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Islands of Despair

Eight — The Enderby Settlement

page 70

The Enderby Settlement

I now anticipated being in the base continuously for over a month, so George and I erected a tide-gauge in the inlet, and readings were taken every half hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for twenty-eight days. From these readings we deduced the position of mean sea level on the tide-gauge, and were later able to refer the heights of all the trig stations and other points to this level. We were also able to determine the range of the tides, which proved to be very small, being 3 ft. 6 in. at spring tides and 1 ft. 10 in. at neap tides. A curious phenomenon was noticed on about half the days, in that there was a false high tide. The level would rise gradually to what appeared to be high water, then would fall about an inch, only to rise again a further three and a half inches. The interval between the false and the true high waters averaged one and a half hours. This phenomenon was also observed by Sir James Clark Ross when he visited the islands in 1840, and to the best of my belief has not been satisfactorily explained.

The bad weather which followed, including a heavy fall of snow, did not worry us at all, as we had plenty of work to do, with the calculation of the triangulation and the plotting of topographical work. In fact it was a treat to be able to look out of a window at the rain and hear the wind roaring in the trees, all the time knowing that one had dry clothes and warm, dry feet. One could have a hot bath as often as one cared to boil the copper to fill the bath, and when I got up in the page 71morning I did not have to shudder at the thought of having to dress myself in the cold sodden clothes that had got soaked the day before and were still plastered with mud. In the field camps we got wet through every day, so there was no point in putting on dry clothes. The only time we were dry was when we were in our sleeping bags. Although various attempts were made, we never succeeded in finding a way to dry clothing when we were camped in the bush.

While we were living at Ranui Cove we assumed a share of the general camp duties, and every man took his turn at cooking and reading the tide-gauge for a day at a time. Also periodic visits had to be made to Ocean Island to feed hay to the sheep, as the automatic feeder proved to be only semi-automatic.

It was not until 19th June that George and Les had weather fair enough to enable them to leave for Laurie Harbour to finish their part of the job. Much to my surprise they were back in time for the evening meal on the 23rd. Despite squally weather they had experienced unusually favourable conditions and had completed the necessary work in that locality. They had been working along the western coast somewhere about the spot where the Invercauld was wrecked. Although the cliffs are sheer in most places, and reach a maximum height of 1600 ft., George had seen places where he thought it would be possible for them to be scaled.

On Saturday, 24th June, George and Les carried out some work on the western coast of Port Ross. The chief matter of interest was that they located the substantial brick foundation on which a German expedition set up its instruments to observe the transit of Venus in 1874. This was in Terror Cove, and the Germans reported that the weather they experienced was "the most wretched imaginable", even though their visit was in midsummer.

Sir James Clark Ross had also used Terror Cove as the site for his observations in 1840, and reported that his men had to dig through peat twelve feet deep before reaching a suffi-page 72ciently firm foundation for the scientific instruments. It is of interest to note that Ross's observations for latitude and longitude were checked in the course of our survey, and the differences between his values and ours amounted to only eighteen seconds of latitude and thirty seconds of longitude— a relatively insignificant amount.

Ross mentioned that by the side of a small stream, and on the only clear spot he could find, the ruins of a hut were discovered, and he subsequently learned that this wretched habitation had been used for some years by a deserter from an English whaling ship and a Maori woman.

There is a tragic episode associated with Terror Cove. Captain Lovett, of the sealer Sally, was en route to the Auckland Islands in 1825 when he picked up two escaped convicts, Wilson and Shaw, who were at sea in a whale-boat. On continuing his voyage he encountered the Harriett, which was working in Waterfall Inlet and was commanded by an ex-convict named Guard. The Harriett was already fully laden, but Guard induced Wilson and Shaw to desert from the Sally and join his ship, possibly from a friendly feeling towards ex-convicts. However, before sailing he discovered another very rich rookery, and immediately regretted having taken on the two men, firstly because he feared they would spread the news of the new rookery before he could return to it, and secondly because he was afraid of trouble from the owners of the Sally. He accordingly decided to leave the two men on the island. He anchored in Port Ross and was successful in losing the men in the bush at Terror Cove. There they were left from November until April of the following year. Towards the end of this period Wilson died, and Shaw was in such a weakened condition that he was unable to bury his friend. He did scoop out a hollow at the edge of the bush but he found he was unable to drag the body to it. He had no option then but to cover the corpse with branches and other debris, and it was not buried until a sealing vessel arrived some time later.

Just to the south of Terror Cove, and separated from it by page break
14. (Top) Giant's Archway

14. (Top) Giant's Archway

15. (Bottom) Sea elephants and their pups

15. (Bottom) Sea elephants and their pups

page break
16. (Top) Cavern Peak

16. (Top) Cavern Peak

17. (Bottom) Sooty albatross on nest

17. (Bottom) Sooty albatross on nest

page 73Johnson Point, is another small bay known as Erebus Cove. On visiting it at the present time there is little evidence of the tragic associations of the place. The tiny cemetery, however, would lead one to suspect that this may have been a place of comparative importance, as indeed it was.

Erebus Cove was at one time the seat of government of the islands, and the headquarters of the Enderby Settlement. Previously Sir James Ross had reported that Port Ross seemed to be a favourable site for a penal settlement for the accommodation of convicts from Australia and New Zealand, although it seems likely that he had Laurie Harbour in mind as the actual site for such an establishment. Also, M. Dubouzet, one of the officers of D'Urville's expedition, expressed the opinion that Laurie Harbour would be the most suitable site for a town. These early visitors stayed only a short time and perhaps had little opportunity to assess the comparative merits of the various bays in Port Ross. At all events it seems to me that Enderby made a wiser choice when he decided on Erebus Cove for his township.

In 1846 Charles Enderby, of the English firm of Samuel Enderby and Sons, published a brochure entitled "Proposal for re-establishing the British Southern Whale Fishery, through the medium of a Chartered Company, and in conjunction with the Colonisation of the Auckland Islands as the site of the Company's Whaling Station". The booklet recounts the reasons for the sorry plight of the British whaling industry, and goes on to outline how Enderby considered the industry could be rehabilitated by operating from a base at the Auckland Islands. Since Abraham Bristow, who discovered the islands, was employed by the Enderby firm, it is possible that this may have had some bearing on the choice of site, and furthermore Sir James had commented on the suitability of the place as a base for whaling-vessels.

In 1847 the Enderby firm was granted a thirty-year lease of the islands, at a peppercorn rental for the first two years, and at an annual rental of £1000 thereafter. The next move page 74was to establish the British Southern Whale Fishery Company in 1849, with a capital of £100,000. Charles Enderby was appointed the company's commissioner at the Auckland Islands. Although the proposals were vigorously supported by the Enderby Company and various influential individuals, there appeared to be a certain amount of concern among prospective investors as to the suitability of the islands for such a settlement.

In a further pamphlet Charles Enderby set out the reasons which had led him to make this choice. He also emphasized that the colonization of the group was to form an important part of the company's work. He claimed that the islands were exceedingly healthy and had a very rich virgin soil, capable of feeding on one acre as many sheep as could be fed on six acres in Australia, while the land was equally suitable for grazing cattle and horses, and growing all such produce as was usually grown in England. He also expected to establish a ship-repairing industry and he hoped that the islands would become a regular port of call for refitting and victualling ships.

Also in 1848 it was decided that Charles Enderby was to be given Her Majesty's Commission as Lieutenant-Governor of the Auckland Islands.

Towards the end of 1849 Enderby and a number of colonists left England in the ships Samuel Enderby, Fancy and Brisk. The Samuel Enderby arrived at Port Ross on 4th December, and Enderby was somewhat disconcerted when the ship was met by a number of Maoris in a small boat. He had not had information of any inhabitants. The other ships arrived before the end of the month, and a start was made on the establishment of the settlement. The colonists included many skilled tradesmen. Unfortunately the settlers soon found that they had been grossly misled about the nature of the islands, and they were greatly disheartened by the peaty and swampy ground and the almost impenetrable scrub. Also they found that the height of summer brought little else but high winds page 75and plentiful rain, and they must have wondered what the winter would be like. Nevertheless, the work was pushed ahead vigorously and on 1st January 1850 the settlement was formally named Hardwicke, in honour of the Earl of Hardwicke, the Governor of the company.

During the early part of 1850 the township and the port became very busy. Her Majesty's ships Fly and Havannah arrived, and on one occasion six ships were at anchor in the harbour. All the same, the settlers began to show signs of discontent, partly upon the non-arrival of livestock and food from Australia, and partly because of the rather domineering manner of the Lieutenant-Governor, who was alleged to be both a "law-maker and a law-breaker".

The Maori population, too, posed a problem, but Enderby disposed of it quite successfully. He took over the land they were occupying, but paid reasonable compensation for it, and allowed them to use what vegetables they had managed to grow. All the Maoris were then employed by the company, and some of them proved particularly successful as boatmen. It appears that at least for a time there was a feeling of apprehension amongst the colonists by the presence of these Maoris, but apart from one or two incidents following on the Maoris being given liquor there was no real trouble. The two chiefs were employed as constables, and proved quite satisfactory in this capacity.

Meanwhile the results of whaling activities were proving disappointing. In February the Brisk made a long voyage to the south, and although she sighted many whales the seas were too rough to permit of any captures being made. Later in the year the whaling-vessels made a few kills, but nowhere near up to expectations, while the shore-based whalers had no success at all.

The development of Hardwicke continued, and it is reported that eighteen dwellings were erected, in addition to the barracks and Government House, while the necessary workshops had also been completed. Half a mile of road had page 76been constructed, and a gaol had been prepared on Shoe Island, a tiny island near the centre of Port Ross. It is understood that this building was commonly known as "Rodd's Castle", as Mr. J. S. Rodd, the surgeon, had been its only occupant, he having been gaoled for drunkenness.

Horses, cattle, sheep and pigs had been brought to the group, but the colonists found themselves quite unable to grow vegetables or other crops. To cope with the problem of the wind an elaborate system of shelter belts had been provided, but this was only one of the problems. The other insurmountable ones were the peaty ground, the frequent rain and the chronic lack of sunshine.

Towards the end of the year the colony was visited by the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey. It is understood that his visit was marked by particularly unpleasant weather, and he left with grave concern for the future prospects of the settlement.

Enderby, however, carefully concealed the misgivings he must have had, and in his reports to the directors of the company he continued to be optimistic and full of enthusiasm. All the same it was impossible to disguise the fact that the expected amount of oil simply was not being shipped to England, and the directors were naturally becoming concerned.

In 1851 the whaling fleet was increased to eight ships, and in addition a small schooner was purchased to transport stores from Australia and New Zealand to Hardwicke. This, of course, further diminished the capital of the company, and the directors realized that the activities of Mr. Enderby would have to be investigated. Two special commissioners were instructed to proceed to the islands and to investigate fully all matters concerning the company. They were empowered to dismiss any of the company's officers or to remove the settlement to another location if they considered such action to be warranted.

The special commissioners reached Hardwicke on 18th page 77December 1851 and found things to be in a hopeless state. At this time twenty acres of land had been cleared and fenced, and five acres had been brought under cultivation. It seems likely that most of this area was on Enderby Island. Nearly a mile of road had been constructed, and a storehouse, stockyard, smithy, cooperage, boathouse, wharf and thirty dwellings erected. The settlement alone had cost about £30,000, disregarding the cost of acquiring and operating the ships, while the proceeds from the first year's operations amounted to less than £3000. Since the township was obviously incapable of supporting itself a complete failure was inevitable. The special commissioners were accordingly forced to decide that the settlement should be abandoned, and since Enderby was still convinced of its ultimate sucess a difficult situation arose. Eventually Enderby resigned his post as Chief Commissioner and also his office as Lieutenant-Governor.

Although this action effectually severed his connection with the company, he maintained that he was still Lieutenant-Governor until such time as he should receive advice that his resignation had been accepted by Her Majesty's Government. This decision did not make for easy administration, as the management of the colony and of the whaling-station necessarily overlapped a great deal. The uneasy peace came to an end with the death of a seamen. One of the ships returned to base to report an outbreak of scurvy and dysentery. The more serious cases were admitted to a building ashore and put under the care of Mr. Rodd. Neither the temporary hospital nor the doctor's ability was above reproach, and a few days later one of the patients died. Enderby considered this was due primarily to neglect, and refused to permit the burial of the body until he was furnished with a satisfactory certificate setting out the cause of death. The body was buried in defiance of his order. The dispute rapidly developed, and in a short time Enderby was virtually a prisoner. When H.M.S. Calliope arrived he appealed to the captain to support him, but although the captain agreed that Enderby was still Lieutenant-Governor page 78he could appreciate the delicacy of the situation and he refrained from intervening.

Shortly afterwards Dundas and Preston, the two special commissioners, forcibly prevailed upon Enderby to accompany them to New Zealand in the Black Dog. Immediately upon arriving in Wellington Enderby commenced legal proceedings against them for forcing him to leave the islands, and for withholding payment of his salary. The case was heard in the Supreme Court and the judge decided that Dundas and Preston had not exceeded the authority vested in them by the company. Nevertheless, he ruled that they were not permitted to institute proceedings against Enderby over the matter of their arrest, and he also ordered the payment to Enderby of £400 pending settlement of the question of his salary. A few days later the special commissioners sailed, leaving Enderby stranded in New Zealand. He appealed to Sir George Grey for assistance in restoring him to his rightful position as Lieutenant-Governor of the islands, but that gentleman was no doubt aware of the dangerous situation, and declined to take any action on the plea of having no funds available.

Since it was thought that the abandoning of the colony might lead to disturbances among the settlers it had been arranged that H.M.S. Fantome should remain in the harbour throughout. Ironically enough, a whale was sighted in the harbour while these operations were in progress, and it was captured by boats sent out from shore. It is understood that this was the only whale ever killed by the shore station, and the capture caused a great deal of excitement.

Some of the Maoris had already taken advantage of the opportunity to return to New Zealand on homeward-bound ships. But the majority still remained, and these regarded the break-up of the colony with great concern, as they would speedily be reduced to the miserable life they had endured during the early years of their stay on the islands. They sought a passage to New Zealand in the Fantome, and when this was page 79declined they appealed to Sir George Grey. He made the necessary arrangements for them to be supplied with a number of sheep and a good whale-boat, and they remained at Port Ross until 1856. They are understood to have suffered considerably after the colonists left, and a number of them are believed to have died.

In August 1852 the Enderby settlers sailed from Port Ross for Sydney, where most of the company's property was sold by auction. It is believed that most of the colonists settled in Australia.

Charles Enderby, upon his eventual return to England, spent much time and energy in endeavouring to restore public confidence in his actions, but with little success. The whole glorious scheme had failed so utterly that nobody seemed very interested. The directors of the company, however, were still anxious to recoup some of the expenditure invested in Hardwicke, and they offered the place to the British Government for use as a convict station. No doubt they were looking for compensation for such improvements as roads, buildings and the wharf. The Government was not interested in the proposal, but in 1853 it agreed to the surrender of the lease of the islands, stressing that no compensation would be paid as there was no immediate intention of occupying the islands. Here an unforeseen difficulty arose. The islands had been leased to S. Enderby and Company, who had sub-leased to the Southern Whale Fishery Company. The lease accordingly could not be surrendered without the consent of Charles Enderby, which, of course, was not forthcoming for the convenience and benefit of the directors of the other company. The directors therefore decided that there was no alternative but to wind up the affairs of the company, and this was done in 1855.

During the period that the company had occupied the Auckland Islands five weddings had been solemnized before Lieutenant-Governor Enderby, sixteen births were recorded, and four deaths occurred. Two of the deaths were of very page 80young children, one aged two and a half months and the other three months. All the bodies were interred in the cemetery at Erebus Cove.

The town of Hardwicke was visited by Captains Musgrave and Cross in the Flying Scud on 2nd September 1865, and Musgrave reported that scarcely a vestige of the settlement remained. Certainly he found the bare level spots where houses had once stood, and also the ruins of the shelter fences surrounding the garden plots, but there was no sign of any edible vegetable, and hardly an exotic shrub except for a few flax bushes and two small trees.

When the Hinemoa visited Erebus in 1890 the site of the town was still vaguely discernible, as the scrub gave the appearance of having been cleared at some time. A closer inspection disclosed some heaps of roofing slates, while the tiny cemetery was also found.

At the present time the site of Hardwicke has almost completely disappeared, although the cemetery is still there and has in fact increased in size through becoming the last resting-place of a number of shipwrecked seamen. It has been the practice of the occasional visiting ship-master to see that the cemetery is kept clear of scrub and as neat as possible.

As already mentioned, we also found traces of the settlement's activity on Enderby Island. Some of our party visited Shoe Island to see if there was any sign of the Enderby gaol, or "Rodd's Castle", but they were unable to find anything. It seems that the gaol was just a wooden hut. No doubt Enderby considered that prisoners would have little desire to escape by swimming to the mainland.

In view of the miserable failure of the Enderby settlement, it might seem unlikely that other attempts would be made to settle on the islands. Nevertheless, an inquiry was made by Messrs. Young and Ford, who applied to the New Zealand Government for a lease of the group in 1861. Since the islands were not included in the area administered by New Zealand, page break
18. (Top) Summit of Cavern Peak

18. (Top) Summit of Cavern Peak

19. (Bottom) Provision depot at Camp Cove

19. (Bottom) Provision depot at Camp Cove

page break
20. (Top) Carnley Harbour and Adams Island from Tagua Bay

20. (Top) Carnley Harbour and Adams Island from Tagua Bay

21. (Bottom) Sea elephants: note the enlarged nose resembling a short trunk

21. (Bottom) Sea elephants: note the enlarged nose resembling a short trunk

page 81the matter was referred to the Colonial Office. In the meantime the Enderby lease had lapsed through non-payment of rent, and in 1863 the whole situation was clarified by passing an Act which extended the boundaries of New Zealand sufficiently to include the Auckland Islands.

As far as is known, Young and Ford must have abandoned their scheme, and it was not until 1874 that a further application was made. This time it was by Dr. F. A. Monckton of Invercargill, and he was successful in obtaining a licence to place stock on the islands. Dr. Monckton had previously visited the islands in the tug Southland in 1865 in search of castaways. He had been a surgeon in the Crimean War, and although somewhat unconventional, he was reputed to be a capable and resourceful doctor. It is said that on one occasion he successfully amputated a man's leg with a carving-knife and an axe, and that he would extract people's teeth in the street without any hesitation.

It was the doctor's intention to give up his practice and live in Port Ross. He sailed from Riverton in 1874 with a number of cattle, but was driven into Port Pegasus in Stewart Island by bad weather. Owing to the non-improvement of the weather he decided to allow the cattle ashore to seek food, and when conditions eventually did improve he found that he was unable to find the beasts in the bush. Apparently he then had no alternative but to abandon his scheme.

About 1890 further inquiries were received as to the possibility of leasing the islands, and John Hay, a surveyor from the Southland district, was instructed to report on the suitability of the group for such purposes. He visited the islands in the Government steamer Hinemoa in 1891, accompanied by Mr. Knight of Akaroa, who wished to inspect the islands before deciding whether to apply for a lease. Mr. Hay inspected the country surrounding both Port Ross and Carnley Harbour, although his investigations were restricted by the usual bad weather. He reported very briefly on his inspection and summarized his observations as follows:

page 82

"The formation of the Auckland Islands is, no doubt, all that one could desire for sheep country—beautifully rounded rocky hills and spurs, attaining an altitude from 1500 to 2000 feet with a north-easterly aspect; but as it has such a scarcity of nutritive grasses, and also an undoubtedly excessive rainfall, I fear, with all these drawbacks in the way, the country is not suitable or adapted for sheep farming."

He also mentioned that Mr. Knight's opinion of the adaptability of the islands for sheep-farming exactly coincided with his own.

Despite these unfavourable reports the Auckland Islands were divided into three runs and offered at auction on 21st November 1894. The northern area was leased to W. J. Moffett for £10 per annum, and the southern part of the main island to H. H. Martin for £7.10.0 per annum. Adams Island, which is a good deal smaller than either of the other runs, was taken up by F. J. Hatch for £2 per annum. All the leases were for a period of twenty-one years from 1st March 1895, and were restricted to the grazing of stock. No sealing activities were permitted. A fourth run, including Enderby and Rose Islands, was offered in 1895, and was leased to T. D. A. Moffett at an annual rental of £5.5.0. Although Mr. Moffett had three head of cattle landed on Enderby Island in 1895, there is no record of any other activity on the part of the lessees, and it is impossible to know what were their intentions.

In 1900 a more serious attempt was made to occupy the group for grazing purposes, when Mr. G. S. Fleming of Southland had the lease of all four runs transferred to him. He is reported to have erected three buildings at Carnley Harbour, of which the remains of at least one are still in existence, and he is believed to have landed about 2000 sheep on the islands. Fleming took up residence at Carnley Harbour, and incidentally appears to have put the contents of page 83the Camp Cove provision depot to an unauthorized use. When the shipwrecker crew of the Anjou reached that depot in 1905 they found the stores somewhat depleted, with special reference to sugar and tea. These items were later found in Mr. Fleming's hut, and it is probable that they had been borrowed to meet a temporary shortage, rather than that they had been appropriated.

In 1907 a scientific expedition visited the Auckland Islands and was convinced of the desirability of preserving the native flora and fauna of the islands. The following year one of the scientists, Dr. Benham, wrote on behalf of the Otago Institute to Mr. Fleming, informing him of the views of the scientists. He also explained that it was considered that the islands should be made a Government reserve, and that the Minister of Lands was in agreement with such a proposal, but had pointed.out that Mr. Fleming's lease would not expire till 1916. Dr. Benham therefore suggested that perhaps Mr. Fleming would consider surrendering his lease, particularly as it was understood that the sheep station was not paying its way, that only a few sheep had survived, that it was impossible to muster them, that they were not properly cared for, and generally that the whole scheme was a farce. He concluded by saying that he trusted that Mr. Fleming would not think him impertinent.

Mr. Fleming replied under the date of 10th August 1908. He pointed out that goodwill alone had cost him £600, and whilst he admitted that his station was temporarily in financial difficulties he expected better returns when the Land Act was amended to make allowance for improvements. He was confident the station would then be a payable proposition. As for the difficulties in mustering, they were caused by the sea-lions. His dogs would persist in chasing seals rather than mustering sheep, and he could not correct them either by coaxing them or by thrashing them. His troubles would be largely overcome once the bush was cleared, but he was not prepared to do this at his own expense. He went on to explain that he considered there was already far too much land locked page 84up in reserves and out of production, and he did not know how the public debt would ever be repaid when land was reserved just to look at. He offered the Institute as much land as it was prepared to cultivate, but he would not sanction keeping it for picnics. He concluded by saying that he considered the Institute's letter was harmful to him.

At the next meeting of the Southland Land Board Mr. Fleming appealed for assistance by making allowance for improvements at the Auckland Islands. He explained that he wanted to fell bush and scrub so that he could get sheep from the harbours to the open tussock country. If he were paid for such improvements it was his intention to employ men in various parts of the islands, and he explained the potential value of such an arrangement in the event of further shipwrecks. He also enclosed a copy of the letter he had received from Dr. Benham describing it as "the coolest thing he had ever heard of".

Despite his enthusiasm, Fleming forfeited his lease in 1910, and the islands were again offered to prospective graziers, with the exception that Adams Island was excluded. No bids were elicited, and a further auction was held three months later. The run was stated to have an area of 116,000 acres and the upset rental was fixed at £20 per annum. On this occasion the bidding was quite spirited and reached £43. The successful bidder was a syndicate comprising Messrs. G., C, and A. Moffett. I have not been able to ascertain whether this syndicate made any effective use of their lease, although they were reported to be confident of success. They had inspected the islands and considered them well suited for pastoral activities.

Prior to the leasing of this run Adams Island was gazetted as a reserve for the preservation of flora and fauna. No pigs or cats have ever been seen on Adams Island, and this is readily explained, as the pigs are the offspring of those landed at Port Ross by Bristow, and they are therefore confined to the main island. The cats are presumably the descendants of shipwrecked cats, and there has been no known wreck on page 85Adams Island. There is little doubt that pigs are the worst offenders as far as destruction of plants and ground-nesting birds are concerned, while cats are hard on the smaller birds. Upon the expiry of the Moffetts' lease the whole of the Auckland Islands was, in 1934, made a reserve for the preservation of flora and fauna.