December 5, 2011

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For the next two weeks, Dr. Phil McGillivary and Gavin Morris will be reporting from Auckland, New Zealand on marine conservation activities.  They will address some of Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Hope Spots during and after the International Congress for Conservation Biology.  The Congress is comprised of a series of workshops, symposia, presentations and field trips beginning with the Marine Conservation Think Tank sessions. These will be held the weekend before the main sessions of the Congress at the University of Auckland. 

November 30, 2011: The Day That Didn’t Exist. Welcome to Auckland for the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) 

Anyone who has ever flown to the West Pacific from the United States was probably left feeling the way we did.  Not only does it take the better part of a day to travel that far… crossing the International Date Line pushes you one day into the future!  So, for us, November 30 was truly a day that didn’t exist.

Photo: Dr. Phil McGillivary and Gavin Morris 

Before we begin discussing the activities at the Marine Conservation Think Tank, we’d like to give you an introduction to the city of Auckland.  Auckland is in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand and is the country’s largest city.  It is one of the only cities in the world that has both east and west facing ports into two different oceans.  To the east is the Pacific Ocean and to the west, the Tasman Sea.  Flanked by water as it is, sailing is very popular in Auckland – known as the City of Sails.

The city is encircled by settlements of the Maori people. We first paid respects by visiting the Waipapa Marae near our meeting venue.  Traditionally, across Polynesia, marae represent sacred meeting places circumscribed by stone platforms open to the air. An important point in the history of New Zealand was the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori and British Crown. 
Photo: Dr. Phil McGillivary and Gavin Morris

Because the treaty text was written on paper, it was necessary to enclose the marae to keep the papers dry during native discussions prior to their agreement. As a result New Zealand’s marae developed into enclosed wooden structures often with ancestors elaborately carved into the lintels.

Auckland has at its heart a conspicuous feature, the 328 meter high Sky Tower.  This makes it easy to navigate around town and down to the eastern waterfront where we saw a number of interesting ships.
The maritime history of the city was reflected by the beautiful square-rigged sailing ship, Spirit of New Zealand. Nearby we saw a thoroughly modern Chinese ship, a Long View-class vessel, which is one of three Chinese inter-continental ballistic missile tracking vessels.


Along the waterfront, we ran across interesting historical connections to the Ross Sea, one of Dr. Earle’s Hope Spots.  At the southwestern end of the Ross Sea is Ross Island where both New Zealand (Scott Base) and US (McMurdo Station) have Antarctic bases.  It is also the location of the hut used by British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton on his 1907-09 expedition to Antarctica.  
Photo: Dr. Phil McGillivary and Gavin Morris

During restoration work on the hut in 2006, three cases of Mackinlay’s Scottish whiskey were found a century after they had been abandoned. The whiskey was carefully reformulated in a limited edition now available, and is now the subject of a National Geographic TV Special.  For those of us assembling for a discussion of a Ross Sea Marine Protected Area at the ICCB workshops, this historical reminder of the importance of the Ross Sea seemed a very favorable omen.    


Written by Dr. Phil McGillivary

Submitted by Gavin Morris
Edited by Deb Castellana
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