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Historical Records of New Zealand South

Ruapuke: Gunboat Wreck, Etc

Ruapuke: Gunboat Wreck, Etc.

In the shadowy days of the Waitaha,—and there were giants in those days who strode from mountain range to mountain range, swallowed rivers of water, and promoted other drastic measures,—Tuturau was chief southern stronghold. Under Ngati-mamoe regime Ruapuke became the centre of Maori enterprise, a fortification being built on the foreland at Parangiaioa. It is a bleak, desolate foreshore, communicating with the mainland of the island by a neck a few chains wide. It is steep-to, almost vertical to the ocean swell and the ocean beach. Unless by way of the neck the position is impregnable. It was from Parangiaioa Tukawaiki and his fighting men issued when Tuturau pa was retaken, and the Te Rauparaha southern invasion stamped out. It was here that his son Tami-hana, native catechist, after his father had taught the gospel of war, taught the gospel of peace, and, later still, the missionary labours of the German Wohler were conducted with zeal worthy of high commendation. Referring to the principal landing at the island Mr Wohler's biographer remarks:—"The bay was named Henrietta before Mr Wholer's arrival, and, as he has been there 28 years, it has been borne no short time. In the age of tradition it appears a vessel was wrecked there called the Henrietta," That was written in 1873, so that Mr Wohler must have been on the island in 1845. The wreck alluded to occurred in 1824, and proved far reaching in the early colonisation. The vessel was named Elizabeth-Henrietta. She was a Government store ship from Sydney, and had occasion to call at the island to complete certain inquiries. These are known to have been of a delicate character for the natives themselves. Tuhawaiki, then an active, rowdy young man, undertook to pilot him into the anchorage. He did so, landing him on a huge boulder bank, in what is now Henrietta Bay. With the view of getting her floated off, all heavy gearing, including guns, were taken on shore. One of the latter mysteriously disappeared, and remained unaccounted for until those connected with the wreck had finally left the island. It was then forthcoming, and conveyed to the pa at Parangiaioa. There it remained until within the last few years, when it found its way over the face, and now lies neglected on the beach. The wreck, it will be seen from the official records and entries subjoined, was declared irreclaimable. At that time Mr James Busby, afterwards British Resident, was practicing as civil engineer in Sydney. Although he gained no kudos as an administrator, in his profession he was considered a smart, active man. He was not satisfied as to the irreclaimability of the wreck, and he made good his doubts by recovering it. That is what brought Busby into notice, and there is no doubt he owed his appointment thereto. The official entries and dates connected with the transaction are embodied in the following:—

Sydney Customs, November 5, 1823.—Elizabeth-Henrietta, H.M.S., Captain March, arrived from Hobart Town, sailed for New Zealand, November 5, in command of Captain Kent.

Sydney Customs, April 5, 1824.—Tees, H.M.S., Captain Coe, sailed for New Zealand to relief of H.M.S. colonial brig Elizabeth-Henrietta.

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Sydney Customs, June 5, 1824.—Tees, H.M.S., Captain Coe, returned from New Zealand, bringing report, the Elizabeth-Henrietta was an irreclaimable wreck.

Sydney Gazette, January 19, 1825.—The cutter Mermaid, in command of Captain Kent, after being fitted out by Government for New Zealand expedition, proceeds thither. She takes Mr James Busby, C.E., and a gang of men for the purpose of endeavouring to float off the Elizabeth-Henrietta by means of casks, and it is not improbable we will again have the pleasure of seeing one of our old navy return to port after her long and critical cruise.

Sydney Gazette, February 24, 1825.—We announce the return of Mr James Busby, C.E. He went in the Mermaid cutter some months since to relief of the colonial brig Elizabeth-Henrietta, which valuable vessel was on shore on one of the islands in Foveaux Straits, called by Mr Kent, Goulburn. H.M.S. Tees had visited the brig, and after several ineffectual attempts the vessel was abandoned. Mr Busby was not to be intimidated from an attempt to save the brig; with which view he offered his services to the Colonial Government. Captain Kent, the former commander, expressed his conviction that no effort would succeed. With the aid of only six men in 26 days Mr Busby completed the herculean task. The vessel was quickly rigged, and set sail, accompanied by the Mermaid to the Bay of Islands, 800 miles distant. The crew ran out of provisions, and had been living on almost nothing, in which privation Mr Busby himself fully participated.