SKETCH of an EXCURSION from NELSON, through QUEEN CHARLOTTE'S SOUND and the WAITOI PASS to the WAIRAU PLAIN, &c.
Our party, consisting of Messrs. Fox, Renwick, Jollie, Wells, and myself, sailed from Nelson on the evening of the 3d of this month, hoping to effect a passage during the night or early on the following morning through the French Pass. In this we were disappointed, from the squally nature of the weather, and thought it prudent to run into Croixelles Harbour for shelter, and remain until daybreak. Early on the morning of the 4tb, after repairing some damage which the gale had caused to the sails, we passed out through its northern entrance, and had a favourable opportunity of observing the character of the harbour. It is an j excellent one, completely landlocked, and with deep anchorage for large vessels. There is no land on its shores fit for agricultural occupation, scarcely enough even for the site of a few fishing huts. There is a small pa at its northern entrance, situated on a sandflat, not usually inhabited, but probably occasionally occupied as a fishing station by the natives, of whom, as we passed, we noticed about twenty or thirty. We were becalmed the whole day, and only made about four miles, putting in at night at a small cove, sheltered by some jutting rocks of a very bold and picturesque character. On the sth, we again essayed the Pass, and after some delay, owing to the state of the tide, got safely through it at about ten o'clock. This strait, to strangers unacquainted with the proper period of the tides, is highly dangerous even for boats, and should not be attempted by inexperienced hands. The sea, at the springs, rushes through at a fearful rate, forming numerous currents, eddies, and whirlpools among the rocks, fatal to the luckless craft that unwarily tempts its dangers without proper knowledge and care. At the top of the flood and lowest of the ebb there is no danger. Sailing steadily on with a fair wind between D'Urville's Island and the main land (the scenery on either side highly interesting, with fantastic rocks isolated from either shore, in bold relief, and fine hanging woods covering the picturesque and precipitous hills to the water's edge), we passed successively the openings of the Pelorus and Admiralty Bay, leaving Rangitoto and Stephen's Island some miles to the northward. At night we put into a little bay opposite Guard's Island, and landed at a romantic little pa called Tetarangi, where there were some small clearings on the slopes of the wooded hills. This spot, we learnt afterwards, was occupied usually by some of Rauparaha's people, who assisted him at the Wairau fight, but at the time of our visit was vacant. Here were pigeons and kakas in the bush, and indications of pigs. Some of the former we shot and added to our meal, with a few fish caught on our passage. The karaka tree is very plentiful here, its fruit affording a rich repast to the pigeons and kakas.
Weathering Point Lambert on the morning of the 6th, a strong north-wester set in, accompanied by heavy squalls, which obliged us to run into Port Gore, under reefed mizen and jib, shipping occasionally a good deal of water. There being no sheltered inlets at the upper part of this bay, we ran down to the end of it, and got into shelter at Melville Cove, a very snug little harbour, the site of a pa, with a native clearing of some four or five acres. The night being stormy induced us to spread our blankets in the interior of one of the warres, a practice otherwise which we most piously avoided, to escape being devoured by myriads of elephantine fleas, which always inhabit such places. In this instance we paid dearly for our temerity, " tired nature's sweet restorer " being effectually banished from us by the perpetual puncturings from the cruel lancets of this insatiable race ; evidence of which was indisputable when plunging the following morning into the best of baths — the bright blue sea — brought to light our frames covered as with the plague-spots of Egypt. The fury of the north-wester having calmed, we again got under weigh this morning (the 7th), and rounded Cape Jackson at about noon, having caught a few kidi-kidi on our passage up to the heads. Beating into the Sound with a head wind, we observed the distant land of the Northern Island, from Waikanai to Cape Terawaiti, as also the islands of Kapiti and Mana. The land forming the boundary of this part of the Sound is rocky and precipitous ; but the hills are not very high, and are covered with grass, fern, and low bush, well suited for the grazing of cattle and sheep. There are several islands near the entrance, on which are goats, sheep, rabbits, and pigs, belonging to some of the whalers living on the coast. Their increase is represented as very rapid when left undisturbed. In the evening we landed at Arthur's Bay, the site of a pa and residence of Mr. Elmsley, by whom we were hospitably entertained and lodged. This gentleman has lived here many years, and has around him some of the comforts of English life, and among them a nice poultry yard, with plenty of fowls, ducks, turkeys, pigs, and goats. The natives hereJiave twenty or thirty acres of cleared land, in a good state of cultivation.
On the Bth we started soon after daybreak, passing Ship Cove, the favourite resort of the famed navigator Captain Cook, and where an old tree is still standing with his name and date of visit carved upon it. The scenery at this part of the Sound is very beautiful, and the general character of the locality as a refitting place after a long voyage well merits the partiality which that celebrated voyager felt for it. An individual's temperament must be obtuse indeed not to feel •
thrill of gratification in thus beholding such a combination of the " sublime and beautiful" as is here displayed to his senses, enhanced the more, as some of us felt it, in thus having the chance to follow in an after age the track of one whose scientific and interesting achievements, in conjunction with the romantic though fabulous adventures of Robinson Crusoe, so entranced our boyish days, and indeed with many a roving spirit influenced the destinies of our later years. In viewing the realities before us at the moment, brought by a variety of circumstances into the same actual scenes, our enthusiasm could scarcely he restrained from falling into a strain of fancy, that the rugged rock on which our vision then rested was th« same over which the bold adventurer once clambered, the beach before us marked by his footstep, and the pinnacled mountain above us, on whose top almost
" the birds due not build, Nor insect wing flit o'er the herbless granite,"
was perhaps climbed by him for the purpose of taking astronomical observations or making atmospheric experiments, to add to the science of our country. But, begging the reader's pardon for this digression, we will now resume our journal, and endeavour to confine our description to the more legitimate objects of our excursion, which was to impart information. The wind not being in our favour during our passage through the Sound towards Tory Channel, we made but slow progress by beating. This, however, gave us a good opportunity of viewing the different portions of the coast on either side, with its numerous well sheltered little coves and inlets, and its picturesque islands and rocks. Much of the land, although undulating, abrupt, and often precipitous, is capable of cultivation on a limited scale, there being many very charming sites for small individual settlements. In almost every nook the Maories have at different periods had small plantations, which, as soon as they fail, from their wasteful mode of cultivation, to yield profitable crops, they desert, and repeat the same practice in another spot. The quantity of lanjl they have had in cultivation at different periods in different parts of the Sound must amount to many hundreds of acres — probably thousands. The population of its different pas was estimated a short time previous to the Wairau massacre to amount to about 1,200 souls; but their number now is very much decreased, probably permanently. Their deserted clearings of themselves would, if combined, form a very considerable tract of land easy of culture ; but, lying in such detached portions, can never be available to the requirements of a large farmer.
We reached the western head of Tory Channel at noon, through which we had a delightful sail with a fair wind, the character of the scenery increasing in beauty and grandeur at every turn of its passage. There are several whaling establishments placed on either side of the channel ; the principal one, however, is situate at Teawaiti, near its eastern end. A considerable number of whales pass through the channel and along the easternmost passage of the Sound into Cook's Straits, and it is after these principally that the whalers make their trips ; but the avocation is said to be a very unprofitable one generally. Staying rather too long at Mr. Jackson's station, where we put in for some refreshment, and obtained some good milk, butter, and oysters, we found in attempting to pull out through the eastern entrance of the channel towards Cloudy Bay, that the flood tide had set in, and ran so strong that we could not make head against it. We were therefore obliged to put back and lie to in an inlet at Teawaiti, where there was a native village. Here we met with the chief of the Motuaka natives. E Iti, and others, who had just returned from a korero among the tribes, and were on their way back to their homes.
9th. Having been so much longer in effecting our voyage than we had anticipated, and there being indications this morning of a south-easter in the Strait, which might probably detain us some days longer, we abandoned our original intention of sailing to the mouth of the Wairau river, and determined to explore the western aim of the Sound, having heard from various accounts that there was a short and easy pass by land from one of its minor inlets to the Wairau plain. Accordingly retracing our course through the channel, and reaching its western opening about noon, we pursued a course W.S.W. for five or six miles to a point where several inlets or bays branched off in different directions. Two of these inlets were formed by a headland stretching out for about four miles, the direction to the bottom of them from the spot where we first reached the openings being S.S.W. The easternmost of the two is called Waikove, the other Waitoi, both of them having a considerable tract of good level land at their extremities. Another still deeper inlet stretches in a W.S.W. course for six or seven miles, at the end of which there appeared to be some amount of level and easy sloping timbered land, reported to us as being of a very fertile character. Still more to the westward are several other ramifications, forming very beautiful and well sheltered inner harbours, the largest being a deep inlet called Kumutoto, from the end of which there is stated to be a very short pass by land to the upper arms of the estuary of the Pelorus. Our time would not admit of our exploring these various bays, consequently we can only speak by report as to their character and the extent of land about them, which is represented as considerable, but in detached parcels. This end of Queen Charlotte's Sound has never yet been surveyed tor properly explored, and indeed appear* to have been either
ii — »————— —— ■— — intentionally or unintentionally entirely overlooked when the searching for • dte for the second New Zealand settlement was in progress. Notwithstanding <he objection that might have been «nd probably *raa raised against it from its too near proximity to the first colony, an unbiassed mind, with the knowledge of its immediate connexion with the whole of the vast Wairau district, cannot fail to regret that, being rejected as the site for Wellington, it should not at once have been adopted for the later proposed settlement of Nelson, and thus secured to it those many important commercial and agricultural advantages which its present position never can command. This instance, among many others, exhibits the evils and irremediable injuries that necessarily arise from the precipitancy of choosing sites for towns and colonies without a previous well directed exploration. The Sonnd is one of the finest harbours in the world, and admirably situated as regards its position in Cook's Straits for the entry or exit of vessels in all winds or weather. Its immediate contiguity with a large portion of the shore whale fishery, combined with the incalculable advantage of being connected so closely with so large a pastoral and agricultural district as is contained in the Wairau plain, naturally points it out as the proper spot for one of the first, if not the first depot for concentrating the trade and rising interests of New Zealand. The shores of the Sound itself do not contain any large amount of land suitable for extensive agricultural operations, what little there is being steep and in small detached portions. In the western branch of it, here attempted to be imperfectly sketched, the available land is in larger quantities, many of the inner bays having sufficient for small farms. The pass from Waitoi, however, through which we are about to pursue our description, contains at its entrance from the Sound abundant land for the site of a town, a good deal of which would have water frontage; and the continuation of the gorge towards the Wairau, which is sufficiently level for the construction of a canal with the aid of three or four locks, affords a continuous tract of fine wooded land, with some open alluvial soil, the whole distance to the Wairau plain ; thus throwing open an unlimited amount of country in one contiguous block, suited both for the growth of corn and depasturing vast herds of cattle and sheep. The harbour at Waitoi affords good anchorage for vessels within a very short distance of the shore, where boats may discharge their cargoes at any state of tide. Resuming the description of our excursion— we landed at Waitoi, close to the pa, where there were twenty or thirty natives, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, where, discharging the boat, arranging our knapsacks for our walk, and taking a whaler, who had been part of the way through the pass, as our guide, we started on our journey. For about half a mile our track lay through rather high fern, when we reached the native gardens, cleared from the bush, and in a good state of cultivation. The plantations occupied fifty or sixty acres, and consisted of potatoes, cabbage, turnips, Indian corn, kumeras, melons, pumpkins, &c. There appeared to be an opening in the hills, that led round to the other inlet called Waikove, and probably not more than a mile or two through. Here also there is at least 1,000 acres of level and undulating land, mostly open and covered with fern and flax, and said to have been bought by a Mr. Williams of the natives some time since. Leaving the gardens, our route lay by an easy Maori path through bush land finely timbered with the different kinds of pine which mostly indicate fertility, as the mai, kahikatea, &c. We encamped at about £!fr>and a. half miles from the pa, near the summit level of the low ridge that separates the two streams flowing, to the Sound and towards the Wairau, the elevation probably not exceeding fifty or sixty feet above the sea. We resumed our journey on the 10th in a direction S.S.W. for about two miles, where we found the wood abounded with fine totara trees, and passed several spots where the natives were building some large canoes, which they must convey to the shore solely by their combined manual strength. Here we found our guide knew as little of the route as ourselves, consequently we were obliged to have recourse to the compass; and judging the probable position of the point where wa supposed we should enter the plain, directed also by the apparent course of the valley, we steered generally to the southward and southwestward. A mile further on we crossed a stream, which appeared to be the principal one leading through the gorge towards the Wairau, and followed its course for about two miles, mostly along well-defined pig tracks, indications of which animal seemed to be very numerous. The bush also afforded a retreat for considerable numbers of pigeons and kakas. The valley appeared generally to be a mile or mile and half in breadth, the character of the timber and bush favouring the supposition of the soil being very fertile, especially at its two extremities. Judging from the slow rate of our walking through the more entangled parts of the bush, and the uncertainty at times of our being in the right track, we probably emerged from the wooded portion of the gorge at about nine or ten miles distance from the Sound. Here the soil was swampy, — the vegetation consisting of rushes, flax, and raupo, and preserving that character, with a few small woods interspersed, for four or five miles, until the valley opens into the Wairau plain. The land in the flat being so wet, we followed along the edge of the hills on the eastern side, the fern occasionally being very dense and high. Having lost considerable time and strength in ascending a high hill that commanded a view of the plain, for the amusement of some of our party, we were unable to reach the end of the gorge this evening, so encamped in a somewhat uncomfortable position on the margin of the swamp. The stream, after emerging from the wood, and indeed for a mile or two before, is very sluggish in its course ; its Maori appellation, Tua Marina (the still water), indicating, as is mostly the case with aboriginal designations, its characteristic. It appears to abound with wild-fowl all along the open part of its course ; and there is no doubt that the land when properly drained will prove highly valuable for agriculture ; at present it seems much subject to floods. The gorge at this end is circuitous, and contracted in width to about half or three-quarters of a mile, and winds by several angular turns until it reaches the river Wairau, close by the scene of the late conflict By a rough estimate,* the whole distance through the Pass,, from Waitoi to the Wairau plain, may be from twelve to fifteen miles; but,from theimpedi-
ments and delays which are constantly presenting themselves in travelling through a trackless forest, it is extremely difficult to form any idea of distance at all approaching to accuracy. The same difficulty holds good with regard to extent of land, from the impossibility of seeing its limits ; but, including several tributaries, the Waitoi Pass (or perhaps it ought to be called the Pass of the Tua Marina, in memory of our murdered friends buried on its banks) — the pass may reasonably be calculated to contain from seven to ten thousand acres of very desirable country for cultivation, about three-fourths of which are timbered. On the morning of the 11th we crossed a low spur of the range that bounds the pass on the eastern side, and found ourselves just above the spot where the fatal and ever-to-be-deplored event occurred that deprived us of our valued friends and so many valuable members of our infant colony — that catastrophe which has struck so deep a blow upon our individual prospects and those of all the New Zealand colonies for years to come— a blow rendered infinitely more cruel by the cold-blooded apathy, the heartless, cowardly policy, that refused to investigate the circumstances of the slaughter, or attempt to punish the principal perpetrators of the crime. As we approached the site of the graves, protected by a rude, simple manuka fence, the retrospect of the calamity caused us some sad thoughts. Our poor departed friends seemed to pass mournfully in review before us : the calm, noble-minded Wakefield, of a thousand sterling qualities — his gallant and warm-hearted follower, poor Howard — the hasty, but truly kind-hearted and generous Thompson — the courageous and reflective England —the intellectual and highly-endowed Richardson — the amiable Patchett and enterprising Cotterell, with many others equally to be lamented, were brought vividly to our recollection. Their horrid fate at the hands of such ruthless barbarians, still unpunished, still at large, petted and rewarded by the powers that be, seemed a confused and improbable dream ; but the mournful, stern reality does indeed present a strange anomaly in the annals of British Justice for the future pages of history to record. Descending the slope of the eminence where the massacre took place, which no doubt was very near the site of the graves, we came upon the other inclosure, which marked the burial place of those who probably fell during the earlier , part of the fight, being very near the stream where the parties, after the unsuccessful korero, must have crossed over from the wood, the rank vegetation around it making it somewhat difficult to reach the spot. Before we left Nelson, it had been arranged for us to meet near this spot a party of gentlemen who intended to visit the district-by a journey overland through the Wairau Pass; but we were disappointed in not finding any indications of their having succeeded in their attempt thus far ; and we afterwards learnt that the state of the weather and the difficulty they experienced in finding the right track through the pass induced them to abandon the undertaking. On leaving the graves, we attempted to ford the Wairau river and proceed up the plain on our journey homewards, but found it too deep and rapid at that place to effect it safely. We therefore encamped for the night on its northern bank, intending to search for a better ford higher up on the following morning. This we effected without any difficulty early on the 12th; and, diverging a little from the river to avoid the high jungle that clothes its banks, proceeded by easy walking through low fern and grass up the plain, encamping at a point where the Opawa stream, during freshets, takes aportion of the waste water from the main river, but which at the time of our visit was perfectly dry. 13th. Proceeding a few miles this morning before breakfast, we were hailed by some Maories near the junction of a large stream (named Waiopa), who we learnt were the remnant of the bush natives of the Rangitani tribe, who were conquered and almost annihilated some years since by Rauparaha. The poor creatures, rarely meeting with any of their kindred, or indeed any human being, from the fear of their savage destroyer, seemed very glad to see us, and pressed us very much to stop at their warres and hunt some pigs with them ; but our time would not admit of our accepting their invitation. They brought us a little basket of a small species of fish, which they catch in the river, resembling white bait, ready cooked, which proved to be very good eating; and presenting them with a few biscuits and a little tobacco in return, we resumed our journey. We understood from them that their number was reduced to four or five men and two or three women and children — one of the latter (an infant) being the sole lineal representative of the chief of the once extensive tribe. Proceeding by easy stages of from ten to fifteen miles a day, we arrived on the afternoon of the 16th at the entrance to the Wairau Pass, encamping for the night about a mile onwards in the bush.
Although the Wairau district has on several occasions been visited previously to our excursion, and also partially described, yet probably a few details concerning its extent and capabilities may not be altogether uninteresting to those who at some future time may contemplate using it for grazing purposes, more especially as we found our own expectations as to its value and character far exceeded by the reality.
The lower part of the plain, extending about five miles in depth from the line of coatt, contains the portion best suited for agricultural operations, the amount of flat land being about 30,000 acres, of various qualities ; some being swampy and covered with rushes, flax, and raupo, but presenting no great difficulties as to drainage ; other parts with a dense vegetation of fern and jungle ; and the rest mostly consisting of low fern and grass, with here and there a few patches of timbered bush land. The river through this part is wide, deep, and not rapid, and is capable of admitting large boats for eight or ten miles up its course, through the most fertile portions of the soil. The mouth of the river, being unsheltered from the open bay, is difficult of access at certain states of wind and tide, but, once within the bar, boats may ride in safety. Above this belt of agricultural land the dry and open portion of the plain commences, the herbage being mostly grass, excepting at the lower end and near the banks of the river, where there is a considerable amount of fern, low buah, and jungle, with some grass intermingled. The portion of the district which may be designated as the plain extends inland from the coast in a south-westerly direction for nearly twenty miles, with an average
breadth of eight or ten miles ; so that, with it* tributary valleys on either tide, it may be estimated to contain about 150,000 acres of level or nearly level country. » The main river flow* near the north-western boundary of the plain, excepting at the lower part, where the Tua Marina joins it, when its course it pretty nearly through its centre to the coast. The Opawa flows through the centre of the upper part of the plain and receives the tributaries on the south-eastern side. The Waiopa, a large stream flowing from the southward, joins the Wairau at the head of the wide plain, about five miles above the point where the Kaituna valley opens into it. Near the junction of the Waiopa, the plain narrrows on the north-western side to along, narrow gorge or valley, preserving a breadth of from two to three miles for a distance of forty miles, still in a south-western direction ; the space occupying the river and shingle-bed being about half a mile more. About five miles further up, the gorge preserves a breadth of one mile, at which point the wooded pass commences ; and the further extension of the valley of the Wairau diverges to the southward, through a wooded flat, for about seven miles, where it turns to the eastward, and appears lost among the spun of the Kaikora range of mountains.
The Wairau keeps mostly on the north-western side of the valley, as was stated to be the case in the plain, the intervening narrow strip of land between it and the hills appearing more adapted for cultivation than the broader belt on the other side, which is nearly all clothed with fine grass. The slopes of the hills are by no means steep in general, and, like the flat land, are well clothed with grassy herbage ; thus affording a large additional range for cattle and sheep. The flat land contained in the gorge or valley may be fairly estimated to amount to 50,000 acres, no part of which was included in the district laid out for the survey commenced some time back, but a large proportion of which is fully equal to it in quality. We were unable to ascertain the character and quality of the soil in the remaining portion of the timbered gorge stretching to the southward above the pass ; but there must be some thousands of acres of bush land in it there, equal at least to the upper part of the open valley.
Different data have been given of the whole length of the plain and valley from the coast to the wooded pass. Mr. Cotterell's notes make the plain 35 and the valley 55 miles ; total, 90 miles. Mr. Tuckett estimated the valley only at 35 miles to the partially surveyed portion of the plain. Our own notes, which were kept as accurately as circumstances would allow during each day's journey, give the actual distance from the sea as follows, viz., from the coast, through the broad part of the plain to the commencement of the gorge or valley near the junction of the Waiopa with the Wairau, 18 miles, which is obtained by actual survey; thence through the valley to the commencement of the wooded pass, 45 miles; total, 63 miles. The journey through the pass may be estimated at ten miles, taking the best and nearest route; thence, from the head of the Motupiko valley, across the Motuaka and Wai-iti ranges by the road made through Wakefield and the Waimea plain to Nelson, about "45 miles, which will probably be reduced, in forming more effectually the proper line of road, to about 40 miles ; thus making the whole route from Nelson to the centre of the Wairau plain about 100 miles. Whilst proceeding up the valley, we noticed an apparent opening in the high mountain range that separates the Wairau from the head of the Waimea district, which in all probability corresponds with a similar break seen behind Mr. M'Rae's farm. Should this ultimately prove to be a practicable pass, the journey will probably be lessened by about 15 miles ; consequently it is worth the attempt of explorers to trace it carefully.
But little now remains to record worthy of notice on our further journey. We emerged from the pass early on the morning of the 18th, after an easy walk through, having the previous evening fallen in upon the encampment of Messrs. Heaphy and Christie, who were on their return from the Rotuiti Lake, &c. During that day we had accidentally fallen into Mr. Cotterell's first track on his way to discover the Wairau, and came upon the site of his encampment on the 20th Nov. 1842, having found a note in a bottle at the place, giving us this intelligence. At the station at the head of the Motupiko valley, we found memoranda from the party who had intended to have joined us at the plain, from which we pretty nearly ascertained the causes of the failure of their expedition. By a weary march, we reached Mr. Macrae's farm early on the evening of the 19th, being most hospitably entertained by its occupant, and highly relishing the change of diet which his kindness afforded us.
On the 20th we sauntered leisurely to Nelson, much fatigued with our walk but none the worse for our journey, having had very fine weather during the greater part of our travels. Samubl Stephens. Dated Nelson, March 24th, 1845.
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SKETCH of an EXCURSION from NELSON, through QUEEN CHARLOTTE'S SOUND and the WAITOI PASS to the WAIRAU PLAIN, &c., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume IV, Issue IV, 29 March 1845
SKETCH of an EXCURSION from NELSON, through QUEEN CHARLOTTE'S SOUND and the WAITOI PASS to the WAIRAU PLAIN, &c. Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume IV, Issue IV, 29 March 1845
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