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

Chapter VII — Hospitable Tolaga Bay

page 52

Chapter VII
Hospitable Tolaga Bay

“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.

Left an Inscription

Cook's rough notes contain the laconic entry: “Left an inscription.” The only published narrative of the voyage which refers to it is Becket's (1771). His informant says that it was cut “on a tree a little to the right of our watering-place.” Nothing is disclosed by Cook or in Becket's book as to the wording. In Maoriland Adventures, pp. 203–4, it is stated that Canon Stack was taken by his father to Cook's Cove in 1844, when he was nine years old. Stack says:

“On the right-hand side of the little cave, Capt. Cook had cut a basin in the limestone rock to form a drinking fountain and, on a little tree growing close by, he and his companions had carved their initials and the date of their visit. I think it was 17 October, 1769. My father carefully removed the mud and grit, which nearly filled the little basin, and trimmed the edges of the initials on the tree to prevent the bark growing over and obliterating them.”

As the period during which the Endeavour lay at Tolaga Bay was from 24 October till 30 October, the date suggested by Stack is, of course, incorrect. It is also unlikely that Cook would have described as “an inscription” only initials and a date cut on a tree. What is much more probable is that it included Cook's name and rank, the ship's name, and the date of their visit. The initials and date which Stack was able to recall might have been those which he saw on the rock in which the basin was cut.

Notwithstanding that it rained without intermission on page 55 26 October, the work of procuring wood and water was continued. Next day, Cook and Solander went round the bay, leaving Banks at the watering-place to pursue his botanical studies. First of all, Cook landed at the bottom of the bay [Huturangi] and went a little way inland, but met with nothing extraordinary. He afterwards landed at the north point of the bay [Te Karaka], where a boatload of celery and scurvy grass was obtained. Among the nicknacks which Solander took back to the ship was a boy's top, “shaped,” Banks says, “like what Boys play with in England, which they made signs was to be whipped in the same manner.” Whilst Cook and Solander were absent, Banks climbed a hill and examined a disused fort.

Upon another occasion, Cook and a party landed on Pourewa Island. “Some of us,” Cook says, “hapned upon a small Island where several women were Naked in the Water, gathering of Lobsters and shellfish. As soon as they saw us, several of them hid themselves among the Rocks and the rest remained in the Sea until they had made themselves Aprons of the seaweed; and even then when they came out to us they showed manifest signs of Shame and those who had no method of hiding their nakedness would by no means appear before us.” Becket's informant (1771) did not share Cook's opinion in regard to the modesty of the native women. “Chastity,” he says, “appeared not to be held in great estimation among them, or, at least, it was not rigidly practised. Many of their young women constantly resorted to the watering-place.”

The native name for the island—“Pourewa”—has outlasted that given to it by Cook, who called it after Banks's secretary, Herman Sporing, who was a Swede. Banks tells an amusing story as to how it came about that Cook so honoured Sporing. “Whilst Mr. Sporing was drawing on the island,” he says, “he saw a strange bird fly over his head. He described it as being about the size of a kite and brown like one. Its tail, however, was of so enormous a length that he at first took it for a flock of small birds flying over him. He, who is a gravely-thinking man, and is not at all given to telling remarkable stories, says he judged the tail to be … yards in length.” Banks probably intended to requestion Sporing before he filled in the gap before the word “yards,” but neglected to do so. Nowadays, “Pourewa” appears on State survey plans as “Porewa.”

By the end of the fourth day (Saturday), the required amount of water (70 tons) had been procured, but not quite sufficient wood. Some of the men were set to work to make manuka brooms and others to collect celery to take to sea. “This plant,” Cook mentions, “is found here in great plenty … and I look upon it page 56 to be a very wholesome Antiscorbutick.” Sunday saw the work of obtaining wood completed, and at 6 a.m. on Monday, 30 October (civil date) the Endeavour, after a stay of almost six days at Tolaga Bay, sailed to the northward.

A Second Paradise

No finer description of Tolaga Bay and its people appears among the narratives of the voyage than Parkinson's:

“The country,” he says, “is agreeable beyond description and, with proper cultivation, might be rendered a kind of second Paradise. The hills are covered with beautiful flowering shrubs, intermingled with a great number of tall and stately palms, which fill the air with a most grateful fragrant perfume…. Between the hills we discovered some fruitful valleys, which are adapted either to cultivation or pasturage. The country abounds with different kinds of herbage fit for food…. Adjoining their houses are plantations of koomara [kumara] and taro and the ground is cultivated with great care and kept clean and neat.
“The natives, who are not very numerous, behaved very civil to us. They are, in general, lean and tall, yet well shaped, have faces like Europeans and, in general, the aquiline nose, with dark-coloured eyes, black hair and beards of middling length…. Their tataowing … looks like carving … and is peculiar to the principal men. Servants and women content themselves with besmearing their faces with red paint or ochre, and, were it not for this nasty custom, would make no despicable appearance.
“Their cloth is white and as glossy as silk. It is worked by hand and wrought as even as if it had been done in a loom, and is chiefly worn by the men, though it is made by the women, who also carry burdens and do all the drudgery. Many of the women that we saw had very good features and not the savage countenance one might expect…. They seem to be proud of their sex and expect that you should give them everything they desire because they are women, but they take great care to grant no favours in return, being very different from the women we saw in the islands….
“The men have a particular taste for carving, which they execute with as much truth as if done from mathematical draughts…. We saw many beautiful parrots and birds of various kinds … but we found no ground fowl or domestic poultry. Of quadrupeds, we saw no other than dogs, which were like those on the island of Otaheite, and of these but a few; though it cannot be supposed that so large a country as this appears to be should be destitute of deer and other kinds of four-footed animals.”

Much inquiry was made at Tolaga Bay by Cook and his companions with reference to native customs and usages. Tupaea, it seems, never let up in the quest for information. He had many long conversations with a Maori priest. “They seemed to agree very well in their notions of religion,” Banks remarks, “but Tupia [Tupaea] was much more learned than the other, and all his discourses were heard with much attention. Tupia asked the priest … whether or no they really eat Men which he was very page 57 loth to believe. The priest answered in the affirmative, saying that they Eat the body's only of those of their Enemies who were kill'd in War.”

In his rough notes, Cook summarizes the information that was gleaned:

The religion of the Natives bears some resemblance to the George Islanders [Tahitians].


They have god of war of husbandry, etc. but there is one supreme god whom they call … he made the world and all that therein is by copolation.


They have many priests.


The old men are much respected.


They have King who lives inland; his name is … we heard of him in Poverty Bay.


They eat their enemies slane in Battell; this seems to come from custom and not from a savage disposition; this they cannot be charged with; they appear to have but few vices. Left an inscription.


Their behaviour was uniform free from treachery.


The women may be known by their voices; they paint their faces rud.


The women's faces are not tattow'd.


They seem to live on the ridges of hills in the summer.


We found several houses not inhabited.


The frames of some of the houses are ornament'd with Carv'd work.


Their carving good.


Their large canoes.


Animals none except dogs and ratts—the former they eat and oriment [ornament] their clothes with the skin.


Plants birds and insects woods etc.


Fishes in the sea.

Each day the course and distance to be inserted.

Ropata's Version of Traditions

An entertaining account of some native traditions held to relate to Cook's visit to Tolaga Bay is given in an article written by Major Ropata and published in Te Waka Maori-o-Nui Tirani in 1874. It opens with some references to the Poverty Bay natives' refusal of hospitality to Cook and then proceeds:

“Then Capt. Cook sailed to Uawa and there he saw the chief Whakatatare-o-te-Rangi [one of Te Kani-a-Takirau's grandfathers]; He called out to him: ‘Tatare! Tatare! Give me some provisions!’ and a supply was given to him accordingly. Then said Capt. Cook: ‘Tatare is a chief!’—words, which, afterwards, became a proverb. Cook then gave Tatare a bright red scarf, a musket, a keg of powder and a flat lump of lead. Cook invited Tatare to make trial of his skill by firing off the musket. The gun was loaded, and the chief held it close to his cheek and fired it off, but he became so alarmed at the report that he dashed the gun down on the stones and it was broken, and then he threw it into the water.
“Afterwards, the natives broke open the keg of powder, and came to the conclusion that it was turnip seed. So they cleared away the page 58 bushes, prepared a plot of ground, and planted the supposed turnip seed. Then the people rejoiced and said: ‘Our women and children will be satisfied (fed) for the seed of food is in the ground!’ Others said: ‘Yes, true! No wonder if we rejoice! It is all so very jolly!’ And afterwards, when it rained, they said: ‘This will bring up our seed!’
“Out of the lead they formed an adze, which they sharpened carefully and put a nicely-made handle to it. And the fame of this adze possessed by Tatare spread far and wide among the tribes. At length, many assembled to examine it and witness the trial of its capabilities. On the first blow being struck upon the wood, lo and behold! it bent and doubled up. Then all the people, as if with one voice, exclaimed: 'Oh! it has not been subjected to the influence of fire. If it were heated in the fire, it would become hard. Then they said: ‘Right! Bring some wood for a fire. Let it be given much wood that the fire may burn long and the adze be well hardened!’
“So they lighted a fire and cast the adze upon it. But, wonder of wonders, it melted! Then arose a shout: ‘Drag it from the fire! We must consider some plan to perfect this adze!’ Quite a number rushed to the fire and attempted to pick out the remains of the adze with sticks; but it separated into many parts and was abandoned. And so ignorance came to its natural result!”

It seems a pity to introduce anything which might spoil such a good story, but it requires to be pointed out that no mention is made in any of the narratives of the voyage of a gift of a musket at Tolaga Bay. Polack says (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. 2, p. 129) that, in 1835, he was given to understand that Cook made a present of some powder whilst he was there, and that it was mistaken for turnip seed and planted. The earliest record of a gift of powder is D'Urville's in 1827, but it is certain that the natives were then acquainted with its use. Colour is lent to that portion of Ropata's story which states that a piece of lead was among Cook's gifts by the claim that, after it had been fashioned into an axe-head, it was subjected to fire. The natives might have imitated the Endeavour's armourer, who did some forge work ashore.

Gifts Made at Tolaga Bay

Te Kani presented Polack with two spike nails which, he said, had been given by Cook to the natives of Poverty Bay, and which had been captured from them by his father during a battle. He also drew attention to a necklace which one of his wives was wearing. It was composed of three light-blue beads—a gift from Cook—threaded on a piece of flax. They underwent an examination all round, and anecdotes concerning Cook were repeated. Polack was told that the beads and the nails were the only remaining relics of Cook's visit.

After leaving Tolaga Bay, the Endeavour had to be turned to windward all day, as the wind was foul. Next morning, she was page 59 leeward of the bay. Heading north again, Cook did not wait for some fishing boats which made towards the ship [apparently from Hautanoa]. About noon, East Cape was rounded. On the following morning (1 November, civil date) five canoes came out off Cape Runaway and threatened the voyagers from a distance. One canoe held “upwards of 40 men, all armed with pikes, etc.” Cook adds:

“… from this and other Circumstances it fully appear'd that they came with no friendly intentions; and I at this Time being very buisey and had no inclinations to stay upon deck and watch their Motions, I order'd a grape shot to be fir'd a little wide of them. This made them pull off a little and then they got together either to consult what to do or to look about them. Upon this, I order'd a round Shott to be fir'd over their heads, which frightened them to that degree that I believe they did not think themselves safe until they got ashore. This occasioned our calling the Point of land off which this hapned Cape Runaway.”

Whilst the natives were within range of the ship (Parkinson says), they kept calling out: “Kaka kee no Tootwais harre yoota patta pattoo,” meaning “that, if we would go on shore, they would beat us with their patta pattoos.” Banks states that the threats occasioned much uneasiness, as it had been hoped that an account of what they had done and could do would have reached a farther distance.

“We had now,” Banks continues, “our work to begin over again and heartily joined in wishing that it might be attended with less bloodshed than our late unfortunate encounters [in Poverty Bay and Hawke's Bay]. After a time, one of the canoes came almost close to the ship and, soon afterwards, we saw an immense canoe coming from the shore crowded full of people, all armed with long lances…. They pulled briskly up towards the ship as if to attack. It was judged right to let them see what we could do, least should they come to extremities, we might be obliged to fire at them, in which case numbers must be killed out of such a crowd. A Gun loaded with Grape was, therefore, fired ahead of them. They stopt padling, but did not retreat. A round shot was then fired over them. They saw it fall and immediately took to their paddles, rowing ashore with more haste than I ever saw men, without so much as stopping to breathe till they got out of sight.”

“Adventure's” Double Visit to Tolaga Bay in 1773

The only vessel belonging to either of Cook's other expeditions to the Pacific which halted on the East Coast was the Adventure (Captain Furneaux). She put into Tolaga Bay for two brief periods in November, 1773. Together with her sister ship, the Resolution (Captain Cook), she had made the coast near Table Cape (Mahia) whilst en route from Amsterdam Island [in the Friendly Group] to Queen Charlotte Sound. Heavy squalls were experienced off Cape Turnagain, and, as the two vessels ran a great risk of becoming separated, Cook signalled to Furneaux page 60 that Queen Charlotte Sound was to be the rendezvous. They never met again on the voyage.

Furneaux's narrative appears in A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World in 1772–75 (Dublin, 1777), which was written by Captain Cook and Geo. Forster, F.R.S. According to Furneaux, the Adventure struck very heavy weather and, on 4 November, whilst she was off Cape Palliser, “our decks were very leaky, our beds and bedding wet, and several of our people were complaining of colds.” As progress could not be made, it was decided to put back into Tolaga Bay “to complete our wood and water, being in great want of both, having been at the allowance of one quart of water for some days past, and even that pittance could not be come at above 6 or 7 days longer.”

Hospitality as warm as that which Cook had experienced four years earlier was Furneaux's happy experience at Tolaga Bay. He says that the natives were more numerous there than at Queen Charlotte Sound, and seemed settled, having regular plantations of sweet potatoes and other root crops and plenty of crayfish and other fish, “which we bought of them for nails, beads and other trifles at an easy rate.”

“In one of their canoes,” Furneaux adds, “we observed the head of a woman lying in state adorned with feathers and other ornaments. It had the appearance of being alive, but, on examination, we found it dry, being preserved with every feature perfect and was being kept as a relic of some deceased person.”

On 12 November, 1773, the Adventure took her departure, but, next day, another gale forced her to return in order that more rigging might be repaired. The opportunity was also seized to secure some more water and wood. On the 16th, she again sailed, and, after much delay in negotiating the eastern entrance to Cook Strait, she made Queen Charlotte Sound. Nothing was seen of the Resolution, but all fears as to her safety were dismissed when, on going ashore, a message to “Look Underneath!” was found cut out on the stump of a tree in the garden at Cook's Cove. In a bottle which was dug up was a message from Cook intimating that his ship had arrived there on 3 November and had sailed again on 24 November.


Becket (1771) says that whilst an officer was on an inland incursion he was beckoned to by an elderly woman, who invited him to enter an enclosure. He found more than a score of men and women seated at a repast of crayfish and kumaras, and he was invited to join them. During his stay, an elderly man and two women called and, with much graveness, formally saluted the whole company (including, presumably, the visitor) “according to the custom of the country.” A man was sent to conduct him back to the watering-place along an easier track than that which he had used to reach the spot. As they came to each ditch or rivulet, “of which page 61 there were many for draining the land,” his guide insisted upon carrying him across.

Describing the fishes that were obtained at Tolaga Bay, Cook (rough notes) says: “We got as much fish as gave all hands a little; caught some few alongside ourselves. The fish we got here were souls and flounders, with seven other sorts of small fish, likewise crawfish and other shellfish.”

“Cook's Well” was visited by a correspondent of the Poverty Bay Herald in September, 1880. He says: “Portion of the rock is scooped out to about the width of an outspread hand. We uncovered the name of Cook in great Roman capitals and, beneath, was a date, which, however, was hardly decipherable. There are some who believe that this was the spot where water was obtained for the Endeavour. If it was, the jolly old Tars must have had a difficult job for, at present, the water to be obtained there would just about fill a barrel in a week!”

“A short distance north of the cove is ‘Hannah's Hole,’ an immense arch worn out of the narrow parts of the cliffs by the action of the seas and winds. The roof and the sides show the various strata of the sandstone rock very distinctly. Some very large fossil heads of fish project from the sides and the centre of the roof, which is very lofty.”—Poverty Bay Standard (July, 1882).

With reference to the naming of East Cape, Cook (quoted by Wharton) says: “This point of land I have called East Cape, because I have great reason to think it is the Eastern-most land on this whole coast….” In his rough notes, however, Cook indicates that East Cape was not so named at the time of passing. His entry reads: “After being round the N.E. Cape, the country appear'd to be well inhabited and full of plantations and look'd well: low near the shore and hilly inland.”