Category Archives: Abel Tasman

Posts relating to Abel Tasman’s voyage of 1642-3

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

Well I did, and I can tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More land

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Mount Taranaki from Cape Egmont

Mount Taranaki from Cape Egmont

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

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

Me, halfway up Mount Karioi

Me, halfway up Mount Karioi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had last filled their water barrels in Mauritius.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On 23rd December Tasman recorded that;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasman had escaped.

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

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


Unexpected shore

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

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

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

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

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

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

It was a near disaster.

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

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasmans exit path from Golden Bay

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


New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Le Maire’s chart of Staten Landt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Course reconstruction charts

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

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

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

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

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

Reconstructing Abel Tasman’s course

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

A typical daily location summary looks like this;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locations derived from component parts

Locations derived from component parts

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

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

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

Observed latitude

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

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

Bearings to features

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

Distances to features

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

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

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

Distance sailed

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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

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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”.