Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 21, 1888
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4. “Notes on Te Karamea Bluff,” by Captain G. Mair.


Te Karamea Bluff is about a mile and a half south of Motuokura or Bare Island, and south of Cape Kidnappers some ten miles. It projects into the sea about 120 yards, and is joined to the mainland by a razor-back ridge of white marl, some 20ft. or 30ft. high and half the thickness. The highest part of the bluff is close on 100ft. It is formed of crumbling stone of every conceivable colour, red and chrome predominating. The whole mass appears to be resting on and slipping to seaward from a layer of marl. No other similar formation exists in the district, except in a small valley running parallel to the coast about a quarter of a mile west of the bluff, where there is a mound of the same material, about the size of a large haystack, cropping out on the hill-side. This place was formerly a refuge for the native tribes during war-time, as it is almost inaccessible. About 1828–30 a war-party of Ngatihoatua, from the Thames, under Takurua, who was afterwards killed at Kaipaki by Te Waharoa, laid siege to Te Karamea. The besieged were unable to lay in a store of food and water, and sustained themselves for a considerable time by occasionally lowering the most venturesome of their number into the sea at the outer end, who would collect limpets and seaweed from the rocks, and be drawn up the cliffs by ropes. Eventually they became so emaciated from want of food that the pa was taken, and a great massacre took place. The spot is now very sacred in the estimation of the natives living in the district. They had a whaling-station near by a few years ago, and a good boat-landing exists on the north or east side, according to the wind.

Mr. McKay said he was pleased that the paper had been read, more especially as it was evident the writer was unaware that a discussion on the true position of the red rocks had taken place; and yet the paper and sketch made it quite clear that these overlie the marl and greensand-beds of the isthmus and mainland. The evidence given in the paper was thus in agreement with what he himself reported in 1875, and again in 1886, and in no sense bore out the contention put forward by Professor Hutton that the rocks of Red Island—Te Karamea Bluff—are of palæozoic age, and are referable to the Rimutaka series.