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).
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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 toif you’d like to be added to our mailing list. Abel Tasman news of course!
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:
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.
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?
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.
In the Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (2014), 38, A possible pre-Tasman canoe landing site, or tauranga waka, in Golden Bay, South Island, New Zealand (2014), Mack and Hawarden state that “Witsen (1705: 172) includes four images of the Tongan and New Guinea coast lines from Abel Tasman’s 1642–43 expedition, all of which differ from the illustrations of the same areas in the official Abel Tasman journal (Sharp 1968: 160–161, 166–167, 217, 245). An investigation comparing the Witsen illustrations of Tonga and New Guinea with the illustrations in the official journal may prove useful. If these other Witsen images of Tonga and New Guinea can be accurately correlated to the landscape, historians and archaeologists will gain an improved understanding of the conditions prevailing in this important contact period.”
We are unable to compare the coastlines of the first and last Witsen images with their originals, because the SAC originals of those have no coastlines to compare. Neither Tongatapu nor the adjoining island of Nomuka have any ranges of hills worth speaking of; Nomuka in particular is virtually flat. Others with Google Earth may duplicate this ‘research’ for themselves. Can “other Witsen images of Tonga and New Guinea … be accurately correlated to the landscape”? probably not.
In the following four comparisons the Tasman’s Journal 1643 originals appear above their 1705 Witsen adaptations. The four Tongan illustrations have been condensed into two by Witsen’s artist, and in every adaptation the horizon is flattened, requiring the addition of presumably invented background hills, while in the Tongan views the Dutch explorers themselves have been edited out.
None of the adaptations we see here inspire any confidence that Witsen’s etcher’s inventive coastlines and skies, his ‘improved’ anatomies or his more dramatic use of light add greater accuracy to Tasman’s Journal’s illustrations. Quite to the contrary, by removing all trace of the Tasman’s expedition itself, essential cultural and narrative elements such as the long row of canoes facing Tasman’s ships in the illustrations below have, as historical evidence, been actually falsified.