A journey through the Catlins

Boys and their boats on Catlins River, South Otago. — Otago Witness 25.3.1924
Boys and their boats on Catlins River, South Otago. — Otago Witness 25.3.1924
Tahakopa and Tautuku Bay, the centres of Catlins district follow in order by road or rail southward from Owaka. Prior to the opening of the railway these districts were little known. The roads from Owaka were execrable. After Ratanui, some pretty bush with lofty fern trees was traversed with a sub-soil of yellow clay, which in wet weather was capable of holding an ox. The bush was a delight in the early days, being literally full or bird life. Alas, vermin in the shape of stoats and weasels have almost exterminated the feathered songsters and wood pigeons alike by taking the eggs from their nests. After the bush is left, is the big beach, four miles long, at the south end of which the Tahakopa, or McLennan tidal river was met with, and a long ford marked with stakes had to be crossed. In flood, backed by a high tide, this ford was formidable. Mrs Scott’s boarding house, however, on the south side, made up for any discomforts that had to be undergone. Good trout fishing in the river and cod-fishing at the mouth of the stream off the rocks were to be obtained. The bush a quarter of a century ago afforded good pigeon and kaka shooting, and the ridges in the back country towards Wyndham provided wild pig hunting. Pigs are still to be found in rough country, but pigeons are few. Sawmills have been in existence for many years in the locality, but it is only since the railway was opened that timber became a profitable proposition. A little farming was done near the river valley, where the land is so good that Sir Thomas MacKenzie styled it the Taranaki of the south. Tautuku Bay is a marvellous fishing ground, which is little used owing to the lack of markets, but it will yet be utilised as cod abound along with many other varieties of splendid fish. Moki and trumpeter, blue and rock cod, hapuka and many other fish reward the boatmen. Dogfish are plentiful and sprat or sardines come in January, shoals of great extent, which are followed by mutton birds and red cod. The bay and river of the same name are fringed with timber country. Lofty pines grace the alluvial soil and make a pretty border for the bay which is lake-like in calm weather. The southerly seas are often very rough, however, especially when gales come tearing up from the Antarctic. — by W. Quin

Radio to aid back-country work

While on a holiday visit to Queenstown, Dr Jack took a small transmitting and receiving set with him and carried out some successful tests on the Walter Peak Station. His experiments were conducted with a view to the installation of a transmitting and receiving set on that station, which is completely isolated. A cable across Lake Wakatipu would not prove practicable owing to the rapid currents at the bottom of the lake, which, in the event of breakages, would result in considerable difficulty and expense. Captain Peter McKenzie of the Walter Peak Station is greatly interested in the possibilities of wireless, and, on Dr Jack achieving such success with his experiments, he has decided to install a transmitting and receiving set. Dr Jack said that on a large station like Walter Peak it was often necessary to keep in communication with parties  out on the mountains. For instance, several parties could be out at the same time, and the weather might break. If they carried small portable sets a message could be transmitted from the homestead to all of the parties, telling them to remain where they were during the bad weather. At present these parties must move on in the most wretched weather because they have to abide by a pre-arranged plan. By means of wireless various parties could be kept in touch with, and work could be carried out in a more efficient  manner.  — ODT, 15.2.1924

Compiled by Peter Dowden