Topic: Beach of Bliss: Centre Island (Raroroka) by Lois Ann Fox

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Lois Ann Fox's entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition focuses on Centre Island, a remote Lighthouse Station.

Archived version here.

Remembering Centre Island triggers memories anew. Its’ beaches of multi-coloured pebbles, drenched by spray from the Southern ocean are forever etched in my heart. The inhaling of tangy, salt laden, sea breezes recalls days of bliss from the 1950’s.

As a child of nine I gathered shells and seaweeds for my ever growing collection. On this remote Lighthouse Station where I lived for three years with my family of Light-house Keepers, the beach drew me with its’ magic. Various shaped shells dredged by storms from the depth of Foveaux Strait, were strewn along the shoreline.

At the base of the cliffs, rock pools, contained myriad forms of marine life. Spiny sea urchins or Kina, and clusters of Paua clung to the underside huge boulders. Dark green Star-fish, and blood red Brittle Stars scuttled across the sand, tiny spotted fish darted and swam between the kelp strands. Groups of gold and scarlet sea anemones coated the rocky ledges waving frilled tentacles in the swirling current.

On the sheltered pebble banks the Black Capped Terns nested, laying their two speckled eggs, cleverly camouflaged.

Little Blue penguins nested occupying burrows deep in the fern banks, vacated by seasonal, visiting Mutton-birds.

The summer season brought dolphins and the occasional seal to romp in the waves.  One of the two sand beaches, where we played beach cricket with balls of kelp, and swam in the summer, was also known as ‘the landing beach’. Every two weeks the Stewart Island ferry ‘MV Wairua’ would stop offshore. The lighthouse keepers would row a sturdy, ribbed, boat out through the surf ‘dumper’ waves to meet it, and bring ashore a load of stores and mail. A day filled with delight. No Correspondence School lessons were completed on ‘mail day’. The ‘N.Z Post’ Mail-bag tipped out comics, library books, Correspondence School Lessons, letters and newspapers from the ‘mainland’.

During the years I spent on Centre Island in isolation, with only radio-telephone contact to Awarua Marine Radio, and no motor transport, a medical emergency could be life- threatening situation. Realising the danger, after an ill patient was transported via surf-boat and ferry to Kew Hospital, the island community of three Keepers and their families contacted the of The Southern Aero Club.

In the resulting weeks, alongside the beach, an air-strip was hewn, necessitating the removal of large tussock clumps, and damp bog land drained. A windsock made from flour- bags was sewn together by the Light-house Keepers wives and attached to a pole above the adjacent boat-house. This daunting task, hewing an air-strip from the rough land, was achieved by the Lighthouse keepers and their families without the use of tractors or heavy machinery. The work was achieved with wheel-barrows, pick and shovel and sheer enthusiasm!

The first air-craft to land were Tiger-Moths planes, followed in time by small cabin air-craft.

 We enjoyed wrapping up in padded jackets, leather helmets and goggles, to soar across the expanse of Foveaux Strait to Invercargill Air-port, my brother and I strapped into the forward cockpit together! I can still envisage the thrill of the whirring propeller and breeze blowing against our faces!

The Tiger-moths flew onto the island landing strip, enabling access for medical emergency, shopping visits to Invercargill, and holidays to visit family and friends. The landing strip removed Centre Island’s Lighthouse families Isolation bringing freedom and peace of mind.

Centre Island (Rarotoka) 1950s was my home for three years. ‘Beach of Bliss’ memories are strung like jewels around my heart.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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Beach of Bliss: Centre Island (Raroroka) by Lois Ann Fox


Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -46.5893332,168.06289229999993

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Beach of Bliss: Centre Island (Raroroka) by Lois Ann Fox by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License