A Retired Busmans Holiday
Some years ago Iris & I sold Sean & Maria of Pure Salt Charters our Fiordland and Stewart Island DoC Concessions and Environment Southland Consents to operate around Fiordland and Stewart Island. At the time I mentioned to Sean that if (when) they came down to the Island I would be happy to act as “Mud Pilot” for them. And that’s what I’ve been doing the last week.
I joined them aboard “Flightless” in Halfmoon Bay with a party of Christchurch Photographers, and we spent the next week exploring Port Adventure, Lords River, Port Pegasus and Broad Bay.
So the following is a tiny part of what we saw and did. There will be links to our “Place Names” pages for extra information and location details.
First Stop, Port Adventure
We went ashore, to walk along “Salty Beach”, and some stayed until dark, as Kiwi come out to forrage for sandhoppers… we did see prints from the previous night, but none while were there.
“Salty Beach” is a local name, not to be found on any maps I know of.
Lichen on a dead Totara
I was suprised by the number of very large slips which had come down into the river. All of them from off relatively gentle slopes, and extending well across the channel.
King Fisher. (exactly in the image centre)
I was delighted with the huge increase in Kingfisher numbers, or at least from what I recalled of them.
Again, they attracted a lot of photographic attention from the party.
Sadly my lens wasn’t quite up to the job, and Kingfishers generally won’t allow closer approach
Next Morning, Up anchor, and down to Lords River
Lords River is the longest “navigable” river on Stewart Island, and was always a must do when we were chartering. And so it was on this trip. We had a stunning day, and spent it exploring by inflatable and RIB, getting to within a short distance of the upper limits of boat small travel. The river is quite tidal, and is best explored at high tide. Our photographers must bless digital cameras as had they been using film I’m sure their bank accounts would have taken a major hit
Lords River to Port Pegasus
We left “The River” late-ish in the afternoon for the run down to Port Pegasus, passing “Black Rock” which is very cleverly sited almost exactly in a direct line between Lords River Heads and Seal Point. Surely just to keep mariners on their toes.
The next day after some morning fishing we went into South Arm and then went ashore to climb Bald Cone, returning in the late afternoon. I flagged the final part of the climb, as my knees aren’t so good on steep down slopes, especially if we had to hurry down before dark. But still great to get up and botanise amongst the Alpines.
Out off Pegasus next morning
Fishing out off Pegasus next morning
Rather irreverent, I know, but Iris & I used to call this distinctive peak “Queen Vic’s Nose”
Into the Bald Cone Landing
Botanising !! Tiny mosses.
Botanising !! And Fascinating Lichens (I think)
The Team, about to cross a small, and muddy gulley
Kiwi Dibble holes.
I found a quite astonishing amount of Kiwi sign, and also far more deer sign than I would have expected, as there isn’t that much in the way of palatables in the open country.
Manuka in Flower.
Who would have expected in the middle of Winter and high up on the hills
The Team, lunch stop
Bald Cone, The final part of the climb.
The route is directly up through the scrub in the picture centre on a track I cut years ago
then up the rock face to between the two high points
Bald Cone, Some of the party on the rock chute, close to the top.
Years ago I set up a climbing rope here for safety. It was still in place, and in excellent condition
Gog, from Bald Cone on an earlier trip
Flightless at anchor, in South Arm Port Pegasus
Coming back down from the base of Bald Cone
Sundew Plants in one of the bogs
Back into the boats to return to Flightless
Gog & Magog
What we would have seen from Seal Creek, had it been a fine day
Portuguese Man’o War.
Odd to find them in mid winter, and much bigger than we see around Paterson Inlet over summer
I was astonished at how tame this one was. In my experience they had always been very shy
Sunset. leaving Disappointment
Bald Cone to the right of the sunset
A Wet Morning
The next morning started of with light rain, and just got heavier. Never-the-less we set of up into Cooks Arm and Seal Creek in the tenders with the idea of walking from the head of Seal Creek at least up to where we would get a good view of Gog, Magog, and the Hielanman. But cold and wet dissuaded us from the walk, though I was able to show Maria where to set off from. No photos for me, so those in the slide show are from much earlier trips.
Later in the day the rain eased off and we went into Disappointment Cove and the short walk over the hill and down to Communication Cove in Broad Bay. A couple went snorkelling, while the rest of us explored the beach area.
Small Craft Retreat
I’ve many “favourite” places in Port Pegasus, but Small Craft is I think extra special. And after we left that seemed to be the consensus from everyone as well. All wished they could have had much more time.
Mutton Birders Cottages on Earnest Island.
This small Island shelters Small Craft Retreat.
We used to anchor in this small west facing cove, and in Mutton Bird Season I think it’s one of the great birding experiences to have, just on dusk what seems like 10’s of thousands of Sooty Searwaters wheeling overhead prior to coming into their nesting burrows.
The Smokehouse Gang
There was always a fair population of Hookers Sealions in Smallcraft, and Smokehouse Bay was a popular haul out site.
But virtually no females. In fact I’d only photographed 3, and they elsewher in Pegasus. But all of the lighter coloured animals in this picture are females, with an attendant “BeachMaster” bull
Years ago I was intrigued by the lighter green patches on the hills on the east side of Small Craft.
I spent some time poking around, and discovered bit’s and pieces of charred wood. And looking at the
regrowth rates I’m of the opinion that these were “Sealers Gardens”. Sealers were dropped off on the coast, often for many months, and although they had ships supplies
left with them, growing …. presumably …. potatoes makes sense. Especially as being picked up by their ship was not a given… ships got lost, and no one else knew where they were.
Right at the head of Small Craft is an area of stunted Rimu forest with a small corner I call “The Moss Garden”
It was around 2 or 300 sq metres, probably an old circular blow down. Several old logs, all covered with thick moss, and also moss on the ground.
It’s quite reduced now, and several small thickets of kamahi rickers changing the mossy look. But there is some of the original still there
Right at the head of Small Craft is a Goblin Forest of stunted Rimu.
They are quite normal diameter for adult trees, but the trunks are seriously shortened, presumably by the climate.
But what is really different is that the area is home to a good population of Hookers Sealions. And the forest floor is subsequently almost completely bald.
Just a few patches of ferns surviving.
Anchored in the entrance to Burial Cove
Kayak & Tender to “The Settlement”
Hookers Sealions are generally very curious, and find small boats irresistible and fun to play around
The Settlement Beach
Rams Horn Shell
An Old Maori Midden under the bank on the left of person standing.
Most easily accessible beaches have/had middens, although the sea does have it’s way with many of them. Judging by the number of flax bushes,
and the shelter this bay afforded this was an important stopover for Maori en-route to the birding Islands to the west.
And of course, a resident Hooker Bull, and his harem
The entrance to The Settlement. Not quite as bad as it looks, but will be closed in any sort of a big sea.
And we met a Yellow Eyed Penguin
Broad Bay & The Settlement
From Small Craft Sean took “Flightless” around Broad Head into Broad Bay, and anchored in the entrance to Burial Cove. From there we went by tender into “The Settlement“. This small, almost landlocked lagoon” is normally accessed overland by either of 2 tracks from Port Pegasus. I’ve walked in many times, by Helo once, and this was only the third time by sea. It was apparently once home to a shore whaling station, but there is no evidence that they ever actually caught a whale. And looking at the location, together with the weather and tidal streams, that’s easy to understand.
Many years ago a couple of hunters I had down here told me they had come across what looked like the stone exterior foundations of a small hut, high up on Broad Head … a whale lookout station perhaps.
We were due to fly out by Helo mid afternoon on the last day, so were going to spend the morning exploring North Arm and the Bell Topper Falls. We woke to a good breeze of South Easterly, and rain, so I’ve only a short video of the Bell Topper Falls running a “Banker”. Then the helo couldn’t fly… low viz in Foveaux Straits, so we had another night, and flew out early the next day
Thank You Flightless and Crew
For me it was a wonderful chance to revisit one of my favourite places on Stewart Island. So a very big thank you to Maria & Sean, and to Courtney, Anna and Chris. Their professionalism, attention to detail, and just overall good humour and very obvious love of sharing such special places with their guests is outstanding. Flightless is considerably larger than was Talisker … perhaps 4 times the internal volume, so for me it was like living in a ball room. Courtneys meals are fabulous, and in fact I mentioned to Maria that Iris would be really grumpy if I took Courtney home with me ….. until Iris sampled the first meal. So it’s great to report that Pegasus is within reach, for those who want to explore.. contact www.puresalt.co.nz