Edwin Grandcourt. Poetic Tribute.

Edwin Grandcourt

Of the sea

 

Way out deep in the Indian Ocean

At dawn on a new day

A set of waves feathers on the horizon

One wave taller than them all

 

As the set approaches a palm tree laden island

The wave grows and grows

Tall and majestic

It crashes upon the sandy shore

 

A seed springs up

In the tropical island forest

A young sapling unfolding its branches

Supple, slender, handsome and strong

Reaching up and out

Towards the sunlight

Growing young and sturdy

About to set sail

And challenge itself in the world

 

From this island archipelago

A bird flies

A seabird of course

To the isles of the north

The birth place of that swell

 

It explores far and wide

Further north and then south, east and west

Seeing lands of red earth

Islands with crocodiles and old shipwrecks

Green fields

Great whales

Blue skies and rain

Never far from the sea

 

At the southernmost tip of Africa

The Cape of Good Hope

The wind changes

A tap on the wing

Destiny calls

An adventure awaits

 

The wind blew from south to north

And the bird flew

Crossing an ocean and a mountain range

To the land of the golden sands

To the wake of the dhow

 

The bird dives in to that bountiful sea

The Arabian Gulf it was called

A dolphin swims past

Glistening and glowing and growing

Shining brightly in the golden sun

Mighty and quivering with energy

Larger than life

That dolphin

 

Swimming from east to west and west to east

Gliding gently above the dugong and turtles

Studiously looking at all the fish

But always driving and diving forward

Growing and glowing

Smiling

Happy and Laughing

Living a dolphin’s dream

Content

 

The Kingfish and the Queenfish

Of the Coco de Mer

Their home was always near the coast

And being from the sea

Their young grew up amongst the mangroves

Al Gurm.

They then moved on to the coral reef

And as they waited to grow strong enough

To brave the currents of the sea

The Kingfish heard a call

A message in a shell

 

It was time for this star

This light so bright

That had flickered so brilliantly for a moment

To take its place in the night sky

Where it would forever burn bright

 

Way out wide in the Indian Ocean

At dawn on a new day

A set of waves once again feathers on the horizon

There is not one but two waves growing

Heading towards that sandy beach.

 

Edwin our dear friend.

Of the sea.

And of the Seychelles, England and the UAE.

When we look around us.

We know where you will be.

 

With love.

Your friends.

 

 

Iceland. Land of Ice and Fire

Iceland. A land of ice and fire. Land of the Gods.

Glaciers and volcanoes; lava fields with regenerating growth; powerful waterfalls and rivers, mighty glaciers; volcanoes and mountains; boiling hot pools and steaming geysers and sulphur pools; puffins and arctic foxes. At night, in winter, the strange green lights flickering in the night sky. And an incredibly welcoming and hospitable people, the Icelanders.

I can imagine the first Viking settlers to Iceland back in the late 800s and early 900s, looking around with wonder at the incredible landscape. It is the landscape that gets you – it is like nothing I have ever seen. It is like the earth is in constant upheaval, which it is, with Iceland situated on top of the Eurasian and North American plates, which are pulling apart at 2.5cm per year.

‘What is this place we have come to?’ the first Vikings must have thought. Gustaf Skarsgard who acts as the historical character Floki in the History Channel’s Vikings series (best series on telly with Game of Thrones) does a fantastic job of acting out the ‘wonder’ that the first Viking explorers must have had when they first landed on this new shore.

It is one of the most fascinating places I have ever travelled and I highly recommend you travel there at some point. Some highlights and photos below (keeping it short and pictorial). We did the south and south-east for 7 days – a good period of time to fit it all in but also relax.

  • The Geyser at Geysir – every 6-10 minutes boiling hot water and steam sprays from the ground – a real reminder of how volcanic this place is and how as humans we need to be thinking a long game when planning our future settlements and energy sources.

Geysir, Iceland

  • The Gullfoss waterfall – the power and wisping spray of this waterfall gives an eery and supernatural feel to the place, which coupled with the northern lights – I can completely understand why the first settlers referred to Iceland as ‘Land of the Gods.’

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

  • Thingvellir and Silfra – where the Eurasian and North American Tectonic Plates are being pulled apart at 2.5cm a year – and my personal favourite – Silfra – you can dive at Silfra between two tectonic plates – the clearest water you have ever seen at 100m plus, simply stunning. I put together a short go-pro clip for You Tube on the Silfra dive, you can check it out here

Thingvellir, Iceland. Where the North American and Eurasian Plates are pulling apart at 2.5cm per year.

 

Silfra, Iceland. Diving between two tectonic plates

  • Vestemann Islands. Westman Islands. These are incredible and a great puffin viewing place replete with a hide where you can relax and take photos of these endearing birds at the south of the island and the hike back – around 3km is magnificent.

Vestemann Islands (Westman Islands), Iceland

 

Puffin watching, Vestemann Islands, Iceand

  • Vik and Surrounds: Plenty to do at this lovely coastal town – hiking up to the lighthouse and puffin watching, to walking along the black sand beaches, to spending time at the Selfoss waterfall and history museum.

Vik and Surrounds, Iceland

 

Selfoss Waterfall, Iceland

 

Puffins, Vik, Iceland

  • The DC Plane wreck: A round walk of 7km across scoria fields takes you to the DC Plane wreck where a US cargo plane ran out of fuel in the 1970s and crash landed on the black-sand, with all on board surviving. The walk itself is quite repetitive (it is the middle of the scoria field), but worth it when you get there – particularly for photography where the white of the plane and black of the sand and blue of the sky creates some nice contrasts. The walk is do-able as well, my four year old did it, so it is definitely walkable.

DC Plane Wreck, Sólheimasandur, Iceland

  • Jangalverson Glacier and Iceberg Lagoon. This is a real highlight – icerbergs that have broken off from the glacier float in the lagoon and get grounded on the beach where the river runs out to sea. The crystal shapes the icebergs take are amazing.

Making sandcastles, Jangalverson Glacier and Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

 

Jangalverson Glacier and Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

  • Staying on a horse farm. We stayed at horse farm – highly recommend it – a great ride for the kids and an excellent breakfast.

Icelandic Horse

Getting around: Easy. Hire a car and follow the ringroad the ‘1’, with all major attractions off this.

Recommended Accommodation: Around Vik: The Farmhouse or Steig. Near Selfoss: the Horse Farm (the kids had so much fun here).

Food and beverage: From nice restaurants to roadside diners to my favorite ‘the Bakery’ (the biggest chelsea buns around); some nice local craft beer; something for everyone.

Activities: Amazing. From geology to geography to history to hiking to wildlife viewing.

Iceland. Amazing place, people, activities and wildlife. Ten out of ten. A highly recommended travel destination.

Enjoy it. Thank you Iceland. Onwards.

Reflections on Antarctica

It is hard to put the most magical place you have ever had the privilege of visiting into words, yet here goes.

Antarctica
Magnificent. Beautiful. Colossal. Vast. The grandeur and scale of this lost world is beyond comprehension. Twice the size of Australia. 14,000,000 sq km. You could fit the United Arab Emirates into Antarctica 168 times, New Zealand 52 times. From the tumultuous waters of the great southern ocean, past the furious fifties and shrieking sixties, rises this magical land – the highest continent on earth, which is covered in ice up to 1.9 km thick. It towers above the sea, majestic, with huge glaciers and sheer cliffs guarding its plateaued interior, these giant walls of ice slipping into the sea on occasion with a thunderous roar.

It is the coldest, driest, yes driest, windiest continent on earth, and the highest in terms of average elevation.

Antarctica is dynamic, always changing, the sea ice around it growing and shrinking with the seasons, glaciers calving, clouds moodily shrouding it then releasing its beauty to the sun at the whim of the wind.

It is the most spectacular place I have ever laid eyes on.

And then the eyes wander, to the sea in front of this great southern land, the mid range of a man or woman’s eyesight, to a sea covered in icebergs, like crystals, the most beautiful pieces of natural art alive. And then they wander to the near range of human eyesight, where smell and hearing are also useful allies, for in the near range, some of the largest beasts in our world, the mighty whales, gently glide, communicating through song, every once and a while diving into the depths to feed on krill, the shrimp like creature that is the nourishment and lifeblood of this lost world. There she blows. And another. And another. Families of whales, in relative abundance, all enjoying the summer riches of this kingdom of kingdoms.

The biodiversity is like I have never seen. The whales, the seals – sleeping and barking and jostling for dominance, the penguins, those loveable creatures whose antics can’t help but make one smile. Never have I seen anything like it in my lifetime.

Antarctica is magnificent. It’s biodiversity is like a portal to another world. In the unknown sphere, it has a mystical aura that is difficult to explain – yet you can sense it. On an ecocsystem nature-society level, it carries 90% of the world’s fresh water.
Our Antarctica is fundamental to the human race’s survival.

Paddle boarding in Antarctica. Day 1.

 

The whales are returning to Antarctica after being hunted to near extinction.

The Mission. The ClimateForce International Antarctic Expedition 2018.
Ninety environmental ambassadors from over 20 countries took part in the two week expedition to Antarctica, the purpose of which was to learn about the continent and climate change through the Explorers Passage and polar explorer Sir Robert’s renowned ‘Leadership on the edge Programme,’ with each leader then charged with the responsibility to return to their respective countries to ignite the change to a low carbon economy. Sir Robert was the first explorer to walk to both the south and north poles and has since become a fierce environmental ambassador and advocate for the ongoing protection of Antarctica. In 30 years’ time, when the Antarctic Treaty and its environmental protocols are able to be reviewed – which preserves Antarctica for non-military use and scientific research, those that took part on the expedition will be charged with re-negotiating it for the greater good of nature and society. I personally pledged that in 30 years, at age 65, if lucky enough to still be here, that I would somehow be at the negotiating table. The word of the 90 2018 ambassadors is our bond.

ClimateForce International Antarctic Expedition 2018

The people
Never have I met such a talented and inspirational group of people in one place. Every single one of those 90 people from 20 countries. There were explorers, government officials, master film makers, scientists, rock stars, executives in business, entrepreneurs, authors, and youth. Every single person had an interesting story, had had challenges in their life, but had persisted on their path to work in a field of their passion, and overcome those challenges. And all were committed to working tirelessly in their respective countries and fields, to be change makers working toward a low carbon economy. Antarctica needs them. And we need it.

A period of two weeks, with no internet, no cell phones, embedded in nature, with an incredible team; there really was something fundamental to the concept ‘disconnect from the world to reconnect.’ There was nothing better. Everyone getting out of their comfort zone and engaging with people – having a conversation – sharing challenges past, lessons learned, debating theory, getting insights, reflecting on it all, and making friends for life.

Reflection. There was time for reflection and journal writing. And from those conversations, so much was learned about the world, about people, about motivations, about beliefs, about what we need to change as a society.

One concept was ‘graduation of mindset’, where a person removes themselves from their day to day routine, immerses themselves in nature with like minded people, and broadens their horizons from the narrow to the broad. From the phone to the horizon. From the dream to the reality. From the ‘I’m not sure if I can’ to the ‘I will make that happen.’ And ‘I will do that,’ whilst sharing it with others, because the best things in life are shared.

Open your eyes. Turn off your phone. Talk to the person next to you. You may be surprised to find that they have a lot to offer. Laughter and friendship even.

Team Zayed and the Solar Lights – Our message to the world.
Team Zayed was a team of three representing the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, in honour of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, in this 2018, a celebration of his life, the Year of Zayed. The team consisted of the Environment Agency’s communication’s specialist Mariam Al Qassimi; Scientist of Mammalogy, Rashed Al Zaabi; and myself, Winston Cowie.

Team Zayed representing the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. Left to Right. Rashed Al Zaabi. Mariam Al Qassimi. Winston Cowie.

We were incredibly privileged to represent the agency and grateful to our inspirational Secretary General, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, for the opportunity to take on the challenge of bringing the stark reality of a global issue – climate change – the challenge of our time – back to the UAE for further discussion and debate.

Whilst in Antarctica, Team Zayed led an initiative where with 102 solar lamps, with all delegates, we held a solar lights show, making words with the lights in the cold and dark of the Antarctic night, and sending them to the world.

Our message, that of 90 people from 20 countries, was: ‘Hi World – from Antarctica. Please listen: climate change and plastics are our challenge. Let’s change. All of us. Individuals and countries. Stop. Think. Act. Energise. Be the Change. #ClimateForce.”

Team Zayed Solar Lights Show

The launch of the Zayed Solar Lights Show. From the Ocean Endeavour. Antarctica.

As we lit up the Antarctic night, one of our colleagues on the expedition, Inch Chua from Singapore, a talented musician, sang our message in the Antarctic night. We could hear whales surfacing as we sung, in union. It was one of those incredible unforgettable moments when time stood still.

Inch Chua. Singer / songwriter from Singapore. Inch was one of the awesome people on the expedition. Jamming here in a volcano and old Whaling Station. South Shetland Islands

The full message to the world and UAE leadership will be released soon. 

If we can send a message to the world from Antarctica using renewable energy, if Robert and his son Barney, a 23 year old champion, can walk to the South Pole using only renewable energy, we can transition towards a low carbon society. Please! Heed the words – on the individual level. Stop. Think. Act.

Graduation of mindset. ‘Why’ is the question. Why are we doing what we are doing as a society?

Do we really need that plastic bag that we will use once and throw away? Do we really need that straw? Do we really need to have that take away coffee twice a day and throw away both cups? Stop. Think. Act. Be an energiser or change maker in your peer group and community is the summary.

As a society we have got too comfortable with using something once and throwing it away. It’s not ok any more. It wasn’t in our parent’s generations, so why is it in ours?

Why.

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With the lights we also honoured our visionary UAE leadership, the Environment Agency, inspirational woman, service men and women and some global environmental heroes like Dr Jane Goodall, and Sir Rob and Barney Swan.

It is important to say thank you.

Two other names I would like to mention.

Steve Irwin is one.

What an amazing man he was – passionate, caring and determined. He really did inspire a new generation of environmental ambassadors globally and it is wonderful to see Teri and Bindi and Robert doing the same. The agreement from those completing the solar lights show was unanimous – in honour of Steve and his family, we lit up the Antarctic night with the word Steve.

The second name. Well it was before we headed back across the Drake Passage, the waterway that the late New Zealand yachtsman Sir Peter Blake had travelled around numerous times, that he was foremost in my thoughts. It may have been that I grew up a Kiwi kid, looking up to this role model who sailed the world’s oceans doing good things; it may have been the wandering Albatross that followed the Ocean Endeavour, it may have been his environmental legacy on his last voyage, the Seamaster, it may have been the way he passed too early, killed by pirates in the Amazon. Regardless, the group on the deck of the Ocean Endeavour had a moment and wrote his name, in honour of all he achieved and for his family.

They were quiet moments in the dark and cold of night, when we wrote those names.
And all in solar lights. Lighting up the great southern ocean sky. Blinking in the wind and the spray of the waves. Looking to the past to inspire the present and the future.

What’s next?

More on how Antarctica is being effected by global warming in another post – and what we as individuals and what countries can do to reverse the melt. It will be a huge challenge, but on leaving Antarctica, my overwhelming feeling was optimism. It really was and still is.

I do feel optimistic for the future of Antarctica, optimistic because it is a place where we got things so wrong in the past – hunting whales nearly to the point of extinction, only for the global community to come together and protect them, and the Antarctic continent for science and peace. And they now live in that magical place, still recovering, but noticeably there. We can get it right with global warming and plastics too. I am sure. With good people and motivation.

Each of the 90 persons on the expedition received a ‘Zayed Torch’ from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi – one of the solar lamps that we used to send the message to the world with, from Antarctica. Each person, now friends for life, will go back to their respective countries and with their passion and energy, with their metaphorical Zayed light, make positive things happen for nature and society – rise to the environmental challenges of our time – plastics and global warming. For Team Zayed in Abu Dhabi we will be doing the same.

Personally I think I had a graduation of mindset moment on the Ocean Endeavour in Antarctica. It was on the last evening as we rounded Cape Horn. As we sat there and shared lovely moments with our new friends, and in Sir Robert’s final speech, with my new good friend and an inspiration, rock star Inch Chua from Singapore, we were awarded the Sir Robert Swan Leadership Inspiration Award for outstanding contributions to the expedition. It came as a surprise – an award from the legendary polar explorer. On reflection I was incredibly grateful and humbled but also motivated by it to deliver and make the candle burn bright. It is motivating and the Zayed and Sir Rob Swan torch will be burning bright, working hard, seeking positive outcomes, rest assured.

Sir Rob Swan Leadership Inspiration Award. International Antarctic Expedition 2018. Winston Cowie. United Arab Emirates.

 

Sir Rob Swan Leadership Inspiration Award. Inch Chua. Singapore.

From the narrow to the horizon. From the dream to the reality. From the I’m not sure if I can to the ‘I will make that happen.’

Together we will. All of us. Including You. Because deep down you know what is right, that we need to change. That we can, with a little motivation. So You, reading this: Stop. Think. Act. Energise. Be the change. Climateforce.

In the words of Sir Robert Swan, ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.’

Not on our watch.

W J Cowie. Reflections on Antarctica. March 2018.

Antarctica calls: Meeting Jane Goodall and the launch of the ClimateForce Challenge

On Thursday the 25th of January 2018, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) was privileged to host Dr Jane Goodall and 12 schools from around the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots UAE Annual Awards.

The awards doubled as the launch of the #ClimateForce Challenge, a collaboration between EAD, the Jane Goodall Institute, and polar explorer Sir Robert Swan’s ClimateForce 2041. Sir Robert Swan was the first person to walk to both the north and south poles.

The challenge encourages everybody to consider their individual and everyday behaviours that impact the environment, and pledge to change their behaviour for the ‘greater good,’ with a collective target of reducing carbon emissions by 326 million tonnes by 2025!

As part of the ClimateForce challenge, it was unveiled that EAD and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots are sending three Ambassadors, Rashed Al Zaabi, Mariam Al Qassimi, and Winston Cowie, to Antarctica to take part in Sir Robert Swan’s International Antarctic Expedition 2018. The team will learn about the continent and climate change through polar explorer Sir Robert’s renowned ‘Leadership on the edge Programme,’ and will return to the UAE with practical everyday solutions to climate change.’

Thursday was the start of this journey, and it was fantastic to see that around 100 students, with Dr Jane Goodall and our three Ambassadors, make the ClimateForce pledge.

Environment Agency Abu Dhabi & Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Antarctica Ambassadors – Rashed Al Zaabi, Mariam Al Qassimi, and Winston Cowie

ClimateForce Challenge Launch UAE

Antarctica and being an energiser in the community on the environmental issues of our time calls! Plastics, inefficient resource use – we are coming for you!

There is much more information to come – keep an eye on both the Environment Agency’s and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots UAE website and social media – the planning has begun in earnest.

Onwards and I am incredibly grateful to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s own inspirational leader, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak for the opportunity to meet Dr Jane be involved in this incredible initiative. I couldn’t be more excited about the coming months. Twenty six days to go!

To participate in the challenge as a school – and become involved in the Jane Goodall family –  please visit www.rootsnshoots.ae

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Meeting Jane Goodall. It was incredible. 

Dr Jane Goodall at the ClimateForce Challenge UAE Launch

And on a personal note, so lovely and grateful to spend the last couple of days with Dr Jane Goodall as part of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots partnership. She really is an inspiration – not only for her work with the chimpanzees in Tanzania, but for the institute she has set up – a grassroots conservation network which engages millions of youth and is in over 100 countries. At the annual UAE Roots & Shoots awards held Thursday in Abu Dhabi, as she spoke I sat there, looked around the room and considered what an amazing person she is – an energiser who gets things done – of the earth – inspiring youth (and adults as well to be honest), all over the world. At 83 years of age, she travels over 300 days a year (her calendar is booked 3 years in advance), talking, giving interviews, encouraging people to change their behaviour and live their values. We need people like Jane, and having had a treasured opportunity to meet with her, and have our wee girls meet her, I’m feeling seriously motivated (as they are from the conversation on the drive home) to make some changes to everyday consumerism and energy use behaviours. The ClimateForce challenge has well and truly begun.

Dr Jane Goodall and Winston Cowie at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi

So thank you Dr Jane, your magic has worked. Check out her movie JANE which is out in some countries and will soon be out in others like the UAE. Can’t wait to see it!
And once again, so incredibly grateful to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful initiative. 
Onwards.

Conquistador Puzzle Trail translated into Spanish and gifted to 350 schools and universities in New Zealand

The Embassy of Spain in New Zealand and author Winston Cowie have collaborated and translated Cowie’s book, Conquistador Puzzle Trail, into Spanish. Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that Spanish or Iberian navigators may have been the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, over 100 years pre Abel Tasman. 

The Spanish version is entitled “Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanoles,” which means: “New Zealand, a history puzzle: After the traces of the Spanish Conquistadors.”

As part of the celebration of launching the Spanish version, the Embassy of Spain and Cowie are sending a free English version to 350 secondary schools and universities in New Zealand.

Former Ambassador of Spain to New Zealand the honourable Manuel Viturro De La Torre; author Winston Cowie; and Dr Juan Pineiro. at the launch of the Spanish version of Cowie’s book in La Coruna Spain.


The Ambassador of Spain comments that “this book focuses on the cultural relations between our two countries that despite being in the antipodes they might have shared a common history. It is really a food for thought not only for scholars but also for students in the schools of New Zealand”.

Author Winston Cowie, states “I am incredibly grateful to the Embassy of Spain, New Zealand for their ongoing collaboration and cooperation. To have Conquistador Puzzle Trail now translated into Spanish and distributed across Spain, and the English version now in most secondary schools and universities in New Zealand is a proud moment. My hope is that students will read the book, and in time become teachers themselves, and perceptions changed in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand. What is needed is a robust public debate on the subject, and more research, in order to move knowledge forward. Everybody has a role to play.”

The Embassy of Spain and Cowie have also offered a free personal copy to the first 10 history teachers that volunteer to write their own objective review on Conquistador Puzzle Trail.

The Embassy of Spain and Winston Cowie look forward to the ongoing discussion on the theory that the Spanish and other Iberians were the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand.

Conquistador Puzzle Trail is available through Paper Plus stores, good independent bookstores and online at Fishpond.co.nz. Those overseas can contact Bookreps.co.nz to order a copy.

 “Plus ultra,” ‘Beyond’, as the Conquistadors would say. Onwards.

Conquistador Puzzle Trail translated into Spanish and launched in Spain!

Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole by Winston Cowie.

Proud moments in La Coruna, Galicia, northern Spain.

 The Embassy of Spain in New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, the Spanish Organisation for International Cooperation on Development, and author Winston Cowie have collaborated and translated Cowie’s book, Conquistador Puzzle Trail, into Spanish. 

Winston Cowie book

Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that Spanish or Iberian navigators were the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, over 100 years pre-Abel Tasman, in circa the 1520s.

The Spanish version is entitled “Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanoles,” which means: “New Zealand, a history puzzle: After the tracks of the Spanish Conquistadors,” and was launched on 24 March 2017 in the Spanish coastal city of La Coruna. The port is the same place that the Spanish ‘Loaisa expedition’ embarked from on its 1525 around the world voyage of discovery, and also the place where a large New Zealand pohutukawa can be found.

Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico by Winston Cowie

 

Winston Cowie at the La Coruna pohutukawa with both versions of his book: Conquistador Puzzle Trail

Winston Cowie with the two versions of his book at the La Coruna pohutukawa

The La Coruna police officers who look after the tree and the Greenstone taonga gifted to it on Cowie’s 2013 visit.

The initiative to translate Conquistador Puzzle Trail into Spanish has been a collaboration between the Spanish government and Winston Cowie since the successful launch of Cowie’s book in 2015. Conquistador Puzzle Trail has since been added as a source on the early discovery of New Zealand on Te Ara, the online Encyclopedia of New Zealand, and praised by Spanish and Portuguese governments.

 The launch was attended by the honourable former Spanish Ambassador to New Zealand, Ambassador Manuel Viturro De La Torre; the honourable Maria Garcia, Vice Mayor of La Coruna; Spanish historian Xose Alfeiran; Juan Pineiro, who has helped Cowie tremendously over the years with his research and a number of other Spanish dignitaries and members of the public.

La Coruna Book Launch – Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole

The current Ambassador of Spain, the honourable Manuel Pradas Romani, comments that “this book focuses on the cultural relations between our two countries that despite being in the antipodes they might have shared a common history. It is really a food for thought not only for scholars but also for students in the schools of New Zealand and Spain”.

Author Winston Cowie, states “I am incredibly grateful to the Embassy of Spain, New Zealand for their ongoing collaboration and cooperation. To have Conquistador Puzzle Trail now translated into Spanish and distributed across Spain, and the English version now widely distributed is a proud moment.

 And to be able to travel to La Coruna after research trips here in 2009 and 2012, and share the moment with some of the lovely Galician people that have helped me over the years, I am very grateful. It was a really special and proud moment.

 Looking ahead, my hope is that students will read the book, and in time become teachers themselves, and perceptions changed in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand. What is needed is a robust public debate on the subject – in both Spain and New Zealand, in order to move knowledge forward. Everybody has a role to play.”

Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole, is available in Spain through the Liberia Arenas bookstore. Email info@libreriaarenas.com to order. The English version is available in good New Zealand bookstores, online at Fishpond, or through http://www.bookreps.co.nz/.

Liberia Arenas, La Coruna, where Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole by Winston Cowie is available. Owner Manuel Arenas, Juan Pinerio and Cowie.

“Plus ultra,” ‘Beyond’, as the Conquistadors would say.

And another exciting initiative just around the corner….

 

Open Letter to the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage re the European discovery of New Zealand. No II.

14 August 2016

Re: Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – recent updates to the summary on the European discovery of New Zealand

Dear New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage,

I refer to our recent correspondence in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand and the updates to your venerable online resource in respect of the Portuguese and Spanish theories on the discovery of New Zealand.

The forward thinking changes made by Te Ara sparked a welcome literary debate on the genre, with articles in the New Zealand Herald, Te Wahanui, and recently in the New Zealand Listener Magazine.

My responses to those articles include:

A previous article in the Northern Advocate, also provides a good overview.

The result: We are in the midst of an intelligent debate about the European discovery of New Zealand and Australia. The glass appears to be cracking around the negative stigma that has surrounded the theories on the Portuguese and Spanish discovery of Australia and New Zealand for the past 30 years. These theories appear to be moving from being presented as fringe ideas to being discussed in the mainstream as real possibilities. And they are now being taught and assessed as possibilities, probabilities or otherwise in schools and universities. Dr Ross Ramsay, for example, at the Southern Institute of Technology is leading the way in this regard, putting the literature in front of students and asking for their assessment.

From my end, it is pleasing that societal knowledge and interest on this element of New Zealand history appears to be moving forward, and with that, further research will be completed, and the Portuguese and Spanish theories developed further.

Progress.

History wasn’t written in a day.

Sincere congratulations to the team at Te Ara and the Ministry for your major part in inspiring this discussion and I do apologise for the delay in getting back to you, it has been a rather busy period with family, profession, and a recent charitable goodwill mission to Seychelles and Madagascar. The modern day Conquistadors have been active in the Indian Ocean. Further details can be found here, if interested.

Now, to the updates in Te Ara on the European discovery of New Zealand.

I do have some comments and a query for you, if I may, and propose some alternative text for your kind consideration.

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Reference: The Short Story: The European Discovery of New Zealand

1)    The map presented in the encyclopedia is preceded by over 100 years by the Dieppe maps.

In my earlier letter dated 8 October 2015 I previously provided comment that the map that commences this section on the website, the Henricus Hondius 1641 map, is not the earliest map of the Terra Australis Incognita or of Australia and New Zealand. I provided an alternative below based on the 228 year old, well researched theory, that the Portuguese and / or  Spanish may have discovered Australia and New Zealand, a theory that has been taken seriously and believed by some of the top cartographers and historians of their time, from Alexander Dalrymple (1786); the British Admiralty (1803); Richard Henry Major (1859), George Collingridge (1895), José Toribio Medina (1918), Robert Langdon (1975 and 1988), Kenneth McIntyre (1977 and 1982), Dr Helen Wallis (1981), Roger Hervé (1983), and Peter Trickett (2007).

The literature is written by credible sources. As an example, the late Dr Helen Wallis’ (OBE) credentials included:

  • Map curator, British Museum (later British Library) (1967-1987).
  • Chairman of the standing commission on the history of cartography of the International Cartographic Association.
  • President of the International Map Collectors’ Society (1986).
  • Founder of The Geography and Map Section of the International Federation of Library Associations.
  • President of The Society for Nautical Research, 1972-1988, and President of the British Cartographic Society.

She was the top of her field, and completed a very detailed review of the maps. Her conclusion:

“… it is notable how many of these names are descriptive of physical features … others seem to record the events and personal associations of an exploring voyage, including saints’ names … It is clear that the land represents a discovery made on a European voyage or coastal exploration. Secondly, it was apparently not a region of settled and civilised populations whose peoples would tell a visiting expedition the names of towns and other places (in fact there is no sign of towns). Thirdly, the number of Portuguese names suggests that the voyage was made, or at least recorded, by the Portuguese. The flags on Desliens charts of 1561 and 1566 are more explicit, indicating a Portuguese discovery.”

Question: I would be grateful if you could let me know what the reason is for the venerable national encyclopedia appearing to ignore these maps and the literature (particularly Wallis’ experienced view) surrounding them.

Pending your response, and to assist, I have drafted for your kind consideration an alternative section for ‘The Short Story’ section, that provides a reasonable assessment of current knowledge and literature.

Alternative proposals:

In summary, I propose that the map that is currently presented in this section be removed as it is doesn’t represent current knowledge and literature. I propose it be replaced with the ‘Jean Rotz’ map of 1542, presenting the great southern continent in the global context, with a close up of the Vallard Map of 1547 to provide the New Zealand context. I also propose for consistency that a paragraph be added above the Abel Tasman section mentioning the Spanish and Portuguese theory – as it is included in the ‘long story’.

The alternative proposition is:

Proposal: Short Story: European discovery of New Zealand

In their search for the vast ‘terra australis incognita’ (the unknown southern land) thought to lie in the Pacific, explorers made daring journeys across uncharted waters.

They did not find the fabled continent, but they did find New Zealand.

Circumstantial evidence points to the possibility of the Portuguese and Spanish being the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, however the Dutchman Abel Tasman is first recorded as having sighted New Zealand, and the country was later mapped by James Cook, the British captain who dominates the story of the European discovery of New Zealand.

 

Jean Rotz Circular Chart - 1542, which it is theorised includes some of the eastern coastline of Australia and some of the North Island of New Zealand.

Jean Rotz Circular Chart – 1542, which it is theorised includes some of the eastern coastline of Australia and some of the North Island of New Zealand.

Vallard Map 1547 - the eastern coast of Australia with portolan realigned. Part of the North Island of New Zealand may be the island the 'Illa do Magna'

Vallard Map 1547 – the eastern coast of Australia with portolan realigned. Part of the North Island of New Zealand may be the island the ‘Illa do Magna’

Vallard Map 1547. The North island of New Zealand?

Vallard Map 1547. The North island of New Zealand?

The Short Story

Portuguese and Spanish voyages

There is a possibility that both Iberian nations voyaged to or were wrecked in New Zealand in the 1520s, with sixteenth century maps with coastlines similar to New Zealand and Australia, appearing on world maps from the 1540s. On the most detailed map, the Vallard of 1547, over 120 Portuguese place names appear on landmasses where modern day Australia and New Zealand are located, and in some places, the place names describe physical features that still appear in places on those maps today. There is, however, currently no ship’s journal making these discoveries definitive – a sighting of New Zealand was not recorded by a European until 1642.

Abel Tasman

In 1642 the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sailed in search of the southern continent, which sixteenth century maps indicated was located in the South Pacific. Dutch merchants hoped this land would offer new opportunities for trade. Tasman discovered New Zealand on 13 December 1642, but after a bloody encounter with Māori in Golden Bay, he left without going ashore.

Shortly afterwards, a Dutch map maker gave the name Nieuw Zeeland to the land Tasman had discovered.

James Cook

The English navigator Captain James Cook sighted New Zealand on 6 October 1769, and landed at Poverty Bay two days later. He drew detailed and accurate maps of the country, and wrote about the Māori people. His first encounter with Māori was not successful – a fight broke out in which some Māori were killed. However, after this Cook and his men had friendly contact with Māori.

The naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who sailed with Cook, gathered a great deal of information about the country’s plants and animals. Their records formed the foundation for the modern study of New Zealand botany.

On two later voyages, Captain Cook used New Zealand as a base to prove that a great southern continent did not exist in the Pacific.

Citation: John Wilson and Winston Cowie ‘European discovery of New Zealand’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 10-August-16.

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Reference: The Long Story: The European Discovery of New Zealand

I have some comments on the ‘Before Tasman’ section. As always, comments are well intended with a view of bringing knowledge forward.

An earlier discovery?

The sentence: ‘Spanish or Portuguese ships sailing out of Callao or Acapulco, or from the East Indies, may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.’  

My view is that this sentence can be improved a little semantically – as the way it reads, it could be interpreted to mean that both Spanish and Portuguese ships sailed out of Callao, Acapulco and the East Indies. As you are aware, given the treaties of Tordesillas and Zaragoza, it was the Spanish that sailed out of Callao and Acapulco with the Portuguese sailing out of the East Indies.

Alternative proposal: ‘Spanish ships sailing out of the Philippines and Central and South American ports (Acapulco, Callao and Concepcion), and Portuguese ships sailing from the East Indies (Malacca and Ternate), may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.’

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The sentences: “But there is no firm evidence of Europeans reaching New Zealand before Abel Tasman in 1642. Although fragmentary information found in Portuguese and Spanish archives suggests at least the possibility of earlier arrivals, no one before Tasman reported the discovery of new land that can be identified as New Zealand.”

My view is that these two sentences can be improved by referring to the circumstantial evidence that support the Portuguese and Spanish case – maps, the existence of artefacts and a skull, and oral tradition, as opposed to ‘fragmentary information found in Portuguese and Spanish archives’ which doesn’t reflect what the evidence is or where that information is located.

Similarly, none of the navigators put forward as the navigators who may have voyaged to New Zealand are included – Christopher Mendonca (Portuguese) and Juan Fernandez (Spanish).

Taking into account the above my proposal for the ‘An earlier discovery?’ section is as follows:

Alternative Proposal: An earlier discovery?

Spanish ships sailing out of the Philippines and Central and South American ports (Acapulco, Callao and Concepcion), and Portuguese ships sailing from the East Indies (Malacca and Ternate), may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.

Whilst no one before Tasman reported the discovery of new land that can be identified as New Zealand, circumstantial evidence including maps, references to voyages in archives, oral tradition, and artefacts suggest at least the possibility of earlier Portuguese or Spanish arrivals.

It is theorised that the ships that came closest to New Zealand before 1642 may have been those of the Portuguese navigator Christopher Mendonca (1522-24), that of the Spaniard Juan Fernandez (1576-78), with the wreck of a Spanish caravel, the San Lesmes, also a possibility in 1527. The expeditions of Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendaña de Neyra (1595) and Portuguese mariner Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (1605–06), which touched the northern Cook Islands, are also possibilities.

It is unlikely that Arab or Chinese ships, which were trading in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, were ever off the coast of New Zealand.

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Terra Australis Incognita

My view is that the way this section is written, it appears to try and distance Portuguese and Spanish navigators from the south to make room for the ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ myth. E.g.

“…the tracks of European navigators like Mendaña and Queirós lay well to the north of New Zealand, leaving plenty of space for cartographers to place a terra australis incognita (unknown southern land) to the south.”

This Terra Australia term has its origins in theory with the likes of Aristotle, Ptolmey and Cicero – centuries before this –  there is no need to suggest that space needed to be left for it – as consistent with the theory that the southern continent was needed to balance the globe, it was already appearing on maps prior to Mendana and Queiros’ voyages.

As such, I propose that the following wording be used to describe the Terra Australis Incognita.

Alternative Proposal: Terra Australis Incognita?

The discovery of New Zealand and Australia has always been bound up with speculation about the ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ – the ‘great southern unknown’ landmass, originally theorised about by the likes of Aristotle and Ptolmey. It was considered that a southern landmass was needed to counterbalance that in the north and even given the existence of the sixteenth century Portuguese maps and Tasman’s maps in this part of the world, it wasn’t until the voyages of Captain James Cook that the myth was finally dispelled.

Citation: John Wilson and Winston Cowie ‘European discovery of New Zealand’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, updated 10-August-16.

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I would be most grateful for your view and response, Te Ara, to my question and proposed text amendments.

May I also state how professional and responsive I have found you in this korero, Te Ara. When-ever I have messaged there has been a prompt response. I am grateful to you and thank you once again for serious consideration of what has become an important national korero.

 

With Kind Regards,

Winston Cowie

Author – Conquistador Puzzle Trail

United Arab Emirates