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The Old Whaling Days



Before the 1832 season opened Guard brought up the Waterloo with 115 seal skins and 9 tuns of oil to Sydney on 3rd March. On the nineteenth she returned with a gang of whalers for Cloudy Bay.

When H.M.S. Zebra was at Kapiti, under circumstances described hereafter, the schooner Currency Lass sailed with a cargo of 28 tons of flax. She reached Sydney on 22nd April with three passengers—Messrs. Wishart, Lane, and Ward, and brought up word that the William Stoveld, which had sailed from Sydney on 10th February, had, 14 days, afterwards, put into Cloudy Bay, where she remained 10 days to take in the remainder of her lading before proceeding on her voyage.

The Waterloo brought up her first cargo of the new rseason's oil—40 tuns—on 22nd August, and returned to page 19 Cook Strait, five days later, with supplies for the men to the whaling gangs. Hall, her new master, reported that when he sailed from Cloudy Bay on 3rd August Blinkinsopp had 150 tons on board the Caroline, and expected to be able to fill up his total supply of casks of 300 tuns. The Caroline had sailed from Sydney on 9th May and had two of her men killed in the first boat lowered. Two Tasmanian whalers were also in the Bay. The Hetty had 250 barrels of sperm oil on board, and the Amity, which had come up from Otago, on 3rd July, had secured five whales. Strong S.E. gales had prevailed during the season.

The next cargo of the Waterloo, on 2nd November, consisted of 40 tuns of oil and 4 tons whalebone. Two days after the Waterloo reached Sydney another of Campbell & Co's vessels—the Harriett, 254 tons. Wyatt—which had sailed from Sydney on 11th August to load up at Cloudy Bay for London, arrived with 188 tuns of oil and 10 tons whalebone. She reported that the Island was in a tolerable state of tranquillity, the flax trade reviving, and the bay whaling proceeding with spirit.

The barque Vittoria, 281 tons, S. Ashmore, belonging to R. Jones & Co., brought up 37 tons of flax, 50 pounds whalebone, and 5 butts whale oil to Sydney on 12th November. She also brought to port very sad news of a sealing gang. It appears that about seven months before that, an old Sydney captain, named William Kinnard, accompanied by two whites and several New Zealanders, had proceeded in the Admiral Gifford to Rocky Point, for the purpose of forming a sealing establishment, and, after leaving the men there, had returned to Sydney on 9th June with 11 tons of flax. The Vittoria, on this trip, went round to pick them up, when to their astonishment and horror, they found that the natives had seized and devoured the whites and taken away their boats and stores.

Just as the whaling vessels which visited Cook Strait were not confined to Sydney-owned craft, so many flax traders from Tasmania were among the customers of the page 20 Maoris in the vicinity of Kapiti. One of these was a boat of 199 tons, called the William the Fourth, commanded by Captain Steine, probably one of the most romantic marine figures which the young Australasian colonies have ever produced. Sailing from Hobart on 4th June, 1832, he made for Kapiti, and proceeded to explore the adjoining seaboard between Queen Charlotte Sound and Cloudy Bay. As reported by the Hobart Town “Courier” of 14th September, 1832, on his return, his narrative reads:—

“On entering the bay where the prosperous native settlement of Wickett is situated, Captain Steine found that a very large navigable river flowed into it, which he named William the Fourth River. He proceeded up a distance of 50 miles, when he entered a beautiful bay surrounded with magnificent timber interspersed with extensive tracts of the richest soil. About 200 New Zealanders dwelt in a small village close to the beach, who seemed gradually to be acquiring industries and civilised habits. By means of the traffic with the English they had obtained hoes from the people at Wickett with which they had broken up the soil and were cultivating potatoes. Captain Steine found them of a very peaceable and friendly disposition, and easily prevailed on them to assist him in cutting the trees and loading his vessel. That part of the country never before having been visited by any European, he named the bay Horne's Bay, after the owner of his vessel. The resident chief named Tamoc, a very handsome athletic youth, and two others, named Ahuda and Chewack, have come up in the vessel on a visit to Hobart Town.

“Captain Steine discovered another large river near the entrance of the river William the Fourth, which he named Queen Adelaide River. The whole of the country round these parts is under the denomination of Kankatatoo.”

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The term river was, at that time, applied to what we now designate a sound, the village of Wickett was at Te Awaiti, and William the Fourth River was Tory Channel. The beautiful bay 50 miles up would be the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, where resides Mr. John Duncan, whose intimate knowledge of the Sound the author has freely drawn upon to identify the localities, and the timber was probably obtained from the place where Mr. Duncan's mills afterwards operated so successfully. Queen Adelaide River might have been the Pelorus, or the upper reaches of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Captain Steine sailed from New Zealand on 14th August, and reached Hobart on 1st September.

About the end of 1832 Captain Steine, then a young man of only 22 years of age, set sail in the Emma Kemp, a small craft of 37 tons, for Rio de Janeiro, for a cargo of tobacco and coffee. On his outward journey he called in at Cook Strait about the end of the year and there met the Sydney cutter Lord Liverpool. Following up the bold voyage of Captain Steine in his little craft we find that he left Rio on his return journey on 14th April, 1833, and reached Hobart on 12th August. Of his crew of 5 men not one could read or write. This is probably the most daring circumnavigation of the Globe ever undertaken by an Australasian captain.