SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 05, 2015
Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand
Queen’s Wharf, Wellington
Sunny with a nice breeze
Various homo-sapiens taking pictures of our beautiful ship and crew
Greetings from Windy Wellington! And it appears that it really will live up to its name—with up to 45-knot winds forecasted in the upcoming days, it is unlikely that we will be leaving our port until Sunday. While we are disappointed that we will have to wait a few extra days until we can have the wind in our sails again, it is pretty hard to complain at the moment. I am writing this from the top of the doghouse, basking in the sun while others lounge and read and our vagabond visitor Anthony strums on the guitar. It is hard to imagine that a storm is brewing when it seems like such a paradise.
We started off the morning slow. I woke up early to go for a run up Mount Victoria to see the sunrise, and when I returned the ship was surprisingly quiet, with many students having dozed off after a delicious breakfast of egg sandwiches. It was nice to have everyone regroup and relax. At 10:00am, we headed to Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. There we received a special treat: a trip to the storage rooms. But these storage rooms held historical treasures from Maori iwi (tribes) that have survived the test of time. While some are designated to be allocated to specific iwis, others do not yet have a permanent home. These storage rooms are referred to as a “cemetery” by Moana Parata, our tour guide and expert. In traditional Maori beliefs, it is said that items themselves can carry mana (spirit). This is exceptionally true of weapons, which will contain the mana of those who wielded them as well those whose blood was shed on them. It was interesting to hear that the energy contained in these objects isn’t considered to be innately negative or positive; rather, the energy is given by the emotions of those who are interpreting them. We wandered through aisles of clubs and fish hooks, admired feather cloaks and contemplated figureheads from maraes. Having the opportunity to visit an area with so much history as well as so much spiritual connotation was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is rare that the professor has to tell the students that it is time to go, but that is what happened today. While it was sad to have to leave a room that had so much to offer, I am sure that the memory will be lasting.
We were also fortunate to be treated to a tour of the Maori historical exhibit on the Ngati Toa iwi (tribe) with Conal McCarthy. As we had all read a chapter written by Conal prior to our arrival in Wellingtonon on the collecting and curation of Maori artifacts, and their representation since colonial times, it was wonderful to have to an opportunity to meet him in person and be able to learn a little more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into designing a museum—especially the aspects of it that can be more controversial. The group seemed the most interested in how you can capture a culture when it is always changing. In museums you are most likely to see a snapshot of how things were—pieces of culture frozen in time. At Te Papa, McCarthy described the necessity for exhibits that “change it from being a dead culture and make the point that it is a living culture.” Te Papa did an excellent job in walking the line between telling history and acknowledging the present. The majority of us have visited multiple times independent of class; it has been an exceptional experience to have such a hotspot of educational materials at our fingertips.
After the museum tour, people split up for a sunny day out and about. A large group went to the Wellington Zoo, and for the rest of the day stories of the one-legged kiwi bird were told. The rest of us scattered around to various coffee shops and parks. Tonight will be bittersweet as we will be saying goodbye to our friend and fellow traveler Anthony, who will be flying out of Auckland to return to the USA. Having him join us never failed to make our port stays brighter. While he will be missed, I have no doubts that there will be reunions once everyone takes a break from travelling all over the world—until then, it is nice to know that we will all be making out own stories to share.
I would also like to say a quick happy birthday to my dad, who may be older by the count of gray hairs but will always be young at heart. Dad, thank you for introducing me to the things that I love to do most and for giving me the support and confidence to try them on my own. For all of my crazy and wild ideas, you have never once doubted that I could accomplish them, even when I doubted myself. When the wind is good, the seas are calm and the sun is shining I always think of you. For your birthday I wish you fair winds, good company and cold beer. And when you are sailing remember that we are both on the same ocean, and that I am not really that far away. Happy birthday to the best dad a girl could wish for and my favorite sailor.