A glimpse of ancient Mauritius: Ile aux Aigrettes, restoration island

  • White-tailed tropicbird chick being hand-fed, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius fodies: male (left) and female (right), Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Telfair's skink, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

I first heard of Ile aux Aigrettes at a conference on island pest eradications held in Auckland in early 2001. A delegate from Mauritius spoke about a failed attempt to eradicate Indian musk shrews from the 25 ha island, which had already been cleared of feral cats and ship rats. The island next registered in… Read more »

Once were dodos

  • Dodo statue, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius kestrel. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • What am I

The dodo is the world’s most famous extinct bird. Its quirky appearance makes it instantly recognisable in popular culture, including in classics such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and the animated short film ‘Ice Age’. One of the reasons it is so well known is that it is considered to be the first… Read more »

Deep science

  • Consigned to the deep. A dead-weight is dropped from the stern of the Marion Dufresne. The silver cylinder to the left is the acoustically-triggered release device, with the kilometres-long tether disappearing further to the left. Images by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • The rack of hydrological survey bottles being lowered (left) and returning to the surface (right). Images by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Tropical cyclone Corentin. The red line shows the original course that the Marion Dufresne was supposed to take. Image copyright IPEV
  • Consigned to the deep. A dead-weight is dropped from the stern of the Marion Dufresne. The silver cylinder to the left is the acoustically-triggered release device, with the kilometres-long tether disappearing further to the left. Images by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa

Our return voyage on the Marion Dufresne was very different from the voyage south. The first voyage was for logistics resupply, and delivery (and uplift) of personnel, plus we had twelve fare-paying tourists on board. The voyage back was an oceanographic survey voyage. There were a similar number of passengers on board (47), but more… Read more »

Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s gift to Cook: a sacred cloak and its history of display

ahu ula

  In 1779, the chief of Hawai‘i Island, Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who traced his regal line to the great chief Līloa of Waipiʻo, greeted an English captain named James Cook after his ship made port in Kealakekua Bay. As a demonstration of his goodwill, Kalani‘ōpu‘u gifted the ‘ahu ʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) he was… Read more »

Kerguelen freeganism

  • Mussels 3 ways
  • Top left: the wrong dandelion (Taraxacum officinale group). Top right: the right dandelion (Taraxacum erythrospermum group). Bottom : dandelion salad. All images taken on Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen, by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Top: ribbed and blue mussels in situ. Bottom: blue mussels ex situ. Both images taken on Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen, by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Blue mussels cooked three ways, Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa

One of the delights for a kiwi naturalist visiting the French subantarctic is enjoying French cuisine. Each of the five cabanes (field huts) we stayed in had been provisioned in advance by helicopter or boat, and on our arrival we would find a cluster of brown or blue plastic barrels (‘touques’) filled with fascinating ingredients… Read more »

Faking Rembrandt: Copies in the collection

Faking Rembrandt: copies in the collection

Copies of prints have never been easier to identify than they are today. More and more museums (including Te Papa) are making high-resolution images of their collections available online, so that we can compare the prints in our collection with their counterparts across the world. This makes it possible even for students like myself (a… Read more »

The petrels of Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen

  • Prions
  • South Georgian diving petrel exiting its breeding burrow, Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Antarctic prion, Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • South Georgian diving petrel with leg-band-mounted GLS tag, Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa

The purpose of our visit to Ile aux Cochons* was to undertake a pilot study of the foraging ecology and at-sea distribution of South Georgian diving petrels (’jojos’) to compare with the closely related (and similar-looking) common diving petrels (’plon plons’) that we had studied on Ile Mayes the previous week. The two islands are… Read more »

A week on Ile aux Cochons, Iles Kerguelen

  • Trypots
  • L’arche d’Aymeric, Ile aux Cochons. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Common diving petrel (above) and South Georgian diving petrel (below), Ile aux Cochons. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa
  • Southern skua

I have yet to find an explanation for why this gem of an island is called ‘Ile aux Cochons’*. The nearest beasts to hogs that are on the island are the fat slugs of juvenile elephant seals that lie snorting and belching along the shoreline, and there is no evidence that pigs were ever there…. Read more »

Very rare indeed: a Malawian dance garment

  • Hair fibers from each respective sampled area, GH024606; shown at 200x magnification. Image copyright Te Papa.
  • GH024606, detail of skins used to make the garment. Image copyright Te Papa.
  • Images of hair fibers removed from GH024606 showing exterior scale patterning and the structure of the interior. Images by A. Peranteau, copyright Te Papa.

Witchy tale In 1936, the Dominion Museum was given a gift so rare and strange that it made the news.  Described in the Auckland Star and in museum records as a “witch doctor’s outfit”, the garment was subsequently displayed for many years in the Buckle St building that opened that same year.   During an… Read more »