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Historical Records of New Zealand

George Bass to Captain Waterhouse

George Bass to Captain Waterhouse.

Venus, Port Jackson, 2nd February, 1803.

My Dear Friend,—

I have written to you thrice from hence since my arrival from the South Sea Islands. In a few hours I sail again page 245 on another pork voyage, but it combines circumstances of different nature also.

From this place I go to New Zealand to pick up something more from the wreck of the old Endeavour in Dusky Bay, then visit some of the islands lying south of it in search of seals and fish. The former, should they be found, are intended to furnish a cargo to England immediately on my return from this trip. The fish are to answer a proposal I have made to Government to establish a fishery on condition of receiving an exclusive privilege of the south part of New Zealand and of its neighbouring isles, which privilege is at once to be granted to me.* The fishery is not to be set in motion till after my return to old England, when I mean to seize upon my dear Bess, bring her out here, and make a poissarde of her, where she cannot fail to find plenty of use for her tongue.

We have, I assure you, great plans in our heads; but, like the basket of eggs, all depends upon the success of the voyage I am now upon.

In the course of it I intend to visit the coast of Chili in search of provisions for the use of His Brit. Majesty’s colony; and that they may not in that part of the world mistake me for a contra–bandisto, I go provided with a very diplomatic looking certificate from the Governor here, stating the service upon which I am employed, requesting aid and protection in obtaining the food wanted. And God grant you may fully succeed, says your warm heart, in so benevolent an object; and thus also say I; Amen, says many others of my friends.

Bishop’s state of health is improving, though very slowly. He being altogether unfit for strong undertakings stays behind here till my return, or until one hears I am digging gold in So. America.

Such parts of our English cargo as suits this place are now for sale, and at last are doing tolerably. I trust no new arrivals will again glut the market.

Speak not of So. America to any one out of your family, for there is treason in the very name!

* The proposal made by Bass was that he should have the exclusive lease for seven years of the part of New Zealand lying south of a line drawn due east from Dusky Sound to the eastern coast—i.e., to about where Dunedin now stands—also the Bounty Isles, Antipodes Isle, and the Snares, together with ten leagues of sea around their coasts. If he succeeded in establishing the industry, he was to have an extension of twenty-one years. “If,“ wrote Bass, “I can draw up food from the sea in places which are now lying useless to the world, I surely am entitled to make an exclusive property of the fruits of my ingenuity as much as a man who obtains letters patent for a corkscrew or a cake of blacking“

page 246

Pleasing prospects surround us, which time must give into our hands. There are apparent openings for good doings, none of which are likely to be tried for till after my return, and dissolution of partnership with Bishop, a point fully fixed upon.* With kind love to Mrs. W. and all your family, I am, even at this distance and at this length of time, and under all my sad labours, as much as when I saw you,

Yours, &c.,

Geo. Bass.

* Charles Bishop, Bass’s partner, did not accompany him. He was commander of the vessel, but had to be left behind, in consequence of mental derangement.—Sydney Gazette, 24th November, 1805.