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Epilogue

 

All hands had come through to a job well-done, and Cook still had a tight ship and a healthy crew as he turned his thoughts toward home. At that time, St. Juan Baptiste, under appalling conditions and with death aboard, was still laboring toward a Peruvian landfall; the gallant Surville had departed Doubtless Bay with success slipping from his grasp. By contrast, Endeavour for week after week had witnessed efficiency, high spirits, and even a birthday party with an almost monotonous aplomb. Cook's sailors were a hard-working, hard-drinking lot, boisterous and uncouth by nature, young, not much more than boys, but fast and sure-footed along the great yards aloft, and, in serving the ship, totally reliable; and they were healthy. The two ships symbolized the respective prospects of the French and the British in the South Pacific.

That single line Tasman had drawn to mark his discovery had been transformed into an impressive chart of the entire New Zealand coastline. Cook wrote with quiet pride, and he was prompt to recognize where credit was due:57

The situation of few parts of the world are better determined than these Islands are being settled by some hundreds of Observations of the Sun and Moon and one of the transit of Mercury made by Mr Green who was sent out by the Royl Society to observe the transit of Venus.

The chart of New Zealand is indeed a masterpiece of cartography, given the constraints imposed by time and weather. Cook was an objective critic of his own work. He pointed out which fragments of the coast were less accurate than others, such as from Cape Maria van Diemen along the west coast to as high as latitude 36º15'S, and from Entry Island (now Kapiti Island) to Cape Palisser, which he said "might differ something from the truth." And he expressed regret that he was not always able to keep the coast, such as from Cape Saunders (near Dunedin) to Southwest Cape.58

Soon after voyage end, Cook the seaman won the admiration and friendship of Julien Crozet, who was second in command of the ill-fated Marion du Fresne voyage. In 1783 Crozet wrote in tribute to Cook's chart of New Zealand.59

I found it of an exactitude and of a thoroughness of detail which astonished me beyond all powers of expression, and I doubt much whether the charts of our own French coasts are laid down with greater precision.

Cook's caveats and Crozet's exuberance aside, the chart was a major achievement of the first voyage; it was a splendid vindication of the Nautical Almanac and of the lunar method of calculating longitude, and a tribute as well to the mathematicians and astronomers of the age.

Within three days the water casks were filled and Endeavour was warped out in readiness to make sail for England. But in what direction? A conference was held to determine the most eligible way home. The first choice was the Cape Horn route. By sailing west to east the existence or non-existence of a continental landmass in the central South Pacific could be determined. But this tempting route was laid aside, since the condition of the ship was not sufficient to keep a high latitude in the depth of winter. The second choice, west and south of van Diemen's land in a direct route to the Cape of Good Hope, was also rejected, because no discovery would be in prospect that way. A third choice was agreed upon: westward to fall in with the coast of New Holland, then north and an indirect route by way of the East Indies to the Cape of Good Hope and home.

But the central South Pacific would remain a beacon in Cook's life. He pondered at length the previous voyages that had sought the southern continent; they all had skirted and left unexamined some thirty-five degrees of longitude--plenty of room for at least a northern promontory of the "grand Object." How obvious it was, thought Cook, to go out there and have a look, although what might lie above (south of) the fortieth parallel he could not say. But one thing he could say for sure: "hanging Clowds and a thick horizon are certainly no known Signs of a Continent." After chasing clouds four times his plate was full. Even if the search bore no fruit, he went on, thoughts could always be cast toward the tropics, where Tupaia, if the enterprise were mounted while he lived, would surely lead the way to many hitherto unknown islands. Already Cook was thinking of another voyage. "I think it would be a great pitty that this thing which at times has been the object of many ages and Nations should not now be wholy clear'd up."60

At any rate, the mystery of New Zealand had been cleared up. Tasman's line had marked out neither an antipodal inversion, where the laws of nature were reversed, nor the fabled continent of ancient dreams, but a tangible place of habitation made vivid by the writers and artists.

It was a strange place nonetheless. Wherever Endeavour visited, the Maoris would send out their largest and best canoes, and more often than not with an old man, sometimes two or three old men, to preside over that peculiar war dance. Or was it a ceremony of welcome? And why were the people so healthy?, Banks wanted to know. They seemed to thrive on a sparse diet of roots and fish, yet he could not recall ever seeing anyone who was "distempered"; he marvelled at the number of old people. Body art, rendered by the elaborate use of ochre and the highly developed tattooes, together with the intricate carvings on the canoes bore witness to industry and crafts. Banks admired the "immence Elegance and Justness" of the spiral tattoos. "Great ingenuity and good workmanship," Cook exclaimed of the canoes. The paintings of Maori life done by Sporing and Parkinson would appeal to the imagination of Europeans.61

As usual, Banks and Cook complemented each other in their observations. Beginning with Poverty Bay, Banks dashed down about 52,000 words on New Zealand, Cook about 30,000, to comprise heaped-up knowledge that was new and reliable; and Cook's best writing on the Pacific was yet to come. Whole tribes of hitherto unknown plants were given form in Solander's Latin diagnoses and Parkinson's stunning watercolors and etchings. Monkhouse, too, added details of ethnographic importance. Europeans would be reminded of how human societies and non-human nature varied from place to place.

Where did the Society Islanders and the New Zealanders come from? Cook was seized by that question as he prepared to weigh anchor. That they had come from a single origin or source he had no doubt, for he was struck by their common practices: tattooing, cloth-making, food-preparation, and religion. The word "Tane," a prominent deity in the Tahitian pantheon, was heard also in New Zealand. But the common language was the most striking feature of the islands he had touched. "Nothing is so great a proof of they all having had one Source as their Language which differs in but a few words," Cook wrote, and he appended parallel lists of words to establish the point. He could not persuade himself that the peoples of the South Seas had come from the Americas; nor from the south, as he no longer believed that any such thing as a "Southern Continent" existed--except possibly at a high latitude. Banks had picked up the word "Heawye," or Hawaiki, as the name of their ancestral home. "But where this is," sighed Cook, "even time itself may never discover."62

The evidence of cannibalism would not exactly embellish the European vision of the noble savage dwelling in Arcadian innocence and bliss. Banks certainly saw no Greek gods--neither Hercules nor Ajax--among his New Zealand "friends the Indians," as he had in Tahiti. Nor would all of Solander's new plants find a secure place in the eighteenth century scale of nature. But to the cognoscenti of Europe, New Zealand might still fit another deistic preconception of the age--that the new and the strange would surrender to the laws of nature and to reason. At any rate, both art and science were advanced by the circumnavigation.

Cook's final reflection remained practical and humane:63

After they found that our Arms were so much Superior to theirs and that we took no advantage of that superiority and a little time given them to reflect upon it they ever after were our good friends.

What is of most interest, even after more than two centuries, is this moment when Maoris and Europeans came under each other's influence for the first time.

On April 1, 1770, Endeavour quit New Zealand, and with a moderate breeze at east and attended by haze and rain, gently made way west, leaving "Cape Fare-well" astern.

So it was that the children of Adam did come to visit the children of Tane, on the day when the great floating island did come from the many isl'd Hawaiki to break the hanging sky; on the day when the great leader, the rangatira of the pale-faced pakeha, the great leader who knew the ways of many waters did come to learn the ways of the children of Tane.
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