Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

17 October 2010

New Zealand's Westland: Hokitika Beach

Tracking west from Hokitika Beach you'll not see land until you reach South America. The sea rolls in, unimpeded for thousands of kilometres, leaving the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand one of the harshest in the world with few safe harbours most of which have tide-thrown bars at their entrances.

And yet in the mid-nineteenth century when this narrow strip of land between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea was explored and raped minutely by gold miners from all over the world, its harbours - especially Hokitika's - were crammed with ships, tall ships, sailing ships whose skippers, picking their moments, took on the bars in the hope of coming to safe haven. Many didn't make it, consigning their passengers, crews and cargoes to the sea. 

Nobody really knows how many wrecks lie off these shores although timbers still wash ashore to join the litter of tree branches and stumps that are shot out to sea from Westland's rivers only to be cast up again by the westerly tides.

This is Hokitika Beach on a fine evening...



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By Don Donovan