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Historical Records of New Zealand

Evidence of Charles Hook

Evidence of Charles Hook.

(Taken 13th January, 1821.)
Questions. Answers.
Q. What was the nature of the trade in which the house of Robert Campbell and Co. were engaged when you managed their concerns? A. Chiefly the oil, skins, sandalwood, and the produce of the Southern Seas, pearl shells and bêche de mer.
Q. What vessels were employed in this trade? A. With the exception of the brig Fox, the vessels were colonial.page 507
Q. Of what tonage were they? A. The brig Perseverance was 140 tons, or thereabout.
Q. Was she navigated by colonial crews? A. Chiefly. Mr. Campbell always endeavoured to engage them in his service, and had several apprentices.
Q. Was the fish oil warehoused in this colony after it was taken and kept for export to England? A. It was, but the oil trade was nearly prohibited by the duties laid on in England as well as this colony.
Q. Were the vessels employed in the oil trade absent long on their voyages, or did they obtain their cargoes at a short distance from this coast? A. The periods of their absence were very different. They sold the black oil chiefly at the Derwent. The elephant oil and the skins were obtained at the different islands in the Southern Seas.
Q. How many men were employed in each vessel? A. The number varied. In the brig Perseverance I never had less than twenty men, officers included. There was also a gang of additional men on board to be left at the islands with provisions for the purpose of sealing. The vessel generally returned from her voyage without them and went to the islands with fresh supplies for the men and to receive their skins and oil they had collected.
Q. What wages did the men receive? A. They were always upon lays, a term used for a certain proportion of the earnings differing according to the qualifications of the men.
Q. At what islands was the greatest quantity of seals taken? A. Macquarie Island and Campbell Island, Kangaroo Islands, and those in Bass’s Straits.
Q. From whence was salt obtained to pack and cure the skins? A. When the brig Perseverance had discovered Macquarie Island, she returned here and took a quantity of salt that I promised him, some from Government in exchange for animal food, and some from individuals in town for the purpose of curing the skins.
Q. Was any spermaceti oil obtained on the coasts of New S. Wales? A. Never by any of the colonial vessels that I have heard of. But some English vessels in which Mr. Campbell was connected, often touching here, and landing their outward bound cargoes, and taking refreshments proceeded to the sperm whale fishery.page 508
Q. Do you know at what distance from the coast the sperm whales are found? A. I believe they generally proceed to New Zealand for sperm whales, although some are found here occasionally.
Q. What has been the principal cause of the cessation of the trade in sandalwood between N.S.W. and the Feejee Islands? A. I believe principally the outrages committed by the crews and masters of vessels engaged in the trade, and the spirit of vengeance that these outrages have incited.
Q. To what markets was the sandalwood carried? A. Sometimes to the China market, sometimes it was brought Home and exported from hence to Batavia and China.
Q. What articles of barter procured sandalwood? A. At first it was procured by coarse iron ware, scissors, tomahawks and articles of that kind. Latterly whales’ teeth became a valuable article of trade to the Feejees.
Q. Was any cloth sent? A. Always some articles of coarse stuff, but not in any great quantity.
Q. Did the natives of the Feejees procure the sandalwood, or the crews of the vessels? A. The natives, I believe generally.
Q. Did you ever hear that any of the convicts escaped in these vessels to the islands? A. I never heard of any of them clandestinely escaping, but it was usual to request permission of the Governor for particular men that were wanted for the voyage to embark, and if the permission was granted security was taken for their return to N.S. Wales.
Q. They were small vessels that traded to the Feejees? A. The colonial vessels in this trade were small.
Q. How many do you think were engaged in the trade? A. I cannot say; but until the duties were laid on both at Home and in the colony, the trade was rapidly increasing, and the shipping engaged in it.
Q. What price was obtained in the China market for sandalwood? A. 16 dollars per pecul (a weight of 133 1/3lbs.) was the highest average price that has been obtained, I think. But since the Americans have interfered in the markets the price has fluctuated.