Sunday, July 13, 2014

This blog has moved house

Now to be found here, as part of my new web site.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


In the centre of the North Island is Tongariro National Park, the oldest of our national parks and a fascinating area to visit. I had an extra reason for my most recent journey there, as one of my characters visits the park in my work-in-progress.

It's a volcanic landscape, with tussock and beech forest, mountains and streams, lakes and waterfalls.

Mount Ruapehu

Mount Ngauruhoe

Taranaki Falls

Wairere Stream

There are multi-day hikes in this area. There are also walks that range from a few minutes to a whole day. The main walk we did on this visit was to and from the Tama Lakes, two old explosion craters.

Lower Tama Lake, Ruapehu in background

Upper Tama Lake, Ngauruhoe in background

My character stays in a rather basic hut, but I was fortunate enough to be staying in the very comfortable hotel that opened in 1930. It's just visible as a white speck below the patch of dark green a little to the right of the centre of this photograph, below taken from the track overlooking the upper Tama Lake:

Journey's end was in sight, albeit at quite some distance. I slept soundly that night.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zealand

Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer who in 1642 became the first European known to have visited New Zealand. He named the land he had encountered "Staten Landt", as he believed it might be linked to a Staten Landt in South America. The following year another Dutch navigator showed that the South American Staten Landt was a small island, not part of a continent, so cartographers changed Tasman's name to Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland. Captain Cook anglicised the name to New Zealand, and that's stuck, although we now sometimes call our country "Aotearoa [land of the long white cloud] New Zealand".

It's an odd accident of history that our country has been named after an area that's physically so different, but these days New Zealand very much has its own identity.

New Zealand is a land of mountains and lakes, coasts and forests. It's the setting for my books, and it's my home.

Lake Manapouri

Milford Sound

Bay of Plenty

Milford Track

Beech forest, Te Anau

Mt Taranaki

Blue Pool, near Wanaka

Kepler Track
(Photographs all taken on our travels around the country.)

We've reached the end of the challenge! Thank you for your company on the journey.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: Y is for Year

Running a farm means working with the seasons. The particular shape of the farming year varied with different areas of the country and with the type of farm, but for my dairy farmers it included these tasks:


The year's new calves are born, and the milking season begins. Ploughing for next autumn's crop needs to be done.

Mary Marsh feeding calves, Taranaki. Mossong, Verna :Negatives relating to Nelson and Taranaki, 1920. Ref: 1/4-023685-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Man ploughing with two horses, c. 1915. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-0558-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Milk production is at its peak. It's also time for haymaking.

Unidentified men in a field stacking a haystack from hay carried on horse drawn wagons, probably Christchurch region. Maclay, Adam Henry Pearson, 1873-1955. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Job done!

Group portrait with haystack and wooden building behind, farmland hills beyond. Maclay, Adam Henry Pearson, 1873-1955. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


The main crop harvest; in the Bay of Plenty, this included potatoes and maize.

Man with horse and cart gathering maize. Halse, Frederick James, d 1936 :Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/2-010356-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The cows are dried off to give them a rest before calving. Winter is generally the quietest time of year for the farmer, which means he has the chance to catch up on projects like fencing,or new farm buildings.

Dairy farm in Otaki Gorge, 1893. Halse, Frederick James, d 1936 :Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/2-010357-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Y is also for You. Thank you for following my alphabetical journey thus far, with only Z to go!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: X is for X-Ray

Experimenters taking an X-ray with an early Crookes tube apparatus, 1896. (Note the lack of any precaution against exposure to the radiation.)

The first medical X-rays were made in 1896, but it was well into the 20th century before diagnostic tools like this were available to most New Zealand doctors.

As well as identifying broken bones, X-rays are useful for diagnosing conditions including pneumonia and that all too common disease of the 19th and early 20th century, tuberculosis (or consumption, as it was commonly known).

But even if they had been able to diagnose such conditions more easily, there was often very little doctors could do to treat them. During the influenza pandemic of 1918, when doctors were desperately trying to save patients whose disease had progressed to pneumonia, they tried a vast range of remedies including morphine, quinine, mustard plasters, turpentine inhalations, alcohol, and even heroin, but they found that one of the most effective treatments for fever was a medicine that was then fairly new to New Zealand, and was seen as something of a wonder drug: aspirin.

Chemist shop interior, c. 1910, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-004254-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: W is for Washing

Wash day

‘Don’t go getting any ideas,’ Lizzie said. ‘I’m too tired. It’s Monday, remember? The wife’s night off.’
—from Mud and Gold.

She had earned her good night's sleep. Every Monday, 19th century women like Lizzie spent the whole day on the exhausting task of washing. Water had to be heated to the boil, the clothes scrubbed, then lifted out of the steaming water on a stick (with the constant risk of being badly scalded) and dropped into cold water to be rinsed. Then came the wringing-out, done by hand unless she was lucky enough to have a hand-turned wooden wringer. And then load after load of still damp, heavy clothes had to be hauled to the washing-line to be pegged out, followed by fervent prayers for fine weather to dry them.

At its worst, a woman might have to do the washing down by the creek. That generally meant lighting a fire on the bank to heat water which she would pour into her metal washtub (which probably did service as the family bathtub each Saturday night), and using the creek to rinse the clothes—taking great care not to let any items get swept away downstream. A more fortunate woman might have an outhouse for washing, with a copper tub set into a bricked surround with a firebox underneath, and wooden tubs for the rinsing water. If she was particularly fortunate, she might even have a husband who was willing to help with carrying the wet washing to the clothesline for her.

Wash day was perhaps hardest of all for women with a large number of sons and not a single daughter to help. But none of them would have found the task easy.

And when they fell exhausted into bed at Monday's end, they had Tuesday to look forward to. That meant the ironing...

Temple, William (Lieutenant-Colonel), 1833-1919. Scene in the bush showing a thatched hut, three people, and washing on a line. Ref: 1/2-004135-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: V is for Voting

New Zealand's first parliamentary election was in 1853. At the time it followed British tradition, with voting rights limited to males aged 21 or over and in possession of property of a certain value, although even those first limited voting rights were substantially more liberal than Britain's of the time, as the property qualification was quite low.

The 1860s saw reforms, first in providing special parliamentary representation for the thousands of goldminers then in the country. In 1867 came a more significant change: the property qualification had excluded most Maori, whose land was (and is) usually held communally, rather than in individual titles. To remove this injustice, a Bill was passed giving all Maori men aged 21 or over the right to vote and to stand for election, with no property rights required. The number of seats set aside for Maori was lower than it should have been on a population basis, but even with that caveat this recognition of indigenous rights can justly be seen as a real advance, especially by 19th century standards.

Twelve years later, in 1879, non-Maori males caught up with their Maori contemporaries, and gained the vote without property requirements.

And then came the reform that's best-known within New Zealand: votes for women.

The late 19th century saw a growing call for women's suffrage in many countries around the world. Compared with the later upheavals in England, which brought protest marches, arson, imprisonment, and even death, New Zealand's two-decade campaign for women's suffrage was all terribly civilised. Members of such groups as the Women's Christian Temperance Union felt that if women were able to vote, this would encourage government policies that protected the family. Women were often thought of as the guardians of morals, so giving them the vote would increase the morality of politics. They put their case to the public, and from the beginning there was support from some high-placed men. No doubt there was also the support of many "ordinary" men who knew that their wives and sisters were capable of rational thought.

From 1887, various Bills to allow women's suffrage were put before Parliament. Each came close to being passed, but until 1893 none quite made it. Support was gradually increasing, but there were still naysayers.

"Only a small section of the women of the colony are asking for the franchise," Mr Fish, a particularly vocal opponent of the movement, said during an 1891 parliamentary debate. That was fighting talk. The suffrage movement, led by our best-known suffragist Kate Sheppard, began organising petitions to show that large numbers of women did indeed want the right to vote on equal terms with men. The third of these petitions, in 1893, had over 30,000 signatures. MP John Hall, a staunch supporter of women's suffrage, carried it into the House and unrolled it down the aisle of the debating chamber until it hit the end wall with a thud.

The 1893 Electoral Bill passed through the Lower House with a comfortable majority. The Legislative Council (the Upper House) was narrowly divided on the issue. Premier Richard Seddon was not a supporter, and he made a move that backfired. The Premier ordered a councillor from his Liberal Party to change his vote. This caused such offence to two other councillors that they changed sides and voted for the Bill, enabling it to pass by twenty votes to eighteen. New Zealand had become the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the right to vote in national  elections.

The suffragists now mounted a campaign to encourage women to enrol in time for that year's election. Once again, their campaign was a success: 80% of women enrolled, and 85% of those on the roll voted in the November election.

Women voting, November 1893:

Women vote at their first election, Tahakopa. Ref: PA1-o-550-34-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: U is for Underwear

A weighty matter for today's discussion. Let us draw a veil over the matter of men with their long-johns and woollen combinations, confining ourselves to ladies and their not-quite-unmentionables.

Throughout the Victorian era ladies wore layer upon layer of undergarments. The precise items varied somewhat with changing fashions over the decades, but the quantity and complexity of what was considered necessary for decency did not change until the 1920s brought such a startling loosening-up of female garments.

The crinoline had gone by the time of the period my books cover, thank goodness. Women were busy enough with what remained. Typically they would wear:
- drawers
- stockings (with garters)
- a chemise
- a corset
- a camisole
- several petticoats, including a flannel one in winter

How they could move at all, let alone run a busy household, takes some imagining.

Most women were limited to fairly utilitarian white cotton, but lingerie could be quite lovely, especially that belonging to wealthier women who might even run to silk (and have someone else to launder it for them), with lace and ribbons and frills.

Vintage underwear pattern,

As for those drawers mentioned earlier: with heavy and complicated outer garments, a visit to a gloomy outhouse, probably well-populated with spiders, was enough of a challenge without having to struggle with hooks, buttons and tapes to lower one's drawers. For much of this period, drawers consisted of two separate leg sections, joined only at the waistband, with no crotch seam. It must have made life just a little simpler.

In my quest for authenticity, I made a pair of my own:

They're quite full in style, loose around the thighs and trimmed with generous frills. Should the unthinkable happen, and a man get a glimpse of these drawers, they would look like a petticoat, albeit an indecently short one (they barely cover the knees).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: T is for Tarawera

Tarawera is a volcano near the North Island town of Rotorua. After being quiescent for centuries, it erupted in June of 1886, killing about 150 people (the exact death toll is unknown).

The eruption also buried what were then major tourist attractions: the Pink and White Terraces, beautifully layered silica deposits with thermal pools for bathing.

Blomfield, Charles, 1848-1926 :White Terraces, Lake Rotomahana. 1890. Ref: G-630. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Blomfield, Charles 1848-1926. :Pink Terraces, Lake Rotomahana 1890. Ref: G-667. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
The people of the coastal Bay of Plenty were far enough away to be in no danger, but to have ash falling from the sky must have been terrifying, especially while they waited to learn just what was going on. I made it particularly frightening for one young couple in Mud and Gold: their first child decides to be born during the eruption.

Blomfield, Charles 1848-1926. Mount Tarawera in eruption, June 10, 1886. W. Potts, lith. C Blomfield, del. Wanganui, A D Willis [ca 188-?]. Ref: C-033-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: S is for School

Primary school education was made free and compulsory in New Zealand in 1877.

In practice this covered far fewer children than "compulsory" suggests. Parents were exempt from having to send their children to school if they lived more than two miles from the nearest one, which was often the case in rural areas, especially in the early years of compulsory education. Those who lived close enough to a school might be separated from it by a river that occasionally became impassable; or they might simply be kept at home if their labour was considered essential. And the school itself might only be open part of the time: even by the 1920s, when my father-in-law went to a little one-roomed school, the teacher only came out from town three days a week. On three other days of the week (yes, that busy lady taught from Monday to Saturday) she drove her gig to another one-roomed school on the other side of town.

Unidentified school group. Ref: 1/4-005265-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
The sole-charge teachers with their rooms of pupils ranging in age from five to 13 or even older must have needed all the skills they could muster to keep order and to impart some sort of education to such a mixed range of age and ability. But their pupils were probably better off than those crammed into the busiest of the city schools, like this group:

Classroom of school children. Making New Zealand :Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-2816-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: R is for Railway

In the early decades of European settlement in New Zealand, most travel of any distance was by water. Towns and villages grew up along the coast, or on navigable rivers, and for many years the little coastal steamers transported the bulk of passengers and freight.

New Zealand's first railway lines were built in the South Island in the 1860s. By 1880 the South Island's main trunk line had been completed—and the North Island's had not yet been started.

The South Island's eastern plains, where the island's largest settlements were, made building the railway comparatively straightforward. It was a far more difficult task to build a railway line through the central North Island, with its mountains and ravines, requiring some impressive feats of engineering. The central section has towering viaducts and the dramatic Raurimu spiral, with tunnels and sharp curves and a line that circles back on itself.

Makatote Viaduct, Mt Ruapehu in background, c.1910
Raurimu Spiral. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-42886-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Building began on the North Island Main Trunk in 1885, and the 680-kilometre track was completed 23 years later, in 1908. There was a rush to complete the final 24-kilometre section in time for a Parliament Special train to take MPs to Auckland in time to greet Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet in August  of 1908.

The North Island Main Trunk line was officially opened a few months later, in November 1908, when the Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward ceremonially drove home the final spike.

Passengers who travelled on the first Main Trunk train, including Sir Joseph Ward. Making New Zealand: Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-1685-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The last scheduled steam train service was in 1971, but today journeys by steam train are a popular recreational activity.

Kingston Flyer

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: Q is for Queen

Queen Victoria's reign began in 1837, just a few years before New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed. So her reign and the nation that was the most distant of her dominions were of a similar age.

Only a small proportion of those New Zealanders alive at the end of Victoria's sixty-three year reign would have remembered its beginning. The era we call "Victorian" covered a period of changes and developments in many areas, technology and fashion included. But the adjective still calls to mind a period of strict morality (outwardly, at any rate) and rigid social structures.

New Zealanders were generally perceived, not least by themselves, as loyal members of the British Empire. No public function was complete without a toast to the Queen. Many towns and cities have Victoria (or Queen) Streets, and the country has many statues of Queen Victoria.

View of the statue of Queen Victoria in Albert Park, Auckland. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948 :Collection of post card negatives. Ref: 1/2-000451-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Unveiling of the statue of Queen Victoria at the head of Queens Wharf, Post Office Square, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-007908-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: P is for Piano

In the days before gramophones and radios, if a family wanted to enjoy music they had to provide it themselves. A piano was a prized addition to many households.

Music was also an important part of entertaining guests. It might be a feature of an elegant soirée in a stylish drawing room, or perhaps a more modest entertainment in a small parlour; what Lizzie insists on calling a "soyree" (it's generally a mistake to let Lizzie know how a word of foreign origin is spelled, rather than just telling her how it's pronounced).

New Zealand Graphic & Ladies Journal: A Musical Evening, [by an unknown artist]. 1890. Ref: PUBL-0163-1890-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The soirée (or soyree) might be a gathering of only family and close friends, or might include people whose closer acquaintance was wished. And sometimes it might be a way to show off the accomplishments of a marriageable daughter, thereby increasing the prospects of a good match.

And sometimes the piano was played simply for pleasure, perhaps as a respite from the demands of a busy household.

Unidentified woman playing piano, location unknown. Williams, Edgar Richard:Negatives, lantern slides, stereographs, colour transparencies, monochrome prints, photographic ephemera. Ref: 1/1-025675-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: O is for Opotiki

The Bay of Plenty near Opotiki

Opotiki is my old home town, where I spent the first seventeen years of my life. It's small and little-known, even within New Zealand. It's also the real-life inspiration for the fictional town of Ruatane, a setting in my books.

I paid a return visit to my home town a few years ago. Memories and photographs from that visit: Ruatane in Real Life

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: N is for Nurse

Maternity nurses and midwives, to be specific.

In the Victorian and Edwardian periods, when large families were the norm, these women were vital members of the community. Some would come to the expectant mother's house for the delivery, and perhaps stay on to look after the household while the new mother was confined to bed. Others might provide accommodation for a small number of women, particularly those who lived in remote areas.

With two weeks considered the minimum "lying-in" time, and perhaps longer after a difficult birth or if the mother had a particularly gruelling journey ahead of her, many mothers and nurses must have got to know each other well—even more so after the sixth or seventh baby, a number that would not have been especially noteworthy. No doubt they often forged strong bonds, and many nurses must have enjoyed watching the progress of "their" babies.

Nurse holding an infant. Photographer unknown: Photographs of a baby and children. Ref: 1/4-016328-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: M is for Malcolm

Malcolm is the oldest son of a father who is immensely proud of him, while being obstinately determined not to show him any sign of that pride. The two of them have something of a mutually destructive relationship.

Eager for adventure and the chance to see the wider world, Malcom joins up for the South African War, back then more familiarly known as the Boer War.

This conflict was the first time New Zealand was formally involved in an overseas war. Our Prime Minister of the day, Richard John Seddon, was eager to show New Zealand's willingness to accompany Britain into battle—so eager that he offered troops before war had actually been declared.

He certainly had no difficulty in making good the offer. All 6,500 New Zealand troops who served in South Africa were volunteers, and there was a steady supply of them, despite the requirement for each soldier to provide his own rifle and equipment, and preferably his own horse; a total cost of around £25, which was a substantial sum in those days (over $4,000 in today's money). The New Zealand troops were mounted riflemen, and the volunteers had to pass riding and shooting tests as well as medical ones. 8,000 horses went with them from New Zealand.

Group of soldiers departing for the South African War. Ref: 1/2-030101-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  
Somewhat romanticised images like this one probably did recruiting no harm:

Montbard, G, fl 1900. Montbard, G :A tight corner, a New Zealander [ca 1900]. Ref: A-256-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  
Albert Park, Auckland. New Zealand soldier of the South African War.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: L is for Lizzie

I'm returning to characters for L, because I couldn't possibly leave Lizzie out. Her formal name is Elizabeth, but the last time she was called that was probably on her wedding day. She's always Lizzie.

Lizzie is Amy's cousin. One could ask for no more loyal a friend—albeit an occasionally maddening one. She and Amy are about as different as different can be, but that doesn't stop them from loving each other dearly. Lizzie is down-to-earth and practical, and she would tell you that she's not at all bossy. As she says to Amy one day, when she's asserting that she always does what her husband says,

Well, except when he’s wrong about something, then I just explain how he’s wrong until he sees it for himself.

Any family members who are paid a visit by Lizzie should be prepared to find their household arrangements carefully appraised, and their cupboards reorganised. It's generally easier to just go along with her—even as the one supposedly in charge (i.e. the author), I've certainly found that to be the case.

Styles family on their dairy farm, Taranaki district. McAllister, James, 1869-1952 :Negatives of Stratford and Taranaki district. Ref: 1/1-008141-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: K is for Kiwi

(One thing we never use "kiwi" for is the fruit. To us it's always "kiwifruit", and it gives pause for thought whenever I hear someone talk of eating a kiwi!)

"Kiwi" originally referred only to the bird, an endearing (at least we think so!) stocky, flightless creature, with some unbirdlike characteristics all its own, like nostrils at the end of its long beak, cat-like whiskers at the beak's base, and soft feathers that are almost more like mammal hair than typical bird plumage. They're fully protected, but are relatively rare now—I saw my first one in the wild, as opposed to in a special kiwi house, just last year.

Kiwi became accepted as our national symbol around 1900, appearing on stamps and bank notes, trademarks and crests. Back then it stood for the country, but during the First World War something changed: it started to mean the people of New Zealand. These soldiers, many of them very young, were on the other side of the world, as far away as possible from their loved ones, and facing imminent danger. The kiwi is a creature found in its natural habitat only in New Zealand, and when a colloquial term was needed that referred to New Zealanders and could refer to no one else, they used the name of that familiar bird.

The name took root. We had become Kiwis. It's still how we typically refer to ourselves.

At the end of the war, thousands of Kiwi soldiers were packed into Sling Camp in southern England, waiting to return home. While they waited, they carved a reminder of home into the chalk of the hill overlooking the camp. It's still there today.

Sling Camp, Salisbury Plain, England, during World War 1. Johnson, Margaret :Collection of photographs and postcards of assorted subjects. Ref: PAColl-6129-02. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: J is for Jersey

Cows, that is.

The first dairy cows in New Zealand were Shorthorns, introduced in the early 19th century. They were hardy creatures, and in those early days when a bush block only had enough land cleared for a few cows, it was useful to have a breed that was strong enough to haul loads. Unwanted animals also provided good beef.

But with the growth of markets for their milk, farmers moved to breeds that were more productive. When Frank sought to increase the output of his farm, he was already working all the hours of the day, and milking even more cows was not an option. Instead, he took a huge (but well-planned) financial risk and moved to Jerseys, because their milk has a much higher proportion of the milk solids (called "butterfat" back then) on which the farmers were paid.

Jerseys are smaller and more easily handled than most other cattle breeds. They tend to have a gentle nature, although that's not always the case with the bulls!

Early Jersey breeders like Frank were responsible for establishing good pedigree lines. New Zealand currently has over 800,000 Jersey cows, perhaps the largest number of any country in the world.

Jersey cows, LibertyGenetics New Zealand

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The A to Z Challenge: I is for Island

The Bay of Plenty near Opotiki—White Island just visible on the horizon.

The wide sweep of the Bay of Plenty stretched to the edge of Amy’s sight, and straight in front of her ocean met sky all along the horizon, broken only by White Island with its constant puff of smoke. —Chapter 1, Sentence of Marriage.

If you're in New Zealand, you're on an island. Even what we call the mainland is just a larger island.

We're also well-endowed with small islands, of which the most familiar to my characters is White Island/Whakaari. Captain Cook gave it one of his usual matter-of-fact names; its full Maori name, Te Puia o Whakaari, means "that which can be made visible"—perhaps because the island is sometimes hidden by its own plumes of steam and smoke. It's New Zealand's most active volcano, but since it's fifty kilometres off the coast we get nothing more dramatic than very occasional light dustings of ash.

If you've seen the movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you've seen White Island in a different role: portraying the Dragon Island.

White Island was used as a sulphur mine till 1914, when a massive lahar killed the workers and destroyed the buildings. Now it's a tourist attraction, offering the chance to visit an extremely active volcano.

White Island, GNS Science New Zealand.