Earlier this week, my short flight from New Zealand’s Rotorua Regional Airport to Auckland was canceled, so I ended up stuck at that tiny airport for a while. Good thing. The delay gave me a chance to look around. In addition to finding more than a half-dozen giant statues, I was able to learn a bit about Jean Gardner Batten, a famous New Zealand aviatrix from the 1930’s who was born in Rotorua in 1909 and made a number of record-breaking solo flights across the world, including the first direct flight from England to New Zealand
( Photo: Jean Batten at Rongotai Airport, Wellington, circa 1930s, Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library).
Unfortunately, when Batten stopped flying she disappeared from public view and later became a reclusive. She died in November 1982 in Palma, Majorca after refusing treatment for a dog bite that had turned septic. She was buried anonymously in a mass grave and for five years, no one even knew she had died.
Later, it was discovered that Batten wanted to have her ashes interred at Auckland International Airport and today, that airport’s international terminal is named in her honor. I’m going to poke around and see if I can find the spot where they’ve put her ashes.
Jean Batten exhibit at Rotorua Regional Airport