Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.
Extracts from the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne, First — Lieutenant on board the “Saint Jean Baptiste.” — Arrival in New Zealand.
Extracts from the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne, First
Lieutenant on board the “Saint Jean Baptiste.”
During the night the weather was very fine, the sky a little cloudy, a nice fresh breeze from the west to west-south-west. The sea was very calm. When it was daylight I ascertained the position of the point to larboard on entering the bay on the east 1° about north and 2 leagues; the point to starboard north 2° and 1 ½ leagues. Another point further up in the bay and on the same side west 3°, 2 leagues. Between these two last points appears a nice open bay, near which is a village on a height which rests at north-west ½ west about 2 leagues. All this part is hilly and mountainous.
The morning was spent in trading fish for calico with the Natives, who came on board in their canoes; but in the afternoon we launched a boat and the captain got in with an officer to inspect and sound the point, which is situated at north-west ½ west, where appears the village of the Natives, and tried to get acquainted with the disposition and ways of these people whom we shall have to deal with. They came back on board about 7 p.m., and by their reports the people are not as ferocious as the people Tasman found at Murderers Bay. They have found that that bay was very good for fitting the vessel in safety, and better sheltered than where she is, having seen a very good bottom to enable one to get within a short cable length of the land.
The night has been beautiful; the wind has blown freshly from the west. At 5 a.m. we launched a boat, not being able, on account of the weakness of the crew, to launch the long-boat. We put on board some empty casks and some axes in order to bring back water and firewood. The captain got on board with some men and an officer. He also took on board all the invalids able to walk. They came back at about 3 p.m., having in the boat ten casks of water and a little firewood, some wild vegetables which we found to be a kind of wild parsley and watercress which they said was very abundant. I do not know if this great number of people astonished the Natives, or if since yesterday their dispositions have changed towards us, but at the landing of our boat they were gathered together and armed, which they had not done the day before. There seemed to be a lot of talking among them, and they looked as if they meant to attack us. Our people did not seem to take any notice of these things; they maintained a quiet appearance, although keeping on their guard in case of attack. The chief.page 299
who has been very well treated by M. de Surville, seeing his people gathered together, came to the captain, and asked him by signs to lend him his sword, which was done without difficulty. As soon as he had it in his hand he drew it from the scabbard, and, running to the nearest of his people, showed them the sword whilst speaking to them. Without doubt he explained to them that people who delivered their arms in such a way could have no bad intentions. He went to every group of Natives, and then brought back the sword. After this ceremony the Natives seemed to be pacified. As our men were digging a hole in the ground to gather the water from the creek they looked on very attentively, and seemed to be anxious, but the arrival of the casks which our men started to fill up reassured them, and they even helped us to roll the casks without being asked to do so. This adventure was the reason why we could only leave our sick ones on land for an hour. At the departure of the boats the chief made us understand that he wished to come on board. We waited for him, and as soon as he was on board we put to sea. Then immediately cries were heard from the shore, and the women started to weep. The chief made a sign to stop the boat, which was done; and, knowing by the cries he heard that they were calling him back, he remained some time thinking and uncertain, but at last making up his mind, he took off his cloak, made of dog-skins, gave it to M. de Surville, got us to put him back to land, making signs that he would come on board next morning.
I must not forget here to relate about the reception given yesterday to M. de Surville by the chief of the Natives. He came to receive him when landing. All his people were scattered here and there on the hills and on the shore, and they were without doubt doing honour to the new guest by bending and shaking themselves always on the same side, so as to make a draught, some with a mantle made of skin with long hair and some with bundles of grass. That ceremony must have tired them by its length, for it started as soon as they saw the boat and lasted until the captain landed. The captain then advanced with the chief as far as the place where our people stopped. Then several men and women gathered round them without arms and with rather pacific countenance; but all that was changed this morning, as I said above.
The weather has been very cloudy all night, with rather a fresh wind. Many gusts of wind blew from the land from W.S.W. to W. ¼ N.W., but they ceased with a light rain without the wind getting stronger. Towards the end of the night the weather was rather fine. At daybreak the wind was slight, from S.W., and at 5 a.m. M. de Surville and myself went eachpage 301
in a boat with a troop of men of which M. de St. Paul is the officer in charge, to take those of our sick ones who are able to walk, with axes and casks, to repeat the same operation of the previous day. But when landing we again found the Natives gathered together and armed, except the chief who received us on the edge of the water, and made us signs not to advance all together. After waiting for the end of a council, which lasted about half an hour, the chief advanced towards M. de Surville, who, after kissing him, made him a present of a hatchet, an empty cask, and a bucket which he had asked for the day before, and put on his head a beautiful white aigrette of feathers (for these people are very fond of feathers, especially white ones). The Native allowed himself rather indifferently to be so ornamented, and then kissed M. de Surville in the Native fashion (about which I shall speak later on). He then joined one of his own fingers with one of M. de Surville's, and tried to make him understand that he wished to live on good terms with him. I do not know if M. de Surville understood him very well, but in spite of all these caresses the Natives appeared very cold to him. However, the casks were filled up with water and some firewood was cut, which was brought on board with some vegetables which the Natives themselves pulled up from near their huts.
About 3.30 p.m. we set sail with a wind from W. to W. ¼ N.W. We tacked several times and sounded from time to time from 24 to 18 fathoms. The bottom was changeable—that is, we found sometimes gravel only, sometimes gravel and coral, and lastly some very fine sand. We dropped anchor where we found the sand, at about 18 fathoms, at 8 p.m., having the village where we were trading W. ½ N.W. at a distance of about two-thirds of a league. The nearest land (which is a small mountain) is to N.W. ¼ N. ½° N. about a quarter of a league; a point to the S. of the village to the W.S.W. 4° S. two thirds of a league; another point more S. and more W. to the S.W. ½ W. a league and a half. All these different points form a bay in which we propose to go at the first favourable weather in order to be in better shelter so as to protect our working men and our sick ones on land if we establish ourselves there. I have observed the latitude in this bay S. of ¾ 52.
The weather was fine enough until midnight, but the wind was rather strong from the S.W. to the S.S.W. At 5 a.m. it was stormy, which caused us to drift and to let go 80 fathoms of our cable. Then the vessel held, and the weather continued stormy, with rain, until the evening.page 303
came. In one was the chief of a neighbouring village. They got on board and were taken to the council chamber, where they were well received. The captain presented the new chief with a gourd and a shirt similar to the one he had given to the first chief, and a green woollen blanket, which he seemed to take a fancy to. Shortly after they departed, strongly urging us to go on land.
About 11 a.m. we sailed from that anchorage, experiencing much difficulty in drawing up our anchor, although we used the capstan, and we sailed to the S.S.E. until noon, when we tacked to the N.N.W. The wind was then rather fresh from the S.S.W. We sounded now and then, and found the bottom 23, 19, and 18 fathoms. Here the bottom was of rotten shells and gravel. At last, at a quarter past 1 p.m., we weighed anchor in 18 fathoms, and let go 100 fathoms of cable, and then dropped another anchor to moor across at once. We then pulled on the first cable, and let go the second until 40 fathoms, after that we made the following observations. [Hydrographic details.]
Last night the sky was very fine, blue, and clear. The weather was sometimes calm and sometimes breezy. Near day-break it started to blow rather freshly. At 6 a.m. several canoes made their appearance near us, and the chief, who was in one of them, brought us lots of vegetables. When he came on board M. de Surville had one of the big guns fired with a ball, for him, aiming at the open sea. At the noise and effect of the ball he appeared very astonished, and remained thinking. At 6.30 a.m. the captain went on shore, taking with him the usual escort, and also two little pigs, male and female, to present them to the chief to breed from. Another boat started at the same time, taking the sick ones to the land. At about 9 a.m. one of the boats came back bringing some fish which M. de Surville had bought on land, and at 2 p.m. they all came back with water and firewood as usual.
To-day the Natives did not gather themselves together. Everything went on peacefully. However, M. de Surville has decided not to establish any camp on land, and henceforward we will do as we have done so far. We have eaten quantities of watercress, especially at supper, and we have experienced funny feelings, especially four of the staff, of which I was one. Our faces became quite crimson, our temperature very high, the pulse very quick in all parts of the body, a taste of blood in the mouth and nostrils; I myself had two such attacks after supper.page 305
morning several native boats came near our vessel. The chief was in one of them. They did not bring anything with them, and at about 6 a.m. M. de Surville went on shore as usual. Some time later on one of the boats returned with some fish, and in the afternoon all our people returned as usual.
At 6 in the morning M. de Surville started with three of our boats, two officers, and the sick ones, to go to the cove at the bottom of the bay which we had noticed yesterday while fishing there. At 8 p.m. they came back with water which they got quite easily, a good quantity of fish which our people caught with a net, and some firewood, much easier to chop than that which was got from the cove opposite the vessel.
At 5 a.m. they again started in three boats for the same cove at the bottom of the bay. I went in one with the sick ones and the chief surgeon. At 3 p.m. the wind from the east began to freshen, but that did not prevent us from throwing the net three times. At about 5 o'clock we all got into the boats to go back to the vessel. I had in my boat all the sick ones, the surgeon, and myself, and thirty-three men, besides three casks of water, some firewood, the boilers, and the axes. We had in our train a little boat which we had used for getting on shore dry-footed. When leaving the cove where we had spent the whole day I hoisted the sail in order to catch the wind from that bay so as to get to our vessel on the offside, but the mast was too weak; it broke, and I was obliged to attempt my return to the vessel with oars. But the boat was overloaded, and the little boat we were towing prevented us from gaining any way; as the wind was getting stronger and stronger, and the night had come, and there were breakers near which we had to pass and the rowers were tired, I cast anchor to give them time to rest, hoping, too, that the wind would drop; but, on the contrary, the wind got stronger, which decided me, at about 9 o'clock, to pull up our anchor in order to go and shelter in the cove from where we had come. It was time, for the wind got yet stronger, and passed to the N.E., coming straight from the opening of the bay, and that rendered the sea so bad that we were nearly swamped several times, although the wind was behind us. The night was so dark that we could not see the breakers into which we nearly went twice, for we came so near them that we touched them with our oars. Besides the little boat we were towing was twice thrown on our oars, although the towing-line was fairly long; it bumped against our own boat several times. Anotherpage 307
inconvenience was caused by our boat taking in so much water, either from the bottom or from the waves, that our sick ones were almost floating. We were so crowded that it was only with great difficulty we could bail out. We would have to take care of one oar at least, so as to free the bailers; but as we had to make as much way as possible with the waves, so as not to be swamped, I contented myself in getting rid of as much water as possible without disturbing anything. Finally, when we were getting near the little cove where we were seeking shelter, the front of our boat touched on a rock on the S.E. point before we could see it. We got off, fortunately, without shipping much water. But the boat remained on the rock for some time, the front part very high and the back part very close to the water. From that moment I ordered everybody to keep silent, so as not to be heard by the Natives living on the hill on that point, for fear they would think we were taking advantage of the darkness of the night to surprise them; and when we had advanced far enough in the cove to get good shelter, I ordered the anchor to be dropped, and saw that every one in the boat was covered, especially the sick ones, with the sail of the boat. Afterwards I got the boat bailed out, and kept good watch, for fear of the Natives.
As soon as it was daylight I got the boat on shore, and landed all my people, and had a big fire lit, in order to warm them up. Some time after a few Natives appeared, and came near us. The chief of this cove was amongst them. I made him understand by signs that our coming back was caused by the bad weather, which prevented us from getting back to the vessel. He understood quite well. As we had some fish in our boat, which we had saved from the day before, I divided half of it amongst everybody, and kept the other half for the morrow, in case we could not get back to the vessel, for it was all the food we had. But I was very agreeably surprised when a kind of chief among the Natives came to me with some dry fish, carried by another Native. I received it, making signs to the chief that I had nothing to give him in return. He made signs to me that he did not wish for anything, and that he offered his hut to shelter the lot of us. Although this offer seemed to come from a really human heart, sorry for the accident which prevented us frompage 309
At about 8 o'clock, after my people had breakfasted, I sent eight men, with arms, to Chevalier Cove, going by land over the hill which divided the above-named cove from the one we were in, in order to attempt to get on board the vessel, to get some food, as the weather would not permit us to get out of the cove we were in. The chief surgeon went in command of them. After the departure of this troop I laid down on some branches I had spread on the ground near the fire, and went to sleep. But about three-quarters of an hour afterwards I was awakened by the cries of some of my people, who had taken a walk to the top of a little hill, and who announced that the vessel had been blown to the bottom of the bay by the wind and the sea. Thinking she was in danger of getting wrecked, I at once went to the top of the hill on the point, from where I saw her at the bottom of the bay, in the south, very near the land, broadside to the wind, and rolling very much. At first I was afraid that she was on the rocks, but shortly afterwards I saw her making sail and take to shelter by getting away from the opening of the bay. Indeed, about 2 p.m. I saw to my great satisfaction that she had dropped anchor in the south of the point, forming the cove where we were, and that having let go a good deal of cable, the vessel remained there quite quietly. At once they unrigged the yards and topmasts and brought in the low yards. But the wind continued with the same strength and from the same quarter until the following night, when it changed a little towards the east, but still as strong as ever; it passed gradually to the south, from there to the west: in short, by daylight it blew from the north, and at 7 o'clock it was coming from the N.W., but not so strongly, and the sea was calmer.
The troops I had sent to the other cove came back in the afternoon and reported that they had seen the vessel in danger of perishing on the rocks of Chevalier Cove. We spent the second night under a tent which I had had erected. We kept a good watch on the sea, which rose a great deal with the strong wind; it came as far as the tent, and that was far above the spot it usually rose to. I had taken care to have our boat pulled ashore, for the sea was tossing her about.
Early in the morning I got everything ready to go back to the vessel; I got the boats launched, and everybody on board, with our provisions, as quickly as possible, and at last, at 3 a.m., we boarded the vessel, which I found riding on a bottom anchor. That was the only one left, with the exception of apage 311
From midnight to 4 a.m., the wind having become stronger and the sea being very bad, they dropped a third anchor, as the vessel was drifting; as the wind still got stronger, one of the cables broke. The vessel drifted continually, although they did not stop giving more cable to the third anchor. She was perceptibly drifting to the big rocks, against which the sea was breaking horribly. The rocks were only at a distance of musket-range from the vessel when it was decided to make sail. Quick work was necessary, and from the dilapidated crew fifteen or twenty men were missing, who were with me. But that was the only thing to do, or else cut down the masts. Without that no salvation was possible. The order was then given to cut a cable, the one of the last anchor dropped, and to let go the other. The order was executed while they tried to make the vessel lay to starboard, but the vessel was straight to the wind, which did not act on the little jib which had been hoisted, and only threw the vessel on the rocks, and she was only a pistol shot from them, and suffering terribly from the sea. Fortunately they succeeded in working the arm of the foresail to larboard, which threw the vessel on starboard. Then they braced it about, and they gathered the mizzen sheets in order to check too much way, which would have thrown the vessel on the opposite rock, the mizzen being loose and the vessel going forward. She fortunately got away from those terrible breakers. The little boat on tow broke her line, and was lost. The route was given so as to reach shelter in the little cove where I was. When they were in freer seas they furled the jib, gathered the foresail, and cut away the mizzen sheet with knives, because the strength of the wind did not allow them to gather it. They then laid to, in order to have time to tie a cable to the last anchor. (It was then that I saw the vessel at the far end of the bay, rolling a great deal, and that I judged her to be very near land.) That being done, they directed the vessel towards the cove where she is now. They dropped anchor at 2 p.m., and let go 120 fathoms of cable. Soon after, they dropped another small anchor, about two-thirds of the length of the cable. After that they lowered the topmast, the yards, &c. While they were finishing this work the tiller broke close to the rudder. They rigged another, which broke almost immediately. In the situation where the vessel found herself that bar was not of much importance, because if the anchor-cable had broken the vessel would have been lost for a certainty. But it was possible that that misfortune would not happenpage 313
before a change in the wind, and then it was impossible to do without the tiller. A change in the wind was, then, what would be the best that could happen (at least, for those on board) in case the cable broke. But, fortunately, the cable held good, and the wind changed at about 10 p.m. It kept blowing in violent squalls from the same quarter, but as the vessel did not feel it much they were not very anxious, and passed the whole night without a tiller, until the next evening, when they managed to make a third tiller with two pieces of wood. The remainder of the day was passed in fixing up the topmast and yards, and getting our boats on board, including the little boat I had in tow.
The wind was from N.W. to W.N.W., being yet very strong. The second cable broke towards 5 a.m., but, as they let go more of the first cable at once, which held on, their anxiety was not very great, and their fears vanished. At 8 o'clock I arrived on board with my two boats, bringing back with me every member of my flock without having lost a single one, but a few of the sick ones were rather bad through the cold and rain. The wind continued to the W.S.W., and became much stronger, with lots of rain, so that if I had delayed my departure only half an hour I should not have been able to get to the vessel that day. In the afternoon they fixed up the bar of the rudder in the next room.
The weather has been very fine. We again launched the longboat; M. de Surville got in it with an officer, the chief surgeon, and the writer, in order to land in the small cove in which I had gone back with my two boats during the bad weather. That cove has since been named “Refuge Cove.” We returned to the vessel in the afternoon, bringing back some vegetables, some firewood, and a few casks of water.
Towards 8 a.m., surveying all the shores of the bay from the vessel with a marine glass, we perceived our little dingy at the end of the bay towards the east of the point of Refuge Cove. M. de Surville got on board a boat with several of our officers, all well armed as usual, to go and get the dingy, and bring it back to the vessel. But from the vessel we could see the dingy disappearing little by little, as the Natives were pulling her in the scrub. In short, M. de Surville, not finding her, addressed himself to the Natives present, as there was a large village in that place, and asked them what had become of the dingy. Not getting any satisfaction from them, he gotpage 315
angry with them; he ordered one of them to be seized and carried to the longboat, his hands being tied, where he was guarded. Then he set fire to the village, to the canoes, and nets Then he searched all the neighbourhood of the place, looking for the dingy, which he did not find. They came back on board in the afternoon with the prisoner, who turned out to be the same native who brought me some dry fish when I was without food in Refuge Cove during the bad weather.
I was touched with the greatest compassion on the arrival on board of this poor unfortunate one, who, recognizing me, and not knowing what his fate would be, threw himself at my feet, kissed them, then got up and wanted to kiss me too, with tears in his eyes, and saying to me things that I did not understand, but making signs to me that he was the man who brought me some fish at a time when neither myself nor the ones who had the misfortune of not being able to get back to the vessel had any food to eat. The man seemed to beg his pardon of me, or for me to beg it. I did my best to console him, and to make him understand that no harm was intended to him. But it was useless, for he did not stop crying, especially when he saw them putting irons on his feet to make him secure.