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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 2 (May 1, 1939)

Land of Avalanches

Land of Avalanches.

“Glencoe is considered to be a wild part of the Highlands of Scotland; but the scenery is much wilder here than there. Within the last two hours, from eight to ten at night, we have had seven avalanches (or land slips) on the opposite side of the river. Instantaneous and awful are the operations of nature, and how obvious they are in a mountainous country. I fear these avalanches endanger the navigation of our river; for to-morrow, if we are spared, our own position, should such movements become more general, does not appear altogether safe; as we are situated on a high overhanging rock, well-placed for defence in time of war; but how insignificant does such a natural defence prove, when under the operation of mysterious workings. Thousands of people in New Zealand have fallen victims to sudden avalanches. Five hundred people were sunk in one night on an island on the coast.

“Next day again (June 19th) was wet and stormy, with strong freshet on the river. It is quite tempting Providence to start in such weather. I feel that I should have remained at Otaki till to-day to have done more good for the Government.”

Maclean noted this with a shiver no doubt. But the party all set out to run the rapids, and they reached the Wanganui safely, and had a comfortable passage for the rest of the voyage. For the journey Maclean, through the Missionary, paid £110/-, also eleven shirts and some tobacco to the crew.

“It is satisfactory,” he wrote, “to have completed a journey, and seen so many natives at a season of the year when such journeys cannot be undertaken without great trouble. The Manganui-o-te-Ao is a dangerous river, and we had a narrow escape in coming down its rapid streams and torrents, overflowing with a heavy freshet; and so steep on both sides, that a person could neither climb up, or save himself in any way from drowning, or perishing in the frozen streams, on which the sun seldom reflects at this season of the year. We, however, got through in safety; but I shall be more cautious in future how I come along such dangerous places.”

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