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Historical Records of New Zealand

From Captain Skinner to Govr. Macquarie

From Captain Skinner to Govr. Macquarie.

His Majesty’s Store Ship Dromedary, Bay of Islands, New Zealand,April 21, 1820.


I beg leave to acquaint Your Excellency that having sailed from Port Jackson on the 15th Feby., we made the Three Kings on the coast of New Zealand on the 25th, and anchored at the Bay of Islands on the 27th of the same month, having had remarkably fine weather. The next day after our arrival I sent persons up the Wycaddie and afterwards up the Coma Coma to examine the timber, where not having succeeded in procuring the cowdie [? kauri] of suitable dimensions, I determined sending a party overland to Sucheeangha, where I had every reason to believe from the information I had obtained from Mr. Marsden and others that spars of the cowdie of the dimensions required could be got, and accordingly sent the 2nd master and carpenter, accompanied by W. Marsden and other persons, who returned on the 18th Mar. with a report that the cowdie trees of the dimensions required were found growing on the banks of that river in great abundance, but the harbour extremely difficult of access for a ship of this class, there not being more than nine-teen page 486 feet water on the bar, at low water, with a rise and fall of tide of 8 or 9 feet. With this information I determined to go round with the ship, and if possible to get a cargo there, and accordingly proceeded to sea on the 25th in company with the Prince Regent, schooner; but the same night, having reached the North Cape, the wind increased before daylight the following morning to a hard gale at east, during which we lost sight of the schooner. It having moderated the next day, and not seeing her I imagined she had proceeded on to Sucheeanghe; and in the afternoon, it blowing hard from S.W., and a lee current, I could not get round Cape Maria, and in the morning of the 28th, finding we had lost nearly twenty-five miles during the night, and having scarce any fodder on board for the cattle, I determined to look into Wangaroa, to ascertain what timber could be got there, and having fetched into the road, and anchored, I sent a cutter, with an officer, accompanied by Mr. Marsden, on shore, and on the boat’s arrival near the village they found the natives in great numbers, and very shy. The chief being known to Mr. Marsden, he was called for, but would not be seen till he found the boat would not land, when he came off in a canoe to the boat. It being by this time nearly dark, and the apparent shyness of the natives, the officer thought it prudent to return to the ship, the chief having promised to come on board on the following morning, which he did, and I again sent the boat on shore; but the natives showed the same suspicious shyness as before, which I believe proceeded from an apprehension that we were coye to chastise them for their treachery to the Boyd. I however got some fodder for the cattle, and about 2.30 p.m. I got under weigh. At 4.45 the boat returned, without having gained any information respecting the timber, and I soon after made sail for the North Cape. The next day, a little before sunset, I got sight of the entrance of Sucheeanghee River, and at 4 o’clock in the morning of the 30th sent boats away for the purpose of sounding on the bar and entrance of the river, and soon after daylight had the satisfaction to discover the schooner at anchor in the river. I continued laying off and on, having all the boats continually employed in marking out and buoying a passage for the ship, but on the 2nd April, finding it would be attended with great risk in taking this ship in, and the barometer indicating the approach of bad weather, I made the schooner’s signal to take up the buoys, and come out, having determined to abandon the place where I had the fairest prospect of selecting a cargo of the finest spars that New Zealand produces, and at 11 p.m. having got the boats on board, and schooner joined, I once more made sail for the Bay of Islands, where we arrived on the 5th, after having experienced a gale page 487 from the N.E. on repassing the north Cape, when we again lost sight of the schooner, but joined at the Bay of Islands. I think a ship drawing from 12 to 15 feet water might generally go in and out of the river with safety; but as the shores are sandy, it is very probable the bar and banks in the river may shift, yet so anxious was I to procure a cargo of these spars that I would have taken in the Dromedary had the wind come fair and less swell on the bar, but as the tides were taking off and bad weather approaching, I deemed it prudent to get off that coast, which at this season of the year is stormy, very imperfectly known, and no harbour to run for.

The natives of that part appeared very civil, and extremely anxious that the ship might get in, never having had a vessel of any description in the harbour before the schooner.

On my return to this anchorage I determined on examining minutely the different woods in the vicinity of the Bay of Islands, and having discovered a very fine and extensive grove of kiketeah, I intend loading with as many of these spars as will fill the hold, and shall endeavour to get those of the cowdie, either at Wangaroa or River Thames.

I have, &c.,

R. Skinner,

Master Comg.