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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 7 (October 1, 1934)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 33

Pictures of New Zealand Life

The Charm of Islands.

Aparty of Aucklanders eager for the more or less romantic life on a luxuriant green isle of the ocean, where the Robinson Crusoe life will be reproduced on a community scale, intend settling on Sunday Island, in the Kermadec group to grow crops of kumaras and fruit for the Auckland market.

There is such a fascination in the idea of an island home, all alone in the great ocean where the flying-fishes play and the spouting whales came sailing by, that the possible disadvantages are apt to be overlooked. Sunday Island has a long story of ill luck. It is fertile enough, with a beautiful subtropic climate, but previous settlers had to battle with plagues of rats which devoured their young crops, and with now and then a hurricane and once in so often a volcanic eruption. The only settlers who hung it out there for long were the Bell family, whose occupation of the place prevented the annexation of Sunday Island by the Germans, before the British and New Zealand Governments made it a part of the Empire and of this Dominion.

New Zealand may be described as two large islands with archipelagoes of little ones. Some of our pleasantest homes are on the islands of the Auckland coast. The sheltered Hauraki, with its large islands, is as desirable a place for pleasure and permanent occupation as can be found the world over. Some are sheep-farms; some of them are favoured haunts of the summer boarder; all of them give anchorage in quiet bays to the flotillas of summer cruisers, power and sail. Some are rather too close to the town for the islander who likes a secluded life. Sunday Island, on the other hand, being between six and seven hundred miles from Auckland, is a trifle far away for the settler and his family who need doctor or dentist in a hurry.

Now and again one sees an island advertised for. Someone not so long ago wanted an island of about twenty-five or thirty acres, for a home. Our northern coasts might have provided the needed selection, different from mere mainland sections because it can be defined as entirely surrounded by water instead of by other mere sections or selections. There is a special and peculiar sense of satisfaction in possessing an island all your own, far away from the dust and noise and trespassing and burglaries of the mainland. Your time is your own; no trains or trams to catch; no whistles and roaring of motor-horns to spoil your slumbers; no hawkers knocking imperatively at the back door. You can eat oysters off your own rocks and defy the inspector. You may miss the bright lights and the cinema and the bridge-parties of the town, but if you are devoted to those attractions you will not be one of the islanders.

Dusky's Sandfly Rocks, and Ulva's Isle.

There are, of course, some islands one would not have as a gift. Down in Dusky Sound there are forty islets within the radius of about a mile, besides Resolution Island and other large ones. The only man who ever lived there for long of his own free choice was that enthusiastic naturalist, Richard Henry, who was Government custodian of Resolution, and afterwards of Kapiti Island bird sanctuary. He was so interested in the native bird life that he quite ignored the sandfly and mosquito plagues. He, like Donald Sutherland, the pioneer of Milford Sound, was quite happy in his tremendous solitudes, and was quite content to wait six months for his mailbag and his boxes of groceries from civilisation.

But the far South has less solitary islands than those of Fiordland. One of the prettiest little water-girt homes I have seen is that of a Shetland Islander who had settled on Ulva Island, in Patterson Inlet, the islet-strewn gulf of Stewart Island. There was the cleanest little half-moon of sandy shelly beach, with the owner's boathouse at the head, then there was a walk through native bush to the Crusoe's cottage, with its garden and its collection of plants and shrubs from many foreign lands, a botanical museum of a quality one never expected to see in so remote a place. The old-timer had a little store by the beach, and on Saturday, the Inlet habitants' shopping day, there would be white and brown sails flecking the gulf, all making for Ulva's Isle, from the half-caste Maori settlement at The Neck. It was their most convenient place for replenishing their stocks of tea and sugar and flour and tobacco. There is no place quite like Ulva in all New Zealand in its blended atmosphere of bush life and gardenland, sailoring and trading, a bit of each.

Von Tempsky's Famous Sword.

That missing sword of Major Von Tempsky has been the object of vain searches and delusive clues. Anyone who came into possession of a sword, source unknown, appears to have imagined it might be that precious relic of the roving soldier who fell at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu in 1868. Much that is incorrect has been written about the weapon that “Manurau,” as the Maoris called him, took into action, leaving the scabbard in camp. The facts about Von Tempsky's last fight and his sword are given in the official history of the Maori campaigns, “The New Zealand Wars and the Pioneering Period,” published by the Government, and in “The Adventures of Kimble Bent.” From the narratives given there, obtained at first hand from those who fought against the troops at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, it will be seen that the Taranaki Maoris have always retained possession of the sword, that it was treasured as a tapu thing, and that it was buried in the grave of its last owner in the village of Parihaka.

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