Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wellington: Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum and Weta Cave

The next day was windy and rainy -- not pleasant weather for exploring a city on foot. Our luck with travel (see Queenstown trip) seems to be continuing as people have been saying this downpour is uncharacteristic even for Wellington. The guidebook said that the National Library had the Treaty of Waitangi (1840 agreement between many of the indigenous Maori chiefs and the British Crown), but we were disappointed to find that it is undergoing restoration and won't be on display for two years. She said there was a copy at the Archives down the street, so we went there, but the Constitution Room was closed, of course. I gave up and had to be satisfied with the facsimile copy in the lobby.
view of Wellington from the balcony of Airbnb apartment
Te Papa National Museum

Fortunately, the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum of New Zealand did live up to the guidebook's praise. We spent hours there checking out the exhibits on the history of New Zealand.


The museum has the only colossal squid on public display in the world, and that thing was gnarly! It is the largest invertebrate, has eyes as big as soccer balls, and is preserved in a tank of liquid.

A self-taught woman, Joan Wiffen, discovered the first dinosaur fossil and many subsequent ones in New Zealand.

It was frustrating and saddening to learn about how destructive humans have been to this land. The British and other Europeans wanted to turn New Zealand into a little Britain, and in the process burned and bladed much of the forests, as well as taking land from the indigenous Maori people. They introduced farm animals and invasive plants and animals, leading to the extinction of many species.
Green indicates forests. Now, only 25% of indigenous forests remain.

Brown indicates Maori land ownership on the North and South Islands (not much anymore).

"Pakeha settlers wanted to create a prosperous outlying farm of Britain."

I already knew about the giant moa bird that went extinct, but the museum had a nice recreation of it being attacked by its main predator before Maori arrival, the Haast's eagle (also extinct). It kind of looks like an ostrich, but its legs are a lot thicker.

Weta Cave
Weta Workshop is known for its work on the special effects for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but it has grown a lot in its 20-year history and is working on the three new Avatar films and a lot of other projects. The 30-minute behind-the-scenes movie in the "theatrette" really just ended up making me want to watch LOTR and some of the other movies the company has worked on again!

Yogurt or Cream?

We met up with a friend from Christchurch at a Malaysian restaurant and then went to another restaurant for dessert. When you order cheesecake, they ask whether you want yogurt or cream. I didn't understand what they were talking about until they brought out the plate and had little ramekin dishes on it with plain, tart yogurt in one and whipped cream (unsweetened) in the other. It was quite strange to not have a glob of whipped cream on top of the cheesecake, and having tart yogurt with a bite of cheesecake was not pleasant. They also ask the same question when you order a brownie!

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