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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Why the Marines were Landed

Why the Marines were Landed

The spectacle afforded by the landing of the marines must have been colourful as well as animated. Cook and his companions of rank would be attired in knee breeches, heavily buttoned coats with lace trimmings, waistcoats with long flaps, stout shoes adorned with buckles, and headgear in the form of three-cornered looped-up hats. In striking contrast to the seamen in blue frocks and short, loose trousers, the marines would look resplendent in red coats, grey trousers and high steeple hats. Short muskets and hangers would be carried by the officers, civilians and marines.

What led up to the landing of the marines is more realistically told by Banks:

“… As soon as we appeared at the river side they [the Indians] came up and every man produced a long pike or a small weapon of well polished stone, about a foot long and thick enough to weigh 4 or 5 pounds. With these, they threatened us and signed to us to depart. [In his unpublished journal, Lieut. Gore says that the Indians formed up in two lines, brandished their spears, and gave a war-dance, rolling their eyes and obtruding their tongues as they swayed first to one side and then to the other.]

Banks adds:

“A Musquet was then fired, wide of them, the ball of which struck the water. They saw the effect and immediately ceased their threats; we thought it prudent to retreat till the marines were landed and drawn up to intimidate them and support us in case of necessity. They landed and marched with a jack carried before them to a little bank about 50 yards from the river, which might be about 40 broad. Here they were drawn up in order, and we again advanced to the riverside.”
page 30

The party at the riverside, according to Wharton, comprised Cook, Banks, Solander, Green and Tupaea. Banks says that Tupia (Tupaea) told the natives that they were willing to exchange iron for provisions. The natives acquiesced, but, as they would not lay down their arms, Tupaea regarded them as treacherous. At last, one native stripped and, unarmed, swam over to them. He was followed by two more and, soon afterwards, by most of the rest, who brought with them their arms. Iron and beads were given to them, but, being totally ignorant of the uses to which iron might be put, they set little value upon it. In return, they would part with only some feathers. Banks adds:

“They made several attempts to snatch our arms from us…. They were made to understand that we must kill them if they snatched anything from us. After some time, Mr. Green, in turning himself about, exposed his hanger. One of them immediately snatched it, set up a cry of exultation, and, waving it round his head, retreated gently. “It now appeared necessary for our safeties that so daring an act should be immediately punished. This I pronounc'd aloud as my opinion. The Capt. and the rest joined me, on which I fired my musquet, which was loaded with small shot, levelling it between his [Te Rakau's] shoulders, who was not 15 yards from me.
“On the shot striking him, he ceased to cry, but, instead of quitting his prize, continued to wave it over his head, retreating as gently as before. The surgeon [Dr. Monkhouse], who was nearer him, seeing this fired a ball at him, on which he dropped. Two more men who were near him returned. Instantly, one seized his weapon of talk [talc]; the other attempted to recover the hanger, which the Surgeon had scarce time to prevent.
“The main body of them were now upon the rock, a little way in the River. They took to the water, returning towards us, on which the other three [of us], for we were only 5 in number, fired on them. They then retired and swam again across the river. On their landing, we saw that 3 were wounded, one seemingly a good deal hurt. [Polack says that a native told him in Poverty Bay in 1836 that his father, a chief, was one of those injured. A ball passed through his shoulder, but he had lived until a few years previous to his (Polack's) visit.] We re-embarked in our Boats.”