in Pursuit of Venus [infected] audio descriptions and transcripts

Listen to an audio description or read a transcript that introduces the artwork’s key visual elements.

Lisa Reihana’s vast digital wallpaper in Pursuit of Venus [infected] was presented by Te Papa in partnership with the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts from 15 Oct 2021 – 31 Jul 2022.

This audio descriptive introduction describes how the artwork was displayed at Te Papa. Then it introduces the work, and audio describes some of the key visual elements.

The four tracks are:

Track 1 – 1.38 minutes
How in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is displayed Te Papa.

Track 2 – 1.55 minutes
Introducing in Pursuit of Venus [infected] – an introduction to this vast digital art work.

Track 3 – 4.45 minutes
Setting the scene for in Pursuit of Venus [infected] – about the digital illustration, the story scenes, and where our description of what is happening begins.

Track 4 – 28.12 minutes
Audio descriptions for 12 of in Pursuit of Venus [infected]’s story scenes.


With the agreement of Te Papa and the artist, these audio description tracks and transcript are now licensed for re-use under a CC BY-NC 4.0 licence. This means that you are free to copy, distribute, and remix this sound recording, as long as you attribute Te Papa, do not use the material for commercial purposes, and abide by the other licence terms.

Audio descriptions


Download a transcript of the audio descriptions (47.95 KB)

Track 1

Kia ora. Welcome to this audio descriptive introduction to in Pursuit of Venus [infected] by Lisa Reihana.

I’m Judith Jones and I’m Kate Ngatokorua. We’re both from Te Papa. First we’ll talk about how this work is displayed at Te Papa.

Then we’ll introduce the work, and audio describe some of the key visual elements.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] at Te Papa

This is a vast panoramic video, 24 metres wide and four metres high. It’s projected across the left-hand wall of the gallery as we enter.

There are seats available, set about a metre out from the right-hand wall.

The sound comes from the speakers set high along the walls, some facing, and some above the top of the screen, and another one on the floor to the left of the screen as we face it.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] was the central work in Lisa Reihana’s exhibition Emissaries at the Venice Biennale in 2017. This is the first time it’s been shown in Aotearoa since then. Halfway along the right-hand wall, there’s the entrance to the small New Zealand at Venice lounge, with information about the history of New Zealand at Venice, and the artists who’ve represented Aotearoa there from 2001.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is presented by Te Papa in partnership with the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts.

Track 2

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] – an audio descriptive introduction

2015-2017 by Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi –Ngāti Hine,  Ngāi Tū–Te Auru)

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is spelled with a lower case i for in, capital P and V, for Pursuit and Venus with a lower case o for of, and a lower case i for the word infected, which is set in square brackets.

A remarkable technical feat, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is the result of years of experimentation and collaboration with people drawn from across Aotearoa, Australia, the Pacific, and Europe.

This vast digital artwork is a retort to the French scenic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, produced by Joseph Dufour in 1804.

Lisa’s 21st-century artwork subverts the imperial gaze by defying historical and contemporary stereotypes, notions of beauty, authenticity, history, and myth.

She populates her wallpaper with real people, performers who were an integral part of devising eighty short story scenes, set against an imagined background.

Lisa worked with many Pacific people, the contemporary face of the people who met James Cook. She shared her research into historical documents and illustrations, objects and stories held in museums, as bones for them to grow fresh stories from. The performers added their own voices, perspective and cultural practice to the mix.

They developed and choreographed songs, ceremonies, and dances, and developed the costumes and props that brought life to the narratives, creating a rich, multi-faceted world.

We’ll describe the key visual elements of this panoramic production. And describe a small selection of the stories.

Track 3

Setting the scene

Two hundred years after Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique looked in from the sea at the land, the gaze of the European visitors, Lisa places us as audience on the land.

It’s an idyllic, but imagined, Tahitian landscape of shore, sea and sky, created as a digital illustration.

The moving panorama scrolls slowly, from right to left across the screen, offering fresh vistas, as if we are beside the action in many places as time passes.

It’s a sunny day, here on this land, the sky is hazy blue with pastel clouds.

The ocean is almost always present, sometimes stretching clear to the horizon. The waters move up and down. There’s the sound of lapping waves, the cries of sea birds, and a gentle breeze.

From time to time, vessels with their passengers make their way across the waters – a double hulled vaka with tall triangular sails, waka from Aotearoa, Samoa and Nootka Sounds. A European ship with three masts and bright white sails, flying a large red flag, sails, moors and is sometimes hauled up onto the shore.

In the distance, over the water as if we are sometimes on one side of a wide bay, or across from another island, the forms of soft green and blue, hills and mountains reach to the sky, including the occasional snow-capped peak.

Every so often, the land curves around the sea, and sometimes reaches right to the scene’s horizon.

Sandy beaches run along the near shoreline. The shore is green land, mostly flat but with a bit of soft undulation, sometimes rocky or with large boulders.

Here and there, there’s evidence of human habitation, statues and homes of various constructions.

The vegetation is exotic, green and tropical. There are tall trees like leafy umbrellas, trees bearing bananas, pawpaw and coconuts, others looped with vines. Lower plants have varied foliage and form. Lisa’s ‘digital gardening’ gives them a richly textured, yet flat, slightly unnatural appearance.

The characters for each of the story scenes enter the frame from the right hand side and exit from the left. They are often close to us, with the characters around life size. But sometimes they play their scene further back. The speaker set up means the sounds associated with each scene, travel with it, as it unfolds.

It’s a bit like being alongside a parade coming down the street from our right, the first marchers go by and then we experience, all at once, their presence, and that of those following on and those after them. And the crowds around us.

Where to begin?

The visitor experience with the work begins in the moment people first encounter it. The film runs continuously, with no clearly defined beginning nor end. There’s no title and no credits.

It’s sixty-four minutes long.

It loops twice in this time, with a variation in one story scene. James Cook is played by a man in one version, and by a woman in the other. This story was built around the tales that Lisa found during her research, that people of the Pacific were uncertain about Cook’s gender. It’s one of the stories we’ll describe. We will talk about Cook as ‘he’ throughout.

The devised characters of this imagined land aren’t from any particular place, although at times the origin of specific costumes, language and movements can be identified by those familiar with them.

We will refer to these characters as ‘people of this land’.

The costumes for the people of this land were created, drawing on a range of sources. Many feature tapa, made from beaten bark, other fibres, and shells. The style, colour, and materials can signal the character’s community, role and status, for example, a longer cloak indicates a higher status.

We’ll talk about our right and our left as we face the screen when we describe people and action.

We’ll begin our description with what is happening on these shores, on this land, when the white-sailed ship arrives from across the ocean.

Track 4

The stories

We will audio describe twelve of the story scenes, following each as it evolves from right to left of the screen.

Seated hula

A middle-aged woman of this land sits peacefully, cross-legged with her hands in fists resting on her knees. She has a composed, serene presence.

She faces towards us, and looks gently out as if responding to a group of people around us.

Lisa says the performer who re-enacts this traditional hula, requested tattoos be drawn on her upper torso so she is clothed in a Polynesian sense, with tapa covering the lower half of her body.

Her dark hair rests on her right shoulder, and she wears a white band on her head.

She starts chanting softly, still looking towards us and out into the distance.

She begins to sing in Hawaiian. E mau ana ka hula i ke kanaka. She moves her arms with soft fluid motions. Her hands and fingers rise and fall like delicate waves, and she follows their path with her eyes and head.

As she repeats her song she calls out E mau ana as if to encourage us to sing with her.

As she ends the song, her hands return to her knees and she looks straight ahead.

Three young women dancing

Three young women of this land are dancing, they seem to be in their own world.

They wear white knee-length skirts made of loose strands of fibre tied low on their hips. Their chests are covered with tapa cloth with shell and bead necklaces hanging to their belly buttons.

Their dark hair sits on their bare shoulders. Two have a red flower tucked behind one ear and the other has a red flower tucked behind both.

Their hips move in circular motions and they accentuate these by pushing one foot up on their toes to make one hip have a bigger circular motion.

They move their arms gracefully in full movements out in front of them or to their sides. Their hands and fingers move in delicate wave like movements.

The women dance with and for each other, smiling and laughing. Playfully flicking their hair and playing with each other’s hair.

They dance faster. As their hips swing, their skirts flick in the opposite direction. They begin to move and shuffle on their toes with a wider stance, moving even faster.

They spin and turn. The faster their hips move, the closer their hand movements are to their bodies with an occasional bigger movement.

They dance to the beat of their own drum and feed off each other’s energy.

Slap Dance

Four young men of this land sit cross-legged in a diagonal diamond, facing towards the left of the screen. Their forearms rest on their knees.

The three in the front each wear a tapa loin cloth that shows their pe’a tattoo that covers from their waist to below their knees.

They each wear a white necklace that sits on their collar bone.

They have loose fibre strands tied below their knees. These drop to their ankles and flick when they move.

At the back, a man sits cross-legged in front of a long wooden drum, holding two sticks.

As he starts to beat the drum, the one in the front begins to call.

He yells “Mili mili mili mili mili”, and the performers rub their hands together.

He yells “Patia” and they all clap. As the three men chant the front man rises straight up. When he is fully standing the second two stand by placing their left hands on the ground behind them and pushing up to stand in unison.

They count to three, “Tasi Lua Tolu”, and the dance begins.

They each take a wide stance, knees bent, leaning slightly forwards, and shift their weight from foot to foot in a fast bounce to the beat of the drum.

In unison they begin to slap their bare skin with very fast and precise slaps to make clear clapping sounds.

The movement is sharp as they slap their chests, forearms, thighs and clap their hands. One man misses a beat, and finds it hard to catch up. In a swift movement, they clap above their heads and jump in the air, clapping between their feet still keeping to the beat of the drum.

As the drumming comes to an end the lead dancer yells “Hei” and they stop. The three dancers return to sitting cross-legged, their forearms resting on their knees, and look forward into the distance.

Enter the Europeans

The white-sailed ship sails in and anchors in a bay.

Now, we’ll introduce James Cook and his crew, and describe some of the stories of interactions between these newcomers and the people of this land, drawn from Cook’s three voyages.

Lisa worked with actors of European ancestry, to create these characters – the contemporary face of those who travelled with Cook.

Lisa chose Cook an iconic English naval officer’s dress uniform, sourced from England. He wears a long navy blue jacket with wide white lapels lined with gold buttons. The uniform has a lot of gold braid, it trims the edges of his jacket, his collar, the neck and ends of his sleeves, and his tricorne – a three-cornered hat.

His white waistcoat has a line of gold buttons, and his white shirt has a cascading cravat at the neck and loose cuffs that frame his wrists. He wears white breeches, short trousers fastened below the knee, white stockings and black shoes.

The rest of the ship’s company wear clothing befitting their rank. Officers wear similar, less ornate dress uniforms with tricorne hats. Marines who are armed with muskets, sometimes with bayonets set, wear bright red coats. The sailors wear a motley garb of loose tops and pants, sometimes a scrap of cloth as a scarf.

Others who feature in stories we’ll describe are Tupaia, the Tahitian chief, navigator and translator, and Joseph Banks, the English naturalist and botanist.

Tupaia is clothed in bright white cloth, it drapes over one shoulder then wraps and rewraps loosely around his body to his knees. A necklace of small shells holds a large mother of pearl shell on his upper chest.

Banks wears several flamboyant costumes, such as an orange coat over a shiny green brocade waistcoat, and a long satin robe, striped in blue, orange and black. Sometimes he’s wound colourful cloth turban-style around his head.

New sorts of things appear on this land with the new people, a round white tent with a triangular top, wooden tables with fancy legs, straight-sided wooden cabin trunks, boxes and curved barrels, ropes and axes. Maps, curled up parchments and feather quill pens, fed by ink from glass bottles. Telescopes and artists’ easels. A tall mahogany clock, steadied with a wooden tripod stand.

A white flagpole is set into the ground and a Union Jack is raised with due ceremony.

Tupaia’s ceremony

Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator, stands nearest us, side-on facing to our right, with Joseph Banks and James Cook alongside him.

They face a row of people of this land, five in front, and one further back. A man stands opposite Tupaia, slightly apart from his people, his bearing and clothing indicate he is their leader, a chief.

He’s dressed in a long, light fibre cape, with elaborate shell necklaces. He holds a circular fringed fan. A fue, a ceremonial flywhisk with a wooden handle, drapes down his back from his left shoulder.

The others wear a variety of tapa and fibre clothing.

Banks takes off his waistcoat, folds it up, places it on the ground and gestures to the group. They check in with each other, seem uncertain. None of them makes a move to collect it.

He taps Tupaia on the bare shoulder and gives him the waistcoat. He goes to take off his loose white shirt but Tupaia dissuades him.

The chief gestures to one of his people, who takes the waistcoat and returns to the line, feeling the fabric curiously.

The chief and Tupaia speak together, taking turns. Banks tries to be part of the conversation, but is ignored.

The chief takes the fue from his shoulder, folds its long fibres along the handle, and brings it to Tupaia. They share a hongi and the chief returns to the line.

He signals another in his party, a woman who offers Tupaia a low wooden neck rest. He accepts this, then places it, with the fue, on the ground behind him.

The chief holds out an arm, gestures for Tupaia to come with him and meet his people.

Banks moves to join them, as they walk away together, realises that the invitation was not to him. He stands uncertainly and mutters to Cook as Tupaia shares a hongi in warm greeting with each of the party. Tupaia then turns to Banks who quickly moves forward. He and the chief share an awkward handshake, then they hongi.

The Transit of Venus

Joseph Banks, resplendent in his long striped robe and turban, has set a telescope with a tripod, on top of a wooden table with carved legs. The telescope faces the sky. Alongside it, there are rolls of parchment and Banks has a feather quill.

Beside him to our left, stand a man and woman of this land. They’ve come close at his invitation. They wear full capes of long, fine, white fibre strands that shine and almost seem to float as the sunlight hits them, falling from a wide band decorated with shells. They each hold a fringed fan.

Banks talks with them about what he is doing, indicating the telescope, explaining the plan to observe the transit of the planet Venus. He points to his charts.

They speak slowly and gesture – to represent the heat of the sun, the man fans himself. Banks talks about the ‘blue planet’, repeating the word ‘blue’, running his finger down the blue stripe on his robe. The man responds, and Banks writes down what he hears, checking back as he does so.

The animated conversation continues, they all look up at the sky. As Banks seems to explain the passage of the planets, the man rotates a hand around his circular fan.

“Maybe once in your life, you see these two things happening,” Banks says, holding up an index finger and the man mirrors the gesture.


Joseph Banks has set himself up on the shore, with a wooden table with paper and some axes, a stool, a tall tripod, and various other things around it on the ground. He’s wearing his orange coat.

Two men of this land, one wearing a full-length cloak with long fibres, stand near him, with a young woman behind them. Banks fossicks about with his belongings, goes to pick up some rope.

The chief motions to the other man, who quite formally escorts the young woman to the front and towards Banks, from our right.

Two lengths of tapa cloth are draped around her like an off-the-shoulder full-length gown. It almost looks Victorian. The top layer is tied with cord around her waist.

She displays a flat rectangle of patterned tapa ahead of her on her arms. One of her companions takes it, shows it to Banks, and places it on the ground.

The young woman revolves slowly in front of Banks, with her hands at her sides holding out the edges of her skirt, head high and smiling. It’s like a very slow dance.

She turns again, moving closer to him. One of her companions undoes the fastening, and unwraps the two top layers as she rotates in the opposite direction. She wears another, shorter length of tapa beneath.

He folds the tapa carefully, and moves to hand it to Banks who is watching the woman intently. Banks gestures for the tapa to be placed on the ground, where the two companions, puzzled, stand alongside it.

Banks holds a hand out to the young woman and takes one of hers. Taps his chest, an introduction, then takes her by an arm, and escorts her off past the table.

The others intervene, and she moves quickly to stand behind them. They gesture to the tapa and one picks it up again and holds it out. “Tapa, tapa,” they say. That’s the trade.

Banks receives the tapa then drops it down near the table. He picks up two short axes, seems to change his mind, puts one back. As the scene moves off screen, he is holding out one axe.

The mourning ceremony

In front of a thatched building, as if this scene is set in a village, someone striking stands facing us.

A headdress hides their face with a wide shell piece that covers from their forehead to below their mouth. Above this, thin white feathers, each as long as an adult’s arm, arc out above their head from a central white oval.

Their torso is covered shoulder to shoulder by a broad chest apron with large white shells across the top, and tiny shiny pieces of shell across the chest, shimmering as they catching the light.

Long dark strands of fibre or maybe feathers, cascade down behind their shoulders. Tapa wraps around their lower body, with a decorated panel down the front. They brandish a long white curved weapon, perhaps the rib of a whale.

Three men stand behind their leader. Two wear loin cloths, one has a tapa wrap around their lower body. Their faces and bodies are daubed with black. Two are people of this land, but the other, who stays further back, seems to have some white skin showing beneath the covering of soot. They’re each armed with a wooden club, with a bulbous top.

A man of this land with tapa from his waist down, drags himself along the stony ground in front of them, nearer to us. He’s wary, and watchful, holding an arm up, as if keeping the group at bay.

The leader chants, stretches an arm out and points the tip of their weapon at the man. The others leap back and forth towards him brandishing their heavy-headed clubs, shouting, yelping, and taunting. They get close enough to strike him, then bound away again.

He crawls and hauls himself along, cowering and curving protectively in on himself. He’s dragging his left leg and holds that knee.

The man at the back has an uncertainty about his movements, as if he’s new to this. He follows the others, always comparing his actions, checking in for approval. The others are encouraging, laugh at and with him as he strives to get it right.

The man on the ground slumps down beside a tree. The leader comes close, looming over him, turning his long weapon over and over in his hands. The man on the ground turns away.

This scene, and the striking main costume, were built on a Tahitian mourning ceremony which happened only when someone important had died. Voyage records show that Joseph Banks was invited to take part in one of these.

Under the coat

This next story scene has two versions. In one, Cook is played by a male actor. In the other, by a female actor. There will be two different voices if you experience both versions. The genesis of the story is the same, however the people playing Cook choose to act it out slightly differently. I’m going to describe the storyline, as it plays out in both.

Two red-coated marines and three crewmen, share a beverage with four men of this land, dressed in loose fibre skirts, falling from broad hip belts.

Cook moves around them, slightly distant, fills and tops up their tankards from a glass bottle. They clank them together and swig their contents down.

One marine sits on a wooden box, plays a sprightly tune on a tin whistle. A sailor gestures to him: Play faster. The men are at ease with each other, they start to dance, showing off and mirroring each other’s moves, laughing and joking.

Cook stands back, but the men coax him to dance too, clapping encouragement.

Oh no, he gestures with his hands. But then, he picks his feet up and starts to do a bit of a hop and skip, dance a bit of a jig, kick his heels together out to the side.

The men all laugh and applaud, and Cook steps out again. One of the men of this land sneaks behind him, reaches under his coat, makes to pull his breeches down at the waist.

Cook shakes free, yanks his waistcoat down. His crew rally around him, shout “No! Back!”, tussle, and face off angrily with the men they’ve just been carousing with. Tankards litter the ground. A sailor aims his musket.

Cook walks slowly, forcing an open space between the groups, but they close up again, almost chest to chest, with staunch stances, snarls and glares. His hands are framed by his white cuffs, as he gestures for them all to part and to settle.

“Gentlemen,” he says, placatingly and firmly. “Put the gun down,’ he tells his crewman and uses a hand to lower the muzzle. As the scene rolls away, the tension is perhaps just starting to ease.


A young man of this land with tapa wrapped around his lower body, kneels on the ground, facing to our left, his hands behind him. Cook and two marines stand around him, one aims his musket at the man’s back. His prisoner can probably feel the tip of the bayonet between his shoulder blades.

Cook leans in and speaks to him, holding a hand out. The man, his bare chest rising and falling as he breathes heavily, says something, then looks away. Cook turns, touches one marine on the shoulder and says something as he walks past him. The marine hesitates, then moves slowly to the prisoner, grabs his throat, choking him, then forces him forwards. Bent double, the prisoner gasps and coughs.

Cook leans down to look at him, righting his hat as it starts to tip off. As the man straightens back up, Cook stands in front of him, gestures again with an open palm in front of the man’s lowered face. The man reaches behind him, and delivers something into Cook’s waiting hand.

Cook holds up a watch on a chain. He considers for some time, takes a deep breath, gives an instruction to his marine, who seems to question it. Cook repeats the instruction, then turns his back and walks away a little. The marine shoots a glance at his crewmate, and another at Cook’s back.

He slowly unsheathes a flat bladed knife and moves in front of the kneeling man, who starts to say something.

The marine very deliberately strokes the man’s cheek with the flat of the blade, then takes hold of his right ear and slices it off. The prisoner grabs the wound, as the marine with the gun kicks him to the ground. Cook, hands behind his back, watches. The marine lets his knife fall, but holds the ear. The injured man writhes on the ground at their feet.


The stories usually roll in from the right of the screen – but this time, something is different at the start.

Cook emerges from behind a tree near the far right of the screen and strides determinedly right out of the frame. There are shrieks from there of fear, distress and pain.

Cook reappears dragging, hauling a man draped in white, along the beach, his hands locked around one of his wrists, bending over with exertion.

A woman also in white, beating an arm at Cook, drags back on the man’s other arm, tries to free him and get him up off the sand. They’re both shouting at Cook. Two men of this land, dressed in tapa cloth, come to their aid. One moves in behind Cook and he startles.

Cook lets his captive go and he gets up onto one knee on the sand. He gestures at Cook, making a point.

Cook stands tall and tense, breathing heavily, resetting tendrils of hair that’ve come adrift in the struggle. The group are all talking, gesturing.

He talks at them, over them. “My boat,” he says, slowly. Loudly, over and over. “Give me back my boat.” The others all reply at once, their stance and gestures as forceful as their voices.

Cook waves his arms threateningly, slams clenched fists down by his sides.

The group stop talking. One of the men bends forward at the waist, drops his head, holds his arms out.

Cook takes a long-barrelled handgun from under his coat. The group draw back, fearful, holding their hands out before them, imploring him not to use it.

He leans forward, roars: “Give me back my boat. Right now. Right now.”

He aims the gun up into the air and fires. Birds startle into flight across the sky.

A man darts out from behind the tree, as Cook had just minutes ago. He has a black helmet-style headdress.

He holds a blade high, and plunges it deep into Cook’s upper back. Cook crumples to the sand, face down. Doesn’t move. The group watch. And wait in silence.

As this scene rolls on across the screen, voices from following scenes cut across the silence, a man’s chant, a haka.

One of the men ventures towards Cook’s body, bends down slowly. He gently touches the wound on Cook’s back. He stands up, looking at his fingertips and registers surprise. He turns to his companions, then shows his hand to them. Another moves to the body, and touches his hand to the wound, walks back, staring at what’s on his fingers.

The man who felled Cook, comes close to the body, leans in. He too touches the wound. He raises his blade high, and plunges it down into Cook’s back again, then stands up as the scene rolls on past the end of the screen.

The return

Two officers in their dress uniforms, stand with a marine and a sailor, near a huge leafy tree.

A man of this land approaches them. He wears a short red and orange feathery cape, with similar wrap around his hips, and long white-ish strips like feathers draping his arms. He has a high crested red headdress.

They’re wary, a musket’s at the ready.

He carries a bundle of something wrapped in dark printed cloth, along his outstretched forearms. His stance indicates this is something important.

An officer gestures to the sailor, who goes over and tries to take it off him. He holds on to it firmly and protectively. He moves towards the senior officer, and transfers the bundle to his waiting arms.

The officer looks at it, registers its weight for a moment, then drops to a knee and carefully places the bundle on the ground.

The man who has delivered it stands back a little, looks across as if expecting something. His lips move, as if he is chanting perhaps.

The officer looks uncertainly at him, then at the package.

He draws back an edge of the dark cloth, and opens the first layer out, so it becomes like a mat. His white cuffs hover over it as he uncovers a tricorn, just like the hat he wears. He looks up at the man, at his crewmates.

He hesitates, and then tentatively, unwraps the rest of the layers of cloth covering.

The last layer is drawn away, to reveal a human thigh, cut through, showing the bone facing us.

The officer recoils, scrambles to his feet, exclaiming loudly, looks away then forces himself to look back. The second officer bends over, retching. The marine takes aim with his gun. “Where’s the rest of him?” the sailor shouts. Then bends a knee, and crosses himself.

The man responds to their furious questions with head high and a clear voice, waits, then kneels by the mat, as if to speak to Cook’s remains. The officer stands with his hands on his hips, feet firmly planted.

The man continues to kneel and speak gently. Then he looks slowly up at the officer, who turns his head away.

Sea shanty

An officer and three crew sit facing us, on barrels and boxes. One is scratching onto a whale tooth, one mends some clothing, one writes in a book. The officer holds a book but doesn’t seem to be really reading it.

A young crew member stands by restlessly, as if he can’t decide what to do with himself, then dejectedly slumps himself to the ground leaning one arm on a barrel.

“We were all hearty seamen, no cold did we fear,” one sings.

“And we have from all sickness entirely kept clear,” the others join in, singing slowly and softly.

With deep breaths between each line, they finish the shanty.

The young sailor gets up heavily, and turns away to walk towards the ocean.

There’s the sound of the lapping waves, the cries of sea birds, and a gentle breeze.


I’m Kate Ngatokorua and I’m Judith Jones. Thank you for listening to this audio descriptive introduction, recorded at National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in February 2022.

You can find out more about in Pursuit of Venus [infected] at Lisa’s website.

Copyright Te Papa, 2022. This sound recording is licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International Licence. You are free to copy, distribute and remix this sound recording, as long as you attribute Te Papa, do not use the material for commercial purposes, and abide by the other licence terms.