Moehanga becomes first Māori to visit England

27 April 1806

Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika visited London in 1820 with missionary Thomas Kendall (Alexander Turnbull Library, G-618)

Moehanga of Ngāpuhi became the first recorded Māori visitor to England when the whaler Ferret berthed in London. Moehanga (Te Mahanga) had boarded the Ferret when it visited the Bay of Islands late in 1805.

While Māori had travelled as far as Tahiti and Australia in the late 18th century, Moehanga was the first to reach the northern hemisphere. He took a keen interest in the sights and people of London, which had a population of more than a million. He met Earl Fitzwilliam and also (he claimed subsequently) King George III and Queen Charlotte, who apparently gave him tools and money.

Te Mahanga sailed on the Ferret when it left for Port Jackson (Sydney) in June. After spending the summer in Sydney, he returned to his home in the Bay of Islands in March 1807.

Te Mahanga was still living in the Bay of Islands in 1827, when he was described as the uncle of Te Whareumu, the Ngāti Manu leader at Kororāreka (now Russell).

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What do you know?

Georgie Craw

Posted: 19 Jul 2012

Vincent O'Malley states that Moehanaga being presented to the King is "almost certainly untrue, as Savage would scarcely have failed to mention this in his book if the meeting had indeed taken place". (The Meeting Place, p. 53). It is true that Moehanaga claimed that he had met the King when talking about his trip in later years, however, it remains contested whether this actually happen or was exaggeration on his part.