Tag Archives: History

If they can we can.

The inspiration for bungee jumping comes from an ancient ritual practiced on Pentecost Island of Vanuatu in the Pacific. Jumpers (originally only woman, now only men) jump of high platforms with forrest vines tied to their ankles.

In the 1970s a group of thrill seekers attached to Oxford University; the  Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club made a number of experimental jumps.

The Dangerous Sports Club’s efforts inspired New Zealanders AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch and they started to develop new bungy cords with the assistance of scientists from the University of Auckland.

Hackett became the first commercial opperator and promoted the bungy jump (the NZ spelling) by making a number of jumps in Europe in the 1980s including a Jump in the Eiffel tower (for which he got arrested).

Since then millions around the world experiences the thrill rushing towards the ground at free fall speeds.

Bungy in Taupo

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One (wo)man one vote.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first modern country to introduce universal suffrage (both men and women can vote). The most prominent member of the woman’s’ suffrage movement was Kate Sheppard.

To commemorate 121 years of universal suffrage, pedestrian  crossings around parliament sports a walking image depicting Kate Sheppard rather than the traditional walking man.



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Call me Teddy.

Did you know, the teddy bear is named after former American President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.

The President was out on a hunting trip as the guest of the governor of Mississippi in 1902. After three unsuccessful days, guides tracked down an old black bear, tied it to a tree, directed the president to the spot and offered him the opportunity to shoot the bear. The president refused on strength that it would be unsportsmanlike to shoot an injured tied up bear.

When word of this reached the newspapers a cartoonist drew a cartoon of the event.

Drawing inspiration from the cartoon a New York sweet shop owner asked permission from Roosevelt to call some soft toy bears his wife made (on display in his shop) Teddy’s bears. The rest, as they say, is history.


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Tall Ships perhaps not a thing of the past.

The Esmeralda is one of the largest tall ships to sail the world’s oceans.

She is a Spanish manufactured steel-hulled four-masted barquentine (manufactured and delivered as a schooner) taken into service in 1953.

She is used as a training ship of the Chilean Navy and act as a type of floating embassy for Chile.

In spite of her impressive size and a claim during her service to be in podium position for both longest and tallest ocean going sailing ship, she has been surpassed several times by even larger tall ships.

The largest square rigged ocean going tall ship is currently the 5 masted clipper ship the Royal Clipper, with 5202 square metres of sail, launched as recently as the year 2000.

Esmaralda, moored in Wellington harbour

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Honey – a sweet wound dressing

Written records show that honey was used to treat infected wounds more than 2,000 years before it was known that bacteria caused infections.

Honey produced by the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of the oldest traditional medicines for a number of human ailments and it can even be effective on antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

The antimicrobial activity in most honeys (that has not been heat treated) is due to an enzyme Glucose Oxidase that catalyses glucose to form hydrogen peroxide. Certain types of nectar like manuka also have antibacterial properties that can act in addition to the hydrogen peroxide or on its own.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera)

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King of the Beasts

By popular expression, the lion is the king of the animals. The oldest known reference to the lion as the king of beasts is found in the fables of Aesop. Aesop is believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BC.

In modern times lion regularly become not only the king of beasts but also the king of the jungle.

Many are willing to point out that the lion can’t be king of the jungle as it is an animal living on the African savanna.

To be fair “jungle” is a word of sanskrit origin meaning “uncultivated land” and the asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) used to roam across large parts of Asia and Europe.

Given the right lion, lion is king of the jungle.

Lion (Panthera leo).

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Dangerous business

The joust is one of several sports with its origins in warfare.

The sport was practiced by nobles in England and Germany throughout the 16th century but abolished in France after the death of king Henry II of France in 1559.

Henry II received a mortal wound from the shard of a lance during a Jousting tournament and died soon after.

Ironically it was a tournament to celebrate the peace agreement with Philip II of Spain and from the lance of the captain of his personal body guard.

Lance flexes under impact force.


Post impact.

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Myth became Legend, Legend became Truth.

Why do the Afrikaans speaking people refer to a grey rhinoceros as white? The popular etymological story goes like this:

The Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope called the white rhinoceros the “wide” (Dutch: wijd, Afrikaans: wyd) rhinoceros to refer to its wide mouth adapted for grazing – a grass eater. Its mouth is an anatomical feature that distinguishes it from the black rhinoceros, which is a browser – a leaf eater.

The English misheard/mistranslated ‘wijd’ and started calling the rhino “white”.

Some years later, the Dutch/Afrikaners  on hearing that the English refer to this rhino as white, decided to use the Afrikaans translation for white rather than stick with the anatomically correct name they purportedly gave it earlier.

You won’t be alone in your incredulity; Kees Rookmaaker, Chief Editor of the Rhino Resource Center wrote in a 2003 publication “the popular explanation that ‘white’ is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘wyd’ is examined and found to be unsubstantiated and historically incorrect.”

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) at Pilanesberg.

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Freelancing lately?

Freelance, (free lance) came into being to describe a knight  who was not in bound service to a liege lord (during the Middle Ages – feudal system). Thus fleelance is literally a free (not bound) lance.

Freelance was only recognized as a verb in the twentieth century  (1903).

Rider with Lance, Harcourt Park World Invitational Jousting Tournament, Upper Hutt, New Zealand.

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This two thousand year old invention will do!

In the 1950’s the late Sir William (Bill) Hamilton, high country farmer and self taught engineer, developed the water jet propulsion system that allowed motorised exploration of rivers too shallow to traverse with traditional props.

The Hamilton water jet propulsion system is used in craft all over the world and became a regular feature in the New Zealand tourism industry.

During an interview in 1962 when hailed as the “inventor” of marine jet propulsion he replied “That honour probably belongs to a gentleman named Archimedes, who lived some years ago”. A position he maintained for the remainder of his life.

Skippers Canyon Jet, Shotover River, Skippers Canyon, New Zealand.

Skippers Canyon Jet website.

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