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The Voyage of the Takitimu

The Voyage of the Takitimu

We now return to the object of our story. Provisioned by raw, dried kumara, dried fish and a supply of water, manned only by selected chiefs, the vessel left the shores of Tahiti at dawn. After three days in company with the other canoes of this main migration, excluding the canoe Aotea, which left Rangiatea and took a direct route, the flotilla arrived at Rarotonga Island. Here further and final provisions were placed on board. The other vessels, the Tainui, Arawa, Matatua, Kuruhaupo and Tokomaru left Rarotonga earlier than the Takitimu, which being a single rigger, was the fastest vessel of the migration. The voyage, estimated to take nine days, took eleven. Bad weather was encountered and a shortage of food resulted so that the crew was forced to eat raw fish and birds which were secured by invoking the aid of Tangaroa, the ruler of the ocean, and Tane, the ruler of the birds.

Before we study the subsequent New Zealand history of the Takitimu, let us add an extract concerning the ocean voyage from the famous book Hawaiki, by the late Mr. Percy Smith, the gifted student of ethnology and one-time president of the Polynesian Society. Concerning the Takitimu, Mr. Smith writes: "In the Maori account of the migration of the people of the East Coast of New Zealand from Tahiti in the middle of the fourteenth century, we have a very full description of the Takitimu canoe in which they came. This vessel had an out-rigger, on each side an enclosed cabin and twenty-six thwarts, each of which and its adjacent space was allotted to a special family, the name of which was given to each thwart. There were four top sides built up on the solid bottom, on the upper edge of which in rough weather were lashed fore and aft closely woven popoki, inclining inwards, to keep off the splash of the sea. Each of the crew was provided with two paddles, with special ones at the bow and for steering in the stern. There were two bailing page 41places and four bailers of the usual ornamental type. Of the two anchors one was a korewa used to cast over the bows in heavy weather, thus allowing the canoe to ride with the head to the sea. In the bow was the place of the priests who kept their gods in a special receptacle, and in the stern was the place of the high chief Tamatea-ariki-nui, who commanded the expedition, while the priests were the navigators. All the invocations recited by the priests on different occasions have been preserved. These people were descendants of those who formed the third migration into the Pacific."