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Trip to Dusky Sound in 1999


In December 1999 Bill Whelen and John Robson from the CCS joined a party visiting Dusky Sound in New Zealand.
A report of the trip was published (without illustrations) in the NZ Newsletter

Bernard Smith, the eminent Australian Art Historian, was visiting New Zealand to give a paper at a conference in Wellington and the trip to Dusky had been arranged for him so he could see locations associated with William Hodges' paintings from Cook's Second Voyage.

Smith wrote "European vision in the South Pacific" and "Imagining the Pacific", which deal with the paintings and artists of European voyages to the Pacific but principally with the voyages of Cook. He also co-edited the three-volume "Art of Cook's Voyages" and assisted Andrew David with his "Charts and Coastal Views of Cook's Voyages" so can be accepted as the world's foremost expert on these subjects.

Breaksea Girl, the vessel operated by Fiordland Eco Holidays carries 12 passengers and it was a diverse group that joined Bernard and his wife Maggi at Manapouri to begin the six day adventure. Unfortunately, two people pulled out at the very last minute but the group still contained art historians, archeologists, museum curators and Cook people, represented by Bill and John.


We crossed Lake Manapouri and made a side trip to inspect the Power Station before a bus took us across the Wilmot Pass and down to Doubtful Sound to join the Breaksea Girl. Here Lance, the skipper, was waiting to welcome us and he and his crew, Essie and Jean, certainly looked after all our needs for the next few days. We sailed up the sound and out into the Tasman for the sea passage down to Dusky Sound. The sea was somewhat choppy and most took precautions against seasickness.

Late on the first afternoon, we rounded Five Fingers Point and entered Dusky Sound under sail, trying to re-enact the Resolution's passage into the same area 226 years earlier. Hodges had done a colour wash of the entrance and we tried to match up our observations with his painting. Passing the Seal Islands, Anchor Island and the Many Island we headed on through Pickersgill Harbour to anchor in Cascade Cove.


The next morning we returned to Pickersgill Harbour and went ashore on Astronomer's Point where a boardwalk allowed us to see the site of William Wales' observatory and the first brewery. A side trip was made up Cook Stream to Lake Forster. Once again, efforts were made to imagine where the Resolution had berthed against a tree trunk on the point and the location and orientation of Hodges' painting of the scene. It proved to be a very special part of the whole trip.


Moving on, we crossed to Luncheon Cove on Anchor Island to see the site of New Zealand's first (European) house and shipbuilding that had taken place here in 1792. A short distance away, Cook and a small party had had lunch here 19 years earlier. Our next stop was in Facile Harbour on the west side of Resolution Island where we spent our second night in the only bad weather of the trip. The wind buffetted the boat and we had heavy rain, which proved beneficial as we intended to visit a waterfall the next day.

The first shipwreck in New Zealand took place a hundred metres from our anchorage in 1795 when the Endeavour sank (not Cook's Endeavour) and we went ashore next morning to see remnants of the aftermath of the sinking. Nearby, a hundred years later, Richard Henry had carried out early conservation of local birds that had, unfortunately, come to nought when stoats even reached this remote corner.


The weather cleared as we sailed back south to visit the site, on Indian Island, of Cook's meeting with Maori, depicted in another of Hodges' paintings. Going ashore, we enacted the scene before inspecting Maori food storage pits.


Just to the south of Indian Island on the side of Cascade Cove is the large waterfall that was the main reason for Bernard's visit to the Sound. The waterfall tumbles down the mountainside in several falls but to reach the base of the most spectacular part of 100 metres involves a 150 metre climb up through thick Fiordland bush. In an admirable demonstration of determination and fitness for an 83-year- old, Bernard made it up and down the moss-covered, boulder and tree strewn, steep, wet slope. The overnight rain ensured that the waterfall was seen as its most magical.


We then followed the Cook Channel east to the head of the Sound at Shark Cove where we spent our third night. On the way we saw a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and made a side trip into Sportman's Cove on Cooper Island. We visited Supper Cove the next morning and used the small boat to drift round the channels in the delta where the Seaforth River enters the Sound. This beautiful spot proved to be another (of many) highlight.

The Breaksea Girl next sailed down the Bowen Channel and up Acheron Passage to leave Dusky the same way Cook and the Resolution had done. We made a quick visit up and down Wet Jacket Arm in lovely, sunny afternoon conditions, a far cry from the torrential rain of Cook's crew's visit. Our anchorage for the night was behind the Harbour Islands in Breaksea Sound and not Cook's more exposed spot at Occasional Cove on the Acheron Passage.

Leaving Breaksea Sound, we saw the seal colony on Breaksea Island before heading back up the coast to Doubtful Sound. We saw albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters on the passage and then went looking for Fiordland Penguins on the Shelter Islands at the mouth of the Sound.

Our last night was spent at the head of First Arm where other boats joined us. After several days of being alone, three boats definitely felt like a crowd. We made our way slowly back to Deep Arm via Cooked Arm (stopping to see tree daisies and extremely friendly dolphins) and Hall Arm. Farewells were made to Lance and Essie before we retraced our steps to Manapouri and the party disbanded.

It had been a very special trip on many levels. The natural beauty, the wildlife and the history, especially the Cook connection, combined to make it an unforgettable experience.

John Robson

Some pictures from the trip (click on any one for a larger image)

Bill Whelen and Bernard Smith     Bill Whelen and Bernard Smith


Breaksea Girl in Pickersgill Harbour     Breaksea Girl in Pickersgill Harbour with Mount Sparrman in the clouds behind. It is taken from the point where the Resolution moored. The Cook Channel is in the distance to the left.


Looking up Cook Channel     Looking up Cook Channel from the Resolution mooring. A similar fallen tree to that in Hodges' painting is there today.


People on Indian Island     People standing on the point on Indian Island that features in one of Hodges' paintings showing Maori.


The waterfall in Cascade Cove     A distant shot of the waterfall in Cascade Cove. Again Hodges painted the waterfall. We climbed 150 metres up to the base of the major fall.


Bill Whelen     Bill Whelen standing on the spot where Cook set up the first brewery in New Zealand.


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