Monday 27 July 2020

Decomposition v preservation

We all understand about fillers in newspapers, that they're just odd snippets poked in when there's a space around the actual news. No-one expects them to be anything especially current, no matter how much they pretend to be announcing something. But this one, today, in the NZ Herald? Tch. This is something I wrote about here almost exactly three years ago when I came across it at Vermilionville in Lafayette - and it was hardly a new development even then. Surely the discovery had already got around, in the scientific/environmentalist community? More than a bit disappointing, if not. Stuff like this should be shared, immediately. Er, like vaccine recipes...?
There was another newspaper connection on Saturday, also in the Herald, but this time of genuine interest. Regular 😃 readers will recall - indeed, may still be traumatised by - my blog entry about my visit to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok again almost exactly five years ago. Not, thankfully, for medical treatment, but to gawp, as respectfully as possible, at the exhibits in the Department of Anatomy's museum there. It was full of astonishing, horrifying and deeply interesting preserved bodies of people who had been born with, and died of, terrible deformities. 
Most of them, anyway, and many of those, sadly, babies. But there were a few exceptions, and I clearly remember standing in front of the telephone box-like glass case in the photo below, studying the mummified corpse of this murderer/cannibal. Except, now it seems maybe he wasn't - instead, it turns out he was yet another victim of what seems to be the world-wide phenomenon of, shall we say, over-enthusiastic police detective work. So today I officially transfer poor Si Ouey into the same category as the other sad exhibits at Siriraj.

Friday 17 July 2020

Life's ruff

The cat has lost his ruff again. I'm beginning to lose count, but I reckon that was his sixth since I started making him wear them less than a year ago. I don't know how he does it - on purpose or accidentally, using a tool or his paw - but it's getting a bit wearisome. Now I'll have to go and sew him another one. I actually just bought another length of fabric a few days ago for precisely this eventuality. Did he know, and want a change from the frankly insulting bird pattern of the most recent one - or is it just sneaky coincidence in operation again?
The purpose of the ruff is to make him more noticeable to the birds that I'm ashamed and frustrated to know he still hunts, being ex-feral. I first came across cats wearing ruffs in Reykjavik, and was more amused than anything to see what I assumed was Icelanders' preference for decorated cats - kind of fitted in with all the brightly-coloured buildings in the city. Later, I learned the true reason, and was converted.

Regular 😀 readers will be well aware, since I keep harping on about it, that I should at this very moment be in fabulous Iceland again, about to sail away to new-to-me Greenland, courtesy of also new-to-me luxury small-ship cruise line Seabourn. But instead, here I am stuck at home, being nagged for food by incontinent sparrows and doves outside my window, with nothing to look forward to. 

I suppose I should be grateful to Barney for giving me something to do...

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Waddling down memory lane

I accept that it's inconsistent to be snarking about it being so cold today at the same time as wishing I was back in Antarctica, but I answer to no-one here, it's my blog so suck it up. (Sorry, made crabby by internet dropping out, leaving me unable to snap back at some self-important PR man throwing doubt on my having been somewhere I'd just written about because of a minor error that wasn't actually my fault.) (Also, sad because today I should be in Reykjavik about to begin a cruise tomorrow with Seabourn.)
Let's start again. I've been writing today about a visit to Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium here in Auckland. It has been in existence since 1985 and of course I've been several times before, but it was my first experience there getting up close with penguins. Regular 😀 readers will know that I have actually been up close with many, many penguins: in South Georgia and Antarctica, back at Christmastime in 2017.
I had the huge pleasure then, thanks to Silversea, of getting remarkably close to about eleven different species of penguins, in colonies tens of thousands of pairs strong. And boy! The pong sure was strong. It was very noisy too - but I loved it, every moment, watching the birds going about their business, being curious and funny and cute and beautiful, and it was the highlight of a cruise that was already the highlight of all the trips I've done.
So it was just lovely to get a little taste of that again, thanks to Kelly Tarlton's. They have 78 penguins, currently, King and Gentoo, a few of them an amazing 32 years old, survivors from the first birds to arrive here, from San Diego and Edinburgh. Of course I was a bit worried about their mental health, being confined to a space indoors, underground (the aquarium is built inside former sewage tanks). My guides were predictably, but apparently genuinely, reassuring that the birds don't miss the challenges of hunting food, evading orcas and leopard seals, hunkering down through appalling weather, and covering long distances doing most of that. They reckoned that being sociable was much more their style, and they spend their days happily doing exactly that - plus preening, pooing and napping.
I got all togged up backstage in winter gear and gumboots, and went out into the penguin enclosure, which is kept at -2 degrees, with carefully controlled lighting to mimic Antarctic conditions, seasons and times of day. As soon as the door was opened, some curious Gentoo penguins pushed in to inspect me, and all the time (20 minutes) I was in there, there were penguins getting very personal, in my face and pecking at my clothes.
The same thing had happened in Antarctica - no-one told the penguins about the 5-metre rule, and the chicks especially were bored waiting for their parents to return with a feed, and happy to find a diversion - but at Kelly Tarlton's I got super-close to them and was able to inspect and admire the gloriously subtle shading of the King penguins' golden feathers. Ten thousand feathers, they each have, apparently - makes keeping the ice clean at moulting time a real challenge. And that's on top (literally) of the poo that gets hosed off every morning before fresh snow is sprayed in. We were there just an hour after the mucking out and already there were yellow stains everywhere.

Penguin keeper Kristen brought in a squashy ball for them to play with, and they did enjoy it - there was inter-species competition for it, to the fascination of the two downy King penguin chicks. Playing ball with penguins - definitely up there on the travel skite list.
Oh, and KT's also rehabilitates injured turtles, before returning them to the wild. Their latest patient is Taka, an East Pacific green turtle that turned up on Takapuna beach, cold and hungry, and way off course from the Galapagos where it would normally hang out. *cough* I've been there, of course, and seen turtles. Maybe even a relation?

Thursday 2 July 2020

No go

In classic TravelSkite fashion, I have missed another milestone. This time it's the half-million views total, according to Blogger's counter (which I view with some scepticism, as well as with the sure and certain knowledge that a hefty chunk of those views are my own). 
I have no excuse. I've just been ticking along quietly here, not doing anything much, merely existing in New Zealand's weirdly almost-normal bubble with everything pretty much like the old days, apart from closed borders and no tourists. FYI we've currently got 18 active cases, all returnees from overseas, all in isolation, and no-one in hospital. Our death toll is, thankfully, still only 22, and Covid-19 reports of the hellish dramas happening overseas are relegated now to the second section of the evening news, after more important local (non-)events.
I should try harder to be actually thankful - but currently I'm just sad that I'm sitting here at home and not at this moment seated on a plane heading for Iceland. Next week I should have been setting off on a cruise with Seabourn (Silversea's great rival, and new to me) from Reykjavik via north Iceland to Greenland and then the Shetland Islands, Scotland and England, finishing in Southampton. It would have been so good. Small ship, high-end, with all the treats that that means; but mainly yay, Iceland again! And Greenland!
I watched The Story of Fire Saga the other night, which was predictably silly, but with some good music. It was mainly a quiet joy for me to recognise the Reykjavik locations, the classic woollen jerseys, the Einstök beer glasses, and see the new-to-me scenery around Hüsavik, which I would have visited on the cruise. I would have been so happy to be there again - it's such a special, interesting, spectacular and homely place to visit. I bet the locals are even actually keen to have some visitors now (instead of being overwhelmed by two million of them annually, to a country with a 300,000 population). Sigh.


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