Latest News & Public Notices

Replica of HMS Endeavour to come to Mercury Bay as part of Cook 250 year commemorations

26 May 2016

Whitianga will host a replica of the HMS Endeavour for eight days in 2019, playing a significant role in celebrations to mark the 250th year since Captain James Cook made his first landfall in New Zealand.

The timetable for the replica HMS Endeavour’s voyage has been confirmed following meetings at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage Manatu Taonga, in which Mercury Bay Community Board Chair Paul Kelly and Ngati Hei leader Joe Davis were selected for a national coordinating committee.

From 21 to 28 October 2019 the replica HMS Endeavour will anchor in and around Mercury Bay with a side trip up the Firth of Thames, to celebrate Cook’s First Voyage of Discovery to New Zealand in 1769. The ship will arrive in Mercury Bay after sailing from its first stop in New Zealand at Gisborne. It will then make a brief stop in Auckland, before continuing on Cook’s original journey to the Bay of Islands and Queen Charlotte Sound, stopping in Wellington in between.   

“This is a terrific opportunity for our area but also for the nation,” said Mr Kelly. “What people need to remember is that this meeting took place in 1769 which is 70 years prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and we are talking about the very foundations of our shared culture.”

He says the Endeavour’s time in our district had the potential to provide the Coromandel district with “huge” tourism exposure and was an opportunity for legacy projects that underpin a momentous meeting of two cultures, on our shores.

On Cook’s first voyage, the Endeavour and its crew spent 12 days forging relationships with the local tribe Ngati Hei, who, after a tragic first start with the death of a tribe member, welcomed the navigator and showed them their pa on the headland at Wharekaho, Simpsons Beach. This was the first time that a European had been shown a Maori pa, and it was documented in journals with drawings and explanations from Cook’s journey.

Mr Kelly and Mr Davis are among members of the Mercury Bay 250 Trust that will bring together individuals, community groups, event organisers and businesses willing to have input on legacy projects, as well as for commemoration events being planned for the 2019 Endeavour visit.

Events are likely to include;

  • An official ceremony
  • A super yacht race
  • A home coming week
  • Development of a board walk around wetland at Cooks Beach
  • Navigational and heritage monuments as part of a planned Whitianga town centre upgrade

However Mr Kelly says the Trust is hoping people will come forward with ideas of their own and be willing to take an active role in making the celebration special and lasting. All townships are encouraged to think about how they can participate and create events of their own. “We are here to play a co-ordinating role but we welcome ideas and events from all towns,” Mr Kelly said.

Fellow Trust member and local historian Richard Gates has a vast knowledge of Cook history and says the commemoration is significant. “It is one of the most important milestones in our country’s history.

“Apart from his later stopover at Ship’s Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound, Cook stayed longer at Mercury Bay than at any other North Island location during his circumnavigation of New Zealand between October 1769 and April 1770. It was here New Zealand was put on the map and it was here the hospitality of local iwi Ngati Hei, following some initial unfortunate misunderstandings, led to a peaceful understanding and respect between Pakeha and Maori.”

The Endeavour was a bark, or barque, originally launched in 1764 as a three-mast broad beamed Whitby Cat named the Earl of Pembroke. Cook served on Whitby Cats before joining the Royal Navy, and when selected to lead a voyage exploring the seas of the ‘Terra Australis Incognita’, he was quite at home.

Captain Cook sailed three voyages throughout the Pacific Ocean, accurately charting many areas and recording New Zealand on European charts for the first time with an observation of the Transit of Mercury at Cooks Beach in 1769.

Cook was preceded many centuries earlier by the Polynesian voyagers and first settlers in Aotearoa including Hei – ancestor of the Ngati Hei people of today. Ngati Hei are active partners in the commemoration, which will celebrate the exchanges that took place with Cook’s visit and the foundations that were laid for two cultures to share their knowledge, food and customs. During Cook’s visit the local tribe was left with potatoes, which were planted and distributed among the tribes of Hauraki.

Ngati Hei impressed Captain Cook and his crew with their technically and tactically advanced fortified pa, their culture and their courageous opening of hearts to a strange race with customs and technologies unlike anything that they had ever known.

The impressions left upon Ngati Hei is reflected in the comments of Te Horeta, also known as Te Taniwha, who was a 12-year-old boy when he came into contact with the Endeavour and its crew during this, Cook’s first voyage of 1769. Te Horeta Te Taniwha was an old man when he recalled the Endeavour’s visit and recalled the sight of the longboat and pinnace coming to shore, with its rowers pulling their oars with their backs to the land. “Yes it is so; these people are goblins; their eyes are at the back of their heads; they pull on shore with backs to the land to which they are going.”

He wrote of Cook as a “supreme man in that ship”: “We knew he was lord of the whole by is perfect gentlemanly and noble demeanour. He seldom spoke, but some of the goblins spoke much. But this man did not utter many words, all that he did was to handle our mats and hold our mere, spears and wahaika and touch the hair of our heads.”

Cook was not the first European to New Zealand’s shores – Portuguese and Dutch explorers including Abel Janszoon Tasman arrived in the 17th Century – but Tasman did not set foot on New Zealand, charting Golden Bay (Murderers Bay as he described it) and the west coast of the North Island. But, as Richard Gates notes, when it comes to who was ‘first’ among these European explorers, both Australia and New Zealand put Cook on a pedestal.

“Perhaps it is because of the sheer scale of his three voyages to the Pacific. He filled in the blanks on a vast area of the globe that was previously only superficially understood by Europeans. His voyages were also the world’s first fully scientific expeditions in an era now known as the age of enlightenment.”

The Trust is in the process of creating a Cook Journey website on www.thecoromandel under its heritage section, and this is expected to go live by June 30. In the meantime, members of the Trust are welcoming of anyone wishing to contact them to discuss the celebration and volunteer for organising committees for events. For information email or visit our webpage


  • Ngāti Hei, descendants of Hei of the Arawa canoe, are the local tribe, hence the names Te Whanganui-a-Hei (Mercury Bay). Just north of Buffalo Beach in Whitianga is Ngati Hei’s Turangawaewae, which includes the historic pa site of Wharetaewa, which has had a thousand years of continuous occupation. Whitianga’s strategic coastal position made it a popular destination for parties paddling north and south. Wharetaewa is one of the oldest archaeological sites in New Zealand.
  • Cook sailed the coast of the Coromandel, taking delight in naming the Aldermen Islands off the coast of Tairua, and landed in Mercury Bay for the purpose of observing the Transit of Mercury at Purangi (Cooks Beach). From this he was able to ascertain Aotearoa’s place in the world.
  • Discoveries of science were made by botanist Joseph Banks and Captain Cook (who mapped New Zealand through the observation of the transit of mercury). Cook and Mr Green observed the Transit of Mercury from the mouth of the Purangi river (Cooks Beach) 9 November 1769.



Thames Goldfields 150 commemorations 

In 2017 it wil be the 150th anniversary of the Discovery of the Thames Goldfields. 

The first major discovery of gold was made on August 10, 1867 by a prospector, William Hunt, in a waterfall in the bed of the Kuranui Stream. This mine produced over 102,353oz bullion and was known as the Shotover.’

 The Thames Community Board had a Thames Goldfields 150th Anniversary Grant tor commemorative projects to celebrate 150 years since the Goldfields opened up. At its Board meeting this week they awarded the grant funding to a number of organisations which included:

  • $27k to the Thames Museum for an exhibition that illustrates the rapid expansion of Thames in the late 1860s, 
  • $8k for addition of photographic plates onto existing yellow historical signs - these are the Lions yellow signs and the Board hopes to keep supporting more of these in the future.
  • $10k to Steampunk the Thames - "Gold" Fesrival for 2017.

To read the full list of grants click here.



Mercury Bay Community Board Heritage Fund 

At its meeting this week the Mercury Bay Community Board agreed to distribute funds from its Heritage Assistance Fund -  $5000 to the Mercury Bay Museum to help with the reproduction of the “Saltspray and Sawdust” book which is a history of the Mercury Bay and $5050 to Mercury Bay Forest and Bird Society with restoration works at Taputapuatea Spit on Buffalo Beach Whitianga.