Episode 9: The Taniwha

Humankind as a rule, loves mystery. We love things that are unexplained – unknown to us, perhaps unseen, but by a few. We love to find out the stories behind these mysteries, perhaps in hope of being the one to solve them, if only for our own satisfaction and sense of curiosity and wonder. Although, because of our love of mystery, sometimes we create one out of nothing.

But is that the case with strange and unusual animals that have been spotted world wide – like the Yeti, the Chupracabra? Is it really? Or, is there something more to the story?  Stories of these mythical beasts can be found world wide. Some of them are very well known, such as the Loch Ness monster, and the Yeti, or Bigfoot as mentioned previously.  Some have only come to public attention in the past few decades such as the Chupacabra in the Americas.

Those who actively research or hunt for these elusive creatures are called Cryptozoologists, and the study of these beasties is called Cryptozoology. Cryptozoology as a field of study was originally founded in the 1950’s by zoologists Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson. The animals themselves, are referred to as Cryptids, by those who follow this field of study. So Cryptozoology is the study of the subject and Cryptids are the creatures themselves.

I personally like the definition of Cryptozoology as put out by the Center for Fortean Zooology in Australia. They give it this definition – Cryptozoology:

The field of ‘hidden zoology’, concentrating on the research of animals considered to be legendary or otherwise non-existent by mainstream biology. This includes looking for living examples of animals that are considered extinct, such as dinosaurs and more recently extinct creatures such as the Tasmanian Tiger; animals whose existence lacks physical support but which appear in myths, legends, or are reported, such as Bigfoot and the Chupacabra; and wild animals dramatically outside of their normal geographic ranges, such as Alien Big Cats (ABCs).

Whilst I absolutely acknowledge that these cryptids are reported world-wide, as this is a New Zealand based podcast, with myself being based in the Sunny Hawkes Bay region of our beautiful country – I felt that for this initial episode at least, that we would focus solely on NZ Cryptids and reports from around my home country. And, we have plenty of them ourselves – some many New Zealanders may not even have heard of. Before we begin, I have tried my best to be as accurate as I can with the pronunciation of our te ao Maori – the Maori language, I am not a native speaker – but am trying my best to learn it – so there is no offence intended for any mispronunciations in this episode.

I have always had a fascination for the unexplained, the unknown, the mysterious, and a desire to know more about them, I have followed these stories on and off all my life, from the very first time I heard of the elusive big foot as a youngster.

There are many different types of Cryptids, beasties, and life forms that are said to reside on NZ lands and in the waters on and surrounding our beautiful country. In 1966, the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand included a section headed “Animals, Mythical”. Included in it were numerous tales of monsters, ogres, goblins and fairies, and weird `hairy men’ who devoured unwary travellers and waylaid hunting parties – these also have long been part of Maori lore. With that we’ll begin with the most famous cryptid that belongs in NZ waters, whether on or off land. This is the one that most, New Zealanders would have heard the name of – or seen carved into the beautifully ornate carvings on a local Marae (meeting house), or used as a school’s logo. That is the Taniwha.

In NZ our native people are know as Maori. In te ao Māori (the Māori worldview), legend and reality are very, very intertwined, and it is often difficult for NZ to reconcile the elements of te ao tipua (the supernatural world) with todays modern society, as they continue to be very central to the beliefs of many Maori today. In fact, in only the past few decades, these beliefs have caused a few issues and some tensions, between Maori customs and expectations and todays realities as we perceive them to be.

For example: In 2002 Transit New Zealand, our national road authority, re-routed part of State Highway 1 near Meremere, when they were rebuilding it, away from the domain of a taniwha named Karu Tahi after Ngāti Naho the local iwi (or tribe) expressed concerns about the dangers of building on this site. Fourteen months after construction was completed the Waikato river flooded swamping area.

In the same year, Northland iwi unsuccessfully protested against Ngāwhā prison near Kaikohe being built on an old swampland kainga (home) of a taniwha named Takauere. In 2007, after ignoring the taniwha warning, the Government admitted the prison was sinking into the ground and now requires major structural repairs. The Auckland rail tunnel project proposed by Mayor Len Brown is also encountering issues with a Ngāti Whātua taniwha named Horotiu who lives in an ancient river which now flows beneath the Town Hall and runs along Queen Street out to sea.

The Taniwha

The Taniwha in Maori mythology, usually lived in or near the water, lakes, rivers, swamps, or the sea. They hid in dens or lairs, known as Rua Taniwha – this could be deep pools, caves, or dangerous waterways – always areas that people avoided. The Taniwha, can take on numerous forms… in the sea, they often appear as a whale or quite large shark. In lakes and rivers, they may still be whale-like in size, but look more like a tuatara – our native lizard, having a row of spines along the back. Other Taniwha, can appear as a floating log, which behaves in an unusual way, as in my Mother’s own experience later on. Taniwha can be either Male or Female and not all Taniwha live in the water, some are land based. And some are said to have the ability to shape shift.

Some of these Taniwha are seen as kaitiaki or protectors of the iwi (tribes), and hapū (sub-tribes). These ones that were kaitiaki were respected and people who passed by their rua taniwha, would say an appropriate karakia (charm, or prayer). They would also leave an offering for the taniwha, such as a green twig. However, for some iwi, Taniwha are seen as dangerous, predatory beings. Terrifying creatures, that captured people and ate them. Some were known to kidnap women and take them as wives – so the legends go. For the more traditional Maori, the Taniwha – regardless of if they see it as benevolent or malevolent, is a very real – living, if supernatural, creature. Or at the least, one that for now may simply be sleeping.

Many Maori had names for their Taniwha.. like the ones mentioned previously. Here are a couple more. There is the taniwha Tuhirangi,  who is said to live in the Cook Straight, a channel that divides the North Island of NZ  from the South. Or Hine-kōrako a female Taniwha who lives under the Te Rēinga waterfall in Wairoa.

In the 1870’s the belief by iwi in the existence of the Taniwha, was very real to the Maori, and in fact a letter was sent into a Māori language newspaper Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani, by one Mohi Tūrei, an elder of the Ngāti Porou iwi. He described the case of a girl who was said to have been killed by a taniwha at a local swimming hole also said to be a rua taniwha… that report in the news paper went as follows.

On 20 December 1876, four young girls had gone to bathe in a waterhole at Waipapa. This spot was renowned as the lair of a taniwha named Tāminamina. While three of the girls began to bathe, the fourth, Mereana, swam to the other side of the waterhole, climbed out onto the rocks, and began sucking nectar from the red flowers of the sacred rātā tree. Suddenly, she slipped back into the water. Her friend Rāhera tried to grab her, but failed. The two other girls screamed, because they saw the water whirling near where she had fallen, and knew it to be the taniwha named Tāminamina who had got their friend.

Rāhera dived to find her, but could not, and swam to shallow waters and then saw the water was rising into waves. Days later Mereana was found, back on the rock where she had slipped. But when a group came to get her body, she had once again disappeared. An elder believed she had been taken by the taniwha as punishment for sucking the flowers of the sacred rātā tree.

In the case of this story, it was not because they were at the rua taniwha or the taniwha’s water space, but it was because the young women disrespected the place by sucking the nectar from the flowers of the Rātā tree. Which was obviously a taboo.

In more recent times a member of my FB group. Walking the Shadowlands, had her own experience with a Taniwha that was found washed up on the local seashore.

Washed up Taniwha

Anon: Ok so, around about 94-96 I was living in Otaki, and I remember the family I was living with, we got told that a Taniwha had been washed up on the beach. So we went down for a look, and there was a lot of local Maori there doing a karakia. And, when I went down to look at this Taniwha, it was like a log, but more drift wood. It was long and in three pieces, and on the side it was like an indent of an eye, and by then the Maori people had put a muscle shell in there as well. But it had heaps of little… What is it? Kaimoana, which is like seafood – like muscle looking things they were little and like green seaweed on it too, just a little bit – it sort, of looked like a dragon I guess.

Yeah.  And so the local Maori people did a karakia for it and… But just looking at it, it was very fascinating, but it was sad as well. ‘Cause, you could feel it in your heart that it was a Taniwha, and that it had been in the ocean for years and years. So the three pieces –The first piece, looked like a head piece, and I remember the last bit the last bit of the wood, looked like the tail piece as well. Yeah, it actually looked like a tail, the shape of it, cause it didn’t look like any other wood that had been washed up on the beach previously. Like absolutely covered in little shell fishes and the seaweed and stuff that looked like it had been there for years and years. You know, like you know you see a whale and they have those rocks on it, kind of like that. But then again… More fascinating again.

Marianne: Right. So I’m just trying to understand how the local iwi felt it was a Taniwha? and like what gave them the idea it was a taniwha? Was it more about the feeling? Or more about how it looked?

I, I think it was all of that. Because, it did look like it and like even myself walking up to look at it, you could just feel straight away that, that’s what it was. Yeah… Yeah like I said, it did not look like any other piece of wood that had washed up.

How long do you think it would have been in length?

Oh… Definitely longer than what I am. Maybe, twice my height? But then again, because it had broken off into three pieces… Um, when it was together it… It still wasn’t far apart from one another. And then, when I stood beside it, it came up to… Like the headpiece came up to my hips, sort of thing.

So what happened…. what happened to the Taniwha after the karakias? Did they bury it or…?

From what I know, they pretty much just left it there, and yeah, I actually can’t remember to be honest. But no, I don’t think they buried it because I – I’m pretty sure, I think there were other gifts around it as well. Like a couple of kete bags, like woven out of flax sort of thing….

There is a school of thought amongst some cryptozoologists that the sea based Taniwha, might in fact be a species of Mososaur, a sea creature that officially died out in the cretaceous period about 65 million years ago. A NZ palaeontologist named Alan Marks has a theory that a population of Mosasaurs still exists, albeit a very small population, that live in the depths of the Pacific ocean, though occasionally areas such as the Atlantic and Indian oceans where they are sometimes spotted. He argues that the ridiculous amount of little known NZ sightings may mean that New Zealand is a breeding ground for Mosasaurs. But of course, this is all speculative.

Here are some alleged sightings – reported around NZ waters over the centuries beginning in 1889 With one Mr Alexander Lindsay Kerr. Mr Kerr the chief officer of the union steam shipping company ship, the Rotomahana, was shocked to witness:

” A huge conger eel, with the exception that it had two fins about 10ft (3 metres) long” rise out of the ocean almost 30ft, 9 metres, off the Portland Light between Gisbourne and Napier.” 

He later described how when he saw pictures of Eels in books later he thought the serpent he had seen had a far more crocodile shaped head.

  • 1891: Alfred Ford Matthews, surveyor, writes to the Herald newspaper, that while on board the Manapouri from Auckland to Gisborne on Friday, 24th July, he and several others distinctly saw a sea serpent, resembling the one seen from the Rotomahana off Portland Island. The serpent when seen from the Manapouri was a few miles north of East Cape, so evidently it has been travelling south. The time was between 8 and 9 in the morning, and the monster was also seen by the ship’s officer in charge. It was watched for over ten minutes, and was travelling slowly, raising itself 20 or 30 feet [6 to 10 meters] out of the water every two minutes. It would from time to time lift its head and part of its body to a great height perpendicularly, and when in that position turn its body round in a most peculiar manner, displaying a black back and white belly, with two arm-like appendages of great length… It would then suddenly drop back into the water, scattering it in all directions.
  • In 1926, one Theo Hazelwood told of the time he was on a fishing boat near the entrance to Wellington harbour, when a 16 year old boy shouted out to him from the back of the boat. He rushed over, and saw a thin long neck drifting on the water surface, topped with a small head and a mouthful of vicious looking fangs. It circled the boat five times before swimming away.
  • In 1939 a Christchurch couple in Totaranui, said they stumbled across a large rotting animal, which they later described as resembling the Zwiyo Maru corpse.
  • My own mum and a group of her friends all in their early 20’s – so this would have been in the early 1950’s, had a very brief encounter themselves. This was her story.

Mum’s Sighting

She said that they were crossing one of the many bridges that span the mighty Waikato river, which cuts the city of Kirikiriroa, otherwise known as Hamilton, NZ into two banks. One of the group spotted a large log in the river, now this by itself is not at all unusual to see, especially after heavy storms and the like. What was unusual with this log, as all the members of the group observed, was that it was floating against the strong current of the river which normal flows at a pretty decent rate of knots. I was on a boat, on dinner cruise on the river, when I lived in Hamilton one time and the captain told me it flowed at something like 20 knots (Just from memory, which obviously could be inaccurate).

So anyway they watched this log for a minute when one of the group a Maori man suddenly said that’s no log, it’s a Taniwha, and they all scattered. Ran off the bridge and returned to their homes, shaken at having witnessed this for themselves. Of course growing up in Kirikiriroa, they had always heard of the stories of the many Taniwha that inhabited the bends of the mighty Waikato river – but as with most people they simply thought they were legends, and myths, until that night… Until her death, she never denied what they had experienced.

  • In 1971 the crew of the Kompira Maru saw a bug eyed monster about 30 km off Lyttleton. It was said to resemble a large crocodile, though they saw it had fins rather than legs when it leaped under the water.
  • In 1972 in Temuka, three women white-baiting at the mouth of the Orari river watched a huge monster wallowing in the breakers barely 30 metres away. They described it as a dark grey lizard like creature, though it was around 5 metres long. It had a huge gaping mouth full of small, sharp, teeth.
  • In 1983 an anonymous woman said that she had witnessed a gigantic Mosasaur-like sea creature circling the small raft she was in far off the coast of Picton. She said the animal she saw was almost 7 metres in length and that its snout occasionally emerged from the water, showing some very grisly looking teeth.
  • In 1990 two young woman sun bathing by a lagoon near Taupo were amazed to see a ‘Giant lizard’ swimming around in the shallows. It emerged its upper body at one point and attempted to catch a bird in its jaws, but was unsuccessful. It then submerged again and swam into the depths. The girls said it was the most incredible experience they’d ever had.
  • In 1993, a large sea monster was spotted by Earl Rigney of Canterbury via telescope. He claimed he saw what he thought was a whale in the distance, so he looked through his telescope at the animal and was surprised to see that it was a large crocodile, breaching on the surface of the water. He said it was roughly 30ft (9 metres) long
  • In 2001 a group of teenagers bogey boarding in Paekakariki were terrified when an enormous monster exploded out of the water in front of them. All of the five perfectly described a Mosasaur when they reported their tale.
  • In 2006 Ivan Levy was left shocked and boat-less after a dramatic an encounter with a pair of aggressive animals, which rammed into, and attacked his boat when he was out enjoying the sun on the deck. He claimed that they were “like lizards with fins” and were about 6 metres long, although he did say they may have been slightly shorter or longer. After over an hour of attacking the boat the pair of creatures swim away. Ivan Levy returned to shore with a wrecked boat. Some said he had deliberately damaged the boat for insurance money, but unfortunately for him the boat was not insured and he gained very little other than a few local headlines for his story.
  • In 2007, a Raumati mother and infant daughter saw a sea monster the size of a small whale splashing in the shallows.

So these are just some of the reported sightings over the years in NZ. Many more of course go unreported, except to perhaps friends or close family, for fear of ridicule. Here are two, more recent, experiences on the Whanganui River. The first is anonymous. The second is from Ria – a member of my Walking the Shadowlands FaceBook group.

River Cruise Sighting

I was 21 and living in Whanganui and had been invited to go on a trip up the river on a boat for a friend’s hen’s celebration on a Saturday afternoon/evening. I had mahi to finish in the studio so I didn’t drink at all throughout the day and evening. My best friend was also on board. We cruised up the river at about 3 in the afternoon and spent a quiet few hours there. It was a beautiful trip, being on the river and seeing the surrounding land from the water is a different and exciting experience of a place.

When it was time to make the return journey home my friend and I decided to stay on deck rather than in the cabin to experience seeing the town at night from the river.  The river was completely different in darkness.  It felt much wider and wilder – more itself and the sounds of the water and its inhabitants were much sharper and louder due to our sense of sight being limited by the low light. We watched and listened, soaking in the experience and enjoying the solemnity and the depth of the great body of water.  I felt a profound sense of reverence and wonder at being in that place… being able to feel its majesty, age and wisdom filled me with awe.

My friend and I heard a different sound, a splash that was louder than anything we had heard all day – so we turned concurrently to look overboard, toward the opposite shore where Putiki wharenui is sited.  In the pitch black, inky water we both saw a form moving.  It was quiet and otherworldly, despite its initial splash and its apparent size.

We did not turn in time to see its head – only its body which looked like a huge tuna (eel) about 60 cm in diameter, perhaps bigger – it was about 4 or 5 meters away from the boat.  Its body was large, considering we may not have seen the broadest part of it.  Its surface was smooth like a tuna or dolphin – I had heard stories that dolphins sometimes swam up river a little and were considered rahui, but the body of this creature was very long, it moved in a humped curve, like an upside-down ‘u’, – as if it had come up for air and had just dove back into the water. I would estimate that the length of the body would be 4 metres, possibly longer, if outstretched.  It felt like it went on forever as we watched.

My friend and I looked at each other amazed and confounded.  I think we were more shocked that we were both witnessing such an important and extraordinary thing than afraid.  It is not every day that you feel transported through time, ‘history’ and have your deepest beliefs confirmed by simply seeing something.  I am truly grateful to have had the privilege of beholding that taniwha, they do not have grace us with their presence. The world is not what you think it is.  Everything is possible.

Ria’s Story

Kia ora, my name is Ria and this is my story about the … one of the Whanganui taniwha. So my stepmother grew up in Whanganui, her family is from there, and so I spent a lot of my childhood school holidays there growing up with her whanau. And they live in a place called… ah I guess the area is Kapaiti and that part of the river. So it’s sort of like you’re heading out of Whanganui, it’s down towards that end of the river.

When we were kids I took my much younger than me cousins down to have a look at the river, when no adults were watching what we were up to. So I actually walked them up a country road and across a main road and then down some … yeah, I got in a lot of trouble for this – and down a bank, ‘cause, I wanted to go and look at the river. I think there was one of the holiday homes – one of the holiday parks that was down that end so it was reasonably flat one we got down to the river bit. And there were kayaks and stuff tethered up not too far away.  And there was, I think, a dock or an awning that you can push your boats off from.

Anyhow, so we were crouched on the side of the river bank and I think we were skimming stones to be honest. I was having a grand old time. And then, I noticed this log, like a tree branch – reasonably thick though. Not too far away from us though, probably 6 metres at the most? It was pretty close, and the river’s pretty deep down that end – which is why it’s got the… which is why there is so much kayaking. And I saw it, I saw it sitting out there, cause we were all children making notice of the log that was sort of sitting randomly in the middle of the water.

I had actually looked away when it started to move upstream, one of the little ones spotted it and pointed it out.   I remember turning my head and it was such a bizarre kind of moment to be in, ‘cause, I was literally watching this thing cutting through a current. The current was coming down the river and the log was moving up the river and it was like… and there was only part of it, part of the front that was visible and as it progressed slowly, it sort of started sinking.

But what I remember really clearly wasn’t so much the log itself, as it was the way the water was moving around it, so it left… like trails on either side of it. So, I don’t know if it’s ‘cause, it was very wide under the water, or under the surface it was dragging? I don’t know ‘cause, things don’t look like that when they move through water, you get that white kind of dusting on top of the water when things cut through it. This didn’t look like this. This was ripples coming off something that was much larger I guess. In hindsight when I look back and think oh yes, something was really big under that.

We, but we watched it for a while and it came up – sort of up towards a bank that stuck out a bit, and it went wide around it. And, it disappeared. We all kind of sat there watching it. And I remember this rising feeling… in the moment, it was kind of bizarre, but the second it wasn’t in sight anymore, it was this rising feeling of like hot… and kind of vomit… and, I believe that is fear, as I fully freaked out. I think I was about 9, which would mean the ones with me were six – five, six, maybe four. Four, five and six. They were only little.

I panicked – dragged us back up the bank. Dragged us back up to road – and when we got up onto the main road was when all the parents were coming down the road, trying to find out where we’d gone. And, I got into so much trouble! Not that I cared at the time because we were alive and we survived whatever that was so… I was just kind of gibbering about what we’d seen. And, it was good ‘cause, I think… the kids that were with me, backed me up but not any adult there told me it was rubbish. They just kind of went ok – you know you’re not supposed to go to the river by yourself? And it was more the safety side of it, so I never felt bad for explaining it, ‘cause, they didn’t immediately tell me I’m bullshit. Silly, but it’s a monumental thing, I think, when you’re a kid and you’re believed. I remember when we… later on… I think probably a couple of days later, telling – retelling my dad, ‘cause, it was my favourite story. And he just kind of like – yep! That’s generally how they do that!

So what are these Taniwha we have heard about in this episode. Are the sea- based ones Mosasaurs as has been postulated previously? Is this indeed possible? But what about the land- based Taniwha, some that dwell in water some on land? There are schools of thought that some of these water based ones could be extremely large Tuna or eel, as the previous encounter might suggest, and certainly NZ does have the world’s largest fresh-water eel, living in our lakes and streams.

New Zealand long-fin eel

The New Zealand long-fin eel is very impressive. Described by those who have seen them as “logs that moved”, there have been confirmed sightings of specimens up to two metres in length—and weighing up to 40 kg. In fact, scientists believe that our endemic long fins are quite possibly the largest eels in the world.

But their huge size is not the only thing that makes long-fin eels very disconcerting. There’s their serpent-like appearance—an elongated body which slides through grass when migrating from one waterway to another as easily as it slithers through streams. Equally unappealing is their leathery skin, which—although embedded with hundreds of tiny scales—is covered with a thick layer of slippery slime. So, could this tuna account for some of the Taniwha sightings?

In 1973, a diver fixing a gate at the Arapuni Power Station on the Waikato River had two ribs broken when he was charged by a large long-fin tuna. An even more unfortunate tale involves a Southland farmhand who decided to go for a skinny dip and was subsequently hospitalised after a tuna latched onto a sensitive area. So eels have been known to attack the odd, unfortunate human, but mostly because of human error – such has having fish blood on their body when in water or similar.

Te Ngarara-huarau

As mentioned previously, not all Taniwha lived in the water. The land dwelling Taniwha were called Ngārara Huarau, or less commonly as Kumi. Some of these have been described as looking like a giant tuatara with a spiky tail – some have even described them as dragons.

And certainly there were ngarara, lizards, in New Zealand which were larger than the tuatara. In 1874 J. W. Stack recorded the testimony of certain prominent Maoris who claimed not only to have seen but also to have handled and eaten them. That version of the ngarara, lived in manuka scrub,  and varied in size from 2 to 3 ft in length and from 10 to 20 in. in girth. There was also a smaller ngarara, about 18 in. long, found in streams. The Maoris attributed the disappearance of the large ngarara to scrubfires and the attacks of cats and, added Stack, perhaps the Norwegian rat… so there is a precedent for this at a smaller size – but who is to say that is the only sizes they came in?

Again in the 1800’s but this time in 1892 and in the King Country of New Zealand, there is a remarkable story of a Taniwha the locals called the Kawhautahi Dragon

The Kawhautahi Dragon

The Kawhautahi Dragon

In 1892 in the King Country of NZ a taniwha the locals called the Kawhautahi Dragon, was said to have attacked a survey party working in the area. It was time of industry and growth for early NZ and both Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) worked together, in their woollen singlets and work pants, clearing land – felling trees. Hard working men, who took pride in what they did.

In fact, this incident was so well known in it’s time that it was actually painted by one Thomas William Downes.  You can see a copy of this painting on  the podcast website – www.walkingtheshadowlands.com

According to Mr Downes, a Pakeha surveyor by the name of Charles Taylor managed to talk three Taumaranui Maori locals to work for him as linesmen and chainmen, at a place known as the Waimarino Block.

The local Maori actually believed that the Waimarino block was the territory of a man-eating Taniwha, so it took some persuading for the men to join his party and work with him. Their names were Warahi (otherwise known as Wallace), Pita, and Piki.

This is how the story goes as told he told it.

“In the old days, none of their ancestors would go near, yet when the Waimarino Block was being surveyed, and the Pakeha laughed at them for being frightened, some Maoris decided to risk it for the big money being offered. The men worked all the first morning, cutting lines through the scrub and raupo and had almost forgotten their fear when Warahi happened to get a glimpse of the lake.

Suddenly, there was the taniwha, rushing toward him on the surface of the water with the speed of a galloping horse …. Warahi cried out the alarm. One glance and all the men went in different directions, fleeing for their lives through the flax and swamp. The European was the worst off as he had his heavy instruments, which he did not wish to lose, but in trying to save them he slipped and a slasher badly cut his leg. He lay quiet for a time and as he found he had eluded the taniwha, he tied up his wound with strips of his shirt and then crawled back to the camp, which he reached the same night.

Pita and Piki also reached the camp later on that night, but they were covered with cuts and scratches and their clothes were practically torn off them. For three days, no one would venture out of the camp, not even the Pakeha. But on the fourth morning, the Maori men went out to search for their companion, whom they eventually found, unable to walk and quite dazed. Also, there were marks of the scratches of the taniwha all over his body; he must have been caught and left for dead but he himself could never remember what had taken place. Each of the Maori affirmed that Kawhautahi chased them, and they certainly believed it. The theodolite, chain, and slashers remain at the lakeside to this day.”

So that’s the story of the Kawhautahi dragon, as told by Makar.  Thank you Makar.  A very interesting tale to be sure.

Another theory that has been put forward again, as recently as 2017 is that some of these water sightings could in fact be crocodiles, that have migrated across the Tasman from Australia and adapted to NZ waters… Certainly, I have some newspaper clips on the podcast website from the 1800’s where even then some people who had sightings swore that they were crocodiles that they saw.

In March 2017 an article appeared in an online magazine called ‘Investigate Daily’ where it made the headline “Taniwaha mystery solved: salt water crocodiles visit NZ?” the article which is linked on our website, makes an interesting case, that perhaps some of these sightings, could in fact be attributed to such a man-eating beast.

Also NZ is never far from the ocean on all coasts of our islands. So it is entirely possible at at least one of the Taniwha could be a bull shark? Bull sharks have been known to swim inland very long distances, they have been found 2500 miles (4,000 km) inland up the Amazon river, and actually live in Lake Nicaragua in Central America. They have travelled up the Mississippi river as far as Illinois and are regularly spotted in the Ganges, also, closer to home in many of Australia’s waterways. So they easily tolerate, salt, brackish, and fresh water. And shallow waters aren’t too much of an issue for them either.

So perhaps, at least one of the stories reported in the 1800’s of a young Maori girl, who was found with the flesh stripped completely from one of her arms, could perhaps be a bull shark? The simple fact of the matter is that we may never know, unless and until one of these crytpids are caught or photographed – we may never know, and even if they were photographed, there would be those who would doubt the veracity of what they would be seeing anyway… So for now, these Taniwha will remain well and truly living in the shadowlands, in the realm between myth and reality

And that is where we will end this episode of our podcast. It’s been a very interesting journey and a learning experience for me, in the researching of this subject, which has taken on a life if it’s own! Please be sure and join us next week, as we delve further into the shadowlands of New Zealand cryptids.

Sadly, I cannot give credit to tonight’s musicians. I wish I could, but I got the music from Internet Archives, for music that was non-copyrighted. And, there were no names attached to the singers of the songs – particularly to the woman, who chanted that most beautiful chant about the Waikato river.  Called Waikato Te Awa, and children’s song “One day a Taniwha” Written by Piatarihi Tui Yates, in 1974. Piatarihi was a well known Te Arawa, Rotorua, Teacher and entertainer, commonly known as Aunty Bea. So if you know who they were, then please let me know, so I can give them appropriate credit. I would really like to do that.

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