Following our trip to Golden Bay, we headed down to Kaikoura which is the whale watching capital of New Zealand. On the trip down, Sarah added to the conservation efforts of New Zealand, with a roadkill along the way. She managed to completely flatten a stoat, which would probably make any decent Kiwi proud. We arrived in Kaikoura a few hours later and once again my wallet had to part with another wedge of large denomination notes to join a whale watching trip the following morning. After a bit of searching we realised that there was monopoly, with only one operator in town. This is hardly a good example of letting market forces dictate the price (and a little frustrating for me) !
Sperm Whales Spouting
And I found out why; The Maori signed the treaty of Waitangi with the British, an agreement signed to bring peace with the colonisers in 1840 . As part of the treaty, the British gave the Maori's full rights to their possessions and properties, both collectively and personally. Unfortunately the Maori translation of the treaty contained a number of inaccuracies, including the word 'Tonga' which was used for 'possessions' but actually translates to 'Treasures' in Maori. This along with a number of other translation inaccuracies at the time has been a source as resentment to the Maori's for many years. Todays implementation of the treaty, erring with the Maori version, classifies Whales as a 'Tonga' ... after all the Maori's hunted whales a long time before the europeans arrived. All of this means that the Maori's have a monopoly over Whale watching in New Zealand. So we forked out NZ $145 each (GPB £70) for two hours on a boat, with some 50 other people. With a packed schedule (I counted some 24 odd trips that day), I would classify this enterprise as being a treasure. A bloody big cow made of cash.
Sperm Whale about to dive
A few days later, I heard on the radio that the Maori are have raised a claim with the NZ government that the airwaves are a 'Tonga'. The government is about to start licensing the 3G and 4G spectrum to the NZ telco's. The Maoris claim the right to ownership of (at least to some part of) the spectrum. I found this a little strange and very hard to imagine some chap wondering around South Island, a few hundred years ago, using his iPhone 3G to track the last of the Moa. To be fair, 'The Crown' (I.E. the British) blatantly abused or ignored the treaty, especially when the Maori refused to sell land. The Crown just took lands from the Maori which remains a source of massive friction today. Its a complicated problem which the NZ government is trying its best to untangle today.
Dusky Dolphin checking us out alongside the boat
Anyway, we hopped onto the Whale Watching tour at another unearthly start, this time at 7.15am. The boat was rather snazzy ... with plush seats, lookout stations, a sonar locator (to find whales), a 50 inch LCD screen with lot of info about the experience and some larger-than-life Maori bloke sitting up front giving commentary, who I'm sure was cracking the same old jokes every trip. I felt like we were on the bridge of the enterprise, although I didn't have the courage to ask Captain Jim if his surname was Kirk.
Captain Jim using a sonar locator on the Enterprise
Ten minutes out to sea and the poor chap next to me turned a pale shade of white. Then vomited. Then vomited again. His girlfriend was awfully apologetic as she kept a production line of brown paper bags flowing towards her not so pleasant smelling (and now not so pleasant looking) boyfriend. We were glad that Capt'n Jim and his helper Scotty spotted the first whale a short while after so we could take in some fresh vomit-free air. Three sperm whales, a large pod of Dusky Dolphins and a wandering Albatross later, we were back at port. As it happens, it was the last boat of the day as the wind notched up a few knots.
Dusky Dolphin and her Calf
The larger than life Maori bloke went on to explain that the Sperm whales are called 'Sperm' whales after a one was caught and its head was cut open ... they found a large amount of white liquid in the whales head. And they thought it was sperm!? I'm not really an expert in most animals on earth, by could anyone point out a mammal, let along creature of the sea, that has its balls located in its head ? And I am not talking about the Chav's hanging around your local shopping precinct. The 'white liquid' turns out to be wax, which is manipulated by the whale in order to dive, solidifying the wax to dive and melting to surface. As it happens the wax is also used to amplify their sonar. And the whales' nearest living relative is probably the hippo ? (or at least they had a common ancestor) And Dolphins are a type of whale ? Another fascinating result of evolution.
We have just arrived on Stewart Island which is a bird lovers paradise. It was a traumatic crossing and I don't know why but my jeans now smell of puke. As you've probably guessed I'm a blog or two behind. You can blame New Zealand.