Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Islands of Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard NZ

Shoe and Slipper - looking  out to sea from Paku - Photo C R Ball 2015

Having visited another Island of the Pacific got me thinking about the islands where we live on Coromandel's  Eastern Seaboard. The stories passed down through several generations about these, often, rocky outcrops. Their place in the history of the Coromandel Peninsula, a relevant part of the past New Zealand history. First people to the shore - Maori - named them. Captain Cook arriving on New Zealand coasts in 1769 gave them English names. ( Often saying they reminded him of something at home). Some of those English names stuck and some have returned to their original name.
Whiritoa and Paku at Tairua are two of the few places where one gain a good view of most of the islands up and down the coast.  That is if one is on the shore and not out at sea.
These Islands have become a part of the past history of  the area with tales and stories passed down through families - memories of fishing trips, holidays at the beach, living on. The islands with the coastline are one of the first sightings Captain Cook had in  November 1769 when he made his way up to Te Whanganui-o-Hei - what has become  known as Mercury Bay  ( named such by Cook for the transit of Mercury observed by those of the ship Endeavour on 9th November 1769 ) 
In fact Cook   voyaging Northwards to Te Whanganui-o-Hei named a number of Islands on the way. One of the first of these was Whakaari which he named White Island - the reason, he wrote" because as such it always appear'd to us " (Wharton , 1893 ) Parkinson Banks' draughtsman recorded in his journal that Whakaari was " rocky, high and barren". ( Stanfield, ed.)

Whakaari - White Island in the Bay of Plenty
TAYLOR, Richard - M.A., Missionary in New Zealand. 1870. Image taken from page 275 of '[Te Ika a Maui, or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants ... Second edition, etc. London: British Library HMNTS 10491.dd.8." p 275.

Sometimes on a clear day from the shore one can see the smoke plumes  of  Whakaari (White Island )  down in the Bay of Plenty (Te Moana a Toi ). Very occasionally in the right place onshore, Whakaari can be seen. Hence including it in the islands of the Eastern Seaboard Coast.
On Whakaari looking towards Coromandel Peninsula -November 2015  photo courtesy Chris Ball
In 1914 one of New Zealand's worst Industrial disasters occurred when there was a landslide killing 10 men of the Sulphur Works which was on Whakaari then. The camp cat was a survivor. According to various accounts "Peter the Great" was found three weeks later. Reminders of Tarawera eruption and another cat at Te Wairoa that survived a disaster.

In 1936 George Raymond Buttle bought Whakaari and today the island remains privately owned by descendants of  George Buttle's  family. Whakaari is  a private scenic reserve ( on 3 December 1953) , a tourism venture with tours  by boat and helicopter to the island  and an active volcano.

Whakaari from the tour boat November 2015  photo courtesy Chris Ball
Most of the islands of the Eastern Seaboard are privately owned - Tuhua or Mayor Island administered by the Tuhua Trust Board. Tuhua is the Maori name for obsidian, thus describing aptly the Island for this dark volcanic glass that was here in quantities was sought after by Maori in pre European days for some sharpening tools and working with other tools.

Tuhua ( Mayor Island ) from Whiritoa - Photo C R Ball 2010
Mayor Island as it has become known ( a name Captain Cook gave the island  back in November 1769 when sheltering overnight on the North East corner) is home of the Mako Shark. According to Goldsmith  in a paper he read to the Auckland Institute in 1884 Mako " is found off this island and nowhere else in the world " ( Goldsmith 1884)
Today there is a Marine Reserve around the Northern end of Tuhua ( Mayor Island ).  The waters near Tuhua ( Mayor Island ) have became popular recreational fishing spots for  big Game Fishing - Tuna, Marlin and King fish, especially during the 1930's and  1940's.
WHEN THE FIGHT IS ON A striped marlin swordfish broaching in an endeavour to secure its freedom on t... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, Volume LXXII, Issue 22028, 7 February 1935, Page 8 courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ 

In past history, it was not just the game fishing that Tuhua ( Mayor island) was renown for.  Back in 1922 pioneer film maker Rudall Hayward, backed by a syndicate of 20, produced  the film " My Lady of the Cave. A newspaper serial, written by nearby Waihi School Master H T Gibson, was used. Mayor Island ( Tuhua ) was the scene of film shots for six weeks of filming out of seven. The film was said to be amongst stunning scenery and the film set in 1890's Bay of Plenty, a romantic drama. Camera man, Frank Stewart, was kept busy with even a  " shoot- out amongst moonshiners.'

  On up the Coast are reminders of volcanic activity in the rocky outcrops along the coastline. Northwards from Whiritoa is  Petley’s Rock – named for Mr. Petley, a Whangamata Fisherman of renown. Distinct craggy outcrops worn by the sea and storm  - known as the  “Pinnacles” –  grown up with, in sight from Otahu and Whangamata – reminders of what was the Tunaiti Caldera.

Looking towards Pinnacles from South Beach - photo C R Ball 1997

On up to South Beach Whangamata and the main surf beach  three Islands lying offshore from Whangamata – Hauturu (Clark Island) Whenuakura (called Doughnut Island sometimes because of its cave and hole near the middle), and Rawengaiti where it has been known to catch the odd strange fish nearby. These islands were once home of Tuatara, our quaint New Zealand lizards from prehistoric times - unfortunately in 2015 -gone.

Maukaha  Rocks, Whenuakura, Rawengaiti - photo C R Ball 2000

Hauturu ( Clark Island ) from Whangamata Peninsula - Photo C R Ball 2010

Lillian Clark , of Whangamata in the 1940's ,would have probably been the first conservationist of forest, seashore and beach life. A reminder to visiting holidaymakers to respect and not destroy. 

Government legislation records that Whenuakura, Rawengaiti Islands and Maukaha rocks lying to the northwest of Whenuakura Island were declared Wildlife Sanctuaries in 1976. This was the Wildlife Sanctuary (Whangamata Islands) Order 1976 and was declared sanctuaries because of the presence of Tuatara. This order was made pursuant to section 9 of the Wildlife Act 1953 and administered by the Wildlife Department of Internal Affairs - later Department of Conservation in April 1987.
Further up the coast from  Opoutere one can sight Hikunui Island near the Wharekawa Entrance, From Onemana, Opoutere, Ohui and Pauanui , one can sight Whakakau (Slipper Island) - home for many years of the Normans latterly of Opoutere and then the Needham family.  Both farmed this Island and there are memories of the barge to Tairua return used for supplies and livestock.
Whakahau ( Slipper Island ) Rabbit and Penguin  Whites Aviation photo 1959 J M Stewart photo collection
Also seen is Motuhoa (Shoe Island) which is at the Tairua River Entrance – the scene of the shipwreck of the cutter “Glance” in 1877. 

Motuhoa ( Shoe Island) from Main Surf Beach Tairua - photo C R Ball 2011
Looking back over history of Slipper Island many were the vessels and people that sheltered at Whakahau (Slipper Island) including the Tauranga Rugby Team aboard s s Fingal in 1907 - on their way to a rugby match against the Mercury Bay team at Whitianga.

Whakahau ( Slipper )- view through pines on main beach Pauanui - C R Ball 2014

From early European settlement days   waters around Whakahau (Slipper)  had gained a reputation for good fishing grounds. However fishing also had its dangerous moments as was reported in 1936. The Auckland Star reported on a fisherman's injury in 1936:- 

"  As the result of a fight with a shark which had a large hook fastened in its tail Mr. William Clarkson, a fisherman, of Whangamata, suffered a severe injury to his left hand on Sunday morning when fishing off Slipper Island, near Whangamata. When the shark was hooked it put up a lively fight and it was some time before it was brought alongside the boat. Mr, Clarkson then attempted th seize the struggling fish by the tail, but was astonished when he found that his left hand, between the thumb and the first finger, had been penetrated by a hook which evidently at some time had become fastened in the shark's tail"   ( Auckland Star, 6 /10/ 1936, P 11)

My own memories of  my father aboard Clio in  Eastern Seaboard Waters are the damage sharks did to the nets which had to be constantly repaired. Other memories are of a white pointer shark in the  Channel between Rabbit and Penguin Island. That was back in the late 1970's just after the movie Jaws had been released. Don't think the one at Whakahau ( Slipper), was as big as the 35 foot Great White Shark of the movie, however it did give moments of disquiet.  The Slipper Island version was real - not the robotic version of the movie which 40 years later still remains terrifying.

Looking further out to sea in the distance are the Aldermen Islands - a wildlife sanctuary since 1933. Named by Captain Cook in 1769 because their rocky caps reminded him of a court of Aldermen. Captain Cook having sheltered overnight at what he named Mayor ( Tuhua ) on heading up the coast wrote :-
" The Cluster of Islands and Rocks just mentioned we named the Court of Aldermen; they lay in the Compass of about half a League every way, and 5 Leagues from the Main, between which and them lay other Islands. The most of them are barren rocks, and of these there is a very great Variety, some of them are of as small a Compass as the Monument in London, and Spire up to a much greater height; they lay in the Latitude of 36 degrees 57 minutes, and some of them are inhabited. "  ( Wharton 1893)
Looking out to the Aldermen islands from Opoutere/ Pauanui Forestry Road - photo courtesy Sam Ball  August  2015

Within this group is seen Hongiora (Flat Island) home breeding ground of grey faced petrel – sometimes washed up on our beaches in storms. Also the rocky caps of Ruamahuaiti, Middle and Ruamahuanui Islands. In 1933 the area was declared to be a bird sanctuary.

ISLANDS OFF THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA TO BE OBTAINED FOR A BIRD SANCTUARY A deep-sea fishing launch p... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, Volume LXX, Issue 21422, 21 February 1933, P 6 courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ 
Yes we are fortunate to have these Islands of Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard, with their tales of flora, fauna and people through the years - a part of past New Zealand history.

Reference Source:
  •  Ed. Captain W.J.L. Wharton R.N., F.R.S. 1893. CAPTAIN COOK'S JOURNAL DURING HIS FIRST VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD MADE IN H.M. BARK ""ENDEAVOUR" 1768-71 A Literal Transcription of the Original MSS. London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8106/8106-h/8106-h.htm
  • Parkinson, Ed. Stanfield. n.d. A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in his Majesty’s Ship, The Endeavour .Faithfully transcribed from the Papers of the late SYDNEY PARKINSON,. London: Paternoster Row. http://southseas.nla.gov.au/journals/parkinson/141.html
  • Taylor, Richard - M.A., Missionary in New Zealand. 1870. Image taken from page 275 of '[Te Ika a Maui, or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants ... Second edition, etc. London: British Library HMNTS 10491.dd.8." p 275. FLIKR
  • Grenfell, Hugh. 'The 1914 White Island/Whakaari mining disaster'. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 20 May 2015. Updated: 16 June 2015.URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/collections-research/collections/topics/the-1914-white-island-whakaari-mining-disaster
  • Transactions & Proceedings NZ Institute ( Royal Society ) Art. LIII.—Description of Mayor Island[Read before the Auckland Institute, 11th August, 1884.] By E. C. Gold-Smith District Surveyor, Tauranga., from Volume 17, 1884
  • The Film Archive - My Lady of the Cave
  • WHEN THE FIGHT IS ON A striped marlin swordfish broaching in an endeavour to secure its freedom on t... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, 7 February 1935, Page 8
  • FIGHT WITH SHARK. Auckland Star,  6 October 1936, Page 11 
  • ISLANDS OFF THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA TO BE OBTAINED FOR A BIRD SANCTUARY A deep-sea fishing launch p... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, , 21 February 1933, Page 6