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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 III. — Cook's Second Visit, 1773

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Cook's Second Visit, 1773.

COOK had not long returned from his first voyage, when the Admiralty resolved to equip another expedition of two vessels to complete the exploration of the Southern Hemisphere. The Endeavour, which had proved so suitable for this class of work, was, however, not available, having gone as a store ship to the Falkland Islands, so it was decided to purchase two other vessels of similar construction. This was done, and two vessels (built in the same yards as the Endeavour) were secured; the larger of 462 tons, under the name of the Resolution, was equipped at Deptford; the smaller, of 336 tons, under the name of the Adventure, was equipped at Woolwich. Cook was given the command of the Resolution, and of the expedition; and Furneaux, who had served under Wallis, was appointed to the command of the Adventure. On board the Resolution were 112 men; on the Adventure, 81.

Everything which knowledge suggested as useful and desirable was supplied to combat the ill effects of a long sea voyage. To provide for contingencies also, the frame of a small vessel of twenty tons was built and shipped on board each vessel of the expedition. Scientific men were also sent; Hodges as painter, Forster, father and son, as naturalists, and Wales and Bayley as astronomers. The expedition therefore was very well provided for, but it was originally intended that it should have been even better equipped. Banks and Solander, and two other eminent men, intended sailing with it; the Resolution had been specially fitted with deck accommodation for them; they had been farewelled by their friends; medals had been designed to celebrate the event; and five expert draftsmen to assist them had been accommodated on board, before the Resolution sailed to Sheerness. On the voyage complaint was made that, the page 32 excessive top hamper was likely to endanger the vessel, and on the matter being reported to Cook, he recommended its removal, which was done.1 Banks and his associates then withdrew. So far as the correspondence between Cook and Banks is concerned it throws no light on the reason for their going no further. They appear, however, to have parted in a friendly manner. Whatever was the reason, the loss to science was enormous.

The expedition left England in July, and the Cape of Good Hope in November, 1772. It was Cook's intention, at this stage, to see if Van Diemen's Land was connected with New South Wales, but the wind proving unsuitable for making that shore, he headed away for Dusky Bay, or any other port to be found in the southern portion of New Zealand.

Land was sighted on Thursday, 25th March, 1773, and in a thick haze Cook sailed up to the mouth of a bay which he took to be Dusky, but which turned out to be Chalky Inlet. Finding his mistake, he stood off for the night, and entered Dusky next day at noon. On the former trip he had done nothing more than ascertain the entrance to the bay, so he had now to feel his way in with the greatest circumspection. The Adventure did not accompany him, as the two vessels had separated on the 8th February. Sailing in by the southern entrance and steering his vessel carefully amongst the numerous islets that met him there, after spending 117 days at sea, and covering 3660 leagues of ocean without seeing land, he let go his anchor under Anchor Island in 50 fathoms, and moored his vessel with a hawser to the shore. In the face of all the difficulties and privations, only one man was laid up with scurvy, a result attributed to the sweet wort used so largely, and to the freqtient airing and sweetening of the ship.

Not liking the anchorage—and captains familiar with Dusky say that it is a very bad one—Cook and his first lieutenant, Pickersgill, went out in different directions to look for a better. Both were successful, but Cook preferred his officer's discovery on the S.E. side of the bay, and the page 33 next morning the Resolution was worked over to Pickersgill Harbour. Entering by the beautiful narrow channel between Crayfish Island and-the mainland, Cook moored the Resolution “in a small creek, moored head and stern, so near the shore as to reach it with a brow or stage, which Nature had in a manner prepared for us in a large tree, whose end or top reached our gunwale.” As the boats sent out brought in great quantities of fish, and numbers of wild fowl were to be seen, and as no one had ever landed before on these shores. Cook determined to stay some time and thoroughly explore the bay. This decision of his played a very important part in the history of southern New Zealand, and gave an accurately surveyed harbour to the merchant service of the world.

Thus did Captain Cook go into recruiting quarters in Pickersgill Harbour, Dusky Bay. Places were cleared in the bush to set up an observatory, a forge for repairing ironwork, tents for the sailmakers and coopers, a small brewery to brew for the sailors, and the hundred and one other things required in the conduct of such an expedition while recruiting. Forster says:—

“In the course of a few days, a small part of us had cleared away the woods from a surface of more than an acre, which fifty New Zealanders, with their tools of stone, could not have performed in three months. This spot, where immense numbers of plants left to themselves lived and decayed by turns, in one confused inanimated heap; this spot, we had converted into an active scene, where a hundred and twenty men pursued various branches of employment with unremitted labour. We felled tall timber-trees, which, but for ourselves, had crumbled to dust with age; our sawyers cut them into planks, or we split them into billets for fuel. By the side of a murmuring rivulet, whose passage into the sea we facilitated, a long range of casks, which had been prepared by our coopers for that purpose, stood ready to be filled with water. Here ascended, the page 34 “steam of a large cauldron, in which we brewed, from neglected indigenous plants, a salutary and palatable potion, for the use of our labourers. In the offing, some of our crew appeared providing a meal of delicious fish for the refreshment of their fellows. Our caulkers and riggers were stationed on the sides and masts of the vessel, and their occupations gave life to the scene, and struck the ear with various noises; whilst the anvil on the hill resounded with the strokes of the weighty hammer. Already the polite arts began to flourish in this new settlement; the various tribes of animals and vegetables, which dwelt in the unfrequented woods, were imitated by an artist in his noviciate; and the romantic prospects of this shaggy country lived on the canvas in the glowing tints of nature, who was amazed to see herself so closely copied. Nor had science disdained to visit us in this solitary spot; an observatory arose in the centre of our works, filled with the most accurate instruments, where the attentive eye of the astronomer contemplated the motions of the celestial bodies. The plants which clothed the ground, and the wonders of the animal creation, both in the forests and the seas, likewise attracted the notice of philosophers, whose time was devoted to mark their differences and uses. In a word, all around us we perceived the rise of arts, and the dawn of science, in a country which had hitherto lain plunged in one long night of ignorance and barbarism. But this pleasing picture of improvement was not to last, and like a meteor, vanished as suddenly as it was formed. We reimbarked all our instruments and utensils, and left no other vestiges of our residence than a piece of ground from whence we had cleared the wood.”

The author's visit to the spot was in January, 1905, during the trip of the Hinemoa round the Sounds. We anchored close to Astronomer Point. To our right lay the page break page break
Stumps of Rimus in Cook's Clearing, Pickersgill Harbour, Dusky.

Stumps of Rimus in Cook's Clearing, Pickersgill Harbour, Dusky.

page 35 narrow opening through which the great navigator had towed his vessel into the little sanctuary. In front of us Cook had cleared the bush to fix his various stations, and at the water's edge could be seen the identical projecting ground from which the branches of trees reached the vessel and locked in the yards. To our left was the little stream of fresh water which proved of such value. Here we were face to face with the most historic ground on all the southern portion of New Zealand. We went ashore and stood on the spot. In the gloom of the new forest which has grown up over the clearing, were visible here and there the stumps of the old rimus that one hundred and thirty-one years before, Cook had cut down for ships' purposes. Under ordinary circumstances a period of fifty years would have proved too much for them; but here, protected from interference by man; shut off from sunlight and air by a new growth of forest, and enveloped in a garment of roots and fern of all kinds, the outlines of these mementos of Cook's stay have been protected from the ravages of time. And there seems no reason to doubt, that if the conditions are allowed to remain, they will continue to resist the “effacing fingers” of decay for another century. Venerable monuments indeed they are, and it should be the care of the young Dominion, that a spot which is rendered so sacred from its associations with the greatest navigator of history, should be protected from all outside forms of destruction. Pondering over Cook's life and work, as we had been, and inspired as we were by the surroundings, it was difficult to tear ourselves away from that wooded knoll, every tree on which sprung from hallowed soil.

On Sunday, 28th March, the first natives were met with. They were discovered by some of the officers who had gone out shooting, and shortly afterwards a boat containing seven or eight of them came within musket shot of the ship, but would approach no nearer. After dinner Cook himself went after them, but though their huts were discovered, the inhabitants kept out of his road.

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This Sunday appears to have been a busy day with Cook. In addition to following up the natives, he penned an order to Captain Furneaux, dealing with his treatment for scurvy. At this time his colleague was in Queen Charlotte Sound, and did not meet Cook until 18th May.

“Whereas scurvey grass, sellery, and other vegitables are to be found in most uncultivated countries, especially in New Zealand, and when boil'd with wheat or oatmeal, with a proper quantity of portable broth, makes a very wholesome and nourishing diet, and has been found to be of great use against all scorbutick complaints, which the crews of his Majesty's sloops Resolution and Adventure must in some degree have contracted after so long a continuance at sea, you are therefore hereby required and directed, whenever vegitables are to be got, to cause a sufficient quantity to be boil'd with the usual allowance of wheat or oatmeal and portable broth every morning for breakfast for the company of his Majesty's sloop under your command, as well on meat days as on banyan days and to continue the same so long as vegitables are to be got, or untill further order. Afterwards you are to continue to boil wheat or oatmeal for breakfast on Mondays, as directed by my order of the 6th of December last, but you are to discontinue to serve the additional half-allowance of spirit or wine mentioned in the said order. Given under my hand, on board his Majesty's sloop Resolution, in Dusky Bay, this 28th day of March, 1773.—J. Cook.”2

It was not until 6th April, when a man and a woman hailed them from Indian Island, that Cook obtained an interview with the natives. The conversation, which was little understood, was carried on chiefly by the younger of the two women. The natives turned out to be a small family, consisting of the man, his two wives, a young woman, a lad of about 14 years of age, and three little children. Sketches of them were made by Mr. Hodges, page 37 and reproduced in the narrative of the voyage. On Cook's third visit he found them “all dressed, and dressing, in their very best, with their hair combed and oiled, tied up upon the crowns of their heads, and stuck with white feathers. Some wore a fillet of feathers round their heads; and all of them had bunches of white feathers stuck in their ears; thus dressed, and all standing, they received us with great courtesy.”

The home of this now celebrated family, and the scene of the first recorded “at home” in southern New Zealand, is thus recorded by Mr. Richard Henry in 1900:—

“I was several days weather-bound there, and camped in Indian Cove, where Cook visited the Natives. It is a beautiful little place, though gloomy looking from outside, but after a little acquaintance it is all changed for the better…. I saw the sites of several Maori huts quite distinctly, and not very old…. One curious fire-place I dug out. It was about 2½ft. square and 4ft. deep, lined with big stones, as much as a man could carry, with ashes on the bottom mixed with shells. If it was a Maori fireplace, it was probably intended to hide the fire at night from enemies, or it may have been used by the older people. Then, it would account for us finding the charcoal so deep down at Pigeon Island. It was up on a precipice 40ft. above the boat harbour, and a good place to keep a look-out in the day time, though hidden in the bush. Indian Island is a poor anchorage but a good boat harbour. The levelled places for the canoes are just as if they were used yesterday, because there is no creek to disturb them.”3

Although the natives were so friendly, Cook had great difficulty in persuading them to come on board. He went into their canoe with them. He caused the bagpipes and fife to be played, and the drum to be beaten for them as they sat on the shore; yet they would not come. The drum was the only thing that made any impression. When'at page 38 length the chief was prevailed upon to come on board, he followed the South Sea custom of striking the side of the vessel with a small green branch before doing so. Sheep and goats which Cook had put on shore they gazed at stupidly, as things quite beyond their comprehension; hatchets and nails alone they regarded as of value. They also had the custom of making presents before securing any, which, Cook states, was common to the South Sea Islanders, but which he had not seen in New Zealand before. Natives, estimated to compose three or four families, were met with on several occasions during the stay at Dusky. Many traces, however, were seen of native habitations, from which it was concluded that they wandered about a good deal, and were not very friendly with one another. So much for the native settlement on the shores of Dusky when Cook landed there.

As Cook visited Dusky to recruit his men and refit his ship, it is but natural that under these headings his observations should be fairly numerous. His first act on the vessel being moored was to send out a boat for fish to provide fresh food for his men. He found that the Sound teemed with fish, so that an hour or two of fishing per day provided enough for the whole ship's company. At the very start some of the officers killed a seal on Anchor Island, and the first fresh meat eaten by Cook in New Zealand on his second voyage was from this seal. Summarising his experience, Cook says:—

“What Dusky Bay most abounds with is fish; a boat with six or eight men, with hooks and lines, caught daily sufficient to serve the whole ship's company. Of this article, the variety is almost equal to the plenty; and of such kinds as are common to the more northern coast; but some are superior, and in particular the cole fish, as we called it, which is both larger and finer flavoured than any I have seen before, and was, in the opinion of most on board, the highest luxury the sea afforded us… The only amphibious animals are seals. These are to be page 39 “found in great numbers, about this bay, on the small rocks and isles near the sea coast.”

It was doubtless this information, coupled with the published chart of the Sound, that brought the sealers round to Dusky about the end of the eighteenth century; making it a great trade centre for many years. But seals are just like other animals with a price set on their heads. The senseless, reckless, mad career of slaughter only stops when the means of gratifying it no longer exists. When the seals were practically exterminated, the butchery, perforce, ended; and now the seal, which once dotted every rocky headland, has to be protected by law, to enable one or two to be visible at long intervals of time.

Cook found the same lavish supply of life in the bird kingdom. Here for the first time, he saw the paradise duck, called by him the painted duck, and in all he found five different kinds. He enjoyed sport at all times, his journal teems with references to shooting seals and ducks and the enjoyment thus afforded, and this, doubtless, trained him to those habits of observation among the animal kingdom, which no one but a sportsman could possibly acquire.

Cook landed on 26th March, and sailed again on 11th May; having spent nearly two months within the hospitable confines of Dusky. The great work done during that period was, of course, the accurate survey and charting of the Sound; and Cook must have been kept very busy to accomplish the work in the time, with distance, length of coast line, and weather, all against him.

The chart is, without exception, the finest made during his second voyage; and Cook says, as though apologising for taking up so much space descriptive of Dusky: “For although the country be far remote from the present trading part of the world, we can, by no means, tell what use future ages may make of the discoveries made in the present.” He therefore supplied an accurate chart, and laid down precise directions for entering and leaving the bay; for vessels entering Dusky and intending to sail to the southward, he page 40 recommended Facile Harbour, subsequently the scene of the wreck of the Endeavour.

It should also be remembered of Cook's visit to Dusky, that there he liberated geese, which he had brought with him from England. Goose Cove still commemorates the fact. Seeds were also sown on the clearings he had made. The non-success of the importation of geese was doubtless due to the depredations of the weka; while the re-growth of the native forest would smother the growing plants. To show how deadly the weka could be to the harmless geese, the author instances a case which came under his own notice in Dusky. The party disturbed a swan sitting on her nest, and although less than one minute elapsed before they reached the spot, the solitary egg, which proved to be quite fresh, had in that short time been tapped by a weka and the contents partially extracted. No imported geese could successfully contend with such an ever present foe.

On arrival at Dusky, Cook had a number of men on the sick list, but daily these became less. Fresh food, in the shape of fish, seal, and roast duck, is not to be easily beaten for the storm tossed mariner; and although the bay was found to be very wet, this does not appear to have been injurious to the health of the sailors. One of the first things Cook did when landing was to look out for a tree, from the leaves and branches of which he could brew beer, and he found the rimu, which he called the spruce fir. The beer brewed from this tree was used to take the place of vegetables. Proving too astringent, there was added an equal quantity of manuka leaves (the tea plant), and the beer was thus rendered very palatable.

Cook's recipe for this primitive beer was as follows:— “Make a strong decoction of the small branches of the spruce and tea plants, by boiling them three or four hours, or until the bark will strip with ease from off the branches; then take them out of the copper, and put in the proper quantity of molasses; ten gallons of which is sufficient to make a ton, or 240 gallons of beer; let this mixture just page 41 boil; then put it into the casks; and, to it, add an equal quantity of cold water, more or less according to the strength of the decoction, or your taste: when the whole is milk-warm, put in a little grounds of beer, or yeast if you have it, or anything else that will cause fermentation, and in a few days the beer will be fit to drink.” All previous efforts to make a suitable beer had failed, and it was while at Dusky, on this trip, that he was successful in the mixture which subsequent experience showed to be so useful for his men.

Of so much importance to mariners did Cook think this discovery to be, that he gave in his journal elaborate descriptions of the rimu and the manuka to assist in their identification. Of such value to humanity did the Royal Society think the results that they presented him with their medal. The use of the manuka leaf for making tea was known to the old whalers, as Shortland tells of tasting it, when calling at their homes, and describes it as a beverage much drunk, wholesome, and agreeable when once the taste had been acquired.4

Fresh animal food and the best substitute that could be obtained locally for fresh vegetable food, formed the basis of Cook's system of nourishing his men during a long sea voyage. So strongly did he believe in this system that when amongst the icebergs, he sent boats' crews to break off large portions of ice to enable fresh water to be given to the men. Fresh food was followed by fresh surroundings. After wet weather everything was got up from between decks and thoroughly aired, and the decks themselves well cleaned and dried with fires.

Cook's mention of the whale and the seal on these coasts did much to direct mariners to this portion of the world for whale oil and seal skins, and his survey of, and information regarding Dusky as a safe harbour, completed the knowledge required for embarking on the enterprise. In this connection it might even be claimed for Cook that he inaugurated the seal trade. He used the flesh for food, page 42 utilised the skins for repairing his rigging, and boiled down the fat to enable him to lay in a provision of lamp oil. How soon sailing captains took up hints, what results followed, and to what extent he was correct in anticipating that a knowledge of Dusky would aid the commerce of the world, must remain to be told hereafter.

The Resolution was thoroughly overhauled, the rigging attended to, wood and water taken on board, and she left Pickersgill on Thursday, 29th April. It was, however, Tuesday, 11th May, before she reached the open sea, as Cook sailed through what is now known as the Acheron Passage to the entrance north of Resolution Island, called Breaksea.

During the run from Dusky to Cape Stephens, the only incident worthy of mention was the appearance, on the afternoon of 17th May, of waterspouts, one of which passed within fifty yards of the Resolution. Pickersgill's description of the strange phenomenon is as follows5:—

“From 4 to 5—Ship's head and wind all round the compass—several water spouts forming around us, one of which came so near as to give us very disagreeable apprehensions, for the Wind wou'd not enable us to make any way from it, not staying ½ a minute in either quarter of the Compass—so made the best preparation we cou'd for its reception by laying tarpauline over the Hatchways, shortening all sail, &c., &c., the whole atmossphere seem'd in the strangest purterbation and the Water in the most violent agitation that can be conceiv'd—however the Spout very fortunately alter'd its direction just as it came upon our Quarter—run alongside and clear ahead of us.”

After rounding Cape Farewell a very good view was obtained of the bay called by Cook, Blind Bay, and believed by him to be the Murderers Bay of Tasman. At daylight on the 18th the Resolution was off Queen Charlotte Sound, page 43 and to the intense delight of everyone, signals from Hippah Island showed that the Adventure was safe.

With the help of the boats of both vessels, the Resolution was anchored in Ship Cove by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 18th April, 1773, giving and receiving a salute of eleven guns, and Captain Furneaux, after an absence of fourteen weeks, reported himself to his commander.

The Adventure had reached Ship Cove on 7th April, and Furneaux, finding Motuara uninhabited, had selected it as the site for the tents necessary to accommodate the sailmakers, the coopers, and those suffering from scurvy. The first visit of the natives occurred two days afterwards, when some fifteen of them arrived in three canoes; thereafter they regularly visited, to trade with fish and fern root, for nails and other trifles. Intercourse with these natives was rendered much easier than would otherwise have proved the case by the possession of a vocabulary made up from the acquaintance with the language gamed during the Endeavour's visit. This list, which gave the Maori names of the different articles for barter, awakened among the simple natives an intense and wondering interest, accompanied with a keen desire to secure its possession.

The old Maori citadel, which bristled with fighting men when Cook sailed past in 1770, was now deserted, and was selected by the astronomer as a suitable site for his observatory. A small guard was also placed there. The native houses, which were little more than roofs raised from the ground, were rendered habitable for European occupants by sinking the floors about a foot. The presence of immense quantities of vermin was taken by the sailors as a rough and ready indication that the huts had not been long abandoned by the Maoris.

As Cook had failed to put in an appearance, Furneaux had concluded that no further exploration would be done that season, and had accordingly moored the Adventure in Ship Cove, removed all her top hamper, given the hull and rigging a winter coat and erected tents for the men at the page 44 watering-place. The advent, however, of the restless commander changed the whole aspect of affairs. He was abroad early next day looking for scurvy grass, celery, and other vegetables which he knew were to be found in the Sound. His first care was for the health of the men, his next for the further prosecution of the voyage. The Adventure received instructions to throw off her winter garb and prepare for sea, and as the Resolution had been made ready at Dusky, all hands concentrated their efforts on Furneaux's ship.

When the Adventure first arrived the natives asked after Tupaea, and the same inquiries were repeated when Cook appeared. When told that he was dead they manifested considerable grief and were anxious to know whether he had been killed or had died a natural death. Cook, failing to recognise any of the natives as having visited the Endeavour in 1770, concluded that they had only heard of Tupaea and had never seen him; the small number of natives present, their deserted pah, and the new habitations, all pointed to the fact that the Sound was peopled by the peaceful successors to, or the warlike conquerors of, Cook's old friends. It was Tupaea's fame that evoked inquiries from lips that had never applauded his oratory, and tears from eyes that had never beheld his face.

While in the Sound on board the Endeavour, Cook had spent all the time at his command surveying the coastline and adding to his geographical knowledge. Now, however, his mission was an entirely different one. The preparation of the Adventure for sea, the final touches to the health of the crew, and the landing of various domestic animals in the hope that the progeny might one day stock the country, took precedence of everything else, and Cook may be said to have left the Sound without adding anything to his knowledge of its coastline.

The scientific men had no limitations imposed upon them and pursued their research work with the greatest vigour. They reported that, compared with Dusky, the latter had page 45 the greater supply of wild fowl and fish, but that Queen Charlotte Sound abounded more in excellent vegetables. The want of the ducks of Dusky was compensated for by killing and eating the shags which were fairly plentiful, and which the men soon came to like.

Forster, the naturalist, describes the native dogs as a rough, long-haired variety with pricked ears, resembling much the common shepherd's cur. They were of different colours, black, white, and spotted. The natives fed them on fish and kept them, when in their canoes, tied by a string round the middle. Their flesh was used for food and their skins for dress and ornaments. When some of these animals were taken on board the Resolution, the old ones sulked and refused to take food, but the young ones did not take long to accustom themselves to their altered surroundings. In the water a sea lion, on the land a bat, and with the natives a dog, brought the number on the list of indigenous quadrupeds which had up to that time been discovered in New Zealand to five.

On 4th June the Sound was visited by a party of North Island natives from Terawhiti, under Teiratu. These men at once claimed the attention of the expedition as a better race of men, with better arms, dress, and ornaments, than the Queen Charlotte Sound natives possessed, and only resembling them in their excessive uncleanliness. One large canoe visited the Resolution, but the bulk of the natives, in seven canoes, landed at Motuara Island, where they were visited by Cook personally, and were presented with some of the medals which had been struck to commemorate the expedition. Arms, tools, dresses and ornaments were readily exchanged for iron, cloth, and beads. These natives also had heard of Tupaea, and, according to the ancient custom of their race, wailed their grief when told that he was dead. Before parting with the natives, Cook consigned the gardens he had planted to the care of the chief, whose knowledge of the cultivation of roots in the North Island it was hoped would help him to safeguard them.

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This same day Cook forwarded to Furneaux his formal instructions regarding the course to be followed after leaving Queen Charlotte Sound. These stated that he was to explore the sea between the 41st and 45th parallel as far as longitude 140° or 135° W., then to make to Tahiti for refreshments, and afterwards return to Queen Charlotte Sound.

On the 7th the anchor was weighed and the expedition sailed, getting clear of Cook Strait by midday on the 8th with only one sick man, a consumptive, on board the Resolution.