20 March, 2014

An Indescribable Beauty: Letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand 1859 & 1862 [Nick, Central City Library]

The Swedish ship Equator made first sight of New Zealand off the Taranaki coast in the year 1859. On board was an adventurous and intelligent young German immigrant, Freidrich Krull, full of dreams of a new life, and excited by the prospects of a rapidly growing colony. Freidrich's letters home to his mother are published here in An Indescribable Beauty: Letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand 1859 & 1862.

Friedrich writes: "On the morning of January the 15th we saw land, the snow-capped Mount Egmont, and towards sunset this mountain and a large part of the country appeared in their whole glory. The next morning we had no wind and remained anchored only five miles from land. From this distance we could observe the beautiful coast before us. The mountain rose in many terraces to its summit and offered under its hood of gleaming snow a wonderful sight."

Krull describes his travels around Wellington and its surrounding hinterland, venturing into the interior, “the isolated and uncivilised places”, where he crosses the Rimutakas into the Wairarapa district, and then up the west coast from Paekakariki to Waikane and Otaki. "Before us was the sea, smooth as a mirror and of heavenly blue. Out of its depth rose the island of Kapiti, her mountains glowing like fire under the rays of the setting sun. And still further away, on the far horizon, we saw the high mountains of the south island covered with snow."

Krull gives detailed accounts of settler life, the social events he attends, the flora and fauna, and the traditional Maori culture he embraces. He meets prominent Maori chiefs Matene Te Whiwhi and Tamihana Te Rauparaha, founders of the Maori king movement. “Very soon the friendliest relations were established between the Maori and ourselves: any amount of nose rubbing took place, we presented them with pipes and tobacco, strolled through their plantations, shooed away the thieving parrots, inspected their cattle, and rode their horses. Full of curiosity the children followed us everywhere. All this was so unusual I felt as if I had been transported into fairyland."

Krull also attends the election of the Maori king Te Wherowhero, and is a guest at his inaugural
celebrations. “When I looked around at all the wild, dark faces I did feel far from home: it was a peculiar experience to take a meal in this extraordinary company.”

Krull’s descriptive letters form a fascinating historical account of colonial New Zealand, penned with sensitivity and lyricism, and bursting with the palpable wonder of a young man enraptured by his new exotic home, Krull is a joy to read, and provides a tantalising and vivid glimpse of young New Zealand.

Title: An Indescribable Beauty: Letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand 1859 & 1862
Author: Freidrich Krull
Publisher: Wellington, N.Z. : Awa Press
Date: 2012
ISBN: 9781877551338

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