Monday, June 25, 2007

Book Review: Ebenezer Teichelmann

Book Review, By Tony Gates
Ebenezer Teichelmann. Pioneer New Zealand explorer, surgeon, photographer, conservationist. Cutting across continents.

By Bob McKerrow (2005), Foreword by Sir Edmund Hillary. $49.95. $270 pages.
Many excellent mountain photographs, most naturally taken by the book’s subject, are scattered throughout this fine book. Like the cover, they are black and whites, presented as sepia tones- a nice touch. Quotes too, and good stories by the author, present the life and climbs of a truly great man. Many quotes are by Teichelmann (example below), as well as by his climbing companions who kept good dairies. I completed the book after a week of easy evening reads feeling that I had finally met Ebenezer Teichelmann (as well as Alex Graham, The Rev Newton, and others) and knew a whole lot more about a vital section of New Zealand mountaineering history- 1900 till 1934. He didn’t start his expeditions as a young man, and his career was interrupted by the war, but he continued long into his 50’s. He met such luminaries as Charlie Douglas, Jack Clarke, and the Graham Brothers, and served as President of the New Zealand Alpine Club.
The book commences in a biographical sense, you know, family background, professional interests (and they were many), and his life in general. The book concludes with notes from his funeral service detailing an amazing character who touched many. The author personally interviewed many people who had, in turn, personally met “the little doctor” (one of the many pseudonyms that he was known by). But it was the 15 chapters concerning mountaineering expeditions that interested me the most. One summer expedition per year, from 1900 till 1914 is written into each chapter, with photographs. Some expeditions are briefly presented, but each make for good stories. Many modern day readers should know some areas that Teichelmann visited, such as the head of the Fox Glacier, the summit of Mt Cook, and the Rakaia.
A few maps are provided- not particularly good ones unfortunately. And I got the distinct feeling that the spell check software used had English as a second language, so let through a number of typographic errors that shouldn’t have been there. Editing was therefore a bit poor.
However, the book does make a good read, and is a valuable addition to the history of New Zealand Mountaineering. IPNTCndeed, the Teichlemann- Newton- Graham trio is said to be the greatest ever seen in the New Zealand Alps, largely due to their numerous first ascents around the head of the Fox Glacier from 1902 till 1907. I’d like to finish this review with a quote from the man himself.
I had the good fortune to have Harry Butler with us, a splendid bushman, good cragsman, although no alpine experience, he saved the situation. He organised the bridge, and did most of the track making, it was a bad river that he could not cross. Lippe was always getting lost in the bush, and as he was a big man, he was slow in getting through it. I thought I would be the weakling of the party, not being very young, but was surprised to find I could carry a 35 to 40 lb swag for 8 to 10 hours without being played out. The only pity of it was that I should be spending my energies in the bush instead of the snow regions. Perth River, 1924.
______________________________________________________________________________________ PNTMC June 2005

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