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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)

The Sentinel of Cook Strait

The Sentinel of Cook Strait.

Kapiti is a landmark in Cook Strait, about 30 miles north of Wellington, and four miles from the mainland at Paraparaumu. It is 6 1/2 miles long, almost uniformly 1 1/2 miles in breadth, and a trig station on its highest point records a height of 1,780 feet. Some what oblong in shape, it rises abruptly as a high ridge out of the sea. On the western side, facing Cook Strait, there is a huge precipice rising to 1,000 feet, and on the eastern side there are very steep slopes covered with dense bush, mostly of second growth. The whole of the eastern face of the island is cleft by numerous gullies, deep and narrow, their beds being almost impassable because of immense boulders.

At the north end of the island is an extensive flat, consisting of boulders, which is the remains of old sea beaches, numerous ridges of wave-worn stones marking former shore terraces. On this flat is a small and shallow lagoon, originally cut off from the sea by a boulder bank, but now filled with slightly brackish water. It is stated that this lagoon is a haven for wild duck during the shooting season on the mainland.

Being exposed to the fury of the north-west wind, the slopes of the hills at this end of the island are without forest, there being only a few patches of stunted scrub in gullies sheltered from the full force of the wind.

The Poroporo (Solanum aviculare).

The Poroporo
(Solanum aviculare).

Of the 5,000 acres comprising the island, the Lands Department controls about 4,200, the balance being owned by Mrs. Webber, a descendant of the original native owners. On this area about a thousand sheep appear to thrive satisfactorily on the herbage on the windswept hills and the few hundred acres of flat valley in which the homestead is located.

At Rangatira, where the caretaker's house is situated, there is also an extensive boulder flat, but this is closely covered with grass which provides ample feed for his dairy cows, securely fenced off from the sanctuary area.

Generally speaking, the climate is fairly temperate, and during cloudless days in summer the temperature is extremely hot. The winter is mild, but violent gales from the north-west and south-west are not uncommon. On those occasions, connection with the mainland is practically impossible.

Adjacent to Kapiti are three small islands. The largest, Tokomapuna, is about 70 chains distant, and was once a prominent whaling station. A broken try-pot, an old cannon, and a few whale bones still litter the beach as reminders of those rough days. It was to this island that, according to E. G. Wakefield, Colonel Wakefield went in order to discuss with Te Rauparaha the purchase of the land adjacent to Cook Strait. Other accounts state that both Colonel Wakefield and his brother, Captain Arthur Wakefield (who was killed during the deplorable Wairau incident) visited Te Rauparaha at Kapiti on different occasions.

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The two other islands—Motungarara and Tahoramaurea—are each about three acres in extent, and are quite close to Kapiti. They, also, were whaling stations, but to-day they are occupied by fishermen.