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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

To Queen Charlotte's Sound

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To Queen Charlotte's Sound.

As there was no appearance of the "Success" in the harbour, and as I had left my belongings in the safe keeping of a person on board, I determined to return to Porirua, and proceed to the South Island, so as to lose no time in seeing; as much of the country as possible during my visit. Our party, therefore, returned to Korohewa on the following day, and I proceeded across the Straits with Hugh Sinclair, in an open boat belonging to Mr. Arthur Elmslie. Had I known the dangers of the tide rips, I should probably have hesitated before I committed my life to the custody of this frail bark. Luckily we had light winds and fine weather, although in passing a tide rip near "The Brothers" we nearly filled, and for a few minutes were in considerable danger of swamping, as the sea washed in a most aggravating manner over each gunwale in succession. We quickly ran out of the turmoil, however, into smooth water, entered the fair waters of Queen Charlotte's Sound, and towards evening arrived at the bay of Te Anahou, the next bay to the north of "Ship's Cove," the page 31favourite refitting anchorage of Captain Cook. Here we landed and found a considerable Maori village, the chief house in which being that occupied by Mr. Arthur Elmslie. I had here an opportunity of seeing the way in which the whalers enjoyed themselves during the recess, when, that is, the whales were out of season, or rather, had left the coast. Most of the whalers I found had Maori wives, and used to spend the summer in such domestic felicity as they could find, probably in the village of the tribe of their bride. At Te Anahou there may have been a population of one hundred souls, most of whom were congregated in Mr. Elmslie's house, where a bright fire was now blazing, and "Eura," the prettiest Maori woman I ever saw, was busy preparing the supper. After the news had been sufficiently talked over, Mr. Elmslie managed to clear the house of all but a few of the principal chiefs, and we had our supper of pork and potatoes in peace. Strolling round the village afterwards, we found the Maoris collected in groups round numerous fires, and very busy sending messages to each other on slates. The art of writing had just been introduced, and the Maoris seemed to have acquired a furor for it They wrote everywhere, on all occasions and on all substances, on slates, on paper, on leaves of flax, and with a good, firm, decided hand.

On the following day we saw a fine sight. A squadron of large canoes arrived from the north with Ngatiawa returning from the fight at Waikanae.

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The canoes were all under sail and well handled. On landing there was a great "tangi" and feed.

The Bay of Anahou, like all the bays of Queen Charlotte's Sound, contains a triangular space of level land, backed by very steep hills forming into narrow ridges at the top. The hills are covered with forest, and the cultivations are in the small valley flats. I did not visit "Ship Cove," but was informed that the stumps of the trees which had been cut by Captain Cook's people were still visible.

With the squadron I proceeded to what was then the chief settlement of Queen Charlotte's Sound, "Teawaiti," called by the Pakeha Maoris "Tar-wait." It is situated in a bay of the Island of Ara-paoa, near the entrance called Tory Channel, and was the head-quarters of a whaling station. Here Mr. Elmslie had his town residence, in which I took up my quarters.

At the head of the whaling station was a man well known in those days, called George Toms, but who generally went by the cognomen of Geordie Bolts, for what reason I know not. It was necessary for the discipline of a whaling station that the man in charge should be of powerful body and determined character, for it rested with him personally to keep order among the community, which consisted of a set of wild daring men, often inflamed to madness by the abominable liquor which he himself sold to them. Toms was a noted disciplinarian. No one dared to disobey his orders. If any one ventured to page 33dispute with him, he would tie him up, and hold him prisoner. He was a short stout man, with a trunk like a barrel and a bullet head, standing firm on his legs, and looking every one straight in the face. Men of the same type may be seen on Deal beach and at other parts on the south-east of England. He had a strong and lusty voice, and was upon the whole a good sort of fellow.

One of the horrors of a whaling station was the smell of arrack rum, which infested the settlement, and even infected the air to a great distance. It was simply the most detestable liquid that I ever met with, and although I tasted it, I could not go further: it must have been poisonous; and as it was the liquor with which the whaling stations were generally supplied, many deaths must have resulted from the use of it. As most of the whalers had Maori wives, a good many half-caste children toddled about the settlement. It was not the season for killing whales, and any work that was done consisted in coopering casks, repairing boats, &c., or in attending to small cultivations.

My object in going to Teawaiti was to endeavour to charter a small cutter belonging to Toms, in which I might visit other parts of the island. The cutter in question was called the "Harriett;" she had been built at Teawaiti, and was about twenty or thirty tons burden. She was not a particularly desirable-looking craft, but she was the only vessel to be procured, so I chartered her at the rate, page 34if I remember, of £10 per month. I installed Mr. Arthur Elmslie as commanding officer. Tom Wilson, I think, was the only white man in the crew, and besides we had several Maoris, including E. Tupe, the Ngatiawa chief.