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

Chapter XVIII — “There She Blows!”

page 145

Chapter XVIII
There She Blows!”

Shore-whaling Begins in Poverty Bay in 1837—Sport Thrills the Natives—Mahia's Evil Reputation—Whalers and Natives Plunder U.S. Brig “Falco”—Incidents on the East Coast.

The “Father of Shore-whaling in Poverty Bay” was Captain J. W. Harris, who established his first whaling-station alongside his trading post within the Turanganui River in 1837. Previously, he had obtained some oil and bone from a cetacean cast up on shore. It is not unlikely they formed part of the cargo of the brig Martha, which reached Sydney from Poverty Bay, with Harris as a passenger, in January, 1837. She had on board twenty-three bundles of whalebone and two casks of oil, as well as four cases of hams, two cases of mats, 1,430 baskets of maize, thirty-seven pigs, thirty casks of pork and two casks of hams.

In March, 1837, Harris set out from Sydney on his homeward journey in the Currency Lass. During the previous month the Marion Watson had left Sydney for Poverty Bay with a cargo of two barrels of rum, one case of gin, five kegs of tobacco, three chests of tea, three bags and one hogshead of sugar, eight casks of pork, twelve of beef, two of salt, one of peas, 100 lance poles, twelve casks of bread, 100 tons of empty casks, and seven casks of flour. Doubtless, this cargo represented purchases made by Harris in connection with his projected whaling-station.

Whaling must have been in full swing in Poverty Bay during the winter of 1837, notwithstanding a statement in the Harris Memoirs that, in that year, “only whalebone was sought, as there were [?] no casks for oil.” Before a Select Committee of the House of Lords in 1838, J. B. Montefiore, of Sydney, gave evidence that his firm, “being the agent for parties … in Poverty Bay, had, during the previous year, received large quantities of … whalebone and oil….” As the site of the tryworks proved too far within the Turanganui River, a move was made, after the 1837 season, to Waikahua, on the other side of the river and adjacent to the spot where the Cook Memorial now stands. F. W. Williams (Through Ninety Years, p. 35) says that William Williams, together with Colenso, Matthews and Stack called at Waikahua on 26 January, 1838, and found that “here, J. W. Harris has an establishment for catching black whales, where 18 Europeans are employed.”

The station was shifted to Papawhariki (on the mainland opposite Tuamotu Island) in November, 1838. Robert Espie was, it page 146 seems, Harris's chief assistant at the start of operations. Tom Ralph, Bob Brown, Billy Brown and Thomas Halbert were, no doubt, also key men then. In 1838, when Espie went off to establish a whaling-station at Mawhai (E.C.), Halbert took his place. Ralph, Bob Brown and William Morris moved to Mahia in 1840, and in 1842 Harris retired from active participation in the industry and settled at Opou.

Returning to Papawhariki in 1843, Morris married Puihi, of Wahanui (Ormond), whose guardian was a chief named Te Mauhara. In 1844 he went whaling at Whakaari (H.B.). A trypot which he left there was retrieved in 1916 by Mr. Russell Duncan and a party from Napier. Morris's next station (1846) was at Cape Kidnappers, where, according to Wakefield's Handbook of New Zealand (1848), he had three boats and employed twenty men. In 1848 he moved back to Poverty Bay and, for a time, whaled at Waikahua.

Billy Brown was the last of the pioneer whalers to operate in and about Poverty Bay. Upon leaving Harris's employ, he whaled at Waikahua. His next station was at Whangara. Then he went on to Pokotakino (just to the south of Gable End Foreland). As late as 1852 he was whaling at Tuahine Point. One of the few remaining relics of the industry in this portion of the Dominion is a trypot at Pokotakino, but, as other whalers operated at that spot many years after Brown had retired, it might not have belonged to him.

Harris, it is stated by his son, had an interest at the start in the Mawhai station. Espie, however, claimed to have bought the site (100 acres) in 1838. It lay on the southern side of the peninsula and, being well sheltered, it was frequently used, in later years, by small craft when they were unable to land cargo at Tokomaru Bay. Probably, it was Espie who called the spot “St. Patrick's Cove”—he described it by that name in a letter which he sent to the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales in December, 1840.

Northern Whalers Invade Mahia

Whaling was first engaged upon at Mahia and Waikokopu in 1837, when an invasion by whalers from the Bay of Islands began. Writing to the Hawke's Bay Herald in June, 1868, “An Old Colonist” [probably F. W. C. Sturm] says that two whale-fisheries were established there in that year—one by Ward Brothers at Waikokopu, and the other by Captain Wm. Ellis at Te Mahia [probably on the southern side and opposite Waikokopu] and as a consequence, a number of pakehas collected there.

“Most of the whites,” he states, “had each a domestic establishment, with an aboriginal lady at the head of it, and the good old plan of page 147 having a pet chief who took you in charge and, whilst plundering you himself, preserved you from others was still in vogue. ‘Messieurs the Whites’ led a pretty considerable, careless, reckless. Godless kind of life, drinking and gambling, having, in these halcyon days, full liberty of action.”

Harris junior was under the erroneous impression (Harris Memoirs, p. 7) that whaling did not start at Waikokopu until 1838, and that Captain G. E. Clayton conducted the first station there. He also suggests that his father had an interest in the concern either at the beginning or shortly afterwards. If, however, Captain Harris ever did have any whaling interests in Northern Hawke's Bay, they were most likely in association with Captain Ellis. When Harris remarried, his second wife was a Miss Hargraves, and Ellis took one of her sisters for his second wife. These women were sisters of Edmund H. Hargraves, who on 12 February, 1851, soon after his return from the gold-rush in California, discovered gold at Bathurst (Aus.), receiving a reward of £5,000. Hargraves came out to New Zealand with his parents and other members of the family with the de Thierry expedition, which landed at Hokianga on 4 November, 1837. His brother Charles was the father of Mrs. W. E. Goffe, of Gisborne.

Dinwiddie, in Old Hawke's Bay, says that, after the first season the Wards retired and Ellis took over their station. Thomas Bateman, of the Bay of Islands, claimed that, in December, 1837, he bought land called “Waicocoboo” [Waikokopu] adjoining the station which was being carried on by William and James Ward, and that he fitted it out as a whaling station. It is stated in Brett's Early History of New Zealand, p. 176, that the whaling station which Clayton operated at Waikokopu had previously been owned by Greenaway and Batman [? Bateman], and that it was destroyed by fire in 1839, “Captain Clayton having only just taken possession.” Greenaway was, probably, George Greenaway, merchant, of the Bay of Islands, and his part in the enterprise would be that of a sleeping partner. Only Bateman put in a claim for a Crown Grant for the whaling-station site. In 1843, Perry, an American, bought out Ellis, who went on to Long Point, but, eventually, settled at Auckland.

Mahia became the principal whaling base on the mid-eastern section of the North Island coastline. In 1851 Mr. McLean estimated that one hundred and forty Europeans, together with about twice as many natives, lived there entirely by whaling. No difficulty was experienced in recruiting labour; the natives simply revelled in the thrilling sport. Many bad characters—human flotsam at its worst—drifted to Mahia. In 1850 The New Zealand Spectator, referring to a report that an escaped murderer was believed to be page 148 making for that district, remarked: “It seems to be the Alsatia of the colony, to which all the disorderly and desperate characters resort, so as to be out of reach of the law.”

When the U.S. brig Falco (Captain Moseley) was wrecked at Table Cape on 27 July, 1845, Europeans from the whaling stations assisted the natives to plunder her. The New Zealander (15/9/1845) states:

“These ruffians rushed on board and hemmed in the captain and the officers on the quarter-deck, threatened them with violence, broke open the hatches, got into the hold, and either destroyed or carried away much of the cargo. The mail bags and boxes were taken and allletters likely to contain enclosures, as well as the government dispatches, were opened. Some were seen in the hands of the natives, who were offering them for sale: a large one for ten figs of tobacco, and so on in proportion down to an ordinary-sized letter for one fig. What the plunderers thought was not worth taking they destroyed. The whites were even more eager than the natives, and seemed particularly pleased as they tore open the government dispatches…. They then began to strip the hull, and to remove the spars and standing rigging … and this was done to prevent the possibility of the vessel being got off. Had the whites held aloof, and been disposed to save the ship and the cargo, the natives would never have made an attack on the vessel.”

When Archdeacon W. Williams arrived on the scene he convened a meeting of the natives. Some members of the whaling fraternity also put in appearance and made uncalled-for reflections upon him. Many of the natives seemed desirous of giving up their booty, which, they said, they would not have taken had they not been urged on by the whites. However, for the articles which they returned they demanded as much as they were worth! Most of the stolen letters, which included correspondence for almost everybody of note in Auckland, were returned.

Friendly natives had to be called upon to protect Mr. Williams because some of the Europeans had threatened “to drink his blood.” Upon it becoming known that an attack might be made on Perry's store (where the U.S. Consul's treasures had been placed for safe keeping), a nightly guard of two hundred natives was set. “The fisheries,” it was added, “are now all broken up, as almost all the whalers have retired into the bush to enjoy their portions of the spoils.”

The native custom of regarding half-caste children as belonging to the mother's tribe was enforced in the case of a son of Sam Delamere (Teramere), who whaled with others at Whitianga (near the mouth of the Motu River), at Cape Runaway and at Wharariki in the 1840's. Delamere was an American, and he married Peti te Ha. Their children were: Ned (born at Whitianga) and Annie, Elizabeth and Isabel (born at Wharariki). He page 149 rejoined a whaler and revisited the United States. Upon his return to the Bay of Plenty he was advised not to go on to Whitianga, where his wife and family lived, as she had taken another husband.

Futile Effort to Regain Child

Determined to get custody of his son Ned, Delamere arranged with the master of a coastal craft to kidnap the lad, who was then about seven years old. After the skipper had been on shore at Whitianga on several occasions, he settled in his mind which lad was Ned, and enticed him on board by promising to take him to see his father. However, by supposing that, at Maraenui (the next port of call), the residents belonged to another tribe, he fell into a serious error. Ned was recognised there and had to be given up. The father never resettled in the Bay of Plenty. Ned was in his nineties when he died, and his wife, Ngarou, was credited with passing the century.

Whalers all along the coast from Whangaparaoa to Mahia experienced a peak year in 1874. Scarcely a day passed without a school of whales being seen. In one week Henare Potae's crews secured four big whales, one of which yielded seven tuns of oil. So heavy was the yield at Mahia that all the available casks were soon filled and, although canoes and various kinds of domestic receptacles were also requisitioned, trying-out had to be halted until a further supply of casks could be obtained.

Whilst Major Ropata was being tried by a runanga for trespassing on Waipiro block to shoot birds, the proceedings were interrupted by loud shouting outside the meeting-place. A boat in pursuit of a whale had come into sight. Ropata saw that the boat was proceeding in the direction of his home, and he protested: “When will the boat stop? There are boundaries on the sea as well as on the land! “As a sequel to his action in laying this complaint, he was not fined. Narrating the incident in the Native Land Court (Waiapu minute book, No. 16), he admitted that he had said that, if his party had been attacked, he would have slain its assailants. “But,” he added, “I did not also say that I would have cooked and eaten them. At that time the cooking of people had gone out of fashion.”

Robert Espie: Pioneer Coast Whaler

Robert Espie (born in County Tyrone, Ulster, in 1811) migrated to Tasmania with his parents—some accounts say with an uncle—in 1817 and was trained as a carpenter. He reached Poverty Bay in the year 1837. His first wife was Ani Umutapua (or Kato) of Whanau-a-Tao hapu of Waima (Tokomaru Bay). There were three children—Margaret (Mrs. Lockwood), Hannah (Mrs. Arapeta Rangiuia) and a boy (who was drowned in the Uawa River). Numerous were the descendants of the alliance.

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When the Rev. W. Williams and the Rev. R. Taylor passed down the East Coast in April, 1839, they called at Espie's whaling station at Mawhai. Mr. Williams states that the station was located at Motukaroro—“motu,” an island and “karoro” a seabird. The name has long since gone out of use. In his journal Mr. Taylor says that the station was at “Marphi” [Mawhai] in a picturesque setting on a promontory and that Mr. Espy's [Espie's] abode is near a promontory close to which is a remarkable rock like a pyramidical column; a small part joins the promontory.”

It deeply shocked Mr. Taylor to find that a man of Espie's upbringing was content to adopt such a primitive mode of living. “Mr. Espy,” he says, at page 99 of his journal, “is the son of a naval surgeon of great respectability in Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania]. [His father was Robert Espie, R.N., at one time surgeon at Port Dalrymple and, earlier, surgeon-superintendent of convict-carrying vessels.] Mr. Taylor adds: “But he lives here like every other trading European, with a native woman and in the native fashion.” The Espie abode is described as “a wretched one.” Three European assistants were employed at the station. When the clerics reached Tolaga Bay, they found, “at a place about three miles from Uawa pa,” two Englishmen sawing wood for Espie for casks.

In 1841, Espie was married to Ethel [? Downes]. It was common gossip, in later years, that his bride, who was only sixteen or seventeen years old, had been left at Poverty Bay by a vessel which had had to put in for a re-fit. In strict fact, the young woman was among the passengers whom Captain A. Campbell brought in the Minerva in June, 1841, after an uneventful voyage. The marriage ceremony was conducted by the Rev. W. Williams and they were the first European couple to be married by a clergyman in Poverty Bay. Their children were: Emma (Mrs. Walsh, who was slain in the massacre), John Edward (born at Te Arai in 1848 and died in January, 1933) and Mary Jane (who became Mrs. Alexander Robb).

A third venture into matrimony was made by Espie, but, after three children had been born of the union—once again two girls and a boy—this wife ran off with the master of a schooner which came into the Taruheru River to lift a cargo of wheat. As Espie suspected that his wife was on board the vessel, he armed himself with a gun and went down to the loading-bank at sailing time. The skipper popped Mrs. Espie into a cask. Invited to search the craft, Espie neglected to examine the cask! Espie told the skipper that, if he had found his wife on board, he would have shot him. This was the schooner's last visit to Poverty Bay. Espie died on 4 April, 1868.

William Morris: Whaler and Trader

Known to the natives as “Morete,” William Morris was born at Black Rock, Cork, in 1815. He was the only son of Captain William Morris, of the Coastguards. That he left his homeland at an early age is shown by a letter which is held by his descendants. It is dated “Black Rock, 1 May 1841,” and was written to him by a sister, Jemima, in reply to the first letter which any member of the family had received from him since his departure. She writes of her delight in hearing from him “after such a lapse of years.” A warm invitation was extended to Morris (11/9/1843) by another sister, Maria, to return “to tread once more Irish soil and taste the native sweets that only your native air can afford, for we have enough for ourselves and our families and to spare.”

Whilst Morris was whaling in Hawke's Bay, he had a very firm friend in William Colenso, the missionary. On his way to Colenso's home at page 151 Waitangi one day, he came across a kotuku (white heron) and, being under the impression that Colenso would value the specimen, he shot it. As he went on his journey, he ran into the chief Tareha, who claimed the bird on the ground that it had been shot on his property. In order to save his gun, Morris had to give up the bird. Next day, Tareha, after plucking off all the much-prized feathers, took it to Colenso and demanded a sovereign for it, but had to be content with 4/-. In the belief that it belonged to an unknown species, Colenso preserved the skin, head and feet and sent them to Professor Owen at Home.

Writing to Morris from Waitangi in June, 1849, Colenso said: “Since you left our neighbourhood I have very often, indeed, had you in my thoughts … for I proved you to be a good neighbour, and am still indebted to you for many acts of kindness.” Again, in October, 1852, Colenso wrote: “I scarcely ever walk on my verandah and look towards the Cape [Cape Kidnappers] without thinking of you. That cape and yourself seem linked together in my mind. Perhaps, it is owing to your having been our nearest neighbour during the first year of our residence here.”

In 1852, when Morris had a store at Wherowhero, he was again lured by the old cry: “There she Blows!” and took up whaling at Waikokopu. He remained there until 1856, when he returned to Poverty Bay with his wife, who was at death's door. To mark her grave he imported a tombstone which is believed to have been the first stone memorial to be erected in the district. Shortly afterwards, he bought J. G. Steddy's store at Mahia. He is reputed to have made a lot of money during the Waikato War by shipping salted pork to Auckland for the troops. Mahia was at that time overrun by pigs. When urgent business called him to Napier, he preferred to make the journey on his white horse, “Copenhagen,” which became as well-known as himself. He left Mahia to take up a property at Tangoio, and later went into business at “The Spit,” Napier, where he died in July, 1882.

Among the stories which were narrated to the writer by Thomas Bartlett (born at sea between Wherowhero and Mahia in 1848) was one which indicated that Morris's acumen was well matched by his obstinacy. On one occasion, whilst search was being made for a dead whale off Waikokopu, Morris, who was blind in one eye, espied a dark object under the surface. He called upon his harpooner (Nepia Tokitahi) to strike. Nepia told him that it was only a rock, but, being unwilling to disobey, he projected his harpoon. The rock was afterwards known as “Tokitia,” and Morris was unmercifully chaffed over his mistake.

“Billy” Brown: Kahutia's Pakeha

With his hair reaching down to his waist, “Billy” Brown (Wiremu Paraone) was a conspicuous figure in the eyes of visitors to Early Gisborne. After the death of his wife (in the middle 1860's), he refrained from having his hair cut. His fellow-residents became accustomed to what they regarded as merely an eccentricity on his part. Members of his family had questioned the propriety of his decision; his reply was that he could not think of any better way of showing his respect for his late partner in life than by constituting himself a living monument to her in the way that he was doing.

Brown was born in England circa 1802. Writing to the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales (30/11/1840), he said: “I have lived in this island for about four years.” It seems that he had slipped ashore from a whaler on the eve of her departure from Poverty Bay. Kahutia page 152 treated him as “his pakeha,” and gave him for wife his niece, Hine Whati-o-te-Rangi, who became an aunt to Heni Materoa (Lady Carroll). When the demand for flax declined, he was attracted to the whaling industry. During each off-season he kept a store, first at Ngawai-te-Rua, and then at Tapatahi and Turanganui. By the late 1850's whaling ceased to interest him.

Shortly after the death of his wife, Brown set off on an intended visit to England. He had wished to take two of his sons with him, but the elders of their mother's tribe would not acquiesce, fearing that he might not bring them back. When he got to Melbourne he began to miss his children, and he retraced his steps. One of the largest feasts ever held in Poverty Bay took place when Wiremu (his eldest son) married. An open invitation was extended to Maori and pakeha alike; every pakeha received a gift. Mereana, the bride, became prominent in connection with native land litigation, and one of the cases to which she was a party went on to the Privy Council. Brown's second son, Eruera (Edward) became a settler at Makauri. Paku, the other son, was slain by the Te Kooti rebels whilst carrying dispatches in 1868.

The elder of Brown's daughters, Mere Kingi—the other was Kato, mother of Henare Ruru, of Te Karaka—had the distinction of being the only resident of Poverty Bay who lived throughout practically the whole of the Centennial period (1840–1940). In May, 1940, she received from the Department of Internal Affairs a special Centennial ribbon bearing an inscription which stated that she was then 103 years old. Her birth date cannot now be traced, but, in view of the fact that Wiremu (the eldest member of the family) was not born until 1840, it may be assumed that she was born either in 1841 or 1842. Support for this contention lies in the fact that Kahutia testified in connection with Brown's land claim that no child had been born when he presented him with a property on 2 January, 1840.

Mere Kingi's first husband, Komere (a brother of Te Kooti), was slain during the revolt in 1868. With others, she was taken by the rebels to Ngatapa, but contrived to escape during a commotion caused by the circulation of a false report to the effect that Te Kooti had been slain. In turn, she married Ihimaera Tawha, who was prominent in native Good Templar circles. He died in April, 1884. Hemi Ratapu was her third husband. Mere died at Manutuke on 13 July, 1942, and it is not improbable that she had become a centenarian. She had six children, and her other descendants included thirty grandchildren, one hundred and one great-grandchildren and thirteen great-great-grandchildren. When the Parkers reached Poverty Bay in 1867, they became acquainted with her maternal grandmother, who appeared to them to be a centenarian. The old lady claimed to have seen Captain Cook whilst he was at Poverty Bay in 1769. What is more probable is that, at that time, she was an infant.

Tom Ralph: An Adventurer

Some dramatic experiences befell Tom Ralph (Tame Rawhi), whom Captain Harris placed at Muriwai as a flax trader in May, 1831. His stay there was brief. The next that was heard of him was that he had become Montefiore and Co.'s agent at Mokau. According to the Journal of the Polynesian Society (March, 1910, p. 16), he was landed there from the Ameri Kiwata (“Admiral Gifford”) in November, 1831; that he was called Tame (Tommy) by the natives; and that he took unto himself two wives. Taranaki was, at that time, being invaded by Waikato tribes under Te Wherowhero. They took Pukerangiora pa at Waitara in December, page 153 1831, but were repulsed when, early in 1832, they attempted to take Ngamotu pa. Its defenders were assisted by Dicky Barrett and some other whalers, whose armament included cannon.

Daniel Henry Sheridan (Sydney Monitor, April, 1833) says that the Maniapoto tribe deserted Mokau to share in the spoils at Pukerangiora. As only two old men and a decrepit woman had been left behind, the Ngati-Tama raided Mokau. The old men escaped, but the woman was slain. When Ralph and a native woman emerged from their whare they were made prisoner. His wife was taken from him; he was stripped of all his clothes except his shirt and trousers; his store was plundered of muskets and goods; and his flax (20 tons) was set on fire. Whilst he was being taken by his captors to their settlement, a dispute arose concerning the woman. A native came up behind him and snapped his musket, but it missed fire, and another native snatched it away. Ralph sent a message to Captain J. R. Kent, whose store was on the Kawhia River, and he at once furnished him with the means of ransom.

Polack, who met Ralph at Tolaga Bay in August, 1836, describes him as “a young man respectably connected in Sydney.” He narrates (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. 2, p. 57) a strange incident in which Ralph figured at Maihia (Mahia), whither he had moved from Kawhia. A chief named Werowero quarrelled with a neighbouring chief, who threatened to cut off his head and sell it to the pakehas. Werowero decapitated his “enemy,” and secreted the head in Ralph's whare. When fatty matter mingled with the food that he was cooking, Ralph was puzzled. To his disgust, he found that Werowero had placed the head within his chimney!

Upon giving up whaling at Mahia, Ralph worked for Joseph Carroll on Hurumoa, and, subsequently, had charge of the ferry at Wairoa. He ended his days at Whangawehi.

Some Other Early Whalers

John M. Jury (born in England in 1808) left the Royal Navy to migrate to New South Wales in 1837. In the following year, he joined Harris's whaling station staff in Poverty Bay. His wife was a relative of the chief Tu Tapakihi te Rangi. In 1842 he went to live in the Wairarapa. A son (John Alfred Jury) became a prolific writer, under the pen-name “The Scribe,” on Maori traditions, lore and customs. He was chairman of a Maori Parliament which was held at Waitapu (H.B.) in 1892. Its eighty-eight members had been elected by 2,000 natives; they included Wi Pere. Sir James Carroll, who was invited to attend, advocated that the proceedings should be conducted on strictly Parliamentary lines.

William Hazel was one of a number of American whalers who cast in their lot ashore on the East Coast. He whaled at Wharariki, Te Hekawa and Waipao in the 1840's and 1850's. Known to the natives as “Piri Karokaro,” and to the Europeans as “Yankee Bill,” he had four sons, Tom, Joseph, Tatari (Dudley) and Porikapa. All of them became first-class boatmen.

Charles Ryland (born at Manchester in 1803) whaled at Mahia before he moved to Mawhai in the early 1840's. Afterwards, he had stores at Te Puka, Te Ariuru and Waima in that order. Henare Potae told the Native Land Court that he was driven away from Te Puka because he would not pay rent. Colonel Porter regarded him as “rather a superior man.” He married Hiria Kapaika, and his descendants are well-known residents of the East Coast. When he died in 1886, the P.B. Independent said of him: “He was quite a respectable old gentleman, and was generally liked.”

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John Anderson (an Englishman) was one of the whaling fraternity at Mahia before he moved to Anaura in the late 1840's. His wife was Peti Karotapapa. Two sons, John and William, were born at Mahia, and Henry and Peti (Betty) at Anaura. Anderson became a trader at Anaura in connection with Matthew Fox, who also conducted a store at Puatai. Betty was reputed to be over ninety years old when she died at Anaura in 1940.

William Hillman, who was a cousin of “Yankee Bill” Hazel, lived at the Bay of Islands before he moved to the East Coast. He claimed to have assisted to cut the timber for the first church that was built at Russell (1834–35). On the East Coast he followed the occupation of a cooper at various whaling stations. He was one of the party which prepared the timber for Porourangi meeting-house at Wai-o-matatini in 1888. In later years he found employment on sheep-stations. He died at the Memorial Home at Gisborne.

Charles Gerrard whaled and built boats on the East Coast as early as the 1840's. Tiarete (one of his daughters) married the Rev. Rota Waitoa, and the youngest became Mrs. Arthur Brooking, of Hicks Bay. A son Charles (“Cocky”) was the native constable at Port Awanui.

George Babbington—an Englishman known as “Hori Paputene”—was first employed at, and then took over, the Mawhai whaling-station. In 1847, he had three boats and a staff of twenty men. Afterwards he kept a store at Te Puka. His wife was Mere Karaka Tiritapu, of Whanau-a-Rua hapu. During a Native Land Court case in 1897, his children were described as “old men.” Babbington drifted up the coast. Arapeta Potae told the court that he was then living with his sixth wife, and that his third wife had been Babbington's wife. John Babbington (a son) died in August, 1939, aged ninety-four years.

Captain Frederick Spooner (“Puna”) whaled at Poverty Bay, and had also lived at Tolaga Bay, before he settled in 1839 at Wairoa, where he was one of the earliest traders. “Spooner's Point” at Wairoa is named after him. He had served on American whaleships. Nothing authentic has been gleaned concerning his antecedents. In 1830–31 a Captain Spooner was in charge of the schooner Dart which traded out of Sydney to New Zealand. The skipper of the Eric, the first American vessel to engage in bay whaling off the South Island (1834), was a Captain Spooner. He left his vessel at the Society Islands and did not return to the U.S.A. Frederick Spooner died on 23 November, 1875.

One of the earliest whalers at Mahia was John Greening (“Happy Jack”). Previously he had lived at the Bay of Islands. In May, 1842, he claimed 700 acres “situated at Table Cape” (probably Whangawehi). The land, he said, had been given to him in 1837 by some chiefs whom he did not name. Evidence is lacking that there ever was a permanent whaling-station on the northern side of Mahia. When he retired from whaling he established a home at Te Mahanga (“Happy Jack's Landing”). In the 1870's he moved over to Whangawehi, where he maintained a light to warn mariners. After his death in August, 1880, his native widow carried on the good work in return for a small government pension.


Much amusement was afforded passengers on the Southern Cross one day in October, 1890, when they observed, off Tuparoa, an elderly native couple, with the help of a lad, towing a small dead whale ashore. The find was sold to Sir G. Whitmore; it yielded three tuns of black oil, worth £40.

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There was considerable excitement at East Cape in January, 1885, when the American whaler John Winthorp put in, a mutiny having broken out. Eight men got away on one of her boats, but they surrendered when they were overhauled by an armed crew in another boat. Before the ship proceeded on her voyage the mutineers were flogged and put in irons.

A serious mishap occurred off Pokotakino in August, 1888. Two boats' crews had made a strike upon a whale. With a wicked swish of its tail the monster smashed one of the boats to matchwood and stove in the other. A native who was drawn under was not seen again. Accompanying boats rescued the survivors, and when the injured whale rose to blow it was secured.

Some of the whaling-stations on the East Coast were owned by natives and natives were attached to all the pakeha-owned stations. Tuparoa proved a profitable location for J. E. Dalton and his crews in the 1880's. Henare Potae was a great whaling enthusiast and, during several seasons, he used Mawhai for a base.