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The Discovery of New Zealand


page vii


This is the second edition of an essay, or short book, which first appeared in 1939, as one of the series called 'New Zealand Centennial Surveys'. Its object was to give as clear an account as possible, within a small compass, of the process by which New Zealand was 'discovered'—that is, by which its coastline and its extent became generally known. Its 'exploration'—the discovery of its interior—was the subject of another volume, Mr. W. G. McClymont's Exploration of New Zealand, in the same series.

For this edition the text has been very much revised, and added to a little, where it seemed that brevity had turned into a defect. But I do not think the book is appreciably longer, though I hope it is better. One question caused me much thought, that of Polynesian discovery: in the end I decided to leave the main lines of the first chapter, 'The Maori Voyagers', much as they were, though I have changed its title. This decision may seem outrageous to those who have been swept away by Mr. Andrew Sharp's recent campaign in favour of discovery by 'accidental voyages'. The discussion of Maori, and of Polynesian, origins is a battlefield, littered with gashed theories and not a few dead bodies of speculation; and tradition is obviously open to destructive attack. We cannot ignore the fairy-tale quality. A different sort of treatment of this chapter, however, would inevitably have meant analysis and argument at second hand (for I am not an expert in Polynesian history); and the Maori traditions, whether we believe in a historical 'Fleet' or not, have a value in themselves. They were part of the land that the European navigators discovered—even if the 'Fleet' itself was a European invention. Maori history within New Zealand has recently, it is true, been revolutionized by the archaeologists. Maori scholars have not been quite so enthusiastic about the thesis Mr. Sharp threw among them in 1956, in his Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific, as they have been about carbon-dating; but in discussing the Polynesian discovery of New Zealand it is clear that Mr. Sharp's accidental voyagers, and their Cook islands origin, must be reckoned with.

page viii

The proportions of the essay are, I think, about right. One could say much more concerning the visits of Surville and Marion du Fresne, or the activities of sealers and whalers; but it would have to be said rather of their personal relations with the Maori people than of their geographical work, and would tend to obscure the main thread of the narrative. I have given no space at all to the flights of fancy that have arisen from such things as the undocumented dredging up of an alleged 'Spanish morion' in Port Nicholson at an unknown date, or the Tamil bell found by Colenso in the bush in 1836, or traditions of very early wrecks on the coast. These all have their interest, but the interest lies outside my scope.

It would have been beyond the scope, also, of the original essay to tie all quoted passages severely to their sources in a footnote-array. In revising quotations from Cook and Banks, I have gone to the original manuscripts of their journals, a course I was unable to adopt in 1939. All quotations in this section are from Cook, unless specifically attributed to others. Quotations from Tasman are from the translation made for the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs in 1942 by Mr. M. F. Vigeveno, as part of the Tasman tercentennial celebrations of that year. The sources of other extracts will be found sufficiently indicated in the note at the end. In giving the dates for Cook's circumnavigation I have simply converted his 'ship time'—i.e. reckoning the day from noon to noon, not midnight to midnight—to civil time, without allowing for the day he had 'lost' by the time he crossed the 180th meridian. (He himself made the necessary adjustment at Batavia on his homeward passage.) This seems to me now a better practice, and closer to Cook, than the one I adopted in my first edition, of reducing all dates to our own modern equivalent. Any pedantic person who wishes to celebrate a New Zealand anniversary can easily add a day. The problem does not arise in connection with the other voyages discussed.

The Note on the Sources has been simplified, brought up to date, and some dead wood thrown out of it.