Pre-Departure Blog Assignment.
January 2, 2009
In chapter 4 of Blue Latitudes, Horwitz recounts Cook's journey to the islands of
New Zealand with a significant emphasis on the perspectives of the Maori
natives to his arrival. His writing, both accessible and extremely entertaining,
gives a great introduction to the nation's interesting history. In his piece,
Horwitz downplays the predominant view of a heroic and honorable captain and
paints a more realistic picture of these events. In addition, he focuses on how
Cook's "discovery" of New Zealand affected the natives already there and how it
lead to the modern hostility between the Pakeha, New Zealanders of European
decent, and the native Maori.
What was most interesting for me was learning about how current Pakeha and
Maori view each other. I must say, lacking knowledge on the history on the
founding of New Zealand, I was ignorant to the fact that any hostility even
existed at all. The parallels between Maori and Native Americans and the civil
rights movement, as well as the differences, also intrigued me. Much like the
Native Americans, the Maori were forced off lands and their culture repressed by
early European conquerors. And much like in the civil rights movement,
modern Maori evoked the words of the "founding father" and old treaties to
begin to reclaim justice.
What surprised me most in the reading was that despite all of the current
negative views of the Maori toward Cook, he seemed to be very understanding
toward the cultural barriers present at their encounters. For example, Horwitz
mentions that Cook defended the act of cannibalism in his writing, even when
his own sailors succumbed to this horrific fate, showing he was quite seemingly
sympathetic to Maori cultural traditions and beliefs.
Today, we all embark on our own personal "captain cook" journeys. Much like
the Maori hongi greeting perplexed the explorers and the Maori mistook the
ship's sails as the "wings of a giant bird," I expect that I will encounter many
new and unfamiliar things throughout this trip. I hope to use this opportunity to
learn as much as I can about Maori culture the way of life in New Zealand.
In addition, as a biology major with an interest in marine science, I wish to use
this opportunity to experience and learn from an extremely unique and diverse
coastal environment. I believe I will gain indispensible tools and knowledge as I
prepare for a career in marine science research. I have heard and read numerous
times about the beauty of New Zealand, both on land and in the ocean, and can
not wait to experience it for myself.