Like most visitors, my sense of the Sounds’ history extended to the arrival of the Maori around a thousand years ago, and Captain James Cook. During his 18th century voyages of discovery, Cook liked stopping here for a bit of R&R and ship TLC. But there’s quite a bit more to it, as I discovered.
Visiting the charming, picturesque village of Havelock today, with its art galleries and cafés, it’s hard to believe it was once a wild, boom town with some 23 hotels catering to tribes of thirsty miners. All because of a gold rush.
I also didn’t know the hamlet nurtured two of New Zealand’s most famous sons – Ernest Rutherford (he who dabbled in small things) and William Pickering, one of NASA’S most gifted rocket scientists.
Wakatahuri Bay – at the outer limits of the Sound – deserves an article in its own right. It’s been described as the site of New Zealand’s first commercial shipbreaking yard – the Sounds Wrecking Company.
Launched just after Wwll, it was operated by two brothers who’d beach old vessels to remove all valuable metals and timber. Their version of recycling included burning the stripped wrecks on the shore. I’m not sure that would be allowed today. There are still traces of the activity.
Of course, the best place to read about the Sound’s past is on the mail boat itself – there’s plenty of material detailing the developments over the years.