Journey to Mount Cook 1882

But, o'er my isles the forest drew
A mantle thick-save where a peak
Shows his grim teeth a-snarl -and through
The filtered coolness creek and creek,
Tangled in ferns, in whispers speak.
And there the placid great lakes are,
And brimming rivers proudly force
Their ice-cold tides. Here, like a scar,
Dry-lipped, a withered watercourse
Crawls from a long-forgotten source.

Arthur H. Adams

Hooker River  2000

"This is Nature's workshop."  Compare 2000 and 2009. The lake is deeper, the island has been eroded back to the big rock.

Hooker River from the first swing bridge in Nov. 2009 

The Star Tuesday March 7, 1882
Reference: Papers Past Images online.

On the trail of Rev. Green written by a correspondent for the Christchurch newspapers while waiting for Green and his party to return from a nearly successful ascent of Mount Cook, New Zealand. Spelling as is. Another trip to the area 17 years later.

Mount Cook is becoming so much a point of attraction to tourists.  Most people know the Mount Cook is somewhere at the back of the Mackenzie country.  The railway takes you within something like twenty-five miles of Burke's Pass. Leaving the railway [at Albury] you want either saddle and pack horse or a good, stout trap, a stock of provisions, and appliances for camping out.  The camping out does not necessarily begin till you pass Lake Tekapo, at which place there is a very decent hotel.  Up-country people are noted for their hospitality, but it is not right to expect them to entertain every stranger who happens to come along, as on a beaten tourist track hospitality is apt to become a tax and a burden.  Besides it is better to have your own tent,  as you can them camp down at any spot that takes your fancy.  Leaving Lake Tekapo, there are two roads to Mount Cook.  The road by the way of the Pukaki Ferry, is some thirty miles the longest, but you avoid the danger involved in fording the Tasman river.  Going by the way of the ferry take saddles and also a pack horse, as you cannot get within twenty miles of Mount Cook in a trap. 
    The country from Albury to Burke's Pass is largely agricultural and very picturesque. Leaving the little township Burke's Pass behind, and ascending a long hill, the Mackenzie plain lies before you.  It is a fearfully drear and sombre place.  The plain is very stony and barren.  It is broken by little ridges and hummocks, with great black or brown bluffs jutting into it. The outline of the Mount Cook ranges comes into view.  Presently the great mountain itself shows from behind a nearer range, and your doubts are at once at rest, for Mount Cook, through surrounded by giants, is without a rival.  Lake Tekapo is fifteen miles from Burke's Pass, and comes into view very suddenly.  It is a beautiful sheet of water, and should be a very paradise for boatmen.  Its extend is something like 17 miles in length and two miles in width.  The water is of a bright blue tint, and the hills that run down into the lake are bare and brown.  At the near end there is a little sort of peninsula on which Tekapo home station is built, the first spot of green you have seen for miles, and far away up the lake there is an island.  It is a beautiful sight, but as is the case with so much of New Zealand scenery, there is an absence of life.  Mount Cook itself, with its tremendous gorges and glaciers, is a sight which everyone who can should see once in a lifetime, but it becomes tenfold more interesting when a party of Alpine climbers make a plucky attempt to scale it, whether they are successful or not.  The lake discharges its water into the Tekapo, which river, before it was bridged, was a formidable obstacle to settlers on the other side. The bridge is handsome structure. There are two large pillars, standing up a great height above the floor of the bridge. Each pillar is surmounted by a sort of iron turret,  and altogether have the appearance of four lighthouses.  There are three set of wire ropes running through the top of each pillar, to which the bridge is suspended.  Altogether it is a very substantial and durable in appearance. It was built by the Mount Cook Road Board at a cost of 5000 pounds, under the supervision of Mr Marchant, C.E.

The Tekapo Bridge.

    For a few miles after leaving the lake, you travel over a further stretch of dry, stony, barren soil, but after that the country rapidly improves.  A great tract of undulating downs, splendidly grassed, stretches away for miles and miles before you.  A Dunedin Company have purchased over 20,000 acres of three downs.  The road is well formed right to the Tasman.  Towards afternoon the clouds began to break, and the sun came down blazing hot. At Braemar I was hospitably offered refreshments for myself and feed for my horse. A good crop of oaten hay was just being harvested, and adjoining it was a promising crop of turnips. Close by there was a pretty little lagoon, with a number of black ducks and teal.  The Tasman river-bed is one of the wildest in the country - it is an unbroken stretch of gray shingle, about four miles in width, with a number of swift-running milky-coloured streams coursing it.  On the other side the Ben Ohau range rises up lofty and precipitous, and not far down the upper end of Lake Pukaki, into which the Tasman discharges itself, is visible. Leaving Braemar you ride up a grassy river-bed flat.  For a time the clouds kept opening in rifts, and the top of Mount Cook shone out like a great white throne.
    A ride of about nine miles up the flat, crossing the Jollie, a small river which debouches  from a deep rocky gulch, brought me to Mr Burnett's station.  Of Mr and Mrs Burnett's kindness and hospitality I have very grateful recollections.  The homestead, with its garden and cultivation, formed a pleasing relief in the midst of so much wild scenery.  Showing the lateness of seasons at this elevation, I observed gooseberries, though ripe, still hung on the bushes.  Here I got directions about fording the river.  Two bullock wagons had just crossed, and all I had to do was to follow their tracks. You have to cross the river-bed obliquely, riding a good five miles of shingle; so that it is very necessary for your horse to be well shod and its feet in good order.  The bed of the river is tolerably free from large boulders, but there are quicksands in it; and as the water is never clear, it is a matter of conjecture what kind of place the next step might take you into.  The bottom is always shifting, so you can never depend on the same ford for more than a few hours at a time.  The water in the deepest part, this time, being scarcely up to the saddle flaps, but it runs with a very ugly swirl.  Riding up the river-bed from Mr Burrett's station, the view was magnificent.  In the foreground a bluff of peculiar formation, perpendicular on the face, and scored up into lines almost as if it had been done by human labour. On the top it was thrown up into small round hummocks, all over grown with a light green sward.  The head of the gorge was barred right across by the Tasman glacier, a stupendous, greyish blue, mass of rock and ice.
    Not far above where you ford the river, the Hooker and the Tasman join, the nearest spur of Mount Cook dividing the rivers.  Messrs McKinnon and Sutherland, of Birch Hill Station, kindly put me up for the night.  At Birch Hill Station I turned my horse out with some others in excellent feed. The next morning I went to catch it, but it appeared that my steed had made its own arrangements.  Instead of allowing itself to be caught quickly walked away towards the river and I of course following for about a mile and a half, wading through several small streams of the river on the vain hope that the main stream would bring it up.  Fortunately there were two bullock waggons just starting away with wool, otherwise I should have stood a chance of a lengthened stay on the other side of the Tasman. There were eighteen bullocks in one team, and sixteen in the other, and there were three horsemen besides the two drivers. The driver was obliged to take a horse each with the waggon for finding the fords and for driving across the deep places.  We had not gone over a quarter of a mile before the largest team got stuck up.  The long team of bullocks were serving this way and that, sometimes they were addresses in language of the most coaxing nature, and sometimes in terms of the most scathing invective.
    At length we got a start, and had no further trouble till we came to the main stream, and then it was necessary to stop and find a ford.  There was much time occupied in riding to and fro and up and down the stream before a place was decided upon. Urges on by voice and whip the poor brutes of bullocks toiled through, the water churning round them and seething up their sides. [the reporter enjoyed his ride on top of the bales of wool]  I recovered my horse at Mr Burnett's, and re-crossed the river with the object of going up the Hooker Glacier. This time I was not so fortunate, for in crossing the main stream I got into a deep place, my horse being carried clean off its feet for a short distance.  It is anything but a pleasant sensation to feel the rushing icy cold water rising up round you.
    Riding up the gorge to the Hooker glacier you pass under some tremendous cliffs. Good grass grows at the foot of the moraine then you come to masses of rock.  The Hooker river boils out under the glacier like an enormous artesian well.  Masses of frozen snow and ice cling to the face of the mountain and run down in long tongues into ravines.  This is Nature's workshop.  Far up the face of Mount Sefton a huge mass of snow broke away and rushed down over a precipice of rock into a chasm.  For a few seconds the precipice was clothed in a sheet of white, and volumes of mist rose up from the place where it fell, while a report fully as loud as a good peal of thunder roared up and down the gorges. 

William Spotswood Green, watercolour, 1882, Birch Hill Sheep Station, on card, 171 x 249 mm, ATL

THE HIGH ALPS OF NEW-ZEALAND by William Spotswood Green, M.A., 1883
New York Times Jun 22, 1884; p. 5;

Tea is a great beverage in New Zealand, the sheep-shearers and harvesters using it in enormous quantities. Clover and grass are sown in large amounts. Red clover won't seed in New Zealand owning to the absence of the bumble bee. White clover thrives amazingly. The winters are so mild that cattle do not need to be housed. Bumblebees shipped. Thistles and sorrel have been imported and become plagues to farmers, and the English sparrow is as great a nuisance there as here. The weka is a large land rail of a eccentric appearance, looking as if its feathers had been put in the wrong way. It has an abnormal curiosity, and in the less settled districts will run into a camp and peck at anything shining. On the sheep ranches the wool is stored in barns made of corrugated iron throughout, and the effect of sleeping in them during a heavy-rain storm is anything but good for the ears.

1889 trip 1899 trip

TH 4 January 2006
Access to the 3754m peak was becoming increasingly dangerous. Conditions on Mt Cook are deteriorating to make New Zealand's highest peak unclimbable. The climate had been changing for a long time. "Since 1900, one-third of the ice on Mt Cook has melted. New Zealand temperatures are almost one degree higher than they were then." National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) scientist.

Mt. Cook and the Old Hermitage
The White Horse camp ground. This is the valley of the 1913 storm which destroyed the first Hermitage Hotel at White Horse Hill.

The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at the leisure with a liberal allowance of time. David Henry Thoreau.

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