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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)

Contact with New Zealand

Contact with New Zealand.

In the latter part of 1792, the ship “Britannia,” owned by Enderby and Sons, came to Australia with convicts. With the intention of procuring sealskins for the China market, William Raven, master of the vessel, left Sydney on September 30, for Dusky Bay, New Zealand: he was armed with a three years’ license from the East India Company. But before getting clear of Sydney, the “Britannia's” course was changed, presumably at the command or request of Major Grose, who, with his captains, subsequently chartered the ship to sail for the Cape of Good Hope, there to obtain provisions for the soldiers stationed at Sydney.

On 23rd October, Raven again set out for Dusky Bay, having been given leave to station a sealing gang there on his way to the Cape. New Zealand was sighted on 3rd November, 1792, and three days later the “Britannia” was moored in Facile Harbour, Dusky Bay. While making an examination of the page 29 Sound, Raven came across “signs of trees newly cut down, probably by Vancouver's men in the previous year; and there were still visible logs at Cook's clearing.” It was finally decided to station the sealers at Luncheon Cove, Anchor Island, and Raven set all the ship's hands to the work of making comfortable quarters for them.

In about three weeks the dwelling—40 ft. long, 18 ft. broad and 15 ft. high—was completed, and provisions and stores for twelve months were landed. Raven also left iron work, cordage, and sails; with instructions that a boat was to be built, large enough to carry them to a “friendly port” should need arise. This, says Dr. McNab, was the first sealing gang stationed on the New Zealand coast, and William Leith, second mate on the “Britannia,” had the distinction of being its commander.

On 1st December, the “Britannia” left for the Cape of Good Hope and in due time returned to Sydney. But owing to the great need for supplies, she was again chartered; this time for India. Naturally anxious about the welfare of his men at Dusky Bay, Raven was given leave to call there, Major Grose ordering the schooner “Francis” to accompany him.