13.4.08

admiral there be whales here! (museum quest part 16)

Location: Kaikoura
Baskets Left: 3
now with all the confusion and unpleasantness of christchurch out of the way, i need to get back to the safe disposal of these flax baskets (the containers of all the mystic knowledge of the maori people!). i really wish i'd hear from my boss ms. rhonwyn again cause i've got problems. the biggest of which is of course whiro, the maori god of darkness whose been chasing me along my quest.

another problem that is getting worse and worse is the baskets aren't going! ms. rhonwyn said they were supposed to detect or react with the mana of the places i've been going and go away... (i've figured out that mana means possessor of great power, authority or prestige... it can either be a person, place or thing that possesses these meaning it could be anything on my journeys that has it)... so far it hasn't been working, and i'd like to know why or what i'm doing wrong...

despite this "the quest must go on"... or was that show... oh well.


so i pushed through the night to get to the next town on the list. kaikoura. man oh man driving here in the dark is NOT fun let me tell you!

the road was really really windy and scary. there was a bit where it was switch back through mountains and than times you were RIGHT beside the ocean... as in if you went off the road you'd be in the water... and times a mix of the two where you'd drive through tunnels through the mountain as it went into the ocean... and boy those tunnels are narrow a semi in front of me knocked off some rock that almost hit my car!!!

the only plus i didn't have anytime to kill in town that night. i could just sleep and get up early to hit my next destination first thing.

where the trip here at night was nightmarishly chaotic; the morning was pleasantly tranquil.

the sun rose beautifully over a tranquil sea.

though i didn't know it in the dark i'd parked the car right beside one of the many beaches of kaikoura. what a calming beach it was too. with every wave that came in it'd push and drag the millions of rounded stones and pebbles of the beach making the most amazing noise.

video

here's a sample i tried to video with my camera. sadly due to the slight breeze (which sounds like a hurricane on my camera's pathetic mic) you can only really hear the stone noise after the second BIG wave. listen carefully after that one comes in!

i also have to say this whole where the mountains meets the ocean thing is nothing short of amazing!

i'd only seen the place for 5 minutes (with light), and i loved it already...

walking up to the next joint ms. rhonwyn wanted me to check out i could tell i was going to love it more!

again not every place on list was a museum. just places that had stuff important to maori people OR places important to them.

this establishment called whale watch was going to take me to something very important to the maori people... bet you can't guess what they were ;p

the bundle of maps, lists, passes, and tickets ms. rhonwyn equipped me with at the start of this whole quest made my getting onto a boat tour "easy peasy" (kiwi's like to make saying easy longer for some reason).

before i knew it i'd been led down to the dock where we boarded the boat.

just like that we were on our way. this particular boat was a modern age uh... cat-her-mir-man... er double hulled boat. which meant it was real floaty, and fast.

did i mention fast?



due to the extra float brought with the extra hull the boat was bouncy. i'd never been on a boat that bounced before. it did something really weird to my stomach... hopefully the tour guides don't notice what i did to the paper bag that was in the pouch in front of me...

despite that badness brought by the bounce and the fast it had an upside (kinda like driving here in the dark). it was over quick. we'd headed out a few kilometres on the water. getting outside the cabin and into the fresh air was a relief!

so why were we here exactly?

turns out kaikoura is one of the few places on earth where the continental shelf is RIGHT off continental land. basically what that means is that kaikoura is basically on the edge of a giant cliff down to the very bottom of the sea.

meaning that this small marine town has just off-shore some very unique sea life that usually doesn't occur anywhere near land...


the captain of the boat brought out a fancy contraption which she lowered into the water. based on the ear phones on her head, and the fact we were here to look for whales i guessed it was a sonar detector...

and you know what... i was right! i love it when i know stuff... doesn't happen often with a brain the size of a peanut.

the captain was pleased with what she was hearing.

a minute or two later i spotted why... one of the nice things about being a direct relative of birds. i've got pretty awesome eyesight!

"there she blows!" i hollered. that's sailor speak for seeing a whale... and right about now people of the webwide world you're asking how does traumador the peanut brained dinosaur know so much about mammalian whales...

well, if there's one type of modern animal i know something about it's whales. their one of the few modern mammals that give us dinosaurs a run for our money on size... technically they have us beat the whales. a few sauropods (long necked dinosaurs) are longer than whales. in fact one sauropod might be a LOT longer, but the whales make up for their "shorter" length by weighing as much several sauropods.

because they are so often compared to us dinos, back when i was with the tyrrell, i decided to be get myself in the know about whales. naturally as they live in the water, which i think is one of the coolest places something can live, i got hooked on know how about them.

the really cool thing though about this day people of the innerweb... it was the first time i'd ever seen a real one before!!! (well okay apart from dolphins)

the boat closed with our massive aquatic friend (note how big it is compared to the boat, and we were only seeing its back. the tail was underwater!). i could tell this was going to be awesome... so even though i'd never seen a whale i'd read plenty of books on them... my favourite type of book to read (especially considering we only discovered i could read just over a year ago!) are of course picture books...

having gone over lots of photos and drawings in books i was starting to come to a guess. if the whale had dove right than i'd have been sure (a lot of the better whale books have pics of how the different whales dive... it's a great IDing trick you can try next time you go whale watching!).

i was going to guess sperm whale... based on the size and more importantly the blow hole being on the front and the ridged triangular lump (not fin mind you lump) on the back.

next thing you know the tour guide declared this to be... drum roll please... sperm whale. so i guess if my dream of becoming a palaeontologist doesn't pan out i can always shot for marine biologist.

so here's what i know about sperm whales. their giant relatives of dolphins and beaked whales which all form the toothed whale family (the most primitive and long lasting group of whales). they are the largest toothed animals alive today which makes them the largest predatory animal as well. they make their living by diving really deep (in fact the deepest known of any non fish vertebrate) to hunt for squid and fish.

the guide informed us that kaikoura is home to between 8-10 permanent bull sperm whales that live here year round. they spend their time solitary, and don't hang out with each other. due to the colder climate more sociable female pods don't come down here often.

now here came the bit where i was most interested. this area was particularly well known and sacred to the maori...

the maori people being maritimer settlers to this land still had considerable ties to the ocean and the resources it provided. one of the most vital of which was whale bones.

if a whale was caught or found to have washed ashore it was a great prize to the iwi or tribe who came to possess it. it would fed a village for weeks, and more important it provided a bounty of ivory.

the maori used this for any number of tools and products as whale bone was sturdy, durable, and most important carvable.

among the most prized of all whales were the sperm whale as they not only had bones but giant sharp teeth in their lower jaw (sperm whales don't have teeth in their upper jaw). these teeth were prized for their use as cutting implements in both domestic as well as warfare tools, and also as use for jewelry and art.

as kaikoura was the only place in new zealand where sperm whales were easily accessible by land, and most likely to wash up this place became renowned even in those long ago days for its special inhabitants.

after several minutes of resting at the surface catching its breath the whale (it'd been diving for a long time before we caught up with it, sperm whales can hold their breath for an hour and half! though this guy probably was only under for a "mere" 30-45 minutes!) prepared to head back down for more food...

as the iconic and majestic sight of the whale's tail diving unfolded in front of me the strangest thing happened...

suddenly my shirt pocket (which interestingly happened to contain the kete o te wananga) heated up as though someone had turned on an instamatic furnace in my shirt. i was suddenly overcome with the worst dizziness i've ever had... well at least since i opened one of the baskets back at pearl harbour...

i could... this is going to sound weird... feel mana of the whale and its connection to the maori's past.

was this what i'd been waiting for?!?

were the baskets picking up the whale's "magic"?

just as the dizziness seemed to hit its climax i went from feeling the magic to... for just a moment... seeing it! the whale was surrounded by... well magic.

than suddenly i was interrupted by a rude german tourist who pushed me aside for my spot (which i point out i'd have been happy to share had she asked) to snap a photo....

i felt instantly normal. abruptly all of it: the dizziness, hot pocket, and cetacean light show all turned off as if by a switch. this girl had gotten between me and the... well... mana... meaning the baskets were all still here!!!

angrily i growled at her, and looking down at me she screamed in frieght realizing she'd not pushed aside a child as she'd thought, but rather a fairly ticked off midget tyrannosaur! i snapped at her viciously... luckily missing her by mere centimetres... what was that all about. i didn't mean to get that angry. it felt like one of my dormant tyrannosaur instincts kicking in... have to watch those.

fortunately the german girl ran to the other side of the viewing deck. where i point out she stayed!

unfortunately it was too late. the whale disappeared into the deep, and with it i fear so did the mana...

i won't lie to you people of the innerweb i was devastated...

unlike so many other times in my life things didn't get worse... if anything it was as though kaikoura the place sensed my dampened spirits and rallied together a cheer up package for me.

as we made our way back to port a giant albatross fly by. now of course i'd seen a lot of albatross back in dunedin already, but to see one on the open ocean was amazing.

i came out of my brooding watching it soar over the waves with its two metre wingspan.

a few minutes later out of the corner of my eye... again remember i have a hunter's eyes... i spotted a shadow moving fast towards the boat...

as it darted under the boat another and than another flew towards and than under the boat!

what could these be i wondered... my keen cetacean knowledge put on hold while due to my failed basket attempt.

that is till several animals broke the surface revealing clearly defined dorsal fins... there was no question... dolphins!


now if i like whales, than i LOVE dolphins. especially after making friends with one back at the vancouver aquarium.

as one came into perfect view i was amazed to see these were the same type as spinnaker (the dolphin from vancouver) a pacific white side dolphin!


here's where i made a whale related mistake. the tour guide declared these to be dusky dolphins... which makes way too much sense. pacific white sided dolphins occur in the northren hemiosphere of the globe where dusky's are their southren version.


seeing these guys in the wild was so many levels above cool!



there was a lot of dolphins too...

by lots i mean LOTS... more than a hundred (if you look real close in this photo you can see over 20 surfacing in the distance)... the guide told us anywhere between 200-500 make their home here around kaikoura... holy smokes!

that concluded this fruitless but awesome chapter of the museum quest.

this stop proved one thing though. the baskets were trying go. they just needed the right tigger. they also needed for the "reaction" to go uninterrupted.

well easy enough i thought to myself from here on in every stop i'm making sure that i give them the chance they need... if only the universe was on the same page as me...

to be continued...

2 comments:

The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, so close! But at least you know you're on the right track.

ps - you live in a beautiful country.

Traumador said...

No kidding foolish tourist... having no idea what she's messing up!

As for beautiful green new zealand it is ridiculusly beautiful isn't it! i've been here over a year, and i still can't get over how nice it is... granted i don't take or post many pics of the really boring field upon field of sheep that fill in the gaps between the amazing places ;p