Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
HOW A GREAT WHITE BIRD CAME TO THE SHORES
 IT is doubtful that white man first saw the shores of New
Zealand. But the honour is generally given to the Dutch
discoverer Tasman. In 1642, returning to Batavia, after
having discovered Tasmania, he came upon South Island.
Hoping to get fresh water and green food to supply his
ship, he anchored. Soon canoes pushed out from the
shore, and wild, half-naked savages surrounded Tasman’s
two ships. They called to the white strangers in loud,
rough voices, and blew upon a harsh sounding trumpet.
But they would not come within a stone’s throw of the
ships, although Tasman tried to entice them with
presents of linen and knives.
the natives so many and so warlike, Tasman thought that
it would be well to warn the sailors in the other ship
to be on their guard, and not let them come aboard. So
he ordered a boat to be lowered. But as soon as the
natives saw the boat in the water, they surrounded it
and drove their canoes crashing against its sides, so
that it heeled over. The savages then attacked the
Dutchmen with their paddles and short, thick clubs.
Three were killed, and one wounded so badly that he
died; the others jumped into the water and swam to
their ship, while the savages made off, taking one of
the dead Dutchmen with them.
all hope of friendly barter with the natives being
an end, Tasman sailed away. In memory of this cruel
greeting from the savages, he called the place
Murderer’s Bay, but the name has since been changed to
Golden Bay. The whole land Tasman called Staten Land,
but that name, too, was soon changed to New Zealand,
which name it has kept ever since. And, although we
have come to think of it as an English name, it is
really Dutch, for the new found land was called after
that part of Holland called Zeeland.
"COOK TOLD THE MAORIS THAT HE HAD COME TO SET A MARK UPON THEIR ISLANDS."
although Tasman had discovered and named New Zealand,
no white man had yet set foot upon its shores. The
Dutch made no use of their discovery, and for many
years the wild Maoris, as the natives of New Zealand
are called, were left undisturbed. Now and again a ship
touched upon the shores, but little was known of the
island until, a hundred years and more after Tasman had
sailed away, when another great sailor reached them.
This was Captain James Cook.
1769 Cook set out upon a voyage of discovery, and
before he reached the Great South Land, he came upon
the shores of New Zealand. He touched the shores, not
on the west side as Tasman had done, but on the east
coast at Poverty Bay. Here he landed, being the first
white man who is known certainly to have set foot upon
the natives the coming of Cook was a thing of fear and
wonder. As the Endeavour, with outspread sails, came
nearer and nearer, they watched the great, white bird,
as they took it to be, in amazement, marvelling at the
size and beauty of it’s wings. Presently the white bird
folded it’s wings, and from it’s side down dropped a
tiny wingless bird. This, as it came near, they saw was
a curious canoe, filled with white-faced gods. At the
sight they turned and fled away in terror. But
taking courage, they returned brandishing long, wooden
spears, and seeming so ready to fight that Cook’s men
fired upon them. And thus upon the very first day on
which the white man came, blood stained the ground.
Poverty Bay, Cook sailed northward, meeting often with
savages. Sometimes they were friendly, and would barter
honestly with the ship’s crew. At other times they were
warlike or thievish, stealing what they could, and
singing loud war-songs in defiance.
Cook had with him a South Sea Islander called Tupia,
who helped him very much to become friendly with the
savages. For although their languages were not quite
the same, they could understand each other. So Tupia
was able to tell the savages that Cook came in a
friendly way, and did not want to fight.
Mercury Bay, Cook again landed, set up the Union Jack,
carved the ship’s name and the date upon a tree, and
claimed the land for His Majesty, King George. Then
sailing onward, he passed all round North Island, and
through Cook’s Strait (named after himself), proving
thus to himself and his crew that these lands were
indeed islands, and not part of a continent as had been
Queen Charlotte’s Sound, upon South Island, Cook set up
two posts, one on the mainland and one on a little
island. Upon these posts were carved the ship’s name,
the month, and the year, and from the top of them the
Union Jack fluttered out.
few natives came to watch these strange doings, and
Cook told them that he had come to set a mark upon
their islands, in order to show any ship that might put
in there that he had been before them. So the savages
allowed him to put up the posts, and promised never to
pull them down. They did not understand, however, that
Cook, in the manner of those days, was claiming
land in the name of a king who lived in another island,
far far away.
setting up the Union Jack on Queen Charlotte Sound,
Cook sailed all round South Island and Stewart Island,
and upon 1st April 1770, he left the coast, and steered
for the Great South Land.
discovered many interesting things about New Zealand.
Among other things, he found out that except a few rats
and a few ugly dogs, there were no four-footed animals
in the islands at all. Both rats and dogs were used for
food, but the natives chiefly lived on eels, fish, and
fern-root. New Zealand is the land of ferns, and every
valley and hillside is green with them. With the
Maoris, fern-root took the place of corn with us, for
in New Zealand, although the land was fertile and good,
no grain of any kind grew. Fern-root was first roasted,
then beaten into a greyish kind of meal, from which
bread was made.
Maoris were tall, strong men of a brownish colour.
Their hair was black, and they wore it tied into a
bunch on the top of the head, into which they stuck a
black, red, or white feather. The faces of the chiefs
were tattooed all over in wonderful patterns, the less
important people painted themselves with red ochre.
were a savage and ignorant people, but brave and
warlike. Many of them did not care in the least for
beads and ribbons and things which usually pleased
savages. They thought much more of iron nails, knives,
and hatchets. But although they were such fine men,
there was one very bad and horrible thing about them.
They were cannibals.
islands were filled with many tribes, who were
constantly quarrelling and fighting with each other.
Very little was enough to make a quarrel, for the
 were terribly proud. A blow was a deadly insult
which could only be wiped out in blood, and after a
battle the victors would make a horrid feast upon the
bodies of their fallen foes. That a chief should be
eaten was counted a great disgrace to his tribe, for it
was a proof of defeat. And to say to a Maori that his
father had been eaten was an insult beyond all words.
To have killed and eaten many enemies was a warrior’s
brightest glory, and great men were often called
‘eaters of chiefs.’
In seven years Cook paid five visits to New Zealand.
Each time he discovered more of the coast, and learned
more of the people and their customs. He brought with
him pigs, fowls, potatoes, maize, and other plants and
animals likely to be of use to the savages. Some of the
plants and animals died, but both pigs and potatoes
soon grew plentiful in the land.