Monday, January 9, 2012

3 January 2012: Te Papa and Owhiro Bay

Wow and wow!  Today, we visited the New Zealand's official museum: Te Papa.  Located in downtown Wellington and only a stone's throw from our hostel, Te Papa is a state-of-the-art museum featuring incredible displays and hands-on activities for young and old.  One of the most impressive displays in the museum is the section devoted to the Waitangi Treaty, the document signed by hundreds of Maori chiefs in 1840 that gave their sovereignty to Queen Victoria of England.  The section of the museum features the English and Maori interpretations of the Treaty, and the highlights the fact that the two versions of the document were not exactly the same: the Maori version of the document states a 'government' would be constructed in the country, but in the English version, the ruling is strictly assigned to the Queen of England.  It would be some time before the Maori would establish their rights in the country, but a revision of the document in 1975, called the Waitangi Tribunal, began the difficult process of reconciling the obvious improprieties of the original document.  Admittedly, it was impressive to see that a colonial country could begin to reconcile their initial actions (but, then again, maybe the British had learned a thing or two about governing their colonies...ahem!).  In addition to the Waitangi Treaty, the museum had an impressive section on the flora and fauna of New Zealand, including some of the massive species that went extinct following the arrival of humans (the Maori).

After our day in the museum, our group headed out to Owhiro (pronounced oh-fear-o) Bay in search of seals.  We had another incredible day of austral summer: bright summer sun and a good breeze blowing in from the sea.  We poked around on exposed rocks along the shoreline and found many chiton and snails, the odd crab, and a few sculpin-like fish.  Under the advice of a graduate student at Victoria University in Wellington, we headed down the beach in search of seals; and we found one!  Our group managed LOTS of pictures of our lone friend on the beach, but it made the 3-mile hike worth it!

Dr. James Moran checking out a sleeping fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella; look at the center of the picture!).

Lindsay Bordonaro (History/ Education; blue coat) and Angela Broyles (International Studies) examine a tidal pool in Owhiro Bay.

Brittany Farron (Biology/ Chemistry) examines the fur seal we found in Owhiro Bay.

Peter Kelleher (Psychology) pondering the great mysteries of the universe...or wondering how he's going to get down from the giant boulder he's standing upon!

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