Tuesday, June 26

Tereora College food festival

Food markets are always popular on Rarotonga and Tereora College’s recent fundraiser was a big success. The weather was warm and sunny, good for bringing the crowds out to browse, and there was plenty for them to see, smell and taste. Each of the form classes had a separate stall with offerings such as barbeque chops, sausages and steak; ‘plates of food’ – that Cook Islands favourite; cakes, sweets, desserts and drinks. Clearly parents and family had helped with preparation and cooking and local businesses were generous with sponsorship of ingredients. Each class had a target of $2000, with the school as a whole hoping to raise $30,000 to go towards new high tech equipment, a facelift for Princess Anne Hall and beautification projects around the school. You can see from the video how hard everyone had worked and how much fun they seemed to be having. It was noticeable that the BBQs were mostly being operated by boys. Barbies are a great way of getting guys to cook. I wonder who did the washing up!

Sunday, June 17

Sunrise over Ta’akoka motu, Muri lagoon

Time-lapse video of a peaceful early morning scene on Muri lagoon as the tide comes in and the sun rises over Ta’akoka motu. Later on in the day tourists will be out and about, swimming, snorkelling, sailing and canoeing but at this early hour you will see herons stalking along the water’s edge and maybe a jogger out to work up an appetite for breakfast.

Monday, June 11

The transit of Venus seen from Rarotonga

Stargazers around the world focused on our local star, the sun, last Tuesday (5 June) to witness a rare celestial event. The planet Venus was silhouetted as it passed in front of the sun – the transit of Venus – and this won’t happen again for another 105 years, until December 2117.
The transit was due to begin just after midday (local time) and to end at about 6.43pm (although that wouldn’t have been visible here because sunset on Rarotonga was at five past six). But in the morning it looked as though nobody would see anything as thick clouds covered the island. There were even a couple of brief showers.
We got the camera set up anyway. It’s not particularly fancy; a point-and-shoot superzoom (Nikon Coolpix 500). We already had a solar filter left over from the 2010 total eclipse.
When cameras like this are zoomed to the max, the lens barrel extends out an extra 5cm from the body so we chopped up a plastic water bottle, painted it black and attached it to the camera and the filter using duct tape. The diameter was perfect and I guess it’s a different way to reduce waste!
As noon approached the weather began to brighten up and by the time the transit started the sky was clear, at least in the area around the sun.
Our set-up wasn’t sophisticated. The camera was on a tripod and every now and again we took a picture setting the focus manually on infinity, and exposing at 1/500 sec at f8. As the sun tracked across the sky we panned the camera to follow it. We drained several batteries and had to remove the camera to replace them and at five o’clock, when the sun was about to disappear behind some trees we upped sticks and headed to Nikao beach to finish off. That’s why the video is somewhat jerky! But, hey, it was totally awesome being able to see it.
The video is made up from about 120 still frames speeded up to last ten seconds as opposed to the actual five and a half hours the transit took.
What made things even better was the amount of interest it generated locally.
My husband Phil wrote an article for Cook Islands News before the event (Transit of Venus) and teachers in Rarotonga and Mangaia took the opportunity to introduce students to the thrill of astronomy.
In Mangaia the kids were able to watch using eclipse glasses left over from 2010 (the solar eclipse was total on that island) and at Tereora and Nukutere colleges on Rarotonga the heads of science Des Duthie and Russell Grieve used their own telescopes to set up projected images so students could view the historic occasion. (See Cook Islands News coverage here.)

Sunday, June 3

Sopranos in Paradise

Rarotonga’s Opera in Paradise is now an annual event and once again it proved to be a great night out – in spite of the weather.
We’d had heavy rain and strong winds and the temperature dropped to about 18C at night - real winter weather – but Oceans Restaurant at the Crown Beach Resort was elegantly set up and the welcoming glass of bubbly put everyone in a good mood.
The format was for three sessions of music in between the courses and with good food, good company and good music the evening was a sure-fire success.
Our opera singers this year were Mere Boynton and Deborah Kapohe, two New Zealand sopranos.
Deborah, a Southlander, has a wide range of talents and has performed in operas, musicals, arts festivals and more. As well as traditional opera roles her repertoire also includes contemporary Maori music and classical guitar. She has performed in the UK, South Africa and China as well as New Zealand and Australia.
Mere is an actor as well as a singer. Her most famous role was as Mavis in the film ‘Once Were Warriors’ but her true passion is singing, especially in te reo Māori and because of  her experience in Māori performing arts and music she has developed a style of singing that draws on her classical training and her taha Māori.
Deborah and Mere sang separately and together with music ranging from opera classics to modern hits and including Maori waiata and Spanish folk songs.
There was indeed something for everyone.