Author Archives: sixboats


Abel Tasman banner

Following the incident in Golden Bay, and the recovery of the cock-boat, the officers of the Zeehaen returned to their own ship, and soon after both ships weighed anchors and turned to leave the Bay heading ENE. At noon they were 2 Dutch myles south of their noon position on the previous day, and there Tasman convened the Ships’ Council.

“About noon skipper Gerrit Jansz and Mr. Gilsemans again came on board of us; we also sent for their first mate and convened the council, with whom we drew up the resolution following, to wit:
 Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to the night December 19th, 1642

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

Seeing that the detestable deed of these natives against four men of the Zeehaan’s crew, perpetrated this morning, must teach us to consider the inhabitants of this country as enemies; that therefore it will be best to sail eastward along the coast, following the trend of the land in order to ascertain whether there are any fitting places where refreshments and water would be obtainable; all of which will be found set forth in extenso in this day’s resolution.

In this murderous spot (to which we have accordingly given the name of Moordenaersbay) we lay at anchor on 40° 50′ South Latitude, 191° 30′ Longitude. “

Unfortunately, Tasman’s recorded position at anchor in Murderers Bay cannot be relied on at all as it was an estimation of both latitude and longitude. His previous ‘observed’ latitude was prior to entering the Bay.

The Sailor’s journal for the day was brief, but included the names of the men from the Heemskerck who had been killed;

“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. Soon afterwards we got under sail, steering our course N.E. by E.”

This marks the last mention in the Dutch record of the events in Golden Bay.

No detailed account by the Ngati Tumatakokiri was ever recorded, and as far as we know only 3 men survived their subsequent conquest. These three lived the rest of their lives as slaves of their conquerors.

This pencil sketch of Kehu snaring a Weka, by Charles Heaphy, is the only known depiction of any Ngati Tumatakokiri

This pencil sketch of Kehu snaring a Weka, by Charles Heaphy, is the only known original depiction of any Ngati Tumatakokiri (click to open at source)

Hone Mokehakeha, better known as Kehu, and Pikiwati were slaves to the Ngati Rarua. Eruera Te Whatapakoko, who was originally from Golden Bay was slave to Hohepa Tamaihengia of NgatiToa.

In the 1850’s, Land Agent James Mackay met Ngati Tumatakokiri survivor Eruera Te Whatapakoko. When asked if he’d heard of or seen white men in former days Erueha told him that his ancestors had killed some men who came in a ship to Wharawharangi, near Separation Point. From the hill behind Wainui, Eruera pointed out to Mackay where Tasman’s men had been killed by his ancestors.

This gives us no new detail of what happened there that day, but it is confirmation that it was indeed the Ngati Tumatakokiri that Tasman met.

When James Cook came to New Zealand in 1769-70 he carried with him a copy of Tasman’s journal; he made multiple references to it. His copy of Tasman’s journal clearly included the illustrations, as Joseph Banks recorded in Queen Charlotte Sound that; “The men in these boats were dressd much as they are represented in Tasmans figure”.

On anchoring in Ships Cove, Cook knew that he was quite close to the location of Tasman’s “Murtherers Bay”, and asked the natives if they’d seen ships like his before.

“These people declared to us this morning, that they never either saw or heard of a Ship like ours being upon this Coast before. From this it appears that they have no Tradition among them of Tasman being here, for I believe Murtherers bay, the place where he anchor’d, not to be far from this place; “

Cook stayed for 3 weeks in Queen Charlotte sound, and as he was preparing to leave, a local called Topaa, who they referred to as the ‘old man’, came aboard to say goodbye.

In this last conversation, conducted through Tupaia, Cook again enquired after Tasman’s visit.

His journal entry for Feb 6th 1770 recorded the exchange.

“Amongst other conversation that passed between him and Tupia, he was asked if either he or any of his Ancestors had ever seen or heard of any Ship like this being in these parts; to which question he answer’d in the Negative, but said that his Ancestors had told him that there came once to this place a small Vessel from a distant part, wherein were 4 Men that were all kill’d upon their landing;”

Joseph Banks, Botanist on the Endeavour, recorded a similar exchange with Topaa:

“neither himself his father or his grandfather ever heard of ships as large as this being here before, but that [they] have a tradition of 2 large vessels, much larger than theirs, which some time or other came here and were totaly destroyd by the inhabitants and all the people belonging to them killd’. This Tupia says is a very old tradition, much older than his great grandfather, and relates to two large canoes which came from Olimaroa, one of the Islands he has mentiond to us.”

Although the details conflict, this is clear evidence that Tasman’s visit was still known to the people in Queen Charlotte’s Sound nearly 130 years after the event. Topaa said that it was his ‘ancestors’ that killed Tasman’s men, and this is curious as Queen Charlotte’s Sound was not Ngati Tumatakokiri territory. Perhaps he was related to the Ngati Tumatakokiri (which is not at all unlikely), or in ‘ancestors’ he was referring to the wider ancestry of the Kurahaupo people, which he would have in common.

As Tasman’s party left Golden Bay, they believed they were leaving land behind them, and passing again into open ocean.

On Dec 16th, the evening before they’d seen smoke, Tasman had written that: “we found the furthest point of the land that we could see to bear from us east by north, the land falling off so abruptly there that we did not doubt that this was the farthest extremity.”

Now, leaving Golden Bay, they saw the lie of the coast continuing to the East, and were sure that they’d rounded the northernmost tip of the land and were entering the Pacific Ocean.

Since they were now leaving this land behind them, they named it.

“This is the second land which we have sailed along and discovered. In honour of their High Mightinesses the States-General we gave Staten Landt, since we deemed it quite possible that this land is part of the great Staten Land, though this is not certain. This land seems to be a very fine country and we trust that this is the mainland coast of the unknown South land. To this course we have given the name of Abel Tasman passagie, because he has been the first to navigate it.”

Tasman named the country “Staten Landt”.

Tasman's course leaving Golden Bay

Tasman’s course leaving Golden Bay

His journal entry for December 19th details their exit from the Bay:

“From here we shaped our course east-north-east. At noon Latitude estimated 40° 57′, Longitude 191° 41′; course kept south, sailed 2 myles. In the afternoon we got the wind from the west-north-west when, on the advice of our steersmen and with our own approval, we turned our course north-east by north.”

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. He was sorely mistaken.


December 19th: Filling the gaps

tasman banner
Kurahaupo banner

Tasman's position at anchor in golden Bay and nearby areas of Maori occupation

Tasman’s position at anchor in Golden Bay and nearby areas of Maori occupation

There is no surviving account of the meeting of Tasman and the Maori from the Ngati Tumatakokiri perspective, and without that we are missing the counterpoint of the Dutch account, which is not without prejudice, most particularly in Tasman’s Journal.

Tasman’s journal is biased towards showing that he has complied with his written instructions. An example of this is that when the company flag was planted in Tasmania he wrote this: “… the natives of this country, who did not show themselves, though we suspect some of them were at no great distance and closely watching our proceedings”.

His instructions required that he plant the company flag in the presence of the natives, which he did not, but he implied that they were present.

We might expect that for similar reasons, he omitted to mention opening fire on the natives of Golden Bay on the night of 18th December.

The records from the Dutch viewpoint are; Tasman’s Journal, The Sailors Journal, the Barber-Surgeon’s account, Gilsemans’ drawing and Visscher’s chart.

The Maori viewpoint that has been presented here is an extrapolation based on the Dutch records, and what is known of Maori occupation in the area, and customary practice.

The Maori “Diary” presented in Six Boats is a fictional account based on the evidence available. It is set in the character of a woman to provide a more objective view of events; men had a stereotype to uphold that obstructs an impartial view of occurrences.

In this part in particular, Tasman’s approach and entry to Golden Bay, some assumptions have been made that warrant further explanation.

Signal fires

Tasman approached Cape Farewell from the North-East, and saw smoke at dawn in “various places”. Literature relating this event usually attributes this smoke to cooking fires of the locals, but this is unlikely for several reasons.

When Tasman recorded seeing smoke he was over 7km offshore. He had had not yet turned and seen the dunes of Farewell Spit, nor had he seen into Golden Bay.

When the first European settlers arrived in Golden Bay, they found a small settlement of about 50 people at Tata. Other Maori were living in the Bay in smaller transient groups, with evidence of early occupation at Ligar, Pohara, Parapara, Aoere, Pakawau and Puponga.

Even if at the time of Tasman’s visit there were similar numbers living at each of these locations (and there is no indication that this was the case), this would only give Golden Bay a population of about 200.

None of these settlement locations was visible to Tasman when he saw smoke; the coastal ridge (150 metres high) lay between Tasman and those Golden Bay locations.

There was no Maori settlement on the land that Tasman could see.

Tasman's position dawn on December 17th, and the local Maori occupation areas

Tasman’s position dawn on December 17th, and the local Maori occupation areas

There shouldn’t be fires where he could see smoke, and he couldn’t see the places where there should be fires.

Two other intriguing aspects of the smoke are; that he could see smoke at all from over 7km away, and that he saw this smoke at dawn.

It was early summer, and for at least 4 days prior the weather had been fine. We know this from Tasman’s journal.

The land visible to Tasman was bush covered, so there was plenty of good and dry firewood available.

Fires made with good dry wood do not smoke enough to be visible from even a hundred metres, and Tasman was nowhere near that close. Most definitely, fires burning good wood do not produce enough smoke to be seen from 7km away.

The suggestion is often made that the smoke Tasman saw was from cooking fires, but this cannot be correct; they were in the wrong place for cooking fires… and there was too much smoke.

If the fires were camp fires, left burning from the night before to keep alight, then they would be dry embers smouldering slowly; hot but with little or no smoke or flame. This too does not produce sufficient smoke to be seen from Tasman’s location.

In addition, Tasman said that “in various places we saw smoke ascending from fires made by the natives”. These were point fires, “made by the natives”, not fires spread over a wide area. They were not fires clearing bush for crops.

So, why were there multiple fires, each producing enough smoke to be seen over 7km away, in dry weather, at dawn, where no people were living?

These were signal fires, deliberately, and near simultaneously lit.

But this poses another question. Why were there so many?

The Ngati Tumatakokiri only had a very small population in Golden Bay, yet on this occasion it seems that there were at least three (‘various’) but most probably more, sentry positions manned on the northern part of the coast.

Given their population it seems most unlikely that this could be the normal state of affairs for them.

Looking down the cliftop ridge to Farewell spit. The headland on the horizon is Seperation Point on the opposite side of the Bay.

Looking down the cliftop ridge to Farewell spit. The headland on the horizon is Seperation Point on the opposite side of the Bay

It is to be expected that they maintained lookouts over both the Eastern and Western approaches to Golden Bay. The Western lookout would be checking traffic to and from the West Coast, and watching for vessels from the North-East; Taranaki. At the Eastern entrance to the Bay, the hill behind Taupo Pa, or the islet itself, afford views of the Eastern extremity of Farewell Spit. Nothing could pass into Golden Bay un-seen from this position.

At the Western end, several places on the coastal ridge rising from Cape Farewell offer views of the length of Farewell Spit, and of the portage at the Puponga end.

A smoking fire lit in either of these positions can be seen from within the Bay.

However, having so many sentries deployed suggests that they were expecting trouble… and had posted extra observers.

There are at least three ways that they could have been forewarned of Tasman’s approach.

Tasman’s ships could have been seen from Kawatiri as they approached the Steeples on the morning of 15th December. A Maori boat could easily have travelled around the coast to the North faster than Tasman was sailing. Such a boat would be un-noticed by Tasman, as he crossed the outside limits of the Bight. A low vessel, like a Maori catamaran would not be visible if it had followed the coast, and in the light winds of that say, a Maori boat would be far quicker than the deep draughted Dutch ships.

When Schouten and Le Maire in 1616 had encountered a small Polynesian boat in the middle of the Pacific, Le Maire recorded that “She sailed so fast that few Dutch ships could have outstripped her”.

It was possible for a waka from Kawatiri to sail around the Karamea Bight, into the Whanganui inlet, and dispatch a runner through the 2km flat valley to Pakawau, in time to warn of approaching danger.

A less likely possibility is that someone ran through what we now know as ‘the Heaphy track’. Whilst we know that this area was explored by the Maori for Pounamu, it is not a quicker alternative to the sea routes except in the very worst of sea conditions. Even the most determined of athletes would struggle to complete the distance in a day.

Of all the possibilities, the most likely is that they were seen on the evening of December 16th from the Whanganui Inlet. From Pakawau it is only 2km through a low valley to reach this inlet, which forms a safe harbour on the West Coast. The occupants of Golden Bay used this to access the West Coast. Anyone there on the evening of December 16th would have seen Tasman’s ships, and the alarm could have been raised in Pakawau within an hour.

Access point and strategic observer locations

Access point and strategic observer locations

This would allow them to post sentries to the strategic positions by nightfall.

Attacks could only be sprung from beaches, so the following places would require oversight; Wharariki Beach, Farewell Spit, and the beach and portage at the western end of Farewell Spit.

To remain in direct sight of each other there would also need to be additional sentries around Cape Farewell itself, and between Wharariki and The Whanganui Inlet. To be in sight of the Bay they needed to be on the the ridges that descend to the start of Farewell Spit.

Sentries arrayed like this would account for the fires “in various places” visible to Tasman, as he approached Cape Farewell from the North East, and then turned to the East.

The Maori response

It is perfectly feasible that the Ngati Tumatakokiri in Golden Bay received advanced warning of Tasman’s approach, and this makes sense in view of what happened later.

On the morning of the December 19th nine boats were involved in the attack on the Zeehaen’s cock-boat. As Tasman left the bay, eleven boats were chasing him, and another eleven were in the water, close to the shore. “we saw 22 prows near the shore, of which eleven, swarming with people, were making for our ships”.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri put 22 boats and nearly 200 warriors on the water. The 22 boats seen had to be large enough to be visible from Tasman’s position at anchor, over 5 km from the closest land. But, the population living in the Bay was nothing like sufficient to present a force this large, either in warriors, or boats of this size.

So how did the Ngati Tumatakokiri manage to assemble such a large force of boats and warriors?

If the fires were signal fires, then the Maori had over 48 hours between them sighting Tasman at dawn on Dec 17th, and their attack on the morning of Dec 19th. This gave them time; to summon assistance, and to re-configure their boats.

While in Tahiti James Cook noted that hulls would be paired up for bigger journeys, but were otherwise used singly for day to day work, and that “all those that go single, both great and Small, have what is called Outriggers.”

In Golden Bay the Ngati Tumatakokiri needed boats that could be managed by a small number of people, for fishing and transport within the Bay. A few may have been fully double hulled, some would have one large hull and an outrigger, or a minor hull, and some would be single hulls… but these were only useful for river work.

Those that had been fitted for outriggers or second hulls in the past, could be paired up into fighting boats quite quickly; the holes required for lashing down cross spars were already made… but it still took time to make the changes. The Maori were working with stone tools, and even a simple lashing together of canoes that were already drilled for tying down crossbars, required new timbers cutting, and new rope making for the bindings.

It took time to cut and trim the timbers, and to make more rope. It would also take time for aid to reach them.

The 22 boats seen on the water would probably not all be doubled hulled, but at the very least nine were. That means there were 31 large hulls (large enough to be visible from 7 km) on the water; far more than the local population could deliver.

Whilst there was only a small population inside Golden Bay, the Ngati Tumatakokiri had very significant numbers to the east.

Deriving Tasman's position at anchor

Adjacent Ngati Tumatakokiri settlements, and potential reinforcement routes.

From Taupo Pa, it is the same distance by sea to Puponga on the other side of the Bay, as it is to Motueka, in Tasman Bay. A very conservative speed for a waka on an urgent mission would be 10 kph. At this speed it would take just 3½ hours to paddle from Motueka to Taupo Pa.

Within a few hours of being alerted, reinforcements could begin arriving from; Totaranui, Awaroa Inlet, Bark Bay, Marahau, Kaiteriteri, Riwaka, Motueka and beyond.

Support could be called on readily from the bays immediately beyond Separation Point, but the time between Tasman being sighted, and the attack, was over 48 hours, Which also makes it possible for boats to have arrived from further around Tasman Bay; Mapoua, Wainui and even Whakatū (Nelson). They also had the weather and moon in their favour. It was calm, and there was a half moon. So it was perfectly feasible, with local knowledge and with good weather, to enter Golden Bay by both day and night.

Given sufficient warning it was perfectly reasonable that very substantial reinforcements could come to support their cousins in Golden Bay.

It is also quite conceivable that a contingent followed Tasman up from Kawatiri. They could have entered Golden Bay by either; entering the Whanganui Inlet, and finishing the journey on foot, or across the portage at the land end of the spit, near Puponga. Either way, Tasman took the whole day to travel the length of Farewell Spit, so any following force had ample time to enter the Bay unseen by him.

Even after Tasman was inside Golden Bay, boats travelling close to the shore could have easily entered the Bay unnoticed.

From Rangitoto (d’Urville Island) to Hokitika, they were all Ngati Tumatakokiri; brothers and cousins. If there was a threat they would come to each other’s’ aid, immediately, and in strength.

Spirit Boats

In the initial Maori “diary” descriptions of Tasman’s ships they are portrayed as “Spirit Ships”.

There is no first-hand account that makes such an assertion. This is entirely a projection of how the Maori might have perceived Tasman’s vessels, seen from a distance.

Based on the knowledge the Maori had of boats, and materials, they had no other explanation for the ships that they saw, other than that they were magic of some sort.

  • Tasman’s ships stayed upright without outriggers, or second hulls. The Maori did not know about the ballast below the waterline holding a ship upright.
  • The sails were white cloth, and the only similar material that the Maori knew of was tapa. But it was not strong enough for sails, and had never been seen is such quantities.
  • At the stern of the ships was a large lantern; the Maori had no equivalent form of long burning night light.

To Maori observers these ships were inexplicable, they had no earthly explanation for them. Hence, their initial presentation as mystical entities.

As the encounters unfolded, their understanding is presented as shifting from the ships being entirely magical, to ships carrying people; people that had some powerful sorcery, but people nonetheless.

Why did the Ngati Tumatakokiri attack Tasman’s expedition

The suggestion is often made that the Ngati Tumatakokiri were protecting their crops; specifically kumara. But this seems a both an unlikely, and unnecessary explanation.

The attack happened in mid-December. The Kumara crop would still have another two months in the ground before harvesting. So the timing is wrong for theft of the Kumara to be a perceived motive for Tasman’s appearance.

And whilst the kumara was extremely precious to the Ngati Tumatakokiri, the threat to their territory, tribe and families, came before the threat to their Kumara.

The simplest and most likely reason that the Ngati Tumatakokiri attacked Tasman’s men is that Tasman had no right to be there, and presented a potential threat to the people. No more than that was needed.

The protocol associated with entering someone else’s territory peacefully was clear, well established, and as far as the Maori knew, understood by all. This protocol was not invented by the Maori population in New Zealand; they brought it with them from Polynesia.

Visitors would approach respectfully, and stop some distance before the meeting house, or gathering of residents. Exchanges would then occur between the chiefs to establish each party’s bone fide’s, and to demonstrate mutual respect.

While in Rangiatea (the departure point of the Kurahaupo), James Cook had experienced this protocol first hand, and recorded it in his journal.

“The Moment we landed Tupia stripped himself as low as his waist, and desir’d Mr. Monkhouse to do the same. He then sat down before a great number of the Natives that were collected together in a large Shed or House, the rest of us, by his own desire, standing behind; he then begun a long speach or prayer, which lasted near a Quarter of an Hour, and in the Course of this Speech presented to the People two Handkerchiefs, a black silk Neckcloth, some beads, and two very small bunches of Feathers. These things he had before provided for that purpose. At the same time two Chiefs spoke on the other side in answer to Tupia, as I suppose, in behalf of the People, and presented us with some young Plantains plants, and 2 small bunches of Feathers. These were by Tupia order’d to be carried on board the Ship. After the Peace was thus concluded and ratified, every one was at liberty to go where he pleased, and the first thing Tupia did was to go and pay his Oblations at one of the Mories.

This seem’d to be a common ceremony with this people, and I suppose always perform’d upon landing on each other’s Territories in a peaceable manner.”

This was the only way to peacefully enter another’s territory. Any behaviour deviating from this demonstrated malicious intent.

Tasman did not present himself and his people in the proper manner, and therefore marked them as enemies.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri appear to have had no regard for the fact that Tasman’s party didn’t speak their language, or understand their customs. But then, why would they?

As far as the Maori understood, all lands were islands in a large ocean, with a common language and common customary practices. They did not know that other parts of the world had ‘nations’, that the people in these nations spoke quite different languages, and that customs between nations were different.

They had every reason to expect that the visitors knew how to behave, but chose not to.

Tasman’s behaviour required that he be removed from the Bay, forthwith, and by whatever force was necessary.

The Dutchman in the Maori Boat

There is no knowledge of what became of the Dutch sailor taken by the Ngati Tumatakokiri into one of their own boats, and no explanation from the Maori viewpoint is attempted here. We simply don’t know. There are however only limited possibilities.

When Cook was in the Marlborough Sounds in January 1770, he described the following encounter which provides insight into the likely outcome.

“… Soon after we landed we meet with 2 or 3 of the Natives who not long before must have been regaling themselves upon human flesh, for I got from one of them the bone of the Fore arm of a Man or Woman which was quite fresh, and the flesh had been but lately picked off, which they told us they had eat; they gave us to understand that but a few days before they had taken, Kill’d, and Eat a Boats Crew of their Enemies or strangers, for I believe they look upon all strangers as Enemies. “

If the sailor was already dead, then he might or might not have then been eaten. Eating a defeated enemy was a perfectly normal practice.

If the sailor was alive then he was either kept as a slave/pet, or killed, which was the more common end for defeated males.

There is no way to know which of these was the fate of that sailor.

Tasman’s departure

Tasman had by far the superior fighting force, and could easily have taken revenge on the assembled Maori had he attempted to do so, but he did not. After the incident with the cock-boat, he left, without delay.

So why did he not mount a counter attack to attempt to recover his lost sailor?

The answer is most probably because he did not have the authority to issue such instructions. Tasman was answerable to the Ships Council, and in turn, they had to adhere to their written instructions wherever possible. Tasman could not deviate from the written instructions without prior assent from the Ships’ Council.

The written instructions told them to make peaceful commerce with the natives… “and by shows of kindness gain them over to us”. They were permitted, indeed recommended to take defensive precautions, but there was no mention of taking offensive action.

It was not within his brief to launch an attack on the natives, and the Ships Council did not choose to exceed their instructions on this matter.

So Tasman’s ships left Golden Bay.

“Seeing that the detestable deed of these natives against four men of the Zeehaan’s crew, perpetrated this morning, must teach us to consider the inhabitants of this country as enemies; that therefore it will be best to sail eastward along the coast”.

Blood on the water

tasman banner
Kurahaupo banner

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

tasman banner
Kurahaupo banner

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

Abel Tasman banner

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.

Portia and Babe

The Heems banner

So there I was, minding my own business, working on illustrations for the next installment.


Caravan for hire at the campsite on Tukurua Road

I’d noticed that Wayne had moved one of the caravans down to the beachfront part of the campsite, where I am, but I hadn’t noticed the car pulling up.

Tony had drawn the short straw.

Tony and Trish have been here the whole time I have. They’ve been looking after the place while Wayne and Leigh (the campsite managers) take a break during the off season.

They are very comfortably set up in their converted bus. They’re also Wingers, like me. (I’ve explained ‘Wingers’ before, but if you missed it, it was in this post ).

One of the distinctive things about Wingers is that they’ll always help out if someone’s got a problem… and by the time I next looked up from my work, Tony was there, doing his bit.

‘Portia’ and ‘Babe’ had arrived… but didn’t seem to know quite what to do next.

I started to walk over to help, but then diverted myself; suddenly and irresistibly compelled to explore the beach like I’d only just arrived.

Some days you just get lucky.

Tony was patiently explaining how things worked to two very unlikely looking campers… who were looking at the small caravan, utterly aghast.

I’m not sure which city they were from, there aren’t many choices. Wellington or Christchurch would be the closest places capable of producing Laté Ladies of this calibre… but these days I think even the most genteel of folk from Christchurch are a bit more durable than these two appeared to be.

He connected up the electricity and gas bottle for them, but I could see their mounting discomfort as he started talking about water tanks and hose pipes. He lost them completely as he explained how to empty the toilet cassette.

The ‘girls’, perhaps in their mid-thirties, were hopelessly bewildered in an alien world.

They couldn’t understand any of it. Why wasn’t there hot water coming out of the taps? Where were the bedrooms? Where was the carpet? and, I am NOT sitting on THAT!

What they genuinely appeared to be most confused about was that they were on grass, next to trees, under the sky… outside.

I had the distinct impression they thought they’d booked an indoor caravan… that they weren’t expecting to find it sitting out there… in the middle of a field. It might have looked wonderfully romantic in the brochure, but the reality was a completely different thing.

Tony had done everything he could for them. I felt particularly sorry for him as he adjusted the undercarriage braces to their fullest extent once more, and was trying to explain that this was as level as it was going to get.

I’m pretty certain they didn’t grasp the idea that there was more hill than there was leg adjustment. Their expectation seemed to be that if you twizzeled the levelling screw things properly they would somehow overcome the incline. Tony was clearly incompetent… perhaps there was someone else.

I was hiding.

They could barely bring themselves to go inside the caravan, and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting between it and their car.

Portia was the type that had gone to a private school. It had cost a lot of money but she hadn’t really embraced the opportunity. She was one of those girls on school camps with the make-up and the hair dryer, the ones that shrieked at creepy crawlies, the ones that wouldn’t swing across the creek on a rope, the ones that didn’t like canoeing because the helmet crushed their hair. They were a clique, and moved around in a knot. There was always a space around them, a force field that repelled lesser ones, and aspiring clique-ants. You could feel the breeze shift as the air of superiority wafted from them.

If Babe hadn’t been in that clique, she’d been in a similar one.

Their distress was compounded by the lack of communication. It seemed somehow very urgent to be able to explain to their friends precisely how they were heroically prevailing over the most appalling of circumstances… but pace as she might, Portia couldn’t find a signal.

I could have told them that they could get a signal on the other side of the kitchen block, and I’m normally helpful like that, but on this occasion it somehow slipped my mind.

While they seemed to be completely unprepared for staying overnight in a caravan (I think they were expecting beds, mattresses, pillows, sheets and duvet’s… I saw no sign of sleeping bags), they were absolutely on top of the food situation.

Two long stemmed, large-bowl wine glasses wrapped in white napkins appeared from the rear seat, and then Babe lifted a small chilly bin from the back of the car. I heard the ice rattle and slump, and the clinking of its companions as the first bottle came out. Babe, flushed with the excitement of achievement, triumphantly presented her selection; ‘Chard’ to start I think, Bubbles for the strawberries’

The little fold-up table was overflowing with all the essentials; Lebanese bread, cheeses, prosciutto, smoked meats, olives, summer fruits, and various tubs of that mysterious looking stuff that you only see in delicatessens.

Whilst they had more picnic than Fortnum and Mason’s, they struggled mightily setting the table appropriately.

There was no serving platter, no cheese board, no cheese knife, no ice bucket, and no olive fork… I mean… really!

It was nearly sunset before I finally walked over and said hello.

I was crossing the grass on my way to the beach. In my day-pack I had a flask of coffee, a packet of biscuits, and a box of fire-lighters (just in case). Under my arm I had my rocking chair. I call it my rocking chair because it’s never been quite the same since I reversed over it.

‘I’m going to have a fire on the beach. If you like that sort of thing you’re welcome to join me.’

Total confusion.

I didn’t get that. For me this was the sort of decision that would be made before the thought even reached my conscious mind. There’s a beach, a sunset, and a fire… It’s ‘I’ll be there! do we need more wood?’, what is there to think about?

It was not simple for them though; I could see the cogs turning.

For a start they had no idea how to dress for the occasion. The last time they’d seen a fire on a beach it was in a brazier. They’d worn sarongs, drunk cocktails and talked over the locals singing for them in the moonlight.

My proposition simply didn’t align with their experience. It was a completely different thing but with the same name. There were no cocktails, no candles, no palm trees, and they might never get that smell of wood-smoke from their hair and clothes… and then there was this scruffy old fart in the Swanndri, with the battered rucksack and the broken chair… was he going to sing to them?

On balance, they concluded they wouldn’t thank you… it was too cold.

I tried hard to mask my bewilderment, but I think I failed. Fire… Too cold… No, I just couldn’t make that one work.

Perhaps they misunderstood which sort of fire I meant; I was talking about the hot sort, not the cold sort.

I tried to remove it from my mind; it was beyond baffling.

Ten minutes later, I had flames a metre high and was growing a base of embers that would presently incinerate even the most reluctant of waterlogged driftwood. Five minutes later the fire was so cold that I had to back my chair up and take my coat off.

I was still struggling with the whole cold fire thing when Portia came past with something fluffy on a length of string. I hadn’t noticed the dog earlier, and I’m reluctant to call it such, but I’ve no doubt that that’s what it was… a dog.

It was a tiny deformed creature. I presume it had been abandoned by its mother as a runt, and by the look of its flattened face it had spent most of its life with its now absent nose pressed hard against the pane of the pet shop window.

I’d seen our cat bring back bigger, and better specimens.

It had to be a pedigree; Portia couldn’t have a mongrel.

Most breeds are selectively improved to serve a particular purpose, but this thing appeared bred to the point of complete uselessness. It existed only to be looked at and petted. It needed someone else to feed it and groom it to survive. I lost my train of thought momentarily and came back wondering if I was talking about Portia or the runt.

I think the same was true for both.

I’m not very good on dog breeds, but I think it was a Louis Vuitton.

I sat by the fire, and enjoyed sounds of the night; the waves washing out on the sand ahead, and the wekas fossicking in the foliage behind. The stars came out one by one, soon to be hidden again by a huge golden moon that rose out of the sea.

‘I had a lucky escape there’ I thought to myself. I felt fortunate to have just my own company this evening.

I was sitting there by a hot fire (it was definitely not the cold sort), with my fingers around a steaming mug of coffee, a packet of dark chocolate digestives, the ocean, the wekas and the night sky.

The fire glowed and cracked, sending the occasional spark rising up to meet the stars. Moonlight rippled across the calm sea, and the waves folded gently onto the sand. Every few minutes a pair of more-pork’s checked in with each other. “I’m over here mate”… then a pause, then “yes mate, and I’m over here”. They kept calling to each other every few minutes, just to make sure the other was OK. Neither of them moved to the other. It was far too nice a night for rushing around like that.

What a privilege it was to be there.

Thirty paces behind me Portia and Babe were in a shed on wheels, in a field, in the middle of nowhere; it was ghastly…. and those bloody birds!

It was still morning when they left, but only just. It took time to put their faces in order, but it was arranging the accessories that posed the major challenge; country chic?, arty mystique? beach casual? … in the end they opted for the tried and tested. ‘You can’t go wrong with a bit of Bling’ said Babe. She obviously still had no idea of where she was.

Breakfast was carefully timed for Brunch, by then they could be certain that the Bistro in Takaka would not only be open, but would have patronage. After all, there’s no point in doing Bling if there’s no-one there to look at you, is there?

What was achieved in an hour and a half could have been done far better in three, if only cell coverage had permitted wider consultation.

By the time they were ordering their Eggs Benedict and Trim Laté, I had my pack on my back and was lengthening my stride along a broad and empty sun-bleached beach. I was off in search of a long abandoned clifftop lookout, hidden somewhere in the bush ahead.

I have no doubt whatsoever that we both thought we had the better deal.


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The Maori were hopelessly out-gunned; literally.

While to the eyes of the Dutchmen the south-landers had only the most primitive of weapons, this did not make them harmless.

The Maori were fearless, ruthless, and magnificent strategists; as the British would repeatedly discover to their cost two hundred years later.

What the Ngati Tumatakokiri saw on the morning of December 19th, 1642

The ‘Duyfken’, a replica of the VOC vessel that first found Australia in 1606

The Duyfken is a ‘Yacht’ of the same prescription as the Heemskerck. It was a standard formula used by the VOC, and designed for use as a light warship. The Heemskerck had the same sail, deck and general layout as the Duyfken, but was 30% larger.

Apart from being slightly smaller, the Dufken is otherwise very similar to the Heemskerck. These images of the Duyfken replica allow us to understand what the Ngati Tumatakokiri found themselves looking at on the morning of December 19th, 1642.

Diary: Taupo Pa.

At first light the Chief had called the men together again.

Last night they had been out to the ships, but only in darkness. We know now that they are enemies, and we need to know more of them.

The chief said that now it was light he would make another visit, and this time they would see the enemy plainly.

He took just one boat, with twelve of our finest fighters, and went to have a proper look.

They weren’t gone too long.

They went right up to the ships, but this time nothing happened… there wasn’t any lightning, and there were no new surprises that we could see.

When they returned he told us of the enemy’s strength.

Replica of the VOC vessel 'Duyfken'

Approaching the stern of the Duyfken from water level.

Replica of the VOC vessel 'Duyfken'

The bow of the Duyfken

Replica of the VOC vessel 'Duyfken'

The stern of the Duyfken. Note the stern lantern

Replica of the VOC vessel 'Duyfken'

Looking onto the decks of the Duyfken

They had gone very close up to the ships, less than a stone’s throw away, so they could study them properly. They had exchanged words again, but it seemed that neither understood the other any better than they had done last night. The strangers hadn’t tried to scare them away this time.

Each ship has perhaps 50 or 60 men on it, they saw no women, and the men are of odd appearance. They wear clothes that cover them completely, except for their heads and hands. Their clothes were made from a soft material, again like tapa, and are of all the colours imaginable.

They have strangely pale skin, like the colour of someone who is unwell, and they are mostly a bit smaller than us, but definitely not any bigger.

Some of the men on the ships, but only a few, have shiny hats. These shine like the sun reflecting off a wave; such taonga probably marks them as Chiefs or lieutenants.

These men don’t look frightening when you see them properly in daylight; if anything, they appear rather weakly.

The whole size of the ships is about 50 steps long, and about 10 steps wide.

On each boat stand three huge posts, two taller, and one shorter. These are so big that they must each have been made from a single tree. The posts are held up with a lot of ropes coming down to the sides of the ships. The sails are tied to poles that are fixed to these posts, and the sails are bunched up very tightly on them. The sails do indeed look like they are made of tapa; they are not woven flax.

The ships’ hulls are made of many small pieces of wood, but the method if fixing them together is mysterious; perhaps they are tied on the inside somehow.

The front is slightly raised, but the stern is very high, and stands off the water as tall as five men. The sides are lowest along the middle part. At the lowest places the sides of the ships are still higher than a man can reach. It would be difficult to climb onto the ships, but this is possible where the ropes holding the posts are tied to the sides of the ship.

On the prow of the ships is a painted carving of their God, which we didn’t recognise.

All around on the inside, the men stand on raised platforms. These are at the correct height for fending off attackers. Some of the men held long pointed poles, taller than a man, which would be very good for reaching anyone trying to climb the sides; other men had waved shorter ones at them.

Each of the ships seems to have only one small boat, secured by a rope back to the ship. The small boats can hold perhaps 10 or 12 people sat side by side, with another in the steering position. They paddle with their backs to where they were going, which means that only the steersman can see what is happening ahead of them. These little boats can carry a lot, but they are slow and unsteady.

When the Chief had finished describing the enemy, talk turned to strategy and tactics, and our respective strengths and weaknesses.

There was also some talk of their magic.

We had seen their lightning last night, but not since, and while it was alarming, it didn’t seem dangerous. It was quickly dismissed; only small children were afraid of lightning.

It would be very hard to attack the main ships, and success was unlikely; the defenders had the higher and steadier positions. To attack you had to both climb and fight. You would be one armed, unsteady, and below them, exposed to their long poles.

The ships are good defensive positions; it would be like trying to attack a Pa, and there were enough of the strangers that they couldn’t be overwhelmed in a mass attack, as we could only climb on the ships in a few places at once.

We wouldn’t succeed in an attack the main ships, but their small boats are vulnerable. You can’t fight well in a single hull, it’s too unstable, but we can from our boats. Their little boats are slow to turn and slow to run; they are also exposed to being overturned. And their paddles are poor weapons; they are too long, heavy and unwieldy. Once we get in close, they cannot use them against us.

It was soon settled.

The chief announced that we will see if we can draw them out from the big ships into their little boats; if we can, then we will beat them easily on the water.

Dead is best, but hostages might be good too… though no-one knew quite what we would do with a hostage, since we can’t communicate with their relatives to make any bargain.

We will see if they still want to stay after they have seen some of their own blood.

Visitors in the dark

Abel Tasman banner

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.

Danger in the Bay

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Tasman's anchorage and the nearest Maori occupation areas

Tasman’s anchorage and the nearest Maori occupation areas

Diary: Taupo Pa.

We were all awake by first light.

We went to the lookout to see for ourselves what was happening.

With the light, the stars had transformed back into ships again, and they were still there, in the same place.

It seemed a long time before they started moving, but when they did, they didn’t turn away as we had hoped, they kept coming towards us, to the very end of Onetahua and then beyond.

For a while there was great excitement. The Spirit Ships continued to sail east, well past the point where you turn to come into the Bay, and we thought they were making for Rangitoto.

But that turned out to be wrong. Instead of continuing to the east, they suddenly turned, and came into the Bay.

Now, everything became more urgent… they are coming!

We carried more water into the Pa and filled everything we had; others were stockpiling firewood, and some were strengthening the palisade.

All the time we heard news from the lookout. The ships were in the Bay, but moving very slowly.

At the middle of the day two small boats came from the big ones; one from each. These ships were so big that they had their own boats! Some said the Spirit Boats had spawned young.

Throughout the day, more men, and more boats were arriving. They came from further round the bay, coming closer to where the danger was.

There were a lot of people to feed.

There was an ongoing hui on the shore as the men gave their opinions, heard the chiefs, and discussed what to do. Counsel was sought from the Kaumatua and Tohungas who gave their wisdom on the happenings of before, and on the spirits and omens.

In the late afternoon the wind stopped. The big ships stopped moving, and as the sun set, their sails disappeared. But the small boats still came on.

The ships were close enough now to see them better. They were so big! As the men had said, they were very wide, and they were very high. It was impossible for them to stay upright without some sort of charm.

They were so wide it looked like they had a wall built around them; the height of three or four men. And the sails… if they were truly made of tapa, then it seemed like all the tapa in the world was on those ships. There was some movement on the ships, but they were still too far away for even the sharpest eyed of us to make out exactly what it was. Some thought they might be floating islands.

As it grew later the small boats were still getting closer, and now we thought that we could see men in them. Men, not monsters. But what manner of men, that could summon such magic, we had no idea.

Then it was decided. We would go to meet them on the water. It was better to meet them there than let their magic come ashore, especially as it was coming on dark. We did not want their magic loose in the darkness. We did not want them among us when we couldn’t see them.

So two boats went out to meet them, one of ours for each of theirs.

Two wakas at sunset. The location and photographer are unknow

Two wakas at sunset. The location and photographer are unknown

Two boats was fair. It was an appropriate meeting party. It made no threat, but equally it conceded nothing.

We could have sent far more, but that would be threatening, and we don’t know yet what other powers they possess. It was also thought unwise to show our full force until we know more of theirs.

The two boats would go out to the visitors to discover their intent and hear their Pepeha; two boats filled with our strongest and bravest.

Two other fast boats stood in the water, crewed and at the ready in case they were needed.

As our men moved towards them, the Spirit Ships’ boats turned, and starting making their way back. We thought ours might come back too, on account of the closing darkness, but they didn’t.

We watched as our men followed them on, closing, and then in the failing light… they went right up to the Spirit Ships.

How brave they were, and how proud we were of them.

As they disappeared into darkness, we prayed for their safety, and the Tohunga made his enchantments.