Brian Hooker

New Zealand


© Brian Hooker 2006.


New Zealand history previous

to c. 1840

- a concise chronology

prepared by

Brian Hooker


c. 11,000 to c. 5000

Some studies suggest Austronesian-speaking ancestors of Polynesians moved south from Taiwan and South China into the islands of present-day Indonesia. They reached as far east as New Caledonia.

c. 3200 to c. 1500

Fiji and the main islands of western Polynesia discovered and settled by people, probably ancestors of Polynesians.

c. 530

Pythagoras the Greek philosopher credited with the theory of a spherical earth, and the Pythagorean theory developed with a suggestion that great land masses existed south and west as counterweights to known lands in the north and east.

c. 100

Polynesians reached islands of the eastern Pacific including Marquesas Islands, Society Islands and remote islands including New Zealand, Easter Island, and Hawaii.


c. 1 to c. 1200

Male only, female only or small groups of Polynesians arrived in New Zealand at intervals from eastern Polynesia, but were unable to leave continuing descendants.

c. 1200

Ancestors of Maori arrived and continuous settlement period started. People came to New Zealand from eastern Polynesia from time to time probably over the following four or more centuries.

c. 1290

Marco Polo from Venice became the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean from the west.


Portugal's eastward thrust started - Henry "the Navigator", who had been influenced by an account of Polo’s travels, sent out Alvise da Cadamosto who reached Gambia, northwest Africa.


Portuguese navigator, Bartolemeu Dias, rounded southern Africa and reached the southern Indian Ocean.


Pope Alexander VI issued Bull Inter Caetera, which settled the rival claims of Spain and Portugal. He divided the world into two spheres of influence - to Spain he allocated everything west of a meridian passing over the North and South Poles and a point 100 leagues west of Azores and by implication to Portugal everything east of the line of demarcation.


Demarcation line shifted farther west by Treaty of Tordesillas to a point 370 leagues west of Cape Verde Islands. Great Italian writer Peter Martyr d'Anghiera introduced concept of a "Western Hemisphere".

(The division of the world is clearly shown in the map. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image. Notice the line passing over the eastern bulge of South America - to this day people living in this area speak Portuguese and people to the west speak Spanish. New Zealand is in the Spanish hemisphere.)


Vasco da Gama led a Portuguese expedition that dropped anchor off Calicut on the Malabar coast of India, May 20.


A Portuguese commercial fleet followed to Anjediva near Goa at the end of 1500.


Afonso Albuquerque, a Portuguese commander called "The Great" arrived in India

1507 to 1510

Portuguese under Albuquerque set about conquering nations on the northern borders of Indian Ocean - Goa captured in 1510.


Albuquerque, now governor-general, attacked and seized Malacca.


Portuguese reached the "Spice Islands". Vasco Nuñez de Balboa an unofficial Spanish commander discovered the Pacific Ocean from the east at Isthmus of Darien. Portuguese poised at western rim of the Pacific and Spanish at eastern rim.


Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese in the service of Spain, headed for the "Spice Islands" by sailing west from the Iberian Peninsula in an expedition of five ships.


Magellan traversed the Pacific after discovering the strait that now bears his name.


El Cano completed the first circumnavigation in the only surviving ship, Victoria, after Magellan was killed in the Philippines.


Gerard Mercator, the great 16th century cartographer, expanded the myth of the southern continent when he published his 1541 terrestrial globe that portrayed a vast southern land.


First successful return voyage across the Pacific, from Mexico to the Philippines and back by a Spanish expedition under Miguel López de Legaspi who established the first Spanish colony in the Philippines.


Alvaro de Mendaña, in command of a Spanish expedition of two ships Los Reyes and Todos Santos set out across the Pacific from Callao, Peru, and discovered islands in the Solomons group.

1578 - 1579

Francis Drake in the course of the second circumnavigation and first by an Englishman crossed the Pacific from east to west in Golden Hind.


Thomas Cavendish traversed the Pacific in Desire in the course of his circumnavigation, the second by an Englishman.

c. 1595

A Dutch challenge of Portuguese control of the East Indies. Cornelis de Houtman commanded an expedition of four ships that sailed from Texel, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and opened up trade with Bantam (modern Banten), north Java.


Mendaña, headed out again into the Pacific from Peru to discover the Marquesas Islands and Santa Cruz. (Present-day Nendo Island in the Santa Cruz Islands.)


Dutch factory established at Bantam when a second fleet arrived.


Dutch East India Company founded and given a monopoly of trade and communication with the East by way of the Cape of Good Hope and the Strait of Magellan.


Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernández de Quirós sailed from Callao, Peru, in an expedition of two ships and a zabra, and discovered Espiritu Santo in present-day Vanuatu. Torres who had been in command of the consort, separated from Quirós and discovered the strait that now bears his name, south of New Guinea In or about March the same year Dutchmen Willem Jansz and Jan Lodewycksz Roosengin set out from Bantam in an expedition that explored the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.


Dutchman Joris van Spilbergen set forth with a small fleet from Texel, in August 1614, traversed the Strait of Magellan and crossed the Pacific from east to west. Van Spilbergen returned to the Netherlands to become the fifth circumnavigator. He made no new discoveries in the Pacific. In 1616, Dutchmen Jacob Le Maire and Willem Corneliszoon Schouten headed from the Netherlands for the East in an expedition of two ships, in defiance of the ban on entering the Pacific via the two known routes. In their only remaining ship Eendracht they traversed the Pacific after discovering a new passage now named Le Maire Strait, south of the Strait of Magellan, but they were arrested on arrival at Batavia and sent back to the Netherlands with van Spilbergen. Le Maire died during the return voyage.


A number of Dutch ships heading for the East Indies via the Cape of Good Hope chanced on sections of the west, northwest and southern coasts of Australia.


Batavia founded on the site of Jakarta.


The so-called Nassau fleet of ten Dutch ships rounded Cape Horn and crossed the Pacific to Batavia.


Malacca captured by the Dutch.


Abel Tasman's expedition of two ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen sailed from Batavia and on December 13, 1642 discovered parts of the west coast of New Zealand. After leaving the vicinity of New Zealand on January 6 1643, Tasman made discoveries in the Tonga group and the Fiji islands.


Edward Davis in command of Bachelors Delight, discovered a land in the eastern Pacific, which puzzled explorers and cartographers for centuries, until it was realized in recent times the island was Sala-y-Gómez east of Easter Island.


Dutch West India Company dispatched an expedition of three ships including flagship Den Arend under the command of Jacob Roggeveeen with instructions to break the East India Company's monopoly on trade. Entering the Pacific through Drake Passage, Roggeveen considered heading for New Zealand but fear of the reception he might receive from Maori prevented him. His main mission failed but he discovered Easter Island.


British Admiralty dispatched George Anson as commander of a squadron of six ships that crossed the Pacific from east to west but Anson failed to make any new discoveries before he completed his circumnavigation.


British Admiralty dispatched John Byron in an expedition of two ships, Dolphin and Tamar but Byron also failed to make any new discoveries in the Pacific before he completed his circumnavigation.


British Admiralty dispatched an expedition of two ships, Dolphin (Samuel Wallis) and Swallow (Philip Carteret) to explore in the Pacific. After the two ships separated, Wallis made several discoveries including Tahiti, and Carteret discovered Pitcairn Island. Wallis returned to England in May 1768 but Carteret took another year to return.


Louis Antoine de Bougainville was the first of several distinguished French navigators who explored in the Pacific during the second half of the 18th century. In command of two ships Boudeuse and Étoile he cleared the Strait of Magellan in January 1768, crossed the Pacific sailing well north of New Zealand and made several discoveries before returning to France in March 1769.


James Cook in command of Endeavour reached the east coast of New Zealand on October 7, 1769, circumnavigated the main islands and left New Zealand on April 1, 1770. Frenchman Jean de Surville anchored the St Jean Baptiste in Doubtless Bay on December 17 1769 and stayed a fortnight.


Cook returned to New Zealand again in Resolution and Adventure (Tobias Furneaux); the Resolution reached Dusky Sound on March 26 1772 but later Cook met up with Furneaux in Queen Charlotte Sound. After visiting different parts of the Pacific on two separate voyages and returning to New Zealand, he finally left for home on November 10. Marion Dufresne anchored his French expedition of two ships Mascarin and Marquies de Castries in the Bay of Islands on May 4. On June 12 Marion and a party of men were ambushed and killed. Crozet took command and carried out violent retribution before the expedition left.


Cook visited New Zealand for the final time in Resolution and Discovery (Charles Clerke), anchoring in Queen Charlotte Sound on February 12 where he stayed until February 25. He was killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, later in the voyage.


François Galaup de la Pérouse who sailed from Brest in 1785 with two ships L'Astrolabe and la Boussole led an important Pacific expedition. La Pérouse entered the Pacific through Le Maire Strait and explored extensively over a long period but did not visit New Zealand. After leaving Botany Bay in January 1788, the expedition was not seen or heard of again. William Bligh in Bounty discovered the uninhabited Bounty Islands on September 19 1788. William Sever in Lady Penrhyn discovered Curtis and Macauley Islands in the Kermadec group on May 31, 1788.


George Vancouver in Discovery and William Broughton in Chatham anchored in Dusky Sound on November 12. Later Vancouver and Broughton independently discovered the Snares and Broughton came within sight of the main island of the Chathams.


John Parker in Gorgon sailed between Northland and three Kings Islands in January. Eber Bunker, an American, in command of the whaler William and Mary called at Doubtless Bay.


An Italian, Don Alessandra Malaspina anchored two Spanish ships Descubierta and Altrevida in Doubtful Sound in February. The explorers stayed a few days while Bauzá the hydrographer accompanying the expedition, carried out a survey of the sound. A French expedition of two ships Recherche and Espérance (Huon de Kermadec) sent to the Pacific to search for the lost La Pérouse passed close to the northern coast, North Island in March. A R J Bruni d'Entrecasteaux commanded the expedition and later he discovered Esperance Rock and Raoul Island in the Kermadecs.


Henry Waterhouse in command of Reliance discovered the Antipodes Islands in March.


William Wilson in command of the East India Company's ship Royal Admiral searched in the Hauraki Gulf for timber and surveyed extensively while in the area.


An American seal hunter Owen Folgar Smith discovered Foveaux Strait.


Abraham Bristow in command of the British vessel Ocean discovered the Auckland Islands in August


Pitt Island and Rangatira in the Chatham islands discovered by Charles Johnston in command of Cornwallis in May.

1809 -1810

In October 1809, Samuel Chase in command of Pegasus discovered that Cook's "Banks Island" was not an island but a peninsula. Frederick Hasselburgh in command of Perseverance discovered Campbell Island late 1809 or January 1810.

1819 -1820

Russian explorer Thaddeus von Bellinghausen led an expedition of two ships Vostok and Mirnyi to New Zealand and anchored in Queen Charlotte Sound in May 1820. In the summer of 1819-1820, Richard Skinner in command of Dromedary searched in the Northland area for kauri spars. Later in 1820, James Downie in command of Coromandel searched for timber and explored in Hauraki Gulf. John Rodolphus Kent in command of Prince Regent explored the Northland coast and Hauraki Gulf area. Kent became the first European to enter Waitemata Harbour on August 21, 1820.


James Herd anchored Providence in Hokianga Harbour and searched for spars. William Lawrence Edwardson was sent by the government of New South Wales in Snapper to collect a cargo of flax from southern New Zealand.


Captain Murray from New South Wales, in command of Perseverance brought a rope-making expert, Robert Williams to Bluff Harbour to investigate New Zealand flax.


Louis Isidore Duperrey in command of the French corvette la Coquille dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands in April and stayed two weeks. Second-in-command of the expedition was Dumont d'Urville.


James Herd anchored two emigrant ships Rosanna and Lambton (Thomas Barnett) in Port Pegasus, Stewart Island, on 25 March. The enterprise had been organised by the First New Zealand Company. Herd then visited, in turn, "Molyneux Harbour" (vicinity of the entrance of the Clutha River), Otago Harbour, Ship Cove, Cloudy Bay, Port Underwood, Port Nicholson, Mercury Bay, Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands, and Hokianga Harbour. He then moved on with the emigrants to Sydney early in the following year.


J. R. Kent inspected Kawhia Harbour in Emma Kemp. British battleship Warspite and corvette Volage traversed Cook Strait. Dumont d'Urville returned to New Zealand in command of an expedition consisting of the Coquille renamed Astrolabe. The west coast of the South Island was sighted on January 10 and d'Urville sailed north off the east coast surveying as far as Northland and leaving New Zealand on March 18.


J. R. Kent inspected Hokianga Harbour in Governor Macquarie.


J. R. Kent inspected Manukau Harbour in Tranmere.

1831 - 1839

Cloudy Bay and Port Underwood attracted whalers and sealers of many nations. C. P. T. Laplace commanding the French corvette La Favorite cast anchor in the Bay of Islands on October 2. 1831. He quitted the bay on October 11.

1835 - 1836

Thomas Wing commissioned by the British Admiralty to carry out surveys. In command of Fanny, Wing surveyed Tauranga, Kaipara, Manukau, Raglan and Kawhia Harbours.


Thomas Wing surveyed Port Ahuriri, Napier and then in schooner Trent investigated part of the central-east coast of the North Island. C. R. Drinkwater Bethune in command of Conway surveyed Port Underwood and partly surveyed in the Kapiti Island area.


Another French corvette Héroine, commanded by J. B. Cécille, anchored in the Bay of Islands. Later Cécille, visited Akaroa and Lyttelton Harbours and the Chatham Islands. In October the same year the French frigate Vénus commanded by A. A. Dupetit-Thouars arrived in the Bay of Islands. He had been sent out to assist French whaling vessels. In September, Philip Chetwode in command of Pelorus carried out the first survey of the Pelorus Sound area.


Advance party of the Second New Zealand Company arrived in Port Nicholson on the Tory under the command of E. M. Chaffers.


Treaty of Waitangi signed February 6. In March, Fisher, Bean and Bowen, during the visit of Herald, carried out first Royal Navy survey of Waitemata Harbour. Later in the same year, Owen Stanley and J. S. Hill of Britomart carried out a further survey of the harbour; Stanley then proceeded to Akaroa Harbour and Pigeon Bay where he carried out surveys. Dumont d'Urville arrived in southern New Zealand in an expedition of two ships Astrolabe and Zélée (Charles Jacquinot) on March 22. The expedition sailed north carrying out surveys and departed on May 4. This last visit by d'Urville brought to an end the era of great Pacific explorers in New Zealand waters.


Thomas Wing in command of Debora investigated the Foveaux Strait area.

Late 1840s to 1855.

The "Great New Zealand Survey," carried out by John Lort Stokes in Acheron, and Byron Drury in Pandora.