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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3 Responses to Wharawharangi Beach

  1. Dave Horry says:

    You and I have had quite extensive conversations on this, but I thought I’d offer a contra position to something you suggest, and see what others’ might like to chip in.

    You and I are of the similar view that the only locations that Tasman could have seen assembled boats from his position at anchor were either Wharawharangi Beach, or The North facing beach of Taupo Point. Other locations are either unsuited to launching boats (muddy, or tidal estuary) or too far away, or unsighted, to respond to the imminent threat.

    We differ completely however (based on conjecture on each of our parts) on how the maori managed to assemble a force of 200+ warriors in 22 waka.

    Your suggestion is that this force was already in the area, visiting or passing through for whatever purpose, and located at Wharwharangi; a good wide beach with a good water supply. You suggest that the local Ngati Tumatakokiri probably could not raise such a force against Tasman.

    I suggest that the Ngati Tumatakokiri could indeed have raised such a force IF aid came from their brothers around Separation Point. The Ngati Tumatakokiri were aware of Tasman’s presence from first light on Dec 17th, 48 hours before the confrontation on the morning of Dec 19th. It is my view that this allowed plenty of time for reinforcing Ngati Tumatakokiri forces to arrive from ; Totaranui, Awaroa Inlet, Bark Bay, Marahau, Kaiteriteri, Riwaka, Motueka and beyond… even Mapoua, Wainui and Whakatū (Nelson) are accessible in this time given an urgent need.

    When I discussed this with John Mitchell he offered another option… that the locals could well have gathered from all around simply to have a look at this extraordinary spectacle.

    Does anyone else have other views or observations on this?

  2. Michael Ross says:

    One of the key issues raised by Robert is the nature of the fleet.

    My comment is that two lashed hulls (as clearly shown in the illustrations) are not twin-hull ocean going waka. They are fishing canoes lashed together in order to help them manage nets etc. (See Best).

    One small interpretation leads to major misdirection?

  3. So did the locals quickly lash 44 or more waka tete together to come up with 22 or more waka hunua specifically to deal with the Tasman incursion? That number seems a bit like overkill, given that no more than eleven seem ever to have been deployed at one time. And I am very doubtful that any Maori inhabitants of Golden Bay ever had so many fairly sizeable waka tete at their disposal. The waka that we see close up also appears to have nearly identical hulls, and this suggests to me a purpose-built waka hunua rather than a hasty combination. Of course we don’t know that all 22 waka counted by the Dutch near shore on the 19th were waka hunua; if seen from far away some of those could possibly have been single hulled, but only double hulls are mentioned either by Tasman or Haelbos, and only double hulls appear in both 1642 illustrations, so I think it is reasonable to guess that only double hulls got close enough to the two ships to be clearly observed. I have a theory that these waka were at least as likely to have belonged to visitors as to Mohua tangata whenua, in which case all would very probably have been double hulled: it is clear from my research that, up to 12 metres or so anyway, doubles were safer in ‘open water’ (like Cook Strait) than singles, because they were less likely to capsize (see Strangers in Mohua, pp. 54-55).

    In the case of monsters like the 1990 Awatea Hou, over 30 metres long, in which I crossed the Raukawa between Te Wai Pounamu to Te Whanganui o Tara twice in 1992, stability might not matter so much, but double waka crewed by 13 – 17 men, with say 6-8 kaihoe on each side are unlikely to have been more than 8 – 12 metres long. I would far rather cross the Raukawa in a 10 metre waka hunua with a crew of 15 than in a single hulled waka tete of a similar length.

    My diorama reconstruction of a 12 metre waka hunua equipped with mast and sail had seating for only 12 – 14 kaihoe, as did my waka carrying a crew of 17, which was intended as a reconstruction of the enlarged foreground waka shown in the 1642 illustrations, and based on existing tauihu and taurapa that have survived and are believed to date back to this early period.

    My reconstructed waka hunua could not be paddled on both sides of each hull but could be sailed. As such I saw them as most likely to have been purpose-built as ‘ocean going’ craft. But I was not confusing waka hunua with waka hourua.

    I’ve written more about these ideas on this “Strangers in Mohua 2010” new page.

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