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

Did Cook Leave Potatoes on the East Coast?

Did Cook Leave Potatoes on the East Coast?

The earliest season in which natives belonging to the Poverty Bay-East Coast area planted potatoes has not been traced. During the investigation to determine the ownership of the Tawhiti block—which lies between Tokomaru Bay and Waipiro Bay—a witness in the Native Land Court (Waiapu minute book, No. 10B) stated: “When Captain Cook introduced potatoes, my ancestors planted them on both sides of the Kahika stream.” No mention of any such gift appears in Cook's Journal. Strangely enough, too, potatoes are not on the list of vegetables which Cook left at Pourerere (H.B.) on 21 October, 1773. The Mahia natives have a tradition similar to that which has been mentioned. If potatoes had been growing at Tolaga Bay in November, 1773, when the Adventure was there, they would have been in flower, and would not easily have been overlooked. Furneaux's journal is silent on the matter. Potatoes were available at Mahia in 1813.

No record as to how or when the natives of Poverty Bay or those of the East Coast first obtained pigs has been found. It is certain that Cook did not leave any in 1769. As he had sailed to the south from Tahiti, many of those which he had procured at Ulietea had died from cold. If he had not required for breeding purposes all that had survived, he would probably have made gifts of some to the native friends whom he made at Anaura Bay and at Tolaga Bay. Evidence is also lacking that Furneaux made a present of such a character at Tolaga Bay in 1773.

The earliest “Captain Cookers” that found their way into page 82 Poverty Bay and on to the East Coast might have been descendants of the two boars and the two sows which Cook left with the natives at Pourerere in 1773. If so, they could not have wandered overland; the intervening rivers would have proved insuperable barriers. They would have had to be conveyed on canoes. As the captain of the Sydney-owned vessel Perseverance was not offered any whilst she was off Mahia in 1813, none might have reached that district by that date.

Search for large areas of flax on the East Coast was to have begun in 1810, but the mission was a failure. In March of that year, Lord, Williams and Thompson sent a party from Sydney, under William Leith, by the Experiment to the Bay of Islands, where its members were to have transferred to the Governor Bligh and to have proceeded to East Cape to trade before the Experiment went on to England. Writing from the Bay of Islands to his principals, Leith (Historical Records of New Zealand, Vol. 1, p. 303) says: “… I find by masters of whalers who have been at the East Cape this season that mats and flax are to be procured there of good quality.” On account of the delay in the arrival of the Governor Bligh, Leith's party became discontented and returned to Sydney.