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Polynesian Voyagers. The Maori as a Deep-sea Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer

Drift Voyages from New Zealand

Drift Voyages from New Zealand.

Among the many traditions collected by the late Mr. John White was one related by Maika te Pati many years ago. It concerns a party of Maoris, of whom one Marara was the principal person, that was caught by a southerly gale when out at sea on a fishing-trip in the Hauraki region. Their canoe was carried far north by the storm, until, after an eighteen-days drift, they reached land, having subsisted on fish and rain-water during their strenuous voyage. They were met by natives carrying weapons resembling the reeds of toetoe-kiwi (Gahnia lacera). The vessel of these castaways was a huhunu (double canoe). After sojourning at this island for some time these folk returned home, making the coast near the Bay of Islands, whence they ran down the coast-line to Hauraki.

Yet another such tradition was collected by Mr. White from natives in the North Auckland district. This concerned a drift canoe that was carried away by a storm from fishing-grounds, and which reached a small and distant island inhabited by an indolent and unwarlike people, unlike the Maori. This island was frequently disturbed by earthquakes, and its inhabitants were few. After living there for some years, the castaways wearied of their cramped surroundings, and managed to return to New Zealand. The vessel was an amatiatia (outrigger canoe), which reached Whanga-roa, in the far north.

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The Maori tradition of a canoe named “Te Ara-tawhao” shows this to have been a vessel belonging to natives residing in the Bay of Plenty district, in which a party sailed to the isles of Polynesia for the purpose of obtaining seed tubers of the sweet potato. These folk had been induced to make this effort by two men named Hoaki and Taukata, who reached Whakatane from the northern islands in a vessel named “Nga Tai-a-Kupe.” The names of twenty persons of the crew of Te Ara-tawhao have been preserved. An account of this vessel has been published in Volume 37 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.

According to native tradition, Tahiti and adjacent islands are supposed to have been settled from the Hawaiian Isles; but from about 650 to 1100 A.D. there is no record of any voyages between the latter group and southern isles. After this time voyages between the Hawaiian and Society Groups were frequent for about 250 years, when they again ceased and were never renewed. Voyagers from the Society, Marquesas, and Samoan Groups visited the Hawaiian Isles.