Chequered career for city's namesake

LLOYD ESLER
Last updated 13:34 19/09/2013

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Did you know. . . Port Invercargill was built in Belfast for the Port Line in 1958 and named long after there had ceased to be a port of Invercargill. Its career was interrupted for eight years from 1967 to 1975 when it was trapped in the Suez Canal as a result of the Six Day War between Egypt and Israel. It was sold and renamed Kavo Kolones, but didn't last much longer.

In order to hasten land development, the Otago Provincial Council encouraged settlers to stock "the southern runs" with sheep and cattle. In 1853, after the Murihiku Purchase, Southland lands were available for runs. A number of former whalers were already grazing stock in Southland at this time, probably by virtue of their having Maori wives. Five of these runs covered much of the land inland from Riverton. The first runs taken up after the purchase were those to the east of the Mataura River from Tuturau to the coast. By 1858 at least 16 runs had been claimed, dotted throughout Southland and South Otago.

Southland's first and only marble quarry was in Caswell Sound. In 1881 the Caswell Sound Marble, Portland Cement and Mining Company was granted a least on 320 acres (130ha). Buildings and a wharf were erected and several massive blocks were removed. Despite the high quality of the marble, from which several award-winning pieces were made, the fractured nature of the rock prevented it from being used for statuary.

In 1878 the company closed. . . "The Caswell Sound Marble Company, from which such great things were expected, may practically be considered among the things that were. The sandflies and the kiwis have it all to themselves now. Not a soul is left at the marble quarries. The Government steamer Stella took away the last of them the other day to Wellington."

Quarrying continued intermittently but the workings were abandoned within a few years.

Southland's only quartz crystal mining took place in Bluff Harbour where a reef of well- formed crystals was mined for use as piezo-electric crystals in radios during World War II.

Southland's first cruise ship was the SS Otago which brought tourists from Melbourne to Milford Sound in February 1874. This pioneered a new type of tourism and summer cruises through the fiords were popular from then on. The Otago met its fate on December 4, 1876, when it snagged Chasland's Mistake in the Catlins. Crew and passengers were all saved because they were able to climb the bowsprit, into a rata tree and onto dry land. Her figurehead is in the Owaka Museum.

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There is further clarification on the concrete vessel Waihopai. Under new owners the boat underwent three years' restoration in Invercargill and then fished out of Riverton. A few weeks into a new lease it grounded at Pounawea and was stripped of everything moveable before it could be salvaged and was left there as a hull.

A century earlier, the first Waihopai had been built in Tay Street, pulled to the estuary by a team of bullocks and launched on November 12, 1867. It was the first screw steamer owned locally.

In response to the claim that the Japanese threat to New Zealand ended with the Battle of the Coral Sea, Alan Swallow's research shows that Japan never seriously considered invading New Zealand and Australia but that its intentions were expansion only into the Asian sphere. Troops would have been spread too thinly to maintain occupation of distant lands. From about 1935 the Allies had broken the Japanese Naval Codes but used the information gained very selectively lest the Japanese change the codes.

Japanese aircraft flew reconnaissance missions over Auckland and Wellington Harbours during the war.

Patrick Houlihan, in reference to the possibility of the Hansom Cab being the southernmost in the world, says, "There are five world cities (soon to become six) which are south of Invercargill and while Ushuaia is the usual reference point, I wonder what facilities it had in 1903 compared to Invercargill. Perhaps Punta Arenas, founded at a similar time to Invercargill and now about the size of greater Dunedin, would be a more likely candidate."

Can anyone help with an inquiry into the origin of the name Dundee Service Station and can anyone provide information on a cemetery in Flora Rd?

* About The South Lloyd Esler 15 Mahuri Rd, Otatara, RD 9, Invercargill Phone-fax 03 213 0404 email: esler@southnet.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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