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The Old Whaling Days


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The Introduction written for the earlier work of “Murihiku” renders quite unnecessary here a detailed explanation of the method adopted by the Author to collect New Zealand history and to piece it together into the form of a narrative. There are, however, some things connected with the work which it would be well to refer to.

The period, 1830 to 1840, dealt with in this book, includes five years already covered in “Murihiku.” Since 1909, when that book was written, the Author has taken another tour round the World, visiting old sources of information and tapping fresh ones, with results so successful that he feels no hesitation in going back to 1830, and, at the risk of some duplication, covering the last five years of “Murihiku” again. Apart from this, the year 1830 is the natural beginning of any work professing to deal with the bay whaling period of Southern New Zealand's history, and it is that period we are dealing with.

In 1829, sealing had died away to very small proportions, and from 1830 onwards, only a few of the smaller craft carried on that occupation; for the rest, the work was confined to the “off” season work of some of the shore whaling parties. The branch of whaling which followed the sealing was the bay whaling, commenced by the open sea whaling merchants of Sydney and Hobart Town, on vessels anchored in the Southern bays, and from stations established ashore. Later on, the English, the American, the French, the Portuguese, and the Dutch, in the order named, entered the trade. Of these, only the English (from Sydney), and the Americans, conducted operations from the shore. None of these fleets have ever had their doings recorded before, although there are one or two French page iv works referring to the operations of individual vessels, and explaining the procedure adopted on board their fleets.

The great bulk of the information made use of in this book is obtained from newspapers published contemporaneously with the happening of the events, and at the ports of the countries from which they set out. The material for these reports was obtained then, as now, by reporters interviewing the officers on the return of the ships. Sometimes valuable information of the vessel's experiences was obtained, at other times only details of the “catch”; whatever the information was, it has been utilized by the Author.

In connection with the American whalers, another source of information has proved valuable. Great numbers of their logs have been preserved, and have been examined by the Author in the libraries of the Historical Societies which flourish up and down the eastern coast of the United States, from Salem to Washington. The best log found—that of the Mary Mitchell, in the rooms of the Nantucket Historical Society—has been published as an Appendix, and its perusal should prove extremely interesting. It is, however, unique among logs, because, when the whaling trade grew to huge dimensions in the United States, men of little education obtained commands, and their entries were often exhausted, when the weather, the position of the vessel, and the number of whales killed, had been recorded.

These logs are not confined to public Institutions. Collectors, many of whom are descendants of old whalers, have some in their private libraries, and those whom the Author had the pleasure of interviewing, always gave him a ready permission to copy what he pleased. The whalers of New Bedford and the other Eastern Ports made their country famous, and their descendants, many of whom are among the leaders of America to-day, are justly proud of the doings of their forefathers who scoured the seas with American whalers. It is strange, but yet true, that no logs belonging to the vessels of the other fleets have yet been unearthed by the Author.

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Outside of newspaper references and ships' logs, a great quantity of information has been obtained from manuscripts which have never yet “caught the eye” of the printer. These are found in the form of Reports sent to London by the Governor of New South Wales, correspondence in the Customs Office in London, from Collectors of Customs in Sydney and other parts of the World, and scraps of letters and nondescript documents which have been saved from the fire, and, on account of their age, have found a haven of refuge with collectors. Customs entries all over the World also give their quota of information. Last, but not least, it should be mentioned that the French and Portuguese whaling trade was subsidised by the Governments of these countries, and a great deal of official correspondence was the result. In the case of France, a corvette was sent to these waters to keep watch over the whalers, and the reports of the Commander give us the very best material for our purpose. Much, however, remains to be done in the way of investigating the material which comes under this last heading, and the Author hopes that a course, which he has mapped out for himself in the immediate future, will enable that work to be overtaken.

The reader will understand that the title is descriptive of the period, rather than of the subjects dealt with. All historical events during that period, so far as they are known, are dealt with. One exception must be mentioned. No attempt is made to deal with Native history, and the Maoris are referred to only in so far as they are found to come in contact with Europeans and European trade, and, at times, mention has to be made of some of their history to explain their presence. On occasions for the latter, the Author has taken advantage of the good nature of Messrs. S. Percy Smith of New Plymouth, formerly Surveyor-General, and Mr. W. H. Skinner, of Blenheim, Commissioner of Crown Lands, students of that branch of New Zealand history, and their material is, in all cases, acknowledged in the text. Both gentlemen inform the Author, that great numbers of the dates of events herein page vi given have been found by them of great value in fixing, for their own works on the Maori, dates impossible to obtain by Maori tradition. The Author, however, lays no claim to a knowledge of Maori history; that is a field of work of its own, and is being well explored by many competent Maori scholars.

In no case is material employed to construct the narrative, if obtained by word of mouth. To connect events merely, such is sometimes utilized, and stories are sometimes repeated to lighten the narrative, but in such cases their traditional source is always indicated. No person has a greater opinion, than has the Author, of the value of stories of by-gone days, told by persons who themselves took part in them, and no one has listened to them longer, nor with greater interest; but this work is not their place. The Author's fondest hopes will be disappointed, and his best efforts will have failed, if there is found an earlier version of any incident recorded in these pages, which are intended to give to the historian, or to any one else who wants to use them to record fact or create fiction, absolutely the earliest attainable version of the incidents chronicled. The same ever present desire to secure the truth condemns to the waste-paper basket all modern references to events where the authority is not given, and, even where given, the original authority, and only after proper examination, alone is quoted. While the Author recognises the superiority of the trained mind of the old Maori over the untrained one of the modern Pakeha, both are treated alike. No offence is intended, but all must understand that the Author is not engaged in bringing out a New Zealand version of “Wilson's Tales of the Borders.”

The grouping and arranging of the material is a matter about which great difference of opinion must exist. The plan adopted is not put forward as the best, but rather as following the lines of least resistance. As obtained on research, the material is essentially scrappy, coming from any of the many sources described, at Hobart, Sydney, an American Port, London, or Paris. At the New Zealand page vii end we have a further division according to the class of trade—whaling, sealing, flax, &c.—and we have also the portion of the country where the incidents took place. The vessels which traded with and through Foveaux Strait seldom went to Cook Strait; there was a clearly-defined line between the trade which passed through these two waterways. The very fact that Foreign nations took part in our trade has imported another complication into the narrative. Dominating all this we have the further fact that the New Zealander who is in Otago is more interested in the early history of his own province, than in that of Banks Peninsula or Port Underwood, and vice versa. All these conflicting elements are sought to be reconciled by the scheme adopted, which brings along, in parallel chapters, the northern and southern trade over periods of years which the Author tries to find something in common in, and, where the information centring around one incident permits of it, places that incident in a chapter by itself.

The method in which the material is supplied to the reader may cause some comment, and it is desirable, therefore, that the Author's ideas should be known. Except in very few cases, the material herein contained is not available outside this book at all, and the central idea underlying the work is to enable the reader to obtain the most accurate version of every incident recorded, and to record all incidents. The publication of Historical Records does not supply the want, as they only reproduce documents of an official nature, while a myriad of details, each small in itself, characterises New Zealand history. The publication of the Author's paraphrase of the material would rob the events of that accuracy which is the feature of many of the rough unlettered accounts of the principals, and would never prove the last word on the question. The Author's scheme is a middle course; he adheres as closely as he can to the original narrative, and eliminates, as much as he can, his own view from the book. The reader is given the results of the Author's research, not the fruits of his thought. With New Zealand's early history in the page viii condition it is, there is a life's work along the lines of unearthing it. Others who can make historical narrative attractive can build what literary edifices they desire, out of the material supplied. This plan may truly be said to fall short, equally of a record as of a narrative. If it did not do so it would have few to read it as a record, and fewer still to credit it as a narrative. In the form it is presented it is believed to be sufficiently near to its original form to be quoted as a record, and sufficiently connected in chronological order to be read as a narrative.

The chapters on special subjects are themselves of special interest. The brig Elizabeth incident has been told and retold many times, but always founded on the Maori version, where, of course, the opposing sides make the story fit in with the necessity of proving their side in the right. The version here given is based upon the evidence at the Preliminary Inquiry, held in Sydney within a few weeks of the happening of the event itself. This evidence was sent to England in 1831, and in 1909 was unearthed in the Record Office, London, by the Author. Other material from the Hobart Town papers and Customs Records of that date is added. So valuable were the English documents considered that they were published in full in the Appendices. The Defence of Nga-Motu was an unexpected find in an extremely rare paper—the “Sydney Monitor”—of the year 1833. The only previously known account, anything like contemporaneous, was given by Polack, five years later. A glance at these “letters” will show that we have discovered Polack's authority, and given by the best of all writers—an eye witness. The Rescue of the Harriett's crew contains all previously written on the subject, together with extracts from the Alligator's log, and Sydney interviews with the rescued men. It was in the Alligator's log that the Author found particulars of the number of cannon shots fired into the pa; and the names of the rescued sailors were obtained from the discharge sheets, where are entered the names of all men taken on board, and their formal discharge at the end of their journey. There also page ix were obtained the names of the Maori Chiefs. Palmer's Trial in Sydney for manslaughter, for rope-ending a lad at Preservation Inlet in 1836, is of special interest to readers in Otago, where Palmer, and his partner “Johnny” Jones, spent the declining years of their lives.

The Appendices are important documents upon which some portions of the narrative have been based, and they are published at the end of the work, to enable the reader, should he so desire, to follow up the subject, or to check any of the Author's conclusions. In no case, except that of the Harriett, is the document known to have appeared in print before, and all have been unearthed by the Author, and permission obtained by him for their reproduction here.

The Treaty of Waitangi, and the Proclamation of British Sovereignty in New Zealand, ends the period of the Author's research work. After that date New Zealand history can be written from the Records in this country, as all the Institutions of civilization, then set up, have perpetuated for the student the material he is in search of. For the period which the Author has selected, the World outside New Zealand alone can supply the material, and, up to the present, the search has had to be prosecuted by the Author alone. This feature of a history long anterior to the establishment of law and order is peculiar to New Zealand, of all the Australasian Colonies. With the exception of stray visits of Dutch, Spanish and English vessels, Australia knows no history prior to the establishment of government. Our little country stands alone in that possession, and the charm of that history is due to the lavish biological display, which, when the sailor first appeared, in the form of whales, gambolled in its bays; in the form of seals, basked upon its shores; in the form of timbers, grew in its forests; and, last but not least, in the form of men, practised the rites of cannibalism in its pas. Surfeited with the mass of material thus put before the research student, his taste is spoilt for the investigation of any history which records the matter of fact doings of page x men who are compelled to live under the laws of organised government.

The plan formerly adopted of giving the authorities is not followed in this volume, they are reserved for the final work. The variations in the presentation of the tabular matter are intended to ascertain, from the experience of the readers, which method should be adopted finally.

“The Old Whaling Days” is not complete in itself, but, combined with “Murihiku” (1909) pp. 1 to 378, covers the history of the South Island of New Zealand, from its discovery by Tasman in 1642, down to the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840—a period of two years short of two centuries—and it is the Author's intention to proceed with the North Island in the same manner, with the object of one day bringing it all together in a more finished production. In this respect these books are but advance publications, to insure against the hundred and one risks which stand in the way of the final work being ever accomplished. As they are, therefore, not the last word of the Author on the subject, he invites all who have a suggestion to make, or who can point out errors or omissions, to do so. Where persons possess correspondence, or papers, dealing with any subject mentioned in the narrative, a perusal thereof is of such value from an historical point of view, that the Author invites the possessors to grant him that privilege. No one but the Author himself can say that a manuscript dealing with the period prior to August, 1840, has no place for it in the Author's work.

Some considerable delay has taken place in the publication of this volume. This was due to two causes. The trek for material took the Author, in 1910, to Paris, where an immense store was unearthed, but the language barrier was found to be such a severe stumbling block that it had to be overcome before the search could be successfully continued in that country. That has been done, and the Author is now on the eve of leaving for Europe to clean up the New Zealand material known to be available there, page xi but the two years required to qualify him has kept back the preparation of this work. The second cause of delay was fire, or rather the third visit of that destroying agent which the Author has experienced. The work was ready, and in type, when a fire in the publishers' factory in Wellington, last July, wiped the whole thing out in one act. The Author was in Sydney, enjoying a holiday at the time, and, as good luck would have it, had, before leaving, secured a “pull off” to examine the last few Chapters with Australian originals. This was the one thing saved from the fire. Meantime, the opening of the Mitchell Library gave access to fresh stores of material, and the fire was taken advantage of to incorporate this, with the result that the work, as it appears now, is the old work largely re-written and added to.

Some material, which might well be considered to come within the province of the book, has been omitted. The genesis of the New Zealand Company is not given, nor is any mention made of events in England and Scotland, in which the Company played an important part. These are so intimately connected with the sending out of the first Governor, and the appointment of Captain Hobson to that position, that they have been held over to be dealt with when the history of the North Island comes to be written. Partly for the same reason, the rise and history of the French Expedition, which came to Akaroa nearly two months after the South Island became British Territory, has been omitted. So much material has been accumulated under this heading that its publication, in anything like completeness, would fill a volume of no insignificant size, and, as the opinion has long held ground that it was at Akaroa, and on account of the French going to land there, that British Sovereignty was proclaimed over the South Island, and as the Author holds an entirely different view, the reader is entitled to know everything about it, and should not be dependent for that, on the small amount of space which could be spared in this book. That, therefore, stands over. For causes also connected with the page xii want of space, material relating to the purchase of land from the Natives, and the later material dealing with the French scientists has been reduced to a minimum.

The determination of the exact locality of places, and of the proper spelling of names, has been fraught with the greatest difficulties. Some of the place-names have been ascertained through references obtained in the most unexpected places, others by local tradition, but a few have resisted every attempt at identification. The spelling of ships' names is sometimes rather loose, e.g., “Marianne” or “Mary Ann;” “Harriett,” or “Hariet,” “Maria Watson,” or “Marion Watson.” In such cases references in official documents, or advertisements, are preferred to the spelling of sea captains. The French ships proved so difficult to record that many captains confined their description to “a French whaler.” It is, however, in the names of sailors that imagination was allowed to run riot. We have “Anglin,” “Anglim,” “Anglem,” “Ingram,” and “England,” for one unfortunate mariner. The first spelling was selected because used by the best educated recorders of his movements, but the name “Anglem” has been generally accepted, wrongly, the Author is satisfied. The name Blinkinsopp is another of the same kind. Some of the names recorded may be considered to be of so little value as not to be worth recording. That may be so, but the Author has not that perfect knowledge of his subject which will enable him, with confidence, to reject any name as too insignificant for record.

Anything in the nature of a complete acknowledgment of thanks for the assistance rendered by friends who have put their libraries at the Author's disposal, friends who have helped him with introductions to those in authority in other lands, and friends to historical research, who, as officers in public institutions, have given him of their best, would be impossible. There are, however, some whom no excuse such as that would forgive the passing over of: In Wellington, Mr. A. H. Turnbull, with his great collection of New Zealand Literature; in Hobart, Mr. Tapsell of page xiii the Record Office; in Sydney, Mr. Wright and his Staff of assistants in the Mitchell, and Mr. Ifould and his Staff in the Free Public, Libraries; in the United States, the Officers of the Historical Societies of New Bedford, and Nantucket, and the Librarian of the New Bedford Library, and of the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.; in England, the Officers in the Record Office, and the British Museum; and in Paris, the Minister of Marine and the Officers of his various Departments, and M. de la Roncière of the Bibliothèque Nationale. The thanks of the Author are also due to the Officers of the Royal Geographical Society, London, who not only put themselves to considerable inconvenience to search for the Enderby Papers, but who, when they were found, permitted their first publication to take place herein. The Author would also express his thanks to the Rev. Dr. Watkin, of St. Kilda, Melbourne, for leave given to reproduce his father's Journal. Mr. T. E. Whelch, of The Lake, Wanstead, Hawke's Bay, permitted the Author to have the use of a valuable collection of old manuscripts which belonged to the late Captain Hempleman. For such consideration, merely to receive thanks is a very small return.

The Author also desires to thank Messrs. Whitcombe and Tombs' staff for the care and attention they have devoted to the production of this volume.

As this book is published with the sole desire of giving to the World the facts connected with the early history of New Zealand, the Author places no embargo upon the use of any part of it by other writers; it is expected, however, that all making use of its contents will honourably acknowledge the source from which the narrative has come.

Should the Index prove wanting, either to the general reader, or to the student of any line of investigation, a short note to the Author will always be welcomed by him, and may remedy that defect in future works; certainly it will save the final production from the defect complained of.

Palmerston North, 24th May, 1913.
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