Tuia - Encounters 250: Cook’s place names around New Zealand - Meretoto / Ship Cove
Ship Cove is not one of Cook’s more imaginative place names, but it is rather accurate.
Ship Cove is sheltered from weather coming from almost every direction by high hills and nearby islands. Its sandy bottom slopes gently up to the shore, ideal for running a ship onto. There is flat land for tents and workshops to be set up and a stream providing fresh water.
Cook described it as ‘not inferior to any in the Sound both in point of Securety and other conveniences' and labelled it ‘Ship Cove’.
Ship Cove is rightly described as Cook’s favourite anchorage in New Zealand. Over three different voyages, he spent 105 days in the cove. The crew replenished supplies and did maintenance on the ship, while Cook and his officers surveyed, botanised and interacted with the local Māori.
In 1930, when the Honorary Geographic Board of New Zealand was deciding and confirming place names, it assigned Ship Cove the Māori name ‘Meretoto’. A translation for this term may be ‘bloody mere’ (a mere is a short flat weapon made of stone). There is little known about this name but it was recorded in the New Zealand Company’s Deed of Purchase for the bay.
In 2014 the cove was officially dual named Meretoto / Ship Cove by two acts under the settlements of Ngāti Kōata, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama ki Te Tau Ihu and Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui, and Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Kuia, and Rangitāne o Wairau.
- NZ Gazetteer,Meretoto / Ship Cove
- Hilary and John Mitchell, Te Tau Iho o te Waka: A history of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough: Volume I: Te tangata me te whenua – the people and the land, Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2004, p. 151
- James Cook, ‘6 February 1770’, South Seas: Voyaging and Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Pacific (1760-1800)
- NZGB Minutes, 4 July 1930, p. 36