Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
“Left an Inscription”
“Left an Inscription”
Cook's rough notes contain the laconic entry: “Left an inscription.” The only published narrative of the voyage which refers to it is Becket's (1771). His informant says that it was cut “on a tree a little to the right of our watering-place.” Nothing is disclosed by Cook or in Becket's book as to the wording. In Maoriland Adventures, pp. 203–4, it is stated that Canon Stack was taken by his father to Cook's Cove in 1844, when he was nine years old. Stack says:
“On the right-hand side of the little cave, Capt. Cook had cut a basin in the limestone rock to form a drinking fountain and, on a little tree growing close by, he and his companions had carved their initials and the date of their visit. I think it was 17 October, 1769. My father carefully removed the mud and grit, which nearly filled the little basin, and trimmed the edges of the initials on the tree to prevent the bark growing over and obliterating them.”
As the period during which the Endeavour lay at Tolaga Bay was from 24 October till 30 October, the date suggested by Stack is, of course, incorrect. It is also unlikely that Cook would have described as “an inscription” only initials and a date cut on a tree. What is much more probable is that it included Cook's name and rank, the ship's name, and the date of their visit. The initials and date which Stack was able to recall might have been those which he saw on the rock in which the basin was cut.
Notwithstanding that it rained without intermission on page 55 26 October, the work of procuring wood and water was continued. Next day, Cook and Solander went round the bay, leaving Banks at the watering-place to pursue his botanical studies. First of all, Cook landed at the bottom of the bay [Huturangi] and went a little way inland, but met with nothing extraordinary. He afterwards landed at the north point of the bay [Te Karaka], where a boatload of celery and scurvy grass was obtained. Among the nicknacks which Solander took back to the ship was a boy's top, “shaped,” Banks says, “like what Boys play with in England, which they made signs was to be whipped in the same manner.” Whilst Cook and Solander were absent, Banks climbed a hill and examined a disused fort.
Upon another occasion, Cook and a party landed on Pourewa Island. “Some of us,” Cook says, “hapned upon a small Island where several women were Naked in the Water, gathering of Lobsters and shellfish. As soon as they saw us, several of them hid themselves among the Rocks and the rest remained in the Sea until they had made themselves Aprons of the seaweed; and even then when they came out to us they showed manifest signs of Shame and those who had no method of hiding their nakedness would by no means appear before us.” Becket's informant (1771) did not share Cook's opinion in regard to the modesty of the native women. “Chastity,” he says, “appeared not to be held in great estimation among them, or, at least, it was not rigidly practised. Many of their young women constantly resorted to the watering-place.”
The native name for the island—“Pourewa”—has outlasted that given to it by Cook, who called it after Banks's secretary, Herman Sporing, who was a Swede. Banks tells an amusing story as to how it came about that Cook so honoured Sporing. “Whilst Mr. Sporing was drawing on the island,” he says, “he saw a strange bird fly over his head. He described it as being about the size of a kite and brown like one. Its tail, however, was of so enormous a length that he at first took it for a flock of small birds flying over him. He, who is a gravely-thinking man, and is not at all given to telling remarkable stories, says he judged the tail to be … yards in length.” Banks probably intended to requestion Sporing before he filled in the gap before the word “yards,” but neglected to do so. Nowadays, “Pourewa” appears on State survey plans as “Porewa.”
By the end of the fourth day (Saturday), the required amount of water (70 tons) had been procured, but not quite sufficient wood. Some of the men were set to work to make manuka brooms and others to collect celery to take to sea. “This plant,” Cook mentions, “is found here in great plenty … and I look upon it page 56 to be a very wholesome Antiscorbutick.” Sunday saw the work of obtaining wood completed, and at 6 a.m. on Monday, 30 October (civil date) the Endeavour, after a stay of almost six days at Tolaga Bay, sailed to the northward.