Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970


By Ena Buchanan

Two important events in New Zealand History were re-enacted during the celebrations at Whitianga, held in perfect weather on November 8th and 9th. Three bus loads of Ohinemuri "Historians" were among the huge crowd on Saturday 8th when the waterfront set the scene for the famous landings. Appropriately a Maori group first portrayed the arrival, some thousand years ago, of Kupe who named the place "Te Whitianga - a - Kupe" or Kupe's crossing place.

For the enactment of the visit of Captain Cook 200 years ago, the actors portraying the ship's complement were stationed on board a large barge which had been cleverly camouflaged to resemble "H.M.S. Endeavour" while on the beach a group of Maori Warriors assembled, amazed, but prepared for emergencies. Cook, played throughout by Mr. G.F.B. Pinnock walked down a plank from the "ship" to the beach for his first meeting with the Maoris of the place he later named Mercury Bay.

On Saturday afternoon the players acted incidents such as that in which a Maori was shot by one of Cook's lieutenants for stealing a piece of cloth. Great credit is due to Mr. A.M. Isdale, Secretary of the Thames Historical Society, who was responsible for the script and production for the celebrations, also to the organising Committee of the Cook Bi Centennial Society and to the Thames Players and the St. Stephens Maori Boys' College Students. Period Costuming was excellent, the scarlet coats of the Officers providing a. great splash of colour, and amplifiers enabled voices to be heard distinctly from every part of the viewing area.

The presence of the beautiful model of the Endeavor, built by Mr. R. Sewell of Takapuna, as well as three naval vessels whose personnel took an active part in ceremonies, added considerably to the occasion. There were also Official functions and speeches, various spectacular entertainment, such as a Maori Concert and the arrival of a flotilla of yachts which had been racing from Tauranga.

The climax of the festivities came on Sunday morning when a big crowd gathered on Cook's Beach, about 26 miles by road from Whitianga to watch the re-enactment of the observation of the planet Mercury by Cook and his Astronomer, Charles Green. In H.M.S. Renown, Sea Scouts' boats, Cook and his men rowed ashore, were greeted by the Maoris and set up their instruments for observations. Their voices boomed through banks of amplifiers as they read the specially prepared script. Afterwards a leading authority on Cook and the editor of his Journals, Professor J.C. Beaglehole, unveiled a concrete cairn to mark the historic locality. On the cairn a brass plaque says: "Mercury Bay. Near this spot, November 10, 1769, James Cook and Charles Green observed the transit of Mercury to determine the longitude of the bay".

In the afternoon about 500 people gathered on Shakespeare Point to watch a re-enactment of Cook taking possession of the land around Mercury Bay in the name of George III. A 25 foot aluminium flag-pole on the headland was dedicated by the Senior Naval Chaplain, the Rev. R.H. McKenzie, and the Union Jack was hoisted. The whole 90 acres of Shakespeare's Point is being developed as a park by the Coromandel County Council.

NOTE: (re Paeroa and Waihi Historical Society travellers). This report of a wonderful weekend would be incomplete without mention of our most competent bus drivers who took every care to make the hazardous but spectacular trip over the wild Coromandel Range something to remember. That we could "sing our way home" afterwards, was really an expression of our gratitude.