Topic: People - Follow-ups

Topic type:

PLEASE NOTE:  Dates recorded AFTER 18.9.2010 will be FOLLOW UPS ONLY as the Tongaporutu project proper is now finished.














17.11.2010   PHO2011-1958, 1961


I had arranged some time ago to take Glyn Church up to Tongaporutu, specifically Te Kawau Pa, because I thought he might be interested in the beautiful coastal bush there.  Glyn does a gardening column in conjunction with Abbie Jury for the Taranaki Daily News.  His writing title is:  The Constant Gardener.


We lucked in with a beautiful day and just as I suspected, Glyn succumbed to the magic of the wild coastline and the diversity of the bush.  This particular tract of bush is located on the mainland pa site known as Te Puia.  Te Puia is situated above the very large cave near the Keyhole.  Te Kawau Pa proper is the large rock stack that I call Lion Rock.


While we were having lunch at the Te Kawau Reserve parking spot, we were joined by a noisy trio of roosters.  These beautiful birds, all of a different breed, had obviously been well cared for, but were also apparently, surplus to the breeder’s requirements.  He/she didn’t have the heart to put them down, so dumped them at Te Kawau Pa where he thought they might have a chance of survival in the wild.  It was quite sad really as these birds were obviously used to humans.  PHO2011-1958 shows the trio near Glyn’s car.


Glyn’s subsequent article, complete with some of his photos, appeared in the December 31st, 2010 issue of the Taranaki Daily News on page 11.  He delayed publication because of terns nesting on nearby rock stacks.










6.11.2010   PHO2012-0581


While recording the cliff collapses on the beach, I took the opportunity to photograph two people.  They were standing in front of a cliff collapse that took out the low passageway cave immediately to the north of the Three Sisters Cave.





I was staying up at the Gibbs’ rental unit over the weekend, (the 6th and the 7th).  This was primarily to catch up with Rodney White and the Gibbs regarding the Maori names for the Tongaporutu coastline map that I have re-done.  I had given them both a copy of the old map a few months ago so that they could add the Maori names where necessary.


I’d arranged to see Rodney at the Gibbs’ place at 2 pm.  We all had a good talk.  Rodney had some reservations.  This wasn’t unreasonable as it takes time to build a relationship.  Rodney had kindly added the Maori names to the old map, this being a priority for me.  If places or sites had a Maori name, then it was imperative for them to be recorded.


I later learned that Rodney prefers to work through the Gibbs; that is, the Gibbs are his preferred point of contact.  Rodney is usually quite busy, not that the Gibbs aren’t.  Also, he is out a lot.  I don’t have a problem with this.  Actually it’s more convenient for me.  Ultimately I hope that Rodney will add the Maori stories to the Tongaporutu Project so that everyone, me included, can benefit from them.



18.11.2010   PHO2011-2135


I had gone up to Tonga as the subject of a film shoot for the upcoming ‘What If’ exhibition to be held at Puke Ariki.  Keith Finnerty was the film-maker and Dave, an American, was the sound man.





I phoned the Gibbs and spoke to Russell re Glyn Church’s Te Kawau Pa article in the Taranaki Daily News.   (The Gardening Section.)  I discovered that Te Kawau Pa is actually the large rock stack that I call Lion Rock.  Anyway, Russell said people weren’t supposed to go on there as it’s an urupa, (cemetery).  He thought that’s where Glyn and I had gone.  After explaining where we had actually gone, Russell said where we went was the mainland pa, Te Puia and that was alright.  He added (if I remember right), the Department of Conservation had taken it over, but that they (Maori) wanted it returned.







13.2.2011   PHO2012-0605


Down on the beach at the gap, I saw a woman there, along with a kayak.  I asked if she would pose for me, looking towards the gap.  She happily obliged.  As with so many of the people I photographed, I didn’t ask her name, but I did tell her what I was working on.





With it being fine, along with an exceptionally low 0.0m tide, quite a few people were on the beach.  Some of whom were gathering mussels.  While photographing there, I spoke to a couple who were visiting from America.  They thought it was an amazing place.



29.7.2011   PHO2012-0538, 0541, 0544, 0546, 0549-0550,


After experiencing the catastrophic damage meted out to the Three Sisters dune in particular on the 17th July due to a mega-storm, I wanted Gary Bastin, a scientist at Puke Ariki and Glyn Church, a plantsman and author, to see for themselves, this once in a lifetime event.


I also advised the Taranaki Geological Society in case anyone wanted to come up and hear a scientific perspective of what was happening.  I wasn’t really expecting anyone to come due to the short notice, but Susan Burgess, the president of the Taranaki Geological Society and her husband Ian, joined us.  I also left phone messages for the Gibbs and the O’Sullivans, but nobody came.


As the Gibbs’ two tracks had been destroyed at the bottom, we went around via the Tonga Reserve public access.  This hugs close to the cliffs and the Tonga River comes right in close for a short distance just before you reach the Three Sisters Beach.


Before we even got down to the beach just below the Reserve, we saw lots of dead broad-billed prions jammed into the boulder sea-wall.  It was very sad.  Lots of flotsam and logs had also overtopped the bank.  It must have been a spectacular sight at the time.  (Which I didn’t record).


Just before we arrived at the dune we came across an American geologist.  He was measuring the distances between the sedimentary layers in the cliff.  He was from the University of Montana (from memory) and was being sponsored by GNS here.

Around at the dune everyone was overwhelmed at the destruction.  They were also amazed at the ancient forest, that due to severe beach scouring, had been revealed for the first time.  When I was here two weeks ago, I did see a large ancient tree trunk, but the beach has lost more material since then.


It was actually quite sobering.  On the one hand you were seeing a forest that had once grown and thrived here and on the other, you were seeing a currently living forest being destroyed.


I also showed Gary and Glyn in particular, the cliff section collapse site and the New Sister.  We all then went into the Three Sisters cave and through the corridor cave that is a part of this cave system.  Normally the passage through is hindered by deep water, but it was mostly built up with sand.  This had presumably emigrated here from the totally scoured out beach at Zone Two.  Ian carried on to the Point but I knew that he wouldn’t be able to access the Four Brothers Beach.


On the way back over the slippery rocks, Ian slipped and fell over twice.  On the second fall he dislocated his hip.  Apparently it dislocates quite easily, but I felt quite bad about it.  He was the only one in bare feet.  I phoned Susan the next day and Ian had improved considerably.  I suggested that it might be safer wearing footwear in future, even though it might get wet.  Footwear presents a larger platform when walking on slippery rocks.  I think we both learnt something from that.


PHO2012-0549 and 0550 both feature Gary Bastin.








5.12.2010   PHO2012-0592


I called in to see Carol.  After greeting each other, I added some water to a jar that had a rooted geranium in it.  She said that she loved geraniums.  I replied that it had a good enough root system to be planted out.  She then gave me a page with some hand-written notes of past memories.  She hoped that they wouldn’t be too hard to follow.  I left shortly afterwards thinking how frail she looked.


A few days later I typed them up.  As I had difficulty reading some of Carol writing, I planned to check what I’d typed out with her when I visited her next.  In the meantime, the following is what I could make out from her recollections.


“A bull pushed another bull over the cliff.  It was killed.  On another occasion a dog pushed George’s dog over the cliff.  It too was killed.


The fauna on the cliff side is not very strong.  That’s why we planted the pohutukawa to strengthen it up, but even they couldn’t stop the erosion.  Other plants were mainly flax and small rooted things.  The erosion is especially severe where that bight had come in.  (Horseshoe Cove to the rear of Pinocchio).  We don’t see any action up here, only when a piece (of cliff) breaks off.  We can hear it though.  Even on calm nights the light surf makes booming noises.


One thing I particularly remember was when Stephen rode on his motorbike from the Tonga River to Pukearuhe and back one day and never even got wet.  Amazing.  I don’t think that has ever been done before.  At least not that we know about.  That was a long time ago.”


NOTE:  I originally interviewed both Carol and George on 21.3.2004, so these notes are additional to those.


Later on, down on the Four Brothers Beach, I photographed Ricky Gallatly, an Oceanographer and Ava Zecevic from the United Kingdom standing in front of a cliff collapse located at the entrance of Cathedral Cave.


When photographing people next to cliff collapses, I always ensure that they are not in the immediate danger zones.  In this instance, the cliff/cave wall collapses always occur on the landward side of the cave’s entrance.  (In this view, ‘landward’ being to the left).



Mid December 2010


Kathy phoned to advise me that Carol was terminally ill and had only been given one to two months to live.  She knew how close we had become and said it would be nice if I could visit.





A weather bomb crossed the country.  I hadn’t deliberately timed my visit to coincide with such an event as I’d arranged to come up on this day a week ago.


Remembering that Carol loved geraniums, I stopped by at Big Jim’s Garden Centre and bought her a deep pink and black flowered pergolium.  Pergoliums are a fancy version of geraniums.  I was quite shocked to see her confined to a hospice bed in her living room.  She had been in the hospice for a week, presumably to stabilize her condition before letting her return home to be with her family.


Quite a few family members were there.  I felt extremely privileged to be regarded as a surrogate family member on this deeply private and personal family occasion.  Occasion not really being the right word.


Carol and I had a good chat and we held each other’s hands.  I didn’t mention the difficulty I’d had in reading her handwritten recollections.  At least I knew now why.


A canvas photo of the Three Sisters that I had given her some time back was up on the wall above the television.  Looking outside, I saw a stone frog on her deck.  I said that she had a great view of the farmland and hills outside which was nice.  She added that early that morning she’d seen the cat play with the sheep.


I asked Carol if she was scared.  She confided that she was, but said also that she wanted to be with George.  She felt bad about her family having to go through this.  That was natural enough I thought.  But I also thought that deep down she knew that her family cared about her enough to allow her the dignity to die in her own home surrounded by people, her family, who loved her the most. 


I then harkened back to my mum, when she had been scared.  I told Carol what I’d said to mum, “Remember Wenderholm (mum’s favourite place), and the good times we had there.”  Mum then opened her eyes and squeezed my hand.  This helped me as much as her as I had given mum something positive to hold onto.  I suggested to Carol that when the time for her drew near, she could also think of a favourite place that she’d shared with her beloved George.  That this might help her.


We both smiled at each other, then after sitting with her a while, I said that I’d do some storm photography, and then call back into see her before I left.  I will always remember that last look she gave me when I returned as we held hands.  It was a look which seemed to say that we would never see each other again.


That played on my mind and I was determined that it wouldn’t be so.









I phoned Kathy to see how Carol was.  She said that she was a lot brighter and clearer in her mind now that the hospice had increased her morphine dosage.  Also, she was eating a little better.  I asked about visiting, if it would be alright.  Kathy said that Carol would like to see me, that she looked forward to visitors.  That made me think back to when dad was terminally ill in hospital.  That is exactly what he wanted.  For family and friends to visit him.  It was only when dad was dying that I discovered that Dr Who was his favourite television programme and that yellow was his favourite colour.  So much had been left unsaid and remained unknown.


I plan to go up and see Carol on Sunday, 16th January.



16.1.2011   PHO2012-0603


It was very hot today.  Carol had been shifted to her conservatory.  Though she looked very frail, she was brighter and more alert.  A blanket had been put up to the side window so she wouldn’t get too hot.  A number of visitors turned up, including one lady older than me who had driven up from Waitara.  She was nicely dressed and had a small, white poodle with her.


Carol’s surviving canary was singing great guns, probably due to the human chatter that was going on.  Another thing that seemed to go on and on was her spin dryer.  I commented that it seemed to be taking “forever” to stop.  Later, as I washed the cups after everyone had finished their drinks, I noticed how Carol’s kitchen windows were hazed up with salt spray.  A bit like some of my windows.


I’d brought my camera up as I wanted to take some photos of Carol.  I don’t really know why I wanted to, just that I seemed to have a need to.  With Carol’s permission and blessing, also that of Kathy’s, I took several photos of Carol.  After I’d finished, she commented that she probably wouldn’t live to see them.  I silently acknowledged that.  I am finding myself to be more emotionally affected than expected.  But that’s a good thing I think.  I promised Carol that this wouldn’t be the last time she’d see me.  I confided to her about how she’d looked at me last time.  Like it was the last time she thought that she would see me.  I didn’t want to leave her with that thought again.  That was a small comfort I could give her.  One particular poignant comment Carol whispered was:  “I’m going to miss seeing it.”  (Her beloved coastline).


I plan to go up again next Monday, 24th January.


NOTE:  The photo of Carol is available for public viewing, with permission gained from Carol herself at the time, and later, with Kathy and Stephen MacKenzies’ permission.  Information regarding possible usage other than just viewing here in this context can be obtained from Puke Ariki and Kathy and Stephen MacKenzie at Tongaporutu.




I went up to see Carol today, Sunday, as road works starts on Mt Messenger on the 24th.  Sundays will be the only days when road works won’t be carried out.


The weather was absolutely hideous.  Gale south-easterlies coupled with pelting rain.  The driving conditions were the worst I have ever experienced going up to Tonga.  This was thanks to a second weather bomb pulverising the North Island.  The first one was on the 28th December 2010.  Both weather bombs were tropical in origin, thanks to a powerful La Nina.


Carol was inside the house in her bed by the window as it was too cold to be in the conservatory.  In fact it got so cold that her family lit a fire.  This was also to dry out some blankets.


Ratbag the cat was lying on her bed and a small dog, I’ve forgotten its name, was napping on a sumptuous sheepskin rug beneath a large, flat screen television set.  The programme was about sharks.  One of the Discovery channels.  However, it kept ‘dropping off’ because of the weather conditions.


Carol appeared stable.  That is, she appeared little changed from my last visit.  We talked a fair bit.  She said that she used to go fishing from the Gibbs’ Fishing Point and had caught quite a few nice snapper there.  She’d also had a horse called Goldie and that they’d ridden up the hill where the Old Man Puriri is.  (Although Carol has a soft spot for the Old Man Puriri tree, kowhais are her favourite trees).  On one occasion it had been quite scary as the weather had closed in.  Goldie was a chestnut mare with a white spot on her forehead.  She lived to be about 35 years of age.  It was quite funny to find out that we both liked similar things.


Carol commented that she didn’t know why she loved me but she did.  I said the same thing.  It’s like we just grew on each other for want of a better way of putting it.


Shortly after we’d had a drink of Milo, hers with sugar, and some scrummy chocolate cake, the hospice nurse arrived.  I waited at the table near the kitchen with Gordon while Kathy attended to Carol with the nurse.


At around 4 pm I said I had better leave as I wasn’t sure that I’d get through the Uruti Valley.  It was beginning to flood on the way up.  Though it was wet and windy up at Tonga, the seas were quite flat due to the wind being offshore.  I promised that I would come up again next Sunday.  Carol didn’t have any other visitors today, understandable given the atrocious weather.


Travelling through the Uruti Valley, the floodwaters had just started to spill across the main highway in a couple of places.  I was glad to get home.





I came up to Tonga to visit Carol.  She was sitting in her conservatory as it was warm and sunny.  Her canary was his usual chirpy self thanks to the people who were there.  A couple of children were there also and were riding bikes.  Ratbag made an appearance and Pepe, Francis’ little 12 year old bitch was also in the conservatory.  A man was also there reading the paper.  A couple of people commented on the hole in one of my socks.  I said it was because they were made in China.  Nothing made there lasts long in the clothing department.  Trouble is you don’t have a choice.  Practically every bloody thing is made in China.  I’d rather support my own country’s workforce than theirs.  Also, the quality would most likely be better.


Carol seemed to be in good spirits and appeared to be holding her own.  That is, she appeared to be in a fairly stable condition, not having visibly deteriorated.  I retrieved an apricot from my bag and was about to scoff it when Carol said that she liked apricots.  I went into her kitchen and cut it in half and we shared it.  She said she wasn’t in pain and was sleeping well.  Her family are obviously taking good care of her.  Perhaps also extending her life with their constant company.


While I was there, Stephen humanely slaughtered two pigs.  After he had done the first one, I left Carol for a short while to check on the Twin Arches cave system.  As I walked down the drive, the surviving pig that was also due for the chop, followed me all the way down the drive along the fence-line.  It obviously knew what had happened.  And what was in store for it.





I visited Carol today.  It’s been a fortnight since I was last up here.  This time I intended to do some ‘work’ as in documenting the dune on the Three Sisters Beach and the Twin Arches cave system from the cliff top.


It was very hot, not entirely unexpected for February.  Also, there was virtually no breeze and the insignificant clouds were threatening to give way to blue sky and boiling hot sun.


Carol was in bed in the lounge.  Members of her family were there as was Pepe the little dog and Ratbag the cat.  As no-one was in the conservatory, the canary was quiet.  Carol appeared more ‘shrunken’ than on my last visit, and I don’t mean that in an awful way.  She had a bandage on her right wrist to alleviate her arthritis.  We were both pleased to see each other.


‘Whatsaname’ made me a drink of Milo and gave me a freshly baked scrummy cheese scone.  ‘Whatsanames’ peppered our conversations as Carol had trouble remembering some people’s names.  This included her ‘boyfriend’ who had given her a bunch of light coloured roses.  She was very pleased with these.  There was also another bunch of freshly purchased blooms.  We bounced our ‘Whatsanames’ and ‘Thingys’ off each other as I am fairly hopeless at remembering people’s names.  I also transpose people’s names which is equally frustrating!


The large, flat screen tele had the usual Discovery channel on.  It featured the same subject matter that had been on the last time I visited.  Sharks, sharks and yet more sharks.  It even showed some people who were adrift in a rubber inflatable.  The people were covered in sores and two of them were so thirsty they even resorted to drinking seawater.  This was despite the immaculate, no wrinkles in sight, female announcer whose name I have forgotten, saying how dangerous this was.  Anyway, it cued to blood in the water and wait for it, more sharks!  Carol said that they seemed to have this sort of programme on at the weekends.


We both moaned about the flocks of flies, big ones and little ones that were buzzing around thanks to the sultry weather.


We talked about the sea and swimming.  I was surprised to learn that she didn’t like swimming in the sea.  She liked to paddle in the pools when she was younger and fitter.  She also intimated that she used to go down a track to the beach with her favourite dog.  I think it was a spaniel.  She actually had two spaniels, though not at the same time.  The favourite one was a lighter coloured spaniel.


Like me, she had stuff in her wardrobe and upper cupboards that had been there for ages.  I commented that as with some of my stuff, a museum would probably be glad of them!


Later on, Kathy advised that Carol’s morphine had been increased to better control her pain.  Kathy also said that Carol had been restless the past couple of days, but she was more settled today.


After sitting with Carol for a while I went to the cliff top to photograph the Twin Arches cave system.  When I’d finished and after the Hospice nurse had been, I returned and sat with Carol a little longer.  I left around 4.15 pm.  This was around the time her family start to prepare tea.  Unfortunately, Carol is eating very little, but she does enjoy her Powerade fruit juices that Andrew gets for her.  I think that’s right.





I had come up to Tonga to do a number of things, one of which was to visit Carol.  I last saw her three weeks ago.  Back then she was alert and we talked quite a bit.  We also commented on the dolphins on T.V.  The past couple of times prior to that, sharks and blood and gore had hogged the T.V. screen.


Today, the T.V. wasn’t on and Carol’s bed had been turned around so that she could face the outside paddock with a distant view to White Cliffs.  Carol herself was asleep.  It was obvious that she had deteriorated quite a bit since my last visit.  Her hearing seemed diminished and she was in quite a bit of pain.  Her words:  “My bum hurts,”  were repeated twice.  Carol is on morphine, but obviously it wasn’t killing all of her pain.  We didn’t talk much as it seemed to be too much of an effort for her and she kept nodding off.  I sat with her for some time.  Before I left, I kissed her on her forehead and said how much I cared about her.  I know from past experience that the hearing is the last thing to go.  It’s not pleasant watching someone you care deeply about slowly wither away.


Prince William, who attended the Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Service on the 18th, put it so eloquently when he said:  “Grief is the price one pays for love.”  This was what his grandmother, the Queen, had intimated to him.


It was obviously hard on her family, but they will never regret the decision to allow Carol to die in her own home, surrounded by them, her loving family.  It is easier individually being able to split the caring workload between the family members.  The situation though is bittersweet.  On the one hand everyone wants it all to be over, Carol included, while on the other hand, they don’t want to lose her.  Death is so final.  Everyone does want for her suffering to end.  And soon.


Later on in the afternoon I accessed the Three Sisters beach and the Four Brothers beach.  As with the Three Sisters beach, I saw a number of people on the Four Brothers beach.  A couple of horse riders rode past, then parked up outside the southern entrance to the Twin Arches cave.  One rider was a young girl and the other was a Maori man.  He doffed his hat to me and we commented on how nice it was.  Such manners as doffing one’s hat is almost a forgotten art in this day and age.  It was much appreciated and I responded in kind.


A little later, I set my camera up to take a shot looking north along the beach with some nicely positioned rocks in the foreground.  With the tide being so far out, this was a rarely available viewpoint.  Also, these low lying rocks weren’t always uncovered.  Just as I was about to take my photo, a couple walking near Pinocchio threatened to come into the shot.  I asked them if they would mind waiting for a minute or two.  They were very obliging.  The lady was from America but the man lived in New Plymouth.  I can’t remember if he was also American.  Anyway, we waited for a few minutes as I had to time the shot between incoming waves.  I wanted the rocks to be wave free and also to have some reflection in the wet sand.


After I had the shot in the bag, I asked the couple if they wanted to have a look through the viewfinder.  The lady commented something like:  “National Geographic would pay $1,000 for this.”  I smiled and said, “Wouldn’t that be nice.”  After that, we both wished each other the best and we went our separate ways.


Though I had specific images that I needed to take, for example, the Twin Arches cave collapse evolution, I always like to be open to anything else that appealed.  I took this beach scene simply because I liked it.





Gordon MacKenzie phoned at around 6.50 pm last night.  He said that Carol had passed away.  He also said that it was what she’d wanted.  This was something that we all knew.  Importantly, her suffering had come to an end.  I said that I would like to attend her funeral and Gordon replied that they would like to have me there.  The funeral arrangements hadn’t yet been finalised, but the details would be in Monday’s paper, the Taranaki Daily News.




The weather was sunny and hot.  Perfect weather for Carol’s funeral, due to be held at her home at Tongaporutu at 1 o’clock this afternoon.


Upon my arrival, I saw loads of cars parked up in the main entrance and in the paddock outside Kathy’s house.  I estimated that there were well over a hundred people there.  A mini-marquee had been set up on the small seaward front lawn of Carol’s house.  Refreshments had been laid out for later.  On the back or landward lawn a small black tent had also been erected.


Inside Carol’s house, I paid my respects to Gordon and the others.  Gordon asked if I had brought my camera.  I had thought about bringing it up, but thought it might have been a bit crass.  Ultimately I’m glad that I didn’t.  With so many people there, it would have been easy to miss people out who perhaps mattered more than some others.  And there was always the chance of causing offence.


Gordon asked if I wanted to see Carol in her coffin.  She had been laid out in the lounge where she had been when she was alive.  The last time I saw anyone laid out dead was when I was eleven in the U.K. when my grandfather died.  The memory I retain of him is that he looked very yellow.  I was a bit nervous ...  Carol looked remarkably similar to when I last saw her.  I knew then, on the 20th, that she hadn’t got much longer to live.  I couldn’t look at her for long in the coffin and came away choking back tears.


Her surviving canary was very quiet, despite all of the people.  Pepe, the little dog was there.  Shortly afterwards, Carol’s coffin was closed and she was carried outside by family members.  They set the coffin up on a hay bale on the back lawn close to the northern side of the house.


A nice service was delivered.  Carol had loved life, her family and her friends.  Stories were told by some of her family members and others.  During this time I was stung on my left arm by a tiny wasp.  It was like being injected with acid.  Boy, did it burn.


After the service, I joined others in placing a small flower on Carol’s coffin which had been shifted into the black tent.  Some of the people wrote personal messages on the coffin as did I.  This was a nice touch I thought and was something I wasn’t familiar with.


People then mingled and partook of the refreshments provided.  I had a couple of sandwiches and a couple of small pies, plus a currant scone thing.  Afterwards, I sat on a form out the back.  In this spot there was a barbeque, a shed and a low pohutukawa hedge.  I chatted with the people who were there.  I then got bitten twice on the lower left leg.  Sandflies I think.  Due to the large amount of food present, there were zillions of small flies and wasps, both small and large.


I asked Gordon if Carol’s name would be added to the memorial rock on the Gibbs’ Fishing Point as I would like to photograph it.  He said he would advise when that happened.


After around a couple of hours I finally drove home.  I didn’t sleep that night.  I hadn’t slept much for the past week.  In part due to being stressed out over big jobs pending in the garden such as chainsawing, preparing a power-point presentation with Gary Bastin for Puke Ariki’s ‘What If?’ exhibition, but most of all watching Carol, someone I cared deeply for, slowly wither away and die.


I was glad that I had been able to make her laugh and of the stories we had shared.  My life has been made all the richer for having known Carol.  I will miss her dearly.





Some time ago, Bill, at the Puke Ariki Research Centre, who is interested in maps, asked if I would like to take some people from Sweden up to Tonga.  Apparently they were from a university.  I said yes, then filed it away in my mental filing cabinet.


Last Thursday, the 7th April, Bill said that the students were now at Puke Ariki.  I then met up with Josefin (pronounced Josephine) Carlsson.  She had my map showing on her computer.  She’d love to go up to Tonga with her teacher, and one other student was also interested in going up.  I said that I’d have to check up on the tides.  To that she replied that they were leaving New Plymouth the following Friday, the 15th.


When she rang that evening, I said that the best day was Thursday when a 0.8m low tide was due at 12.20 pm.  Unfortunately for them, the best time and tide would have been the following week.  As they wouldn’t be here, it was Thursday or nothing as prior to that the low tides would have been even higher and due earlier.  Josefin said she would phone the following Wednesday with regards to the weather and other details.


The day in question, the 14th, was fine with virtually no wind.  And it had been calm and fine all week.  There was flat cloud in the morning, but by lunchtime it had broken up and the sun came out.


I met up with Josefin and her teacher, Anders Fridfeldt at Urenui.  The other student had obviously decided against coming up.  We all went up in my car as I am okay driving, but can get car sick as a passenger.


Up at Tonga it was hot.  We popped in to see Pirani Gibbs so that Anders could pay a koha for access to the Gibbs’ farm track.  This was in accordance with Maori custom.  We then drove down the track to the barn with Josefin being the gate opener!


Down on the beach, Josefin had a very good Canon digital camera and a notepad.  Both humped heavy backpacks, unlike me.  The beach at all zones was very well built up and the sea state was slight.  Mt Egmont partially cleared and visibility was very good.  Josefin and Anders were clearly impressed by the magnificence that is the Tonga coastline.  Especially as Tonga turned it all on today by way of perfect weather.  Josefin was particularly susceptible to sandflies, but I said they weren’t in the multitudes experienced on the West Coast of the South Island.  (She subsequently only got bitten once).

Anders explained about the different faults and rock strata.  He also directed Josefin to photograph specific things on the coastline and cliffs that were relevant to her studies.  She also wrote down information and used a GPS unit to give a perfect location reading for each photo.  Josefin was studying geography.  She intimated that it was a much more difficult subject than many people realised.  It wasn’t like the ordinary geography lessons at school.


The thing they particularly liked was that there were so many different erosion processes on view in such a compact area.  This was one reason why the university liked ‘using’ New Zealand, because it had so many different land forms, etc., in a relatively small area.  Namibia was another country they utilized for teaching and research purposes.


They particularly liked Elephant Rock and could instantly relate to its name.  As the beach level was so good and the sea state quite small,  I took them out onto the sand bar at the Point so they could see along the Four Brothers Beach.  I pointed out the Brothers rock stacks and Cathedral Cave.


Time passed quickly and by the time we had reached the Point it was 12.10 pm.  Ten minutes to go until low tide.  We turned around and slowly walked back.  I pointed out a number of things.  One thing in particular was the tips of the rock platforms with their surviving mussels clinging onto life, their lower bretheren having been suffocated.  I explained about the platforms, their shapes.  I also (earlier on) showed them the cliff section collapse site and the New Sister.  While there, Anders asked if a lot of the erosion was caused by tectonic earthquakes.  I said that the coastline here was mostly carved out by wave action and weather.  I had also experienced ‘wavequakes’ when up on the cliffs when they were being smashed by huge waves.


I also showed how the carving action occurs – Gary having told me about there being no give at the base of the cliffs, but they can wobble at the top.  Anders concluded that this appeared to be right.  He was also interested in White Cliffs and how they were formed;  the faulting processes involved.


We sat and had lunch up on the Whitecliffs walkway farm road next to some rusting farm machinery.  This was just before the Locked Gate.  After lunch I planned to take them to the Fledglings Overlook and Gibbs’ Fishing Point that overlooks the Wall and the Four Brothers Beach.


Josefin and Anders both had a large carrot each for lunch as well as other food.  They also had plenty of water as I had advised them to bring lots of fluid.  While having lunch, we were serenaded by a lone cricket.  In conversation, Anders said he’d been to New Zealand about 50 times, visiting different parts of the country.  His favourite place was Wanaka.  This looks over Lake Pukaki and across to the Southern Alps.


After lunch we strolled down to the Fledglings Overlook.  We looked out along Beach One and I pointed out the highly unstable soil cliffs in the middle section.  I also explained about the beach, how even on one beach it can have different rates of coverage.  The reef near the Pipeline was exposed and there were two people on it.  Josefin and Anders were also interested in the hills to landward and their composition and faulting.


When finished there we went along to Gibbs Fishing Point and I explained about the Wall and that Cathedral Cave was to the rear.  Also that the cliffs further north along the Four Brothers Beach were more fractured than the wall-like cliffs down this end.


Finally, we returned to the car, then drove down to the MacKenzies.  From there we walked across the paddock to where it overlooked Cathedral Cave.  Anders commented that the cliff composition was similar to that of the Three Sisters Beach.  I said that I’d hoped to take them to Te Kawau Pa where there was more elaborate folding of the rock strata and that it was different to here.  Also, they could see the keyhole.


Unfortunately, we’d run out of time as they had to be back in New Plymouth by 4 pm to pick up the other students.  They were all staying in an apartment in Fitzroy.  On the way back, I asked Josefin what she wanted to do when she had finished her studies.  She said she wanted to be a teacher.  I agreed that was a good thing.  Also, what was the point of gaining a lot of knowledge about sometime if you don’t pass any of it on?  I said that in a small way I had been a teacher today by passing on to them some of my knowledge about a specific place.


Back at Urenui where they had left their rental vehicle, they both said they had enjoyed it up at Tonga and that it was a spectacular place.  I think they also realized how lucky they had been with the weather.


I said that I’d get some of the images I took of them burned to a disk and post it off to them.  Josefin said that she would send me a copy of her findings.


Though it was an enjoyable day, I was wiped out at the end of it as the past week had been hideously busy.


NOTE:  Though I did take photos with my digital camera, they somehow have managed to get themselves lost – no fault of my own of course!  Yeah right.  A bit of a bummer really.







Today, I saw Richard Foale.  He and his wife, Jolanda, own Heliview Helicopters.  I explained my Tongaporutu Project to him and said that I wanted to do some photography up at Tonga.  He seemed enthusiastic and said that he had taken some members of GNS Science up there last week.  They did a lot of photography of White Cliffs and of the Tonga Coastline.  Richard has a video camera permanently on board and he had also taken a video of the coastline from White Cliffs to up past Pilot Point.


He very generously gave me a copy of this and said that he would be interested in doing aerial photography several times a year.  Perhaps once every four or six months.  Naturally I was thrilled.  I told him about my upcoming presentation with Gary Bastin at Puke Ariki on the 6th July and said that if he or they came to it, it would give them a better understanding of what I was trying to achieve.

After this, I went into Puke Ariki and gave Gary the memory stick that Richard had given me of his aerial footage of the Tonga Coastline.





This is just a short, personal diary entry.


Today, I visited Tongaporutu to document the destruction meted out by this week’s mega-storm.  In a way it marks almost the end of the Tongaporutu Project.  Though the project had ‘officially’ finished last September, I made the mistake of forgetting that it was Tongaporutu that had initiated the project in the first place.  It was thus up to Tonga to decide when the project should actually finish, not me.

Without the Gibbs’ giving me access over their farm down to the Three Sisters Beach, I believe the project would have been all the poorer.


Today, that access suddenly ended with the near total destruction of the dune, and with it, the tracks down to the beach  Though I can access the Three Sisters and Four Brothers Beaches via the Reserve and Tonga River, I am taking it as a sign of the parting of our ways.


I still have to record the final death throes of the Three Sisters Beach dune, the New Sister being finally free of her parent cliff and the ultimate demise of the Twin Arches cave system which will result in a new rock stack.


After these final three events, the Tongaporutu Project will come to its own natural conclusion.





The New Sister is still attached to her parent cliff and the Twin Arches cave system hasn’t yet totally collapsed to yield a new rock stack.  The Three Sisters Beach dune continues to be destroyed and it looks like I’ll be close to the mark when I thought earlier that it would be gone within five years of the fatal sand/land bridge being washed away in July 2008.


That the New Sister will eventually break free and the Twin Arches cave will be completely destroyed is a certainty.  What isn’t a certainty is that I’ll be there to document them.


Tongaporutu’s journey will continue, but mine is now done.

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