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Tolaga Bay Girls Follow In Cook's Footsteps

Wednesday 25 May, 2004

Announcement from the Royal Society of New Zealand

Tolaga Bay Girls Follow In Cook's Footsteps

Two Tolaga Bay Area School students, Puawai Ngata Gibson, and Rawinia Tuapawa, accompanied by their technology teacher Darryl Crawford, will travel to Tahiti on 2 June, as part of the Transit of Venus celebrations. The arrival of Cook in New Zealand, following his observation of the Transit of Venus in Tahiti on 3 June 1769, is very significant for the people of Tolaga Bay, which was one of his first landing places. The Tahitian high priest, Tupaia, who came to New Zealand with Cook on the first voyage, was able to communicate with the local Maori and made a great impression on them.

The Royal Society of London sent Cook to observe the Transit of Venus in Tahiti on 3 June 1769, in order to use the measurement to calculate the distance from Earth to the Sun (the astronomical unit, or AU). In the first truly international scientific collaboration, observers were despatched to other remote locations, as the idea was to compare timings from places of widely varying latitudes. The timings of Cook and Green's independent observations differed by about 20 seconds because of the indistinct boundary edge between the Sun and Venus when they touched.

This problem is known as the black drop effect. Nevertheless, their observation contributed to the most accurate calculation of the AU that was submitted to the Royal Society of London.

The girls will follow in Cook's footsteps around the main island of Tahiti, and report back to New Zealand from Point Venus on the night of the Transit, 8 June. This northernmost point on the island is the location where Cook and his fellow astronomer Charles Green set up their observation tent.

Radio New Zealand's Kim Hill will be interviewing people all around the world, including Puawai and Rawinia, from 6-7pm as part of a 3-hour live broadcast from Te Papa on 8 June.

Like the three groups of students going on the Transit of Venus Expedition to UK at the same time, they will report back to other New Zealand students via the Transit of Venus website (, using a digital video camera and laptop provided by UNESCO, which is funding the trip. The group will stay with retired teacher, Ms Astrid Raimbault, who has generously agreed to host the party.

The group will be formally farewelled at the National Maritime Museum in Auckland on Thursday 27 May at 5.30 p.m., together with the Expedition going to the UK. However, they will return to Tolaga Bay briefly before their departure next Wednesday.

Wednesday 2 June Arrive Tahiti, orientation

Thursday 3 June Actual date of Transit of Venus anniversary. Visit Point Venus and take videos for transmission to NZ for 8 June ceremonyat Te Papa

From Friday on Follow Cook's journey as set out in "Trial of the Cannibal Dog" (Vaitepiha Bay, Maha'uutea, Hamanino Bay (birthplace of Tupaia) Visit to Museum and a secondary school

Monday 7 June 10 or 11 p.m. Available for audio-link with Te Papa ceremony (6.45 p.m. Tuesday 8 June NZ time)

Wednesday 9 June Depart Tahiti for New Zealand

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