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

An Awkward Situation

An Awkward Situation

The fullest account of the retreat is given by Banks. He says that the ship's party went on to the beach, it being the clearest place, and walked briskly towards the spot where the boats had been left. One party of natives marched along the ridge and the other went round the swamp, where they could not be seen. Those in sight now ceased to run, “walking but gently on.” The pinnace was a mile at least from her station (she having been sent by the officer-in-charge to pick up a bird which he had shot); the small boat had been carried across the river; and there was no sign of the middy who had been left in charge of it. Three trips had to be made to transfer all on to the eastern side of the river. Immediately afterwards, the natives—one hundred and fifty to two hundred—assembled on the other bank, “all armed with spears and lances and short truncheons of jasper.” They had arrived, not in a body as had been expected, but two or three at a time. [Parkinson says that Cook ordered his party to re-embark in haste, lest the natives should attempt to cut off their retreat to the boats.]

According to Banks, the visitors now despaired of making peace with people who were not afraid of their small arms. The ship lay so far off the shore that she could not throw a shot there. They, therefore, decided to re-embark so as to avoid the possibility of any further slayings. As they were moving towards the boats, one of the native boys said that the natives who had assembled were friends of his, and he suggested that they should stay and talk with them. Much conversation passed, but neither would the boys swim over to the newcomers nor would the latter come over to the boys. The bodies of Te Maro and Te Rakau had not been touched. Some clothes were placed by the boys over that of Te Rakau. Shortly afterwards, Marakauiti's uncle swam over and presented a green bough—believed to be an emblem of peace—to Tupaea. Gifts were made to him, but he refused to page 39 visit the ship. The boys preferred to return with Cook's party rather than stay with the man.

When Cook and his party had landed that day, they were not aware that Te Rakau had died. “The man that was wounded yesterday,” Cook says in his rough notes, “was found dead on the spot where we had left him.” He adds that the boys' action in covering the body seemed to indicate that his party should have done so to prove their friendliness. The beads and the nails which had been left alongside Te Maro's body, and those which had been left in the houses, had not been touched. Banks explains that, after dinner, the boys were put ashore at Boat Harbour. They left the boat willingly, but soon returned, wading into the water and begging hard to be taken on board again. But the orders that had been given to the two middies who were in charge were positive, and they were left behind. A man in a catamaran took them over the river. Before the band of natives moved off, the boys went down on to the beach and waved their hands three times towards the ship.

Describing the lads, Parkinson says that they resembled the Tahitians. One difference was that only their lips were marked with a blue colour, whereas the Tahitians were “tataowed on other parts of their bodies.” In contrast with the lads, however, the natives around Boat Harbour were “tataowed.” He also notes that the lads ate an immoderate quantity of everything that was set before them, “taking pieces at one time six times larger than we did,” and that “they drank a quart of wine and water at one draught.”

Among details which appear only in Parkinson's journal is a statement that the lads told their hosts that taro, eape, oomera (kumara) and yams, also a peculiar kind of deer [? dogs], were to be found upon the island. As the lads had holes pierced in their ears, it seemed to Parkinson that, sometimes, they wore some kind of earrings. They had some bracelets. Necklaces, too, they well knew the use of, “but they did not like our iron wares.” Nothing was found in the native houses “except a few cockles, limpets and muscle shells.” He adds: “A vast quantity of pumice stone along the shore indicates that there is a volcano within this island.”

Cook (rough notes) says of the natives of Poverty Bay:

“They are of the common stature, well made and of dark copper colour, with long black hair, which they tye upon the crown of their heads. They have thin black beards and white teeth, They tattow their faces in the same manner as the people of George's Island [Tahiti] do backsides. Their habits are a sort of jacket made of a kind of grass very course and looks like a rug or a thrummed mat.”
page 40

Next morning (Thursday, 12 October; civil date) the Endeavour sailed out of Poverty Bay, where she had lain for two days and fourteen hours. Cook and others had spent nineteen hours, in all, away from the vessel. Captain Cook's Journal (Wharton) states:

“At 6 a.m. we weighed and stood out of the bay, which I have named ‘Poverty Bay’ because it afforded us no one thing we wanted.”

That the voyagers had a very lean time in Poverty Bay is beyond question. Not a single canoe-load of natives went off to the ship to trade, or even to inspect her closely. Fresh water was not found. But little wood could have been obtained. Some ducks were shot; the number was probably not large. If any fishing was engaged upon, the extent of the catch is not disclosed.

Cook's rough notes contain the best account of the naming of the bay. They show—and no other account does—that, at first, he bestowed upon it the designation “Endeavour Bay.” The change to “Poverty Bay” could hardly have been made before he proceeded to complete the entry for the day. He might have turned back, after disparagingly summing up the bay, and made the alteration. What is more likely, however, is that the change was not made until after he had told Banks that he had awarded the name “Endeavour Bay” to their first halting-place in New Zealand. In this connection, it is interesting to recall that Botany Bay was first called “Stingray Harbour” by Cook. Some commentators believe that Banks persuaded him to adopt the name “Botany Bay” instead. Perhaps, Banks also assisted Cook to change his mind in the case of “Endeavour Bay.” In any case, Banks was disappointed with the meagre results which had attended his own and Solander's botanical research efforts in Poverty Bay.

“This morn,” he says, “we took our leave of Poverty Bay with not above 40 species of plants in our boxes, which is not to be wondered at, as we were so little ashore, and always upon the same spot. The only time we wandered about a mile from the boats was upon a swamp [Waikanae Swamp] where not more than three species of plants were found.”

In his rough notes, Cook noted the physical features of the bay and then continued:

“However it [the bay] hath nothing to recommend it lying open to the winds from the … to the … in so much that you cannot lay near the shore with your ship to cover your men when attacked by the natives and what is worse still it affords no fresh water at least not near the shore that we could find….”

Only when Cook came to write up his journal from his rough notes did he introduce the phrase, “because it afforded us no one thing we wanted” to explain why he had given the name “Poverty Bay.”

page 41

It is suggested in Parkinson's version of the leave-taking that Cook was anxious for the safety of his vessel whilst she lay in Poverty Bay, and that his main reason for moving on was to find a better anchorage.

“This bay (which, from the few necessaries we could procure, we called ‘Poverty Bay’) is,” Parkinson remarks, “not well sheltered from a south-east wind, which brings in a heavy sea. The natives called the bay ‘Te Oneroa.’ [Strictly speaking, the name Te Oneroa— ‘The Long Stretch of Sandy Beach’—was applied only to the beach running from the Turanganui River mouth to the westwards.] The point of land at the entrance on the E side they called Te Tua Motu.”

The Endeavour made slow progress to the southwards. At noon, she was held up by a calm three miles off-shore at a point between Whareongaonga and Tikiwhata. Several canoes made their appearance, but stood off about a quarter of a mile. A canoe was then seen approaching from the direction of Poverty Bay. Banks says that it had four people on board, including one whom he well remembered seeing on the rock in the [Turanganui] river. Its occupants did not stop to look at anything, but went at once alongside the ship and, with very little persuasion, stepped on board. Their example was followed by the occupants of the other canoes, seven in all, and containing fifty men.

Gifts were freely made to the visitors, and they quickly parted with almost everything that they had with them, even their clothes, in return for Tahitian cloth. The occupants of one canoe, after selling their paddles, offered to sell their craft. Only two men had arms, and one sold his “patoo patoo,” as he called it. The first man who went on board said that the lads who had been guests on the ship were at home and were unhurt. He had, he confided, gone on board with so little fear because of the accounts which they had given of the treatment which they had received.