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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.




Port Nicholson is a large natural harbour at the southern extremity of the North Island and on the north-eastern shore of Cook Strait. It has a maximum length of over 7 miles and a width of 5¾ miles. The harbour is land-locked with an entrance of just over a mile from shore to shore and as it is surrounded by hills over 1,000 ft high, it provides sheltered anchorage in a region where wind velocities may exceed 100 m.p.h. The depth of water over the great bulk of the harbour exceeds 10 fathoms. At the western side of the entrance to the harbour, Barrett Reef has proved a navigational hazard. One of the most remarkable groundings on this reef was that of the Wanganella in February 1947. For the unusual period of a fortnight the weather remained fine and the seas calm, thus permitting the successful salvage of the vessel. Other wrecks on Barrett Reef were the Earl of Salt Esk, 1875, Hunter, 1876, and Norma, 1927. The greatest number of wrecks have been on Pencarrow Head on the western side of the entrance. Of some 55 wrecks in Wellington Harbour since 1841, 30 have been at the heads and only four on the obvious navigational hazard of Barrett Reef. The reef was named after Richard (Dicky) Barrett, sealer, whaler, trader, interpreter, agent of the New Zealand Company, publican, and notable early citizen of Wellington.


Thomas Ludovic Grant-Taylor, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Lower Hutt.

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