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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January 2, 1939)

“The Vigorous Enderbys” — Their Connection with New Zealand — II. — Charles Enderby

page 26

“The Vigorous Enderbys”
Their Connection with New Zealand
Charles Enderby


Samuel Enderby having passed away, the firm became known as Enderby Brothers, and consisted of Charles, Henry, and George Enderby. Charles Enderby was a Fellow of the Royal Society; one of the original members, and for several years a Council Member of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society.

Like his father, Charles Enderby instructed his captains to lose no opportunity for exploration and discovery. Not only were the masters of whaling vessels so directed, but more than once ships were sent out largely, if not wholly for the purpose of discovery.

Discovery in the Antarctic.

Two of the ships so commissioned were the Tula, commanded by John Biscoe, R.N., and a tiny cutter, the Lively, under Captain Avery. In February, 1831, Biscoe, sailing in the Far South discovered the coast which he named Enderby Land. After wintering in New Zealand he again went south, “and continuing his circumnavigation of
(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.) The Leyell Stream, near Kaikoura.

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.)
The Leyell Stream, near Kaikoura.

the earth at a high latitude, he discovered Graham Land, which although connected with land already known to the sealing community, gave a considerable extension to them. Biscoe earned a high reputation amongst explorers of the Antarctic.”

Also under the auspices of Enderby Brothers, a voyage of great importance was made by John Balleny, master of the schooner Eliza Scott. In 1839 the Eliza Scott, accompanied by the cutter Sabrina, started from New Zealand, and crossing “the Antarctic Circle in longitude 177 E.,” Balleny, unlike former voyagers directed his course to the west instead of the east. He thus discovered Sabrina Land, and a group of islands now known as the Balleny Islands.

These voyages were made at considerable cost to the firm of Enderby Brothers; and the captains and crews of the vessels engaged, suffered hardships so great that Captain Scott—who well knew the Antarctic—describes them as “extraordinary.” “Yet,” he says, “in spite of inconceivable discomforts they struggled on, and it does not appear that any one of them ever turned his course until he was driven to do so by hard necessity.”

As Samuel Enderby had done, so his son Charles urged the speedy colonization of New Zealand as the only way to prevent acts of insubordination on the part of British crews. A further proof of Enderby's wide interests is shown in his being one of the men brought together by Dr. Junius Smith, in 1838, to form the basis of the English and American Steam Navigation Company.

Decline of British Whaling.

About this time, 1838, whale fishing as a British industry began to decline. The Americans seemed to monopolise the trade. According to Bullen, Englishmen had never been really as much at home in whaling as were the Americans, who employed many hundreds of ships in the whale fishery. England now had to buy whale oil, British whalers being unable to supply all that was required.

In 1846, Charles Enderby received from Mr. T. R. Preston a letter written on behalf of several men connected with British shipping interests, who had become alarmed at this decline in the whaling industry, and at the consequent dependence of Britain on foreign nations for whale oil. Believing that on such matters there was no more competent authority than Enderby they asked him to suggest some method of reviving the whaling industry. In response, Enderby laboured to bring about the re-establishment of the British Southern Whale Fishery, and in this he was successful.

In the following year, 1847, he obtained from the Crown a grant of the Auckland Islands, in recognition of their having been discovered by one of his father's captains—Abram Bristow—and also for other services rendered under the firm's auspices in the Far South. Enderby's intention was to make the Auckland Islands a base for the prosecution of whale fishing, and he published a pamphlet stating his reasons for so doing, and also showing the advantages that the islands offered to settlers. In proof of his faith in the enterprise, he purposed going himself to superintend the establishing of the settlement. “I proceed to the colony,” he said, “with the full support of Her Majesty's Government, and the assurance from the Admiralty that a vessel of war will visit the islands once in every month. The interests of the general body of the settlers, will, therefore, be amply protected.” It was proposed to use, not the usual expensive ships of large tonnage, but vessels suitable for bringing page 27 the oil from the whaling grounds to the base at Auckland Islands, from whence it would be re-shipped to England or elsewhere in other vessels “freighted for the purpose in adjacent colonies.” Thus there would always be ships on the whaling grounds, or else returning from thence with produce to the station; “always supplies of oil awaiting shipment to England, and always full cargoes on the way thither.” Already the islands were much frequented by whaling vessels for purposes of refitting and when waiting for the season to begin.

Though of quite secondary importance, colonization of the islands was expected to proceed along with the establishment of the whaling station; but it would be a whaling colony, the land being cultivated to supply its needs. Such, in brief, was Charles Enderby's plan.

In general, Enderby's proposition met with approval; it was also adversely criticised. A writer in the London Times of November 1848, strongly condemned
(Rly. Publicity photo.) Lake Gunn, South Island.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Lake Gunn, South Island.

the Auckland Islands as a site for a whaling station, Otago being suggested as a much better situation. Enderby was referred to sarcastically as “Lord of the Auckland Isles.”

The Times, in commenting on this letter, said that Mr. Enderby had been offered facilities for carrying out his scheme, in Australia, Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand; and it was only a belief in the peculiar fitness of the Auckland Islands which had led to their being chosen. In view of subsequent events, it should be noted that Charles Enderby had been influenced by the opinion of important men who had visited the islands, particularly by that of Sir James Clark Ross, who, in 1840, stayed there for three weeks. Ross, in speaking of Enderby's proposal, said: “In the whole range of the vast Southern Ocean, no spot could be found combining so completely the essential requirements of a whaling station.”

Pending the finalisation of the Auckland Island scheme, Enderby wrote to Sir Henry Pelly—Governor of the Hudson Bay Company—suggesting that Vancouver Island should be made a branch station for the whaling ships from Auckland Island. If this plan were effected, the colonization of Vancouver Island would be assured. Furthermore, a British possession would reap the advantages attendant on the visits of whaling ships; some of which might be employed in trading to India, China, Japan and other places in the Pacific Ocean, thus extending British commerce, as also connecting British interests in those seas.

The Enderby Brothers handed over their grant of the Auckland Islands to the British Southern Whale Fishery Company, and as Charles Enderby had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of the islands, the company deputed him to act as their commissioner there. By about the middle of 1849, arrangements for launching the enterprise were completed. Prior to his departure from England a public dinner was held in Enderby's honour, many men of note being present.

Founding of the Whaling Settlement.

In August, 1849, the first ships left England to found the whaling colony at Auckland Island, bringing with them the Lieutenant Governor, medical men, clerks, a surveyor, a storekeeper, bricklayers, masons, agriculturalists and labourers; with sixteen women and fourteen children. Arriving at their destination in the following December, work was at once commenced. A twelve-roomed house provided for Enderby by the company, was set up; also about twenty-five other houses, and a store. In due time whaling operations were begun.

The settlement had been established for some ten months when Enderby wrote to Earl Grey, stating that all on the island (seventy-two in number, irrespective of seamen) were enjoying good health. The fact that in June gooseberry and currant plants, brought from Hobart Town, were coming into leaf, showed that the season had not been as rigorous as had been expected. This letter was written from Wellington, whither business had brought the Commissioner.

In June of the following year Enderby wrote to the Directors of the Southern Whale Fishery Company, telling them that it was his intention to embark on the Black Dog for New Zealand, one object of the visit being to confer with the Bishop on the subject of engaging a clergyman to reside as Chaplain at Port Ross; and also to obtain a medical man who would assist him (Enderby) as secretary in place of Mr. King, who had resigned. The Commissioner also stated that twelve persons were about to leave the islands, the number remaining would be ninety-five, and to provide animal food for these would require twelve sheep weekly. While in New Zealand he would try to buy 300 sheep; failing to do this on reasonable terms, he would proceed to Two Fold Bay, on the east coast of New Holland.

Enderby arrived at Auckland, New Zealand, on the 29th of August, sailing later for Australia, where he secured the sheep and also such stores as he deemed necessary. He left Sydney for Port Ross on 16th October.

Possibly, Enderby's ideas of the amount of stores necessary for the small colony, were extravagant. Dr. Dakin mentions that in looking through some old letters of Robert Towns—a Sydney shipowner, and also a kind of agent for the London Company—he noted that Towns expressed surprise at the quantities of stores ordered, stating that he couldn't “think of sending a tithe of the order.”

Failure of the Colony.

The Directors of the Company were dissatisfied with the reports of matters concerning the settlement, and decided to send Mr. George Dundas, a director, and Mr. T. R. Preston, secretary of the Company, to visit the Auckland Islands and investigate affairs there. In December, 1851, Dundas and Preston, furnished with full powers to act as special commissioners arrived at Port Ross.

Briefly, as a result of the inquiry, page 28 page 29 Enderby resigned his position as chief commissioner to the Company, but he refused to leave his house, considering it to be his residence as Lieutenant Governor. However, the house was the property of the Company, and the Commissioners ordered some of the furniture to be removed from it, and later compelled Enderby to accompany them when they left the island on board the Black Dog. According to Enderby, they threatened to put him in irons if he refused to go with them.

Immediately on the arrival of the Black Dog at Wellington, Enderby brought an action for trespass against Messrs. Dundas and Preston, the case—which occupied three days—being heard before Mr. Justice Stephen. The Welling Independent, after briefly reporting the case, concluded: “The judge ordered that in both cases each party should pay their own costs.”

Enderby appealed to Sir George Grey. Sir George pitied him and showed him much kindness, but felt he had no jurisdiction in Enderby's quarrel with the commissioners.

Later, Enderby wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, seeking redress, but without getting any satisfactory result, as the trouble was entirely between himself and the Company. The Company accused Enderby of mismanagement, while he complained that the mode of managing the Company's affairs and of conducting the fishery had not been carried out according to the plans he had submitted to the public.

Opinion of Otago and Sydney.

The whaling settlement at Auckland Island was a complete failure, a failure which caused great disappointment both at Home and in the Colonies; whaling in the South Seas being considered a trade of national importance. Toward the end of August, 1852, the Earl of Hardwicke arrived at Otago, bringing the remnant of the Southern Whale Fishery's staff, crews, and property, including the Governor's house, which was offered for sale. The Otago Witness contained an article which expressed regret, but not surprise at the abandonment of the settlement. Some portions of Mr. Enderby's plan were considered well worth adopting, but it was a mistake to have chosen the Auckland Islands as a site in order to prevent the desertion of crews; the result had been that the men regarded the island as a prison. Whales were plentiful enough, but the difficulties attending the capture of them were so great, owing to the boisterous weather, that scarcely any oil was obtained.

To many people in Sydney the failure of the scheme brought no surprise; the site being considered bad, and the attempt to colonize—folly. It was said that £30,000 had been spent on buildings and improvements at Port Ross, whereas, had Port Jackson, Newcastle, or Port Stephen been chosen as the whaling base, no more than £2,000 need have been expended on the erection of a store and dwellings for the labourers.

Also instead of a Chief Commissioner, who as Lieutenant-Governor, required a staff, the seven or eight ships employed could have been managed by any Sydney merchant with the help of an extra clerk. Never again would the Southern Whale Fishery be likely to form a base south of Otago.

Final View of the Colony.

The evacuation of the settlement was carried out under the supervision of the H.M.S. Fantome, anchored at Port Ross. R. E. Malone—an officer on board the Fantome—wrote an account of affairs in connection with the Company, which, he said, had been misled and had lost heavily. Apparently, Enderby had at least not over-rated the health of the colonists, for, according to Malone, though for the greater part of the year the weather was wet and windy, yet the colonists presented a thriving appearance; a proof that the climate was healthy. The cattle, too, were in good condition.

In the month of June herbage was springing up in all directions, but it grew only to be stunted by the wind. The farms were failures, nothing growing to any size—the turnips resembled miserable radishes.
(Photo. Capt. J. C. Mercer) An aerial view of Broken River and the Midland Line, Canterbury, South Island.

(Photo. Capt. J. C. Mercer)
An aerial view of Broken River and the Midland Line, Canterbury, South Island.

Malone also notes that three horses, brought to the islands from Sydney, had been useless owing to the swampy nature of the ground.

There had been discontent among the seamen on the whalers. Shortly after the Fantôme's arrival at the islands, the Hardwicke returned from a four months’ cruise, with hardly any whale oil, and the ship's company in a deplorable state from rebellion, sickness, and shortage of food. The captain said he had been for three weeks beating off the island, unable to get to the anchorage.

From all accounts, Charles Enderby was not fitted for the task of governing a colony, planning its food supply, and managing a whaling station. Like many another enterprise, the Southern Whale Fishery colony at Auckland Island failed, chiefly through miscalculation.

Not amid the gloom of failure, but rather with the light of achievement shining on him, would one take leave of Charles Enderby—the man of whom “Scott of the Antarctic” wrote: “To the disinterested exertions of Mr. Charles Enderby and to the zeal of his officers was due the discovery of Graham Land, Enderby Land, Sabrina Land, Kemp Land, and the Balleny Islands.”

All honour to “The Vigorous Enderbys.”