Sunday, September 12, 2010
RICHES OF THE NORTH EBOOK
In 1969 discovery of the Elingamite treasure with Kelly Tarlton was a major turning point in my life. I quit teaching and became a full time writer/undersea explorer. It led to exploring other famous New Zealand wrecks: Boyd, Wairarapa, Niagara, etc and to researching their histories on which I based a series of radio plays commissioned by R.N.Z
With the treasure and income from my first book on the Elingamite I was able to set up home on the Tutukaka coast near the Poor Knights Islands where, with Kelly Tarlton and my underwater photographer wife Jan, I began to explore marine life intensively both around offshore islands and along the New Zealand coast, documenting each species. From this work I came to appreciate the components of the reef community, essential for understanding how they fit together in an ecosystem. Later I was to do the same in mangroves; and native forests.
In 1972 I was well advanced as a researcher on marine invertebrates and reef fish ecology when I was invited to join a National Geographic expedition to Lord Howe Island aboard undersea research vessel El Torito. For me its owner, Dr Walt Starck, was a parallel hero to Cousteau: a true underwater explorer with his own incredible array of research “toys” including a submarine and the first closed-circuit scuba, his own invention. My family’s adventures with Walt led us to seeing how life on a coral reef works by day and by night and how humans can survive for centuries as part of a reef community. I saw atoll dwelling man as a true marine mammal, a sand cay dwelling hairless ape.
Following these voyages, in 1975 I was resuming my long-term studies of Poor Knights marine life when dolphins intruded. At this stage I had covered most aspects of underwater exploration when slap bang into my life a creature burst that I came to see, after the ensuing 15 years of intensive research into cetacean capacities, as man’s closest brain neighbour.
From my first momentous dive there in 1963 the Poor Knights Islands ecosystem became one of my deepest interests for the next forty odd years. By celebrating its wonders and writing numerous periodical articles I joined the lengthy fight that led to its total protection as a Marine Reserve and the extraordinary resurgence of marine life we now see there.*
Walking in coastal forest on a stormy day when diving was impossible I almost stepped on a greenhood orchid. Seeing its resemblance to a coral shrimp set me thinking and I started exploring the land as a diver would the sea: following the seasonal flux in pursuit of biodiversity; getting to know parallel patterns of life on sea and land. Ever since the orchid/shrimp episode I have been comparing patterns of life and living relationships in two very different worlds - a gas world and a liquid world. Gradually, from exploring both sea and land, I have come to see patterns that underlie both worlds: a blue print for all life: a holistic “Big Picture”. As Jan and I came to appreciate its dynamics, such as the complex links between plant and insect life along side the fish/cleaner shrimp relationship, the thought emerged: could this atoll-earth dwelling, hairless ape actually find a place on his Ocean Planet: a lifestyle as sustainable as that of the Luaniuans or the dolphins? I recall the boyhood day I’d learnt that the world’s highest mountain had been climbed. Nowadays reaching its summit is almost an every day event, for so long a seemingly unattainable goal. Reflecting on this became a Mount Everest of inspiration for me. I continue to explore the patterns of life above water and below, seeking to grasp more of the underlying blue print. I realise man is part of nature and hope our accumulated wisdom may shape our evolution to fit in with the patterns of the planet, so becoming a healthy part of her dynamics and avoiding all paths that diminish nature. The organism that destroys its environment destroys itself.
From the time of the orchid my life began to broaden. From beneath the sea with my own movie camera I followed pathways of biodiversity across the inter tidal and up into the mangroves; in estuaries, river mouths and harbours
Then Jan and I embarked on a major land project: an exploration of remnants of Northland rain forest along a broad corridor from west to east, coast to coast and in between. Our descent into Maungatapere volcano crater, entering an antediluvian swamp forest, was very like a deep dive...Soon we had created an archive of most of its flora and fauna: all its trees, shrubs and vines; most of its birds.
It is a nice irony that after half a century of undersea exploration the ocean taught us to look to the land. Long overdue...
So veteran divers Jan and I set out to explore all the byways and back blocks of Northland; all its riches and diversity. We were staggered at what we found. The riches of the north, with its tortured landform and two handy coasts, seem to be infinite.
CONTENTS: RICHES OF THE NORTH Prologue Chapter 1: NEW ZEALAND'S FARTHEST NORTH 2: TE PAKI SAND DUNES 3: KARIKARI PENINSULA 4: WHANGAROA FOGGY DAWN 5: IN THE BAY OF ISLANDS Part one: RAWHITI Part two: KORORAREKA OR RUSSELL TOWN Part three: NORTHERN SHORES OF THE BAY: Stepping Back in Time Part four: NGAIOTONGA SCENIC RESERVE: Russell Forest 6: THE HOKIANGA: Part one: OPO COUNTRY Part two: WAIRERE BOULDERS Part three: RAWENE AND KOHUKOHU Part four: NORTH HOKIANGA: MITIMITI Part five: WHANGAPE HARBOUR: PAWARENGA Part six: HOKIANGA’S HIDDEN TREASURES 7: THE BAT'S NEST-RUAPEKAPEKA PA 8: KAWITI CAVES 9: POUTO PENINSULA 10: PAHI 11: OKAHUKURA PENINSULA 12: WHAKAPIRAU 13: PUKETOTARA PENINSULA 14: JOURNEY TO SOUTH HEAD 15: BATLEY 16: TO TINOPAI PENINSULA. 17: WHANGAREI AREA: Part one: ABBEY CAVES Part two: PATAUA
Part three: MOUNT AUBREY: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
Part four: MATAKOHE - LIMESTONE ISLAND
Part five: TUTUKAKA COAST18: KOWHAI COAST 19: WHANANAKI WALKWAY TO BOUGAINVILLE MONUMENT 20: TE ARAROA -THE LONG PATHWAY: PART 1:TUTUKAKA- MATAPOURI 21: TE ARAROA-THE LONG PATHWAY PART 2: MATAPOURI TO TUTUKAKA, 22: TROUNSON KAURI PARK AND DONNELLY'S CROSSING 23: THE PAKOTAI KAURI: FORGOTTEN GIANTS 24: THE KAURI MUSEUM AT MATAKOHE 25: PUKETI FOREST 26: WAIHOANGA GORGE WALK 27: OMAHUTA FOREST SANCTUARY 28: MANGAMUKA SCENIC RESERVE 29 HEREKINO: THE NORTHERN-MOST 30: CONCLUSION: NORTHLAND’S HIDDEN POTENTIAL
NORTHLAND’S HIDDEN POTENTIAL
Like the underside of an iceberg Northland has a subtle and profound secret
potential. How to define and explore it has taken my wife Jan and me several
years of wide ranging research. We had already spent forty-five years studying
Northland’s undersea riches, subject of several of my eighteen books and natural
history documentaries. It was only after visiting some two hundred locations
and documenting them in multiple ways: their landscape charms and diverse
flora and fauna, that I felt ready to reach an understanding; an interpretation.
The obvious attractions of Northland are well known and deservedly famous but
there is a huge, little known resource that is just as great – perhaps even greater!
Growing up in Canterbury both Jan and I were used to vast distances and few
changes within the eye’s horizon but in Northland we have come to realise, if we
have not found something amazing within twenty kilometres, we are going too
fast; we have missed something. But why should this be?
Then one day I found a vital clue as to why Northland is so special. An ecologist
reminded me that Northland has eighteen ecological districts, with distinct
aspects in each. This results from its chaotic geological history: this slender mid-
ocean finger of land has been torn and twisted and erupted and in some places
turned completely upside down. The outcome is such a complex mosaic of little
worlds and special places; it takes a huge effort to appreciate them all. But such
a diversity of charms within small travelling distances is just what the well-
educated, intelligent visitor of today finds most rewarding. In Trounson Park we
once met two separate groups of Austrians who already knew our ferns and
I would venture to say a great many people in Northland are not yet aware of
how much it has to offer. We tend to follow the same major highways and
bypass for years the unfamiliar spots that don’t leap out of tourist brochures.
With two utterly different coasts in such short proximity you can strategise your selection
according to the prevailing winds, to find a sheltered shore or a fine surf break,
according to your taste. You can wander through groves of ancient and gigantic
trees; stand at the portal of a vast harbour at dusk; slide down giant sand dunes;
swim in pristine river pools and gin-clear lakes, climb to mountain crags on a
track easy enough for a granny. There are thundering waterfalls and leaping
torrents; a dozen or so harbours, vast or intimate; sandy, bush-encircled coves
and mind-expanding ocean surf beaches; glow-worm caves, rainforest trails,
kayak courses, cycle ways and the fish-teeming undersea city of the Poor Knights
Islands Marine Reserve. And that is just the first layer in this chocolate box of delights!
I believe it is these less obvious aspects of Northland that are its hidden potential.
Finding your way amidst such diverse riches when holiday time is limited
requires guidance and foreknowledge. The resource we have created: Riches of
the North will enable visitors to discriminate within that multi-layered box of
candy that extends northwards from Auckland city. Of course, once you taste
some of these morsels of delight, you may very well get the urge to sample more
and more on return visits. Northland is a wilderness gourmet’s delight.
SMUGGLERS COVE -WHANGAREI ENTRANCE,