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A clay pipe, believed to have belonged to 19th-century explorer William Docherty was found by Real Journeys nature guide Richard Heyward.
Mr Heyward was checking potential expedition areas at the beach where Mr Docherty once lived when he stumbled across the pipe.
''And there it was. A little clay smoker's pipe in perfect condition,'' he said.
Inscribed on the pipe are the words Davidson and Glasgow, as well as a thistle etched into the end. A Thomas Davidson was believed to be making pipes in Glasgow, where Docherty was born, from the 1860s.
Mr Heyward notified Heritage New Zealand before handing the pipe to the Department of Conservation in Te Anau.
''So often people don't realise the full significance of a find. This is a piece of Fiordland history. Docherty was one of Dusky's longest serving European residents and we have very few physical relics from his existence during this time,'' Doc historic ranger Pania Dalley said.
Ms Dalley said the condition of the pipe, and the status of its owner, made it an exceptional find.
''I suspect it has been safely buried for a very long time and was brought up by a king tide. We're so pleased Real Journeys was doing its valuable conservation work on Cooper Island at that particular time, as it wouldn't have lasted long.''
The pipe will be on display at the Birds of a Feather Conservation Ball at Walter Peak on Saturday.