Story: Whenua – how the land was shaped

The formation of mountains and rivers

The formation of mountains and rivers

According to tradition the Southern Alps, reflected here in the Ōkārito Lagoon, were formed when the Ārai-te-uru canoe arrived from Hawaiki. As it travelled down the coast of the South Island, more than 150 passengers leapt ashore and became mountains. In one version of the story, Aoraki (Mt Cook) was a small boy carried on a relative’s shoulders, which is why that mountain is taller than all the others.

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Photograph by Philippe Gerbeaux

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How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Whenua – how the land was shaped - A dramatic landscape', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 May 2023)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 12 Jun 2006