After last nights brilliant deep red sunset we are now enjoying some sunny weather which tempted us to walk into town this morning. The local museum which is housed in the old town library was our main aim. The building itself has been altered and left to dereliction at one point but has now been refurbished back to it’s original design.
The main attraction at present is an exhibition about one of NZ’s favourite dishes, Whitebait. This covered the types of fish that qualify as whitebait, their mysterious life cycle which takes them from river to sea and back again. Early settlers and Maori could only consume what they caught on any particular day and the rest would go as compost on the garden or get fed to chickens or pigs.
Some time in the mid 1930’s a cannery was set up to can whitebait and be able to export them which reduced the wastage. However fisherman are reluctant to report their catches and from where to protect their own little fisheries and not wanting to reveal any income to the Inland Revenue so there is no accurate data available.
Regulations have been bought in over the years due to the fear of over fishing but there still seems to be a decline in the amount being caught these days
The remainder of the museum covered the Gold Rush which put the West Coast on the world map. With this came business’s to support the miners the most prominent being the 100 hotels or pubs where miners came to commiserate or drink away their hard earned cash.
The once bustling little port that sprang up exporting gold and timber. However this didn’t last as ships over about 250 tons couldn’t navigate the bar into the harbour. Many a ship was grounded for weeks, sometimes months before they could be re-floated. There were also the ship that foundered and sank some with loss of life.
Other interesting facts came to light on how the West Coast was finally united with Christchurch on the East Coast via Otira and Arthurs Pass. Westland and Southland provinces had to wait until the old Maori passage which is now known as Haast Pass was opened in 1963. All of this were mammoth tasks without the aid of modern machinery.
After leaving the museum we spotted the Sock Making museum where socks are knitted on hand operated knitting machines. There was an explanatory video which showed how it was all done and plenty of work and dress socks made from cotton to Merino wool and Possum fur were on sale.
Guess what we are having for dinner tonight? Whitebait fritters of course.