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Crossing the Orongorongo River - 1951

This was a bosun’s chair suspended from a cable about 60 feet above the river bed.

Trampers could haul themselves about 300 feet from Black Whare to the other side of the river bed.

Except in an extreme emergency this method of crossing the Orongorongo river was not recommended for unaccompanied trampers. In the best of conditions, good physical strength was needed to make the crossing. The person in the bosun’s chair had to haul not only their own weight but that of their pack and more than500 feet of heavy rope.

Starting from either end of the trapeze, the bosun’s chair ran freely downhill until it reached the centre of the sagging cable. The free run was followed by a steep uphill haul, which was thought to be beyond the capabilities of many trampers. If alone, a person would have had considerable difficulty in getting to the other side of the river.

The cableway was built in memorial to Donald Dement who drowned when attempting to cross the river in flood conditions at about 11.30 pm on June 2nd 1951.

It was built by two sailors Terrence Quincey and Neil Regnaud who volunteered their time. It took a fortnight to build and used 101 yards of wire and 60 feet of rope, which was transported up the river bed by the Department of Internal Affairs. Shingle-filled drums weighing 2 tons were used to anchor the cable on the Black Whare side of the river. They were hoisted into position with great difficulty and only after a rough crane had been built.

It was noted that the cableway was out up without consulting any of the Wellington tramping clubs whose combined experience would have most certainly conceived a better structure.

The total cost was the equivalent of $90, and at the date of the article, donations had reached the equivalent of $30.

“Latest method of crossing of the Orongorongo River”, Newspaper report, Christmas 1951. Recorded in The Five Miler, No. 26, August 2004

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