The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 12 (March 1, 1937)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
The Old Whaling Life.
Now and again one meets a man whose life narrative is a breath of the real adventure more absorbing than any novel. I talked the other day with an old-timer of the North who had commanded whaling crews in the heroic days when the hunters of the greatest sea-game tackled the sperm whale in their small boats and fought it with hand-hurled harpoon and lance. The scientific mass-slaughter of to-day, when huge factory ships and gun-armed killing steamers make havoc in the Southern Seas, was undreamed of in his time. This Auckland veteran of the sea is George Howe Cook, who comes of a notable part-Maori pioneering family; with a New Zealand history extending over more than a century. He is eighty-two, but he does not look more than sixty, if that.
Long, lean, spry, with a quiet air of confidence and decision, and an often humorous glint in his wise, keen eyes, Mr. Cook looks the kind of man who could wrestle with any emergency and take the lead in any enterprise calling for quick decision.
Mate of the Famous “Splendid.”
Mr. Cook, who sometimes writes reminiscences under the style of “Lonehander,” was chief officer of the whaling barque “Splendid,” more than half a century ago. This was the wonderful old ship which Frank Bullen described in his “Cruise of the Cachalot.” The “Captain Count” of his book was really Captain Earle, an excellent specimen of the American sailor and whaleman. The “Splendid” alias “Cachalot,” was then a New Bedford-owned vessel. Later she was bought by a Dunedin firm, and cruised around the New Zealand coast and other whaling grounds, still commanded by Captain Earle, and it was under him that Mr. Cook served, and he speaks with admiration of his fine old Yankee skipper's qualities as a friend and a sailor.
The Whale-chasing Brothers.
I knew, long ago, George Cook's younger brother, Captain Bert Cook, now dead. He was the whaler of Whangamumu, on the North Auckland Coast, where he and his Maori crews used to set strong nets to entangle the humpback whales when they came close in to the rocky bay. There were lively scenes there when those expert harpooneers and lance-men fought and killed the flurried whales tangled in the nets set near the rocks.
Bert was a deep-sea sailor, too, and sailed on many a Pacific whaling cruise. Once, when he was in a boat's crew belonging to the American barque “Alaska,” there was a strange and dramatic race for a whale off the Chathams, with a rival whaleship's boat in which his brother George was in charge as boatsteerer. Bert was a tremendously powerful oarsman, and he put forth a herculean effort which won by a boat's bow the race for the whale. “Your whale, Bert!” shouted George, as his brother's crew swept past and the harpooneer poised his iron to strike.
A Cruise in the “Christine.”
The old barque “Othello,” which we used to see in Auckland, was one of George Cook's whaling homes on the deep. At another period he was whaling master on a cruise out of Auckland in the topsail schooner “Christine.” The schooner was an antiquated Danish-built little craft, singularly small for the “blubber-hunting” business. Well I remember her return to the Waitemata after her long cruise off the coast and the Kermadecs. I went aboard to get an account of it. A hard-luck expedition, her owner, Captain Jack McLiver told me. But not until I met “Lonehander” the other day did I learn the true inwardness of that luckless cruise. Taihoa; it is too long, and withal humorous, to tell just now.
But Cook was usually a very lucky man, in whale-hunting; he and his brother Bert were both successful men when they were in such vessels as the “Splendid” and the “Alaska” and “Othello,” and they had the reputation among all the American ships working the South Seas of being smart and lucky officers.
A Memory of Bully Hayes.
The Cook family of the Bay of Islands are part Maori, and George Cook speaks Maori with the accuracy and knowledge of the old-time people. He remembers well the great Tamati Waka Nene, an elder of his mother's people; he gave the family a piece of land in the centre of Kororareka, now Russell, facing the present wharf.
When he was a boy, Mr. Cook lived with his parents at Rarotonga for some years, and there they were visited by the celebrated Bully Hayes, who came in to Avarua Bay in his brig, the “Rona,” bringing the Rev. James Chalmers and the crew of the wrecked mission ship, “John Williams.” Hayes in fact, stayed with the Cooks while he was at Rarotonga. He had his wife and their two little girls with him.
Mr. Cook well remembers what a big, fine looking man Bully was. He wore his hair long, and curled up in a wave at the back, in the manner of many sailors and American gold-diggers and frontiersmen of those days.page break
Civic and Business Enterprise in South Taranaki.
(Rly. Publicity photos.)
(1) Eltham—the sunspot of Taranaki. (2) The Renco laboratory at Eltham (Mr. Fitzgerald standing on right). (3) Vats holding rennet for 10,000 tons of cheese. (4) The main thoroughfare of Patea. (5) Naumai Park, Hawera. (6) Hawera from the water tower. (7) A view of Kaponga. (8) The road to the Stratford Mountain House (Mt. Egmont).