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Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.

Cook's Third Voyage

Cook's Third Voyage.

Captain Cook's last visit to the waters of Marlborough was made during the course of a voyage undertaken by command of His Majesty George III., for the purpose of prosecuting discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere, to determine the position and extent of the western side of North America, its distance from Asia, and the practicability of a northern passage to Europe. For the accomplishment of this end he sailed from Plymouth Sound, in his old ship the "Resolution," on the 12th of July, 1776, accompanied by the "Discovery," a vessel of 300 tons, commanded by Captain Clerke, who had previously sailed as his second officer in the "Resolution," the master of Cook's ship on this occasion being William Bligh, who, as captain of the "Bounty," became famous for his voyage of nearly 4000 miles in an open boat, into which he and twenty of his page 172crew had been forced after the mutiny on board that vessel.

Exactly six months after leaving England the vessels sighted the coast of Nelson at Rocks Point, and on the 12th of February, 1777, they again took up their position at the old anchorage in Queen Charlotte Sound. It was only natural the commander should expect that in consequence of the many evidences the natives had received of his good-will towards them, they would have flocked to his ship's side to welcome him back after his prolonged absence; but on this occasion there was a marked reserve on their part and a pronounced disinclination to enter on board either the "Resolution" or the "Discovery," an act of friendship which neither the pressure of persuasion nor the proffer of presents could induce them to perform. At first this was a matter of considerable surprise to the officers of the "Resolution," as they recognised many of their former acquaintances amongst the Maoris in the canoes; but at last Cook divined that this shyness might be due to a fear that he had re-visited the Sound for the purpose of avenging the death of Mr. Rowe and his boat's crew. He was, therefore, at no small pains, through the medium of Omai, the interpreter, to disabuse their minds of this error, and evidently these assurances of peace page 173were not lost upon them, for the next day after the ship's arrival all signs of distrust had disappeared, and the former friendly intercourse was continued as if nothing had occurred to mar the pleasure of their acquaintance.

The work of replenishing the ship's stock of wood and water was at once commenced under the supervision of the cooper and carpenter, while the boats were dispatched in various directions to collect green food for the cattle, and such as were not engaged in these operations were employed in repairing the ships' rigging. Two tents were also pitched on the shore, in which Mr. Bayly and Lieut. King prosecuted a number of astronomical and nautical observations with the instruments supplied to the ships by the Board of Longitude, for the purpose of aiding the scientific results of the expedition.

In all these movements by land and sea Cook adopted far greater precautions than ever he had observed before, for he could not overlook the fact that the Maoris had turned upon members of his former consort's crew, and they might as readily turn upon an isolated company of his own men. He had also heard of the murder of Captain Marion du Fresne at the Bay of Islands in 1772, and he therefore permitted no boat to leave the ship unless accompanied by a competent page 174guard. A guard of ten marines was also appointed to do duty at the tents on shore, and all the workmen were supplied with weapons. These precautions even Cook admits were in excess of apparent requirements, but it was not altogether possible to banish from their minds the memory of past calamities, especially when the natives began to gather from all parts of the Sound and make their camps within a stone's throw of the observatories.

The facility with which the natives erected their whares was a subject of no small surprise to Cook, as upon this occasion he saw as many as twenty of them built upon the flat at the head of the cove, where an hour before the land had been covered with fern and scrub. Their method of procedure was to bring some portion of the materials with them according to the locality in which they intended to settle; and immediately upon the canoes touching the shore the men would leap out, and racing up to the spot selected, begin to clear the ground by tearing up the growing vegetation. The act of clearing away the weeds was a fair title deed to the site for their houses, and when this had been secured they returned to their canoes, and, taking out their weapons, they brought them up the beach, and placing them in some handy spot where they could be grasped at a moment's notice, they continued page 175their work with unabated vigor. During the time the men were engaged in these operations the women were not idle, as they had each their several offices to perform. Some were stationed at the canoes, others were told off to store away the provisions, while others again set about collecting dry sticks to make a fire on which the evening meal was to be prepared, a feast that still consisted of fish and fern-root, for the natives had not yet shown any inclination to adapt themselves to the vegetarian delicacies introduced by the ships, although they were glad enough to regale themselves upon potatoes when they were cooked for them. Their proclivity towards animal food was, however, very great, and they showed an intense partiality for train oil, for the taste of which they would lick with rare relish every pot, and suck every stick which had come into contact with the, to them, tasty fluid. The natives who thus congregated about the camp were far from being a nuisance, for their services were utilised in a host of minor tasks about the ships, particularly in fishing, gathering celery and other herbs, which were boiled with peas and wheat as an antidote to the seeds of scurvy, from which the crews had enjoyed a remarkable freedom, there being only two cases of sick-page 176ness when the ships came to the anchorage, and these both on the "Discovery."

But it was not only the natives in the immediate vicinity of the cove who favoured Cook and his men with their company, for their presence soon became known to others whose pahs were higher up the Sound, and who had not yet been visited by any European. These were in the habit of journeying down to the scene of operations to gratify their curiosity and dispose of their wares. Prominent amongst them was Kahura, and old "Pedro," a title which, like most such secondary names, seemed to be more attractive than the original, for he was as well known to his countrymen by the one as by the other.

Another family of which Cook took special note was one headed by a chief to whom he has given the formidable name of Tomatongeauooranuc. This hapu consisted of about thirty persons, who were by far the most handsome of the New Zealand race that he had as yet come into contact with, their bodies being straight and roundly developed, and their features we'll formed, which gave an open and cheerful appearance to their countenance.

By the 25th of the month all that was required to prepare the ships for sea had been page 177completed, and the vessels were now hauled out into the stream to await a favourable wind. But as this did not present itself immediately, the interval was employed in making excursions to various parts of the Sound where they had previously visited. The island of Motuara was found to be uninhabited, although there was evidence that the natives had been there not long before, as the whares were newly rebuilt, to the complete destruction of the gardens which had been planted by Mr. Bayly four years previously.

Just as the ships were heaving anchors, "Pedro" and his fellow chief Tomatongueaooranuc, with many of their people, came off in their canoes to take farewell of Cook, or, as that gentleman shrewdly surmised, to importune him for some additional gift. Their solicitations took the form of a request for some of the animals on board the "Resolution." This, Cook granted with considerable reluctance, because he was not at all satisfied with the treatment meted out to those he and Captain Furneaux left on their previous visits, but upon the chiefs giving him a solemn promise that the natives would not kill them, he gave two goats to the one, and two pigs to the other, and consigned them to the tender mercies of the savages with grave feelings page 178of doubt as to whether they would ever reach a ripe old age.

It had been Cook's intention on the occasion of this visit to have left quite a number of animals with the Maoris, but as he became more thoroughly acquainted with their methods, he saw that property had no rights amongst them, and so soon as one chief appeared to become more prosperous than his neighbours, his wealth was at once an excuse for an attack upon himself and his possessions by those who were less fortunate. As there seemed to be no chief sufficiently powerful to protect any number of stock, and as Cook had not sufficient to go round them all, he deemed it prudent not to stir up tribal strife, and risk the lives of his animals by favouring one chief more than another. But as he was sorely pressed by these two chiefs from the upper part of the Sound, he departed from his final intention and sent the pigs and goats on shore to take their chance.

During the last few days' stay in the Sound the explorers had an experience of what is commonly known to the settlers on the shores of these reaches as "Willie Waughs," for on the 20th a gale sprang up, and the gusts of wind coming down from the vapour-covered hills struck the ship with terrific force, and no two from the same quarter, so that it was with difficulty the ship rode the storm out, in page 179spite of the precautions exercised in taking off superfluous top-gear. But by the 25th of the month the weather had assumed its wonted calm, and at 10 o'clock on the morning of that day, a light and favourable breeze having sprung up, the anchor was weighed, and for the last time the great navigator passed out of the harbour * which Marlborough's people are proud to know gave him shelter.

Before closing our reference to Captain Cook's connection with the history of Marlborough, it yet remains to be told that, shortly before the ships arrived at New Zealand, Omai had expressed a desire to be allowed to take back to his own island some natives of this country, as his companions.

Accordingly, while they were at the Sound, he made the requisite arrangements with a youth named Tiarua, the son of a widowed chieftainess, who was much respected by the tribes. At first Cook was apprehensive lest Omai, in his anxiety to get the youth to accompany him, had misled him and his parent as to the probability of his return. He was therefore most particular to explain the small prospect there was of this event, but his assurances did not in the least shake the determination of Tiarua. On the afternoon before they left the cove Tiratoutou, the lad's page 180mother, brought him on board and took her farewell of him amidst a flood of tears and all the marks of affection which a mother might be expected to show towards a child whom she could not expect to embrace again. Then she dried her eyes and said she would cry no more; and true enough, on the next morning before the ship sailed, she left the vessel perfectly cheerful, and without the slightest sign of emotion.

As Omai's friend was a youth born in the purple, it was thought necessary, to uphold the dignity of his rank, that he should have an attendant, and in keeping with this social distinction negotiations were entered into with a boy of inferior birth to act in the capacity of his servant, but before the ships took their departure his parents regretted their decision to let him go, and came and took him away. In his place, however, another lad named Kokoa came, but the conduct of his father was brutal, compared with that of Tiratoutou, towards his child. He did not give the slightest indication of sorrow at the loss of his boy, but sullenly brought him on board, and as sullenly left him, but not before he had stripped him of every vestige of clothing he wore, which was not a great deal, certainly, and left him standing page 181on the deck as naked as the day he was born.

This lack of paternal sympathy, to say nothing of love, convinced Cook that the boy was not likely to lose much by the change, and to some extent reconciled him to the idea that there was but a small chance of Kokoa ever seeing the Sound again.

For some days after the ship had passed through the Strait, to the eastward, both the Maori boys were ill at ease. Sea-sickness prostrated them bodily, and home-sickness lay heavily on their hearts. While in this unhappy condition they indulged in constant lamentations, in the course of which they recited the many beauties of their native land and the virtues of the friends they had left there. But when this bodily discomfort had passed away their spirits soon revived, and we have it on the authority of Cook himself that both the lads proved to be bright, witty and intelligent youths, capable of taking an interest in anything they saw, and thus rapidly acquiring a large fund of information. They accompanied the "Resolution" in all her journeyings through the South Seas, finally settling down with Omai on the island of Hauheine, where they survived their exile only a very few years.

* Ship Cove is now protected by the Government as an historical reserve,