Mereototo / Ship Cove was Captain Cook’s favourite Pacific harbour in Totaranui / Queen Charlotte Sound, on the edge of Cook Strait, with access to the Tasman Sea or the Pacific Ocean. He spent 100 days there during his three Pacific voyages, and his ships visited for around 200 days.
So, it was a good place for the New Zealand branch of the CCS to visit on Friday, 7 May, 2021. There was a great deal of history to think about for the 35 members, and some senior students and teachers from three local schools. We all had a good day on a large catamaran out of Picton, with commentary from local guides Peter Jerram and John Hellstrom, and from Raymond Smith of Ngāti Kuia, one of the original iwi in residence when Endeavour arrived in January 1770. Raymond is the Chair of the Tōtaranui250 Trust, part of the Tuia 250 commemorations. John and Peter are past co-Chairs. With most of the NZ CCS members present, Brian Wyeth made the comment that there was enough weight of knowledge on board to sink MV Odyssea!1
The trip stopped beneath Cook’s Lookout, where the myth of the supposed Southern Continent was laid to rest by Cook when he viewed the strait named after him. Then we followed Endeavour’s route down the east side of Motuara Island and the Hippa, where contact was first made with local Māori on their defensive pā.
At Ship Cove, Raymond welcomed the group with a mihi/ traditional welcome, and spoke beneath the pou/carved pole recognising the arrival of the great traveller Kupe, about his contribution to the Aotearoa story.
Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, co Chair of the national Tuia 250 commemorations in 2019, spoke of the great changes that have taken place for his people, and the need for Māori, European New Zealanders, and all others to look forward, not backward in our multicultural nation. Hoturoa is a Master Star Navigator, has sailed waka hourua, double hulled waka, all over the Pacific for 30 years, and teaches star navigation and waka building to the next generation.
John talked of the contribution of Daniel Solander in collecting and cataloguing the huge number of botanical and zoological specimens, and how, as a result of Endeavour’s voyage, there were almost 30% more scientifically recognised plants and animals known to the western world.
The day was beautiful as the travelling group had time to explore the site, and to see the monument and the recently renewed interpretation panels.
Then it was on to Wharehunga / Grass Cove, where Peter and Raymond told the story of the dispute that took place when some men from Adventure called there. The affray that followed led to the killing of ten of Captain Furneaux’s men on the Second Voyage. Raymond is a descendant of Kahura, the chief involved in the dispute. Raymond said that the cannibalism that took place in those days was not about hunting for meat or killing to eat, but a cultural practice about imparting mana, prestige, from consuming a part of the enemy vanquished in battle.
Tōtaranui / Queen Charlotte Sound is a beautiful place, and is gradually being restored to the bush-clad area of 1770, after 150 years of logging and farming had detracted from much of its charm.
On Saturday there were colourful lectures on the world of Cook philately from Ray Richards; and marine art from Paul Deacon. Both talks were beautifully presented and delivered. There was also a fine display and explanation of historic Cook medallions from Graeme Brown.
In the afternoon Peter convened a panel discussion with Graeme Lay, John Hellstrom and Raymond Smith on Cook’s times in Tōtaranui / Queen Charlotte Sound, which covered how the visits were seen by both cultures, and the effects on Māori, Good audience participation fleshed out several viewpoints.
In the evening we had a private meal at a local café. We had live music from the proprietor Jules Terry on piano, and his cousin Jeremy Coney of cricketing fame on the guitar, singing songs of the 1960s and 1970s, which pretty much fitted the demographic present!
It was a good weekend, expertly organised by Brian Wyeth and his committee. My thanks to everyone who provided the photos that appear here.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 13, volume 44, number 3 (2021).
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