The Mercury Bay Historical Society held another of its’ increasingly popular coffee mornings at the Lost Spring late in May. Long-time Opito resident, Sue Edens, intrigued the assembled history buffs with stories of her early life on the family farm at Opito, including the history of Sarah’s Gully which lies between Opito and Otama and can just be glimpsed down from the road between the two bays. This was named after an old Maori woman who lived there on her own with her pet pig around the end of the 1890’s. She used to regularly walk over to Kuaotunu every couple of weeks to get supplies and would help some of the local residents with their chores. Sue recalls the story that she was told of this poor woman’s subsequent death on her own in the hut. The tragic part of this was that when her body was eventually discovered, it turned out she had died inside the hut and eventually been eaten by the starving pig!
Sarah’s Gully remains an important archaeological site with many excavations carried out starting from 1956-60. Discoveries include evidence of prolonged early settlement with abundant moa bones, human skeletons and evidence of at least six periods of habitation, only the top four of which Sue mentions have been reliably linked to early Maori.
The nearby Tahanga Quarry at the far end of Opito, on land now owned by the Vela family, was the site of a very important basalt mining operation from which extremely high quality adzes and other tools were fashioned. Sue remembers two metre high piles of worked material being common around that site when she was a child. The Tahanga adzes were obviously of exceptional quality as they were very widely traded amongst the early Maori and can be found in many museum collections throughout New Zealand.
The next Coffee morning for the Historical Society at The Lost Spring is Thursday, 22 June the shortest day of the year. Topic is ….
Caption: From Kapanga basalt quarry overlooking Opito Bay and beyond.