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Schools and other group visits to The Tawhiti Museum and/or Traders & Whalers can be arranged by contacting either Nigel or Teresa. Bookings are essential for large groups and school groups.

School groups must be well supervised* and focused in their studies. Adults are charged a reduced admission fee provided they are actively helping co-ordinate and supervise the group.

We would encourage teachers, where practical, to visit the museum sometime prior to their class's visit to become familiar with the physical layout, and design a more focused programme for their specific age level and topic being studied. If we can help with this process, please ask, as nothing annoys us more than giving up our time for poorly organized visits.

*NOTE - adequate supervision of groups is mandatory as it is a health & safety issue - in case of an emergency/evacuation etc.

You may download the accompanying teachers' guide to use as a basis for your group's worksheets. It describes the 'Traders & Whalers' attraction chronologically and suggests questions you may use to focus students' attention in each area of the displays.

[Note: we have supplied the answers to each of the questions in italics. You will need to remove these from your students' copies]

As you enter 'Traders and Whalers' allow a moment for your eyes to adjust to the low light levels in the caverns. These caverns are based on the storage caves and tunnels that used to be on Paritutu rock and the offshore islands of New Plymouth in the 1820 - 1840 period. The first character you will meet is a whaler sharpening harpoons.

Observation Points
  • The whale bones stored in the cavern - note the size of the bones. Can you identify three different skeletal parts?
    [vertebrae, shoulder blade, rib, jawbone and teeth]
  • The whaler's clothing - what is hanging from his ear?
    [shark tooth, mounted in red sealing wax- a very popular personal ornament in those times.]
  • Barrels of whale oil. A full size adult whale would produce approximately 36 barrels of oil.
  • Harpoons stored in the rack above his head - the steel tip is attached to a long wooden shaft. Why isn't the whole harpoon made of steel?
    [to keep the harpoon light enough for one man to handle - and the wooden shaft is designed to detach once embedded, leaving the steel 'barb' firmly attaching the rope to the whale]

The next cavern has Dicky Barrett trading with a Maori

Observation Points
  • Clothing - note the Maori is wearing European clothing by this time.
  • The Maori is inspecting a flintlock pistol - what goods has he put onto the table for trade?
    [traditional Maori artefacts - mere, patu, tiki, toki, heru]
  • What other European goods are stored in this cavern?
    [flintlock muskets, clay pipes, casks of rum, cast iron cooking pots, small barrels of gunpowder, tobacco slicers, padlocks]

Continue past the spring where water falls from the roof down into a rock pool.

Observation Points
  • Buckets hang from the wall for carrying fresh drinking water. Despite being surrounded by seawater, maintaining a supply of fresh drinking water would have been an ongoing problem for the 200 - 300 people living on the islands at that time.

Next cavern on your right

Observation Points
  • This cavern is storing shipping supplies - canvas sails, rope, blocks, ships wheel, oars and harpoons. A 'ship of the line' in 1805 needed 768 blocks for the rigging and a further 628 blocks for the guns. HMS Victory had 5443 square metres of sails and carried another 23 spare sails.

Next cavern on your left.

Observation Points
  • Steel tools were a major trade item - hatchets, axes, hoes, grubbers, adzes - replacing the traditional stone tools of the Maori, which were tiresome to manufacture.
  • Bales of flax fibre. The Taranaki coast was considered a rich source of flax and this soon became the most favoured trade item.

Past the 'Warning Ghost' sign - look through the narrow grill for Dicky Barrett's ghost - it appears about every 10 seconds... In the cavern adjacent to the ghost a Maori woman strips flax leaves for its fibre.

Observation Points
  • Stripping flax was a most tedious task and it took three tons of stripped flax to purchase one musket.
  • What did the Europeans use all this flax fibre for?
    [mostly for rope for ships' rigging - but also sacks, mats even sail cloth] - a 'ship of the line' in 1805 required 26 miles (42 km) of rope, and it lasted less than 5 years.

Now move into the large cavern where you will be directed into boats for the journey through an early Taranaki landscape, when our coastlines witnessed abductions, massacres and bloody revenge, but also on occasions, selfless courage and devoted loyalty - when traders and Maoris formed remarkable partnerships in the face of common threats.

Observation Points
  • There is so much to see and hear on the boat voyage that all we recommend is that students fine tune their eyes and ears to absorb as much as they can of their dark ride. Check their recall of events later.

Interpretation Gallery

After leaving the boats, students climb the stairs over the bridge, to a long gallery, where a series of static displays help to explain the events featured on the boat ride - artefacts, scale models, photographs and text help establish an historical and social context of this period in our history. These are our stories - unique and compelling - and many of the places featured can still be visited today - some sites little changed from those earlier times.

Visiting these places is to make a connection with our past - a unique and tangible link with our forbears. It can only help in gaining a respect for this land, its peoples and its cultures.