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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
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.


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Dusky Sound, the largest fiord in New Zealand, is situated on the west coast of the South Island. It was first sighted on 13 March 1770 by Captain Cook who named it Dusky Bay because of its sombre aspect. During his second voyage to New Zealand Cook entered the Sound on 26 March 1773 and remained there until 11 May, thoroughly exploring and charting the Sound. The wealth of bird life impressed him and his place names tell their own story—Shag River; Seal Rock; Curlew, Shag, Petrel, Seal, Pigeon, and Parrot Isles; Goose, Duck, and Woodhen Coves. Clearings were made in the bush and an observatory was established. There was also a blacksmith's shop, a sailmaker's camp, and a brewery. Cook's headquarters were at Pickersgill Harbour on the south-east shore of the Sound. The next visitor to Dusky was Vancouver, in the Discovery, who arrived on 2 November 1791. He stayed about three weeks, during which time he surveyed the north arm of Breaksea Sound, now called Vancouver Arm. In 1792 Captain Raven, master of the Britannia, called and left a sealing gang at Luncheon Cove on Anchor Island. They were the first temporary residents of New Zealand. While stationed there they built a small ship which was left on the stocks. On 25 February 1793 another Discovery, commanded by Malaspina, the famous Spanish navigator, called at the northern entrance but did not enter. Two years later, William Bampton visited Dusky Sound with two ships, the Endeavour and Fancy. When the former proved unseaworthy, Bampton's party completed Raven's unfinished ship which they named Providence. This was the first ship built in New Zealand. As Raven's venture at Dusky Sound had proved unprofitable, little sealing was done in the area until 1801 when George Bass called there in the Venus. In 1803 a Bass Strait sealer, Endeavour, called at Dusky Sound to engage in sealing, and subsequently the area was frequently visited by sealers and whalers.

Acheron Passage, which separates Resolution Island from the mainland, was named by J. L. Stokes. This name supersedes Cook's “New Passage” and Vancouver's “Resolution Passage”.

by Susan Bailey, B.A., Research Officer, Department of Industries and Commerce, Wellington.

  • The Journals of Captain James Cook (Vols. I and II), Beaglehole, J. C. (ed.) (1955 and 1961)
  • Voyage of Discovery, Vancouver, G. (1801)
  • History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949).


Susan Bailey, B.A., Research Officer, Department of Industries and Commerce, Wellington.