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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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.