South Cape
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tuia250_south-cape-whiore

South Cape on the south coast of Stewart IslandNew Zealand. It is the southernmost point on Stewart Island. South Cape is one of the 4 New Zealand Cardinal Capes named by James Cook, Commander of the Endeavour in the 1769-70 voyage.

 

Cook originally charted Stewart Island as a peninsula attached to the South Island of New Zealand and named South Cape “Cape South”. The other Cardinal Capes being named at the time by Cook were North CapeCape East & West Cape.

Captain-James-Cook-Pocket-Square_1

Cook and those on board the HMB Endeavour had been sent south to prove or disprove the theory of a great southern continent. From the journals of those on board, naturalist Joseph Banks appears to have held on to the idea the longest. As the Endeavour sailed along the south-eastern coast of the South Island [Te Waipounamu] and down to Stewart Island/Rakiura, Banks recorded the ongoing debates between the ‘no continents’ and the ‘continents’, although he admits that the latter group contained himself and ‘one poor midshipman’(link is external) while ‘the rest begin to sigh for roast beef’(link is external) and wished to head home.

 

Throughout early March 1770, his journal records brief hope that a continent might be there, only for those hopes to be dashed. On 6 March(link is external), he said the land stretched so far to the south, that men began to believe there might be a continent after all. But three days later(link is external), a large swell from the southwest began to disprove this theory. On 10 March, the wind blew them around a point of land ‘to the total demolition of our aerial fabrick [called] continent’(link is external).

 

As the Endeavour rounded the South Cape (so named by Cook) and headed up the west coast of Stewart Island/Rakiura, the idea that New Zealand might be a continent was finally dispelled.

 

The Ngāi Tahu Kā Huru Manu online atlas(link is external) states South Cape was traditionally known as Ōpēhia and Whiore, with Ōpēhia also being the Māori name for nearby Nicholson Harbour.

 

In 1998, Whiore was restored to the official dual name as part of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act. It is now officially South Cape/Whiore.

 

wavestats

The Southern Ocean is a unique ocean basin and is the least studied despite occupying 22 percent of the global ocean area. The persistent and energetic wind conditions here create enormous fetch for wave growth, making the Southern Ocean the engine room for generating swell waves that then propagate throughout the planet – indeed surfers in California can expect energy from this storm to arrive at their shores in about a week’s time.

 

The monster wave was the perfect example of waves generated by the easterly passage of a deep low pressure system with wind speeds above 120kmh.

 

It was particularly interesting that the speed of this week’s storm appeared to match the wave speed allowing wave heights to grow dramatically as the system tracks eastward.

 

Reasons for thinking the measured wave wasn’t actually the biggest during the storm included the wave forecast, which showed larger wave conditions just north of the buoy location.