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Written on: Tuesday April 8th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Author: Julie


With our transportation taken care of for the next couple of months, it was now time to visit the city. The Auckland metropolitan area or Greater Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area of the country with approximately 1.3 million residents, over a quarter of the country's population, and demographic trends indicate that it will continue growing faster than the rest of the country. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate major bodies of water. The isthmus was first settled around 1350 and was valued for its rich and fertile land. Many fortified villages were created, mainly on the volcanic peaks. Maori population in the area is estimated at about 20,000 before the arrival of Europeans. The subsequent introduction of firearms, which began in Northland, upset the balance of power and led to devastating inter-tribal warfare, causing iwi (tribe), who lacked the new weapons, to seek refuge in areas less exposed to coastal raids. As a result, the region had relatively low numbers of Māori when European settlement of New Zealand began. After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840, the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, chose the area as his new capital. Even in 1840, however, Port Nicholson (later Wellington), was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island, which was being settled much more rapidly. At the same time, Auckland was the capital and principal city of the Auckland Province, remaining so until the provincial system was abolished in 1876. Immigration to the new city remained strong, however, even after it lost its status as national capital in 1865.

We were staying in the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) located near the Waitemata Harbour which opens east to the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland is popularly known as the "City of Sails" because the harbour is often dotted with hundreds of yachts and has more per capita than any other city in the world, with around 135,000 yachts and launches estimated, approximately 80% of boats owned in the country. Therefore, our first stop was the National Maritime Museum (it helped that we had a 2 for 1 entrance coupon) to learn about the various modes of boat transportation, including historically those used by the Polynesian, Maori and European colonists. It is known as Te Huiteananui-A-Tangaroa (holder of the treasures of Tangaroa - of the Sea God) in Maori. Our first stop of the visit was the digital animated film named "Te Waka – Our Journey" which depicted the story of the first migration by the ancestors of the Maori to the islands of New Zealand. Next were able to enter a permanent exhibition of a colonist boat which swayed as if we were at sea, a sound track played the creaking sounds that would have been heard. Part of the display were the various sleeping options available to the paying customers: from the richest who had private rooms to the poorest who had small meter-wide bunks, stacked by two in a common room. This was poor living conditions with more than 30 people forced into one room, often flooded by bilge water, poor nutrition, very little drinking water, no toilets, and many falling ill and dying before arriving at destination. It would have been a miserable living for the many months at sea. Another display, which covered almost a whole floor, was dedicated to the America's cup. Team New Zealand, with Sir Peter Blake at the helm, won twice in a row in 1995 and 2000. They became the first country, outside of the United States to have successfully won and defended their crown. One of the winning America's Cup boats was outside of the museum. Even from our view point on the ground, the sailboat, installed on support beams in the air, was a technological marvel of streamlining, chrome, and lightness. We spent a couple of hours in the museum, seeing more boats models than we could have imagined. It was a wonderful introduction to the marine history of our new destination.

Taking a free tourist shuttle, our next intended stop was Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, a well-known aquarium in the eastern Mission Bay suburb, was the brainchild of renowned New Zealand marine archeologist and renowned diver Kelly Tarlton. Built in disused sewage storage tanks, the aquarium used a new form of acrylic shaping, which allowed curved tunnels rather than viewing areas with flat panels only, as in previous aquariums. Tarlton developed a new method of building an acrylic tunnel by taking large sheets of clear acrylic, cutting them to size and heating them in an oven until they took the shape of the mould. Some of the sheets weighed over one tonne. The project is also believed to be the first, or one of the first, to use conveyor belts to slowly move people through the viewing areas. Surprisingly, it was more than its name implied. It also had an exhibition on the Robert Scott expedition to the Antarctica including a rebuilt model of the original shack used in the expedition. Another part of the exhibit was a ride in a snowcat that took you through a tube which gave you an experience of snow white-outs then toured around a large tank where rescued and rehabilitated penguins lived. They didn't smell too good, but they seemed quite happy chirping, swimming and waddling around. The last section and what had brought us was the large aquarium with its moving carpet. We got to experience large black tips sharks, rays, and turtles swimming overhead, as well there were quite a few moray eels hiding in reefs, tropical fish including beautiful lionfish, stonefish and pufferfish. The last little display on the way out was a large tank filled with seahorses attached to gorgeous soft coral fans, waving in the gentle currents.

On the way back we walked back on the promenade from Mission Bay to the CBD. We were treated with a gorgeous sunset which illuminated the skyline. Along the promenade we were passed by dozens of late afternoon joggers, rollerbladers, bikers, and on the beaches people were out fishing. Our first impression of this city with its sparkling waters, sailboats, and active people was of a city with a high living index. We couldn't wait to discover more of it tomorrow.