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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.


page 555


Extract from the Journal of John Biscoe of the BrigTula,” with the CutterLively” in Company.
[Manuscript in the possession of the Royal Geographical Society, London.]

October 10th, 1831.

I intended to have gone through Decastreaux Channel understanding it to be a convenient & safe place for wooding, &c., but the wind coming directly out of the entrance thought it most advisable to save time by anchoring in our old quarters, Bull Bay, and at about 4 p.m. brought up well sheltered by the Point to the S.E. and commenced operations.

On the 12th in the Morning having cut as much wood as could be conveniently stowd away, weighed and stood out to Sea, and being in hopes of falling in with some sperm whale along shore, kept near the Coast for that purpose.

On the 15th it blew a strong gale from the Northward which shifted round W. & W.S.W. until the night of the 17th the Bar appearing to behave very well. I now determined to pass round the North Cape of New Zealand, the Season for sperm whale coming on on that Coast, and not seeing anything here, and besides having a chance of procuring refreshments from that Island, our salt provisions being of the first consequence (should we not succeed in falling in with anything in passing round) for the remainder of our voyage. But from this time until the 30th the Weather has been so very unsettled almost continually blowing too strong to lower a Boat, that had we seen any Fish we could not have taken advantage of it.

October 30th.

Pass'd round the North Cape and shaped a Course for the Mouth of the Bay of Islands. On the 1st A.M. stood in for the Bay intending to stop a short time here for compleating the Water Wood &c. & get refreshments if possible, and likewise to Examine the Cutter's Bowsprit, Mr. Avery having informed me it was sprung and that a sea at the same time had split his Jib a short time since. At 11 A.M. some New Zealanders came alongside in a Canoe, but had nothing with them except a few Cray Fish and two or three young Birds they had picked up off the rocks. Shortly after a Mr. Hansen came on board with 2 of the chiefs, and being told by them that Pigs might be procured at their Village, I determined to go in to Anchor and at 2 p.m. page 556 brought up in a Small well-sheltered Bay in about 5 fathoms water.

November 1st.

It does not appear to me that this Bay has been much used for the purpose of refreshing, but from its advantages in entering from or running out again to Sea, not being more than 4 miles from Point Pocock* and being likewise clear of any danger (with the exception of 2 or 3 sunken rocks which lay close over to a small Rock on the inside of the Bay) I should certainly recommend this strongly to strangers, there being several dangers in the Passage round to Kearadier. Immediately after anchoring Great numbers of the Natives came on board, and as Mr. Hansen had informed me they were quite harmless I did not restrain them; Our trade of course commenced immediately, Muskets, Blankets & To bacco being the Articles most in requisition among them.

* Now Cape Wiwiki, the northern head of the Bay of Islands.

Kororareka, where the township of Russell now is.

November 4th.

On the 3rd and 4th we were busily employed in setting up the rigging Watering Wooding &c. On the morning of this day the 4th the Cutter's Bowsprit being sprung I went over in the Boat to Kearadier to endeavour to procure a spar to make one. I found one 37 feet long for wh I paid 36 lbs. of Brazil Tobacco. Having compleated on the 4th and procured about 28 Pigs some of which were very large, on the 5th We stood out to Sea in the hopes of finding some sperm Whale off the East Cape, before proceeding to the Southward, but strong Gales continuing to blow we saw nothing and if we had; could not have lowered a Boat.

November 8th.

On the 8th at noon our Lat. by observatn. was 36° 48′ S Long. 178°. .07′ East East Cape South about 40 miles, Barometer continuing to act very well being now 29.15 & Blowing a strong Gale from the W.S.W. I was much surprised to hear from Mr. Hansen whilst laying at New Zealand that although there are several Missionaries both of the established church and of the Wesleyan persuasion they refuse to educate the children of the White Settlers, their excuse being that they were sent out to instruct the Heathen only; Mr. H. has a very large family, and if this be strictly true, it is an extremely hard case, but I merely repeat the words of Mr. H. for altho' there were two Missionaries settled at the small village already mentioned, page 557 neither of them had the politeness to hold the least communication with me.

November 9th.

The Gales continuing until 6 A.M. of the 11th. I considered it only a waste of time to remain any longer in this Latitude with the chance of getting Sperm Whale, and as Chatham Island was not out of our Course, and not having heard of any ships having been there lately I determined if the Weather permitted to look at it before going further to the Southward, and desired the Cutter in case of parting to meet me to Leeward of that Island on the 11th at Noon. Our Lat. was 39° 13′ S. Long. 178° 15′ West. The Bar. which had been gradually rising for the last 2 days, now stood at 29.40 The Weather hazy with a moderate Breeze from S.W.

November 12th.

From this time until the 16th we had Gales, Calms, & very unsteady weather on the 13th lost sight of the Cutter. On the night of the 16th stood off & on imagining myself off Chatham Islands.

November 17th.

A.M. Much rain & thick weather. At noon made some rocks & head (4 in number) which are called 44° Rocks and at the same time saw the appearance of Land both to the Eastward & Westward. P.M. The Weather being very thick stood to the Northward. 18th thick Hazy Weather the Barometer low.

November 19th.

A.M. Saw Land. 8 Saw the Cutter to the Southward observed her make all sail steering wide of the point of Land I wished to visit made all sail after her but the Wind falling light from the Northwd She drew away from us. At noon our Lat. Obsern, was 43° 40′ South Long. 176.48. East the extremes of Land from W.B.S. to S.E.B.S. Observed the Cutter shorten Sail and heave too with her head to the Eastward fired a Gun and ran down to her with the Ensign at the Mast Head for her to close, when she was little more than Hull down from the deck. The Weather very clear, I imagined of course she must see us and indeed that she had done so all days altho' she did not answer my signal; which I can't account for, I now haul'd in for the Land, to send the Boats on shore thinking the Cutter would follow, but as she still took no notice I kept on intending to pick her up after the Boats should have return'd. At 5 p.m. the Boats returned bringing with them three Natives who seem'd page 558 willing to remain with us, but having seen no seal and as I did not wish to encumber the vessel with these People who for some time to come could do nothing but consume the provisions I sent them on shore again they were quite naked with the exception of a course Mat over the shoulders which seem'd to be used as a roof to them to turn the water off, as the moment they came on deck they squatted down like so many monkeys and the Mat being stiff, of course stuck out something like the shell of a turtle, Added to this a strap of the same material passed under the crutch compleatly concealed what might otherwise have appear'd indelicate. After the Boat had landed them I steer'd E.N.E. to join the Cutter, the weather having become very thick I had for some time lost sight of her. After steering E.N.E. for some time I haul'd to the Wind, and as she always weather'd on the Tula in laying to, I hoped to see her in the Morning. If Mr. Avery did not see the Tula he kept a very bad look out, and if he did, he having been absent for some days, ought to have joined company immediately, at all events he ought not to have passed the point of Land as he did without examining it, this being the only fine day we had had for some time, I cannot account for it. At 6 p.m. the nearest point of Land bore W .½ N. 7 miles, the Wind gradually veer'd round to the Westward and at Midnight blew a strong Gale with thick weather which continued all the 20th & 21st so that we could only stand off & on under the trysails. On the 22nd the Weather was more moderate, stood to the S.W. and at 6 A.M. of the 23rd made the same rocks we had seen before. As the weather was nearly calm at 1 p.m. sent a Boat to them and at 5 she return'd bringing 7 seal skins of excellent fur, but the rocks being nearly perpendicular it was almost impossible to land on any part of them, and as they had only seen a few seal, it was thought these were only stragglers from some Rookery near at hand: I now determined to make Chatham Island and keep along the East Shore, so as to gain the Rocks to the southward, which by their appearance on the Chart were much larger than those we had overhauled, lay to all night to send both Boats again in the Morning but the Wind coming up from the Northward they could not land and

November 24th.

at 8 A.M. I bore up for Chatham Island, the Weather being very hazy at 11 heave too. At noon the Land was seen bearing from N.N.W. to S.W.B.S. P.M. Hazy Weathr the Wind strong from the N.N.W. stood for under the lee of the Northern most Land. 4. The Weather became very thick, during the page 559 Night sounded from 52 to 70 fathoms, sandy bottom & in some places mixed with shells. At Midnight calm.

November 25th.

Thick weather. The Wind Easterly. Barometer very low (29.15) stood to the Northward, it not being safe to make a lee shore of Chatham Island, there being many reefs laid down on the chart. On the 26th the Weather still continuing thick, Wind S.S.E. I determined to bear up and go round the west side of the Island and look at the Sister Rocks in the Way. The Lat. by D.R. at noon was 43° .34′ S. Longit. calculated from the last bearings of the land 176° ..00′ West No observations worth anything for the chronometers for many days. At 4 p.m. saw the Cutter standing to the Eastward. At 8 the Cutter joined Company. Mr. Avery inform'd me that his Boat had been at some Rocks a few days before where there were many Seals, in consequence of which I hauled to the Eastward. On the 28 we again made the 44° Rocks and found them to be the same Mr. Avery's boat had been at before, but in consequence of the heavy swell they could not now land, and the Weather appearing more favourable. I now stood towards the Cornwallis Islands,* but the Weather again became thick with a strong N.W. Wind and obliged me to haul out again to the northward which continued all the 30th.

* So called because sighted from H.M.S. “Cornwallis” on 16th May, 1807.

November 30th.

P.M. At 8 p.m. This day the 44° Rocks S.E.B.E. N.E. point of Chatham Island S.W. much rain, with heavy squalls from all points of the compass. On the 1st December the Wind being S.W. with clear Weather stood again to the Southward. A.M. of the 2nd sent the Boats in shore to Sound & look for Anchorage; being close down upon the largest of the Islands, sounded in from 30 to 10 fathoms. At 3 p.m. brought up in a Bight on the Eastern Side of the largest of the Cornwallis Islands.

December 2nd.

The Wind N.W. and having good shelter from N. to S.B.E. sandy bottom, consequently bad holding ground, & open to all the Easterly Winds, having only a bad shelter from the Small Island which bore S.E. about 4 Miles with Reefs above Water & below in every direction as far as the eye could reach, but as from the Sample we had got from the 44° Rocks there was every appearance of finding Seal I determined to search page 560 well there for them. I immediately sent all the boats away on the small Island, and observed Some Pigs and shot one Sow which in all probability had been brought here from Chatham Island by the Natives, and to my great surprise saw a large Black Cat, I likewise shot some very large white & blue pigeon. Mr. Fell found some Canoes haul'd up on the large Island but we found not a single Seal upon any of the Rocks near these Islands—Altho' no place could be better adapted for their Gathering. On the 3rd and 4th it blew a strong gale from W.N.W. to W.S.W. these Islands abound in Fern root & Flax which grows spontaneously in almost every part of them, But I found great difficulty in procuring a small quantity for the Pigs on account of the heavy Surf which continually breaks on the Beach & Rocks. I found in one of these Excursions the wreck of & small Vessel of about 100 tons built of a Kind Cedar & iron-fastened, and as a vessel from Sidney some years ago was lost here called the Glory* it may very probably be the same. On the 6th being disappointed here—I weighed and made sail to the Northward not thinking it prudent to risk finding a passage to the Southward and had some difficulty in working out, the Weather being thick and the Wind from the Northward we were obliged to keep Chatham Island on board and go chiefly by the Lead.

* A sealer lost on Pitts Island on 15th January, 1827.

December 12th.

I again sent the Boats to the Sister Rocks. At 4 p.m. they returned 16 Skins which they procured with great difficulty. Made sail to the Southward, in passing along the Land I observed other dangerous reefs which are not laid down in any of the Charts.

December 13th.

Strong Westerly Gales.

December 15th.

Strong Northerly Winds, thick Weather Lat. by A/-46° 42′ S. Longit. 177° ..43 W. Baromr. 29..20. Cutter in company standing for the Bounty Islands.

December, 16th.

On the 16th & 17th we had strong gales from the W.N.W. & W. P.M. lost sight of the Cutter the Weather very thick; page 561 on the 19th Weather still continuing thick with a brisk Gale from the Eastward and heavy swell—& many Penguins & much Kelp about us I imagined myself close on the Islands: but as I had not had an observation for 3 days, could not be certain of my position. At noon I had run into Lat. & Long, of Bounty Islands, but as no land was in sight, concluded they were not correctly laid down. P.M. The wind strong from the Eastward with a heavy Swell, I haul'd out to the S.E. and at 8 p.m. the Water appearing discoloured I sounded & found bottom about 70 fathoms, sand & shells wore to the Northward the Swell running very high, and the Wind becoming light. So that we made considerable drift, we passed a fatiguing and unpleasant night Sounding in from 100 to 65 fathoms, and not being able to see more than a Cable's length in any direction. On the 20th strong Easterly Gales with much rain & thick Weather. Soundings fm 60 to 100 fathoms carrying a press of Sail to the Eastward as the Bank shoals to the S.W. The Penguins all this time were very thick, and considerable quantities of Kelp about, and as this Bank is of considerable Extent and Soundings regular I was in hopes to find some large Island.

December 21st.

The Wind from the Westward with clearer weather but we had no bottom and nothing in Sight. At 7 A.M. of the

December 22nd.

22nd Saw the Bounty Rocks at 9.30 sent the boats on shore at 11 saw the Cutter to the Southd. at Noon the Centre of the Rocks bore W.B.S. about 1 ½ Miles. They are 8 or 9 in number. Our Lat. 47° 49′ So. Long. 178° 26′ 0″, East by Good observations which places them in 47° 50′ S. Long. 178° ..25′ East (erroneously laid down 47° 35′ S. Long. 179° ..06′ East. At 2 p.m. spoke the Cutter found she had not met with any accident. The Boats returned having seen only 5 seal on one of the Rocks which they could not approach on account of the Swell, but they found on landing on one of the Rocks a Hut the roof of which was formed of the Skins and Wings of Birds, a baking dish, a Water Cask, a Bottle half filled with oil, some pieces of fire wood an Irish (provision) Cask & other things which clearly proved that Europeans had been recently there. The tops of the Rocks were covered with Penguins, Gulls & other Birds. The Weather was now very clear and had any land been within 30 Miles we must have seen it. I now determined to proceed directly to the Southward.