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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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Young Nicks Head is that cape or headland at the southern extremity of Poverty Bay. It is associated with the discovery of New Zealand by Captain Cook.

On 24 September 1769, while the Endeavour was still many miles to the east of this country, the crew noticed seaweed drifting. Because he believed they were nearing land, Cook promised a gallon of rum to the man who discovered it by day, and two gallons if he discovered it by night; further, that some feature of the land would be named after him. On the following days land birds and driftwood were seen. Finally on 6 October 1769 (7 October by ship's time) Cook recorded: “At 2 p.m. saw land from the masthead bearing W by N, which we stood directly for, and could but just see it of the deck at sun set.” Joseph Banks, who was on deck at the time, described the scene: “At half past one a small boy who was up at the masthead called out Land. I was luckily upon deck and well I was entertained. Within a few minutes, the cry circulated and up came all hands. The land could not then be seen from the Tops; yet few were there who did not plainly see it from the Deck, till it appeared that they had looked 5 points wrong. Weather most moderate. We came up with it very slowly. At sunset, myself was at the masthead. Land appeared like an island or islands, but seemed to be large.”

On 11 October 1769, as he was leaving Poverty Bay, Cook reported in his Journal: “At noon the south west point of Poverty Bay (which I have named Young Nicks head after the boy who first saw this land) bore North by West…”.

Recent researches confirm that Young Nicks Head was not the first New Zealand landfall. From the Endeavour's position at the time it seems certain that Nick sighted the mountains to the south of Poverty Bay.

Little is known of the boy whose sharp eyes first picked out the hazy New Zealand coastline. He was Nicholas Young, personal servant of the surgeon, and was then about 12 years of age. After the voyage he entered Banks's service and accompanied him on the Iceland expedition (1772).

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.