Tuia – Encounters 250: Cook’s place names around New Zealand - Cape Farewell

Photo of Cape Farewell
Photo Credit: 60021 – Lloyd Homer – GNS Science | Te Pū Ao – All rights reserved

Cape Farewell is a sandstone bluff on the northwest coast of the South Island [Te Waipounamu]. Cook and the HMB Endeavour rounded the cape on 24 March 1770. The ship had been in New Zealand waters for five months, arriving at Tūranganui-a-Kiwa / Poverty Bay, travelling down to Cape Turnagain, going north to round Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua, down the west coast, through Cook Strait, up to Cape Turnagain and then circled around the South Island. Cook then commented ‘As we have now circumnavigated the whole of this Country it is time for me to think of quiting of it’.

Once the water casks were full, he consulted with his officers ‘upon the most eligible way of putting this in execution’. After discounting travelling via Cape Horn (as the ship’s condition was not suitable for that arduous route) or going straight to Cape of Good Hope (as they wouldn’t find anything new), it was decided to go home via the East Indies and chart the east coast of Australia.

Cook may have regretted this decision. The Endeavour ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia and they spent a nerve-wracking 24 hours trying to refloat her, including throwing many of their supplies overboard to lighten the ship. Then at Jakarta, many of the officers and crew became sick and died of local diseases.

Cook’s name for the cape was also used for the sand spit of land that stretches east from the cape: Farewell Spit.

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Last Updated: 15 February 2019