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No. 1 (Winter 1952)
– 21 –

Experiments with
Lead and Powder

A long time after, Captain Cook visited the island again. He brought up his ship at Turanganui-o-Kiwa, and went in his boat on shore to purchase provisions for himself and his sailors. The natives of the place, with taiahas, meremeres, tokotokos, and huatas (wooden and stone weapons), advanced to attack him and his sailors. He then said to his people: ‘Let us return to the ship, lest we be killed.’ He said he supposed there was nothing to be got in that place to eat, and that the people lived on human flesh. (This he himself subsequently told the people at another place.) Therefore he called that place ‘Poverty Bay’. Then he sailed to Uawa, and there he saw the chief, Whakatatareoterangi. He called out to him: ‘Tatare! Tatare! give me some provisions,’ and a supply of provision was given to him accordingly. Then said Captain Cook: ‘Tatare! Tatare is a chief!’ (words which afterwards became a proverbialism). Captain Cook then gave to Whakatatareoterangi a bright red scarf, a musket, a keg of powder, and a flat lump of lead, and told him to make trial of his skill by firing off his musket. The gun was then loaded and the chief held it close to his cheek and fired it off, but he was so alarmed at the report that he dashed it down upon the stones and it was broken, then he threw it into the water. Afterwards they broke open the keg of powder and came to the conclusion that it was turnip seed. So they cleared away the bushes and prepared a plot of ground and planted the supposed turnip seed. Then the people rejoiced and said: ‘Our women and children will be satisfied (fed), for the seed of food is in the ground.’ Others said: ‘Yes, true. No wonder if we rejoice. It is so very jolly.’ And when it afterwards rained, they said, ‘This will bring up our seed.’

Out of the lead they formed an adze, which they sharpened carefully and put a nicely-made handle to it. And the fame of this adze possessed by the Whakatatareoterangi, spread far and wide among the tribes. At length they assembled in numbers to examine it, and witness the trial of its capabilities. On the first blow being struck upon the wood, lo and behold! it bent and doubled up! Then all the people, as with one voice, exclaimed, ‘O! it has not been subjected to the influence of fire! If it were heated in the fire it would become hard.’ Then said they, ‘Right! Bring some wood for a fire. Let it be green wood, that the fire may burn long and the adze be well hardened.’ So they lighted a fire, and cast the adze upon it; but, wonder of wonders! it melted! Then arose a shout: ‘Drag it from the fire! We must consider some plan to perfect this adze.’ Quite a number rushed to the fire and attempted to pick it out with sticks, but it separated into many parts, scattered about, and was abandoned. And so ignorance came to its natural result.