Thomas Brunner

Thomas Brunner

  Thomas Brunner“THE GREAT JOURNEY”

The Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Interior of the Middle Island of New Zealand, 1846 – 1848

To acquire a better knowledge of the interior of the Middle Island, and especially of the parts more immediately connected with its own district, has always been a subject of much interest to the Nelson settlement. At a very early period it was felt that its future importance must depend upon the amount of available land naturally connected with it; and the success which attended the first efforts to enlarge its boundaries, by which it was put in communication with the Wairau Valley on one side, and with the Takaka and Massacre Bay on the other, led to the hope that some opening might also be found in the rocky barrier which stretches in one great semicircle from Cape Campbell to Cape Farewell, embracing the whole of these districts within it, and sending off from the central and highest part of its range the long mountain ridges which divide them from each other.

Immediately behind this rocky wall, the extensive grassy plains of the East Coast were known to commence, whilst the same mountain chain was believed to extend, without interruption, along the West Coast to the southern extremity of the island. Lying among the snowy mountains of the central portion above mentioned, about fifty miles S.E. from Nelson, the Rotuiti, or Little Lake, was found discharging its waters to the westward; and from the mountains above it, Messrs Heaphy and Christie had looked down upon the plains of Port Cooper. A larger lake, the Rotoroa, was reported to exist not far from the Rotuiti by two of the almost extinct tribe of the Rangitani, the former possessors of the country; and with one of them for our guide, Messrs Fox, Heaphy, and myself, visited it in the beginning of 1846. The details of that expedition have already been published.The waters of the Roturoa Lake, flowing to the N.W., were found to form a considerable river, the Kawatiri, or Buller, even at their outlet; and being soon joined by the river of the Rotuiti, took a great sweep to the south. Instead therefore of following the course of the river, we pushed across the mountains to the westward, and after crossing two valleys, the Tiraumea and Tutaki, came again upon the Buller, about twenty miles from the lake, where it runs for about six miles through a valley called Matukituki. Here, swelled by the addition of the rivers Tiraumea and Tutaki, and also by the junction of a considerable stream, the Matiri, which enters it from a large valley to the northward, nearly opposite the Tutaki, the Buller becomes a river of great size, varying in breadth from one-quarter to one-third of a mile, and again enters the mountain gorges. From this point we retraced our steps to Nelson.

A few weeks after our return I again started with Mr Heaphy to explore the West coast. On that occasion we crossed the mouth of the Kawatiri, which discharges itself into the sea about six miles north of Cape Foulwind, or the Black Reef, and made our way nearly sixty miles further to the southward, to the native settlement, Arahura. The particulars of this trip have been published by Mr Heaphy.

On returning to Nelson it was proposed to me to undertake another expedition, commencing from the furthest point (near Murchison) we had reached on our excursion with Mr Fox, and tracing down the Buller to its mouth; afterwards exploring the country still further south, and ascertaining the practicability of crossing the island in the direction of Otago or Akaroa. Subsequent events caused this proposal to be withdrawn, but having once entertained the idea, I was unwilling to give it up: and Mr Fox kindly allowing me to draw upon him for the necessary outfit, I proceeded to put my intentions into practice. I engaged Ekehu, my previous traveling companion, and a friend of his, Epikewate, who were to receive their outfit, and £s each on our return. I found that they had wives, who insisted on going with them, so I had to incur the additional expense of providing an outfit for them also.

Outfit for Natives, as follows;

£ s. d.
Two pairs of boots 1 16 0
Three ditto of trowsers 1 16 0
Three shirts and two belts 19 6
A blanket, two caps 1 8 0
Two pairs of shoes 1 17 0
Thirty yards of calico 1 0 0
Mending materials 4 6
£ 8 0 6

Ditto for myself, Provisions etc

£ s. d.
Two pairs of boots 1 16 0
Three ditto of trowsers 1 16 0
A strap and four shirts 1 2 0
Four pairs of socks 0 10 0
Two blankets 2 0 0
A shooting coat 1 10 0
£ 8 14 6

Provisions, Necessaries etc


£ s. d.
Expenses to the Motueka 18 0 0
Two guns, shot belt and flask 7 3 0
Poweder, shot and a box of caps 3 7 6
16lbs of tobacco 1 11 8
1 cwt. flour, salt, pepper 0 12 6
Biscuits, tea, sugar and matches 0 15 2
Cooking pots, knives and tomahawk 0 19 0
Small articles 1 8 0
£ 18 0 0
Cash in hand 3 9 0
20 3 10
TOTAL £36 18 4


To meet which I drew on Mr Fox for £30; Mr Tuckett gave Ekehu £2 for his outfit, and the balance I advanced. To get rid at once of the subject of my expenses, I may mention that on my return to Nelson I obtained from Mr Fox the £10 for the natives, which I handed over to them accordingly.

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Courageous Colonials