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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Discovery and Early References

Discovery and Early References.

The first mention of Taranaki as a distinct portion of New Zealand, occurs in the journal of the Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, who, on the 27th of December, 1642, sighted, in this latitude, on the west coast of New Zealand, a lofty, snow-clad mountain. But no page 8 further notice was taken by the outside world of this part of the island until Captain Cook made his first voyage to the South Seas. Then, on the 9th of January, 1770, as the log of the great navigator shows, the voyagers sighted in the same latitude, “a very high mountain,” which was described as resembling the peak of Teneriffe. The “Endeavour,” following the coast south from Raglan and Kawhia, came close in shore near “some very remarkable peaked islands” (the Sugar Loaves), and the crew had a good view of the mountain, “towering above the clouds and covered with snow.” The peak is described as having a large base, and rising with a gradual ascent; and Captain Cook named both the mountain and the cape near it Egmont, after the Earl of Egmont, one of the promoters of the expedition. In 1772 the French explorer, Marion du Fresne, coasting along the North Island, sighted the mountain, and named it Le Pic de Mascarine, after his own vessel. However, the first Englishman who had personal experience of the country seems to have been John Rutherford, the sole survivor of the crew of the “Agnes,” which was captured by the natives in Poverty Bay. In his “Narrative of Ten Years' Captivity among the Maoris,” Rutherford states that about 1817, after he had become a chief, and had married a chief's daughter, he went on a peaceful expedition across the island to “a place called Taranaki, on the coast of Cook's Strait.” Another sailor, John Marmon, in a narrative of his life, also tells how he went on a trip from Sydney in the barque “Henrietta” to Taranaki to get some plants of native flax for the Botanical Gardens. Marmon mentions that there were at least 2000 natives assembled together at the landing place, so that at that date the district must have been an important centre of the Maori population on the west coast. At this time the natives on the Taranaki part of the coast belonged chiefly to the great Ngatiawa tribe, a restless and warlike race, and then the most numerous and powerful tribe in the island. The name signifies “river tribe,” from the fact that on their arrival from the north they settled first on the banks of the Waitara.