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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)

The Voyage to New Zealand, and a Human Sacrifice

The Voyage to New Zealand, and a Human Sacrifice.

“Our voyage to New Zealand after putting back once owing to head winds, occupied four days. As the captain had been seized and left on shore, the mate of the schooner was the navigator. I and several other Maoris were sailormen during the passage, and helped the white crew in setting and trimming sail. There were about two hundred of us on board, men, women and children.

“I witnessed the throwing overboard of one of our people, an elderly man named Te Warihi. He was an elder relation of Te Kooti, but it was on our leader's order that he was cast into the sea. The principal reason for the execution was that Te Warihi had given information to some of the European people about the secret Karakia, or religious worship, practised by Te Kooti and, his mysterious exhortations to the prisoners. The vessel was hindered by head winds on the voyage, and on the third day she was not making any progress. We were tacking frequently. Te Kooti had resolved that Te Warihi must suffer death, and he told the people that he was desirous of taking him to New Zealand and executing him there, but his (Te Kooti's) atua, his god, was not willing that the offender should be taken to the mainland. The schooner, the atua told him, would not reach the shore so long as Te Warihi was kept on board. Therefore, he must be cast into the sea.

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“At this time it was late afternoon, and the sun was setting over the windy ocean. I was on deck helping the sailors with the ropes. We saw a great wave, a billow like a mountain, rolling towards us. It would surely overwhelm us when it reached us. It was about as far from the spot where we are sitting to those kakikatea trees on the bank of the Taringamutu [about 300 yards away] when the condemned man was brought up on deck from the hold, where he was sitting with his old wife, and marched aft by Timoti te Kaka. The wave towered up like a mountain range; it looked on the sea-line like Hikurangi mountain yonder [the crest of a range on the north of the Taringamutu]. Te Kaka, pushing Te Warihi to the rail, attempted to lift him over, but he was not strong enough. Then a powerful Maori standing by, a man from the Wairarapa, seized the offender, lifted him over the rail and dropped him into the sea. Te Warihi did not make any outcry, nor did he struggle. He fell into the water and went down like a stone. He did not swim after the ship. And we who were in fear that the great wave sweeping along towards us would roll over us and sink us, saw in that moment that we were saved. The billow subsided and the schooner rode safely on the sea. The sun shone out from the clouds for a few moments before it set. Te Kooti told us we would sight land next morning.

“It was early in the morning that we caught sight of the east coast of New Zealand. There were nine of us on deck at the time—six sailors and three of us Maoris (Rawiri, Turei and myself) who were helping the crew. The wind had come fair after Te Warihi went overboard; it was blowing strongly and the schooner was going along well with all sail set. Many of the Maoris had been making bets in pakeha fashion as to when land would be sighted; some would stake five pounds, some six pounds, some ten pounds. A considerable sum of money had been secured on the Chathams at the time of the rising, and some of the Maoris had received money from New Zealand. The mountains of the North Island were seen just after the sun rose, and there was loud rejoicing among the people.