The wreck of the Kurahaupo

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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’.

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