Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Christchurch Past & Present #8 Sumner Cave Rock Tuawera

Cave Rock - Tuawera, Sumner, circa 1905 - on signal day?
Click on images for larger view.

An elevated view looking east of Sumner Beach, Cave Rock-Tuawera, and Scarborough Head in far background, circa 1905

Cave Rock, known to Maori as Tuawera, is the distinctive landmark at Sumner Beach at the mouth of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary in Christchurch, New Zealand. It has been scrambled over by generations of children on their holidays or weekends over the past hundred years or more.

The signal station atop Cave Rock was used to signal vessels approaching the Sumner bar when the wharf at Ferrymead further up the Estuary was used to unload cargo for Christchurch in the nineteenth century. One of the postcard views shows flags arrayed on lines at the signal station. Given the multitude of flags shown it's likely that these were displayed for some festive occasion rather than for signaling purposes that day.

Sumner Pier & Lifeboat Slip, Cave Rock-Tuawera, circa 1905.
Click on the image to seek crowded pier and numerous people on Cave Rock itself.

The building on the pier and slipway are those of the Sumner Lifeboat Institution, formally constituted since 1898, but informally in existence since 1867 when Joseph Day was appointed signalman and later pilot at Sumner. Day used his pilot boat on many occasions to effect rescues all the way up to his retirement & death soon thereafter in 1912. The lifeboat service is now located at Scarborough, up the beach, and is justifiably proud of its more than 2000 rescues since 1898.

Cave Rock - Tuawera, from beach level, circa 1910s or early 1920s.

The Maori name for Cave Rock is Tuawera - "Destroyed by Fire" - and is derived from the following account. The chief Turakipo of Opawaho pa was rejected in love by Hineao, daughter to the chief Te Ake of Akaroa further around the coast of Banks Peninsula.

(Opawaho is the Maori name for the Heathcote River, one of the two rivers that runs into the Estuary and the present day suburb of Opawa is where the pa was located on the banks of the river).

The spurned Turakipo who was also a tohunga skilled in makutu (black magic; witchcraft) used his powers to will the death of Hineao. Te Ake, devastated by the loss of his daughter, sought utu (revenge) and went to seek training in makutu on the West Coast from the tohunga at Patea.

Upon his return several years later, Te Ake climbed to the top of the hill that overlooks Cave Rock and cast makutu on Turakipo and his people.

Within a very short time, a whale became stranded on the beach beside the Rock. The news quickly spread to Turakipo's people and they flocked to the shore to feast on the rich whale flesh. Turakipo, skilled in makutu, was suspicious and did not feast with his people. After they had eaten, people fell into a deep sleep from which they never awakened. Turakipo and his few followers who were away that day were hunted down and killed by Te Ake's iwi or tribe.

To commemorate this event, the rock became known as Tuawera - "Destroyed by Fire" - an expression symbolising the destruction of an iwi or hapu as though it were a tree felled by kindling fire in holes at its base to weaken its foundation and bring it crashing down.

Source: A W Reed, rev R Calman, Reed Book of Maori Mythology, (Reed, 2004), pp. 429-430.

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