Tag Archives: Golden Bay

Smoke and sand

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Steijle Hoek

Gilsemans’s coastal survey of ‘Steijle Hoek’ and the land to its North and South

From their anchorage at Nine Mile Beach, Tasman had moved out to sea at the first opportunity, and then headed North.

They spent the rest of the day and night moving across the Karamea Bight, towards “Steijle Hoek (Sharp Point) where the line of the Coast turns from North-South to Southwest-Northeast.

The weather was calm and they drifted very slowly, but by evening they had rounded the point. Beyond there the prospect changed and at sunset the farthest land they could then see was away to their East and slightly North.

“we found the furthest point of the land that we could see to bear from us east by north, the land falling off so abruptly there that we did not doubt that this was the farthest extremity.”

Steijle Hoek

Tasman’s progress, December 16th to dawn on December 17th

The visible coast extended to Cape Farewell, but beyond that they could see nothing (Cape Farewell is so named because this is where Cook bade New Zealand Farewell).

Of significance here is the comment “we did not doubt that this was the farthest extremity.” Their understanding was that they had come upon an unknown coast, and had then followed that coast to its northern extremity. Their belief was that beyond this point was the open ocean once again.

This understanding, that south of this point was land, and north of this point was ocean, underpinned a key decision that was made three days later.

They were sailing in the night in fickle breezes that moved from South-West to South, but in the early hours of the morning the wind firmed. This gave them another problem. With the wind from the South and South by East they could no longer sail close enough to the wind to stay with the coast, and they were moving away from it to the north.

Finally, in the early hours of the morning the wind firmed from the south-east and they were able to turn back towards land on a South-West course.

“In the second glass of the day-watch we got a breeze from the south-east, upon which we tacked for the shore again.”

Cape Farewell

Gilseman’s drawing of Cape Farewell, Farewell spit, and the hills behind Golden Bay

With the light of day they saw that they were close inshore… and they saw something else.

“In the morning at sunrise we were about one mile from the shore; in various places we saw smoke ascending from fires made by the natives”

With the dawn they saw their first signs of people in New Zealand… smoke.

On board the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen there was no doubt a resurgence of speculation about the nature of the people. The Great South Land was rumoured to be filled with monsters and savages, and their own experience was that the last land they visited had been peopled by Giants.

Tasman’s location at the time he saw smoke is known quite precisely. He was 7.4km (one ‘myle’) off the coast at Cape Farewell, or to the east; it is only 6 km from Cape Farewell to where the land ends and the sand spit begins. He was along that 6 km length, closer to the Cape than further away from it, as Tasman saw smoke rising from land before he recorded seeing the sand dunes of the spit.

Position at anchor at sunset on December 17th

Position at anchor at sunset on December 17th

The cliff tops around Cape Farewell have commanding views of the coast at the northern tip of the South Island, but people did not live there. People lived near fresh water, and in Golden Bay Maori settlement was located at the river mouths.

There was only one reason for someone to be on those coastal cliff tops at dawn, and that was to watch.

The location was strategic for 3 reasons; this location controlled access to the West Coast… the source of valuable Pounamu, attacks coming from Taranaki could be seen from here, and an observer in this position could give good warning of anyone approaching from that direction; any potential attacker still had to negotiate the 25km long sand spit.

Tasman saw smoke ‘in several places’ from his location at dawn, and this meant only one thing. They had been seen.

The signal fires were lit at dawn, and the whole of Mohua was alerted to the presence of danger.

Inside the Bay people began mobilising.

Visscher's map of New Zealand as at 17th December

Visscher’s map of New Zealand as at 17th December

By the end of that day, Tasman’s ships had only advanced the length of the sand spit, and still lay on the ocean side. They sat becalmed, but not idle. The harbour beyond looked attractive. It was wide but sheltered; and it offered the prospect of a secure anchorage where they could take on fresh supplies of water and firewood. It is not mentioned in the journal, but they must have put out one or more of their small boats to sound the depth at the end of the spit.

“to eastward of this narrow sandspit there is a sandbank upwards of a mile in length with 6, 7, 8 and 9 feet of water above it, and projecting east-south-east from the said point.”

At sunset on December 17th, 1642, The Heemskerck and the Zeehaen sat at anchor in 17 fathoms, on the ocean side of Farewell Spit, 4 km from its tip.

Looking along Farewell spit from the hilltop path

Looking along Farewell spit from the hilltop path running between the Spit and Cape Farewell. From this position Tasman’s ships would have been visible from sunrise to sunset.

They had spent the whole day in sight of their watchers.

The complete journal entry for December 16th, 1642:

At six glasses before the day we took soundings in 60 fathom anchoring-ground. The northernmost point we had in sight then bore from us north-east by east, at three myles distance, and the nearest land lay south-east of us at 1 and a half myles distance. We drifted in a calm, with good weather and smooth water; at noon Latitude observed 40° 58′, average Longitude 189° 54′; course kept north-north-east, sailed 11 myles; we drifted in a calm the whole afternoon; in the evening at sunset we had 9° 23′ increasing North-East variation; the wind then went round to south-west with a freshening breeze; we found the furthest point of the land that we could see to bear from us east by north, the land falling off so abruptly there that we did not doubt that this was the farthest extremity. We now convened our council with the second mates, with whom we resolved to run north-east and east-north-east till the end of the first watch, and then to sail near the wind, wind and weather not changing, as may in extenso be seen from this days resolution. During the night in the sixth glass it fell calm again so that we stuck to the east-north-east course; although in the fifth glass of the dog-watch, we had the point we had seen in the evening, south-east of us, we could not sail higher than east-north-east slightly easterly owing to the sharpness of the wind; in the first watch we took soundings once, and a second time in the dog-watch, in 60 fathom, clean, grey sand. In the second glass of the day-watch we got a breeze from the south-east, upon which we tacked for the shore again.

The complete journal entry for December 17th, 1642:

In the morning at sunrise we were about one mile from the shore; in various places we saw smoke ascending from fires made by the natives; the wind then being south and blowing from the land we again tacked to eastward. At noon Latitude estimated 40° 31′, Longitude 190° 47′; course kept north-east by east, sailed 12 myles; in the afternoon the wind being west we held our course east by south along a low-lying shore with dunes in good dry weather; we sounded in 30 fathom, black sand, so that by night one had better approach this land aforesaid, sounding; we then made for this sandy point until we got in 17 fathom, where we cast anchor at sunset owing to a calm, when we had the northern extremity of this dry sandspit west by north of us; also high land extending to east by south; the point of the reef south-east of us; here inside this point or narrow sandspit we saw a large open bay upward of 3 or 4 myles wide; to eastward of this narrow sandspit there is a sandbank upwards of a mile in length with 6, 7, 8 and 9 feet of water above it, and projecting east-south-east from the said point. In the evening we had 9° North-East variation.

Mohua

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Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to the South Island

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to the South Island

Diary. To Arapaoa

We sailed down the coast, always close enough to see it, but well clear of the reefs and breakers. Where we were going we would should never be out of sight of land.

As we went south, we kept the main land on our left and headed to the gap between the land and the big island they call Kapiti. Past kapiti we could see high land to the south west. That was where we were going.

We kept going until this land was to our west and then turned to it. It wasn’t too far across, but we had been warned to be careful. The water between the main land and Te Tau Ihu could be very dangerous. It was called ‘Te Moana-a-Raukawa’.

It would only take a few hours to cross, but the water could get very rough with a strong current, and the weather could change quickly, taking all land from sight and sweeping us away.

The men said it was a good day to cross, and soon enough we were looking up at steep tree covered hills and along a rocky shoreline. We sailed on for a while along a narrow passage, before seeing a good landing place where we beached the boats.

The men scouted the land while we prepared food.

We unwrapped and dried our Kumara, then carefully re-wrapped it. They still looked good. The weather here is warm, and there is plenty of sheltered north facing land. Soon we will burn some fields and plant the seeds.

We have found that we are on a big island, Arapaoa. The land beyond is very big indeed.

The earliest settlers in the top of the South Island were the Hāwea and Waitaha, and they had their roots in antiquity, counting the ‘fairy people’; Tūtūmaiao, Maeroro, Tūrehu, and Patupaiarehe among their ancestors.

The Ngati Mamoe, another Kurahaupo group left Heretaunga and settled the northern areas of Te Tau Ihu beginning a slow migration drift south for these original peoples. They were displaced by incoming tribes.

First came the Ngāti Wairangi, from the Whanganui district, who lived in western Mōhua. Then came the Kurahaupo people; first the Ngati Mamoe, then Ngai Tara, Ngati Tumatakokiri, and Rangitane. At each new wave of settlement the original tribes were pushed further south.

Tribes from the North Island were attracted to this region because of its minerals such as Argillite, and Pounamu, premium resources for tools and weapons. The area was also rich with local foods; seafood, sea birds, water fowl, eels and up the rivers; moa.

The history of the top of the South Island reveals a continuous series of invasions from tribes from the North.

Not all tribes were completely displaced. The Ngāti Kuia remained and integrated with successive immigrant groups; Ngāti Wairangi, the Ngāti Kopia, the Ngāti Haua, the Ngāi Tawake, the Ngāti Whakamana, the Ngā Te Heiwi and the Ngāti Tumatakokiri.

Diary. Leaving Arapaoa

We have stayed here a long time but must move on. Our cousins the Ngai Tara claim this land is their Rohe, and we are not strong enough to fight them for it. To the east are our other cousins from the Kurahaupo, the Rangitane… so we will go west. There are only a few people there. Some are Ngati Mamoe, also of the Kurahaupo and Heretaunga, and there are some others. The Waitaha have been there longer.

There is plenty of room for us there, and we are many and strong. There is a big bay there called Mohua that has good kai moana, it is warm with a fertile plain behind it and beyond that are big forests full of moa.

In Mohua we will have the fruits of the sea, and good land for our crops. It will be a good place.

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to Mohua (Golden Bay)

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to Mohua (Golden Bay)

The Ngai Tara had held some presence in the Marlborough sounds from soon after their arrival in Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour); it was close, and lay in plain sight of their southern coast.

Over time they asserted their occupation right over the Ngati Tumatakokiri, and this appears to have been resolved without conflict. There is no record of fighting between the Ngati Tumatakokiri and either Ngai Tara or Rangitane; indeed they all acted together against enemies in the Blenheim area.

Our understanding of the timeline for the migration of the Ngati Tumatakokiri is in some respects incomplete. We don’t know exactly when they left the Taupo area, descended the River Road and moved on to the Marlborough sounds. Nor do we know how long they stayed at Arapaoa before moving to Mohua (Golden Bay).

We do however know that they were firmly established in Mohua in the Sixteenth century. But they may have been in the region a lot longer.

A drawing by Isaac Gilsemans, on the Zeehaen, shows Maori boats in Golden Bay; one in significant detail. These were double hulled vessels in the Polynesian tradition. Abel Tasman’s journal text records that two of these multi-hull boats hoisted sails.

These are important details. It shows that the Ngati Tumatakokiri still retained Polynesian sailing knowledge, and still used their boats rigged in pairs on the sea.

If the move between Heretaunga and Whanganui had taken longer than a generation, then this knowledge, and the ability to sail these boats, would have been lost at Taupo; there is no need for ocean sailing skills or technology there. It would not have been practised and therefore couldn’t be passed to the next generation. So the journey from Heretaunga to Whanganui must have occurred within a generation. At least one person who knew how to build and sail multi-hull boats must have reached the west coast, because these skills survived into the 17th century in Golden Bay.

Regarding the time spent in the Marlborough sounds there is another indicator. Tumatakokiri (Whatonga’s son) had a grandson called Nukuwaiata, and this name is memorialised as an island between D’urville Island and Arapaoa.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri could have been at the north of the South Island as early as three generations after the arrival of the Kurahaupo.

Mohua bird

The area ‘Mohua’ takes its name from this bird that was abundant in the top of the South Island until the 19th Century.

Diary. Mohua

Here in Mohua we have a good life. The mountains behind the plains are very high, and shelter us from the bad westerly weather. The bay is full of kai moana, and our Kumara grow well here.

The men used to chase moa out of the forest onto Onetahua (farewell spit) where they were trapped, but now they have to go up the rivers to find them.

There is always great feasting when they return.

Our people are spread out a long way now, south, east and west. They are up the valley, out to the ocean side, south to Katawiri and well beyond. The people in the south visit us by boat, or on foot, as there is a way to the west coast through the mountains.

When they come to trade they bring Pounamu… it is a wonder to look on and very hard. It is better than our pakohe for some things. Our pakohe fractures to a very sharp edge, but it is brittle in comparison to Pounamu and difficult to work. Often, just as the tool is nearly finished the stone will fracture the wrong way, and has to be thrown away.

Pounamu is beautiful and a good stone for working wood, but it takes a long time to grind a good edge.

We trade them Pakohe and Kumara for the green stone. They can’t grow Kumara south of this valley.

Working with Pounamu

From Te Papa. Dante Bonica, an expert in stone tools, demonstrates the shaping and polishing of pounamu. Auckland, July 2009 (Click to run the video).

This video shows Pounamu being worked. It includes demonstrations of the tools used for shaping the stone. These are similar to the tools used for cutting and drilling timber. The video also shows a piece of Argillite being fractured to create a cutting edge.

Rohe of the Ngati Tumatakokiri

Rohe of the Ngati Tumatakokiri

In Golden Bay, the Ngati Tumatakokiri flourished. By the time Abel Tasman arrived, the Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, commanded a huge territory from the north-eastern Tasman Bay, to Cape Farewell, and down the West Coast to beyond Greymouth. Inland their range included the land up the Buller river to Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa and in the south, Lake Brunner.

The Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri were dominant for approximately two hundred years, but around 1810 they eventually fell to attacks from surrounding tribes; Ngāi Tahu from the West Coast, Ngāti Kuia and Rangitāne from the east and Ngāti Apa from the north.

The Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri was finally conquered after battles in the Parapoa Range. The surviving members were either taken into slavery, or dispersed… and with that their oral history was mostly lost.

Glossary:

Onetahua: Farewell Spit, means ‘heaped up sand’.
Te Tau Ihu: The top of the South Island.
Katawiri: Westport.
Pakohe: Argillite, a hard stone that fractures to a sharp edge.
Pounamu: Nephrite jade, also commonly called ‘Greenstone’
Kai moana: Seafood.