RETRACING JAMES COOKS FIRST VISIT TO I PIPIRI 12 NOVEMBER 2017

Ipipiri Boat Trip 12th November 2017

The Sea Shuttle picked us up from Kororareka at 8.15am. We were a party of eleven. Kaumatua Matu set up our departure with a karakia. Then we were given packs of information to accompany this trip.

The first map in our packs had three colour codes: the Endeavour’s track into the Bay of Islands on 27th November 1769, out of the Bay of Islands on 5th December 1769 plus the Endeavour’s itself and its yawl and pinnace trips to locations within the Bay during that short time period. A second map was that recorded by Pickersgill, of drawings he made of the islands plus the depth soundings taken during the various trips.

We could also read the copies of journal entries as they had been written up by Captain Cook, Mr Banks and a Mr Parkinson, to compare the details of the events that happened in those first days. It was interesting to note how the accounts differed in emphasis and tone.

The goal for our trip was to combine all those records while actually visiting the sites on the timeline map, and glean the insights from archaeology, (James ), and other sources, (Kate Martin, Bill Edwards, John Booth and Matu Clendon) while recording the ensuing discussions and debates. (Jeff).

We ourselves went ashore at Mangahawea, the site of last summer’s excavation, where we looked at the creek where Matu’s family used to camp each year when their home creek, around the other side of Moturua, dried up. This was also an opportunity to explain Matu’s Waitangi Tribunal submission about losing Moturua in 1967.

Looking at the creek bed there, our Heritage New Zealand guide suggested that the large hollow to one side at the bottom may have been dug out for ships’ water barrels to be lowered deep enough to fill up with water. But then again, that hollow might just as well be a modern feature dug by campers, or it simply just eroded that way. Tantalising – but not half as much as the story of Marion du Fresne recording where, on that same beach, he had buried a bottle claiming the land for France. Erosion or a change in sea level may be why, in spite of many searches, that bottle has never been located; Robert Willoughby reckoned the locals would have been watching and would have later dug it up themselves!

We had a picnic lunch at Mangahawea after James explained about the dig. He was able to tell us that carbon dating of – well, carbon – found in the huge hangi pit excavated at the edge of the beach, had been estimated to have been from 1300 – 1350, making this particular site one of the top five archaeology sites in the country. This year he will be writing an application for more funding to return to this site in the summer of 2018/19 with LiDAR equipment and detectors. If you read The Lost City of the Monkey God, you will learn all about how LiDAR works, but in this case, it can be done with a drone (that’s Jack’s field of expertise). LiDAR is a very modern tool that can show up mounds or hollows that can’t be seen under the vegetative cover, in this situation allowing archaeologists to locate these features much more quickly and get on with making targeted excavations.

There were many points of interest in the diaries that provoked discussion, but I have selected just one or two.

For example, we read that on December 3rd, 1769, the English went ashore in Paroa Bay to another bay that Pickersgill named Cockle Cove on his map, where they saw a tattooist – and both Cook and Banks noted in their journals that the man who had been shot by a musket ball on November 29th for attempting to steal their ship’s buoy was there. Banks wrote that the “ball had gone through the fleshy part of his arm and grazd his breast,” but his wound was “open to the air without the smallest application upon it yet it had as good an appearance and seemd to give him as little pain as if he had had the best dressings to it”.

Would this wounded man – and another man who had been wounded with small shot and was seen the next day – wounds also healing well – would they have gone to see the tattooist because he would have specialist knowledge of skin healing?

We went to Orokawa Peninsular where, on December 4th, 1769, Banks described plantations of Yamms, Cocos and sweet potatoes. What might Cocos have been? Our experts drew a blank.

At this particular location Banks said the locals laughed when they saw how small their ship’s seine (net) was and showed them one of their own, which was 5 fathoms deep (a fathom was six feet which would be just under two metres today) and estimated at being four or five hundred fathoms long! Wow! Sitting on our boat in that very same bay, it would seem that their net must have been one almighty size reaching right across the whole bay. It must have been incredibly heavy to haul in, so what tactics did they use?

Cook had sailed north up the coast and into Ipipiri, naming the headland Cape Brett and Motukokako, Piercy Island – his little play on words honouring Sir Percy Brett – Piercy because Motukokako had a hole through the middle. In his nine days in Ipipiri, he was able to load up with water, fish and the local “sellery”, (a vital source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy). Sadly, it was from scurvy that Tupaia, his rangatira Tahitian navigator, died, when the Endeavour eventually reached Indonesia. Tupaia has received little acclaim for his vital navigational knowledge of Te Moana a Kiwa but Matu reminded everyone that he would have known of the Polynesian Triangle linking Rapanui, Taputapuatea to Rakaumangamanga. The fact that he was able to understand and be understood by, the Maori people that Cook encountered here, no doubt contributed to the safety of the Endeavour and its crew. Du Fresne, who had no such interpreter when he visited three years later, was hung, mostly likely due to either him or his men contravening the rules of tapu.

It was such an interesting day and of course the reason for it all was that it was part of the planning and preparations for the 250th commemoration of Cook’s landings in Aotearoa- New Zealand, called “Dual Heritage, Shared Future” that will be held in 2019.

Bronna Brown 2017

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