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Historical Records of New Zealand



To His Excellency Lieutenant General Ralph Darling, Governor-in-Chief, &c., &c.

The humble petition of Robert Duke, master of the ship Sisters, of the Port of London, sheweth,—

That the ship Sisters was fitted out for the southern whale fishery, and sailed from London on the first of January, 1826, and on the 26th December last she went into the Bay of Islands, in New Zealand, for the purpose of refitting for the whaling season, then about to commence, at which place your petitioner found the ship Harriat, whaler, undergoing some repairs.

That on Friday, the fifth day of January, a brig came into the harbour which your petitioner immediately recognized to be the ship Wellington, belonging to Mr. Joseph Underwood, he having before seen her in this port; your petitioner accordingly proceeded on board, when he was informed that she was proceeding with troops to make a settlement in the River Thames, in New Zealand.

That your petitioner, from many circumstances, suspected the truth of this statement, and after some correspondence discovered that she had left this colony with prisoners bound for Norfolk Island, and that they had captured her on the voyage, on which your petitioner, with the concurrence of Mr. Clark, the master of the Harriat, and the missionaries, made preparations for retaking her, which object was accomplished on Sunday the eleventh, when your petitioner extricated the military guard from imprisonment, and took measures for the general security of the vessel, and for the apprehension of such of the prisoners as had escaped into the woods of New Zealand.

That the whole of the prisoners, with the exception of five persons, having been retaken, your petitioner, at the request of Mr. Harewood, the master of the brig Wellington, received into page 673 the ship Sisters thirty-two of the prisoners, and on the 28th January proceeded from New Zealand, in company with the brig Wellington (which vessel had on board twenty-seven of the prisoners), to this port, where she arrived on the 9th February instant.

Thirty-two and twenty-seven taken to Port Jackson in Sisters and Wellington.

That your petitioner begs to submit to Your Excellency the statement contained in the log-book of the ship Sisters, and also your petitioner’s private log, and entreat that Your Excellency will afford to your petitioner an opportunity of offering the testimony of the master and passengers of the brig Wellington and other persons respecting the transaction as to Your Excellency may seem meet.

That your petitioner, in proceeding to this port, was compelled to quit the whaling station at New Zealand at the commencement of the season, and which will be over before the return of your petitioner to that or any other whaling station, and that your petitioner, in proceeding to this port, has occasioned a deviation in the voyage of the ship Sisters that will make it necessary to effect a fresh insurance on the vessel.

Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that Your Excellency will take your petitioner’s case into consideration, and that Your Excellency will make your petitioner such allowance on behalf of himself and the owners and the crew of the said ship Sisters for the losses sustained by them as to Your Excellency may seem meet.

And your petitioner will ever pray.

Robert Duke.

Sydney, New South Wales,19th February, 1827.