Attack twisted to ‘challenge’

LETTER

The landfall of Captain Cook in “Endeavour” off our coast on October 8, 1769 was a climactic moment for all concerned. Well aware of the fate of four of Tasman’s sailors, his party, in going ashore next morning to search for fresh water, was suitably prepared for similar developments. Events soon showed its wisdom.

With the boats left on the shore in charge of the Coxswain, four cabin boys remained in the yawl. Soon four armed men were seen running towards it. While yelling to the boys to move, he fired two warning shots which were ignored but, in Cook’s own words, “a third was fired and killed one of them upon the spot just as he was going to dart his spear at the boat”.

Like all of his kind, the Coxswain will have been a capable and experienced sailor who recognised the danger in which the boys were placed and acted appropriately. Yet in the locals’ oral history this event has been twisted into a ceremonial challenge in which the chief Te Maro was wantonly shot and killed. An attack on four boys in a boat hardly sounds like a “ceremonial challenge”.

As Wishart has observed, in Cook’s first week, “he and the Maori tested each other’s mettle”. That the locals with Stone Age weapons came off second best does not justify the negative opinions of Polly Thatcher (May 28, 2018 letter).

Bruce Moon, Nelson

The landfall of Captain Cook in “Endeavour” off our coast on October 8, 1769 was a climactic moment for all concerned. Well aware of the fate of four of Tasman’s sailors, his party, in going ashore next morning to search for fresh water, was suitably prepared for similar developments. Events soon showed its wisdom.

With the boats left on the shore in charge of the Coxswain, four cabin boys remained in the yawl. Soon four armed men were seen running towards it. While yelling to the boys to move, he fired two warning shots which were ignored but, in Cook’s own words, “a third was fired and killed one of them upon the spot just as he was going to dart his spear at the boat”.

Like all of his kind, the Coxswain will have been a capable and experienced sailor who recognised the danger in which the boys were placed and acted appropriately. Yet in the locals’ oral history this event has been twisted into a ceremonial challenge in which the chief Te Maro was wantonly shot and killed. An attack on four boys in a boat hardly sounds like a “ceremonial challenge”.

As Wishart has observed, in Cook’s first week, “he and the Maori tested each other’s mettle”. That the locals with Stone Age weapons came off second best does not justify the negative opinions of Polly Thatcher (May 28, 2018 letter).

Bruce Moon, Nelson

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Lloyd Gretton, China - 5 months ago
A bit puzzled about the four cabin boys. There was only one cabin boy, young Nick. I guess it should be four navy cadets. I don't know what a yawl is. In Maori custom, an intruder was always attacked and killed if possible. Before Christianity, a Maori warrior was primed for conflict all the time. The arrival of the British into NZ was literally a God send for the New Zealanders.

Judy Collie, Qld - 5 months ago
Professor Google would have told Lloyd Gretton a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing boat with the mizzenmast stepped far aft so that the mizzen boom overhangs the stern.

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