Story: European exploration

‘Crossing the Mataura’

‘Crossing the Mataura’

J. T. Thomson was appointed the Otago province’s chief surveyor in 1856, and the next year he began a survey of Southland. On the way south his party had to cross the Mataura River. Their ferryman was the chief Reko, who paddled them one by one across the ‘mighty torrent’ of the river in which ‘a single false stroke of the paddle was death’. Thomson’s watercolour of 11 January 1857 recalls the scene. Reko, wrote Thomson, ‘was old and asthmatic, and to his frailty we trusted our safety; but he rose to the occasion above his age and weaknesses. His breast was seen to rise with the pride of superiority, as he scanned us, the effeminate children of white mothers. He stood at the brink, an Ajax in action, a Ulysses in understanding’ (quoted in John Hall-Jones, Mr Surveyor Thomson. Wellington: Reed, 1971, p. 35).

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: A-285-006
Watercolour by John Turnbull Thomson

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'European exploration - Otago and Southland', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 July 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 24 Sep 2007