New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

of that part of the country. As the three brothers kept on struggling, another large piece of land finally popped above the waves and they called it “Te Waka de Maui” (The Canoe of Maui), today the bigger South Island. Little bits and pieces of land continued to rise during their titanic struggle, the largest of these they called “Te Pung a Maui” (Maui’s Anchor) but today we know it as Stewart Island lying to the south of big South Island. The other little land bits that were pulled along after that “anchor” like a lost rope line, they failed to name. But today, they are called the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand. Such is the Maori version of the origin of their home islands: Aotearoa, as they call New Zealand in their language. With great fascination, I learned that modern geologists’ have a theory about the origin of this wonderful place that does not conflict fatally with the Maori version. These scientists deal with plate tectonics rupturing huge land masses occurring 200 million years ago and with powerful under-ocean earthquakes causing sea bottoms to rise. Gondwanaland is the name geologists have given to the supercontinent from which India, Africa, Australia and Antarctica were born. Of course, all the smaller land masses in the Southern Hemisphere also were ripped off this giant continent—including New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and much smaller bits. They postulate that New Zealand was torn away from Gondwanaland about 160 million years ago at a time when much of what would become that country was more like continental shelf than a large island. Over the millennia, more of it sank beneath the ocean and became ocean bottom. Because of all the pushing and pulling of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates and the subsequent earthquakes, synclines (deep trenches), and volcanic eruptions beneath the sea, the many islands forming New Zealand today were forced upwards until they reached sea level and above. Isn’t that rather akin to how Maui hooked the sea bottom and pulled it up above the waves? A further detail in the Maori story concerns the damage that the two elder brothers wreaked on Maui’s “big fish” by trying to hack bits off and gouge deep to obtain the meat. That’s their story to explain the mountains and fjords and plains

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