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

“Endeavour” in Peril

“Endeavour” in Peril

The Endeavour skirted Mahia Peninsula, passing between a sunken rock, N. 57 E, two miles or so from the south point of Portland Island and the mainland. [This rock was “Bull Rock.” The s.s. Tongariro struck there and sank on the night of 30 August, 1916.] As Cook was about to haul round the south end page 43 of the island, his ship fell into shoal water and broken ground. It was at this point that he encountered the first of a number of perils which he experienced whilst on the coasts of New Zealand. Wharton (Captain Cook's Journal) says that four canoes filled with people went off to the vessel whilst she was in that difficult situation and kept for some time under her stern, “threatening of us all the time.” The narrative continues:

“As I did not know but what I might be obliged to send our boats ahead to sound. I thought these gentry would be as well out of the way. I ordered a musket shott to be fir'd close to one of them; but this they took no notice of. A 4-pounder was then fir'd a little wide of them; at this, they began to shake their spears and paddles at us, but, notwithstanding this, they thought fit to retire.”

Banks supplies a more realistic picture of the ship's delicate situation:

“About dinner time,” he states, “the ship was hauling round an island called by the inhabitants ‘Te ahoura’ and by us ‘Portland.’ The ship on a sudden came into very broken ground [Parkinson says that it was off the west point] which alarmed us a good deal. [Becket's account states that the shoals were met with about three miles northeast from Portland Island, and that Cook called the locality “The Shambles.” No mention of this name is made in the official account of the voyage, but the locality is so described by those on board the Resolution and the Adventure when they passed off Table Cape during Cook's second expedition to the South Seas.] The officers all behaved with great steadiness and, in a very short time, we were clear of all danger….
“The island lay within a mile of us, making in white cliffs, a Long Spit of Low Land running from it towards the main. On the sides of these cliffs sat a vast quantity of people looking at us. These people probably observed some confusion in the manœuvre of the Ship, for 5 Canoes almost immediately put off from the nearest shore full of Armed People.
“They came so near us, shouting and threatening, that, at last, we were in some pain least they should seize our small boat, which had been lowered down to sound and was now towed alongside. A musket was therefore now fired over them, but the effect of this was rather to encourage them than otherwise. So a great gun was ordered to be prepared and fired wide of them loaded with Grape. [This was the first occasion on which a cannon was fired by Cook on the coasts of New Zealand.] On this, they all rose in their boats and shouted, but, instead of continuing the chase, drew all together and, after a short consultation, went quietly away.

The ship lay well off Long Point (Mahia) during the night of 13 October (civil date). Cook saw the opening to Waikokopu, where there appeared to be a safe anchorage, but uncertainty on the point and lack of time prevented him from exploring the bay. During next day, he skirted Hawke's Bay. When the vessel was off Petane on the morning of the 15th, he ordered the boats to be sent in search of water, but, as several canoes were seen approaching, they were hoisted in again. Cook estimated that page 44 there were between eighty and ninety natives in the canoes; Banks says about one hundred and fifty. Only by firing a cannon in their direction could they be dispersed. At noon, the ship was off Napier Bluff. As she could not, by dark, make the point which next day was called Cape Kidnappers, she stood off and on all night.

Next morning, trade was engaged in with some fishermen who had only stinking fish, including crayfish, to offer. The Canberra logbook says the fish was “served to ye officers and the sick.” A large armed canoe then came alongside. Its occupants had nothing with which to trade, but Cook gave them some cloth. He wished to exchange a piece of red baize for a black skin, “something like a bearskin,” which one of the natives was wearing. Its owner would not agree to send up the garment unless the cloth was sent down to him first. Upon receiving the cloth, he wrapped both together and ordered his companions to paddle clear of the ship.

When the native fishermen returned to trade, the incident which led to the name “Cape Kidnappers” being given to the headland occurred. Parkinson says that it had been planned to trepan the armed canoe by throwing a running bowline around its head and hoisting it up to the anchor. However, just as the plan was about to be executed, Tayeto (Tupaea's boy) who was in the main chains, was seized by the natives. The canoe was fired upon, and, in the commotion, Tayeto jumped overboard and was taken up unhurt, but “so terrified that, for a time, he seemed deprived of his senses.” Banks mentions that some muskets and a great gun were used against the culprits. How many were killed he did not know, but he saw three being carried up on the beach. Cook says that two or three were slain and that many more would have shared a like fate had it not been for fear of killing Tayeto. [Colenso was told at Waimarama in 1843 that five natives were killed and several wounded.]

On Friday (the 17th) the Endeavour came abreast of Cape Turnagain and Cook decided to return northwards. Off Long Point (Mahia) on the 19th, five natives went on board and stayed all night. Next morning, when the ship was off Table Cape, they were sent away. By 3 p.m., Gable End Foreland was reached.