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Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound) Bathymetry; a multibeam MBES hydrographic survey collected by NIWA (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, commissioned and funded through a partnership between LINZ (Land Information New Zealand) and MDC (the Marlborough District Council).

Warming Seas - Warning Seas;

November 2020

Ngāwhatu-kai-ponu (The Brothers) are a series of Islands located in Te Moana-o-Raukawa (Cook Strait) at the northern entrance to Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound).  Their name, Ngāwhatu-kai-ponu translates into English as the 'eyes that witnessed' and refers to the eyeballs from the giant wheke or octopus fought by the navigator Kupe.


Kupe traveled from the island of Hawaiiki across the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of a giant octopus, Te Wheke o Muturangi, who was stealing the bait from Kupe's hooks as he tried to fish.  He pursued the octopus across the Pacific Ocean until finally, one-morning, Hine-te-Aparangi, also aboard the waka, saw a long cloud in the distance, a sign that land was close.  Hine-te-Aparangi named the land, Aotearoa - land of the long white cloud.  Hine-te-Aparangi, Kupe, and the whole whānau were amazed by the beauty of the new land they had discovered.  The stories they'd known as children of Maui fishing a great land from the sea were true.

His pursuit ends with him slaying Te Wheke o Muturangi in Whekenui Bay in Te Kura-te-au (Tory Channel) 'the channel red with the blood of the octopus'; the eastern entrance to Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound), and the southern extent of Arapaoa Island; with the octopus's eyes placed on the rocks nearby.  The islands were considered extremely tapu, and when waka crossed Te Moana-o-Raukawa (Cook Strait), only those who had undertaken the journey before were allowed to look at the islands; the first-time paddlers covered their eyes with leaves.

Another theory for Te Wheke-a-Muturangi states that the name actually refers to the many navigation paths centered on Raiatea - the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia - with tentacles reaching out across the Pacific at least as far as the edges of the Polynesian Triangle.


Both these theories or legends centre on the Polynesian settlement of the Pacific Ocean. An ocean that is currently warming. 


NIWA Meteorologist Ben Noll says currently the warmest region is the north of the North Island where ocean temperatures are 1.6 ᵒC above the November monthly average.  In this region, marine heatwave conditions are affecting Northland and northern Auckland’s coastal waters and extend west into the Tasman Sea.


In other areas around the country, sea surface temperatures are between 0.7 to 1.1 ᵒC above average.  “High-pressure systems in October brought more sunshine, warmer temperatures, and less wind than normal.  This pattern led to the warming of the sea surface and prevented cooler water underneath from mixing with the top."


Warming oceans and sea temperatures are also problematic, unsustainable, and catastrophic even, for a major industry in the Marlborough Sounds - Salmon Farming.


In May 2019 New Zealand King Salmon Chief Executive Grant Rosewarne said higher temperatures and fish losses were becoming the norm, "We've been farming for 30 years and of the last seven, five have been our hottest on record.  This is not some ethereal concept for us, it's reality.  Our fish are dying in greater numbers each summer and that's climate change-related." 

The company has long been confined to the Sounds, where it has 17 surface hectares of salmon farms.  However, nine hectares were classed as having "poor" climatic conditions for farming salmon. 

"A lot more is known now about the optimal conditions for farming salmon than when those farms were set up," Rosewarne said.  "We know we need to be farming in deeper, higher-flow water."

Their solution is to create an offshore ocean farm, a 1,800 hectare salmon 'sea range' called Blue Endevour, perhaps in reference to Captain James Cook's ship Endevour, to which it and he played a role in the regions European history.


This potential salmon farm is located 40km north-west of Arapaoa Island and Cape Komaru in the middle of Te Moana-o-Raukawa (Cook Strait). It's sheltered to the west by Rangitoto ke te tonga (D'Urville Island), to the north and east by Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island), and to the south by Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka-a-Māui (Marlborough Sounds / the northern South Island), translated to English as 'the prow of demigod Māui's canoe'.


With the resource consent application currently under review for the Blue Endevour salmon 'sea range', it's worth wondering whether Te Wheke o Muturangi, the great octopus, will once again steal the bait that is the perfect ocean salmon farming spot, disrupting New Zealand King Salmon's fishing prospects.? 


Geography, digital geography has a role to play in the various outcomes of Climate Change, watch this space as new technologies and methodologies evolve in our ever-changing world.

- Matt Couldrey [geoid - digital geography]

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