Before 1983 (known as ‘Year Zero‘ by Axemen devotees in a misguided homage to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge which The Axemen took years to dissociate themselves from [this stemmed from the unfortunately badly misquoted comment by Steve who, having been asked by a women’s Magazine what his favourite make-up was, proclaimed “I like the Estee Lauder Eyeliner, but I love the Garnier Rouge”]), travel between Dunedin and Christchurch was considered difficult and treacherous, mainly due to the continued use of Captain Cook’s long since discredited map showing Chistchurch as an Island and what is now known as the South Island being divided into two Islands, which Cook called the “South Island” and the “Souther Island”.
When Cook first mapped New Zealand in 1964 (just in time to allow it to be added to the Beatles tour) he inadvertantly spilt the coke he was about to snort onto the (still wet) map he had just finished drawing. Being a frugal man not inclined to waste, he snorted a line right through the middle of the South Island (sucking up a part of the Southern Alps along with the snow), and got so wasted he forgot to later draw it in again. Being a rather backward nation at the time and intensely patriotic monarchists for the most part, the kiwis simply accepted that “The Queen’s Esteemed Map Drawer, Fake Captain and Lande Surveyor” could not be wrong, and stopped all road travel between the two “Islands” without even checking whether Cook was right. Such was their intense belief that many families living in the land area known as ‘Cookes Channel’ separating the South and Souther Island were declared ‘missing, presumed drowned’ and were actually believed to be Ghosts or “Channel Spirits” when they appeared in the surrounding towns.
(As an interesting historical footnote, some of these mischievous spirits would take advantage of their newfound status by going into town covered in flour, walking into the pub and scaring off the locals and drinking themselves into oblivion before staggering home the worse for wear; to this day a liquor is distilled in Timaru known as “Cook’s Spirit” with a group of very pale gents depicted on the label and the motto “it’ll turn you white as a ghost.”)
Full-scale travel between the lower reaches and higher echelons of the South Island was not resumed until the late 70s when a small boy wandered across “Cook’s line” which had been roped off by villagers to stop hapless travellers crossing into the area marked by Cook as volatile and highly dangerous seas (even going to the extent of erecting lighthouses on either side).
Once he emerged a couple of days later on the other side, some of the brighter villagers realised Cook’s Channel was a palpable nonsense and, after declaring the whole thing a farce and reopening the road, started the anti-monarchist United Island Republic movement, whose primary goal was (and still is) to break New Zealand away from its ties with the UK Monarchy, and ideally dethrone the British Queen and replace her with a flagpole (See The New Zealand Flagpole Movement).
Posted By Little Stevie McCabe