We took the Inter Islander from Picton to Wellington and followed parts of Captain Cook’s voyage as he navigated around the two islands. What is the story?

Captain Cook sailed from Tahiti to unknown waters on the HMB Endeavour (a barque). It was not a big ship, only 27 meters long. It was actually too small a boat for such a voyage and there was no Plan B.

On board were 73 Sailors, 22 canons and 12 Marines also known as Officers as well as the following scientists.  

Charles Green (Astronomer)
Joseph Banks (Botanist)
Dr. Daniel Solander (Natural Historian)
Hermann Sporing (Naturalist)
Botanical Artist Sydney Parkinson,
Artist Alexander Buchan

To assistant in navigation: a Raiatean nobleman and navigator Tupaia who joined in Tahiti.

The Captain was ‘James Cook’

For the journey, the crew had the following provisions

250 barrels of beer
44 barrels of Brandy
70 barrels or rum

40000 l of Wine in Madeira ‘just in case” en route.

6000 joints of pork
4000 joints of beef
9000 kg bread
5000 kg flour
1000 kg raisins

Cheese, salt, sugar, oatmeal

Goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks

Cook had two missions to fulfil.

The first was to conduct scientific studies on Tahiti. The second was to sail directly south from Tahiti to 40° latitude south and search for a mysterious land called Terra Australis Incognito. He did not find anything and then decided to return north and then sailed west. The local Tahitian navigator who accompanied the crew felt uneasy.

On October 7, 1769, the crew of the Endeavour sighted new land for the first time, far in the distance. The winds were calm, and so they needed three days to reach a bay and dropped anchor. What did they see?

There were steep cliffs, vast forests with mountains and the promise of fresh food.

For the Māori the arrival of the Endeavour was terrifying. Cook rowed to the shore, but the natives had fled. Cook’s crew were also nervous. They had heard of the fate of the explorer Abel Tasman, about a century earlier. The crew saw the natives perform a Haka. They did not understand it and shot and killed the leader dancing group. In revenge, the natives wanted to attack the Endeavour. But Cook introduced his navigator who spoke the same language. Peace was established and gifts exchanged. Unfortunately, there was another misunderstanding, in which the warrior chief was killed, and bloodshed erupted. Consequently, the bay was named “Poverty Bay” because, as Cook wrote in his journal; “it afforded us no one thing we wanted”

But Cook’s arrival created curiosity on both sides. The locals slowly moved closer to the big ship, because they soon learned that Cook had ‘Tahitian Cloth”. Over the next few days, there was more trading. The Māori became fascinated by the ship, and several even wanted to stay on board, which Cook reluctantly agreed to.

By the end of October 1769, the crew still had to replenish vital supplies. Cook decided to stay in Poverty Bay to replenish stocks and for the scientists to explore the land. They were very impressed by what they saw.

The country is agreeable beyond description and, with proper cultivation, might be rendered a kind of second Paradise. The hills are covered with beautiful flowering shrubs, intermingled with a great number of tall and stately palms, which fill the air with a most grateful fragrant perfume… Between the hills, we discovered some fruitful valleys, which are adapted either to cultivation or pasturage… Adjoining their houses are plantations of koomara (kumara) and taro and the ground is cultivated with great care and kept clean and neat.
-Sydney Parkinson

Joseph Banks was enthralled by the rock formation in Poverty Bay. He found it to be the most magnificent surprise he had ever seen and spoke of “the hole in the wall”.

The locals had heard of the little fights with the foreigners and the local chief was very interested to meet Cook, if only to get some “fire sticks”. The ship’s crew enjoyed their stay in Poverty Bay.

At the end of October, they set sail, travelling around the North Island anti clockwise and reached the South Island on January 16, 1770. However, at the time, Cook was unaware that the territory consisted of two islands. The crew spent a few weeks in what was named Ship Cove. The locals were very friendly.

Continuing to map the region, Cook ascended Kaitapeha Peak (now called Cook’s Look Out) on Arapawa Island. It is there that he discovered that New Zealand consists of two vast land masses. The strait between the two islands was given the name of Cook Strait.

He asked for the consent to erect the Union Jack (The Flag of England & Scotland & Wales) on Motuara Island. Today it is remembered with a memorial plaque. He also named the sound after the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte.

He continued sailing and by February 9, 1770, he had circumnavigated the North Island.

Cook then turned the ship around and sailed south with the mission to find the “unknown southern land”. Consequently, Cook circumnavigated the South Island clockwise and on March 27, 1770, he sailed into “Admiralty Bay”. He did not find the “Southern Land”, but he successfully mapped New Zealand and put it onto the map of the vast ocean in the south.   

The South Island is very wild with well-preserved nature. The main industries are tourism and animal raising (sheep, cows, salmon, and trout). It is wine country with its Marlborough region. Aside from the wine, there is a choice of craft beers to choose from. There is the Jade in Hokitika and there were gold mines as well.

Tourism is very channelled.  Wandering off the tracks is often discouraged. All the trails are well marked. There is a wide range of flora, fauna, there are many outdoor activities for all seasons, including helicopter rides, bicycle hire, trekking.  The infrastructure is well developed, and people go out of their way to help and show you what is on offer.

We noticed an absence of stress amongst the south islanders. But then, we were there between seasons and before the country closed its borders to foreign tourists because of Corona Virus.

Māori Culture.

Kia Ora is a relaxed greeting, the “hello” Haere Mai is the welcome. The Maori have a tradition of rubbing noses as a greeting. Their culture is integral part of Kiwi life. It is a unique experience for visitors. They are of Polynesian descent and came to New Zealand more than 1000 years ago. Today, there are many efforts to revitalise the Māori language, art, and culture.

The most well-known aspect of Māori culture is the haka. It is a dance in which the warriors sing. It is a ritual practised by the Māori at conflicts, manifestations, and protestations. Haka means “doing” and includes crude words, insults addressed to the enemy or opponent. The facial expression is ferocious and can be interpreted as a form of provocation. Now, the intention is more ritual and pays homage to the Māori culture.  

After a few hours, we saw the coastline of the North Island appear on the horizon as we arrived in Wellington.

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