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4 December 2021

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Articles by Rod Dixon

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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From hunters to watchers – whaling in Raro waters

Saturday 6 February 2021 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Commercial shore-based whaling began on Rarotonga in 1865 with the help of Rarotongan whaler Jimmy Pi’i and members of a Ngāpuhi family from New Zealand. With whale numbers already in decline, it soon became clear a commercial industry was not viable. Yet a local taste for whale-meat meant opportunistic whale-hunting continued off Rarotonga and Aitutaki for almost another century.

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An Oxford University professor’s ‘Eureka!’ moment on Rarotonga

Saturday 26 December 2020 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

A collision between a Rarotonga hire-bike and a coconut tree led to a Eureka moment for an Oxford professor, who passed away last week. Rod Dixon pays tribute to the distinguished human geneticist.

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Rarotonga’s forgotten rugby league pioneer

Saturday 19 December 2020 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Weekend

George Mitchell, born and brought up on Rarotonga, played with the New Zealand Maori team that defeated the touring Kangaroos in 1937 and is credited as the first ‘Polynesian’ to be included in a New Zealand Maori representative squad.

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The day ‘the Don’ and ‘Phar Lap’ visited Rarotonga

Saturday 12 December 2020 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

Zane Grey “the father of the American cowboy novel’ was one of the many celebrities who visited Rarotonga on the Union Steamship Company’s trans-Pacific liner service. Others included the English novelist D.H. Lawrence, the composer Percy Grainger, several All Blacks squads, the Australian cricket legend Don Bradman, the actor Peter Lawford, the 1932 New Zealand Olympic Team, and the great New Zealand-born Australian racehorse Phar Lap.

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The Flying Nicholas Brothers of Ruatonga: Pt 2

Saturday 21 November 2020 | Written by Rod Dixon | Published in Features, Memory Lane

This second of two articles, concludes the story of two courageous brothers from Ruatonga, Tatio and Marama Nicholas, who flew with Bomber Command and the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Second World War. By Rod Dixon.

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