When we were planning our journey, we toyed with flying out via Los Angeles, to take in a conference in San Francisco, before travelling on to New Zealand, and finally returning full circle via Hong Kong. How ever much I might have dreaded the long haul flights, that fades to nothing alongside the journeys of James Cook.

The statue on Kaiti hill to the east of Gisborne commemorates his first coming ashore – albeit briefly – after land (Young Nick’s Head) was sighted from the crow’s nest of the Endeavour. It then dropped anchor in this bay which Cook called Poverty, based largely on a misreading of the exotic maori welcome he received as his small boats came ashore, which resulted in the deaths of three of the local people and a rapid retreat to the main ship. He preferred the Bay of Plenty, as he called it, to the north.

Thanks to Annie and James Millton, we learn that the statue itself bears little resemblance  – the uniform is not of the british navy and its features do not match Cook’s. But it helps set the scene…


and it stands comparison with one in Greenwich, London, and another at Whitby :

In 1745-46,  James Cook (born in 1728 in Marton near Middlesbrough), worked in Staithes (photos below) as a grocer’s apprentice where he first gained his passion for the sea. He moved to nearby Whitby (below photos of Staithes) where he joined merchant ships transporting coal, and later joined the Royal Navy. The vessels in which he later sailed around the world were also originally colliers.


For those of us brought up near the North sea, with Whitby as a sunday drive’s destination, it is salutary to stand on a cliff in New Zealand above a bay where his boat briefly anchored, and see how far Cook’s courage and curiosity took him. (The arch is whalebone – a reminder of Whitby’s long and far flung seafaring history; the estuary is that of the river Esk – whose namesake flows into Hawke’s Bay..)


The red line traces Cook’s first round the world journey; the green his second, and the blue his last – the dotted line marks the boat’s journey home after his death in Hawaii in 1779.

I came across a framed copy of a Chart of New Zealand (with ‘explanation’) in Marlborough, South Island, when Will Hoare was showing us around Fromm winery and vineyards. Cook circumnavigated both islands to be sure these were not the tips of a new continent. His chart repays careful study. It’s a very long way from Whitby…


In case it’s all too small – tap on the enlargements below:





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