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Historical Records of New Zealand

George Bass to Captain Waterhouse

George Bass to Captain Waterhouse.

Venus, in Matavai Bay, Otaheite, 30th January, 1802.

My much Esteemed Friend,—

I never let pass an opportunity to write and inform you of the progress, crooked it must be confessed, of our commercial perigrinations. In Oct. I informed you at Port Jackson of all our transactions up to that period, and likewise laid before you the….* of our plan of this voyage for pork, which we are now employed in performing; and as far as things have hitherto gone our prospects are fully equal to our expectations.

Nov. 21 we left Port Jackson; in 14 days reached Dusky Bay in New Zealand, whither we went for the purpose of cutting timber for planks to make into pork chests, since Gov’r King was unable to find casks enough to complete our hold. In 14 days more we had cut our timber, and had picked up from on board a large ship that has been left deserted there for some years, some few trifles of ship’s stores and unwrought iron which will turn to some account at our forge here. Sailing from Dusky Bay we steered for Otaheite, and arrived here on the 24th instant.

Gov’r King has here at this time a small Colonial brig for the purpose of curing pork, but we find the island yet so abundant in hogs we have determined to set up an establishment here which will aim at curing about two-fifths of our whole cargo, for which we have salt enough with us. Bishop§ stays here with the party; I go on with the brig to the Sandwich Islands, and there endeavour to fill all the rest of the casks; so that we hope to complete the cargo in much less time by work- page 226 ing at one part of it on Otaheite, and the other at the Sandwich Islands, than if we kept ourselves together at either of those places. It is not for the hogs alone we find it necessary to go to the latter place; it is for salt, which the former produces not, and which we must have.

The Chief of the Island is our good friend, and will remain so as long as we shall want a friend here, because he knows we have much property of well assorted Indian trade, which Gov’r King’s stores will not afford until fresh supplies duly selected shall arrive from England. We have been enabled to make him a very magnificent Indian present, which has won his avaricious disposition over to us; and I have engaged to bring him from Owhyhee some valuable things from his brother, Chief Tameha Meha, the king of that island, so that he has much yet to gain by his attention to our establishment. This is Pormarre, who you may have read of in Cook’s voyage, the father of the present Otoo, or minor king, who is, by the way, the most drunken profligate you ever knew, and calls himself forsooth the Prince of Wales, as if our princes got drunk like beasts, &c., &c. He may indeed be a caricature of our Prince!

Pomarre has given us one of his own houses on Pt. Venus, which was removed to the spot we fixed upon as most convenient for our work. We have in short everything we ask for that he can give. He is a great and troublesome beggar to us, and we spare him not on our side. Whatever we give to each other is not a loss to either, for we square the value in the returning present. Our great present for example costs us about 6 guineas in England, but when he comes to square it in return, he will give 50, 60, or 80 large hogs; so that it is in reality more like buying and selling than making presents to each other.

We cannot help comparing the starving condition of England with the superabundance of food in this island. Our house is built among cocoanut trees and bread-fruit trees, and of the latter article—within a stone’s throw—more than w’d supply 500 men for a month. The profusion at this, the bread-fruit season is amazing, and the natives are idle in proportion. But I shall say nothing of Otaheite now that so much has already been said. The missionaries (poor creatures), our countrymen, are very civil and friendly in their little way.

Mrs. Waterhouse will please accept my kind love, as well as all my sisters and brothers. My wife Bess I write to, as also to my friend Capt. W. I would joke Bess upon the attractive charms of Otaheitian females, but that they have been so much belied in their beauty, that she m’t think me attracted in good earnest. However, she has nought to fear here.

Adieu my dear friend, adieu.

George Bass.

* Word illegible.

The Endeavour, Captain Bampton, wrecked off the New Zealand coast in September, 1795, and beached at Facile Harbour, Dusky Bay. Ante, pp. 204 and 219.

This was the Norfolk, previously known as the Harbinger.

§ Bishop was Bass’s partner.