Home' Greymouth Star : January 20th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, January 20, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1265 - England's Parliament meets for rst
1887 - New Zealand annexes Kermadec
Islands in Paci c.
1892 - First o cial game of
basketball is played in the United
1936 - Death of King George V
of England who is succeeded by
1942 - Nazi o cials hold the
notorious Wannsee conference,
during which they arrive at their ' nal solution'
calling for extermination of Europe's Jews.
1961 - John F Kennedy is inaugurated as the
35th, and youngest, president of the United
1981 - Ronald Reagan becomes president
of the United States at the age of 69 and 349
days, the oldest president to take o ce.
1984 - Death of Johnny Weissmuller, US
Olympic swimming champion and actor famed
for his lm appearances as Tarzan.
1993 - Death of Oscar-winning actress
Audrey Hepburn in Switzerland.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
George Burns, US comedian (1896-1996);
Federico Fellini, Italian lm director
(1920-1993); Patricia Neal, US
actress (1926-2010); Edwin 'Buzz'
Aldrin, former US astronaut (1930-
); Dorothy Provine, US actress
(1937-2010); David Lynch, US lm
director (1946-); Lorenzo Lamas,
US actor (1958-); Sophie, Countess
of Wessex, the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of
"America is a land of wonders, in which
everything is in constant motion and every
change seems an improvement." --- Alexis de
Tocqueville, French author (1805-1859).
"So in everything, do to others what you
would have them do to you, for this sums up
the Law and the Prophets." --- Matthew 7:12).
Fathers G M
O'Connor and K C
Burns were farewelled
by a capacity crowd in the St Columba Hall
last Saturday evening. ese two priests from
St Patrick's Parish, Greymouth, leave this
week for the Chatham Islands and Temuka
Father O'Connor has been stationed in
Greymouth for seven years, the last year as
acting parish priest, a position taken over on
the death of Monsignor J Long a year ago
tomorrow. Father Burns has ser ved a three year
e various speakers at last night's function
paid tribute to the excellent work "in di cult
times" that the two departing priests had done
in Greymouth and wished them well in their
Vacancies for girls seeking employment in
government departments in Greymouth are
non-existent. is fact was revealed in a sur vey
which was carried out this morning by the
Evening Star in the larger government o ces.
Most departments are seeking male cadets ---
with school certi cate --- but the opportunities
for girls, no matter what their examination
quali cations, are just not available.
In the absence of the State Services
Commission representative, Mr G B Falck,
it was not possible to obtain exact gures on
vacancies in the Public Ser vice, but inquiries
revealed that only two or three girls had been
placed in government o ces this year. ere
were apparently a number of applications for
Departments outside the scope of the
commission do not have vacancies for girls
uToday s birthdays
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (o ce)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
Sports Editor Tui Bromley
Chief Reporter Laura Mills
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
Rambling along the beach
with relatives, Ray Wiblin
was busy telling one of his
favourite stories. His coastal
stride along the Mangawhai
coast had evoked memories
of his nest hour: the day he found a tiny
golf ball-sized piece ambergris.
As he nished recounting the tale, a
relative spotted something washed up
from the expanse of the Paci c Ocean. "I
nearly died," Wiblin says. Like a lottery
player watching their winning number
appear on screen, Wiblin knew instantly
he had struck it big time.
e piece turned out to be a 12.5kg
piece of ambergris, the stinky secretion of
semi-digested squid from the stomach of a
Wiblin sold the piece he and his relative
found for $125,000 and the pair split
the proceeds. Now 69, the retired health
inspector from Mangonui, Northland,
has made about $100,000 over decades
of beachcombing, everywhere from the
Chatham Islands to Ninety Mile Beach.
He found a couple of small, golf ball-
sized pieces of ambergris just the other
"It always brings a smile to your face,"
Wiblin's nd was unusual because
ambergris usually washes up on the west
coast, often after storms or when the
ocean currents are just right. Even more
strange was that Ray was prepared to
discuss his big discovery, albeit more than
a decade after the fact.
Big ambergris nds usually go
unreported. e bene ciaries of this
peculiar biological phenomenon prefer to
keep their windfall secret, away from the
prying eyes of greedy relatives and the
According to his history books, King
Charles II added the "grey amber" to his
eggs and Casanova had it mixed into his
Nearly 400 years ago, French doctors
believed it cured rabies and today, the top
French perfumiers use it in their scents.
When so much of modern perfumery
is synthesised, ambergris is a strange,
repellent exception and it can sell from
$10 to $20 a gram.
e journey from the sperm whale's
intestines to the laboratories of Paris is an
extraordinary one and is seldom told.
Former Waitakere mayor Sir Bob Har vey
found a piece washed up on Karekare
Beach, West Auckland, after a sperm
whale stranding in 2003.
Writing in the Herald on Sunday in
2008, he said: " ere it was, sitting on the
sand shimmering, with a cloud of seagulls
feasting on the long tentacles of sea
barnacles attached to it. At rst I thought
it was just a piece of pumice hidden in
the waves and, as I got closer, I saw it was
the genuine article. My God, I sold it to
a French perfume maker and paid for the
Sir Bob would not disclose the exact
gure he sold it for, but it is understood to
have been well over $100,000, and went a
long way to paying for the "bach" that won
Home New Zealand magazine's Home of
the Year in 2011.
"Legend has it, I sold it very successfully,"
he said coyly this week.
From the beaches of Stewart Island to
Dargaville and Auckland's Waitemata
Harbour, " oating gold" has been found
right across New Zealand.
But not all that glitters is gold.
Northland marine expert Laurie Austin
has had plenty of Jed Clampett-wannabes
turn up at his door thinking they have
"struck the motherlode".
"One guy came here, he must have had
40 or 50 kilos of these disgusting rotten
sea sponges in the back of his vehicle. He
was ecstatic, eh. He thought he had won
e high value and minute chances of
making a discovery has led to turf wars
and soured friendships as expectations of
whale-sized windfalls fall short.
In 2004, a man was cleared of trying to
ram his former ambergris hunting partner
on Baylys Beach near Dargaville.
"It can get out of control but that's
an extreme case, more to do with the
personality of the person," Dargaville-
based ambergris trader Adrienne Beusse
" ere are a few people who are a bit
more aggressive about it in their territorial
ambitions. It stirs dreams of excitement
and riches and everybody rushes o to the
beach and picks up the rst thing they
nd and then send us a photo of it. Your
chances of hitting the right thing are next
Such discoveries can have a happy
ending. In 2011, Beusse handled the sale
of a 40kg piece that was retrieved from
a whale carcass by Wairarapa iwi Ngati
e $400,000 windfall was used to
rebuild the marae and o er scholarships to
young iwi members.
Author and molecular biologist
Christopher Kemp says ambergris has
inspired fascination for hundreds of years.
While living in New Zealand, he
discovered there was no o cial history on
the subject, so he wrote Floating Gold:
A Natural (and Unnatural) History of
"Very early on, I realised anyone who
knows about ambergris doesn't want to
speak about ambergris," he said this week,
speaking from his home in the United
e book named Stewart Island beaches
as spots to nd the lucrative excrement,
which Kemp says elicited hate mail and
threats of legal action from residents.
Kemp uncovered a wealth of material
through secretive meetings with people
in the industry and found ambergris
appeared in the pages of history, from
Shakespeare to the Aztec emperor
He also went hunting for ambergris itself
--- but he never found any.
A professional ambergris hunter has
some advice for anyone looking to get into
the business: "Don't give up your day job".
e Far North resident, who spoke
on condition of anonymity, took up
ambergris-hunting full-time more than 10
years ago and made a reasonable living for
He trained his dog to sni out the
pungent shy smell and struck the jackpot
when he found an 8kg piece on 90 Mile
Beach, which he sold for $50,000.
"I just drove down the beach after some
bad weather and there it was," he says.
He bought a new vehicle, went overseas
and paid o some debt. But as more and
more beachgoers became aware of its
value, ambergris became harder to nd.
"Once one person has gone along the
beach, you're wasting your time and fuel,
After a storm, you might get 50 people
going to have a look along the beach near
Kaitaia, all hoping to be the rst on the
e competitive nature of the business
led to hunters taking more risks in search
of the elusive ' oating gold'.
"I've damaged one vehicle as waves
crashed over the top of it. Lost the engine.
ere's been plenty of vehicles getting
swamped by the bad weather."
He would usually drive --- for up to nine
hours --- along remote beaches. Others go
on horseback, hike, or take boats to remote
and di cult-to-access beaches.
He's heard of boaties being caught by
the Department of Conservation rangers
on marine reserves while looking for
But he cautions against anyone hoping
to strike the jackpot.
"When I rst started there were bugger
all people doing it but since the internet
you get every man and his dog down
the beach these days. It's as scarce as
hen's teeth these days. ere's not as
much washing in as there used to be. It's
probably a slowly depleting thing."
And any media coverage invariably leads
to even more treasure-hunters hitting the
"People aren't that well o especially in
little towns. But you don't own it until
you've picked it up yourself."
--- Herald on Sunday
A whale of a find
Prospectors are coming over the dunes with a glint in their eyes in search of the fabled
ambergris. A rare yet valuable whale secretion, this ' oating gold', which occasionally
washes up on New Zealand's coastline, stirs dreams of riches among thousands of seaside
treasure hunters. Travelling in the Far North, the HERALD ON SUNDAY met some of
the secretive speculators staking their claim
Turned down a McDonald's thickshake
this summer because you have heard it
contains pig fat? Given up drinking diet
cola because of cancer fears? Swapped
margarine for butter because you have
heard table spreads are just one molecule
away from plastic?
ese are three of the most common
myths about food --- and food experts say
misinformation about food is worryingly
Consumer NZ food writer Belinda Allan
said there were myths and misinformation
about almost all kinds of food. " ere have
even been myths about broccoli being bad
Some of the most pervasive are that
organic foods are better for you, oysters
improve your sex life, Diet Coke causes
cancer and --- one of the most common ---
canola oil was used to make mustard gas
and should not be eaten by humans.
" at one's been oating around for a few
years and only a month or so ago we had
another query about it," Allan said.
Another widely-heard myth was that
there were antibiotics in chicken meat.
But it had been years since any antibiotic
residue had been found in chicken meat
--- " ere's quite a stringent testing
programme," in New Zealand."
Catherine Sissons, of Nova Nutrition,
said most of her new clients arrived with
incorrect beliefs about food.
Common ones were that carbohydrates
were always bad for weight loss, that people
who exercise could eat what they liked, and
that calorie counting was the best way to
"It's quite worrying how many people are
scared of potatoes."
Massey University professor Steve
Flint was concerned about the increasing
popularity of raw milk among people who
believed it was healthier that pasteurised
But the raw product could contain
"We pasteurise milk to make it safe. If we
didn't have to, we wouldn't."
Allan said most of the myths were not
dangerous but some could be damaging.
"Lots of people seem to think butter
is better than table spread, but from a
nutritional perspective, it's high in saturated
e Heart Foundation has a page on
its website dedicated to myths about
margarine, including that the spread was
invented to fatten turkeys but killed them
McDonald's created a website answering
customer questions about its food --- and
discovered widespread urban myths about
the golden arches. e site, yourquestions.
mcdonalds.co.nz, started running in
November and has received more than
Spokeswoman Kim Bartlett said most had
been on three themes: Whether there is
pig or chicken fat in shakes, what goes into
Chicken McNuggets and whether burger
patty meat is bleached.
Bartlett said rumours about McDonald's
ingredients had become the stu of
"We decided it was time to clear a few
For the record: Shakes do not contain
animal fat, Chicken McNuggets are made
with 100% chicken --- breast and some skin
--- and patties are not bleached or treated
with ammonia. --- Herald on Sunday
Food fallacies beyond belief
Sixty years after Humphrey Bogart
steered her through crocodile infested
waters, the African Queen is back plying
Lovingly restored, the boat is operated by
Cam McLeay, a New Zealand adventurer
and Nile enthusiast, and took its rst
passengers for a ride in December.
" e African Queen belongs on the
Nile," McLeay said.
"So it is so important to have the boat
back home over 60 years after the lm was
In 1950 Bogart and Katharine Hepburn
ew into Uganda together with a huge
team from Hollywood to shoot the movie
of the same name.
e lm told the story of a prim
missionary and a gru adventurer, the
captain of the African Queen, who in true
silver-screen fashion end up falling in love
despite the odds.
e African Queen, which came out
in 1951, was shot between Uganda and
neighbouring Democratic Republic of the
Based on a 1935 novel by C S Forester,
the movie was set during World War One
in German-occupied east Africa.
" ere were actually two of these boats,
one of them was in Congo and this is the
Nile's African Queen," explained McLeay,
who recounts his love a air with the Nile.
"I'm very attached to the Nile. I've
travelled the full length of the river,
from the Mediterranean to the source in
"I've been up and down the river for 16
Back in the 1990s he set up a rafting
company in Uganda's Jinja area, and then
had an eco-lodge built on an island on the
McLeay said he learnt of the existence
of the African Queen when he was
holidaying on the Kenyan island of Lamu,
where traditional Arabic-style sailing
dhows with lateen sails are common.
"I was looking for an authentic African
boat to run on the Nile and I was thinking
of buying a Swahili dhow," he recounted.
" en this hotel owner said: 'Why don't
you buy the African Queen? She's from
A week later McLeay had gone to
Nairobi and tracked down Yank Evans,
a septuagenarian who explained how he
had found the hull of the boat abandoned
in northern Uganda's Murchison Falls
national park 20 years earlier and had
done it up.
When he left Uganda for Kenya he
brought the boat with him.
Another ve years went by between the
boat's return to the banks of the Nile and
the start of services on the river.
One of the challenges was to rebuild the
steam engine, which was more than 100
In the movie, directed by John Huston,
the boat was powered by a diesel engine
that was made to look like a steam
But when Evans restored it he decided
to t a real steam engine and had one
airfreighted from Britain.
"When we got this boat, the boiler
had been sitting around for a very long
time," explained Gavin Fahey, the African
Queen's captain and mechanic, adding
that he had to strip down the engine and
McLeay explains that he has tried to
recreate an atmosphere of times gone by
on board his African Queen, the time
when huge tracts of Africa were --- for
western adventurers at least --- still virgin
territory waiting to be explored.
"Gavin wears the same kind of clothes
as Humphrey Bogart," he said.
"We have adopted the fez for the
waiters, which is associated with the
Sudan, where the Nile makes most of his
journey," McLeay said.
"And we are serving gin and tonics, like
Humphrey Bogart drank in the movie."
African Queen back plying the Nile
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