Story: Marlborough places

Page 5. Arapawa Island to Port Underwood

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Arapawa Island

75-sq-km island flanked by Queen Charlotte Sound, Tory Channel and Cook Strait.

On 23 January 1770 an expedition from British navigator James Cook’s ship the Endeavour climbed to the ridgeline. A monument at the appropriately named Cooks Lookout was erected in 1970.

Herds of feral goats, sheep and pigs, all with distinctive genetic histories, became established in the 19th century. A cohort of goats survives in a sanctuary on the island; they are also now bred in other parts of New Zealand and in the northern hemisphere, in part because of their genetic distinctiveness. Few sheep survive in the wild. Large pigs are known as ‘Captain Cookers’.

The Brothers

Islands in Cook Strait. The Māori name, Ngāwhatu-kai-ponu (eyes that witnessed), refers to the eyeballs from the octopus fought by the navigator Kupe. The islands were considered extremely tapu, and when waka crossed Raukawa (Cook Strait), only those who had undertaken the trip before were allowed to look at the islands; the other paddlers covered their eyes with leaves. A lighthouse was erected on one of the islands in 1877. The Brothers are a wildlife sanctuary.

Tory Channel

The principal channel between the Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait, and the route taken by inter-island ferries between Wellington and Picton. Tory Channel separates Arapawa Island from the mainland. It is known to Māori as Te Kura-te-au (the channel red with blood of the octopus), referring to Kupe’s struggle with a giant octopus.

Although James Cook anchored for days in nearby Ship Cove on a number of occasions, he did not find the channel. Jacky Guard ran a whaling station at Te Awaiti on the northern (Arapawa Island) shore of the channel in the late 1820s, before shifting his operations to Port Underwood. From hilltop lookouts, whales could be spotted.

The channel was surveyed and named in 1839 by the New Zealand Company ship Tory. At that time Dicky Barrett, Joseph Toms and Jimmy Jackson all operated whaling stations at Te Awaiti. Between 1911 and 1964 the Perano family hunted humpback whales from their station at Whekenui Bay, about a kilometre closer to Cook Strait than Te Awaiti.

Curious Cove

Locality on Kahikatea Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, near the western entrance to Tory Channel, 12 km by water from Picton. During the Second World War the government erected military buildings for use as a sea-plane training base. They were later used for a short time as a convalescent hospital. From 1949 to 1971 the national university students association organised an annual summer congress at Curious Cove, attracting a range of prominent speakers and a large student attendance. In the 2010s the buildings and grounds were run as Kiwi Ranch, a Christian outdoor education centre.

Charmed

Australian author Frank Clune wrote that Port Underwood was ‘as beautiful as the lakes of Killarney ... and needs only poets and songwriters to extol its charms. From the air we could see farmhouses sprinkled around the shores, with sheep like white specks on vivid green pastures on steep hillsides surrounding the glass-calm waters of the bay.’1

Port Underwood

Large inlet opening into Cloudy Bay on the eastern side of the Marlborough Sounds. At its head are the smaller Ōpihi and Kanae bays. It is named after Joseph Underwood, a partner in a Sydney shipping firm which traded there in the 1830s and 1840s whaling years. Methodist missionary Samuel Ironside was based in the bay from 1840 to 1843, and preached there on Christmas Day 1840, just five days after his arrival. In the 2010s the main economic activities were forestry, mussel farming and summer tourism. The pylons for the lines that transmit power to the Cook Strait cable between the South and North islands are conspicuous. The cable leaves the South Island at Fighting Bay.

Oyster Bay

The main settlement on Port Underwood, 19 km from Picton via the sealed Whatamangō Bay Road and 49 km from Blenheim, largely via the 32-km unsealed Port Underwood–Rārangi Road. A 12-km side road reaches Ngākuta and Hakana bays.

Kākāpō Bay

Bay 5 km south from Oyster Bay. Jacky Guard moved his whaling operation from Tory Channel to Kākāpō Bay in the late 1820s. Guard family gravestones can be found in the private cemetery. Ocean Bay, 2 km south, also has relics of the whaling days.

Nine signatures on the Treaty of Waitangi were gathered at the bay by Major Thomas Bunbury on 17 June 1840. British sovereignty over the South Island was proclaimed on Horahora Kākahu Island, on the opposite shore of Port Underwood, later that day.

Footnotes:
  1. Frank Clune, Roaming round New Zealand: the story of a holiday trip. Rev. ed. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1961, p. 114. Back
How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Marlborough places - Arapawa Island to Port Underwood', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/marlborough-places/page-5 (accessed 19 November 2018)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 12 May 2012, updated 18 Jun 2015