Category Archives: Invercargill


Kia ora, Mates!



There are many, many unique and wonderful things that you’ll find in New Zealand.  Wonderful people… Wonderful scenery… Wonderful lifestyle…


One of New Zealand’s many unique animals are the Tuataras (OK, and the kiwis, too). Tuataras are endemic to New Zealand and only New Zealand. Tuataras are called “living dinosaurs” or “living fossils,” but they’re genetic purity is only about 100 million years old – younger than the dinosaurs. Tuataras look a lot like any other lizard species and that’s where the similarities end.


First, tuataras are extremely long-lived. In the gallery that follows, “Henry the Tuatara” became a father for the first time (how do they know?) when he was 111 years old, which was a few years ago. Another interesting thing about tuataras is that they have a “third eye” when they hatch – a photoreceptive site on the top of their heads of unknown (to humans) function, but likely some type of a photoreceptor that aids with their Circadian rhythms. The third thing that I find very interesting about tuataras is that they don’t have teeth, per se. Their “teeth” are actually serrations on their jaws rather than separate bones (teeth) that grow from the jaws/mandibles. It’s a very interesting dentition style, eh??


Finally, the other “interesting” thing about tuatara is how endangered they are and the efforts that Kiwis (the people, not the birds) are putting in to saving the tuatara and other endemic species. As you may have heard me discuss before (rail?), New Zealand has a great number of introduced species (it’s tough being an environmental scientist). This all started when the first people arrived in New Zealand hundreds and thousands of years ago. These early human colonizers brought rats with them and rats have been a problem here ever since because there are no natural predators or diseases. The native wildlife (think tuataras, kiwis and other birds, among others) evolved such that they weren’t worried about ground-based predators since the major predators came from the sky – Haast eagles, for example. Later human colonizers (i.e., the English and other Europeans) chose to bring other animals like rabbits. Once the rabbits started to overrun New Zealand (again, no natural predators), the human colonizers brought in stoats (a.k.a., ermine [weasels]) to control the rabbits. But then, the stoats went wild and, along with the rats, ate all of these ground-dwelling animals’ eggs (once they ran out of rabbits) – not just the tuatara, but also the kiwi and other native ground-dwelling birds. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out, New Zealand is close to being an ecological disaster – but, it’s still a very beautiful ecological disaster!


Nowadays, there are very few “wild” tuatara (and kiwi, and kaka and …). The tuatara populations are mostly found on isolated islands on the north sides of the South Island (in the Cook Strait) and north of the North Island. On these islands, either the non-native predators were never introduced or they’ve been eradicated – in either case, the tuatara can live a relatively safe life. Similarly, there are isolated islands off of the west coast of the South Island where endangered bird species have been re-introduced after the removal of the non-native predators (if they were ever present). Hiking around New Zealand, it’s very interesting to see the efforts that the Department of Conservation is putting into capturing rats, stoats and possum (not the same as North American opossum) in traps (or, through poison bait – a.k.a., 1080) so that the native wildlife might better survive.


So, I hope that you’ll enjoy these few photographs of tuatara (remember to “click” on the icon at the bottom right to view the slideshow full screen) who are being raised at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery – good luck finding them in the wild. And, be careful – you may have learned something!




46 S. EnZed signing off…

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Purakaunui Bay

In late January, I was able to dash over to The Catlins for part of a day to a place that I hadn’t yet visited – Purakaunui Bay, which is just downstream from Purakaunui Falls. I love to look at topographical maps, Google Earth and any resource like that where I can get a bit of a view of the land and a sense as to whether it might be photogenic. And, in this case, while we were visiting Curio Bay once, I asked a Department of Conservation warden where her favorite places to visit could be found, something that might be a bit off the beaten track, and she mentioned Purakaunui Bay.

The weather in Invercargill was wonderful that day – blue skies, warm and a bit of a breeze blowing in from the Southern Ocean. Driving to Purakaunui Bay is only about 75 minutes on the main road, but then another fifteen minutes or so down some gravel roads. The closer that I got to the coastline, the more low-lying clouds and fog that I could see hanging over the sea. I was beginning to think that maybe my trip was for nought…

Oh, but I was so wrong!!! Yes, I didn’t get the spectacular landscape vistas of which I’d been dreaming, but I did find a very interesting, eerie, ethereal setting – and it was wonderful and inspiring! The cliffs, waves and beach were coming into and going out of view depending upon the thickness of the fog. The creative side of my mind recognized the non-landscape, non-nature possibilities of this setting and I was not disappointed.

In the following gallery, yes, you’ll certainly see nature and landscape photographs. But, I also felt the “tug” to go a bit more “zen” on these photographs and I’m quite pleased with most of the results. Enjoy and if there’s one that particularly speaks to you, stop the slideshow and just breathe it in…

46 S. EnZed signing off….

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Looking west across Invercargill; Fiordland National Park's mountains are in the background; the Water Tower is on the left side.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for several months.  But, being the photographer, I also wanted some nice photos to go along with my story. Which brings me to the first piece of the story – Invercargill’s weather.



I do have to write that the weather the past six weeks or so has been marvelous.  It’s wonderful to enjoy the long, warm days here while reading about blizzards, snow storms and cold weather back in the States.  Yes!, we do miss our “normal” seasons, but not so much so that we’re going to deprive ourselves of enjoying life here.  During the austral spring, the weather here was fine, especially if you’re a duck.  Seriously, it rains more than back in Madison.  And, the wind blows quite a bit harder than there, too. But, the nice thing about the rain here is that there will be a pleasant (or hard) shower for just a few minutes, and then it’s over for a few hours, and the sun will break through the clouds.  People here tend to not get too worked up by the rain – it’s a part of life.  Some people will be wearing rain gear, while others are just grinning and bearing it in their “normal” clothing.  Also, it’s our understanding that if it doesn’t rain for three days in a row, then they consider it a drought.  The weather in the Invercargill area should be pretty pleasant through February.  It’s certainly not at all hot, but it is nice to run around in shorts & t-shirts, and to then occasionally put on your warmer clothes.  And, it’s still not so warm that I’ve brought myself to swim too much in the cool southern Pacific waters, although Aras & Julija have certainly taken advantage of the opportunities.  But, the common grey periods did keep me from getting out and collecting a nice gallery of local photographs in a more timely manner.



Invercargill reminds me of many midwestern towns/cities.  It’s one of the major cities in New Zealand and the largest in the southern part of the country, south of Dunedin (which is a very beautiful city!!).   Invercargill is primarily an agricultural center for the region’s sheep and dairy farms, and row crops.  In this way, it sort of reminds me of Platteville, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa.  There’s a large aluminum smelter, Tiwai, just to the south of Invercargill that is a major regional employer, and Tiwai consumes about 85% of the electricity produced by the Manapouri Hydropower Plant. Invercargill sits on the coastal plain and it’s pretty flat, and there are a lot of stream/drainage channels around town because of rain and the flat topography.   And, with all of the flat topography, on a clear day, you can see the snow on the mountains in Fiordland National Park in the west, as well as all of the mountains to the north.



Invercargill also feels like a safe place to live. Asta’s been walking a kilometer to and from work without any complaints other than the occasional rain. And, we don’t miss the gun violence of the US – ugh! In fact, US gun violence is one of the most common things that locals bring up with us. I’ve left the garage door open while we’re away from the house more times than I’m willing to admit and we’ve not had an intruder – whew!



Our home, like most homes, is small relative to American standards, but it’s also very pleasant and tight having been built in the past couple of years. Most houses in Invercargill are single story; I’m not certain why, but it might have something to do with the strong winds, the possibility of earthquakes, heating or just culture.  Speaking of heating, most homes here are heated with either a small heat pump or a wood- or coal-fired stove.  In most cases, the heat pump or stove resides in or near the living room.  In colder weather, you hope that the heat migrates to your bedroom!  Electricity is relatively expensive, compared to the States, as is LPG (liquid propane gas).  Our home uses LPG to heat our water, and we’ll have to replace about a bottle a month. Now, with the expense of heating and understanding how windy it is here, it also is very interesting how many people will have windows opened in their homes, even on some of the coldest days, just to let fresh air circulate!  I’ve asked a couple of people why and they don’t know why – it’s just a custom.  And, they do think twice when I ask them about leaving the windows open and the cost of heating.  But, it is a nice custom because the air in our Fitchburg home does get kind of stale during the winter!



All of the coal and wood heating does produce an interesting issue here that you don’t find much any more in the States – localized air pollution.  There are many cool, quiet mornings when you can wake up and smell the smoke and sulfur in the air.  I’ll end up sneazing a time or two most mornings, usually because of something in the coal smoke.  Fortunately, the wind picks up and it’s not a major issue through the rest of the day.   But, it is a significant enough issue that air quality is measured and reported here in Invercargill by Environment Southland.



In Invercargill, we’re easily able to find everything that we need for a comfortable life.  Now, “everything” might be slightly different from what we know in the States, but it’s still here.  And, if it’s not here, then we don’t need it.  If you’re interested in visiting Invercargill, we have a McDonald’s and Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway sandwiches, television, radio and internet (off course we have internet or you wouldn’t be reading this!).  Just because we’re at the end of the earth doesn’t mean it’s not civilized!  I’ve found the national classical music station, but do miss my Wisconsin Public Radio fix! The local cuisine is nice and pleasant, and might also be described as “understated.” 🙂 We’ve come to enjoy our times of eating at Little India restaurant and have learned to order our food’s “spicieness” as “Indian medium to hot” rather than “Kiwi hot” (which is mild to medium, according to our palates).



Invercargill also seems to be a very sports-minded town, but that’s probably true for most Kiwi cities.  Muir played at Queen’s Park golf course when he was here, which is in the biggest park in town, where you can also find cricket fields and lawn bowling (gotta remember that English heritage!).  The Southland Stags rugby team are an important part of the local scene and we’re looking forward to taking in a match or two during the upcoming season.  One of our favorite places is the Splash Palace, a beautiful indoor pool/aquatic center where the kids took lessons through school in October and November.  We also have access to the ocean via Oreti Beach, which is about a twenty-minute drive west of town.



Bicycling is also a very important past time for many people in Southland. You’ll see quite a few bicyclists out enjoying the open country on any given day.  The major local bicycle club is Cycling Southland and Invercargill is home to it’s own velodrome.  More importantly, Invercargill and Southland are the home for several London 2012 Olympic and Para-Olympic cyclists. While visiting her parent’s Niagara Fall’s Cafe in Waikawa a few days ago, we were very fortunate to be able to gently hold Laura Thompson‘s gold, silver and bronze medals that she won in tandem cycling this past August.



And, Invercargill is home to Southland Hospital and the Southern District Health Board, Asta’s place of employment:

Health wise, Invercargill seems to be “typical” to me, but you should talk with Asta.  What I can tell you is that there are fewer morbidly obese people in Invercargill when compared to Wisconsin!



Finally, here’s a gallery of photographs so that you might briefly appreciate Invercargill like we do!



If you’d like to enjoy your own little piece of Invercargill, I’d encourage you to watch the movie “Two Little Boys.”  It was filmed in and around Invercargill. You’ll particularly enjoy this movie if you like dark, childish comedies…  But, don’t blame me if you don’t like it (although, I enjoyed it!)…



Again, thank you for reading and viewing!



46 S. EnZed signing off…

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