Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Boats and boaties

I became fascinated with the colourful history of the Whangaroa Harbour during my marriage.  My ex husband grew up in nearby Kaeo and one of my in laws had and still has strong connections with Totara North.

According to Maori traditions, the waka (canoe) Mahuhu-ki-te-rangi explored the Whangaroa harbour during early Maori settlement of New Zealand. The area was settled by descendants of Te Mamaru and Mataatua waka crews (circa 1350 AD).

But the harbour was not discovered by European sailors until relatively late, perhaps because the harbour's narrow entrance is obscured by Mahinepua /Stephenson's Island lying off its coast.  Captain James Cook passed by without detecting it on all 3 of his voyages to New Zealand.

The first European ship to call at Whangaroa harbour was the seal ship The Star in 1807. This visit was followed by an epidemic that resulted in the death of many Maori so they were not so welcoming to the visit visitors.

When the next ship, the Boyd, came along a couple of years later seeking a cargo of kauri spars, the local Maori took the captain and officers up the river for several miles (to show them some timber) to a pa site (fortified village) where they were surrounded, cooked and eaten (the Europeans, that is).

After the feast a warparty returned to the ship to kill the rest of the crew and in the battle a spark flew into a barrel of gunpowder and, with a tremendous explosion, the ship was destroyed.  So all 66 of the crew and passengers, with the exception of a woman and two children, were killed. 

Of course, there were repercussion, more people were killed.  Although European ships weren't keen on putting into the harbour for a while, eventually trade flourished as the Whangaroa harbour was an attractive place for ships to visit. It had bountiful timber supplies, fresh water, and a population capable of growing food for trade. A ship's captain in the early 1820s remarked, it was also "One of the finest harbours in the world, the largest fleet might ride in it, and there is not a wind from which it is not sheltered". Adding to his description of Whangaroa harbour's practical aspects, he went on to call it "a singular and beautifully romantic place". 

That much, at least, is unchanged.  

Totara North is still a place for boats and colourful characters.

They didn't mind at all when I asked to take their photo.


  1. You are correct, it is beautiful!
    What a fascinating story, I love to know the history of places so I thank you for this!
    Have you ever read "Sailing Alone Around The World"? I only read it last year for the first time and LOVED it. I have a fascination with the sea, although I have no reason for it being from many generations of farmers!
    Thanks very much for becoming a follower of mine, you are #150, and that was my wish for my birthday which is next week!!

  2. It does look superb, I don't suppose they could be persuaded to dine with our royals. The Maori would perhaps enjoy them.

  3. Lucky to be able to visit such and interesting place. As I age I come to appreciate history of place more!

  4. It was a truly beautiful place Pauline. I never cease to marvel at the ease with which you get people to agree to have their photos taken.


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