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



The orthography of Cook, Banks and other voyagers has been retained.

In this survey of Cook's doings in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast, important information from his hitherto unpublished holograph notes is incorporated by the kind permission of the Library Committee of the Mitchell Library (Sydney), which supplied photostat copies of the original sheets. Some of the fresh details throw new light on various outstanding incidents. According to the Mitchell Librarian, the holograph notes found their way, many years ago, into the hands of John Mackrell, of the County of Surrey, who was a descendant of one of Cook's relatives. When his collection was displayed at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886, some of the material, including the notes, was purchased by the New South Wales Government. It is plain from Hawkesworth's official account of the Endeavour's voyage that he did not have access to these notes.

The logbook referred to in this survey as the Canberra logbook was kept in astronomical time; its compiler has not been identified. It is now in the Commonwealth National Library at Canberra, as also is the only journal of the voyage that is in Cook's own handwriting. They were page 26 purchased in London by the Commonwealth Government in 1923. For photostat copies of the Poverty Bay-East Coast sections of both, the writer was indebted to Kenneth Binns Esq., the Librarian.

Wharton's dates in Captain Cook's Journal (1893) are adopted in this survey. Cook used ship's time—noon to noon. According to this method of reckoning, he entered Poverty Bay on the afternoon of 9 October, 1769. In ship's time, 9 October began at noon on 8 October. Hawkesworth, the editor of the official story of the voyage, changed ship's time, 9 October, to civil time, 8 October, but omitted to add an extra day for “westing,” the Endeavour having crossed the 180th degree shortly before reaching Poverty Bay.

The handsome granite memorial to Cook at Gisborne stands within a stone's throw of Boat Harbour—a gut in the papa shelf on Kaiti Beach—where he made his first landing in New Zealand. It was the first, and is the finest, tribute in stone to him in the Dominion. Archdeacon H. W. Williams was chairman, and W. J. Gaudin secretary, of the committee (formed in 1902) which promoted the movement. Mrs. G. W. Sampson had charge of the children's section, which aimed at obtaining a donation, limited to one penny per scholar, from each school in New Zealand. In all, the juveniles contributed £203. The Stephen's Island native school (which had only four pupils) sent 7/-. A contribution of £150 was accepted from the District Patriotic Committee, which, however, stipulated that tablets bearing the names of the residents who had served in the Boer War should be affixed to the monument. On account of widespread protests, the soldiers' names were afterwards erased and inscribed on panels on the Trafalgar band rotunda. The Government made a grant of £500 towards the cost of the memorial (£1,066). It was unveiled on 8 October, 1906

Upon the Cook Monument in Gisborne there is the following inscription:

This Memorial
Is Erected to Commemorate
The First Landing
In New Zealand
At Poverty Bay
Of Captain Cook
On Sunday, 8 October, 1769.

The correct date of the landing, however, was (as Wharton explains) 9 October, 1769. Bamford and Hight (The Constitutional History and Law of New Zealand, p. 19) accept that date. They say: “… The expedition sailed south-westward till it sighted the New Zealand coast on 7 October, 1769. Cook landed on the 9th at an inlet which he subsequently named Poverty Bay.”

The old cast-iron cannon which rests upon a concrete base alongside the Cook Monument at Gisborne attracts special attention on account of the claim made on its behalf that it is one of the carriage guns which were put overboard to lighten the Endeavour when she ran on the Barrier Reef (Qd.) in June, 1770, and were not retrieved. It was bought in 1919 by Mr. G. J. Black whilst he was on a visit to Queensland, its cost (£50) being subscribed by himself and his fellow-members of the Poverty Bay branch of the N.Z. Philosophical Institute. According to the vendor (Captain W. C. Thompson, of s.s. Wyandra) the cannon was recovered by a Japanese diver off Cooktown in 1903. It is 3 ft. 8 in. long and weighs about 2 cwt.

As Wharton (Captain Cook's Journal: 1893) says that the guns in question were made of brass, inquiries were made by the writer from the page 27 director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, to clear up all doubt on the matter. His reply (4/6/1946) stated: “If the gun is really made of cast iron, it cannot be one of the guns that belonged to the Endeavour. It is not strictly correct to say, as Wharton does, that the Endeavour's guns were made of ‘brass.’ Brass is an alloy of copper and tin. The so-called ‘brass guns’ were made of a special gunmetal, but definitely not iron. The obvious objection to iron—that it rusts quickly— made it important that some alloy should be employed.” A cannon of the type used in Cook's day, and supplied by the British Admiralty, stands at the foot of the Cook Monument at Ship's Cove (Queen Charlotte Sound).

Cook's expedition was intended to pave the way for the breaking down of Spain's claim to control the Pacific. Carteret (1766–69) had found a garrison of Spaniards on the Island of Juan Fernandez. The observation of the Transit of Venus at Tahiti was a mere ‘blind.’”—Professor J. Holland Rose (17/12/1928).

Polack says that an axe and a tomahawk were among the gifts which Cook made at Poverty Bay. The descendants of James Wilson (Hemi Wirihana) treasured in Poverty Bay for many years an axehead which, it was believed, Cook gave to a Mahia chief. Its wooden handle had been replaced by a handle fashioned from whalebone. A story handed down with the axe was to the effect that Cook gave an axe to one chief and some turnip seed to another. He was disbelieved when he averred that the seed would prove the more valuable gift. The “Wilson” axe is now in the Wairoa district.