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The Coming of the Maori

The Voyage

The Voyage

The circumstances connected with the voyage of the third set of settlers differed materially from those which affected their predecessors. The first settlers arrived in New Zealand by lucky chance after being diverted from their original course to an unknown land by adverse winds. The second settlers, under Toi and Whatonga, set out for a land of which they had heard and to which they had sailing directions, but, as they had no original intentions of settling down, they brought neither women nor food plants. The third settlers knew the sailing directions and planned to escape persecution by settling down in a far-away land. Therefore, they brought their wives and children and plants to grow in their new home. The fact that they arrived with dogs and with tubers of the sweet potato, taro, and yam proves that they suffered from no food shortage on the voyage.

Both Polynesian and Maori traditions are lacking in detail as to what occurred at sea during long sea voyages. Probably, once the navigators had set their courses, there was little to record in the daily monotony unless a storm or some other danger was encountered. The Aotea and the Ririno did have an argument as to the course after some time at sea. Potoru, commander of the Ririno, maintained that they should sail towards the setting sun (te ra to), but Turi of the Aotea insisted that the sailing directions laid down by Kupe were that the bow of the canoe should be kept directed towards the rising sun (te ra ahuru). The canoes separated and, according to the Aotea tradition, Potoru was lost through his obstinancy. Hence the saying applied to a wayward person:

E tohe i nga tohe a Potoru. Persist in the obstinacy of Potoru.

However, Potoru was a good seaman and evidently changed his course, for another tradition states that he eventually landed at the Boulder Bank on the Nelson coast. The Aotea called in at Rangitahua, an island in the Kermadecs, and there the top strakes of the canoe were relashed and an offering of dogs made to the gods. It was probably here that Turi obtained page 47the berries of the karaka, which he is credited with having planted in New Zealand.

The Arawa was driven into the whirlpool known as the Throat of the Parata by adverse winds conjured up by the priest Ngatoroirangi to punish Tamatekapua, for interfering with his matrimonial affairs. However, Ngatoroirangi hearkened to the supplications of the people and, by a powerful incantation, lifted the canoe out of the threatening abyss. To this day the descendants of that canoe use the words of the chant to round off speeches of welcome and the concluding words, raised in a thundering chorus, symbolize that all will be well with the tribe and its guests:

Eke, eke, She lifts, she ascends,
Eke panuku! She glides into safety!
Hui e O unity —
Taiki e —. O victory —.

An incident in the sailing of the Tainui illustrates the fearlessness of those early seafarers. The date set for sailing was the Orongonui (28th) night or morning of Tatau-uruora, the lunar month corresponding to the overlapping in the European calendar months of November and December. This was said to conform to the time given by Kupe as the most favourable season of the year for the voyage. The Maori calendar consisted of a sequence of lunar months in which each night was named from the first night of the new moon to the last night before the next new moon. The three or four nights at the end of the first quarter of the moon were named Tamatea with qualifying terms. The end of the first quarter was regarded as being marked by rough weather at sea. When the Tainui was ready to sail, the old seafaring experts advised Hoturoa, the commander of Tainui, to put off sailing until the Tamatea had blown over. Hoturoa replied, "I will sail on the Orongonui and fight the Tamatea on the open sea." And so Tainui, nothing daunted by the perils that lay before, sailed on the Orongonui and passed through the Tamatea to victory.

The Aotea canoe had two steering paddles, named Te Rokuowhiti and Kautu ki te rangi. A deep sea chanty of the Ngati Ruanui tribe has been jusdy termed by Cowan "the Epic of the Paddle". The first stanza deals with Te Rokuowhiti, and the pride the old-time mariners must have felt in plying the paddle is expressed as follows:

Ah, the outward lift and the dashing,
The quick thrust in and the backward sweep,
The swishing, the swirling eddies, the foaming white wake,
And the spray which flies from my paddle.

The second stanza, dealing with Kautu ki te rangi, refers particularly to the unknown horizon towards which the paddle was steering them. In page 48the phrases "Tane-matohe-nuku" and "Tane-matohe-rangi," I have interpreted Tane, the god of trees, as referring to the canoe and its struggles (matohe) against the elements below (nuku) and the forces above (rangi). The following is an attempt at a free interpretation:

Fiercely plies the shaft of this my paddle,
Named Kautu ki te rangi.
To the heavens raise it, to the skies uplift it.
It guides to the distant horizon,
To the horizon that seems to draw near,
To the horizon that instils fear,
To the horizon that causes dread,
The horizon of unknown power,
Bounded by sacred restrictions.
Along this unknown course,
Our ship must brave the waves below,
Our ship must fight the storms above.
This course must be followed,
By chief and priest and crew,
But place our trust in Rehua
And through him we'll reach the land of Light.
O Rongo-and-Tane, we raise our offerings.

The voyage of the Takitimu was clothed in myth by the versatile school of Te Matorohanga (81, p. 223). When she left the haven of Pikopikoiwhiti, a school of whales appeared, to escort the vessel and to propel her to the land to which she was bound. Ruamano, the leader of the escort, assumed a position under the bow, others bearing the name of Hine supported the sides, and Araiteuru took the place of a stern propeller. To make assurance doubly sure, the gods Kahukura and Hinekorako, who had been brought on board by the priests, were utilized as guides. In the morning, Kahukura was sent ahead and he assumed the form of a rainbow on the horizon in the direction of the land they were seeking. When night fell, he returned to the canoe in what I assume was a more compact form, and Hinekorako was sent out for the night watch. She assumed the form of a lunar rainbow which took up the correct guiding direction. This myth is either a remarkable coincidence or it is a neo-myth inspired by a knowledge of the Old Testament story in which the Israelites were guided out of Egyptian bondage by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night In mid-ocean, the Takitimu reached a place where the seas stood up like cliffs. However, the famous adze, Te Awhiorangi, was held up and its magic power cut a way through the waves in a manner also reminiscent of the biblical story of how the waters of the Red Sea parted for the Children of Israel when Moses page 49stretched forth his hand over the sea. It would be a pity to spoil the story by accepting the Ngati Ruanui and Ngarauru contention that the famous Awhiorangi adze came in the Aotea canoe. However, the danger overcome, the novel propellers below and the supernatural compass ahead guided the Takitimu safely to New Zealand with apparently no effort on the part of her crew.

The unconcern with which the Maori traditions brought the Fleet to New Zealand offers a contrast to the concern expressed by European writers. The type of vessel, the distance of over 2000 miles, the lack of charts and navigating instruments, adverse winds, and the carrying of sufficient food and water, have provided problems deemed almost impossible of solution. However, the large voyaging canoes over 60 feet in length were quite capable of carrying ample provisions and water. They were equipped with sails as well as the motor power of selected men, stout of shoulder to bear the strain of the deep sea paddle. The observations of Cook, Bougainville, and other European navigators state that with a fair wind, the Polynesian canoes were easily capable of sailing seven miles an hour. At this rate, the full distance from Tahiti to New Zealand would not have taken more than a fortnight to accomplish and, if the canoes called in at Rarotonga as some maintain, the remaining stretch was further reduced. American airmen in World War II have survived for more than 30 days in the Pacific, tossing about on a rubber raft with little food and water. Thus the difficulties of surviving a few weeks' sojourn on a Polynesian voyaging canoe have been greatly exaggerated. The real difficulty is to understand how the navigating priests were able to guide their vessels to their destination. The fact that not one, but several vessels found their way to New Zealand for the purpose of settlement places their achievements within the category of purposive navigation. The details of the methods which brought success were not recorded in the traditional narratives.