The Great and misty land

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Kurahaupo progress

The Kurahaupo’s progress across the Pacific Ocean

The people of the Kurahaupo had traveled 3,000 km from Raiatea. With their boat repaired, they set sail again from Rangitahua, on the final ocean leg of their voyage.

The closest land is the North Cape of New Zealand…. 1,000 km to the West-South-West. If their course was good, and the weather fair, they would make that distance in about 10 days.

Diary: The ‘Great and misty land’

”We had been on the ocean over a week when we first saw the land sign. Land was still far off, beyond the horizon, but we could see the signs. In the direction we were sailing there should be nothing… nothing that is except Kupe’s ‘Great and Misty Land’… and now, we were approaching it.”

The next afternoon we saw it… what excitement there was. Ahead and to our right we could see the green of hills… green!. As we sailed the land grew slowly higher. What we could see wasn’t a huge land, like we were expecting, but it was definitely at least a big island. We carried on until dusk, and then lowered our sail. We didn’t want to be cast ashore in the night. We were carried on now only by the current and our wind drift.

The excitement kept us from anything but fitful sleep, but soon we were all wide awake.

We weren’t sure at first, but then it came clearer. We could hear breakers!

The current had carried us far and fast towards the shore… but in the dark we couldn’t see it. Finally we could just make out the faint blur of foam on a beach, and the men jumped to their thwarts, paddles in hand. Working to Pōhurihanga’s commands they turned the prow to the beach, but the current was strong. We were carried along the beach and came to a sudden, cracking stop.

Tom Bowling Bay

Te Huka Bay, with Tom Bowling Bay in the distance. The ‘Kurahaupo Rocks’ are the low lying rocks at the end of the beach.”

We had hit rocks.

We could now see the foam of the surf, it was very close, and very loud. We were nearly in it. A couple of men jumped in the water… they could stand! Then it was all action as we rushed to unload our treasures to the shore.

In the darkness we realised that there were others with us, helping us rescue our possessions from the sea; there were unfamiliar voices among us… strangers.

We stayed there on the beach and huddled for warmth until dawn, and with the light of day we met our rescuers. They are the people of the Te Ngake, and they live here.

We owe a lot to these people who came to our aid. Their sentry above the beach at Tomokanga had raised the alarm, and the villagers had come out in the night… and they had helped us.

We had arrived uninvited and in the darkness, yet they had helped us. We had made no courtesies or introductions, yet they still came to our aid. They had every right to cut us down on the beach as we landed… but they had not.

The Te Ngake made us welcome among them, and we have learned much from them. They have been here a long time, their ancestor Ruatāmore arrived on the waka Taikoria over twenty generations ago. They call this area ‘Te Hiku o Te Ika’, and it is the very northernmost part of the land. Pōhurihanga was correct to call it ‘muriwhenua’. They tell us there is much, more land to the South.

The Kurahaupo is in pieces again, but the men say it can be repaired. The Te Ngake have helped us drag her from the rocks, and up the stream to their village here. The stream is called Waitangi. The men will work on her here.

It is hard to believe that we are here… we have made it. We have finally reached Kupe’s ‘great and misty land’. What has become of those that went on the Aotea and the Mata-atua we do not know, but the rest of us have made it here, and we are all well.

May the Gods be praised.

[ Tom Bowling Bay photograph citation: Rāwiri Taonui. ‘Canoe traditions – Canoes of the northern tide’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 15 Nov-12 URL: ]

Kurahaupo landfall

The Kurahaupo’s landfall at Tom Bowling Bay

As the people of the Kurahaupo reached New Zealand they again met with misadventure, this time hitting rocks in the dark. But their good fortune held, in the darkness they had come ashore on a beach, missing the cliffs arrayed to their left and right. They had hit rocks, but were within wading distance of the shore, and people had come to their aid. On landing, Pōhurihanga declared that they had reached ‘muriwhenua’, ‘the end of the land’.

They were helped by the local tribe, the ‘Te Ngake’, with whom they stayed until the Kurahaupo was repaired, and they were able to move on again. There were already people living where the Kurahaupo made landfall, and these people had been there for 23 generations.

Diary: South

The men have worked well on the Kurahaupo and she can sail again. The binding are again made anew. This time we made the rope from a strong flax that we were shown, it grows in abundance near here.

The people here have been very good to us, but we must move on. We cannot continue to take their food when we can go elsewhere and find our own.

Not all of us are leaving. Pōhurihanga, and some of the others are staying; Pōhurihanga has fallen for a local girl Maieke.

>We are told that there is much, much more land to the south, and that the best way is to follow the Eastern coastline, there is no need for any more ocean passage. They say you can go down the West coast too, but it is stormy and a more dangerous shoreline. So we are going South, by the Eastern coast, to find our new home.

Popoto will lead us now that Pōhurihanga has left the boat.

Departure course

The Kurahaupo’s course from Tom Bowling Bay

When the Kurahupo left, Pōhurihanga stayed in Te Hiku o Te Ika. He married Maieke who was a chiefly duaghter, and became their chief. They had a daughter ‘Muriwhenua’ who later moved south and married Rongokako from the Tākitimu canoe.

‘Muriwhenua’ is still used as the collective name for the six tribes of the Far North: Ngāti Kurī, Ngāi Takoto, Te Pātū, Ngāti Kahu, Te Aupōuri and Te Rarawa.

When Pōhurihanga and Maieke married, and he became chief and two ancestral lines joined. Because of this, the Te Ngake history, and that of the Kurahaupo’s are both remembered. In time the Te Ngake became known as Ngati Kuri, but the account of the Kurahaupo’s arrival was not forgotten due to the link through Pōhurihanga.

The Ngati Kuri remember that the Kurahaupo was damaged at sea, and that it stopped for repairs at ‘Rangitahua’, ‘fire in the sky’. The Te Ngake obviously knew that Raoul Island was volcanic. In the Ngati Kuri account, the Kurahaupo stayed on Rangitahua for some time, and during that time some of the crew joined other vessels. Pōhurihanga fishing net and seal skins were used to repair the damage to the Kurahaupo, after which they were able to sail on.

The Kurahaupo finally made landfall at Te Huka Bay, the beach at the West end of Tom Bowling Bay, thereby completing a total ocean voyage of 4,000 km from Raiatea to New Zealand. They had achieved this without loss of life, in a vessel constructed using entirely stone tools.

Kurahaupo rocks

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The arrival and wreck of the Kurahaupo is not only remembered in the Tribal history of the Ngati Kuri… the Kurahaupo’s presence at North Cape is recorded to this day on New Zealand’s Topographic maps.

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