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Notes on the Geography of New Zealand: Port Chalmers

Thomas Chalmers was one of the leaders of the Free Church of Scotland, sponsor of the New Edinburgh Scheme responsible for the European settlement of Otago in 1848. The pioneer ships, including the Wickliffe and John Laing, landed at this point, midway up the harbor. By 1861, the town's population was only 130, but with the Otago Gold Rush five years later the population spurted to 2,000. Today, the port employs far fewer people than it did when it had dry docks, but it handles a bit over 100,000 containers annually and regularly sees cruise ships.

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New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 1

The view of the outer harbor from above Port Chalmers.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 2

An air photo from the 1950s in the Settler's Museum in Dunedin. Since the photo was taken, the left-side pier has been demolished, and everything to the right of the pier on the right has been filled. Still, the palmate street pattern hasn't changed. Grey Street comes down the hill on the left, George Street comes straight through town from Dunedin, which is 12 miles away, and the old Presbyterian Church stands on Mount Road.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 3

The filled land is now a container port. The cruise ships may be a surprise, but the Queen Elizabeth 2 docked here in 1992, and fleets of buses now ferry cruise-ship passengers to Dunedin.

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Here today, gone tomorrow. Note the log piles at the lower right: another major export.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 5

A closer view of the container terminal; it's operated by Port Otago, Ltd.

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The boxes arrive by train.

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The trains arrive by tunnel--and have done that since 1873.

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Off to the Orient.

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What do dentists say?

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 10

The former Methodists and Congregationalists shut their churches and moved in with the Presbyterians to form the United Church of Port Chalmers. The conveyor handles wood chips. In recent years, about a half dozen ships have filled up annually.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 11

Grey Street is the long one here. The pie-shaped building is the old Municipal Chambers, now the town library. Behind it is the Port Chalmers Hotel, sometimes called the Tunnel Hotel from the railway tunnel just behind it. The library looks toward the stone-colored old Post Office and, across Grey Street, to a former branch of the Bank of New Zealand.

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George Street as it approaches the docks.

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The view the other way.

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The old post office is now the town museum. This is where you hit the brakes if you're coming in from Dunedin and don't want to get wet.

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Wall-side memorial.

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on the left is the Port Chalmers (or Tunnel) Hotel; on the right is the library, designed by P.F.M. Burrows of the Public Works Department.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 17

The dark building has been stripped down over the years but began in 1881 as a pharmacy and stayed that way until 1987. More recently, it's become Arleah's collectibles.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 18

This is the former Royal Hotel from 1880, along with stables from 1867. The hotel's arcade was once open, with iron railings overlooking the street. The hotel became the Portside Tavern in 1977 and, later, Christiane's vintage clothes.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 19

A few fine old houses survive farther up the hills.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 20

Another of the bluestone and limestone buildings so popular in Victorian Dunedin.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 21

An especially interesting stone in the town graveyard.

New Zealand: Port Chalmers picture 22

Wow. An understated obituary mentions his "pluck."

See the text at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=ODT18831207.2.46


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