A few blocks from Fable/Wains Hotel on the corner of Dowling Street and Lower High Street is the Imperial Building. The building was originally built for brothers James and Henry Stokes in 1906 who operated a local tailoring business. It’s easy to spot. It’s shaped like a wedge and is constructed of red brick and concrete. Apparently it’s also an outstanding example of Queen Ann Revival design, whatever that is!
I strolled further along Princes Street which was surprisingly busier than I’d expected. Presently, ‘The Exchange’ came into view and the buildings that lined the street grew into increasingly noble and opulent pre1900 examples of the building industry.
Once this section of road was one of the grandest in the country, and standing along the busy street was (and still is) the elegant Wains Hotel. The hotel began life not as one building but several that were eventually all purchased by Englishmen John Wain. Then, in 1878 he contracted to have a new building constructed on the Princes Street site at the cost of £14,000. For good measure he even named it after himself, put his name on the front of the building and had a golden, wing-spread eagle placed above the front door.
I continued around the corner to Princes Street which was developed during the 1860’s in the time of the Central Otago gold rush. Dunedin had climbed to be the largest and wealthiest cities in the country thanks to the economic boom created by the thousands of miners who flocked to the city before heading off in search of gold. Consequently that makes Princes Street one of New Zealand’s most historic streets. Although there are many fine, historic buildings along the stretch of road, I took the opportunity to stroll past a few of the less than picturesque buildings.
I emerged from the museum to find the rain had ceased. I can’t say the sky had cleared at all as it remained grey, overcast and gloomy yet brighter at the same time. I decided to venture through town and take a wander around the Warehouse Precinct. Before long I came across No Name Alley which features a splash of street art on the wall, a restored building and a new working brewery that serves both pizza and beer which is always a winning combination.
While I was in the Animal Attic at the Otago Museum it also gave me the opportunity to view the single greatest exhibit on display in the building. The Museum has many fascinating sights including the skeleton of a 17 metre long fin whale which has been hanging from specially designed and built iron girders since 1883. Before going on display, the whale was owned by Captain William Barry, an ex-whaler who made a living from lecturing throughout New Zealand. After exhibiting the skeleton at a store in Nelson, he toured the country with the whale and at one point held a dinner party in its jaws. However, as impressive as the fin whale is, it doesn’t beat ‘The Rat King.’
A Rat King is formed when the tails of a group of rats become tied together in a way that they cannot escape. Usually the tails are knotted and entangled with straw, hay, hair or other material found close to their nests. Whenever I’m at the Otago Museum, I make a point of visiting the Rat King. It consists of eight Black rats whose tails are tangled together with horse hair. The rats had fallen from a nest that was located in a local shipping company shed in the 1930’s. I’d like to own it. I’d put it on display on the mantelpiece in our living room. I think it would really tie the room together however my wife disagrees.
My next stop was the Otago Museum. I didn’t have a particular reason to be there beyond it was indoors and they would let me take photos. On the top floor in the Animal Attic I found a special exhibition of life-sized sculptured animal skeletons by artist Michele Beevors, all of which feature knitted anatomy. It was very interesting in a sorrowful kind of way.
After being in the rain for some time, I decided I needed an indoor location to photograph and dry off. Somewhere I could happily wander around and leave wet footprints as a sign that I had been there. For a while I’d been meaning to visit the grand, stately home of Olveston which is located in an inner city suburb and this appeared to be the perfect time for a casual wander around the place.
Further down the hill the fog had grown thick. The rain hadn’t eased at all, if anything it became more intense. It had turned into a heavy mist that managed to settle on every surface imaginable. Cars appeared out of the gloom from Three Mile Hill and disappeared just as quickly. It was like a great nothingness had settled over the city. It was then I decided that I was wet enough for one afternoon. I made up my mind to find an indoor location to wander around and photograph for an hour or so.
Making my way back to my car, I decided to take a scenic route through the bush. Water fell from the trees in a steady flow. I walked through a thick bed of leaves and fallen branches before coming across a stream at the bottom of a bank. This I followed for a few minutes, scrambling over rocks and logs until I came across a closed access road. Emerging from the bush and stream, I located my car where I’d left it and discovered I seemed to be considerably damper than I had first thought.
The city had disappeared under a low cloud of fog and mist that had brought with it the type of gentle rain that never seems to get any harder nor go anywhere. My morning had been spent nearly buried under a pile of paperwork while at the same time spending many hours in front of a computer screen. As the clock past 1pm, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. Since the city was hidden by a white veil, it seemed only logical to head up into the hills where the roads snaked its way through the trees to the flat plains beyond.
The track which had obviously been recently maintained quickly narrowed into a gorge or ravine valley type area. Two minutes later I reached another fence line with a sign that said “Wild animal control operations using firearms are currently being undertaken in this area.” This brought an obvious question to mind. Should I be more worried about the wild animals or the firearms being used to control them?” More nervous than ever, I pushed on.
As the track continued, a thought suddenly crossed my mind. Maybe the reason I’ve never heard of this place is because no one ever ventures out alive? Such are the dangers of the New Zealand bush or walking tracks for that matter. You not only have to survive the maniacs on the road just to get there, but when you do, there’s numerous water obstacles, hunters and wild animals to elude. What a glorious country this is!
The Otago University is a grand place in spring. There’s lots of old buildings made of stone that have been lovingly carved and maintained over the years. Then, there’s new buildings that have been constructed giving a wonderful blend of old and new around the campus. In spring, it’s all linked together with colourful blossoms.
It seems that statues of Scottish poet Robbie Burns are rather popular. As far as statues go, there are over sixty known memorials, statues, busts and fountains of the famous Scottish poet around the world with at least twenty throughout Scotland. In fact, there are at least three in Dumfries where he died aged 37 in 1796. That puts the famous bard third in line after Christopher Columbus and Queen Victoria in statues dedicated to non-religious figures worldwide.
If you try to imagine all of this area being water with the shoreline somewhere in the distance along the line of the buildings, it’s quite a change. Once where ships used to rest, a state highway now runs carrying all sorts of motorised vehicles. Some of which actually know what a red light means!
It wasn’t long before I arrived in the Octagon. Only being a short walk on foot from the railway station and with it being a still and pleasant afternoon it seemed a lovely idea to enjoy the sunshine while admiring some of the older buildings in the city centre.
Leaving the Dunedin Railway Station once all the passenger’s from the cruise ship had hurriedly departed back to Port Chalmers I took a moment to take in the quiet square that looked up Stuart Street to the Octagon. It was like the calm following a brief but intense storm. It was then that I noticed one of the City Council’s Heritage Walk plaques on the ground. I see these from time to time however I’ve never actually paid them much mind or contemplated doing the entire walk. I vowed this was something I was going to do before the year was out!
The other day I glanced past a brief news item in the local paper without giving it much thought. Some time later, I reflected on that moment wishing I’d given it more attention. The brief article stated that the Westerdam cruise ship carrying 1916 passengers and 817 crew was due to dock in Port Chalmers at 8am before leaving again at 6.30pm. The reason these details are important is that I found myself at the Dunedin Railway Station at precisely the time that every single passenger from the ship decided to look inside the foyer of the railway station. What’s more, having my camera setup on a tripod created a great deal of excitement and interest and they all felt the need to ask me what I was doing! This I didn’t mind however it was a bit repetitive.
Finding myself with a few minutes to spare and not having any particular plans, I headed out to a nearby beach as the last light was starting to fade from sight. It was one of those still, moody evenings where a touch of colour lingered in the sky for a moment before slipping from sight.
I do like using textures in a photo, they’re a lot of fun and it’s easy to let your imagination go wide. This was an older photo I took one morning while travelling through Merton in East Otago. It was looking a bit bland so I got creative with a number of layers of textures.
Puddles can be a wonderful source of subject matter for photographs, the only problem is that usually you need to get down really low to catch the reflections. Typically it’s just been raining, meaning you need to be prepared to get your knees a little wet while keeping an eye out for traffic.
Beaches are amazing places at sunrise during summer. In the early hours when the day is still silent, the air is warm and the colours of the sky reflect in the surrounding windows it becomes a place of magic.
This was a wee scene I spotted one morning while passing through Waitati. The sun was about to rise above the horizon and at the same time the pre-sunrise light was making all sorts of fun silhouettes on the shore of the bay.
It’s not always monarchs, lords and ladies and those who come from a high nobility that get places named after them. To prove this point, David Bethune is a good example. David Bethune started as a butcher in Edinburgh during the 1860’s before he emigrated to Otago with his family in 1862. Once living near Dunedin, and in between twice being declared bankrupt, he ran a timber business and slaughter yard in North East Valley. In his later years he developed a drinking problem before dying in 1903 at a boarding house in Dunedin.
These days, his name lives on as the property where his timber yard once stood has now been turned into a 86 hectare reserve known as Bethunes Gully.
On a task to survey land in the South Island in the early 1840’s, it was Frederick Tuckett’s intention to travel by foot from Port Cooper (Lyttelton) to Otago Harbour. But, unable to find anyone to carry his bags he was forced to change his plans. Instead, he sailed to Moeraki where Tuckett landed. He walked down the coast to Waikouaiti, from there he set out overland to Otago Harbour, accompanied by three men from a local iwi.
Upon arrival at Waitati, there was some debate. The men from the local iwi wanted to travel around the coast by way of Purakanui. However, Tuckett was focused on seeing the land behind the hills and so the party set off into the thick bush, hacking and slashing their way as they went.
To the local Māori this was a foolish way to travel and implored Tuckett to stop and turn back but not to be deterred, Tuckett pushed on and until at last they reached a ridge where they caught sight of Otago Harbour. They camped and the next day pushed their way through the bush before emerging in Deborah Bay.
Officially, the Octagon in Dunedin was made a public reserve 168 years ago in 1854. The Octagon was part of English surveyor Charles Kettle’s 1846 plan for the new city which would feature a large Octagonal area in the centre of the city with a small octagonal reserve in the middle.
Once construction of the new city started with dwellings of all kinds being added, the Octagon stood empty for many years before any major structure of any kind was added. The first being a monument to William Cargill who was leader of the Free Church migration to Otago which was erected in 1864. Since then, monuments have been moved, added and replaced. Star Fountains have been added and dismantled and all kinds of upgrades have taken place. One of the latest additions is this sculpture called Ko te Tuhono, by Ayesha Green.
When the New Zealand Company’s chief Surveyor, Captain William Mein Smith left Otago Harbour sometime in the early 1940’s, he wasn’t too impressed.
Having been sent down from Wellington to report on the suitability of the harbour as a place for a settlement, Captain Smith spent five days taking a boat around the harbour before departing with the view that there was ‘little arable land in sight’ and not many ‘desirable places’ to build a town.
In the years preceding Captain Smith’s visit, the Otago Harbour had become a busy place. There had been local Māori iwi living in tribes along the coast for some time but the arrival of Europeans, brought to the area to hunt Seals and Whales, meant a steady stream of boats started to grace Otago Harbour. The whaling station which was operated by the Weller Brothers from Sydney had based their operations near the harbour entrance at a place called Otakou and it had grown to be one of the biggest in the country. At its peak producing 310 tons of oil in 1834. However, by the early 1840’s the whale population had been hunted so extensively that there remained little money to be made and population numbers in the Otago Harbour significantly dwindled.
When Captain Smith arrived a few years after the whaling industry ceased, he came to survey the region as a place for potential further colonisation. He found small pockets of both Europeans and Māori living in the area but he concluded that there were very limited suitable places to build a town. Before departing the Otago region, he did make one recommendation however, he concluded that if any region would be favourable for a town it would be the areas now known as Portobello or Broad Bay.
A waterfall in the Otira Gorge by Petrus van der Velden – Buy
What a joy Art Galleries are. That is, if you like wandering in silence looking at pictures. If you don’t, then I’d imagine they would be rather dull places. I guess it would be similar to expecting everyone to enjoy going to see the All Blacks at Eden Park or Manchester United at Old Trafford. Personally, I love art galleries so one afternoon having found myself caught in a rainstorm, I ducked into the Dunedin Public Art Gallery to pass the time until the rain passed. They also let me set up my camera for a bit as it was reasonably quiet.
In bright sunshine on a clear afternoon I found a track that led its way along a section of the Dunedin coastline. The grass was long and overgrown yet the track was well worn and showed signs of many travellers who had passed this way. I found a spot that looked out beyond the cliffs where I might view the changing tide and shifts in wind.
… from a Small City. My daily musings from Ōtepoti to get you inspired. Read the blog, view the photos, embrace the creativity.
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