Sounds of disquiet: What happened to Ben and Olivia?

Pete's Kiwi Korner

Twenty years ago Olivia Hope and Ben Smart disappeared from the Marlborough Sounds. Scott Watson was later jailed for their murders but, as Mike White discovered, there are doubts police got the right man. More seriously, challenges from key witnesses and even the father of one of the victims raise questions as to how Watson was convicted in the first place.

This piece was published in North & South on the 10th anniversary of the pair’s disappearance.Guy Wallace crunches the path between verandahed Furneaux Lodge and the jetty that juts into Endeavour Inlet, a timber finger over the green waters of the Marlborough Sounds. At the end of its bleached planks worn by a thousand salty feet, he stops and scans the bay, and it all comes sweeping back. On Wednesday December 31 1997 Wallace was working in the bar at Furneaux, a century-old lodging in the outer…

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How songs from tiny villages in the Pacific are now floating in outer space

Just outside of our solar system, onboard the Voyager space probes, sits the Golden Record, a “message in a bottle” filled with songs and sounds from life on earth.

Key points:

  • The Golden Records onboard the probes are now both outside of our solar system
  • Of just 27 songs, designed to show aliens what Earth is like, two are from the Pacific islands
  • The records also contain 55 greetings in different languages and a collection of sounds

After blasting off earth in 1977, Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2012, and Voyager 2 has just gone interstellar, heading beyond our solar system.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

AUDIO: Pacific music in space (Pacific Beat)

The probes both have a special cargo on board — a copy each of a copper-plated polygraph dubbed the Golden Record, containing 27 songs from all corners of the globe.

The record began a trend of sending physical artefacts into space, including diamonds, an advertisement for Doritos, and more recently 50,000 poems read by users on Chinese social media platform WeChat from around the world.

A ‘message in a bottle’ to possible alien life

As the second probe left our solar system, family members of those who played the original traditional songs from the Pacific told the ABC they are “very, very happy” that pieces from their culture may be the first thing possible alien life could hear.

The probes’ main purpose is to collect data and photographs from space and send them back to earth, but in 1977, NASA asked famous astronomer Carl Sagan to create a bonus: “Some message for a possible extra-terrestrial civilisation”.

Mr Sagan and a group of others came up with the idea of The Sounds of Earth, widely known as the Golden Record, which writer and science communicator Ann Druyan then curated, leading the hunt for music and sounds for the disc.

“This was our chance to create a kind of Noah’s ark of human culture,” Ms Druyan, who married Mr Sagan four years after the probes left earth, told Time Magazine in 2017.

Inside each Voyager vessel, the gold-plated and copper-etched records sit in aluminium cases, with 27 musical items, 55 greetings in different languages, and a collection of sounds that include a kiss, a dog barking, a whale song, and brain waves.

The capsule also includes a polygraph needle and etched instructions for how a possible alien might play the music.

Dr Glen Nagle from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which receives data from the probes, told the ABC the record was “a little time capsule”.

“[It was] a message in a bottle that we were going to throw out into a giant cosmic ocean of the universe, to basically say ‘this is who created this spacecraft, this is who we are, this is our place in the universe, and if you’re there, learn about us, and maybe come and see us if you’re curious like us’.”

The songs include famous tracks like Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, and all-but-unknown traditional music from places like Milingimbi in Australia’s Arnhem Land and villages in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

‘Part of us is in space’

NASA lists one of the songs as “panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service”, but the ABC has spoken to family members of the original panpipe group who confirmed the musicians were from the small village of Oroha, in the island province of Malaita.

There is no current data for how many people speak the Oroha language, but estimates in the past decade have put that number at only a few hundred people — and the particular style of music on the recording belongs just to them.

There were eight men playing the pipes for the recording and Sam Matanai, the nephew of one of the men, Isaac Houmawai, said the song was traditionally reserved for special occasions like feasts.

“We are very, very happy that our music, part of us, is in space,” Mr Matanai told the ABC shortly after Voyager 2 had gone interstellar.

The song was recorded by William Bennett, a Solomon Islander who helped found the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service after fighting in World War II.

Mr Matanai said it was understood a copy made its way onto the Golden Record after being taken back to the UK by a visiting journalist.

The original recording now sits in the archive of what is now the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, and current workers at the newsroom told the ABC they were happy to know it was there.

While Mr Matanai said there was pride in knowing his family’s song was now floating just outside the solar system, there was even more pride in knowing his culture would live on in his village.

Read even more:

Breeding Bulls Friday Funnies #339

Who ever thought that breeding bulls would be funny? I certainly didn’t, until I found this joke in my email. Then again, it’s not so much the breeding of bulls that is funny as the story behind it is. I think it’s best that you read the following for yourself.

My wife and I went to the Royal Agricultural Show, and one of the first exhibits we stopped at was the breeding bulls. We went up to the first pen, and there was a sign attached that said…..


breeding bulls

My wife playfully nudged me in the ribs, smiled and said, ‘He mated 50 times last year, that’s almost once a week.’

We walked to the second pen which had a  sign attached that said…


breeding bulls-2

My wife gave me a healthy jab and said, ‘WOW~~That’s almost 3 times a week! You could learn a lot from him.’

We walked to the third pen and it had a sign attached that said, in capital letters…


breeding bulls-3

My wife was so excited that her elbow nearly broke my ribs, and said, ‘That’s once a day!You could REALLY learn something from this one.’

I looked at her and said, ‘Why don’t you go over and ask him if it was with the same cow?’

breeding bulls-ouch

My condition has been upgraded from critical to stable and I should eventually make a full recovery.

Single-use plastic bag ban in NZ begins in the New Year

Single-use bags will be gone from all major supermarkets on January 1, 2019. (Photo / NZME)
Single-use bags will be gone from all major supermarkets on January 1, 2019. (Photo / NZME)

Remembering re-usable bags should be one of every shopper’s New Year’s resolutions – single-use plastic bags will be gone from all major supermarkets from Tuesday.

New World, Pak’nSave and Four Square have joined Countdown and will ban single-use shopping bags from January 1, 2019.

Countdown made the move in October 2018 after the Government confirmed it would ban single-use plastic bags by mid-2019.

The ban by Progressive, which owns Countdown, and Foodstuffs, which owns Pak’nSave, FourSquare and New World, will remove a staggering 700 million plastic bags from circulation in New Zealand next year alone.

The Government ban will also include thicker bags of up to 70 microns, and compostable bags, because of a lack of recycling facilities for them.

Thin barrier bags will still be used to separate food like fish and chicken from other items.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage has confirmed the bag ban will apply to all retailers, including those in malls and chain stores.

The ban was flagged by Sage and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern back in August and included five weeks of public consultation.

The majority of 9349 submissions, or 92 per cent, supported a mandatory phase-out of single-use plastic bags.

Sage said New Zealanders were aware of the impact on sea life caused by the bags.

“It is because of the significant problem we have of plastic bags getting into the marine environment and examples all around the world of whales, seals, seabirds, turtles being suffocated and killed by marine pollution,” she said.

Countdown supermarket said the transition to reusable fabric bags had been smooth with an increasing number of customers remembering to bring their bags to the check-out.

The companies have also pledged to reduce another plastic packaging.

New World has switched from polystyrene meat trays to recyclable trays and is trialling a “bring your own container” in the meat and seafood department in some stores.

The stores included Howick, Levin, Hastings and Rotouna.

“We’re looking at extending the trial to other parts of the store, but customer safety is a top priority and our food safety team is working through how we can roll out the initiative to other departments,” a spokesperson said.

Countdown said it had removed 70 tonnes of unnecessary packaging from its produce section in the past year alone – including plastic packaging from bananas.

“This alone removed 15.8 tonnes of plastic. We also no longer sell packs of single-use plastic straws,” a spokeswoman said.

In June, 12 international and several local businesses gathered with Environment Ministers and made a joint declaration committing to use 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.

The businesses include multinationals Amcor, Danone, L’Oréal, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and Nestlé.

The New Zealand-based businesses that signed the Declaration include Foodstuffs, Countdown, SuperValue, Fresh Choice, New World, Pak’n Save, FourSquare, New Zealand Post and Frucor Suntory.

Foodstuffs also confirmed it donated tonnes of food that was too good to throw out but not good enough to sell.

The equivalent of 5.6 million meals was donated to local communities in the last 12 months.

The Moriori settled on the Chatham Islands in the 1500’s most likely via New Zealand…

Pete's Kiwi Korner

New Zealand History”


Summer reissue: The Moriori myth and why it’s still with us

Keri Mills| Guest writer

Summer reissue: The go-to argument for many people spouting anti-Māori sentiment often starts with ‘… but Māori killed all the Moriori’. Researcher Keri Mills was eager for fellow Pākehā to do some reading before reaching for this lazy argument, sparking a major nationwide conversation.

This post was first published 3 August 2018.

Firstly, the myth. You’ve heard it before.There were a pre-Māori people in New Zealand, called the Moriori. When Māori arrived in the country they set about obliterating these peaceful Moriori inhabitants until not a single Moriori remained alive.

This story is completely wrong. But it is astonishingly pervasive. You might have heard it referred to recently bya former leader of the National Party on…

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