Christchurch: The Gateway to Antarctica

Written by Harold McNeill on January 31st, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Following in the footsteps outlined in Shackleton’s Forgotten Expedition, Lynn takes the controls as we head north along McMurdo Sound toward our Winter Quarters below Mount Erebus. 

Five weeks and 5000 kilometers later, the final countdown for our time in New Zealand has finally arrived. We would have liked to stay longer but, due to a ticketing problem in our planned departure from Sidney Australia, we had to take a defined departure date. To make a change at this late date would have been far to expensive.

Our last few days are spent traveling up the East Coast from Invercargill through Dunedin where we visit the Lloyd family (Kim, the oldest daughter of our friends, David and Gill, and Kim’s husband Hywel and their two children – pictured in Rotorua story). After a short, but wonderful visit, we again head north along the coast toward Christchurch, making several stops along the way.

In scanning the slideshow you will note a group of amazing rocks, the Moeraki Boulders that look like giant cannonballs. Located at Koekohe Beach along a short stretch of the Otago coast, these boulders were formed millions of years ago in the Pleistocene era and only after millions of years of erosion have they made a surface appearance.  Each decade more rocks have become exposed and it appears this is the only area in the world where these unique rocks can be found.

A few hours later we arrive in Christchurch the “Gateway to Antarctica”. The city is also, coincidently, billed as the “Garden City” and “The Most English City in New Zealand”. After a few hours driving around we cannot believe how much the city looks and feels like our home city of Victoria. Having a population of 350,000, the same as Victoria, it is only after doing a bit more exploring the differences to Victoria become evident.

Christchurch has obviously been more successful in preserving their history as refurbished heritage buildings dot the city.  Victoria, on the other hand, has managed to demolish much of our history as developers gobbled up prime land then tore down the old and put up newer, far less interesting buildings.

While the weather during our stay was overcast with periods of rain, this was a plus as it accented the second major difference in Christchurch – the amount of tropical vegetation and flowers. In the soft rain, the trees, shrubs and flowers that are now bursting into bud and bloom as we approached the Christmas season, leaves the Garden City of Victoria a fair distance behind. There is one area in which Victoria overshadows Christchurch and that is in having a harbour that spills to the very core.

After completing several hours touring, we had yet to visit the International Antarctic Centre.  While we would have very much liked to have flown over that hidden, isolated continent whose land surface covers an area twice the size of Australia and is 98% covered in ice, flights are no longer available since a tragic crash several years back. The best we could do was enter the Cold Weather Chamber in order to experience what it would be like to actually visit the continent.  Given that we have both experienced the dreadful cold that can cover the Canadian prairies in the winter, hanging around at -40 (both Celsius and Fahrenheit) in a large freezer, was not unknown. The difference, the Antarctic scenes in the chamber are very realistic.

After an hour of playing around in the ice, snow and 50 mph winds driven by oversized fans, we head back to our hotel for one final night. Early the next morning we are in an airport terminal that, once the renovations are complete, will look very much like the new terminal in Victoria. After short stopovers in Sidney, Los Angeles and Vancouver, we will again soon be visiting our the kids and our home in Victoria.

In the air heading home.



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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]