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Tuati sights Antarctica


Detail from Charles Wilkes’ 1840 map of Antarctica. Wilkes provided the first evidence that Antarctica was a continent. This detail shows the area where James Cook's 1773 map finished. (See a full zoomable version of this map on the David Rumsey Collection website.)

Tuati – first NZer to view Antarctica

Tuati was the first New Zealander to view the coast of Antarctica, in 1840. He was a member of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842 to the southern oceans. The expedition, led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, provided the first evidence that Antarctica was a continent.

Tuati, also known by his European name, John Sac, was the son of whaler and sealer Captain William Stewart (after whom Stewart Island is named), and his Ngāpuhi wife. He arrived in the United States on board a whaling ship in the mid-1830s and joined Wilkes' expedition in 1838.

Tuati worked as a seaman but also accompanied Wilkes as his interpreter when the expedition stopped off in Polynesia. In his Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, Wilkes described ‘Tuatti’ as ‘an excellent sailor, a very good fellow’.

Tuati left the expedition in the Hawaiian Islands in October 1840, on the expiration of his term of enlistment. He subsequently migrated to Australia with his father and younger brother.

In 1993 the New Zealand Geographic Board named a peak in Antarctica after Tuati. The 2595-m Tuati Peak rises above the north wall at the head of the Mitchell Glacier in the Royal Society Range, Victoria Land.

Further information

How to cite this page

Tuati sights Antarctica, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated