March 30

Once a booming fishing town, Kaikoura now relies on tourism based on the marine life. Humpback whales, dusky dolphins and fur seals can be viewed from boats and sometimes from the shore. Crayfish are still a viable harvest; the town hall was designed to resemble a crayfish trap.

Seal on the boardwalk

Seals on the rocks and in the water near the boat where snorkelers are hoping to swim with them.

Evidence of the damage caused by the 2016 earthquake is described in detail in the local museum. Occurring at midnight, it sent shock waves northwards towards the North Island and out to the Pacific

The coastline was lifted up to 9 metres in some areas. State highway #1 and the rail line along much of the coast were destroyed by rockslides, cutting off the town. Provisions usually shipped by rail were no longer available. Travel connections to the rest of NZ now depended on boat and helicopter. Townsfolk and travellers had to be fed and housed. Tourists were stranded and were slowly evacuated by air or sea. The town become a parking lot for rental vehicles as RVs and cars were abandoned with keys in ignitions, until the road was restored and companies could claim their vehicles. Stories of the stress, uncertainty, hardship and ingenuity are recounted in first person interviews in video clips.

Even now, a couple of years later, reconstruction continues with crews working to stabilize the cliffs over the road and the shore line below. Rail service was reinstated in November between Christchurch and Picton.

Walking path at the base of the cliffs at sea level and along the top of the headland

Town clock with Maori panel honouring the town’s heritage

A shopping area created with shipping containers is still in use.

Whale bones along a walking path recall past connections with the sea.

Monarch caterpillars

Quilt depicting the earthquake; bottom rows shows the marine life exposed by the upheaval and left to rot in the weeks that followed. The stench was overwhelming.

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