No settlement in New Zealand can claim a past as colourful and chequered as that of Kororareka in the Bay of Islands, later to become Russell. In the 1830s it was such a wild place that it earned the name 'hellhole of the Pacific'. Whalers, sealers, escaped convicts, seamen and adventurers descended on the little Maori village. Drunkenness, debauchery, grog shops and the oldest profession proliferated. At one stage the town was said to be harbouring 'a greater number of rogues than any other spot of equal size in the universe.' New Zealand's first duel with pistols was fought on the beach, and our first police force was established there. Punishment such as tarring and feathering was meted out to wrongdoers. The missionaries were shocked. Charles Darwin visited the town in the 'Beagle' and hated the place. Later, from the ashes of the town after it had been destroyed by a Britich warchip, rose the gentle tourist trap of modern day Russell.
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