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  • Day50


    February 2, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We had a perfect day in Wellington today, the southernmost capital city in the world. The temperature is about 63°. The Viking Sun has left the tropics for a while, and Glenda couldn’t be happier. We took an inclined railway up to the Wellington Botanical Gardens, where we encountered And unbelievable number of beautiful plants and flowers. There we also encountered the Carter Observatory. I marveled at the beautiful Cooke Telescope. It was built in 1866-67 in York, England. Around the turn of the twentieth century it was shipped to Napier, NZ. Eventually it found its way to Wellington, where it continued to be used at the local university. In 2001 the observatory had planned to renovate the lenses, but found that the optics on this old 19-inch refractor were not worth repairing. A generous local benefactor financed the grinding of brand new lenses, and the telescope is still in use today. Note especially the jeweler-engraved setting circles to set declination and right ascension. As exact as they are, however, the assembly still requires four collimated spotting scopes. Note also that the mechanical, weight-driven clock drive on this apparatus was crafted by a master clock maker. It really is a remarkable and beautiful work of art. I had wanted to see the Magellanic Clouds and Alpha Centauri while we are south of the equator, and the planetarium show helped me to orient myself in these unfamiliar southern skies. Unbelievably beautiful flowers and birds surrounded us as we made our way to the rose garden and lunch at the appropriately named Begonia Cafe. There was a woman there working on a laptop computer the whole time we were in the restaurant. I couldn't help thinking about J. K. Rowling writing the Harry Potter novels in an Edinburgh coffee shop. I like to think that at some point in the future I can read a novel written by a famous New Zealand author, then learn that she wrote it at the Begonia Cafe.

    Our visit to the New Zealand Parliament building revealed next door their state executive office building, known as the beehive. Two architects were just noodling around on a paper napkin one day at lunch and playfully came up with the beehive design. Surprisingly, the idea stuck and now the executive office building is a manifestation of their scribbles on a paper napkin. We returned to the ship just before the rain started and settled in for dinner and for our overnight voyage to Christchurch, where we will tour the Southern Alps and Gandalf country.
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