TGIF: Maori War Dance

The haka is the traditional dance form of the Maori of New Zealand. Dances may contain stamping of the feet, slapping of the thighs, pounding of the fists, smacking of the elbows. This is accompanied with rhythmic shouted accompaniment sometimes taking the form of yells or battle cries. Maori War Dances are special forms of haka. You may be asking why I am discussing Maori culture at DSN.

My first deep-sea biology meeting took place in nearly ten years ago in Galway, the 9th such meeting to occur. Next summer in Reykjavik, Iceland marks the 12th. Part of the meeting is the traditional Thursday night banquet for all attendees.  The banquet Thursday night begins with a tradition that is very dear to my heart.

Torbin Wolff is one of the elder statesmen of deep-sea biology.  For many years he held the reigns of the deep-sea newsletter and striving to foster the deep-sea community.  He both organized and attended early deep-sea meetings including what is viewed as the first deep-sea biology meeting in 1953 on the distribution and origin of the deep-sea bottom fauna.  Torbin Wolff, is more than a great caretaker of the field, is contributions to deep-sea taxonomy and our understanding of the evolution, biogeography, and biodiversity of deep-sea faunas is seminal.  He was active participant in one of the legendary around the world deep-sea expeditions, the Danish Galathea Expedition (1950-1952), which ultimately led to a plethora of descriptions of new deep-sea species (20 volumes).

During this expedition, as the story goes, Torbin was taught a Maori War Dance by a great Maori chief, a great honor for an outsider.  The tradition very dear to my heart was Torbin beginning every deep-sea biology meeting banquet, reenacting this dance (usually atop a dining table), retelling how he come to learn the dance, and telling other vivid tales of adventures from the Galathea Expedtion.

So in honor of deep-sea biology and of course Torbin Wolff…

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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3 comments on “TGIF: Maori War Dance
  1. If you want to see a fun modern version of this. Go to the All Blacks (New Zealand rugby) website. It’s very intense. You Tube has lots of versions as well.

    Love the Nautical phrases Wednesdays


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