Unfolding riddle of first Europeans

By Annette Lambly

A documentary which could rewrite New Zealand's early history screens at the Kumara Box on Pouto Rd, near Dargaville, early next month.

Mystery at Midge Bay - The Discovery of New Zealand's Earliest Shipwreck investigates the theory that the Spanish or Portuguese might have been the first Europeans to discover New Zealand,before the Dutchman Abel Tasman in 1642.

The 50-minute documentary, co-produced by David Sims and Winston Cowie and directed by Sims, premiered at the same venue a few weeks ago but, since tickets sold out well before the one-off screening, a re-showing has been arranged.

Sims and Cowie, who was born in Dargaville, investigated three shipwrecks which local folklore says are linked to early Iberian voyages.

The documentary focuses on one in particular, at Midge Bay near the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour. They say they have obtained previously missing scientific evidence regarding this shipwreck.

The Kaipara bar and harbour have a notorious reputation and their depths hold many ships' graveyard secrets.

The documentary extrapolates on preliminary scientific evidence from dendrochronologist Jonathan Palmer, which suggests the ship dates back to between 1695 and 1705 - pre-dating Captain Cook's voyages by at least 65 years.

While it is commonly accepted Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand in 1642, finds such as a Spanish helmet in Wellington Harbour and the Tamil Bell in Northland also suggest the possibility of other earlier exploration of the South Pacific.

Mystery at Midge Bay will show at the Kumara Box on December 7 at 6.30pm.

Seats are $20. To book, email winston@solarisfilms.co.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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