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Historical Records of New Zealand

Ex-Governor King on Australian Timbers, &c.*

page 286

Ex-Governor King on Australian Timbers, &c.*

December, 1807.

The iron and stringy barks are straight, from 40 to 80 feet high, and 18 to 20 inches diameter, generally sound throughout, without much crooked or compass timber. It is heavy, but the latter not more so than oak. Both are well adapted to the different purposes of keels, beams, uprights, and floor timbers of large scantling, and many other purposes where straight and durable timber is required. Of the stringybark several ships have had lower masts. The Buffalo now has a fore and mizen mast and boltsprit of that wood, and two cheeks of the main-mast, all which she had in 1799, and has had them ever since. Their excellence, as well as that of studding sails and other booms, was sufficiently tried in the blowing weather and high seas she experienced in two voyages round Cape Horn. Fifty-gun ships’ foremasts and mizen-masts, might be selected, and it may be presumed that spindles for larger ships’ masts might be made from those trees which abound in all parts.

The box§ is a very fine timber, and grows in great abundance about Parramatta, quite straight, from 60 to 100 feet high, and from 18 to 26 inches in diameter, tapering but little. The crooked wood, being the branches, &c., are of small size; but this timber answers every purpose of the foregoing species, except that growing so very straight it might not answer so well for floor timbers; but for every kind of straight work, gun-carriages, &c., is equal to any wood in the world. Much of it has been used in Portsmouth Yard for tillers of all rates.

The blue and blackbutted blue gum are in New South Wales esteemed good woods, and some vessels which answer extreemly well have been built principally of these woods, from their affording good crooked timber and cutting well into the planks. Most of this species that I saw in Portsmouth Yard are shaky, which may be owing to their being cut down at an improper time of the year; but that circumstance I do not think ought to condemn that wood, without a farther trial of its good or bad qualities; and if the experience of those who have worked those woods can be relied on, from their making choice of it to build their vessels, it ought to be equally considered with the rest, if found necessary to send for timber to N.S. Wales; and

* This document was addressed to the Commissioners of the Board of Revision.

Eucalyptus paniculata and others.

Eucalyptus capitellata and E. eugenioides.

§ Eucalyptus hemiphloia.

Eucalyptus saligna.

Eucalyptus pilularis.

page 287 as a farther proof of the goodness of all these foregoing woods, Gov’r Hunter left a frame of a vessel* composed of the different species of woods, and intended to be 150 tons, which for want of shipwrights could not be finished. The frame was up seven years, exposed to all weathers, and when taken down to put into smaller vessels the whole was perfectly sound and good, nor could the treenails be drove out.

* * * *

Never having landed at New Zealand I cannot report on this subject from my own knowledge, but have always understood that very fine masting of pine, and wood fit for planking, abounds throughout and is easily procured—which the good terms we are on with Tip-a-he, Chief of the Bay of Islands, would greatly facilitate the acquiring any quantity. And I am persuaded that the hemp of that country would be a great object of national importance and of easy acquisition. On these subjects much more satisfactory intelligence may be readily obtained from masters of south whalers, who have constantly refreshed at New Zealand, and when the Board wishes it I will send or attend with them.

Respecting the growth of hemp in New South Wales, we had no seed until 1804; when about half a pint grew it was propagated and grew extreemly luxuriant, the plant being eleven feet high and of a very superior staple. A quantity of this was manufactured for different purposes, among which was a main and mizen topsail, the greatest part of a mainsail, and an awning, with other sails, &c., for the Buffalo, which lasted most of the passage from New South Wales to this country, and can now be produced as a sample of its goodness and strength.

The ironstone about New South Wales has not been considered on account of its not yielding a sufficient proportion of iron to encourage its being worked. A quantity of specimens of ores were received from Port Dalrymple, which has been tried here in the dock-yard, and from the enclosed report you will perceive that this ore yields 60 lb. of pure iron from 100 lb. of ore, samples of which I shall present to your Board, and the iron smelted therefrom.

I have, &c.,

Philip Gidley King.

* The Portland.

Phormium tenax.