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.