Page:Canterbury Papers.djvu/38

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30
INFORMATION RESPECTING THE

advantages and disadvantages of a good harbour into consideration, as one of the best in New Zealand. It is re-echoed in every account of New Zealand, that its bays and harbours are not to be surpassed in number or advantages in any part of the world; this statement admits of qualification, and I can only say you are as fortunate in 'possessing' a good harbour, as you are in 'possessing' a good country; the general characteristic of the New Zealand harbours, is the local difficulties that present themselves to the getting into them; they are either bar, like Otago, Manakou, and Kiapara,—have high, precipitous cliffs, a narrow entrance, and a turbulent sea, at all times rendering ship (not steamers) navigation uncertain, and to a degree dangerous, as Akaroa, Wangaroa, and to a certain extent Port Nicholson, which appears also to be situated in the focus of all the strong winds that so constantly blow in Cook's Strait. Strong tides render the ingress and egress of all the harbours on the south side of Cook's Straits from. Tory Channel to Nelson Haven, with perhaps the exception of Queen Charlotte's Sound, a matter of solicitude to the mariner; there now only remain those harbours in the Honraki Gulf, and the Bay of Islands on the Northern Island, with a few south of the parallel of Otago, of which we know but little; all have more or less objections connected with them, save when you are snugly anchored inside, they are then unexceptionable, with most of the facilities sailors like—viz., wood, water, fish, good holding ground, and lots of room to swing close to the shore. Port Cooper stands in the foremost rank, both for the facility in making it, the entire absence of any outlying or hidden dangers, and its position with regard to the general line of coast; it can be run boldly for, night or day, by the lead; a feature which is almost singular on this extensive coast, a fleet could manoeuvre in its entrance, where it is a long sea mile wide, and it preserves this width for its whole depth, which is between six and seven. A ship of 500 tons can anchor four miles and a half within the heads, and there the harbour is only open to one and a quarter points of the compass, (E.N.E.) A swell sets in with the wind in the N.E. quarter, but nothing, except under the most adverse circumstances, to prevent a ship unloading. Not a hidden danger exists in the harbour, and it is bold close to the shores. For shipping, it is deficient in wood and water; not in the quantity, but in the difficulties in obtaining them. The neighbouring ports of Pigeon Bay and Port Levy, which are safe anchorages, abound in these essentials.

I believe now, my dear sir, I have touched on most matters that have come immediately under our view. I have heard it suggested as a great obstacle to the plains, the absence of wood. Banks's Peninsula alone would supply twenty Canterbury Settlements for centuries, recollecting that there is water carriage from its numerous little ports to five and ten miles within the line of seaboard of the plains. I ought to mention to you that limestone appears abundant, from the river Waimahariri northwards; and a geologist has a rich field before him in these hitherto undisturbed regions. I regret that my occupation in surveying the coast line did not admit of my penetrating far into the plains; and further, that my knowledge of geology is too limited to make more than ordinary comment on the specimens brought back to the ship. Fossil remains, chiefly shells, are very abundant, and I think there will yet be a rich harvest reaped in more solid materials. Lignite appears also on the banks of the rivers; and one of the Surveying Staff, Mr. Torlesse, has hit upon a tolerable large seam of it, some distance south of the Peninsula. The country is undoubtedly worth a strict geological examination; none that I have seen more so: but I presume all this will come in due time. * * *

P.S.—I subjoin an account of the number of rainy days, with the mean temperature by day and by night, during two and a half months we were at anchor in the harbours of Banks's Peninsula:—

Mean Temperature. Days'
Day. Night. Rain.
1849— February: Eight last days in Akaroa … 72·8 60·6 3
March: The whole month in Akaroa and Port Cooper … 68·0 57·7 2
April: Ditto … 65·0 54·0 3