Ports of the World – In New Zealand, Bluff is one of the southernmost ports in the world

Ports of the World – In New Zealand, Bluff is one of the southernmost ports in the world

From our correspondent in New Zealand,

at the end of the 1 state highwaythe connecting road New Zealand From north to south, the path ends at Sterling Point, the last landmark before civilization faded away, giving way to the Southern Ocean that remotely reveals the first coasts of Antarctica. Expression ” the end of the world which can sometimes be overused, takes on its full meaning here. Under a constantly overcast sky, Bluff and its houses have been eroded by wind and weather, almost giving the impression of being deserted.

Deadly water

However, there are still approximately 2,000 residents in this city. Most of them are sailors who have to deal with unpredictable conditions of the oceans. In this storm, a voice reassures them. That’s from Merry Lesk. For nearly 40 years she has been advising and monitoring boats sailing off the south coast of New Zealand on a daily basis. ” I live in the port. So when hunters go out, they walk by my door. I have an HF radio and a VHF radio and I never leave the house without a portable radio in my bag “, as you say.

Round-the-clock monitoring is essential, as the Southland Waters, where Bluff is located, are the deadliest. Twice as many people are missing at sea as in the rest of the country. ” Report twice a day about weather conditions and forecasts. I check all the boats leaving port, even those headed for Antarctica or the Chatham Islands. This is very important for families staying on the beach. Because everywhere around here, when the wind starts to die down and the conditions change at sea, they can get into serious trouble and we’ve had some really dangerous situations. If I hear that conditions change, I tell the fishermen to go straight back, or if it is very bad, to find a coast as near as possible. she explained.

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Role in the Napoleonic Wars

If Port Bluff is now moved by fishing boats and various cargo ships, it was nonetheless a strategic point during the Wars of the Coalitions more than two centuries ago. Michael Stevens is a Bluff-born historian. He tells how the port witnessed the arrival of the first European ship, after the Treaty of Tilsit, an agreement between Napoleon and Russia to prevent the British Empire:

during the first decade of the nineteenth centuryH century, Napoleon forbade all Russian hemp resources from going to the British. Until that time, the British relied entirely on the Russians in order to obtain this strategic resource for the manufacture of mooring lines and sails for boats. So this large British colonial ship came from Australia, which was at the same time in Bluff Harbour, to investigate the qualities of the New Zealand flax plantations. In particular, to assess its quality and see if it can replace European hemp. I think it shows that despite his isolation, Bluff has always been connected to the rest of the world. »

A few years later, British ships would come this time with the first European settlers. Traders, whalers and even fishermen join the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, in this region so rich in natural resources.

It is the closest port to a great convergent zone, and is one of the only places in the world where the cold waters of Antarctica and the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean mix and provide a very productive sea. There is certainly much wind and rain, which is not hospitable to men. But there are a large number of whales, seals and fish. These marine resources are here in large numbers. So this rich environment attracts people, first the Polynesians and then the first wave of Europeans who are mostly whalers. Bluff is one of those places in the world where nature guides, in a sense, human culture. »

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From this culture was born one of New Zealand’s treasures: Foveaux Strait oysters. Located between Bluff and Stewart Island, this 150-year-old oyster farm is one of the last natural oyster beds in the world. Between March and August, Graeme Wright and his teams harvest more than a million clams each year. Here, there is no beach spawning, but a fleet of eight boats.

The depth of the oysters varies between 30 and 50 metres. Harvesting can only be done by raking and it always depends on the weather. We often have southerly storms with 6-10m waves, but also high tide, because it is a very small strait, not to mention the southerly winds in this part of the world, so it is not always accessible! But it’s those deep, gushing Antarctic waters, nutrient-rich waters, that make our oysters so unique. Unique. Just like the emotion that captures us when leaving the Bluff. A bustling port full of life but far removed from the rest of the world. The last civilization before the first ice floe and the frigid desert of Antarctica.

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