Thursday, December 11, 2008

Leonard Cockayne and Ebenezer Teichelmann

Leonard Cockayne and Ebenezer Teichelmann

In 1915 Leonard Cockayne and Ebenezer Teichelmann reported on indigenous vegetation on the Port Hills above Christchurch. This led to the creation of the first scenic reserves for primarily botanical reasons. In this 1929 photograph, Leonard Cockayne and Ebenezer Teichelmann are surveying manuka forest.
Appendix to the journals of the House of Representatives 1912, C-6

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ebenezer Teichelmann book by Bob McKerrow. First Chapter

Chapter 1: - Beginnings

There was a loud CRACK above. Eyes swiftly swiveled up to witness a huge block of crumbling rock slowly tumble and disintegrate, then plummet, sweeping all before it. The sun had been warming the slopes for most of the day. The tenuous grip of spider-webs of ice was loosened enough, and with nowhere to hide, a volley of humming rocks cascaded down. With a clatter of ricochet and the smell of Hades they flew past. Silence returned. No-one had been hit. This time.

The ridge was like a knife. Any thoughts of jumping over the opposite side to hold a partner’s fall would be suicide. The parting of hemp fibres would not even be noticed in the swift descent.

Cover of the first international edition

Above soared a rock face, dropping like a forehead from the summit brow. Creases of ice knitted together large expanses of bare rock. Here the climbing was technical and demanding. Flashing axes occasionally sent out showers of tinkling frozen crystals as delicate steps were cut for boot edges. Numb fingers caressed the rock for any projections that might offer relief from the drag of gravity. Skillfully weaving a vertical path, the two climbers stalled at the base of a smooth, featureless slab. The summit appeared to be only a rope length away, and time was racing by. Tom removed his alpine boots and slipped on rubber-soled friction shoes for the rock. Even so, he could gain no height. Some combined tactics were necessary: a push from Malcolm Ross. Tom Fyfe slowly disappeared from view.
Malcolm was uneasy. The rope had been moving with a nervous manner. Now it stopped.
‘Have you found a good belay, Tom?’ queried Malcolm.
‘Not really,’ he replied.
This meant that the protection offered by the rope above would be solely psychological. Any slip by Malcolm would be fatal to both climbers.
Totally focused on the climbing, Malcolm carefully eased his way higher. Some tentative assistance with a tight rope was needed to start, but he concentrated on the delicate shifts of balance, and the play of rhythm and opposing forces. Quickly Tom resumed the lead, abandoning his axe for freedom of movement.
Soon they both stood where no-one had been before. This was the North Peak of Mount Haidinger, 3061 metres high in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and the date was 1897.

Cover of the New Zealand Edition - Available at Take Note Hokitika New Zealand or at the New Zealand Alpine Club.

The long ascent had taken many hours, and they still had to descend before darkness fell. Tom went first, confidently down climbing the difficult sections, but always aware that Malcolm was just above. Should he slip, both would plummet down the steep cliffs to the ice far below. As quickly as they dared, they made their way to the rope-eater ridge, Tom retrieving his ice axe at the base of the slab. But luck was running out.

Malcolm led now, down a particularly rotten section of rock. Despite his best efforts, Tom could not avoid dislodging some rock onto his partner below. Unable to evade the bombardment, several struck Malcolm: a solid thump to the leg almost knocking him off the mountain, and then another blow to the shoulder. But this was no place to linger. Only minutes later disaster was narrowly avoided when another large flat one glanced him on his helmetless head. Had it been the sharp end, he may not have survived with just a struggle for consciousness.

Mt.Haidinger. One of the many thousands of beautiful glass plate photographs taken by Ebenezer Teichelamnn. View previous postings for more of his superb photos.

There were still some serious sections to negotiate, but eventually they reached snow slopes that could be safely slid. Unroped on the final rocks, they hurried downward. This was a section of schist, lying in sheets and slabs, poised to strike. Some had viciously sharp edges. Malcolm’s axe turned crimson when one sliced his hand. Tom lost a piece of his leg after one nasty blow to the shin. They could only treat themselves as best as possible with their meagre resources, and plod homeward.
They crawled into the safety of their bivouac at de la Bêche, on the edge of the Tasman Glacier, on nightfall. Forrest Ross, Malcolm’s wife, was there with William Hodgkins. The extent of the injuries was soon thrust aside with the pleasure of eating. The planning of further adventures in animated conversation after the evening meal kept their minds on more pleasant pursuits.
Malcolm recovered from his head injury to continue climbing with Tom, ascending Mount de la Bêche in four hours forty, then on to the Minarets. No complaints from Tom about his leg were recorded, but the injury worsened during their epic exploration over Lendenfeld Saddle and down the Whymper Glacier. Despite finding a hot spring for a relieving bathe, Tom had difficulties getting to sleep due to the pain of his injuries.

Matters did not improve the next day. Travel is awkward in the rugged and almost impenetrable Whataroa Valley, and he further damaged the leg negotiating the first gorge. The bad leg was knocked on sharp angular rocks twice in succession. Infection was raging: he had a feverish temperature, and the leg had swollen to a ridiculous size. The pain did not diminish. Sleep was fitful and fleeting.
Nearing the end of their pioneering trip, Tom was swept off his feet and tumbled towards the final gorge. Driven to survive, he scrambled out just in time, but the pain of his leg was now so great that he admitted later that it would have been a relief to drown.
After several days of rest and farm remedies in Rohutu, it was no better. The only option now was to continue up the coast to Hokitika for medical treatment.


About the time Malcolm Ross and Tom Fyfe were organizing supplies and equipment for their climbs of Mounts Haidinger, de la Bêche and the twin summits of the Minarets, a train was hissing to a stop further north in Hokitika. Amid the bustle and steam of a busy station emerged a curious figure. So slight was his stature that it could be mistaken for that of a thirteen-year-old boy.

Thin wiry legs stood askance, rooted firmly to the ground in wide-welted leather boots. His attire had a European styling unusual to the district: tight stockings to knee-height with woolen knickerbocker pants. A sports coat of similar weave clad the lightly-framed torso. He wore a hat on a head of coarse dark hair, and beneath its brim sparkled lovely grey eyes that spoke of intensity and compassion. Delicate, finely-boned fingers clasped a pipe that he replaced between a fine set of teeth. A whiskery goatee beard jutted forward, reminding one of a Captain Cuttle figure.
Beside him stood his pretty wife, Mary, beneath a broad-brimmed hat with flowing feathers. Her dress was more typical of the period, with a long dark skirt, tight bodice, and a small jacket. The quality revealed cosmopolitan origins; a step above what was sold around the corner in Tancred Street draperies and milliners. A subtle smell of expensive perfume was discernable.

Hurrying to meet them was the head of the Hospital Board, for this new arrival was the recently appointed Medical Superintendent of Westland Hospital, Doctor Ebenezer Teichelmann, and his wife Mary. (Ebenezer Teichelmann above)

On 27 February 1897, just a few days after the Doctor set up his practice; the injured mountaineer Tom Fyfe limped into the surgery of Dr Teichelmann for an examination of his leg. Several pieces of bone were removed, and a course of treatment for necrosis of the tibia was prescribed. This meeting was to change the course of the Doctor’s life. His curiosity was aroused as to what lay south of him in the misty mountains.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Teichelmann and 100 years of the Carnegie Building in Hokitika

Brian Ward, who runs Teichelmann's Bed and Breakfast in Hokitika, New Zealand, send me this letter and photographs:

Hi Bob,
Trust all is well & under control in your part of the world. Winter here with a bit of a vengence however last weekend Sat 28th June after months of planning & in brilliant sunny weather, Hokitika welcomed the Carnegie Library building into it's second century.

The Westland District Brass Band led off a street march from Revell Street down to Tancred Street where a group of contemporaries portrayed their historic counterparts in faithfully replicating the original opening ceremony that took place on the porch steps on 24 June 2008.

The pictures attached are of the Mayor Maureen Pugh arriving by car an 1899 Locomobile steamer. (above)

Dr Teichelmann (yours truly) as chairman of the Literacy Committee was present.

Don Neale was MC and also took the part of Mr AC Morton, Bruce White was Mr W Arnott, the building contractor & Richard Simpson played a very regal mayor Mr HL Mitchel. Mayor Maureen was his 'wife' for the afternoon playing Mrs Michel. Afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches, scones & tea followed after the official opening of the centennial photographic exhibition in the gallery by Mayor Maureen Pugh.

Best regards

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A love of light and shade, form and texture

From the Fritz Fange looking over the Franz Josef Glacier and to Eli de Beaumont left and the Minarets right..

Last week I read Pete McGregor's blog where he was discussing black and white, as compared to colour photography. I thought of Ebenezer Teichelmann when I read the lines "to see in black and white is mostly a matter of imagination. To look at a landscape, a street scene, or—much harder—a flock of brightly coloured parakeets and to be able to visualise what a photo of those subjects might look like in black and white differs hugely from the knack of knowing these would make lovely colour photos."

Ebenezer Teichelmann,(pictured above) the most brilliant New Zealand mountain, landscape, place and people photographer of the early 20th century, was recently described by my friend Bruce White of Hokitika, as having "a love of light and shade, form and texture." You can see it in his photographs. Look at the light, composition and his sheer artistry.
But because he lived on the remote West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand from 1897 to his death in 1938, he has never been fully recognised for his stupendous contribution to New Zealand as one of our greatest mountaineers, surgeons, conservationists, photographers, soldier/doctor, humanitarian and gardener. He also pioneered the term 'knowledge sharing' when he set up the Carnegie library and the Westland Institute in 1905.
Lake Mahinapua

The East Ridge and East Face of Aoraki Mt.Cook

The art of photography had fascinated Ebenezer Teichelmann ever since he was a young man, and after his arrival in New Zealand in 1897, he was inspired to compose and record what he saw. When exactly he had acquired the knowledge and equipment is not clear, but by the time he arrived in Hokitika he had both. Strongly in love with the curves and angles of nature, he set about creating a huge collection of images that reveal today the extent of his love of light and shade, form and texture.
Another great alpine photographer and later friend of Ebenezer's, Canterbury’s Will Kennedy, describes Teichelmann’s ability with the camera:
Though the Doctor possessed a number of cameras most of his photographic work was done with 5 x 4 film and a whole plate camera. The few who now-a-day know what a weighty and cumbersome thing a whole-plate camera is with all its attendant paraphernalia including supplies of heavy glass plates, will understand why the porters (used only on the lower levels) regarded with askance, and tried to dodge those swags containing the heavier parts of this photographic outfit.

Red Lake with Mt. Cook in the background. The weather is not that good so look how he places a man to get a reflection in the lake.

Yet, that whole-plate camera found its way, in spite of all its drawbacks, up the Franz Josef Glacier to Cape Defiance and on to the summit of Halcombe Peak; up the Fox Glacier as far as the Pioneer Ridge; up the Cook River Valley to near the head of the La Perouse Glacier, and up on to the Balfour Range; up the Waiototo Valley and on to the Therma Glacier; up on to the Sealy Range; and up the Tasman Glacier to the Malte Brun Hut.

The west face of Mt. Haidinger

This camera which he kept to the end of the chapter reflects much of the finest photographic work the Doctor produced, both alpine and otherwise.
Remarkably fine photographic results were obtained from about the heads of the more southerly sub-tributaries of the Big Wanganui namely the Lord and the Lambert, and from the Divide Peaks of Malcolm, Snowy and Tyndall, and these photographs later proved of great assistance in the mapping of this country.

Newton Peak

On the eastern side of the Main Range with the Hermitage as centre, the Doctor did additional fine camera work from the Sealy Range, Footstool, Haast Ridge and Malte Brun Range. Though he ascended Mount Cook (third ascent) via the Linda Glacier, owing to adverse weather conditions no photographic records were taken. From all his alpine standpoints the Doctor made it a practice to secure panoramas as nearly complete as possible.

Dr. Teichelmann taking a photograph on the Upper Fritz Range, Franz Josef Glacier

The diversity of his photography is illustrated in the Department of Lands and Survey, Extract From The Annual Report On Scenery — Preservation For The Year Ended 31st March 1930, written by Dr L. Cockayne C.M.G.F.R.S, and Dr E. Teichelmann, Member of English Alpine Club. There is a selection of nine of his photographs ranging from a close-up of crape ferns to forest and mountain landscapes. Many of his photographs appeared in New Zealand Alpine Journals, various climbing books and were used extensively by the New Zealand Tourism Department to promote the West Coast overseas.

The successful party after the third ascent of Aoraki/Mt.Cook in 1905. Teichelmann sitting on the right.

His photographic work was acknowledged publicly by the Chairman of the Westland County Council, Mr W. J. Jefferies, in a farewell speech in 1926: “The Doctor’s work in booklets and pamphlets had gone all over the world and he had not spared himself in his efforts to extol the beauties and attractions of Westland.”

How long did Alec Graham have to wait before Teichelmann got the right light and composition in an ice hole on the Tasman Glacier?

The mayor at the time, George Perry added, “He had taken a particularly prominent part in advertising the district, especially its alpine attractions. His photographs were excellent and the record he possessed was a tribute to his pluck and skill.”
It is quite clear that Teichelmann’s photography was a key element in raising public awareness for the early scenic reserve status given to Lake Kaniere, Punakaiki, Arthur’s Pass and the four Glacial Scenic Reserves that eventually made up the Westland National Park in 1960. Punakaiki (Paparoa) and Arthur's Pass also became National Parks.

South Face of Aoraki/Mt. Cook from Hooker valley

But photographic skills do not arrive overnight, nor from reading a book. They are acquired through trial and error. Alpine photography requires a keen sense of light values, and Peter Graham recalled that the Doctor's first attempts on the Spencer Glacier were all over-exposed. Fortunately he learned from the experience and went on to become one of the best of his era.

Landing supplies at Bruce Bay

The Doctor was very keen to see the International Exhibition being held at Hagley Park in 1907, for it contained many of his photographs. At the Hermitage that year Teichelmann was met by Mr Longdon, the director of the British Art Collection, who had travelled to New Zealand to see the exhibition. Longdon was also a mountaineer, and was checking out climbing possibilities whilst in New Zealand. They enjoyed each other's company in the Mount Cook area, before Teichelmann set off to Christchurch for the exhibition while Newton and Graham continued climbing.
Teichelmann’s close friend and mountaineer Will Kennedy, some six years his junior, first met Ebenezer at the 1907 International Exhibition in Christchurch where Kennedy had been taken with magnificence of Teichelmann’s photography.
Among the photographic exhibits adorning its walls were displays of many whole-plate photographs of Westland scenery bearing his name. The outstanding beauty and excellence of these photographs attracted my attention so tremendously that I longed to know the man who was responsible for them.
Kennedy was President of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and an active member of the New Zealand Alpine Club. They shared a common interest in mountaineering and photography. But the Doctor’s lack of a system prompted Kennedy to help him.
On one occasion, during one of his many visits to Teichelmann’s home in Hokitika, Kennedy, always a methodical man, decided to tidy up the Doctor’s photographic records by cataloguing them properly. From that day on it was Teichelmann's humorous lament that he could no longer find anything.

Looking down the Wanganui River, South Westland

When I returned to New Zealand in November 2003 to do some finishing touches to this book, an album of 600 prints of Ebenezer Teichelmann had been recently discovered in a garage in Christchurch. I trembled as I opened this book on Colin Monteath’s table in his library as if I was opening a door for the resurrected Doctor. The album was divided into 11 sections and each print was a 5 inch by 4 inch contact print of his large format negatives. Each photograph had a neat white border around it, with a number and a brief but accurate caption. Who had put this album together? Ebenezer Teichelmann himself, or was it Will Kennedy working with Teichelmann to get his photographs into a tidy collection? One clue is the caption to the photograph captioned Alf Day, followed by a question mark. Day should have been Alf Dale. Teichelmann would never have made a mistake with a name on a fine and much respected travelling companion. Perhaps Teichelmann dictated the captions to Will Kennedy.
Strangely, all the photographs in this album were taken before 1912. Was this the first of a series or a one-off? The album reveals the human face of miners, ferry-men, Maori communities, ships, railway lines, bridges, roads, horses, homesteads, camps, huts, houses, hotels, fellow climbers, waterfalls, river-crossings and rivers, creeks, lakes, gorges, passes, glaciers, ice-falls, hot springs, ice tunnels, and wonderful mountain landscapes. One classic photo is of Dr. Teichelman, in mining clothes and a sou’-wester hat, ready to go down a mine shaft. (BELOW)

Teichelmann’s photographs (and Newton) appeared regularly in the Canterbury Times, New Zealand Graphic, Weekly News and the Otago Witness and a stand alone supplement named ‘A Tour Through Westland‘ all between 1902 and 1910.
Dorothy Fletcher has in her collection a large brown album with all the photographs that he and Teichelmann had published, along with a handful of other climbers. This album was sent by Henry Newton and has inscribed in the inside cover,
Alex Graham in remembrance of old days,
Henry E Newton

Dorothy said Canon Newton sent it to her father, Alec Graham in the early 1930s.
Newton has made a detailed index of each photograph and story published by he and Teichelmann in his unmistakable handwriting that one gets to know after reading his hand written diaries.
Teichelman (l) before the first ever flight over the glaciers of South Westland in 1924.

The photographs are a smorgasbord of panoramic mountain centerfolds, small cameos of life in Westland, people, homesteads, ships, valleys, rivers, gorges, mountaineering, a selection of which are in this book.
But not everyone was overawed with Teichelmann’s photography. Louisa Graham had to give up the use of her bathroom at Waiho, Franz Josef to Dr. Teichelmann and her husband Alec. It was converted into a darkroom every time they returned from a trip for the Doctor to develop his large 4x5 inch negatives. “This became routine after every major trip in the mountains as Teichy wanted to get the negatives developed as quickly as possible at our house so he and Daddy could enjoy the fruits of their labours after carrying the heavy camera into the high mountains,” said Dorothy Fletcher.
One can imagine the anticipation and excitement that built up in the Graham bathroom as each plate negative was developed, and the results admired or rejected.
Teichelmann was fortunate in having a sound professional photographer in Ben Thiem, who was based in Hokitika. Being a busy professional, Teichelmann didn’t have the time to print his own negatives and then mount them on glass to use as lantern slides. So the Doctor used Ben to do quite a lot of his processing work.
Sherry Cowie donated a wooden large box of lantern slides to Dorothy Fletcher. In the accompanying note Sherry writes, “These slides were from Ben Thiem, a photographer in Hokitika. My mother, Sybil Turner, worked for him in the 1930s. She got these from either Ben Thiem, or ET (Ebenezer Teichelmann), who was a second father to Sybil.” In examining these lantern slides, they would appear to be those taken by Dr Teichelmann and appear elsewhere. However, with the close relationship between W. A. Kennedy, Ben Thiem, and the Doctor, occasionally they would borrow slides from each other, and possibly give each other slides, so they could give more complete presentations.
Ebenezer Teichelmann
Impressions as a child are often vivid and accurate, and Dorothy Fletcher recalls the atmosphere when visiting Dr Teichelmann’s home as a young girl every time she did a trip to Hokitika with her father, Alec Graham, and it was always the last stop. “He loved to see dad and it was always a warm welcome for him and me. Teichy did all his work in a large, darkish room with a distinctive smell of pipe tobacco,” she recalled, as her visits were usually late in the afternoon and the trees would block the sunlight. “He had a big chair, photos on the wall of mountains and people. Cameras, tripods, slide boxes, maps, photographs, books, magazines letters, papers and his pipes were scattered around. “My sister and I were fascinated by his pipes as some of them had little caps on them,” recalls Dorothy Fletcher. He wasn’t untidy or disorganized, rather a busy man and appeared to have systems for filing and storing.

Dorothy also mentioned that Teichy had copied photographs from Buller’s Book of Birds to enhance his photographic slide talks .

Packing supplies up the Waiatoto in 1909 for the first attempt on Mt. Aspiring from the west.

Teichelmann could count on a number of leading New Zealand scientists as his friends. Among these was Dr Leonard Cockayne the botanist, and Professor R. Speight the geologist. On 13 June 1928, Professor Speight introduced Dr Teichelmann to a full audience at the Christchurch Public Library lecture room. The Doctor’s lantern lecture was on ‘New Zealand alpine, lake, and forest scenery', which was given under the auspices of the Christchurch Tramping Club.

In a free conversational style, always interesting, Dr Teichelmann described the different slides as they were screened. The majority were of the Southern Alps, their high peaks, great glaciers, and other prominent and interesting features. Especially noteworthy was the series showing Aorangi, ‘the cloud piercer,’ Mount Cook, from various aspects. For the purpose of contrast they were shown views of the Swiss Alps and of Mount Everest. The views of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers were especially fine and the combination views of Westland scenery — alps, lake, and forest — evoked warm applause…

Tourism was imperceptibly becoming a significant revenue earner for the West Coast. The jewels in the Coast crown were the glaciers, but tourists would stay at Hokitika, Ross, Harihari or Whataroa en route. In 1923–24 the Hokitika Exhibition was staged, and it brought large crowds to the region. Teichelmann was busy behind the scenes ensuring the exhibition was a success. Many of his photographs were used in promotions and displays.
Lake Mapourika, South Westland

Ebenezer Teichelmann not only mastered the idiosyncracies of large format photography, but he excelled with images that extolled the beauties of his beloved mountains and West Coast. His prints were sought after for promotional publications, and the outstanding quality of his large prints with their superb tonal range must rank him among the best of his time. Had he exhibited in North America or Europe, his name would be far more widely known as a photographer.

The extract above is from my book on Ebenezer Teichelmann. The covers of the two versions are pasted below. Available at:
or at Take Note, Hokitika.New Zealand. Distributed by Craig Potton Publishing in New Zealand.

If you want to learn more about Ebenezer Teichelmann, go to my blog which is about his life and times.

Ebenezer Teichelmann in old age. He was 77 when this photo was taken in 1937.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Franz Josef Glacier - Teichelmann photo

This is a great photo taken by Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann from the Fritz Range looking over the Franz Josef Glacier and neve regions to the main divided.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Another Teichelmann photo.

A view down the Wanganui River from Blue Lookout. South Westland, New Zealand. Photograph by Ebenezer Teichelmann.Taken 1911

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Foreword from Sir Edmund Hillary

When I completed my biography on Ebenezer Teichelmann I started searching for a respected mountaineer to set the scene for the book, preferably someone who knew of Teichelmann's great feats. Sir Edmund Hillary was the obvious choice. With some trepdidation I wrote a letter to him. Both he and Dr. Teichelmann were former Presidents of the New Zealand Alpine Club and Ed had followed in Teichelmann's footsteps many times. Ed agreed immediately and graciously wrote the FOREWORD beneath.


As a young climber I came to respect the climbs and exploration done by Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann, mainly from the West Coast of New Zealand, up those long and difficult valleys such as the Cook River Valley, and his many first ascent were remarkable in that day and age of hobnail boots and long handled ice axes. His third ascent of Mt. Cook in 1905 was a wonderful achievement.
I have seen his photographs gracing many NZ Alpine Journals and other books and I am delighted that hardy band of West Coast mountaineers which included not only Dr. Teichelmann, but Peter and Alec Graham and later, my old climbing partner, Harry Ayres, is getting the recognition they deserve.
Both Dr. Teichelmann and I are former Presidents of the NZ Alpine Club and I am pleased the club is supporting this important publication on New Zealand Mountaineering, and capturing a bygone era of courage and tenacity in exploration.

Edmund Hillary
1 December, 2003.