Research report

Beyond the southern angle of the Polynesian triangle

Māori associations with the Southern Ocean and Antarctica

This literature review outlines historical and contemporary Māori associations with the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. It does so in a way that affirms the mana whenua and mana moana of Ngāi Tahu, “the closest iwi to Antarctica.”

Ngāi Tahu Whānui have a range of longstanding cultural and commercial interests in the Southern Ocean and these are at the heart of this report. Connections with Antarctica, while not as deep, are also many and varied, and of increasing importance to both Ngāi Tahu and the New Zealand Government.

The report traverses four main areas:

  • Te Ao Neherā outlines kōrero tuku iho and archaeological evidence connected with the Southern Ocean, Subantarctic islands, and Antarctica.
  • Te Moana Tāpokopoko a Tāwhaki outlines Māori associations with the Southern Ocean and Subantarctic islands from c.1800 up to the present-day. This makes it clear that Ngāi Tahu are a maritime people and the Ngāi Tahu relationship with the Southern Ocean needs to be understood in maritime terms.
  • Te Manu Tītī takes Ngāi Tahu interests into the Southern Ocean by way of tītī (sooty shearwaters or muttonbirds). Our increasingly unstable climate in this part of the world is having a negative impact on this seabird and thus on the vibrant cultural activity of muttonbirding that is central to Ngāi Tahu culture.
  • Te Tiri o Te Moana outlines Māori associations with Antarctica also from c.1800 up to the present day. This marks a clear transition of Ngāi Tahu interests from substantially commercial to substantially scientific, and charts Ngāi Tahu involvement at Antarctic-bound departure points: from the seaports of Bluff, Ōtākou and Lyttelton in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to Christchurch Airport today. It also shows how mātauranga Māori is shaping New Zealand’s presence at Antarctica.


Te Tai Uka a Pia