In the foot­steps of Scott on Quail Is­land

Walking New Zealand - - Front Page - Story and pho­to­graphs by Andrew Low­ton

With many tracks in the Port Hills closed since the earthquakes, res­i­dents of Christchurch have had to look fur­ther afield for their walk­ing fix. For my wife and I this has in­volved work­ing our way far­ther around the Banks Penin­sula. On those walks we have of­ten looked across to, or down on, Quail Is­land in Lyt­tle­ton Har­bour and won­dered if it was worth a visit.

Then an op­por­tu­nity arose. As part of IceFest, a month-long cel­e­bra­tion of Christchurch’s po­si­tion as Gate­way to the Antarc­tic, half-price ferry tick­ets were on of­fer due to Quail Is­land’s Antarc­tic con­nec­tions. Cap­tain Robert Scott and Ernest Shack­le­ton used the is­land for quar­an­tin­ing and train­ing ponies and dogs be­fore their Antarc­tic ex­pe­di­tions in the early part of the 20th Century. Rea­son enough to visit so off we drove to Lyt­tle­ton Har­bour.

The ferry was so crowded that they laid on an ex­tra one and five min­utes later we landed on the is­land.

The Maoris called the is­land Otamahua, which means ‘place to gather sea-bird eggs’. The first Euro­pean to land on the is­land was Cap­tain Mein Smith, in 1842, and af­ter flush­ing a num­ber of quail from the bush he named the is­land af­ter them. The is­land was even­tu­ally ac­quired by the Crown from the Ngai Tahu in 1950. It sub­se­quently changed hands sev­eral times un­til be­ing trans­ferred to DOC in 1987.

The Quail Is­land Walk­way starts from the wharf and of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties for short or long walks. A map is pro­vided by the ferry com­pany.

We opted for the cir­cum­fer­ence walk which can take up to two hours depend­ing

Above: Start­ing off on the cir­cum­fer­ence walk.

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