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An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]

Chap. VIII

Chap. VIII.

A general Account of New Zealand: its first Discovery, Situation, Extent, Climate, and Productions.

New Zealand was first discovered by Abel Jansen Tasman, a Dutch navigator, whose name has been several times mentioned in this narrative, on the 13th of December, in the year 1642. He traversed the eastern coast from latitude 34° to 43°, and entered the streight which divides the two islands, and in the chart is called Cook's Streight; but being attacked page 242 by the natives soon after he came to anchor, in the place to which he gave the name of Murderer's Bay, he never went on shore. He gave the country the name of Staaten Land, or the land of the States, in honour of the States General, and it is now generally distinguished in our maps and charts the name of New Zealand. As the whole of this country, except that part of the coast which was seen by Tasman from on board his ship, has from his time, to the voyage of the Endeavour; remained altogether unknown, it has by many been suppossed to be part of a southern continent. It is, however, now known to consist of two large islands, divided from each other by a streight or passage, which is about four or five leagues broad.

These islands are situated between the latitudes of 34° and 480 S. and between the longitudes of 181° and 194° W. which is now determined with uncommon exactness, from innumerable observations of the sun and moon, and one of the transits of Mercury, by Mr. Green, a person of known abilities, who, as has been observed before, was sent out by the Royal Society, to observe the transit of Venus in the South Seas.

The northermost of these islands is called by the natives Eaheinomauwe, and the southermost Tovy, or Tavai Poenammoo; yet, as I have observed before, we are not sure whether; the name Tovy Poenammoo comprehends the whole southern island, or only part of it. The figure and extent of these islands, with the situation of the bays and harbours they contain, and the smaller islands that lie about them will appear from the chart that I have drawn, every part of which, however, I cannot vouch to be equally accurate. The coast of Eaheinomauwe, from Cape Palliser to East Cape, is laid down with great exactness, both in its figure, and the course and distance from point to point; for the opportunities that offered, and the methods that I used, were such as could scarcely admit of an error. From East Cape to St. Maria van Diemen, the chart, though perhaps not equally exact, is without any error of moment, except possibly in some few places, which are here, and in other parts of the chart, distinguished by a dotted line, and which I had no opportunity page 243 to examine. From Cape Maria van Diemen to latitude 36″ 15′, we were seldom nearer the shore than Between five and eight leagues; and therefore the line that marks the sea coast may possibly be erroneous. From latitude 36° 15′ to nearly the length of Entry Island, our course was very near the shore, and in this part of the chart, therefore, there can be no material error, except perhaps at Cape Tierawitte. Between Entry Island and Cape Palliser we were again farther from the more, and this part of the coast, therefore, may not be laid down with minute exactness; yet, upon the whole, I am of opinion, that this island will be found not much to differ from the figure that I have given it, and that upon the coast there are few or no harbours which are not noticed, in the journal, or delineated in the chart. I cannot, however, say as much of Tovy Poenammoo, the season of the year, and the circumstances of the voyaye, would not permit me to spend so much time about this island as I had employed upon the other; and the storms that we met with made it both difficult and dangerous to keep near the shore. However, from Queen Charlotte's Sound to Cape Campbell, and as far to the S. W. as latitude 43°, the chart will be found pretty accurate. Between latitude 43° and latitude 44° 20′ the line may be doubted; for of some part of the coast which it represents we had scarcely a view. From latitude 44° 20′ to Cape Saunders, our distance would not permit me to be particular, and the weather was besides extremely unfavourable. From Cape Saunders to Cape South, and even to Cape West, there is also reason to fear that the chart will in many places be found erroneous, as we were seldom able to keep the shore, and were sometimes blown to such a distance, that it could not be seen. From Cape West to Cape Farewell, and even to Charlotte's Sound, it is not more to be trusted.

Tovy Poenammoo is for the most part a mountainous, and, to all appearance, a barren country; and the people whom we saw in Queen Charlotte's Sound, those that came off to us under the snowy mountains, and the fires to the west of Cape Saunders, were all page 244 the inhabitants, and signs of inhabitants, that we discovered upon the whole island.

Eaheinomauwe has a much better appearance; it is indeed not only hilly but mountainous, yet even the hills and mountains are covered with wood, and every valley has a rivulet of water. The soil in these vallies, and in the plains, of which there are many that are not overgrown with wood, is in general light, but fertile, and in the opinion of Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, as well as of every other gentleman on board, every kind of European grain, plants, and fruit, would flourish here in the utmost luxuriance. From the vegetables that we found here, there is reason to conclude, that the winters, are milder than those in England, and we found the summer not hotter, though it was more equally warm; so that if this country should be settled by people from Europe, they would, with a little industry, be very soon supplied not only with the necessaries; but the luxuries of life in great abundance.

In this country there are no quadrupeds but dogs and rats, at least we saw no other, and the rats are so scarce that many of us never saw them. The dogs live with the people, who breed them for no other purpose than to eat: there might, indeed, be quadrupeds that we did not see; but this is not probable, because the chief pride of the natives, with respect to their dress, is in the skins and hair of such animals as they have, and we never saw the skin of any animal about them but those of dogs and birds. There are indeed seals upon the coast, and we once saw a sea-lion, but we imagine they are seldom caught; for though we saw some of their teeth, which were fashioned into an ornament like a bodkin, and worn by the natives at their breast, and highly valued, we saw none of their skins. There are whales also upon this coast; and though the people did not appear to have any art or instrument, by which such an animal could be taken and killed, we saw pattoo-pattoos in the possession of some of them, which were made of the bone of a whale, or of some other animal whose bone had exactly the same appearance.

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Of birds, the species are not many; and of these none, except perhaps the gannet, is the same with those of Europe: here are ducks, indeed, and shaggs of several kinds, sufficiently resembling those of Europe, to be called the same, by those who have examined them very nicely. Here are also hawks, owls, and quails, which differ but little from those of Europe at first sight; and several small birds, whose song, as has been remarked in the course of the narrative, is much more melodious than any that we had ever heard.

The sea coast is also visited by many oceanic birds, particularly albatrosses, sheerwaters, pintados, and a few of the birds which Sir John Narborough has called penguins, and which indeed are what the French call Nuance, and seem to be a middle species between bird and fish; for their feathers, especially those upon their wings, differ very little from scales; and their wings themselves, which they use only in diving, and not to accelerate their motion even upon the surface of the water, may perhaps, with equal propriety, be called fins.

Neither are insects in greater plenty than birds: a few butterflies and beetles, flesh-flies, very like those in Europe, and some musquitos and sand-flies, perhaps exactly the same with those of North America, make up the whole catalogue. Of musquitos and sand-flies, however, which are justly accounted the curse of every country where they abound, we did not see many: there were, indeed, a sew in almost every place where we went on shore, but they gave us so little trouble, that we did not make use of the shades which we had provided for the security of our faces.

For this scarcity of animals upon the land, the sea, however, makes an abundant recompence, every creek swarming with fish, which are not only whosesome, but equally delicious with those of Europe. The Ship seldom anchored in any station, or with a light gale passed any place, that did not afford us enough, with hook and line, to serve the whole ship's company, especially to the southward. When we lay at anchor, the boats, with hook and line, near the rocks, could take fish in any quantity, and the seine seldom failed of producing a still more ample supply; so that both page 246 times when we anchored in Cook's Streight, every mess in the ship, that was not careless and improvident, salted as much as lasted many weeks after they went to sea. Of this article, the variety was equal to the plenty: we had mackarel of many kinds, among which, one was exactly the same as we have in England; these came in immense shoals, and were taken by the natives in their seines, who sold them to us at a very easy rate. Besides these, there were fish of many species, which we had never seen before, but to all which the seamen very readily gave names; so that we talked here as familiarly of hakes, bream, cole-fish, and many others, as we do in England; and, though they are by no means of the same family, it must be confessed, that they do honour to the name. But the highest luxury which the sea affords us, even in this place, was the lobster, or sea cray-fish, which are probably the same that in the account of Lord Anson's Voyage are said to have been found at the island of Juan Fernandes, except that, although large, they are not quite equal, in size; they, differ from ours in England in several particulars, they have a greater number of prickles en their backs, and they are red when first taken out of the water: these we bought also every where to the northward in great quantities of the natives, who catch them by diving near the shore, and finding out where they lie with their feet. We had also a fish that Frezier, in his Voyage to the Spanish Main, in South America, has described by the names of Elesant, Pejegallo, or Poison coq, which, though coarse, we eat very heartily. Several species of the skate, or stingray, are also found here, which are still coarser than the clefant; but, as an atonement, we had among many kinds of dog-fish, one spotted with white, which was in flavour exactly similar to our best skate, but much more delicious. We had also flat fish resembling both soles and flounders, besides eels and congers of various kinds, with many others, of which those who shall hereaster visit this coast will not sail to find the advantage, and shell-fish in great variety, particularly clams, cockles, and oysters.

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Among the vegetable productions of this country, the trees claim a principal place; for here are forests of vast extent, full of the straightest, the cleanest, and the largest timber-trees that we had ever seen; their size, their grain, and apparent durability, render them fit for any kind of building, and indeed for every other purpose except masts, for which, as I have already observed, they are too hard and too heavy; there is one in particular which, when we were upon the coast, was rendered conspicuous by a scarlet flower, that seemed to be a compendage of many fibres; it is about as large as an oak, and the wood is exceedingly hard and heavy, and excellently adapted to the use of the millwright: there is another which grows in the swamps, remarkably tall and straight, thick enough to make masts for vessels of any size, and, if a judgment may be formed by the direction of its grain, very tough. This, which, as has been before remarked, our Carpenter thought to resemble the pitch-pine, may probably be lightened by tapping, and it will then make the finest masts in the world; it has a leaf not unlike a yew, and bears berries in small bunches.

Great part of this country is covered with a luxuriant verdure; and our natural historians were gratified by the novelty, if not the variety of the plants. Sowthistle, garden night-shade, one or two kinds of grass, the same as in England, and two or three kinds of fern, like those of the West Indies, with a few of the plants that are to be found in almost every part of the world, were all, out of about four hundred species, that have hitherto been described by any botanists, or had been seen elsewhere during the course of this voyage, except about five or six which had been gathered at Terra del Euego.

Of eatable vegetables there are but few; our people, indeed, who had been long at sea, eat with equal pleasure and advantage of wild celery, and a kind of cresses, which grew in great abundance upon all parts of the sea shore. We also, once or twice, met with a plant like what the country people in England call Lambs quarters, or Fathen, which we boiled instead of greens; and once we had the good fortune to find a cabbage-tree, which afforded us a delicious meal; and, page 248 except the fern-root, and one other vegetable, totally unknown in Europe, and which, though eaten by the natives, was extremely disagreeable to us, we found no other vegetable production that was fit for food, among those that appeared to be the wild produce of the country; and we could find but three esculent plants among those which are raised by cultivation, yams, sweet potatoes, and coccos. Of the yams and potatoes there are plantations consisting of many acres, and I believe that any ship which should happen to be here in the autumn, when they are dug up, might purchase them in any quantity.

Gourds are also cultivated by the natives of this place, the fruit of which furnishes them with vessels for various uses. We also found here the Chinese paper mulberry-tree, the same as that of which the inhabitants of the South Sea islands make their cloth; but it is so scarce, that though the new Zealanders also make cloth of it, they have not enough for any other purpose than to wear as an ornament in the holes which they make in their ears, as I have observed before.

But among all the trees, shrubs, and plants of this country, there is not one that produces fruit, except a berry which has neither sweetness nor flavour, and which none but the boys took pains to gather, should be honoured with that appellation. There is, however, a plant that serves the inhabitants instead of hemp and flax, which excels all that are put to the same purposes in other countries: of this plant there are two torts; the leaves of both resemble those of flags, but the flowers are smaller, and their clusters more numerous; in one kind they are yellow, and in the other a deep red. Of the leaves of these plants, with very little preparation, they make all their common apparel; and of these they make also their strings, lines, and cordage for every purpose, which are so much stronger than any thing we can make with hemp, that they will not bear a comparison. From the same plant, by another preparation, they draw long slender fibres which shine like silk, and are as white as snow; of these, which are also surprizingly strong, the finer clothes are made; and of the leaves, without any other preparation than splitting them into proper breadths, page 249 and tying the strips together, they make their fishing nets; some of which, as I have before remarked, are of an enormous size.

A plant, which with such advantage might be applied to so many useful and important purposes, would certainly be a great acquisition to England, where it would probably thrive with very little trouble, as it seems to be hardy, and to affect no particular soil; being found equally in hill and valley; in the driest mould, and the deepest bogs: the bog, however, it seems rather to prefer, as near such places we observed it to be larger than elsewhere.

I have already observed, that we found great plenty of iron sand in Mercury Bay, and therefore that iron ore is undoubtedly to be found at no great distance. As to other metals, we had scarcely knowledge enough of the country for conjecture.

If the settling of this country should ever be thought an object worthy the attention of Great Britain, the best place for establishing a colony would be either on the banks of the Thames, or in the country bordering on the Bay of Islands. In either place there would be the advantage of an excellent harbour; and, by means of the river, settlements might be extended, and a communication established with the inland parts of the country: vessels might be built of the fine time ber which abounds in these parts, at very little trouble and expence, fit for such a navigation as would answer the purpose. I cannot indeed exactly assign the depth of water which a vessel intended to navigate this river, even as far up as I went with the boat, should draw, because this depends upon the depth of water that is upon the bar, or flats, which lie before the narrow part of the river, for I had no opportunity to make myself acquainted with them; but I am of opinion, that a vessel which should draw not more than twelve feet would perfectly answer the purpose.

When we first arrived upon the coast of this country, we imagined it to be much better peopled than we afterwards found it, concluding that the inland parts were populous from the smoke that we saw at a considerable distance from the shore; and perhaps that page 250 may really be the case with respect to the country behind Poverty Bay, and the Bay of Plenty, where the inhabitants appeared to be more numerous than in other places. But we had reason to believe, that, in general, no part of the country but the sea coast is inhabited; and even there we found the people but thinly scattered, all the western coast from Cape Maria Van Diemen to Mount Egmont being totally desolate; so that upon the whole the number of inhabitants bears no proportion to the extent of country.