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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Polack's Noisy Reception at Tolaga Bay

Polack's Noisy Reception at Tolaga Bay

The most important account of a trading expedition to Tolaga Bay during the flax boom is that given by Polack in New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. 2, p. 117 et seq. He says that, on the occasion of his first visit [June, 1835], his cutter was page 85 so badly gale-battered that she was in need of repairs and he had to arrange with the natives to tow her into Uawa River.

“Our European friends [two shore traders] bade us to beware of surprise, for treachery might be intended,” says Polack, “as during the preceding evening it had been strongly debated among the natives whether or not our vessel and ourselves should be taken as a prize, the most greedy and adverse party stating as a reason that we had, doubtless, arrived from Port Jackson (Sydney) [in strict fact, Polack was trading out of the Bay of Islands] and that it could not possibly become known in that colony (New South Wales) whether we had perished at sea or had been lost on an inhospitable coast and that nobody being left alive to tell the tale it would not militate against the place….
“But our good fortune prevailed, as it was urged that the principal chief of the district [Te Kani-a-Takirau] who was then absent at Turunga [Turanga, or Poverty Bay] would be greatly enraged at the circumstance of any vessel being despoiled during his absence, also that his conduct hitherto had favoured the visits of shipping and that knowledge of such an act would spread abroad through the European residents and, in consequence of all other vessels avoiding the place in the future, the traders would also leave, and they would be wholly without European trade. These arguments prevailed.”

According to Polack, his was the first vessel ever to enter Uawa River. He describes the scene as she was being towed to her anchorage:

“The motley assemblage that greeted our arrival was one not easily to be forgotten: it followed us with … shouts, acclamations, dancing, songs made for the occasion, cries of ‘aeremai!’ [“Haeremai!” or “Come Hither!”] waving of native garments, blowing of the conch with the most discordant din, some of the natives jumping high in the air and others rushing into the water and throwing small sticks at us (a native form of welcome), not a few swimming alongside the vessel, and many other feats, accompanied by a deafening noise, until we dropped anchor.”