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More First Crossings/Intrepid NZ on Television

It’s great to see that Kevin and Jamie will be on-screen again soon, with Intrepid New Zealand [1]: effectively the third season of what was previously First Crossings. The facebook page [2] also has up-to-date info.

In previous seasons of First Crossings, Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald have re-enacted many of the significant early adventurers’ expeditions into New Zealand’s back-country and other places. At times I’ve wished they’d take a step back from the characters and been clearer to viewers during the show about their re-enactments, but it’s still a great show to watch. Despite that fault (in my eyes), I find the show much less patronising than some others which purport to represent the outdoor environment.

Presently, for people in New Zealand, all 8 episodes of last year’s season two are still available for viewing, via TVNZ Ondemand [3]. [Update 1-Oct-2014: Intrepid NZ screens Wednesday nights on TV1, starting tonight.]

In the upcoming episodes of Intrepid New Zealand, I’ve been especially looking forward to their re-enactment of the Sutch Search in the Tararua Range, which I researched from old newspaper clippings and wrote about several years ago (part 1) [4]. Also see part 2 [5] and part 3 [6].

This particular 1933 event was triggered by four trampers who went missing for 2 weeks in the Tararua Range during atrocious weather, with moderate injuries between them and very few provisions, before eventually walking out themselves. The search effort directly involved roughly 200 people, pioneered the use of radio communications and aeroplanes. The effort met ongoing logistical problems which had never previously been encountered, and much of the methodology for coordinating such a task had to be developed as they went along.

The aftermath of the event left much new experience for analysis and discussion, generated vigorous public debate about the responsibilties between those who visit the outdoors and those who search for them, and ultimately it was a key chapter in the development of New Zealand’s voluntary Land Search and Rescue service, now known as LandSAR [7]. For these reasons, it’s one of my favourite outdoor stories, also helped by the event being located in the midst of one of my favourite tramping back-yards. I’d imagine Kevin and Jamie would mostly focus on the problems faced by the tramping party, which was also an interesting story, but I hope the re-enactment does the whole event some justice. 🙂

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "More First Crossings/Intrepid NZ on Television"

#1 Comment By wildsidenz On 26 September, 2014 @ 10:15 am

Intrepid NZ hits screens soon—Kevin and Jamie re-enact our early backcountry expeditions: [14] | [15]

#2 Comment By pseudo_Lisa On 27 September, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

RT @wildsidenz: Intrepid NZ hits screens soon—Kevin and Jamie re-enact our early backcountry expeditions: [14] | [16]

#3 Comment By nzbazza On 17 October, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

I thought the “Sutch search” episode was very good. It focussed primarily on the conditions (terrain, weather and injuries) and the decision points the party faced and made given the former. I couldn’t help but admire that the party members seemed to make the most logical rational decision each time, based on their situation and the information available to them, and their perseverance and resilience in spite of the difficulties.

It really put tramping in today’s environment into perspective and how much technology has changed tramping (certainly “safer” not sure about “better”), with the ability to be in constant communication with the outside world, detailed and accurate (largely) maps and track information, GPS navigation and being able to “pop off” a PLB for a helicopter rescue if you sprain an ankle (somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

Another point that interested me was that large parts of the Tararua interior remained unexplored even at that point. I guess most parties were interested in travelling along the ridges as the travelling is somewhat easier, as the party found out.

Of interest was how quickly the mapping of the Tararuas improved after the “Sutch search”. I guess the need was obvious for trampers and SAR. The early 30’s edition (that you had a quick glimpse of in the show, and a copy of which is shown on pt.2 of your article) was a basically a few lines showing the waterways and ridges and the location of some major peaks, perhaps based on the trig surveys of the early 1900’s (see the Chronology of the Tararuas and Rimutakas Ranges by Ross Kerr for further details). The 1936 edition published by the Department of Lands and Survey (I think, and on display at the DOC national office) is a work of art and was incredibly detailed, drawing on the knowledge of the local trampers and possibly aerial photography, it must of being one of the first maps to try and show the slope of terrain (using radial lines of different thicknesses and length instead of contour lines).

One thing that the show couldn’t really show well with two fit guys bashing and crashing through the bush was just how slow the party must have been moving with its injuries, lack of food and the cold wet weather.

BTW, Congratulations on being mentioned in the credits of the show.

#4 Comment By Mike McGavin On 18 October, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

Hi @nzbazza. Wow, thanks for pointing that out. They slid the credit in without me noticing. It’s quite flattering given I didn’t actually have any direct involvement in the show, and basically just collated together a bunch of stuff already online. 🙂

Yes I’m enjoying the format of Intrepid NZ more than First Crossings. For one thing, there’s more acknowledgement that they’re not actually doing it!

I think the Tararuas only began to get seriously explored in the early 20th century, and the northern parts of the range much later than the southern parts. The maps are interesting. If you search the National Library’s online archive, there are heaps of variations of [17] (as in made by Hubert Girdlestone) originating from around 1911. It covers the whole region they’d planned to walk, and the southern end of it is right around the Totara Flats/Sayers Hut area which was “off the edge of their map” when they went further south, so I wonder if this map or similar is what they actually had.

The Evening Post probably just re-published whichever map they could scrounge up at the time which they thought might print well. I can’t remember the 1936 detail off the top of my head. Maybe there was improvement from aerial surveying as you’ve suggested.

Cheers. Mike.

#5 Comment By Stuart On 21 October, 2014 @ 8:04 pm

You were not the only one not to notice the credit Mike, likewise here, but thanks to nzbazza all is revealed, Congratulations.

#6 Comment By Hazel On 4 November, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

Great episode, and I too noticed the credit, which prompted me to google the whole story and found your newspaper clippings.

#7 Comment By Daryl On 5 November, 2014 @ 9:53 pm

Just seen the latest episode of intrepid nz – the deer hunters. Would have been better if you could have found some ‘wild’ deer without ear tags! HAHAHAHAHA! Funny stuff.