Lighting the way: Bong Hatta, a worker at Hian Thian Siang Tee Bio Temple in Palmerah, West Jakarta, decorates the temple with lanterns. A symbol of fortune, lanterns are used to deck out temples for the Lunar New Year, which falls on Monday. (Thanks to Jakarta Post for permission to use photo)
The scent of incense from lighted joss sticks, dragon dances, and fireworks will signal the arrival of the Chinese New Year of the Earth Ox at midnight here Jakarta.
Chinese lanterns hang in every lobby in our appartment building. We have one in our hallway. A Chinese lady offered me and many others chocolates as we walked outside at lunchtime. Last New Year's day was fascinating and we are looking forward to the celebrations tomorrow. Jakarta's most celebrated son, Barack Obama, who went to primary school for five years in Mentang, Jakarta was born in 1961, and must be rated as the No. 1 Ox. Also listed as prominent Ox people are former President Joseph Estrada and popular American movie stars Robert Redford and George Clooney. Clark Gable, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplain, Johann Sebastian Bach, Vincent Van Gogh, and Adolf Hitler are among the famous and infamous Ox people who left indelible footprints on world events in their lifetime. Van Gogh and Obama come out on my Ox list for 2009.
With the patience, perseverance, and hardworking character of the Ox, this year is seen by Feng Shui masters as a time that has room for some modest reaping despite the flood of dismal forecasts of a global economic meltdown.
Joy Lim, a recognized Feng Shui consultant, said 2009 is a "resilient year" for the country’s economy. He sees an inward wave of substantial market prospects which should push productivity and add to the country’s stability.
She said that the No. 9 flying star, which in Chinese legend is claimed to be the carrier of a lucky multiplier element, has flown into the Year of the Ox, which bodes well for industries related to metal such as computers, mining, chemicals, car manufacturing, and repairs.
In the New Year, she said, obstacles and even failures must be embraced, because it is in facing them that business and livelihood barriers can be overcome.
Hard work and endurance in taking advantage of business prospects and opportunities will play a major role in one’s becoming a winner "in any endeavour one sets his heart in."
The Chinese New Year is all about symbols of prosperity, good fortune, and good health. Hence the scramble for lucky charms, golden Buddhas, and tiny golden bells to ring in the good luck of the new year.
According to Chinese legend, it is good to display the mark of the character "fu" on doors and walls for an extra bit of luck.
Incense is lit and prayers are said to welcome the new year and encourage longevity at Chinese temples like this one in Jakarta.
Also in the year of the Ox, anything in jade is certain to attract the good fortunes in the coming year, while keeping water flowing is said to bring in great wealth.
For this year, because of the lucky flying star No. 9, it is held that this year’s lucky number is 9, but No. 8 can never be far behind.
On the eve of the Chinese New Year tonight, cleaning up and throwing out junk, getting rid of empty boxes and broken items is a must to welcome the New Year with a clean slate. See that nothing blocks windows, main gates, and doors to allow the good fortunes of the New Year to come in.
Mounds of mandarin oranges alongside a fresh pineapple fruit will be on family tables today and tomorrow. For some, 8 or 88 pieces of "quiat-quiat" (tiny golden oranges) are rolled from the main door to inside the house, and if necessary, to roll them upward on every step of the stairs in two-story homes for prosperity.
For those who were not quite lucky last year in the Year of the Rat, taking a bath with water boiled with pomelo leaves is said to cleanse away the misfortune of the past year.
After midnight tonight, the use of knives and other sharp objects like scissors and needles is to be avoided, so as not to "cut-off the thread of good fortune," or "sever away the arrival of good fortunes" expected in the Chinese New Year of the Ox.
In tonight’s feast, the central element of family reunions, the arrival of children working abroad adds an additional layer of joy and gladness to parents and grandparents.
Being the No. 1 holiday in China, the New Year is the peak of travel time for Chinese workers going home to join parents, grandparents, and other relatives for family reunions.
By this afternoon, Chinatowns in the major capitals of the world will be alive with dragon dances and the explosion of firecrackers to ward off the evil spirits of the old Year of the Rat while hailing the good fortunes of the new Year of the Ox.
In Manila, all roads have been leading to Chinatown in Binondo for several weeks for lucky charm hunters. It has been brisk business for vendors of "tikoy" and pineapple and mandarin oranges.
Young and old alike will be wearing new red polka-dotted clothes and children await "ang pao" red envelopes from their elders. Children will be encouraged to stay awake until the early morning hours for their parents and grandparents to live long, healthy lives.
Having most family members present around dinner tables by midnight tonight is a great source of contentment to parents and grandparent, an ancient secret of prosperity among Chinese families who believe that "only he who knows the meaning of contentment is truly prosperous."
"Kung Hei Fat Choi!" or "Gong Xi Fat Choi,"
New Year traditions to attract good fortune, health, prosperity, peace
Most of us feel Barack Obama is ushering in something new and he will need to be stronger than an Ox to cope with all the expectations heaped on him. At midnigfht I will raise a glass to Barack and the Ox. But at this time of celebration let's not forget about rising food prices that is affecting the poor and seeing millions of more children malnourished daily.
Just because the issue of food prices has not been in the headlines recently it has not gone away.
The world's economic problems have exacerbated the food price crisis
Although prices have fallen from the highs recorded during the unprecedented spike at the beginning of 2008, they have not fallen back to where they had been before the crisis began.
And many of the factors that contributed to the rise then are still driving prices up.
These include competition with biofuels for scarce land, worsening agricultural productivity, the increasing proportion of people living in cities, and the effects of climate change threatening harvests.
Since an emergency summit meeting in Rome last June, the UN has set up a task force to coordinate action on food, now headed by Dr David Nabarro, who established a troubleshooting reputation when he led the UN response to the threat of bird flu.
Ahead of a two-day meeting in Madrid designed to put fresh momentum into the food price issue, Dr Nabarro said: "The worldwideCareful policies
As the ripples spread out from the banking sector in the richest countries in the world, the waves are hitting those least able to cope - in the poorest countries.
Richer countries have less money to invest in foreign investments
There is less money to invest in new businesses, and as well as a cut in foreign direct investment, the global economic slowdown means that money sent home by those working abroad has gone down.
In a country like Kenya, where locally prices have continued to rise, the effect is being felt hard.
According to the World Bank, the volume of world trade is likely to contract for the first time since 1982, further reducing the potential for growth in developing countries.
The collapse in commodity prices has taken the pressure off food price rises, but has also given new problems to some developing countries that depend on commodities, like Zambia, with its reliance on copper.
A World Bank report on economic prospects for 2009 concluded that it is not inevitable that there will be shortages of food and oil, but that careful policies need to be followed.
The author of the report, Andrew Burns, said aid needs to be better targeted.
"Action is needed at the global level to discourage export bans of food grains, strengthen agencies like the World Food Programme, and improve information about and coordination of existing domestic grain reserves," he said. The current consumer society is rapidly eroding the traditional security nets system
The World Bank has earmarked $1.2bn to help those countries worst hit by the price spike last year, part of more than $18bn committed worldwide, but anti-poverty campaigners say that not all the money promised has been delivered.
The head of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) in Kenya, Mwangi Waituru, said that food prices continue to rise, making it harder for people to feed their families.
"The current consumer society is rapidly eroding the traditional security nets system, leaving the poor more and more vulnerable," he said
All of this means that efforts made to reach Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger are now being undermined, as the number of people in the world who go to bed hungry comes close to a billion, while the colossal sums needed to bail out banks make further demands on funds in the richest countries, cutting their ability to feed the hungry, or fund agricultural innovation.
in my own organisation the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we are struggling to get adequate funding for the Horn of Africa. I quote from one of our people in the field in Ethiopia, Greg Jack from the British Red Cross.
“I am quite confident that our work in Wolaita is making a difference in the lives of 76,000 beneficiaries. But the food problem in Ethiopia is far greater. The IFRC launched an emergency appeal aiming to help some 2.3 million hungry people in Djibouti, Ehtiopia, Kenya and Somalia. More than a million of them are Ethiopians. That should give you an idea of the challenges the Red Cross Red Crescent is facing.
“For our help to be effective, we would need about 62 million pounds sterling (103.5 million Swiss francs). I know, many people would freeze with shock at the thought of such an amount. But the Red Cross Red Crescent can save a life with just 26 pounds sterling (43 Swiss francs). Think that for the price of a couple of music CDs, a child will not go to bed hungry, a mother will deliver a healthy baby and a pastoralist will get back on his feet.”
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
LIVES LOST: The seven victims of the Mangatepopo canyoning disaster: Tony McClean, Natasha Bray, Floyd Fernandes, Tom Hsu, Portia McPhail, Anthony Mulder and Tara Gregory.
The death of seven young people last year at The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor pursuits Centre was tragic and jolted me hard. It could have easily been one of my children. My sympathies go out to the families and friends.
Today's headlines announced that "OPC has informed the Department of Labour and the Taumarunui District Court that it will plead guilty to two charges laid under the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act," Department of Labour group workplace services manager Maarten Quivoy said.
This is an unprecedented act in the history of the NZ outdoor education and I wonder where it will end.
Somehow I felt some closeness to the tragedy as I knew Graeme Dingle the founder of the centre and many great instructors there such as Joe Straker, Mick Hopkinson, Bev Smith, Grant Davidson, Peter Dawkins etc.
For five years I ran the New Zealand Outward Bound School at Anakiwa and we used to exchange staff and together, work on improving safety standards. I placed huge emphasis on safety at Outward Bound at Anakiwa when I was Director. Some nights I would lay awake and listen to high winds and torrential rain knowing that over 100 students were out in the wilds: sea, river, bush and solo experiences alone, I used to pray that everyone was safe. In five years we never had a death, not even a serious injury. We had our cuts, sprains and sicknesses.
Was I lucky ? The Directors immediately before and after me had the misfortune of losing a life each under their directorship and were equally committed to high safety standards. There is a thin line between human judgement and an “Act of God”, and it takes a brave judge to pass a judgement on a situation like the one that occurred at OPC last year.
My daughter and her husband work at an outdoor pursuits centre near Whakatane and we discussed this very issue over the Christmas holiday. I could hear the anguish in her voice when she talked about situations when the weather changed suddenly and her students were at risk, but she got them home safely.
During my time as Director of the NZ Outward Bound School I was on rivers where the levels rose without warning and thanks to the training of the instructors and myself, we got the students off the rivers without mishap, often by the skin of our teeth. This was due to good training, providing the students as high a level of skills as possible in a short time, This was over 20 years ago and we had no radios to communicate and if we were lucky, we might get a weather forecast from the local radio station. If things were looking dicey, we had to err on the cautious side.
I would not like to be an outdoor instructor today. With so many extra aids at your finger-tips such as immediate weather forecasts, mobile phones, instant radio communications it would be easy to spend most of your time checking every possible piece of available information and building doomsday scenarios, at the cost of limiting your time with the students.
An integral part of outdoor education is self and group development where at times, the instructor needs to take pupils beyond their own self-imposed limitations. With a national cry for greater safety standards in the outdoors, are we going to see handrails up mountains and access and exit points every 100 metres down rivers ?
I went to the OPC website and noted the reference to calculated risk.
They are exposed to a range of new recreational activities, they learn to push beyond comfort barriers and they are exposed to the positive gains from accepting calculated risk.
The Mangatepopo Valley where the incident occured.
What I find a little ironic is the name of the centre concerned, The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor pursuits Centre., named after a NZ icon, and a clear risk taker. He witnessed so many tragedies in his life as a climber and there were serious injuries on his expeditions or expedition he was a member of, The Ruth Adams accident, Peter Mulgrew’s frostbite and later amputations after an ascent a Makalau, the 1954 Baruntse expedition where Jim McFarlane went down a crevasse and got severe frostbite and later amputations. Sir Ed also took huge gambles on mountains and had he not done so, he would never have climbed Everest. Similarly, he took a huge gamble in 1958 to head off Sir Vivian Fuchs and beat him to the South Pole on New Zealand farm tractors. The great outdoors are a dangerous place at times. And, part of OPC's philosophy that students "are exposed to the positive gains from accepting calculated risk." What would have Sir Ed said about this tragedy? I am pretty sure and so would Graeme Dingle and others who knew Ed's philosophy on the outdoors.
To Jodie Sullivan the instructor who will carry the burden for this, I would like to say "it could have been any one of thousands of instructors. including myself, but unluckily the dice rolled your way." Be easy on yourself and know you have lots of support. And I repeat what I said earlier, "There is a thin line between human judgement and an “Act of God.”
Here is the article from Stuff that gives further background.
The Christian School that lost six students and a teacher in last year's canyoning tragedy has welcomed the decision of the outdoor pursuit centre involved to accept responibility.
In April last year, students from Elim Christian College in Auckland were on a canyoning adventure at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuit Centre in Turangi when rapidly rising, flash-flood waters in the Mangatepopo Gorge swept many of them away.
The centre will plead guilty to two charges linked to the deaths, the centre's chairman Rupert Wilson said at a press conference today.
Two other charges have been withdrawn by the Department of Labour.
Elim Christian College today said they were pleased the centre was accepting responsibility and accountability for the tragedy.
"We understand the reasons for the withdrawal of the other two charges and wish to commend the Department of Labour team for their investigation," the school said in a statement.
"We are hopeful that it will now be possible to conclude the remainder of the police investigation and the coroner inquest much earlier than anticipated.
"While nothing can erase what has happened or restore our broken families we want to ensure that as a consequence of this unfortunate process that a tragedy of this kind can be averted in the future and adventure activities of this kind made even safer."
In October, the Department of Labour laid four charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act against the centre. They were due to be heard in Taumarunui District Court today but the centre said the charges would now not be formally called and neither the department nor the centre would appear.
"OPC has informed the Department of Labour and the Taumarunui District Court that it will plead guilty to two charges laid under the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act," Department of Labour group workplace services manager Maarten Quivoy said.
OPC will plead guilty to one charge under the Act that, as an employer, it failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee, Jodie Sullivan, while at work. Ms Sullivan was the OPC instructor who led the high school group into the gorge.
The second charge is that OPC failed to take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of Jodie Sullivan harmed any other person.
The other two charges were withdrawn because the department considered they were adequately covered by the charges now subject to the guilty pleas.
Mr Wilson said that the most important factor in making the plea was that the children were in the centre's care when the tragedy occurred.
He also said they decided on making the plea because any defended hearing would delay the Coroner's Court hearings for up to two years.
The case will now be adjourned until sentencing.
A sentencing date has yet to be set by Taumarunui District Court.
Sunday, 18 January 2009
I have been back in Jakarta five days and already I have commuted across the equator to the Indonesian province of Aceh where we are steadily working towards the conclusion of a one billion US dollar Tsunami recovery and rehabilitation programme. I left home at 4 am last Thursday for the early flight to Banda Aceh and spent Thursday and Friday reviewing the work of the Red Cross tsunami programme. I also attended a lessons learned workshop. It may sound strange commuting across the equator but a lot of my work is on the other side of the equator (Jakarta is south of the equator) and I commute regularly across that imaginary line, not Lion, running round the circumference of the earth.
After the doom and gloom of the economic crisis and the deplorable situation in Gaza, it was good to get some good news today. First the cease-fire in Gaza and secondly, Lance Armstrong (left) rides again.
I will never forget that day when he announced he had cancer on October 8, 1996. In a statement he said
" I would like to thank everyone for coming and for calling in to hear what I have to say today. I have some news regarding my health to share with you.
On Wednesday, October 2ND, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Prior to seeing my doctor last week, I had been experiencing swelling and pain in one of my testicles and had coughed up some blood. On Thursday, October 3rd, I underwent surgery at St. David's Hospital here in Austin to have the malignant testicle removed and the surgery was successful. A CT-Scan was also performed the same day. The CT-Scan revealed that my condition has spread into my lungs and abdomen. In terms of degrees of the disease, my condition is considered to be advanced and, thus, yesterday I began my first day of chemotherapy treatment.
Lance Armstrong practices with his team-mates in Adelaide
Armstrong has been an inspiration to me for the brave way he fought back against cancer and inspired millions of others to do the same. His skill, athleticism and determination as an cyclist is impressive. I am delighted he is riding for Astana, the only Asian Tour de France cycling team who ride in the bold and beautiful colours oF Kazakhstan. My wife is Kazakh and I am proud of my association with this historic country. It is worth taking a minute or so to examine the flag of Kazakhstan for it will tell a story of an indomitable race of tough nomadic people. Lance Armstrong's fighting qualities rest easily with the Kazakh traditions. There is synergy here and I believe Lance has found his home with the Astana team from Kazakhstan.
The flag of Kazakhstan that Lance Armstrong will wear on his vest.
The pattern represents the art and cultural traditions of the old khanate and the Kazakh people. The light blue background stands for the various Turkic peoples that make up the present-day population of the country, including the Kazakhs, Tatars, Mongols, Uyghurs and others. Among these people blue has a religious significance, representing the sky god Gök-Tanry, "the eternal wide blue sky", and water as well.The light blue color also symbolizes cultural and ethnic unity of Kazakhstani people.
The sun represents the source of life and energy. It is also a symbol of wealth and abundance; the sun's rays are like grain which is the basis of abundance and prosperity.
People of different Kazakh tribes had the golden eagle on their flags for centuries. The eagle symbolizes the power of the state. For the modern nation of Kazakhstan the eagle is a symbol of independence, freedom and flight to future.
Today, the BBC ran an article on LanceArmstong's comeback.
Adelaide has been invaded by a lycra-clad army of cycling enthusiasts, with the capital of South Australia feeling more like 'Planet Lance'.
More than three years after retiring from professional cycling, Lance Armstrong is taking part in the Tour Down Under, his much-anticipated comeback race.
In all, there are 133 riders here from 23 countries, but the focus is solely upon the 37-year-old Texan who retired in 2005 after securing his seventh victory in the Tour de France.
His face seems to be everywhere, from the arrivals hall at the airport to the side of trams gliding through the streets.
Tourism chiefs are promoting the tour as "Your Chance to See Lance".
Adelaide has not seen anything like it since the great Donald Bradman left his native New South Wales and decided to play his cricket for South Australia, and The Australian newspaper described him as a "one-man stimulus for the South Australian economy".
Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times
Rather like a visiting head of state, he received a personal welcome to the city by the premier of South Australia, while the hometown newspaper, the Adelaide Advertiser, has printed a special souvenir picture of him every day this week.
I suppose you could say that Australia's City of Churches is displaying an almost religious-style fervour.
At the pre-race press conference, one journalist asked him if he felt like Jesus Christ.
"I've been called a lot of things in my life," deadpanned Armstrong.
"I don't know if he rode either. He could do a lot of things, apparently, but I don't know if he rode."
Still, this could be the start of the great Armstrong revival, since he has his determined glare fixed on this year's Tour de France.
The man who survived testicular cancer 12 years ago hopes his return to racing will boost cancer awareness - that, he says, is his primary motivation.
But his competitive instincts have clearly been aroused.
I guarantee I will take every opportunity to be at the front of the race and to animate the race and be active.
Though he does not think he will end up with the winner's jersey in the Tour Down Under - that would be unrealistic, he says - in six months time he may well be a world-beater again.
At the press conference, he said he would have a better sense of his fitness in April and May.
Having trained in Hawaii, Armstrong claims his fitness through November, December and January has been better than it was when he won his last Tour De France.
And this week, on his police-escorted training rides in the Adelaide Hills, he has left his Astana team-mates in their wake.
The pre-race talk is that he will try at least to dominate the Tour Down Under.
"I have been drinking beer and sitting on my ass for three years," he scoffed at that suggestion. "How could they think that?"
Then he struck a more serious note, and his competitive streak came to the fore.
"If the opportunity is there I will certainly take it. I guarantee I will take every opportunity to be at the front of the race and to animate the race and be active.
"No doubt. No bluffing and no hiding. If the race dictates that, and I feel good, I promise you I will attack. I just don't know whether I will be in a position to do that."
As for the delicate matter of his age, he jokingly threatened to throw out reporters who were audacious enough to mention that he is three years shy of 40.
He admits to a little stiffness and soreness, but that his recovery rate and power were good.
Armstrong says his fitness is as good as ever
Armstrong also has a specially-designed new bike, which has been emblazoned with two numbers: 27.5, signifying the 27.5 million people who have died of cancer since the 2005 Tour de France; and 1274 - the number of days which have passed since his last professional race.
Even if he were to come fifth in the Tour de France, he said, he would still have deemed his comeback a success if he managed to raise global awareness about cancer.
From a sporting perspective, he admitted there was a risk to his legacy. "I'm willing to take that risk," he said. "From a human perspective and from a cause perspective, I think it's well worth the sporting risk."
The Town Down Under starts on Tuesday, with its six stages taking in the bush, the outback and South Australia's Barossa Valley wine region.
But Armstrong returns to competitive action on Sunday evening in a race called the 50km criterium around a circuit in Adelaide's Rymill Park, where 100,000 spectators are expected.
Fittingly enough, for a man so dedicated to his cause, it is called the Cancer Council Classic.
Saturday, 10 January 2009
I will be heading to the airport in an hour. You can see it in the top of the photo above if you look hard enough. Christchurch-Singapore-Jakarta is my route. I now have new knees and look forward to getting back to my family and work in Indonesia. I am in charge of a massive International Red Cross Tsunami operation plus other humanitarian work.
What an amazing two months in New Zealand following a process of recovery after major surgery. (Total Knee Replacement in both knees)So many images are stuck in my brain. Kind and caring nurses, highly professional surgeons, and a very capable physiotherapist, Leslie kettle. With such supportive friends and family around me, I was determined to utilise the goodwill and support to ensure I achieved the best possible recovery. This morning I walked briskly for over an hour and the knees are so strong and responsive. I still have some way to go but I am feeling so satisfied with the results. Thanks Ed Newman for a wonderful operation in replacing my two knees. Here are a few images of my recovery in Christchurch. It simply was another journey where I had to explore the process of post surgical recovery.
18 November 2008. A few hours before the operation, surgeon Ed Newman marks the lines on my legs to guide he and his computer, in giving me Total Knee Replacements in both legs.
The night before the operation, meeting up with old school friend and fellow rugby player and athlete, Nev Cleveland. Nev flew down from Auckland for the night. Photo: Ruia McKerrow
A half-drugged me, shortly after the operation, with Aroha, my daughter. Aroha and her sister Ruia cared for me as I am sure Florence Nightingale would have, if she were alive. Photo: Ruia McKerrow
The path to recovery. After the operation it was standing and walking the next day, physiotherapy and an exercise machine to keep the knee moving. Photo: Ruia McKerrow
Leaving the hospital after nine days is a sweet memory. It was a sunny day and I could see all the way to the Southern Alps. I felt fragile and was paranoid about tripping or someone banging into my knees.
Catching up with my family was a highlight for me. Last Saturday I had a farewell breakfast with my daughters. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Colin Monteath dropped round to see me a number of times. A world-famous photographer and Polar traveller, our friendship goes back to 1969. It was friends like Colin, and family coming to see me, which lifted my spirits considerably, in those days when there was a lot of pain.
A few days ago I went swimming with three of my daughters at Brighton. Afterwards we walked out on the pier. What a wonderful piece of architecture. The community raised 2 million dollars to help pay for this and it takes you out on the wild sea. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Looking from the end of New Brighton Pier across the sea to Sumner and the hills. Photo: Bob McKerrow
At the end of New Brighton Pier with two of my daughters, both pregnant. Tania left, and Kira right.
Researching, writing and interviewing mountaineers was another memorable part of my recovery. I spend quality time with Peter and Elizabeth McCormack for the posting on Ralph Warburton. Photo: Bob McKerrow
As soon as I was well enough, I had a small party for friends in Christchuch, and friends passing through.Front row l to r: Bob Headland, Robin Judkins and Bob McKerrow. Back row: Ed Cotter, Suzanne and Phil Ryder, Tara Kloss and Colin Monteath Photo: Robb Kloss
For me the party was an important milestone as it celebrated my friendship with people like Colin Monteath, who I have known for 40 years, plus new friends I have meet through blogging such as Robb and Tara Kloss (Tara 2nd from the right at the rear), and Jamie Stewart.
A few days before I left, I travelled to Arthur's Pass with Robin Judkins. It was a chance to meet old friends, both human and mountains. Looking up to the Bealey Face of Mt.Rolleston. Photo: Bob McKerrow
It was a joy to meet again with my former athletics coach, Brian Taylor, who lives in Christchurch and coaches some of New Zealand's leading athletes. Brian coached me from the age of 14 to 20, and as a group, we did some revoluntionary training, an expanded version of Arthur Lydiard's methods. In those days we ran more than 130 miles a week with often a 26 mile run over the hills of Dunedin on a Sunday. Unknowingly at the time, this endurance conditioning prepared me for exploration in later life and I owe a lot to Brian.
Brian Taylor with some of the athletes he coaches. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Forty-seven years after he started coaching, Brian Taylor is still putting in hundred of voluntary hours a month coaching young people. It is role models like this that produce great sportspeople in New Zealand. They are New Zealand's unsung heroes. Photo: Bob McKerrow
I am still very attached to the mountains, rivers, lakes and sea and I get very emotional when soneone is lost, or dies. When Irina Yun went missing, I was hoping and praying for her to be found alive. She comes from the same country as Naila, my wife, Kazakhstan so I felt helpless. If only I had a helicopter and could help in the rescue. She leave a four year old daughter behind. I struggle to keep back my tears. ( I just heard the search was called off last night, 11 January 2009) One Japanese climber and one Australian died on Mt. Cook, trampers, hunters died as did many on our lakes and rivers.
I got to know every blade of grass on Edgar MacIntosh Park, at the rear of my house in Bryndwyr. I recall the first time I gingerly walked 100 m. The next day I went another tree further, 20m. Slowly, slowly I was able to walk around its 500 m circumference with Diva, my daughter's dog. I spent days in this park smalling the grass, watching the branches on the trees reach for the sky, children splashing in the paddling pool, and people playing cricket on this charming village green. Now I walk for an hour in the park. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Each weekend my park was transformed into a village cricket green when the Merrivale-Papanui cricket club battled against other Canterbury sides. Photo: Bob McKerrow
For five days I looked after Robin Judkins house, his Mercedes Benz, BMW, 2 dogs, a cat, a tribe of rabbits and various birds. The views from his house over Sumner beach were superb. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The view from Robin Judkin's house towards Sumner Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Reflecting on my two months in New Zealand, there were so many highlights. Meeting family and friends were tops. Robb and Tara Kloss stayed with Ruia and I for a few days and I thoroughly enjoyed their company. Here, is Robb in the centre with Himalayan mountain climber, Ed Cotter (right). Ed climbed with Sir Edmund Hillary on the 1952 NZ Alpine Club Gawhal expedition and is a close family friend.
On many mornings when out walking the ever-reddening sky would display signs of changing weather through the appearance of the nor'west arch. Photo: Bob McKerrow
At a Christmas barbecue at my daughter's farmlet in Otipua, near Timaru. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The only people I haven't acknowledged are the Taxi drivers in Christchurch. When family were at work, I had to use Taxis to get to physio appointments.
Christchurch Taxi drivers are a warm, friendly and helpful mixed bunch. The majority were Chinese students studying in New Zealand, one from Cambodia, and others from other parts of Asia. During the early days of December, an Afghan Taxi driver was murdered on night service which stunned the whole of Christchurch. Abdhurahman Ikhtiari was a 39 year old father of five young children. The people of Christchurch very generously donated to a special fund for his family. In over 40 years travelling and working round the world, I have always found Bus, Taxi, Truck and Rickshaw drivers helpful as they have their ears to the ground. Usually they warn you of any impending security risk, and keep you abreast of sport, religion, politics, good bargains and many other subjects.
Farewell Christchurch. As I fly over the Southern Alps I will have a long look, which may be my last for a long time, at your exquisite beauty and form.
Ka kite ano.
Friday, 9 January 2009
Mountains take their toll in 2008. New Zealand. Plus: Accident and fatality characteristics in a population of mountain climbers in NZ.
Irina Yun, missing, presumed dead in Mt. Aspiring National Park
2008 was a bad year for deaths in the New Zealand Mountains. For my overseas friends who check this blog regularly for mountaineering updates, you may not have had a chance to see this article written by Stacey Woods in the Christchurch Press today.
I also attach at the end of this article, Accident and fatality characteristics in a population of mountain climbers in New Zealand
by Erik Monasterio. It was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal 28-January-2005, Vol 118 No 1208. Stacey Woods refers to Errik Monasterio in her article.
Here is Stacey Wood's article article in italics. Thanks to the Christchurch Press for permission to use the article.
December was a bad month on New Zealand mountains, with three deaths in almost as many weeks.
Japanese climber Hideaki Nara (photo below) was rescued near the summit of Mount Cook after six days in icy winds and bad weather. His friend, Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, died of exposure while rescuers waited out the conditions.
The year ended with another tragedy when Irina Yun was reported missing in Mount Aspiring National Park. This week searchers found her battered pack in a dangerous gorge on the Dart River, and say it was probably ripped from her body when she fell into the water.
Everyone knows mountaineering is dangerous. Even with the latest technology and instant weather reporting, the deaths keep coming and the climbers keep coming back for more.
Even Mount Cook, at 3754 metres, is small by world standards, but its proximity to the ocean means the weather can change in a heartbeat.Photo: Bob McKerrow
Little more than a week later, Australian doctor Mark Vinar fell to his death while climbing with his brother, Miles, on the same mountain.How high are the risks? Psychiatrist and former mountaineer Erik Monasterio examined the risks faced by climbers in a four-year study, and says there are certain personality traits typical of hardcore mountain-lovers.
During the course of four years tracking 49 regular climbers, his sample group suffered a mortality rate of almost 10 per cent.
Every mountaineer in the group knew friends who had died while climbing.
Monasterio says most mountaineers scale back their climbs or stop altogether when they settle down and start a family.
"I have a son now and I can't approach a mountain in the same way ever again but there is a committed mountaineer population and most of them are male, with a median age of 36, single and childless."
Monasterio says anyone who mountaineers for long enough is practically guaranteed to experience near-misses, if not serious injuries or death.
"No-one wants to have an accident, but you have to accept you are in a high-risk environment.
"It's how often you have near-misses and continue doing it, and there's a core group that will never stop."
Though he sticks to less dangerous pursuits these days, Monasterio still remembers the lure of the mountains.
"It's the environment, the uniqueness, the challenge, and the relationships you build. There's a very special relationship you build with climbing partners, because you are at such risk and there's a lot of trust involved. There's also the drive of challenging yourself, having lofty goals."
Are experienced climbers still at risk?
Veteran climber Mark Inglis lost his lower legs and some close friends to the mountains, but says every mountaineer knows the risks.
"Mountaineering is the ultimate expression of finding your limit -- unfortunately when you find that limit, it can sometimes be lethal."
Though having a family has not stopped him climbing, he says, in his experience, older climbers often had a different focus. "One of the great things is actually just being out there.
"You become far more risk-averse with age, but [seeking a] challenge is something different from the sheer love of the mountains."
Inglis says while a lack of preparation is responsible for many mountain deaths, bad luck can strike even the most experienced climbers.
"The reality is that there's a lot of dead mountaineers with a surprised look on their faces, that have said, `It won't happen to me,"' he says. "So many of our experienced mountaineers that have died have just made one silly little mistake.
"It's just like on the roads. How many road fatalities are because of perfectly competent drivers making a small, one-time error?"
The best you can do is minimise the chance of disaster through practice and preparation.
Land Search and Rescue chief executive Hadyn Smith says actions taken before the climb, such as checking weather patterns and getting to know the environment, are just as important as what happens on the mountain.
"Of the overseas tourists who travel to New Zealand, a sizeable number don't understand the difficulty they'll encounter," Smith says.
"They look at the height of the peaks and the fact that they don't need [bottled] oxygen up there, and they underestimate."
Mountain experts constantly bemoan overseas climbers' ignorance of New Zealand's maritime weather patterns.
The changeable nature of the climate means New Zealand mountains have the risk factor of peaks twice their size, but too often tourists consider only the height.
Even Mount Cook, at 3754 metres, is small by world standards, but its proximity to the ocean means the weather can change in a heartbeat.
Conclusion of the next article proves that mountain climbing is associated with a high risk of serious injury and mortality.
Accident and fatality characteristics in a population of mountain climbers in New ZealandErik Monasterio Abstract
Aim To examine demographic, morbidity, and mortality findings in a population of mountain climbers in New Zealand.
Methods A baseline survey and a 4-year follow-up took place among a population of mountain climbers. The purpose of this survey was to determine the frequency and characteristics of mountain-climbing accidents and to estimate the climbing-related death rate.
Results Forty-nine climbers enrolled in the study. Baseline findings revealed that 44 (90%) climbers had been involved in the sport for more than 5 years and 23 (47%) climbers had been involved in a total of 33 accidents. At 4-year follow-up, results were available on 46 (94%) climbers. There were nine further accidents and four deaths from climbing misadventure.
Conclusion: Mountain climbing is associated with a high risk of serious injury and mortality.
Mountaineering and alpine rock climbing activities are considered by the general public to be high-risk endeavours. Historically climbing attitudes have tended to be strongly influenced by 19th Century values of discipline, self-denial, cooperation, and romanticism.1 However, over the past 15 to 20 years, attitudes have shifted as commercial and market pressures have become more pronounced. Guided ascents to most major climbing areas in the World are now available to fee-paying clients.
Several adventure climbing companies offer novices guided ascents of the World’s highest peaks, such as Mount Everest, for a fee of NZ$50,000 to NZ$65,000. Despite well-publicised disasters such as the 1996 Everest tragedy where five climbers (from two commercial expeditions) died, the number of clients continues to increase.1
Recently, significant media attention has focused on 13 reported climbing fatalities in Mount Cook National Park (MCNP) and on Mount Aspiring in the South Island of New Zealand.2 Many of the fatal accidents have involved experienced, senior guides and their clients—as well as experienced mountaineers.3 Four guides (constituting 10% of qualified New Zealand mountain guides) died from climbing misadventure during 2004.
A search of the medical and climbing literature revealed several studies that have estimated death rates associated with mountaineering in different settings. Malcolm examined fatality data from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and the Mount Cook Field Office of the Department of Conservation between July 1981 and June 1995.4 There were a total of 46 deaths due to mountaineering misadventure and Malcolm estimated the fatality rate to be 1.87/1000 climbing days in MCNP.
Malcolm concluded that the risk of death from climbing in MCNP was 5000 times greater than from work-related injuries in New Zealand. Pollard et al examined data from an international mountaineering journal between December1968 and December 1987 and estimated that the death rate of British climbers on peaks over 7000 metres high was 4.3 per 100 mountaineers.5 These results support the view that mountain climbing is associated with a high risk of death. However, the data is limited and open to bias as it estimated death rates by examining fatality statistics of climbers in specific, particularly dangerous mountain regions. Furthermore, the research did not prospectively examine a population of climbers and therefore caution must be exercised in generalising from the results.
To our knowledge, there are no past or current studies examining accident and fatality rates in climbing populations. The purpose of this paper is to report the demographic characteristics, morbidity, and mortality findings in a prospective survey of a group of climbers. Baseline and 4-year follow up reports are provided. The results are from a study that examined the psychological characteristics in a population of mountain and alpine rock climbers. The psychological characteristics of the study population have been reported in a climber’s journal publication and are available from the author.6
Subjects were a diverse group of climbers enrolled into the survey on a voluntary basis. They were recruited from local Alpine Club meetings, adventure magazine advertisements, and from personal communication among the climbing community. Subjects in the study were involved in mountaineering and alpine rock climbing sports.
Subjects agreed in writing to participate in the study and responded to several pen-and-paper questionnaires providing information on age, gender, marital status, number of children, and number of years involved in climbing.
The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Cloninger Temperament and Character Inventory were also completed.7
Subjects were asked whether they had suffered serious climbing accidents. Severity of accidents were rated as either:
Mild—if injury required medical help, but did not lead to hospital admission and convalescence was less than 1 week,
Moderate—if injury required hospital admission and/or convalescence was more than 1 week, but less than 3 months, or
Severe—if injury led to risk of death, protracted convalescence (more than 3 months) and/or long-term health problems.
Rock climbing grades were rated according to the Australasian Ewbank system (5 to 34), where grade ‘5’ indicates trekking through rough terrain. Above grade ‘10’, ropes and security devices are recommended. Grades above ‘18’ require a significant degree of technical skill. (Generally the higher the grade, the greater the technical challenges and risks assumed.)
Mountaineering climbing grades were rated according to the New Zealand and Australian system (1 to 7). For grade ‘3’, technical climbing equipment (such as ice axes, crampons, security equipment, and a rope) are required. Grade ‘5’ involves sustained technical climbing, which may include vertical sections of ice climbing. Grade ‘6’ involves climbing vertical sections of ice with poor protection for the climber. Grade ‘7’ is possible but is as yet unaccomplished. Subjects were followed up 4 years after baseline data was obtained. Subjects were interviewed in person, over the telephone, or via email and data collected on accident and death statistics.
A serious omission of the study was the failure to collect specific data on risk exposure, beyond a baseline estimation of climbers who had previously climbed in “high-risk” situations (defined in the discussion section).
Baseline demographic findings are summarised in Table 1.
There was a good response rate—49 out of a total of 60 questionnaires handed out were returned completed. 44 subjects (90%) were male. The median age at the start of the study was 33 years and generally participants were involved in the sport more than 5 years. The median rock-climbing grade was ‘23’ and the median alpine grade was ‘5’.
Results at baseline revealed that 23 (47%) climbers had been involved in a total of 33 accidents (Table 2). There were 10 severe, 16 moderate, and 7 mild accidents. Of those who had more than one accident, four participants were involved in three separate accidents and two were involved in two separate accidents.
At 4-year follow-up, results were available on 46 (94%) participants. There were five deaths—four related to climbing misadventure and one from a medical condition. Two deaths were caused by avalanche, and one from multiple trauma following a climber slipping and falling several hundred meters. The cause of the accident in the fourth climber is unknown. He was on his own and died from multiple-trauma after a fall.
Of the 44-surviving climbers seven (15%) had retired from the sport. There were nine further accidents (seven mild and two moderate) involving seven (15%) climbers.
Several attempts were made to contact the three study participants lost to follow-up. All these were non-New Zealanders who had left the country without providing a contact address. Their names were not recorded in the fatality reports of the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and the Mount Cook Field Office of the Dept. of Conservation. Review of Internet data located one of the three participants, but unfortunately he did not reply to an email interview.
To the author's knowledge, this is the first prospective study reporting morbidity and mortality data in a population of mountaineers and alpine rock climbers. The study captured a population of serious, committed and experienced climbers, who had been involved in the sport for many years and had reached high levels of technical proficiency.
Ninety-six percent of participants estimated that (on at least two occasions) they had climbed in situations of high-risk. High-risk was defined as climbing in dangerous terrain (under unstable ice cliffs, over avalanche prone terrain and in crevassed glaciers), in dangerous weather conditions, or in situations were the climber did not feel fully confident in their abilities and where a climbing mistake would lead to significant risk of serious injury or death. (Mountaineers practice their sport in glaciated, dangerous environments and so generally this exposure to high risk is an inherent and unavoidable part of the sport.)
At baseline, 47% of climbers had been involved in accidents. Serious accidents involving multiple bone fractures, head, and spinal injuries were not uncommon and interestingly had not dissuaded many climbers from continuing to practice the sport.
A climbing-related death rate of 8.2% over a 4-year period is alarming, and supports other evidence that climbing is a dangerous sport. Mountaineering-related deaths in this study did not appear to be related to inexperience, as all fatal accidents involved participants who had practised the sport more than 5 years, and two who were qualified mountain guides.
All deaths appear to have been a consequence of the hazardous mountain environment. This is similar to Pollard et al’s study, which found that 70% to 80% of fatalities were related to environmental factors.5 This study did not specifically examine the role that altitude-related problems (cerebral and pulmonary oedema) played on morbidity and mortality. However, given the relatively low altitude of New Zealand mountains (all under 4000 metres), the contribution was likely to be very modest.
There are a several methodological limitations that must be considered in interpreting the results of this survey. The main purpose of the study was to collect information on the psychological characteristics of climbers. As part of the study, demographic and accident data were also collected. The findings were therefore from a survey rather than a cohort study.
Data on climbing frequency over the study period was not obtained and so there was no measure of risk exposure to index to the rate of morbidity and mortality. The findings are therefore quite crude. Follow-up of participants was via a single telephone or email interview (4 years after baseline data was collected). This time length may have led to recall bias, as respondents were more likely to forget minor injuries and ‘near misses’ than major accidents and fatalities. It may account for the high death to injury ratio at follow-up and the high moderate-and-severe injury to mild injury ratio at baseline.
The relatively lower injury rate at follow up (compared to baseline) may be due to the fact that 15% of climbers had retired from the sport and that the participants were older and potentially less inclined to take risks.
The population was not strictly a random sample. General difficulties in recruiting sufficient volunteers from a relatively uncommon sport (to make up a meaningful sample size) led to the inclusion of all climbers whom volunteered to participate in the study. This sample may represent a population of particularly high-risk-taking climbers, as 47% of the population at baseline had been involved in accidents yet persisted with the sport. It is also possible that more cautious climbers, who had given up the sport following an accident or a fear inducing experience, were no longer involved in climbing and so were not included. However, it is also possible that less experienced, more impulsive, and higher-risk-taking climbers were involved in fatal accidents at earlier stages of their climbing careers and so were excluded from the study.
This study examined the risks associated with mountain climbing—and despite the methodological limitations, the results are sobering. Serious injury and death not only contribute to considerable emotional and physical suffering and loss of productivity, but also to a significant burden on medical services. Urgent priority should be given to replication studies to further explore the relationship between mountaineering, morbidity and mortality.
The reasons that determine an individual’s choice to climb mountains are complex. An adventurous spirit appears to be part of human nature and clearly mountain climbing provides participants with many positive experiences and enhanced physical and psychological wellbeing through regular participation in outdoor activities.
Interestingly, many participants in the study made unprompted positive comments about the benefits of climbing and seemed keen to point out that they chose to climb despite the perceived risks of the sport.
Author information: M Erik Monasterio, Forensic Psychiatrist, Medlicott Academic Unit, Hillmorton Hospital, Christchurch
Acknowledgements: The research was supported by a grant-in-aid from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. I would also like to formally thank all climbers who generously participated in this study, as well as Dr L Childs (for helpful comments) and Maureen Weir (for secretarial support).
Correspondence: Dr Erik Monasterio, Forensic Psychiatrist, Medlicott Academic Unit, Hillmorton Hospital. Private Bag 4733, Christchurch. Fax: (03) 3391149; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elmes M, Barry D. Deliverance, Denial and the death zone: a study of narcissism and regression in the May 1996 Everest climbing disaster. J of Applied Behavioural Science. 1999;35:163–87.
Mountain survivor was first to fall. The Press (newspaper), Christchurch, New Zealand. April 15, 2004.
The Climber. Saxon Print, Christchurch, New Zealand. Issue 47/Autumn; 2002: p13.
Malcolm M. Mountaineering fatalities in Mt Cook National Park. N Z Med J. 2001;114:78–80.
Pollard A, Clarke C. Deaths during mountaineering at extreme altitude. Lancet. 1988;1:1277.
Monasterio E. The Climber. Christchurch: Saxon Print; 2003:Issue 43/Autumn:p31–2.
Cloninger C, Przybeck T, Svrakic D, Wetzel R. The Temperament and Character Inventory: a guide to its development and use. Center for Psychobiology of Personality. St. Louis, Missouri: Washington University; 1994.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
We stopped at Mt. Rolleston, and gazed at the Bealey Face. Photo: Bob McKerrow
It's 11 days into 2009. I have been in New Zealand since 13 November for major surgery: Total knee replacement on both legs. Quite an undertaking.
My Christmas and New Year present were two spanking, brand new knees that work so well and I feel no pain. The joy of striding across green fields with a strength in my knees is a feeling I have been devoid of for many years, and, to cap it off, no pain.
On Thursday 8 January I felt I was back to normal seven weeks after the operation as I did totally normal things such as day outings into the mountains and to be in the thick of beech forests in Arthur's Pass.
My good friend Robin Judkins, the creator of New Zealand's famous Coast to Coast endurance event, pulled up in his BMW yesterday, and said, "we are off to do my pre-Coast to Coast checks and PR." Being the owner of one of the largest, longest-running, and potentiallly dangerous mountain triathlon, Robin Judkins and his team leave no stone unturned when it comes to organisation and safety. With his car stacked with his sponsors products, Speight's beer, we headed off towards Arthur's Pass.
The first stop was at Jim Adams farm near Sheffield. Jim is a sheep farmer with a large land area and stock, provides a paddock on the road as a car park, during the Coast to Caost. Robin drops off a few crates of beer and talks to him about the car park and how it will be organised. Robin has the common touch, and mixes freely in a warm and endearing manner.
Robin Judkins discussing carparks and safety with farmer Jim Adams. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Looking towards the high peaks of Arthur's Pass. Mt. Avalanche is the prominent one in the left. Photo: Bob McKerrow
How I enjoyed driving up towards Porter's Pass with temperatures soaring up to 35 oC and the wind blowing in my hair. We visited Castle Hill village and beyond that we struck the view of the high peaks of Arthur's Pass. This is part of the mighty Southern Alps that string almost the length of the South Island.
I always pay a visit to Oscar Coberger ski depot which is now the Wobbly Kea. It is a pilgrimage to a great mountain man who brought the European alpine village concept to New Zealand and was a ski instructor, mountain guide and gear hire depot at Arthur's Pass. His grand daughter Annelise won a silver medal in slalom skiing in the 1992 winter olympics, the first and only New Zealander to do so.
The brief story of Oscar Coberger's shop. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The memorial tablet to those in the Corberger family who have passed away. Photo: Bob McKerrow
This larger building was built by Hans Bohny, a Swiss mountain guide and is now the Wobbly Kea. Photo: Bob McKerrow
After pulling over at the Mt. Rolleston car park, we took in the amazing view of the Otira Face of Rolleston. There were many cars with kayaks and racing cycles on the tacks and the owners were here for training on the kayak section on the Waimakariri River. Robin stopped to talk to the competitors who all knew this living New Zealand treasure.
As we drove, Robin Judkins studied the landscape carefully. Being an artist he's always looking for inspiration. Here is one of his paintings of this area.
Robin Judkins pointing up the mouth of the Mingha River (thanks Jamie) which is where the mountain run finishes. Photo: Bob McKerrow
We then inspected the situation at Klondyke Corner. Robin was delighted one strand of the river came right to the foot of the carpark. He checked all the facilities and talked to competitors who had just run form the West Coast over the Goat pass via the Minga and Deception rivers.
We called in at the Bealey Pub which was built and still owned by Paddy Freaey mountaineer, publican and the 'man who rediscovered the Moa'. Robin and I have known Paddy for years and he came from his house across the road with his wife Rochelle to join us. Here is a living legend. An Irishman who joined the SAS in the UK and rose through the ranks to be an outstanding soldier and an even greater mountaineer. From his base at Arthur's Pass he inspired and trained many of New Zealand's great climbers such as Russell Bryce and Rob Hall. Paddy who is in his early 70s or more, is still actively climbing and doing trips to Patagonia, and other major trips with Rochelle.
At the Bealey Pub, L to R, Robin Judkins, Bob McKerrow, Rochelle and Paddy Freany
Robin with the new manager of the Bealey Pub. During the Coast to Coast, he books out the entire pub for the weekend. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Next it was onto Mt.White bridge the change over from the cycling leg to the long kayak stretch down the Waimakariri River. Here Robin goes in for a swim to check out the kayak landing. To keep his clothes dry he swims naked, not a pretty sight.
At Mt. White bridge, Robin surveying the landing point. Photo: Bob McKerrow
One of the other key people in the region is station master and rail repair man at Cass, Barry Drummond. Cass is an isolated spot on the railway line between Christchurch and Greymouth and its Barry's job, to maintain the track. After Cass, we drove down from Porter's Pass to be blasted by a hot furnace as Christchurch was sweltering in 35.7 oC. As we came into Christchurch the car swayed and lurched in a dangerous manner. We skidded to a halt to find the rear tyre had blown open. Never a dull moment with Robin Judkins. A day where I met Jim, Barry, Rochelle, Paddy and lots of Coast to Coast competitors. Above all, I renewed my relationship with Tane Mahuta and the high Maunga.