A German Regional Weekend Meeting was held in Bonn 25-27 September 2009
to coincide with the exhibition James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific in the city.
The meeting was held at the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany).
I travelled with Alwyn Peel. We met at Stansted airport on Friday 25 September 2009. I drove there and he came by train.
We travelled with an airline that had, it seemed, only one flight a day from Stansted! Put it this way, the people at the check-in desk were the same people at the gate. I almost expected to see them on board as cabin crew!
We flew to Cologne airport, where we had arranged to meet Harry Ward and Harry Wright, who had flown in earlier from Gatwick airport. We managed to miss each other and met up only when we all got to the hotel. Within half an hour of arriving, we were off again for a short walk to a local restaurant where we had a private room for our dinner. Over twenty of us sat down.
The following morning after breakfast we walked about 25 minutes to the exhibition hall. The Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutsch-land GmbH (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany) is a very modern building.
Our meeting was upstairs in the main conference room, which contained a single long lozenge-shaped table. It meant we were able to see everyone else, despite there being over thirty of us.
A projector was used for the PowerPoint presentations, pointing at the very large white wall at the end of the room. The talks were varied and interesting. As ever, some Polynesian names sound differently to the way I imagined they would be pronounced, so sometimes I got myself confused with what was being said.
Frans Mouws, from the Netherlands, was filming the Cook exhibition and had asked to take some shots of us. His web site includes some film about the exhibition, which is worth looking at. See http://human.nl/?pg=blog&blogid=510&blogaid=25.
Horst Dippel's talk on the Forsters and New Zealand got us off to a great start. It was particularly fitting as the scientists were German and Cook had visited New Zealand on every voyage.
Manfred Kurz, archivist in Wiesloch, told a great tale of Heinrich Zimmermann's life and how his baptism record has been incorrectly read.
Robert King had flown in from Canberra especially to give us his talk on a little known episode of Zimmermann's life and followed on so well, it seemed as though the two speakers had collaborated.
Gundolf Krüger spoke of the problem of not being sure where an item came from and where it had been made. He used the example of a whale-bone breastplate labelled as being from Tahiti, thought to have been collected in Tonga, and probably made in Fiji.
We then had a short break for a cup of tea in the excellent cafe.
Back in the conference room Charlie Auth whizzed us through lots of photos of the CCS meeting at Hawai'i and the visit to Kealakekua Bay. John Paul showed us photos of his trip around the world in a yacht built specially for the purpose.
We were overrunning by now, but everyone stayed to hear Heiko Schnickmann talk on dogs and the sea. He cut his presentation short, which was a shame as he clearly loved the subject.
By now it was 3 o'clock and we hadn't had any lunch!
Adrienne Kaeppler had joined us during the meeting. I didn't realise she was there until someone asked Manfred Kurz about the ethnographic items Zimmermann might have collected, and I couldn't think of anyone else who would ask such a question! Henriette Pleiger, the project manager for the exhibition, also told us about her involvement.
The exhibition was arranged with items from the same country placed together. The display cabinets were laid out on a giant map of the Pacific Ocean, so the countries were in their correct geographical position. The track of each voyage was painted on the floor so you could follow each ship as it travelled from country to country. I tried it for Endeavour, but then gave up as I kept stopping to talk to people and then diverted to what they wanted to show me. All of the captions for the exhibits were in German and English.
After a couple of hours looking around, I still hadn't seen everything and decided to leave the rest for another visit on Sunday. The gift shop had little of interest to me apart from some postcards of Georg Forster paintings.
The separate bookshop was brilliant. Someone had clearly thought through what to obtain. I bought a copy of several items, and declined with great regret many others about Georg Forster and James Cook.
That evening we caught a tram from outside the hotel to the city centre and a pub (or whatever its equivalent is in Germany). We weren't able to sit all together, but in three groups. Not so many of us, but another enjoyable evening of talking, eating and drinking.
Sunday morning, saw Alwyn and I walk back to the exhibition hall. I was straight back into the bookshop, and then around the Cook exhibition for the bits I'd missed before. I spotted one mistake in the caption for an exhibit. It had 1775 in the German description but 1755 in the English version! Some Maori ladies started a dance, which we watched for a while. But Alwyn and I had to leave for the airport. GermanWings had a much, much bigger presence with many flights all over Europe. Getting through security took much less time than we expected so we had lots of cups of coffee while waiting for our flight.
A great weekend. Both the meeting and the exhibition were enjoyable. I'm glad I was able to go. Apart from CCS members from Germany there were also some from Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the UK and the USA.
Photos in this article taken by Alwyn Peel, Charlie Auth, Helene Nymphius and John Paul
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 31, volume 33, number 1 (2010).
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