Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dunedin: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

This week we respond to some questions from devoted reader (and "Kia Ora, Y'all!" co-founder) Emily. This site is nothing if it is not both educational and entertaining for you, eager readers, so get out those pesky comments/questions and ask away!

Emily writes:

I want to know more about your new town, please. What do people do there (i.e., is it really just a university town, is there any industry, etc.)? Is it considered a city? What's the closest big city? Is there a mall? A zoo? Any museums? Any interesting history?

Hmm. Not entirely sure about the industry question. I'm guessing the University of Otago is a major employer, obviously, but I'm not sure about other big employers. Dunedin is home to a large Cadbury factory, which you can visit when you come to visit me and get chocolate tastings. It is also home to Speights Brewery. (Incidentally, Chris reports that he prefers Emerson's, a Dunedin microbrewery.) I only know about Cadbury & Speights just because they have the tourist thing going on.

Is it considered a city? I guess, but keep in mind that New Zealand scale is just different. It's about 120,000 people, the second biggest population on the South Island and I think the fourth biggest overall. Christchurch, the second biggest city in NZ with about 350,000 people, is our closest "big" city. (Auckland is biggest with a little more than 1 million; Wellington, the capitol, is slightly smaller in population than Christchurch but larger than Dunedin. Both of these are on the North Island.)

I didn't see any Lenox-type indoor malls (am I wrong to feel a little relieved?) but there is a department store and a ton of women's clothing stores downtown. I'm not sure if most of them are locally owned or NZ chains I just didn't recognize.

No zoo that I know of, but you can take tours to see the wild penguins, sea lions, and albatrosses. (Is that you pluralize "albatross?") Dunedin is also home to the Otago Museum.

As far as history, Dunedin was settled by the Scots in the 1840s. I believe there was a gold rush of some kind, but I'm afraid I need to brush up on all of that. Lanarch Castle, pictured below, was built by some prominent businessman in the late 1800s and boasts that it is "New Zealand's Only Castle."

The train station is also supposed to be some unique example of historic architecture, but I know nothing about architecture and I'm too lazy to look it up right now. Maybe you can figure it out:


Jen said...

Excellent, excellent detail on your new home. Is the train (that departs from the beautiful station) a subway-type train within the city? Or does it whisk you away to the countryside? And have you seen that investment commercial where one guy is running along steadily, another guy sprints past him, but then the steady runner ends up running along while the sprinter is tired and has to stop? Anyway, the setting looks exactly like the pictures you posted of Dunedin. Wonder if it was filmed there.

Anonymous said...

I like the castle. Not such a fan of the special train station architecture. That said, at least they have a train - yay mass transit.

If I were you, I would try to get a job as an albatross tour guide. I mean really, what could be a better job description than that? Much better than "special matters attorney". (I confess that I don't exactly know what an albatross is. I will visit wikipedia after I finish typing this post.)

How are Chris's classes going?

Anonymous said...

A little info on albatrosses for the group:

Like most seabirds, albatrosses are K-selected with regard to their life history, meaning they live much longer than other birds, they delay breeding for longer, and invest more effort into fewer young. Albatrosses are very long lived; most species survive upwards of 50 years, the oldest recorded being a Northern Royal Albatross that was ringed as an adult and survived for another 51 years, giving it an estimated age of 61.[21] Given that most albatross ringing projects are considerably younger than that, it is thought likely that other species will prove to live that long and even longer.

Sky-pointing is one of the stereotyped actions of Laysan Albatross breeding dances.Albatrosses reach sexual maturity slowly, after about five years, but even once they have reached maturity, they will not begin to breed for another couple of years (even up to 10 years for some species). Young non-breeders will attend a colony prior to beginning to breed, spending many years practising the elaborate breeding rituals and "dances" that the family is famous for.[22] Birds arriving back at the colony for the first time already have the stereotyped behaviours that compose albatross language, but can neither "read" that behaviour as exhibited by other birds nor respond appropriately.[12] After a period of trial and error learning, the young birds learn the syntax and perfect the dances. This language is mastered more rapidly if the younger birds are around older birds.

The repertoire of behaviour involves synchronised performances of various actions such as preening, pointing, calling, bill clacking, staring, and combinations of such behaviours (like the sky-call).[23] When a bird first returns to the colony it will dance with many partners, but after a number of years the number of birds an individual will interact with drops, until one partner is chosen and a pair is formed. They then continue to perfect an individual language that will eventually be unique to that one pair. Having established a pair bond that will last for life, however, most of that dance will never be used ever again.

Albatrosses are held to undertake these elaborate and painstaking rituals to ensure that the appropriate partner has been chosen and to perfect partner recognition, as egg laying and chick rearing is a huge investment. Even species that can complete an egg-laying cycle in under a year seldom lay eggs in consecutive years.[8] The great albatrosses (like the Wandering Albatross) take over a year to raise a chick from laying to fledging. Albatrosses lay a single egg in a breeding season; if the egg is lost to predators or accidentally broken, then no further breeding attempts