Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Old Whaling Days



In the early part of 1831, and before the whaling season commenced, considerable activity was shown in the Kapiti Island flax trade. First of all, the Elizabeth returned to Sydney on 14th January with 30 tons. She was followed, early in February, by the Currency Lass, with another 30 tons, and Captain Wishart reported that he had left the brig Argo, and the schooner Speculator, at Kapiti, with small quantities of flax in each. The last named reached Sydney on 5th March with a cargo of 13 tons. Then came the Waterloo, on the ninth, with 15 tons of flax and 700 seal skins, and finally the Argo, on the twenty-eighth, with 55 tons. These five flax vessels brought to Sydney, in three months, 143 tons of prepared fibre, mostly from Cook Strait. The defence preparations of the Kapiti Administration must now have been in a very forward condition.

When the whaling season came on, the first vessel to arrive from Cook Strait was the Waterloo, Brady, on 12th June, with 3 tuns of oil, the product of one whale. She had left New Zealand on 28th May and reported the following vessels there when she sailed.

The Elizabeth, moored off the bay, having taken one whale.

The Courier, without oil and with her crew in a state of mutiny.

The Venus and the Currency Lass, empty.

page 14

The season proved a very profitable one, as the following letter, written at Cloudy Bay after the best of the season was over, will show:—

Ship Elizabeth, Cloudy Bay,
July 27, 1831.

By the Dragon I beg to inform you that we have on board 1600 barrels of oil, and are in a fair way of getting more. The following fishers are in Cloudy Bay:—

The Dragon, full;

Courier, 300 barrels;

William Stoveld, 300 barrels of black oil, and 400 of sperm;

and New Zealander, empty;

Mossman's shore whaling gangs have secured 170 barrels.

The Jane arrived here yesterday.

The Juno left this place about 3 weeks back for Banks' Island, with 1000 barrels of oil.

The Dragon referred to here was the Hobart whaler; she sailed from New Zealand on 28th July and reached the Derwent on 3rd September, 1831.

By the end of August the Juno had returned from Banks Peninsula, and was lying at Kapiti when the brutal murder of one of the seamen by the captain took place. An eye witness thus describes it:—

“The brig Juno, whaler, was lying at anchor at Cobarty (Kapiti), New Zealand, on the 31st of August last, Captain Peterson and a boat's crew were on shore buying potatoes, etc., and when he returned on board, he was in a hurry to get under weigh. The mate called all hands to the windlass to weigh, and Johnstone was the first man on deck, when the mate told Johnstone that if the anchor was weighed, the wind blowing on the shore and the tide running up, the vessel would go on shore. Johnstone then came forward, and shortly after the Captain page 15 himself came and asked why the ship was not under weigh? Johnstone said, if the anchor was hove, the ship would go ashore. The Captain called him a mutinous rascal, asked him if he was master of the ship, to which Johnstone said no, he was willing to heave the anchor up. The Captain then went aft and remained about a quarter of an hour, when he came on deck on the larboard side, Johnstone being on the opposite side of the deck forward, and all hands being ready to man the windlass. The Captain repeated his question of ‘where are you Johnstone?’ As it was dark, and he could not see him, Johnstone went close up to show himself, when the Captain pushed him with his left hand; Johnstone said to him ‘don't shove me Captain Peterson.’ Capt. Peterson replied, ‘Yes, you mutinous rascal I will shove you,’ and again shoved him with his left hand and presenting a pistol which he had in his right hand, shot him dead. The ball entered at the left jaw, came out through the top of the head, and lodged in the right head of the brig. The chief mate immediately took the pistol out of the Captain's hand and threw it overboard, saying, ‘You shall do no more mischief with that; you have done a pretty thing for yourself.’ When the Captain drew the trigger of the pistol he said ‘He struck me first,’ when the crew answered ‘He did not.’ The crew then requested the officers to secure the Captain from doing further damage, and the officers passed their word that he should be taken care of. Captains Ashmore and Adams then came on board and asked the crew if they were willing that Captain Peterson should go on board the Guide, where he should be taken care of. The crew objected to Captain Peterson's being taken out of the vessel, thinking that his escape from justice was intended, and told Captain Ashmore that he would not be harmed or insulted by them. On the following day, the 1st page 16 September, Johnstone was taken on shore and interred; and when the crew returned from the burial, a whale sprung up close to the ship, and the officer in charge held up his hand and asked who would volunteer to go and kill the whale? The boats were then manned, and the crew started and killed the whale. During the time the crew were away towing the whale alongside, the Guide's boat (in which were the first mate and three seamen) went on board the Juno, for some plank, and Captain Peterson jumped into the boat and was landed by them. A seaman on board hailed the boats, which immediately cast off from the whale, and gave chase to the boat in which the Captain had escaped, but could not overtake it before he was safely landed. The day following, a note was received from Captain Peterson, telling the seamen that if they pursued him on shore, they would meet with a very cool reception from the natives. Some of the men, with the officer in charge, then went on shore to arrest the Captain, and when they got on shore, saw him with a musket in his hand, surrounded by a large body of the natives armed with muskets and bayonets. The officer went up and spoke to the Captain, when the Captain, the officer, and two of the crew went up together to a Mr. Harvey's hut. The officer then asked Captain Peterson if he would go on board? He said, no, but they should never take him on board alive, for he would sooner put an end to his life. Mr. Harvey then said, that he would protect him whilst he had a roof to his house. One of the men then laid hold of the Captain, and told him that he must go in the vessel to Sydney. The Captain hallooed to the natives, who rushed in great numbers to his assistance, armed with bayonets, and drove the men down to their boats with great violence, and so rescued Captain Peterson. The officer and men then returned to the vessel, which page 17 weighed anchor and sailed for Sydney the next morning.”

The Guide mentioned here was a vessel of 147 tons, commanded by Captain Ashmore, and had left Sydney on 13th August for Cook Strait. After the murder, the mate—Smith—took the Juno to Sydney. It was reported that a private investigation was held in the Police Office, late in October, but nothing further was heard of it.

The Venus, a whaler belonging to Kelly, of Hobart Town, had been among the Islands to the south of New Zealand. After leaving Cloudy Bay she went sperm whaling and reached Sydney on 6th January, 1832.

On the 25th September, the Waterloo returned from Campbell's shore whaling establishment on her second oil trip, with 40 tuns oil and 3 tons bone. Readers will notice that Guard commanded the Waterloo outside the whaling season, but when the shore establishments were busy another captain took his place, Guard leaving to take control of the station.

Speaking of the 1831 season, Bell says: “This year it (the whaling) has been entered into with great spirit. There have been no less than six vessels and three shore parties fitted out from Sydney, and two vessels, I believe, from Hobart Town.” The five vessels above recorded and the Waterloo were probably the six referred to. R. Campbell & Co. owned one of the shore stations, and Mossman probably owned the other two. The Deveron, the Dragon, and the Venus were Hobart Town vessels, of which the two last-named are recorded as visiting Cloudy Bay. It is more than probable that the other also called there, as she sailed for the whaling and would be more than likely to visit the scene of her former successes.

Until the end of July flax traders monopolised the Cook Strait trade entries at Sydney, the following being the order of arrival of those already mentioned in our narrative:—

page 18
Arrival. Vessel Class Tons Captain Tons
Jan. 14 Elizabeth Brig 236 Stewart 30
Feb. 6 Currency Lass Schooner 90 Buckell 30
Mar. 5 Speculator Schooner 39 Parker 13
Mar. 9 Waterloo Schooner 66 Guard 15
Mar. 28 Argo Brig 169 Billing 55
July 27 Currency Lass Schooner 90 Buckell 20

The whalers, naturally, were crowded into the latter part of the year; particularly was December noted for the quantity of oil which was received at Sydney.

Arrival Vessel Class Tons Captain Tuns
June 12 Waterloo Schooner 66 Brady 3
Sept. 23 Juno Brig 212 Smith 60
Sept. 25 Waterloo Schooner 66 Guard 40
Dec. 4 Courier Brig 184 Sutton 75
Dec. 5 William Stoveld Brig 187 Davidson 199
Dec. 7 New Zealander Schooner 140 Gardner 17
Dec. 9 Elizabeth Ship 365 Fowler 327
Dec. 11 Waterloo Schooner 66 Brady 40
Dec. 31 Venus 288 Harvey 140