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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

Captain Stewart, Schooner-Man

Captain Stewart, Schooner-Man.

The sailorman after whom the island is named calls for a note. Captain William Stewart, who discovered the insularity of Rakiura, must not be confused with that other Stewart, the master of the notorious brig “Elizabeth,” in which Te Rauparaha made his cannibal expedition to Akaroa about a century ago.

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Our Stewart was sealing, whaling and trading around these coasts for a long period in the early part of last century. A hundred and twenty years ago he sailed round the island, and thirty years or so later he piloted H.M.S. “Herald” to Port Pegasus and other bays of the island.

In 1825–26 we find him in command of a Sydney schooner called the “Prince of Denmark.” He took a party of timber-sawyers and shipwrights from the Bay of Islands to Stewart Island and established a shipbuilding yard at Pegasus Bay. The enterprise did not last long; a vessel commenced for Stewart was not finished. The men spent three years in building a 60-ton schooner for the Wellers, who owned a whaling station in Otago. This schooner, which took a cargo of whale oil and flax to Sydney, was given the name of “Joseph Weller” (and it was long before the days of “Pickwick.“).

She was the first pakeha vessel built in Stewart Island. The name Shipbuilders’ Cove, in Port Pegasus, remains to remind us of that century-ago schooner-launching.