Au­thor’s sense of place un­par­al­leled

His­tory min­gles with per­sonal sto­ries defin­ing this part of New Zealand

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES - By DEB­BIE JAMIESON

Anew pho­to­graphic jour­ney across the South Is­land’s 45th par­al­lel is ac­com­pa­nied by a quirky his­tory and very per­sonal mus­ings by Dunedin au­thor Lau­rence Fearn­ley. The photographs of Arno Gasteiger in 45 South start at the Waitaki River Mouth on the east coast and, stick­ing as closely as pos­si­ble to the 45th par­al­lel, travel through the Kye­burn Dig­gings, Oture­hua, Becks, Low­burn, Ar­row Junc­tion, Ben Lomond above Queen­stown and on to the Egling­ton Val­ley be­fore the West Coast. Fearn­ley said the col­lab­o­ra­tion came about af­ter an ap­proach from pub­lish­ers Pen­guin fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Gasteiger’s ear­lier book Cen­tral. ‘‘They knew I’d spent a lot of time writ­ing about the area. They wanted not just an overview of the area but a spe­cial re­sponse. It meant I could use my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences as a start to paint and view the his­tory and other sto­ries around that.’’ She be­gan with three fo­cal points as hubs, Danseys Pass, Roarin be­cause of the time she had spent kayak­ing and tramp­ing there. Her re­search fo­cused on of­fer­ing a very broad his­tory of the ar­eas, ‘‘not just gold min­ing and tourism’’, and was ac­com­pa­nied by ex­ten­sive travel. ‘‘I wanted it to be a bit quirky. ‘‘It’s not an aca­demic his­tory of the area, more like the hu­man sto­ries that have cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion. I’m a nov­el­ist re­ally so I was cap­tur­ing the sto­ries that sparked some­thing in my imag­i­na­tion.’’ A favourite was the story of the wife of Eben Ernest Hayes. Renowned for in­vent­ing wire strain­ers and rab­bit poi­son at Oture­hua, he had dif­fi­culty find­ing buy­ers. He called on wife Han­nah, mother of 10 and a for­mer sew­ing teacher, to cy­cle as far as the Lindis Pass and Macken­zie Basin with sam­ples of the prod­ucts while her 12-year-old daugh­ter stayed home

look­ing af­ter the younger chil­dren. ‘‘In my mind’s eye I can see Han­nah bik­ing along the rough shin­gle roads and I won­der if she en­joyed her time away from her do­mes­tic chores and du­ties . . . ‘‘Did she look for­ward to it? Was it a relief? Was she filled with trep­i­da­tion?’’ As the book pro­gresses through photographs of Cen­tral Otago the reader comes across two in­cred­i­ble star-scapes and a chap­ter on stars travers­ing, the Ara­bic names for con­stel­la­tions, Maori folk­lore and the smell of thyme. A par­tic­u­larly poignant mo­ment is Fearn­ley’s own emo­tion as she stands at Low­burn and re­flects on the once wind-swept lake she kayaked, now de­stroyed for­ever by the Clyde Dam and Lake Dunstan. ‘‘There was sad­ness at the Low­burn pub and Cromwell garage,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s all gone and it goes so quickly, and I’m not some­one who lived in the area. ‘‘This is a ma­jor part of the lo­cal his­tory that’s just wiped out. ‘‘That was the sad­dest sec­tion for me. It re­ally struck a nerve.’’ The book, she said, is not just fo­cused on land­scape or wilder- ness. ‘‘It’s a peo­pled land­scape as well. ‘‘They do the min­ing, have the vine­yards, grow trees, have golf cour­ses. It’s in­clu­sive rather than ex­clu­sive.’’ The photographs move through Cromwell to the Crown Range, Michael Hill’s golf course, Ben Lomond, Lit­tle Par­adise and into Fiord­land, fin­ish­ing with the only real de­vi­a­tion from the 45th par­al­lel – Mitre Peak. The sym­bolic value of the peak made it part of the nar­ra­tive, she said in the book. From the top there are views into the lush green and nat­u­ral­ness of Fiord­land and the sea but is also sur­rounded by the scenic flights and boats trawl­ing up and down, and the tourist com­men­tary can be heard. Mitre Peak rep­re­sents thresh­old, she said. ‘‘It is a moun­tain that sep­a­rates civil­i­sa­tion from wilder­ness but,

a more prou­nouncedly, it is a place where you ex­pe­ri­ence a time dif­fer­ence, that of the an­cient and mod­ern worlds col­lid­ing.’’ And fi­nally, the story of the 45th par­al­lel ends with a view along the West Coast to­wards the south at the en­trance of Caswell Sound – rugged, un­peo­pled and wild.

Penned by: 45 South au­thor Lau­rence Fearn­ley.

The book: 45 South.

Breath-tak­ing: Lake Wakatipu, by pho­tog­ra­pher Arno Gasteiger.

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