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

Natives Mistake Ship for a Bird

Natives Mistake Ship for a Bird

When Polack visited Poverty Bay in 1836, he was told (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. I, p. 15) that the Endeavour was at first mistaken by the natives for a bird, and that many remarks passed among the people as to the beauty and the size of its wings. He continues:

“Upon seeing a smaller bird unfledged (without sails) descending into the water, and a number of parti-coloured beings, but apparently in the human shape, also descend, they regarded the larger bird as a houseful of divinities…. The astonishment of the people of Turanga on seeing Cook's ship was so great that they were benumbed with fear, but presently, recollecting themselves, they felt determined to find out if the gods (as the newcomers were thought to be) were as pugnacious as themselves…. Many of the natives observed that they felt themselves taken ill by only being particularly looked upon by these atuas (gods) and it was, therefore, agreed that, as these newcomers could bewitch by a simple look, the sooner their society was dismissed the better it would be for the general welfare.”

The native tradition given to W. L. Williams was that the Endeavour was, at first, taken to be a floating island.

Among Cook's companions there were several notable persons. Banks was a wealthy Lincolnshire squire; he had committed page 22 himself to a personal outlay of £10,000 in connection with his side of the expedition. Solander, who was a Swede, was on the staff of the British Museum; he had been a student under Linnæus, the eminent botanist. Green was assistant to the Astronomer-Royal at Greenwich Observatory. Isaac Smith, one of the seamen, was a half-cousin to Mrs. Cook; he rose to the rank of admiral. The middy Magra (or Matra) belonged to a rich and loyal New York family; he became British Consul at Tangier. Gore, Clerke, Molineux, Pickersgill and Wilkinson had been round the world in the Dolphin. Clerke had served in the war against France from its outbreak in 1756. He was in the mizzen top of the Bellona when Courageux shot away her mast and it was carried overboard.