Story: European exploration

Passes between Canterbury and the West Coast

From the late 1850s people in Canterbury sought an easy pass over the Southern Alps to the West Coast, especially when gold was discovered on the coast in 1864. The main passes are marked on this map. They were all named after their European discoverers. The first pass crossed by Europeans was the traditional Māori route, which came to be called Harper Pass after Leonard Harper, who crossed in 1857. Arthur’s Pass was named after Arthur Dobson, who discovered it in 1864. Browning Pass recalled J. S. Browning, who was in the party that crossed in 1865. Whitcombe Pass was named after John Henry Whitcombe, who explored the route with Jakob Lauper in 1863 and lost his life after reaching the West Coast. Of these four, Arthur’s proved the most practicable.

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'European exploration - Canterbury and the search for a pass', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 July 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 24 Sep 2007