The Master Navigators: Kupe, Tasman & Cook.

 Following the successful trialing and use of the DIY interactive exhibit: Survivor WW1, by museums throughout NZ, Intouch Design is developing another interactive exhibit, about the discovery of New Zealand/Aotearoa,  for the upcoming 250th centenary of Captain Cook. Last year we sent out 3 concepts for interactives on the themes of navigation, first contact, and the classification of flora and fauna. Most respondents were keen on first contact, and a few liked navigation. However two very experienced museums educators were worried about the kids getting out of control with the proposed "Hatchet for a Hog" first contact game. They also said that if we were going to cover Cook, then we should give equal weight to Polynesian navigation... and then there was the 375th anniversary of Abel Tasman too. So we have ended up with a globe building activity that explains the parameters of European Navigation, and the journeys taken by Tasman and Cook and Kupe, and a board-game that simulates the journey into the unknown Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, and incorporates a trading component.  Elements of "Hatchet for a Hog" will be included in the Captain Cook version of the board-game, to teach about first contact. We will need to add to, or build a separate activity to explain the parameters of Polynesian navigation, which was dependent on knowledge of houses of star paths, and a closer understanding of the natural environment.

This is all still under development, with plans to launch it in the next few months. Outlined below is the globe building activity for Captain Cook, that can be easily adapted for Tasman, but will need adjustment and reconfiguration to explain Polynesian navigation. In the next section is an explanation of the board-game for Abel Tasman and The Dutch East India Company. Cook's voyage and first contact trading, and the story of Polynesian migration and Kupe's path to Aotearoa, are yet to be added. The final section describes the initial concept for "A Hatchet for a Hog" which will be modified and incorporated into Cook's board-game.


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Activity 1: Globe Building (e.g.Capt Cook)

This is an activity in which participants learn about navigation, and Capt Cook’s journeys, whilst building a globe.

Step 1. The Framework: Meridians & Latitude

 Meridians and Latitude will form the structural framework of the globe.  Participants will learn the most important navigational datum’s (The Equator, the Greenwhich Meridian and it’s antipode, and 45 degrees East and West)  and that latitude consists of even slices of the globe.

Step 2. Gores: Longitude & Greenwhich Mean Time

The longitudinal gores will then be individually placed on the globe. Participants will learn that longitude is like slices of an orange, getting smaller towards the poles, and that every 15° around the globe represents 1 hour from Greenwhich. They will also learn a bit of geography, as they figure out which order to place the gores in.

Step 3. Grid References: Incidents from Cook’s Voyages

Participants will then be given illustrated cards, which show incidents from Cook’s voyages, giving the date and a grid reference, and the place name. They can then place these cards in the correct place on the globe. When they are all placed they can then link the dates in sequence with coloured string to find Cook’s 3 voyages.

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Step 4. Scaling: The Transit of Venus

An additional activity involves marking out 1 astronomical unit (au) in the scale of the globe, on a local map. For example, if you use 630mm bicycle rims for your globe, then 1au is 7.4km away from your museum. The purpose of observing the transit of Venus, was to establish the length of 1 au, which is the distance between the Earth and the sun. This was the first astronomical length to be established, so it was then used to establish the distances between other celestial bodies.


Background information, and suggested artefacts for display.

When Capt Cook first set sail there was no certain way of determining longitude.  Sailors were often shipwrecked because they could only guess how far around the globe they were. A £20,000 King’s Prize was offered for the first person to invent a reliable way of finding longitude at sea. Many learned gentlemen studiously logged the relative position of celestial bodies over 18 year periods, creating almanacs, so that navigators could establish their position on Earth. However, this was of no use in cloudy conditions, or on a pitching and rolling ship. It was a craftsman clockmaker, Harrison, who eventually invented a clock that would keep time accurately enough at sea for sailors to establish their position in relation to Greenwhich. One ship’s clock was kept on Greenwhich Meantime, whilst another was set to local time according to the noon sun. The difference in time between the 2 clocks establish how far round the globe the ship was from the Greenwhich Meridian, that is: its longitude.


Suggested artefacts or replicas: Clocks, watches, globes, telescopes, binoculars, sextants, compasses, chronometers, dividers, rulers, quills, pencils, ink, charts, lead line, ship’s log, and artefacts from the countries and islands that Cook visited.

Variations for visitors of different ages and subject areas:

For Primary School children, Step 3 only, but with numbered and colour-coded cards and positions on the globe, so that all they have to do is match the number and colour of their card to a number on the globe. Each voyage is colour coded, so that once the cards are in place on the globe, the kids can use coloured string to connect the cards in numerical order, and find out where Capt Cook sailed. For maths students there is plenty of geometry, scaling, and calculation in the construction of the globe, and in the process of navigation, and the transit of Venus, that they could be asked to draw up and calculate, according to their level of knowledge. For science students: latitude and longitude, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, day and night, the transit of Venus, and astronomical units. For social studies, history, drama, and English students there are the incidents in the voyages of Captain Cook. Some these could be acted out, or incorporated in a game of charades.


Activity 2: An Ocean Exploring Board-game

Prior to the discovery of New Zealand/Aotearoa, the parameters of the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, and the lands and islands that lay in them were unknown. This board-game aims to give players an understanding of what it was like to set off across vast tracts of unknown ocean, and of the history of those who did so. 

The game consists of a base map showing bands of wind: the trades, the doldrums, the roaring forties , and the furious fifties. Hexagonal tiles are placed over this base map, obscuring the land we now know to be underneath. As players move their ships across the board, the wind speed and direction on the tiles determine their movements, while they strive to reach their destinations, discover new lands, and trade for useful items, without losing their sailors to scurvy!

Introduction to the Abel Tasman component of “Master Navigator” Board-game.


The Abel Tasman component includes 2 games: The first encompasses the main Dutch East India Co routes between Cape Town and Batavia (Jakarta), and trading with Ceylon, India, China, Japan and the Spice Islands. The winners are the ship to reach Batavia, within a given number of turns, with the greatest wealth in trade items.

The second game is about the circumnavigation of Australia from Batavia, via Mauritius, with the discovery of NZ on the way. The winners are the ship to return to Batavia within a given number of turns, with the greatest amount of coastline discovered. If a player ends up in the middle of the land they are shipwrecked, and must start again!


 Base Map for Abel Tasman and Dutch East India Co games.

Base Map for Abel Tasman and Dutch East India Co games.

In both games players move a coloured ship token across a sea of hexagonal tiles. A base map shows wind direction tiles. Different areas of prevailing wind are shown on different colours: the trade winds, the doldrums, the westerly roaring forties, and the dangerous furious fifties. A ship (i.e. a player or group of players) can move in any direction apart from straight against the wind, or across a side of the tile that is covered by land.

 Doldrum, SE trade, Roaring forties, & Furious fifties tiles

Doldrum, SE trade, Roaring forties, & Furious fifties tiles

On top of the base map, the sea and land east and south of the African and Asian continents are covered in tiles. When a player’s ship lands on a tile, they turn it over and follow the instructions on the underside of the tile, as well as the wind direction on the base map. Certain types of tiles are placed within each trade wind area, to reflect the prevailing windspeed and conditions: For instance, in the doldrums around the equator, the player will miss a turn, whereas in the furious 50’s the player can skip 6 tiles to the E, but the likelihood of landing on a shipwreck tile, and having to start again is high. Therefore, by playing the game, players will learn the advantages and disadvantages of the 3 routes from Cape Town to Batavia. They can discover for themselves that Brouwer’s route was best.

Abel Tasman Game 1: The Dutch East India Co.

Before Abel Tasman was sent on the exploratory journey through which he discovered New Zealand, he had to prove himself as a Captain for The Dutch East India Co. The aim of the Dutch East India Co was to make money by trading goods. In this game players will choose a route from Capetown to Batavia (Jakarta). Players can purchase or trade goods along the way or by travelling onwards from Batavia. At the outset of the game players will agree on the number of turns they want to take before the game ends; 10, 20, 30, or 40 depending on how much time they want to spend playing the game. 10 turns will be for a straight race to Batavia without trading. Otherwise, the winner will be the player that arrives at Batavia with the greatest value of goods within the prescribed number of turns. The prevailing wind conditions in each area will determine the number of turns it takes to reach their destination.

Each player will start with a green, purple, or red ship token to move across the map tiles, and a separate board with a cross section of the Heemskerke. They will start with 60 sailors, and 12 pieces of silver on board their ship. They can purchase trade items or spare timber and sails for ship repairs, at ports. They load these on their ships in the form of cards. Spare timber or sails cards can be used to save missing a turn and having to return to port, if they are dismasted or caught in a squall. They also encounter further hazards of enemy ships and scurvy.

 Green board for the player with the green ship token. The sailors and trade items are cut out to make cards, which are taken on and off the ship as the game is played.

Green board for the player with the green ship token. The sailors and trade items are cut out to make cards, which are taken on and off the ship as the game is played.

 This image shows the value of trade goods in the ports of Gangzhou, China and Nagasaki, Japan.  

This image shows the value of trade goods in the ports of Gangzhou, China and Nagasaki, Japan.  

Trade items will have different value in different ports, so that a profit can be made by trading between ports. Items such as spices, silk and porcelain etc., and materials for ship repair, (sails and timber) can be bought or exchanged at port. The value and availability of these goods is different in each port, so that the greatest profit can be made by buying goods from India, Ceylon and the Spice Islands, and trading them in China and Japan. However, China and Japan are furthest away, and the longer a ship stays at sea, the greater its chances of damage from storms or enemy ships, and the more likely the chance of losing sailors to scurvy, or of not returning to Batavia within a prescribed number of turns.

To help understand the relative value of each route at the end of the game, players can leave triangular markers of the colour of their ship in each hexagon that they land on. Then at the end of the game the whole group can discuss the merit of each route, weighing up the relationship between windspeed and direction against the value of trade in different ports.


Abel Tasman Game 2: Discover New Zealand

The Dutch East India Co sent Tasman to find “The Great South Land”, in the hope of finding more resources they could profitably trade. As it was very difficult to sail east against the prevailing trade winds from Batavia, Tasman was instructed to go south from Mauritius to the furious fifties to catch the strong prevailing Westerlies around the bottom of Australia, some of which had already been mapped by the Dutch. Tasman’s navigator Visscher, soon realised that the Southern Hemisphere 50’s were too stormy to survive, so changed course the roaring forties. This lead Tasman to discover Tasmania and New Zealand. From here they sailed to Tonga, and then returned to Batavia from the east.

In this game, only the tiles including and south of the doldrums will be covered. The ports of Batavia, Mauritius, and The Spice Islands remain uncovered. The aim of this game is to discover as much coastline as possible, without getting shipwrecked by landing on a completely yellow area in the middle of Australia. The same tiles will be used as for the Dutch East India Co game, but the player may choose to move any number of tiles less than the amount designated. E.g. if the player turns up the “50kph, move 5” tile, they may choose to move 1,2,3,4, or 5 tiles ahead, so that they don’t miss pieces of coastline, or NZ. Players will gain 1 point for every piece of coastline that they discover, and 3 points for landing at sites where Tasman anchored, such as Tasmania, central New Zealand and Tonga.

Penalties may be added for time at sea without landing (Lack of water and prevalence of scurvy), hitting the Great Barrier Reef, or not returning to Batavia within a pre-agreed number of turns.

 This image demonstrates a player’s route from Batavia via Mauritius around Australia and back to Batavia.

This image demonstrates a player’s route from Batavia via Mauritius around Australia and back to Batavia.

Different age groups

The games and activities can be played at different levels of difficulty for different age groups. Younger age groups could be helped to build the globe and to locate the incidents from the Master Navigator’s journey’s. To play the board-games younger players can make the journeys with the tiles visible, the routes already mapped out, and without trading. Very young players may simply enjoy placing the correct coloured tiles in each wind area.


Learning outcomes

These activities and games will encompass broad areas of knowledge. There will also be additional material provided for display and/or educational purposes from the research done for these activities. Topics are likely to include:

  • History: Polynesian migration, The Dutch East India Co and world trade, Abel Tasman’s discovery of New Zealand, Captain Cook’s 3 journey’s, first contract trading and bartering between the crew of the Endeavour and Polynesians
  • Maths: the western navigational datums (angles, circles and spheres, time and distance), the transit of Venus (triangulation), the angle of sailing vessels to the wind, the angle of a waka to the swell, trading ratios, and the Beaufort scale.
  • Science: Polynesian star paths and navigation, global weather patterns, the Beaufort scale, the transit of Venus and 1 astronomical unit, natural history (the plant products that were traded), medical history and symptoms of scurvy.
  • Geography:  Trade routes, the location of countries and islands in and surrounding the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans, longitude and latitude, map projections.
  • Art, Design, and Art History: The fashion for Asian Exotica in 17th century Europe, Victorian Cabinets of Curiosity and Collections from the Age of Discovery, Early Polynesian artefacts in New Zealand.


    Concept 3: A Hatchet for A Hog- now to be adapted and incorporated into the baord-game above- for Capt Cook.

    This game of bartering helps players understand the difficulties of first contact: of the difficult communication between Capt Cook and his crew and the people of the Pacific. When the game is going well, everyone is friendly and there is a free exchange of goods. When the game is going badly, communication and trade stop, and people are punished, and sometimes even killed. There will be 2 (teams of) players: On one side Capt Cook and the crew of the Endeavour will be aiming to trade items such as nails, hatchets, beads, red feathers, and cloth for fresh water, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, and girlfriends. Their aim is to get enough of these items to recover their health, and to provision the ship so they can sail onwards. On the other side Pacific Islanders will be attempting to protect their land, resources and people from invasion (by neighbouring Islanders, the sailors, strange new Gods, or disease), and attempting to gain as much new technology and mana as possible.

    Each side will be given a different set of rules:

    • about how to conduct trade,    
    • about the value of each trade item,    
    • and about the punishments to be taken if the other side breaks the rules.

    For instance the ship’s botanist may shoot a bird without realizing it is sacred. On the other hand the Islanders may think that stealing the astronomer’s sextant, or the botanist’s breeches, in order to increase their own mana, will go unnoticed. The sextant may be worth 10 points to the sailors, and 1 to the Islanders, whilst red feathers may be worth 1 point to the sailors and 10 to the Islanders. To punish the sailors the Islanders withdraw, and refuse to trade. To punish the Islanders the sailors capture their chiefs, or confiscate their waka. Amends can be made to either side by presenting gifts.  If no amends are made, or if more than one transgression happens at once, then the punishment escalates to violence: flogging, or beating. Escalating transgressions result in death. Each side will have a limited number of items to trade. If the combined value of their items fall below a certain level they will have lost the game i.e. they do not have enough resources to survive.

    The aim of the game is not to beat the opposition, but for a win/win situation: the sailors aim to leave with all their provisions and no-one sick, wounded or killed, whilst the Polynesians aim to have enough resources left to survive, and no-one sick, wounded or killed. This game will lend itself well to repeat visitation. As each side learns the others’ rules, they will be able to negotiate better, and to avoid accidentally offending each other. For younger players, the game could simply operate like the card game “Go Fish”: e.g. the sailors ask the Islanders for a hog. The Islanders have no hogs, so the sailors have to “Go Fish” for the hog from the collection of items sitting in the “sea” between the “Island” on one wall of the room, and “The Endeavour”, on the opposite wall.

    Suggested artefacts for display

    Items similar to those traded (or stolen) between Capt Cook and Pacific Islanders (including Maori): e.g. Bark cloth, tapa, cloth, cloaks, clothes, hatchets, axes, nails, beads, buttons, bottles, feathers. Containers for provisioning the ship, such as barrels, or containers that Islanders used for catching or gathering food, such as kete or fishing nets. Weapons, such as muskets, patu, spears. 

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