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The Old Whaling Days

Chapter VIII. — Cook Strait, 1835 and 1836

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Chapter VIII.
Cook Strait, 1835 and 1836.

The Cornwallis, which had been at Cloudy Bay during the 1834 season, reached Sydney on 9th February. All the other Sydney vessels that had been with her had returned by this time, and the Caroline had sailed again for the sperm fishery.

The brig Children, which had been chartered to load for Otago and get a return flax cargo in other parts, called at Mana Island, and brought away “a small piece of wool,” the first “clip” of Mr. Bell from the little flock he had taken down in the Martha the previous year. It was claimed at the time—30th June—that this was the first wool imported into Sydney from New Zealand, but that was afterwards proved to be wrong as Captain Clendon had brought up some in the Fortitude from the Bay of islands several months before. It is even open to doubt whether Captain Clendon's cargo was the first. In addition to the Children, the Isabella visited Cook Strait, and the Jane and Henry called at Kapiti, and while there learned that there were 10 vessels lying at Cloudy Bay.

The first of the ten to come away from the Bay was the New Zealander. She sailed from Cloudy Bay on 10th June and landed her cargo, which consisted of oil from the Cornwallis and Denmark Hill, in Sydney, on 7th July. Captain Brown of the Proteus, who had resigned his command to the chief mate, came up in her as a passenger.

In Cloudy Bay Captain Cole reported:—

  • The Caroline, Cherry, with 80 tuns of oil.

  • The Denmark Hill, Findlay, with 60 tuns of oil.

  • The Socrates of Hobart Town, about 60 tuns of oil.

  • The Cornwallis, with 50 tuns of oil.

  • The Proteus, with 25 tuns of oil.

  • The Louisa, Hayward, with 50 tuns of oil.

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  • The Charles, Hawkins, of London.

  • The Warren, of America.

  • The Halcyon, Thomson, of America.

The crews of the Charles and the Halcyon were in a disorderly state. The Socrates had lost her second mate and five of her hands in a dreadful south-east gale. One of the Proteus' boats was nearly lost in the same gale and passed the boat's crew of the Socrates holding on to the bottom of the capsized boat. No help could be afforded them, however, and when the men of the Proteus looked again they were gone.

On 17th September the Louisa, with 140 tons, and her leaky consort, the Denmark Hill, left Cloudy Bay for Sydney, where they both arrived on 8th October. John Bell and Dr. Rankin came up as passengers in the Louisa.

Between the sailing of the New Zealander on 10th June, and the Louisa and Denmark Hill on the 17th September, the Socrates had left the Bay, and the Bee had arrived. All the vessels had made substantial progress with their cargoes. During these three months the Caroline had added 120, the Proteus 175, and the Cornwallis 70, tuns of oil. The Charles was now 26 months out and had 1600 barrels; the Warren, 23 months, 300 tuns; and the Halcyon, 27 months. 240 tuns.

The Bee came up on 22nd October with 108 tuns of oil and 6 tons whalebone consigned to Wright and Long. Captain Robertson reported that on 8th October when he sailed from Cloudy Bay the barque Lochiel, bound from Launceston to Leith, put in there for water, all well. The American ship Halcyon had been unsuccessful and was on the eve of sailing for Sydney with 84 tuns of oil from the Proteus. The Hind was loading with the Caroline's oil, and that vessel and the Proteus were fitting out for the sperm fishery. The Cornwallis was full and was to leave on 15th October. The Warren was bound for the sperm whaling. The Charles, was on the eve of sailing for London after a voyage of 3½ years. The natives still expected compensation for the loss of their page 135 countrymen in the Shamrock, and fears were entertained of a disturbance between a hostile tribe and the Europeans. Te Rauparaha had expressed himself anxious to see a British settlement formed there, and was very desirous that a missionary should be sent. Under date 9th October the gangs of R. Jones & Co. at Queen Charlotte Sound were reported to be very successful.

On 26th October the Halcyon reached Sydney. There she appears to have excelled herself in supplying “copy” to the press reporters. The captain stated that information had been obtained at Cloudy Bay that the whole of the southern natives had armed themselves and were on the march to the north to seek revenge upon the English and the northern natives in Cloudy Bay and elsewhere, for the depredations which had been committed in 1830 by the brig Elizabeth, under Captain Stewart, as well as to obtain satisfaction for the Maoris drowned in the Shamrock in Queen Charlotte Sound. The natives were said to be determined to take and destroy everything which came their way. As a result the Europeans were obliged to remove from Cloudy Bay. The whole of the shipping had left but the Caroline, Proteus and Hind, which remained in company for mutual protection, the captains meantime completing their cargoes before they would leave Cloudy Bay deserted by Europeans. The Proteus had 270 tuns, the Caroline was full, and the Hind had a cargo waiting for her. The Cornwallis had left the Bay to fish on the coast before returning to Sydney.

The cargo which had been transferred from the Proteus to the Halcyon to be taken to Sydney caused the latter vessel some trouble. It had arrived in an American bottom and would be subject to the duty of foreign oil when imported into England. There was nothing for it therefore but for the Halcyon either to take it back to New Zealand or tranship to another American vessel which would. This latter course was adopted, and the oil put on board the American ship Chalcedony to be returned to page 136 New Zealand, as the Halcyon, though returning to the United States viâ New Zealand, was not proceeding to the whaling grounds.

The Hind, Wyatt, sailed from Cloudy Bay on 27th October with Captain Collins. James Campbell and Mr. and Mrs. Thoms on board as passengers. She reached Sydney on 12th November and brought up word that the story of the Halcyon was greatly exaggerated. What had happened was that a small party of natives, residing at a distance of several miles from Cloudy Bay, had threatened an attack. It ended, however, in a mere demonstration. The Europeans had not deserted the Bay nor had shipping been prematurely hastened away. The Proteus was about to sail on the twenty-seventh when the Hind left and the Nimrod from Sydney had called in for cargo. The last named, Hepburn, master, reached port on 25th November from Poverty Bay. with 13 casks of oil for Robert Campbell and Co. Mr. Harris came over as a passenger.

On 28th November the brig Bee sailed from Sydney for the sperm fishery. Hempleman in command this time. This was the voyage on which Hempleman established a whaling station at Port Cooper and commenced his celebrated “log.”

On 5th December the schooner Success, Captain Richard Buckle, reached Sydney with 208 casks black oil, 630 packages whalebone. 1 bundle seal skins and 2 spars, consigned to the House of R. Jones & Co. Captain Buckle reported that while at New Zealand he met the schooner New Zealander, Cole, filling up at Queen Charlotte Sound on 8th November, the Jolly Rambler in Cook Strait on the tenth, and the Proteus at Entry Island on the eleventh with 200 tuns of oil. He also reported that an American whaler had put in at Kapiti. and that the Lord Rodney had visited the Sound.

The New Zealander reached port on 7th December, with 20 tuns oil for R. Jones & Co., 1 bundle of whalebone for Captain Ashmore, and 1 cask seal oil. 2 tasks seal skins page 137 and 30 bundles whalebone for J. H. Grose & Co. Her passengers were Mrs. Cole and Mr. Williams.

Te Rauparaha's name and fame was the cause of many movements in the native population in the vicinity of his home, but the Port Nicholson migration of 1835, and the attempted one of 1836, are the only ones where European assistance was called to their aid. Not long after their punishment for murdering and holding in captivity some of the Harriett's crew, the Taranaki natives, forced by pressure from the invader, left their homes at the foot of Mt. Egmont and migrated to the shores of Port Nicholson.

They had no sooner settled here than they found themselves threatened by an even worse enemy in the person of Te Rauparaha at Kapiti Island, and once more they looked around for a place where they would be free from the presence, not of war, but of warriors stronger than themselves. In looking around their eyes fell upon the Chatham Islands. Its position and capabilities were known to all seamen and many Maoris had formed members of the crews of the vessels which visited it sealing, or in pursuit of the right whale. The next thing to do was to get hold of some vessel, and, as they had had an experience in Taranaki of what happened when the sailors were killed they determined to pay for the services of the vessel they might employ, with what powder, muskets, and potatoes they could spare.

The vessel fortunate enough to be selected for this mission was the brig Lord Rodney, which had sailed from Sydney on 1st October, bound for Cook Strait, with stores for several of the stations. Captain Harewood thus describes the experiences of the vessel:—

“We arrived at Entry Island, Cook's Straits, New Zealand, on the 16th of October, after a passage of seventeen days from Sydney; sailed from Entry Island on the 19th, and reached Cloudy Bay on the 21st; started from the latter place on the 25th, and arrived at Port Nicholson on the 26th at noon. The Caroline, Charry, of Sydney, was the only vessel in the port. When the page 138 Rodney brought up, the Natives appeared to be remarkably friendly, and anxious to barter for potatoes, hogs, etc. I purchased what I wanted from them, and hearing there was a quantity of whalebone to be purchased about 25 miles from Port Nicholson, on the 30th, sailed for that place. Mr. Dawson. my trading master, having advised me, I took the Head Chief of Port Nicholson, and four other Natives to facilitate the purchase of the whalebone. On reaching the destination, the Natives would not part with the bone, unless I would consent to take them to Chatham Island; there appeared to be a muster of about 300 Natives at this place. Having been unsuccessful in my trip. I ran back to Port Nicholson, the Chief on board (“A-Murry”), saying he would compensate me for the loss of time, by a present of some hogs, etc. The next day after reaching Port Nicholson, “A-Murry” the Chief, sent a number of canoes away, and they shortly returned filled with hogs, &c., also two spars, as a present; there was also a quantity of hogs and potatoes on shore, which the Chief requested me to look at; for this purpose, I left the brig, taking with me a good boat's crew. A short time after landing, I discovered that some of the Natives had taken the boat from my men; I immediately called out for the boat to be brought back, but they refused; one of the Chiefs also told me that the ship was taken, and I should very soon know it. At 11 a.m., Mr. Davis, one of my passengers, was sent on shore by the Natives, to inform me that the ship was in the possession of the New Zealanders, and that there were about 300 of them on board. Mr. Davis also informed me, that they had rushed upon the crew, and tied their hands behind them, saying, they did not want to hurt any one on board, or plunder the ship, but would have the vessel to convey them to Chatham Island, as a tribe of Natives had declared war against those of Port Nicholson, and would massacre the whole of them if they remained. I at once saw that any opposition on my part would perhaps be the means of losing the vessel entirely, or that the affair would end in bloodshed. I page 139 therefore resolved to accede to their demands, and wait an opportunity of recapturing the brig. The Natives were unwilling that I should go off to the vessel at once; I therefore sent a verbal message to the Chief Officer, to run the vessel under the lee side of the Island; this order, however, was not attended to. Shortly afterwards, “A-Murry” came ashore with one of my crew, and requested me to go off to the ship, which I did, the Natives keeping some of my crew ashore until I brought the brig within gun-shot of the place. At 4 p.m., there were about 400 Natives on board, with about 50 canoes alongside the vessel. At dusk, all the natives, except 20 Chiefs, left for the shore. Amongst those on board I discovered “A-Murry” and another Chief, who appeared extremely suspicious whenever I spoke to the crew. On the morning of the 6th November, they brought about 70 tons of seed potatoes on board of their own, making me a present of about 20 hogs; they said they would give me all their powder, muskets, potatoes, hogs, &c., after I had safely landed them on Chatham Island. On the 7th, they employed themselves watering the ship. I remarked that my bowsprit was too bad to proceed to sea with; about 40 of them immediately went in search of a new one, which was brought to the ship next day. The crew, during this time, was employed killing and salting pork the Natives had brought on board. They frequently asked me if the Governor of Port Jackson would be offended at what they had done, not having taken any lives or plundered the vessel; that they were not like the Taranaki tribe, who killed the people belonging to the Harriet, Captain Hall. They seemed to be much afraid of a man-of-war coming after them. The wind being contrary, nothing particular occurred up to the 14th, when we had a fair wind for Chatham Island, for which placed we weighed anchor at 10 minutes past 5 a.m., with about 300 on board; at 30 minutes past 5, about 600 mustered on the vessel, with about 40 canoes alongside. The whole of them appeared anxious to go (although the crew could not move about, page 140 the vessel to work the ship, the Natives were so thick) I ran as far as the Heads and brought up again. About one hundred of them left the ship in the canoes, taking with them as a hostage my second officer, who they promised to retain until I returned for the remainder of them. The wind being favourable, I weighed anchor and proceeded with about five hundred New Zealanders, principally women and children, with only about three tons of water on board. I had previously told them they must do without water for three days, after putting to sea. which they consented to. or any other privation, if they could but get away from Port Nicholson. On the 15th and 16th most of the Natives were sea-sick, and on the 17th the women that had young children were calling out violently for water, when I ordered them to be supplied; the strongest of the men, however, only got water, leaving the women and children without. At 1.30 p.m. saw Chatham Island, when the Natives gave a terrible shout, and the women cried for joy. as is the custom in New Zealand. At 6.30, brought the brig up in the best place I could find, not having any chart of the Island. The Natives immediately commenced landing, and about two hundred of them went ashore. Some Europeans came alongside in a whaleboat, and informed me that the best harbour was about two miles higher up. to which place we made all sail, and at sunset all the Natives, except eight, went on shore. I consulted about making an attempt to get away, and it was agreed to, and at 7.30 p.m. made sail and proceeded to sea; Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Davis being engaged loading muskets the Natives on board overheard them, and made a great noise so that those on shore could hear them; I told them the wind was driving into the harbour, and that I should return to Chatham Island in the morning; they appeared dissatisfied with this statement, and I allowed them to go on shore. The wind blowing fresh from the southward. I had my doubts whether I could work out of the Bay, having to beat to windward against a short cross-head sea for about fifteen miles. After the Natives had left page 141 the brig about five minutes, Murry the Chief and a crew came alongside in the European's boat, and observing they were not armed I allowed the Chief to come on board. I told him I should return in the morning, but he would not believe me. He gave orders for the other Natives to go ashore, and he remained in the vessel. The weather was very squally during the night, and the Chief seemed to be nearly heartbroken. The vessel tacked about the Bay (which is fifteen miles wide) every two hours, until we carried away the square mainsail, main trysail and the jib-boom. With every prospect of the continuance of bad weather, having progressed but six miles during the night, I resolved to run back immediately, and at 7 a.m. brought up again in the harbour. Some of the Natives said they though I had run away with all their seed potatoes, &c., they said they had been crying during the whole of the night, doubting my return to the Island. They immediately commenced taking out their potatoes which they completed about 4 p.m. Several of the New Zealanders expressed themselves much dissatisfied with my going away in the night, and Murry the Chief said that if I had not split my sails, &c. I should not have returned. The 21st and 22nd, it still continued to blow fresh from the southward. On the 23rd the wind blew from the N.W. weighed anchor, when several of the Chiefs came on board, and wished to proceed back to Port Nicholson. When outside I asked Mr. Dawson, my trading master, whether he thought any thing would happen to the mate at Port Nicholson, if we ran direct for Port Jackson. Mr. Dawson having had sixteen years in the New Zealand trade said, that he would certainly be killed if we did not return. I made sail for Port Nicholson, and reached that place on the 20th (?) at 10 p.m. On the next day my second officer came on board, and informed me that the Jolly Rambler had been in the harbour during my absence, which the Natives would have taken but she was too small for their purpose. The New Zealanders had also killed several dogs, and hung them up in different directions, for the purpose page 142 as they said of driving the ship back to them. The savages also killed a young girl of about twelve years of age, cut her to pieces, and hung her flesh up to posts in the same manner as the dogs, saying that she was the cause of our detention. It took the Natives all the 27th to talk over what they had seen at Chatham Island, after which they gave me in payment 2½ tons of pork, 41 old muskets, about 3601bs. of powder, one cannonade, a nine-pounder, two fowling-pieces, and about 7 tons of potatoes. On the 30th of November, took in 7 canoes from 35 to 60 feet in length, about four hundred Natives, and proceeded on my second trip to Chatham Island. Having a fair wind all the way, I arrived at 30 minutes past 7. a.m., in the harbour. The Natives immediately disembarked, and took all they had from the brig. I was doubtful whether the New Zealanders would not, as a wind up of the proceedings, plunder the ship, but in this I was agreeably disappointed; although they had certainly made free with many things in the vessel, which I atttributed to the negligence of the seamen. On the 5th of December, having completed my forced expedition, I made sail, being accompanied to the Heads with ‘the two Chiefs,’ who craved tobacco of me; having given them about 20lbs. of the same, they left the brig, since which I have not heard anything of them or their tribe.”

The correct name of the chief, described as Murry and A-Murry in the narrative, was Pomare.

The excitement occasioned by the capture of the Lord Rodney had hardly died away before the natives in the vicinity of Port Nicholson tried to capture another vessel—the schooner Active, under the command of Henry Wishart.

The captain's own account, under date Port Jackson. April 2. 1836. was as follows:—

“The Active was becalmed off Waiderippa Bay, afternoon on Monday the 11th of January, 1836. A large canoe filled with natives came off to her, and the principal man (named Warepowre and I mutually recognised each other as acquaintances page 143 formerly of Tarenackie. He wished me to run into the bay and bring up off his pah, as he had a quantity of whalebone to sell; but upon my refusing to go into such an unsafe place he asked me to shew the trade I had on board, and expressed himself so much pleased with it that he proposed sending his canoe ashore to tell his people to bring the bone to the schooner next morning, and remain on board himself, if the vessel would stand to and fro during the night, which was agreed to. Next morning early I stood into the bay, expecting to meet the canoes, and thereby save time; but the wind dying away and none appearing, I let go an anchor about 9 o'clock a.m. Some time after, a number of canoes came in sight from the mouth of a river that runs into the bay, and having come alongside, the vessel was soon crowded with natives—men, women and children. They had no whale-bone with them, having come from their provision grounds, and the bone being at the pah where they wished me to go and look at it, and approve of it before they had the trouble of bringing it off. I however, sent the mate, who soon returned, and reported having seen a considerable quantity of very good bone. I then desired the natives to bring it off and I would buy it; but, after much talk together, they said they did not want trade at present—they wanted a vessel to carry them to Stewart's Island, or elsewhere if that did not please them—that the Active would do and that the bone would be given in payment. Some of them then began fathoming the vessel with outstretched arms, and concluded she would carry about two hundred; while others poured water into the guns on deck, and spiked them with wood. In the mean time, Warepowre tried to get my empty water casks, in order to fill them; and several people in canoes kept bringing firewood on board, saying they did not want payment for it, nor would they desist until I ordered it all to be thrown overboard, so that the sea was covered with page 144 driftwood. When I saw the vessel was completely in the power of the natives, and that resistance at the time would be folly. I endeavoured to dissuade them with their project—and apparently with success, one native with them (who had once accompanied me all round New Zealand) saying I spoke the truth when I told them any place they could go to was already occupied by strong tribes, who would kill them all. Much conversation then took place amongst themselves, many arguing against going, until an impudent, ill-looking fellow named Waiderippa got up, and with violent actions said, the captain speaks very well, but as we have taken the vessel we will go somewhere, and if we are not strong we may as well be killed where we go as remain and be killed by the Rowpera. Every one then agreeing with the last speaker. I appeared to be satisfied—told them if they would go after what I had said, that I was ready to take them, for the whalebone; and that as soon as a breeze got up I would go to Port Nicholson, close by, where the vessel could lie in safety, and wait until their provisions were got ready. Warepowre said I had nothing to fear from the weather at that time of the year, and must remain where I was, as everything would be ready next day. He then demanded a white man to be left at Waiderippa until the vessel's return, as a hostage for the safe performance of my word. I refused—and he insisted upon having one; and matters continued in this way until near eight in the evening, when a breeze began to spring up. The women in the interval kept paddling the canoes from the shore to the vessel, bringing long-handled tomahawks and cooked potatoes and fish for the suppers of the men. who meant to lie on board all night. As the breeze freshened I gave orders aloud to man the windlass, to ascertain what lengths the natives would go to detain me; but the crew had only hove a few squares when the women and. children were huddled page 145 overboard into the canoes—the alarm was given to the people on shore by whistling shrilly on the fingers—and Warepowre, leaping upon the boat, which was carried on deck, gave the war-cry, and in an instant from eighty to a hundred natives, stripped to the skin, each armed with a tomahawk, commenced the war-dance on deck, yelling hideously, and making the vessel quiver with their violent jumping. The crew upon this pulled up the muskets which they had been provided with when we came upon the coast, from the forecastle, which Warepowre perceiving, called out to me aft, where I remained alone, to stop the men from firing or every one on board would be killed—and some of the natives having begun to cut away the rigging, I went forward and told the crew to put away the muskets. Peace being restored, the natives crowded into the forecastle, so that the crew could not move without being observed, and overpowered if resistance was attempted—taking care also to shake the priming from the muskets. About midnight I began to get sails loosed, and (under various pretences and against great opposition) succeeded in getting most of them set. The vessel soon began to drive outwards, but the natives observing it gave her more cable, and threatened to cut away the other anchor—and some of the most unruly, cut up a ball of spunyarn to tie all hands. Early on Wednesday morning, canoes came alongside with the whalebone, and put it on board. I told Warepowre it was very good, and to send his people ashore to get their potatoes and pork at once, while there was a fair wind that would rattle them where they wished to go in a couple of days. He highly approved of what was said, and sent all ashore but twenty men and women, including himself. I now had more muskets and some cutlasses quietly passed forward through the hold, which was cleared of natives, and when I saw the canoes all beached began to get up the anchor; page 146 for, although the chain had been unshackled the day before, so as to slip it if a chance of escape offered, I felt unwilling to incur such a loss without an effort to save it. Warepowre upon this laid aside his marie (hatchet of green stone) and went forward to see how matters stood, and to keep him quiet as long as possible, I told him I meant to tack about in the bay until his people were ready. He seemed satisfied, and assisted to heave square or two of the windlass, but then went aft again, resumed his marie, and conferred with the others, the result of which seemed to be that resistance was useless. The anchor soon coming up—the sails being already set—the vessel got under weigh with a fine breeze, without our being constrained to use arms against the natives on board. As soon as she was observed by those on shore to be under weigh, two canoes put off after her; but when within musket-shot, finding no signal made by their friends to approach, put back again. When nearly clear of the bay, I demanded the tomahawks from the natives, who quietly surrendered them; and laying the vessel to. had the long boat hoisted out, as I judged the most prudent way to dispose of the captives would be to give them the boat and two oars to go where they chose. I then told them my intentions, and ordered them into her, much to their surprise and satisfaction, especially when I returned their tomahawks, and remunerated them for the bone they had put on board. Just as the boat was cast off from the vessel, Warepowre sprung into the main chains, saying he knew I meant to fire upon the boat, and clung to the chains, until I allowed him to come on board. Perhaps the unmerited clemency he experienced induced him to suppose that he might still persuade me to put into Port Nicholson; but in the evening, when past that place, he was in great dread, lest he should be taken to Port Jackson. Next day, at his earnest entreaty, and being anxious to get rid of page 147 him rather than take him to the different places I had to call at, and where the natives, enemies of his, would be glad to get hold of him, and take him from me by force, I landed him at Queen Charlotte's Sound, amongst his own friends. I may add that Waederippa is an open bay, unapproachable in the winter season, when the southerly winds prevail, and situated between Cape Pattison and Port Nicholson, where the brig Lord Rodney was taken possession of by the New Zealanders; that Warepowre and. his tribe belonged originally to Tarinackie, on the west coast, which place they deserted after the chastisement the natives there received from the Alligator sloop of war, and removing to Waederippa settled there, where they dreaded being destroyed by the Entry Island natives, a numerous people under the Rowpera, and alleged that as the reason of their wishing to remove—a wish which the success the Port Nicholson natives met with in removing to the Chatham Islands no doubt encouraged. I fell in with the Lord Rodney at the East Cape, and heard from Captain Harwood an account of her seizure, and he also told me the first vessel that went there was sure to be taken; but I looked upon what he said as one of the stories New Zealand traders indulge in, to prevent others from opposing them; I was even illiberal enough to suppose the seizure of the Lord Rodney was fictitious, and under that impression had no hesitation in going amongst the natives there who completely undeceived me on that point. I feel confident that if I had made one trip with natives, a second, probably a third, would have been required of me before all were transported, and that they would have stripped the vessel when they had no further need for her, as they were greatly in want of such things as I had on board.”