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(The Kiwi/Kerry Connection)

I got this article published in the South Canterbury Herald newspaper on Tuesday about this Kiwi/Kerry connection and had to wait till it was published to put this post on my blog.

I’ve been working on a project for the last four months which involves building a connection between two gold tier status dark sky reserves. At the end of January 2014 I heard that the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland, was awarded gold tier status by the International Dark Sky Association (I.D.A.) The I.D.A. is an organisation that draws attention to the hazards of light pollution. It awards bronze, silver and gold tier status designations to dark sky communities, parks and reserves all over the world, gold tier being the highest award.Glass Trophy & Poem for Kerry I.D.S.R.

Being Irish myself, I was delighted to hear the good news. I work for another gold tier status reserve: the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (I.D.S.R.) in New Zealand. I thought it would be a great opportunity to build a connection between the two countries but also between the two gold tier status locations in opposite hemispheres.

When I first suggested building this connection, Chris Monson, Assistant Manager of Earth and Sky, suggested the idea of sending Kerry a gift to show them our support and recognise their achievements. One of the ideas for the gift was to get a green-coloured glass sculpture made, that would tie in with the national colour of Ireland. I also suggested the idea of a double-twist Maori design, which symbolises two roots growing together, depicting the connection of two cultures. We wanted to congratulate Kerry on their success and had to come up with the wording for that in no more than two sentences, to be engraved on the sculpture.

The final decision on the gift was a triangular-shaped glass sculpture, with four stars in the corner representing the Southern Cross, something unique to the Southern sky and the edging on the right hand side depicts the Southern Alps. The wording engraved on the body of the sculpture is: “In recognition of the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve 2014. Best wishes from Earth and Sky, home to the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve 2012”. The second sentence which I came up with was “Two gold tier status reserves protecting our dark skies together”. I suggested that we should translate this sentence into Gaelic and it was. The wording in Gaelic is: “Dhá shuίomh le stádas sráithe orga ag cosaint ár spéartha le chéile” and is engraved on a brass plate on the base. They couldn’t engrave the English wording on the Maori double-twist design which I suggested but I’m still very happy with the end result. It looks impressive.

Lindis Pass, South Island, New ZealandMargaret also suggested that we write a poem to show how the Maori ancestors used the night skies to navigate their way to New Zealand and mention how the skies are now protected forever in a dark sky reserve or words to that effect. This poem would then be put on a starry background in a photo frame. I started thinking about this and came up with the following lines:
“Our ancestors used the stars as a guiding light
To navigate their way to New Zealand at night
Now they’re protected in a dark sky reserve
For us all to learn from, admire and conserve”.

It took four weeks for the sculpture to be made and it’s an original piece. I went with Margaret to the engravers on the day it was ready to be picked up and when they took the lid off the box I thought “Wow, it’s really nice”. The trophy is quite symbolic of the sort of celebration trophies that are made in New Zealand currently. It recognises good quality of service and shows that the organisation has achieved great things. We wanted to use the same symbol of a trophy to send to Kerry I.D.S.R.

In presenting this gift Earth and Sky Observatory wish to establish a connection which will lead to a long term relationship with Kerry. They have suggested swopping night shots between both locations. “So in our daytime in New Zealand, the tourists who access our night tours, can see night shots of Kerry Dark Sky Reserve from the Northern Hemisphere and in Kerry the tourists there would be able to see our night shots of the Southern sky and the Milky Way” Margaret said. There are other plans to establish the long term connection but I’ll talk about that in another blog post.