Te Tai Uka a Pia

Iwi relationships with the Southern and Antarctic Oceans

According to the tribal narratives of Ngāti Rārua and Te Āti Awa, the first human to travel to the Antarctic was the Polynesian explorer Hui Te Rangiora.


Te Rangiora sits aloft the meeting house Tūrangapeke, at Te Awhina marae in Motueka. He gazes out in his continual search for new lands, and in this way his journey is remembered and honoured. Te Rangiora also adorns the Pou at the entrance to the Riuwaka Resurgence in Kahurangi National Park. At this place,  he took rest and prepared himself spiritually and physically for his journey into the Southern Ocean.

This is one recorded version of Māori journeying into the Southern Ocean.  But what other stories are held by hapū and iwi – especially those from  Te Waipounamu (the South Island) and Rekohu (the Chatham Islands)? How might these stories frame our ongoing relationship with the Antarctic and our responses to climate change?

In this project, we’re working with hapū and iwi from Te Waipounamu and  Rekohu to better understand the extent and nature of the relationships Māori had with the Antarctic and Southern Oceans, and to identify local challenges associated with climate change through both tribal stories and contemporary living arrangements.

Māori are historically underrepresented in research conducted in the Antarctic and the Southern Oceans. It’s therefore important to identify ways to connect mātauranga Māori with climate change science and to bring Māori perspectives into wider discussions about adaptation to climate change. The learning from this work will be used to carry future messages on climate change to a Māori public. Synergising tribal narratives with scientific explanations can only enhance community interest in the crucial challenges posed by climate change.


This project in the media:
Mātauranga Māori takes vital role in protecting Antarctic climate research, Te Ao Māori News
Did Māori voyagers reach Antarctica?, Māori Television
Cold start to voyaging stories, Waatea News
Discovering Māori Antarctic stories, Waikato University
Ice mountains inspire tekoteko, Waatea News

Research and findings:
Te Tai Uka a Pia Iwi Associations with Antarctica and the Southern Oceans, Sandy Morrison and Aimee Kaio, Deep South Symposium