The lay of the land

COOK’S TOURS: New Zealand writer Graeme Lay visited several Cook-related sites in Gisborne and the East Coast during his visit here two years ago. His book, A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s New Zealand, was released last month. Picture supplied
“All the places Cook went to are some of the loveliest places in New Zealand. Maybe he was a shrewd bugger because he went to places like the Bay of Islands and the Marlborough Sounds. Both are popular tourist destinations now.”

ASTRONOMER, surveyor, hydrographer and navigator Lieutenant James Cook is so much a part of writer Graeme Lay’s family, they refer to him as James.

Graeme has travelled extensively around the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand. Several of his non-fiction and fictional books are set in the South Pacific and Cook Islands.

In 2015 he visited Gisborne to talk about his trilogy of novels about Cook. His most recent Cook-centred book, A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s New Zealand, was released last month.

The guide explores significant locations from Cook’s voyages of discovery, beginning with Gisborne/Poverty Bay and Tolaga Bay followed in chapter two by the East Coast and the Bay of Plenty.

“The places are first described as they are today, then as they were when the English navigator called by nearly 250 years ago,” writes Graeme in the introduction.

The book’s chapters progress chronologically through the north-east coast, the North Island’s west coast, the Marlborough Sounds and Dusky Sound.

“Each chapter starts with a quote from Cook’s journals and each place is described in relation to Cook’s charting of New Zealand,” says Graeme.

“Then I bring it up to date so you can read a historical and a contemporary explanation.”

In the introduction, Lay outlines a brief but concise history of Cook’s mission. A little way into the introduction, Graeme devotes a couple of pages to Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. He makes it clear the development of a unique indigenous culture happened long before 1769.

During his research into locations associated with Cook’s exploration of New Zealand, Graeme visited several landmarks he had not been to previously in the Gisborne and East Coast region. He also visited locations in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds.

Shrewd

“All the places Cook went to are some of the loveliest places in New Zealand. Maybe he was a shrewd bugger, because he went to places like the Bay of Islands and the Marlborough Sounds. Both are popular tourist destinations now.

“The same thing that attracted Cook to these places attract tourists, although he was in search of fresh water and food.”

A visit to Dusky Sound was a highlight for Graeme.

“I hadn’t been there before. It’s very remote. Cook visited Dusky Sound during his second voyage in 1773. It has barely changed.

“At Astronomer’s Point you can still see stumps of trees they cut down to make unimpeded observations.”

Graeme is disappointed one of the world’s greatest navigators is sidelined in some narratives about the 2019 commemorations of first formal contact between Maori and European with the arrival of Cook in 1769.

“I’ve come across anti-Cook sentiments,” he says.

“I have little time for it. People who expound those views need to read more widely. The first encounter was undoubtedly unfortunate.”

After landing on Kaiti Beach on October 8, 1769, Cook, his scientists, ship surgeon and another lieutenant, had walked upriver when they heard the fatal shot.

“A group of Maori had emerged from the nearby forest wielding spears, and were threatening the men guarding the boat,” writes Graeme.

Despite a few warning shots, the warriors advanced.

The first killing

The pinnace’s coxswain shot and killed one of the men, Te Maro.

“The shootings were regrettable and no one on the Endeavour regretted it more than Banks and Cook,” says Graeme.

“To say they (Maori) were attacked for no reason is ridiculous.

“Cook sailed south, then north to Tolaga Bay where they had a most amicable time. These were different circumstances and it was a happy occasion.”

Crew traded with Maori. Banks and Solander collected botanic specimens. Tahitian navigator Tupaia, who sailed from Tahiti to New Zealand with Cook, talked with locals.

“For the rest of their time in New Zealand that was mostly the case. Maori viewed Cook as a great navigator. Cook’s arrival laid the foundation for New Zealand.”

Tupaia was undoubtedly overshadowed by Cook in historical accounts of Cook’s voyages, says Graeme, but the Tahitian navigator, who was able to communicate in his own language with Maori, was a great asset.

“Cook sailed on three voyages but Tupaia’s star shone brightly while he was on the Endeavour.”

Although many of the country’s English place names such as the Firth of Thames and Mercury Bay were given by Cook, Graeme would not like to see those names replaced. Binomial names such as Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay would be a good compromise, he says.

“I hope people in Gisborne see the encounters in 1769 as a positive thing. In the wider picture there were not many casualties. Everything turned out all right for the rest of the voyage.

“People try to make Cook a scapegoat. Read the story of Cook’s encounters by people who know it.”

He suggests Dame Anne Salmond (Two Worlds: First Meetings Between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772), James Belich (Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century) and Michael King (Penguin History of New Zealand).

“Cook is recorded as admired by Maori people,” says Graeme. He was a superb navigator, astronomer, hydrographer, surveyor and largely self-taught.

“I’m all for people discussing Cook and his encounters, but from an informed view point. Gisborne is a special place in New Zealand’s history. Let’s celebrate that fact.”

ASTRONOMER, surveyor, hydrographer and navigator Lieutenant James Cook is so much a part of writer Graeme Lay’s family, they refer to him as James.

Graeme has travelled extensively around the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand. Several of his non-fiction and fictional books are set in the South Pacific and Cook Islands.

In 2015 he visited Gisborne to talk about his trilogy of novels about Cook. His most recent Cook-centred book, A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s New Zealand, was released last month.

The guide explores significant locations from Cook’s voyages of discovery, beginning with Gisborne/Poverty Bay and Tolaga Bay followed in chapter two by the East Coast and the Bay of Plenty.

“The places are first described as they are today, then as they were when the English navigator called by nearly 250 years ago,” writes Graeme in the introduction.

The book’s chapters progress chronologically through the north-east coast, the North Island’s west coast, the Marlborough Sounds and Dusky Sound.

“Each chapter starts with a quote from Cook’s journals and each place is described in relation to Cook’s charting of New Zealand,” says Graeme.

“Then I bring it up to date so you can read a historical and a contemporary explanation.”

In the introduction, Lay outlines a brief but concise history of Cook’s mission. A little way into the introduction, Graeme devotes a couple of pages to Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. He makes it clear the development of a unique indigenous culture happened long before 1769.

During his research into locations associated with Cook’s exploration of New Zealand, Graeme visited several landmarks he had not been to previously in the Gisborne and East Coast region. He also visited locations in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds.

Shrewd

“All the places Cook went to are some of the loveliest places in New Zealand. Maybe he was a shrewd bugger, because he went to places like the Bay of Islands and the Marlborough Sounds. Both are popular tourist destinations now.

“The same thing that attracted Cook to these places attract tourists, although he was in search of fresh water and food.”

A visit to Dusky Sound was a highlight for Graeme.

“I hadn’t been there before. It’s very remote. Cook visited Dusky Sound during his second voyage in 1773. It has barely changed.

“At Astronomer’s Point you can still see stumps of trees they cut down to make unimpeded observations.”

Graeme is disappointed one of the world’s greatest navigators is sidelined in some narratives about the 2019 commemorations of first formal contact between Maori and European with the arrival of Cook in 1769.

“I’ve come across anti-Cook sentiments,” he says.

“I have little time for it. People who expound those views need to read more widely. The first encounter was undoubtedly unfortunate.”

After landing on Kaiti Beach on October 8, 1769, Cook, his scientists, ship surgeon and another lieutenant, had walked upriver when they heard the fatal shot.

“A group of Maori had emerged from the nearby forest wielding spears, and were threatening the men guarding the boat,” writes Graeme.

Despite a few warning shots, the warriors advanced.

The first killing

The pinnace’s coxswain shot and killed one of the men, Te Maro.

“The shootings were regrettable and no one on the Endeavour regretted it more than Banks and Cook,” says Graeme.

“To say they (Maori) were attacked for no reason is ridiculous.

“Cook sailed south, then north to Tolaga Bay where they had a most amicable time. These were different circumstances and it was a happy occasion.”

Crew traded with Maori. Banks and Solander collected botanic specimens. Tahitian navigator Tupaia, who sailed from Tahiti to New Zealand with Cook, talked with locals.

“For the rest of their time in New Zealand that was mostly the case. Maori viewed Cook as a great navigator. Cook’s arrival laid the foundation for New Zealand.”

Tupaia was undoubtedly overshadowed by Cook in historical accounts of Cook’s voyages, says Graeme, but the Tahitian navigator, who was able to communicate in his own language with Maori, was a great asset.

“Cook sailed on three voyages but Tupaia’s star shone brightly while he was on the Endeavour.”

Although many of the country’s English place names such as the Firth of Thames and Mercury Bay were given by Cook, Graeme would not like to see those names replaced. Binomial names such as Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay would be a good compromise, he says.

“I hope people in Gisborne see the encounters in 1769 as a positive thing. In the wider picture there were not many casualties. Everything turned out all right for the rest of the voyage.

“People try to make Cook a scapegoat. Read the story of Cook’s encounters by people who know it.”

He suggests Dame Anne Salmond (Two Worlds: First Meetings Between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772), James Belich (Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century) and Michael King (Penguin History of New Zealand).

“Cook is recorded as admired by Maori people,” says Graeme. He was a superb navigator, astronomer, hydrographer, surveyor and largely self-taught.

“I’m all for people discussing Cook and his encounters, but from an informed view point. Gisborne is a special place in New Zealand’s history. Let’s celebrate that fact.”

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