Why don’t you see what happens when you press that “Upgrade now” button Dave

Well I did, and I can tell you.

Take the blue pill…. it’s a lot safer.

The consequence of “upgrading” this blog to the latest version is that everything collapsed into a pile of mush. Well, not everything. To be fair only the bits that remained were mush.

I hope you like reading, because one of the consequences of the upgrade is that all images from the whole blog were dropped when the upgrade “improved” itself by replacing what was there with new code. It did this by deleting the old structure completely and putting in brand spanking new stuff.

The new stuff did not include all the images from my former pristine blog.

If I ever find the imbecile that wrote that “upgrade” script I’ll show him what I understand by spanking.

It will take me some time to put this back together. When it’s back I’ll tell you all about where you can buy my book.

More land

Abel Tasman banner

For two days they sailed North-west, distancing themselves from the trap they’d found themselves in. But on Dec 28th, they turned back towards the coast, to resume their exploration of the land.

“In the morning at daybreak we made sail again, set our course to eastward in order to ascertain whether the land we had previously seen in 40° extends still further northward, or whether it falls away to eastward.“

They didn’t have to wait long, and at mid-day, they sighted land again.

“At noon we saw east by north of us a high mountain which we at first took to be an island; but afterwards we observed that it forms part of the mainland.”

They had seen Mount Karioi, near Raglan, and they marked it on the chart but gave it no name. Tasman did however name a place that he didn’t see.


A detail of Visscher’s chart showing Cape Pieter Boreels and Mount Karioi

As they were struggling to get out of the South Taranaki Bight, they’d seen that the land extended from them to the North West. Now that they were back against the land they realised they were in a similar longitude… so somewhere in between, there had to be a Cape… they just hadn’t seen it.

Tasman named this Cape Pieter Boreels and it was duly added to the chart.

We can know for certain that Tasman never actually saw this land, because it has a particularly striking and distinctive feature that he would have noted as an important navigational landmark. If he had seen it, then Tasman would have recorded this. Moreover, it is such a distinctive feature that it would have been drawn on a coastal survey, and its latitude would have been recorded for future mariners.

Mount Taranaki from Cape Egmont

Mount Taranaki from Cape Egmont

When Cook came past the Cape 127 years later, he wrote this:

“at 5 a.m. saw for a few Minutes the Top of the Peaked Mountain above the Clouds bearing North-East. It is of a prodidgious height and its Top is cover’d with Everlasting Snow; it lies in the Latitude of 39 degrees 16 minutes South, and in the Longitude of 185 degrees 15 minutes West. I have named it Mount Egmont in honour of the Earl of Egmont”

Me, halfway up Mount Karioi

Me, halfway up Mount Karioi

Lord Egmont was a former first Lord of the Admiralty, and an important supporter of Cook’s voyage. These days we also know Mount Egmont as Mount Taranaki. It is 2500m high and in the right weather conditions can be seen from over 200km away.

But it was another mountain that Tasman saw when they came back to the coast; Mount Karioi.

Mount Karioi as drawn in Tasman's journal: 'A view of the Staete Landt in 38° 30′ S. Latitude'

Mount Karioi as drawn in Tasman’s journal: ‘A view of the Staete Landt in 38° 30′ S. Latitude’

Tasman's progress up the West Coast of the North Island

Tasman’s progress up the West Coast of the North Island

For the next few days they had an uneventful passage up the West Coast of the North Island. But now they were rightly cautious about getting too close to shore. “we turned our course to the north-west so as not to come too near the shore and prevent accidents “

On the morning of December 30th they passed the entrance to the Manukau harbour, and two days later they passed the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour. However, Tasman mentioned neither of these; he was too far out to sea for them to be visible. When Cook came past in 1770, he too exercised the same caution, and these harbours weren’t marked on his map of New Zealand either.

On January 4th however, the lie of the land changed and fell away to their East. They had reached the northern extremity of mainland New Zealand.

“In the morning we found ourselves near a cape, and had an island north-west by north of us, upon which we hoisted the white flag for the Officers of the Zeehaan to come on board of us, with whom we resolved to touch at the island aforesaid to see if we could there get fresh water, vegetables, etc. At noon Latitude observed 34° 35′, Longitude 191° 9′; course kept north-east, sailed 15 myles, with the wind south-east. Towards noon we drifted in a calm and found ourselves in the midst of a very heavy current which drove us to the westward. There was besides a heavy sea running from the north-east here, which gave us great hopes of finding a passage here. This cape which we had east-north-east of us is in 34° 30′ South Latitude. The land here falls away to eastward.

They named the cape after Maria van Diemen, wife of the Governor of Batavia, and that name remains in use to this day. To their North West they saw an Island, and resolved to see if they could find water and vegetables there.

They had last filled their water barrels in Mauritius.


Abel Tasman banner

Tasman and his men sat at anchor unable to move due to the storm coming from the North West. They lowered their yards to the decks to sit it out. The storm was so fierce that on the Heemskerck they put down a second anchor and ran out more cable. The Zeehaen followed suit when their first anchor started to slip.

They named where they sat at anchor “Abel Tasman’s Bay”.

Isaac Gilseman’s drawing of the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen at anchor in Abel Tasman Bay

Isaac Gilseman’s drawing of the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen at anchor in Abel Tasman Bay

While they were no longer exposed to the danger of the lee shore, they were by no means out of trouble and now they were even more trapped than before.
Previously, to escape, they needed the wind to come from anywhere except the west. Any wind direction from North East, via East round to the South East would allow them a westerly exit, but now any passage to the west was blocked by D’Urville Island. Now they needed to first go northwards past Stephens Island and then try to go West. Now they didn’t need just a favourable wind direction, they needed one followed by another.

A satellite image from google maps rotated to the same orientation as the Abel Tasman Bay drawing

A satellite image from google maps rotated to the same orientation as the Abel Tasman Bay drawing annotated with key landmarks

As they sat there, they realised that they were not alone. They were sheltering from the storm in the lee of Rangitoto Islands, themselves just off D’Urville Island, and they knew there were people there because they saw smoke.

The Barber Surgeon Hendrik Haelbos wrote that after leaving Golden Bay Tasman “found himself then surrounded by land” (this was the morning they discovered they were against the lee shore) and that he “was tossed at anchor by hard storm before a coast, where he saw much smoke rise”

As they sat there at anchor unable to move, they were being watched. It is most likely that the watchers were Ngati Tumatakokiri too, the same tribe as they had met in Golden Bay, as D’Urville Island was also a part of their range.

In the appalling weather Tasman didn’t attempt to go ashore, and the Ngati Tumatakokiri didn’t go out to them either.

From information given in Tasman’s journal we can estimate the position of this anchorage fairly accurately.

“the said island was north-north-west of us, then dropped our anchor behind a number of cliffs in 33 fathom”

Tasman’s ships lay south-south-east of Stephens Island where the depth was approximately 60m and where they were in the lee of some cliffs.

These three criteria are satisfied in only a very small area, and comparison of Isaac Gilsemans drawing to a modern map allows us to identify some of the features in his drawing.

While Isaac Gilsemans recorded what he could actually see, Pilot Major Visscher, the navigator and chart maker, drew something that he suspected to was there, but didn’t see.

On 23rd December Tasman recorded that;

“since the tide was running from the south-east there was likely to be a passage through, so that perhaps it would be best, as soon as wind and weather should permit, to investigate this point and see whether we could get fresh water there”

Among the three copies of the journal that still exist there are two charts, and they are not quite the same. One is in the completed ‘State Archives’ copy of the journal, and the other is the partially complete ‘Huijdecoper’ copy. These two charts are mostly similar, but differ in an important detail; the ‘Huijdecoper’ chart, which was drawn by Visscher personally, indicates an opening between the North Island and South Island of New Zealand corresponding to what we now know as Cook Strait. The State Archives copy of the chart shows the land there as continuous.

Had they known for certain that there was passage there, and that it opened into the South Sea and not a large inland sea, then they could has used this exit in any westerly wind. But there was uncertainty, and with that came risk. If the tidal flow was not from the ocean, but from a large body of water, an inland sea, then the difficulty of escape would re-double.

A comparison of the South Taranaki Bight area from both the Visscher chart, and the State Archives copy

A comparison of the South Taranaki Bight area in the Visscher chart, and the chart in the State Archives copy

We don’t know for certain why there is this difference in the documents, but equally the men on board the two ships did not know for certain whether or not there was a passage through to the ocean either.

The journal notes that they might investigate it should “wind and weather should permit “. But as events unfolded, that opportunity didn’t arise.

On December 25th 1642, even though they were half the world away from home they still remembered Christmas. The Sailor’s journal records:

“against noon the master came with the merchant of the Zeehaen on board our ship as guests to the commander. There were also two pigs killed for the crew, and the commander ordered, besides the ration, a tankard of wine to be given to every mess, as it was the time of the fair.”

Tasman’s journal for that day notes that the storm had eased, and they prepared to get under sail again, re-raising their years, and taking in some of their anchor line.

“In the morning we reset our tops and sailyards, but out at sea things looked still so gloomy that we did not venture to weigh our anchor. Towards evening it fell a calm so that we took in part of our cable.”

To escape the trap of the lee shore they needed to first round Stephens Island to their NNW, then they could resume their efforts to tack out of the bight. Once clear of Stephens Island, any wind direction except west would permit this.

In the darkness, before dawn on 26th December, the wind gave them an opportunity to escape, and they took it immediately.

“In the morning, two hours before day, we got the wind east-north-east with a light breeze. We weighed anchor and set sail, steered our course to northward, intending to sail northward round this land; at daybreak it began to drizzle, the wind went round to the south-east, and afterwards to the south as far as the south-west, with a stiff breeze. We had soundings in 60 fathom, and set our course by the wind to westward.”

They started moving while it was still dark. The wind from ENE allowed them a NNW path toward Stephens Island, then, having rounded the island the wind turned to a stiff south wester. Sailing hard on the wind they set a North West course, and headed out into the Tasman Sea.

Tasman had escaped.

Tasman's progress on Visscher's chart to December 26th 1642

Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to December 26th 1642


Unexpected shore

Abel Tasman banner

It had been a big day for Tasman and his men, and no doubt they were pleased to leave “Murderers Bay” behind them, but the day’s excitement was not yet over.

Tasman believed he was sailing into open ocean, that the land extended to the east of where they had come from. “therefore it will be best to sail eastward along the coast, following the trend of the land” He was sorely mistaken.

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

Tasman’s course leaving Golden Bay on 19th December 1642”

They sailed East-North-East from Golden Bay, confident that they moving out into the “South Sea”. But they were completely unaware of the existence of the North Island of New Zealand, and in the middle of the night, the alarm was raised.

“During the night we kept sailing as the weather was favourable, but about an hour after midnight we sounded in 25 or 26 fathom, a hard, sandy bottom. Soon after the wind went round to north-west, and we sounded in 15 fathom; we forthwith tacked to await the day, turning our course to westward, exactly contrary to the direction by which we had entered.”

It was a near disaster.

In darkness they had closed on the coast of the North Island, near Whanganui, and in just 15 fathoms of water (25 metres) they did an ‘about turn’. Not knowing what was around them in the darkness they turned exactly back along the path they’d come, and waited for daylight.

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

Tasman’s course leaving Golden Bay on 19th December 1642”

“In the morning we saw land lying here on all sides of us, so that we must have sailed at least 30 myles into a bay. We had at first thought that the land off which we had anchored was an island, nothing doubting that we should here find a passage to the open South Sea; but to our grievous disappointment it proved quite otherwise. The wind now being westerly … “

The length of coast they had come upon is known as “the fatal coast”, and is littered with the wrecks of old sailing ships.

Tasman found himself on this piece of water in a Westerly wind, and could see land to his North, East and South. He was trapped unless the wind turned. If the wind increased in strength and he was blown backwards, then they would be wrecked.

This was their great fear, being trapped against a lee shore.

The sea floor on this coast extends shallow for a great distance; a snare for the unwary, and Tasman noted this for later Mainers to be aware of.

“As you are approaching the land you have everywhere an anchoring-ground gradually rising from 50 or 60 fathom to 15 fathom when you are still fully 1½ or 2 myles from shore.”

If a ship’s keel caught the bottom here in a strong westerly, then it would become impossibly stuck. The storm would turn the vessel so that its full sail area caught the wind, and then it would be forced gradually higher up the sand by the wind and lifting action of the waves, until it was held immovably fast.

In 1878, in a single year, six large sailing ships foundered on this piece of coast; the Hydrabad, the Pleione, the City of Auckland, the Felixstowe, and the Weathersfield.

In the early hours of the morning, Dec 20th 1642, the history of New Zealand turned.

New Zealand was settled by the British mostly due to the Journals of James Cook… and the Admiralty had directed him to New Zealand because they had a gained a copy of Tasman’s Journal, and his chart.

If the watch on Tasman’s ship that night had not been diligent, then his expedition would have been lost, and it would have been lost without record. There would have been no journal, no chart for the British to study, and consequently no visit by James Cook. The History of New Zealand, would have been entirely different.

However, the watch on Tasman’s ship was diligent. Even though they thought they were in open ocean, they were still checking the depth as they went. In the darkness they turned around and waited for daylight.

In daylight they saw land on three sides of them, and had the wind coming from the direction of their only known exit (the strait separating the North Island and South Island would not be discovered for another 127 years).

“The wind now being westerly we henceforth did our best by tacking to get out at the same passage through which we had come in. “

Tasman’s ships could not make upwind progress at all, the best they could manage was to sail across the direction of the wind, and they turned south. They continued on that course until they came up to land again, and turned away hoping for a change in wind direction that would allow them to get out to sea.

“At noon we tacked to northward when we saw a round high islet west by south of us, at about 8 myles distance which we had passed the day before”

The “high islet” was Stephens Island, at the northern end of D’Urville Island. They had passed it the previous afternoon. They continued through the day and night to North, but the next morning, they came up to land again, and had to turn away once.

“During the night in the dog-watch we had a westerly wind with a strong breeze; we steered to the north, hoping that the land which we had had north-west of us the day before might fall away to northward, but after the cook had dished we again ran against it and found that it still extended to the north-west. We now tacked, turning from the land again and, as it began to blow fresh, we ran south-west over towards the south shore. “

Tasman's course to their anchorage off D'Urville Island on Dec 21st 1642

“Tasman’s course to their anchorage off D’Urville Island on Dec 21st 1642”

By the afternoon they had crossed the Taranaki Bight once more, and Stephens Island came into sight again. Having made nearly no progress at all to windward in the previous 24 hours, they now decided to find shelter.

“Halfway through the afternoon we again saw the south coast; the island which the day before we had west of us at about 6 myles distance now lay south-west by south of us at about 4 myles distance. We made for it, running on until the said island was north-north-west of us, then dropped our anchor behind a number of cliffs in 33 fathom, sandy ground mixed with shells. There are many islands and cliffs all round here. We struck our sail-yards for it was blowing a storm from the north-west and west-north-west.”

On the evening of December 21st, 1642 Tasman and his men put down their anchors for the 4th time in New Zealand. They were sheltering from a storm in the lee of Rangitoto Islands, off D’Urville Island, and they were stuck there.

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to December 25th 1642”


New Zealand

Abel Tasman banner

Tasman was confident that they had rounded the northernmost tip of this new land and was heading out into the open Pacific Ocean. Accordingly, he named the land that they were leaving behind.

“This is the second Land along which we sailed and which we discovered and we have given to it the name of Staten Landt in honour of the High and Mighty Lords the States [General] since it might well be (though this is not certain) that it is connected with the Staten Landt”

 Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to the night December 19th, 1642

This is Tasman’s chart of New Zealand contained in the manuscript held at the Dutch National Archive (north on this chart is to the left of the page). The title of this chart reads: “Staete landt: this and was made and discovered by the ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen, the Hon. Abel Tasman commander, A.D. 1642, the 13th of December.”

‘Staten Landt’ was a very important and well-known landmark and used to find the route into the Pacific ocean from the Atlantic. It lay to the south of the mainland of South America, on the Atlantic side. It was discovered in 1616 when Schouten and le Maire traversed the Pacific. In order to avoid the Spanish Vessels patrolling the Magellan Strait they had continued South down the coast of Tierra Del Fuego, and discovered a passage leading to the southernmost part of South America. They named it ‘Cape Horn’, though it was later discovered to be an island.

This passage to Cape Horn lay between Tierra Del Fuego, and the land they named ‘Staten Landt’. It is now known as the Le Maire Strait.

 Le Maire’s chart of Staten Landt

This piece of a chart, from Schoutens book “Novi freti, a parte meridionali freti Magellanici, in magnum mare australe detectio;” 1619, shows Staten Landt as a discrete land mass, not an Island.

To round Cape Horn you followed the coast South, passed through this gap and then followed the coast into the Pacific ocean. It is not connected to mainland South America, and at the time Tasman set sail it was believed to be a part of the Great Southern Continent.

Tasman thought that the land they were now leaving behind was another part of that same piece of land and named the country “Staten Landt”. He also thought it to be a piece of theGreat South Land he’d been sent out to find… “we trust that this is the mainland coast of the unknown South land.”

He was mistaken, but this wouldn’t be known until Cook circumnavigated the land in 1769/1770.

At the same time as Tasman was exploring the Pacific Ocean for the Great Southern continent, another VOC expedition was exploring around the Southern tip of South America.

In 1642-1643 Hendrik Brouwer lead an expedition of 5 ships around Cape Horn. Brouwer was one of the VOC’s most acclaimed commanders and had pioneered the faster route from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia that had lead to the VOC discovery of the Australian coast. A long term goal of the VOC was to carry gold and silver from Chile to Europe, but to do that they needed a Chilean base from which to operate. Brouwer was to establish a settlement at Valdivia in Southern Chile, an outpost abandoned by the Spanish. Brouwer however encountered great difficulty in passing around Cape Horn. As a result of being blown off course he discovered that what was then known as ‘Staten Landt’ was in fact an island.

In 1643 the journals of both expeditions were returned to the VOC Head Office in Amsterdam, along with the navigators’ notes and charts. It was then realised that the land Tasman had discovered was clearly not “connected with the Staten Landt”. The first European name bestowed on the land Tasman discovered turned out to be a mistake, and a new one was sought.

The VOC was managed by a 17 man Board of Governors known as the “Heeren 17”. Many of the new lands and features discovered in the course of their business were named after the aspects of this company and its governing board. For example, what we now call “Tasmania” was originally named after the VOC governor in Batavia, “Van Diemen’s Land”.

Of the Heeren 17, 6 came from the province of Amsterdam, 4 came from the province of Zeeland, and the remaining seven from various provinces. The new name reflected where the Heeren 17 originated. “New Amsterdam” was already in use in North America (the British would re-name that settlement “New York” in 1664) so they gave Tasman’s new land the name “Nieuw Zeeland” after the Dutch province of that name, and home to four of the Governing members.

News of this newly discovered land, and the name “Nieuw Zeeland” did not remain a VOC secret for very long.

In 1657, Dutch mapmaker Jan Janssonius created a major new world atlas. It comprised 5 sheets, one of which was a polar view of the Earth centered on the South Pole. On this sheet Janssonius included all the southern territories known to that date by the VOC; the Australian mainland, Tasmania, and New Zealand. He also showed what was formerly known as “Staten Landt” as a discrete island; “Staten Eylandt”

 Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to the night December 19th, 1642

Polus Antarcticus cum regionibus subjacentibus et maribus illum alluentibus (“The Antarctic pole with the adjoining regions and seas flowing near it.”). From Atlantis majoris quinta pars… the fifth part of the 1657 Atlas Major by Jan Janssonius (1588-1664).

The place labels he drew on his map were in Latin, and the name he placed on New Zealand was; “Nova Zeelandia”. In English, the name given to Tasman’s new land was “New Zeeland”.

It was one error that gave the land its first European name, “Staten Landt”, and another which gave it its current name “New Zealand”.

James Cook was an extraordinary navigator, explorer and chronicler. When he sailed into the Pacific he had with him a copy of Alexander Dalrymple’s book “An Historical Collection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean”. It was published in April 1769 and included a partial text of Tasman’s journal which was copied from that published by Valentyn in 1726. The Valentyjn text still refered to the country as “Nova Zeelandia”, but by the time Dalrymple related it, the spelling had been corrupted to to “New Zealand”

In his journal of his first Pacific Voyage, Cook consistently referred to the land as “New Zealand” and its occupants “New Zealanders”. Cook’s discoveries became the primary source of information about this new land, and as such the name “New Zealand” became the standard way (in Great Britain) to reference it.

The enduring name “New Zealand” is the result of a spelling mistake.


Arriverderci Te Wai Pounamu

The Heems banner

“Nonsense!” I said. “We’ll see about that”.

So I tested it.

“There you go!… nonsense!”.

The tin said “Fruit: 2 servings”. But the whole lot fitted easily into one bowl, and still left plenty of room for the cream.

I was looking at what was very clearly one serving.

“Nonsense” I said again, in case I’d missed it the first two times.


One serving of fruit

I sat down, with bowl and spoon and un-paused the movie… “Pirates of the Caribbean” (Pt 3).

Movies are always my fall-back when I can’t get a TV signal. Usually, it’s due to rain fade on the dish, but tonight it was my location. There wasn’t any place on the campsite that met all the criteria, so I gave away the TV in favour on the others… flat, quiet, fairly close to the toilets, and with a drop dead gorgeous view.

Yesterday I was in Golden Bay, tonight I was in the Marlborough Sounds… right in the middle of them. I was about 2 metres above the high tide line, three paces from the beach looking straight out across the still water of Kenepupu Sound. In the morning, the sun will light the hills on the far side.

Where I was is just 9.5 km from Picton, where I’d get the ferry from in a couple of days, but it’s a 3 hour drive to get there. It’s 9.5km as the crow flies, but there are no crows here. Just a few fat pigeons, and some weka’s trying to figure out where I threw the toast.

From here to Picton by road is only 50km, but it’s 50km of narrow steep and winding road. According to Uncle Google it should take 1 hour 10 mins… but he’s obviously never been here.

As I said it’s 50km from here to Picton by road, but this leg of the Sounds is also very remote by water. It’s over 60km to the open sea, and 120km by boat to Picton. The most direct way here from Picton, is to go the first 6km by boat, and then 3km over the hill by road… which is why the place is called… Portage.

It’s not a big place. It consists of a fancy ‘retreat’ type of hotel, a shop, six houses, a wharf and a DOC campsite that’s down the road a bit.

The road leads to nowhere. Portage is 20km before nowhere.

Being so far from open sea the place has the appearance and sounds of great lakes. You can only tell it’s the sea because its level rises and falls a couple of times a day (and of course, it’s salty). Otherwise it is flat and placid. It is surrounded by bush covered hills, and the water sloshes onto the beach instead of crashing in waves. The shoreline consists not of broad beaches, but countless rocky coves, edged with pohutukawa trees fronting the bush.

The DOC campsites (there are 3 fairly near to here) are each in one of these little bays.

It’s hard to draw this part of the journey to a close, but I had now finished everything I had to do in the South Island, and was making my way North. For the first time in a long while, I was now ahead of Tasman’s position described to date in the blog.

I’d spent a long time in Golden Bay. Originally it was because I had a lot to do there. It’s the setting for the biggest event of Tasman’s voyage, so there was a lot of writing, and a huge filming effort to be completed there. In the end, I’d stayed longer than was strictly necessary, but I couldn’t have wished for a better ending to my stay.

After meeting Penny, and Robert I’d decided I would stay for the activities around the Anniversary of Tasman’s appearance in Golden Bay… December 18th & 19th. At the time I thought I was delaying my departure by perhaps a month, but in reality it only made a few days difference. The weather severely restricted the days on which I was able to film, and I got deep into re-constructing Tasman’s course.

My last day in Golden Bay was Dec 19th. A group of nearly 20 of us met in Wainui Bay and walked out to the Pa Site at Taupo Point. It had been my suggestion that the walk might be a nice idea and this somehow got turned into me leading the group out there.

I was just a little troubled about this. The walk out there isn’t overly difficult, but it’s not trivial either. The Mayor of Tasman District Council had been present at the commemoration at the memorial the day before, but had decided against the walk. However, Christine Hofkens (Cultural Adviser from the Netherlands Embassy in Wellington). I’d checked her out on the internet and saw someone I who looked as though she’s be more in her element organising Embassy functions than scrambling around a rocky shoreline.

I’d suggested that the walk was fairly flat, around the beaches… but “fairly flat” is a matter of perception… and I might have been a teeny bit generous in this description. The Department of Conservation ranks it’s footpath into three classes; “walk”, “track” and “route”. “walk”, you could push a baby stoller along (if you were keen), “track” you could cycle through on a mountain bike, but “route” you could do neither of these. The way out to Taupo Pa is a “Route”, and if you get caught by the tide then it becomes quite a significant challenge… for anyone… let alone Latté ladies from Wellington.

Low tide route to Taupo Pa

Low tide route to Taupo Pa

We were rather concerned for Christine. The rest of the people who turned up would be fine, they were local and knew what they were up for. However, despite being completely out of her element, and greatly to her credit, Christine persevered without fuss and made it there (and back) in one piece. And I’m immensely grateful we didn’t have to take her on the high tide detour over the hill.

Up on the lookout above Taupo Pa, where the Ngati Tumatakokiri had assembled, we walked through the events of December 19th 1642. Looking at who was where, at what times, who moved from where to where, and what they did there. Standing in the landscape of the events is a powerful way to re-live it… sharing the same sights and sounds as them.

There was an impressive assembly of knowledge on the hilltop. Robert and I were very familiar with the journal contents and the details and sequence of the day’s events, but Robert is also probably the country’s leading authority on Tasman’s ships and people. Phillip was another local author, with published work on natural history particularly Polynesian flora . He gave us Maori context by way of explanations of the local Taniwha, and also spoke about the local plants and the Maori uses of them… those that were indigenous, and those that they had introduced. Jim had lived in the area all his life, and had been out to Taupo on very many occasions; fishing, hunting, and guiding various parties of archaeologists. His understanding of the local landscape and how it had changed was just a delight to listen to.

And that was how my time in Golden Bay ended; in a special place, on a special day, with special people.

I’d had in mind to nip over to Totaranui for the night before leaving the area, but as I pulled away from the car park I saw three very weary looking tourists with their thumbs out. It was a common sight around there. The Abel Tasman coastal track is very popular with younger overseas tourists, but it’s a long way, and when you finish you wind up at the end of a dirt road, a long way from your car, and a long way from “town” or any public transport.

I gave them a lift into Takaka, which was the opposite direction to where I’d intended to go, but that was OK. It left me with some unfinished business, and another reason to go back to Golden Bay.

The following day I was back in the Marlborough sounds again. Gazing across the broad water at the rolling bush covered hills and the rocky inlets.

The language here is different. I’d just come from where the prevailing nomenclature referenced Tasman, here, it was Cook.

I have reached the end of what can be done with patches and ‘liquid nails’. It’s the end of the road for these guys… the South Island won.

It was my last free day in the South Island. I’d moved round to the Marlborough Sounds, before heading to the ferry at Picton, but with something special in mind… after all I was on holiday now.

Today was taking my boots on one last excursion… I hoped they were up to it. I’d re-glued the soles (again) and we were going for a walk up the Queen Charlotte track. I wanted to look out over where James Cook anchored here in the Sounds. I didn’t need to do this, but I had 1 spare day before I caught the ferry, and I didn’t want to waste it.

From the campsite I turned left, down a road that goes to nowhere (there are plenty of these in New Zealand… all are recommended). I parked up where the Queen Charlotte track crossed the Titirangi Road. I use ‘park’ rather loosely here . The car park was full… there were already four vehicles there, so I’d stopped the van where I could. It was steep… very steep. It was one of those places that even with the handbrake pulled to its fullest, and reverse gear engaged, I was still uncomfortable. The van leaned at a precarious angle, with 2 wheels in the ditch, the rest of it nearly, but not quite blocking the road. If there was a way to lock the rear axel, I’d have used it. I had to get in and out of the van through the cab as the side door was too close to the embankment to be able to open it.

End of the road for these old boots

It’s ‘the last hurrah’ for these guys

I pulled my heroic boots on for one last outing… along a part of the Queen Charlotte Walkway.

Just like the Abel Tasman Coastal Walkway, The Queen Charlotte track is another of ‘New Zealand’s Great Walkways’ (it’s a designation, not just my description), and if you prefer ocean and islands over mountains and valleys, then this is the pick of the bunch.

Once I’d gained all the height the track would give me I dived into the bush, heading for the top of the ridge. When I pushed through the last of the growth to look down onto another place, as historic as the scene I had been looking at a couple of days before.

I’d made my way to somewhere with a very particular aspect, and was now overlooking Queen Charlotte Sound, Endeavour Inlet, Resolution Bay, and Ship’s Cove. James Cook had stayed here on all three of his Pacific voyages.

Unlike Tasman’s anchorages, which were well offshore on account of the precarious places he stopped, Cook anchorages in the Marlborough Sounds were sheltered and very close inshore. From my vantage point I could visualise the Endeavour (1st voyage) and the Resolution (2nd and 3rd voyages) sitting there, nestled into in their respective little Bays.

Apart from the occasional passing boat, there was no sign of humanity. The scene I was looking at was exactly as Cook saw it.

I didn’t meet anyone at all while I was on the track, and moving almost silently over the soft grassed track, I had the company of the birds singing to me the whole time. In comparison to the walking I’d done recently, this was a complete pleasure. Underfoot the path was cushioned and even, not sharp and lumpy, the incline was gentle, and I didn’t have to fight the tide to get in and out. It was just a leisurely walk through pristine bush with fantastic sea views thrown in for good measure.

I was on my way back down by 3:00, and installed on the DOC campsite by 5:00, and what a campsite it was. As I pulled in I ran through the checklist:

1. Level… check
2. Water & Toilets… check
3. Line of sight North for the SKY dish… check
4. Mobile signal for the Internet… check
5. Quiet… check
6. Drop dead gorgeous… check.

6 out of 6, top score… I stayed.

Kenepupu Sound, what a wonderful place to end my South Island Adventure.

Monday, 22nd December

Now, I was just counting down the time. Sitting here in Kenepupu Sound I was oddly confused… I had nothing to do, and I can’t recall when this last happened.

I was still 3 hours away from Picton, but the ferry wasn’t until 02:15 a.m… yes, that’s right a.m! There’s nothing I needed in Picton other than to catch the ferry. I could do a little food shopping, but that was all, and really, that was better done on the other side of the Strait… virtually anywhere would do for the few bits and pieces I needed.

So I sat here, looking across the Sounds, listening to the birds, and practiced “just being” for a while.

Kenepupu Sound campsite

Kenepupu Sound campsite

Not bad for $6 a night.


Credit where credit’s due.

In my 9 months in the South Island I’ve been to some extraordinary places. I have also met some wonderful people, and some were very special indeed. I could not have enjoyed my time here if it weren’t for these people:

Thank you to the wonderful Fellows in Hokitika, who straightened me up again when the wheels were coming off.

Thank you to all the wonderful people in Golden Bay; particularly Wayne and Lee and Tony and Trish, on the campsite at Tukurua road. I’ll be back.

And thank you to all the ‘Tasman’ people, particularly Penny and Robert.

I’ll see you all again next time I’m passing by.


Arrividerci Te Wai Pounamu, and Merry Christmas everyone.

Gillespies Beach lagoon

Gillespies Beach lagoon


I’ve had better days

The Heems banner

You know how some days, everything just goes your way… well today wasn’t one of those days.

I knew it was going to be a close call, the forecast wasn’t ideal, but I’m running out of days, so I had to give it a go.

I’m on a countdown for leaving the Bay. I have my ferry ticket booked for Dec 22nd and still at least 2 ½ days of filming to complete. These particular scenes are all really important, and simply can’t be shot anywhere else.

I have some fairy straightforward stuff to do at the Abel Tasman Memorial; I need this for the opening of the documentary. There’s not a great deal to do, but it’s quite fussy in terms of linking shots, close-ups’ different angles, long views etc. It has to be filmed late afternoon for the right sun direction, but finished before 7:00 in the evening, at which time it falls into shadow. The good news about this place is that’s it’s only a 5 minute walk from where I can park.

The other two days of filming are much harder work. I have to shoot first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening. I can’t really do both on the same days because there are some hard limits on what I can do. If I try to do everything then I will run out of storage on the cameras, battery for the cameras or battery on the sound kit. But in reality, the biggest limitation is me… it’s simply too much to do in one day. By the time I film the evening shots I simply won’t be able to muster the concentration or enthusiasm to complete it properly… so, all ways ‘round, it’s 2 visits.

Unfortunately, this is one of the less accessible places I have to film at, and it has lots of constraints.

The camera angles and sun lighting I need absolutely determine the limits on times that I can film there, but there are other problems too. It’s a 20 minute drive from the closest place I can camp, and then there’s about an hour and a half of walking. I say about, because it depends entirely on the state of the tide. For the top 2 hours of tide I can’t get there (or back) at without taking an inland detour track to get around one particular bluff.

It’s not a big hill in the scheme of things, but I’ve given it a name.

From the top of

From the top of “What? really? again? Hill” looking towards Taupo Point (taken on a different day)

Each time, before I go over it I look in dismay at the rocks and the waves… and I say the same thing. So I call it… “what?… really?… again? Hill.”

All in all it’s a bit of a drama getting there and back, and it really takes it out of me… which is problematic, as I need to be on the ball once I get there.

The other issue there is the wind. It seems to be relentless.

I’ve been there 6 times now, and only managed one day of useful filming in all that.

Each visit needs a big build up. I need to have a big breakfast, and a good shave (the close-ups pick up any bits I’ve missed) and pack a lunch. I’ll drink lots of water and juice before I leave, as I’ll only carry 1 litre with me. I need 14 hours charging to guarantee that all my batteries are full. I need my script boards ready, and any illustrations I refer to. And I need to check, double check and then check again that I have every single piece of equipment packed. I don’t carry anything spare, so missing any single piece means scratching the whole day.

And so it was this morning.

It was 5:15 when the alarm went off. Sunrise was 5:50, and I wanted to be rolling by then. So it was straight out of bed, get the porridge and coffee on, and shave. All my batteries had to go from the chargers into all my gear, and then check, and re-check that everything, EVERYTHING was in my pack.

Next, was pack down the van; Down with the satellite dish, bed down, strap down over the duvet, rear curtains tied back, disconnect the power & stow the lead, roll the van off my leveling chocks… stow the chocks, get everything loose into cupboards, clear the tops, and count the latches as I close them… 20 drawers in total. Then stow the TV, strap up the tea and coffee rail, raise the netting that holds everything in place up in the over-cab,… shower door, fridge door and cooker lid. Finally, a last check inside… “is everything already on the floor that I want on the floor?”… yes?… then throw the outside mat in, close the door, and we’re off… or not.

I jumped down from the cab, went back inside, picked up my keys, and leapt back into the drivers seat.

It’s about a 20 minute drive around to the start of the Abel Tasman Coastal track, and then … boots on, pack on and go.

The first sun was shining on the hills on the far side of the bay as I stepped onto the track. The start is flat and broad, through coastal bush. It’s always sheltered on this part, so at this stage I had no idea of what the wind would be doing out on the beaches. Soon enough though I stepped off onto a smaller track that lead out to the line of 3 beaches.

It was still calm on the first beach… that looked promising.

I remember thinking damn! I forgot sun block. As it turned out I didn’t need it. At the far end of the bay it was a beautiful morning… but here, it was overcast.

I was surprised to see the tide as high as it was. I’d expected more beach to walk down and less boulders… but, you get what you get. Wanting it different doesn’t change things… it just made for harder going.

The tide was still pretty high when I got to the decision point… up over the hill, or try to climb ‘round. I decided to scramble and climb. Today, that was the wrong choice.

After 10 minutes of slow climb around the foot of the bluff I came to a 10m stretch that was impassable… sheer and green with weed… but only a foot or so deep if I stepped on the submerged rocks.

I had a choice… double back 10 minutes, and then take the hill detour, or walk through the water. I took the second option… I didn’t want to waste more time, but that meant I would have wet feet for the rest of the day.

I scrambled round the rest of the rocks and then squelched my way down the second beach, before the stretch of large uneven rocks and boulders, and the short last beach.

Once I reached Taupo Point, I didn’t stop, but walked straight through to my destination, over a little bushy rise to the beach on the far side.

This was where I would be filming this morning.

The good news was that the wind was very light, the bad news was that the sky was very dark.

I moved to my first setup position, started assembling my rig, and checked the test shots in the cameras…. too dull! I stepped up the aperture, more, and more, until my face turned red and the sky was a solid white. Everything in the replay looked flat and featureless…
…and why was I itching everywhere?

In the moist and overcast calm, the sand flies were out in force… and I was the only food on the beach. It wasn’t sun block I’d needed today, it was mossie lotion.

Things weren’t looking promising, but there was no point in going all that way and simply turning back, so I pressed on and shot all my scenes anyway. I had little confidence that anything I was doing would be usable, but there was no point in going to all that trouble and not getting something in the can. At least I could have some dialogue that I could use to voice over the top of other video.

The timestamp on the file for the first ‘take’ shows me that I started filming at 07:33 am. Two and a half hours after waking. That was pretty good going.

Scenes done I spent some time getting some supporting ‘cut-away’ shots: Looking up the beach, down the beach, out to sea, across the bay, me walking west, me walking east, me walking to the camera, me walking away from the camera, me walking out of the bush as seen from the beach, me walking out of the bush as seen from the bush… you get the idea.

An hour earlier, there was a beach there

Two hours earlier, there was a beach there (taken on a different day)

Then, I called it quits. There was nothing more I could do there of any value, so I re-packed my pack, flattened a final few sand flies, and squelched off back down the beaches. But I didn’t get far.

I’d got the tides completely wrong today… and it was fully high as I left. This made the beaches short, and the rocky shore longer, and there were now two extra stretches of rock to traverse. When I finally got to the middle beach and looked to the end I said “what?… really?… again?”… and turned up the hill track.

It would have been more comfortable with dry feet.

I was back on my favourite perch on my preferred campsite at Tukurua Road by 2:00 pm, and asleep by 2:15.

This evening as sit here, I have downloaded and reviewed the footage, and it’s pretty much all useless. If everything had worked out well, I’d have about 4 minutes of final footage for my trouble, but today all I got was some walking about scenes. The dialogue is OK, but none of the dialogue has usable video, it’s just all too dark and flat.

What-oh. I’ll just have to do it all again.

The next day that even looks possible is Tuesday… and tonight, I feel as though I could sleep until then.

I didn’t achieve much today, but I’ve learned something really useful. The next time I go there I’ll take an old pair of runners with me. That way, if I meet high water, I’ll just wade through it, but still have dry socks and boots to get back into. It will save me a lot of time and effort… oh… and I’ll take the mossie spray.

Abel Tasman’s course up the West Coast of New Zealand

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Interactive Map: click a few things to see how it works.

This reconstruction uses all spatial references in Abel Tasman’s journal to build a complete turn by turn course of their progress up the coast of New Zealand.

Information from the journal used to make this reconstruction includes: observed latitude, bearings to features, distances to features, depth, direction sailed, and distance sailed (since the previous day).

Course reconstruction charts

Some browsers have difficulty with zoom-able images. If the map does not appear, then refresh the page to re-activate it.

There are controls for pan and zoom, but these can also be done directly with click or touch movements.

Zooming in and out on touch devices is by ‘pinch’ and ‘stretch’. If you are using a mouse with a wheel, then the wheel will zoom in and out, and click-hold-release will pan the image.

Click on the thumbnail images below to switch between charts. From left to right the charts are:

  • Abel Tasman’s approach to New Zealand and progress north
  • Abel Tasman’s course into and out of golden Bay
  • Abel Tasman’s progress 19 December to 26 December 1642

Reconstructing Abel Tasman’s course

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At first glance, re-creating the course followed by the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen should be straightforward; Tasman’s journal has an entry for every day, and that entry includes a coordinate comprising a latitude and a longitude.

A typical daily location summary looks like this;

“At noon Latitude estimated 40° 13′, Longitude 192° 7′; course kept north-north-west, sailed 20 miles.”

The longitude given appears unlikely, but is actually just a different way of representing longitude. We are familiar with longitude coordinates in the range 180° to -180°, which we measure from the Meridian at Greenwich. Tasman however measured his longitude east from the peak of Tenerife Island, in the range 0 to 360.

Teide, the peak on Tenerife lies 16° 38′ to the west of Greenwich, so it is easy enough to adjust Tasman’s reported longitudes to derive coordinates that we can use in modern mapping systems. However, when we look at the course this yields, we get a disappointing result. The course lies nowhere near to coast of New Zealand.

This is because Tasman had no means of measuring longitude. His east-west movement each day was estimated by ‘dead reckoning’, and all errors were cumulative.

The latitudes and longitudes recorded in Tasman’s journal provide a very poor representation of the route sailed. It is possible however to reconstruct his course by using other details recorded in his journal. Below is an example.

At noon on 14 December Tasman’s journal recorded that he was in the latitude 42° 10′ S (the sun that day was “observed”) and also that he was “2 miles” off the coast. (Tasman measured distance in Dutch miles. 1 Dutch mile is 7.4km).

We can reliably reconstruct this position using his reported latitude, and that distance (14.8km) offshore.

At noon on 14 December Tasman reported his longitude as Longitude 189° 3′, which is 172° 22′ E relative to the Greenwich meridian. His actual longitude that day (2 Dutch miles off the coast) was 171° 8′, which is 1° 14′ different to his true position.

Tasman’s ‘longitude’ is discussed more fully in the post Tasman’s Navigation, Part 1

While Tasman’s longitude was always estimated, the same is not true of his reported latitude.

As long as Tasman was able to see the midday sun, he could calculate his latitude remarkably well. How he did this is described in the post Tasman’s Navigation, Part 2

When Tasman could sight the noon sun’s altitude he provided us with half of his actual location… the latitude. In the course reconstruction, other details from the journal are used in conjunction with this, to derive his longitude.

Locations derived from component parts

Locations derived from component parts

The noon location on 14 December is an example of this. He was known to be at a certain latitude, and also at a known distance from the shore. From these the full location, 42° 10′ S, 171° 8′ E can be derived.

The course reconstruction is created from all the spatial information sources recorded in the journal: observed latitude, bearings to physical features, distances to physical features, direction sailed, distance sailed, times, and depths. Estimated latitude, and longitude are ignored in favour of these.

It is not a completely precise reconstruction, this is not possible from the information available, but it is accurate within known bounds:

Observed latitude

Testing with contemporary replicas of 17th century navigational instruments, shows that both the cross-staff and back-staff could reliably be used to measure the suns altitude (and thereby determine latitude) to within 2 arc minutes (1 arc minute being 1/60th of a degree). However, this was only achievable on days when the sun’s altitude could be measured.

When the noon sun was visible, the latitude was recorded in the journal as “observed”. When the sun was obscured, the latitude was reported as “estimated”. On these occasions the recorded latitude was estimated by dead reckoning.

Bearings to features

Course bearings and bearings to features were recorded to the closest compass point. Tasman used a 32 point compass, which means that all bearings given have a confidence of +/- 5.6°. The 32 point compass is described in the post Tasman’s Navigation, Part 1

Distances to features

The unit of length used throughout the journal is the Dutch mile. There were fifteen Dutch miles per degree of latitude (or per degree of longitude measured at the equator).

A Dutch mile has the contemporary equivalent of 7.4km (4.6 Imperial miles).

Distances to physical features were judged, not measured, and these can have a high variability. However, analysis of the distances on the occasions that they can be verified, indicates a margin of error of +/- 30%

Distance sailed

 A 30 minute sand glass and a 'traverse board' used to record course sailed and duration through a single watch

A 30 minute sand glass and a ‘traverse board’ used to record course sailed and duration through a single watch

Distance ‘sailed’ recorded in the journal was the sum of the day’s dead reckonings of each watch. The dead reckoning for each watch was derived from the sum of the duration and courses held during that watch.

There is some significant variability in these, but wayward distances can be removed by comparison of the start and end coordinates, and the reported distance sailed. Discrepancies exceeding 1 Standard Deviation were excluded from the reconstruction.

Distance ‘sailed’ was always rounded to the nearest whole Dutch mile and therefore has an additional variability of +/- half a Dutch mile.


Depths were recorded while at sea and at anchor. At anchor, depth was measured while they were stationary using a line with knots at fathom intervals. This was quite accurate, but took no account of the state of the tide. At sea, depth was measured on the move using a longer rope, with knots at 5 fathom intervals. This has a variability of at least +/- 5 fathoms.


Tasman had no clock, and measured the passage of time in 30 minute increments using sand glasses. The day was divided into 6 watches, with each watch lasting four hours, or 8 glasses.

Although Tasman only rarely recorded time as “o’clock”, the time of day can often be derived from watch information in the journal.

The reference “in the middle of the afternoon” for example, means half way through the afternoon watch, or 14:00.

Midday, or noon, was when the sun was at its highest at his current location. At this time they re-started turning the sand glass. But the ‘noon’ time changed as they moved east or west, and cannot be directly compared to the ‘time zone’ based standard we keep today.

If Tasman had carried a clock, then as he travelled up the New Zealand coast, the time on his clock would typically show nearly 1½ hours earlier than on ours.

By combining these component parts, it is possible to deduce or approximate Tasman’s noon position each day and at many additional locations.

These are used to prepare a detailed course reconstruction, which is presented in a series of charts in the following post.