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

The Bernicia

The Bernicia.

The Bernicia, Captain Arnold, left London early in July, 1848, and arrived in Otago Harbour on December 5, having first called at New Plymouth, Nelson, and Wellington. She had on board about 30 people for Otago, most of them being under engagement to work for Mr. Valpy. They were met by Captain Cargill and the Rev. Dr. Burns, and conveyed to Dunedin in a whaleboat and the Bernicia's longboat. Mr. John Anderson, who at one time lived at Wyndham, was a passenger, and he kept a diary of the voyage, from which I give some extracts. The family had to stay in lodgings near St. Katherine's Docks, as the Bernicia, which was a brand-new ship, was not quite ready for sea. Fine weather was experienced to the Cape, where a call was made with mail and to lay in a supply of fresh provisions.

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The first exciting incident of the trip was a dispute between two passengers, who wanted to fight a duel with pistols on the poop. The captain and Colonel Wakefield interfered, and the duel was averted. For the remainder of the voyage the captain refused to dine in the company of these two truculent people. He was a most reserved man at any time, rarely entering into conversation with any of the passengers, and only once did he go for'ard of the mainmast.

When the Bernicia was crossing the Line an apprentice fell overboard. A cry was raised, and the crew wanted to launch a boat, but the captain refused, saying someone was playing a foolish trick. There was a scene of much confusion, the women rushing about trying to make sure that none of their menfolk were missing. Finally the ship's roll was called, and it was then found that one of the apprentices was missing. This boy was the son of an intimate friend of the captain, which made the situation all the more distressing. Colonel Wakefield said he had heard the lad's cry for help from the stern, and hot words passed between him and the captain over the matter. The Colonel said that as the night was fine, and the vessel was making only three knots, the boy might have been picked up if a boat had been launched when suggested. When the Bernicia got to Nelson, Wakefield reported the incident to the authorities, but the diarist never heard whether any action was taken. This Colonel Wakefield was brother of the founder of the New Zealand Company, and acted as its representative at Wellington.

When New Plymouth was reached the newcomers were told that the Maoris were on the warpath, and at Wellington they found all the chimneys of the little settlement knocked down by a recent earthquake.

There was only one storm of marked severity during the voyage. Three deaths occurred. The fare on board seems to have been quite satisfactory, and the diary mentions a rather unusual item—an allowance of a pint of rum a day to each passenger during the cold weather. When the time came to say good-bye, the Otago contingent, which had been on board for five long months, was quite reluctant to go. The immigrants thought the harbour beautiful, but the little settlement struck them as being most primitive. There were no wooden houses, and what huts the settlement boasted were of mud.

Some time later the people who came out in the Bernicia were very sorry to read in an English paper that she had been taken and burned by pirates, every member of the crew being killed.