Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori

By Geoffrey Sanborn | Go to book overview

Chapter One
TE ARA’S SCARS

IN early September 1806, an English ship sailed between the heads of Whangaroa Harbor on the far northeast coast of New Zealand. At the other end of the harbor, four miles away, was the mouth of a river, and four miles up the river was the village of Ngati Uru: about one hundred low, long, thatch-roofed houses clustered near the river and at the base of a small, steep, conical hill. As soon as Ngati Uru learned of the ship’s arrival, a party of men loaded canoes with baskets of dried fish and paddled out to greet the first white people ever to enter the harbor.

The ship was the Star, a sealer, captained by a man named Wilkinson. The crews of sealers were notoriously reckless, violent, and racist, and it is unlikely that the crew of the Star was any exception. But Wilkinson was a different story. He befriended an important Ngati Uru rangatira (chief) named Kaitoke and was careful not to give offense during his stay. As he was preparing to weigh anchor, another rangatira, Patungahere, asked him if his son could join the crew for the upcoming voyage.1 Wilkinson said yes.

The son’s name was Te Ara (Figure 1.1). He was short and muscular, with thick black hair and an intense gaze. Like most other Maori men, he was constantly on the lookout for ways of increasing his mana (spiritual potency); it is likely that this trip into the world of the pakeha was at least partly his own idea. On the deck of the Star, he farewelled his father and brothers with a hongi, pressing his nose and forehead to each of their noses and foreheads for several minutes at a time. Then his

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Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Glossary xv
  • Introduction- Grand, Ungodly, Godlike Men 1
  • Chapter One- Te Ara’s Scars 16
  • Chapter Two- Cooper’s Death Song 37
  • Chapter Three- Te Pehi Kupe’s Moko 73
  • Chapter Four- Melyille’s Furious Life 93
  • Notes 133
  • Index 175
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