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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]

[Marlborough Sounds]

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The county of the Marlborough Sounds is an extensive broken area of country bounded, approximately, by Cook Strait and the mainland. It is throughout mountainous, and some of the hills have an elevation of three or four thousand feet, and descend precipitously into the deep waters of the Sounds. At one time, it has been said, the whole of this country, from sea level to the summits of the highest ranges, was covered with dense forests, which contained many species of plants not to be found in any other portion of the Middle Island. Yet, “though owing to the disappearance of the forest, and constant shooting, many of the native birds have become comparatively scarce, a few of the rare species—such as the small grey kiwi, the Middle Island crow, and the thick-billed thrush—exist in secluded places. On Stephen's Island, the Trios, and the Brothers, the curious tuatara lizard is found; and many of the rare New Zealand land molusca can be obtained in the forests. In the sounds and small bays, and round the numerous islands along the coast, fish are very abundant; so much so that a steadily increasing number of persons now obtain a livelihood by fishing, and several steam launches are employed in the industry.

The Sounds country is naturally divided into two separate portions, known respectively as Pelorus Sound, and Queen Charlotte Sound; of the first, the chief centre is Havelock, and of the second Picton. Queen Charlotte Sound with Tory Channel has a coastline of over two hundred miles, and its entrance is about twenty miles distant from that of Pelorus Sound. Tory Channel is the most direct route of communication between Wellington and Picton; its entrance is about forty miles from Wellington, and about twenty from Picton, and the channel itself is about ten miles long. Queen Charlotte Sound, which on account of its being in the direct line of communication, is the best known of the two, is thirty miles in length. Pelorus Sound is thirty-four miles long, and it has many important bays and inlets; the largest of these is Keneparu, which extends, in a north-easterly direction, to a distance of fourteen miles. The Pelorus Sound, irrespective of islands, has a shore line of about 300 miles.

Protected. Pelorus Sound. N.Z. Govt. Tourist Dept.

Protected. Pelorus Sound. N.Z. Govt. Tourist Dept.

The Sounds have associations of much interest. Discoveries show that the Maoris must have lived on their beautiful shores centuries ago; and it is to Queen Charlotte Sound that the enquirer must go for reminiscences of the foundation, and for much of the early history, of Marlborough. It was in January, 1770, that the Sounds were first visited by Captain Cook, who anchored his vessel in what has since been called Ship's Cove, where he landed and hoisted the Union Jack. Captain Cook took possession of the Sound in the name of King George the Third, and called it after that monarch's wife, Queen Charlotte. The great navigator returned to the Sounds in March, of the same year, when he anchored in Admiralty Bay; was there again in 1773, and made a final visit in 1777. Resolution Bay, in which he once anchored, is named after his ship, “The Resolution.”

So far as settlement is concerned, whaling was the first industry that attracted the white settler to the Sounds, and the first whaling depot was established in 1827 at Te Awaite, near the entrance to Tory Channel, by Captain Guard, whose son, Mr. John Guard, born at Te Awaite in 1831, was the first European born in the Middle Island; and he was the elder of the two children, who, with their mother, were seized and carried off by the Maoris when the barque “Harriet” was wrecked at Cape Egmont, on the coast of Taranaki, on the 29th of April, 1834. This capture led to page 397
Protected. Kenepuru, Pelorus Sound. N.Z. Govt. Tourist Dept.

Protected. Kenepuru, Pelorus Sound. N.Z. Govt. Tourist Dept.

H.M.S. “Alligator” shelling and taking the Waimate pa, near Opunake, and to the first employment of British troops in New Zealand. The success of whaling at Te Awaite soon led to the establishment of other stations at Port Underwood and Kaikoura. When the ship “Tory,” from which the channel gets its name, sailed into the Sound in 1839, with Colonel Wakefield, as the pioneer of the New Zealand Company, Te Awaite was the most important European town in the Middle Island; it consisted of about twenty dwellings, made chiefly of interlaced supple-jacks or wood-vines. Whaling is carried on in the Sounds, and Te Awaite is still its headquarters; but the industry is no longer what it was in the old days.

Sawmilling and fishing are carried on in the Sounds; but the main industry is that of farming, or rather the grazing of sheep and cattle. There is some good level land at the head of some of the bays, and the higher and rougher country supplies suitable pasturage. Sheep, when fattened, are sent to the freezing works at Picton, and, for some years, about 30,000 sheep have been dealt with in this way every year. The climate of the Sounds is exceptionally favourable to pastoral work, for owing to the distribution of land and water, and the configuration of the land, it is one of the mildest and most equable in New Zealand. Even lemons, oranges, passion fruit, figs, and other sub-tropical fruits, can be grown along the shores.

But it is to their scenery that the Sounds chiefly owe their fame. The ranges are rugged and lofty, extensively covered with native bush; and in many parts descend almost precipitously to the shore line. The deep and clear waters are calm and placid in almost all weathers, and this characteristic gives an unforgettable charm to many a bay and inlet. It is natural, therefore, that the tourist and holiday traffic to these delightful regions should already be large, and still on the increase. There are about one hundred miles of road-way in the Sounds county, and a large number of the bays are connected by telegraph and telephone, and have a regular mail service with Havelock and Picton. The Pelorus can be reached with about equal facility from Picton and Havelock, but Queen Charlotte Sound is reached only from Picton. Oil lauches are the favourite means of travel in the waters of the Sounds. Most of the settlers obtain their stores from Picton, Havelock, or Blenheim. The only township in the Pelorus itself is Bulwer, a fishing station in the north-eastern part, and Te Awaite is the only township in Queen Charlotte Sound; that is, of course, excluding Picton and Havelock. There is an aided school in almost every page 398 bay; but, taking the schools altogether, each school has an average attendance of only seven or eight children.