Murihiku: A History of the South Island of New Zealand and the Islands Adjacent and Lying to the South, from 1642 to 1835
Marooned on the Snares, 1810–1817
Marooned on the Snares, 1810–1817.
An American whaling vessel, the Enterprise, which sailed from Philadelphia in December, 1815, on a sealing cruise, reached Hobart Town on 17th December, 1816, in want of wood and water. She reported an unsuccessful sealing voyage.8 Continuing her sealing course via the Auckland Islands and the Snares she reached Sydney on 17th March, 1817, with three rescued men. The shipping news gives us the following information.9
“Captain Coffin of the American ship Enterprise, gives information of his having met three men on one of the page 223 small Islands called the Snares, off New Zealand; who were some years since left there by the Adventure, Schooner, Capt. Keith, of London, under the following circumstances, as represented to them by Capt. Coffin, viz., that the Adventure had been sealing among the islands, and falling short of provisions, the Captain submitted to their choice whether they would go on shore, or starve afloat, stating it to be impossible for the provisions to hold out for the whole of the crew; that they went on shore much against their will, taking a few potatoes, which they planted and lived on the produce of, together with birds and seals which occasionally fell in their way; that their number was originally four, but one had died, and all had the same dreary prospect before them, but Providence had been kinder than their expectation and miraculously preserved them. These men had written discharges from the Captain of the Adventure, as Captain Coffin assures us; and when it is considered that that vessel might by calling at either of the settlements on Van Diemen's Land have avoided the necessity of leaving four unhappy men in a condition so truly deplorable, we either must discredit their report, or bestow upon them a portion of that sympathy to which unmerited misfortune prefers an undoubted claim.”
The Enterprise, on her return, reached Philadelphia, U.S.A., on 11th May, 1818, in 8 days from Havana where she had loaded with molasses and sugar. On her arrival the following extract from the journal of her voyage was forwarded to the press.10
“From Brister's Island we proceeded near the Snares; (small cluster of islands in south latitude 48, west longitude 166,) here we found three men who had been on an island seven years. A schooner in which they were, being short of provisions, they chose to take their chances on shore. They took with them from the vessel a quart of rice, an iron pot, and half a bushel of potatoes. The potatoes they planted, and when we were there, the whole of the side of the Island seemed to be covered with page 224 “them. They had built five houses and had 1,300 dried skins. We took them and their skins on board, and brought them away from the Island.”
Shortly afterwards the Enterprise was put up to auction as the following advertisement shows.
On Thursday next the 21st instant at one o'clock, at the Merchants Coffee House
to close a concern
The Philadelphia Ship Enterprise
As she returned from sea, burthen about 280 tons copper fastened, and coppered to the heads. Inventory at Coffee House, at the counting room, No. 4 North Wharves, and at the counting rooms of the subscribers
Jennings, Jones & Co., Auctioneers.
The schooner Adventure, Captain Keith, of London, is probably the “schooner from England, commanded by Captain Keith, out eight months,” spoken by the Pegasus in Foveaux Strait early in 1809. She returned to Gravesend from the South Seas on 15th September, 1810.11 This would agree with the story told by the men. The Adventure would be sealing in the vicinity from early in 1809 until early in 1810, and when ready to sail for England, the captain, fearing he could not accommodate the men for the whole trip, put them ashore at the Snares. The “Oriental Navigator,” speaking in 1816, says of the Snares: “Within a few years the Snares have been frequented by the Australian sealers, and have been found not altogether barren; the persons left on service on the isles having gardens, &c.,”12 The fact of the party of sealers being there from early in 1810 to early in 1817, shows conclusively that the islands were not visited by sealers during that period. It would look as if Captain Keith, on his return, had supplied the information to tone down the harshness he had shown in leaving the men marooned.