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Articles by Rod Dixon

Who really built Rev John Williams’ Rarotongan ship?

Saturday 27 August 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features

John Williams was an evangelical Christian determined to spread the gospel throughout the Pacific. To this end, he constructed a ship at Rarotonga in 1827 with a ‘mechanical ingenuity’ that gave him legendary status in Britain and beyond. But who really built the ‘Messenger of Peace’?


Marjorie Tua’inekore Crocombe – An exceptional life

Saturday 30 July 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Marjorie and Ron Crocombe lived up to exacting standards in their personal and professional lives and their combined efforts impacted and inspired uncountable others. We were privileged to know them, writes former USP director Rod Dixon.


Spain and Russia in Cook Islands

Saturday 23 July 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

Four hundred years after it was settled by Polynesians, Rakahanga was visited by a Spanish Expedition searching for Terra Australis, then two centuries later by Russia’s First Antarctic Expedition.


Mangaian chic – pare tō fashion hats from the 1950s

Saturday 4 June 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

​The discovery in Washington DC of a cache of 27 Mangaian reed hats or pare tō, dating from 1958, has reignited local interest in how these extraordinary fashion items were produced, writes Rod Dixon.


The Cook Islands Māori calendar

Tuesday 26 April 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

Traditionally, Cook Islanders observed Matariki as the commencement of the annual calendar, a calendar that reflected cycles of life in the agricultural economy of the south and the fishing economy of the north.


Tāote – Cook Islands’ medical pioneers

Monday 28 March 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

With very few resources and little official encouragement, the Cook Islands first local doctors tackled epidemics and eliminated diseases, laying the foundations for the modern Cook Islands medical service.


Manuae, Penthouse magazine and a sunken Aussie grader

Saturday 19 February 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

Over a period of two months in 1981, a group from Rarotonga cleared and constructed a 4000-foot airstrip on Manuae island.


Karlo Andersen ‘King’ of Manuae

Saturday 5 February 2022 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

In the 1950s, Karlo Andersen ran Manuae like a military barracks. “For a man with a notion to play god, the set-up was ideal.”


New book recalls lost era of heroic boatmen

Saturday 18 December 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in

A new book recalls the lost era of surf boat lighterage on Mangaia, bringing it to life through the memories of one of the boatmen and visually through 150 historic photos.


'Akatara from Cook Islands on exhibit in Venice

Saturday 11 December 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Art, Features

An exhibition in Venice exploring the sculptural beauty of command clubs from Oceania, including the Cook Islands, has inspired a Rarotongan experiment to discover how ancient weapons obtain their beautifully finished surfaces.


Earthquakes and tsunamis – the Cook Islands experience

Saturday 30 October 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

What does history tell us about the frequency of earthquakes and tsunami in the Cook Islands?

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Mangaia’s great vaccine experiment of 1866

Saturday 16 October 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

The story of how Davida Numangatini’s abduction into slavery in Peru led to Mangaia’s great vaccine experiment of 1866.


Salt in their blood - The story of early Cook Islanders at sea

Saturday 18 September 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Cook Islands sailors were highly respected for their seafaring skills. As competitors in Australian surf boat carnivals, they were unbeatable.

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The ‘Ponder houses’ of Harley Street

Saturday 7 August 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Several houses and schools in Rarotonga share a link with Scott Base in Antarctica and Auckland International Airport in Mangere, having been designed by the same man, architect Frank Ponder. Gradually disappearing, Ponder’s Rarotonga buildings retain important heritage value.

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Reliving memories of Mangaia’s boatmen shooting the reef

Friday 11 June 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

Taking cargo over the reef in the outer islands involved extraordinary seamanship. Boats and canoes crossed the edge of the reef on the crest of a chosen wave. But when the sea was rolling from the wrong direction, a crossing could be fraught with danger. By Rod Dixon on Mangaia.

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Fit for a Queen: Cook Islands art in the Royal Collection

Saturday 15 May 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Art, Features

With the recent passing of Prince Philip, we wondered what official gifts had been presented to Queen Elizabeth II, her consort, and other royals during their Cook Islands visits. This is what we found. By Jean Tekura Mason and Rod Dixon.

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Wings and ‘whirlybirds’ over Mangaia

Saturday 24 April 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

In 1945 the ariki of Mangaia offered New Zealand land for an airstrip. In the same year, the ending of the Second World war released thousands of ex-pilots and surplus aircraft to service remote air-routes around the world. While other countries took advantage, another 30 years would pass before commercial aircraft landed on Mangaia. By Rod Dixon

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Mutiny on the Vaka? The story of unescorted Mangaian sea voyage

Saturday 3 April 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Almost 30 years ago, a Mangaian vaka set sail for Rarotonga with no electronic or navigational aids, no captain and no escort vessel. The vaka was ‘missing’ for two days and a night and mounting concerns for the crew’s safety sparked an air and sea search. Here the vaka’s navigator, the late Ma’ara Peraua, and crew member Maire Kareroa record their memories of the voyage, while extracts from Rod Dixon’s 1992 diary describe reactions on the ground in Mangaia.

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Rarotonga in vogue

Saturday 6 March 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

Cook Islands men returning from overseas have been a source of fashion innovation for almost 200 years. Long before Bluff white boots and gangster wear, Rarotongan sailors helped revolutionise the formless, shapeless world of missionary clothing.

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‘Sons for the return home’

Saturday 13 February 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

New Zealand Maori plans to resettle Rarotonga. As a land-war brewed in the Waikato in 1863, a New Zealand ngāti, befriended by Kainuku ariki, looked to Rarotonga as a possible site for refugee resettlement.

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