Whale land

Māori sometimes remembered significant events and stories about whales by naming islands and landforms after them. You can see four examples of these places in the exhibition.

The names referred to, among other things, significant strandings, navigational pathways, and important journeys.

For Maori, the land is believed to be the body of Papatūānuku (the earth mother), the womb that gave birth to people.

Imbuing landmarks with the memory of whales shows the reverence with which these creatures could be regarded.

Stranded family

These hills near Welcome Bay in Tauranga Harbour are sacred to the Maori tribes Ngāti Pōkenga, Ngā Pōtiki, and Ngāi Hē. The tribes believe they are a family of whales that stranded and became hills.

The story goes that a mother and calf ventured too far into the harbour and couldn’t return to the ocean. The father heard their cries of distress. Impelled to be by their side, he too stranded. Now the family remains together forever.

The coastline here is noted for strandings. Locals believe whales are drawn to a spring at the base of the mother. The spring’s water sometimes runs milky white and is called Te Waiū o te Tohorā (the milk of the whale).