The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 13

Names & Things

What has been written about Captain James Cook and his ship The Endeavor fills volumes. He is a larger than life figure here in New Zealand having circumnavigated, claimed and named a number of things before speeding off to do more of the same for king and country. Even though I was a history major in my undergraduate years, I’d not done a great deal of reading about this gentleman from the 18th century. However, there is something I’ve surmised as I’ve looked around the North Island of New Zealand. While there is no doubt that Captain Cook was an exceptional man of science, navigation and courage, it seems that naming things may not have been one of his great strengths. He was, to say the least, “clinical” with some of his designations in paradise – a sort of non-romantic, Captain Obvious.

For example, we passed by Doubtless Harbor just the other day. Our tour guide said it was named by Captain James Cook, who, when he gave it a quick look see, doubted that it was a harbor and mentioned it to his secretary. It in fact turned out to be a harbor, but the name stuck. We’ve been hanging out this past week in the Bay of Islands. Here’s how that one came about, and in Captain Cook’s own words: “I named it the Bay of Islands from the great number of islands.” Alrighty then. Just so.

But there’s more! Tomorrow we move from the Bay of Islands to a place of evident abundance. Captain Creative…er…Captain Cook noticed quite a lot of food at several of the Māori villages and said to the cartographer, “Quick, quick write this down before I forget…How about…Bay of Plenty?…” “Aye, Aye Cap.. whatever you say.” This was in sharp contrast to observations he had made earlier at a spot where he was disappointed at the provisions, so naturally he named it, Poverty Bay.

These are not zinger names. They’re more a sort of police blotter of observations. And that’s all well and good and maybe even a bit necessary – but it can also be quite boring. Do you remember the Maori word we learned the other day for swirl (i.e. keri)?  It’s just more pleasing to the ear to hear of a town called Kerikeri than  say, Swirl. You call yourself Swirl and you’re just asking for trouble.

Well, the varying tribes, tongues and nations that ended up settling New Zealand were wise enough not to allow a stiff Brit all the place naming. We will soon be visiting the lovely, mural-filled town of KatiKati, named after the slow eating Arawa commander, Tamatekapua, who one day paddled up in his canoe and took his sweet time finishing up with lunch. He then paddled away. Katikati, roughly translated means, ”to nibble slowly.”  That really made an impression on the locals. He got a town named after his dinner manners.  We will also come to relax at the coastal city of Tauranga (the city of rest, or anchorage).

Well my dear friends…tomorrow is a travel day so I must get some Tauranga as I hope you will to. And remember, Katikati is a very healthy habit to get into, especially with the holidays fast approaching.

May the Lord bless you richly this day and always ~CJ