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Commander in Cook’s shoes

Lieutenant Commander Ben Martin, the commanding officer of HMNZS Otago, put himself in James Cook’s shoes when the naval vessel sailed into Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay this week.

Thinking about the explorer’s arrival 250 years ago, Lt Cdr Martin said, “as a captain of a ship coming into a new place, it can be quite nerve-wracking and uncertain”.

Cook and his men were desperate for food and water, but he “didn’t honour the locals and he didn’t honour the way of doing things,” Lt Cdr Martin said.

HMNZS Otago had a command team with “shared knowledge of different areas of expertise”.

“Cook had some expertise on board — Tupaia, who had just come on board at the insistence of Joseph Banks. I think Cook didn’t use his command team as best he could for this visit and, unfortunately, this area was disadvantaged by his learning, or his team’s learning.

“I think what he learned from it was to use Tupaia more in his subsequent visits.”

Iwi intend to seek an apology from the other sponsor of the Endeavour’s voyage, The Royal Society of London, following British High Commissioner Laura Clarke’s expression of regret last week on behalf of the Royal Navy.

“My upbringing is with the New Zealand Navy and the New Zealand way of doing things, so coming from that perspective I understand how business can be done when you go to a new place,” said Lt Cdr Martin.

“So when I look back at how Cook did it, with my Navy uniform on, I can’t help but feel that he missed an opportunity and so I think it’s only appropriate that the British High Commissioner expressed regret on behalf of the Royal Navy.

The iwi’s strategic way of thinking, that it’s a marathon not a sprint, “that is commendable”.

Lt Cdr Martin shared his appreciation for the hospitality he and his crew have received from Tairawhiti, and for the learning they have soaked up since the ship docked here on Tuesday alongside the Endeavour replica and the Spirit of New Zealand.

Tuia 250 was an awesome opportunity for the people of New Zealand to understand their history better, he said.

“For so long the maritime discovery of our nation has not been as well considered and taught as it could have been.”

Being a part of Tuesday’s flotilla was something he had never seen before.

“When the fleet was out here, waka, tall ships and us there, it was like the coming together of 1000 years of maritime history, it was just the coolest and most special event.”

Along with honouring Polynesian, European and local culture, it was important to honour the grieving process of nga iwi o Turanganui a Kiwa, he said.

“Tuia 250 has enabled that.

“We’re here to honour the local people who had their first interactions with Captain Cook and we’re here to honour Te Maro whose memorial is now looking over us, and that’s the benefit of Tuia 250.”

“I didn’t know about Te Maro before I came here and so for me personally, Tuia 250 has been a success because now I have heard this story.”

The only event he had experienced that was a little similar was when the Navy had its 75th birthday in 2016 that unfortunately coincided with the Kaikoura earthquake. However, the timing turned out to be a blessing in disguise, he said.

“If we hadn’t had the birthday we wouldn’t have had all the ships in New Zealand to help out.

“We had a force of ships from Canada, the US, Australia, led by a New Zealand ship to help the region of Kaikoura.”

The new Navy ship HMNZS Manawanui’s home port is Gisborne and Lt Cdr Martin expressed his excitement that it was coming home next Anzac day.

“Gisborne people should feel honoured to have such a cool ship as their own.”

SHIP’S TAONGA: Lt Cdr Ben Martin, pictured on the bridge of hmnzs Otago, says Hollywood has altered the reality of how the bridge, or control and steering room, of the ship operates. “Hollywood dials everything up to 11 out of 10. We don’t yell at each other. I see yelling as a sign of an uncontrolled situation.” The hoe (paddle) he is holding belongs to the ship, and represents Maui, Tawhirimatea (Maori god of wind) and Tangaroa (Maori god of the sea). The koru on the hoe symbolises the southern ocean in balance between Tawhirimatea and Tangaroa. The hoe requires balance, strength and timing to operate; so too does leading a team in challenging maritime conditions. Picture by Liam Clayton