Captain Cook's visit on the Endeavour

Cook’s journey into the Waihou river

The first European craft that entered the Waihou River were two long boats from Captain Cook’s ENDEAVOUR. Leaving the ENDEAVOUR at Waioumu bay, Tuesday 20th November 1769 they rowed into the shallow river mouth, and made way into the deeper water.

At this time the Waihou flowed in two channels east and west forming a low island in the estuary. Here the inhabitants lived on a nearby spur, and then lqown as Totara Pa. Cook entered the river on the eastern channel and they landed for a brief visit at the Pa, they did not stay long as they wished to catch the tide up the up the river.

At that point it appeared to Cook; to be as wide but not as deep as the river Thames in Greenwich, England. He then bestowed upon the Gulf and the river the collective name of “The Thames”.

After reaching a point of 12 Nautical miles from sea, there seemed nothing could be gained by going any further, as the river meandered ahead without and sign of ending. Cook then made a landing on the western bank for a closer inspection of the
lotty (Kahikatea) trees towering up out of the swampy growth of Raupo, Flax and rushes. When ashore, Cooked described the trees: “of being of great height and as straight as an arrow”.

At such an important moment, Cook did not seek the opinion of Doctor Solander nor his botanist Mr Banks – he asked for John Satterly, his ship’s carpenter, for his advise on what these trees could be. John Satterly told him they were some type of white Pine.

Filled with excitement at the thought of having discovered a source of mast timber, that no other country in Europe could match he hastened back to his ship to record the find and he charted a map.

As the eighteenth century gave way to the ninetieth, ships came as quick as the winds could bring them including, The Fancy 1769, The Hunter 1794, ElPlumier 1801, The Royal Admiral in 1801 and the Coromandel in 1820.

Cook’s journey into the Waihou river was the most inland he travelled and charted in New Zealand. Captain Cook’s enthusiastic description the Thames white pine trees (Kahikatea) would bring other ships in there droves. Cook also wrote in his Journal that the area would be a nice place to settle. This was to have a major influence on pioneer settlement in our region.

The river kept its name Thames, until 1928 until it reverted back to Waihou.

History of the ENDEAVOUR

Built in WHITBY in 1768. She was just 98 foot long and 29 foot wide. She had a blunt bow and a small simple rig that needed a small crew. She had a flat bottom and shallow draught; she was spacious because had been built to carry coal. She was known as the EARI OF PEMBROKE. She was purchased by the British Admiralty for the sum of 2,840 pounds, to explore the South Seas as she was sturdy, safe, stable and roomy. Her accommodation was extended to allow room for the scientists, gentleman observers and assistants. For protection against pirates and hostile islanders, she was equipped 22 guns.

She was provided with five new anchors and three new boats and was renamed His Majestys Bark ENDEAVOUR. To prevent possible invasion from the Toredo worm she was given a special outer skin consisting of light planking secured by thousands of nails set close together. Sandwiched between the hull itself and the outer skin was a layer of tar and unravelled old rope. Ninety five people were carried aboard her. The crew slept in hammocks amidships while Captain Cook had the great cabin in the ship’s stern along with BANXS the Botanist who also had a cabin in the stern.

They carried stores to last twelve months. Beef, Pork, Peas, Oatmeal, Butter, Vinegar, Oil, Cheese, Rum, and Wine were among the main provisions. COOK is famous for providing them with a diet rich in Vitamin C. This also included the use of Native Fauna found in New Zealand by BANKS the Botanist.

ENDEAVOUR set sail for the South Pacific on the 26th August 1768 and returned 13th July 1771. After the end of her Expeditionary career, ENDEAVOUR was used as a store ship, taking supplies to the British Garrison in the FALKLAND ISLANDS. In 1790 she was sold to DUNKIRK to join the Whaling trade and was renamed the LA LIBERTE. Several years later she met with an accident at NEW PORT RHODE lSl-AND. The precise details are unclear, but she was found un-seaworthy and was condemned and left to rot in the mud. Her ships parts were removed and used in other ships. Over the years, vandals and souvenir hunters tore her remains apart.

Captain Cook's navigational map of the Coromandel Peninsula