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The Whaling Journal of Captain W. B. Rhodes: Barque Australian of Sydney 1836 - 1838


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On 14 June 1836 Captain William Barnard Rhodes sailed from Sydney as master of the whaling barque, Australian, on a cruise to New Zealand and the islands of the Southwest Pacific from which he did not return until two years later, on 10 June 1838. The experiences of those two years—at a time when whaling in the Southwest Pacific was entering upon its most active period—are recorded in Captain Rhodes's journal of the cruise of the Australian, a matter-of-fact account of day-to-day events which yet conveys the spirit of a dangerous and arduous way of life. The journal contains also, however, important sections of more extended narrative, combining the interest of a record of personal adventure with that of documentation of notable contemporary events, such as the crusading wars of King George Tubou I of Tonga, the unrest at the Bay of Islands during the war between Titore and Pomare in 1837, the beginnings of whaling at Banks Peninsula, and the establishment of the first European settler at the Kermadecs. Overriding all this is the contribution of the journal to the general history of Southwest Pacific whaling and of the part taken in it by ships based on Sydney.

How widely even the Sydney whaleships of the period ranged in this pursuit of whales is well illustrated by Rhodes's cruise,1 which took him first of all to Banks Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand, and then to Tonga; thence to the page xiiKermadecs and by way of the Three Kings to Lord Howe Island and back to northern New Zealand; from the Bay of Islands to New Caledonia, and, after sighting the Australian mainland, eastward again to Tonga; south from Tonga to the waters west of the Chatham Islands, and finally up the New Zealand coast, with a call for supplies near East Cape, and back to the northward before returning to Sydney. An incidental result of Rhodes's command of the Australian was that at the end of 1839 he returned to New Zealand to become one of the colony's most enterprising merchants and a founder of its pastoral industry.

Rhodes was born in 1807, the eldest son of William Rhodes of Epworth, Lincolnshire, later of Plains House in the Levels district of Yorkshire. He went to sea as a boy, and at the early age of 19 was second officer of the Samdaney on a voyage to China and India. After two further voyages to India and the Far East (one in the Ann and the other in the Duke of Bedford) he achieved his first command in 1831 as master of the barque Harriet, in which, through the assistance of an uncle, he owned a one-third share. A two years' trading cruise, which took him first to South America and then to Africa and India, was followed in 1833 by a voyage to New South Wales. Thereafter, the Harriet was based on Sydney, her first voyage from that port being in 1834 to the Cape of Good Hope, when she was under charter to C. Ebden, and carried as cargo 250 pure-bred Merino rams and ewes from the flocks of William Riley, of Raby, and John Macarthur of Camden. Thereafter Rhodes made several short voyages on the Australian coast and also some longer ones to Java and China.

Early in 1836 Rhodes sold the Harriet to the brothers G. Weller and E. Weller, who proposed to use her for whaling page xiiioff the New Zealand coast. The reasons for the sale are not clear, but it is apparent that Rhodes had become impressed with the financial prospects of pastoral farming in New South Wales, for he invested his share of the proceeds of the sale and of the ship's earnings, in land and a flock of 600 sheep and 53 cattle, and appointed an agent to care for them. This was done, however, only after repaying his uncle, William Heaton, to whom he wrote:

'I am aware you only advanced the money originally to set me a-going in the world, and the talent you gave me has not been buried in the earth, but kept moving, and by industry has doubled more than once. I feel indebted to you for what I have scraped together, and it is impossible for me to express my thanks commensurate with the dictates of my heart.'2

Although he had acquired these pastoral interests, and had invited his brother Robert to come out from England and join him, Rhodes appears to have found it difficult to leave the sea when another command was offered him. In April 1836, Messrs. James Holt and Richard Roberts, of the Sydney firm of Cooper, Holt and Roberts, invited him to take command of the barque, Australian, on a whaling cruise to New Zealand and adjacent waters, which at first was contemplated as lasting not more than one year. The appointment was unusual. Rhodes carried a high reputation as commander of a trading vessel, but to appoint as master of a whaleship a captain who had no experience whatever of the very specialized craft of whaling was a considerable and hazardous departure from the customary procedure of whaling firms. Most whaling captains graduated to command through the steps of boat-page xivsteerer (harpooner) and ship's officer, the process usually occupying a number of whaling voyages.

The owners of the Australian were not newcomers to the whaling business. Cooper, Holt and Roberts were the successors to the firm of Cooper and Levy, one of the oldest of Sydney whaling firms. Daniel Cooper, the senior partner, had come to Australia originally in 1801 or 1802 as second mate of the Margaret, and thereafter for thirty years had been well known at Sydney, first as master and later as owner of vessels engaged in sealing, in flax and timber trading, and in whaling on the New Zealand and Australian coasts and in adjacent waters. It was William Wiseman, master of one of this firm's ships, who during the eighteen-twenties named the two northernmost harbours of Banks Penihsula, 'Port Cooper' and 'Port Levy' in honour of his owners. Cooper, no longer a young man, appears to have returned to England not long before 1836. Possibly the partners remaining in Sydney lacked Cooper's expert knowledge of the requirements of whaling, and in making this appointment to command of the Australian, allowed themselves to be influenced by the fact that Rhodes was willing to invest £150 in the venture. Whatever may have been the reasons for the appointment, Rhodes's own journal makes it clear that during the cruise of the Australian, his lack of whaling experience caused constant difficulty with his crew and even with some of his officers.

The Australian was a barque of approximately 265 tons, built by John Grono on the Hawkesbury River. At the time of her launching, on 21 March 1829,3 it was recorded that page xvshe was the largest ship built in the colony of New South Wales, that she was owned by Messrs. Cooper, Levy and Grono, and that Grono had been occupied for more than two years in building her, 'all her timbers [being] the growth of the Colony, and all cordage and rigging our own manufacture'. She was intended specially for the whaling trade. She left Sydney on a sperm whaling voyage, commanded by Captain Cattlen, on 29 December 1829, returning on 21 February 1831 with 194 tons of sperm oil. On her second voyage, under the same master, she left Sydney on 3 September 1831, returning on 1 March 1833 with 80 tons of oil. She next sailed to Mauritius, under Captain Gourmand, leaving on 10 November 1833, and returning on 27 June 1834 with a cargo of sugar and wine. Her fourth voyage was again a whaling cruise. She sailed on 18 November 1834, under Captain Swindles, returning on 18 February 1836 with 1300 barrels (163 tons) of sperm oil. After this fourth voyage she was reported at the end of March as being sold to William Hutchison, but the sale was apparently not completed, for in the agreement with Rhodes, dated 18 April 1836, Cooper, Holt and Roberts are described as owners.

Rhodes was directed in this agreement to engage only in whaling for right or black whales, but by his final instructions two months later he was authorized, should the prospects of black whaling not prove to be good, to go further afield and engage in sperm whaling. The reasons for this variation in instructions lie in the change in the time of departure and in the differing habits of the two kinds of whale then hunted by Pacific whalers. Right whales, usually called black whales page xvbecause of their colour,4 had regular migration routes which took them during the winter months into comparatively shallow waters alongs the coasts of Tasmania, the Australian mainland and New Zealand. That these whales were to he found in large numbers all along the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand appears not to have been discovered until after 1830. The fact that the female whales sought sheltered waters in which to calve made them easy prey along the coasts of Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand, particularly near the harbours of Otago Peninsula, Banks Peninsula, and Cloudy Bay. The pursuit in coastal waters of black whales was known as 'bay whaling' and the procedure followed was for the ships to lie at anchor in a convenient harbour or bay, sending out their boats to cruise in nearby waters for 'fish'. The whales when caught were towed back to the ships to be 'cut in' (i.e. to be stripped of their blubber) and their blubber was then 'tried out' or rendered down in the try-works, which comprised a set of large cauldrons or try-pots set in brickwork on the deck of the ship. An alternative (and very ancient) form of bay whaling involved the establishment of a station on shore, from which the boats were sent out, and at which was erected the equipment necessary for cutting in and trying out. The shore station had the advantage of not requiring the constant attendance of a ship. Black or right whales, of which the females grew to 40 ft. in length and the males to 60 ft, yielded oil of lower value than that of sperm whales, but more of it in proportion to their bulk, and, in addition, they provided the then valuable baleen or whale-bone—horny and fibrous processes in the mouthspage xviiof the whales—at that time much in demand for such uses as the making of combs and of stiffeners for clothing.

Sperm whales, on the other hand, frequented the open sea and were found in warmer waters. For sperm whaling the ship kept cruising until whales were sighted, at which the boats were lowered and the ship stood off and on until a catch was made (or, more often, until the boats returned unsuccessful). Any whales taken by the boats had to be towed to the ship, which then hove to while the processes of cutting in and trying out were completed. Sperm whales, which were up to 65 ft. long, yielded no whale-bone, but carried a quantity of the especially valuable spermaceti oil in the case (part of the head). This oil quickly hardened into a wax from which the finest kinds of candles were made. Three other kinds of whales are mentioned by Pacific whalers—hump-backs, fin whales (or fin-backs) and blue whales. Of these only hump-backs, similar in size to right whales but much tougher fighters, were taken. The giant fin-backs and blue whales usually travelled too fast for the boats, and even if harpooned were too strong to be held by the whaling gear of the period.

The black whaling season on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand began in April and lasted until September. To have arrived at the whaling grounds at the beginning of the season, Rhodes would have had to leave Sydney early in April. His ship, however, was in the hands of the carpenters for repairs, and he was unable to get away until mid-June, with the result that the black whaling season was half over before he reached the New Zealand coast. There was little prospect that he could fill his casks with oil before the season ended, and it was for this reason that his June instructions provided for the alternative of sperm whaling.

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Although the bay whaling off the eastern New Zealand coast, to which Rhodes was directed, was a fairly new development, dating from about 1829 at Cloudy Bay and only from 1835 at Banks Peninsula, whaling in Australian and New Zealand waters already had a long history. As early as 1791 the fleet of ships chartered to transport convicts and stores to New South Wales included several whaleships. On completion of their charters at Sydney these ships were to cross to the Peru whaling grounds—the only known Pacific grounds then open to British whalers. The East India Company's monopoly, which had closed the whole of the oceans from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn to all but His Majesty's ships and those of the Company, had been partially lifted in 1786, but only to the extent of permitting specially licensed ships coming by way of the Cape of Good Hope to work as far east as Durban, and others coming round Cape Horn to engage in whaling on the coasts of Peru and Chile. A further amendment in 1788 extended the limits from the Cape of Good Hope as far east as 51°E. and from Cape Horn as far west as 180°, with the equator as the northern limit in each case, but even after these changes Australia and New Zealand remained within the closed waters of the monopoly.

Nevertheless, the whaleships in the Sydney transport fleet of 1791 sighted so many whales along the Eastern Australian coast, and were so encouraged in their enterprise by Governor Phillip, mat as soon as their cargo could be discharged five of them set out from Sydney to cruise for whales in nearby waters. They met very stormy weather, however, and although page xixthey saw an abundance of whales they were able to capture very few of them. Within a few weeks all the ships returned to Sydney, and the attempt at whaling on the Australian coast was abandoned. The ships then sailed across the Pacific to Peru: one of them interrupted her voyage to call at Doubtless Bay, north of the Bay of Islands, but she apparently did no whaling there. In December 1792, the Britannia, one of these five original whaleships, which had returned to Sydney, and which had a trading licence from the East India Company, left a sealing gang at Dusky Sound, in the far south of New Zealand, before proceeding to the Cape of Good Hope.

Thereafter, until 1798, although other whaleships were included in the fleets taking convicts and stores to Sydney, they went on either to China under charter to the East India Company, or across the Pacific to Peru, apparently without engaging in whaling in Australian or New Zealand waters. In 1798, however, the Company's monopoly was further reduced, so that below 15° south latitude, the whole of the oceans from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn were open to whalers. At last it was permissible for whalers to operate in Australian and New Zealand waters.5

From 1798 the Sydney records began to include references to whaleships leaving for 'the coast' and 'the fishery' and page xxreturning with whale oil. One ship, the Cornwall, sailed for New Zealand in August, 1798, but she did not return to Sydney. By 1801 Governor King was able to report that three whaleships had sailed for England with full cargoes of oil, and that six others were 'still on the coast and off the north end of New Zealand'. It was not until February, 1803, that any whaleships were recorded as coming to Sydney after fishing on the New Zealand grounds. These were the Greenwich (15 February, 1803), the Venus (6 April, 1803), and the Alexander (31 May, 1803).6 All three of these ships had apparently been whaling in the latter part of 1802 on the grounds north-east of New Zealand, having sailed direct from England and not by way of Sydney. On these facts, the beginning of New Zealand whaling can be dated from the seasons of 1801 and 1802. From about 1804 the Bay of Islands began to be used as a place of refreshment by whaleships operating on the ground north-east of New Zealand. At this time also, the first American whaleships—the forerunners of the very large numbers that dominated Pacafic whaling in the eighteen-thirties—began to appear off the Australian and New Zealand coasts, although very few of them called at Sydney.7 An American sealer, the Fanny, sailed through Bass Strait early in 1802, and another American ship, the Union, was sealing off the coast of South Australia in 1803. Within two or three years, however, the number of American ships engaged in sealing and whaling in Australian waters was causing alarm page xxito the New South Wales authorities, who regarded their intrusion as threatening the only local industries producing commodities for export.

For the next twenty years the growth of whaling in the Australian and New Zealand segment of the Pacific was steady but not spectacular. The number of whaleships reported in these waters rose from eight in 1801 to sixteen in 1805, and to eighteen in 1808. The total may have remained the same up to 1812, when the war between Britain and the United States of America kept American whaleships off the seas. Only five whaleships were reported in these waters in 1812. After the war there was a quick recovery, and by 1820 the trade was beginning to assume fairly large proportions, no fewer than fourteen whaleships then being reported at the Bay of Islands alone.

Meanwhile a notable development in whaling was taking place in Tasmania. With the establishment in 1803 of the new settlement on the Derwent, it had been discovered that the right whale abounded on the Tasmanian coast, which was particularly favourable to bay whaling. The first shore station was established at Ralph Bay in 1806. Thereafter, until about 1829, bay whaling was the main form of the industry practised in Tasmania, and although the number of whales taken began to diminish steadily after 1830, bay whaling continued to be profitable there until about 1840.

From Sydney there does not appear to have been any attempt to develop shore-based whaling until about 1828. New Zealand bay whaling also began at this time. In 1827 John Guard established himself on shore at Te Awaiti, but the first oil shipped to Sydney from this station appears to have been from whales taken in 1829. Slightly to the south of Te Awaiti, at page xxiiCloudy Bay (Port Underwood) Australian whaleships were bay whaling in 1830, one of these ships having a party established on shore, while in the far south during the same year another station was working at Preservation Inlet, Foveaux Strait. In 1831 no fewer than three shore stations were working at Cloudy Bay, while in 1833 the first whales were taken by a shore station established on Otago harbour. At Banks Peninsula bay whaling appears to have begun in 1835, but the first shore station, at Peraki, was not established until 1837. The owners or managers of these New Zealand shore stations— Guard (Te Awaiti), Bunn and Williams (Preservation Inlet), Mossman (Cloudy Bay), and the Weller Brothers (Otago)— were all Sydney men. Shore whaling stations in New Zealand have a special interest apart from their whaling activities because many of them, or the land purchases made from the Maoris by their owners, became originating points of permanent European settlement.

On the New Zealand coast, Cloudy Bay was from 1831 to 1837 the centre of the ship-based form of bay whaling, but from 1837 it was rivalled by the Banks Peninsula harbours, first by Port Cooper and later by Akaroa. The year 1836, in which Rhodes took the Australian to Port Cooper, was the first in which that harbour was visited by more than one or two whaleships.

From this it appears that the beginning of the eighteen-thirties ushered in a new period in Southwest Pacific whaling. Sperm whales were becoming less plentiful, but the discovery of an abundance of right whales on the coast of the South Island of New Zealand, well away from the Bay of Islands and the waters north-east of the Bay of Plenty which had hitherto been the main resort of whalers in New Zealand page xxiiiwaters, had given the industry a new impetus. A feature of this new phase was the building or fitting out, mainly at Sydney but also at Hobart, of a considerable number of Australian-owned whaleships. J. D. Lang noted in 1834 that whereas in 1826 only five or six Sydney-owned vessels were engaged in the whaling trade, by late 1830 the number had grown to twenty-six. The Australian herself, as already noted, belonged to this group of ships, being Australian-built and Australian-owned.

The lack of a complete series of shipping records for the Bay of Islands, which appears in the eighteen-thirties to have been the resort of at least eight or ten times as many whaleships as visited either Sydney or Hobart, makes it difficult to obtain a clear picture of the very considerable extent of Australian and New Zealand whaling for this period. The records that are available, however, show that in 1833, when seven whaleships called at Hobart, forty-two called at the Bay of Islands. In 1836, only eight called at Hobart but at the Bay of Islands no fewer than ninety-two (forty American, twenty-one British, twenty-six from Sydney, three from Hobart and two French). Even these figures do not give a final indication of the number of ships in these waters, for many American vessels cruised for two years or more without calling at any colonial port, specifically avoiding harbours where they were liable to pay port dues, and obtaining supplies of pork and vegetables from the natives of the Tonga or other island groups, or from the Maoris at various bays in the southern parts of New Zealand. For example, while fifty-two American whaleships are listed by name as calling at the Bay of Islands in 1839, no fewer man twenty-eight others were spoken in the bays and along the coast of the South Island, giving a total of eighty American page xxivwhale ships in New Zealand waters for that year. Add to this Australian, British and French ships, and the final total for New Zealand alone in that year is certainly more than 150 whaleships.8

It is not generally realised how large a proportion of the total American whaling fleet was in New Zealand waters in the late eighteen-thirties. If reasonably complete figures were available for Samoa and Tonga, the eastern Australian coasts, and New Caledonia, as well as for New Zealand, an even more remarkable picture for the Southwest Pacific would almost certainly emerge. In 1833, out of a total of 183 whaleships clearing from American ports, just under half went to the Pacific, and of these only seventeen were reported in New Zealand waters. In 1836 the total clearances were 186 ships, with only seventy-five clearing specifically for the Pacific, but of these at least fifty-six called at New Zealand. In 1839, out of 131 ships clearing for the Pacific, eighty came to New Zealand. The numbers appear to have been about the same in 1840, but after that year fewer American ships called at the Bay of Islands, probably because New Zealand was now British territory, and the Bay was no longer a free port.

At this time also the attention of whalers was being turned more to the northern Pacific. Yet it is apparent that in the early eighteen-forties large numbers of American whaleships page xxvcontinued on the New Zealand coast and in Australian waters. In 1842, for example, no fewer than ten American ships called at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula and twenty-one at Hobart, there being no overlapping between the two lists. One report states that in 1842 no fewer than 100 whaleships were on the Australian coast, although this figure is not supported by the port records. A fleet of sixteen French whaleships was on the New Zealand coast in 1838, the same number being reported again at Akaroa in 1842, when six other French ships called at Hobart.

The development of the whaling trade during the eighteen-thirties, and its importance in the commerce of New South Wales, is also illustrated by the Sydney trade returns showing exports of whale oil. Whereas in 1830 the total was just over 1800 tons, in 1835 and 1837 it was over 4000 tons (1836 was a bad year with 2800 tons), and in 1840 it reached a total of over 6000 tons. At the same time there was a significant change in the nature of the trade. While in 1833 sperm oil totalled 3183 tons, in that year black oil was only 420 tons. From 1836 black oil predominated, and in 1840 black oil totalled 4297 tons and sperm oil only 1854 tons.9 Yet this was a turning point. Within five years the combined total of sperm and black oil had dropped to 1300 tons, the greater part of this being sperm oil, the black whale having been so reduced in numbers as no longer to be important.

This then is the background of the whaling industry into which Rhodes entered in 1836. Two months having been spent in getting his ship ready for sea, he left Sydney finally page xxvion 14 June 1836, and after some difficulty with his crew on the voyage across the Tasman, arrived at Port Cooper on 16 July. There he found six ships10 at anchor, and, apparently considering this harbour too crowded, moved next day to the adjacent harbour of Port Levy. Although whales were plentiful Rhodes was in constant trouble with his crew, the men being inclined to refuse duty at the slightest provocation, apparently being encouraged in their insubordination by the third officer of the ship. The men's attitude appears to have been based on their fear that Rhodes's lack of whaling experience might result in a small catch of whales and consequently in a low return for themselves, for, in accordance with whaling custom, they received no weekly or monthly wage, their remuneration (and also that of the officers) being defined as a 'lay' or stated proportion of the catch.11 At one stage they demanded that the chief mate, Powell, should be 'whaling master' of the ship, which meant in effect that Rhodes should be merely 'sailing master'. Ultimately Rhodes was compelled to call a committee of captains to enquire into the state of his crew, and on their recommendation on 8 September, the third mate and seventeen of the crew were sent on shore.12 Much valuable time had been lost during the dispute, and being left with half his page xxviicrew, Rhodes could no longer man sufficient boats to justify remaining for the last month of bay whaling. Accordingly he sailed for Cloudy Bay to recruit enough men for sperm whaling.

Although he was a newcomer to whaling, Rhodes's journal shows that he set out to acquire experience as quickly as possible. Most ships of the size of the Australian manned up to four 24-ft. whaleboats, each carrying five men and an officer who steered the boat with the steer oar. The harpooner rowed the bow oar, which was shipped when nearing a whale. When a whale had been harpooned and it came to a standstill, usually after a long struggle, the boat was brought close in and it was then the duty of the officer to replace the harpooner in the forward position and to kill the whale by driving a lance to its heart. Throughout the cruise Rhodes performed an officer's traditional duties in command of his whaleboat, which achieved as good a record as any of the others. He actually killed four sperm whales and possibly an equal number of right whales.

From Cloudy Bay, Rhodes sailed to the whaling grounds north-east of New Zealand. Although he looked for them, he missed the Kermadecs and arrived at 'Eua, in the southern part of the Tonga group, having taken only two whales on the way. After an incident with the natives which might have been dangerous, and in which he and another captain were briefly held to ransom by the chief, he sailed to Ata, souther-most of the Tonga Islands, and there obtained fruit and vegetables, and noted that only the more fortunate whaling masters were provided with wives by the natives. Then he sailed south to Sunday (or Raoul) Island in the Kermadecs, on which a settler named James Read (or Reid) with his Maori wife, three page xxviiichildren and two Maori youths, had settled only six weeks previously. With them were six deserters from a whaleship. Read planned to grow vegetables to supply visiting whalers. Rhodes's description of this first attempt at settlement on the island is probably the earliest detailed account of it.

Not until the ship had been to the north cape of New Zealand, thence to Lord Howe Island and close to the Australian coast, and then was on its way eastward again, was another whale taken—after an interval of four months. Two more were taken before the Australian reached the Bay of Islands on 13 April 1837. Here Rhodes proposed to prepare for another season of bay whaling and to send the oil already taken to Sydney by another vessel. However, the crew insisted that if the oil were taken out of the ship they should be paid their share immediately, and the oil remained in the Australian. The Bay of Islands at this time had a fairly permanent European population of 500 people, and in addition a floating population of 100 to 300, largely comprised of runaway sailors.13 During Rhodes's stay at the Bay, a war between two leading Maori chiefs, Titore and Pomare, resulted in great alarm among the European settlers. At least one house was plundered by the Maoris, and Rhodes landed two boats' crews to protect the property of a leading merchant of the Bay, Captain J. R. Clendon,14 who was acting as agent for Cooper, Holt & Roberts. With constant desertions of his men, who yielded to the attractions of the Maori girls and the grog shops, Rhodes was unable to make up his crew to sufficient strength to go right page xxixwhaling, and, after taking on two Maori seamen, sailed again for sperm whaling on 12 May 1837. This cruise from the Bay of Islands took Rhodes to the whaling grounds at the southern end of New Caledonia and to within sight of the Australian coast at Sandy Cape, near the present town of Bundaberg. Thence, by way of Walpole Island, he sailed eastward again to Vavau in the northern part of the Tonga Islands. Here Rhodes was astonished to be met by a native harbourmaster, presenting a demand for port dues in the name of King George Tubou I. This remarkable chieftain, originally ruler of Ha'apai —the central portion of the Tonga Islands—had recently assumed control of the Vavau group. He was a zealous convert of the Wesleyan missionaries, and at the time of Rhodes's visit was engaged in a war against Tongatabu with the dual purpose of extending his territories and of gaining further converts to Christianity by force of arms. Tubou's blood-thirsty campaigns of conquest, undertaken in the guise of 'converting the heathen' were among the more unfortunate results of missionary impact on the natives of the Pacific. Remarking on the brutality of the campaign, which was about to be renewed at the time of his visit, Rhodes writes:

'It appears there is a party in that island (Tongatabu) who will not put themselves under the yoke of the missionaries. They are called the Devil's Party. His Majesty is determined if they will not be converted … to exterminate them. During the late war, old men, women, children and women with child, have been massacred in cold blood… The King is now actively preparing for another visit to Tongataboo to convert the heathen. He is a local preacher as well as a great warrior, and an extremely sensible and clever man. It is a great shame that he should be led to such excesses through a mistaken religious zeal.'

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Rhodes sailed south again, and on calling at Sunday Island found the settler, Read, very short of food, his crops having failed for want of rain. A second European settler had now established himself on the island. Thence Rhodes continued southwards, his course taking him ultimately between the Chatham Islands and Banks Peninsula. Here in the south he had little success, and then turned to the north again without calling at any harbour. At the East Cape, somewhere near Te Araroa, he called in at a place which he names 'Ka-ki-ki-ca and obtained supplies of potatoes and pork from the Maoris. A misunderstanding at a time when large numbers of Maoris were on board caused some anxiety, but the trouble was resolved without bloodshed and Rhodes sailed again to the northward. His journal ends ten days later with the entry for 6 March 1838, when the Australian was again nearing the Kermadecs.

The cruise of the Australian continued for another three months before she returned to Sydney. The record of ships arriving on 10 June, 1838, as published in Sydney Gazette, includes the following: 'From the Whale Fishery, same day, the brig, Australian, 365 tons, Captain Rhodes, with 720 barrels of sperm, and 430 barrels of black oil.' For a voyage lasting two full years, the amount of oil taken was not large—not even as much as was originally expected from a one-year cruise. This was offset, however, by the fact that two-thirds of the catch was sperm oil, worth from three to five times as much as black oil. Of twenty-six whales taken eleven were right whales and fifteen were sperm whales.

The value of the oil and bone taken by the Australian in these two years is not easy to determine. Rhodes himself, in a rough notebook kept during the cruise, gives two sets of page xxxifigures. The first set apparently defines the values for oil and bone agreed upon when the crew signed on at Sydney. It was the custom for values to be announced at this stage and for the 'lay' or proportion of the catch due to each man to be calculated in terms of these original values at the end of the cruise, even though market prices might by then have changed. The defined values for the crew of the Australian appear to have been: black or right whale oil £13 per ton; sperm whale oil £30 6s. 8d. per ton; whalebone £50 per ton. On these values the total was £3,418, this being the figure from which the lays of all the men who were with the ship for the full two years appear to have been calculated. The values of the lays for men employed during only part of the cruise were calculated in relation to the quantity of oil and bone taken while they were actually serving on the ship. Another set of figures which, from the quantities of oil stated, appears to have been worked out near the end of the cruise, values black oil at £10 per ton, sperm oil at £50 per ton, and whalebone at £100 per ton. In these figures the value of the total catch is set out as £5,149 10s. of which £450 was contributed by black oil, £212 by whalebone and £4,487 10s. by sperm oil.15

The financial return to officers and men for the two years' cruise, as revealed by the ship's accounts, does not appear large. They were provided with rations, but the value of any cash advances, or supplies of tobacco, clothing, footwear, etc. obtained from the ship's stores during the cruise were deducted from the amounts due to them under the lay system. The captain's lay was worth £285, the chief mate's £122, the second mate's £71 4s., the cooper's £62 and an able seaman's £28 8s. After deductions had been made the amount of cash page xxxiiactually received by these officers and men was much less: chief mate £77 12s., second mate £43 17s., cooper £39 2s., able seaman £15 1s. 6d. These figures relate only to those who completed the whole voyage.16

No fewer than fifty-seven men served in the Australian during her two year's cruise. Of the four officers and twenty-five men with whom Captain Rhodes left Sydney in 1836, only three officers and seven men remained in the ship when she returned there in 1838. One officer and sixteen men were sent ashore after mutiny at Port Cooper only three months from the beginning of the cruise. One man was taken on [unclear: a] Port Cooper, staying with the ship to the end and becoming third mate. Thirteen men were taken on at Cloudy Bay, but of these only one European and three Maoris were still with the ship at Sydney, eight of them deserting at the Bay of Islands and one being sent there from Tonga when he became ill. Two of the Sydney men, also, were discharged sick at the Bay of Islands. Eight new men were shipped at the Bay of Islands (four of them Maoris), two at Sunday Island and two at Vavau. One of the Europeans shipped at the Bay of Islands deserted at Vavau, and a second exchanged for a man from another whaler when the Australian was nearing the end of her cruise. Seven Maoris (always described in the ship's books as 'New Zealanders') were among the crew paid off at Sydney, one of these having been a boatsteerer or harpooner.

With the return of the Australian to Sydney, Rhodes ceased to engage in whaling. In October 1838 the ship set out on page xxxiiianother two years' whaling cruise, but this time she was under the command of Captain Underwood, In 1839, however, Rhodes entered into a new partnership with Cooper and Holt, transferring some of his pastoral interests for a one-third share in a venture for the purchase of large areas of land from the Maoris and for the establishment of cattle stations and trading stations in New Zealand. With the expectation that before very long large numbers of settlers would be coming to New Zealand, the business community of Sydney was engaged in a rush to acquire title to land in New Zealand. For a few blankets, muskets or gunpowder and a little cash, Maori chiefs could be induced to sign deeds purporting to give title to scores of thousands of acres of land. One such deed (Went-worth's) covered almost the whole of the South Island. Cooper, Holt and Rhodes bought the brig, Eleanor, acquired Maori title deeds from several parties (including one from Captain Leathart covering Akaroa Harbour and most of Banks Peninsula), and loaded the ship with trading goods and 30 or 40 head of cattle. Rhodes took the ship first to Kapiti Island in Cook Strait, there completing a form of purchase of that island with Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata and other chiefs, and left a stockman in charge of cattle already running on the island, these having been sent over by Cooper some years earlier. Here also he established a shore whaling station to be managed by Thomas Wright. From Kapiti Rhodes went to Akaroa, where he landed his cattle on 10 November 1839 at Red House Bay, leaving in charge of them two stockmen (one of these, William Green, being accompanied by his wife). This was the first cattle station to be established in the South Island. It was the starting point of the pastoral interests of Rhodes (and later his brothers) in this part of New Zealand.page xxxivTurning northwards again, Rhodes set up a trading station at Cloudy Bay, and then, proceeded, along the east coast of the North Island, entering into arrangements with several Maori chiefs for the purchase of lands totalling more than one million acres, and comprising most of the coastal districts of Hawkes Bay from Table Cape to Cape Turnagain. During 1840 he established trading stations at several points along this coast to reinforce his firm's title to the land. When all land claims were investigated subsequently by the Land Claims Commissioners appointed by Governor Hobson, most of these vast claims were set aside, the claimants receiving only a few thousand acres of land, the awards made being in proportion to the amount of money they could prove had actually been spent in making their purchases.

Thereafter, Rhodes made his headquarters in Wellington, becoming one of the leading merchants of the town. His brothers, Robert Heaton Rhodes and George Rhodes, joined him in New Zealand, first of all managing his Banks Peninsula properties. As partners, the three brothers acquired large pastoral lands in Canterbury. In the North Island, also, Rhodes's pastoral interests were very extensive. From early in the eighteen-forties, Rhodes took a leading part in importing sheep from Australia to meet the needs of the newly-arrived New Zealand settlers. In view of the subsequent development of the Corriedale breed, it is interesting to note that one of his advertisements, of July 1842, advocates the Leicester-Merino cross as the ideal dual-purpose sheep. Among the commercial activities in which Rhodes took part were the establishment of the New Zealand Shipping Company, the Bank of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Insurance Company. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1853 to 1866, of the page xxxvWellington Provincial Council from 1861 to 1869, and of the Legislative Council from 1871 until his death on 2 February 1878.

Rhodes was married first in 1852 to Sarah King, daughter of a Wellington solicitor, and secondly in 1869 to Sarah Anne Moorhouse, sister of William Sefton Moorhouse, Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury. His only descendants, however, are members of the Rhodes-Moorhouse family, his half-Maori daughter, Mary Ann, having married Edward Moorhouse, a younger brother of his second wife. His grandson, William Barnard Rhodes Rhodes-Moorhouse, was awarded the Victoria Cross in the 1914-1918 war, being the first pilot and the first member of the Royal Flying Corps to receive this award. His great-grandson, William Henry Rhodes-Moorhouse, was one of the Royal Air Force pilots shot down in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The manuscript from which this edition of Rhodes's journal is printed is contained in a small book of ledger paper, with pages 6 inches wide by 7¾ inches deep. This is not the actual ship's log of the Australian, but is more correctly a contemporary journal comprising largely a transcript of the ship's log. Some entries greatly expand the information that would be expected in a ship's log, while others condense the events of a week or more to a few lines. Moreover, whereas a ship's log gives a day-by-day record from the time of sailing up to the ship's return to port, this manuscript is an incomplete account of the cruise, ending three months before the ship's return to Sydney. There is little in the manuscript itself that is of much assistance in determining exactly when or where it was written. From a comparison with the rough notebook in page xxxviwhich Rhodes kept the ship's accounts during the cruise, and with letters he wrote in 1836 and 1838, it can be said definitely to be in Rhodes's own handwriting. The most likely possibility is that Rhodes transcribed (and expanded or condensed) the ship's log into his private journal during the actual voyage, and that the work of transcription was not completed when the ship returned to Sydney. This suggestion is supported by the first few pages of the manuscript, which are in the nature of a private journal and which contain references to the disposition of his personal affairs and to letters which I shall write … previous to my sailing in the Australian'. The fact that the paper on which the journal is written bears the same water-mark (dated 1832) as the paper of the separate ledger containing the individual accounts of the crew of the Australian, further supports the suggestion that the writing of the journal was contemporary with the cruise itself.

Also surviving are many of the original documents incidental to the cruise. Except for the ledger containing the crew's slop accounts and Rhodes's personal 'rough day-book', from which, however, extracts have been made, these are printed in full as appendices to the present volume. There is no single original document containing a list of all the men who served on the Australian during this cruise, but from the slop accounts and the day-book it has been possible to compile a comprehensive list. A list of ships encountered during the cruise has been compiled from the journal itself.

In preparing the manuscript for publication, Rhodes's erratic punctuation and completely unsystematic use of capitals have been normalised. This has been done because it is hoped that the journal will interest not only the historian but the general reader. The spelling of place-names, personal names page break
A Page from the Journal of Captain Rhodes

A Page from the Journal of Captain Rhodes

page break page xxxviiand names of ships remains that of the manuscript, even though some of these are obviously mis-spelt, and even though the same name may appear in several variant forms: e.g. the island in the Tonga group now known as 'Eua, appears variously as 'Eoaa', 'Eooa', and 'Eova'.

The project for publication of the journal originated in 1939 when Mr. J. H. Rhodes, of Christchurch, made the manuscript available to the present editor for work in connection with the New Zealand Centennial. It was put aside because of the war, and was not resumed until 1952. During 1953, when the editorial work was almost completed, it was discovered that Dr. Robert McNab, the historian of New Zealand whaling, had been in process of preparing the journal for publication at the time of his death in February 1917.17 Dr. McNab's work, however, had not proceeded beyond the annotation of ship references and the writing of the rough draft of the first three paragraphs of an introduction, in which he noted that the journal was the only known reasonably complete account of a whaling cruise based upon Sydney. That statement, written thirty-seven years ago, is still valid. Dr. McNab's marked copy of the typescript has provided a useful check on the annotation of ship references, but this is the only way in which his work has been used in the present edition. The ledger containing the ship's accounts, and the captain's day-book, which have provided additional appendix material, including the list of members of the crew, were apparently not known to Dr. McNab.

Particular acknowledgment is due to Mrs. Anne ffrench [sic],

page xxxviii

Rhodes's grand-daughter, of Mortham Tower, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, for granting permission on behalf of the Rhodes-Moorhouse family for publication of the journal; to Mr. J. H. Rhodes for again making the manuscript available; to Mrs. A. E. Woodhouse of Blue Cliffs, for assistance with biographical material, much of which is based upon her book, George Rhodes of the Levels and His Brothers; to Dr. J. S. Cumpston, Consul for Australia at Noumea, New Caledonia, and formerly Official Secretary to the High Commissioner for Australia in New Zealand, whose recent researches on the beginnings of sealing and whaling from Sydney have clarified several points that were hitherto obscure; to the Turnbull Library, Wellington; and to Miss P. Mander-Jones, of the Mitchell Library, Sydney, for information concerning the launching and several voyages of the Australian.



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1 See end-paper map.

2 Quoted in George Rhodes of the Levels and His Brothers, by A. E. Wood-house.

3 Sydney Gazette, 2 April 1829. For subsequent movements of the ship the references are: Sydney Gazette 3 Sept. 1829, 31 Dec. 1829, 22 February 1831, 27 August 1831, 31 March 1836, 11 Oct. 1838, 15 Sept. 1840; also manuscript reports of vessels arrived (Mitchell Library).

4 The oil of right whales was usually called 'black oil', not because the oil itself was black, but because of the colour of the whales producing it.

5 The successive stages by which the monopoly was reduced and sectors of the southern oceans were opened to whalers, were: 1786, by Cape Horn to 50° west of Cape and up to equator, and by Cape of Good Hope to 15° east of Cape and up to 30°S. (26 Geo. III, c. 50); 1788, by Cape Horn west to 180° and north to equator, and by Cape of Good Hope east to 51°E., and north to equator (28 Geo. III, c. 20);1793, by Cape Horn, the northern part of the Pacific above the equator and west to 180° (33 Geo. III, c. 52); 1798, by Cape of Good Hope, east to 180°, but not north of 15° south between 51°E. and 180° (38 Geo. III, c. 57); 1802, up to 1°N. between 123°E. and 180° (42 Geo. III, c. 18). See also 43 Geo. III, c. 90, 51 Geo. III, c. 34, and 53 Geo. III, c. 155.

6 The master of the Alexander was Robert Rhodes, who, however, does not appear to have been in any way connected with William Barnard Rhodes.

7 The General Boyd, which sailed from Sydney for the fishery in July, 1801, is generally claimed to have been the first American whaleship at Sydney, but it is very doubtful whether she can be described as American, for although she was American-built, she was under British registry.

8 References to the number of ships engaged in Southwest Pacific whaling, as given here and on other pages, are derived from the collation of information given in the following sources: R. McNab, Murihiku, Old Whaling Days, From Tasman to Marsden, and Historical Records of New Zealand; Historical Records of Australia; Sydney Pocket Almanac (to 1820); R. A. A. Sherrin and N. H. Wallace, Early History of New Zealand; W. S. Towers, History of the American Whale Fishery; Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, 1833-39, and m/s dispatches of J. Busby to Colonial Secretary, New South Wales, 1833-39.

9 Report quoted by R. Montgomery Martin, 1851, in The British Colonies, Vol. ii, Australia, p. 543.

10 Among these ships was the Bee (Captain Hempelman) whose log records Rhodes's arrival on 15th and 16th July. Rhodes's own log reference stating his arrival at Port Cooper on 16th July settles a long-disputed point concerning the harbour from which the Bee was whaling in 1836.

11 From the ship's account book it appears that the lays observed on the Australian were: master, 12th; chief mate, 28th; second, mate, 48th; third mate, 75th; fourth mate, 80th; cooper, 50th; carpenter, 65th: cooper's mate, 100th; carpenter's mate, 120th; boatsteerer, 100th; able seaman, 120th; ordinary seaman, 180th; steward, 110th.

12 There was no European settlement at Port Cooper at this time, but the men sent on shore were certain to find places on one or other of the six ships then in harbour.

13 J. Busby, despatch to Colonial Secretary, New South Wales, 8 January, 1836.

14 J. R. Clendon was consul for the United States at the Bay of Islands, 1838-1842.

15 Sec appendix 19, page 111.

16 Details for all the crew are set out in appendix 21, page 114.

17 Marked copy of typescript in Turnbull Library. Dr. McNab apparently came to know of the existence of the journal only after the publication in 1913 of his book, The Old Whaling Days.