24 Apr 2024

Weird, wacky and wonderful: Past Kiwi discoveries

7:01 pm on 24 April 2024
For story about previous discoveries RNZ has reported on.


RNZ Concert senior music producer David McCaw was "flabbergasted" when a swipe card he lost 21 years ago showed up in Antarctica.

But it is not the only remarkable tale there is tell.

Here are some other finds that RNZ has reported on in the past.

Carrot grows around lost diamond ring

In 2017, Carol Creighton lost her eternity ring while gardening in Balclutha 11 years prior.

On 30 August 2017, the ring turned up on a carrot in her garden.

Creighton told Checkpoint at the time that it was a "lovely surprise".

She had been pulling out weeds before going back inside to realise the ring, which was pass down to her by her mother, was no longer on her finger.

"It's not so much the value of the ring, it's the sentimental value."

Daniel Burgin and Eve Aitken dig through the stones by the stream bed.

Daniel Burgin and Eve Aitken dig through the stones by the stream bed. Photo: RNZ / Claire Concannon

Looking for gold, but finding a meteorite

In January 1976, Ted Dowie was looking for gold in a river in the mining district of Dunganville near Greymouth when he came across a black, smooth-topped boulder in a dry creek bed.

It rang like a bell when he hit it and was unusually heavy. Intrigued, Dowie rolled the boulder up on the stream bank and sent a small sample he had chipped off to New Zealand Geological Survey.

Dowie had found a 50.2kg iron meteorite, the name given to rock or other solid debris that has come from outer space and landed on Earth.

The Dunganville meteorite is the largest recorded in New Zealand to date, and is the iron core of a protoplanet from four and a half billion years ago when the solar system was forming.

Just last month, the 10th meteorite was found in New Zealand.

The space rock entered Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 50 to 60 kilometres per second on 13 March.

It was spotted by Dennis Behan, a member of Fireballs Aotearoa, who was relaxing in his spa bath in Queenstown when it tore through the atmosphere.

It was discovered on Crown land in the South Island's Mackenzie Country.

Michael Johnston and a moa footprint.

Michael Johnston and a moa footprint. Photo: Tūhura Otago Museum / supplied

Researchers find moa footprints

In 2023, researchers announced the first moa footprints found in the South Island dated back at least 3.6 million years, making them the second-earliest fossil record of moa.

Ranfurly man Michael Johnston spotted seven fossilised moa footprints in the bed of the Kyeburn River in Otago while walking his boss' dogs in 2019.

A collaboration involving Tūhura Otago Museum, the University of Otago and local rūnaka extracted them, attracting questions and interest from across the country and abroad.

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Photo: Supplied / Douglas Thorne

Finding a thought-to-be-extinct bird

On 20 November 1948, Dr Geoffrey Orbell and three friends headed into a hidden valley in Fiordland's Murchison Mountains with a dream in mind.

They wanted to find the thought-to-be-extinct takahē.

When he and the group returned victorious, it made headlines around the world.

Jen Bain-Titter

Jen Bain-Titter Photo: Supplied

'Loved' artwork found after flood

A piece of art thought to have been lost forever was reunited with its owner almost a year after floodwaters ripped it from its Hawke's Bay home during Cyclone Gabrielle.

A young boy, wearing a floppy wide-brim hat, beige collared shirt, and a greenish coat - Jen Bain-Titter thought she would never see the painting again.

But earlier this year on a stranger's Facebook post, there it was.

"Never, ever, ever in a million years, ever thought we would see that picture again," Bain-Titter said.

"And it wasn't the most expensive picture in the house, by far. But it was so loved."

The Hintz family were reunited with the family heirloom 40 years after it was stolen

The Hintz family were reunited with the family heirloom 40 years after it was stolen Photo: SUPPLIED/ Police

Family heirloom found after 40 years

In 2022, a family was reunited with an heirloom almost 40 years after it was stolen from their West Auckland home.

Police found the heirloom - a small engraved tin - amongst a raft of stolen goods during a search warrant.

Not knowing its origin, police asked the local RSA to help find the original owners.

Swanson RSA contacted an existing member with the same last name engraved on the case, who confirmed it belonged to his family.

The tin was stolen in June 1983 while the Hintz family was out celebrating their daughter's 21st birthday.

An illustration of a giant penguin with a long beak exiting the ocean onto a sandy beach. It is surrounded by smaller penguins, also with long beaks.

Concept image of the giant extinct penguin Kumimanu fordycei towering over other extinct penguins that were closer in size to modern-day emperor penguins. Photo: Simone Giovanardi

Giant Penguin that lived 28 million years ago discovered

In 2014, scientists discovered a new species of giant penguin that lived in waters around Waikato about 27 to 28 million years ago.

The fossils were found in the 1970s but stayed in storage at Auckland University for years, because scientists could not say for sure whether it was a new species.

The advancement of 3D printing allowed for further research.

Winky the cat was found after going missing 10 years ago.

Winky the cat was found after going missing 10 years ago. Photo: Supplied

One-eyed cat found after 10 years

Ten years after he disappeared without trace, a beloved pet was reunited with his owners in 2022.

Winky, a one-eyed but very sociable moggie, wandered off in 2012 from his family's apartment at Auckland's Viaduct.

Winky had ended up in Mt Roskill - a fair distance from the Viaduct - where he was fed for 10 years by a person who assumed he was a stray.

Caelyn Hossack, 9, has found a rare colony of Hawke's Bay skinks in Waipawa.

Caelyn Hossack, 9, has found a rare colony of Hawke's Bay skinks in Waipawa. Photo: RNZ/ Kate Green

9yo finds rare skink colony

In 2023, 9-year-old Caelyn Hossack found a colony of Hawke's Bay skink outside of the protection of Cape Sanctuary's predator-proof fence fir the first time.

Biodiversity records show their range used to cover the whole region, but the species was now endangered.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council biodiversity advisor Natalie de Burgh said it was a heartening discovery.

"We don't often get really good news biodiversity stories," she said.

"It was just really nice to be able to share that there's this species that's in trouble that's popped up here, and it could very well be in other places we don't know about."

The Citizens' War Memorial in Christchurch's Cathedral Square was unveiled in 1937.

Photo: Roger Wong, via Wikimedia Commons

Time capsule found in Christchurch

In 2022, a team tasked with deconstructing a Christchurch war memorial so it could be moved to a new site uncovered an unexpected time capsule.

Architectural historian and heritage consultant Jenny May said it was a "fluke" the message in a bottle was found.

A Beatle-y find

The mystery of who created a 1960s pop-culture time capsule uncovered in a New Plymouth cottage was solved in 2019.

The McIsaac sisters, Ann and Peggy, have travelled in from Stratford and Auckland respectively to be reunited with their childhood home.

When the cottage's current owner, Katey Pittwood, began removing Gib in a bedroom in the Lemon Street property, staring back at her were wall-to-wall posters of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, the Kinks and many more obscure stars of yester-year.

Realising how unique what she had discovered was, Pittwood went public with her find to see if she could track down who had put the posters up. And the answer did not lie far away.

Stone tools made of obsidian were among the objects excavated

Stone tools made of obsidian were among the objects excavated Photo: Supplied / University of Otago

Ancient Māori village unearthed in Gisborne

A Māori village dating back to the 14th century was unearthed in an archaeological dig at a Gisborne port in 2018.

Moa bones, stone tools made of obsidian and food remains were some of the items found in the 2.5 metre excavation at Eastland Port.

Professor Richard Walters said the site at Gisborne was filling in the knowledge gaps of how Māori lived in the early 1300s.

"There's a whole series of sites of about this age that date to the first decades of New Zealand colonisation."

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