The tour began in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. Laetitia and her group were on a cruise on the twin-screw steamship, TSS Earnslaw, on Lake Wakatipu. Launched in 1912, the same year as the Titanic, the ship is coal-fired and has many of the same fittings, including those on the bow. For a time, the crew had to make the bow off limits for guests to keep teenagers from re-enacting Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Kate Winslet’s iconic scene from the film, Titanic.
The scenery from the deck reminded Laetitia of being on a lake in the Alps. The lakeshore is mountainous and forested with fir trees. The Alpine appearance is recent, dating from the arrival of the Europeans. The island flora and fauna evolved for millions of years without human inhabitants. The coming of the Polynesians (Maoris) about 800 years ago and the Europeans in the nineteenth century significantly altered the biological landscape. Populations of the endemic flightless birds, such as the moa and the kiwi declined. The moas are extinct and the kiwis, from which the slang term for New Zealander is derived, are endangered and exist only on wildlife preserves.
Later the group did a tour with a local guide that included a farm that grew what most Americans call kiwifruit. Known for its brown furry outside and succulent green interior, the berry has nothing to do with kiwis and is not endemic to New Zealand. It is native to China and New Zealanders originally called them Chinese gooseberries. The new name came about when New Zealand began exporting them and wanted a name associated with their country for commercial purposes. Laetitia chose the kiwifruit as the subject of the day’s limerick.
She had by no means given even cursory coverage to New Zealand, Australia or the rest of the English Speaking world for that matter, but having encountered penguins, she was intrigued and decided to go to Antarctica next.
The brown furry fruit that doth please
Has nothing to do with kiwis
It’s a name that was made
For NZ export trade
Of a berry that’s native Chinese.