Ikoraki is an isolated bay on the southern coast of Banks Peninsula. This recent work is inspired by summer walks and swimming trips to the beach. Here the distance from civilization is soothing; it is a place that time has left.
Occasional signs of the old days remain, a whale rib propped up against the fence, some vertebrae that survived souvenir hunters lay in a pile. A dry stone wall marking the burial ground of unfortunate sailors and whalers stands the test of time to become the only landmark –aside the land itself. Shipping rope and netting intertwine with barbs to keep the sheep from a few lonely trees which lean up the valley away from the shore and the southerly.
Ikoraki almost hides its fascinating history and these works represent a time line of events in the early whaling days at the bay.
Ikoraki, one of the first shore whaling stations in New Zealand, was started by Joseph Price in 1839. Price arrived there with his Maori wife and daughter aboard the ‘Lucy Ann’. At this time one Maori family was living at the pa site above the beach west of the creek.
Price started whaling in May 1840. At this time twenty nine men and one woman lived at Ikoraki making it the largest European settlement in Canterbury at the time.
The same year the British flag was raised and the settlers ‘held court’ at Ikoraki with a visiting party.
The Treaty of Waitangi nearly caused the ruin of Price’s fishery and the other whalers due to their need to legitimize land purchases through the Crown. Their claims to land were rejected and the first seasons profit lost.
Tragedy struck the whalers. Two brigs, the ‘Transfer’ and the ‘Speculator’, were driven ashore in a southerly while taking on oil. Two sailors drowned and six others trying to save them. The cemetery remains iconic today, the stone wall with a struggling, solitary tree.
The years from 1842 to 1848 saw more prosperous and hopeful times for the whalers. Manning three boats the station had the best tally of whales in the South Island in 1843 and continued to grow employing 30 men. They caught a tally of 14 whales by August 1844, the best in New Zealand next to the station Jillet at Kapiti. Ikoraki began to have a settled appearance with the planting of gums, an orchard and garden. Price remarried while in Sydney and bought his new wife back to Ikoraki. They started a family and whaled there for the next four years.
The whales began to decline rapidly and shore stations saw little profit. Price left in 1852 and Ikoraki was subsequently farmed. Whaling resumed under the station name ‘Buchanans’ in 1857. Although the first season was successful only two or three whales were caught in subsequent seasons. The last whaling year at Ikoraki was 1876 when the whales were scarce.
Ikoraki was farmed after the decline of whales. All the whaler’s cottages and sheds were destroyed when in 1907 a large coastal fire swept across the headlands. Little remains as evidence of the old days.
Sealers and Whalers in New Zealand Waters, Don Grady.
The Cradle of Canterbury, Gordon Ogilvie.
The Illustrated History of the West Coast, Anna Rogers.
The Great Painter-Etchers from Rembrandt to Whistler, Malcolm C. Salaman.
Nineteenth Century New Zealand Photographs , John B. Turner.
The South Explored, John Hall-Jones.
Colonial New Zealand, Engravings of the Victorian Period,R. P. Hargreaves and T. J. Hearn.
The Natural History of Canterbury, G. A. Knox.