Home' Greymouth Star : February 17th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1864 - In the American Civil War, the
Confederate hand-propelled submarine
Hunley sinks the Union’s Housatonic in
Charleston Harbour, South Carolina in what ’s
considered the first “successful” attack by a
1880 - Russia’s Tsar Alexander II
sur vives an assassination attempt
when a bomb explodes in the
imperial dining room at the Winter
Palace in St Petersburg.
1890 - Death of Christopher
Lathan Sholes, US inventor of the
1909 - Geronimo, last Apache chief to
surrender, dies in custody.
1933 - Newsweek magazine first published.
1934 - Belgium’s King Albert I is killed while
1992 - Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered and
cannibalised young men, is sentenced to 15 life
1996 - World chess champion Garry
Kasparov beats IBM supercomputer Deep
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
A J “Banjo” Paterson, Australian poet
who wrote Waltzing Matilda (1864-1941);
Andre Maginot, French military expert and
architect of Maginot Line (1877-1932); Barry
Humphries, Australian comedian-
actor (1934-); Alan Bates, British
actor (1934-2003); Gene Pitney, US
singer (1940-2006); Lou Diamond
Phillips, US actor (1962-); Michael
Jordan, US basketball player (1963-
); Billie Joe Armstrong, American
musician, (1972-); Joseph Gordon-
Levitt, US actor (1981-); Paris Hilton, US
socialite (1981-); Ed Sheeran, English singer
“The passion for setting people right is in
itself an afflictive disease.” — Marianne Moore,
American poet (1887-1972).
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the
wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.”
— (Matthew 4.1).
One hundred feet
above the cold hard
concrete steps of St
Patrick’s Church this
morning, Mr Ward Rathbun swung by one leg
as he wielded a sledgehammer at the fiercely
resistant slates of the church’s spire. With a
distinctive yellow safety helmet perched on his
head, the figure in red corduroy trousers held
a watching crowd transfixed as he clambered
with an aerialist ’s dexterity about the spire
which he and his men were endeavouring to
The spire, a Greymouth landmark for many
years, had been condemned by engineers when
the woodwork frame within it was found to be
rotten. And rotten it is. One of the workers on
the removal job said this morning that it was
possible to bury the head of a hammer in the
timber near its base.
But if it is rotten within, it is tough without
and it is not giving up its place in the
Greymouth skyline without a struggle.
Asked whether he did not feel unsafe when
he was anchored by only one leg to the crane
wielding the sledgehammer, Mr Rathbun
larconically replied: “As long as you have a half-
nelson with your leg round something
— you’re all right.”
The banking history of Hokitika is closely
bound with its pioneer history, proving that
where there is gold there will be banks not
far behind. With the town celebrating its
centennial, two of its banks are also marking
their 100 years of operations.
These are the Bank of New Zealand and
the Bank of New South Wales. The BNZ has
mounted a display of early photographs.
uFood for thought
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stone’s throw from the
mounted T-34 Soviet
tank in the centre of
this Moldovan city is an
ser vice set up by Romania,
one of several soft power moves to steer
its eastern neighbour away from Moscow ’s
Wary of Russian intentions after Ukraine
lost control of Crimea and much of its
east to Russian-backed forces last year,
Romania is trying to bring Moldova
towards the European Union.
Its sweeteners, the ambulances, as well
as offers of cheaper gas supplies and closer
trade ties, have been warmly welcomed by
impoverished Moldova’s two-month-old
Some locals are wary of Romania’s
intentions, but many are grateful in this
corner of Moldova, where villagers trudge
along muddy, unpaved roads and western
cars like the red, Volkswagen ambulances
are novel enough to win salutes from their
“People calling 903 for an ambulance
ask us to send them the red cars with the
red men,” said 35-year-old Ion Picalau,
a rescue captain with the newly-created
ambulance ser vice in Balti, about 60km
east of the Prut river border, who trained
for the job for six months in Romania.
Moscow has warned Moldova that its
drive for closer ties to Europe could cause
it to lose control of Transnistria for good,
just as Ukraine lost Crimea, and lead to
more costly gas from Russia, its main
The Romanian government is
unapologetic, saying even though it sees
Russia as a serious security threat, it will
step up a battle that is, for now, economic
rather than military.
“(Russia’s) main weapon is neither
warplanes, nor its tanks or its frigates. It is
energy,” Prime Minister Victor Ponta said
in a televised inter view with local media in
November. He has vowed to press ahead
with a gas pipeline to Moldova.
Among the people of Moldova, divided
into several ethnic groups with varying
allegiances, Romania’s actions have met
a mixed reaction, with some seeing them
as a bulwark against Russia and others
worried Romania may try to swallow
Part of Tsarist Russia for a century,
Moldova joined what was known as
Greater Romania after World War One
but was annexed by the Soviet Union in
It is now split between a Romanian-
speaking majority and the breakaway
region Transdniestria, propped up by
Russia in one of a series of ‘frozen
conflicts’ that have kept separatist regions
in several former Soviet republics under
Moscow ’s wing.
Nato’s supreme allied commander in
Europe, United States Air Force General
Philip Breedlove has said Russian forces
could easily annexe Transdniestria.
Moscow has denied any such plans.
European Union and Nato member
Romania championed Moldova signing
a trade agreement with the European
Union in June and, as Russia moved to
restrict imports of Moldovan wine, fruit,
vegetables and meat, Romania overtook
Russia as Moldova’s largest trade partner.
Moldovans can now travel visa-free
to Europe’s Schengen zone and to
wean them from Russian gas, Romania
has built a 43km pipeline across the
border, inaugurated last year on the 23rd
anniversary of Moldovan independence
from the Soviet Union.
The project will initially cover about 5%
of Moldova’s energy needs, and Romania
plans to extend the pipeline to the
Moldovan capital Chisinau, offering gas
for $263 per 1000 cubic metres, excluding
transport fees which are still under
That compares to the Russian price of
more than $300.
Moldova’s acting Economy Minister
Andrian Candu told Reuters it was a “key
project ... creating a basis for our country’s
future integration in the European Union’s
internal market ”.
Romania funded about three-quarters
of the initial pipeline’s $39.5m cost and
is expected to fund the extension while
Chisinau is seeking international financing
for the pipeline. Critics note that gas has
yet to flow and question whether the line
to Chisinau will ever be built.
Candu estimated the extension’s overall
joint costs at $304.5m, with 182.7m to be
invested by Romania.
Romania’s emergency ambulance and
rescue ser vice, developed in the early
1990s by Raed Arafat, a Syrian-born
doctor of Palestinian origin, will soon
straddle the border.
As well as training up Balti’s medical
workers, Romania donated five
ambulances to the city and rescue
helicopters, based in Romania, will soon
fly across the border, taking victims to
Chisinau, or, if they have dual Romanian-
Moldovan citizenship, possibly to Iasi.
“There has been strong political will
from the two prime ministers to achieve
this,” Arafat, who is also Romania’s deputy
interior minister, said.
Romania has also donated buses and
books to Moldovan schools. It has given
passports to 500,000 Moldovans since
the country’s independence in 1991 and
sponsored Moldovans, including Economy
Minister Candu, to study in Romania.
Such help plays well with Romanians,
three-quarters of whom support
reunification with Moldova, a country
of 3.5m sometimes referred to by its
historical name Bessarabia.
Graffiti and stickers advocating
reunification adorn walls, lamp-posts and
trains across Romania, and February saw
the creation of a cross-party group in
parliament to lobby for it.
In Moldova, however, only a fraction
of MPs openly support reunification and
the country’s large number of left-leaning
voters also oppose closer ties with the EU.
“The people on the other side of the Prut
river in Romania are our blood brothers,
so I think their help is sincere,” said
Vasile Braghis, a 45-year-old Moldovan
“ But ... the over whelming majority of
the population support the continuing
statehood of Moldova.”
Joining the EU could be a long
drawn out process. The new European
Commission team says it does not
envisage new members within the next
five years. For Moldova to reach candidate
status it would need to meet criteria on
human rights, the rule of law and be seen
as a functioning market economy.
Petr Neikovcchen, 51, town hall
official in the Gagauz region in southern
Moldova, says minorities such as
Bulgarians, Gagauz, Ukrainians, Russians
and Bulgarians felt threatened by growing
ties with Romania and were lukewarm
about the EU.
“ We Bulgarians and Gagauz consider
integration with the EU a complicated
process that will take decades, whereas
co-operation with Russia is a reality,
achievable tomorrow,” he said. — Reuters
Soft power moves
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, left, and Moldova’s Prime Minister, Iurie Leunca, attend a ceremony to mark Romania’s gift of five ambulances to Moldova.
The girlfriend of a surfer who lost both
his arms in a double shark attack last year
has revealed her eerie warnings to her
Sean Pollard was surfing at a remote
beach near Esperance in Western
Australia in October last year when he was
attacked by two great whites.
Speaking to Australian current affairs
show 60 Minutes, Mr Pollard’s girlfriend,
Claire Oakford, revealed how she would
warn him each time he would take to the
waves to be on the lookout for sharks.
“Each time we’d go down to go surfing
that ’s one of the things that I’d always
mention,” she said.
“I ’d just tell her don’t be silly,” Mr Pollard
said. “ I’d seen a couple of small ones,
“My way of dealing with it was I believed
that they are not real ... and I don’t have to
worry about it.”
On the morning Mr Pollard was
attacked, he had been teaching Ms
Oakford to surf. They were on a near
deserted beach in Esperence, Western
Australia. Locals know the particular spot
as Kelpie’s Beach in Wylie Bay.
After the pair had spent some time in
the water together Ms Oakford retired to
the sand to sunbake while Sean headed
further out to catch some bigger waves.
The surfer’s girlfriend said she did not
realise something was wrong with Sean
until he was struggling back to shore.
“I ’d looked up and could see his board
really far out ... but I couldn’t see him,
that was a bit strange. Then I did see him
coming in on a wave like body surfing and
he was sort of looking over at me.
Ms Oakford said she was “rooted to the
ground” when she saw him trying to make
“ When he stood up that first time that
was when I realised, because he was sort of
lopsided,” she said.
Mr Pollard also revealed during the
programme the moment he knew he was
under attack, and the epic battle with two
great whites that nearly took his life.
After first taking a bite
out of his board and then
taking a second chunk out
of his leg, the shark went
for his arms.
“I was trying to paddle
calmly so I wasn’t
splashing around like I
was panicking, but once it
got directly behind me it
charged through the water.
That ’s when it really went
in for the kill,” he said.
“I spun around to try and
face it. It just moved so
quick. That ’s when it came
didn’t even see its teeth. It
took me like across, and its
eye was right there in front
‘Its eye was the blackest
black I’d ever seen, and
that ’s just a vision that ’s
burnt into my mind. I can’t
get it out, just this cover
going over its eye as it bit
down on me.
“It started shaking its
head. Both my arms
were in its mouth and it just took me
under water. I remember having to hold
my breath and it just shook its head, like
seven or eight times ... it’s just the hardest
thing I’ve ever felt. It was so strong.
“... and then next thing I popped up
and ... there was just blood everywhere.
It had ripped my forearm off and sucked
the meat off my bone, like a chicken bone
But Mr Pollard’s nightmare did not end
there. After losing one arm, he felt the
“second bump” — another great white.
The double attack is the first of its kind
in the world to ever to be reported.
Despite being attacked at least 50m from
the shore and losing a huge amount of
blood, Sean miraculously managed to kick
his way back to the beach.
In perhaps the only stroke of luck on one
of Sean’s darkest days, just minutes before
his attack two families arrived on the
nearly deserted beach.
All four adults on the beach knew first
aid and together managed to save Sean’s
life, according to one of the paramedics
who attended to him later in the day.
At this stage another of his rescuers had
run up the beach to get their ute, and
using leg ropes and ratchet straps from
the car the four managed to turniquet all
Miraculously, Mr Pollard was conscious
throughout this ordeal and recalls some
moments from the horrifying events that
“I remember saying to Claire, ‘Mum’s
going to be pissed’,” he said.
Paul Gaund, one of the paramedics
to attend to the traumatic case, also
remembered Mr Pollard being incredibly
“ He just lifted his head up and said, ‘Can
you just please stop the pain mate?’” Mr
Mr Pollard had to travel more than
700km from the remote beach to a
hospital where he received emergency
Another medical professional attributed
Mr Pollard’s sur vival solely to his rescuers’
quick thinking and expertise.
“ No doubt they saved his life, that initial
first aid really did make the difference. I
guess you could say it’s a chain of sur vival
for Sean, fortunately for him there was no
After 95 stitches and 45 staples to help
his wounded body heal, Sean had to learn
to walk again as his legs had also been
attacked during the horrific ordeal.
He now uses a prosthetic arm to help
him get by, but he admitted the four
months since his attack have been a tough
“I find myself grieving for my old life
every now and then and everything
I aspired to be before, it’s all kind of
changed now. It ’s pretty hard some days,”
“Some mornings you just don’t want to
get out of bed and face it, but then again
some days when you’re doing something
nice I think, you know, it ’s pretty good
that I’m still here to be able to enjoy this. ”
Describing his girlfriend as his rock, Mr
Pollard said he believed his recovery would
have been all the more difficult without
her by his side.
“S he’s definitely my rock, I don’t know
where I’d be without her I’d definitely be
struggling a lot more that ’s for sure,” he
admitted. — New Zealand Herald
Surfer battles two great whites
‘It sucked the meat off my bone’ — Australian surfer reveals epic battle with two great white sharks
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