Te Waipounamu Marae Film Tour

By Marie O’Connell (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Audio Conservator)


On Tuesday I attended a Te Waipounamu Marae Film Tour – Ōtautahi ki Awarua showing held at Rehua Marae on Springfield Road in Christchurch. It was well attended by about 120 people.




The footage shown was more than I expected and revealed eeling and whitebaiting techniques from the past, whilst showing the abundance of this food. I was fascinated by the methods used with preserving the muttonbirds and how expertly they were wrapped up in woven baskets for three years.



  Continue reading

‘Chasing the White Whale’ – The mystery remains

In part two of our guest blog from Russell-based local historian Lindsay Alexander, the tale of a 1930s documentary filmmaking venture continues… and questions arise about the fate of the final footage.

Catch up with part one on Gauge here.

Thanks again to Lindsay for allowing us to publish this fascinating investigation.

(All content © Lindsay Alexander, 2014.)


Chasing The White Whale: The Mystery of the Missing Whangamumu Whaling Film

(Part Two)

by Lindsay Alexander

Chasing the White Whale.  Photo: Stacy Woodard 1933
Chasing the White Whale. Photo: Stacy Woodard 1933

How did Woodard know to contact Herbert Cook? Possibly through a marine scientist. Herbert Cook was regarded as an expert in Bay of Islands whaling and the Discovery Reports, research papers from the scientific RRS Discovery expeditions of the mid 1920’s, say that the Bay of Islands whaling section ‘is compost almost entirely from conversations with Mr H. F. Cook manager and part owner of the station at Whangamumu, who visited the RRS Discovery at Auckland…’.[11]  Continue reading

‘Chasing the White Whale’ – The saga begins…

This two-part guest blog from Russell-based local historian Lindsay Alexander tells the incredible tale of a 1930s documentary filmmaking venture: Hollywood movie-man Stacy R Woodard’s mission to find 74 year old Herbert ‘Bertie’ Cook (legendary Bay Of Islands whaler), build a replica American-style whaleboat and go harpoon whales the old way.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is very pleased to be able to share Lindsay’s essay with you. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

(All content © Lindsay Alexander, 2014.)


Chasing The White Whale: The Mystery of the Missing Whangamumu Whaling Film

(Part One) 

by Lindsay Alexander

On December 12 1933 Stacy R Woodard, “of Hollywood”, and his wife Margaret boarded the steamer Niagara at Auckland bound for Los Angeles via Honolulu.[1] With him was a priceless Bay of Islands legacy.[2] Stacy had arrived in New Zealand some four months previously. He had a mission to “depict whaling in the olden days … to resurrect and to preserve for all time a record of those old methods…the risks to life and limb were many and various”.[3] 

The place to do this was Whangamumu. Though the whaling station had recently closed in 1931, Stacy knew that “one of the last whalers of the old school… ‘Bertie’ [Herbert] Cook” was still living in Russell. Herbert Cook had “over 50 years’ experience of whaling in all its phases and in many seas”. He was from a Bay of Island’s whaling dynasty. His grandfather, father, uncles and brothers had all been whalers. Born in 1859, he had cut his teeth on whales while growing up in the Bay of Islands and then honed his skills when he joined the American whaling barque Alaska of New Bedford on the 29th September 1879, at the age of 20. He was on a “170th lay for the balance of the voyage”. This was a very small share of the profits indeed. Captain Fisher had anchored the Alaska off the old whaling port of Russell, both to refit and provision; and ‘refresh’ his crew.            

When the Alaska reached New Bedford in May 1880, at end of her voyage, Herbert was described as “[from] New Zealand, twenty years old, 5 foot 10 inches, Boatsteerer”,[4] i.e. harpooner, and, as such, had risen rapidly through the ranks, increasing his earnings as he did so. Herbert was aboard when the Alaska left New Bedford on her next whaling voyage in September 1880. He was now most likely one of the mates, the most experienced of the whalemen on this crack American whaler. Eventually when she returned to Russell, Herbert left the Alaska in the mid 1880’s. 

Herbert Cook in the whaleboat off Piercy Island/ Motukokako. He is signalling the helmsman onto the whale, getting ready to lance it. The whale is attached by the harpoon to the whaleboat. Note the lance in Cook’s right hand.  Photo: Stacy Woodard 1933.
Herbert Cook in the whaleboat off Piercy Island / Motukokako. He is signalling the helmsman onto the whale, getting ready to lance it. The whale is attached by the harpoon to the whaleboat. Note the lance in Cook’s right hand. Photo: Stacy Woodard 1933.

After arriving at Russell Herbert was back whaling again alongside his brother George Howe Cook, as one of the founders of the Whangamumu whaling station, run under the business name of “Cook Brothers”. The Cooks hunted the humpback whales which passed the Bay of Islands on their yearly migration to and from the tropics.  Continue reading

WUFF it up! Submissions Now Open for 2015 Wellington Underground Film Festival

“If done well, a film conveys effortlessly the ideas and aspects of life that are, typically, the most difficult to communicate, and as audience members, we get to participate in this great collective epiphany. The filmmaker, in that way, is no different to the poet.” - Rosie Rowe, WUFF


If you’ve ever had a vision, a curiosity or a dream for a moving image experiment, now’s the time to get crackin’ on your film and photographic adventures, because submissions for the third annual Wellington Underground Film Festival are now open.



WUFF commands an impressive following and appreciation, with entries streaming in from the Capital, across New Zealand and around the world. In both previous years, the programme hosted three-full days worth of films, the massive schedule representing only a proportion of the entries received.

We talked to Rosie Rowe, one of WUFF’s co founders, to learn more about the continued appeal of experimental and avant-garde moving images, and, for the curious and uninitiated, what WUFF 2015 could hold.

“I don’t think that avant garde/experimental film speaks to Wellingtonians anymore than to any other city full of people,” says Rosie “But I do think that WUFF brings something to Wellington that wasn’t here before. We fill a niche not only for those who appreciate experimental film but also, more specifically, for those who want to see this kind of work in the theatre, not just in galleries or on computer screens.” Continue reading