Watching Sirius rise over Hereweka

Otago Harbour’s waters became a perfect mirror recently, reflecting starlight, and streetlights....
Otago Harbour’s waters became a perfect mirror recently, reflecting starlight, and streetlights. To the left of Orion, Matariki rose over the Portobello Peninsula, while to the right the bright star Sirius shines directly above Hereweka’s peak.
One of the joys of living on Otago Peninsula is the excitement of my morning journey to work, writes Ian Griffin, and this time of year the commute coincides with sunrise.

Ian Griffin. Photo: Otago Museum
Ian Griffin. Photo: Otago Museum
If conditions are right (low clouds and a gap in them near the horizon are best) the explosion of colour in the run-up to dawn can be mesmerisingly beautiful.

Colleagues know that if I’m a few minutes late, I will probably bounce into the office, asking all and sundry whether they have seen "that incredible sunrise".

But it is not just sunrises that are gorgeous in my adopted home. The peninsula can pack a pretty powerful nocturnal punch too.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an early start. The museum was putting on a dawn ceremony to celebrate Matariki and the beginning of the Maori new year.

As I left my house in Portobello, just before 5.30am, I noticed that the night was crisp, calm and clear. I scraped the frost from my windscreen, turned my heater up to full and headed into town.

I drove through Broad Bay on the section of Portobello Rd that has just been widened to accommodate the new shared cycle path and pedestrian walkway.

As the road curved towards the west, I glanced to my right, becoming very excited to see the constellation of Orion rising over the distant hills. I might get to see Matariki on the way to celebrate Matariki!

I pulled over into one of the handy new parking spots and hastily set up a camera (always packed and ready) to capture the moment. And gosh what a moment it was.

On a quiet windless night, with no-one else about, I gazed in awe at a stunning vista created by land, sea and sky. The harbour’s waters had become a perfect mirror, reflecting starlight and streetlights towards my beguiled eyes.

To the left of Orion, Matariki rose over the Portobello peninsula, while to the right I could see the bright star Sirius shining directly above Hereweka’s peak.

This scene is available every morning this week for commuters seeking celestial inspiration.


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