Tuia Encounters 250 – Time to celebrate!

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Twelve months ago, in the October/November, Dive 166 we published an item on the possible discovery of Captain James Cook’s HMB Endeavour in the waters off Newport Rhode Island USA.

At the time I expressed my disappointment to the Minister of Culture and Heritage, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister, and her department’s lack of any positive interest in New Zealand putting its hand up as a country that had an interest in the wreck of arguably the most significant European ship to map New Zealand’s coastline and interact with various Maori iwi.

As you know New Zealand is commemorating the meeting of Europeans and Maori from October through to December 2019. The Government has allocated $13.5 + million to celebrate this historical meeting, though some New Zealanders would not use the word ‘celebrate’!

Australia is also in full production to mark this historical event in their history, allocating $60 million.

In New Zealand, the intention is to bring to life the discovery of New Zealand by many great ocean navigators stretching back 700 plus years when Polynesian explorers arrived on our shores, and the later arrival 250 years ago of British explorer, Captain James Cook in 1769.

Interestingly a point that has been completely omitted by the mainstream media is that the French explorer, Captain Jean François Marie de Surville, was also mapping the coastline at the same time. Cook and de Surville were unaware of each other’s presence though they passed each other by approximately 20 nautical miles!

Over the last 12 months the Australian Government and the Australian National Maritime Museum have been supporting the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) in their efforts to identify which of five wrecks is the most likely to be the Endeavour (renamed Lord Sandwich) from 13 vessels that were scuttled in the harbour entrance there by the British during the American Independence Revolution in 1778 as a blockade for the possible arrival of the French.

Recently the RIMAP team excavated a small section of the buried hull taking various wood samples that will be analysed at a new conservation lab built with Australia’s help and private donations at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island.

You may recall from the article in our DIVE coverage last year that New Zealand Marine archaeologist Dr Bridget Buxton, Associate Professor of Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology who is based at the University of Rhode Island (URI) is very keen to have New Zealand involved in the process of verifying 100% that the remains are that of the Endeavour. The URI have all the conservation facilities and expertise to accomplish this to the highest marine archaeological best practice standards.

PM Jacinda Ardern in an email (3rd Oct 2018) to Dr Bridget Buxton finished with: “We are in regular contact with relevant Australian agencies and, given the participation of the Australian National Maritime Museum, will certainly talk with them about progress and potential of this work.”

Seeing that the Australians, God bless them, are in boots and all, it may be time for our Minister of Culture and Heritage to give them a call, if she or her Department have not already? Maybe it’s time to reconsider showing New Zealand Government’s interest in the wreck by accepting Dr Bridget Buxton’s offer to be an integral part of a professional team to establish once and for all, 100%, that the final resting place of this historic ship has been found.

The Tuia Encounters 250 has become a public relations nightmare for the Government with Maori protests being planned. These protests are obviously being taken seriously by the Government. (The https://mch.govt.nz/tuia250 website has the following notice: Due to security issues the Tuia 250 website is unavailable. For updates on the Tuia 250 project follow us on Facebook).

Meanwhile news videos taken in Gisborne show young Maori calling the Endeavour the Death Ship!

Nonetheless let’s hope ALL New Zealanders, no matter their ethnic backgrounds, can come together to enjoy the three months of celebrations of the Tuia Encounters 250!

By Dave Moran, Editor at Large

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