Wharekauri literally means “kauri house” and was first used in the 1830s as the name of the Moriori coastal village where some Maori living with Moriori at the time built a house from kauri timber salvaged from the beach. Within a few years the name was applied by Maori to the whole of the Chatham Islands and this usage continues today. In the 1860s Chudleigh’s sheep station took the name and it was also given for all the lands surveyed along the north coast in the 1868-1870s by the Native Land Court.
Attractions on the station include the Heritage New Zealand Category 1 Ponga Whare. The history of the whare dates back to the time when the New Zealand Government decided to use Chatham Island as a penal colony. The second resident magistrate, William Thomas, returned from the mainland in March 1866 with a number of Maori prisoners, together with their wives and children, and a guard of twenty-six men. Further prisoners arrived in April and July that year and the group (about 200) included Te Kooti, who became their leader.
The prisoners built a redoubt, houses and huts, roads and improved the tracks. Later, being peaceful and law-abiding they were allowed to take paid work on the outlying European farms. The Ponga Whare on Wharekauri Station was built in 1867 for the station owner, Edward Chudleigh.
In January 1868 the government withdrew some of the guard and in July Te Kooti and the prisoners took over the redoubt, tied up the guards, seized the trading vessel Rifleman and ordered the crew to take them to the mainland.
At the western end of Wharekauri Beach, Splatter or Taniwha Rock is a most impressive example of the black basalt pillow lavas that erupted from the sea floor. The shape reflects vertical tubular lava cooling and slumping.
Oystercatcher and other seabirds and vegetation can be viewed along the beach. This area has the highest density of breeding pairs of Oystercatchers on the Islands. Pest trapping and monitoring and moving of nests further up the beach if required is undertaken throughout the breeding season to safeguard the chicks.
Sand dune restoration and toetoe planting has also been undertaken to protect the habitat.
Splatter Rock (also known to Moriori as Taniwha Rock)
‘Splatter Rock’ is a fascinating rock formation located at the western end of Wharekauri Beach, and only accessible through private property (Wharekauri Station) on the north coast of Chatham Island,to the east of Cape Young.
It is a basalt lava formation which was erupted into soft sediments on the sea floor about five million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch, in water depths of up to 100 metres. It is remarkable because of its star-shape, with rounded lobes of basalt arranged geometrically about a central tube-like conduit.
The geological interpretation is that a fast moving lava flow burrowed its way with some force, in a more or less horizontal direction, like a jet of high pressure fluid, as in a hose. Fluid lava was squeezed in all directions within the sediment but as soon as it did, the hot lava, at temperatures in excess of 1,000 ⁰ C, was rapidly quenched against the cold water-saturated sediment (less than 10⁰ C), creating a hard solid skin to the flow. Lobate sausage-like structures, referred to in geology as ‘pillow lavas’, formed as the lava kept on being ‘pumped’ in.
The result is a complex of pillow lavas that extend at right-angles to the main horizontal lava tube or conduit. With the subsequent effects of vigorous coastal erosion by the sea, the original soft sediments that hosted the lava flow have been largely eroded away to reveal Splatter Rock in all its 3-D glory.
Another unusual aspect of Splatter Rock is that the basalt is charged with a conspicuous dark brown to black mineral called hornblende. This mineral is rare within basalt and imbues Splatter Rock with extra beauty and mystique.