Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ballooning, and other acts of defiance

New Zealanders were surprised as well as upset by the recent deaths of eleven balloonists in the Wairarapa. We have gotten used to thinking about ballooning as a safe, even restful pursuit. In recent decades ballooning companies have insinuated their way into our tourism industry, and in regions like the Wairarapa and the Waikato balloon-themed festivals draw tens of thousands of visitors annually. With their silent flight and prettily patterned colours, balloons seem to augment rather than damage the scenic qualities of our countryside.

But ballooning has not always been seen, either in New Zealand or overseas, as a bucolic pastime. Like the train and the iron smelt, the balloon was once a symbol of the industrial revolution and of modernity. The balloon was invented in pre-revolutionary France, but it became famous in the nineteenth century. Meteorologists and physicists sent unmanned balloons higher and higher, as scientific revolution spread from industrial Britain through Western Europe and North America. Cartographers found the view from a balloon basket helpful, as they worked to replace the serpent-filled seas and impregnable mountain walls of whimsical pre-Enlightenment mapmakers with geometric grids. Explorers landed balloons on Arctic bergs and African dunes.

During the American Civil War the Confederate and Union armies used balloons to spy on each other, and in 1871 the Communards of Paris defied the bourgeois armies besieging their city by sending out a balloon-load of propagandists for their cause.

By the first decade of the twentieth century Germany's fleet of cigar-shaped Zeppelin airships could move luxury goods and luxury-craving passengers between European cities; a few years later, as the continent's capitalist class embarked on a civil war, the Zeppelins were adapted to deliver bombs.

Although New Zealand saw its first flight in 1889, ballooning only really arrived here in 1894, when a young American aeronaut named Leila Adair travelled the length of the country, making a series of spectacular ascents in cities and small towns alike.

Billed as the 'Aerial Queen' and 'the only living lady aeronaut' by her brother and manager Arthur, Adair tended to launch her performances from a park or square which had been commandeered for the occasion. After paying a fee, eager locals were invited to help in the drawn-out business of inflating her vehicle. They would help dig a low trench and light a fire there, then watch as the resulting channel of hot air flowed into the converted water tank attached to Adair's balloon, mixing with gas and slowly inflating the thick folds of canvas that lay on the ground.

Once her craft was ready for its journey, the slim, blonde Adair would appear in a blue costume that resembled a bathing suit, balance on the trapeze bars that hung instead of a basket beneath her balloon, and make her ascent, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd below. When she had risen a thousand feet or more into the air, Adair was able to leap from her perch and open a primitive parachute attached to her wrist. Her balloon was supposed to follow her down once it ran out of hot air. But Adair's flights seldom went to plan. In Auckland she was carried by a northerly wind over the harbour, and was eventually forced to leap into the Rangitoto Channel, where a convenient steamer rescued her. After taking off a few days later in the little spa town of Te Aroha, she floated over the Kaimai Ranges and landed in distant Waihi. In Hamilton her balloon began to tear and spew smoke, so that she had to crash land. Adair's luck was no better in the South Island. In Christchurch she was taken to hospital with head wounds, after colliding with a wire clothesline, and on the West Coast she visited another hospital, after knocking herself unconscious during a landing. From January to November 1894, Leila Adair's adventures were constantly reported in the country's newspapers. Thousands paid to watch her launch her strange craft, and many more followed her erratic flights on horseback and in buggies. Through the propaganda of the deed, Adair almost single-handedly introduced aviation to New Zealanders.

Yet 'the Aerial Queen' is little remembered by New Zealanders. She appears in Sandra Coney's book Stroppy Sheilas and Gutsy Girls, and a trapeze artist parachuted to the earth in her honour at the Balloons Over Wairarapa festival in 2008. But Adair's feats go unmentioned in most histories of New Zealand aviation, and no statue or plaque memorialises her.

We can perhaps see the beginning of this indifference even in 1894, amidst the enthusiasm caused by Adair's tour of the country. Although some of the newspaper accounts of Adair's flights are admiring, a number are surprisingly hostile. Adair was repeatedly characterised as arrogant rather than courageous, and avaricious rather than enterprising. Her misfortunes were criticised, and her achievements ignored. The crowds that gathered for Adair's performances sometimes seemed, like Romans at the Colosseum or Victorian Britons at an open-air hanging, to be excited by the prospect of witnessing death. Hostility to 'the only living lady aeronaut' grew so pronounced that Arthur Adair was moved, in the middle of 1894, to write a letter to the Nelson-based paper The Colonist to defend his sister's 'honor and sense of justice'.

To understand the hostility towards Adair in 1894 we have to understand the peculiar consciousness of fin de siecle white New Zealanders. The settlers who descended on these islands in such numbers in the nineteenth century were often economic and spiritual refugees from an Old World in the throes of industrialisation and modernisation. As James Belich has shown in his book Making Peoples, these refugees were drawn to New Zealand by the promise of a 'better Britain', a sort of yeoman's paradise where land was plentiful and cheap and the dark satanic mills of the old country were absent.

Yet the society Pakeha established on the ground they had conquered from Maori was in many ways ruthlessly modern. An efficient modern state was built; agriculture was rationalised, as the customary land taken from Maori was splintered into individually titled plots; railways were laid; and towns and cities burgeoned. By the last decade of the nineteenth century, the modernity of New Zealand society contrasted strangely with the consciousness of most Pakeha. The same men and women who had, in the space of a few calamitous decades, brought capitalism and a modern state to these islands imagined themselves as the inhabitants of a ruritarian paradise, a place uncorrupted by the innovations and problems of industrial Europe. The fin de siecle craze for pretty paintings of local landscapes, the proliferation of romantic novels set in an idealised and infantilised Maori past, and the coining of sentimental self-descriptions like 'God's Own Country' and 'Maoriland' were all expressions of the false consciousness of Pakeha.

Fin de siecle Pakeha had a fear of Germany and the United States, newly industrialised powers which were contesting the hegemony of the British Empire in the Pacific. Newspaper columnists and cartoonists frequently portrayed the United States as a brashly expansionist nation which lacked both the civilised culture of Britain and the egalitarian ethos of 'God's Own Country'. The frequent visits of American naval vessels to this country's ports had made Pakeha aware of the wealth and technological sophistication of 'the Yanks', and Washington's colonisation of the eastern parts of Samoa infuriated Kiwi politicians.

For many Pakeha New Zealanders, the confident ascents Leila Adair made in 1894 using her new-fangled technology seem to have symbolised the vulgarity and ambition of modern America. Ballooning itself quickly came to represent, for large numbers of Pakeha, some of the more frighening features of modernity. Ballons and airships were mysterious foreign inventions which seemed impervious to earthbound authority.

For a couple of months in 1909, misgivings about balloooning created a peculiar popular delusion. In July and August of that year, thousands of New Zealanders saw large, apparently sophisticated airships moving speedily through their skies. Early in July the Tuapeka Times reported that a huge airship 'with propellors' had passed within 'a hundred yards' of a house in Otago Blue Mountains district. The six people who saw the craft were unsure whether it was 'of New Zealand or German origin'. At about the same time, 'mysterious lights' were seen in the sky above Alexandria, and attributed to an airship. Parties of armed men marched into the backblocks of the South Island, after hearing rumours of wrecked ships and German bodies. One man claimed to have discovered an airship refuelling depot, after he came across a couple of cans of petrol on an isolated hill.

At first North Island newspapers joked that sightings of airships were products of the whiskey stills operating in the backcountry of the South Island, but by the second week of August the Evening Post had to admit that 'hot-air ships, cigar-shaped and otherwise' were being seen 'in various parts of the Wellington and Taranaki districts'. Soon the mysterious ships were also being spotted in the skies of Eastland, Auckland, and the Kaipara District.

Some commentators suggested that the airships were the work of a secretive local inventor, but most blamed them on a foreign power. A German yacht named the Seestern had vanished off the coast of Queensland shortly before the airship sightings began, and had been declared lost after a search by an Australian warship. Many Kiwis decided that the Seestern had secretly crossed the Tasman and begun to launch airships, with the aim of gathering intelligence that might be used to plan an invasion of New Zealand.

A few New Zealanders blamed the airships on the Martians, a race known, since the publication of HG Wells' The War of the Worlds a few years earlier, to be quite as martial and expansionist as the Hun.

Even newspapers which declined to take the airship sightings seriously could use them as an occasion for warnings about the evils of modernity and the threat posed by foreign powers. In an editorial published in mid-August 1909, for instance, the Catholic Tablet ridiculed the 'panic' about Zeppelins, but attributed the phenomenon to the way that, in the modern, industrial world, powerful nations 'swarmed over their racial and national boundaries'. After World War One the airship was quickly superseded by the aeroplane. Rather like the train, the balloon gradually ceased to be a symbol of modernity, and began to interest nostalgics, preservationists, and tourism boards. Leila Adair went unhonoured here in the 1890s and early twentieth century because she represented a sinister, foreign innovation; she goes unhonoured today because the bewildering novelty of her ascents is hard to imagine.

One of the very few New Zealand writers to have noticed Leila Adair is Kendrick Smithyman, who used a poem in his 1979 collection Dwarf with a Billiard Cue to describe her near-disastrous visit to Hamilton. In 'Lament, for a North Island Land Association' Smithyman views Adair's Hamilton performance against the backdrop of the city's early history. Hamilton was founded in 1864, after British and colonial forces had defeated King Tawhiao's army in a series of battles, and driven most Waikato Maori into exile in the central North Island. Many of the city's earliest inhabitants were soldiers who had been rewarded for their service with plots of flood-prone land. Hamilton was located far from markets, divided by the Waikato River, and threatened by Tawhiao's forces, which maintained pa a few miles south of the town, on the far side of the Puniu River.

In the early parts of his poem Smithyman considers the Land Associations, conclaves of property speculators which often bought up territory abandoned by disillusioned ex-soldiers and sold it on, with the help of overcharged propaganda, to new and hopeful settlers. In their prospectuses and newspaper advertisments the Land Associations commonly used sexual imagery to describe the Waikato and similar regions. Would-be farmers were urged to take possession of 'virgin' and 'fertile' lands, so that they might plant their seeds there.

Smithyman mocks the 'fecund' vocabulary of the Land Association propagandists. Noting the miseries of the early Pakeha settlers of the Waikato, he claims that, far from conquering the region, these settlers 'became hers'. Floods, droughts, erosion, and Maori raiding parties were all, according to Smithyman, 'gestures' intended to show that 'she was not wholly knuckled/ under'.

Later in his poem Smithyman describes the efforts of those agents of boantical and zoological imperialism, acclimatisation societies, to introduce pigeons into the Waikato. The birds were supposed to provide shooting practice for Pakeha soldier-settlers and militiamen, who had had, since the end of the war, no 'nigs/ suitable for targetting'. To the frustration of acclimatisers and marksmen alike, though, the pigeons 'would not rise' into the skies of the Waikato. Smithyman sees the failure of the birds to acclimatise as another sign of the land's resistance.

Only in the last section of his poem does Smithyman turn to Leila Adair. He imagines her 'speeding and swaying' on her trapeze, as an 'updraft' lifts her high above Hamilton. Adair seems to be defying the land which has frustrated so many newcomers, but just as she has 'kissed her hand to the earth-bound' her balloon begins to 'hiss...serpentine volleying smoke'. Adair parachutes, and lands safety in a gorse bush. The land, Smithyman concludes, is 'not to be defied'. 'Lament, for a North Island Land Association' is only one of scores of poems Smithyman wrote about flight and its consequences. After being conscripted into the army in 1941 the poet requested a transfer to the Air Force, in the hope of becoming a fighter pilot. Smithyman eventually found himself serving as a storeman at Air Force bases, where he witnessed several fatal plane crashes and developed a dread of flying.

In postwar poems like 'Aircrash in Antarctica' and the famous 'Flying to Palmerston', Smithyman suggests that human flight can be a hubristic, and therefore dangerous enterprise, and makes it into a symbol of the excesses of industrial society. Like fin de siecle Pakeha before him, Smithyman thinks that Adair's confidence in the new science of aeronautics was misguided. But where many fin de siecle Pakeha, in their self-delusion, imagined that Adair and other aeronauts were the harbingers of of an alien modernity, Smithyman recognises that aviation complemented rather than conflicted with the society Pakeha had established in the second half of the ninteeenth century. Adair's attempt to 'defy' the land is no more hubristic than the Pakeha attempts to transform and exploit the territory they have conquered in the Waikato and elsewhere. Her balloon is not more outrageous, and a good deal more elegant, than their surveyors' maps and drainage pumps and phosphate fertiliser.

Last week I found myself in Hamilton, and decided to visit the scene of Leila Adair's forgotten ascent. Although Hamilton's central business district and government are located on the western bank of the Waikato, many of the city's earliest inhabitants raised homes in the east, where a grid of streets was laid out around a square of slightly raised land where Maori travellers had traditionally camped. With their resolutely straight lines and their names, which celebrated explorers like Cook, governors like George Grey, colonial fighters like Von Tempsky, and 'friendly' Maori leaders like Robert Naylor, the streets of the east were part of an attempt to impose a new symbolic order on the Waikato. But the streets were soon filled with mud, and most of the families who lived in them were Irish Catholics at odds with the Anglican establishment on the other side of the river. Sydney Square, which is nowadays known as Steele Park, was the social centre of the fledgling suburb of Hamilton East. On weekdays an open-air market operated on the Square's grass, and on Saturdays the space hosted games of rugby or cricket and running races. Processions began and ended in the Square, and couples walked there in the summer evenings.

In 1874 the Society of Oddfellows, a British-based working class 'mutual assistance organisation' with its roots in the trade guilds of the Middle Ages, opened a lodge hall on the corner of Cook and Grey streets, near the northwestern edge of Sydney Square. Funded by Thomas Pearson, an unsuccessful gold miner who had drifted to Hamilton and discovered that soap could be made out of the sand that lay there on the banks of the Waikato, the hall hosted fundraising dances, lectures on the ecology of the horse and the mechanics of railways, and, in 1885, a diorama which depicted, with the help of simulated gunfire and armies of toy soldiers, the British campaign against the Mahdi rebellion in Sudan. After being abandoned by the Oddfellows the hall became a corset factory; today it hosts the Cook Cafe and Bar. When I wandered in at half-past seven, after a long walk down River Road and Grey Street, out of Hamilton's new northern suburbs and into its old, green southeast, the bar's only other patrons were a young couple who were sharing a bottle of wine and encouraging their small boy to skid on his socks along the polished kauri floorboards that Pearson's soap had funded. Apart from a high mezzanine, which must once have been an ideal place to install dignitaries and choirs, there was no clue to the bar's former life.

I bought a beer and walked it to a small porch at the front of the old hall. Across the road in Steele Park a few kids were playing an intermittent game of touch rugby. The oak trees which encircle the park were planted in 1889, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Hamilton, by some of the 'surviving pioneers', some of whom must have only been middle-aged. I am always impressed by how quickly the impulse toward the commemoration and preservation of colonial history appeared in New Zealand. It is as though the very shallowness of European history on these islands prompted, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the formation of local history societies and the planting of trees and plaques.

As I finished my beer the two speakers that sat like blackbirds on the facade of the Cook began to play what sounded like a mashup of Lady Gaga and an Atari game theme tune from the 1980s. It was time to escape, so I walked to the squat wooden pavilion at the northern end of Steele Park. According to a report published in the New Zealand Herald and republished in the Taranaki Herald, it was in front of this building that Leila Adair launched her balloon on Saturday, March the 24th, 1894. As a crowd 'far larger than ever gathers for local sports' watched from Sydney Square and nearby streets, Adair rose 'gently' to an altitude of about three hundred feet, so that she 'seemed no bigger than a child' to earthbound observers.

I headed towards the southeast corner of the park, following Adair's trajectory. A couple of the kids stopped chasing the ball and looked at me, when I strayed over the touchline of the invisible rugby pitch they had made under one of the 1889 oaks. "Sorry" I said, pointing at the fragments of sky that showed through the leaves above our heads. "I'm looking for a balloon." They turned away and rejoined the chase.

Leila Adair had planned to drift a few kilometres east, into the raw farming country beyond the edge of Hamilton, then parachute to safety and wait for her balloon to follow her down. A group of Hamiltonians had set out from Sydney Square in carriages and on horseback to watch her descent. Before it had travelled the two hundred or so metres from one end of the Square to the other, though, Adair's balloon began to tear and smoke. As she drifted east out of the square and began to float east up Cook Street, losing height as she went, the tear spread steadily wider, until it stretched from the top to the bottom of her balloon's canvas skin. The Herald's anonymous reporter wondered whether the balloon 'would collapse in mid-air, or whether it would last until it reached to the ground'. He saw Adair clinging to her trapeze, and decided that, because she had not used her parachute, she 'evidently trusted' in the ability of her craft to get her safely to the ground. In truth, Adair would have had no choice except to hang tight: she was too close to the ground to use her parachute.

The balloon continued to drop, until it was hanging just a few feet above an open drain that flowed alongside Cook Street. Adair was able to leap out of her vehicle just before it crashed into a large mudhole at the end of the drain. The Herald's reporter judged her lucky:

It certainly was a narrow escape, for had the balloon lasted buoyant a few yards further and fallen into the water and collapsed while its occupant was still clinging to it, instead of on the top of the bank above the water-hole, she could not have got free and would have been smothered beneath the weight of the canvas in the pool of muddy water.

A 'rush of carriages and horsemen' arrived beside the mudhole, and Adair, who was, according to the Herald, 'considerably excited by her adventure', returned to Sydney Square's pavilion, where she addressed the crowd apologetically, 'expressing regret at the failure and hoping they would not think her a fraud'.

Smithyman's vision of Adair parachuting on a gorse bush, which he acknowledged finding in a book by HMN Norris about Hamilton's early history, is contradicted by the report that appeared in the New Zealand Herald and the Taranaki Herald. Did Morris, and perhaps also Smithyman, decide to dignify Adair's descent, by implying that it was controlled and safe, if finally rather uncomfortable?

I wandered up Cook Street, imagining Adair's wrinkled, ruined balloon wallowing like some grotesque elephant in the muddy water she avoided. I looked for traces of an open drain, but the road was tarred, and the pavement was smooth concrete.

It was unlikely, I realised, that many of the houses on present-day Cook Street were standing when Leila Adair came floating past. The year before Adair's flight Richard Seddon had begun what would be a long reign as Liberal Premier of New Zealand. In the second half of the 1890s Seddon's government started to offer low interest loans to help its middle class supporters buy homes, and this incentive along with the emergence of steam-powered saws and other advanced building technology encouraged a housing boom in Hamilton, where some residents had already benefited from a take-off in the Waikato economy caused by refrigerated shipping and large-scale drainage schemes.

Hamilton's population increased sevenfold between 1900 and 1916, and scores of fashionable villas were raised over the ruins of small cottages on Cook and adjacent streets. As the new century went on the villas, with their wraparound verandahs and bay windows, were superseded by simpler but cheaper bungalows, and in the 1940s Hamilton East became one of the testing grounds for the first Labour government's state housing programme, as a whole new suburb - Hayes Paddock, a collection of pleasantly winding streets beside the Waikato River - was given over to state houses.

Today villas and bungalows of Cook Street are fronted by banks of flowers and by mature trees. A datura plant leaned over a picket fence and shook its tiny inverted parachutes, as I stopped on the pavement to scribble a note. In the next yard a taratara, one of the few natives in this suburb of oaks and poplars, seemed to be absorbing the sulfur light from the dusk sun. Cook Street has been transformed since 1894, and it can be argued that, with its batallions of exotic trees and streets with determinedly British street names laid in grids over old kainga and pa and kumara beds, Hamilton as a whole is one of the most thoroughly transformed, thoroughly Anglicised, places in New Zealand. In the 1930s local politicians even went to the trouble of commandeering unemployed relief workers and demolishing the hill which sat on the edge of the city's business district. Known to Maori as Te Kopu Mania O Kirikiriroa, Garden Place Hill had been the site of an altar, and observatory, and an ancient grove of taro before 1864. Despite or because of its traditional significance, the hill was broken up and hauled away in wheelbarrows and trucks. I headed back down Cook Street past the bar, where Lady Gaga was still singing, crossed Grey Street, and found a view of the Waikato River from the carpark of a liquor shop. In the late sunlight the dirty water looked like varnished wood. I wondered whether Kendrick Smithyman was not romantic to believe that this environment has managed to defy those who have bought and settled on it since 1864. Doesn't the transformation of Hamilton mock the poet's view of settlement as a crisis-ridden and ultimately doomed enterprise? How can the 'land', to which Smithyman rather sentimentally gave a female identity, really resist the changes wrought by tar and concrete and a thousand alien names? Leila Adair may have been dragged back down to earth, and balloons may still sometimes fall out of the sky, but what about the scores of planes that land every day at Hamilton's international airport?

But then I remembered the bankrupt 'developments' in Hamilton's northern suburbs, where tarred roads peter out amidst ragwort and toitoi, or beside the rotting ribs of half-finished houses. In the north the sort of real estate boom that would have delighted the old Land Associations was brought to a brusque end by the global economic crisis of 2008. Developers declared themselves insolvent and, in the tradition of the soldier-settlers of the 1860s, walked off the land they had occupied with such confidence. The many FOR SALE signs on Cook Street suggest that the housing crisis may be spreading south. Kendrick Smithyman may yet be proven correct.

[Posted by Maps/Scott]


Blogger D.J.P. O'Kane said...

The story of Leila Adair reads like something out of a Margaret Atwood novel.

I suppose you're aware of the genre of "German Invasion" novels that flourished in the decades before 1914? That may have been one of the sources of the "scareship" flap which was a global phenomenon in the last years before the guns of August sounded.

10:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds made up!

12:02 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi anon,

it's not made up. If you head to the online Papers Past archive and search for 'Leila Adair' or 'Airship Panic' you'll find many of the articles I quote.


I've got a book of fantasies about the demise of England at the hands of Germans and other predators called England Invaded. It was put together by the estimable Michael Moorcock and includes a novella by Saki about a German conquest, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. The Aussies produced a number of novels which fantasised about a Japanese invasion early in the twentieth century. Do you know if there any parallels to these invasion scare novels in New Zealand literature?

Leila Adair's life seems to have been extraordinary well before she reached New Zealand. If a profile published in the San Francisco Call in 1896, after her return from the Antipodes to her native country, is accurate, then she performed in Africa and Asia as well as the Pacific and was briefly married to an ill-fated English gentleman. I can't locate her in either Kiwi, Aussie, or American newspaper archives after 1896, but at some stage I'm going to head over to the Mormons' online archives and see if I can discover when she died. I hope she had a long and happy life.

2:14 pm  
Blogger D.J.P. O'Kane said...

Scott -

I'm afraid I know little of NZ literature and nothing of NZ literary history.

In fact, despite my six months teaching at U of Auckland, your blog is the main source of my knowledge of "Kiwi culcha".

So keep up the good work.

11:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible some of the 'airships' were actually UFOs???

Ppl use the vocab of their era to conceptualise the strange. Hence the ancients saw UFOs as visiting gods, etc

worth considering...

9:46 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

No Smithyman was not wrong. He saw beyond ephemeral events. One of his themes (recurring in many of his poems, and there is often an implied darkness, an sense almost of the unforgiving, even malignant aspect of Nature)* is the power of an true versus humans (who are a a part of nature but the sense that they are somehow separate is something he had no illusions about). He is using the story very cleverly to show these things.

Not that he was anti-Modern but he took the important lessons of Romanticism.

The world saw a number of brave women aviaters. Also NZ had a lot of pioneer in this area. I read the book about Richard Pearse. He flew powered and controlled flight before the Wright Brothers. He knew that, but didn't consider himself 'first' (r sufficiently significantly first as such, with assistance and organization he could have achieved a lot more)) the Wright Brothers documented their flights far more systematically and were able to continue on. He worked alone.

Nevertheless he was the first person ever to achieve flight NOT the Wright Brothers (but de facto as he worked alone it had no effect on air developments). But his designs were in some way superior the Wright brothers' (large wing in front) and he made his own engines. He had no wind tunnel though.

But our history is shallow? No, I disagree.

But this is a fascinating anecdote. Typical illustration of Smithyman's wide and eclectic knowledge. Curnow also wrote about a flight he had when he was a child. It is vivid adn powerful and a great poem.

I flew about 40 hours or so. Some instructor looped the loop and so on! That is an incredible experience. Gliding also. Gliding is an experience quite amazing. There is no engine sound and the glider uses thermals like a bird. (like the Harrier) One feels the pull of the wings. One helicopter fight in Taupo. They are hard to get used to as they hover which is frightening at first!

Amazingly interesting post again maps!! I also get a lot of my NZ knowledge via your Blog! History wasn't one of my subjects when I was young (not that that is an excuse anyone can read history). But one cant read everything!

Great stuff!

* The Romantics have been misunderstood, they didn't romanticise this. They felt it, and believed it, (the mountains were beautiful but also mysterious and sometimes minatory to Wordsworth as he conveys powerfully in The Prelude) [and Shelley, who screamed in terror on hearing Christabel read, was not faking); and I am certain Smithyman did also. But his view was mediated through a 20th Century's poetic consciousness.

2:11 am  
Anonymous Big Sir said...

'No Smithyman was not wrong'

This is what Mao called 'blind following'. No one is beyond criticism!

4:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Open, three-dimensional time-space is the same as the mind
for which humans, to be human beings are used
and into which each individual human being is cast,
to which each is exposed
and in which each is immersed,
where beings qua beings present and absent themselves for the mind.
Each individual exposed to this play of presencing and absencing in temporo-spatial mind
has its own individual perspective on the play.
The individuality

5:07 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There was no intention to imply that either Mao are either of them are beyond criticism. "not wrong" is only a way of speaking...

I have no doubt Smithyman was wrong about a lot of things.

Have you anything deeper to contribute to Maps's post? What are your views on what he is saying here?

6:38 pm  
Anonymous endemic critique (formerly Big Sir) said...

Actually I believe criticism is a valid pursuit.
Do you?
By criticism we advance towards knowledge.

Well...some of us.

I reserve judgement on the post.

But the comments about Dick Scott which alterted me to this blog the other day were despicable.

9:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the Pynchon encyclopedia: balloons

"on the fourth limb from the top there is a red balloon [golden-screwdriver dream]," 40; "a sturdy green balloon with a great Z printed on it [Fergus' way of indicating consciousness]" 56; "The sunburned face bobbed like a balloon," 65; "Up goes the balloon [slang: war, action, etc. had begun]," 67; Yusef's love of, 67; "A balloon-girl." 67; "Soon he was daydreaming again of balloons." 68; "So the balloon's gone up," 232; "the balloon had gone up", 308; "slow as a balloon," 329; "the most bouyant balloon-girl," 331; "fire-balloon," 335; "gay balloon-lungs," 343; V. "handed swords, balloons and colored handkerchiefs to Ugo Medichevole, a minor magician," 388; "The jolly, jolly balloon [...] Going up" 434; "leery like any Maltese of the Balloon's least bobbing," 448; 474; "Wasn't she the same balloon-girl who'd seduced him on a leather couch," 488; See also Cher Ballon; hothouse

11:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard are you sure Pearse was the first to make heavier than air flight in an uncontrolled mode?

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Richard,

I'm pleased you liked the piece - I'm hoping to slot it in that slowly-growing anti-travel book.

I'd be keen to see some shots from your visit to Taranaki...

5:35 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Pearse was the first in the world but it was a "controlled" flight. At least as controlled as the Wright Brothers.

But he failed to document it as well as they did. He also built a VTOL but by the time it ws discovered such plane had been made elsewhere.

His case was quite strange but typical of NZ.

But there is a book about it. Read that and decide.

After all history takes many strange twists and turns.

10:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott - Yes. The trip was pretty much spoilt by blowing a head gasket. But I did enjoy half of it!

Well if that is the word. Fortunately a mate is a mechanic and we worked on the car aback here.

But in NP and say in Urenui (Yes, a real place!) I was wondering if I might have to sell it down there...and hitch home. Ordinarily you are looking at at least $1000. All the way hone we had to stop and wait for it to cool. Put water in and then proceed. It was pretty frightening. I also got a flat tire! But a bloke in NP fixed that for nothing. That was good news...

10:18 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I'm not sure if Pearse controlled his flights, though, Richard: didn't he tend to crash into gorse bushes?

Come to think of it: was the gorse bush which Leila Adair landed on, according to Smithyman and Norris, borrowed from accounts of Pearse's similarly troubled adventures?

I've actually spent a bit of time in Urenui, on a few acres owned by a sculptor related to Skyler by marriage. Urenui is the heartland of Ngati Mutunga, one of the two iwi which invaded the Chathams in 1835. There's a road called Wharekauri, which is the name Ngati Mutunga use for the Chathams. Peter Buck/Te Rangi Hiroa was born in a kainga which stood on the site of the Urenui Holiday Park, and he's buried under an impressively large memorial sculpture a kilometre or so inland, on one side of an ancient bush-covered pa. I'd like to go back to the area and muck around...

10:55 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

He did. But remember he worked more or less on his own (so he was teaching himself how to fly). He crashed (after short flights) but so did the Wright Brothers. His design was in some ways more advanced than theirs, but he knew about what they were doing from overseas journals.

He realized that they had gone much further than he. There is that one book, pity not more is known, perhaps someone else has studied the subject.

There is no question that he understood flight quite deeply. The wings were curved to achieve the 'Venturi' effect. He made his own engines which the Wright Brothers didn't do. But he acknowledged that in terms of overall results etc they had gone ahead of him, which isn't surprising, despite his ingenuity!! You cant do that kind of thing single handed...
And yet, yes, he was indeed the first in the world to achieve controlled flight. With a brother or two of the same ilk and in different place he would have gone on to greater things....but he seemed to kind of give up...and retreat into himself like a character in a story by Micheal Morrissey!!

Yes I saw that about Peter Buck when I was there but that was just when my car stopped running altogether...but I realized it was water on my HT leads and being too hot... From there it is pretty rugged so I hoped like hell a piston didn't disintegrate or something...luckily the cylinders looked o.k. when we got the head off...but I had run it pretty hot for some kilometres.

Yes I recall that road. The whole area is amazing, and I noticed the change from Taranaki into the King Country. There is some beautiful and interesting (and often rugged) country down there. I was thinking of flying down there again. Or some other way. Funds permitting!

11:49 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

BTW I read my copy of 151 Days but it is abridged (no ref. to comics!) so I ordered copy from the library that isn't so.

11:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether or not Pearse flew in any acceptable sense, and regardless of the exact date, his first aircraft was a remarkable invention embodying several far-sighted concepts: a monoplane configuration, wing flaps and rear elevator, tricycle undercarriage with steerable nosewheel, and a propeller with variable-pitch blades driven by a unique double-acting horizontally opposed petrol engine.

2:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a link to another famous balloon flight in NZ:

11:42 am  
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7:20 pm  

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