Do you believe in UFO’s? Here’s something to think about as you make your way through North Canterbury’s dry, dust blown plains and gentle rolling hills, this is UFO country!! In December 1978 there were a series of UFO sightings along this stretch of coast. On 21 December an Argosy aircraft being flown from Dunedin to Wellington by Captains Verne Powel and John Randle reported being paced by a number of unknown objects. Captain Powel, with 28 years flying experience had never seen anything like this previously, the unknown objects appeared as five bright dots on the Wellington Airport radar system. There were a number of sightings made over the next few days and on 30 December a film crew retracing Captain Powel’s and Randle’s flight route caught a number of unknown objects on film. To this day these objects have never been explained. There have been 191 reported UFO sightings in New Zealand.
After the barren hills of North Canterbury the Kaikoura coast is a refreshing change, the drive is littered with rocky outcrops and inlets, kelp forests gently sway in the current whilst the Pacific Ocean crashes through the reefs to the stony beaches that line the route. This is unquestionably some of the most awe-inspiring coastal scenery in New Zealand, perhaps even the world. Dotted along the coastline, amongst the roar of the crashing waves, numerous clans of fur seals bask in the sun and wallow in the thick kelp that fringes the rocky foreshore.
Kaikoura literally translates to meal of crayfish, 900 years after the first inhabitants named this place; it’s still not hard to see why. The sea is bountiful and healthy here; its savage ocean keeps it safe from plunder and demise.
If you haven’t tried crayfish (New Zealand rock lobster) yet, you won’t find a better place. There are roadside ‘cray’ shops that dot the highway, even if you aren’t in to seafood, they provide some pretty cool Kodak moments. If you are a sea food lover, you could well be in heaven. The Kaikoura coast offers some of the best ‘kai moana’ (seafood) in the world; it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s not only people that enjoy the seafood along the coast, a huge variety of marine mammals live along the coastline taking advantage of its bountiful waters. Perhaps Kaikoura’s most famous residents are its populations of dusky dolphins, fur seals and sperm whales.
The sperm whale, named after the oils it contains in its head, is the largest toothed mammal on the planet, weighing up to 70 tons and spanning nearly 60 feet. The sperm whales located around Kaikoura are generally adolescent males. Mum’s kicked them out of home and told them to go look after themselves. They aren’t quite old enough to go chasing girl whales yet either, so they just hang around Kaikoura to eat and entertain visitors. So why do they hang around Kaikoura? Kaikoura is at the southern end of a deep subterranean trench that runs from the Pacific Islands of Tonga all the way to New Zealand.
This abyss is known as the Kaikoura canyon. The current is one of the most nutrient rich waters in the world, here cold and warm waters mix causing the nutrients to upwell just off the coast. Deep below the ocean, some 3km deep in fact, in a world as unexplored and as unknown as the dark side of the moon, lives the giant squid, the sperm whales favourite food. Thousands of metres below the surface natures most titanic battle between predator and prey rages on. These frightening alien like monsters have been reported to grow up to 60 feet long, they have eye’s the size of a human head, the largest of any animal. Some fisherman claim to have seen squid up to 100 ft long, but then again, who’d believe a fisherman about the one that got away!