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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

Nelson Harbour

Nelson Harbour.

It was on Monday, November 1, 1841, that the Arrow entered the narrow channel at the end of the Boulder Bank, and dropped anchor inside. "Fired a gun and gave three cheers, being the first vessel of any description which had entered a port which is anything but contemptible, but being in the neighbourhood of a very valuable district becomes of considerable importance," wrote Captain Wakefield in his diary. The same evening Wakefield left again for the Astrolabe Roads, where he had left the two other vessels, and came over with them, the Will Watch entering the harbour on the 4th, and the Whitby on the 5th. The two first vessels safely negotiated the narrow entrance, but the Whitby went aground when trying to get in on the 4th, and did not float off until the following morning's tide.

One of the first things the party did was to cut down a sapling and rig up a flagpole on top of the hill overlooking the entrance, and in a very short while there floated in the breeze the Union flag which Captain Wakefield had brought out from England carefully done up in a leather case.

It had been agreed that the workmen should be paid as soon as the expedition reached its destination, or rather upon landing. The first week was taken up with making snug the shore quarters, but the following Sunday (November 14), after prayers, Captain Wakefield carried out the arrangement. Instead of money he paid the men with orders on the company. This caused a good deal of discontent, but soon after the expedition had got settled down, an enterprising man named John Orr came over from Wellington, pitched a tent in which he sold spirits and beer, and as he was quite willing to take the orders, most of the grumbling ceased.

Captain Wakefield's diary entry for this particular Sunday throws an interesting light on the hours of labour. "Established the hours of work from seven in the morning," he wrote, "until five in the evening, taking an hour to dinner from 12 to 1, except Saturday, when it will be from 7 to 12. This arrangement gives an hour or two more work in the week than is the custom at Port page 59 Nicholson for the surveyors, but upon the whole more beneficial to the labourers by giving them a certain number of hours together. Two or three of the people made objections to being paid in paper, but they were told there was no other means and they received pay in cheques, with the exception of one man."