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Friday, 6 January 2012

Why is New Zealand called 'New' Zealand?

I was booking a cruise to New Zealand for someone yesterday when he made a bit of a joke saying"when are they going to start calling it Zealand, it's not really new anymore".After dutifully chuckling for a second I did start thinking to myself, where is Zealand?
York and New York I get, I know Orleans and New Orleans even, but I'd never heard of Zealand; so where is it?
Well as it turns out there's no such place!
As you can guess my first port of call for research was Google. I typed in Zealand and straight away came up with an answer. Zealand is the largest island of the coast of Denmark so I naturally assumed New Zealand was named by settlers from that island. The problem with that idea though is that it's dead wrong!
The name actually comes from two different sources. The original name for New Zealand was Staten Landt, named by one Abel Tasman in 1642 who sighted New Zealand but assumed it was part of the Southern tip of the American continent.
In 1645 Dutch cartographers then renamed the Islands Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch provence of Zeeland, (Dutch for Sealand). The name that stuck though was New Zealand which is the anglicised version that the British explorer James Cook used on all of his maps.

So there you go. Nothing to do with Denmark at all but instead it comes from a Dutch cartographer and a British Explorer.
Strange but true.

If you want an interesting fact about New Zealand for your pub quiz or the next time you're cruising there then how about this one:
New Zealand was the last major land mass to be settled by humans. We didn't arrive there till mid 1250-1300 AD when it was settled by explorers from Eastern Polynesia.
So it's true what they say, New Zealand really is at the ends of the Earth!

Happy cruising.

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