First Encounter 375 — May Newsletter

CLICK HERE for the latest Abel Tasman Miscellany–mainly about plans for  First Encounter 375. You can receive the “miscellany” newsletters automatically; email your details to

First Encounter 375 — a special logo as planning begins 

Yes, the 375th anniversary of the dramatic “first encounter” between tangata whenua (Maori, who first settled New Zealand) and another people takes place on 18 December.

In collaboration with Manawhenua ki Mohua, artist Robin Slow has created a striking logo with deep significance (explained below).

(Whakamaharatanga toru rau ma whitu tekau ma rima = Commemoration 375)


  1. The two manu (birds) forms on either side represent Mohua and Tasman. Mohua is the name of Golden Bay and the name of a manu, and one of the stories that come through tell of a large white bird coming into the area (the ships with the “flapping” of the sails).
  2. The manu have four koru, for the manawhenua plus three mata waka of the area.
  3. The putatara in the central portion describes the conflict between the land (mouthpiece) representing Tane and the sea (shell) representing Tangaroa, bound together by pingao the peace maker. The instrument was a feature in the communications between Tasman and the iwi. Hence the message it conveys.

Tasman’s time in New Zealand waters, which also included the first Christmas (sheltering behind Rangitoto/d’Urville Island) was from 13 December 1642, when land was first sighted, to 6 January 1643 when the voyagers named Three Kings Islands as they left to sail north towards Tonga and Fiji. 

Golden Bay/Mohua representatives Mairangi Reiher (Manawhenua ki Mohua) and Penny Griffith recently attended the Netherlands Embassy King’s Day celebration in Wellington. Penny (left) and Mairangi (centre) are shown here with Monique Zaagman-Bos, the ambassador’s wife, in front of a tiled reproduction of the well-known image from Tasman’s journal, showing  the events of 18/19 December.

Ambassador and Mrs Zaagman will be in Golden Bay/Mohua for this year’s main commemoration which will run from 16 to 19 December 2017.  Details to follow:  please email to receive information as plans evolve.


A winner!  Robert Jenkin’s model of Tasman’s 1642 “small boat”

Robert Jenkin (on the right) with two crew and the cardboard scale model “Praeutien” (small boat) referred to in Tasman’s account of the events of 18/19 December 1642.  “Praeutien” was first across the line and also won the senior best technical design award in the 2016 Cardboard Boat Race held annually at Tata Beach, in Golden Bay/Mohua.

“Praeutien” is an extra string to Robert’s Tasman “bow” — his diorama and interactive are part of the rich displays at Golden Bay Museum, along with his book Strangers in Mohua. The boat race win (on 29 January) feels highly appropriate in this 375th year of remembering that “first encounter” and the meeting of two worlds.

13 praeutien--ed

Images from the Ambassador’s visit 17/18 December 2016

 Planning dinner, Saturday 17th:  An extremely important meeting with broad representation from all the significant partners:  Ambassador Rob Zaagman, Manawhenua ki Mohua (Mairangi Reiher, Deen Myers), Mayor Richard Kempthorne (Tasman District Council) and Cr Paul Sangster, Dept of Conservation (Richard Struthers, Neil Murray), Geoff Rennison (Board Member, Golden Bay Museum), Robert Jenkin (historian), Sacha Horton (Dutch community).



 Abel Tasman Mimg_3606-largeonument, Sunday 18 December (374th anniversary): Richard Struthers (DOC) spoke about plans to significantly upgrade the site and monument, while Researcher Dave Horry talked about the actual events and location of the anchorage. Ambassador Zaagman made a strong personal commitment to being in Golden Bay/Mohua on the anniversary in years to come–but especially for the 375th anniversary in 2017.




Floor talks at Golden Bay Museum, Sunday 18 December:  The ambassador spoke about the importance of continuing to build on the relationship between two peoples, and Dave Horry put the details of the confrontation into the context of communication, protocols and expectations, which were so different for the Dutch sailors and tangata whenua


Honoured by Ambassador’s visit for First Meeting Day (AT374) events

Golden Bay/Mohua welcomes ambassador Rob Zaagman and Monique Zaagman to this year’s commemoration of First Meeting Day (or Abel Tasman 374). This may be the first time since 1942 that an official representative of the Netherlands has been here on the actual date of when Tasman’s ships sailed in the Bay, on 18 December 1642.

Our activities this year have been affected by the tides, so there won’t be a walk to Taupo Point this year. It’s been very popular in the past, so we hope it will be right for the 375th anniversary next year.


Mayor of Tasman District Council meets Dutch royals

Residents of Tasman District–where the 1642  “First Meeting” took place in what is now Golden Bay/Mohua–are proud that their mayor Richard Kempthorne and his wife Jane were invited to be guests at the recent state dinner for the Dutch King and Queen in Wellington.

Not only did the honour reinforce the already strong link between Tasman District and the Grootegast municipality (close to Abel Tasman’s birthplace), but it also created a wider recognition of the significance of Tasman’s voyage in New Zealand’s documented heritage record. Here’s an account from a local newspaper:


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What happened to the 4th Dutch sailor after 19 December 1642?

Professor Richard Woolley brings his film-making skills to the world of words. His new novel Stranger Love builds on the facts recorded in Tasman’s journal to create a gripping story that begins in Amsterdam and ends in a Maori settlement where Jakob is enslaved. But how does the story end?  Read it!

Order from your bookshop (New Zealand RRP is $29.99 for the paperback) — or from a supplier online: The Nile or Fishpond (for hardcopies) and Amazon for the e-version.


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Netherlands Ambassador’s visit

Ambassador Rob Zaagman,  with his wife Monique and sister Ingrid, came to Golden Bay/Mohua on Saturday 5 March. Following a powhiri (formal welcome) at Onetahua Marae, they spent some time getting to know more about Abel Tasman National Park with DOC staffer Neil Murray.
The picture shows (from left to right): Neil Murray, Monique Zaagman, Ambassador Rob Zaagman, and Ingrid Zaagman at the Abel Tasman Monument above Ligar Bay. The monument was built in 1942, as part of the 300th commemoration of the first recorded meeting (18/19 December 1642) between Maori and people of another race.
Plans for the 375th anniversary in 2017 include three large information panels at the memorial, to explain the events and background. The panels are being developed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which is responsible for the 20 national monuments (12 in New Zealand, 8 overseas).
 05--Abel Tasman Memorial--with Neil Murray
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Kupe’s Sails

kupes labelled

After reading the 2007 New Zealand Book Award History  prize-winning book Vaka Moana (2006, K.Howe ed.) and Atholl Anderson’s chapters of the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book prize-winning book Tangata Whenua I think I understand that stages in the evolution of the shunting oceanic-lateen were first the double-sprit, next the oceanic-sprit, next and crucially the prop-masted oceanic-lateen, as used by Tonga in her ‘imperial’ period, which may have reached the Cook Islands from Tonga in or before the 11th century, and finally the shunting oceanic-lateen. This is the ‘flyer’ type, which so impressed visiting Europeans, first Magellan in Guam in 1521,  then the Dutch in Batavia Java, in the 17th century and later the English and the French in northeast Polynesia in the 18th century. The shunting oceanic-lateen arguably out-performed any other sailing rig in the world, but in order to tack by ‘shunting’, waka that used it needed to be double-ended.

petroglyphIn order to to make return trips to South America, Easter Island, Hawaii and Aotearoa,  East Polynesian voyaging waka had to sail fast, at least with and across the wind. The sail used on some of the voyaging canoes that came here in the thirteenth century could possibly have been the prop-masted oceanic-lateen, as indicated by the Wairarapa coast landforms called Kupe’s sails and also by an Easter Island petroglyph. This was also the sail first seen by Europeans on an open ocean voyaging canoe. The Schouten and le Maire expedition sighted, captured and eventually released a Tongan double hulled voyaging canoe with a complement of about 25 possibly on its way from Tonga to Samoa in 1616. Tonga and Samoa may have first developed prop-masted lateen sails centuries before, perhaps even before the 11th century. In that case East Polynesians would very possibly also have aquired them, perhaps through the Cook Islands, and used them in the the 12th and 13th centuries for their far-ranging trans-Pacific voyages.

Later and smaller paddle-powered and sail-capable waka subsequently used in East and South Polynesia for shorter coastal or inter-island trips often reverted to using one or more oceanic-sprit sails. Though some East Polynesian peoples went on to develop  the shunting oceanic-lateen, perhaps through their continuing contact with West Polynesia, Maori did not. Instead, by making use of larger trees than were available elsewhere, they started making waka broad enough of beam to manage open water coastal voyaging with single hulls, but in a single hull without an outrigger you had to use a double-sprit or oceanic-sprit. A single hull with any kind of lateen sail and without an outrigger would certainly capsize.

Perhaps Aotearoa waka had an intermediary phase between the use of prop-masted oceanic-lateen rigged double hulled large voyaging canoes, some of which, like the the ‘Anaweka Waka’ were built locally, and broad beamed single hull waka tete and waka taua. Perhaps during this phase some smaller paddle-powered and sail-capable double hulled waka did carry prop-masted oceanic-lateen sails, and two of these were noted and recorded by Tasman’s expedition. About an hour after the killing of at least three Dutchmen in an attack on a Dutch small boat a fleet of eleven double waka under paddle power alone pursued the Dutch ships as they sailed ENE past Separation Point. The Dutch fired on them, after which they all turned back, two raising sails and sailing SSW across or even a little into the wind back towards land. The wind was probably from the W or WNW, allowing the Dutch a broad reach, their fastest point of sail. Tasman compared the sails Maori set to oceanic-lateens used by Javan ‘tingangs. Two illustrations made by those involved later in 1642 appear to show the sails seen as prop-masted lateens.

Two 1642 illustrations of the waka seen in Golden Bay

Two illustrations of a Maori sail seen in Golden Bay. Both seem to show a prop-masted oceanic-lateen

tingang sail 2 labelled


Marshallese outrigger canoe-a179ce79-92f5-4a6e-858e-0fbe35304270

Modern Marshallese oceanic-lateen rig – the ‘tingang’ type


tongiaki waka

a reconstruction of a Maori waka hunua with prop-masted oceanic-lateen rig


GB departure 19th


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The aquisitive gaze – colonialism and post-colonialism

Can present day New Zealanders, descendants of the colonisers and the colonised,  construct a post-colonial and more bi-cultural view of  our shared history; can we assess the story of the first recorded meeting between Maori and Europeans post-colonially? One major problem is that every single contemporary text we so far have to use in doing so was written down or drawn or charted by a European.

What do I mean by post colonial history? One way of answering this is to examine how such stories have already been interpreted and then consider whether these interpretations are colonial. Here, for example, is an early 20th century sonnet by J.C. (Sir John) Squire which I was given to read at school around 1960:

There was an Indian, who had known no change,
Who strayed content along a sunlit beach
Gathering shells. He heard a sudden strange
Commingled noise: looked up; and gasped for speech.

For in the bay, where nothing was before,
Moved on the sea, by magic, huge canoes
With bellying cloths on poles, and not one oar,
And fluttering coloured signs and clambering crews.

And he, in fear, this naked man alone,
His fallen hands forgetting all their shells,
His lips gone pale, knelt low behind a stone,
And stared, and saw, and did not understand,
Columbus’s doom-burdened caravels
Slant to the shore, and all their seaman land.

I remember reading this and thinking, ‘ah, this could have been just how it was when Cook first arrived on the Endeavour’. I didn’t think ‘this could have been just how it was when Heemskerck and Zeehaen first arrived’, because I knew the names of no such ships. All I then knew, and mostly from a postage stamp, was that one Abel Tasman, a bearded dandy with a frilly ruff,  had seemingly  discovered us before our true British discoverer, Cook, had rather presumptiously named us after  some place he knew all about while I did not, and then had sailed away apparently without a backward glance, and none of his lot even bothered to come back for several centuries!

Two dominant historical narratives informed the little I then knew, the first colonial, the second nationalist. Because the nationalist narrative I grew up knowing was primarily a British one, my education focused more on Cook and Cook’s accomplishments. Because an even more pervasive narrative I grew up with was colonial, the few and brief accounts I ever saw of Tasman’s expedition to New Zealand were reluctant to engage with its  discreditable failure to exemplify the proper fatal impact of all Europeans  on all non-Europeans, who according to this narrative ought rapidly to be exploited or subsumed once they’d experienced the cultural and military superiority of Europeans.

During the 1960s our nationalist New Zealand and colonial British narratives were still ascendent and entwined. But a New Zealand nationalism inclusive of Maori and Pakeha was in the 1960s starting to emerge, and after fifty years has found a place at last for the seafaring  Netherlanders who arrived in 1642, left lines on a map, a name of theirs, and  several differing texts.

I wrote in Strangers in Mohua in 1999 that Maori success in 1642: “served a useful purpose for Maori as a whole. If they had to be colonized by Europeans, then from their point of view, the later the better.” I didn’t then say why I thought that, and nobody has ever asked me since; the reason is that I imagine 18th century ‘enlightened’ colonialism was perhaps more likely to lead to a bi-cultural or multi cultural society than was 16th or 17th century colonialism, which I suspect was even more mono-cultural and acquisitive.

Of course a different future could be hypothesized: if the Dutch had come back as traders without seeking to ‘aquire’ New Zealand as a colony, Maori might possibly have had an independent modern nation of their own. But is that very likely, given what went on elsewhere in the 127 years between 1642 and 1769? And since I am a Pakeha New  Zealander, New Zealand without Pakeha is not an idea that has much appeal for me.

I am a little bit, though not as much as I would like to be, bi-cultural. As far as I know I lack any Maori ancestors. But I see Heemskerck, Zeehaen and Endeavour as three Waka Tupuna. I also have a Pakeha niece who recently wrote an MA thesis in Te Reo. I see New Zealand as becoming more bi-cultural and less colonial.




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The Mysterious Eastland Revealed

Michael Ross has kindly agreed to our adding his article The Mysterious Eastland Revealed (The Globe #53 (2002), Ross, M, ‘The mysterious Eastland revealed’, p.1-22.) as another Tasman related ‘resource’ on this site. It was an internationally peer reviewed paper that won the Estelle Canning prize on presentation.


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A bank account for

Robert and Penny set up this website as volunteers, because we wanted to increase awareness of Tasman’s role in global and New Zealand history. Robert has done most of the posts so far, but is happy for others with a knowledge of WordPress (e.g. Dave Horry, who has already helped a bit) to be co-administrators and post under their own names. Penny has contributed in various ways, and generally clears the website email address. On top of management and administration there are overhead costs, so it would be lovely if we could attract a few donations.

Penny has picked up on Christine’s comment under ‘dicussion’ and established a Kiwibank account. So if anyone would like to contribute something, here are the details: Account Name: Abel Tasman Website; Account number: 38-9005-0971421-04. (Please note that this is a personal account so donations wouldn’t be tax-deductible. It would simply be too complicated to set up something like a trust.)

You can also send an email to if you’d like to be added to our mailing list. Abel Tasman news of course!

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Is there stylistic evidence of more than one SAC illustration copyist

Till very recently I speculated that some of the later SAC illustrations, including ‘people of Island Moa Iamna and other surrounding islands’ and ‘Thus appears the vessel of Noua Guinea and people dwelling therein’ might have been the work of a different draughtsman/copyist. I thought I saw in them a somewhat tidier, less sketchy style.

But now, on close examination of details such as those I’ve pasted in below, I’m coming to the view that all the large composite illustrations were created and copied by one man, probably Gilsemans.

Others may feel it’s taken me a longish time to wake up to what most commentators have always believed; it is only because of Grahame Anderson’s exhaustive research that I feel able to tentatively identify all extant journal illustrations as by Gilsemans; without ‘The Merchant of the Zeehaen’ we would have no earlier signed work of Gilsemans with which to compare them – unless, of course, some Dutch art expert has already published arguments in favour of the attribution to Gilsemans: arguments of which most New Zealand commentators may still be unaware.

It would be very good to have the benefit of any such expert appraisal, that of a trained art historian, one able to discern stylistic differences with confidence and so discern whether or not a given work of art is in the hand of a known master. But failing that we do have Anderson’s evidence, and many thanks are due to him for finding and presenting it.

Also, thanks to the internet, and to the generosity of the National Archive of the Netherlands, we have the chance to view the details of these images online and judge them for ourselves here.

The following are details from the two Tongan illustrations of ‘native inhabitants’ and the two later ones. The more closely I look the more I think the drawing style of all these images is actually very similar.

I invite comments as to whether other viewers think so too:

Tongatapu Amsterdam - The natives of the land - detail

Tongatapu Amsterdam – The natives of the land – detail


Nomuka Rotterdam - The inhabitants of the land - detail

Nomuka Rotterdam – The inhabitants of the land – detail


people of Island Moa Iamna and other surrounding islands

people of Island Moa Iamna and other surrounding islands – detail


Thus appears the vessel of Noua Guinea and people dwelling therein - detail

Thus appears the vessel of Noua Guinea and people dwelling therein – detail


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Was Gilsemans really Tasman’s primary draughtsman?

Who was the expedition’s primary draughtsman, and was there more than one? Some commentators have attributed ‘A View of Murderers’ Bay’ to Isaac Gilsemans.

On August 1st 1642 Gilsemans was described as having “fair knowledge of seafaring, and the drawing of lands”; however he may not have been the only senior officer with these abilities, and in my view was unlikely to be the man specifically appointed as draughtsman.

Continue reading

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Wharawharangi Beach

One interesting point which Mack’s sketch map of Wainui Bay and Wharawharangi beach draws attention to is that the first likely ‘watering place’ the small boats would have seen was at Wharawharangi Beach. Why would they go straight past it, heading instead to Taupo Point where there is only a very minor stream, one they could not have seen at all unless they got quite close, and then to Abel Tasman Point, where there is no stream to speak of at all? Wouldn’t they have tried Wharawharangi first?

watering place

Wharawharangi beach, where a sizeable creek forms a fresh water lagoon behind the sand at center right.

Could it have been that waka hunua (double hulled ocean going canoes) were already present on or near this beach on the 18th, manned possibly by a large taua (group of warriors) who had used this as a stopoff as they traveled between Te Ika a Maui (The North Island, where Maori populations were largest) and Te Wai Pounamu (the West coat of the South Island) where highly valued greenstone could be found.

Haalbos and Tasman both refer only to waka hunua. These also seem to be the only waka type depicted in Blok and SAC illustrations. The tiny background waka in the Witsen etching all seem single hulled, but may be a 1705 artist’s license, rather than evidence of any other waka type seen by the Dutch in 1642.

A fleet of 22 double hulled waka suggests a powerful Maori taua with an entirely ocean going fleet, something the Ngati Tumatakokiri tangata whenua (local people) of that time might well have struggled to assemble in just two days.

If numerous waka hunua and warriors were already in this area, any attempt at landing or closely approaching land there would have been too dangerous and capable experienced officers like Holman, Visscher and Gilsemans would never have attempted it.

In one of my earliest posts on this site, back in 2013, I wrote about the fires seen by Tasman’s expedition: ‘Tasman’s Journal, Dec 18th – “In the Evening about one Hour after Sunset we saw many Lights on the Land and four boats close inshore two of which came towards us upon which our two boats returned”.’

Mack chooses to present the Haalbos account of these events rather than the Journal’s, and Haalbos speaks of just one waka seen on the 18th. The Haalbos account is a rather colorful memoir, containing many circumstantial and convincing details not found elsewhere, but it was not published until 1671, perhaps not written down at all till decades after the events, whereas Tasman’s Journal was produced in 1643 from documents made at the time of the events, and there is no reason to see this 18th entry as other than conscientious and correct.

As I continued in my earlier post: ‘fires [were]seen from the ships at dusk on the 18th, presumably in the vicinity of Taupo Point and Wharawharangi, since these are the closest points to the anchorage: [the text] suggests camp fires along the coast, perhaps for warriors, and an unknown number of waka, at least two of which then approached and possibly challenged the visitors, departing only after cannons were fired over their heads …. As Haelbos remembers this, “Tasman could see no sign on account of darkness: he only heard horrid noise of harsh voices and a shrill sound, not unlike a trumpet. The Dutch sailors called out to them: blew on trumpets: and finally fired off a cannon. Then the South-landers began to rave terribly: blew on a horn: and returned to land.’

Tasman’s account is that he waited till Maori had gone before firing his cannons, for cleaning purposes; this might not be entirely conscientious and correct: The senior officers had been specifically instructed, if they encountered any  ‘barbarous peoples’, to make contact with them “properly and amicably” and, by “showing of good countenances”, to “attract them” .

Firing off cannon over their heads, even withot shot, would not have been a good way of attracting them, but at the time it may have seemed the best way of protecting ships and men, a thing Tasman and his officers were rather good at or they would never have made it back to Batavia. There could well have been more than just two waka hunua assembling  around them in the dark, whose warriors had shown no signs of going anywhere until those cannon shots. Soon after them they headed back to shore, perhaps to Wharawharangi, the closest and most suitable beach for hauling up so many waka hunua, since steep and soft enough to launch or land a lot of waka fairly easily at any tide. And Tasman, not wanting to be blamed for inciting the violence he was trying to prevent, violence that he was all to well aware had actually occurred next day, might in his 1643 day-register for VOC top brass have slightly bent the truth about the order of events.


If you have a windows computer, click here, for an audio visual account of the events.



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