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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is separated from the Middle Island by Foveaux Strait. It is remarkable for the number and beauty of its bays and the extent and loveliness of its bush; indeed, it is a land of hills, which are for the most part covered with virgin forest. The island is over forty miles in length, and about twenty-five miles wide, and has an area of nearly 1,000 square miles. At a point somewhere near the centre it is penetrated by Paterson's Inlet, which runs fully half way into the land. From the head of this inlet, continuous low ground extends to Mason's Bay on the west coast. It is the opinion of many that at one time the sea washed over this low ground, thus dividing the island into two, of which the northern would have been the smaller portion. The industries of Stewart Island include Eshing, stockbreeding, sawmilling, mining, boat building and the tourist traffic. The fishing industry is extensive, and many old settlers have from time to time found occasional employment in connection with it. The representatives of merchants resident at the Bluff and in Australia are constant buyers and shippers of the fish that is brought in in great abundance to the jetty at Half Moon Bay. Grass grows in abundance anywhere on the island, and there is excellent pasture for both sheep and cattle. Sawmills have been worked in various parts of the island for many years; but, latterly, the Government has hesitated to grant timber rights, as there is a strong belief that the natural bush should be preserved for its own sake and as an object of interest to tourists. Both tin and gold have been worked at Pegasus, and a quartz-reef has also been discovered about five miles from Half Moon Bay. Ironsand abounds in the island, between Half Moon Bay and Paterson's Inlet. This sand, on being tested some years ago, was said to be superior to Taranaki sand, and also contained a sufficient quantity of gold to pay for the expenses of smelting. In the year 1890 a rush set in at Port Pegasus, and over a hundred claims were taken up. Unfortunately, the principal business was devoted to floating companies and selling shares. Mr. Thomson, who is well known as the proprietor of the oldest boarding establishment at Half Moon Bay, has spent a good deal of time in developing the mining industry, and he states that about £4,000 worth of gold, in addition to thirteen tons of tin, has already been sent away from the island. The field was visited some time back by Professor Black, of the University of Otago, and during his inspection tin lodes were discovered, in addition to the stream tin which Mr. Thomson had found. It seems probable that at some future time this valuable industry will be developed, but mining has latterly been confined to the work of a few parties of alluvial diggers. The tourist traffic has been growing rapidly, and with increased communication with the mainland, and largely extended accommodation at Half Moon Bay and other bays, it may with reason be expected to become much more extensive in the near future.

Stewart Island is surpassingly beautiful, with its numerous bays and their pretty beaches flanked by virgin bush; and the picturesque walks and “corduroy” tracks are exceedingly popular with all those who have had the pleasure of using them. There is no lack of occupation for the traveller who is able to take reasonable exercise, for there are first-rate facilities for boating, sea bathing, fishing, yachting, shooting and fern collecting. In the season of 1904 the little vessel belonging to the Bluff Harbour Board visited Half Moon Bay twice every week. The fishing grounds of the island are mostly in the northern portion. There are recognised banks, such as those at Mamakau and White's Points, at Port William, Gull Rock, Murray River, Saddle Rock, White Rock, Black Rock, Cave Point, Rugged
Oyster Cutters, Bluff.

Oyster Cutters, Bluff.

page 891 Island and the Redhead and Codfish Islands. Stewart Island is penetrated by numerous inlets such as Port Pegasus, South Arm, North Arm, Port Adventure, Oyster Cove, and a snug bay rejoicing in the name of Abraham's Bosom. These are entirely apart from those on the north-eastern part of the island, such as Half Moon Bay, Horseshoe Bay and Lee Bay.

Of the hills on the island, the highest peak is Mount Anglem (Hananui), 3,200 feet, and the next highest is Rakeahuai, 2,110 feet. The island is divided into six districts; namely, Anglem on the north, Paterson's and Lord's river on the east; Mason and Pegasus on the west; and the southern extremity is known as South Cape. There are marvellously beautiful trips for tourists and visitors to be found on various parts of the island. Paterson's Inlet, a stretch of water ten miles in length, is only one mile from Half Moon Bay by a picturesque track, or it may be reached by boat round Aker's Point. Rabbit or Native Island is at the entrance of the inlet; and Ulva or Cooper's Island is then passed, with the Maori settlement on the Neck, to the left. No word painting can describe the magnificent scenery of this inlet, with its numerous coves and bays. Another delightful trip is that to Horseshoe Bay, two miles from the settlement by road or boat. The lovely white beach of this bay is one mile round, and is flanked on its landward sides by beautiful native bush. The next bay beyond is named Lee Bay, which is the landing place of the cables from the mainland.

Stewart Island is in the Awarua electoral district. The principal centre of population on the island is at Half Moon Bay, which is the site of the township of Oban. This township is partly in the north and partly in the south riding of the county of Stewart Island. At the census of 1901 the population of the township within the north riding was eighty, and within the south riding seventeen, while the Bay itself had a population of forty-one in the north and forty in the south riding. The total European population of the island at the same date was 253, and there were about eighty Maoris. At Half Moon Bay there are three stores, a draper's shop, a tobacconist's and fancy goods shop, and four boarding houses. The courthouse and the police station occupy central positions, and there is an Athenaeum Hall, which is available for public meetings and entertainments. Churches are represented by Anglican and Presbyterian, and there is a vicarage and a manse for the resident clergymen. Since the seventies the Postal Department has had an office in the township of Oban, and there are branch offices at Ulva and the Neck, to each of which there is a weekly mail service. The island has been joined by cable since the 11th of June, 1902, and the telephone bureau at Half Moon Bay connects with the Bluff, Invercargill and surrounding districts. The public school at Half Moon Bay dates from 1874, and had forty-two names on its roll in 1904, with an average attendance of thirty-four.

In the months of April and May each year the natives of Stewart Island are very busy collecting mutton birds on the surrounding islands. The birds are caught before they are able to fly, and having been cured, are packed in curious kits, and carried away by cutter loads to the Bluff market. It is an interesting sight to watch the arrival of the mutton bird cutter, and see the methods adopted by the Maoris in disposing of their annual harvest.

Pikiarero—New Zealand Clematis.

PikiareroNew Zealand Clematis.

It might naturally be imagined that the climate of Stewart Island, from its extreme southern position, must be cold and bleak; such, however, is not the case; and many flowers which would not grow in Invercargill, flourish in the open air. It is said that the climate of the island is moderated by a warm current which sets in from the Queensland coast. Whatever the cause may be, it is certain that the temperature is several degrees higher than it is at Invercargill. Very little snow falls on the lowlands of the island, and when it does, it soon disappears, and the frosts are neither numerous nor severe. Though they may not be strictly applicable to it in every particular, Stewart Island doubtless makes many of those who visit it think of the lines in which Tennyson describes “the island-valley of Avilion,”

“Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows londly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns,
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea.”

It is at least one of the loveliest and most romantic portions of one of the loveliest and most romantic countries in God's world. May hundreds yearly visit it for centuries to enjoy its beauty, and never to the end of time may a human hand do anything to lessen its loveliness.