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The New Zealand journal, 1842-1844 of John B. Williams of Salem, Massachussetts


page 31


Monday Dec. 25th, 1842,1 landed at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand at a small village called Wahapu after being on the ocean 137 days and sailing 16,149 miles from Salem. I had previously visited the place in year gone by; I well remember the first perspective glance on New Zealand's rocky and mountainous composition was unfavorable.1 I disliked its looks, its bare and high hills, but on a nearer approach a softer outline clothed in verdure on these lofty and towering mountains roused the languid spirits which gratify the heart of man. The Bay of Islands is particular ly easy of access to the mariner; its passage is wide, free from all Shoals, quicksands and rocks. In a direct line South by Compass from point Pohok [Pocock] & abrest of Tipunah [Te Puna] (the first English Mission established in the Bay) to MutuRou [Moturoa] one third the way from the former lies a sunken rock with only eight or ten feet of water on it at low tide, some say 15 feet, discovered within a few years, and does not break even when the waters are roughened by a gale. In entering the Bay, the Nine Pin, so-called, must be left on the Starboard hand; it can be passed by leaving it on the larboard hand, but a very intricate passage on that side, S by W from the Nine Pin will take the vessel safe to Kororareka point, being about 9 miles distance. There is a shoal called the Whale rock 1 mile of [f] shore, and another called the Capstan near the entrance to Paroa Bay both on that side of the entrance to the Bay of Islands. But vessels need not touch them as they should pass in by the Nine Pin. The Bay of Islands, I am convinced, is the safest harbour, and the easiest of access of any other in the Pacific Ocean. Pilots are not required, the greatest stranger can approach and enter the Bay with perfect ease, one of the best harbours in the known world, none can be more so. S by W will take a Ship to the Island off Pihea [Paihia], the E? Mission settlement, and a small island separated from the main on the left side by a narrow neck of land, inside of these 2 Islands, and the ship is in a perfect basin. Near the Islands the Shore is bold; and deep water. A vessel can do herself no damage even were she to drift page 32ashore at the Wahapu for the bottom is ozay [oozy] or a soft mud. Not so with the anchorage before Kororareka—now called Russell—after a ship's a[n]chor is once set it is almost impossible for her to start should it blow a hurricane.

Before giving a further description of the place as it now is I will faintly adumbrate New Zealand and its Cannibal population previously to 1808, as described to me. It is certain but very incomplete accounts have been given heretofore of their cruelties and barberous ways, as also their Superstition[s] (by some still imbibed). In taking a view of the Natives prior to 1808, but few Ships visited the Bay on account of their savage hostilities, treachery and barberous treatment to the Pakeahs, Pakea's [Pakehas] (interpreted white men or foreigners). Cannibals as they were, they were cruel, despotic and inhuman in the extreme. For the most part the Natives are robust, athletic and about the same statu[r]e as Europeans, equally cruel to each other in case of war, as to the whites. Tribes were constantly at war with each other; but it was more so with their own weapons of warfare. The introduction of gun powder & muskets, in a manner it was the first step to civilisation amongst them. With their weapons of war they were debasing, blood thirsty, and their atrocities indescribable. The tribe that came of [f] conquerer in war, the prisoners that are taken of either sex, if very young are made slaves; and sometimes put to death and eaten; but the adults, and old natives were often compelled to make the fire on which they were to be roasted, after being quartered and their head taken of [f] and posted on a pole, imagine the feelings of such an individual. After the body is cooked the greater the animosity to those taken the more avericious the appetite to devour them. Their bones are applied to various uses, some of the smaller ones for ear jewels. Should a canoe of a different tribe by stress of weather be drove ashore in another district; they are immediately taken and made slaves of—or their bodies mangled in a most excrutiating manner to satisfy their hellish propensities. Both sex[es] are served alike, they formerly cut them to pieces with instruments made of bones & green stone, hacked to pieces, cruel unconscionable torture and roasted in a copper maurie, [Maori] that is baked in the ground, layed between red hot stones, covered with leaves—to describe it fully, a hole dug in the ground 1½ feet deep, page 33or 2½ feet in the bottom of the hole, hot stones, then covered with green leaves, the food or human flesh then laid on the leaves, then leaves covering the meat, then red hot stones, then a layer of leaves & stones and the whole covered with earth. Animal food cooked in this way is delicious, as also fruit and vegetables for it retains all the juices.

Formerly when one tribe was at war with another the first man that was killed was dissected and his heart taken out and conveyed to one of the leading chiefs and offered to him as an atonement, to appease the anger of their God, whom they say is fighting for, or against them, but invisible. They seldom ever went to war without consulting some of the old men or old women; and allow them sufficient time to dream. These old dreamers relate their dreams with great plausibility, and by way of impressing it on their minds it is repeated many times; sometimes to the whole army, but mostly to the chiefs alone; which is kept secret until they have had a fight; and if successful, then all their dreams related, and much more related should anything of consequence have occured. Their cruelties in war are said to have been beyond description—Many of their enemies were taken and roasted on a fire alive—whilst others are put in a copper maurie as previously described. Many of them are tortured on the fire until dead. This is much worse than at some of the Navigator Islds where the old & decrep[i]t are not suffered to live any longer, and are buried alive. But a brighter sun is breaking from the East, which at no distant period will dispel the dark clouds hanging over this Isld. As the tide of time moves rapidly along; and the age of improvement advances. Ammunition introduced, wars will cease, as they have already ceased among some of the tribes. Formerly when the Natives returned to the Bay of Islands from fighting other tribes they would bring their large canoes, saving them the labour of building; the natives of the Bay were to[o] indolent, and seldom made a war canoe of any size.

Wangeroa [Whangaroa] harbour was dreaded by all navigators for many years previous to 1824. In 1808 at this place the ship 'Boyd' of London was cut off and all hand barberously murdered with the exception of a boy & an infant girl. They were rescued from this perilous situation by the Commander of the 'City of Edinburg' Mr. Barry, now the Hon. A. Barry, M. C. in Sydney, N.S.W. And no vessel visited the place again until 1820, page 34when the English Government Store Ship 'Dromedary' came for a load of spars for the English Navy, which were to be had in abundance (the Kaurie) a wood adequate to oak was found, which Capt. Cook called spar wood. The Tribe of natives said to have cut the Boyd of [f] were annihilated by a chief from the Bay of Islands whose ambition it was to have a shipping port of his own; and took possession of that fine harbour, settling many of his people there after much bloodshed. The Chief from the Bay was wounded through the lungs, living in that state 8 months, astonishing everyone how he could exist. This chief it is said visited London in 1821 and reed many presents from the King of England, among which was a double barrel gun. After his return to New Zealand again such was his thirst for war, he immediately commenced slaying and eating as they went. His party were 400, on the move for 7 or 8 months south of the Bay of Islands, losing but few men as they were furnished with a large number of muskets, and those of the other party having but few.

Wangeroa this very spacious harbour but rather narrow at the entrance, with very deep water and high land on each side. The tide runs strong in and out of this place which makes it easy of access. About 4 miles inside of the harbour is an Island which is a barrier against the east winds, preventing all seas from setting in. This is one of the finest Timber Districts for (Kaurie) on the east side of the Island—superior to all others as it contains less sap [sapwood]. When inside of Wangeroa harbour it resembles a Lake, as no entrance or outlet can be seen. There are two very fine Islands one is very high with a commanding view with deep water all around it. This Island would make a good fortification. The shores of this Island are well supplied with hard wood suitable for ship building. Many small rivers empty themselfs into this harbour on the Banks of which is aboundance of Kaurie. The soil is good capable of growing all kinds of Trees & Fruits. It has been settled by a few Sawyers of Timber, owing to the Store Ship 'Buffaloe' [Buffalo] going there for a cargo of Government Spars, such as top masts for Ships of the Line, as also a few Whale Ships have visited the place. Ships approaching the harbour must stand boldly in for the land if they are sure of their Lat. of the port, as they must round inside of the Island. Should the tide be making out a ship may bring up and lay with all safety in from page break
The ship Robert Pulsford of Lynn, Breed and Huse, Owners. Original painting in the Peabody Museum of Salem.

The ship Robert Pulsford of Lynn, Breed and Huse, Owners. Original painting in the Peabody Museum of Salem.

The bark John H. Millay, Williams and Daland, Owners. Original painting in the Peabody Museum of Salem.

The bark John H. Millay, Williams and Daland, Owners. Original painting in the Peabody Museum of Salem.

page 3518 to 12 fathoms free from winds. The natives in the harbour are very attentive to the shipping. They are not the tribe that cut the 'Boyd' of[f]. Before going further I will give a faint description of the harbours to the North of Wangeroa, and then proceed South.

The first harbour after rounding the North Cape of New Zealand is a safe roadstead, capable for ships 400 to 500 tons to anchor in all safety. The produce is Flax, Pork, Potatoes, Corn and Gum etc. Natives are kind.

The next harbour is Manganue [Mangonui] in Doubtless Bay. This port is safe in all weathers. Vessels lay landlocked & free from the sea. This also is a timber district and affords an abundance of fine Kaurie spars of all sizes that may be required for ships &. A numbers of Sawyers have located themselfs at this place, sending their timber & other produce to the Bay of Islands—Boards, Plank, Joist etc are all classed under the head of timber. And a plentiful supply of fresh water can very easily be obtained at this port.

Next comes the Bay of Islands. Having antecedently given a faint description of the Bay in 1842, I will describe [it] prior to 1824. The Bay of Islands was not much frequented until 1809. From that period until 1815 [only] a few whale ships visited it which was in consequence of a part of the natives belonging to the Bay who assisted in taking the (Boyd) already described. In the year 1814 the Church Mission was established and a settlement commenced at Tapunah [Te Puna] at the entrance on the north side of the Bay, and said to be with much difficulty that they were enabled to hold their ground, being often insulted by the natives, and ordered to quit their lands. They accomplished but little amongst the aborigines until the year 1824, when the natives began to listen to the Missionaries as also to turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil. In the year 1814 about 6 London Whale Ships were on the coast, but from the treacherous disposition of the natives it was hardly safe for a single ship to come into port. Constantly fighting. The war cry resounded throughout the various tribes, collecting with tomahawks and spears, coming to close combat, inhuman and cannibly cruel, and when the slaughter commenced unsated until avericiously eaten and their bones manufactured. How stands the case now? Tribes before going to war study to find the number of muskets page 36the opposing tribe has before thinking of war. If they have one gun more than the other party, they give up the idea or endeavor to get upon them by stratagem, in which case they butcher every individual.

In the year 1824 they began to listen to the missionaries, as also, to turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil. In the beginning of 1825 it is said that the shipping began to increase in the harbour of the Bay of Islands and by this means the introduction of Powder and muskets, for trade at very high prices, which the natives sought after. Their weapons of warfare laid aside with those of ancients long gone by. I have no hesitation in saying to a very great extent, it put an end to their bloody wars. As I have already described they always endeavor to know the strength of the parties by finding what number [of] muskets each are possessed, and if a greater, they'll not fight by any fair means. Their cruelties in war is said by those who have witnessed them (as I have previously described) cruel beyond account. Making their enemies cut the wood on which they are to be roasted, not infrequently put on the fire alive, and bushes put on them with a man at each end to keep them on the fire until burnt to death. They were barberous in the extreme to each other. In wars when a Young Man is taken, he is spared and kept as a Slave, and the Young Women for their lascivious purposes to the enemy, but the old of both sexes are seldom allowed to live.

In 1823 there were not more than 15 to 20 ships visiting the Bay of Islands. From 1823 to 1830 they increased rapidly, coming in to recruit as there were stores that could supply them, Salt Provisions, Pork, Potatoes and water, were mostly needed being for the most part whalers.

In the year 1830 a ship chandlery was established, [and a] Store was opened selling to large profits. In 1830, 60 Sail were in at the Bay, the ensuing year 80 and from that to 110 to 120 vessels mostly American whalers were in the Bay at anchor, by the visits of the French Whalers, the American whalers became numerous. From 1834 the Europeans have purchased most of the land about the Bay of Islands (or rather wronged the natives out of their lands) now the Natives have scarcely one foothold. And what they do hold they ask enough to make up for some of the European, I may say, English robbery. And as the natives indulge in European luxuries, diseases page 37have crept in amongst them leaving in its traces—death. They begin to depopulate and degenerate very fast. In there habits and modes of living they were far more healthy, robust and athletic. A noble looking race of men— more especially in the native costume. From 1818 to 1839 it is estimated that more than one half of some tribes of natives have died of disease, and many a most deplorable disease, brought their by the English. It is my opinion that Blankets, owing to the natives in his primitive simplicity, has been the means of colds and consumptions amongst them, in many instances the asthma. For instance, in a cold night or a cold & wet night it is a common practice among them after laying in their hut round a fire with their feet towards the fire rolled in a blanket perspiring freely, whilst asleep, arising they jump up and throw of [f] their blankets, open the door and rush into the cold night air. It is quite enough to kill a horse. What could be more injurious to ones health? Women as well as the men, naked as they were born, trembling in the cold. And whilst labouring under heavy cold they are to a very great degree careless, it seats itself on the lungs & they go of [f] in a rapid consumption. Poor, innocent simple children. Naturally full of vigor & health, once taken ill medicine or advice is no service to them, for they almost immediately give [up], thinking their days are near ended and finished.

The River Thames, a spacious river or Frith 120 miles south of the Bay of Islands. There are few small harbours between these places, and only suitable for small size vessels, except Wangare [Whangarei]—it will be useless to comment on it as it has been surveyed by Mount Durell2—The River Thames affords many fine and spacious harbours & roadsteads owing to the many fine Islands. There are many islands in its Frith, also anchorages for any size, secure from Easterly winds, with the wind SW the waves are smooth. Coromandel Harbour on the SE side of the Frith is a good shelter for ships of all sizes. In 1821 in this harbour the English Government took in one of their Store Ships a cargo of Spars, whose Ships Company left many heirs behind them, large families by native girls, some very young, for the natives to support. An example for Govt Officers to set before natives —the ship a brothel—a floating castle of prostitution. To quote an author the Shame of England. These, then, little ones are now men and page 38women grown, following in the foot steps of their predecessors, lecherous. And here follows the remarks of a Gent, "but I am sorry to say that they do not value their color or relationship with a European as they should," and remarks he hopes that this will not always be the case.

Sawyers are settled in different harbours who have commenced building a few small vessels as the timber is plentiful for that purpose. It was thought to be a good place to form a new colony, (This was previously to the settling of Auckland) to drain of[f] some of the Chartist party from England, by which means preventing a revolution at home, (So says the settler). The land is quite all out of the Aboriginals's hands in this neighborhood along the Banks of the river (Oh! what downright robbery). Parties have taken 30 to 40 miles square along its banks, this of course is a hindrance to settlers, more especially as many are poor and can only buy small patches, every man wishing to build on his own land. Monopolizing the best lands in the country, prevent the settler from cultivating and improving the lands. With so wide a waste of lands how can it be otherwise than to impoverish a country? If the farmer has no means how can he till the soil?

The natives were said to be very numerous about the Thames and were formerly often engaged in war with the Natives on the West Coast, or the West Side of the Island. They formed small parties and went by stealth cutting off their foe, which led to regular fights, when many fell on both sides. But those on the West side of the Island generally came of[f] victorious, from having a greater warrior at the head of greater numbers. His name Whia Roa, since dead, just before he expired his last words to his family were—be strong in battle, and to remember him, that he had never been conquered and never to mention their plans until put in execution. From the lips of a very great Savage & Cannibal. But he never allow[ed] any of his tribe to injure or molest a European or American; if they did they were severely punished. The mischief and death blows, and tortures would appear from the description we have of him, [enough] without molest[ing] the white man, doubtless his will towards them did not differ materially from his own kith & kin; fear restrained him. The products of the Thames are Flax, (the indigenous Phormium tenax), Corn, Potatoes etc. The Flax plant grows spontaneous and profusely about the banks of the Thames, and page 39the adjacent country. Since the coming of the Europeans amongst them, they [the natives] have become indolent, notwithstanding when the shipping require those commodities they turn their attention to them & collect large quantities.

The Thames [region] is said to resemble that of Munganue to a large extent, owing to the larger number of natives. In the vicinity of the Thames the natives have not dressed the Flax plant for some years; it is not the thing they will turn their attention to as it causes them more trouble than cumeras, potatoes, and rearing Pigs. Occasionally they carry quantities of this article from the west coast to the east, where the shipping frequents the small harbours. It is said the west coast is to be dread[ed] on account of the westerly gales. On this west coast of New Zealand all are bard [barred] harbours. At present, ships of any size visit only one port on that coast, and that on the Hokianga River, which is one of the oldest settlements. Insurance Companies in Sydney have refused to insure vessels for all the ports on the west side. Coal and Iron might be worked on the borders of the rivers and streams. Many are large enough to admit small vessels to go many miles up. The larger or principal Island in the Thames [Frith] is Wai Heki [Waiheke]; it is very extensive, well timbered & affords several good harbours. The large Island at the mouth of the Thames [Frith] called the Barrier has one of the best harbours for a ship to lay at anchor. The harbour on the north is very spacious, with deep water, where any quantity of fresh water may be obtained at any time with little or no trouble; vessels have frequented the harbour for Pigs and Potatoes, disposed of by the Maurie (or natives). The stately Kaurie grows here also.

The next harbour is Mercury Bay, where timber stations, Water and Steam Saw Mills have been put in opperation, and turned out large quantities of Lumber (called timber by the English). Previously to 1839 a timber or Spar Station was here for the purpose of getting out masts and spars for the English Navy which could be furnished at shortest notice. Kaurie is said to be very large and not to be found any farther south. Mercury Bay is about 8 miles in from the line of coast, and the extremity of this bay is the entrance to the harbour or river where 2 or 3 large ships can lay to and anchor. In heavy rains the tide is said to run rapidly. There are many page 40sunken rocks near the Mercury Islands and together with the latter are not in their proper positions on the chart. The place has been surveyed by the British Brig of War 'Pelorus.'

The first harbour in the Bay of Plenty is Touranga [Tauranga], which is south of the Main Isld. Safe for 3 or 4 small vessels when in. A bank lays 1 mile outside its entrance, with the wind north to east it is not safe for a stranger to approach. It is said that the first vessel that entered this [harbor] was in 1826, when 2200 natives [lived] in their Pas (or forts) at a distance of about 5 miles. [They are] represented of late to decrease and degenerated as fast as the wings of time will carry them; reported up to 1838 large numbers were killed of[f] in war with the Thames natives, estimated as one half. A Gent, informed me, that he entered one of their Pa's a very few hours after it was taken by stratagem, he represented the sight beyond description about 500 dead and dying. On some of the trees was seen the flesh of the natives, while in other places, men & women, Pigs & Dogs all hung up together, Many bodies laying a short distance from the Pa's, the dogs feeding on them; in many of the Pa's not a native was to be seen.