Cook's 1769 Journey
November 2019 is the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s Great First Voyage of 1769 to Te Whanganui a Hei (Mercury Bay) on the Coromandel. A series of events are planned as we celebrate this journey to explore, discover and share cultures in uncharted land.
Te Whanganui a Hei (Mercury Bay) was one of four landing sites for Cook’s ship The Endeavour in New Zealand but it was significant in the story of the birthplace of our nation.
The Endeavour was a bark 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.
When Cook landed at Tahiti to witness the transit of Venus in 1769 he became acquainted with a master Polynesian navigator Tupaia from the island of Raiatea. Tupaia was welcomed on board as an additional member of the crew, providing his Polynesian navigating skills to Cook’s search for New Zealand.
Cook and his crew anchored in Cooks Beach on the Coromandel, and it was here that he recorded the Transit of Mercury. In doing so, he put New Zealand on European charts for the first time.
Captain Cook sailed three voyages throughout the Pacific Ocean. He and his crew spent 12 days in this part of the Coromandel and named it Mercury Bay in recognition of this significant astrological event.