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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 XXX. — Cook Strait, 1834

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Cook Strait, 1834.

OF the vessels which were mentioned in the survey certificate of the Sarah, the Waterloo was, as we saw, wrecked shortly afterwards, the Harriet arrived in Sydney on 22nd January, 1834, having called in at the Bay of Islands with the crew of the Waterloo and with 133 tuns of black oil, and the Denmark Hill reached Sydney on 20th March, with 860 barrels. Another vessel, the Hind, called in at the Bay and leaving with Mr. Kentish and his family on 12th January, landed them at Sydney on 28th February.

When Captain Elley brought the Hind to Sydney he reported “a very dangerous sandbank in Cooks Straits which seems to have hitherto escaped notice and is not marked on any chart of that coast at present extant.” He described it “From Cape Farewell there is a sandspit bearing about due east, to a distance of 9 leagues and cannot be seen until within a mile from it. It is without exception, the most dangerous place in Cooks Straits; and, if not aware of its position, destruction is inevitable. From Cape Farewell, however, as long as your vessel can carry canvas, and may be depended upon, East and by North will keep you clear.” It must appear to the reader strange that the discovery in 1834, of a sandspit which had been seen by Tasman and D'Urville, and particulars of which had been given by both, should have entitled Elley to “the thanks of the mercantile community.” It shows what poor charts of the coastline were at the disposal of shipping.

Mr. Kentish, in his letter of 3rd March, had mentioned the fear of an invasion by the southern natives under which the shore whaling gangs at Cloudy were at that time labouring. The fear proved in due course to be well founded. On 29th March, the schooner Harlequin, 71 tons, page 422 shaw, reached Sydney with a cargo of potatoes and reported that she had sailed from New Zealand on the thirteenth of the month under the following circumstances:—

“It appears that some time ago the natives of Cloudy Bay, then at war with those belonging to the province of Otargo, had taken a Chief of the latter place (Eacho) (? Tamaiharanui) with his daughters, both of whom they killed. In revenge the natives of Otargo had come in great numbers to Cloudy Bay to seek revenge for their injuries. Upon the 6th instant headed by Tiharoah (Taiaroa), Tarbooco (Te Whakataupuka) and another chief, they proceeded in a body about 400, with the intention of commencing war against the Cloudy Bay tribes, who, it appears, were in the interior engaged in civil war among themselves. Not finding them, they proceeded in the work of devastation. Every station was completely annihilated—those of Messrs. Campbell and Captain Blinkensoppe in particular—their men taken prisoners, and one or more of the women shot—two of the white men, accompanied by several native women, escaped in a whale boat. On the 7th March the Harlequin schooner came to anchor in the Bay. Three boats, filled with natives, bringing the remaining two white men (for whom they expected ransom) boarded her, and commenced plundering the vessel of sails, colours, muskets, &c., cutting part of her running rigging, &c., and but for the good policy of Captain Shaw, the vessel doubtless would have been taken, nearly two hundred of the natives being on deck searching for plunder and scarcely a part of the vessel but what underwent their scrutiny. However, Captain Shaw, with much address, persuaded the New Zealanders to go on shore, and immediately made sail for Cavity (Kapiti) Island, where a similar fate awaited him, from which he also luckily managed to extricate himself.”

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On 13th April Captain J. Guard and a whaling gang sailed from Sydney in the Harriet, 240 tons, Richard Hall, for Cloudy Bay. There were also on board, Mrs Guard and two children, two mates, and 23 seamen. On the twenty-ninth the vessel was driven ashore at Cape Egmont and became a total wreck but all hands were safely landed with three boats and some muskets, powder, &c.

No sooner had the shipwrecked party secured themselves ashore than a new danger presented itself—some 30 Maoris visited them on 1st May. On the fourth two men deserted to the savages and on the seventh about 200 Maoris came down and told them they were to be killed. On the tenth an attack was made in force when 12 Europeans were killed and Mrs. Guard and her two children captured. The others fought their way through to the beach and escaped. On their road to Mataroa they fell in with another party of Maoris to whom they surrendered. Fortunately their lives were spared and they were handed over as slaves to their captors.

In about a fortnight, learning that one of the boats was safe, John Guard offered to procure a ransom for all the captives if the Maoris would allow him to go away in the boat and get it. The offer was accepted and five men were allowed to go with Guard but his brother and eight others were kept as hostages. On 20th May the boat was given them and with a hammer, a pocket knife and a few nails they put it in order, and sailed on 20th June.

The following narrative is given by Guard of their voyage.1

“June 20.—Captain Guard and six Europeans, accompanied by three natives, started for Cloudy Bay in a small whale-boat, and which was in such a bad state, that it required one hand to be constantly engaged bailing the water out. After being at sea in an open boat for two days and two nights, we reached Blind Bay, and hauled our boat on the beach, being unable to proceed further at that time page 424 “on account of the wind blowing strong from the north, with heavy rains.

“June 22.—Started from Blind Bay; the night, however, coming on, and a heavy sea from the N.E. caused us to put in at a small river, where we again fell in with a party of natives, who robbed us of what we had in the boats, and our oars, and if we had not known some of them, they would have stolen our boat, and perhaps have done what was worse. We were here detained one day.

“June 25.—Started and reached Stephens Island where we had the pleasure of a meal of mussels from the rocks; we were afraid to visit the native settlements, expecting, if we did that we should be taken prisoners or slaughtered, or lose our boat.

“June 26.—About 4 p.m. (and we have much reason to recollect the hour) we arrived at the European Settlement, Queen Charlotte Sound, where we had the pleasure of hearing of the schooner, Joseph Weller, Captain Morris, which was lying at Port Nicholson. For the kindness of Captain Morris, we shall always feel grateful.

“June 27.—Reached Cloudy Bay.”

At Cloudy Bay they found Captain Sinclair of the barque Mary Ann who lent them a boat and gave them things with which to ransom the captives. On board this boat they reached Port Nicholson on 30th June, and Captain Morris at once agreed to help them.

On 14th July the Joseph Weller set sail (presumably from Cloudy Bay) for the purpose of picking up those left at Mataroa and afterwards calling at Port Egmont for Mrs Guard and the children, if it were possible to redeem them. The wind however proved unfavourable and the Joseph Weller had to go on to Sydney, where Captain Guard and the three chiefs were landed on 17th August.

In the meantime the brig Eleanor, Manley, with 130 tons of flax and 1 cask of oil, consigned to R. Jones & Co., page 425 had come up from Macquarie Island and through Cook Strait, where she spoke the brig Martha.”

Captain Blinkinsopp, in the barque Caroline, left Cloudy Bay on 3rd June with a cargo of 100 tuns of black oil and 60 tuns sperm from Campbell's establishment. When the vessel left, the natives were quite peaceful and in the Bay were the Hobart Town whaler, Mary Ann, and the American whaler Erie of Newport. The sperm oil on the Caroline had been obtained at Curtis Island. The Erie, Dennis, was the pioneer ship of the immense fleet of American whalers, which, during the next few years, filled every bay in the South Island with vessels. The Caroline did not reach Sydney until 5th July.

A writer, R. W. S., about this time sent to the Sydney press an interesting account of a trip round the North Island of New Zealand. It records the fact that the first farming operations had been commenced on Mana Island by a Mr. Bell, and that fresh meat and vegetables could be then procured by the shipping at reasonable rates. In addition to this we have one of the few references to the visit of H.M.S. Warspite in 1827. The portion relating to Cook Strait is here reproduced.2

“Owing to contrary winds on my arrival in Cook's Straits, I was necessitated to beat about for several days previous to reaching my first destination, the Island of Manna (Mana), (the Warspite Island of Captain Dundas, R.N.), during which I discovered a shoal, not previously noticed, lying about ten miles south-west of Manna (Mana), upon which (as far as I could judge from the great way on the vessel) there is about five fathoms of water. You approach the roadstead of Manna (Mana) either from the northward or southward, the only danger being a reef (visible at half tide) which runs out about a mile off the southermost head-land of a Bay or Harbour on the opposite shore, called Purri-rua (Porirua), which is immediately facing you on entering from the northwest, and which vessels may page 426 “always avoid by keeping the island aboard. The best anchorage is abreast of the Boat-house at the north end of the native Pa or Fort, at about a quarter and a half mile off shore; small vessels may, however, anchor with safety, a cable's length off the island, abreast of the settlement. This island is the property of Mr. Bell, who is just gone down with a quantity of cattle, for the purpose of forming an establishment to supply vessels with Stock, &c. A part of the Island is already in cultivation, and a very fair crop of tobacco was grown there last season. Vessels homeward bound through Cook's Straits will find Manna (Mana) a very convenient place to refresh at. The anchorage is safe at all times; wood and water are both plentiful, and fresh beef, mutton, lamb, and pork, with rabbits, poultry, and vegetables may be procured at Mr. Bell's establishment on reasonable terms. Whilst at Manna (Mana) I had an opportunity of witnessing an assemblage of the principal Chiefs of most of the tribes on this part of the coast, who met there for the first time since the war, which had been carried on for five months previous to my arrival. Te Rowparra (Te Rauparaha (one of the oldest Chiefs) who had been the principal occasion of hostilities, was at first dubious as to the reception he would meet with from his compeers, so much so that instead of going on shore, on arriving in his canoe from Cabitie (Kapiti) he stowed himself away in the vessel's cabin, and it was not until the succeeding evening at dusk that he would leave her. On the morning of her departure the meeting of the Chiefs took place, when several speeches were made. Peace was proclaimed, and, as usual, a feast concluded the ceremony! I could not but observe the sarcastic and significant looks of some of the principal Chiefs, from which I would infer, that their present acquiescence was but feigned, and that hostilities would break out again, page 427 “at no very distant period. Be that, however, as it may, Te Rewparra (Te Rauparaha) (from all accounts) has proved himself in the late war an able General, and experienced Tactician, and by a cunning peculiar to himself, has not only overcome a vastly superior force, but actually embroiled a more inveterate foe in the contest, whom, he first made fight his battle, and afterwards propose a cessation of hostilities in the very camp of the adversary.”

When the Joseph Weller was at Cloudy Bay on 14th July, the Mary Ann and the Erie were still there and they had been joined by the Denmark Hill and the Essex, the latter an English vessel which had been out for three years and was not yet full. This is the first mention in Sydney papers of an English whaler taking up the South Island black whale trade. A schooner and a brig, supposed to be the Shamrock and the Carnarvon, were coming in when the Joseph Weller left.

The Joseph Weller had come from Otago where the local whaling station was in fear of an attack by the natives at any hour. When she reached Sydney it was found that the Lucy Ann had arrived from Otago the day before with a full account of the dangers which beset Mr. Weller's establishment. Probably a conference between the captains of the Joseph Weller and the Lucy Ann was responsible for Guard's next step. Although he had set out to ransom those left behind at Mataroa, he now abandoned the idea of ransom and applied, under date 22nd August, for the assistance of the New South Wales Government and stated his own and Captain Anglem's willingness to assist any party sent down to punish the natives and to teach them to respect the British. In saying, as they did, that they would be able to conduct any vessel to the best ports, the two captains evidently had in view a visit to Otago.

The proposal of a punitive expedition was adopted by the Executive and it was decided to apply to Captain Lambert, of H.M.S. Alligator, then in port, to proceed to New Zealand and effect the restoration of those detained, page 428 using force if necessary, and for that purpose offering to send a military party down with the Captain. The underlying idea appears to have been to dispense with the payment of a ransom. Of the Executive the Colonial Treasurer dissented from the finding.

H.M.S. Alligator, with Lieut. Gunton and 25 rank and file of the 50th Regiment, and the Colonial schooner Isabella, with Captain Johnson, Ensign Wright and 40 rank and file, sailed from Port Jackson on 31st August. The expedition arrived off Cape Egmont on 12th September when the interpreters were landed to ask the restoration of Mrs. Guard and her children. Finding that she was in another place the Alligator sailed thither but the natives refused to give them up without a ransom.

The following morning heavy westerly weather compelled Captain Lambert to run for shelter to Admiralty Bay and he anchored in a little bay to the west of Point Jackson to which he gave the name of Gore's Harbour, after the Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies. A few deserted huts were seen but no natives.

On the sixteenth the Captain left Gore's Harbour and the following day took on board the two interpreters who had failed to accomplish the object of their mission.

On the eighteenth a N.W. gale compelled them to seek once more the shelter of the South Island, in a harbour to which they were piloted by Guard. Here the soldiers were landed and exercised in ball practice, in view of the demands likely to be made upon them during the next few days. This harbour, which was named Port Hardy, was left on the twentieth and Mataroa reached on the twenty-first.

On this occasion, as soon as demand had been made for the seamen and the New Zealanders had been put ashore, the captives were surrendered without any further trouble. It was the twenty-fifth before communication could be re-established when it was found that Mrs. Guard and her children were there but would not be given up. One page 429 account of the incident adds that her liberation was only delayed pending payment of the ransom promised.

Nothing more could be done until the twenty-eighth when an armed party was landed and the chief captured. On the twenty-ninth the pah was destroyed. On the thirtieth word was sent to the natives that until Mrs. Guard was given up the chief would be kept as a hostage. On 1st October Mrs. Guard and one child were given up alive, and as the other child was under the control of another tribe, the captive chief was handed over. The same day, while taking steps to secure the return of the boy, a shot was fired by the natives. As a punishment the Alligator bombarded the settlement.

Bad weather drove Captain Johnson back to Port Hardy and kept him there from the second to the fifth, during which time the survey of the harbour was completed by Lieut. Woore.

On the sixth the expedition arrived at the native settle-men, reconnoitred it on the seventh and landed an armed party with four days' provisions on the eighth. The same day the child was brought in, tied to the back of a chief who asked for a ransom. When told that it would not be given he tried to get away with the child, when the latter was cut clear of him and the chief shot.

Owing to the weather the troops were not got on board until the eleventh and during the intervening time a good deal of fighting and destruction of their habitations took place. In one of the pahs the head of a seaman named Clarke, of the Harriet, was found.

The object of the expedition having been attained, Captain Lambert sailed on the eleventh for Kapiti, which he reached the following morning and found that the information had already preceded him and caused considerable alarm. There, on a low tongue of land which runs out like a natural pier, was the native village with numerous canoes drawn up on the beach. The opposite shore was covered with huts and canoes. Several natives came off page 430 to the vessels, and among others Te Rauparaha who expressed himself well pleased when he heard what had been done but regretted that so few had been killed. The old cannibal asked why none of the bodies had been brought for him to eat and stated that he would go and fight them himself. According to Marshall his appearance, conduct and character were those of a complete savage but he had the reputation of treating Europeans well and encouraging shipping to come to Kapiti. The same authority states that an Englishman has resided there for several years as the agent of a mercantile house in Sydney and his report of Te Rauparaha's treatment of him was satisfactory. His besetting sin was covetousness and he indulged in it to the utmost. If spoken to he asked for muskets, blankets, pipes or tobacco. While at Kapiti some of the natives were seen wearing convict's clothes.

The Alligator and the Isabella stopped only a few hours at Kapiti and then sailed through Cook Strait en route for the Bay of Islands. Before he sailed, however, Captain Lambert issued a notice to the most powerful chiefs on the Island. The document (which is wrongly dated) reads as follows:—

His Britannic Majesty's Ship Alligator,
Entree Island, 11 October, 1834.

George Robert Lambert, Captain.

“Two ships of war, belonging to His Majesty King William the Fourth, having arrived on this coast in consequence of the horrid murder of part of the crew of the Harriet, the remaining part having been made slaves by the people of Mataroa, Nummo, Taranachee, and Wyamati, and to require the said people to be given up, which has been effected after a most severe punishment inflicted on the said tribes, by burning their pahs, their property, and killing and wounding many of them; and at the same time to point out to the other tribes that, however much the King of England wishes to cultivate friendship with the New Zealanders, the indignation he will feel page 431 “at a repetition of such cruelty to his subjects, and how severely he will punish the offenders.

Geo. Robt. Lambert

Captain of H.M.S. Alligator.

Early in November word was received in Sydney that the schooner Shamrock had capsized and sunk in Queen Charlotte Sound, and that 3 Europeans and 7 natives had perished. The master escaped. The vessels at that time in Cloudy Bay were the Denmark Hill with 150 tuns, and the Cornwallis with 2 whales alongside. Captain Blinkinsopp had 130 tuns of oil. On the ninth of the month Finlay took the Denmark Hill out of Cloudy Bay with 190 tuns oil and 1122 bundles of whalebone consigned to J. H. Grose, 99 bundles whalebone to J. Williams, and 23 bundles to J. Findlay. The captain and five men of the Shamrock and three men from the Harriet came as passengers. She reached Sydney on the twenty-fourth and was followed two days later by the Caroline, Blinkinsopp, with 200 tuns of oil and 11 tons of whalebone.

H.M.S.Alligator, with Mrs. Guard and two children, arrived at Sydney on 14th November.

The “Sydney Herald” of 24th November states that the commander of the William Stoveld had made extensive arrangements for the improvement of a small fertile island in Cook Strait where in due course he intended to locate himself and his family. Probably the news was brought up by the Denmark Hill. The commander's name was Davidson and in the issue of the same paper under date 25th January, a correspondent from the “Island of Manno, Cook's River,” writing on 9th November, 1833, reported the arrival of the William Stoveld about six weeks before. The fertile island in question must therefore have been Mana—the island of which such a perfect view can be obtained from the train while passing the Plimmerton Railway Station. The William Stoveld returned from London on 22nd December.