Te Whanganui a Hei (Mercury Bay) was one of four landing sites for Cook’s ship 'The
Endeavour' in New Zealand, but it was significant in the story of the birthplace of our
'The Endeavour' was a barque originally launched in 1764 as a three-mast broad
beamed 'Whitby Cat' named the Earl of Pembroke. Cook served on 'Whitby Cats' before
joining the Royal Navy, and when selected to lead a voyage exploring the seas of the
‘Terra Australis Incognita’, he was quite at home.
When Cook landed at Tahiti to witness the transit of Venus in 1769 he became acquainted
with a master Polynesian navigator Tupaia from the island of Raiatea. Tupaia was
welcomed on board as an additional member of the crew, providing his Polynesian
navigating skills to Cook’s search for New Zealand. Cook and his crew anchored in Cooks
Beach on the Coromandel, and it was here that he recorded the Transit of Mercury. In
doing so, he put New Zealand on European charts for the first time.
Captain Cook sailed three voyages throughout the Pacific Ocean. He and his crew spent 12
days in this part of the Coromandel and named it Mercury Bay in recognition of this
significant astrological event.