The Maori - Volume I
II The Maori as a Seafarer, and Coloniser—the Peopling of New Zealand
II The Maori as a Seafarer, and Coloniser—the Peopling of New Zealand
Entry of Polynesians into the Pacific—Question of prior inhabitants in Polynesian area—Drift voyages—Homeland of Polynesians—Migration therefrom—Polynesian communities in Melanesia—Exploration and settlement of Polynesia—Courageous neolithic voyagers—Vessels of the voyagers—Canoe 83 feet in length—Tongan voyagers—Double canoes—Sails—Long voyages—Rate of sailing—Navigation by stars, etc.—Voyagers carried symbols of gods—Sea stores—Ocean currents—Lack of compass or other aid to navigation—Starting places—Polynesian voyagers encounter ice—Quiros at fault—The peopling of New Zealand—Voyage of Kupe and Ngahue—An unknown folk settle the North Island—The Mouriuri settlers and their culture—Polynesians reach New Zealand—Voyage of Toi—Voyage of Whatonga—Manaia and Nuku reach New Zealand—Voyages to and from New Zealand.
In discussing the feats of the Maori as a deep-sea voyager in past centuries we are dealing with one of the most interesting subjects connected with the far-spread Polynesian race. When the ancestors of our native folk were making such voyages, they were not dwellers in these isles, but in those of Polynesia. Those who settled in New Zealand seldom returned to the ara moana, or sea roads, and eventually all communication with Polynesia ceased.
The Polynesians are comparatively late arrivals in the Pacific area. Several authorities have stated their belief that they entered this region early in the Christian era, though the evidence brought forward is not, perhaps, convincing. The question of such arrival will probably remain unsettled. With regard to former inhabitants of the Polynesian region it seems to be generally believed that the isles of that area were uninhabited by man prior to their occupation by the fair-skinned Polynesian folk. It seems improbable, however, that the many isles of that region were without human inhabitants page 21 at so late a period. When we consider how the Polynesian island system is flanked on the west by innumerable lands that must have been occupied by man for thousands of years; how Indonesia appears to have been a home of primitive man, then the non-occupation by man of what is but an eastward extension of that island system seems highly improbable. Moreover, we have many instances on record of drift vessels, canoes, junks, and prau having made many voyages of considerable length across the Pacific. These records extend backward to the 17th century. We know of Japanese vessels having been swept by the Black Current right across the Pacific to the coast of North America.
Tradition tells us that New Zealand was first settled by castaways who had been swept away from their homeland by a westerly storm. A great number of such traditions are extant throughout Polynesia, and in a number of cases these records are supported by other evidence. How is it possible that the isles of Polynesia can have remained uninhabited down to so late a period as the commencement of the Christian era, or a few centuries later, as some writers place it.
The Maori of New Zealand tells us that his ancestors, when settling here, found a prior people in occupation, a non-Polynesian folk, to judge by the description of them preserved in tradition. In far Easter Island we are told that the great stone images and strange, unknown script incised on tablets of wood, were the work of a former people, a strange “long-eared” folk. In other isles we hear of the Manahune, a people of whom little but the name has been preserved. Professor G. Elliott Smith makes the Phenicians the first settlers in Polynesia, about the 7th century, B.C. Altogether, it may be said, that the theory that Polynesia was uninhabited by man as late as the early centuries of the Christian era is certainly a tentative one, to state the case mildly.
Maori traditions tell us that their ancestors, in remote times, dwelt in a land away to the westward, a land named Uru. From this land they migrated eastward to a hot climate country named Irihia, to which the name of Hawaiki is sometimes applied. Now an old Sanscrit name for India was Vrihia, which a Maori could pronounce only as Irihia or Wirihia. Was it the shores of India that the old sea rovers page 22 saw sink behind them when they sailed out on the Great Ocean of Kiwa in search of the rising sun and new homes?
In that land of Irihia the forbears of the Polynesians seem to have suffered many tribulations. They appear to have had many enemies, unpleasing black-skinned folk of various degrees of culture, some of them leading a rude, primitive mode of life. Fierce and continued wars led the future Polynesians to leave the land of Irihia and seek a new home across the ocean. We are told that they steered to the eastward, ever making for the rising sun, and that a voyage of eleven days brought them to a land called (in Maori tradition) Tawhiti-roa. The length of their sojourn here is not known, but eventually they again took to the ocean, and sailed eastward to the land of Tawhiti-nui. On their arrival on the shores of that land they went up a river, the mouth of which faced the south-west, and settled on its banks, where they lived in artificial caves hewn out of the face of a cliff. They feared the inhabitants of that place, and evidently were not themselves numerically strong. When they increased in numbers they occupied fortified villages above ground. We are told that Tawhiti-nui was an extensive land possessing a hot climate.
Again the length of the sojourn in this land is unknown. We are simply told that, in the time of Ira-panga, these folk, or some of them, once more followed the sea roads, and that six vessels reached the isle of Ahu. Such, we are told, was the origin of the Polynesian inhabitants of the isles Ahu, Maui, and Hawaiki. These are thought to be the islands Ahu (erroneously written Oahu), Maui and Hawaii of the Hawaiian or Sandwich Group. That division of the race has dropped the letter k from its dialect, though, curiously enough, it has replaced the t by k.
In the account of the voyages here briefly described, tradition has it that sea anchors and a kind of awning for the longboats were used during stormy weather. Also that they were steered by means of relying on the heavenly bodies, on wind and wave. The use of the outrigger is also mentioned, and one account seems to denote that the double outrigger was in use.page 23 page 24
This eastward movement of ancestors of the Polynesians into the Pacific area was probably one of several such sea migrations. The natives of the Cook Group have preserved highly interesting traditions concerning the homeland of the race, and of many long voyages in the Pacific made by their ancestors. The Marquesas natives have also preserved similar records. The Polynesian colonies still existing far within Melanesia and Micronesia may have been formed during the eastward movement of long past times. We also know of drift voyages to Melanesia as late occurrences, also that Tongan raiders have sailed as far westward as New Caledonia and the Solomon Isles.
Having reached what we now term the Polynesian area, the ancestors of our Maori folk probably led a comparatively quiet life for some time, so far as sea voyages were concerned. But as they increased in numbers they would take once more to the restless sea life of their forbears. It is clear that, for a lengthy period, the Polynesians were the most daring and successful neolithic voyagers of whom we have any record. There were three distinct causes that led to these sea rovings, and the settling and re-settling of many isles of the Pacific. These movements were: 1. Voyages of exploration; 2. Voyages of necessity; and 3. Drift voyages. The voyages of necessity were caused by over-population, intertribal wars, or banishment for crimes committed. There is much proof to show that the courageous ocean wanderers of yore undertook long voyages out of pure love of adventure. There is also plentiful evidence that innumerable drift voyages have taken place, and indeed still occur. As an illustraion of this last fact I may quote from United Empire, the Royal Colonial Institute Journal of September, 1918, the following data:—Two native boys, 17 or 18 years of age, drifted in a boat from Tarawa, in the Gilbert Group, for 90 days some 1300 miles, ere they made a landing on one of the Caroline Isles. These data are corroborated by officials. During that time they caught water in a bucket, but their only food consisted of six birds that they contrived to catch. They also caught a small shark but could not swallow its flesh. Japanese officials of the Carolines assisted them to return to Tarawa.page 25 page 26
The field of operations of the Polynesian navigators, the Maori voyagers, was a vast area of some 4,500 miles in extent. Over this great expanse the brown-skinned sea kings followed the rolling sea roads; the ara moana laid down by their bold forbears when they broke into the realm of Tahora-nui-atea in days of yore. With no knowledge of metals, ignorant of the compass, and of the shipbuilding art, they manned their rude top-straked dugouts and carvel built long boats, lashed together with sinnet. They hoisted their lateen sails, or the weird-looking ra kautu, and sailed out on far-spread sears in search of adventure, or a new home. They placated their gods and the monsters of the deep; they feared not the wrath of Hine-moana*; they rode down the endless leagues of surging water roads with a confidence born of courageous hearts, of superstition, and the blind faith that makes and mars mankind.
The rude vessels employed by the Polynesians in their ocean wanderings were óf two types, the outrigger and the double canoe. The single canoe, lacking an outrigger, used by the Maori of New Zealand, seems to have been a local production; it could scarcely have been employed in deep-sea voyages. Its origin probably lies in the fact that these isles furnished larger trees for canoe making than did the isles of Polynesia. Thus the hull of a vessel could be made much wider in New Zealand than in other isles. The so-called canoes were here made with greater beam, and in time the outrigger was abandoned in most cases. Tasman appears to have seen only double canoes here in 1642, but in 1769–70 Cook found the single canoe, minus the outrigger, the common vessel on the shores of the North Island. Outriggers and double canoes seem, however, to have been more numerous in the South Island in his time. A few double canoes were seen in South Island waters by early whalers and others in the first three decades of last century.
The work of constructing these rude vessels was effected by the use of stone tools, and yet we are told by observers that remarkably neat work was done. In some isles but ill provided with timber, canoes were built up on small hulls by lashing together short planks but a few feet in length, the joints of which were marvels of precision and neatness.
The vessels that reached New Zealand from Polynesia were of both types, single canoes fitted with an outrigger, and double canoes, in which the second hull served the purpose of an outrigger. Probably the outrigger type was most frequently used in these voyages, as they are most manageable at sea during stormy weather. The traditional account of the voyage of Nuku from eastern Polynesia in New Zealand and back, tells us that he crossed the ocean to these shores with two double canoes and one outrigger vessel. On his return to Polynesia he dismantled his double canoes and converted them into outrigger craft to enable him to make a quicker passage. Traditionary and other evidence shows that those neolithic voyagers who sailed over the 2,000 miles of ocean from the Society Group to New Zealand not infrequently recrossed it and returned to their far-off homes.
The double canoe had a wide range in the Pacific region, and this type of vessel was employed by Polynesian voyagers of former times. Those of the Paumotu, Tongan, and Samoan groups were sometimes of remarkable size; we hear of some at the latter group being 150 feet in length. The big double canoes of the Fiji Isles were also of great size, and from that people the Tongans obtained many of their deep-sea vessels. The Melanesian folk of Fiji were not deep ocean voyagers, however, they had not the confident, daring disposition of the Polynesian. When European peoples became acquainted with the South Seas, the Tongans were the most active deep sea voyagers of Polynesia. They were in the habit of making expeditions to the New Hebrides, and also reached Tikopia, New Caledonia and other isles far within the bounds of Melanesia.
Double canoes of New Zealand seem to have been of two types, the waka hourua, consisting of two canoes close together, and the mahanga, in which the two vessels were about thirty inches apart. In both cases crossbeams and strong lashings were employed to keep them in position. When two single canoes were temporarily converted into a double canoe, it was termed a taurua. Such craft were used when an unusually large net was employed in sea fishing.
Not only were deep sea vessels furnished with masts and sails, two masts in many cases, but also coastwise craft were provided with a mast and sail. These were seen by early visitors to New Zealand. The only Maori canoe sail that has been preserved is one in the British Museum. It is of the ordinary triangular form, and was hoisted with its wide end, the base of the triangle, uppermost. This is the ra kautu. page 31 Native tradition tells us that the lateen sail (ra kaupaparu) was also used here in former times.
Some of the voyages undertaken by old-time Polynesian voyagers were of surprising length. That from the Society Isles to New Zealand, over 2,000 miles, was made many times, and a number of sea rovers who reached these shores made the return voyage to Polynesia. These voyages were no haphazard rovings, these neolithic seafarers knew the ara moana, or sea roads, and knew how to reach their objective. On the run down from Tahiti to New Zealand, they had one resting place, Rarotonga, in the Cook Group, and occasionally a vessel sighted and sojourned a while at Rangitahua, Sunday Island, of the Kermadecs. The run from Rarotonga to New Zealand, of about 1,600 miles, would probably be made in about a fortnight, and this voyage was made many times by a people ignorant alike of the compass and of charts.
So accustomed did the old Polynesian voyagers become to their well-trodden sea roads that they knew the best time for starting on any particular voyage, so as to have favourable winds. Thus the trip down to New Zealand from Rarotonga was made in December, and the return voyage in July. J. A. Wilson, in one of his works on the Maori, tells us that they would probably average about 100 miles a day during the run down from Rarotonga. This, he remarks, would be a fair progress, all circumstances considered, for a canoe sailing half the time on a wind in the trades, and the other half with variable winds and perhaps calms, the wind in that region of the ocean at that season being, however, generally fair from the northward and the eastward. A number of writers gave the sailing rate of Polynesian canoes at from six to ten miles an hour. Seamen have assured us that they have seen Fiji canoes sailing ten to fifteen miles an hour. We are also told that the old Polynesian pahi, or deep sea vessels, could beat to windward nearly as well as a modern schooner. All these Polynesian craft possessed also the advantages of a secondary mode of propulsion in the paddle. Against a contrary wind, or in a calm, the paddle was a great help, and the Polynesians are past masters in its use. The big-bladed steering oars used did much to prevent side drift, and from two to eight of such oars were employed. These acted as lee boards.page 32 page 33
In long voyages star-reading experts were carried, and these men were on duty during the watches of the night. Not only did Polynesian navigators steer by the stars, they also studied them closely in connection with weather conditions. You cannot convince a Maori that the stars do not foretell weather conditions and the aspect of seasons. Only experts were taken on such voyages, men who knew exactly what to do in all emergencies, the kaumoana or amotawa (sefaring experts) of the rolling water roads of Hine-moana. Moreover, men were told off to various duties, though all were hardened wielders of the paddle when required for such services. Thus we are told that men were told off to attend to steering, others to tend the sails, yet others to baling the vessel, and so on. When foul weather was encountered, and the cry of “Runaia te waka” (secure the vessel) rang out, then the trained neolithic sea masters leaped to the footboards and made all snug for the coming crisis. Were it a squall to be met, they attended to the splashboards, erected the side stanchions and crosspieces, drew taut and lashed down the awning, swung out extra steer oars, turned the vessel head on to the coming squall, lowered the stone anchors at stem and stern to steady her, and then, trusting to their gods, they awaited the wrath of the Ocean Maid—the storm at sea.
The Polynesians assuredly relied much on the regular trade winds in their wanderings, and when the sky was obscured they still had the regular roll of the waves before such winds to guide them. The one great danger was a change of wind while the sky was obscured, for then the compassless sea rover was helpless. He might persist in following the run of the waves, possibly believing he was still on his course. Could the story of drift voyages in the Pacific be written, of a verity it would be of surpassing interest, as can be judged from a number that have been recorded.
A peculiarity of Polynesian voyagers was that they often carried their gods with them, that is, the symbols of such gods. These would be in charge of a priestly expert, and were believed to have a very important influence in regard to the success of the voyage. Any vessel carrying such symbols would be extremely tapu, and this would mean that great care had to be taken not to pollute such tapu. Such a misde- page 34 meanour would mean that the favour and protection of the gods would be withdrawn, in which case anything might happen. So it was that cooked food, held to be a highly unclean substance, could not be carried on such a vessel. In such cases sea stores consisted of dried products, as fish, shell fish, etc., and fish were often caught during such voyages. On short voyages fruit was much relied on. Water was carried in bamboo and seaweed vessels, as also in gourds, and coconuts were invaluable. The sleeping accommodation must have been uncomfortable, but a system of watches would no doubt prevent undue crowding. Taro, prepared breadfruit and sun-dried kumara (sweet potatoes) are also mentioned as sea stores.
We must bear in mind that ocean currents were studied by the Polynesians, who employed a kind of stone sea anchor, styled a mahe, in order to detect such currents. These “rivers of the ocean” have played a very important part in the peopling and ceaseless re-peopling of the isles of Polynesia. Ocean currents and drift voyages are closely allied to such movements of peoples. We know that the famous Black River has been responsible for many drift voyages made by Japanese vessels across the Pacific to the western shores of North America. This sort of thing must have been going on for many centuries. Such influences as Humboldt's Current, Mentor's Drift, the South Equatorial Current, Rossell's Drift, etc., with their back swirls and branch streams, must have been important factors in the distribution and re-distribution of the Polynesian race.
John Williams, of Polynesian fame, tells us, concerning these starting places: “At these places they have certain land marks by which they steer until the stars become visible, and they generally contrive to set sail so as to get sight of their heavenly guides by the time their land marks disappear.” A former British Resident at Rarotonga, Colonel Gudgeon, furnishes similar evidence, and in Beechey's Voyage appears yet another clear statement on the subject.
Many of the old-time voyages made by Polynesians were by no means over such wide stretches of open sea as had to be crossed between Tahiti and New Zealand, and Tahiti and the Sandwich or Hawaiian Isles. Yet voyages made from isle to isle, calling at many refreshment places, might be much longer than either of the above. Thus, in one voyage made by one Uenga, a famous sea rover of about the 12th century, that neolithic seaman started from Savaii, in the Samoan Group, and sailed to Tonga (480 miles S.S.E.), thence to Vavau (150 miles N.N.E.). On leaving the latter place he was carried away by stormy weather to some isle not named, whence he sailed to Tongareva (900 miles N.E. of Savaii), then to Rimatara (780 miles S.S.E.), thence to Rurutu (70 miles E.N.E.), thence to Tubuai (120 miles S.E.), thence to Fakaau or Greig Island, in the Paumotu Group (480 miles N.N.E.). After voyaging about this far-spread archipelago he went to Tahiti, from which place he found his way back again to Savaii. And this was one of the men who possessed but “frail canoes” and could not possibly make a deep sea voyage.
Another famed old Polynesian voyager, who flourished about the seventh century, was one Hui-te-rangi-ora. He seems to have roamed over the Pacific as though it were a lake, his most remarkable voyage being one to the far south, where he encountered ice. This was evidently a new experience for the Polynesian voyager, and tradition tells us how it astonished him.
Quiros maintained the existence of a great motherland in the South Pacific: “As otherwise the islands could not have been populated without a miracle.” But Quiros knew not the powers of the Polynesian voyager, and indeed but very few modern writers have any true appreciation of those powers.
In the oral traditions of the Maori we find, as might be expected, a mixture of fact and fable, historical traditions encrusted with myth. Thus we are told of wondrous adventures met with by old-time voyagers, of strange lands and strange people seen by them. How some reached lands where fire was unknown, and the people ate their food raw. Of communities where natural birth was unknown, and where all children were brought into the world by means of the Cæsarian operation. Of strange folk who dwelt in trees, and of terrible monsters encountered in far lands.
Among our local Maori folk a curious tale is told to account for the Aurora australis. We are gravely informed that some of the old voyagers who came to New Zealand continued their voyage and sailed far southward. Some of them remained there in a very cold region, and, ever and anon, their descendants kindle huge fires in order to acquaint the Maori of New Zealand with the fact that they are still there, and are in want of assistance.
The story of the discovery and settlement of these isles by members of the Polynesian race is a story of much interest. That of the North Island by drift voyagers from the western Pacific also contains a lesson. Both of the settlements were the outcome of drift voyages, one directly so, the other indirectly. A westerly wind that swept through Melanesia brought hither the first settlers of our North Island. A wind that swept westward from the region of South America was the indirect cause of the coming of the first Polynesian settlers to these shores.
Forty generations ago, that is to say about the year 900 A.D., two Polynesian deep sea navigators, named Kupe and page 41 Ngahue, sailed from the far-off Society Group and discovered New Zealand. Old traditions of our South Island seem to show that certain ancestors of the natives of those parts preceeded Kupe in their coming to these isles. These traditions are, however, but brief fragments, and hence unsatisfactory. It is now too late to obtain fuller information on the subject. If the ancestors of the South Island natives were the first inhabitants of these isles, then they would assuredly have settled in the North Island, only compulsion would drive a warmth-loving Polynesian to the colder climate of the south. They may have been expelled from the North Island by later comers. The traditions concerning Kupe, Ngahue, and Toi are the ones best supported by evidence.
The vessels of Kupe and his companion voyager Ngahue (also known as Ngake) were named Matahorua and Tawirirangi. They would be either double canoes or outrigger craft. These intrepid sea rovers made their landfall near the North Cape of New Zealand. The first sign of land is said to have been a white cloud that overhung it. This was first noted by one Hine-to-aparangi, wife of Kupe, who cried out: “He ao! He ao!” (A cloud! A cloud!), and so New Zealand gained its first name of Aotea (White Cloud), afterwards lengthened to Aotea-roa, presumably on account of its size. Coming from the small islands of Polynesia the explorers would be impressed by the size of these isles.
Having sojourned a while in the far north, our neolithic explorers ran down the east coast of the North Island, landing at various places, until they reached what is now known as Wellington Harbour. We credit Captain James Cook with the discovery of this harbour on November 2nd., 1773, but Kupe and his companions camped on these shores nearly 900 years before that date.
The seafarers remained some time in this harbour and its vicinity, and then continued their exploration. They examined Cook Straits, entered Porirua Harbour, and then sailed down the west coast of the South Island. At Arahura they are said to have discovered float pieces of greenstone (nephrite) in the river bed, a discovery that was of great importance to the Maori of later generations. They are also said to have slain a moa (Dinornis) at that place, for that huge page 42 bird was not then extinct. Thus, after further exploration, these bold navigators sailed northward, and again crossed 2,000 miles of ocean to their far distant home in eastern Polynesia. They are said to have sojourned at Rarotonga on their way. We are also told in native tradition that the particulars of the voyage, as also sailing directions to enable vessels to reach New Zealand, were carefully preserved in the unwritten archives of Hawaiki, as the island of Tahiti was called at that period. The most noteworthy statement in the tradition of this remarkable voyage is one to the effect that Kupe and Ngahue found these isles uninhabited by man. It is the coming of the first settlers that we have now to consider.
At some time subsequent to the departure of the above-mentioned voyagers, a strange, unknown people formed the first permanent settlement in New Zealand. Their origin is unknown, and Maori tradition tells us that they were a people of inferior culture, which means inferior to Polynesian culture. Their own account of their origin, as related to the later coming Maori, is that their ancestors arrived here in three canoes, named Kahutara, Taikoria and Okoki. These vessels had been swept away from their homeland by a westerly storm during a fishing excursion, and, after drifting far across the ocean, had made their landfall on the north Taranaki coast, on the west coast of the North Island. They called their homeland Horanui-a-tau and Haupapa-nui-a-tau, both of which names are unknown to us. It is almost certain that there must have been a southerly as well as an easterly drift. The natives of Tasmania and Australia constructed no vessels that would stand the passage of the Tasman Sea, and the description of these early settlers seems to point to the New Hebrides as a probable homeland. That land was described as possessing a hot climate, much warmer than that of New Zealand.
Maori canoe Baler. In Whanganui Museum.
T.W. Downes photo
Having seen the gradual spread of the Mouriuri people in the North Island, we will now pass on to the coming of the first Polynesian settlers. The period during which the Mouriuri were the sole occupiers of New Zealand can scarcely have been less than two hundred years, and it may have been more.
Some twenty-eight or nine generations ago a gale of wind from somewhere off the west coast of South America swept westward through Polynesia as far as the Samoan Group. That gale it was that brought about the occupation of New Zealand by Polynesians, and here is the story thereof:—
A canoe race was being held on the placid waters of the lagoon of Pikopiko-i-whiti, off the island of Hawaiki, and we may identify that isle as Tahiti of the Society Group, of which it was an ancient name. It was resolved that one race be held out on the open sea, hence the competing vessels passed out through the opening in the reef. While the contest was being conducted an easterly gale, an offshore wind, struck the fleet and rendered return to land impossible. Thus a number of vessels were driven far across the ocean and became seperated during the drift. Such occurrences have been very numerous in Polynesian history.
As time passed away much anxiety was felt as to the fate of the ocean waifs, and thus it was that Toi, the grandfather of Whatonga, one of the lost ones, resolved to sail in search of them. He manned his vessel, named Te Paepae-ki-Rarotonga, and sailed across the Sea of Marama in quest of his grandson. On his reaching Pangopango, in the Samoan Group, he found some of the castaways at that place, but not his young relative. Toi then continued his search and visited a number of isles, but still his quest was a fruitless one so far as his grandson was concerned. At length he reached Rarotonga, in the Cook Group, and, finding there no trace or word of Whatonga or his vessel, he resolved to visit the far land of page 49 Aotearoa, discovered by Kupe and Ngahue long before. He said to Toa-rangitahi, a chief of Rarotonga: “I go to seek my young relative in the green land in the far expanse of ocean. Should any come in search of me, say that I have gone to that far land, that is if I ever reach it; should I not do so, then will I be lying in the depths of Hine-moana.” Now Hine-moana is the Ocean Maid, the personified form of the ocean. Even so the gallant old sea rover swung the prow of his carvel-built craft south of Canopus and the red sun, and rode down five hundred leagues of empty, rolling sea roads to the lone land of Aotearoa.
The voyage of Toi was a remarkable one, inasmuch as he missed his objective, keeping too far to the eastward, but he discovered the Chatham Isles, which lie about 400 miles to the east of New Zealand. The sturdy old voyager did not, however, abandon his quest, and eventually he made his land-fall on the eastern side of the northern part of the North Island. He landed at Tamaki, where the town of Auckland now is, where he sojourned some time among the Mouriuri folk. His long search for Whatonga had been fruitless, and the sea-weary old Viking eventually settled at Whakatane. Here local natives point out the earthern ramparts of an oldtime fort named Ka-pu-te-rangi, and maintain that it was the abiding place of Toi, surnamed Kai-rakau, he who had sailed wide seas in search of his grandson. Situated on the summit of a high cliff above the modern township, and the spot where Matatua ended her long voyage from eastern Polynesia in later times, the old rover's last home was a picturesque one. One can imagine the sea-worn old wanderer gazing eastward from the bluff across the vast, empty ocean, thinking of his lost grandson, and of his old home two thousand miles away. Doubtless he did not feel equal to making another arduous voyage across the great southern ocean, and so resigned himself to exile among a strange, unpleasing people.
Meanwhile events were occuring in eastern Polynesia that were to bring further immigrant settlers to Aotearoa. The vessel of Whatonga had drifted to the island of Rangiatea, presumably the isle of Ra'iatea of the Society Group, for the dialect of that group has, we know, lost the k and nasal ng since the ancestors of our Maori folk left those parts. page 50 If Whatonga had reached that island, however, it is strange that Toi should have missed him during his search, for Ra'iatea and Tahiti are not far apart. There is something unexplained at this point of the tradition.
When Whatonga and his companions were cast away on this isle, they narrowly escaped being slain, but were afterwards well treated, and lived for some time among their hosts. Eventually, however, they made their way home again, when Whatonga learned that Toi was still absent in search of him. Hence he resolved to go forth to seek Toi, a task of no light nature among the many isles of Polynesia. This incident serves to illustrate the familiarity of the Polynesians of that period with sea-faring, and the confidence with which they traversed the sea roads to distant objectives. This story of Toi and Whatonga is here much abbreviated; in its entirety it forms an extremely interesting narrative. One incident in the homeward voyage of Whatonga and his companions from Rangiatea shows us that Polynesians of that era employed the quipu or knotted cord system of mnemonics. Indeed, they were something more than an aid to memory, inasmuch as it is distinctly stated that messages were sent to a distance by that medium. Certain arrangements of knots represented words or phrases, hence the method was a symbolic one, and the medium employed resembled ideograms to some extent.
Whatonga now sought a vessel suitable for a long deep sea voyage, and obtained one named Te Hawai from a man named Turangi. This was a vessel of three haumi, that is to say, the dug-out hull was composed of four pieces; it had twenty-six thwarts, two baling wells, and two anchors. This vessel was renamed Kurahaupo, and the origin of this name illustrates the growth of mythical accretions around the historical traditions of barbaric man. When the vessel that brought Whatonga and his crew home from Rangiatea left that isle the chief thereof called out: “O Tonga! When the prow of your vessel meets the homeland, send me, I urge you, two tokens by which I shall know that you have safely arrived, and let those tokens be the kura hau awatea and the kura hau po.” Whatonga made no verbal reply from his place in the stern of his vessel, but signified his assent by means of a gesture termed kapo. He raised his right arm and page 51 closed the hand as though clutching something; no words were necessary. Now the expression kura hau awatea denotes a solar halo, and that of kura hau po a lunar halo, or some such phenomenon. Our Maori folk firmly believe that their high-grade priests of yore possessed the power of producing these phenomena at will, by means of their priestly or occult arts, and that they utilised them for the purpose of signalling over great distances. Such was the origin of the new name of Whatonga's vessel.
Kurahaupo was now carefully prepared for sea. Her washboards were lashed on; all her timbers were treated with vegetable gum, shark oil and ochre. Then a crew of hardy, trained deep-sea sailors was selected, men accustomed to the rolling ara moana (sea roads), inured to all dangers of the great ocean. Of paddlers were selected fifty and two, of ship's husbands four, of anchor tenders two, of sail tenders four, of steersmen two, of fire tenders two; evidently the crew was divided into watches. Thus the crew consisted of sixty-six persons, and there were several women also on board.
When all was ready the priests performed appropriate ceremonies, and chaunted over the vessel a long invocation to the gods, in order to place her under their protection. In order to render this function thoroughly effective Kurahaupo was hauled ashore and inland to a particularly tapu spot, and there, resting on that spot, she was placed in the hands of the gods. By this means a successful voyage was ensured, so long as not offence was given to those gods. And now, all being ready, Kurahaupo was hauled down to the beach and launched at grey dawn, the crew took their places on the thwarts assigned to them, Whatonga and his younger brother, Mahutonga, the priestly expert, stepped into the stern. Then, amid loud cries of farewell, and tears, and many greetings, Kurahaupo glided out upon the gleaming waters and picked up her two thousand mile course, while her brown-skinned sea kings looked upon their island home for the last time.
Our neolithic voyagers reached Rarotonga safely, and, on enquiring for Toi, were told by one Tatao that he had searched many lands and had finally sailed for Aotearoa, the land situated in far ocean spaces. Whatonga now resolved page 52 to sail for Aotearoa (New Zealand), and laid in sea stores for the long run. One of his companions, Ruatea, decided to remain at Rarotonga, and his place in the vessel was taken by a Rarotongan named Te Awe. Thus it was that, in the month Tatau-urutahi, Kurahaupo sailed from Rarotonga for the far distant isles we call New Zealand.
Again we must abbreviate our story and bring the Seeker of the Searcher swiftly to these shores. Kurahaupo made her landfall near the North Cape, where her crew sojourned a while and laid in sea stores. She then ran down the west coast of the North Island and came to land again at Tongaporutu, in the northern part of the Taranaki district. Here the voyagers learned that Toi had safely reached the land of Aotearoa, and had settled at Whakatane. Whatonga now resolved to seek his old relative without delay, but some of his followers decided to remain at Tonga-porutu and dwell among the Mouriuri folk of that district. If the new-comers were able to converse with the aborigines and so to gain a knowledge of Toi, then the two peoples must have spoken tongues closely allied.
Kurahaupo now took the sea roads once more, sailed northward, rounded the North Cape, and ran down the eastern side of the island. A short stay was made at Otuako, a place that was named after a member of the crew who died there. During this sojourn at Otuako news came to hand of the arrival of Manaia, another Polynesian voyager, at Tongaporutu.
Sailing from Otuako, Whatonga reached Maketu, in the Bay of Plenty, where he made another stay, after which he went on to Whakatane, where he at length met his old relative Toi. The long double quest that had called for so much ocean roving was over at last, so Toi and Whatonga, with their companions, dwelt in the new land, never again to roam wide seas, or to look again on their old homes in eastern Polynesia.
Native village of Hiruharama, (Jerusalem), on the Whanganui River. Old native huts replaced by cottages of sawn timber.
Dominion Museum photo
Whatonga did not settle permanenetly at Whakatane, but moved to the Mahia district with his followers, and there dwelt. In his old age his two sons, Tara and Tautoki, settled at what is now known as Wellington Harbour, which was named Te Whanga nui a Tara (The Great Harbour of Tara). From these two brothers sprang the Ngai-Tara and Rangitane tribes that occupied the Wellington and Wai-rarapa districts for many generations.
We have seen that another Polynesian voyager named Manaia came to New Zealand about the same time that Kurahaupo arrived. The story of Manaia is as follows:—Afar off in the isles of eastern Polynesia dwelt two chiefs, named Manaia and Nuku. A long story, handed down by oral tradition, tells of Manaia being insulted by Nuku, of a bitter feud and much fighting that followed. In this fighting Manaia seems to have had the weaker party, hence he resolved to leave his homeland, and, with some of his followers, migrate to Aotearoa, the far distant southern land discovered by Kupe. He may, or may not have heard of the departure of Toi for these isles. He therefore fitted up a vessel named Tokomaru for the venture, and, having selected a crew of trained experts, he quietely left home and sailed away in search of a more peaceful land.
Nuku had no intention of allowing his enemy to escape, for he had the death of a brother to avenge. He therefore resolved to man three vessels with “sea paddling braves” and pursue the elusive Manaia. The names of his three vessels were Te Houama, Waimate, and Tangi-apakura, of which the first-named was a single canoe (waka marohi), and the other two double canoes (waka unua). The first-mentioned would doubtless be furnished with an outrigger.
Both parties touched at Rarotonga, in the Cook Group, which has ever been the point of departure for New Zealand with Polynesian voyagers. Manaia had the advantage of his enemy, but apparently was not far in advance of him when he reached this land. He came south to Cook Straits, and landed on the island of Rangitoto, or D'Urville Island. page 55 Nuku must have heard of the movements of Manaia, for he followed him into Cook Straits, and, landing on Rangitoto, found the smouldering embers of his fire yet alive. Putting to sea again he sighted Tokomaru off Pukerua, on the northern coast of the Straits, and at once gave chase. On the waters of Raukawa, we are told, a fierce sea fight was fought, and, as evening fell, the enemies agreed to land and renew the fight in the morning. They went ashore at Pae-kakariki, where they camped for the night. That night a terrific storm came on, caused, says tradition, by the magic powers of Manaia. So fierce was the gale that by its agency were formed the long lines of sand dunes and mounds that mark the coast line from Pae-kakariki northward towards Otaki. That strip of coast line has since been known as the One ahuahu a Manaia, to record the fact that it was so formed by Manaia.
When morning arrived it was found that exposure to the night storm had seriously impaired the fighting powers of the sea-farers, and a consultation ended in peace being made between the two parties. Manaia announced that he was resolved to settle in this land of Aotearoa, while Nuku determined to return to his far-distant island home. Ere doing so, Nuku dismantled his two double canoes, and sailed them back as single vessels. The cause of this change was that he concluded that it would expedite his passage. Manaia, after a coasting voyage to the east coast of the island, returned to the west coast and there settled. The tribes of the Taranaki district claim descent from him.
Nuku was by no means the only voyager to make the return voyage to Polynesia, and from this time onward for probably about two hundred years, many voyagers crossed and re-crossed the southern ocean. A number remained here, but others certainly returned to their far northern homes. Tama-ahua, who came with Whatonga, returned to eastern Polynesia, sailing from Taranaki, where he had dwelt at Oakura. Tumoana sailed from the northern peninsula, and Tuwhiri-rau from the east coast. Rongokako, father of Tamatea of Takitumu, returned to the Society Group. The last vessels mentioned in tradition as having left these isles for Polynesia, were those of Pahiko and Mou-te-rangi, that page 56 sailed from the east coast ten generations ago. Yet another interesting feature of these old traditions is the fact that we learn of two drift vessels from our North Island having reached isles of the Pacific and finally made their way back here. A vessel named Te Ara-tawhao is said to have been constructed at Whakatane in order to proceed to the isles of Polynesia to obtain seed tubers of the kumara, or sweet potato. The original settlers here, the Mouriuri folk, possessed no cultivated food products, nor did Toi introduce any, thus it was that Toi received the surname of Kairakau (wood eater), because he and his people subsisted largely on forest products. In later centuries he has been known as Toi Kai-rakau.
We have records of a considerable number of vessels that reached New Zealand from the isles of the Pacific subsequent to the time of Toi. One vessel, commanded by Whiro, made the coast of the North Island near Oakura. Another that arrived at Whakatane about 500 years ago was manned by very dark-skinned folk, presumably Melanesians. Others, named Te Ara-tauwhaiti, Rangi-matoru, Nukutere and Oturereao, came to land in the Bay of Plenty. One, named Te Paepae ki Rarotonga, commanded by Waitaha, is said to have come to land near Matata, but another tradition gives the name as that of the vessel of Toi. A number of other such vessels are named in native tradition, such as Arai-te-uru, Mahuhu, Mamari, Te Ririno, etc., but few particulars are known concerning them. Twenty generations ago, however, a fleet of vessels arrived here from the Society Group, bringing hither a band of hardy sea-farers and warriors, whose advent had an important effect on tribal conditions in this land. The best-known vessels of this migration were named Te Arawa, Aotea, Horouta, Matatau, Tainui and Takitumu. The next chapter will give some account of the effect of the influx of Polynesian migrants, from the arrival of Toi to the coming of the fleet, the mingling of the two peoples, and the formation of the more modern Maori tribes.
* Hine-moana, the Ocean Maid. Personified form of the Ocean in Maori myth.