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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 5, November 1971

Fifeshire Rock

Fifeshire Rock

This is part of Nelson's profile, and has been the subject for artists and photographers since settlement began. It has two names, both dating from the early days, and both are still used.

When Arthur Wakefield's ship "Arrow" sailed into Nelson Haven on the 1st November, 1841, through the narrow channel between the Rock and Haulashore Island, the Rock was then named "Arrow Rock". But when the immigrant ship "Fifeshire" endeavoured to leave port on the 27th February, 1842, she was wrecked on the rock which has been popularly known as the Fifeshire Rock ever since.

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Both names are still important to early history; and Nelsonians will always have a particular affection for their Rock.

The Fifeshire Rock, the narrow channel between it and Haulashore Island, and the movement of the sandbanks sea-wards, made the navigation of the port extremely hazardous, and a number of vessels were either stranded or wrecked. This series of events led to the public agitation which culminated with the dredging of the entrance cut—still called the "New Entrance"—just to distinguish it from the "Old Entrance" about which I have been speaking.

The Nelson City Council took the first important steps when it asked Captain F. W. Cox (Harbourmaster) to report on the harbour. Captain Cox said that the entrance had changed little, but the rapid inshore travel of the bar interfered seriously with the sailing course in the outer fairway. Whereas in 1884 there was a width of 1800 feet between the sandbank and the Boulder Bank, there was—in 1898—only 900 feet. Captain Cox added "If there is no improvements, it will be only practicable for the smaller class of vessels to work the port".

Further reports were called for; and two notable engineers, Leslie Reynolds and C. Napier Bell, were consulted. The Government considered these reports and agreed in principle that the Cut should be made through the Boulder Bank, provided firstly that a Harbour Board had to be constituted, and secondly that the ratepayers had to approve a loan for the work.

The first Harbour Board for Nelson was elected on the 20th February, 1901, to rescue the port from imminent ruin. Mr. John Graham, Member of the House of Representatives, became the first Chairman, Captain Cox (the Harbourmaster) became Secretary, and Mr. Leslie Reynolds was appointed Consutling Engineer. The Cut was opened on 30th July, 1906.