Capt. James Cook was on his way to Sydney when a major weather system blew him off course and to New Zealand in 1769. His first stop was Motuarohia island in the Bay of Islands. He disembarked his ship to discover a tribe of Maori arrayed on the beach in all their fierce glory. After what I imagine were a tense few minutes, Cook had a member of his crew who spoke some Polynesian communicate their peaceful intentions. Cook drew a line in the sand – yes, a literal line in the sand – and through his interpreter promised his people would stay on one side of it. The Maori agreed to stay on their side. This worked out great until Capt. Cook got it in his head to send a peace offering across the line, which unsurprisingly was not well received.
All was well in the end this time, and Cook ended up exploring this area of New Zealand for some time in which he did his rather generous survey of the islands. Cook would later be killed in the Hawaiian Islands by natives – you can see the spot on the Big Island near Kona. The monument to Cook and the little strip of land on which it sits have been gifted to Great Britain in memoriam to Cook, the only such example in the U.S. of land gifted to another sovereign nation. I did some snorkeling there in 2009, and it’s worth a visit. The landscape is remarkably similar to this part of New Zealand.
On Motuarohia Island today, there is a walking track through a bit of forest to a viewpoint that provides amazing views of the bay and surrounding islands. It was a surreal way to spend Christmas Eve.
Title quote: Capt. James Cook