Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the ferns

The frond underside of the weedy Pityrogramma calomelanos fern is coated in white powder. It can be knocked off to make fern patterns. Photos Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

During the recent expedition to central Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, my job was to document the ferns and lycophytes. This was at the invitation of Marika Tuiwawa (University of South Pacific) who led the expedition’s plant team. It built on my previous experience working with ferns in Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, and New Zealand. (As… Read more »

Ettie Rout: safer sex campaigner

Passport photograph of Ettie Rout, 1918.

Guest blogger Dame Margaret Sparrow writes about safer sex campaigner Ettie Rout: ‘One hundred years ago on 20 October 1915 twelve Volunteer Sisters gathered at Parliament Buildings to sign their Sisterhood Pledge and sailed off to Egypt the following day. The Volunteer Sisters were a band of women organised by Ettie Rout of Christchurch to… Read more »

Poster Balls: a new ‘species of fancy dress’

In September 1900, a new type of fund-raising ball caused a sensation in Australia, and made headlines across New Zealand – it was called a ‘Poster Ball’. While one reporter described it as a new ‘species of fancy dress’, another accurately called it ‘a new phase of advertising’. It was a novel combination both. In October 1900 this image from a Poster… Read more »

Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the camp

Part of the main sleeping area at Valevahalo. “Beverley Hills” is on the ridge in the background, and the kitchen down the other side of that ridge. Photo Leon Perrie. (c) Te Papa.

Valevahalo was the main camp for our recent Solomon Islands’ expedition. Sited at about 800 m above sea level, it is deep in the jungle of the northern foothills of Guadalcanal’s Mount Popomanaseu. I was there for eight nights, with two additional nights at a satellite camp at the nearby Haviha River. For background on the expedition,… Read more »

Native re-vegetation & weed collecting in Wellington’s greenbelt

Tim Park, Wellington City Council Biodiversity Officer. Standing next to some well established wharangi (Melicope ternata) plantings on Mount Victoria. Image: Antony Kusabs, Te Papa.

I recently tagged along with Wellington City Council’s Environment Partnership Leader, Tim Park to visit some native re-vegetation sites in Wellington’s town belt. Why is Wellington City planting native plants? Wellington City Council has a policy of replacing pine forest with native plantings in the town belt as pine trees die or are toppled by… Read more »

Expedition to the Solomon Islands

Jungle at one of our collecting sites near the main field camp. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

In September I was part of an expedition into jungle in the centre of Guadalcanal island in the Solomon Islands, tropical western Pacific. The purpose was to document the plants and animals present. My job was to help with the ferns. The mountains at the centre of Guadalcanal are rugged, wet, and difficult to access…. Read more »

Introducing Imber’s petrel: a new recently extinct seabird species for New Zealand

Holotype of Imber’s petrel. Sampling bones for DNA typically involves drilling holes or cutting chunks out of them. However, for this bone we were able to soak DNA out of the bone without damaging it.

New Zealand has a new species of seabird. Te Papa scientists recently described Imber’s petrel (Pterodroma imberi) from the Chatham Islands as a new species. A previous study that measured a large number of seabird bones from the Chatham Islands found three size categories.   The largest bones belong to the Magenta petrel/taiko (Pterodroma magentae)… Read more »

Plant collecting in south Canterbury and Marlborough

On our first collecting day, we set a new elevation record for Te Papa’s new 4WD, with 1100 m on Mount Studholme near Waimate.  We smashed that with 1700 m on our last collecting day, on top of Marlborough’s Black Birch Range.  The snow-capped Tapuae-o-Uenuku of the Inland Kaikoura Range is the backdrop. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

An important function for Te Papa’s natural history collections is to document the plants and animals we have in New Zealand. What species are present, how can they be distinguished, and where do they occur? These questions need addressing before our biodiversity, both indigenous and exotic, can be managed in an informed manner. It is… Read more »

Curious: Martinho Lowande – ‘the Great Brazilian Bareback Hurricane rider’


This studio portrait by Melbourne photographer Arthur Burman, shows Martinho Lowande and his sons dressed in their performance outfits and was taken just prior to their performances in New Zealand. Lowande, billed as the ‘Great Brazilian Bareback Hurricane rider’, performed bareback horse riding stunts while supporting either one of his two sons (aged 4 and 7 years). The… Read more »