Our Melbourne Adventures Begin

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G’Day Mate!

We are even now heading toward Melbourne Harbor! We took a day and a half to cross the Tasman Sea from the South Island of New Zealand. It was a bit choppy, with some yaw and pitch, but veterans of the journey say it was the calmest Tasman crossing they have ever experienced!

Since we entered the protected inner area between Victoria and Tasmania, things have been very calm, and it is warming up, and promises to be 23 C in Melbourne today.

My sea legs have gotten a little better on this voyage, but I am way out of practice from the days when my family would go deep sea fishing in the Gulf of California, usually off Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) or Guymas.

Recently on House Hunters International, I saw a family looking for a place in Rocky Point. My goodness, the sleepy little fishing village has changed into a major tourist destination!

Located on the coast of the Gulf of California in Baja California, Rocky Point used to be a small city, with its aging and compact urbanization centered on the Church, where Mass was celebrated perhaps once a month.

We always stayed in a “cabana” on the beach, living like the local fishermen. We’d go out each day in one of the outboard motor fishing boats my father built, and fish for Marlin, etc.

We would bring out catch to the little restaurant on the beach each night, and they would fix it, with all the delicious trimmings, for free, and then use the rest of the catch to sell to their other patrons. A good deal all around!

I’ll reminisce about life on the Gulf of California at another time: today, its half-way around the world, in Melbourne!

Today, Melbourne is booming, and is known as Australia’s most European city, with trams, Victorian Architecture and a very dedicated Arts Community.

Humans have lived here for some 31,000-40,000 years. Originally this was the home of the Kulin Peoples, an alliance of several language groups. By the time of European settlement, there were about 20,000 Kulin from the
the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong tribes.

From 1797 to 1835, the area was used for whaling and other purposes by the Europeans (Brittons), In 1835 John Batman and his entrepreneurs traveled from the already settled Tasmania and brokered a “deal” with the native peoples similar to that of Peter Stuyvesant in New York. Typically of colonialism, the “annual payments” were later forgotten.

In 1837 a fateful decision was made regarding the name of the settlement. Originally intended to be Batmania in honor of the Tasmanian founder. Think of the Batman merchandising that could have taken place! Thankfully, the voters chose to honor Wm. Lamb, 2nd British PM.

The architecture of Melbourne followed the contemporary British scene, but the arrangement of the city also reflects an Asian sense of Feng Shui. Victoria became a State in 1851, but economic reverses stymied growth until after WWII.

Those are the facts, tomorrow I’ll have reports on what the experience is “on the ground!”

Until then….

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services
415-706-9384
https://stevenaarmstrong.wordpress.com
http://tinyurl.com/sa-linkedin
stevenaarmstrongsf@gmail.com

Near Antarctica

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I never thought I’d be so close to the Antarctic! When we rounded the tip of the South Island of New Zealand the other day, we were about 2550 km away, and the weather was understandably cool.

Antarctica itself is an unusual place, very ancient and still largely a mystery. There is a submerged lake that must have microbes that have not been in our air for millions of years. Could be bad news, could be good news, but scary to find out. As I understand it, there are remains of tropical forests, which means it wasn’t always in its present location.

If you recall from the Atlantis Issue of the Rosicrucian Digest (www.rosicrucian.org/publications), this has lead some to identify Antarctica with Atlantis. In the Stargate Universe, of course, it was an important base for the Ancients, with Earth Defenses centered there, as well as another Stargate.

The tradition of weird tales about Antarctica has a good foundation. The Hollow Earth theories of John Cleves Symmes, Jr,, presented as early as 1818. He speculated that there was a hole at the South Pole which allowed entrance to the Hollow Earth, where several civilizations prospered.

His theories were widely popular and taken seriously throughout the 19th Century. No less than Edgar Rice Burroughs and L. Frank Baum fictionalized his theories in works.

After World War II, it was said in Hollow Earth circles that a Nazi sub with Hitler aboard escaped through this route, And of course, the general idea of an interior civilization is seen in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and TV’s Sanctuary, Doctor Who, etc., among many others.

Edgar Allen Poe used elements of this in his only published novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). Often praised as his greatest achievement, it did not sell well during his lifetime.

In it he narrates the voyage of Pym to the South Seas, culminating in a mysterious Antarctic encounter with the chasm and a Figure in White. This enigmatic ending has fired the imaginations of generations of authors.

Most notable is perhaps Jules Verne, who penned a sequel in 1897, titled variously An Antarctic Mystery, The Sphinx of Ice, and The Mystery of Arthur Gordon Pym. He continued the narrative, and like Poe, blended contemporary scientific accounts with fiction. This technique would be put to very goos use later by H.P. Lovecraft and Tim Powers.

Lovecraft’s 1936 horror novel, At the Mountains of Madness is directly influenced by Poe, with the typical Lovecraftian despair and an indifferent or hostile cosmos as background. I understand that a movie version of the Novel is being contemplated. I cannot imagine that the U.S. film-goer is ready for HPL’s bleak vision of the universe, although I am a great HPL fan!

So the Antarctic is certainly a place of mystery, on all levels. New Zealand and Australia were once all together, as they drifted away from the primal Supercontinent.

From what geologists can determine, the double-continent of Australia-Zealandia separated from Antarctica about 130 million years ago, and then separated between 60-85 million years ago.

Zealandia was a full continent itself, centered on the North and South Islands of today, but extended to the many outlying islands that belong to NZ. Extending south, there are five groups of NZ islands, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. New Zealand also has territorial claims on several islands closer to Antarctica, but these claims are currently in abeyance due to the Antarctic Treaty System.

What flora and fauna must have inhabited these Southern Continents? And are our current anthropological theories correct that there were no humans, or are older notions, such as the Vedic teachings, correct?

With the recent discovery of a submerged continental area off the Coast of India, I am sure that the history of our Planet, and our species, will be re-written several times over.

My own theories (not ranging as far back as 130 million years!) are related in my article in the aforementioned Rosicrucian Digest on Atlantis. I suspect that “Atlantis” is the mythologized name for a world-wide maritime civilization that flourished, and then perished ca. 12,500 BCE.

I believe that continuing evidence will come to light via underwater and satellite archeology during the next century to support at least some form of this theory. Time will tell.

In any case, I have had my near Antarctic encounter, and we are now headed North to Melbourne! Thank heavens I did not hear any seabirds crying Tekeli-li! from my balcony. That would not have been good (see both Poe and Lovecraft for this).

Until tomorrow, I remain, your faithful Southern Correspondent!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services
415-706-9384
https://stevenaarmstrong.wordpress.com
http://tinyurl.com/sa-linkedin
stevenaarmstrongsf@gmail.com

Dunedin: Scotland South

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Yesterday we had a wonderful visit to New Zealand’s most Scottish city, Dunedin (pronounced, as I found out, Done-EE-dun). The Maori know it as Otepoti. Maori inhabitation begins approximately 1250 CE.

The Otago Penninsula had been the location of fierce inter-tribal fighting for some time.

Europeans were attracted by sealing and whaling (neither of which we would approve of today), and began settling in the area in the early years of the 19th century.

Scottish settlers arrived at Port Chalmers (where we were docked) in 1848, and founded Dunedin as a center of the Free Church (i.e., not Anglican) Community. The name comes from the Scots name of Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann. Among their numbers was the nephew of Robbie Burns, the patron saint of Scots poetry.

The discovery of gold in 1861 had similar effects to the same phenomenon in California. The area boomed, rapidly increasing in population and wealth. 1868 was the foundation of the University of Otago, NZ’s first University, and higher education remains Dunedin’s top industry, now including its Otago Polytech. The Arts flourished as they still do today. Museums, theaters and other evidence of the Arts are everywhere.

Dunedin boasts the world’s southernmost Theatre company, many choirs, a symphonia, and many other Arts constituencies.

We visited Burns’ statue in the center of town, The Octagon, arriving before 10am. The weather was cool and pleasant, calling for warm clothing on our part. The young inhabitants went about in flip flops, t-shirts and shorts, so apparently this was warm for them. We should not have been surprised…it was very similar to a San Francisco summer day.

Branching out from the Octagon, we climbed the steps to the Anglican Cathedral, St. Paul’s, an impressive 19th century Gothic Cathedral with a surprising, but very nice, modern interior. The many robed ministers were preparing for the Sunday morning Eucharist, and there was a peaceful atmosphere overall.

From there, we walked around the Octagon, and then down one of the main business streets, Lower Stuart Street, to the renowned Railway Station (1906), apparently the 2nd most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Station is a sterling example of Edwardian architecture, with stained glass and tiling, surrounded by well-kept flower gardens in the front. It is an active Railway terminal for the Taieri Gorge line, and also houses the NZ Sports Hall of Fame. Sadly (!) we did not sample the Haggis pie upstairs.

Strolling back to the Octagon, we took a short cab ride to St. Joseph’s the Roman Catholic Cathedral, where a very well attended Mass was just finishing. Another classic Gothic exterior was complemented with a modern interior. A shrine to the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the front left kept the space in touch with its heritage. The NZ Catholic Newspaper was filled with details announced by the headline: Papal Abdication! With the exception of the tragi-comedy of the “Great Schism” when there where 3 Papal claimants just before the High Renaissance in Italy, this is the first resignation in 700 years!

Outside, across the street, was the historic Bishop’s residence, now a hotel, which is named (and has been for its history)….Hogwarts!

The combination of the wonderful Victorian and Edwardian Architecture, a vibrant Arts Community and great University student life make Dunedin a spot at which one can spend many an idyll day, or week! The city has mellowed admirably into a little bit of Scotland far away. In fact, it is the farthest city in the world from London, putting a smile on a Scot’s face (19,100 km away) and 188,200 km from Berlin. Thus it really is the Other Side of the World from Europe.

If the Americas are The New World, this must be The Newer World–and so far, they seem to have done it better than we have! Dunedin’s motto hints at one part of this success:

Maiorum Institutis Utendo

That is.

By the Use of what our Ancestors Established

or

Using the Path our Ancestors Laid Down.

Putting aside all of the evils and imperfections that plague any human communities, the inhabitants really seem to have seen through to the core values of past generations, and have chosen the best and highest ideals to perpetuate.

We walked back down to the Octagon to catch the shuttle bus to Port Chalmers, also a charming town.

Dunedin was once NZ’s largest city, and now has about 120,000 residents. Timber is a major export, as evidenced by the massive stores of newly felled trees everywhere. Of course, this is operated sustainably.

We do not know if we will ever be this way again, but if so, Dunedin would be a favored destination, along with Auckland, Wellington and Akaroa (and a rebuilt Christchurch)!

With mixed feelings, we rounded the southern tip of the Southern Island, and are now crossing the Tasman Sea to Australia! Farewell New Zealand!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services
415-706-9384
https://stevenaarmstrong.wordpress.com
http://tinyurl.com/sa-linkedin
stevenaarmstrongsf

Akaroa: The Long Harbor

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Yesterday we stopped in Akaroa, NZ. We had originally been scheduled to stop in Christchurch, but they have still not completely recovered from the 2010-2011-2012 earthquakes. As often as they try to rebuild, aftershocks interfere with the work.

We all need to send them our prayers and good energy. I also hear the bureaucracy has not been helpful, but the people have descended from all the surrounding region with tools and materials, Where the will of the people is focused, the bureaucrats must follow, eventually. Think New Orleans!

So instead, we anchored in the idyllic harbor of Akaroa, which in Maori means The Long Harbor. Humans have been here a long time, When the Dutch mariner Abel Tasman charted it in 1642, people had lived here for thousands of years. His name lives on with the Tasman Sea, and Tasmania.

The Dutch named the whole area after their Zeeland Province, Thus Nieuw Zeeland–New Sealand. Not a bad name!

Akaroa is the remnant of a volcanic crater, Captain Cook charted the area in the 1770s, and the Treaty of Waitangi made it, and its surrounding Banks Penninsula, British territory.

Therefore, when French colonist Jean Langlois arrived with his band of French colonials in the 1840s, he found that this area was no longer available. The French reluctantly accepted British colonial status, and thus Akaroa was founded.

The French heritage is present everywhere, and many of the streets are still Rue Lavaud, Rue Benoit, Rue Jolie etc. There is a French cemetery, and numerous French B&Bs, e.g. “Maison des Fleurs,” House of Flowers. French flags abound among the NZ Flags. This may not be a formal Condominium as is New Caledonia / La Nouvelle Calédonie, but the influence is here!

Since we could not dock due to size, we took Tenders (the Lifeboats) to the Main Town Pier. It was so reminiscent of taking a shuttle from the Enterprise or the Galactica to the Planet’s surface. The Harbor was so placid that there was very little Yaw and Pitch, far less than the 2012 ferries to Maya country.

As we disembarked, lovely, golden age residents welcomed us with maps and directions. It was obvious they really loved their town and wanted to share it with us, and the passengers of the Princess Cruise Line also anchored in the harbor (harbour here, of course).

We walked down the harbor front, and I found some great Maori figures to bring home. Walking down further, we passed a WWI memorial that was being repaired. I learned later that 2/3 of NZ men of fighting age fought in WWII. This country has sacrificed much to preserve democracy on our planet, and have done a bang-up job of implementing it at home.

I rested for a while on a bench in front of a grocery store, and enjoyed playing with the many dogs walking with their humans in the area (Angus…don’t get jealous!).

This is small town friendliness to a “T.” Idyllic, proud of its past, hopeful and practical fort its future (e.g., the area Telecom is experimenting with setting up free Wi-Fi zones around its pay telephones), this is a place you will fall in love with quickly.

Walking up as side-street, we visited St. Peter’s Anglican Church, a stunning wood Church built in 1863, while we in the USA were immeshed in the Civil War. When I get home and get the bandwidth, I’ll post all the pics of these spots on Facebook.

We had an expresso, and then headed back, stopping off at the first shop I visited http://www.studiosixtysevenakaroa.com, where the very kind proprietor had volunteered sua sponte to keep my purchases until I returned, so I would not have to carry them around.

That is the spirit of this town, and this Country. Genuine brother and sisterhood with fellow humans and all the inhabitants of our Planet.

We made it back on lucky Tender 13 (our own Lifeboat), and it is good to know that it floats!

Today, Dunedin! I will report!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services
415-706-9384
https://stevenaarmstrong.wordpress.com
http://tinyurl.com/sa-linkedin
stevenaarmstrongsf@gmail.com

An Afternoon in Wellywood

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An Afternoon in Wellywood!

Friday Afternoon I went on a bus tour of major spots in Wellywood history.

Wellywood is the Neologism (or is it a Portmanteau?) for the burgeoning Wellington NZ Film industry and community, nestled in the Miramar suburb of NZ’s capital city. There have long been great filmmakers among the Kiwis, but thing have taken a dramatic turn with the ascendance of Peter Jackson.

Peter is a Wellingtonian, and unlike most other NZ filmmakers, he has continued to live and work in his home town, bringing his considerable resources and contacts to his city. Together, they have created an entire film colony here in Wellington’s Green and Pleasant (not to mention Windy) Land.

The bus tour was led by a young man and woman who were steeped in Tolkien Lore, from the films and the books. They were really the highlight of the tour, with all kinds of insider facts and anecdotes. Taking us through downtown Wellington, they gave us a quick tour of the city.

Following this, we headed to Victoria Park, which is a horseshoe shaped Park around the city, where Jackson filmed his first scenes for The Fellowship of the Ring. Over the course of the LOTR films, some 150 film shots came from this location.

Even being so close to the city, it is ideal. A type of California pine had been imported to NZ during the 19th Century, and lo-and-behold, they grew 2 to 3 times faster than they did back home. This meant that the wood did not have time to harden properly, resulting in truly eerie-looking broken branches, and tree-scapes.

We went to three locations, where scenes were filmed. First, as the Hobbits are leaving Hobbiton, they are in the wood at the border of the Shire, when the Nazgul come looking for the Ring-Bearer on their black steeds. The four Halflings have to throw themselves down a hill and under a large tree root to prevent detection.

Second, there is the spot where Frodo had to fling himself down a hill to escape the Ring-Wraiths. Finally, up a trail of scary, arched and broken trees, the spot where we see one of the Nazgul on his horse, looking for the Hobbits was quite recognizable.

After this, we headed into Wellywood proper in Miramar. We stopped for tea and scones at the Roxy, a perfectly recreated Art Deco movie theater, completed with many statues of LOTR characters, and saw a short documentary on Weta, a Wellington firm that creates a hung number of effects, artifacts and costuming for Jackson,’s movies, and for many others as well.

We were then off to the Weta Cave, where we could see a number of examples of their extraordinary work, not only for the Tolkien films, but also for Narnia, Avatar, etc. It was a collector’s paradise! Nothing like standing in front of a life sized Orc, or the Witch-King of Angband!

On the way back, we got insider scoops on where Aragorn hung out for coffee daily during the filming, and the like.

A pleasant time was had by all. The most amazing thing was the great synergy and creativity of the men and women of this industry have put into the creation of Wellywood. Long may they film!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services
https://stevenaarmstrong.wordpress.com
http://tinyurl.com/sa-linkedin
stevenaarmstrongsf@gmail.com

An Active Volcano!

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I saw an active Volcano on Thursday morning!

As we were sailing south along the Pacific Coast of New Zealand, the ship paused to circle NZ’s most active volcano, White Island (Whakaari).

Captain Cook named it White Island on Oct 1, 1769 because it always seemed to be surrounded by a white cloud. Not very observant, he didn’t notice that it was a volcano! The Maori were more observant (after all, they lived there!) and called it “Te Puia o Whakaari,” meaning The Dramatic Volcano.

Bandwidth limitations prevent me from uploading my video of the white plumes, but I will do so when I get home. We sailed around the western side first, an important bird sanctuary, We saw birds hunting in the waves, they have a good deal here!

The plume was quite evident coming from the western coast. Then the ship turned and we went around the island counter-clockwise, and the belching floor of the volcano was in full view, with its most recent (now cool) lava flow very much in evidence.

White Island has been an active volcano for as long as human memory stretches. Its last major activity was in 2012. The full history of the volcano can be found on Wikipedia.

Sulfur mining was attempted, but did not work out, as the land was too volatile, and miners were killed.

It was an amazing experience circling this force of nature, seeming placidly spewing white clouds into the air, but potentially very powerful. The forces of earth, fire, water and air were all present, the four elements, and perhaps we formed the Quintessence, observing it all. We are situated in this great cosmos, observing and loving it all.

Internet reception and sending is spotty onboard, and I apologize that my blogs will be intermittent. Tomorrow we get to visit several locations for the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, outside of Wellington, and so my blog may be delayed until the next morning.

I am experimenting with posting via email, so I am not sure how this will look! Wish me luck!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services

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