Read two excerpts from Helen Beaglehole’s One Hundred Havens


Stuff has published two excerpts from author and historian Helen Beaglehole’s One Hundred Havens: The settlement of the Marlborough Sounds:

‘In 1862 an Otago Daily Times correspondent crossed Cook Strait from Wellington in the “comfortable little steamer Storm Bird”, one of “the line of steamers” running between Wellington, Picton and Nelson.

Once in the Sounds he was captivated by the ‘complete protection’ that Tory Channel offered — its “blue still waters”, the “abrupt cliffs, now wooded hills with vegetation down to the water’s edge and . . . snug little coves”.

Picton itself, with its 300 inhabitants, he found to be more extensive than immediately supposed.

Its 18-metre wharf could accommodate large ships, its big receiving warehouse was close by and, as the town was looking to become the export port for the interior, efforts were going into roading to link the town with the Wairau.

Almost two decades later another correspondent on the same journey enthused about the sea in the Sounds, which “always bears the appearance of a lake”.

Further afield, the Wairau, with its high yields of grain, was “studded with homesteads”. Picton, too, was more than the “mere village” that it seemed, its 800 residents “far above the ordinary class of colonists”.

The roads out of Picton and between the Wairau and Nelson were really only bridle tracks, and the Wairau River, more than a mile across, was a formidable barrier.

But, with “the trunk line of railway ... completed from the south, [Picton] will become one of the most important towns in the colony”.

Leaving aside the quality of Picton’s citizenry, the two observations highlight issues that the Sounds settlers faced – access to and communication with the outside world, and within their own.

Small coastal traders were in and out of the Sounds, but the picture of a “line of steamers” was, at that time, a flight of fancy that ignored the maritime hazards of Cook Strait and its environs and the difficulties of developing a reliable and regular service.’

Read the full illustrated excerpts here.