Tuia – Encounters 250: Cook’s place names around New Zealand - Tohoraha / Mount Camel

Photo of Tohoraha / Mount Camel
Photo Credit: 2430 - Lloyd Homer – GNS Science | Te Pū Ao – All rights reserved

Among the many stories of Pacific navigator Kupe is one about his arrival in New Zealand. After sailing for a long time, he thought he saw a large whale in the distance. He was mistaken, however; the whale was a high hill on the Aupōuri peninsula, later called Tohoraha. Tohoraha translates to whale or specifically a southern right whale (Eubalaena australis).

Te Ara Wairua, the path spirits travel up to reach Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua and then depart for Hawaiki, traditionally runs up the west coast of the Aupōuri peninsula. It is also said that there’s another path along the east coast and Tohoraha forms part of that. 

In early December 1769, Cook sailed past on the HMB Endeavour. Seeing a large hill with a small dip in the top, on a sandy, desert-like shore, he named it ‘Mount Camel’. Master’s Mate Richard Pickersgill misheard and wrote Campbell.

Sometimes, over the years, the mountain has been referred to as Houhora, taken from the name of locality. In 2015, as part of the Treaty settlement with Ngāti Kurī and Te Aupōuri, the hill’s official name was assigned as a dual name ‘Tohoraha / Mount Camel’.


Last Updated: 15 February 2019