Friday, 12 April 2013

More Captain Cook...

Today we took a walk up onto Kapiti Hill, which has excellent views over Gisborne and the Bay of Poverty, with great views of Captain Cook’s landing and his first meeting with the Maori. Three rivers converge and run into the bay, separating the east and west sides of the town. Cook actually landed on the east side, at a place marked by a large memorial, erected in 1906. It’s actually 100m or so from the sea now as construction of the harbour reclaimed the land in front, which is a bit of a shame as its left the monument marooned with very busy harbour activity going on all around. The Maori appeared on the west bank, so Cook had to make his way across the river (to the position of his monument today) in order to make contact. Here’s his journal entry for that day, reproduced on a plaque by the landing monument:

“Monday 9th: Gentle breezes and clear weather. PM stood into the Bay and anchored on the NE side before the entrance of a small river in 10 fathom water, a fine sandy bottom; the NE point of the Bay bore EBS½S and the SW point south, distant from the shore half a League. After this I went ashore with a party of men in the Pinnace and yawl accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, we land abreast of the Ship and on the east side of the river just mentioned, but seeing some of the natives on the other side of the river whome I was desirous of speaking with and finding that we could not ford the river I order’d the yawl in to carry us over and the Pinnace to lay at the entrance.”

This picture shows the landing site at ‘A’ (now quite a bit inland), the river flowing in from the right and the first meeting point at ‘B’, where the Cook monument now stands. The photo was taken from the top of the hill and I had to stay there for quite a while absorbing the historical significance of this site and imagining the great events that happened here 243.5 years ago. Just along the bay on the opposite side is Young Nick’s Head, the first sighting of land 2 days before the landing. It was great to be here!

This afternoon we went off to hand feed some stingrays, but I’ll leave Jackie to write a separate entry on that! She won’t do it tonight as she’s too busy reading her book (and my constant references to Captain Cook makes her very tired!).

Update on Captain Cook…

On Sunday we took a cruise into the bay on the MV Takitimu, a restored 1921 Gisborne tug. I’d phoned them several days previously to ask if they would go anywhere near Young Nicks Head as I’d like to get a photo from the sea, so when we turned up on Sunday they had some extra info for me and a very knowledgeable lady on Captain Cook who was delighted to discuss it with me.

The first thing I was given was an aerial photo of the bay with the assumed position the Endeavour anchored at prior to the party going ashore. In the photo you can see two sets of tramlines that intersect, which marks the spot. Consulting their sea chart I could see that it was anchored in 16m of water. I’m not sure what the draft of the Endeavour was, but obviously it was less than this! The single black line marks the path taken by the landing party.

As we went out it was clear that Young Nicks Head could not have been the first land sighted, but must have been a suitable promontary to name after him. Research indicates the most likely land first sighted was the peak of Arowhana Mountain, a little inland.

Plan showing how the coastline has changed over the years
At the time of Cook’s arrival there were four main Maori tribes in the viscinity and a number of reports on what they thought it was that came into the bay. Some thought it a floating island, others a bird with beautiful wings:

“Upon seeing a smaller bird unfledged (without sails) descending in to the water, and a number of parti coloured beings, but apparently in the human shape also descend, they regarded the larger bird as a house full of divinities”

The continuation of Cook’s journal entry copied above, he went on to write:

“In the meantime the Indians made off, however we went as far as their huts which lay about 2 or 300 yards from the waterside, leaving 4 boys to take care of the yawl, which we had no sooner left than 4 men came out of the woods on the other side of the river and would certainly have cut her off had not the people in the pinnace discovered them and called to her to drop downstream, which they did, being closely pursued by the Indians. The coxswain of the pinnace who had charge of the boats, seeing this, fired 2 muskets over their heads. The first made them stop and look around them, but the second they took no notice of, upon which a third was fired and killed one of them on the spot just as he was going to dart his spear at the boat.”

The man killed was Te Maro and when they returned the next day with a bigger party, including Tupaea, a Tahitian bought with Cook to act as a translator, Te Maro was still lying there, his body covered in a sacred powder. A large group of Maori from two tribes gathered on the western side of the river and performed a haka, but after Tupaea spoke to them and fully understood them the following account was made by Monkhouse, one of Cook’s men:

“Tupaea understood them and made himself understood so well that he at length prevailed one of them to strip off his covering and come across – he landed upon a rock surrounded by the tide and now invited us to come and join him – Captain Cook finding him resolved to come no further gave his musket to an attendant and went towards him, but tho’ the man saw Captain Cook give away his weapon to put himself on a footing with him, he had not courage enough to wait his arrival, retreating into the water, however he at last ventured forward, they saluted by touching noses, and a few trinkets put our friend in high spirits.”

The modern harbour
The rock where this first formal meeting, including a hongi, took place, was known as Te Toka a Taiau and is shown on the attached picture. Unfortunately the rock has been mostly blasted away when the harbour was enlarged and it is now under the harbour dividing wall. There are steps afoot to open the dividing wall to allow visitors to walk to the spot where the rock stood.

Following this meeting and exchange, a number of other warriors approached and surrounded Cook and his men. They were keen to swap their weapons for the muskets they carried. A short sword was snatched from Mr Green and Cook ordered that the man responsible be fired at. This man was then shot by Banks, and then Monkhouse, who killed him. His name was Te Rakhau an important chief from Rongowhakata. Salmond records that according to local tradition Te Rakhau had come with a party of warriors from Orakaiapu, a large fortified village in the south of the bay, with the intentions of seizing the Endeavour.

There were other encounters including further killings that disturbed Cook so he took everyone back on board the Endeavour and set said heading south. He originally intended naming the bay Turanganui a Kiwa, but as he sailed away decided instead on calling it Poverty Bay “because it afforded us no one thing we wanted.”

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