Tag Archives: Maori

Blood on the water

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The Heemskerck and Zeehaen at anchor in Golden Bay

The Heemskerck and Zeehaen at anchor in Golden Bay

On the morning of December 19th, 1642, Abel Tasman was sat at anchor in Golden Bay, with his two ships, the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen.

At first light a native boat had come out to them, stayed a while and then gone away. They had showed some of their trading goods to the natives, but the south-landers had shown no interest.

From the land, the Chief had gone out with one of the boats to have a closer look at the enemy. So far, they had only been up close in the dark. Now he had looked in their eyes, he and he had measured their strength. He had demanded that they explain themselves, but had received no satisfaction.

The Maori were extremely wary of visitors.

When they saw strangers, they didn’t know if they were friend or foe, and they assumed the latter. They were foe until they accounted for themselves satisfactorily and were given permission to stay.

The residents had all rights, the visitors had none.

There were strict protocols about how to approach when entering someone else’s territory. If they did not observe these protocols, or did not observe them properly, then they were a danger, and the resident Maori would not wait for them to strike first.

The Maori observed the precautionary principal… A dead stranger can’t hurt you.

Anyone who was not up to mischief would have explained who they were, and what their purpose was. These strangers hadn’t done that.

Tasman had not observed the proper protocols.

The strangers had come uninvited, they had not said who they were, they had not asked if they could stay, and they stayed un-bidden.

Now, it was his duty, Chief of the Ngati Tumatakokiri, to protect his people, and teach the strangers some manners.

Early morning, Dec 19th 1642, Golden Bay, New Zealand

Tasman’s Journal
“Early in the morning a boat manned with 13 natives approached to about a stone’s cast from our ships; they called out several times but we did not understand them, …
                         … They did not come nearer, however, but at last paddled back to shore.”

“In the meanwhile, at our summons sent the previous evening, the officers of the Zeehaan came on board of us, upon which we convened a council and resolved to go as near the shore as we could, since there was good anchoring-ground here, and these people apparently sought our friendship.”

Diary: Taupo Pa
It was still early when we assembled on the shore. The Tohunga spoke a karakia over us, our weapons, and our boats. Then we took our positions and paddled from the beach.

We went in nine good boats. Of all out boats, these were the best for fighting from; steady and fast. I was in the biggest of them, with 16 paddlers and the steersman. I was as strong a paddler as most of the men, and was proud to be given a place in the crew.

“Shortly after we had drawn up this resolution we saw 7 more boats put off from the shore, one of which (high and pointed in front, manned with 17 natives) paddled round behind the Zeehaan while another, with 13 able-bodied men in her, approached to within half a stone’s throw of our ship; the men in these two boats now and then called out to each other; we held up and showed them as before white linens, etc., but they remained where they were.”

As we got closer to the ships we separated and stood singly. Each of the big ships had one small boat, but when we arrived both were tied to the ship with the higher pointed stern. The Chief said this should be the ship of their chief, and took his position there. We moved our waka to the far side of the ship with the fat stern, and the others placed themselves around evenly.

At some time, the strangers would take a small boat back to the other ship… and when they did, we would be ready.

The strangers on both ships were shouting and waving things at us, but the Chief called out for us to ignore that, and hold our positions.

All the officers of both ships were on the Heemskerck. A Ships Council had been convened to agree and record what to do next. They had decided that they would move closer ashore; it was good anchoring ground in a safe harbour, and they could re-stock their supplies here.

With all the officers of the Zeehaen at the Ship’s Council, the Zeehaen was left without any senior command, so they sent instructions across to the crew on the Zeehaen.

At this stage, Tasman’s party still believed that there was no threat from the Maori. Tasman wrote that “these people apparently sought our friendship”, and the Sailors Journal recorded the same sentiment; “nine ships, full of people, came from the land, we thought came to us to make peace”.

They were gravely mistaken.

“The skipper of the Zeehaan now sent out to them his quartermaster with her Cock-boat with six paddlers in it, with orders for the second mates that, if these people should offer to come alongside the Zeehaan, they should not allow too many of them on board of her, but use great caution and be well on their guard.”

In the Zeehaen’s Cock-boat were the Quartermaster from the Zeehaen, the Gunner from the Heemskerck and five others. There is no indication in the journal texts, or in Gilsemans’ drawing, that they were armed any way, and their is no suggestion anywhere that any of the occupants of this boat were soldiers.

After some time we heard the Chief calling.

One of the small boats was loading,
… he could see no weapons
… just paddles
… there were only seven of them.

Be ready; wait for the signal.

We could barely believe these strangers could be so stupid. While they stayed on their ships we couldn’t get to them, and they were safe. But when they were on the open water they were assailable. And according to the chief, there were only a few of them, and armed only with their clumsy paddles.

We sat quiet in the water, poised for the command.

The small boat moved off coming towards our ship. It moved very slowly. We waited in silence, waiting for the signal.

Then we heard calling from the chiefs boat, and paddles in the air. Now!

Nine boats pivoted in union. Heads and shoulders went forward, and paddles dug hard into the water. We sped, with accelerating strokes, bellowing towards the little boat halfway between the ships. What a ruckus was coming from our boats.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri attacking the Zeehaen's Cock-boat

The Ngati Tumatakokiri attacking the Zeehaen’s Cock-boat

“Just as the Cock-boat of the Zeehaan had put off from board again those in the prow before us, between the two ships, began to paddle so furiously towards it that, when they were about halfway slightly nearer to our ship, they struck the Zeehaan’s Cock-boat so violently alongside with the stem of their prow that it got a violent lurch, upon which the foremost man in this prow of villains with a long, blunt pike thrust the quartermaster Cornelis Joppen in the neck several times with so much force that the poor man fell overboard.”

The Ngati Tumatakokiri attacking the Zeehaen's Cock-boat

The Ngati Tumatakokiri attacking the Zeehaen’s Cock-boat

The Chiefs boats got there first. They were at full speed and hit the strangers boat square across its middle; the strangers seemed shocked and confused by what was happening. But if any of them thought to defend themselves with their paddles, it was too late. One of our men was up immediately, his Pouwhenua flashing in the light. He caught one of the them by surprise and had three or four good strikes before the man even knew what was happening, then made a hit that pitched the stranger right out of the boat. The strangers oars were too heavy to move quickly, and they couldn’t block the blows from our Pouwhenua.

Our men jumped straight in, patus moving like blurs. Two more of the strangers dived over the side, but our men dealt to the others. They dragged one of the strangers into the Chiefs boat, and then we all turned and left as quickly as we came, before the visitors could summon their thunder and lightning on us.

“Upon this the other natives, with short thick clubs which we at first mistook for heavy blunt parangs, and with their paddles, fell upon the men in the Cock-boat and overcame them by main force, in which fray three of our men were killed and a fourth got mortally wounded through the heavy blows.”

[From the Barber-surgeon’s account]
“Half-way between the two ships the boat was attacked from all sides by the Southlanders: who approaching made a fearful noise, and treated the seven sailors in such a way: that they beat four to death with long staffs. The remaining three swam away. After committing this murder, they rowed with incredible skillfulness to the shore: so that before could (we could) use the guns, they were out of range.”

[From the sailors account]
“In the morning, before breakfast, nine ships, full of people, came from the land, which we thought came to us to make peace, and treat us with friendship; but, on the contrary, they have, to our deep regret killed three of our people. May our Lord God preserve us from greater misfortune. The first was called Jan Tyssen, from Oue-ven; the second Tobias Pietersz, from Delft; the third Jan Isbrantsz.

The Cock-boat being brough back by the Heemskerck's pinnace

The Cock-boat being brough back by the Heemskerck’s pinnace

The quartermaster and two sailors swam to our ship, whence we had sent our pinnace to pick them up, which they got into alive. After this outrageous and detestable crime the murderers sent the Cock-boat adrift, having taken one of the dead bodies into their prow and thrown another into the sea.”

Once we had put some distance between ourselves and the ships, we turned to look. Then the thunder and lightning began. It came from both ships. First there was the flash, a cloud of smoke, the boom of the thunder, and then fish would jump to the surface where the lightning bolt landed.

We watched on as their other small boat went out to pick up the survivors.

Tasman’s Journal
“Ourselves and those on board the Zeehaan seeing this, diligently fired our muskets and guns and, although we did not hit any of them, the two prows made haste to the shore, where they were out of the reach of shot.

With our fore upper-deck and bow guns we now fired several shots in the direction of their prows, but none of them took effect.”

When the Cock-boat was nearly halfway to the Zeehaen, the Ngati Tumatakokiri had attacked; suddenly and ferociously. On command they paddled in fast and hard, making a huge noise, confusing and frightening their enemy, and then they struck without hesitation. After only a few moments three of Tasman’s people were in the water, swimming for the Heemskerck, and the other four were either dead or taken.

Tasman’s ships opened fire with musket and cannon, but didn’t hit anything.

Holman, the Skipper of the Heemskerck, took the Pinnace to rescue the swimmers.

After a while the thunder attack stopped, and quiet fell over the water. As we sat in our positions near the shore waiting for the next action, we watched the small boat we had attacked return to its ship. Soon after, to our delight and surprise, we saw sails appear on both ships.

The Chief now called in the remaining men good boats, and we all set off to chase them from the bay.

Tasman leaving Golden Bay being pursued by the Ngati Tumatakokiri

Tasman leaving Golden Bay being pursued by the Ngati Tumatakokiri

“We now weighed anchor and set sail, since we could not hope to enter into any friendly relations with these people, or to be able to get water or refreshments here.

Having weighed anchor and being under sail, we saw 22 prows near the shore, of which eleven, swarming with people, were making for our ships. We kept quiet until some of the foremost were within reach of our guns, and then fired 1 or 2 shots from the gun-room with our pieces, without however doing them any harm; those on board the Zeehaan also fired, and in the largest prow hit a man who held a small white flag in his hand, and who fell down. We also heard the canister-shot strike the prows inside and outside, but could not make out what other damage it had done. As soon as they had got this volley they paddled back to shore with great speed, two of them hoisting a sort of tingang sails.

They remained lying near the shore without visiting us any further.”

The wind was light and their ships were only moving away slowly, so we closed on them quickly and easily. As we got close the thunder attack started again. This time we found that the lightning bolts were accompanied by flying stones. Some of these hit the boats and one of our men was hit and fell.

The Chief, seeing that the ships were still leaving, had us turn back; there was no shelter from the flying rocks, and going on would only mean taking casualties for no gain.

We turned back towards the shore. Those that carried sails used them to preserve their strength should another fight come.

When we were beyond the limit of the flying rocks we stopped, and waited, holding our place between the strangers and the land.

We remained there at the ready. The visitors stopped for the while in the middle of the Bay, but then began moving again, and to our delight finally left in the direction of Rangitoto. Our brothers there should by now have heard of the approaching strangers. Now we can tell them that they are scared of a fight.

Tonight there will be feasting and celebrations, and around the fire the story will be told.

For generations to come people will talk about this day. The day that the Ngati Tumatakokiri chased the Spirit Ships from Mohua.

Written this day, 2nd September, 2014.

Gilsemans' drawing of the events of December 19th

Gilsemans’ drawing of the events of December 19th

The Armouries

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The Dutch Armoury

Tasman’s written instructions explicitly described the danger involved in engaging with natives.

“In landing with small craft extreme caution will everywhere have to be used, seeing that it is well-known that the southern regions are peopled by fierce savages, for which reason you will always have to be well armed and to use every prudent precaution, since experience has taught in all parts of the world that barbarian men are nowise to be trusted, because they commonly think that the foreigners who so unexpectedly appear before them, have come only to seize their land “

The VOC wanted Tasman to establish amicable relations with anyone they met, so that they could be engaged in trade, but they did not leave Tasman unprepared for trouble.

Cannon on the VOC replica ship, the Duyfken

Cannon on the VOC replica ship, the Duyfken

Swivel cannon on the VOC replica ship, the Duyfken

Swivel cannon on the VOC replica ship, the Duyfken

17th century Dutch musketeer

17th century Dutch musketeer

VOC cutlass

VOC cutlass

Both ships carried cannons, and the Heemskerck was originally designed as a small warship. It had cannons in fixed positions in the aft, and along its sides. In addition it had swivel guns mounted on the gunwale. They fired single shot, various types of shrapnel and grapeshot, and ‘cannister shot’, where shrapnel was loaded in the gun encapsulated in a tin wrapper.
Following the activity on the night of December 18th, Tasman had ordered the guns be cleaned and readied for use. Hand to hand weapons were also placed on the decks: including pikes, cutlasses, knives and muskets.
In addition to the officers and sailing crew, Tasman had muskets and 19 Soldiers. In the 17th century, muskets were powerful, but only accurate over a limited range; an Infantryman a hundred paces away was relatively safe.

Tasman didn’t record how the Maori responded to meeting firearms, except to say that they backed off when the big guns were fired, but James Cook provided this insight.

“Musquetry they never regarded unless they felt the Effect; but great Guns they did, because they threw stones farther than they could Comprehend.”

 

The Maori Armoury

To repel the Dutch, the Maori had quite literally “Sticks and Stones”.

The Maori used no projectile weapons (with very limited exceptions); no slingshot, catapult or even bow and arrow. James Cook recorded seeing bows and arrows in Tahiti, but was told that these were not fighting weapons, but boys’ playthings. Similarly, a dart launched from a stick and string existed, but was not used as weapons. The Maori had a larger version of this for throwing spears into Pa’s, but that is the limit of their projectile weapons.

maori warrior

Maori warrior. 1769

Maori fighting was almost exclusively hand to hand.

This engraving is from a sketch made by Sydney Parkinson on Cooks first visit to New Zealand in 1769-70. It is captioned “A New Zealand Warrior in his proper dress & completely Armed, According to their Manner”.

It shows only two weapons.

In the Warriors right hand is a Tewhatewha. This is the style of staff most commonly shown in early illustrations of Maori. One end has a carved blade, and the other is sharpened to a point. It is used like a club or hammer, and the end blade can be thrusted into the enemy, or used as a crook.

Once the enemy was close, the weapon was reversed, and the point used for stabbing.

The Pouwhenua is a similar weapon, but has a broad blade instead of the quarter moon shape. The Taiaha was a similar length, but carved to a spear like point.

The neck area was a primary target with this type of weapon.

stone patu

Stone patu

Tucked into a strap around the warriors waist is a patu. These were made of wood, whalebone or stone. Whalebone was favoured over wood as it didn’t crack or splinter, and it is likely that some of the Ngati Tumatakokiri had these; herd strandings of whales on the inside of the spit in Golden Bay, is relatively common.

In some districts patu are also known as ‘mere’, but in other parts this term is exclusively reserved for a patu made from pounamu.

Patu and mere have the end and sides sharpened, with a hole behind the handle part for a wrist loop.

This video demonstrates use of the Pouwhenua and Patu.

 

On the morning of December 19th, 1642, while the day was still young, nine boats full of Maori Warriors paddled towards two huge ships intending to engage their foe.

Whilst they were similar in numbers, the Maori were armed only with oars, sticks and clubs.

The two ships they were paddling towards were brimming with gunpowder and steel.

First light

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On the Morning of December 19th 1642, Abel Tasman and the Ngati Tumatakokiri had their first close look at each other.

The events of that day are recorded in Tasman’s journal, the Sailors Journal and the Surgeon-barbers account.

We also have this remarkable drawing by Isaac Gilsemans.

Gilsemans' drawing of the events of December 19th

Gilsemans’ drawing of the events of December 19th

It is captioned “A view of the Moordenaers Bay, as you are at anchor there in 15 fathom”, and is a collage of six independent illustrations that each depicts a different part of the day.

The legend at the upper right describes the individual parts of the drawing as below:

A. Our ships.
B. The prows which came alongside of us.
C. The cock-boat of the Zeehaen, which came paddling towards our ship, and was overpowered by the natives, who afterwards left it again owing to our firing; when we saw that they had left the cock-boat, our skipper fetched it back with our pinnace.
D. A view of a native prow with the appearance of the people.
E. Our ships putting off to sea.
F. Our pinnace bringing back the cock-boat.

This drawing is from the journal held at the National Archives, the Hague. A high resolution and zoomable scanned version of the original document can be found here:

Abel Tasman was sitting at anchor in Golden Bay. They had entered the Bay in the late morning and moved towards the shore before becoming becalmed, and lowering their anchors.

Gilsemans' drawing of the events of December 19th

Gilsemans’ drawing of the events of December 19th showing the position of the ships at anchor in Golden Bay

The illustration shows the ships, with land behind. The view is looking to the south-west. The headland on the left hand side is the promontory forming the Eastern end of Golden Bay, culminating at Separation Point. It is now the Abel Tasman National Park.

The Heemskerck is on the left, closer to the headland and the Zeehaen on the right, further towards the centre of Golden Bay.

With the last of the light the night before, Tasman had had visitors from the land; two boats full of warriors, but they had not managed to communicate in any useful way.

At first light, the south-landers were back. This time the south-landers came much closer, and this time in full daylight. It was the first time both parties had a good look at each other. The accounts of the Sailor and the Surgeon-barber are briefer that Tasman’s account, and this first visit of the day is only recorded in Tasman’s journal.

“Early in the morning a boat manned with 13 natives approached to about a stone’s cast from our ships; they called out several times but we did not understand them, their speech not bearing any resemblance to the vocabulary given us by the Honourable Governor-General and Councillors of India, which is hardly to be wondered at, seeing that it contains the language of the Salomonis islands, etc.”

One of the things supplied to Tasman for his voyage was a lexicon of words from the Salomon Islands. They tried some of these words, but found them of no use, “which is hardly to be wondered at”; they were after all from a country 3,500 km away.

In his journal entry for 19th December, 1642 Tasman made the first recorded description of the Maori:

“As far as we could observe these people were of ordinary height; they had rough voices and strong bones, the colour of their skin being brown and yellow; they wore tufts of black hair right upon the top of their heads, tied fast in the manner of the Japanese at the back of their heads, but somewhat longer and thicker, and surmounted by a large, thick white feather…”

“…For clothing, as it seemed to us, some of them wore mats, others cotton stuffs; almost all of them were naked from the shoulders to the waist.”

This description shows us that the waka had come very close indeed; close enough to see the top knots on the heads of the natives.

Gilsemans' drawing of the events of December 19th

Detail of the ‘South-landers’ and their boats

The waka depicted was not a drawing of the boat that visited first thing in the morning. That boat had 13 occupants; the one drawn has 11. It is not an illustration of a single boat, but representative of the people and boats they saw that day.

The illustration shows everyone bare chested, except the man standing, and that is what we would expect. The man standing would be the chief, and only the chief might own something as prestigious as a cloak.

Tasman recorded that their hair was tied up in a knot on top of their heads, and Gilsemans drew exactly this. Gilsemans however did not draw feathers in the hair, and most surprisingly there is no allusion in either the accounts, or drawing to any of the south-landers having tattoos.

The illustration doesn’t offer any detail of what the men were wearing, but the journal described the clothes as ‘mats’ or ‘cotton stuffs’.

The clothes would all have been woven flax or other fibre, and of varying fineness, but the Maori had no cotton. The Maori did have a type of cloth, called ‘tapa’, but it was rare and very highly prized indeed. Only a few examples of Tapa cloaks remain.

The detailed drawing shows the boat’s construction as well as the people, and some important details are recorded. Of immediate note is that the boat is double hulled; this was new to the Dutch. There is a horizontal lath drawn running the length of the hulls, and it appears lashed in place. This is a construction detail that would be unfamiliar to the Dutch. The lower part is the bottom of the hull, and is made from a single trunk; above the lath are separate long planks. These are tied together to deepen the hull, and the join is covered by the lath. This technique is still used in contemporary waka’s.

The sterns of the hulls are shown raised, and there is an indication of some sort of carving on them. An odd thing about the drawing is the position of the steersman; he is shown at the bow. The steersman would normally stay of the back of the boat, except on an ocean waka, when he might move to the front during tacking.

Unfortunately, Gilsemans recorded no detail of how the hulls were joined together, but Tasman provided this description.

“Their boats consisted of two long narrow prows side by side, over which a number of planks or other seats were placed in such a way that those above can look through the water underneath the vessel: their paddles are upwards of a fathom in length, narrow and pointed at the end; with these vessels they could make considerable speed.”
Gilsemans' drawing of the events of December 19th

Facing west from the lookout at Taupo Pa. Tasman’s ships were anchored in the centre of the view

From their position on the deck of the Heemskerck, the waka must have passed nearly almost directly beneath them, as Tasman noted that the paddlers could “look through the water underneath”.

They had showed the south-landers some of the trading goods they had on board, but it seems there was no interest in them. “We repeatedly made signs for them to come on board of us, showing them white linen and some knives that formed part of our cargo.“

Onboard the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen they had a bewildering array of goods to trade; these are some of them:

4 pieces of coloured cloth
5 pieces of silk patholen
4 pieces of Guinea linen
500 Chinese small mirrors
50 catties of Chinese coral
50 ordinary knives
19 pounds of Elephants teeth
2 packets of Tinsel
200 pounds of ironmongery
3/4 reals weight of gold
50 pounds of Dutch steel
1 picol of sugar
25 pounds of tin
50 pounds of pewter
25 pieces of assorted iron pots
20 pounds of cloves
200 small Chinese wooden combs
50 small hatchets
4 pounds of tortoise shell
50 pounds of lead
50 Chinese needles
4 broad Surate chintzes
10 pounds of mace
3/4 reals weight of silver
20 pounds of nutmegs
50 pounds of various brass wares
50 pounds of ebony
100 assorted pieces of porcelain
1 large brass basin
3 pearls

Both the night before, and on this morning, Tasman recorded that the waka’s approached, and then the men on board had called out. But they hadn’t understood what was said.

James Cook however was able to understand what was said;he had a translator, Tupaia.

In his Journal under the heading “War Practises of New Zealanders”, Cook recorded the manner in which they were usually approached by the Maori if their arrival was un-heralded.

“Whenever we were Visited by any number of them that had never heard or seen anything of us before they generally came off in the largest Canoe they had, some of which will carry 60, 80, or 100 people. They always brought their best Cloaths along with them, which they put on as soon as they came near the Ship. In each Canoe were generally an old Man, in some 2 or 3; these used always to direct the others, were better Cloathed, and generally carried a Halbard or Battle Axe in their hands, or some such like thing that distinguished them from the others.”

As soon as they came within about a Stone’s throw of the Ship they would there lay, and call out, “Haromoi harenta a patoo ago!” that is, “Come here, come ashore with us, and we will kill you with our patoo patoos!” and at the same time would shake them at us.

At times they would dance the War dance, and other times they would trade with and talk to us, and Answer such Questions as were put to them with all the Calmness imaginable, and then again begin the War Dance, shaking their Paddles, Patoo patoos, etc., and make strange contortions at the same time.”

Tasman reported the same behaviour that Cook described; that the waka would approach to about a stone’s throw, and then the natives would shout out to them.

Tasman thought they were being friendly.

Cook however understood the warning he was being given… Do not approach us, or come ashore, or we will kill you.

On the morning of December 13th Tasman wrote that the natives visited and then paddled away back to the beach. “They did not come nearer, however, but at last paddled back to shore“

But they weren’t gone for long.

Visitors in the dark

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Tasman's position at anchor on December 18th

Tasman’s position at anchor on December 18th

Below is Tasman’s journal entry relating to the events of the afternoon and evening of December 18th, 1642.

The original spelling and punctuation are retained, but paragraph breaks have been inserted for ease of reading.

“In the afternoon our skipper Ide Tiercxz and our pilot-major Francoys Jacobsz, in the pinnace, and Supercargo Gilsemans, with one of the second mates of the Zeehaan in the latters cock-boat, went on before to seek a fitting anchorage and a good watering-place.

At sunset when it fell a calm we dropped anchor in 15 fathom, good anchoring-ground

in the evening, about an hour after sunset, we saw a number of lights on shore and four boats close inshore, two of which came towards us, upon which our own two boats returned on board;

they reported that they had found no less than 13 fathom water and that, when the sun sank behind the high land, they were still about half a myle from shore.

When our men had been on board for the space of about one glass the men in the two ¹prows began to call out to us in the rough, hollow voice, but we could not understand a word of what they said. We however called out to them in answer, upon which they repeated their cries several times, but came no nearer than a stone shot; they also blew several times on an instrument of which the sound was like that of a Moorish trumpet;

we then ordered one of our sailors (who had some knowledge of trumpet-blowing) to play them some tunes in answer.

Those on board the Zeehaen ordered their second mate (who had come out to India as a trumpeter and had in the Mauritius been appointed second mate by the council of that fortress and the ships) to do the same;

after this had been repeated several times on both sides, and as it was getting more and more dark, those in the native prows at last ceased and paddled off.

For more security and to be on guard against all accidents we ordered our men to keep double watches as we are wont to do when out at sea, and to keep in readiness all necessaries of war, such as muskets, pikes and cutlasses. We cleaned the guns on the upper-²orlop, and placed them again, in order to prevent surprises, and be able to defend ourselves if these people should happen to attempt anything against us.

Variation 9° North-East.”

¹ ‘prow’, sometimes also ‘proa’. The name used in Indonesia for a single hull boat used for fishing and carrying goods. Tasman would be familiar with these from Batavia.
² ‘orlop’. The lower decks of a ship.

Tasman's position at anchor on December 18thTasman's position at anchor on December 18thTasman's position at anchor on December 18th

The journal pages recording the events of December 18th. Click on the page to enlarge, or to open the page at its source click these: left page, centre page, right page.

Tasman’s reporting of ‘Variation’ means they saw the sunrise and sunset, but his latitude that day was recorded as ‘estimated’, meaning that the midday sun was obscured. The weather was calm and fair that day, but with some cloud.

His account of the evenings events seems straightforward.

Their two small boats had been out scouting around for the whole afternoon and early evening, looking for a good anchorage, and for somewhere they could get fresh water. At sunset the small boats were about ‘half a myle’  (approximately 3.7 km) from the shore.

By ‘about an hour after sunset’  they noticed fires, and four native boats close inshore. This is an important little detail regarding their position at anchor; they were close enough to the shore to discern individual small boats.

When two of the native boats moved from inshore towards them, the pinnace and cock-boat made their way back.

They rowed back (it was calm weather) to the Zeehaen and Heemskerck, and the two native boats followed. 4 knots is a fair speed estimate for their type of boats, so by the time they had reached the safety of the ships, it was about an hour and a half past sunset.

“When our men had been on board for the space of about one glass the men in the two prows began to call out to us in the rough, hollow voice”

They heard the south-landers calling out about two hours after sunset, by which time it was substantially dark (the moon on that night was slightly less than a half-full).

The canoes came no closer than ‘a stone shot’, which is a difficult term to resolve with any confidence, but this much is apparent; they were within hailing distance of each other. We might assume from this that ‘a stone shot’  is something less than the width of a football field, about 50m at the most.

The men in the canoes were calling out roughly but they couldn’t understand what was being said. Then they heard a noise rather like a trumpet, and Tasman had one of his sailors respond with theirs. The Zeehan then also responded with trumpet play.

After the shouting and trumpet exchanges had gone on for a while, the natives stopped their calling, and “paddled off”  in the darkness.

After that, they prepared themselves for trouble, should it come. They doubled their watches, cleaned and re-positioned their cannons, and brought out “muskets, pikes and cutlasses“.

It all sounds quite innocuous, but Tasman and his men had already committed two actions that were highly insulting and inflammatory. They had turned away and run from the approaching waka instead of facing them, and in response to the horn they had heard, they had responding, mocking, with one, and then two of their own.

As visitors, it was their obligation to explain who they were, and their business there; otherwise they would be chased away, with whatever force was required. The onus was on the visitors to explain themselves satisfactorily; and the appropriate manner was to approach with respect and deference.

The general protocol for two peoples to meet was this.

The chiefs would approach each other and exchange histories. The resident would recite a history of who and where they were from, and the extent of their range. This established their ‘mana whenua’, their right to stand on the land, and so too their lineage. The visitor made a similar recitation, stated their business, and asked to be allowed to stay. The visitors’ lineage would expose if they were kin, or perhaps previous enemies.

The residents had complete authority within their Rohe, and might quite properly kill anyone on there without permission. Until visitors have been given permission to stay, they were considered hostile.

That is how it was done, and still is. This protocol is still observed when visiting a Marae. A visitor ignoring this protocol does so at their peril.

In reference to this, the account of Hendrik Haelbos records one extra detail of that evening which is important. This is his account of the evening of December 18th, 1642.

After leaving Tasmania, they had sailed eastwards; “… and discovered on the eighteenth of December a convenient harbour. The sloop having been sent off, to discover on the shore, came back toward the evening, followed by a vessel from the coast. This approached closer and closer; but Tasman could see no sign on account of darkness: he only heard horrid noise of harsh voices and a shrill sound, not unlike a trumpet. The Dutch sailors called out to them: blew on trumpets: and finally fired off a cannon. Then the South-landers began to rave terribly: blew on a horn: and returned to land. Tasman called up the watch: and placed on the deck sabres, pikes and guns.“

The Barber-surgeon records ‘the sloop’  (being the pinnace) going to explore, and being followed back by a vessel from the coast. The south-landers came closer, but couldn’t be seen in the darkness. Haelbos records the sound made by the Ngati Tumatakokiri calling out as “harsh voices”  and then “a shrill sound, not unlike a trumpet” .

In his account, only one boat from the expedition went out, but on this we might expect Tasman’s account to be more accurate as he named the individuals; which included Gilsemans, who was on the Zeehaen.

A 17th Century ships cannon

A 17th Century ships cannon

Regarding the end of the encounter, Haelbos wrote this;

“The Dutch sailors called out to them: blew on trumpets: and finally fired off a cannon”.

This last, and rather memorable detail, is not mentioned in Tasman’s journal.

They had fired on the canoes with a cannon.

As the Ngati Tumatkokiri were paddling back to shore, Tasman’s men were busy bringing Arms onto the decks, cleaning the cannons and setting them in position, no doubt wondering what the new day would bring.

And well they might.

As visitors to someone else’s territory, they had neither explained themselves adequately, nor behaved respectfully.

Into darkness

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Diary: Taupo Pa.

We stared into the darkness, but couldn’t make anything out. There was some light from the moon, but not enough to see any detail. We knew where they were though, we could see the stars on the ships, but that was all.

All we knew was that our men had gone right up to the Spirit Ships, but beyond that, all detail was lost to the dark.

Looking towards Taupo Point from near Parapara

Looking west from the middle of Golden Bay 30 minutes after sunset

The night was calm and quiet; just a few birds and the faint slop of waves on the rocks below. Occasionally we thought we might have heard the muffled sound of a chant, but we couldn’t really tell. But we could sometimes hear a blast from the Pukaea.

Suddenly there was a flash of lightening from one of the ships, and then a sharp clap of thunder; then… nothing.

Some said they heard the the screams of the men, and a final woeful blast from the Pukaea, but I couldn’t be sure.

Then there was nothing, just the sounds of the night; the birds and the washing of the waves. It was fully dark. The stars were clear and bright… and the brightest two stars were right there, where the ships stood.

We didn’t know what had happened, and we didn’t know what to think.

Had they all been killed by the lightning?

I went with some of the others down to the beach where the boats were assembled, but nobody there knew any more than we did. Soon after we heard shouting; there were boats coming in! and to our great relief we heard the voices of our men returning.

Looking east from near Parapara 30 minutes after sunset

Looking east from the middle of Golden Bay 30 minutes after sunset

Fire on the beach in Golden Bay 2 hours after sunset

Fire on the beach in Golden Bay 2 hours after sunset

We gathered around the Chief, and in the firelight he told us what had happened.

They had rowed out to meet the strangers, but the strangers had turned away and run off before they met.

The chief wasn’t going to take that sort of rudeness, so they made chase, and were closing fast, but the strangers got back to their ships before they could be caught up.

He said they paddled their boats very strangely; with their backs to where they were going, which seemed very stupid, but that was what they’d seen. And their paddles went out sideways, instead of down into the water… even a child knows that’s silly. He also said their boats were too wide and too short and weren’t very fast; but he marvelled at the size of the trees that must have been used to make them.

On the back of each ship, high up, they have a star, captured in a snare. They also had some smaller stars which were somehow carried around the ships. Sometimes they saw the faces of the men lit up by these small stars, and they looked ghost-like, but that you couldn’t be sure about that as we all appear like that sitting under the moon at night.

We all coo-ed at such wonders.

The Chief had called out to the ships in the proper manner. He had said who he was, and who, and where he was from. He had named our river, and our mountain, that we were Ngati Tumatakokiri from the Kurahaupo, and that we had rightful mana whenua here.

The men on the Spirit Ships had called back, but the words could not be understood… but they were definitely men; this was certain. Even though it was dark there was enough light to know that these were men on those boats; not ghosts or monsters.

Contemporary Pukaea

Contemporary Pukaea

The Chief instructed a call on the Pukaea. If they did not understand our words, they would understand our Call: ‘We are here’… ‘We are already here’.

As visitors, at this they should be respectful, come humbly, and seek our permission to stay.

But they did not.

Instead, they mocked us with a call of their own. It was a different sound, a higher pitch, and with many variations, like a lower but very loud bird-song. Then, to insult us further, another joined from the other ship.

Such rudeness! Visitors showing such disrespect was never before known.

Our men were shouting their outrage, and the Pukaea was sounding hard when a bolt of lightning and thunder suddenly burst from one of the ships. It was so loud that it scared a shoal right out of the water; all around they heard the fish splashing.

Our men had roared in defiance. But then, as it was full dark, and seeing they would get no satisfaction this evening, the Chief ordered them back.

When he finished speaking we still sat there, mesmerised.

The Tohunga then spoke about the magic; the ships, the sails, the captured stars, and the lightning and thunder. There were many stories, old stories, of similar magic, though none here had seen anything remotely similar… and none of it really helped.

What we now know is that these are men, not Gods or ghouls, and that they have not come with good purpose.

They have wonderful magic and sorcery, but they are still men; men with slow boats.

This is our rightful place. They have no business here except by our invitation, and we do not extend it.

More men had arrived than last time I was on the beach. Everyone is here. There are now more boats than I had even seen in one place before. They are still working on some of the boats. Those that have been paired in the past and can be fastened together quickly, are being made ready for fighting.

In the morning, we will tell the strangers that they are not welcome here, and must leave. If they do not leave, then we will help them change their minds.

The men were being organised into crews, and a few of the women stepped forward too.

We began to prepare ourselves. If it comes to it, we will fight tomorrow.

I will be in one of the boats.

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.

Wairau

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The boulder bar at the mouth of the Wairau river.

The boulder bar at the mouth of the Wairau river.

It’s not much to look at, but Wairau is probably the most important archaeological site in New Zealand.

It is the location of the oldest known settlement, and also the location of the oldest human remains yet discovered.

Interest in the site originated in 1939 when schoolboy Jim Eyles found some old bones. He had come across an ‘Urupa’, or burial ground. He discovered more in 1942, and this attracted academic interest. In 1942, Roger Duff began what would be a prolonged series of investigations on the Wairau Bar. In his excavations, 2000 items were removed to the Canterbury, including more than 40 skeletons.

The Wairau bar occupation site

The Wairau bar occupation site

The site, now a long boulder spit, used to be an island, and was home to a significant village. The Urupa was separated from the dwellings by about 60m. The site comprises; building footprints, ovens, waste pits, and adze work sites, and covers about 11 hectares (≈3 acres). More than 60 grave sites have been exposed, containing precious items as well as the individuals’ remains.

Of the 2,000 items catalogued, three are of particular interest; tattoo chisels, a shell tool, and argillite adze heads.

The tattoo chisels demonstrate that this was a settlement with ordered society, not just a place of occasional repose occupied during seasonal food gathering. Tattoo tools meant that there were people there of various ages, young and older, and that they observed religious and customary practises. This was a centre of settlement, not a food gathering outpost.

The shell tool is made from ‘Acus crenulatus’. This a gastropod species found in Polynesia, but exotic to New Zealand; it had been carried to the Wairau Bar from Polynesia. One edge of the shell is sharpened for cutting. It is not known if it was carried by the original owner, or by a close descendant, but the former is quite likely; as such tools have a limited useful lifespan.

The Wairau Bar site was established; either by original Polynesian immigrants, or their very close descendants.

The Argillite adze heads are interesting in several respects; there are so many of them, there is no argillite source within 100 km; and the style of the adze head is Polynesian, not the evolved Maori form.

Carbon dating of the human remains confidently ages them at 1290 AD +/- 10 years. This is the earliest secure dating of any New Zealand colonisation.

Moa

The skeletons of a kiwi, ostritch and moa

The locality, at the mouth of the Wairau River provided the population with a wide variety of food. Immediately to hand there was fur seal, fish, shellfish, eels and water fowl. The Wairau river also gave them access to the interior of the South Island, where the flightless giant moa roamed in abundance.

Moa bones and eggs were also found within some of the grave sites. The moa became extinct within about a century of human arrival, so their presence in the graves suggests that these graves are either those of a founding population, or one that was only descended a very few generations from the founding population.

The other evidence suggesting that this settlement was Polynesian, or immediately following, comes from DNA analysis of the remains. The complete genome of four individuals was extracted. It shows that three of the four individuals had no common recent maternal ancestor.

These individuals were only distantly related. If they were the offspring of a local population, then they would be very closely related. This further suggests that the occupants of the voyaging waka’s were deliberately selected from diverse family groups.

Adze head mounted on a contemporary shaft

An adze head mounted on a contemporary shaft

69 adzes were found at the Wairau Bar site. The huge number of stone chips suggests that adze making was an industry, not simply manufacture for their own use. It is estimated that about 12,000 adze heads were made there; astonishingly, most were made from stone from distant sources.

Most adzes were made from Argillite. The closest sources for this are the eastern side of D’Urville island, up the Wairau River, near Lake Rotorua. Three of the adzes were made of Greenstone from the West Coast of the South Island, and one was of Tahanga basalt, from the Coromandel. There were also Chert chips from Kaikoura.

This indicates that either the Wairau Bar population travelled extensively around both the North and South Islands, or that stone was brought to them and traded. Either way, even though the total population was very small, large distances were routinely travelled to acquire or trade significant resources.

Adzes were essential for shaping wood, and for the making of boats. They were also required for Moa hunting. The rubbish pits contained the remains of over 4,000 moa.

The Wairau Bar location is an extraordinary source of information about New Zealand’s first settlers, and how they lived. What has been learned about archaic settlement could not have been achieved without the extraordinary assistance of the local tribe; Rangitāne o Wairau.

Maori hold their ‘tupuna’, their ancestors, in the highest regard, and their remains and relics are revered and most sacred. They are not normally given up to be poked and prodded by curious Europeans.
The Rangitāne o Wairau however, gave permission for some of these relics to be forensically examined… even though this would require their partial destruction. From this we have learned an enormous range of detail about where these people came from, what they ate, and what their lives were like. It was a most remarkable gift.

In 2009 the remains of 41 individuals were returned to the Rangitane o Wairau after many years at the Canterbury Museum. The Rangitane o Wairau recognised them as ‘tupuna’, ancestors, , and re-interred them with utmost reverence.

The tribe ‘Rangitane o Wairau ‘ takes its name from Rangitane, the grandson of Whatonga. The Rangitane occupied the area in the 1500’s; prior to that it was occupied by Ngati Mamoe, and Ngai Tara.

All three tribes descend from the occupants of the Kurahaupo.

Wairau location map

Wairau location map

The Wairau river, and surrounding plains were within easy reach of any population in the Wellington area. From the Harbour, ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’, you followed the coast west, then cut across the narrowest part of Cook Strait ( just 22km) to Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. Then, you followed the coast South until you met the river mouth. The Wairau is the first major river you meet, and this gives access to the interior of the South Island, and to the moa.

In fair conditions this could be achieved in a single day’s sailing.

Even before settling on the Bar, there would had been regular expeditions up the Wairau River by the Wellington population, to exploit the moa resource.

We do not know, but it is perfectly possible that the Wairau bar was occupied by people that had travelled with Tara from Heretaunga to Mirimar. Among them could have been ‘originals’ that had voyaged from Ra-iatea, on the Kurahaupo.

The Great inland sea

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Tumatakokiri

Ngati Tumatakokiri warriors drawn by Isaac Gilsemans from the deck of the Zeehaen

The history of Ngati Tumatakokiri is not well known.

Their ultimate fate was to be conquered and dispersed as a tribe around 1830. None of their senior members married into other nobility, and with their stories no longer forming part of a tribe’s history, their oral tradition was lost. Fortunately, some stories were recorded by early Europeans, and it is on these accounts, and those of the conquering tribes, that this account is based.

Diary. Moving again.

Tara went South with a lot of people. They have gone to find the great Harbor that Whatonga discovered.

We have left too; Tautoki and his people remain in Heretaunga.

We took boats as far as we could, with all our goods, but it wasn’t very far. We said our goodbye’s again, and the boats went back to Heretaunga. After that we picked up what we were tasking, and walked. It was hard work and very slow getting up the valley. The path was not clear and there were very many streams to cross.

The wind was strong in our faces as we went through the last saddle and started down. Soon we saw the great inland sea, and the plains before it.

When we got to the lake we found there were already some people there, the Ngati Hotu, we saw their fires before we met them. We moved away from their villages, following the shore around to the South and towards the great white mountain.

This was the same mountain we could see from Heretaunga.

At the south end of the lake, under the white mountains we found another lake. Here there are plenty of fish, eels and birds. We have built our huts, but it is cold here. I miss the warmth of our Island home.

To Taupo

Tumatakokiri’s journey to Lake Taupo

Tumatakokiri took a party of followers from Heretaunga to the Taupo. But we don’t know precisely the route they took.

In the Taupo district there’s a Maori saying ‘Heretaunga ara rau’… ‘Heretaunga of a hundred tracks’. There were very many ways to cross the Tarawera range to Taupo, but to go from the Heretaunga plains to Lake Taupo, and none was better than another. It was only possible to paddle a few kilometres inland before the rivers became too rapid and broken to continue. After that you journeyed in foot, following the watercourses upstream until you finally crested the range.

Once on the descent to Taupo the lake quickly comes into view, and the plains before it.

There was already a small population in the area. The Ngati Hotu occupied the land to the northern end of the lake. They were described as ‘fairy people’ because of their reddish hair and fair skin.

It was also at the north end of the lake that in 1869 the British built their redoubt. They built it where the Waikato River exits the Lake, close to a natural hot spring.

At about the same time as the Ngati Tumatakokiri arrived, so did another two groups, both original occupants from the Te Arawa canoe. One party was led by Tia, and the other, by the Te Arawa Tohunga, Ngātoroirangi. These two formed the basis of the Tūwharetoa people who would come to dominate the area. They settled on the eastern and southern shores of the lake.

Lake Rotoaire

Lake Rotoaire

It is most likely that the Ngati Tumatakokiri also settled to the south of the lake. It was an area that was essentially vacant, but with a bountiful food supply.

Lake Rotoaira, just to the South of Taupo is a natural ‘food basket’. It is an ancient settlement area, known as ‘Opotaka’, meaning either a place to camp, or a food store. The lake is teeming with fish and eels, there are water fowl in huge numbers, and the surrounding forests were rich with foods; berries, roots, and birds.

Rotoaire

George Angas. Motu Puhi Pa and Rotoaire Lake, Tongariro in the Distance. c 1847. Auckland Art Gallery

Lake Rotoaira is particularly well known for another reason. On the lake is an Island, Motu Puhi, which used to be a Major Pa. In 1810, the chief Te Rauparaha hid there from his enemies (Te Rauparaha had a lot of enemies). On emerging from his hiding place he performed an animated Haka. This was the first place that these famous words were spoken; ‘Kama te, Kama te Ka ora, Ka ora…’, now known the world over as .

The Ngati Tumatakokiri may well have stayed at Lake Rotoaire, or they may not… we can’t be certain. We also don’t know exactly how long they stayed, or why they left, but we do know the route they took on their departure.

There is an ancient Maori walkway that leads from the South end of Lake Taupo. It passes Opotaka, and Lake Rotoaira, and then, just a few kilometres beyond, it picks up the head of the Whanganui River… ‘The River Road’ that leads to the West Coast.

To the Heretaunga plains

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To Heretaunga Plains

From Nukutaurua to the Heretaunga Plains

At Nukutaurua, the Kurahaupo people had a reasonably comfortable life. The sea gave them plenty of fish and shellfish, and there were eels in the lagoons and estuaries, but the land was not so generous. The plants they had brought with them; Taro, Kumara, Yam, Aute, Gourd and Cabbage tree did not grow well there.

If they wanted the plants they had brought with them to yield crops, they needed to move.

In those times there were no roads, only a few tracks, and the Maori had no wheels or pack animals. When moving from one place to another the choice was simple. Either; walk and carry what you have with you, or put it in a boat and paddle.

The founding population of New Zealand was born of Polynesian seafarers; accomplished boat builders, navigators and sailors. Boats were the principle means of transport. As New Zealand was settled, it was populated first around its water margins, coast and river, and later, inland. To travel any significant distance except by water was extremely arduous in this hilly and unbroken land.

Diary. Heretaunga

“We set of for the plains with everything we could fit in the canoes. Some of the men returned for the rest later.

We rounded the Cape and saw across the Bay for the first time. It was a long way, but we could see the hills on the far shore in the distance; our new home. As we went around the bay we could see that there were other people in the area, we could see their fires. The men had already spoken to some of them. We wouldn’t go where the hearths are kept warm, we didn’t want to fight. We went to the land at the far Eastern end of the bay, close to Te Matau-a-Māui.

At Te Awanga we have a good little harbour, and river. Fishing is good out towards the Cape, and there are plenty of crabs and shellfish around the rocks. We have hills behind us and the plains at our side. The hills give us big trees, for building and for canoes. We burned the bush off the flat land next to us and turned the ash into the ground; it makes fine planting fields.

The soil here is good to work with; as it is neither too hard for the Ko to break, nor too wet for the young plants.

Our plants are thriving in the good soil and sunshine. They will never dry out here. Even if the land dries we will be able to give them water from the rivers. This year’s harvest will be good. Until then we have what sea and forests give us, as well as the fern root that we have been shown by the local people.

This is a bountiful land. Thank the spirits.”

Most of the Kurahaupo people moved on, but Popoto stayed and married Nanaia. Six generations later Rongomaiwahine, was born, famous for her beauty. Rogomaiwahine had exceptional lineage. She was descended from both Popoto, captain of the Kurahaupo and Ruawharo, Tohunga of the Takitimu. Rongomaiwahine rose to lead a tribe of that name, and those people remain on Mahia to this day.

Under the leadership of Whatonga, The Kurahaupo people left Nukutaurua for the lush plains around what is now known as Hastings, in Hawke’s Bay. It is a large and sheltered coastal plain with fertile soils. The plains are watered and drained by three large rivers that never run dry, and it is amongst the sunniest parts of the country. These days it is famous for its wines; a testament to the region’s wonderful growing conditions.

The people of the Kurahaupo settled on the plains, but they were not the only people that had found the location attractive… there were already groups there; the Te Tini a Awa, Ngati Mahu, Ngati Mamoe, and Ngati Ira. Each had their own territories.

One of the elements defining a tribe’s range was where their fire pits were located. Where they regularly lit fires was considered to be within their ‘rohe’, or territory. If you moved onto land that had recent fire pits on it, then you should expect that someone else had prior claim over it.

There were four principal means of acquiring territory.
– The land was vacant
– Your people had always been there
– The territory was gifted to your people by someone with rightful guardianship
– Your people took the land by conquest

If you trespassed on someone else’s land uninvited, then you should expect to be evicted.

The Kurahaupo people occupied the coast and land to the East of the Tukituki River.

Whatonga built himself a house he called ‘Heretaunga’ which was known for its fine carvings. ‘Heretaunga’ means; a place where you tie up the canoes, but over the course of time this name became used to represent the whole area.

On these fertile Heretaunga plains, the Kurahaupo people and their crops flourished.

Whatonga’s first son was born at Te Awanga, to his first wife, Hotuwaipara. They named him ‘Tara-Ika’. The story is that Whatonga went on a fishing trip to Cape Kidnappers where he caught a lot of fish. On his return his wife cut herself on the spines of one of the fish, and Tara-Ika, ‘fish spine’, was named after this event.

Cape kidnappers is known to the Maori as ‘Te Matau-a-Māui’, ‘the fishhook of Maui’ that pulled up the North Island..

Whatongas exploration

Whatonga’s exploration of the North Island

After Tara was born, Whatonga set out to explore some of this new land. He rounded Cape Kidnappers and followed the coast of the North Island in an anti-clockwise direction. He touched the top of the South Island, and entered Wellington Harbour which he named for his son; ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’, ‘The great harbour of Tara’.

He continued around the coast to the west and north and then went up the Manawatu River. At Aokautere (to the East of Palmerston North) he married his second wife, Reretua, and had another son, Tautoki. After a while, Whatonga moved on again, back to Heretaunga, bringing with him his new wife Reretua and infant Tautoki.

Reretua had at least two more sons, and Hotuwaipara had another son, Tumatakokiri.

Among the Polynesian immigrants it was common for the men to have multiple wives. These were often women from the ‘Tangata Whenua’, the ‘People of the Land’, that were already living there.

The Heretaunga Plain

The Heretaunga Plains

To the South-West of Napier is the township of Taradale. It’s original name is Omaranui, which means ‘place of abundant cultivation’. Overlooking it, and controlling the Tutaekuri River is a huge Pa site called Otatara. This is an ancient site that was occupied by the Ngati Ira when the Kurahaupo people arrived.

Tara took his people, and with the Ngati Mamoe mounted an unsuccessful assault on Otatara Pa. In retaliation, Te Whakumu, Chief of Te Ira, led 400 men in an attack on the Ngati Mamoe stronghold at Puketapu.

This indicates the scale of the population on the plains at that time; a single tribe could present 400 warriors when required.

Rangitanes Pa

Tanenuiarangi Pa, 1859, By Henry Bates. Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference Number: NON-ATL-0008. Object #11978

Tautoki married Waipuna, and they had a son Rangitane, (also known as Tānenuiarangi), who became the eponymous ancestor of the Rangitane tribe. Rangitane, built a Pa on the South side of the Ngaruroro River, in direct sight of Otatara, where he lived with his Grandfather, Whatonga. The Tānenuiarangi Pa was still occupied in 1859 when Europeans arrived, but is now the site of the Whakatu meat works.

Heretaunga became a springboard for growth, and inspired by Whatonga’s explorations, Tara set out to claim some of the new land he had discovered.

Kurahaupo expansion

The progress of the Kurahaupo population

Tara and his people made their way south from Heretaunga to ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’, Wellington Harbour. There they settled at Mirimar, which at that time was still an island. By the time Tara reached Mirimar they numbered over 200 people, and Tara had become the Eponymous ancestor of Ngai Tara. From Mirimar, Ngai Tara looked across Cook Strait to the South Island. In time they occupied the Marlborough Sounds and the coast around Nelson.

The Rangitane people expanded down the East coast occupying all that coast until their territory met with that of their cousin’s, now the Ngai Tara. From Palliser Bay they crossed to Wairau and the Blenheim plains.

The descendants of Whatonga, through Tara and Rangitane expanded their range, eventually occupying and controlling the whole of the North Island from Heretaunga south.

While Tara and Rangitane went South, another of Whatonga’s sons, Tumatakokiri, headed North-West… to Taupo.

The wreck of the Kurahaupo

Kurahaupo banner

Nukutaurua

Nukutaurua

If you travel to the Mahia Peninsula, cross to the North side, and follow the road to the East, you will pass many Urupa. They are all on the North side of the Peninsula.

This is a sacred place.

The tar seal stops at Nukutaurua, and a little further on the road ends. If you want to go further, then you have to walk.

And so it was for the crew of the Kurahaupo.

Incredibly, after successfully crossing 4,000 km of Pacific Ocean, the Kurahaupo finally came to grief on this benign looking shore on the Mahia Peninsula.

Diary: Nukutaurua

“When we left Te Hiku o Te Ika, we left Po and some others behind, but some Te Ngare joined us, and we had a crew again; there had been so few of us on that leg from Rangitahua.

‘The fire in the sky’ seems so far away now.

To Nukutaurua

The Kurahaupo’s course along the East coast of the North Island

As we traveled down the coast, on the East side of the Land we were amazed at just how enormous this land is. Often we passed between islands and the coast, and even these islands are big, some are bigger than any we have known before.

Sometimes on the land, we saw fires. There are people here and there. The Te Ngare had told us that there were others. Some have been here a long time, and some are new travelers like ourselves.

For the last days before we came here we saw only a few fires, and none since we came round a great Cape and the coast turned South.

The land around is high and tree covered, and the hills are deeply cut by valleys carrying big streams. There is plenty of water in this land but mostly the land stops high, and cliffs fall to the sea below.

As the coast turned again to the West Popoto said that we would go ashore where we next saw a good place.

At this place there was a flat plain in front of the beach, and behind were flat topped hills, grassy and bare. The hills were separated by valleys, and we could see that several good streams ran to the beach, a bigger one ran down through a wooded valley.

Popoto gave the instruction; we would land here.

The sail was lowered and we turned, the paddlers and steersmen now controlling our movements, directed by Popoto.

As the beach grew close, less than fifty paces, a shout went up, ‘reef!’

The beach, plain as it looked, had hidden reefs before it. The surf we had seen was not caused by the gentle uplift of a sandy beach floor, but by rows of reefs. Now we saw the lines of rocks running out from the shore, out to level with us, and beyond.

The men tried to turn us, but it was too late, we were trapped. The wind and the current pressed us onto a line of sharp rock, and one of our hulls smashed into it.

We were stuck, and one hull was sinking.

The wind and waves held us fast against the rocks, and try as they might, the men could not get us free. Now, with one hull filled with water, we were too heavy, and the reef gripped hard on our Kurahaupo.

Popoto told us to get everything ashore.

It was misfortune that put us on the hidden reef, but thankfully the water to the beach was shallow. We pulled all that there was from the waterlogged hull, and with everything on the deck we were, again, soon pushing through the surf, carrying with us all that we have.

We recovered everything, and salvaged what we could of our boat. Then we sat on the beach exhausted.

We warmed ourselves around fires and watched as the surf beat and broke the Kurahaupo. We will not sail on her again. “

nukutaurua reefs

The surf lines extending into the sea are lines of reefs. They extend far out under the surface.

After all they had endured; the crew of the Kurahaupo finally surrendered her to the ocean on a reef off the Mahia Peninsula.

It is remembered locally; that the Kurahaupo was bewitched and hit a reef close to the shore, that everyone survived, that the waka sank, and that it subsequently turned into a reef.

Cape Table

James Cook first made landfall in New Zealand at Gisborne on 9th September, 1769. He liked what he first saw of New Zealand so little that he left the bay just two days later, and headed South.

Wednesday, 11th September.

“We weighed and stood out of the Bay, which I have named Poverty Bay, because it afforded us no one thing we wanted.”

By noon the next day he had reached the eastern point of the Mahia Peninsula, next to an Island. He named them Cape Table, and Portland Island. These names are still used.

Thursday, 12th September.

“In the Afternoon, while we lay becalm’d, several Canoes came off to the Ship…”

“This point I have named Cape Table, on account of its shape and figure. It lies 7 Leagues to the Southward of Poverty Bay, in the Latitude of 39 degrees 7 minutes South, longitude 181 degrees 36 minutes West, it is of a moderate height, makes in a sharpe Angle, and appears to be quite flat at Top…

…We saw a great Number of the Natives assembled together on the Isle of Portland; we likewise saw some on the Main land, and several places that were Cultivated and laid out in square Plantations.”

The people that Cook saw were descended from the occupants of two waka’s; the Kurahaupo, and the Takitimu.

The local tribe is Te Rongomaiwahine, and have the common female ancestor of that name. She was of extremely noble lineage being descended from both Ruawharo, the Tohunga of the waka Tākitimu, and Popoto, commander of the Kurahaupo.

The full name of the Peninsula ‘Te Mahia mai Tawhiti’ was given by Ruawharo, as the land reminded him of where he had come from.

It means ‘The whisper of Home’.

However, only a few people from the Kurahaupo remained in Mahia. The rest of them moved onwards, looking for a more comfortable place to live.

To the plains of Heretaunga

Diary: Nukutaurua

“The men have returned from exploring, and there was a Hui. They said that some days to the South is a great and good plain with many rivers flowing through it, and that it will make us a good home.

“Popoto says he will stay here. It was decided that the rest of us will pack up what we have, and leave in the morning.

“Whatonga will lead us now.”

The Mahia peninsula provided all that was needed for survival, but on their journey down the East Coast they had seen more hospitable land. Most of the people of the Kurahaupo moved on looking for somewhere where they could enjoy an easier life; somewhere they could lay down roots… somewhere to call ‘home’.