Shipwreck points to NZ colonisation race
Thursday 9 Jan 2014 8:11 a.m.
It's always been thought that Abel Tasman and Captain Cook were the first Europeans to explore New Zealand.
But new research shows a third explorer likely visited our shores between the two - and hints at a colonisation race among naval powers.
A shipwreck found on the west coast of Northland has been radiocarbon dated to around 1705 AD - some years after Tasman first put New Zealand on the map in 1642, but decades before Cook landed in 1769, research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science shows.
A 25-metre, 7-metre wide ship was discovered near Kaipara Head and in 1983, maritime museum employee Noel Hilliam recovered two pieces of wood from it, Nature reports.
The government would not allow him to salvage the rest, and storms later reburied the ship underwater in sand.
The authors of the study analysed Mr Hilliam's fragments and, based on the age and species of the wood, estimated the ship was built in the early 1700s.
The authors believe the ship was probably Dutch due to the dominance of Dutch maritime trade at the time, their known vessel construction and the presence of copper on the hull of the wreck.
There are no records of a Dutch expedition to New Zealand, but lead author Jonathan Palmer, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, says competition between powers may have meant voyages were kept secret.
The analysis is backed up by journal entries from Cook and expedition members which suggest at least one other European ship visited New Zealand after Tasman but prior to Cook's arrival, the authors say.
Cook claimed Maori told him of previous European visitors who they had killed and eaten.