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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 IX. — Wreck of the Endeavour

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Wreck of the Endeavour.

The departure of Raven and his sealing gang in 1793, left the South Island of New Zealand, without, so far as we can ascertain, one white man upon its shores; in which condition it remained until 1795, when the Endeavour and the Fancy sailed into Facile Harbour, in Dusky Bay.

No wreck upon the New Zealand coast, with perhaps the solitary exception of that of the Boyd, at Whangaroa, has excited so much discussion and controversy as has that of the old Endeavour in Dusky Sound. Her name has been so long before the public and her identity has been so often confounded with that of Cook's Endeavour, that it will be as well to commence by explaining the circumstances under which she came to this country.

The Right Hon. Henry Dundas of the Home Office, in July, 1792, instructed Governor Phillip of New South Wales to send the Daedalus, on her arrival at Sydney from Vancouver, to Calcutta for a cargo of sheep and cattle. Delay however took place in the arrival of the vessel and in April 1793, Grose, Phillip's successor, unable to wait any longer, entered into a contract with Captain Bampton of the Shah Hormuzear to bring one hundred head of cattle and some food supplies, from India.

From one cause or another the voyage was a very protracted one, and in Sydney all hope of the vessel's safety had been abandoned, when the Fancy, a brig of 150 tons, commanded by Captain Dell, arrived from India with a portion of the cargo contracted for, and explained the cause of the delay. Captain Bampton was to follow.1 Waiting for him, the Fancy ran across to the River Thames, in New Zealand, where she spent three months while her crew page 112 cut spars to freight whatever vessel Bampton might bring from India. In this work they were very successful, securing two hundred trees from sixty to one hundred and forty feet in length. The Fancy returned to Sydney on 15th March, 1795.2

On 31st May, 1795, Captain William Wright Bampton arrived in Sydney with the Endeavour, 800 tons, a vessel destined to make for herself a name in New Zealand history. We are not so much interested in her cargo as in the circumstances under which Bampton picked her up. These he explained to Lieut.-Governor Paterson on his arrival. The war and the presence of French privateers, kept him a month at Batavia, so that he did not reach Bombay until February, 1794. On his arrival there, no ship fit for conveying cattle to a distance was procurable, and it was not until the middle of May that the Endeavour arrived. After purchasing her, Bampton found that she was not fit to face the boisterous latitudes without docking. This operation took until the month of October, 1794, and as this was not the season for cattle from Surat, it was January before the cargo could be got together. Two months were required to put the animals in condition for shipping, and the Endeavour sailed from Bombay for Sydney on 17th March, 1795, with one hundred and thirty-two head of cattle and a cargo of new Surat grain.3

While the Endeavour lay at Sydney wharf the Britannia arrived and was anchored alongside, and Bampton, being in want of an officer, applied to Raven. The latter suggested to his fourth officer, Mr. Robert Murry, that employment on board the Endeavour might mean more rapid promotion than remaining on board the Britannia, and advised him to accept the position, which he did.

From 31st May to 18th September the Endeavour remained at Sydney undergoing repairs, and on the latter date sailed for Dusky Bay in company with the Fancy (snow) commanded by Capt. E. T. Dell. No sooner had she got clear of the Heads than forty-five men and one woman were found to have stowed themselves on board. page 113 Four of these turned out to be carpenters. On 3rd October it began to blow very hard and the water rose so high in the hold that all hands had to be employed at the pumps throughout the two succeeding days. The day on which the vessel reached Dusky cannot be ascertained, because the log has no entry from 5th to 12th October, on which date both the Endeavour and the Fancy were at anchor in Facile Harbour.

No sooner had a landing been effected than Captains Bampton and Dell, taking Mr. Murry with them, went off to Luncheon Cove, to see the vessel which had been left there by Raven's sealing gang in 1793. The little wharf was still standing and so was the vessel on the stocks, and, although she did not appear in a very seaworthy condition, her injuries were found to be confined to the shrinking and splitting of some of the timbers, not much to men in the condition of the Endeavour's crew, who could not afford to be very particular, although they grumbled a little at the appearance of the vessel on the stocks. The utensils of the old station were found lying as Raven had left them.

The Endeavour herself was in such a state that a survey was, on 20th October, made by Captain Dell of the Fancy, Dennison and Fell, his first and second officers, William Bowell and Alms, passengers, and Waine, Weatherall and Murry, officers of the Endeavour, and the carpenters of both vessels. The result disclosed a condition of things quite unseaworthy and made the onlookers thankful she had held together during the tempestuous weather experienced in the voyage across. Nothing remained but to condemn the vessel, and following upon the condemnation, all hands were engaged in getting ashore what could be saved from the wreck. The rigging was taken down and sent away. The masts were cut out, the cables removed, and the food and ammunition placed on board the Fancy. While removing her guns two were lost by the upsetting of a raft, so there remains in the vicinity of the old wreck a prize still to be got by some energetic explorer. On the 25th the vessel was unmoored, page 114 and on the 27th she struck a rock on a bank close to where the Britannia had lain during her voyage; and there she lies until this day. Such was the wreck, or to be more correct, the abandonment of the Endeavour. To-day, one hundred and fourteen years after the old craft was laid to rest, timber is being taken from her to satisfy the demands of tourists and curio hunters, and when we remember that she was an old vessel in 1795, the sound teak obtained is a remarkable testimony to the qualities of that timber for ship building purposes.

Including the forty-one who had secreted themselves on board the Endeavour, the total number of people now at Dusky was no less than two hundred and forty-four, and when the mixed nature of the crowd is considered, it is not surprising to find that they did not long remain a happy and contented family. First of all, on the 13th October, came trouble among the officers, when Mr. Bowell, the first mate, resigned and was replaced by Mr. Waine, the second; then on the 18th the miscellaneous crowd, who had refused to take their proper share of work, were mustered and threatened with expulsion from the ship's quarters, and with shore camp for the future. No sooner had these difficulties been surmounted, than on the 23rd the stores were broken into and some of the food supplies stolen, but the thief was discovered and handed over to the tender mercies of the shore men for punishment. Trouble with the crew did not end till the 28th, when Captain Bampton gave his last and fixed resolution to decline to permit anyone, who refused to do his share of the work, to return to the mainland. The desperate position of such a great number of people and the utter hopelessness of relief, except with the assistance of the captain, seems to have so far awed the crew that there were no further complaints.

From the log of the vessel kept by Mr. Rt. Murry, which the author discovered in the Essex Institute at Salem, Mass. U.S.A., it is seen that Captain Bampton's relations page 115 with the first officer, Weatherall, were not such as they should have been, which was the cause of a very violent quarrel between that officer and one of the passengers named Alms. The dispute went so far that the mate was challenged to a duel with pistols, but the invitation was declined.

While trouble was going on between the officers and among the men, every effort was being made to get the great crowd on shore taken safely away from the dreary confines of Dusky Bay. The vessel which Raven had left lying at Luncheon Cove was repaired as well as circumstances permitted, and as a schooner under the name of the Providence, put into commission, under Captain Dell, to carry ninety persons. Bampton himself went into the Fancy and made provision for taking with him sixty-four of the shipwrecked mariners. To complete the entire transfer it was necessary to arrange for ninety, and that number was ultimately provided for by taking the long-boat of the Endeavour, and from her frame, with the fittings of the abandoned vessel, building a craft to sail to Sydney under the command of Mr. Waine. When the Fancy and the Providence were ready for sea, this vessel, which Bampton called the Resource, was not expected to be completed for three weeks, but it was decided to sail without her. Whether Bampton was justified in this action of abandoning his first officer is a moot point. The fact that he was not over friendly with Waine; that the new craft was plainly not likely to be a phenomenal success, in spite of the efforts that were put forward to complete her; and the annoyance that Waine must have felt at having his lot cast on board her after Bampton had decided not to stay; all tended to strain the relationship between the commander and his first officer, with the result that on New Year's Day things culminated in Bampton charging Waine with discontent.

On Thursday, 7th January, 1796, the Providence and the Fancy sailed from Facile Harbour, and as they passed Point Five Fingers the former vessel narrowly escaped page 116 shipwreck through missing stays and, in the calm, drifting with the tide towards the Point, a position from which she was saved by an opportune breath of wind. The Resource was left behind.

On 19th January, 1796, the Fancy and the Providence arrived at Norfolk Island, at that time a convict settlement, and Captain Dell went ashore to the Lieutenant-Governor's residence with the following letter:—4

Snow Fancy, off Norfolk Island,
19th January, 1796.

Dear Sir,—

“I beg leave to acquaint you that I sailed from Port Jackson in the Endeavour, with the Fancy, on the 19th of September last; but, having unfortunately suffered the disaster of the Endeavour's being shipwrecked, and having now only a few days' provisions of rice alone to subsist upon, and that at half allowance, under such unfortunate circumstances, I have taken the liberty of requesting your humane assistance for such necessary supplies as I stand in need of, and his Majesty's store will admit, to enable me to return to India.

“I likewise beg leave to inform you that I have between twenty-five and thirty people who secreted themselves on board the Endeavour (unknown to me or any of the officers), whose time of transportation is not yet expired. I therefore hope, sir, you will be so kind as to send boats and a guard to take them on shore; as likewise a number of others whom I permitted, by leave of his Excellency Governor Hunter to take a passage to India, but from my unfortunate situation cannot take them any further.

“For further particulars, I beg leave to refer you to Captain Dell, who will give you every information of our circumstances, and wait with pleasure.

“With my best respects to Mrs. King.”

I have, &c.,

W. W. Bampton

page 117

The miserable condition of the escapees from Port Jackson called from Lieut.-Governor King, in his despatch to the Duke of Portland, the following comment:—5

“The distressed state of the master and people belonging to those vessels has induced me to comply with his request in the manner stated in the enclosure, which I hope will meet with your Grace's approbation.

“I have the honour to enclose lists of persons of different descriptions landed here from the Fancy, snow, and Providence, schooner. They are real objects of pity, being so debilitated from extreme hunger that it will be some time before any labour can be got from them.”

King appeared to think he had performed an extremely charitable act in relieving Captain Bampton, but the document addressed to Deputy-Commissary Clark shows that nothing was parted with, without a quid pro qua. As a sample of Norfolk Island terms of relief to shipwrecked mariners in 1796, its terms are worth producing in extenso.6

“Mr William Wright Bampton (late master of the Endeavour) having represented the distressed state of his people for provisions and some stores, which are necessary for the prosecution of his voyage to India, and as he informs me he can procure a person to lodge twelve hundred pounds of fresh pork in his Majesty's stores in exchange for an equal quantity of salt beef, and that he has a quantity of salt which will be useful in curing Government's pork, which he is willing to give as an equivalent return for the quantity of dholl required, and will pay any overplus in money.

“On these conditions you will deliver him the salt beef out of the stores, and the dholl from that condemned by survey, with the stores as per margin, taking a fair valuation of the worth of those articles, delivering to me original copies of the same, together page 118 “with such money as may be given for the overplus value, to be applied by me to the purpose of purchasing grain and fresh pork.

For all which this shall be your order.

Given under my hand at Sydney, on Norfolk Island, this 19th day of January. 1796.


Two tons and a half of dholl; twelve hundred pounds of beef; three pieces of island canvas; one hundred pounds of nails; six hundred deck-nails; some ironwork, about seventy pounds weight, four pounds of thread.”

Word did not reach Sydney about the wreck for some considerable time. Collins tells us:7 “On the 17th (March, 1796), the vessel built by the shipwright Hatherleigh at Dusky Bay arrived, with some of the people left behind by Bampton. They were so distressed for provisions, that the person who had the direction of the vessel could not bring away the whole; and it was singularly fortunate that he arrived as he did, for with all the economy that could be used, his small stock of provisions was consumed to the last mouthful the day before he made the land.

“The vessel, which the officer who commanded her (Waine, one of the mates of the Endeavour) not inappropriately named the Assistance, was built entirely of the timber of Dusky Bay, but appeared to be miserably constructed. She was of near sixty tons burden, and was now to be sold for the benefit of Mr. Bampton.

“The situation of the people still remaining at Dusky Bay was not, we understood, the most enviable; their dependence for provisions being chiefly on the seals and birds which they might kill. They had all belonged to this colony, and one or two happened to be persons of good character.”

It looks suspicious that forty-one convicts and others could secrete themselves, unknown to the officers, on board page 119 the vessel before sailing. The presence of passengers would negative a suggestion that it was his intention to go down to Dusky and leave his vessel there, were it not for information given by the historian Collins. That author says that Raven's incomplete vessel was completed and launched “according to a previous agreement between the two commanders.”8

Governor Hunter who left Sydney in 1801, reported in England that when he left New South Wales, one New Zealand built vessel—probably the Assistance—was in Sydney, and another—probably the Providence—had gone to Batavia.9 We do know however that on her arrival in Sydney the Assistance, which Bampton had called the Resource, was sold for £250, while the log of the voyage records the fact that when Bampton reached Norfolk Island he put Murry, of the Fancy, in command of the Providence, and sailed for India.

The log was kept on board the Providence from 2nd February to 17th April, 1796, when the supply of paper for such purposes was exhausted. The vessel turned out to be a very poor sailer, but she made the Loyalty Islands on 5th February, and speaking of her next day, Captain Murry says: “It is the intention of Capt. Bampton to leave us, being a bad sailer, to ourselves, this day we have kept ahead of the brig, and, as we have no ballast very little water and few good sails, the present time should I think be embraced of getting these points accomplished that we may proceed on our passage.” On 10th April, 1796, the position of the Providence was Lat. 1° 22′ S. and 119° 53′ E. She probably made for Batavia and never left the harbour, which would fit in with the story told above by Governor Hunter.

Her log is now in the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass., U.S.A. How it came there is a mystery, but it may have been that one of the Salem East India merchantmen bound for Canton or the East generally, called at Batavia, and Murry shipped on board, taking his log with him. Be that as it may, there is the log of the Britannia 1792–95, the page 120 log of the Endeavour 1795–96, and the log of the Providence 1796, all kept by Mr. Robert Murry; and in one volume they form, with perhaps the solitary exception of Cook's manuscripts, the most interesting manuscripts relating to New Zealand ever discovered.

Bampton had hoped that the Assistance would have taken off all but four men who were to be left in charge of surplus stores, and who were to be relieved by a vessel sent from India; but as it happened thirty-five men were left behind, and no vessel came from India. In justice to Bampton it should be pointed out that his arrangements had been upset by the action of Waine—the officer he had left in charge. The Resource was to follow, at an interval of about three weeks, to Norfolk Island and then to India. It is probable that the strained relationship which existed between the captain and his first officer was responsible for Waine changing the name of the craft to that of the Assistance, and, instead of sailing for Norfolk Island, directing his course for Sydney. Whatever was the reason, Waine landed his men at Sydney and took no further steps in the direction of relieving the thirty-five who were still at Dusky. Bampton, expecting his vessel to follow him, would naturally await her arrival before making the next move. Between the two no relief was sent. Time wore on. The year 1796 passed, and still no tidings of the relief from India. Governor Hunter now began to get uneasy for the safety of the men; but as he had at Port Jackson no vessel fit for the work of facing the stormy New Zealand seas, he was powerless. The only thing possible was to try and enter into an arrangement with some whaler to call in and relieve them. The opportunity did not present itself until early in 1797, when an American snow, the Mercury, from Manila, called in at Port Jackson on 11th January, and stayed four months refitting. On being approached, when leaving Sydney, to call at Dusky, the master made no objection, only stipulating that be might be permitted to take from the wreck such stores as he might require. Of course Hunter could not give such page 121 permission; he could only direct him to make what terms he could with any of those belonging to her, whom he might find alive. In addition he gave him a letter to the commanding officer of Norfolk Island to permit him to land the survivors there.10

The Mercury sailed about the middle of May, 1797, and although the captain incurred the indignation of Collins, because he had repaid Sydney hospitality by taking away a female convict without the Governor's permission,11 still his heart was in the right place, and he made for the shipwrecked mariners at Dusky and relieved them. In September, 1797, a small decked long boat arrived from Norfolk Island and brought word that the Mercury had landed thirty-five people belonging to the Endeavour, who had been wrecked twenty months before (October 1795) on that island.12 This service was performed, we are told, “under many difficulties,” and we can well believe it. The advice to make a contract with the shipwrecked men was adopted, and a copy of same was sent by the master to Governor Hunter. Unfortunately the terms of the document are not available. Beyond the above, nothing is known with any certainty regarding the Mercury. There was, however, an American snow called the Mercury, Captain Todd, which had been captured by the French, carried into Morlaix and released, and the demand of the American Government for an indemnity had not been answered, when in June, 1797, the lists were published.13 This would fit in with the movements of the Dusky Bay Mercury.

This is the simple narrative of the wreck in Dusky. Romances that have been woven around it and fairy tales that have been told as solemn truth, would fill volumes. Some might be referred to here.

Miss Bourke, in her “Little History of New Zealand,” printed for the use of our primary schools, tells this fairy story to the children:—“No one knows how she came here, but she is of no English or modern make, and some one who was venturous enough to dive down and examine her page 122 says she is made of teak.” Her fate is thus described. “One morning a ship sailed into Dusky Bay and when close to shore she suddenly sank and disappeared, the crew swam off and lived for some time on a small island, and there one by one they died, but who they were or where they came from none can say.”

With a mysterious basis like this to work upon and the imagination untrammelled by any facts, it was a simple thing to load up the old craft with untold quantities of gold. With this cargo she blossoms out as the solution of the Madagascar mystery. Told in 1882 by Messrs. Anglem and Gilroy, two names well known among the old families of the south, the vessel was the Madagascar which had sailed from Melbourne. She had on board a large quantity of gold. The men mutinied. The ship was burnt. The treasure was taken ashore and buried, with a pick stuck in the ground to mark the spot. The survivors made for Lake Wakatipu. Of course there was the usual finish. The man who found that pick became rich beyond the dreams of avarice.14 Visions of these riches are said to have tempted cutters from the Bluff to visit the scene of the wreck with, in such cases, the usual, and in this case the inevitable, result. One of the trips was made in the cutter Heather Bell, chartered by three Sydney men representing a syndicate which had been formed there. They brought with them from Sydney a professional diver; they took with them to the wreck stores and dynamite to carry on salvage operations; they carried back to their homes an amount of wisdom and experience which, if properly used, would prove of great value in after life.

As late as 1903, with all the foregoing information available, this is found in a published work: “She is nothing more than an old transport that brought out a cargo of convicts to the Cove. Being in a state of starvation, the convict authorities chartered her to obtain supplies, and visit Dusky en route. Arriving there she was so completely waterlogged that she had to be taken into Facile and page 123 scuttled.”15 All goes to show how difficult it is to get back to fact, when fiction has long held undisputed sway.

In addition to the romance which gathered around the identity of the wreck, there was still the dispute whether it was Cook's old Endeavour or not. The clearing up of the later years of Cook's barque as shown in a preceding chapter, settled all question of identity; but many hung on to the idea that the two vessels were one and the same. No less an authority on New Zealand coastal matters than the late Captain Fairchild, master of the Government steamer, held that view. In September, 1895, he spent some time investigating the wreck and taking measurements of it, coming finally to the conclusion that she was a vessel of 128 feet keel and not 180 as he had previously estimated. Owing to this changed size of the vessel he made up his mind that she was the old Endeavour of Cook.16

Although not connected in any way with the wreck of the Endeavour, the next event within the range of our history is the discovery of the Antipodes Islands, and it is here given to complete the record of the eighteenth century events. H.M.S. Reliance, on service in New South Wales, became worn out and unfit for further service, and whilst she still remained in a condition fit to undertake the ocean voyage to England, Governor Hunter ordered her Home. She sailed from Port Jackson on 3rd March, 1800, and on the twenty-sixth this entry appears in the captain's journal:—

“Latd. in South 49° 51′ Longd. in East 180° 5′. Strong gales and squally, handed the Fore Topsail. A.M. at 2 discovered land or our lee beam about 2 miles distant, hauled to the wind and stood off, at daybreak wore and stood in for the land, which proved to be a desolate, Mountainous, and barren Island, scarce any verdure to be seen upon it, at 6 running along the eastern coast of the Island at 8 bore up and stood on our course the Eastern extremity of the land S. b. W. to S.W. b. W. distant page 124 “from a small Island at the N. E. end of the large one, 3 miles, at 9 the small Island bore W. b S. distant 3 leagues.”

These islands Waterhouse named the Penantipodes, from their approach to the antipodes of London. Seals were seen upon them, and they were located in lat. 49° 49′ 30″ S. and long. 179° 20′ E.17

The century therefore closed with the coastline as Cook had laid it down thirty years before, except that his later voyages had added to our knowledge of Queen Charlotte Sound, and his 1773 survey of Dusky had been completed and corrected by Vancouver in 1791, and Malaspina had obtained an idea of the outline of the entrance to Doubtful in 1793. Foveaux Strait was as yet undiscovered. Of the outlying islands, the Traps had been discovered by Cook in 1770; the Bounties by Bligh in 1788; the Snares by Vancouver, and Chatham Island by Broughton in 1791; and the Penantipodes by Waterhouse in 1800. The small sealing craft of Sydney had not yet braved the Tasman Sea, and British trade had still to be carried on through the East India Company. The first foreign vessel, the snow Mercury, had visited the South Island of New Zealand for trading purposes.