Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I was cordially invited to the Mid-winter Dinner and Day of Festivities at Australia’s Casey Antarctic Station by an overwintering friend.

"The day’s celebrations begin mid-morning with a brunch, the chance to experience a quick swim in the crisp waters of the Southern Ocean, a sumptuous banquet in the early evening, and then a night of entertainment showcasing the talents of the 2009 wintering group.

Unfortunately, access to Antarctica at this time of the year presents some formidable challenges. Should you decide to accept this invitation you will need to supply your own transport either by sea or air. With the limited hours of daylight available, flying into Casey is restricted to the period between 11:30 and 13:30.

If you decide to come by sea, you may have to cross up to sixty kilometres of sea ice and possible open water before you reach the station. Should you successfully negotiate these challenges, we will make you most welcome.

Dress: Penguin Suit (National Dress)

Time: For maximum enjoyment of this event, it is suggested you aim to arrive the previous day between the twilight hours of 11a
m and 2pm as there will be darkness at all other times"

My best option was to negotiate with another friend, who had recently returned from his stint as a helicopter pilot on Antarctica. Admitting defeat we decided to do the second best and to celebrate solstice on ice at a nearer location, Franz Josef Glacier.

The terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier.

Our friend has worked as a glacier guide for years, so I was in good hands as we headed out for a walk. From the car park we followed the Waiho riverbed towards the ice. Signs of the glacier growing and retreating were everywhere. You could see a line in the bush, the forest growing thicker and older above it. We walked on gravel that the ice had transported and worn down.

I saw beautiful stone everywhere.

Rock worn out by the ice...

Layers of time in the rock - time turned on its side.

Golden age?

You could even see the Great Alpine Fault as a dramatic canyon on the mountainside on either side of us!

We walked right to the ice before we put the crampons on our boots. To start we headed straight up on steps cut in ice. The glacier was covered with rock near the terminal face, but eventually we came to pure ice and could see things like this...

Shiny wavy walls of ice.

Patterns of clear ice and crystals.

For more photos check this out.

Even got a great brag picture of me!

The following day included a helicopter tour over both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. That was great fun and amazingly beautiful and powerful.

Fox Glacier.

Fox from above.

On the Fox neve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

waking up with baby

I had her on my chest. Holding her head high, she sang a little song to the shadows on the curtains and beamed a dolphin smile to the hidden morning sun.

Reaching with all her being... just to touch the corner of a pillowslip. Every moment full of wonder.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

little treasures

Birthdays sure can be special, and they are no doubt wonderful when you are three years old. Even mum is very pleased, when family in Europe choose to celebrate with cute crafty items...

The toadstool moneybox is by a designer called Anne-Claire Petit. It is hand made in Asia, cotton crochet around a plastic core. This is what the designer writes: A warm bond has grown with various communities living in the countryside, where the women have passed on their handiwork techniques for many generations. Thanks to the crochet work they do for anne-claire petit accessories, the women are able to generate an income throughout most of the year - something from which the entire village benefits. The women work from home doing the crochet work for the new collections together with their neighbours. This brings about a feeling of security and working together that is expressed in all of anne-claire petit's accessories.

I have read and heard about similar community based production methods over and over again during the last few months. In one case the designer taught a village how to crochet - craft skills had almost died out. Perhaps crochet was something new and alien; now the craft bonds the women together and provides independence through steady income.

I don't know about the working conditions behind the crochet princess. She was made by Gisela Graham.

Small scale production, with fair pay, is the way to go no doubt. All the better if the work makes a difference in people's lives and when it makes old skills useful, it can play a part in the survival of a marginalized culture.

This lady is the latest addition to my daughter's finger puppet collection. These are made in Peru, as her hat and poncho might suggest. I can't get my head around the price: how can a person knit these, then have them flown/shipped over to New Zealand just to be sold by another person for 2 - two - dollars each. Makes no sense.

Dollars aside: I hope all of these toys have left a chain of happy hands and hearts in their wake. They sure create joy where they have ended up.