Writing inspirations – imagining life for settlers in days gone by

The first British settlers to reach the Wellington district in numbers landed on Petone Beach in February 1840, a place seen here in a photo I took before the place was socked in with the permanent rain we’ve had since Easter.

Petone beach, Wellington district.
Petone beach, Wellington district.

In 1840 the beach wasn’t where it is today; the land has been uplifted since by repeated earthquakes, and this specific scene would have been under water. The original beachline is off to the left, out of frame. But we can imagine the moment when the settlers spilled ashore from the colony ships, left to wade the last distance with their gear and equipment, their boxes and suitcases (and a piano) left stacked on the beach below the low-tide mark.

The swampy, rugged landscape they found was a far cry from what they had been promised when they agreed to one-way passage, half a world away. But they made the best of it anyway, and to me, that’s an inspiring thought.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


2 thoughts on “Writing inspirations – imagining life for settlers in days gone by

    1. The primary cause is earthquake uplift. There were major events in 1848 and 1855 that pushed the whole district up – the latter quake was exceptionally violent. It changed the drainage patterns inshore of this picture and pushed the beach well out among other things. The modern road alomg the edge of Wellington harbour runs along another uplift shelf. Other shelves from earlier quakes are still visible further up the valley. Wellington district is basically New Zealand’s fault line central interchange…

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