Photos & Story - Samoa Events
Lake Wakatipu surrounded by all the men, Mts Cecil, Crichton, Ben Lomond and Nicholas.
Plan B it was for The Cold Tour today on Day 4 and the last day of the tour. Everyone had been looking forward to the Milford Sound trip and the swim to Stirling Falls followed by a 10-minute airlift to Lake Quill in the Fiordland National Park. It was not to be. High wind and low visibility put an end to the dream finish to the tour – so we thought. There was a Plan A(2) which was to fly to Te Anau then travel by road to MS, that too was aborted early on because SH94 was closed and the road beyond Homer Tunnel has been closed since Monday.
So, we boarded Air Milford’s latest addition to their 5-plane fleet, a 10-seater Cessna Caravan ZK purchased new in 2016 direct from the factory in Wichita, Kansas. The seating arrangement today saw me sit directly behind the pilot with Kerren directly across, Simon was in the co-chair seat. Duncan, the mouthpiece and laugh-machine of the tour sat behind me and the ladies occupied the rest of the seats behind us. It was a squeeze with all our luggage, but everyone had a window view.
Our pilot today is Antony (Ant) Sproull, GM and Chief pilot of this beautiful family airline. Air Milford was founded by Ant’s father Hank who still works the business and helped load our gear. The airline has a 100% safety record with all aircraft being personally maintained by the owners.
There is a connection between Air Milford and Samoa, Ant told me that he flew to Samoa with his father Hank in 1992 to purchase a topdressing Cessna from the Samoa Government. That aircraft was a casualty of Cyclone Valelia (1991) and they picked up a bargain. Ant told me that he sat in the co-pilot’s seat as a little boy next to his father flying that plane which was repaired and sold for a nice little margin. The profit from the sale helped launch Air Milford in 1998.
There were plenty of similar stories from Ant as he flew us to Te Anau. He showed us where his grandfather camped on the shores of Lake Te Anau hunting game and he told of how his father would drop him and sibling off sometimes at a remote lake to fish and play while Hank went off to do a job. That was his childhood and he has been in aviation ever since.
We were met with a warm welcome at Air Milford where we were given a thorough briefing of our flight path by pilot Antony Sproull who is General Manager and Chief pilot of the family-run airline.
Ant was a safe pair of hands, not that a few of us cared. For some in our crew, this was their very first flight in a small aircraft and there were nerves. We took off from Queenstown airport with a great view of Lake Hayes and the Remarkables, Wakatipu below us was surrounded by snow-capped mountains was a visual feast. It helped that today was the best weather day of the tour and the sun was out giving colour and light to water, mountains and sheep stations below us.
We flew southward for a short distance with Queenstown town to our right. All the boys are dressed in their Sunday best gleaming in the morning sun with snow flowing mountains to 500 meters; Mounts Cecil to our left, Ben Lomond and Crichton to our right and the remarkable Remarkables now fast receding on our left seemed to be keeping everyone in best behaviour. We also saw in context the sites of the two of the earlier swims of the tour on Days 1 and 2. Whatever we did in those two swims, it was barely a drop in what we were now witnessing, Lake Wakatipu in a long big stretch from north to south in the shape of Matau the Taniwha (See blog for Day 1 yet to be written).
As we came parallel with Mt Crichton, Ant nosed the Cessna to our left to follow the Von basin to Lake Te Anau. The Von river and valley, and Mt Nicholas were named after Nicholas von Tunzelmann who together with William Rees were the first Europeans to settle the Wakatipu Basin. The Von valley runs 35 km from Wakatipu to the Mavora lakes, the source of the Oreti river that flows in the opposite direction. The Von flows northeast and empties into Lake Wakatipu and the Oreti flows the other way all the way to Foveaux Strait. The Von valley is narrow at an average of 1.3 km between stiff cliffs on both sides of what essentially is a wind gully.
The small Cessna was now a toy as we flew southwest toward Te Anau against the wind. The fear of flying small planes for jittery passengers was now more defined as the Cessna flew within meters of snowy mountains and rough country in the valley.
We followed the Von river basin southwest to Te Anau against what seemed like a stiff southwesterly wind.
It didn’t matter who flew the Cessna, whether it was Ant or Neil Armstrong there were now serious doubts for our safety. We had been warned to expect a few bumps not that we expected any. The aircraft began to sway left and right as we entered Von valley. Ant informed us on the intercom that the best way to handle these conditions if we were nervous is to focus on the beautiful views. The stunning beauty we were witnessing however was a brief pacifier. Then there was a sudden drop of the plane in a vacuum of air. It was a big one. We were going to die for sure now. A few heads touched the roof and screams were heard quickly followed by nervous laughter. Duncan, who was behind me was now silent. Ant might be a great pilot but his travel-whispering skills was of little effect to nervous travellers.
The Cessna followed the Von river basin south and soon we saw Mt Turnbull to our right and Mt Nicholas to the left, the two guardians of Von valley. Then followed another river, the Oreti until the sole female-named height came into view, Jane Peak on the left of the basin overlooking the Mavora north and south lakes to our right. Left and right and everywhere in sight there was unbelievable beauty. Ant kept us informed of names of Sheep stations below us and of landscapes and landmarks. He pointed to where scenes of The Lord of the Rings were filmed.
That's how close we were flying to the mountains on both sides of the Von valley.
As we left the Von valley, we were met by a snowstorm and visibility was reduced. We were now flying just a few meters above the top of beech-covered mountains. The combination of fast flowing mist over green mountains made for great filming. Kerren and I were in our element. Afterall, we had a documentary to put together.
We have now crossed over to Southland from Otago. The township of Mossburn came into view to our left and we could see Lake Te Anau ahead. Fears and worries eased. Duncan was still silent. Our destination was just ahead. Ant told us he was going to do a double pass to make sure the wind was right for the actual landing on a private airstrip that is used solely by Air Milford. Once we landed the Cessna came to a stop at the end of the grassy airstrip and we walked a short distance to Lake Te Anau Downs for coffee and to relive everything about the flight from Queenstown to Lake Te Anau. Duncan was indeed overcome with nausea and was pacified enough not to speak for the next 60 minutes. New jokes at his expense didn’t take long to be laughed at loudly. We are back to normal.
Stage 2 was to come.
John Key got it wrong. Had he campaigned to change the name of the country instead of the flag, he may have had a better Cause and chance at succeeding. After all, change the name of the country and a new flag is a certainty.
Let's cut to the chase, in my view the name of this country will be changed within 30 years and none too sooner.
New Zealand for a name of this beautiful land of ours is a crime on all kiwis. The name is meaningless.
If rewarding first explorers and discoverers by naming landmarks they found in their honour then Kupe, who is credited with the first sighting of these lands and named it Aotearoa has been overlooked to put it mildly. It was Kupe and the occupants of the seven Waka who first discovered these shores.
There is more, the Maori descendents of the same first discoverers were living here when European ships first arrived. They lived and died, explored the land and settled the whenua. Children were born, battles were fought, victories were made and history created - for several hundred years. And they gave names to land, mountains, rivers and shores for several hundred years before Abel Tasman and James Cook arrived.
In that regard, all the foreign names ascribed to landmarks in the colonial discovery era of two-hundred years between 1600 and 1800 for these regions are also redundant. The late arrivals - Tasman, Cook and others came to lands that were already discovered.
Given our rich past, the name New Zealand has no connection at all with the land, the people and its long history. It is neither Maori nor British, the two peoples whose combined history has made this country what it is today.
The name New Zealand sounds distinctly un-kiwi in its entirety. Say it out loud and hear it for the first time in the context of this discussion, and watch yourself cringe at the Zee sound.
It is one of only two current words that I know of in the Kiwi vernacular with the letter “Z”. The other is buzzy-bee, a children’s toy.
The folks who named our country did so from 16,000 miles away not having set foot on these shores or seen the makeup of the land.
They were cartographers who took charge of maps and drawings supplied by Abel Tasman at the end of his journey of 1642.
Then, Tasman was the first European to set foot on Kiwi soil; he named these isles Staten Landt on the premise that it was connected to the southern tip of South America.
When Tasman returned to the Netherlands, mapmakers realised his error – Staten Landt was already taken and the new European discovery was a long way from Cape Horn.
And thinking the two islands – north and south – looked like their own North Sea land, the cartographers who were charged with Tasman’s maps saw that the new discovery was nowhere near the South American contintent promptly renamed it after a province in Zeeland.
This is a bigger crime, the country we inhabit was named by map makers who had not set foot on terra.
One-hundred years later when Dutch seafaring was on the wane and British exploration on the rise, James Cook arrived here in 1770 on the first of his three sailings. Cook Anglicised the name to New Zealand – but still a Dutch name.
The Dutch, being first in these parts also named the east coast of what is now Australia, New Holland.
At least the Aussies had the decency to change the name of that continent to Australia, meaning the great southern landmass it was.
Of recent times there have been a shedding of colonial names in favour of connection of meaning.
Other name changes from colonial days include Vanuatu for New Hebrides, Samoa for Western Samoa, Kiribati for Gilbert Islands and Hawaii for Sandwich Isles.
All the while we continue to retain a foreign name that has no connection or relevance to the land and the people.
If the Dutch had settled these isles themselves, then maybe Nova Zeelandia might be appropriate for a name.
But they did not, and so have no connection to the heatbeat of the place.
The crime is, and still is – there are very good and appropriate Kiwi names for the land, names that were born of time and place.
Names that have a connection, a spiritual meaning and historical relevance to the events that took place here.
Increasingly in protest, I refer to New Zealand as Kiwiland. It is Maori and British.
We seem to lack for originality when it comes to naming landmarks. We have North Island and South Island, the most significant landmarks that define us yet without world recognised names.
Every other single island around the country has a name but the two obvious landmasses that define us - these places with deep historical connection to the people and the many events that took place since the first arrivals.
There are other examples of meaningless names for significant kiwi landmarks – Auckland City for example was named after George Eden first Lord of Auckland who, as far as I know did not set foot anywhere near the Pacific let alone on these shores.
Yet Eden gets a mountain named after him and the city.
Naming landmarks in this fashion is a crime. When Cook sailed down the east coast of the country in early 1770 and saw a big mountain in the Taranaki region he pointed to it and named it Egmont after the 2nd Earl of Egmont, John Perceval. The tangata whenua who lived and toiled here had already named the same mountain Taranaki. In academia, first discoveries get naming rights. Failure to do so amounts to fraudulent activity. The same can be said for the name of this country.
We have of course a worthy name for the country – Aotearoa. It was borne of time and place by actual settlers of the land. The same can be said for the city that is Tamaki Makaurau (Tamaki of a thousand lovers referring to the many volcanic cones that define the city).
The shedding of colonial names by countries around us was in order to return identity of place to the people who actually lived in those lands.
Samoa, meaning Sacred Centre (of the universe) is simply Samoa. Removing the colonial title of West returns Samoa to what it is – a country named by Samoans.
Similarly Vanuatu - meaning a Land (vanua) of Truth (derives from Standing firm as in tu). The timeless home of the Vanuatu people is simply that, Land of firm belief and standing.
We are increasingly searching for authenticity. Going back to origins and meaning. We continue to ask, where did we come from and what is our identity.
Our identity is Kiwi, Maori and Pakeha.
All the more reason to rename our place appropriately by ditching the Zealand. It has no connection to the history, culture, wairua or spirit of these lands.
Steven Kent held off the challenge of Sebastien Priscott to take the win in the main race at Long Bay - ScottieTPhoto
London Olympian Steven Kent of Coast Swimming won race two of the O Swim Autumn series at Long Bay on Saturday. The former NZ representative with a time of 40:59 for the 3 km distance pipped current New Zealand representative, Sebastien Priscott (41:01) of the Waterhole club West Auckland to win a close race.
The two went toe-to-toe around the 1 km triangular course, in the end, Kent's sprinting experience secured him the win. Priscott is a national champion in his own right, he won the Epic 10 km open water in Taupo in January.
Kent and Priscott were competing in the first race after lockdown with thirty other swimmers. Finishing third was 15-year old, Alex Dunkley. The race at Long Bay was the only live sporting event held in Auckland on the weekend.
The first ocean swim event in Alert Level 2 was well controlled. Swimmers started ten at a time and fifteen minutes apart.
Ella Crowe, 15, won the women's 3 km race. Another teenager Elizabeth Brennan was the winner - overall - in the 2 km race; and Grace Crowe (U13) won the all-female lineup in the 1 km distance.
The other meaningful tussle of the morning was between two thirteen-year-olds, Jack Potier and Palepua Afoa; Potier took out this race by a good margin.
The Long Bay race was the first swim for most swimmers after the 7-week lockdown. It was a chance "to blow out the cobwebs" in perfect sea swimming conditions.
The autumn series has three more races to go; race three is at Maraetai on Sunday. The last two races are on Queen's Birthday weekend at St Heliers and Browns Bay. The series includes a Swim-Run event at Orewa on Sunday 31st May.
IBO World Heavyweight Title
Keith Hancox, that pioneer and giant of Ultra-Marathon swimming in New Zealand passed away on 21 January 2019 aged 80. He leaves a mammoth legacy in the sport and his achievements is a shining light to the marathon swimming community to follow. Keith was a special guest at the inaugural NZ Ultra-Marathon Swim awards in Auckland in July 2018 where he was one of three to be honoured with a Lifetime Award. The other two were Sandra Blewett MBE, and Philip Rush. Keith was introduced for his award by fellow ultra-swimmer and colleague Chris Hurdley. This is Keith's speech, in response. It is published in its entirety. It offers a unique window to the early days of the sport in New Zealand and the world.
A Memorial service is being held for Keith in Wellington on Thursday 7 February, the exact same date he swam Cook Strait 55 years ago. He was 25 years old then, and that was the catalyst of a pioneering life well lived.
Now I have a chance to even the score. And I will start, Chris, by thanking your wife, on your behalf for her years of support for you…and more! Anyway, I look forward to discussing them all with you later.
Told to expect an award, I had no idea that this would be a Life-time Achievement Award like this. I anticipated a piece of paper, but this heavy silver platter, and the priority accorded it, has blown me away.
In response to the award, I would have told you about a journey, but that will take far too long so I will confine my comments tonight to the early sixties.
There is no time to add my tribute to Phil Rush, and to many, many others here tonight, nor relate my later swim adventures in Australia, Canada and England.
This story begins in the 1950’s. I recall sitting on the beach at Napier, looking out to Cape Kidnappers and telling myself that I would one day swim from there to Napier, and then the English Channel. I did.
Our NZ history of ultra-open-water or marathon swimming is built on two persons. First a legendary Wahine, held captive on Kapiti Island by Te Rauparaha. She is said to have swum or drifted all the way from Kapiti to D’Urville Island – more than 50 nautical miles – straight line. If true, that is one hell of a long and technically difficult swim.
Our - that is New Zealand’s -first major authenticated achievements involved General Lord Bernard Freyberg – the first, at Gallipoli where he earned the VC, and then in England where he missed the Channel by about 6 hundred yards. In 1965 I had the pleasure of meeting Lady Freyberg in London following my channel swim.
In the early 1960s, NZ Ultra marathon Open Water Swimming was centred on 3 or 4 Wellington Surf Lifesaving Clubs - Worser Bay (Barrie Devenport), Lyall Bay (Blakeley, Griffin, Mike Harvey et al) , Maranui (Bill Penny and Brian Crowder) and Island Bay, where I drew the short straw.
While Bill Penny captivated the nation, he fell just short. But Barrie Devenport crossed the Strait first with all the deserved plaudits and recognition.
At that point interest became truly nation-wide. Barrie deserved to be awarded the magnificent statue provided by old-time Wellington hotelier, Tom Coltman.
1956-1958, Hawkes Bay Heavyweight Amateur Wrestling champion;
1957, NZ Heavyweight Wrestling champion;
1963, Cape Kidnappers to Napier inaugural swim April;
1964, 7 Feb - Cook Strait crossing North to South in 9hr 34mins Record stood for 13 years;
1965, Aug - English Chanel Crossing – 1st New Zealander, France to England 15 hrs 33 mins
Photo, Keith in 1964 before his Cook Strait Crossing, age 25 years
A long since deceased medical practitioner, Montague Ongley and his wife, Florrie, the Court Jester, sought to control every swim team via his claimed skills as a (circa 1959 -60) “sports doctor”. Ongley specialised in 4 things – Vitamin B12 injections weekly, Digitalis tabs, (Heart), a weight loss tab, and Nicotinic acid to improve circulation in the capillaries. Florrie ran her ice baths – in an old house-hold cold bath full of ice, water and swimmer - for growing periods of time.
The names of would be swimmers and the rumours circulating were numerous and almost all wrong. While this all relates to Cook Strait, many were already thinking of other challenges - like Taupo, Foveaux Strait and the English Channel.
We in Island Bay set Cook Strait in a much faster time as our initial goal. But first, Cape Kidnappers to Napier was covered in just under 11 hours.
My coach was the legendary Tony Keenan – an ex British Army PTI. Tony’s view of any contest was: “There is only one way to the top -over the top of the bugger in front of you. “
A quick anecdote relating to Cook Strait and a well-known Wellington Maori family, the Loves. As most everyone here knows the human head, give or take a few ounces, weighs about 14 lbs. Imagine that is on the end of a broom stick. Keeping that above the water while swimming for 8 or 9 hours places severe strain on the small of the back.
Two days prior to the 7th Feb 1964, a close friend of mine, Lesley Jordan, was taken by a White Pointer shark at St Clair beach, Dunedin. His death was the first authenticated shark death for about a century. And that caused our team to panic. Three police marksmen were along for my swim. Tiny Love, who was in the close support boat, also had his .303 rifle. By late afternoon my back was screaming and the only way of relieving the pain was to bend over, grip around the knees and stretch my back. But the fear was that I was going to sleep.
At that point I heard three rifle shots, looked up and around , and yelled: “Shark, shark. Where’s the shark ?” The response was: “Shark be buggered. If you don’t get your head down and swim the next one will be up your ……..” South Island took just 30 more minutes – 9 Hrs 34 minutes a record that stood for 13 years.
Then there is my ever supportive and loving wife of 53 years, Carole. Without her support I could not later have achieved important goals in other fields. Thank you, Beadle. Looking back, I believe I have long since atoned for my stupidity in a way that provided substantial societal benefits.
Finally, there is an old saying that was a favourite of friends like business leaders Sir Douglas Myers and Baron Ralph Von Kohorn : “Business with friends is friendship at risk. But friendship through business is friendship indeed.” I am proud to record that both Douglas and Ralph were and remained – through thick and thin - two true, and lasting friends.
That business /friendship adage is important. It is an adage that certainly applies to all Open Water Ultra marathon swimmers, their coaches and their goals.
So, as the end of my 80th year is near, thank you everyone for your friendship as we all strive to achieve future goals.