Graeme Lay looks at sites related to Captain Cook that Kiwi history buffs should visit
It was Lieutenant James Cook RN who, from October 1769 until April 1770, put New Zealand on the map. Literally. Working mainly by running survey from the decks of HMB Endeavour, Cook surveyed the coasts of the North and South Islands, producing a map which was amazingly accurate for its time. Most of the names Cook bestowed on prominent landmarks have endured — such as the Bay of Plenty, the Firth of Thames, Queen Charlotte Sound, Dusky Sound.
Several of the places Cook stopped over in are among the most scenic and popular visitor destinations in New Zealand: the East Coast, Mercury Bay, the Bay of Islands, the Marlborough Sounds. All too have cultural significance for their first meetings between Europeans and Maori. Although the initial contact between Cook's men and Maori at Turanganui-Gisborne was fraught, thereafter the two races met amicably and to mutual advantage. Maori recognised Cook as a man of great mana. The eminent Maori anthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa, Sir Peter Buck, spoke of him as "to tatau tipuna, ko Kapene Kuki — our ancestor, Captain Cook".
Fittingly, since it was the first place in New Zealand where Endeavour's crew came ashore, Gisborne has more memorials to Cook than anywhere else in this country. The Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve above the Turanganui River marks the place where Europeans first landed. Near the river mouth is a fine statue of Cook by sculptor Tony Stones, and one of Nicholas Young "Young Nick", Endeavour's surgeon's boy, who was the first on the ship to see the North Island from the ship's masthead.
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Cook returned to New Zealand twice more, in the course of two further world voyages, in HMS Resolution. One anchorage, Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound, became his favourite. He came here on five occasions, mainly to re-provision his ships before leaving for the tropical islands of the South Pacific: Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii.
Ship Cove is reached by launch from Picton. Apart from visitor facilities and a Cook Monument on the foreshore, the cove has changed little since Cook first arrived. It is overlooked by steep hills covered in native forest and the stream from which Cook's crew filled their water casks still flows into the bay. A track leads from the cove up to a saddle from where there are sublime views of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Dusky Sound in the extreme southwest of the South Island, is the most remote and spectacular of Cook's anchorages. HMS Resolution, spent several weeks here, from March until May 1773, during his second world voyage. In the sheltered sound, Cook and his crew recuperated from weeks in the inhospitable waters of the Antarctic Ocean. The sound provided them with fresh water, seal and duck meat and fish.
They also brewed beer from manuka and rimu leaves.
Dusky Sound is still a place of tranquillity and grandeur, its sheer sides and many islands clothed in primordial forest. And today the seals and birds are protected.
• Graeme Lay's A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook's New Zealand is out now.
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