1858 - Miss Eliza Jones' canoe trip around Waiheke

Riding a waka in style

It took a doughty settler explorer, Miss Eliza Jones, to first put the Waiheke canoeing experience down on paper. And, also, not to bother about the hard work of paddling.

She wrote about a week-long 1858 canoe trip around Waiheke, in a journal co-authored with her (later) husband J W Stack, Further Maoriland Adventures. The memoir was published in 1938.

Eliza opens her account: "At two o'clock on Tuesday 23 February, our party, consisting of Humphrey and Emma, her sister Jenny Mr Swainson and myself, assembled on the beach in front of our garden gate (in Auckland), where we found a fine large canoe called a pitau, waiting for us. It was about fifty feet long, five feet wide in the widest part, and four feet deep. I was painted a bright red colour, and the sides were ornamented with tufts of black and white feathers. The figure-head was a grotesque representation of a human face, with a protruding tongue, and quantities of black feathers wrapped around the head to represent hair. The part assigned to us was covered with a thick layer of fresh fern, upon which oilskins and rugs were spread, and upon these we reclined in luxurious ease."

Eliza appreciated the beauty of the island,: "The coast scenery proved so beautiful that it soon engrossed all our attention, and we did little else but feast our eyes on the lovely scenery we were passing. At one moment our attention was directed to a charming little cove with a splendid overhanging tree; and the next to a lovely sandy beach, or to a wider bay surrounded by thickly-wooded hills; or to a bay enclosed by barren hills …

"Our view seawards was also constantly changing. Fresh islands and reefs and rugged rocks, with canoes moving in and out amongst them, kept coming into view."

Eliza’s observations emphasize how busy the waters around Waiheke were with Māori vessels.