18 July 2014


Travel by sea was fairly dangerous in the 19th century. Ships were wrecked because of the lack of lighthouses to guide them; the inaccuracy of maps and lack of knowledge of new coastlines. In the 20th century, knowledge and resources improved and ships were made of iron or steel instead of wood, but disasters still occurred.
War has added to the danger of the sea throughout history and has come close to our shores.
NIAGARA, BIll Laxon Collection, Voyager NZMM
RMS NIAGARA was an ocean liner owned by the Union Steam Ship Company, launched in 1912. It was the biggest ship in the South Pacific at the time, weighing 13,415 tons. At the start of WWII NIAGARA was operating a service between Suva and Vancouver, and Auckland.
On 13th June 1940, during World War II, the German raider ship ORION, disguised as a Dutch trader, laid several hundred mines across the Hauraki Gulf.
At 3:40am on 19th June the ship NIAGARA struck and detonated one of those mines and sank to a depth of 131m, 30 miles from the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.

Bell (observation chamber)
Voyager NZMM
Thankfully, all 349 people on board made it onto the ship’s 18 lifeboats and no lives were lost. However, a large consignment of gold from the Bank of England, worth £2,500,000, that was being carried went down with the ship. The British gold was intended to pay for arms being purchased from the United States for WWII.

In spite of the danger of the remaining mines, later in 1940, a crew and an old coastal steamer CLAYMORE were enlisted to locate the wreck and reclaim the gold.

In February 1941 a diver in a steel cylinder observation bell identified the discovered wreck as that of NIAGARA, and after months of blasting through the wreck under water, in October 1941 the first of the gold was recovered.

Crew celebrating the first gold bars recovered.
Voyager NZMM collection
By the time the salvage ceased in December that year, 555 gold bars worth approximately £2,379,000 were retrieved. 30 more were found in a separate salvage mission in 1953, but 5 bars remain unrecovered.
Model of NIAGARA by John Brown & Co. Voyager NZMM collection, on display in Oceans Apart gallery

11 July 2014

Protest Vessels

From being attacked in the safety of port, to taking protest action to the open seas, the people who crew protest vessels often find themselves in extremely dangerous situations. 

Many New Zealanders are passionate about protecting the environment and marine wildlife and show this through taking part in activities such as protest action against offshore oil drilling and international whaling.  Not only do protesters often have to contend with savage weather and rough seas, but they must be prepared for physical retaliation from the opposing vessels and their crews as well as legal action if they breach International Maritime Law. 

As with any protest action, offshore protests can be either peaceful or more physically engaging.  Anti-whaling protesters have many physical tactics to employ when trying to make the whaling ships change course.   Small protest boats will often zigzag across the bows of the much larger whaling vessels, sometimes trailing lengths of rope in hope of entangling the propellers, forcing the whaling fleet to slow down.   Protest boats have also been known to manoeuvre themselves between a whale and the harpoons, hoping to stop the weapon from being fired.  In retaliation, the harpoon boats also drag ropes and lengths of steel cable behind them, with the aim of making the protesters inactive.  These highly dangerous manoeuvres, undertaken by both sides, can, and do, result in collisions between vessels and injury of crew members.
This model of the RAINBOW WARRIOR
was commissioned by David McTaggart
to be used in court action between Greenpeace
and the French Government (2004.43)

However, even peaceful protest action can cause a violent reaction, such as was the case with the RAINBOW WARRIOR, a Greenpeace ship engaged in anti-nuclear protests.  On the 10th July 1985, RAINBOW WARRIOR was docked at Marsden Wharf, downtown Auckland.  She was waiting to start a voyage to Mururoa Atoll to lead a peaceful protest against the French nuclear testing programme in the Pacific Ocean region.  During the night, French agents acting on orders from their Government placed explosive devices on the hull of the protest vessel.  The resulting explosions led to the death of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira and caused catastrophic damage to the ship.

Here at the New Zealand Maritime Museum we have a small collection of artefacts related to this tragic event.

Held in the Maritime Museum collection is this foot pump that was salvaged from the wreck of RAINBOW WARRIOR; it was located in the stern area of the ship.  It is on loan to the Maritime Museum from Greenpeace. 

This piece of the RAINBOW WARRIOR’s hull  (700 x 400 x 350 mm) comes from the collection of the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.  Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

For further information on the RAINBOW WARRIOR go to http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/nuclear-free-new-zealand/rainbow-warrior

04 July 2014

Navigating the Pacific

Waka Quest’s double-hulled voyaging waka Haunui

According to the Tahitian story, the ancient king and voyager Tumu-nui listed eight dangers of the sea: long-wave, short-wave, isolated-coral-rock, fish-shoal, sea-monster, animal-with-burning-flesh, crane-empowered-by-Ta'aroa [the supreme god of creation], and giant-clam-opening-at-the-horizon. Tumu-nui’s nephew Rata succeeded in destroying six of these dangers so that only two remained – long wave and short wave.
The early explorers of the Pacific Ocean would have faced the many dangers of the open sea, extreme weather, and the unknown of new territories in their journeys. The thirst for exploration and discovery, knowledge of the sea, and the courage to leave their home lands to seek others, meant these dangers were worth facing.

Modern research places the origins of the Pacific peoples in Island South-East Asia. Around 4000 or 5000 years ago they began their migration to hundreds of islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean, settling Polynesia and ending with the settlement of New Zealand over one thousand years ago. The experience, knowledge and navigational skills of the Pacific voyagers, gained over time, were essential in voyaging the Pacific, the largest body of water on Earth.

The course of a journey would have been determined using: knowledge of tides, currents and ocean swells; the location of the sun and planets; wind direction; the movement and shape of clouds; and the migration patterns of birds and whales.
At the core of Pacific navigation was knowledge of the stars and their movements. By sighting a single star the navigator could orientate himself and confirm his course.
Years of experience and training from a young age meant the Pacific navigator could identify land and route indicators, including over 150 stars and constellations, and their relation to each other and the horizon, in a star compass. In many islands navigational knowledge was kept within particular families, having originally been learnt through trial and error, passing down and being refined through the generations.
Waka for short journeys around islands were adapted to meet the demands of long distance travel in the open sea – outrigger or double-hulled canoes, about 20 metres long, were developed for migration.

Once the settlement from the long voyages had been established, and after the Europeans colonised the Pacific, the knowledge and practice of Pacific navigation dwindled. The late 20th century saw a renewed interest in the traditional navigational techniques and voyaging vessels of the Pacific.

A model of a Tongan Tongiaki, a double-hulled
voyaging canoe. The waka that brought
Maori to Aotearoa were possibly rather like this.
On display at NZ Maritime Museum (1993.168)
In Hawaii in 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s 20-metre double-hulled fibreglass and plywood waka called Hōkūle‘a made a return voyage to Tahiti using traditional methods. In 1980 another voyage to Tahiti was made, again without modern navigational instruments.
Hōkūle‘a has made many long journeys since and continues today, combining modern materials and knowledge with traditional practice.               Hōkūle‘a website

In New Zealand, Waka Quest has a double-hulled voyaging waka, Haunui, berthed at the museum. On this vessel inspired by tradition, passengers learn about ancient practices such as navigating by the stars. For Matariki we are hosting special narrated sailings on the Waitemata Harbour with Waka Quest. The Matariki constellation was one used by ancient voyages for navigation.
Waka Quest website   NZ Maritime Museum Matariki sailings

Despite modern materials and the addition of modern navigational knowledge, long waves and short waves, as well as extreme weather, remain dangers for those people voyaging in waka today, but with experts using and sharing their knowledge, the incredible navigational skill and innovation of the early Pacific voyagers will again be passed down through generations and never be lost.

27 June 2014

Maui Tikitiki A Taranga

Around the world, in all cultures there are heroes, and here in Aotearoa New Zealand, Maui appears as a hero whose achievements benefit people.  Taranga who, thinking that her last child was still born, wrapped him in her topknot and cast him into the sea. 

He was washed ashore, tangled in seaweed and swarmed over by gulls and flies.  Rangi (Tamanui-ki-te-Rangi) his grandfather reached down and took him up into the sky where he was nursed back into life and taught many secrets.

His mother knew no more of him until, much later when he appeared one night among his older brothers as he stood amongst them in line.  In that incident his mother is forced to recognise him as her child.  At first she denies him, saying, “This cannot be.  You’re not my child! Leave!”

Maui moved to the door, muttering as he went, “I’ll go if you say so. Perhaps I am the child of a stranger.  I believe that I was born near the ocean, wrapped in the topknot of my mother and cast into the sea.”

“I was rescued by Rangi, and nurtured by him up in the sky, where I gazed down and watch this house, and listen to your voices.  Indeed I know the names of your children.  There is Maui Mua (Maui the Firstborn) Maui Roto (Maui of the Inside), Maui Taha (Maui to the Side), Maui Waho (Maui to the Outside), and I am Maui Tikitiki a Taranga (Maui the youngest of Taranga)”.

Maui gave his brothers little time to rest before he enlisted their help in a series of great labours, which included snaring the sun, control over fire from its deity, Mahuika, and fishing the land up out of the sea.  He also tricked his great-grandmother Muriranga Whenua to part with her jawbone.

He achieved many great deeds.  He fashioned small jewellery and gardening tools to use over the land.  He invented spears to catch birds. And he made the many types of hooks to catch fish.  When he finished he made the finest lines and nets for fishing.

His brothers did not know that Maui had taken their great grandmothers jawbone and used a part of it to make special hooks. So, one night while the brothers were asleep, Maui crept out and lay hidden in the waka awaiting the predawn. The brothers made their preparations to go out early and leave the youngest brother behind. 

The brothers floated the waka.  They silently launched it.  Then they quickly jumped in sailing far out. They paddled out to the fishing grounds, but they had not noticed that Maui was hidden in the bow. They paddled on until they reached the place where they dropped anchor. 

It was then that Maui revealed himself.  When they saw him, they planned to return him to shore.  But before they could move, Maui made the sea to rise up until there was no sight of land. Maui said, “You will need me to save this waka.” “Yes, yes, brother.  We need you.  Stay!  Help us!” So they continued paddling until they reached the spot where the waka dropped anchor to fish as  in earlier days. 

“Let the anchor out,” Maui Mua instructed. “No,” Maui replied.  “Go out further.  Much further.”  They paddled on until they came to a place where it seemed to be the end of all fishing places. “Go further,” demanded Maui.  “Until we come to the heart of the sea, to Hui Te Ananui-a-Tangaroa, The Home of Tangaroa.”. Then Maui told them to lower the anchor.  “The greatest of all fish lives here.”

Maui Mua (Maui the Firstborn) Maui Roto (Maui to the Inside), Maui Taha (Maui to the Side), Maui Waho (Maui to the Outside) with one voice urged, Maui Tikitiki a Taranga (Maui in the youngest of Taranga),

“Let us now return home!” 
“No.” he replied.  “Let me now throw my line over the side.”
 Then they asked, “Where did you get that hook?”
 “Ha! It’s a special hook.”
 “Then throw it over,” they jeered.
 As he prepared he said, “Hand me some bait.”
 “Oh, no,” they replied.  “No!”

Maui then struck his nose sharply until it bled.  He rubbed the blood onto the hook and then cast it out into the sea, the hook made from the jawbone of Muriranga Whenua, his great-grandmother.

The line and the hook went down, down, down ... into the depth of the ocean until it came to rest across the lintel above the window of the great house. Then he tugged on the line until it held fast.  This was the Great House of Tonganui, the son of Tangaroa. 

Slowly, oh so slowly out of the depths the house started to rise above the surface.  The sea erupted as the great fish thrashed.  Maui held on keeping the line taught.  The great fish kept rising.  Maui hauled and pulled.  The sea around bubbled and burst as the fish rose above the boiling waves.

He ignored the fearful cries of his brothers, “Let go!  Let go! We will all die!”
“No!” he replied, “We will live.”  Then Maui recited the incantations to settle the fish in its struggle for freedom. 

He aha tau e Tonganui
E ngau whakatuturi ake i raro
Ka puta te hau o Muriranga Whenua e
Ka rukuruku
Ka heihei

Ka rukuruku
Ka eaea
Mokopu Tangaroa
Ka ea ea! Hi aha!

At last, the Great Fish, Te Ikanui-a-Maui lay gasping upon the surface and the canoe stranded.

“After I am gone,” he told them, “Be patient that you do not feast yourselves on this Great Fish.  Do not dissect it but wait till my return with the priest with the rites, chants and karakia.  Only then may you feast yourselves upon this Great Fish.”

No sooner had Maui gone out of sight when the brothers with greed in their eyes started trampling and cutting up the still warm fish.  The fish writhed and struggled writhing with pain. And died.

I muri i au kauaka kia manawanui
Kei kainga ake e koutou ta tatau ika
I muri i au kaua e kotikotia ta tatau ika
Waiho kia tae au ki te tohunga
Kia whanaia ki te atua
Ka hurihia te hurihanga
Takapau ruahine rawa
Katahi rawa ka noa
Katahi au ka hoki mai

And that is why, the legend tells us why this land is as rugged as it is dissected by mountains and valleys.

Haare Williams


Link to: Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand 
The fish shape can still be seen – the mouth is Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara (Wellington) in the south, the tail is Northland, the fins are Taranaki and the East Coast. The heart is Lake Taupo and one of the eyes is Lake Wairarapa.
The fish hook is Cape Kidnappers. The island was named Te Ika-a-Maui = the Fish of Maui and became the North Island of New Zealand. The South Island of New Zealand is thought to be the waka of Maui and Stewart Island the anchor stone.

The North Island is his fish (ika) – Te Ika a Māui
The South Island is his canoe (waka) – Te Waka a Māui
Stewart Island is his anchor stone (punga) – Te Punga a Te Waka a Māui.

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. 'Whenua – how the land was shaped - The North and South islands', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Jul-13 
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/map/6767/maui-in-new-zealand

20 June 2014

Ingrid Visser – Orca Protector

Ingrid Visser, Sept 1999
Photographer B.J. Berghan
With a strong affinity with the ocean from a young age, it was not surprise that Ingrid Visser followed a natural path to became a guardian of all orcas, not only in New Zealand but all of Australasia.

Instrumental in creating worldwide awareness of wild orca, Ingrid Visser has already achieved more than what many people do in a life time. She has made countless television and documentary appearances, been featured in many popular magazine articles and has also developed two children’s books and an autobiography.  She has published a collection of scientific manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, along with seminars at marine mammal conferences throughout the world.

Ingrid’s love affair the sea began very early – her family sailed around the world on a 57 foot yacht WAI-O-TIRA (“Traveller over water”) and lived on the boat for four and a half years.

Ingrid completed a degree in veterinary science, followed by another in zoology. She then completed a PhD in marine biology at Auckland University following eight years of orca research.
Ingrid founded the Orca Project in 1992, the first project dedicated to orca in the South Pacific Ocean. Ongoing research includes photographic identification of individual orca, as well as behavioural observations and recording sightings of each orca.
Adopt an Orca was founded in 1998  and this was the first whale or dolphin adoption programme in Australasia. Set up by Ingrid to facilitate awareness and education of these amazing animals, the public were invited to contribute to the research costs and in return would receive certificates and newsletters. The sighting data received from the public would help Ingrid with her research on the different pods of orca around New Zealand.

Ingrid Visser and Ben, May 1997
Photographer T. Hardie
Due to New Zealand’s shallow beaches we have the highest number of orca strandings in the world.
Ingrid has assisted in the rescue of many stranded orca – one male named Ben was beached at Mangawhai, Northland in May 1997 and was re-floated with the help of volunteers. Unfortunately, a year later Ben was seen with severe damage to his dorsal fin where he had been struck by a propeller.
In 2003 Ingrid recorded a female orca named Miracle with a calf, named Magic.  Miracle had been stranded and re-floated in 1993 and this was the first NZ record of an orca giving birth to a calf after being re-floated.
Whale standings are still far too common in New Zealand’s waters and Ingrid strives to make make a real difference to this growing reality.
Ingrid Visser still continues her amazing work today through the Orca Research Trust and many other community projects dedicated to creating worldwide awareness of these majestic animals.

12 June 2014

Auckland Tally Clerk’s Union

An intricately hand-carved and gold-embellished roll of honour pays homage to the men of the Auckland Tally Clerks’ Union who fought in the World Wars.

Of the 28 union men who served, four made the ultimate sacrifice. After the wars, they continued to fight – but this time, for their rights on the Auckland waterfront.

It was the role of tally clerks to count and record incoming and outgoing goods at the bustling Port of Auckland. They documented millions of pounds (and later kilograms) of cargo arriving and departing the city by sea.

In the lead up to the 1950s, the clerks were working in all kinds of conditions on the harbour front.  They toiled outdoors in all types of weather, with all kinds of cargo.  Sometimes they perched precariously on top of cargo sheds, counting boxes of butter as they came off the ships on conveyor belts.

In 1952, the Auckland Tally Clerk’s Union decided to act on the recommendations made by a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Waterfront. The union began to agitate for better offices and facilities for their members on each of the wharves at the Port of Auckland.

The secretary of the union, L.B. Wright – who had served with the New Zealand armed forces in World War II – wrote to the Auckland Harbour Board explaining how the tally clerks were not given adequate facilities to do their job. They worked with dirty cargoes, like coal and grain, but did not have any access to showers.

He made an impassioned plea for accommodation for the nearly 200 men who worked for the union at the Port of Auckland. All they had access to was two hand basins, a urinal and four toilets – six flights of stairs up in the Port Building on Quay Street.

The battle for better working conditions went on for over a decade, but finally offices were built for the tally clerks on all of the cargo and passenger wharves.

Little is known about the 28 men of the Auckland Tally Clerks’ Union who fought in World War I and World War II, other than their names, engraved in gold on the Roll of Honour on display at Voyager.

The museum would welcome any information that families or colleagues may have on these valiant men. 

06 June 2014

Rob Waddell - A Hero with a Giant Heart

Rob Waddell’s accomplishments in world sport are best described as Herculean - reaching the pinnacle of not one, but two very demanding sporting codes.

A world and Olympic rowing champion, Waddell has also been one of the tough men of Kiwi yachting – grinding for Team New Zealand in two Louis Vuitton Cup victories and three America’s Cup matches.  And he did it all with a troublesome heart.

Growing up on a farm in the King Country, Rob Waddell had a passion for rugby. But when he became a boarder at King’s College in Auckland, he was introduced to rowing.  He soon worked his way into the school’s top rowing eight.

At 17, he made the New Zealand junior rowing team, but the sport took a back seat while he went on a 10-month scholarship to Japan – where he learned judo and reached black belt status.

While studying for an honours degree in management at Waikato University, Waddell made large strides in rowing. When he discovered he had an irregular heartbeat, he decided not to quit, but to pursue single sculling so he didn't let his team-mates down.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he finished seventh, which made him hungrier for Olympic success. In his build-up to the 2000 Sydney games, he won successive world championship titles in Germany and Canada.
Rob Waddell wins gold at Sydney 2000

In Sydney, Waddell won both his heat and semi-final in fine style. In the Olympic final, he decisively beat the world’s best single scullers by 1.5s, earning him the honour of carrying the New Zealand flag at the closing ceremony.

Waddell became the first person to win New Zealand sport’s top honour - the Halberg Supreme Award – three times. He was also made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for his services to rowing.

Wanting a new challenge – and to give his heart a rest – Waddell changed codes, and became a burly grinder on Dean Barker’s Team New Zealand crew in the 2003 America’s Cup defence.  He played two important roles in Emirates Team New Zealand’s 2007 challenge – as grinder and boat captain of the team that won the Louis Vuitton Cup and contested the America’s Cup final.

His passion for rowing had not been extinguished, so 33-year-old Waddell fixed his sights on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Missing out on New Zealand’s single sculls spot to world champion Mahe Drysdale, he teamed up with Nathan Cohen in the coxless pair.  They narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth in the final.

Emirates Team NZ - Rob on grinder third from left.
The return to rowing brought back his heart problem, and he underwent surgery in 2009 to correct it.

When he was well again, Waddell revived his sailing career, and was part of the Emirates Team New Zealand crew who again won the Louis Vuitton Cup, this time off San Francisco in 2013. But the team fell short in their bid to wrest the holy grail of yachting, the America’s Cup, off Sir Russell Coutts’ Oracle Racing.

Today, Waddell and his wife Sonia, a three-time Olympic rower, raise three children on their horse farm in the Waikato.

He is also Chef de Mission for the New Zealand team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.