A Death On-Board the Voyage from
Gravesend to the Antipodes
(Via the Atlas of Nowhere:
flora of this province is very disappointing
and the absence of
beautiful flowers adds to the uninteresting character which too generally pervades the scenery, save among the great Southern Alps themselves. There is no burst of bloom as there is in Switzerland and Italy, and the trees being, with few insignificant exceptions, all evergreen, the difference between winter and summer is chiefly perceptible by the state of the grass and the temperature. I do not know one really pretty flower which belongs to the plains; I believe there are one or two, but they are rare, and form no feature in the landscape. I never yet saw a blue flower growing wild here, nor indeed one of any other colour but white or yellow; if there are such they do not prevail, and their absence is sensibly felt. We have no so gentians and anemones. We have one very stupid white gentian; but it is, to say the least of it, uninteresting [p.131] to a casual observer. We have violets, very like those at home, but they are small and white, and have no scent. We have also a daisy, very like the English, but not nearly so pretty; we have a great ugly sort of Michaelmas Daisy too, and any amount of Spaniard. I do not say but that by hunting on the peninsula, one might find one or two beautiful species, but simply that on the whole the flowers are few and ugly. The only plant good to eat is Maori cabbage, and that is Swede turnip gone wild, from seed left by Captain Cook. Some say it is indigenous, but I do not believe it. The Maoris carry the seed about with them, and sow it wherever they camp. I should rather write, used to sow it where they camped, for the Maoris in this island are almost a thing of the past.
into the ship’s side the over her lowered we ,after days four and ,calms of
belt been had we as soon as suddenly give-way to seemed ,voyage the during
much rallied had apparently who but ,consumptive been long who girl
poor One .some of health the even ,all of spirits the affects weather such of
monotony dreary The .sun the of ,heat the not but ,light the ward-off seem
clouds dense the ,bath vapour of that like is atmosphere the ;wearing is
one which boots very even ,anywhere up springs Mould .wet always are
decks :dampens thing dry any and damp remains thing damp any that
moisture with charged highly so is airxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxTHE
The root of the Spaniard, it should be added, will support life for some little time.
Tutu (pronounced toot) is a plant which abounds upon the plains for some few miles near the river-beds; it is at first sight not much unlike myrtle, but is in reality a wholly different sort of plant; it dies down in the winter, and springs up again from its old roots. These roots are sometimes used for firewood, and are very tough, so much so as not unfrequently to break ploughs. It is poisonous for sheep and cattle if eaten on an empty stomach.
New Zealand is rich in ferns. We have a tree-fern which grows as high as twenty feet. We have also [p.132] some of the English species; among them I believe the Hymenophyllum tunbridgense, with many of the same tribe. I see a little fern which, to my eyes, is our English Asplenium Trichomanes. Every Eng- lish fern which I know has a variety something like it here, though seldom identical. We have one to correspond with the adder’s tongue and moonwort, with the Adiantum nigrum and Capillus Veneris, with the Blec with the Cystopterids. I never saw a Woodsia here; but I think that every other English family is repre- sented, and that we have many more besides. On the whole, the British character of many of the ferns is rather striking, as indeed is the case with our birds and insects; but, with a few conspicuous exceptions, the old country has greatly the advantage over us.
Note to the text: This poem was written in association with Marjan Verstappen’s exhibition Atlas of Nowhere at Ashburton Art Gallery, July-August 2019. Verstappen and Gallagher conducted collaborative ecocritical research for Atlas of Nowhere and this research also resulted in the catalogue text Gallagher wrote to accompany the show, as well as this poem. The exhibition title Atlas of Nowhere was partially inspired by species extinction since the colonial era and the title of Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon (itself a partial palindrome of ‘nowhere’). Accordingly, this poem is based on erased excerpts from and palindromic manipulations of the diaries of Samuel Butler—published in 1863 as A First Year in Canterbury Settlement.