A bot­tled boost for the crowd


The US Navy flew from In­ver­cargill to McMurdo Sound at in­ter­vals be­tween 1958 and 1968. The first de­par­ture was a Sky­mas­ter on Oc­to­ber 1, 1958, fol­lowed on Oc­to­ber 6 by two RD4 air­craft (Navy ver­sion of the DC3).

These air­craft at­tracted large crowds who watched the spec­tac­u­lar take offs with the as­sis­tance of JATO (jet-as­sisted take off) bot­tles to get air­borne.

On one take off the JATO bot­tles failed to fire and the demise of many peo­ple ly­ing in the grass at the end of the run­way was avoided when the over­loaded plane just got air­borne in time.

One of the pi­lots broke the rules and in­ten­tion­ally dropped his nine empty JATO bot­tles on Oreti Beach in­stead of well out to sea. These were col­lected by a wait­ing truck and given to sec­ondary schools to dis­man­tle to study the work­ings of a rocket en­gine.

Black rats

South­land’s first ship rats – also called Black rats – pos­si­bly came ashore at Dusky Sound from Cap­tain James Cook’s ship Res­o­lu­tion, but cer­tainly with seal­ing ships in the 1790s.

They quickly dis­placed the kiore, or Poly­ne­sian rat, as the main pest mam­mal in New Zealand. Ac­tive pest con­trol can re­duce rat num­bers to low lev­els and new types of traps are help­ing in the bat­tle to save New Zealand’s birds, rep­tiles and in­sects from rat pre­da­tion.

Of the three species of rats, the Ship rat is the most wide­spread, the kiore is re­duced to small pop­u­la­tions on is­lands and in Fiord­land, and the Nor­way rat lives mostly in wet­ter ar­eas such as ports, swamps, rub­bish dumps and sew­ers.

Ger­man steamer

South­land’s first brush with an en­emy ves­sel in World War II came at the out­break of war when the Ger­man steamer Er­lan­gen made a hasty de­par­ture from Dunedin to avoid in­tern­ment.

The Er­lan­gen had a crew of 63, in­clud­ing 50 Chi­nese sea­men. The near­est neu­tral har­bour was in Chile but as she only car­ried five days’ sup­ply of coal the cap­tain de­cided to make for Auck­land Is­land where the crew of the Er­lan­gen spent five weeks cut­ting 400 tons of rata wood with im­pro­vised saws.

Rata is very hard and heavy but makes ex­cel­lent fuel.

With the help of sails, the rata wood and even­tu­ally ev­ery­thing burn­able on the ship, she made it to Puerto Mott in Chile in November 1939.

While at­tempt­ing to re­turn to Ger­many via Cape Horn in 1941, the Er­lan­gen was in­ter­cepted by the Bri­tish cruiser HMS New­cas­tle off Mon­te­v­ideo.

The ship was scut­tled to avoid cap­ture, and the cap­tain and crew were taken pris­oner.

The story of the Er­lan­gen is told in the Subantarc­tic Gallery at South­land Mu­seum and Art Gallery.

Jet-as­sisted take-offs from In­ver­cargill for McMurdo Sound air­craft were a pub­lic spec­ta­cle in the late 1950s and 1960s.

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