Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Picturesque Dunedin: or Dunedin and its neighbourhood in 1890

XIV.—The Harbour

XIV.—The Harbour.

Call it what you will—a river, harbour, a bay, an estuary, a firth, or by whatever name it may be known, the fact remains that up or down that basin of water there are gorgeous views to be obtained. A sheec of water, at first apparently circumscribed, but as we move on some new prospect opens up which tells the end is not yet. Turning that point, rounding this sandbank, between these islands, where it were hard to tell where the opening lies, the progress of the boat discloses bays and harbours, page 294each different in shape, with winding approaches, so that the visitant wonderingly exclaims, Where is the pilot going to take us next?

All is right, however, the man at the wheel knows his duty, and is devoted to it, and so long as a hundred passengers, or thereabout, do not speak to him at once, he will keep the good vessel right. So along we spin, take the long or the short channel, it only makes a difference in time, and if the steamer go by one water-way and return by the other, all objects of interest will be seen. The great advantage is to have a thoroughly well-posted-up skipper or guide to tell the lore of ancient times: how on this side Black Jack's Point got its name, how across the water Grant's Braes came to be celebrated, and as the course outward is sped, how Burke's brewery on the one side, was celebrated once for the now exceeding excellence of its brews, and for the energy and enterprise which the owner always manifested in developing the resources of the Province; and to point out on the other side Macandrew's Bay; as well as to guide us through the intricacies of the channels, for, as the fates would have it, boats drawing two feet of water could sail across the bay at high tide, whilst at ebb the pedestrian could make seven-eighths of the journey almost dry shod, to find at the end of his mile journey that his stature must grow to 16 or 18 feet before he can cross the few yards yet to be accomplished, unless he were a powerful swimmer, and able to stem the current.

How can the steamer get through or between these rocks and hills ahead? Easily, it will be found, because there is a deep water fair-way between the islands, which the pilot knows well.

And now through the Narrows, Port Chalmers, with its not very busy, but picturesque appearance, unfolds itself. Rounding the point, on which the fishery establishment is situated, and from which the best and purest cod liver oil in the world is procured, we steam round Koputai Bay, formerly the rendezvous of the natives on their journeys south or north.

Leaving this lovely spot, our propeller posts us on to the Heads, past Carey's, Deborah, Hamilton's and Dowling Bays and Otapelo Point. The remarkable thing about the latter name is page 295the presence of the letter "1," whilst Maori scholars tell us there is no such letter in the Maori language. Now, if the steamer is light enough in draught and the tide well up, we turn at Harrington Point, skirting the land past the Maori Kaik until we stretch into Portobello Bay, coming out again from this not very safe cove. Rounding the point, which, although the most prominent of the whole, has never had a name, and pass the Quarantine Island, we then sail along the coastline past Dunoon, round Broad Bay and Grassy Point, reaching the starting point in capital time.

Taking a retrospect of the pleasing scenes which in our voyage we have witnessed, different minds will call up different resemblances to scenes elsewhere, and contrasts and comparisons will be made, none of them to the disparagement of those we have contemplated. Scotchmen compare our harbour to the famed Kyles of Bute, Australians to some views in Sydney harbour, but the concurrent testimony is that a fairer view of nature's handiwork is rarely to be seen.

The change that has taken place, however, since the white man invaded the scene, must be considered. When the "Philip Laing," the ship, or rather barque, which bore the first settlers from the Clyde to this their distant and future home, cast anchor in Koputai Bay, there was only a whare or two at the Kaik, occupied by natives, some of them of high renown, as devoted friends to the Pakeha, who are elsewhere mentioned, and up at Koputai a few "Hielanmen" had settled down to traffic with the whaling visitors and with the natives. Prom shore to summit, on both sides, a dense carpet of foliage of varied and pleasing hue covered the whole face of the land, one or two spots alone being unclothed. The woods echoed with the notes of the native birds, and the water was dotted with the ungainly-looking shag, eager in its watch for its finny prey, and swift as a lightning flash to dive in pursuit. No smoke wreath issued from any spot indicative of human occupancy, silence reigned almost supreme, and the placid clear water, reflected as in a mirror its wooded surroundings. Viewed either at morn, noon, or eve, the scene was inexpressibly grand. It were a situation in which to realize the beautiful words of Young:—

page 296

"Twilight I love thee, as thy shadows roll,
The calm of evening steals upon my soul!
Sublimely tender, solemnly serene,
Still as the moon, enchanting is the scene."

But how changed was it when aneath a sullen sky a fierce nor'-easter or sou'-wester disturbed the elements? The reader can realize that picture for himself.