Māori legend and science align.

Standing above Deep Bay affords you a grand view towards the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. It's a place where you can imagine the legend of the capsized canoe.

The drowned prow of a great waka, belonging to Māori gods of an ancient heaven, formed the Marlborough Sounds. This is the legend that emerges from the mists of distant time. So long was the journey and so far were the paddlers from their source of power, that they were trapped on earth. A fierce storm capsized their vessel. Its beautiful, intricately carved prow shattered and partially sank to form the waterways and islands we know today as the Marlborough Sounds.

Science aligns with Māori legend. The Marlborough Sounds are not only intricate land and water forms. They are unique in New Zealand. They are the only large area in New Zealand that is sinking, and not rising from the seas. A continuation of the Richmond range of mountains to the south, the Marlborough Sounds have been tipped into the ocean.

The shape and geology of the Sounds was formed some 280 million years ago. Massive tectonic forces twisted, raised, lowered, shifted and shattered rock. Erosion created more change followed by a massive tidal increase after the last ice age 12,000 years ago, creating the 'drowned valley' system of the Sounds. To add to the drama, the Sounds lie on the western side of the Alpine Fault, a major plate boundary of the earth's crust that divides New Zealand. The Sounds move slowly northwards and are also slowly faulting downwards into the sea.

Some legends speak of the Marlborough Sounds as being the giant weke/octopus that the great Māori navigator Kupe killed while in Cook Strait/Raukawa Moana. Some say the octopus grasped the land with its tentacles and this formed the typically intricate shapes of water and land we know today.

Looking north over Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui and Tory Channel/Kura Te Au.
Looking north over Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui and Tory Channel/Kura Te Au
Image: Lloyd Homer ©

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