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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)

Arrival in the New Land

Arrival in the New Land.

There was much of incident and humour in the twenty-four-year old Butler's description of the sailing voyage to the land of promise at the other end of the world. This passage from “A First Year in the Canterbury Settlement,” gives us a picture of the first sight of the beautiful hills of Akaroa and the quite dramatic night-arrival in Lyttelton Harbour after the long passage round the globe:—

“… A light wind sprang up in the night, and on Thursday we sighted Banks Peninsula. Again the wind fell tantalisingly light, but we kept drawing slowly towards land. In the beautiful sunset sky, crimson and gold, blue, silver and purple, exquisite and tranquillising, lay ridge behind ridge, outline behind outline, sunlight behind shadow, shadow behind sunlight, gully and serrated ravine. Hot puffs of wind kept coming from the land and there were several fires burning…. Presently we saw a light ahead from a ship: we drew slowly near, and as we passed you might have heard a pin drop. ‘What ship is that?’ said a strange voice.—‘The Roman Emperor,’ said the captain. ‘Are you all well?’

“‘All well.’ Then the captain asked, ‘Has the Robert Small arrived?’ ‘No,’ was the answer, ‘nor yet the Burmah.’ You may imagine what I felt. Then a rocket was sent up, and the pilot came on board.”

Mention of the ship Burmah carries a tragic tale of the sea. Butler was to have sailed from London in the Burmah, in fact his berth was chosen and the passage money paid. But at the last moment some alterations had to be made, in order to make room for some stock which were being sent out to the Canterbury Settlement. The space left for the accommodation of the passengers being thus curtailed, and the comfort of the voyage seeming likely to be diminished, young Butler, providentially, was induced to change his ship, and a few weeks later secured a berth in the Roman Emperor. The Burmah was long looked for at Lyttelton, until all hope for her had to be given up. She never reached her destination; she vanished from human ken with all hands.