifts and falls, lifts and falls. Like waves.

David Eggleton also launched his new book. He is an icon, that guy. I think I might start up a 'D.E. Appreciation Club'. We could all wear beer bottle-top badges. I jest ... Still, he is pretty cool. ‘How on earth does he keep looking so young?’ one or two of us asked each other in jealous tones.

We then went through to the meeting house and there we were told the story written on its walls in the form of artwork and carvings. In this way, we were introduced to the ancestors. What staunch people they were. Then we listened to some more poetry - mostly from poets north of Wellington. A lot of poetry. I was feeling a little tired by the end. But it was good to put faces to names and voices to words. Brian Flaherty played the guitar and sang a song of his. He had a harmonica strapped to his chin, but nary a note. I kept waiting for the sound and felt strangely disappointed when it didn't eventuate. Therese Lloyd read some fun poems about life in Wellington. Selina Tusitala Marsh’s poems were darker with references to the Pacific and an exploration of the term 'half-caste'. Paula Green read some of her excellent, subtle poems. Bernadette Hall did a great job as MC. Murray Edmond read out an intriguing short play. There were other readers too and I'm sorry not to mention them - except to say everyone who read added to the smorgasbord of poetry - which sounds terribly trite and flippant, and I apologise for that. As I said, I was tired by that stage and as I am now writing this in hindsight, I've already forgotten some of the moments.

After that it was time to go. The people staying at the marae were getting their beds (mattresses) ready. John and Richard opted to put their mattresses outside on the verandah where it would be cooler. Robert and I slipped away to our motel.


Tuesday 9th May, 2006

How Will They Hear Above the Birds?

Saturday we spent in Invercargill looking for a spot of autumn colour, and found it in the Queens Gardens where a wondrous tree-lined avenue was a sight to see. We took some photos. Robert helped a little boy who was out with his Mum and big sister. His bike's chain had got stuck. It took a bit of jiggling, but Robert managed to free it and acquire very oily hands in the process, which was a bit of a hassle as we happened to be on our way to a wedding at the time.

Earlier we had gone for a ride out to Oreti Beach. As I mentioned before, the road from town that you travel on to get there, literally keeps on going right out on to the beach. The tarseal ends in sand - in fact the last few hundred metres of seal is always sand-covered. The beach itself is wide and long and goes for miles (just like you see in the film 'The World's Fastest Indian'.) The light was intriguing ... silver and grey and very moody. Cinematic.

The wedding we went to was a sweet affair. Young ones do weddings so well these days. It's all about self-defining and including the self-defining (or couple-defining) touches. A bit like personalised number plates.

We are close friends of the groom's parents, so it was interesting to think that the groom was just a toddler running around with a jammy face not so long ago. (I know! I'm sounding like a dowager.) The bride comes from a Southland farming background. It was cute to see how shy her father was when he gave his speech. They had the plastic netting that goes around hay bales draped all across the ceiling of the Otatara Hall where the reception and dance was held. It looked dreamy and space-y and not at all like haybale covers. We left before the speeches were over and before dessert and before the dancing started. In Southalnd farming communities, you still get the good old-fashioned country dances 'down at the hall'.

We left early in order to head off to Bluff and hear the readers for Saturday night. David Eggleton read - a rapid-fire smorgasbord of images and modernisms. (Or did he read on the Friday night? ... Help! Already it's all starting to merge! Emma Neale also read, her exquisitely worked poetry a treat to listen to. I liked Cilla's sheep poem. (Is it okay to like sheep poems? As a kiwi you can get a little paranoid about liking sheep or anything to do with sheep!) Bernadette read some of her stations of the cross poems, and one very moving poem about her niece who died in the London bombings. John read from his first poetry book 'Slave' and had everyone chortling. He's so surprising when he reads - you manage to get one joke, or cunning aside, and then another comes along on its heels so fast that you almost miss it. Tusiata Avia's Polynesian- flavoured writing, full of colour and voice, seemed a world away from Southland somehow. Jeffrey Paparoa Holman read a few poems about his home on the West Coast. One of the longer poems he read was about shearing sheep. Michael Harlow read poems that were beautifully-wrought. One of the poems Cliff Fell read was a poem about himself imagined as a cowboy.

Afterwards everyone drifted off to various Bluff locations for a drink - and a hoe-down (dance) for some as well, according to Emma's account the next day. One of the writers found himself left behind, all alone with the ancestors. He was feeling a bit miffed the next morning and I don't blame him. He told Robert and me he didn't realise that everyone was going off somewhere. ‘No-one told me,’ he said.

Robert and I went with Jeanne, Tahlia, Richard and John to one of the Bluff establishments - the name of which I forget now. We sat out the back, outside. Every so often a local would amble out and ask us if we were here for the oyster festival. When we said no, they'd then tend to say, ‘Oh so you must be up at the marae then at that writers thing.’ One guy had lots of unflattering things to say about the Maori fishing quota, another (or was it the same one?) asked us if we followed rugby at all. Richard said he did, which I think surprised the guy because he was sure writers didn't like sport. When we said we were from Dunedin, he said we'd better not go near any couches ... at least I think that's what he said because for some reason the conversation turned to couches. I can remember we all started describing what kind of couch we had at home. Robert said we had a flowery couch, which I felt like correcting (but I didn't because I don't think it's a good look when wives correct what husbands say - or vice versa - in public.) I happen to think of our couch as a patterned couch - not a flowery couch!

John was quite taken with a shaggy white dog that kept reappearing like a large, warm ghost, back for more attention. Jeanne wanted to discuss ideas, but everyone else couldn't concentrate. John wanted to know when I was reading and when I said on Sunday night in Stewart Island, he said, ‘But how will people be able to hear above all the birds?’ Which was very funny, I thought. ‘We're reading in a hall, ‘ I said. He had no idea what I was talking about. My kiwi accent on the word 'hall' had him flummoxed. Then I switched to calling it a 'community centre' and he realised what I was saying. However, I was quite taken with the idea of trying to read poetry over the sound of birds.


Friday 12th May, 2006

It's A Southern Thing

Cooked breakfast on the Sunday at the marae in Bluff was scheduled for 8.00 a.m. We decided that it would be good to be there for that and so fronted up to witness the magnificent toaster machine in progress. Conveyor belt toast. Very impressive. And ... mmm ... bacon and eggs. And what's more, a chatty David Eggleton. He must be a morning person.

Robert and I felt bad because once more we were going to miss the scheduled more formal part of the symposium - I guess you could say the actual 'symposium component' of the weekend. But I'm afraid I cannot be that close to my home town of Orepuki without visiting it. Richard was also keen to go out and have a look around. It was going to take us two to three hours, so Sunday morning really was the only time available. Feeling a little like wagging school pupils, we set off.

We went as far as Tuatapere and then back-tracked to Orepuki. We had a look at what houses were for sale. Some very reasonably-priced houses (plus a whole school and all its buildings) in a place which although wouldn't be described as desirable, nevertheless has its attractions for a person who doesn't mind bad weather and a certain amount of isolation. The benefits would be the seaside location and the potential for it to become a place for people to visit. You could set up a coffee shop there, for example. One day I just might.

We drove to where our house used to be to show Richard. All he would have seen was a scrubby paddock - although a faint line could still be discerned where the road to the house used to be. The line 'memory fills in the gaps' from a poem I wrote about Orepuki, was running through my mind. I was saddened to see a roof of one of the 'ghost-town' shops had collapsed. Even the old shops that have stood for over a hundred years are falling down now. For so long they have been the one remaining vestige of the old township.

We headed back for the farewell at the marae. The ferry over to Stewart Island was due to leave at around four o'clock. We were sad to find we had missed saying goodbye to John who had decided to go back to Dunedin. A few others (Emma, David, Michael, Jacob ...) also said good-bye at Bluff, as they had commitments and weren't making the trip across to Stewart Island.

Those of us remaining boarded the ferry for a fairly wild ride across Foveaux Strait - the third roughest sea crossing in the world apparently. (Well, this was a fact that was being bandied about with gay abandon but no-one was quite sure where the information had come from or whether it was even true or not - but at least it sounded impressive!) I stood outside at the stern of the boat and never took my eyes off the horizon the whole time. This was Robert's suggestion. I was so focused on the disappearing Bluff horizon, I didn't want to speak to anyone and spent half of the journey hidden under the large hood of my jacket. But it worked a treat. I never felt one smidgen of seasickness. I was surprised to hear that some of those inside the boat were sick. It was like a miracle. (The fact that I didn't get sick, I mean.) Usually even a waterbed gives me motion-sickness.

Robert kept saying, ‘Look at the waves!’ But I wasn't willing to look at any waves. (Okay, I lie. I did sneak a peek a couple of times. They were as high as the rails of the boat and as fat and sleek as huge, silver-grey whales barging into the sides. Wild things with a life of their own and one intent - get the boat.)

Arriving in Stewart Island just as darkness fell was magical. Entering the small Halfmoon Bay harbour is always an outstanding event. The feel of the place immediately seeps into your senses. The smell of the water and the bush, the silence that undergirds any surface noise, the feel of cool mist or rain, the sight of pale sand and dark water.

We were welcomed by freckly, open, friendly faces and swept away in the cars of the local Arts Community Group, taken to our lodgings, booked in and told to go to the Community Centre just down the road where dinner was laid out for us. Thus, we were literally swept off our feet. And what a beautiful meal - salmon, mussels, beef, chicken, salads, roast potatoes ... followed by dessert. Such low-key generosity. No fuss, no palaver. Just, here you are - get that into you.

Readings followed. I was one of the readers but I couldn't possibly comment on it; except I will! To say I read three poems from 'Feeding the Dogs' which related to Stewart Island and its connection to my family tree. Then I read four new poems - two of which were about my last visit to the island. The other readers were Richard, Jeanne, Martin Edmond, Jack Ross, Michele Leggott and Rob Allan. (I hope I haven't missed anyone out.) There were some locals who turned up to listen which was gratifying. The next day one called out to me as I was walking past - ‘I liked your reading last night!’ It was so nice - doubly so because the same thing had happened last time I was in Stewart Island (a local calling out from across the street - ‘I liked your reading last night!’) It makes for a cosy, welcomed feeling of belonging. I wanted to stay there. I felt like I was a local already.

One of the poems Richard read was an excerpt from a long poem. I'd heard him read it before at at the 'Crown' readings and had immediately loved its strong images of the sea and landscape mixed in with NZ history. Jack Ross amused with his erudite, wry poems - one about the TV show 'America's Next Top Model'. Martin Edmond read an excerpt that was full of gentle, meandering descriptions. Jeanne's poems are unique, different, short and hard to describe, except they fall into your ear a bit like lines from songs. Rob read poems that were funny and perceptive - one about the fact that where he was brought up in England, was where they made Sunlight soap. Of course Sunlight soap to those of a certain age, is almost a NZ icon, so we felt a connection straight away. Michele's was a strong, vigorous reading of poems full of complex images and ideas.

The online anthology Oban 06 was also launched, with over 100 poems. it was good to hear David Howard read an excerpt of a much longer poem. I missed hearing him read. He hadn't scheduled himself in anywhere to read - I guess he figured he'd be far too occupied with organising things ... which was probably wise as he did end up running around a bit like a bluebottle in a jam jar.

A surprise (to everyone except himself) a troubadour-type poet then stepped to the front and gave several 'party piece' poems which were very, very funny. He was unusual in that when you first meet him you’d think he was more likely to be a shearer than a poet. Plus, he hails from Twizel! But as is often the case with readers who like to entertain (I mean really like to entertain) he perhaps read one or two poems too many.

After the reading, we retired to a local pub for a few hours of most enjoyable company, the North Islanders and the South Islanders mixing together a bit more than had happened on the Saturday night. Again, we sat outside away from the rabble inside the hotel. There was some good-natured ribbing with the explanation, 'it's a Southern thing' being mentioned a couple of times.

Whenever there was a break in the music, the slop-slop sound of the harbour at our backs could be heard - a reminder that there was a whole island still to explore in the daylight.

Every so often a member from one of the two teams set up to play the outdoor chess game on the grass verge down by the beach, leapt up to make their move. As it is a game beyond my ken or perhaps even my entire universe, I just watched with amused tolerance. At one point through the night, Richard quoted a whole Shakespeare sonnet - I guess he was showing off, but it was a moment nevertheless!

As we walked back to the Shearwater Inn - the backpackers where we all stayed - the silence of the island permeated a little more. There was also that deep, cool, dark-green smell of rain-soaked bush all around. I was once again struck by how much Stewart Island has its own atmosphere - one that cannot be captured off-shore - one that it keeps to itself. Almost indescribable. You have to be there.


Monday 15th May, 2006

With Respect

This was my third visit to Stewart Island, and each time I've arrived, I've sensed what it really means to 'set foot'. As soon as I feel the ground beneath me, my feet start tingling.

I love its silence and scent. Water and trees. The play of calm, pearly light on the ocean.

Walking round Halfmoon Bay, the bay with the town of Oban and where the ferries dock, we saw overhead a flock of kakariki (native parrots with bright emerald-green feathers and red faces). We could hear their rough, loud caws as they flew to a roost in some trees. We dropped into a small cafe for a coffee and got talking to the American owner. She makes paua shell necklaces and bracelets, which were all pinned up on the wall. She said she can't keep up with the orders - especially in the summer when visitor numbers are higher.

The island is full of bays and forest walks. It was Robert's first visit, and we had one full day only to enjoy a small part of all there is to explore there. But we thoroughly enjoyed our day walking around and savouring the sights and sounds of forest and ocean views. We are rather smitten by the place.

To live there would be to live in a place that feels protected by the sea and trees. It has the intimate feeling of an island; that comforting, included feeling of of being restricted to one small space. But not too small. There are very large areas of bush emptied of any buildings or signs of humans, where one could get away from it all well and truly. It is a hilly island and most of it is covered by native forest. As well, there are very many idyllic little bays to discover and explore.

The island has a low-key, positive, communal feel to it. Locals wear gumboots to the one grocery store and drive there in pick-up trucks that have happily grinning dogs on the back. I'd go and live there in a flash.

One of the other people in the group we were with told me later she'd woken up at dawn and could hear kiwis. She described their call as determined - not pretty at all, but with an insistent, strident urgency. (Maybe that's a warning - living on an island might do that to you after a while.)

Stewart Island is special to me too because people I have descended from lived there. A bay is named after them and one of the islands the ferry passes on its way, is also named after an ancestor. This gives me a sense of coming home when I go to Stewart Island. I feel the place is already in my blood. It is a kind of homecoming. I will be back.


On the ferry ride back, the sea turned darker as we rode away from the island. We stood at the back of the boat again ahem I mean stern. Because it had worked on the way over, once again I kept my eyes on the horizon. However, this time I was much more relaxed about looking about me - the sea wasn't as rough and the need to remain still and centred, wasn't as necessary.

As dusk settled, the colours of the sky and water turned from silver to black. Mollymawks, very large seabirds with huge, unbending wings, soared above the wake of the boat, the foam remaining bright and white in the gathering gloom.

After disembarking at Bluff, it was a journey through the night to Dunedin, stopping off at Subway in Invercargill for a quick meal. Richard was with us again, but as we were all a little tired, there was more snoozing than discussion.


It's sad that to hear this weekend of the tragic deaths of members of a Stewart Island family when the launch they were on capsized. They were on their way back from the Mutton Bird Islands. I remember taking particular note of these islands when we went past in the ferry, trying to identify just which of them was Jackie Lee Island - the one named after my ancestor.

As I mentioned before, Foveaux Strait is one of the most treacherous crossings in the world, and once again it has proved that and has claimed more lives.

I guess I feel thankful to have crossed this stretch of water safely once again. All through today I haven't been able to stop thinking of the family and their loss, thinking that maybe I would sooner just visit Stewart Island after all. The ocean around there does demand its pound of flesh. It's beautiful, but never to be taken for granted. It has had the last word.




Last updated 2 July, 2006