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.

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