Survey uncovers Dusky Sound's historical secrets

Oraka Aparima representative James York surveys a scene at Indian Island, where Captain James...
Oraka Aparima representative James York surveys a scene at Indian Island, where Captain James Cook met southern Maori for the first time,during an expedition in Dusky Sound, in Fiordland, last week. PHOTO: CHRIS KWAK/GRAPHIC: ALISTAIR CRAIG
Archaeologists have explored three historical sites in Dusky Sound, Fiordland, for the first time.

An eight-member team journeyed through the sound for five days on an expedition led by the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and Heritage New Zealand last week.

The trip led to the first known maritime archaeological surveying of Captain James Cook's Resolution mooring spot from 1773, the Endeavour wreck site in Facile Harbour, which was New Zealand’s first known non-Maori wreck from 1795, and the wreck site near Stop Island of Waikare, a ship that took tourists around Fiordland from Dunedin in 1910.

Expedition director William McKee said more than 240 people were marooned in Dusky Sound after Endeavour sank, and some were stuck there for more than two years.

"It is a significant but little-known story."

The museum would use the footage captured during the trip for its "Encounters" area, which focused on the social history of southern New Zealand between 1770 and 1850.

The footage also documented the first known brewery in the country, the first shipyard, and the first European house.

Heritage New Zealand used the expedition to access the sites and update its register.

Also on board were maritime archaeologists Matt Carter and Kurt Bennett, who surveyed the sites.

Dr Carter, who studied at the University of Otago and now lives in Melbourne, said the Waikare wreck site was listed on the New Zealand Archaeological Association with a brief description, but it had been based off a history book.

"No-one had dived there before as a marine archaeologist.

"It was a thrill of the unknown and the unexplored," he said.

Mr Bennett is an expert on Endeavour, New Zealand's first European shipwreck (not Captain Cook's vessel from his first journey to New Zealand), and the expedition was his first opportunity to dive and survey the site in the remote Facile Harbour, on Resolution Island.

Locating historical sites in such remote country required a difficult trip that would usually be beyond the team’s budget, Mr McKee said.

However, "generous" support from the family-owned business Fiordland Expeditions and the use of its boat, Tutoko II, meant the expedition could go ahead.

Owner Richard Abernethy, who is originally from Sawyers Bay, Dunedin, said the fact that there were fewer tourists in the area due to the impact of Covid-19 had also made the expedition and surveying easier.


fantastic story - a video of this trip would be very impressive.

A number of dives have been undertaken on the wreck of the Endeavour by other marine archaeologists. As part of those surveys items were taken from the shipwreck and are now in the Southland Museum, as well as in Te Anau. Significant work by Historic Places Trust was undertaken in the 1950's onwards, as well as the Southland Historical Historical on the sites associated with first contact between Maori and Cook. Archaeological digs have been undertaken in association with Otago University on a number of the sites in Dusky Sound in the past, including Luncheon Cove. Perhaps Mr Bennett may need to read a more accurate history book.






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