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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

“Poverty Bay Canoe-Anchor”

Poverty Bay Canoe-Anchor

Although not a single authentic pre-Maori relic has ever been found in Poverty Bay or on the East Coast, much interest centres upon a stone-anchor in the Dominion Museum listed as the “Poverty Bay Canoe-anchor.” It consists of two ornate lobes, joined across the middle. What is most remarkable about it is that an unusual type of human face is carved on each lobe. The faces are of identical design even to the out-thrust tongues, which point in the same direction. Facial adornment is of a very low order, being limited to single spirals on the cheeks, spirals on chin, and certain tattoo-like lines on the forehead. Dr. W. R. B. Oliver considers the faces identical with those on the statues found on Easter Island. (See The Mystery of Easter Island, Mrs. Routledge, 1920, Figs. 31 and 67.)

W. J. Phillipps, of the Dominion Museum staff, to whom the author was indebted for photographs and these particulars of the anchor, says that he was given to understand that a collector met a native at an hotel near Gisborne. Their conversation turned to the question as to whether there were any ancient relics in the district. The native went home, dug up the anchor from his backyard, and presented it to the visitor. Inquiries in Poverty Bay have failed to throw any further light on the subject.

All the stories that have been handed down concerning the Pilgrim Fleet vary and are, at best, very imperfect. A much-debated point is: “Were Takitimu and Horouta two separate canoes, or only one vessel known, at first, by the former name and, afterwards, by the latter designation?” Some writers claim that Takitimu, before she left Hawaiki, was rechristened Horouta because of her fast-sailing qualities. Others, again, contend that Takitimu was a sacred canoe and that, as food could not be carried on her, she was sailed in company with Horouta. On the East Coast, the general belief is that the canoes were not identical and that they journeyed separately.

There is also a wide range of beliefs as to who commanded Takitimu. In Poverty Bay and on the East Coast, Kiwa is usually named as her captain. Best suggests that Tamatea-pokai-whenua (father of Kahungunu) was in charge of her. Taylor (New Zealand and Its Inhabitants) held that Tamatea-hua-tahi-nuku-roa was the chief. In a tradition given to J. E. Dalton, it is stated that the commander was Paikea (also known as “Kahutia-te-Rangi”); that he landed at Whangara, and went back to Hawaiki page 3 and did not return. Kahutia-te-Rangi was the name of the sea monster which, other accounts state, carried Paikea on its back to New Zealand. However, Judge Gudgeon (Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 5) says that Paikea married Hotu-Rangi, a daughter of Whironui, who had arrived by Nukutere and had settled at East Cape earlier, and that from Porourangi and his brother Tahu-potiki (descendants of Paikea) sprang all the tribes of the East Coast and of the South Island.

Little or no support can be found on the East Coast to-day for the contention upheld by John White in Ancient History of the Maori, that the ancestors of the Poverty Bay and East Coast tribes all came by Takitimu (or Takitumu). In Vikings of the Sunrise, Sir Peter Buck says that the immigrants by Horouta settled between Cape Runaway and Poverty Bay, and that those who came by Takitimu occupied the seaboard between Poverty Bay and Wellington. Sir A. T. Ngata (Echoes of the Pa, pp. 7 and 8) holds that the Ngati-Porou regard Takitimu as “an unimportant canoe,” which came to New Zealand after Horouta. Takitimu merely coasted along, dropping, here and there, a few people, whose blood became mixed with that of the Horouta immigrants. Incidentally, he describes Kahungunu and his contemporaries as belonging to “a comparatively modern generation.” At Whangara in April, 1939, Sir Apirana remarked: “This site is the landing-place of the first Maoris who settled the East Coast. The canoe from which they landed is not so well known as Horouta and Takitimu because it has not had so much publicity.”