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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 IV. — Cook's Third and Fourth Visits, 1773 and 1774

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Cook's Third and Fourth Visits, 1773 and 1774.

THE course laid down to Furneaux when in Queen Charlotte Sound was followed out to the letter, and the advent of summer found the two ships making for New Zealand preparatory to invading the icebound region of the hitherto unexplored Antarctic Circle.

Hawke's Bay was sighted on the morning of Tuesday, 21st October, 1773, and the vessels skirted along the coastline, crossed the Bay itself, and when south of Cape Kidnappers received their first visit from the natives. Cook was anxious to reach Queen Charlotte Sound, and therefore spent as little time as possible with his visitors. On the 24th the expedition reached Cook Strait, when it encountered one of those terrific storms which at times visit this locality. Day after day the vessels were driven about off the mouth of the Strait, and if the storm abated for a few hours the ships never ceased to toss about amongst mountainous seas. After five days at the mercy of the gale the Adventure was lost sight of, not again to be seen until the expedition's return to England.

Until 2nd November the Resolution was blown about off the Strait itself or out to sea, even away south as far as the Lookers On. It was, in fact, only because Queen Charlotte Sound had been appointed the meeting place that Cook did not abandon his intention of making that port and seek instead, away to the southward, a haven to refresh in. On the date mentioned, tired of combatting the continued N.W. gales, Cook crept for relief under the shelter of Tera-whiti, and discovered the harbour now known as Port Nicholson, on the shores of which the City of Wellington is built. He sailed into the bay with the intention of entering the harbour, but by the time he made the entrance, the page 48 tide was on the ebb and the wind was against him. He was, therefore compelled to anchor at one o'clock about a mile S. by W. off the furthest out of the black rocks. While at anchor, canoes put off from both shores and visited the ship to sell hooks and dried crayfish. Cook followed his usual practice of giving them fowls to take home and domesticate. This was Cook's nearest visit to Wellington Harbour, and he left with some doubt in the minds of members of the ship's company whether the harbour was not part of a waterway to the sea on the other side, and the land in front of them but a small island. While at anchor, about 3 p.m. a southerly gale was seen coming up, when all haste was made to get out of the apparently risky position, and in front of a live “southerly buster” the Resolution rapidly passed through the Strait, and that evening the anchor was dropped at the mouth of the Sound, Ship Cove not being reached until next morning.

The Maoris were found clad in rough shaggy cloaks, which constituted their winter garments, and eager as ever to supply fish to the visitors. Cook repeatedly mentions the difficulty his men experienced when left to their own resources for fish getting, when ignorance of the resorts of the fish, combined with unsuitable means of catching them, rendered their best efforts unavailing.

An early visit was paid to the gardens to see how they fared after the winter. Cabbages, carrots, onions and parsley were found in excellent condition, but of the others the radishes and turnips had seeded, the peas and beans had been eaten by rats, and the potatoes had been lifted by the natives. Cook's foresight had not only introduced these vegetables to the notice of the natives, but had provided a much appreciated supply for the ship's company. Of the animals liberated, the goats had been killed and eaten, and the pigs had been kept alive, but separated from one another amongst the different settlements. Success had attended the introduction of the vegetables, failure that of the animals.

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Teirati, with his colony of natives, was still in the Sound and visited the Resolution, and to facilitate trade came and fixed upon a settlement close to the anchorage. A good deal of thieving went on, first of a petty nature, as the theft of a sailor's clothes, then it took the form of pocket picking, and finally ended in the natives running away with six small water casks. These casks were no great loss, but the want of fishermen, who were the thieves, was, and a day or two's honest fishing would have given them far more by way of payment than the dishonest possession of the casks meant to them, had their foresight been equal to their desire.

After the Resolution had spent twelve days in the Sound and there was still no appearance of the Adventure, Cook visited East Bay and ascended the hill on which he had built the cairn in 1770, to see if any traces were visible out to sea of his missing consort. He found the cairn of stones levelled to the ground, evidently destroyed by the natives in search of hidden treasure. Nothing could be seen of the Adventure, and Cook, giving up hope of ever seeing her again, directed all his energies to preparations for the Antarctic voyage.

Readers will remember that it was at Queen Charlotte Sound, during the visit of the Endeavour, that absolute proof of the cannibalistic tendencies of the New Zealanders was obtained. Cook now obtained visible evidence, for he actually saw the diabolical feast take place. Lieutenant Pickersgill, on the 23rd November, purchased from the natives at Indian Cove and brought on board, the head of a young slave who had been killed in a recent war expedition. While on board it was seen by natives of another party, and at their request a portion was cooked and given to them, which they ate greedily before the ship's company. Just then Cook came on board, and, to be an eye witness of an act of cannibalism, ordered another piece to be cooked and given to one of the natives. It was greedily consumed, a gruesome spectacle which made some of those witnessing it sick, while others it roused to feelings of deepest horror, indignation and disgust.

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Cook left the Sound on the 25th with his ship's crew in first-class condition for the Antarctic voyage. Thanks to his course of fresh fish and vegetables, he had neither a sick nor a scorbutic man on board. His last act before leaving was to bury in a bottle in the garden a letter to Captain Furneaux, if by any chance he should put in to Ship Cove.

Before leaving the strait Cook searched along the coast of the North Island from Terawhiti to Cape Palliser, firing guns as he sailed along, in the hope that some signs might be found of the missing ship. When passing the mouth of Wellington Harbour he noted, beyond what he had observed before, that it inclined to the westward. In this visit Cook also observed Mana Island. Before leaving the coast Cook sailed over towards Cape Campbell, without finding any trace of his consort, and on the 26th set sail for the south.

On 6th December Cook reckoned that he was at the antipodes of London, but could see no land, though there were visible penguins and seals, which he concluded must resort to the southern part of New Zealand when requiring to land.

The Adventure had parted with the Resolution on 30th October. After establishing communication with the natives near Cape Palliser on 4th November, Furneaux had to put back on the 9th to Tolago Bay for refreshments, getting away from there on the 16th. It was not until the 30th, however, that a favourable wind was experienced and Queen Charlotte Sound reached.

Furneaux, finding from the message left him that Cook had sailed, devoted all his energies during his stay in the Sound to the preparation of his vessel for the work laid out for him. In addition to the fitting out of the vessel, the food supplies had to be overlooked, and on inspection the bread was found to be so bad that an oven had to be erected on shore and the whole rebaked. For fish supplies the natives, as usual, were depended upon.

On 17th December the invariable success which had attended Cook's intercourse with the natives of the South Island received a sudden check, and without any warning page 51 a terrible tragedy took place in the Sound. A large cutter, with Midshipman Rowe and nine others, was sent to Grass Cove to gather greens for the ship's company prior to sailing. They were to return that night. Next morning, as there was still no sign of them, Mr. Burney, with a boat's crew and 10 marines, was sent to ascertain the cause of the non-appearance of the party, which was generally attributed to some injury to the boat, and the carpenter's mate was sent with material to repair the damage.

Amongst the manuscripts in the magnificent collection of Mr. A. H. Turnbull, of Wellington, is one, believed to be the report made to Captain Cook by Burney on the return of the former to England. A portion of it is here reproduced to furnish in the language of an eyewitness an account of the awful scene of cannibalism, his own companions being the unhappy victims:—

“At ½ pt: 1 we stopt at a beach on the left hand side going up East Bay, to boil some victuals, as we brought nothing with us but raw meat. Whilst we were cooking I saw an Indian on the opposite shore, running along a beach towards the head of the Bay. Our meat being drest, we got it in the boat & put off, and in a short time got to the head of this Reach where we saw an Indian Settlement. As we drew near some of the Indians came down to the rocks & waved for us to begone but seeing we disregarded them they alter'd their notes. Here we found 6 large canoes haul'd up on the beach most of them double ones, a great many people but not so many as one might expect from the number of houses and size of the canoes. Leaving the Boats crew to guard the Boat I stept ashore with the Marines (the Corporal and 5 men) & search'd a good many of their houses but found nothing to give me any suspicion. 3 or 4 well beaten paths led further into the Woods where were many more houses but the people continuing friendly, I thought it unnecessary to continue our search. Coming down to the beach one of the page 52 “Indians had brought a bundle of Hepatoos (long spears), but seeing I look'd very earnestly at him he put them on the ground and walk'd about with seeming unconcern. Some of the people appearing to be frightened, I gave a Looking Glass to one & a large Nail to another. From this place the Bay ran as nearly as I could guess NNW a good mile, where it ended in a long sandy beach. I look'd all round with the Glass, but saw no boat, canoe, or sign of inhabitants, I therefore contented myself with firing some guns, which I did in every cove as I went along. I now kept close to the East shore & came to another settlement where the Indians invited us ashore. I inquired of them about the boat, to which they pretended ignorance. They appeared very friendly here & sold us some fish. Within an hour after we left this place, in a small beach adjoining Grass Cove we saw a very large double canoe just haul up, with 2 men & a dog. The men on seeing us left their canoe & ran up into the Woods—this gave one reason to suspect I should here get tidings of the Cutter. We went ashore & search'd the canoe where we found one of the Rullock ports of the Cutter and some shoes, one of which was known to belong to Mr. Woodhouse, one of our Midshipmen. One of the people at the same time brought me a piece of meat which he took to be some of the Salt Meat belonging to the Cutter's Crew. On examining this & smelling to it I found it was fresh. Mr. Fannin (the Master) who was with me supposed it was Dog's flesh & I was of the same opinion, for I still doubted their being cannibals, but we were soon convinced by most horrid & undeniable proofs—a great many baskets (about 20) laying on the beach tied up, we cut them open: some were full of roasted flesh and some of fern root, which serves them for bread. On further search we found more shoes & a hand which we immediately knew to have belonged to Thos: Hill one page 53 “of our Forecastlemen, it being marked T. H. with an Otaheite tattow instrument. I went with some of the people a little way up the Woods, but saw nothing else. Coming down again was a round spot covered with fresh earth about 4 feet diameter, where something had been buried. Having no spade we began to dig with a Cutlass, in the meantime I launched the canoe with an intention to destroy her, but seeing a great smoke ascending over the nearest hill, I got all the people in the boat and made what haste I could to be with them before sunset. On opening the next bay, which was Grass Cove, we saw 4 canoes, a single and 3 double ones, a great many people on the beach who on our approach retreated to a small hill within a ship's length of the water side where they stood talking to us. A large Fire was on the top of the High Land beyond the Woods from whence all the way down the hill the place was thronged like a Fair. As we came in I ordered a musquetoon to be fired at one of the canoes as we suspected they might be full of men laying down in the bottom, for they were all afloat, but nobody was in them. The Savages on the little hill still kept hallowing and making signs for us to land. However as soon as we got close in we all fired. The first Volley did not seem to affect them much, but on the 2nd they began to scramble away as fast as they could, some of them howling. We continued firing as long as we could see the glimpse of a man through the bushes. Amongst the Indians were 2 very stout men who never offered to move till they found themselves forsaken by their companions & then they march'd away with great composure & deliberation, their pride not suffering them to run. One of them however got a fall & either lay there or crawl'd off on all fours. The other got clear without any apparent hurt. I then landed with the Marines & Mr. Fannin' stay'd to guard the Boat. On the beach page 54 “were 2 bundles of Cellery which had been gathered for loading the Cutter, a broken oar was stuck upright in the ground to which they had tied their lances, proofs that the attack had been made here. I then searched all along at the back of the beach to see if the Cutter was there. We found no boat but instead of her such a shocking scene of carnage & Barbarity as can never be mention'd, or thought of, but with horror. Whilst we remain'd, almost stupified, on this spot, Mr. Fannin calld to us that he heard the Savages gathering together in the Woods, on which I returned to the boat & haul'd alongside the canoes, 3 of which were demolished. Whilst this was transacting, the fire on the top of the hill disappeared & we could hear the Indians in the woods at high words. I suppose quarrelling whether or no they should attack us & try to save their canoes. It now grew dark, I therefore just stept out & look'd once more behind the beach to see if the Cutter had been haul'd up in the bushes, but seeing nothing of her, returned & put off. Our whole force would have been barely sufficient to have gone up the hill & to have ventured with half (for half must have been left to guard the boat) would have been foolhardiness. As we opened the upper part of the Sound we saw a very large fire about 3 or 4 miles higher up which formed a complete Oval, reaching from the top of a hill down almost to the water side, the middle space being inclosed all round by the fire, like a hedge. I consulted with Mr. Fannin & we were both of opinion that we could expect to reap no other advantage than the poor satisfaction of killing some more of the Savages. At leaving Grass Cove he had fired a general Volley towards where we heard the Indians talking, but by going in & out of the boat, the Arms had got wet and 4 pieces mist fire. What was still worse it began to rain, our ammunition was more than half page 55 “expended & we left 6 large canoes behind us in one place. With so many disadvantages I did not think it worth while to proceed where nothing could be hoped for but revenge. Coming between 2 round Islands that lay to the Southward of East Bay, we imagined we heard somebody calling, we lay on our oars & listend, but heard no more of it. We hollowed several times, but to little purpose. The poor souls were far enough out of hearing & indeed I think it was some comfort to reflect that in all probability every man of them must have been killed on the spot. Between 11 & 12 we got on board. The people lost in the Cutter were Mr. Rowe, Mr. Woodhouse, Francis Murphy, Quarter Master Wm. Facey, Thos. Hill, Michl. Bell, & Edwd. Jones, Forecastlemen, Jno. Cavanagh & Thos. Milton belonging to the Afterguard & James Swilley the Captain's man—being 10 in all. Most of them were of our very best seamen, the stoutest and most healthy people in the Ship. We brought on board 2 hands, one belonging to Mr. Rowe, known by a hurt he had received on it, the other to Thos. Hill as before mention'd & the head of the Captn's servant. These with more of the remains were tied in a Hammock & thrown overboard with ballast & shot sufficient to sink it. We found none of their Arms or Cloathes except part of a pair of Trowsers, a Frock & 6 shoes, no 2 of them being fellows.”

Stunned by the awful blow which had so unexpectedly fallen upon the expedition, and realizing the uselessness of any form of punitive treatment, Furneaux took the first opportunity which good weather gave him of getting his anchor up, and on the 23rd left the Sound which had proved such a disastrous resting place.

A year had almost elapsed before Cook put into the Sound for refreshments, prior to his return to England. During that time he had not seen Furneaux and not a hint of the tragedy of the boat's crew had reached his ears. On page 56 17th October, 1774, Mount Egmont was sighted and the next day the anchor was cast at the entrance to Ship Cove.

Although Furneaux had left no notification of his visit, Cook had not long anchored before he found, in the absence of the bottle of instructions, in the cutting down of certain trees with saws and axes, and in the site of an observatory different from Wales', evidences that some one had been there since he left. Birds nesting in exposed places and the tameness of those in the bush showed that some time had elapsed since their departure. The absence of all natives and the fact that they fled at sight showed that trouble had occurred somewhere, and was felt very much in the short supplies of fish available for the recuperating sailors.

It was six days before communication could be established with the natives, and even then it was only on Cook's initiative that it was secured. They, after ascertaining that no hostile designs were held against them, spoke about a battle and about killing, but the knowledge of their language was not sufficient to enable the visitors to understand clearly what was meant, and although fears for the safety of the Adventure were entertained, every thing was done that could be done to win once more the confidence of the natives.

This done, the Maoris came again round the ship and traded their fish and canoes for nails and other trifles. This went on day after day, and the watering place became a favourite spot for them to gather together for trade or to talk to the marines for hours together. In the midst of their friendly intercourse they told a tale of some European vessel that had come in to the harbour, and that her people had quarrelled with and fired on them but were all killed and eaten. Some said it was across at Terawhiti. One said it was two moons ago, but another counted twenty or thirty days. They also described the vessel as having beaten against the rocks and gone all to pieces. When however, the natives saw the anxiety their remarks occasioned, they evidently realized that the Resolution's page 57 crew knew nothing of what had happened, and no more information was available.

Captain Cook, frustrated in his efforts to ascertain what had occurred, now tried a very interesting experiment to learn if the Adventure had sailed away safely. “We made two pieces of paper, to represent the two ships, and drew the figure of the Sound on a large piece; then drawing the two ships into the Sound, and out of it again, as often as they had touched at and left it, including our last departure, we stopped a while, and at last proceeded to bring our ship in again; but the natives interrupted us, and taking up the paper which represented the Adventure, they brought it into the harbour, and drew it out again, counting on their fingers how many moons she had gone. This circumstance gave us two-fold pleasure, since at the same time that we were persuaded our consort had safely sailed from hence, we had room to admire the sagacity in the natives.”

Scarcely anything had been done in the way of exploration of the Sound since Cook's visit in the Endeavour in 1770, and he accordingly decided to ascertain what new information was to be obtained regarding the bay. First he visited West Bay to ascertain whether any of the pigs or fowls liberated there still survived, but the search was fruitless. Grass Cove was next visited, and all unconscious of the awful tragedy which had taken place there Cook made a close examination of the surrounding country.

On Saturday, 5th November, he set out up the Sound and, interrogating the various canoes met with, learned that it ended in a bay surrounded with mountains but with an outlet to the sea towards the east. This outlet, now known as Tory Channel, was entered, and the shores found to be thickly populated with natives. At one village Cook landed and spent some time with the chief and traded with the people.

The ease with which a quarrel with the natives might be started was well shown here. When Cook was putting off page 58 in his boat after an interview of the most promising and profitable nature, it was found that one of the sailors had not paid for a bundle of fish he had purchased. Cook called to the native who had sold the fish and threw him a nail by way of payment. The native, thinking himself attacked, picked up a stone and threw it at Cook with his full force, luckily without hitting him. The attention of the native having been directed to the nail he laughingly picked it up and all his anger vanished. A passing weakness of the leader at the moment might have re-enacted the story of the Adventure boat's crew, especially as there probably were some there who took part in that fight.

Cook followed the arm of the Sound down to the sea and looking through the entrance saw the North Island. He would have sailed round to the Resolution by sea but for the wind which was blowing against him. Sighting the entrance at four in the afternoon, he did not reach Ship Cove until ten o'clock, thoroughly fatigued with the day's work.

This appears to have ended Cook's exploration of the Sound. The remainder of the stay was devoted to necessary preparation prior to sailing and to the ever present question of stocking the island with domesticated animals. It was during this time too that Wales the astronomer found out that Ship Cove was 40′ too far to the East on the chart, a mistake which applied to the whole of the South Island.

Cook had followed out to the letter his own advice to the scientific world to make Queen Charlotte Sound the base of operations when exploring the South Pacific, and the results were all he had pictured them to be. Forster says:

“As often as we visited this country, it had abundantly supplied us with refreshments, which were particularly efficacious in restoring our health, and banishing the symptoms of the scurvy. Not only well-tasted antiscorbutic plants, but likewise the fish, which are easily digested, seem to me to have been equally salutory restoratives. The keen air which is felt in New Zealand, on the finest days, contributed not a little to brace our fibres, relaxed page 59 “by a long cruise in warmer climates, and the strong exercise we took was doubtless beneficial in many respects. From hence it happened that we always left that country with new vigour. If we came in ever so pale and emaciated, the good cheer which we enjoyed during our stay, soon rekindled a glow of health on our cheeks, and we returned to the south, like our ships, to all outward appearance, as clean and sound as ever, though in reality somewhat impaired by the many hard rubs of the voyage.”

On 10th November, Cook left the Sound and on the 12th land was out of sight and the expedition was homeward bound.

Great as was Cook's conquest of the ocean highway it sinks into insignificance when compared with the victory he obtained over the ocean's disease. His voyage in the Resolution earned for him the medal of the Royal Society in 1776. This distinction was granted him for performing a voyage of three hundred and eighteen days in a ship with one hundred and eighteen men, travelling between 30° N. and 71° S.; with the loss of only one man by sickness. Cook was the first who successfully combatted that terrible enemy of the navigator, scurvy. So great had been the human tribute which this fell disease levied upon seamen, that cases where one-fourth of the ship's complement died, were not unknown and it is recorded that during twenty years in the early part of the sixteenth century, ten thousand mariners died of scurvy alone.

Among the mementos of Cook's visit to New Zealand in the Resolution and the Adventure none have been the object of such close search as the medals which were struck to commemorate the expedition and taken with it to distribute amongst the natives visited. These medals were about one and three-quarter inches in diameter, having on one side a bust of the King with the inscription GEORGE III., KING OF GR. BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, and on the other two vessels of war representing the Resolution and the Adventure, with the page 60 words Resolution Adventure Sailed From England March MDCCLXXII. A small horseshoe ring attached by a staple to the medal enabled it to be suspended by a string round the neck of a native.

Although these medals were distributed amongst the natives at two places only—Dusky and Queen Charlotte Sounds—they have been found at different spots along the coast. The few distributed, and the small number of natives who resided at Dusky, suggest the probability of the medals discovered having come from the neighbourhood of Ship Cove rather than from Pickersgill Harbour. Their distribution up and down the coast shows the trade routes of the original holders or the course followed by them when Northern warriors drove them from their old homes.

A discovery of one in Otago is thus described by Mr. Murray G. Thomson, of the Railway Workshops, Dunedin, who was present when the medal was picked up:—

“In 1863, when a lad of 12 years of age, I went to live with an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Hunter, at Murdering Beach, about 4 miles to the left of the Otago Heads, at one time called Smaill's Bay, but altered to the former name after the murders took place. I lived there for over three years with the Hunters who had been living in the District ever since 1840, and I used to listen to their tales of their early days with great attention, especially when they spoke about the whaling days under Johnny Jones at Waikouaiti. Well it was our custom on Sunday afternoon to go for a walk to the beach, and also to take a stroll over the old Maori camps that were scattered about the sandy flat inside of the low sandhills. Murdering Beach had at one time been the headquarters of a large body of manufacturing Maoris from the number of places that we used to call Maori Workshops that were to be found. Many a time I have spent a whole afternoon looking over these interesting places just to see what I could find. I sometimes page break
Medal to Commemorate Cook's Second Expedition.Found by Mr. T. D. McManaway. Original in the Library of Mr. A. H. Turnbull, Wellington.

Medal to Commemorate Cook's Second Expedition.
Found by Mr. T. D. McManaway.
Original in the Library of Mr. A. H. Turnbull, Wellington

page break page 61 “was very fortunate in finding numbers of nicely finished greenstone weapons, implements or ornaments. One Sunday, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Hunter we were having our usual look round when Mrs. Hunter called out,—“I have found an old penny, and handed it to me to look at. My young eyes soon saw that it was not a penny and soon I had it polished up a little by rubbing it on the sleeve of my coat. Very soon the two ships came into view and part of the names were to be seen. Mr. Hunter at once said it had something to do with Captain Cook's voyages. When we got home I procured some oil and with a small piece of cloth I soon had it polished up quite bright and clean so that I could read the inscriptions quite easily. We kept it for a while, and then it was handed over to my father the late Mr. Peter Thomson. After his death it came into my hands again and I have taken great care of it ever since. It is in a good state of preservation, the inscriptions and the two ships being seen quite plainly.”

A second medal was discovered by Mr. T. D. McManaway, of Garns Bay, Elaine Bay, Pelorus Sound, who says:

“About thirteen years ago I found it at Rams Head, Tawhitinui Reach, Pelorus Sound. It had apparently been buried in a old go-shore or three legged pot, and was indicated by the appearance of the earth around, which showed signs of rust. An unusually high tide and heavy weather had removed the vegetation and earth, showing a circle of rust. I removed the earth to a greater depth and found the medal. It is now in the possession of Mr A. H. Turnbull, of Wellington.”

A third medal, now in the possession of Mr. James Jackson, a resident on the northern shore of Tory Channel, was, says the owner, “found by a Mr. Hood on this island in a bay called Otanarua, where a boat's crew of white men were murdered by the Maoris. It was found about fifty years ago.”