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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Swimming of the Strait

It is quite possible that, before the coming of the European, the strait was swum by a Maori. Within European times it is recorded that a South Island Maori named Whakarua-tapu, of the Kai Tahu tribe, swam the strait in order to save his life. Apparently after Te Rauparaha had returned from his onslaught on Kaiapohia (Kaiapoi) in 1831, he attacked the people of Wairau, and among the captives whom he carried back to the North Island in his canoe was Whakarua-tapu. When near the coast of the North Island, Te Rauparaha ordered Whakaruatapu to kill his own daughter, a child about nine years old; instead, he flung his daughter into the sea. Te Rauparaha then tried to kill Whakarua-tapu with his hatchet but the latter dived overboard and set off for the shore. Fearing death from Te Rauparaha's people, he changed course and made for the South Island which, by swimming and floating, he eventually reached. It is alleged that he landed somewhere in the vicinity of Queen Charlotte Sound.

The first European to swim the strait was Barrie Devenport who on 20 November 1963 made the crossing in the time of 11 hours 13 minutes. This feat was repeated by Keith Hancox on 7 February 1964 in the time of 9 hours 34 minutes.

Next Part: Canoeists