31st December 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
On the last day of this year we passed the north cape of New Zealand, and steered for Port Jackson. It has been said that the New Zealanders entertain vague ideas about the spirits of their dead hovering near this north cape. I had no opportunity of inquiring into this superstition, but as other authorities besides Cook mention it, no doubt there is some such belief among those who have not acquired different notions from foreigners To my mind it is interesting in two points of view; one, as showing their belief in a future state of existence; and the other, as indicating the quarter whence New Zealand was first peopled; for it appears to be an impression common to many savage nations, that their souls should go to the land of their ancestors. This is particularly remarkable among the South American aborigines. It is not easy to imagine any motive for the New Zealanders supposing that spirits hover about the North Cape, in preference to any other promontory of New Zealand, unless in connexion with the idea that from the point nearest to the country whence those people formerly migrated, the souls of the deceased would, after a time perhaps, depart to their permanent abode.

In taking leave of this interesting country I will refer to Cook once more, for a curious notice, given in his third voyage, respecting great lizards in New Zealand, which have not, so far as I am aware, been lately described, or even met with. 'Taweiharooa' gave an account of snakes and lizards of an enormous size: "he describes the latter as being eight feet in length, and as big round as a man's body. He said that they sometimes seize and devour men; that they burrow in the ground; and that they are killed by making fires at the mouths of the holes. We could not be mistaken as to the animal; for, with his own hand, he drew a very good representation of a lizard on a piece of paper; as also of a snake, in order to show what he meant."
(Cook's third Voyage, chap. VII.)

Perhaps this huge kind of lizard has become extinct; but it is possible that it yet exists on the southern (or middle) island. In its burrowing we are reminded of the great lizard, or iguana, of the Galapagos Islands; but the assertion that it sometimes seizes men seems to refer to an alligator, or crocodile. Cook heard of it shortly after leaving Queen Charlotte Sound, from a native of the southern large island. If such a reptile ever existed upon the northern island it must have been exterminated by the earliest aboriginal settlers, as they have now no tradition of any animals except dogs, pigs, rats, mice, and small lizards. Pigs and dogs, say the natives, were brought from the north, in canoes.

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