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For nigh on 170 years Fyffe House has looked out across the bay to the towering Kaikoura ranges.

Gallery: Fyffe House

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Fyffe House with the Kaikoura ranges in the background

It’s peaceful now but in the 1840s the beach and bay presented a scene of slaughter as right whales, mainly females and calves sheltering in the bay, were harpooned and brought ashore to Robert Fyfe’s whaling station (yes, one ‘f’ – the house was later named after his cousin George Fyffe). The original 2 roomed cottage sits on whale vertebrae, readily available on the bone-littered beach. It was used in preference to timber which was scarce.

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Whale vertebrae pile

Fyffe House is now a New Zealand Historic Places Trust category 1 property curated by Ann McCaw. The place reflects the hardships endured by the families who would use anything that came to hand to make their lives more comfortable.

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Ann loves its oddities: the cupboards lined with flattened kerosene tins, the kitchen beams fashioned from shipwreck timber, ballast from the wreck of the Hannah which insulates the walls. Curator Ann McCaw shows Spectrum’s Jack Perkins around Fyffe House and on the way they meet local Runanga chairman Maurice Manawatu.

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Curator Ann McCaw with Runanga chairman Maurice Manawatu

Jack Perkins also talks with Julie Syme, friend and helper of the last owner of Fyffe House, recluse George Goodall.

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Julie Syme