The discovery of New Zealand is often connected with the name of captain James Cook, who was British explorer. Another myth claims that tribe of cannibals who originally thought Cook to be god ate him. So who really discovered New Zealand and what adventures he encountered on his path?
First humans to stand on New Zealand’s ground were from Polynesian tribes. Polynesia is a group of islands situated to the southwest of New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean. They were the ancestors of the native New Zealanders – Maori. Scientists say that New Zealand was first settled between 11th and 14th centuries. According to Maori legends Kupe was the first Polynesian (and first human) to set foot on New Zealand’s islands. Europeans first discovered New Zealand in 1642 when Abel Tasman saw its shores from his ship. Abel Janszoon Tasman was Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, and thanks to him a big “white spot” was erased from the map of the Pacific Ocean, and New Zealand’s approximate contours were placed instead.
Originally Abel Tasman named this land Nova Zeelandia in honor of one of Dutch provinces. The original Maori name of New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means “Country of the white cloud”, and it is still the second (unofficial though) name of the country.
More than one hundred years passed between Abel Tasman’s discovery of New Zealand, and first European actually setting foot on its land, since the coordinates delivered by Abel Tasman were inaccurate. Europeans could finally reach New Zealand after James Cook “discovered” it again. His discovery laid a foundation for active settlement and development of New Zealand’s Islands by the Europeans. First Europeans to settle in New Zealand were whalers, missionaries and traders who founded small settlements mostly near the coastline. James Cook was a good cartographer and he contributed greatly to drawing the first comprehensive map of New Zealand. The truth is that James Cook really ended his life in a bloody battle with native tribes, but as witnesses claimed he wasn’t eaten, and New Zealand’s natives have nothing to do with the whole thing! This battle took place on one of Hawaiian Islands were Cook was torn apart by the natives. Cook’s bones were separated from his flesh and divided among the tribe’s chieftains, which considered а gesture of big respect. Later Cook’s bones were partially delivered to his crew and buried in Atlantic Ocean.
This is the first in two articles about New Zealand discovery. The second article is titled “The Truth About James Cook Destiny“.