Story: Place names

The River Thames

In 1769 James Cook gave the name Thames, from England’s most renowned river, to a large inlet and the most prominent river flowing into it. It was the first large river he had seen in the country. The river reverted to its Māori name of Waihou, but the inlet is still known as the Firth (estuary) of Thames, a combination of English and Scottish words. The nearby town is called Thames, and the district is the Thames Valley. Cook also named Mercury Bay and the Bay of Islands. On the East Coast he recorded Tolaga Bay as the Māori name. But Māori call the bay Uawa, and it’s unclear what Cook heard that produced ‘Tolaga’.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: MapColl 832.15aj/1773/Acc.32020

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Place names - The imperial connection', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/zoomify/19345/the-river-thames (accessed 27 May 2019)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 24 Nov 2008