Stewart Island (Maori name: Rakiura) is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies 30 km south of the South Island, across Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is around 400 people, most of whom live in the small town named Oban.
The island was named for William Stewart who was aboard the “Pegasus”, sailing from Port Jackson, Australia, on a sealing expedition. While the boat was in the large south easter harbor (nowadays known as Pegasus), William Stewart began charting the southern coasts. Well, this is the official version of the Stewart Island’s name origin. But as the rumors have it – originally in the story were two William Stewarts! One of them did the original charting of the island and another, William Stewart that was aboard the “Pegasus” who took all the credit for that work.
Stewart Island also has an original Maori name – Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, which means “The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe”. It refers to the part played by the island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe (the South Island) caught and raised the great fish, (the North Island).
From the early 13th century Maori have been harvesting the island’s rich resources consisting of diverse native flora, birds and seafood. In the early 19th Century people from all corners of the world made their mark on the island. Their marriage with the local Maori women created strong cultural links to Rakiura. Island was gradually getting settled by fishermen, sawmillers and boatbuilders. The island’s population settled mainly around the edges of Paterson Inlet and the heads of Halfmoon and Horseshoe bays, and in short-lived ventures at Port Pegasus, Maori Beach and Port William. In 1920 a whaling expedition from Norway came and also left some permanent residents on the Island.
Nowadays, not much remains of all those settlements since the Island’s tough nature was difficult to handle and civilize. Today, fishing, tourism, agriculture and conservation are the main occupations of the Island’s population.
Weather of Stewart Island.
At latitude of 47 degrees south (the Roaring Forties), the weather is often unpredictable, but the climate is surprisingly temperate with summer temperatures climbing to the mid-twenties. Sunshine hours are equal to the national average, and the annual rainfall is less than that of Auckland.
Spring comes earlier to Stewart Island than to the rest of Southland. Winters are milder and calmer than those on the South Island.
To be continued…