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


“Endeavour” Replenishes Supplies—Were the Sick Down With Scurvy?—Who Dug Cook's (or Tupaea's) Well?—Inscription Cut on Tree—Furneaux's Double Visit in 1773.

Cook and his fellow voyagers spent an enjoyable time at Tolaga Bay (24–30 October, 1769: civil dates). There, the great circumnavigator celebrated his forty-first birthday. Not a single dispute arose with the natives, who proved most hospitable, granting the visitors the freedom of the bay. Wood and water were obtained without great difficulty. In particular, the sick—the Canberra logbook omits to mention the number—must have benefited considerably from their stay in such a genial climate and by the addition to their dietary of plenty of fish as well as “greens” in the form of “celery” and “scurvy grass.”

Early on the morning of their arrival, Lieutenant Gore was sent on shore to superintend the cutting of wood and the filling of the water casks. He was supplied with “a Sufficient number of men for both purposes and all the Marines as a guard.” Banks and Solander spent all day collecting botanical specimens. What Cook did on shore is not stated. In the afternoon, the armourer's forge was set up to enable the broken tiller braces to be repaired. Meantime, the natives continued to trade both with the people on the ship and with those on shore, exchanging fish, kumaras and curiosities for cloth, beads, etc.

The article which pleased the natives most was Tahitian cloth. Cook had provided everybody on the ship with some, and had made it known that each could buy whatever he pleased and without limitation, “in order,” he says, “to induce the Indians to bring to Market whatever the country afforded.” Parkinson found that the natives “were very indifferent about most of the things offered to them, except white cloth and glasses [glass bottles], which suited their fancy,” and complains that they would not part with either their greenstone axes or their earrings, and that they set great value on their oomarras [kumaras].

On the evening of the second day, Banks and Solander returned to the watering-place in high spirits and anxious to get back on board with their “treasures of plants, birds, etc.” They had discovered trees of above twenty unknown kinds and found that the country abounded with plants and an endless variety of exquisite birds concerning which no one on board had the least knowledge. On their way back to the watering-place, they had been detained page 53 by an old man who would have them halt to witness an exhibition of how the lance and the patoo patoo were used. Banks says that he was given a stick for an enemy; that he advanced with ferocious aspect towards it and, pretending that it was a man, ran it through, fell upon the upper end, and laid on unmerciful blows, “any one of which would probably have split most Sculls: from hence, I should be led to conclude that they give no quarter.”

That day was also memorable on account of the fact that Banks and his party came across the arch-shaped cavern which is one of the outstanding curiosities of the district.

“We saw,” Banks writes, “an extraordinary natural curiosity. In pursuing a vally bounded on each side by steep hills, we on a sudden, saw a most noble Arch, or Cavern, thru' the face of a rock leading directly to the sea, so that thru' it we had not only a view of the Bay and hills on the other side but the opportunity of imagining a Ship or any other grand object opposite to it. It was certainly the most magnificent surprise I have ever met with. So much is pure nature superior to art in these cases! I have seen such places made by art where, from an appearance totally inland, you was led thru' an Arch 6ft wide and 7 high to a prospect of the sea. But here was an Arch 25 yds in length, 9 yds in breadth and at least 15 yds in height.” [In the early days of settlement, the arch was called “The Hole in the Wall,” or “Hannah's Hole.”]

After Cook, Furneaux and D'Urville, Polack was among the earliest Europeans to inspect the arch. He says (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. 2, p. 130) that he was taken in 1835 to the spot by the great Uawa chief, Te Kani-a-Takirau, who halted him and said: “This, friend, is Tupia's (Tupaea's) Cavern.” Tupaea, it seems, had often slept in it with the natives during the heat of the day. Te Kani added: “Tupaea was a great favourite with our fathers, so much so that to gratify him several children who were born in the village during his sojourn among us were named after him.” [Colenso says that, in 1838, he found several natives with the name “Tupaea” at Tolaga Bay.]

“Around the surface of the cavern,” Polack continues, “are many native delineations, executed with charcoal, of ships, canoes sailing, men and women, dogs and pigs, and some obscenities drawn with tolerable accuracy. Above our reach, and evidently faded by time, was a representation of a ship and some boats, which was unanimously pointed out to me by all present as the reproduction of the faithful follower of Cook—Tupaea.”

When Samuel Locke visited the cavern in 1878, the delineations had become so worn and defaced by the incessant action of the elements as to be scarcely discernible.

Another object of great interest to visitors to Cook's Cove in the early days—it has now disappeared—was what was known to Europeans as “Cook's Well” and to the natives as “Te Waikari-a-te-Paea” (“The Well dug by Te Paea, or Tupaea.”) page 54 Polack says that the spring which flowed into it was only small. He was told that the well was dug upon Cook's orders. At the time of his visit (1835), the marks of the pickaxe were still as plain as they would be on the day that they were made. He does not mention having seen either names, words or initials cut out anywhere in the locality.

Professor Morris, of the University of Melbourne (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute: 1901) suggests that Tupaea might have made out to the Uawa natives that he was in charge of the expedition. It was plain from the chart published by Hawkesworth that the well was not near the watering-place. It was only a hole scooped out at most six inches deep. He agreed with W. L. Williams that it must have been made by the ship's boys whilst they were at a loose end. However, he did not think that they had cut the name Cook in such a bold fashion as he saw it. Underneath was the date 1778, instead of 1769. Both the name and the wrong date might not have been more than fifty years old when he inspected them, and the surrounding names (none of which he could identify) were, doubtless, still more modern.