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Abel Tasman Memorial

Just past the gutted shell of the old cement works at Tarakohe the road rises to a hilltop carpark at the Abel Tasman Memorial and it is only a couple of minutes walk to the tower and view-point. The marble plaque remembers Abel Tasman, a Captain in the Dutch East India Company, and the crews of his two small ships, who on the 18th December 1642 were the first Europeans to enter and anchor in what is now GOLDEN BAY. The visit ended in tragedy for the mariners. They had seen smoke from fires on shore and at dusk lights had appeared; remaining at anchor overnight, the Dutch saw eight well-manned canoes put out towards their ships early the next morning and one of the small jolly-boats plying between the ships was attacked. Four Dutch sailors perished and the disillusioned Tasman raised anchor, never to set foot in the place he bitterly named Murderers' Bay, or in the whole unknown length of the country he named Staten Land.

Three hundred years to the day after this event, Abel Tasman National Park was officially opened, with the Queen of the Netherlands as Patroness. Strong links with the Dutch community locally, and with the Dutch Royal Family persist, with royal visits in 1973 and 1992 and several ambassadorial visits over the years.

Some doubt remains as to exactly where Tasman anchored. Some say it was off the Tata Islands, which can be plainly seen a kilometre or so from the Lookout. Careful study of Tasman's log puts the spot closer to Whariwharangi Bay, the northernmost point in the National Park. Wherever the place, the seemingly unimportant encounter (not left to us in legend or story by the Maori and having no apparent influence on Dutch exploration in the southern oceans) has given GOLDEN BAY a major historical theme as well as the focal point around which was built one of our most popular national parks.

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