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Landing site, Tūranganui a Kiwa

Cook’s first landing at Tūranganui a Kiwa was marked by tragedy. 
The bay they entered, sheltered by ranges covered with thick forest, was home to four main tribes – Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tahupoo (later known as Ngai Tāmanuhiri), Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Grasslands, wetlands, swamps, scrub and great stands of trees on the flats provided a variety of foods and materials for weaving and building.

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Tairāwhiti Museum diorama depicting one of the landing sites

First Landfall, First Day

The Endeavour anchored on the north-west side of the bay, before the entrance of a small river – the Tūranganui – around 4pm on 8 October 1769. Some people thought the Endeavour was a floating island; others, a great bird with smaller birds, and a houseful of divinities. Other misunderstandings followed. Soon after anchoring, Cook, Banks, Solander, Monkhouse, Green, Gore, and some seamen and marines went ashore on two boats to look for a watering place. As they landed on the river’s east bank, the people they had earlier seen on the west bank disappeared from sight. Four boys were left in charge of the small boat near the river mouth. The larger boat ferried the others across the river to look for the people they had seen.

As Cook and his party investigated the small settlements, four men armed with long spears rushed out of the trees on the foothills of Titirangi near the east side of the river. The boys ran to their boat and rowed as fast as they could towards the river mouth to escape. The coxswain in charge of the other boat tried to frighten the armed men by firing shots above their heads. The warriors brandished their weapons in response and continued to advance on the boys. When the leader lifted his spear to hurl it at the boat, the coxswain fired again and killed him. His perplexed companions dragged the man’s body about 100 yards away and retreated. Cook and his party crossed the river after hearing the first shots. They placed beads and nails on the man’s body before returning to the ship at about 6pm. The dead man was later identified as Te Maro of the Ngati Oneone hapū of Te Aitanga a Hauiti, a tribe that in 1769 occupied lands around Titirangi and north to Uawa (Tolaga Bay).               

This first encounter involved misunderstanding on both sides. The encounter was probably intended to be a ritual challenge to find out if the visitors came in peace or with the intention of war

First Landfall, Second Day

The next morning, 9 October, a large armed party went ashore to the river’s east bank. Cook, Banks and Solander called out in the Tahitian language to 50 to 100 men gathered on the west bank. The local men answered by starting a war dance, a haka, their spears elevated above their heads. A musket was fired across the river, the ball striking the water. The haka ended. More of Cook’s men landed including Green, the astronomer, Dr Monkhouse and Ra’iatean star navigator Tupaia, who called across the river in Tahitian. He told them the Europeans wanted food and water and offered iron in exchange. They understood. Cook’s party showed beads and nails, then threw a nail across the river but this fell short and dropped into the water. The local men complained about the killing the day before and refused to lay down their weapons. Tupaia warned Cook’s party to be on its guard.

In time, one local man stripped off and swam across. He landed on a rock surrounded by water and invited the Europeans to join him. Cook gave his musket to an attendant and went towards him. They saluted by touching noses, known as a hongi. Cook’s gift of a few trinkets put the man in high spirits. This was the first formal greeting between Māori and European. The rock was the legendary Te Toka a Taiau or Te Toka a Taiao, a boundary marker of great significance. Cook gave gifts to two other men who swam to the rock. He retreated to the east bank when their companions began a haka across the river.

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Maori Warrior from the film Tupaia's Endeavour

Another 20 or 30 men swam the river, bringing their weapons with them. They too were given beads and iron, which they did not seem to value. They began snatching European arms out of the hands of Cook’s men. One snatched Green’s short sword and waved it triumphantly above his head. Banks thought this needed to be punished. Cook ordered the man to be fired at. Banks shot the man in the back with smallshot; Monkhouse followed, firing his ball-loaded musket into the man’s back, wounding him fatally. This man was later identified as Te Rakau of Rongowhakaata, who had come from further along the beach near the Kopututea River. The other warriors retreated to Te Toka a Taiau but, on seeing Te Rakau shot, swam towards Cook’s party. Cook, Green and Tupaia fired, wounding three more men with smallshot. Saddened by the earlier encounter, Cook that afternoon took the boats to the south of the bay in search of fresh water, the river water being salty. He wanted to take some locals on board, treat them kindly and gain their friendship. But the heavy surf made it impossible to land near the houses they had seen.

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Tupaia played by actor Kirk Torrance from the film Tupaia's Endeavour

At about 2pm, as Cook’s boats approached the cliffs of Te Kurī a Paoā, two waka came in towards the river. Both tried to escape as Cook’s boats approached. Cook ordered a musket be shot above their heads. The seven men and boys on board the smaller waka began to hurl stones, paddles and fish. Cook’s men shot at them. Of the four wounded, two fell overboard and drowned. Three boys dived into the water and Cook’s men picked them up. The waka was left to drift ashore with its cargo of two dead or dying men. The death toll now probably stood at nine. Banks, the first to fire that day, was full of sorrow, describing the day as the most disagreeable his life had seen. The kidnapped trio – the eldest about 19, the youngest about 11 – were initially distressed, fearing they might be eaten, but were comforted by Tupaia and spent the night on board.

First Landfall, Third Day and beyond

Early next morning, 10 October, Cook’s party went ashore to get wood. They took the fisherboys, by then dressed in clothes and ornaments collected in Tahiti, and crossed to the fishing village on the west bank. The boys, fearing they would be killed and eaten there, ran off inland. They wanted to return to their village towards Muriwai.

As the Endeavour party shot ducks in nearby Waikanae Stream, more than 100 armed men in two groups began marching towards them. Cook’s party quickly returned to the east bank and the fisherboys joined them. The eldest took a garment he had been given and placed it on the body of Te Rakau, which remained on the eastern river bank.

An old man presented a green bough to Tupaia in a gesture of reconciliation. He was in turn given nails, beads and ribbons. The old man broke another green bough and, stripped of clothes with his back to the body, threw the branch towards Te Rakau’s body, which was later recovered by his people. The Endeavour party returned to the ship with the three fisherboys. After dinner, they were landed on the east side of the river. Eventually two men crossed the river and took the boys with them back to their part of the bay.             

On the morning of 11 October, the Endeavour pulled up its anchor and sailed south out of the bay.

Cook changed his mind about his name for the bay.  He crossed out the planned name - Endeavour and called it Poverty Bay instead because “it afforded us no one thing we wanted” … except a little wood. The crew did not go on land again until reaching Anaura Bay on 20 October.

Cook’s plan was to follow the coast to 40°S then, if nothing encouraged them to go further, sail north again. Progress was slow. By the early afternoon, she was held up by a calm three miles offshore between Whareongaonga and Tikiwhata to the south. Here, seven waka and 50 people made their appearance, keeping their distance until a group of four arrived from the north and went straight on board. 

Banks and Gore recognised one of them as having been on the rock Te Toka a Taiau a few days earlier. Banks found out that the three fisherboys were safely at home. The man ventured on board with little fear because he had heard how the boys had been treated.

About 20 men from other waka soon followed on to the Endeavour. A trading frenzy ensued, the men trading just about everything they had – clothes from their back, ornaments, weapons and paddles (hoe) from their waka. Occupants of one waka – having sold their paddles – offered to sell their craft as well. When they left several hours later, they took with them the especially prized white Tahitian tapa cloth, beads, trinkets, glass, and even an axe and tomahawk. Just how many hoe were traded is unclear but two held at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK are believed to have come from a set gained during this encounter. 

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Other hoe that appear to belong to this set are held in the British Museum, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow and the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa also holds several. The blades of the hoe bear painted kowhaiwhai designs; the handles are intricately carved.

On 17 October 1769, Cook arrived at just past 40°S – as the Admiralty had ordered him – and finding nothing that urged him southward, decided to explore further north. He named the Te Poroporo turning point Cape Turnagain.