In January last it was my good fortune to be able to take a holiday in the North Island of New Zealand. South New Zealand I knew pretty well; but, beside the fact that the ground was new to me, I had another reason for choosing the North Island. For some years, in vacations and at odd times, I have been a close student of the great voyage of Captain Cook in His Majesty's barque “Endeavour.” In the North Island and in one part of the South Island most easily approached from Wellington are the places where Cook landed, where he was compelled to fight the Maori, where later he had peaceful intercourse with them, and received lessons in geography. On the first voyage he circumnavigated the South Island at topmost speed.
Perhaps I am strangely constituted, perhaps my education was neglected, but I derive no pleasure from shooting nor from fishing. A hobby makes a holiday pass pleasantly, and I determined to visit places visited by the “Endeavour,” many of them well off the tourist track. Partially I succeeded in my quest for information. Being endowed with a love for history, and living in a land where it is thought nothing truly historical can be found, I have in other vacations sought scenes of Australian history now four generations old; nor has the search been wholly barren. Once I travelled to North Queensland to see the spot where the “Endeavour” was beached, the first kangaroo shot, and the first aboriginal vocabulary obtained. Some way inland from the last stopping-place of the steamer before Cooktown there is a magnificent waterfall to be seen, and the captain thought me strange indeed because I preferred Cooktown with historic memories to the Barron Waterfall.
Sydney was still making history when I left it, still splendidly celebrating the inauguration of the Commonwealth. I did not stay to witness the acting of the landing of Cook at Botany Bay. To have remained to see it would have involved me in the loss of a week, and one could not but entertain a doubt whether the acting was quite worthy of the occasion. The place itself I knew, though few Sydney residents visit the south shore, which, indeed, is difficult of access. They are satisfied with La Perouse. I trust it was not conceit
to hold that my own imagination could better supply the scene of the landing than actors reciting blank verse, astonished Queensland blacks, and a crowd somewhat inclined to jeer. Accounts in the newspapers seemed to represent the affair as better than was expected; accounts of private friends varied, some even rising to violent condemnation.
Before my luggage had passed through the Wellington Customhouse I was inquiring how to reach Queen Charlotte Sound, and a telegram was sent to a man in the sound, owner of a steam-launch. It is easy to reach Picton, easy to see Ship Cove from the deck of the Nelson steamer, but not so easy to make any closer inspection. Next morning a swift steamer of the Union Company carried me across Cook Strait, up Tory Channel, as to which the geography of some prominent Wellingtonians on board was rather at fault. A shock awaited me at Picton, where the settler with the launch was not, and at his home no telegram could reach him, so that things looked like a stay of three days in Picton. But in a few hours the settler turned up and carried me in his launch down to Dryden Bay, reaching which, shortly ere midnight, I slept at his house, and the next morning the way to Ship Cove was clear.
The part of Queen Charlotte Sound connected with the name of Cook is the part nearest to the mouth. Five times Cook visited Ship Cove—once in the first voyage, no fewer than three times in the second, when he made it his point d'appui for attacks on the Antarctic, and once in the third. It may well be considered Cook's special part of New Zealand. He surveyed it carefully in the first voyage. A map of it is given by Hawkesworth.
In all the eight volumes labelled “Cook's Voyages” (though one of them is an account of voyages before Cook) there is only this one chart given of Queen Charlotte Sound, at page 374 in Hawkesworth's second volume. On this chart the names given on the western side are “Canibal Cove” (sic), “Ship Cove,” “Shag Cove,” and “West Bay.” Other names in the map are the two islands Motuara and Long Island, and, upon the eastern side, “East Bay,” “Long Point,” “Grass Cove.” All names beside these nine are later than the “Endeavour” voyage. Rumour ran that the name “Cannibal Cove” is not relished by the residents; but it would be a pity now to change a name so historical. Here is what Cook said: “Soon after we landed we met with two or three of the natives, who not long before must have been regaling themselves upon human flesh, for I got from one of them the bone of the forearm of a man or woman which was quite fresh, and the flesh had been but lately picked off, which they told us they had eat. They gave us to understand that but a few
days before they had taken, killed, and eat a boat's crew of their enemies, or strangers, for I believe they look upon all strangers as enemies. [Pleasant for the listening visitors.]… We told one of them that it was not the bone of a man, but that of a dog; but he, with great fervency, took hold of his forearm and told us again that it was that bone, and to convince us that they had eat the flesh he took hold of the flesh of his own arm with his teeth and made signs of eating.”—(Wharton's edition of Cook's Journal, p. 183.)
Another log, never yet published, and now in Mr. Alexander Turnbull's library in Wellington, says, “One of them pick'd a man's arm-bone, quite unconcerned, before us.”
On the second voyage Cook named Adventure Bay from the second ship of his little squadron, the one commanded by Tobias Furneaux. This is not marked in any of the charts published by him. “What is that cape called?” I asked, as we passed Adventure Bay. “Edgecombe Head,” was the answer. This was the sergeant of marines on the “Endeavour.” Cook described him as “very much of a gentleman”; and on Cook's recommendation, having obtained a commission, he was lieutenant of marines on the “Resolution” in the second voyage. The corresponding point is Marine Head, at the other side of the entrance to Adventure Bay.
Adventure Bay was the scene of the slaughter of the boat's crew from the “Adventure” in the second voyage, at a time when Furneaux had been unable to find Cook. The Englishmen had been eaten by the Maoris. Lieutenant James Burney found out the grim truth when he was sent ashore to investigate. The original of Lieutenant Burney's report is in the same valuable library in Wellington. Allusion is made to the story in Gibbon,* and doubtless fear of cannibalism was the reason why New Zealand was not earlier occupied.
When the “Endeavour” had been from Cape Turnagain round the north of New Zealand, and had come southward on the western side as far as the strait, Cook desired to find some quiet bay where he could careen her, for her bottom was foul. He anchored in what he calls “a very snug cove” in Queen Charlotte Sound, which on his chart he marked as “Ship Cove.” There he found “excellent water, and, as to wood, the land here is one intire forest.” No less than 300 lb. of different sorts of fish were caught, and all seemed
[Footnote] * “If in the neighbourhood of the commercial and literary Town of Glasgow a race of cannibals has really existed, we may contemplate in the period of the Scottish history the opposite extremes of savage and civilised life. Such reflections tend to enlarge the circle of our ideas, and to encourage the pleasing hope that New Zealand may produce in some future age the Hume of the Southern Hemisphere.”—(Gibbon, “Decline and Fall,” chap. xxv.)
in clover, so that a stay was made in Ship Cove lasting a little more than three weeks. “The land here” is no longer an entire forest. The traveller cannot but lament the great destruction of trees all along the beautiful shores of Queen Charlotte Sound. Close settlement has made the cutting-down of the trees necessary, and much of the clearing is of very recent date. “You want scenery, we want grass,” was the retort made by a settler to me on pointing out to him the harm that was being done. The Government of New Zealand has very wisely made a reserve of 20,000 acres of land round Ship Cove; but that reserve runs a great risk of destruction by fire. It would probably be judicious if a broad belt were cleared round it, especially at the back, away from the water, so as to prevent mischief from any bush-fire that may break out on neighbouring lands.
Ship Cove is, what Cook called it, “a snug cove” indeed, lying not far from the entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound, which runs fully twenty miles to the south, with varied outline and gently swelling hills, once timbered to the shore, and with many inviting coves and bays. Ship Cove is all but land-locked: from the head of it, Cook's landing-place, only a narrow opening is visible to the north-east. The Government has now rightly reserved the land close around the cove, but about a generation ago a few acres (perhaps 30) near the landing-place were partly cleared and cultivated; hence there are a few cherry-trees, and a few garden flowers run wild, together with some other trees that do not belong to the native bush. Nature, with prodigal hand, has repaired the destruction of the timber; and the tree-ferns are abundant and beautiful. At a spring not far from the shore the water is excellent. This is the place where Mr. Banks heard the bell-birds, and Hawkesworth adopted his description (with little changes that are not improvements) in a passage as famous as any in the once well-known account of the voyage. This is how it stands in the manuscript. Even Sir Joseph Hooker, in printing it, has varied the wording: “This morn I was awak'd by the singing of the birds ashore, from whence we are distant not a quarter of a mile. The numbers of them were certainly very great, who seem'd to strain their throats with emulation. Perhaps their voices were the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells, but with the most tuneable silver sound imaginable, to which maybe the distance was no small addition. On inquiring of our people, I was told they had observed them ever since we have been here, and that they begin to sing about one or two in the morn, and continue till sunrise, after which they are silent all day, like our nightingales.”
Alas, there are no bell-birds now! Between 1 and 2 in the morning I was at the neighbouring Dryden Bay, and none woke me, though I hoped they would. So unknown are the birds that the settler who guided me to Ship Cove would have me believe that the tui was the same as the bell-bird, which is not exactly correct; but it seems unfortunately true that by far the larger part of the British population of New Zealand has never heard the birds that charmed the ears of Mr. Banks. Many other New Zealand birds—the kea and the kaka parrot—are disappearing, and the most characteristic trees and flowering-shrubs threaten soon to vanish likewise.
While the “Endeavour” lay at Ship Cove Cook made a trip up Queen Charlotte Sound for the purpose, never absent from his mind, of surveying and exploring. With a single seaman (name not recorded) he climbed a hill, and came down radiant. “While Dr. Solander and I were botanising,” wrote Banks, “the captain went to the top of a hill, and in about an hour returned in high spirits, having seen the eastern sea and satisfied himself of the existence of a strait communicating with it, the idea of which has occurred to us all, from Tasman's as well as our own observation.” This account of Cook's “high spirits” by another is perhaps more vivid than his own account of his “abundant recompense for the trouble in ascending the hill.” What a subject for a New Zealand painter or a poet! The noble lines of Keats may suggest the treatment:—
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Is the glory of these lines diminished by the knowledge that Cortez never had the opportunity of staring at the Pacific from a peak in Darien? The story is true of another—Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
The hill that Cook ascended is not yet ascertained, but it must be ascertainable. May I commend the problem to Wellington men as an object for a holiday trip to the sound? A little leisure would be needed, and a disposition to scramble upon hills. My own belief is that the hill must lie between Tory Channel and Picton. Cook says that, making for the head of the sound—that is towards Picton—they had rowed between four and five leagues, and, “finding no probability of reaching it, or even of seeing the end, the wind being against us and the day already half-spent, we landed at noon on the south-east side, in order to try and get upon one of the hills to view the inlet from thence. I took one hand with me and climbed up to the top of one of the hills; but when I came
there I was hindered from seeing up the inlet by higher hills, which I could not come at for impenetrable woods.” All this, and more, is to be found in Wharton at page 185. If I could fire some young men of Wellington to find the exact hill-top, I should be glad to subscribe for a cairn or other monument to mark the spot.
It was on Motuara that Cook obtained the lesson in geography from an old man, when he gained the names “Eaheinomauwe” and “Tavai Poenammoo.* These names have been explained so often that no further talk about them is needed here.
As our launch turned to leave Ship Cove a head wind arose, and it afterwards became a gale. The launch was small, so small that the man managing it could with one hand steer and with the other stoke; but she was an excellent sea-boat. The waves rose high, and things were not exactly comfortable. Sometimes for a quarter of an hour, though with full steam on, the boat made no progress. A special inconvenience introduced me to a new word—viz., the “willy waughs,”† brief gusts of wind that blew across the sound, carrying spindrift with them. Sometimes, crossing the mouth of a bay, we caught these gusts full and were well-nigh drenched. It took nearly eight hours to return to Picton; but luckily the Nelson steamer was delayed loading and I obtained the last berth on board, in the most untoward place, right up in the bows, quite a “fo'c'sle hand,” but, being wet through and having naught but pyjamas to change into, early bed was necessary for me. In the middle of the night the steamer left the mouth of Tory Channel, and within one minute the tossing was such that all pride as to being a good sailor had left me, who yet have been round the world without seasickness.
In Wellington I was assured that “willy waugh” was a Scotch word, also that it was a corruption from the Maori “wirriwa,” which I later found did not exist. On my return to my dictionaries in Melbourne I found the word in the Standard as Patagonian. “Willi-wa, a violent wind from mountains in the fiords of Patagonia.” An this be true (and I can find no more about it), by what process, through what book, did the word pass from Patagonia to Queen Charlotte Sound? The “willie-waught” of “Auld Lang Syne” means a draught of liquor, a long drink, not a sprinkling of wet externally.
Wellington was most hospitable, but Cook was never there. I found a splendid library in the hands of a private collector (Mr. Alexander Turnbull), and I saw two or three books of Cook literature unknown to me before. From Wellington to
[Footnote] * Spelling copied from Cook's chart.
[Footnote] † Thus was I instructed to spell.
Napier I travelled by rail. May I say here that, if any reader of this has a picture of Cape Palliser or Cape Turnagain, I should esteem it a great favour to be supplied with a copy?
At Napier a legend runs that Cook sailed round Scinde Island, a feat which, the legend is good enough to add, could be performed in those days, though now it would be necessary to drag the vessel overland. No foundation for the story can be found in any of the records about Cook, and it does not seem likely that the island was even then more than a nominal island. The most interesting place of Cook memory near Napier is Cape Kidnappers, the place where the “Indians,” as he and his companions called the Maoris, as well as South Sea Islanders, aborigines of Australia, and natives of Tierra del Fuego, tried to kidnap Tayeto, the boy from Tahiti, brought by Tupaia to keep him company. An amateur photographer took for me a splendid picture of this cape.
At Napier it was my good fortune to meet the Bishop of Waiapu, who has written, in vol. xxi. of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” 1888, a topographical paper which is of the greatest value for any one following the footsteps of Cook in New Zealand. If I may venture to say so, that paper should be followed by similar papers by residents at Mercury Bay, at the Bay of Islands, and by some historically minded Wellington member on Queen Charlotte Sound. A short time hence it will not be so easy as now to give full information. The bishop committed his knowledge to paper in the nick of time. Changes were even then beginning, in the nature of wharves and harbour-works, whereby the shape of the mouth of the river where Cook landed has been altered almost beyond posterity's recognition. The only drawback to the value of the paper is that, being published before the appearance of Cook's own journal, edited by Admiral Wharton, and the journal of Mr. Banks, edited by Sir Joseph Hooker, the bishop was compelled to use Hawkesworth as his main authority. For the account of the first landing of Cook in the land of the Maoris the bishop's paper is indispensable.
On my leaving Napier an incident occurred which wears a comic aspect. Napier was the home of the late Mr. Colenso, the well-known Maori scholar. Having seen sundry remarks of his about traces of Cook quoted in books, I made inquiry what had become of his papers, and found that the bulk of them had come into the hands of a friend and admirer. A visit to this gentleman won speedily from him a promise that he would look through the papers and send me any printed documents that might be of service. Most kindly he began the search at once. I went on board the steamer at 8 in the evening. There were cricketers returning northward, there was a crowd, there was cheering. After the vessel had cast
off, the gentleman, it seems, came breathless on the scene with a parcel of documents, and consulted the good-natured Irish policeman on the wharf, who promptly volunteered to fling the parcel on board. He flung, and it fell into the sea. “Oh! Mr. Constable,” one is tempted to exclaim, “you little know the mischief you have done”; nor, indeed, do I, for I know not what was in the parcel that wasted its lore upon the waters of “Hawkes Bay.”*
Morning found our steamer in Poverty Bay, Young Nick's Head on our left. It is often said that this was the first land of New Zealand that was seen by the men on the “Endeavour.” It was pointed out to me by the bishop that the land seen must have been the higher mountainous land in the interior. Nor does Cook say that the head was the first seen: “At noon the south-west point of Poverty Bay, which I have named ‘Young Nick's Head’ (after the boy who first saw this land).” It has been noticed more than once that in the list of the “Endeavour's” crew no such name as Nicholas Young is to be found. In the journal kept by Parkinson, the artist to Mr. Banks, published by his brother just before the official publication by Hawkesworth, it is said that Young was the surgeon's boy. In a list of the servants that Mr. Banks intended to take with him on the second voyage, had he made it, the name of Nicholas Young figures; so that it is evident that Banks liked the sharp-sighted lad who first saw the land in New Zealand, and again the land when the ship was nearing England, which proved to be the Lizard.
Two lists of the “Endeavour's” crew have been printed—the one in the “Historical Records of New South Wales” (vol. i., part i., page 334), and the other in Admiral Wharton's “Cook”—and there are many discrepancies. Neither has Young's name. Perhaps boys were not among the souls counted on board.
From Napier I desired to make a trip to the Wairoa, but found the distance too far and the place too inaccessible. My desire was in honour not of James Cook, but of Robert Browning. “How rolls the Wairoa at your world's far end?” he asked in the “Guardian Angel” of his friend Alfred Domett, poet, Prime Minister, and the lay figure from which Browning painted his “Waring.” This is the highest place in literature attained by the name of a New Zealand river, and I wished to be able to answer the question about the rolling; nor was my
[Footnote] * Cook spelt this name without the apostrophe. Sir Edward Hawke was First Lord of the Admiralty when the “Endeavour” left England. It is not known whether Cook had ever heard the story about Hawke's emphatic refusal to confirm Alexander Dalrymple in the command of the barque, when he said he would cut off his right hand rather than sign a commission for a civilian.
desire diminished by being told in Wellington that it was all a mistake, for Domett never lived near the Wairoa. The best authority to be found in Napier assured me that Domett was well known there in the early days, and that it was he that gave the streets their striking names.
At 8 in the morning the coach started from Gisborne for Tolaga Bay. It was a strange drive—for the most part along the shore, and generally in the water. The waves harden the sand, so that it is found more easy to drive the horses through the waves just as they are spent than altogether above their reach; but driving along the water-line produces occasionally shrewd bumps over rocks. Almost all the rest of the road is steeply uphill or steeply downhill, as the road cuts off some rocky bluff which it would not be possible to round. Cook's Gable End Foreland was conspicuous, but deserves the name perhaps better as seen from the sea than from the shore.
Here a note may be inserted as to the spelling of the name “Tolaga.” It has locally two variations—“Tolago” and “Tologa”—both wrong. “Tolaga” is the spelling of “Cook's Journal,” of Hawkesworth, and of both Cook's charts—the large map of New Zealand and the small one of the cove with its immediate neighbourhood. “Tolaga” is not a native name, so that the spelling cannot have been corrected by Maori use, for the letter “1” is not used in the Maori language. The best Maori scholar would not venture on a guess what the mistake was; but another gave me “Hautarake,” meaning “the wind is off the land.” The question put to some Maori by Cook or by another was not understood, and a crooked answer was given. This is, however, pure guess.
At Tolaga, as at Ship Cove, it was advised that a steam-launch should be hired, and a fine launch was ready for hire. But at 4.30 in the morning I was roused with the news that the sea was too stormy for us to put forth, and arrangements were being made to find horses for a ride of about five miles over (partly) roadless country, when later tidings came that the wind was abating. Forth we went. At the bar of the little River Uawa there was a nasty jobble of the waters, and some heavy rolling just as the launch turned into the cove—naught else to complain of.
There are two special sights to visit, “Cook's Well” and what is locally known as the “Hole in the Wall.” The Maoris, as the bishop tells, call the former “Tepaea's Well.” Did Tepaea, as the Maoris call him, or Tupia (with long i) by the English, make out that he was in command of the expedition? He was a Tahitian priest able to interpret Maori. In Hawkesworth there is a map of Tolaga Bay, and it is quite evident that Cook's watering-place was not here. The name “well” is unfortunate. It is not a well at all, but a
hole scooped out, at most 6 in. deep. This may have been made, as the Bishop of Waiapu suggests, by the boys of the “Endeavour,” at a loose end for something to do. It is about 12 yards up a steep hillside. On the rocks around many names have been cut, amongst others the name “Cook.” Not one of the other names can be recognised as that of any one else on board the “Endeavour.” The name of Cook is cut pretty deep. It is hardly probable that the ship's boys would cut the name of their captain in this bold way; but whoever cut the name of Cook cut the date just underneath it, “1778.” Now, it is certain that Cook's only visit took place in 1769, and the mistake of the date settles the question about the cutting of the name, which may, indeed, be some fifty years old, but hardly more. The other names are still more modern.
Whilst we were looking at the “well” a Maori shouted to us, and, when his words were interpreted, we understood that higher up the hillside there was something else connected by Maori tradition with the visit of Cook. Perhaps 15 yards higher up the hillside we found an oak cask wholly embedded in the ground to act as a catchment, and filled by a spring, the overflow from it passing down to the “well.” On my return to Gisborne I was amazed to find that the discovery of this cask had been telephoned to the evening paper. On my return to Sydney and to Melbourne I was amazed to find that telegrams had appeared in papers of both of those cities; and now papers are reaching me from England scoffing at the discovery, which I never published at all, as I was sceptical from the first. In one story the cask had become a flask. One paper, very ignorant as to the surroundings, suggested that the cask had been put there in order that it might be found! After my return to Melbourne I received information from one of the party to the effect that the best-informed Maori in Tolaga declared that the cask had been put there by Te Kooti about a hundred years after the visit of the barque “Endeavour.” The connection with the story of the massacre of 1868 makes the cask historically interesting, but not so ancient nor so interesting as a veritable Cook relic. Friends seemed to think that I had unearthed the cask and would bring it home with me. Had it been genuine that would have been wicked; as I thoroughly mistrusted the find it would have been silly.
The “Hole in the Wall” is a natural arch, a picture of which, drawn by Sydney Parkinson, appeared in Hawkesworth's book, and was much admired. Banks described it “as a most noble arch or cavern through the face of a rock leading directly to the sea.” As the bishop points out, the measurements of Mr. Banks are not those of to-day. Such
holes and arches are not uncommon along the coast; witness one near Cape Brett, to which Cook gave a name with a play in it not generally perceived. Sir Percy Brett was one of the Lords of the Admiralty. Because of the mistaken story that Percy is “pierce eye,” the name was often then spelt, as by this sailor, “Piercy.” The islet opposite Cape Brett having this curious hole in the rock Cook called “Piercy.”
At Tolaga, Banks says, “among other nicknacks Dr. Solander bought a boy's top shap'd like what boys play with in England, which they [the natives] made signs was to be whipped in the same manner.”
At Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, the Government has wisely made a reserve. Would it not be as well to reserve the land round the cove at Tolaga? It cannot now be very valuable, but in time it will be visited more and more, and it would be a shame to permit its appearance to be altered. It is not the plough that is to be feared so much as the cutting-down of timbers, from which a reservation now might save the land. The cove is sheltered on the east by an island. Residents were calling it “the Island,” and “only one knew its name—“Sporing's Island.” Sporing was the secretary of Mr. Joseph Banks, and the reason why Cook named the island after him is given in Banks.*
From Tolaga I returned to Gisborne, and, with the bishop's maps and paper in my hand, surveyed the scene of the first landing in New Zealand. Nothing can be added to his account. The only addition that can be made to the early history of Poverty Bay is contained in a letter that, after my return to Melbourne I wrote to a Gisborne newspaper. For the sake of record it is worth reprinting:—
[Footnote] * Quoth Mr. Banks: “While Mr. Sporing was drawing on the island he saw a most strange bird fly over his head. He described it as being about as large as a kite, and brown like one. His 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 grave thinking man, and is not at all given to telling wonderful stories, says he judged it to be yards in length.” Before the word “yards” Banks has left a gap, as if intending to go and ask Sporing whether he could not take a yard or two off but the writer never returned to fill the gap with a number. The proximate length of the tail is not known, but it is quite evident that there was much amusement on board about the bird, and so Cook named the island after the secretary, grave and thinking. Poor Mr. Sporing was amongst those who were taken ill at Batavia, and he died at sea a month after the “Endeavour” left that fatal port.