Former Australian star Joe Roff joins the Conquistadors for Dubai Rugby 7s 2017!

A great article from The National newspaper in the UAE today. Click here.  Awesome to have this bloke, Joe Roff, Rugby World Cup winner with the Australian Wallabies, and a former Oxford University rugby team mate, helping out with our charity team, the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors, at the Dubai 7s when he is not on official duties with HSBC.

A throwback here to the Varsity Match 2006 at Twickenham (both younger and hairier versions), tackling Ross Blake the Cambridge captain. We definitely got him. :)

Former Australian international star Joe Roff and Winston Cowie in action for Oxford University in the 2006 Varsity Match at Twickenham

“I am honoured to be the bag manager for the Conquistadors this year,” said Roff. “It is a role I will take seriously, making sure the boys have the right kit and are looking sharp. On a serious note I have heard Mike Ballard’s story and I’m really impressed by what he has achieved personally, and what this group achieved in going to Madagascar last year.”

Mike Ballard, the Conquistadors Manager, is also rather excited for the Sevens.

“It will be a last-minute deal, with some arriving the night before the start, and in true social rugby tradition, we won’t get a team run in,” Ballard said. “We are going to show up and have a go, but it will be good.”

We are playing in the International Social, with the Timetable for Day 1 below if you want to give us some support!

And a massive thank you to all of our sponsors who have supported us and continue to support us! We are incredibly grateful to you!

Onwards to the Sevens!

Massive thanks to:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garth van Niekirk – a tribute to a true South African Gentleman

I met Garth van Niekirk just over one year ago at Abu Dhabi Saracens rugby training.

South African, built like a brick, the 27 year old was the sort of bloke you immediately warmed to. A leader, with a solid set of values, keen, very respectful and grateful for his lot, a good sense of humour, and an absolute machine with the ball in hand – once you met him he was the sort of bloke that you wanted to be around. Positive, committed, dependable, and inspirational. And fun – he had a good sense of humour and was always smiling.

Last Wednesday, with his Abu Dhabi based mates around him, we said goodbye to him the for the last time.

Two months ago he was fit and playing rugby. He felt a stomach pain and thought he had pulled a muscle and as a precaution went to the doctor. What followed is still incomprehensible. He was diagnosed with an aggressive from of Colon cancer, which didn’t respond to chemotherapy, and instead spread to his liver and lungs. Within two months, from the peak of physical health, he was very unwell.

Garth passed away last night, one week after heading back to his native South Africa to be with family. Life’s not fair some times. Really not fair. In two months he tried everything and fought hard, never giving up. That was him. Ten different oncologists, miracle cure drugs, but the stars didn’t come into alignment.

Garth van Niekirk – a true South African Gentleman. After playing a stormer against Bahrain in 2016 and helping the Sarries to a close 12-10 win.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Garth was brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa, the son of Johan and Anita and brother of Gabrielle. Garth attended The King’s School, Robin Hills in Johannesburg where he was chosen as Head Boy in his final year. When you find that out, you ‘get it’, he was that kind of guy. A stand up bloke and role model.

After school, Garth studied a Bachelors Degree in Emergency Medical Care (BTech EMC) at the University of Johannesburg and has since worked saving lives, in both South Africa and later Abu Dhabi where he would regularly visit conflict zones in the region and save lives. Selfless, the guy threw himself into his work – serving society by going to places no one else wanted to go, for the greater good.

Garth – straight from work to a rugby training.

A balanced bloke, when he wasn’t in the helicopter or plane, he was excelling on the rugby pitch where he represented the Golden Lions at 7s and won the national championship with them in 2012. He was also recently the Abu Dhabi Saracens Player of the Year and was widely regarded as one of the stars and best players in the Arabian Gulf and West Asia. He is straight up one of the nicest blokes I have met through rugby in 30 years of playing. 

A keen traveller, Garth has been to over 30 countries, where he loved experiencing and learning from other cultures. His favourites were Estonia, Sweden and Russia where he recently travelled with his family.

A couple of anecdotes that I loved about the guy:

·         Before and after every footy training he would shake your hand and say Hello and Thank You Coach. His parents should be proud of how he conducted himself, every single time. Every single time you caught up with him. 

·         Cake baking, after playing a blinder to beat Bahrain 12-10 in a nail biter. It was chocolate coconut and pretty good.  

·         Making it to the Dubai 7s for bang on 8:30am on Day’s 2 and 3, for kick off – always a struggle. He was always on time.

On behalf of the Abu Dhabi and wider Gulf rugby community, the Sarries and Quins, much love to a mate – much much love to your family – Garth will be hugely missed. Life isn’t fair and it is difficult to make any sense of this.

Garth van Niekirk – you were a champion and one of the best. A legend, mate.

May peace be upon you.

 

A long road but worth it.

25 March 2011.

The West Asian Championship Club Rugby Final. Doha RFC v Dubai Hurricanes. Six and a bit years’ ago.

It was set to be a good day – a home final for Doha, the team I captained passionately at the time, and going for the club’s first silverware in 40 odd years of history.

The day didn’t turn out as planned. You always remember the day and date. I dislocated my knee in the 10th minute of the final and tore everything (ACL,PCL, Lateral ligament, Hamstring, IT Band, Medial ligament) and was rushed to hospital.

The damage? I have never really gone into it – don’t talk about it at all – it’s been my challenge to own and meet. No one else’s.

 But this week, I have sat back and reflected on it after hitting a bit of a milestone.

It’s been a long road.

Going back six years, to when it happened, I was playing at No.8 tracking our 7 from a scrum. The Hurricanes 10 and 12 did a cut. Our 7 got him and swung him, a big lad, around. I planted my knee and the guys’ legs came around and basically axed my knee in half.

Initially it was the pain. I have a pretty high pain threshold I reckon but when that knee was dislocated out, I was screaming. For a good 5 mins. It was out for two hours until it got put back in when I was in hospital and xrays had confirmed what the scenario was. By then the screaming had quietened  to a dull whimper. The reason was my common peroneal nerve was being crushed by my femur which had shifted an inch down and was close to compound. I put the pain up there with being electrocuted – true story – an indescribably horrible feeling that you can’t escape from because the electricity has got hold of you and you can’t let go. 240 volts for 10 seconds back in 2007.  That story is for another day. I still touch any door before I open it so I don’t get one of those little shocks when I touch the handle.

Back to Doha. When the knee was finally put back in the damage was done. Seven centimetres of nerve was crushed. What this meant was that I was numb from the knee down and couldn’t pull my foot up from the ground. If you sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and then pull your foot up, mine stays flat.

It means I walk with a little bit of a jilted gait and have to flick my foot a little before I put it down. It has taken a while to get used to it. Six years.

We lost the West Asia Championship final by the way, 24-20. Devastated would be a way to put how the season ended up for the DRFC. Losing is hard to take when you put so much effort into something. But such is life sometimes.

And life had thrown me a challenge.

In those first two years, because the nerve wasn’t working (and still doesn’t), my calf muscle had atrophied (wasted away a lot). After two ops I had to get used to walking again, and was living in New Zealand at the time with a young family, on Whangaparaoa Peninsula. They were hard days on the recovery front. I would try and go for a jog from Big Manly Around to Little Manly and would pull either calf muscle within a couple of hundred metres. It was always a slow, frustrated walk back to the house, especially during winter.

After this had happened a few times, and frustration levels were sky high, I resolved to start off slowly and walk before I could run so to speak. With a very understanding and supportive wife, and  spirited two and one year old daughters at the time, I started walking initially, needing to  build up the muscle again on the calf. We would go out to Shakespeare and Tawharanui Regional Park, and hike the hills. There were a few mishaps, falling over with my daughters and rolling down the hill a bit. The family was key. Sometimes you have to go down to get back up.

At the time and feeling like I was making progress, I made two goals, this was back in 2012-2013. The first was to surf some solid waves like I used to pre injury, and the second was to try and play a high level of rugby again. Both were looking doubtful at the time.

On the surfing, in January of 2013 a solid cyclone swell hit the East Coast of Northland. Six to eight foot. Offshore. I had a mare of a session. Every time I would go to take the drop, I’d  be thinking, ‘Up, flick foot, stamp, then go.’ I must have fallen on 9 out of 10 and got absolutely rinsed in what was a sizey swell. Like those initial runs when I pulled my calf, I was so frustrated. The two things I loved doing the most – and used to be pretty good at – surfing and rugby, I couldn’t do either.

Northland. Surf.

That swell. Northland, New Zealand. Things didn’t go according to plan.

For me there was nothing more frustrating than not being able to do what I loved.

Over the next six months I worked hard. Morning and night I would be doing exercises to strengthen the calves. Walking and then running a slow jog around Shakespeare or around Big Manly Park. I had to stick to the grass as the road jarred too much. I also learned to balance on a paddle board.

I would catch up with people and I got the feeling that they felt sorry for me because I walked with a bit of a limp. Stuff that. No one was going to feel sorry for me. Pride can be a good motivator.

Worked harder. And harder and harder.

About that time we made the decision to return to the Middle East, Abu Dhabi. I was due to have a third operation a month before this; this time to tie my foot into neutral with a ligament from another part of my body.

A big winter East Coast swell hit – bigger and hairier than the failed January session. Me and a mate hit the coast. I was feeling pretty good although it was huge. My mate got injured early and sat on the beach so I was out there by myself. I went for it, didn’t overthink it, just charged and backed the hard yakka that had been put in over the previous two and a half years, and particularly the preceding 6 months.

It was a special day that. I surfed for six hours straight.

I was back.

I saw the doctor the next day for the pre-op check up. I told him I didn’t want to have the op anymore. I told him about the surf. He told me that another op, to permanently alter my foot would be another year of recovery and rehabilitation.

“I’m not doing it,” I said. He shook my hand and backed me.

“Good on you,” he said.

I think my family were pretty surprised I didn’t have the op. I’m pleased I didn’t. I was getting where I needed to go.

Fast-forward to 2014. And not being satisfied with the status quo, I travelled to Indonesia with a good mate and pushed the surfing harder at Gland, East Java, a renowned big wave spot. After a couple of near drownings, including my fin nearly chopping my wrist off, and getting coral cut fever, I got in the flow and got some good waves.

Winston Cowie surfing GLand, Indonesia

Getting back in the mix. GLand, Indonesia

Goal 1, achieved. I could surf again.

And then there was the rugby dream….goal 2……

We moved to Abu Dhabi with our young  family. I helped coach one of the local footy clubs, the Harlequins initially. It was good for me that, and the knee rehab. I would do the fitness with the boys – and after Year 4 since the accident had reached a pretty happy medium.

Occasionally I would get a bit of nerve flaring, and the numbness was always there – at night it would annoy me a bit, but it was manageable. Through regular exercising I could just hold the foot in neutral.

With the goal at the back of my mind, to play some good rugby again (not really having defined to myself what this meant), I tentatively started again. Admittedly I was a lot edgier about playing a game of footy than surfing – the landings in rugby are hard, especially on the pitches in the Middle East.

I started with Sevens, and with a group of mates we set up the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors – a charity team to support our mate, Mike Ballard, who suffered a serious spinal injury in 2014. Mike’s story is inspirational – the guy is incredibly mentally tough – since his injury, and six operations, he moved back to Abu Dhabi to take up his old job and now is a huge part of the fabric of the community. Mike epitomises the words ‘positive attitude.’ He inspires all around him and has certainly inspired me on this journey. Four and five years on from the injury I played in the Dubai 7s with the Conquistadors. It felt good to be playing footy again and the body got through ok, with Mike and a great bunch of lads.

In 2016, five years after the injury, I moved over to coach the Abu Dhabi Saracens, a good bunch of lads with a real family vibe. I started the season as coach – that was the intention initially. I still wasn’t one hundy into Goal 2. During Match 2 of the 2016 season that all changed when we travelled to the same field that I had initially got the injury, to play my old Doha mates.

Eight of our team’s visas were rejected, so we had a bare 17 to play Doha in Doha, including our physio. Not having too much time to consider it, I went for it, not wanting to forfeit. Not in the DNA. I played 80 minutes at No.8 in 40 degrees.

After getting through that game, and the knee feeling solid, I sat back and after knocking that monkey off the back, I wanted to play better.

A good article on that Doha shift was written by Paul Radley at The National.

We had a few injuries during the course of this season – 2016-2017, so I ended up playing at least 20 minutes of every game – 12 in total.

Admittedly at the start I was a little tentative, and I think naturally so after the rehab frustrations and the numbness, but by the start of this year, 2017, I was throwing myself into games like I used to. Six year’s older, a little slower, but getting stuck in. While the numbness was still there, I ignored it and got on with it. Goal 2, playing a high level of footy, was starting to look like a possibility.

At this time I had just clocked over three years in the United Arab Emirates, which made me eligible for the national side.

Like surfing at Gland, I thought Stuff it, I was going to have a crack.

I pitched up to the first UAE trial training in January 2017. The UAE, ranked No.72 in the world, was coached by former Samoan dual international superstar Apollo Perelini, and had earned promotion to Division 1 in Asia, where they would be competing with Malaysia (54), Sri Lanka (40) and the Philippines (58).

Attending that initial training, and as a loose forward and hooker, the quality of players was high – I thought that this was going to be a hard team to make – there were good players in all of these positions.  I went hard, trained hard, doing a lot of extras on the grass field at the compound our family lived in. I must have done over a hundred set of sprints on that 80 m patch of grass under the Palm Trees.

There and back. There and back.

Apollo, an outstanding coach, asked me if I could play prop. In day’s gone by, a loose forward may have taken such a query to heart – prop is not the most glamorous of positions. I was just stoked to be in the mix.

Yes I said, only having played it a couple of times 10 years earlier when at Oxford University in the Varsity Match campaign.

I started watching a lot of footy, in the evenings when the kids were in bed. I mainly watched the scrums, trying to learn as much as I could. I also enlisted the help of my team mates at the Abu Dhabi Saracens for some technical scrumming tuition. I also started smashing the gym.

Rather quickly I found that playing prop is hard. Respect to all props around the world. You don’t get a rest. When its scrum time, you are pushing with every ounce of energy you have, and then you have to get up and run around the field as well. It’s physically challenging. You walk off the pitch absolutely shattered.

A long story, short, after six years since that day in Doha, on 20 May 2017, numb knee and all, I made my international rugby debut as a loose head prop, representing my adopted home, the United Arab Emirates v the Philippines.

Winston Cowie rugby UAE

Winston Cowie. International rugby debut for United Arab Emirates v Philippines. May 2017.

Goal 2 knocked off.

A really well written article was written on the journey by Matt Jones at Sport360.

A big thank you to everybody who has supported me in eventually getting there over the past six years.

My family, Lucy Jones, who must be the most understanding wife in the world, and our kids Issy, Evie and Zac for not rolling their eyes too much when Daddy had to go to another rugby training, especially the past six months.

My friends who have kept me motivated and consistently pushing myself.

The Doha Rugby Community were incredibly kind in supporting me with my operations back in 2011. I am always indebted to you. And this year the Abu Dhabi Saracens family have been just that, a family of mates.

And four months ago I met a great bunch of gents from the different clubs in the UAE. We became a team, a close knit bunch who for the past 10 days have represented out adopted country, the United Arab Emirates, in Malaysia with pride. Thanks to all of these gents, now mates, for sharing that journey. Thanks to Apollo Perelini, our coach, and management for doing an outstanding job in preparing us. While the results didn’t go our way, we learned how competitive this top level in Asia is, and will be better for it next year….there is always next year….

UAE Rugby Team v Philipinnes. May 2017.

UAE Rugby Team v Philippines. May 2017.

This was a story I was keen to share.

A long road but worth it.

Never say never.

If it’s your challenge, own it, work hard. And nail it.

Onwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Conquistador Puzzle Trail translated into Spanish and gifted to 350 schools and universities in New Zealand

The Embassy of Spain in New Zealand and author Winston Cowie have collaborated and translated Cowie’s book, Conquistador Puzzle Trail, into Spanish. Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that Spanish or Iberian navigators may have been the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, over 100 years pre Abel Tasman. 

The Spanish version is entitled “Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanoles,” which means: “New Zealand, a history puzzle: After the traces of the Spanish Conquistadors.”

As part of the celebration of launching the Spanish version, the Embassy of Spain and Cowie are sending a free English version to 350 secondary schools and universities in New Zealand.

Former Ambassador of Spain to New Zealand the honourable Manuel Viturro De La Torre; author Winston Cowie; and Dr Juan Pineiro. at the launch of the Spanish version of Cowie’s book in La Coruna Spain.


The Ambassador of Spain comments that “this book focuses on the cultural relations between our two countries that despite being in the antipodes they might have shared a common history. It is really a food for thought not only for scholars but also for students in the schools of New Zealand”.

Author Winston Cowie, states “I am incredibly grateful to the Embassy of Spain, New Zealand for their ongoing collaboration and cooperation. To have Conquistador Puzzle Trail now translated into Spanish and distributed across Spain, and the English version now in most secondary schools and universities in New Zealand is a proud moment. My hope is that students will read the book, and in time become teachers themselves, and perceptions changed in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand. What is needed is a robust public debate on the subject, and more research, in order to move knowledge forward. Everybody has a role to play.”

The Embassy of Spain and Cowie have also offered a free personal copy to the first 10 history teachers that volunteer to write their own objective review on Conquistador Puzzle Trail.

The Embassy of Spain and Winston Cowie look forward to the ongoing discussion on the theory that the Spanish and other Iberians were the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand.

Conquistador Puzzle Trail is available through Paper Plus stores, good independent bookstores and online at Fishpond.co.nz. Those overseas can contact Bookreps.co.nz to order a copy.

 “Plus ultra,” ‘Beyond’, as the Conquistadors would say. Onwards.

Conquistador Puzzle Trail translated into Spanish and launched in Spain!

Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole by Winston Cowie.

Proud moments in La Coruna, Galicia, northern Spain.

 The Embassy of Spain in New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, the Spanish Organisation for International Cooperation on Development, and author Winston Cowie have collaborated and translated Cowie’s book, Conquistador Puzzle Trail, into Spanish. 

Winston Cowie book

Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that Spanish or Iberian navigators were the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, over 100 years pre-Abel Tasman, in circa the 1520s.

The Spanish version is entitled “Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanoles,” which means: “New Zealand, a history puzzle: After the tracks of the Spanish Conquistadors,” and was launched on 24 March 2017 in the Spanish coastal city of La Coruna. The port is the same place that the Spanish ‘Loaisa expedition’ embarked from on its 1525 around the world voyage of discovery, and also the place where a large New Zealand pohutukawa can be found.

Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico by Winston Cowie

 

Winston Cowie at the La Coruna pohutukawa with both versions of his book: Conquistador Puzzle Trail

Winston Cowie with the two versions of his book at the La Coruna pohutukawa

The La Coruna police officers who look after the tree and the Greenstone taonga gifted to it on Cowie’s 2013 visit.

The initiative to translate Conquistador Puzzle Trail into Spanish has been a collaboration between the Spanish government and Winston Cowie since the successful launch of Cowie’s book in 2015. Conquistador Puzzle Trail has since been added as a source on the early discovery of New Zealand on Te Ara, the online Encyclopedia of New Zealand, and praised by Spanish and Portuguese governments.

 The launch was attended by the honourable former Spanish Ambassador to New Zealand, Ambassador Manuel Viturro De La Torre; the honourable Maria Garcia, Vice Mayor of La Coruna; Spanish historian Xose Alfeiran; Juan Pineiro, who has helped Cowie tremendously over the years with his research and a number of other Spanish dignitaries and members of the public.

La Coruna Book Launch – Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole

The current Ambassador of Spain, the honourable Manuel Pradas Romani, comments that “this book focuses on the cultural relations between our two countries that despite being in the antipodes they might have shared a common history. It is really a food for thought not only for scholars but also for students in the schools of New Zealand and Spain”.

Author Winston Cowie, states “I am incredibly grateful to the Embassy of Spain, New Zealand for their ongoing collaboration and cooperation. To have Conquistador Puzzle Trail now translated into Spanish and distributed across Spain, and the English version now widely distributed is a proud moment.

 And to be able to travel to La Coruna after research trips here in 2009 and 2012, and share the moment with some of the lovely Galician people that have helped me over the years, I am very grateful. It was a really special and proud moment.

 Looking ahead, my hope is that students will read the book, and in time become teachers themselves, and perceptions changed in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand. What is needed is a robust public debate on the subject – in both Spain and New Zealand, in order to move knowledge forward. Everybody has a role to play.”

Nueva Zelanda, Un Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole, is available in Spain through the Liberia Arenas bookstore. Email info@libreriaarenas.com to order. The English version is available in good New Zealand bookstores, online at Fishpond, or through http://www.bookreps.co.nz/.

Liberia Arenas, La Coruna, where Nueva Zelanda, In Puzzle Historico: Tras la pista de los conquistadores espanole by Winston Cowie is available. Owner Manuel Arenas, Juan Pinerio and Cowie.

“Plus ultra,” ‘Beyond’, as the Conquistadors would say.

And another exciting initiative just around the corner….

 

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors set for the Dubai 7s 2016!


Manager Mike Ballard and coaches Ed Lewsey and Winston Cowie are pleased to announce the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation rugby team for this year’s Dubai 7s!

The team includes the three Lewsey brothers playing together for the first time! England World Cup winner Josh Lewsey, UAE international Ed, and former London Welsh representative, Tom.

Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors and the Lewsey brothers, Ed and Josh, at Dubai 7s 2015.

Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors and the Lewsey brothers, Ed and Josh, at Dubai 7s 2015.

Squad:

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors team, for the Dubai 7s 2016, includes:

Forwards
Winston Cowie (Oxford University Blue, Abu Dhabi Saracens).
Graham Murphy (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Phil Brady (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Tom Lewsey (London Welsh).
Misinale Taukolo (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Backs
Ed Lewsey (UAE International, Exeter Chiefs, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Josh Lewsey (England International, World Cup Winner).
Tom Calnan (UAE Rugby and Rugby League International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Joe Teasdale (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Malcolm Greenslade (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Fraser Knox (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Fraser March (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Managers
Mike Ballard (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).
Phil Cronin (Doha RFC).

We are very much looking forward to putting in a good showing. A big shout out and thanks to all of our sponsors over the past year:

  • Air Seychelles
  • Hill International
  • McGettigans
  • Kukri
  • Live Nation
  • Alec – Building Excellence
  • Go Sport
  • Khansaheb
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • The One Group
  • Picnic Basket

And we are delighted to have the support of the following new sponsors for the Dubai 7s!

  • Vogue Fitness
  • Digital Farm.ae
  • Speranza 22

voguefitnesslogo

digitalfarm-social-media-agency

speranza

 

For those wanting to support us, our timetable  for the first two days is below, Day 1 matches on at 14.20, and 16,00 Pitch 5.

 

screenshot_20161122-131508-2

screenshot_20161122-131517

See you at the 7s!

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors

Kindly supported by:

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation

Hill Claims Group Logo

ALEC logo

Live Nation Middle East

Mcgettigens Mike Ballard Conquistadors

Model

GoSport QBJ ok

King&Wood Mallesons

The One Group

Kukri Mike Ballard Conquistadors

Open Letter to the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage re the European discovery of New Zealand. No II.

14 August 2016

Re: Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – recent updates to the summary on the European discovery of New Zealand

Dear New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage,

I refer to our recent correspondence in respect of the European discovery of New Zealand and the updates to your venerable online resource in respect of the Portuguese and Spanish theories on the discovery of New Zealand.

The forward thinking changes made by Te Ara sparked a welcome literary debate on the genre, with articles in the New Zealand Herald, Te Wahanui, and recently in the New Zealand Listener Magazine.

My responses to those articles include:

A previous article in the Northern Advocate, also provides a good overview.

The result: We are in the midst of an intelligent debate about the European discovery of New Zealand and Australia. The glass appears to be cracking around the negative stigma that has surrounded the theories on the Portuguese and Spanish discovery of Australia and New Zealand for the past 30 years. These theories appear to be moving from being presented as fringe ideas to being discussed in the mainstream as real possibilities. And they are now being taught and assessed as possibilities, probabilities or otherwise in schools and universities. Dr Ross Ramsay, for example, at the Southern Institute of Technology is leading the way in this regard, putting the literature in front of students and asking for their assessment.

From my end, it is pleasing that societal knowledge and interest on this element of New Zealand history appears to be moving forward, and with that, further research will be completed, and the Portuguese and Spanish theories developed further.

Progress.

History wasn’t written in a day.

Sincere congratulations to the team at Te Ara and the Ministry for your major part in inspiring this discussion and I do apologise for the delay in getting back to you, it has been a rather busy period with family, profession, and a recent charitable goodwill mission to Seychelles and Madagascar. The modern day Conquistadors have been active in the Indian Ocean. Further details can be found here, if interested.

Now, to the updates in Te Ara on the European discovery of New Zealand.

I do have some comments and a query for you, if I may, and propose some alternative text for your kind consideration.

……………………………………………………..

Reference: The Short Story: The European Discovery of New Zealand

1)    The map presented in the encyclopedia is preceded by over 100 years by the Dieppe maps.

In my earlier letter dated 8 October 2015 I previously provided comment that the map that commences this section on the website, the Henricus Hondius 1641 map, is not the earliest map of the Terra Australis Incognita or of Australia and New Zealand. I provided an alternative below based on the 228 year old, well researched theory, that the Portuguese and / or  Spanish may have discovered Australia and New Zealand, a theory that has been taken seriously and believed by some of the top cartographers and historians of their time, from Alexander Dalrymple (1786); the British Admiralty (1803); Richard Henry Major (1859), George Collingridge (1895), José Toribio Medina (1918), Robert Langdon (1975 and 1988), Kenneth McIntyre (1977 and 1982), Dr Helen Wallis (1981), Roger Hervé (1983), and Peter Trickett (2007).

The literature is written by credible sources. As an example, the late Dr Helen Wallis’ (OBE) credentials included:

  • Map curator, British Museum (later British Library) (1967-1987).
  • Chairman of the standing commission on the history of cartography of the International Cartographic Association.
  • President of the International Map Collectors’ Society (1986).
  • Founder of The Geography and Map Section of the International Federation of Library Associations.
  • President of The Society for Nautical Research, 1972-1988, and President of the British Cartographic Society.

She was the top of her field, and completed a very detailed review of the maps. Her conclusion:

“… it is notable how many of these names are descriptive of physical features … others seem to record the events and personal associations of an exploring voyage, including saints’ names … It is clear that the land represents a discovery made on a European voyage or coastal exploration. Secondly, it was apparently not a region of settled and civilised populations whose peoples would tell a visiting expedition the names of towns and other places (in fact there is no sign of towns). Thirdly, the number of Portuguese names suggests that the voyage was made, or at least recorded, by the Portuguese. The flags on Desliens charts of 1561 and 1566 are more explicit, indicating a Portuguese discovery.”

Question: I would be grateful if you could let me know what the reason is for the venerable national encyclopedia appearing to ignore these maps and the literature (particularly Wallis’ experienced view) surrounding them.

Pending your response, and to assist, I have drafted for your kind consideration an alternative section for ‘The Short Story’ section, that provides a reasonable assessment of current knowledge and literature.

Alternative proposals:

In summary, I propose that the map that is currently presented in this section be removed as it is doesn’t represent current knowledge and literature. I propose it be replaced with the ‘Jean Rotz’ map of 1542, presenting the great southern continent in the global context, with a close up of the Vallard Map of 1547 to provide the New Zealand context. I also propose for consistency that a paragraph be added above the Abel Tasman section mentioning the Spanish and Portuguese theory – as it is included in the ‘long story’.

The alternative proposition is:

Proposal: Short Story: European discovery of New Zealand

In their search for the vast ‘terra australis incognita’ (the unknown southern land) thought to lie in the Pacific, explorers made daring journeys across uncharted waters.

They did not find the fabled continent, but they did find New Zealand.

Circumstantial evidence points to the possibility of the Portuguese and Spanish being the first Europeans to voyage to New Zealand, however the Dutchman Abel Tasman is first recorded as having sighted New Zealand, and the country was later mapped by James Cook, the British captain who dominates the story of the European discovery of New Zealand.

 

Jean Rotz Circular Chart - 1542, which it is theorised includes some of the eastern coastline of Australia and some of the North Island of New Zealand.

Jean Rotz Circular Chart – 1542, which it is theorised includes some of the eastern coastline of Australia and some of the North Island of New Zealand.

Vallard Map 1547 - the eastern coast of Australia with portolan realigned. Part of the North Island of New Zealand may be the island the 'Illa do Magna'

Vallard Map 1547 – the eastern coast of Australia with portolan realigned. Part of the North Island of New Zealand may be the island the ‘Illa do Magna’

Vallard Map 1547. The North island of New Zealand?

Vallard Map 1547. The North island of New Zealand?

The Short Story

Portuguese and Spanish voyages

There is a possibility that both Iberian nations voyaged to or were wrecked in New Zealand in the 1520s, with sixteenth century maps with coastlines similar to New Zealand and Australia, appearing on world maps from the 1540s. On the most detailed map, the Vallard of 1547, over 120 Portuguese place names appear on landmasses where modern day Australia and New Zealand are located, and in some places, the place names describe physical features that still appear in places on those maps today. There is, however, currently no ship’s journal making these discoveries definitive – a sighting of New Zealand was not recorded by a European until 1642.

Abel Tasman

In 1642 the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sailed in search of the southern continent, which sixteenth century maps indicated was located in the South Pacific. Dutch merchants hoped this land would offer new opportunities for trade. Tasman discovered New Zealand on 13 December 1642, but after a bloody encounter with Māori in Golden Bay, he left without going ashore.

Shortly afterwards, a Dutch map maker gave the name Nieuw Zeeland to the land Tasman had discovered.

James Cook

The English navigator Captain James Cook sighted New Zealand on 6 October 1769, and landed at Poverty Bay two days later. He drew detailed and accurate maps of the country, and wrote about the Māori people. His first encounter with Māori was not successful – a fight broke out in which some Māori were killed. However, after this Cook and his men had friendly contact with Māori.

The naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who sailed with Cook, gathered a great deal of information about the country’s plants and animals. Their records formed the foundation for the modern study of New Zealand botany.

On two later voyages, Captain Cook used New Zealand as a base to prove that a great southern continent did not exist in the Pacific.

Citation: John Wilson and Winston Cowie ‘European discovery of New Zealand’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 10-August-16.

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Reference: The Long Story: The European Discovery of New Zealand

I have some comments on the ‘Before Tasman’ section. As always, comments are well intended with a view of bringing knowledge forward.

An earlier discovery?

The sentence: ‘Spanish or Portuguese ships sailing out of Callao or Acapulco, or from the East Indies, may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.’  

My view is that this sentence can be improved a little semantically – as the way it reads, it could be interpreted to mean that both Spanish and Portuguese ships sailed out of Callao, Acapulco and the East Indies. As you are aware, given the treaties of Tordesillas and Zaragoza, it was the Spanish that sailed out of Callao and Acapulco with the Portuguese sailing out of the East Indies.

Alternative proposal: ‘Spanish ships sailing out of the Philippines and Central and South American ports (Acapulco, Callao and Concepcion), and Portuguese ships sailing from the East Indies (Malacca and Ternate), may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.’

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The sentences: “But there is no firm evidence of Europeans reaching New Zealand before Abel Tasman in 1642. Although fragmentary information found in Portuguese and Spanish archives suggests at least the possibility of earlier arrivals, no one before Tasman reported the discovery of new land that can be identified as New Zealand.”

My view is that these two sentences can be improved by referring to the circumstantial evidence that support the Portuguese and Spanish case – maps, the existence of artefacts and a skull, and oral tradition, as opposed to ‘fragmentary information found in Portuguese and Spanish archives’ which doesn’t reflect what the evidence is or where that information is located.

Similarly, none of the navigators put forward as the navigators who may have voyaged to New Zealand are included – Christopher Mendonca (Portuguese) and Juan Fernandez (Spanish).

Taking into account the above my proposal for the ‘An earlier discovery?’ section is as follows:

Alternative Proposal: An earlier discovery?

Spanish ships sailing out of the Philippines and Central and South American ports (Acapulco, Callao and Concepcion), and Portuguese ships sailing from the East Indies (Malacca and Ternate), may have reached, or become wrecked on the New Zealand coast.

Whilst no one before Tasman reported the discovery of new land that can be identified as New Zealand, circumstantial evidence including maps, references to voyages in archives, oral tradition, and artefacts suggest at least the possibility of earlier Portuguese or Spanish arrivals.

It is theorised that the ships that came closest to New Zealand before 1642 may have been those of the Portuguese navigator Christopher Mendonca (1522-24), that of the Spaniard Juan Fernandez (1576-78), with the wreck of a Spanish caravel, the San Lesmes, also a possibility in 1527. The expeditions of Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendaña de Neyra (1595) and Portuguese mariner Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (1605–06), which touched the northern Cook Islands, are also possibilities.

It is unlikely that Arab or Chinese ships, which were trading in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, were ever off the coast of New Zealand.

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Terra Australis Incognita

My view is that the way this section is written, it appears to try and distance Portuguese and Spanish navigators from the south to make room for the ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ myth. E.g.

“…the tracks of European navigators like Mendaña and Queirós lay well to the north of New Zealand, leaving plenty of space for cartographers to place a terra australis incognita (unknown southern land) to the south.”

This Terra Australia term has its origins in theory with the likes of Aristotle, Ptolmey and Cicero – centuries before this –  there is no need to suggest that space needed to be left for it – as consistent with the theory that the southern continent was needed to balance the globe, it was already appearing on maps prior to Mendana and Queiros’ voyages.

As such, I propose that the following wording be used to describe the Terra Australis Incognita.

Alternative Proposal: Terra Australis Incognita?

The discovery of New Zealand and Australia has always been bound up with speculation about the ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ – the ‘great southern unknown’ landmass, originally theorised about by the likes of Aristotle and Ptolmey. It was considered that a southern landmass was needed to counterbalance that in the north and even given the existence of the sixteenth century Portuguese maps and Tasman’s maps in this part of the world, it wasn’t until the voyages of Captain James Cook that the myth was finally dispelled.

Citation: John Wilson and Winston Cowie ‘European discovery of New Zealand’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, updated 10-August-16.

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I would be most grateful for your view and response, Te Ara, to my question and proposed text amendments.

May I also state how professional and responsive I have found you in this korero, Te Ara. When-ever I have messaged there has been a prompt response. I am grateful to you and thank you once again for serious consideration of what has become an important national korero.

 

With Kind Regards,

Winston Cowie

Author – Conquistador Puzzle Trail

United Arab Emirates