alright so ms. rhonwyn has given me three rather uninteresting seeming baskets, and the task of ditching them (though she doesn't state how i'm supposed to do that exactly?). the up side? i have to do this task all across new zealand!!!
though sadly my first stop was not such new ground or anything i hadn't seen before...
rather it takes me back to my first arriving here in dunedin...to the albatross colony at taiaroa head. last time i was here, it was to see the giant northern royal albatross, this time ms. rhonwyn wants me to check out the "disappearing gun" and former maori pā. i really wish she hadn't used so many untranslated maori words... and how i was going to find a vanishing weapon i wasn't sure...
first thing was first. the ticket she gave me was for not only a tour of the gun, but also a look at the albatross. incidentally the albatross were the first thing i was going to have to see, and i wasn't complaining!
as we wandered up the hill i remembered my first visit here almost a year ago (man has it been that long people of the innerweb?). that was during the whole countdown of doom where the government was going to deport me unless i met their criteria. i'd tried to live out here on the peninsula and get a job here at the albatross colony. that of course didn't work out so well.
i was real excited though. the last time i'd been here it wasn't the ideal albatross watching day. today on the other hand it was windy as, and kinda blah out. perfect for albatross!
their so big and heavy they can't fly under their power. if the wind is heavy though they'd be out and about. so i kept my claws crossed...
as this is the ONLY mainland nesting site of albatross in the world the department of conservation keep the place really secure. as a security guard... er i guess former security guard!... i can appreciate their stance. that and knowing the department first hand i know they mean business!
as the tour group i was with cleared the barb wired, pass coded, tall fences i wondered if this added security was part of why ms. rhonwyn wanted me to try and get rid of the baskets here...
wait what if this worked? what if i lost ALL the baskets here today?!? would i still get to travel across new zealand?!?!?
i stewed on that till we got up to the albatross viewing hide. than my mind wandered onto the incredible sight before me (if only these were wandering albatross than i'd have made an awesome pun there!).
the albatross were indeed out and about flying. in fact there were three of them, and all they did was fly around the hide in circles. meaning the whole time there were albatrosses flying by!
that's a pretty uncommon sight at the observatory most of the time. sure you'd see a bird or two fly while you're there, but to have them non stop flying around needs the right conditions.
first it needs to be windy. being the headland out to open ocean not as hard as it might be else where. however the time of year is the other factor.
you see it's the beginning of albatross mating season. the three birds doing the loop around the hill were teenagers looking to impress prospective mates... i can kind of sympathize. having had my shots are trying to impress females it's not easy!
it was an awesome 25 minutes though. these birds are among the most impressive and majestic i've ever seen. good to see we coelurosaurs didn't lose our flare for evolutionary show man ship.
to give you an idea of scale in this picture that albatross is BEHIND that fence. had i taken the picture a moment earlier the albatross would have been behind it to really show that off. it should be noted that's a 3 metre high fence!
the time just flew by (there's my working albatross pun!) and it was time to move onto my assigned task. the disappearing gun.
i couldn't help as we made our to the opposite end of the hill that the security was still in place (though the fences weren't as high as the 3m one lining the albatrosses area).
we approached a creepy old bunker looking tunnel. the tour guide welcomed us to the disappearing gun tour, and i noted immediately it was well named. there was no gun to be seen.
the guide informed us that we were going to proceed into the tunnel, and onto check out the gun.
though the tunnel was a very cool movie like place, i admit i was feeling a little too chicken to proceed inward. normally i'd have loved too. however after all the recent creepiness, most notable the ghost i ran into at the cemetery and the noises in the museum when this whole basket business began, i'm still a little jittery when it comes to potential scariness i guess...
inward the tour went though. was i going to chicken out completely, and fail my first big museum role ever?
taking one look back at the safety of the sunlight world i swallowed my fear (as best i could), and push on after the tour group...
as we walked the guide informed us that this was a defensive fort built in the 1890's to defend new zealand against feared russian invasion. wow before they were even soviet than!our first stop was the observation/lookout station of the fort. from here soldiers were ever on the look out for hostile warships... kinda like a real world game of battleship.
from here you could also see one of taiaroa head's main landmarks, the lighthouse.
this we were informed was just the surface level of the fort though, and that what we'd come to see was in the bowels of the place...
i thought those first tunnels were freaky, this lower level was even... uh "better".
the trip was worthwhile, as i learned what the disappearing gun was though. so the kiwi's were scared of the proto soviets so much so they decided they needed to have a big weapon to fend them off.
as deathstars hadn't been invented yet they settled for a... well if you ask me... pretty small weapon. an anti-ship cannon that they made stealthy.
oh okay cloaking technology i thought that explains the lack of mega size! turns out no.
they put the this gun in a trench on the top of the hill. building a spring contraption to lift the gun out of the hole when they shot it it'd spring back into it's hidy hole. meaning the enemy ship wouldn't really see it, and be able to fire back at it.
okay might not be future tech cool, but i have to admit very clever. i'd never have thought of that!
i also might have been a little hasty in saying it was a tiny weapon. getting face to face with it i admit it's a pretty big gun... not quite deathstar big mind you... but i'm travelling around new zealand not a small moon!
wait i was at the disappearing gun... ms. rhonwyn had told me to make sure i got the baskets here, but how do i get rid of them.
the tour guide talked a bit more about the history of the gun. suddenly i realized maybe what ms. rhonwyn meant by the baskets "leaving" was that the tour guides i ran into would make them leave.
"uh excuse me," i asked the guide in a lull in his spiel.
"yes," he cheerfully responded expecting me to ask a question. i simply held up the baskets.
"uh those are nice sir," the guide hesitantly responded clearly VERY confused by my action.
what that didn't make any sense? why didn't he take them i thought. than it hit me.
disappearing gun and maori pā. ms. rhonwyn hadn't been talking in maori. she was using code! cause there hadn't been anything about the maori yet on the tour... if i said that phrase than the guide would know what to do... clever ms. rhonwyn!
"what about if i said maori pā?" i sleekly mentioned.
"oh i follow you now sir," the guide smiled. "sorry i haven't dealt with a dinosaur before."
finally i thought!
"this whole area was indeed once a maori fortress too," the guide entered a new spiel... wait about what i'd asked him, and he wasn't taking the baskets! "much like the europeans, or pākehā as the maori called them, they established a fortification here in tribal times because it was easy to defend and observe enemies approach. it also incidentally was ideal for an unexpected reason. as maori would use the bones of their enemies to craft weapons, the tribe who set up their pā here had an excellent way of disposing their dead so their enemies couldn't get the bones. they'd just throw them over the cliff."
okay again. not what i was expecting at all... informative for sure. in fact cool facts. yet i still have these baskets.
how do i get rid of them if the guides aren't going to take them... who is it than?
the tour wrapped up with a tour of the old barracks with some very realistic manikins filling in for the soldier who once bustled around this place.
a quick peek down into the ammunition magazine was the last look around the disappearing gun. i definitely enjoyed seeing this new sorta museum i was at a bit of a loss on my task...
unlike the disappearing gun the baskets weren't disappearing, and ms. rhonwyn's note wasn't giving me a hint on how to get that done...
to be continued...