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Murihiku: A History of the South Island of New Zealand and the Islands Adjacent and Lying to the South, from 1642 to 1835

CHAPTER XXIV. — The Later Twenties

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The Later Twenties.

THE period under review opens with a terrible catastrophe which befell the Samuel on the shores of Cook Strait and resulted in the loss of her captain and several of her men. Captain Dawson was well known among the commanders of New Zealand trading vessels. His usual track was to Foveaux Strait and down to the Southern Islands, and only as late as 2nd April, 1824, he had landed at Sydney a black woman saved from a General Gates sealing gang in the extreme south. On the succeeding trip, the Samuel, carried by contrary winds, came to an anchor in Cook Strait on the 27th of July, and spent two or three days procuring water, the natives all the time behaving with the utmost friendliness. No misunderstanding had arisen up to the 31st, and on that date Captain John Dawson and five seamen—John Clurty, George Jewlyn, John Harris, John McLaughlin, and another whose name is not given, went on shore, quite unsuspicious of danger, and totally unarmed. They had scarcely touched the shore, when, without a moment's warning, the Maoris rushed upon them and put them to death. The survivors, struck with horror at the awful scene which they had witnessed, weighed anchor and sailed for Sydney.1

One of the English bound vessels, the Midas, which sailed from Sydney on 16th August, took advantage of the sealing grounds in the vicinity and called at the Auckland Islands on 27th August to fill up her cargo with skins. In 10 days she procured 1600 with the slight inconvenience of some heavy weather when off the islands. She then made for England, calling in at St. Helena.2 No doubt she was but one of many to adopt this course, and only to the page 342 accidental circumstances of another trader reporting her movements are we indebted in this case for the information.

Another event of this year in the sealing world, was the report of a visit from an American vessel at the sealing grounds. Robert Campbell, junr's, schooner, the Newcastle, reached Sydney on 10th October after an absence of about three months, with a cargo of 900 skins, mostly clapmatches and wigs, and brought the news that a Yankee clipper, called the Thomas, had appeared off the coast, and as she had very few men on board of her, it was feared she would carry off some of the sealing gangs.3 This had been a particular weakness of American vessels during the days of the Bass Strait sealing, but no cases had been recorded in the New Zealand sealing. In the case of one American vessel—the General Gates—it was a charge which could be levelled against a Sydney captain.

An analysis of the sealing trade with New Zealand for the year 1825, taken from the columns of the Sydney press, gives us ten cargoes landed by, what might be called, the regular craft. Given in tabular form for facility of reference, the particulars are to be found in the following.

Cargoes during 1825.
Feb. 25 Elizabeth A. Brooks 3000 skins.
Mar. 9 Wellington — Day 2500 skins.
Mar. 11 Samuel A. Drysdale 1500 skins.
Mar. 12 Newcastle T. Farley 1784 skins.
Mar. 13 Queen Charlotte R. Jameson 2200 skins.
July 18 Samuel A. Drysdale 1200 skins.
Sep. 18 Wellington — Day 1800 skins.
Oct. 7 Alligator T. Farley 1460 skins.
2 tons flax.
Dec. 8 Elizabeth and Mary W. Worth 2290 skins.
Dec. 22 Samuel A. Drysdale 2000 skins.
19734 skins.
Average, 1973.
page 343

These do not include the specified trade with the Macquarie and Campbell Islands, excepting so far as the cargoes belonging to the Wellington and the Elizabeth and Mary, in September and December, are concerned. Both these vessels went south of the Aucklands, and it is impossible to say how their cargoes should be divided, but a substantial reduction from the total and the average must be made.

To obtain an estimate of values is a matter of extreme difficulty. In April, English quotations dated 16th November, 1824, gave the price of South Sea seal skins as ranging from ten to twenty-one shillings. The probabilities are that these figures deal with fur skins only, and do not cover the hair seals, which formed a large proportion of the total catch.

On the arrival of the Wellington in March her cargo of 500 fur and 2000 hair skins was spoken of as a “great success” and we may conclude that the voyage was a profitable one. In July the advices to hand per the Samuel were not of the most flattering kind, and it was apprehended that 1825 would be so scarce a year for seals, that each skin would cost on an average, from ten to twelve and even fourteen shillings.4 At anything like that cost, in the first instance, the London prices would indicate a substantial loss on all small cargoes.

The Alligator and the Wellington, sealing craft also, were both on the grounds when the Samuel was there, and had trouble of a most unfortunate kind with their own men and with the natives. The carpenter of the Wellington, which belonged to Mr. Joseph Underwood, stole the only boat they had left, as the others were all stationed at the various depots, taking with him three coloured men, who belonged to the crew, and all the tools, nails and other instruments he could lay his hands on. Through this piece of villainy, the master of the Wellington was reduced to great straits and had to be assisted by the master of the Samuel. All attempts to retake the boat and the absconders proved unavailing. The natives were reported generally to page 344 be very troublesome, and had captured a six-oared boat belonging to the Alligator, the crew narrowly escaping with their lives.

Sydney had a visit about this time of one of the American vessels engaged in the trade. The schooner Yankee, Captain Thayer, which left New York on 1st August. 1824, had been sealing at the Auckland Islands, and having secured 2000 fur skins, put in to Sydney to refit and to obtain a supply of provisions. The fine lines of the American build were much admired by shipping men and she was recommended as a model to the colonial builders. As a sample of her sailing powers, she had come up from the Aucklands in twelve days.5 She stayed at Sydney from 7th to 19th August, 1825.

The description “sealing grounds” as the places where the seals were obtained, completely hides the localities where the trade was mostly carried on. We are, however, told of the Elizabeth, in March, that she left New Zealand from Dusky Bay.6 Its glory had departed from the time that vessels could fill up in its immediate locality, but there was still enough to be got to make it worthy of a call. The only other place mentioned is Auckland Island, and the author's opinion is that about this time and perhaps earlier, the maximum amount of attention was directed to its sealing rookeries. The brig Queen Charlotte, under the command of R. Jameson reached Sydney on 14th March with 2200 skins and 2 tons oil. She had come from Bristow's Island —another name for the Auckland Group—having sailed from that place on 27th February.7 The American schooner had been there and had seen the Wellington (Day), and the Elizabeth and Mary (Worth), both pursuing their occupation. The Wellington had sailed on 6th May to land a gang of upwards of 40 men at New Zealand, and then sail on a speculative voyage. The outfit was estimated to cost the owner £2500.

The Auckland Islands were also the scene of a melancholy boating disaster late in the year. The Sally, page 345 a Hobart Town craft owned by Captain Wilson and commanded by Captain Lovett, sailed with a crew of 17 men from Hobart Town on 13th October and reached the Aucklands on 3rd November. Three days afterwards “by an untoward circumstance, two boats were lost and six seamen drowned, namely: John Cole, Edward Stowers, John Simons, Robert Hardy, George Howell and Job Richardson.” In sealing, the Sally was not successful, spending three months to secure 200 skins.8 The Samuel also on her last trip for the year brought up 2000 skins from the Auckland Islands, which she left on 5th December, reaching Sydney in 17 days.9

Significant of coming events in the shape of a decaying seal trade having to be supplemented by another product to make up a cargo, we find a regular sealing vessel, the Alligator, after her boat had been stolen by the natives, bringing two tons of flax to Sydney in October, along with her cargo of 1460 seal skins. The overlapping of the Campbell and Macquarie Islands trade points in the same direction.

On coming to 1826 the decadence of the Sydney seal trade begins to be apparent.

Cargoes during 1826.
Jan. 17 Elizabeth A. Brooks 4300 skins.
Jan. 25 Queen Charlotte — Strange 850 skins.
6 tons flax.
Mar. 16 Liberty — Young 1500 skins.
May 13 Alligator T. Farley 4400 skins.
May 28 Samuel A. Drysdale 3400 skins.
1 ton flax.
June 3 Elizabeth & Mary W. Worth 4000 skins.
Sep. 23 Samuel A. Drysdale 120 skins.
18570 skins.
Average, 2653.

It should be noted that in the case of the Liberty and the Alligator their totals are believed to include some Bass page 346 Strait skins, while the Elizabeth and Mary visited Macquarie Island as well as New Zealand. The Queen Charlotte had sailed in quest of new sealing grounds, but without success. Her experience of the New Zealand natives was that those of the South Island were becoming more industrious in preparing flax for barter, hence her cargo.

About February 1826, the Sally, of Hobart Town, came up to Port Pegasus from her unsuccessful sealing at the Aucklands, where she had spent a period of about three weeks. There she came in contact with the expedition, under Captain Herd, sent out by the New Zealand Co., also the members of Stewart's timber and shipbuilding settlement. From Stewart Island, Lovett made for the Antipodes and the Bounty Islands, but without much success. Returning to New Zealand the Sally sailed through Cook Strait, where some flax was procured at a place called Tonggatamouree, and then down the West Coast to the South Cape, leaving New Zealand on 9th May and reaching Hobart Town at the beginning of June, with the paltry cargo of some 460 seal skins and 12cwt. flax, for six months' work and the loss of six men. While she was at New Zealand the Alligator (Farley) had sailed for Easy Bay on the south-west coast of Stewart Island, sealing. This vessel returned to Sydney on 13th May with the large cargo of 4400 skins. The Samuel had also arrived from the Auckland Islands. Her cargo, when she made Sydney on 28th May, was 3400 skins and 1 ton flax. The Samuel had taken her last cargo from the same place. The Elizabeth (Kent) was setting out for the Chatham Islands. Lovett, who is spoken of as an intelligent young man, on this trip found the natives very friendly and he brought with him two young New Zealanders who were put on board his ship by their people, a musket to be given for their services on their return.10 Unfortunately the Sally was lost at Launceston on 30th June with the loss of 13 lives. The two New Zealand boys were, however, saved.

On being referred to for information regarding the name “Tonggatamouree,” Mr. Percy Smith wrote: “Tonggatamouree page 347 is clearly a mistake as a place name. It is quite clear what it is, i.e., Tanga-ta-Maori, and apparently the Maori when asked the question as to the name of the place, mistook the question as an inquiry who were the people there, and answered, ‘We are tangata Maori,’ or natives of the place.” By this simple mistake we are therefore prevented from learning where the flax was procured. The Maori may, however, have meant to convey the idea that they were the natives of the place as opposed to others in the vicinity who had come from a distance; in which case it would point to the neighbourhood of Kapiti, then under the control of Te Rauparaha, who had come from Kawhia.

The year 1826 witnessed the collapse of the sealing trade. Seven vessels laden with skins from the sealing grounds of New Zealand, supplemented from Bass Strait and Macquarie Island, brought 18,570 skins, or an average of 2653 per trip. These were the regular traders, the captains of which knew every rookery on the coast. The Sally, to Hobart Town, and the Samuel, to Sydney, returned with very small cargoes. The Hobart Town press of July, speaking of the Sydney sealers said, “The vessels from that port, which had gone on sealing expeditions to New Zealand, had met with little better success than the unfortunate vessel the Sally lately did. The seal appears to have wholly deserted these coasts. We reiterate our wish, that some effective steps were taken to protect and cherish this valuable article in our own straits and islands.”11 Another Hobart Town authority says: “The total annihilation of the fur seal, though insignificant when put in the balance with the moral evil, is notwithstanding, very important in a commercial point of view to these Colonies. Some years ago it was no uncommon thing for a vessel to obtain in a short trip from 80,000 to 100,000 skins, which at that time, owing to ignorance of a proper method of curing them, were as commonly spoilt. We stated in our last, the great numbers formerly obtained at South Georgia, and the Island of Desolation, where these valuable animals are now page 348 nearly extinct; so here, and round New Zealand, scarce hundreds or even tens are to be obtained where as many thousands were once easily procured.”12 The last decent cargo, 4500 skins, was brought up by Captain Drysdale in the Samuel on 18th March. After this date the size of the cargoes is seldom given, but they are stated to comprise skins, flax, potatoes and spars. The words of Mr. Levey of Sydney in 1824 were prophetic. Three years exactly had come and gone and the sealing as the sole trade of a small Sydney fleet was almost over.

Connected with the voyage of the Samuel, when she obtained the last big cargo of seal skins, is the loss of the Glory which had been engaged in the sealing trade for a considerable time.13 The Glory, commanded by Captain Swindells, was anchored at Pitts Island, one of the Chathams, on 15th January, 1827. At eight o'clock she struck the ground. A stream anchor was carried out and efforts used to warp off the vessel, but in vain. There was a heavy ground swell at the time. Warned by her striking again very heavily, Captain Swindells ran her ashore on the beach, saving her sails and rigging, provisions, 800 skins, 6 or 8 tons of flax, and a quantity of pork in casks. No lives were lost. The long-boat was got on shore, pitched, painted and provided with washboards, masts, sails and a supply of provisions and Captain Swindells with five others stepped on board and set sail for New Zealand, a distance of 800 miles. They made the Bay of Islands (although a heavy wind blew all the time), just as the Samuel was coming out of the harbour, and by her were taken on to Sydney. Captain Swindells, it appears, owned one-half the cargo and R. Campbell, junr., and Mr. Emmett each one-fourth. The hull was insured for £1200. Captain Swindells' voyage from the Chathams to the Bay of Islands, in a ship's long-boat, must be regarded as one of the most adventurous boating experiences of the early sealing period.

The event of the year 1827 was the visit of the Astrolabe, and the survey of the northern coastline of the South Island by D'Urville. The stay of the French page 349 navigator in Southern New Zealand waters will form the subject matter of a special chapter.

About this time Dusky was visited by a series of earthquakes. The Revd. Richard Taylor in his book, “New Zealand and Its Inhabitants,” says:— “From the evidence of a person who was formerly engaged in sealing at Dusky Bay, as far back as the year 1823, it appears that from 1826 to 1827 there was an almost constant succession of earthquakes, some of which were sufficiently violent to throw men down. At times, he and his party, who then resided on a small island, were so alarmed lest it should be submerged, that they put out to sea; there, however, they found no safety, but such was the flux and reflux of the ocean, that they were in the greatest danger of being swamped, and were thankful to get on shore again. The sealers were accustomed to visit a small cove called the jail, which was a most suitable place for anchorage, being well sheltered with lofty cliffs on every side; and having deep water in it close to the shore, so that they could step out on the rocks from their boats. It was situated about eighty miles to the north of Dusky Bay. After the earthquake the locality was completely altered; the sea had so entirely retired from the cove, that it was dry land. Beyond Cascade Point the whole coast presented a most shattered appearance, so much so that its former state could scarcely be recognised. Large masses of the mountains had fallen, and in many places the trees might be seen under the water.”

About this date a peculiar settlement took place on Codfish Island off the south-western coast of Stewart Island. At first the sealing trade passed through the stage when men were simply placed at a station for a few weeks or months to kill seals and then picked up again. Any inclination which the men might have manifested for taking up with the natives was largely kept in check by the well known treacherous character which the latter at times manifested. The Caddell incident indicated organised hunting of the sealing gangs in Foveaux Strait for plunder and page 350 slaughter, and the formation of gangs of Europeans stationed on the coast was an impossibility. However, in spite of complaints of captains regarding the conduct of the natives we find men like the carpenter of the Wellington, in 1826, ready to desert and join them. At this time it must have been possible to live among them and the author inclines to the belief that about this date was started the European settlement at Codfish Island.

A number of white sailors took unto themselves wives from among the Maori maidens in the south and went to live at Codfish Island. The very nature of the settlement, under no head, working for no firm in any of the large centres of population and possessing no permanent trade of its own, prevented the possibility of handing down a record of their doings. One statement has remained unchallenged amongst southern natives, and that is that the first halfcaste child born on the island was the late Mr. Thomas Brown, of Riverton, who died there on 9th January, 1906, aged 79 years. The old man was very proud of his record as the first child of the settlement, and was so accurate in his placing of events, which the author could locate from other sources, that there is no reason to consider he would be more than one year out at most regarding his age, which is the only clue to the date of the settlement, though early writers have in a most off-hand way attributed a much greater age to it.

Cargoes during 1828.
Jan. 18 Elizabeth Wiseman flax and pork.
Mar. 8 Samuel Swindells sealskins.
Mar. 11 Gurnet Walker sealskins.
Mar. 24 Liberty T. Farley sealskins.
Mar. 29 Queen Charlotte Maughan sealskins and flax.
Mar. 29 Elizabeth & Mary W. Worth sealskins.
Jun. 18 Elizabeth Wiseman flax and oil.
Dec. 18 Emma Kemp —– flax, skins and pork.
A glance at the table tells its own tale. Not only are the cargoes made up with flax, oil, pork, &c., but all page break
Thomas Brown.First Half-caste Born at Codfish Island, 1827.

Thomas Brown.
First Half-caste Born at Codfish Island, 1827.

page break page 351 indication of their size is withheld—a sure sign that the cargoes had fallen away. The trade became very unsettled and the old sealing merchants in some cases began to limit their connection with New Zealand. The Elizabeth, which belonged to Cooper and Levey, was, on her arrival in January, put up for sale, with her cargo of 20 tons of flax, 10 tons of pork, and 140 seal skins.

On 17th November the brig Haweis, of 110 tons, and having a crew of 14 men, commanded by John James, left Sydney with one gang of sealers for the Antipodes, and another for the Bounties. These were landed at their destination in due course, and the ship made for various places on the East Coast. At Whakatane, on 2nd March, when only four persons were on board, the vessel was seized by the natives, Mr. Atkins, second officer, taken prisoner, and the remainder killed. After spending seven days with the natives Mr. Atkins was ransomed by Captain Clark, of the New Zealander. The balance of the crew, who were absent at the time of the massacre, were got safely on board Captain Clark's ship.14

On 25th September the Elizabeth and Mary, which, on her return from Campbell Island with the crew of the wrecked Perseverance, called in at New Zealand, reported the wreck of the schooner Hunter, on 8th June, at Entry Island (Kapiti). The crew were all saved.

Another vessel sighted by the Elizabeth and Mary about the first week of September, was the old Cyprus, which had once traded to Macquarie Island. Now she was sailing under a piratical flag. On 9th August she was conveying prisoners from Hobart Town to Macquarie Island, and put into Research Bay in consequence of bad weather. While some of the officers were absent the convicts rose, captured the vessel, and put the soldiers and officers, and some of the prisoners, ashore. The Cyprus then sailed away under one William Swallow (commonly called Walker). When seen by those on board the Elizabeth and Mary she was at Port Underwood, and went by the name of the Friends of Boston. She was freshly painted black and her figure head page 352 appeared to have recently been cut off. She professed to have come from Manila and to be bound for Peru. One of the crew of the Elizabeth and Mary got some fish hooks from those on the brig and they were wrapped up in a piece of Hobart Town paper.

The next mention of the Cyprus comes from Chatham Island. Mr. Worth sailed in the Samuel for New Zealand on 29th November, and returned on 7th February, 1830. He visited Chatham Island to obtain the skins collected by a party of sealers in the employ of Mr. Street. When he reached his destination he was informed that the whole kit had been carried off by the Cyprus, which had called there with about fifty hands on board. The vessel was stated to be in a very crippled condition, dismantled of part of her rigging, and with all her sails split and some in ribbons.

Her career came to an end at Canton. While the Charles Edward lay at anchor there in February, 1830, four men came on board and stated they belonged to the Edward, which had foundered off the coast. Before the President and Select Committee of Supercargoes at Canton suspicion was aroused through a second boat's crew giving themselves up and their stories not agreeing. They were committed for trial on 10th October of that year and stood their trial at the Admiralty Sessions, commencing on the 25th of that month, with the result that they renewed their acquaintance with the prison accommodation of Van Diemen's Land.

Cargoes during 1829.
Jan. 28 Caroline P. Williams 830 skins, timber, flax.
Feb. 7 Snapper Young no details.
Mar. 14 Samuel R. Hall 840 skins.
Jun. 3 Gov. Macquarie Kent skins, flax, potatoes, spars.
Jun. 29 Haweis J. James 340 skins.
July 3 Caroline P. Williams 220 skins, 30 tons spars.page 353
July 17 Samuel Lawrence 170 skins.
Nov.30 Madeira Packet R. Hall 370 skins, 7 tons flax, 5 tons pork, 10 tons potatoes.

Of these vessels the Haweis is reported as coming from Stewart Island, the first record of such an event. The Caroline, too, traded in the vicinity of Foveaux Strait, and Williams, the captain, was making the arrangements necessary for the establishment of a shore whaling station at Preservation Inlet. Flax, pork, potatoes and timber were now looked to, to make up a cargo for the old sealing vessels. It is unfortunate that we cannot follow more closely the movements of the Sydney craft. If we could, the author thinks we would find many more vessels trading to the southern portion of New Zealand; but being limited to selecting them by the presence of seal skins amongst their cargoes, those which failed to secure any skins and were limited to the other branches of trade, escape detection. The reader's attention is called to the fact that though the number of skins became few in number there were still great numbers of men at hand to kill at every opportunity.

It was at this juncture the whaling trade commenced.

To show how completely the seals had been cleared off the outlying islands by the end of the twenties, the experience of Captain Benjamin Morrell of the American schooner Antarctic will be quoted.15 Morrell sailed from New York on 2nd September, 1829, and anchored at Carnleys Harbour on 28th December of that year. On the 31st he made preparations for examining the island for fur seals and sent two of his officers to cruise round in two boats. On 4th January, 1830, they returned, having pulled round the island without seeing a single fur seal, and not more than twenty of the hair kind. Quoting his own words:—

“Although the Auckland Isles once abounded with numerous herds of fur and hair-seal, the page 354 “American and English seamen engaged in this business have made such clean work of it as scarcely to leave a breed; at all events there was not one furseal to be found on the 4th of January, 1830. We therefore got under way on the morning of Tuesday, the 5th at 6 o'clock, and steered for another cluster of islands, or rather rocks, called ‘the Snares,’ one hundred and eighty miles north of Auckland Group and about sixty south of New Zealand… We searched then in vain for fur-seal, with which they formerly abounded. The population was extinct, cut off, root and branch, by the sealers of Van Dieman's Land, Sidney, etc.”

The great seal trade was over.

From the Snares Morrell visited Pegasus, called by him South Port, and then spent a few days at the Molyneux. There he found a village situated at the head of the harbour, Tavaimoo, a village of twenty-eight miserable huts. The best of the dwelling places he describes as being like barns, about ten feet high, thirty long and twelve or fifteen broad. The insides were strongly constructed and fastened with supple vines. The same materials which they used for daubing their faces they also used for painting their whares red and black. The huts were entered through a hole just large enough to admit a man stooping, and smoke escaped and light entered by a still smaller aperture. An inferior class of dwelling found in the village was about half the size of the above, and seldom more than four or five feet in height, framed of young trees and thatched with long grass. A few bags or baskets containing fishing gear and other trifles constituted the only furniture.

The natives of the Molyneux, in January, 1830, were evidently of a very low standard of civilisation, and although they must have been in touch with Europeans for some time before the visit of Captain Morrell, the contact had evidently not elevated them. The American makes no page 355 mention of finding white men in the native camp. The date of this visit to Molyneux Harbour was the seventh. On the tenth, Morrell reached Banks Peninsula and anchored in Cook's Harbour (Port Cooper). Only a few natives were in the bay, and they eked out a precarious existence on shell fish. From that anchorage the Antarctic skirted the coast as far as Cape Campbell, all along the route the natives inviting those on board to land as they passed, but they sailed across Cook Strait and did not come to an anchor until some fifty natives met and took them ashore at Flat Point, beyond Cape Palliser. In this long weary journey Captain Morrell was accompanied by his wife.

Several American Museums had their ethnological collections supplemented to a very considerable extent by the voyage of the Antarctic.