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Past and Present, and Men of the Times.

Chapter X

page 62

Chapter X.

More Whaling—A Visit to Honolulu—The French stowaways—A call at the Bay of Islands — Still the luck holds good—Taking a Whale into Sydney—On shore again—I relinquish the command of the Whaler—Mr. Boyd again my employer—A trip to Nelson—To Hobart with Cattle—Escaped convicts—Governor Price and his brutalities—I go to Western Australia.

Leaving the island of Espiritu Santo, we set sail once more for a whaling ground, in the neighbourhood of the Equator, and had an almost uninterrupted run of luck. One day all the boats were down chasing a "pod" of cow whales, when one of them showed fight, and turning upon one of the boats, smashed it into atoms. The men were all picked up by the ship immediately after. We killed five whales on that day but lost one of them. When the fish were "cut in" and "tried out," the men came aft and respectfully requested to be taken into some port where fresh meat could be procured. They had now been thirteen months on "salt junk," and were desirous of a change. I thought the request only reasonable, and ordered the ship to be taken into Honolulu, a French settlement on one of the Sandwich Islands, it being then the nearest port in our vicinity. We arrived there safely, and found it an excellent anchorage. I laid there for one month to give the crew a chance to recruit, and indeed they stood greatly in need of it. In the meantime I got in all my fresh supplies, pork, poultry, sweet potatoes, yams, and all kinds of fruit, with which providence seemed to have supplied this island in great abundance.

There was a French man-of-war lying in port while I was there, and the captain was very kind and friendly, I dined page 63frequently on board with him, and he honoured me several times with his company on board the "Flying Fish." Being now ready to make a fresh departure, I ordered all the men to get on board, and they being decent fellows, as I before remarked, obeyed with alacrity. I was lucky in this matter, as it frequently happened that whaling vessels leaving there went short handed, the delights of the climate and the sensuous attractions of the place being generally too much for poor Jack. As I was leaving, the French captain came on board in search of four men missing from his vessel. I said it was unlikely they would be on board mine, as my sailors and his while on shore were continually brawling and fighting. However, he searched the vessel from stem to stern, and found no trace of them, and he had to return to his vessel not altogether satisfied. I told him, when leaving, if the men turned up at any future time I would look after them and hand them over to the French Consul in the first port I came to where there was one resident. Two days afterward, at sea, the mate reported finding four stowaways in the hold, and the runaways were brought on deck. They could all speak English slightly, and begged of me not to deliver them up to any French ship or Consul, and they would do anything in the world for me. I pitied the poor devils, and told them to go forward and the mate would find them something to do. They became very useful during the remainder of the voyage, and worked well. They were excellent sailors, and were mostly employed as ship-keepers, while the crew were out in the boat.

Four days after leaving Honolulu a French brig passed us. I hove to, and signalled her to lower a boat, but she passed and took no notice, so I lost the chance of returning my unbidden guests to their own vessel. I presently fell in with plenty of whales, and for three months the fires were hardly ever extinguished, and I had got on board about 2000 barrels of oil. The men now become rather restive, and wanted another run ashore, and I ordered the ship to be taken to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. There was a good deal of discontent displayed when the men learnt their destination. They wanted to go somewhere where they could "see life," so I told them we should cruise for a month off the Three Kings, and at the expiry of that time I would run the ship into Hobart, in Tasmania, and give them a spell. This pleased them all, and put a stop to their page 64murmurings, which were really not without some show of reason, cooped up for eighteen months in a whaling vessel is no joke, and may he supposed to be rather trying to constitutions and tempers more patient than those of whalers generally.

On the first evening off the Three Kings, I saw a fire about six miles to leeward, and concluded it was a whaler "trying out." I found my surmise correct when I run the ship down towards it in the morning, and was surprised and pleased to find it was my old friend Captain Bulger, in the "Woodlark." His boats were down after a "lone" whale. I lowered four of my boats, and ran the ship about two miles further leewards, in the direction of where the whale was sounding. It came up very close to the ship, and was a monster in size. I immediately lowered my boat, put up a sail, and run right on to our prey, and put two irons into it. I went forward and succeeded in getting a lance in also, and killed it, but in doing so was knocked out of the boat, and was picked up by one of the "Woodlark's boats. We got the fish alongside that night, and Bulger and his chief mate came on board. There being little or no wind both vessels were hove to, and we made a merry night of it, for "Auld Lang Syne." Captain. Bulger was short, handed, so I proffered him the four French stowaways. He was very glad to get them, and took them off with him when he left. I gave them each ten pounds of tobacco, and a new rig-out from the slop chests, and they departed quite satisfied. In the morning we were busy "cutting-in" our prize of the previous night, when the look-out man cried out from the "crow's nest"—"There she blows," meaning that the whales were in sight. I asked, "Where away." He replied, "About four miles dead to windward." The boats were immediately in the water, and for four weeks we were kept very busy "trying-out" at the Three Kings.

The vessel was now very deep in the water and began to leak. I wished to remain out four months longer, but the men became dissatisfied with having to pump in addition to their other work. I had now been cruising for one year and nine months, and had on board 2600 barrels of oil, so I thought it perhaps would be discreet to humour the men and take the ship into port, so I called them aft and told them we should steer for Sydney in place of going to Hobart-town as promised before, whereat they gave me three cheers, and vowed they would all be glad to go another trip with Captain Barry. We shaped our course for page 65Sydney, and shortly after sighted the Heads, but during our passage home we had to keep the pumps going twelve out of the twenty-four hours. Just as we neared the Heads a large whale "breached" about a mile from the ship. Being so close to port I felt very eager to capture this stranger. I went after him personally, and succeeded in striking him, but, unfortunately, got entangled in the line attached to the harpoons, and was dragged out of the boat and under water after the whale from ten to fifteen fathoms; but I luckily got free and rose to the surface, and was picked up by one of the boats and taken on board, and soon got allright again I can assure my readers I would not care to repeat the dive. The mate got fast to the whale, and it was brought alongside. The men then asked me to tow it into the harbour, and give the Sydney folks a surprise. I was afraid if I did the men would probably leave as soon as we anchored, and I should loose the spoil, so I hesitated; but the mate said, "Do it, captain; if the fellows do give us the slip I can find plenty of idle whalers ashore who will "cut in" and "try it" out. I took his advice, and away we went up Sydney harbour with our prize in our wake. We turned it into oil at a place called Spring Cove, about six miles from town, and during the operation crowds came down constantly to view the "Leviathan of the deep," which was, without doubt, the first whale which had ever been seen in the harbour at that date. It was rather singular also that this, the last fish caught, and under such peculiar circumstances, should also prove the largest and most profitable one during the voyage. It turned out 138 barrels of oil; eight barrels went to the ton, which was at this time £104. I landed 2760 barrels from the ship, and it was remarked that for the time—one year and ten months—the voyage had been the most profitable ever made by any whale ship out of Sydney up to that date.

I and crew got great credit for our successful trip, and Mr. Boyd, our owner, made me a very substantial present in addition to my pay, and the men being paid off requested to be sent another voyage with me as soon as the ship was ready. After being discharged the vessel was put under repair, and I stopped at Mr. Boyd's house for a fortnight, and then made up my mind to give up whaling, for a time at least. I must confess I was rather fickle-minded in those days, and am afraid the infirmity sticks to me in my old age. I told Mr. Boyd my page 66resolution, and mentioned that as I had now been fifteen years a rover (it was now in the year 1847) I should like to revisit the land of my birth. He tried his utmost to persuade me to go on another trip and give up all thoughts of going to England, but I was firm, and stuck to my resolution this time. I told him he had a fit representative, and possibly a better man than myself, in my chief mate, Baird. He could not find a better man or a pluckier whaler, and he really deserved to have charge of the ship. Mr. Boyd said, "Well, if you have really made up your mind to remain on shore, I will give him the vessel on your recommendation"; and he did so at once, and Baird was proportionately overjoyed and grateful to me for using my influence. The sailing-master and he were on excellent terms, so it was agreed that he should be re-engaged to navigate the ship, and this matter was settled to our mutual satisfaction.

For a week or two, while the "Flying Fish" was being got got ready, Baird and I roamed about and "saw life" as it was in Sydney in those days, and I cannot say it was much to boast of. At last my old craft was ready for sea again. Baird got his crew on board, up anchor, and got under way, feeling very proud of being in command. Mr. Boyd and several other gentlemen and myself accompanied him down the harbour. We left him at the Heads and returned in the tug-boat, the crew giving us the customary three cheers, and away they bowled, with a fair wind, for the wide Pacific, for a two years' cruise, for which she was well furnished in every way. It seemed to me very like parting with an old friend when I saw the last glimpse of the "Flying Fish."

After returning, I roamed about Sydney for a few weeks, and felt like a fish out of water, although the place was at the time quite livery, and business places were increasing very rapidly. I was continually pondering over the notion of going home to the Old Country. Mr. Boyd, whenever I met him, tried to dissuade me from the step, and proffered me employment again and again. At last I decided to defer my visit, and accepted his offer. He was a very large exporter of stock to all the neighbouring colonies, and he gave me charge of the shipping of all his cargoes; and I also looked after the men employed at an establishment he had where sheep were boiled down and the tallow packed for exportation. At this time, in 1847, he was sending great numbers of cattle and sheep to New Zealand, page 67which was now being settled by emigrants from Great Britain and by people from Australia, who took up large areas of land, and the cattle and sheep were required to stock their stations, and a considerable trade sprung up between Sydney and the various ports of those islands.

I may here remark that I take to myself the credit of having despatched the first stock for the New Zealand settlers at this date. Of course, I must except the pigs landed by Captain Cook and others thirty or forty years previously. It has often struck me that their addition to the cuisine of the Maoris was the first step towards the abolition of the cannibal feasts of the islanders. Cannibalism gradually declined, and has been for years a tradition of the past savagery of these warlike and untameable natives. A barque being despatched to Hobart-town with a special cargo of sheep, I had to accompany them We arrived safely, and landed our cargo. One day, when on shore, I saw two men running from the wharf. The case looked suspicious, and I watched them, and presently one of them fell, and there was a report of a pistol. The man writhed in agony, for it appeared he had firearms concealed under his coat, and when he fell one of them exploded and shot him through the thigh. They were convicts, under sentence of banishment to Norfolk Island, a branch penal settlement for Tasmanian convicts. They had escaped from the penitentiary and got aboard a vessel lying in the harbour. The steward happened to notice them, and told the captain, who was going to signal for the police, when the escapees knocked him and the steward down, and secured them, the rest of the crew being on shore at the time. Taking a boat the convicts pulled for the wharf, and were making off when the accident I mentioned above occurred. They were taken into custody and speedily locked up, and, I suppose, eventually reached their original destination. Norfolk Island in those days was a complete terror to convicts, and only incorrigible felons were sent there. I have heard them say they would prefer death to being deported to that "hell upon earth"; and it is a fact that men have been known to draw lots to see which one would kill the other, and so get hanged and escape the terrors of a residence there.

Mr. John Price was, I believe, Governor of Norfolk Island and Superintendent of prisoners. If we are to believe the tales told about him he must have been perfectly fiendish in his page 68cruelty towards the men under his charge, but we must recollect that he, doubtless, had the very scum and dregs of the criminal population to deal with, who, possibly, richly deserved all the punishment he inflicted, and to this there was no limit, for his power was absolute. I have heard that he would order a prisoner into solitary confinement on eight ounces of bread and half a pint of water per day, and when the man was properly ravenous, he would visit him in his cell and ask him how he fared, would he like a little roast goose, or some roast beef, &c., and so irritate the victim. Then, probably, the "worm would turn," and attempt his life. He would, of course, be foiled in this, and his punishment would be increased. There is little doubt that instances of great tyranny occasionally came to light, and the "system" eventually culminated many years after, and in another colony, in the assassination of Mr. Price while fulfilling the duties of a similar office. I may hereafter in these pages have to refer to the career of this person, but for the present leave the subject.

The captain a few days after informed me that the vessel was ready for departure, and going on board we sailed for Twofold Bay, where we took on board a freight of cattle for Nelson, New Zealand. "We made a rapid passage, discharged our cargo, and after lying in port four days left for Sydney, and arrived safely. I found on arrival that Mr. Boyd had chartered my old ship, the one I went to India in, the "Lord Lynedoch," to convey cattle to Swan River, Western Australia. The cattle were specially ordered, and when landed had to be driven up country to the, station, for which they were intended, a distance of about 200 miles, and for this purpose twelve horses were placed on board.