The Old Whaling Days
Chapter XI. The American Whalers, 1834 to 1837
Chapter XI. The American Whalers, 1834 to 1837.
The presence of the Erie, the first American vessel to take up bay whaling in the South Island, has already been recorded. She belonged to Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., and sailed on her South Pacific whaling voyage in April, 1832. F. Spooner was her commander, but he left the ship at the Society Islands, and the command then devolved upon A. W. Dennis. She is first mentioned as being at Cloudy Bay on 3rd June, 1834, and information regarding her movements from Australian sources is confined to that statement. From Salem, Mass., U.S.A., however, we learn that she was at Cloudy Bay on 20th August with a full cargo of sperm and black oil, and intended to proceed to America, having purchased provisions from the Bardastre of Liverpool. On her road home she reached the Bay of Islands on 29th October, and took her departure from there on 27th November. She reached Newport with 200 barrels of sperm and 1800 of black oil, on 11th June, 1835.
The following year Cloudy Bay was visited by two of the American whaling fleet—the Warren, of Warren, Mayhew, commander, and the Halcyon. The former had commenced her voyage on 28th September, 1834, and was nine months out when she was first reported at Cloudy Bay. The latter sailed for Sydney at the close of the whaling season, and there spread wild reports of native disturbances at Cloudy Bay. Information regarding her is very difficult to procure, but Starbuck reports a New London whaler of that name, commanded by Thompson, which sailed for the Indian Ocean in November, 1837.page 188
The arrival of the Erie at Newport in June gave the New England whalers full information of the capabilities of Cloudy Bay for bay whaling, and several of the vessels, then on the eve of departing for the South Pacific, were booked for the South Island of New Zealand. Some idea of the magnitude of the New Zealand trade in the ports of the New England States may be gathered from the fact that at this early date mails were there advertised for New Zealand. It is not suggested that these mails were advertised for the South Island, they were undoubtedly for the Bay of Islands, the general calling place of the American vessels, but all the vessels by which mails were advertised to go were bound for the black whaling bays of the South Island.
An advertisement, which the author believes to be the earliest known American mail notice for New Zealand, was found by him in the New-Bedford “Mercury” of 20th July, 1835, and reads thus:—
Ship Samuel Robertson, McKenzie, for South Atlantic Ocean and New Zealand, Aug. 5
This notice dates anterior to anything recorded in the interesting little publication on the history of the New Zealand Post Office, prepared by Mr. Robertson, I.S.O.
The information which American whalers gathered in New Zealand waters of the success of bay whaling in Cloudy Bay, and which they gave to the trade on their return to Home ports, produced an invasion of our bays by the American whalers.
The following will be found to be a fairly accurate description of the distribution of the American whaling fleet over the various whaling grounds of the South Island of New Zealand that year:—
|Samuel Robertson||New Bedford||M'Kenzie||Oct. 3|
|Apr. 22||Mary Mitchell||Nantucket||Joy||Sep. 27|
|Apr. 24||Jasper||Fairhaven||Raymond||Oct. 3|
|Apr. 24||Erie||Newport||Dennis||Sep. 27|
|May 1||Navy||Newburyport||Neil||July 11|
|May 2||Vermont||Poughkeepsie||Topham||Aug. 22|
|May 5||James Stewart||St. John's N.B.||Gardner||Oct. 3|
|May 11||John Adams||New Bedford||Luce||Sep. 21|
|May 22||Tuscaloosa||New Bedford||Hussey||Sep. 16|
|May 30||South Boston||Fairhaven||Butler||Sep. 27|
|June 7||Benjamin Rush||Warren||Coffin||Sep. 5|
|Aug. 2||Warren||Warren||Mayhew||Aug. 22|
In connection with the movements of the Cloudy Bay fleet, it should be added that on her departure the Navy sailed for Mana Island, where there is evidence of her being as late as 7th October. The dates of departure of the Favourite and the Franklin cannot be ascertained, but the former was there on 8th August, and the latter on 6th September. The Warren only called in at Cloudy Bay: she had sailed from Port Cooper a full ship. For the detailed statements of the movements of the Cloudy Bay fleet, the author is indebted to the logs of the Mary Mitchell, the Jasper, and the Tuscaloosa, the first-named of which page 190 he discovered in the rooms of the Nantucket Historical Society, Nantucket, the second in those of the Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, and the third in the New Bedford Library. The log of the Mary Mitchell is a perfect encyclopaedia of information regarding Cloudy Bay whaling, and that portion of it which records her doings while at anchor in Cloudy Bay during the bay whaling season has been deemed worthy of being published as Appendix E.
The Nile and the Friendship are reported in Hempleman's log as arriving at Port Cooper on 27th April. No further reference being made to them, it is probable that they remained there to fill up with oil, as the Nile was at that harbour on 16th September.
The only information regarding the Sarah Lee is the report of the Warren, on arrival at her destination in the United States, that she left the former in Akaroa Bay on 1st August.
Of the American vessels in the Southern Ports information is somewhat meagre, and is obtained chiefly from Australian sources, through the captains of the vessels attending on the shore whaling parties. The Martha was at Preservation Bay when Captain Bruce, of the Sydney Packet, arrived there—probably about May. She reported having on board at that time 350 barrels of black oil and 90 of sperm, and she remained at Preservation for three weeks, but not being successful, went on to Otago. In a bay near there she found a very rich spot, where during the season she secured no less than 1700 barrels. The spot selected has not been identified, but American files reported it to be at Hacarurah Bay. This might be taken to indicate Akaroa, but the dates scarcely permit of her being so far from Otago on 25th July. It might be Purakanui. The Columbus procured 1600 barrels at Otago, where she was reported to have been on 10th September.
The third American vessel known to have visited the Southern Ports was the Gratitude. Captain Bruce reported her at Chalky when he visited that port about May. She page 191 had then 950 barrels of black oil and some elephant, which she had probably secured at Desolation Island, where she had called. She was bound for Otago. On 30th July she was at the Bluff, and evidently did very well there, as later on she was spoken by the Denmark Hill repairing damage, and had then secured 2000 barrels. The latest date she was reported from the Bluff was 12th September.
The lists given above account for twenty American vessels engaged in bay whaling in and south of Cook Strait. In addition to these another vessel, the Halcyon, had, in the early part of the year, been engaged, so it was reported, conveying Maoris from Port Nicholson to the Chatham Islands.
The proportion of American vessels to the total number of whalers engaged is difficult to ascertain. In a letter from Port Cooper, sent by the Nile to New Bedford, and addressed to the agent of a London House concerned in the whaling trade, the writer puts the number of American, English, and French ships, at forty, which would make the American fleet exactly one-half of the total. The major portion of the English ships were from Sydney. In regard to the size of the vessels, the tonnage of seventeen ranged from 235 to 421 tons, the average being 333, which will give a very fair idea of the size of the vessels sent out on whaling voyages from the eastern ports of the United States. Nearly all the American whaling ports were represented, New Bedford, and Fairhaven, with five each, Nantucket, Newport, and Warren, with two each, Newbury-port, Poughkeepsie, St. Johns, and Bristol, with one each.
All these vessels took with them some sperm oil, but the oil of the right whale formed by far the larger portion of the cargo. A very large number of the whalers sailed straight from the Bay here recorded to their port of destination in the United States, but some waited for a second year to fill up with oil. To give a better idea of the size of the various vessels, the date of their return, their relative cargoes of black and sperm oil, and the weight of whalebone page 192 taken away, the information has been compiled and set out by the author in tabular form.
|Ship.||Tons.||Return||Cargoes in Barrels and Ibs.|
|Benjamin Rush||374||Feb. 11||120||1820|
|Sarah Lee||235||April 26||1700||600|
|James Stewart||June 24||2740||300||31,000|
|Samuel Robertson||421||June 24||3200||200|
|John Adams||268||July 9||1750||250|
|South Boston||339||Aug. 10||2400||300|
|Mary Mitchell||354||May 17||1974||596|
Total black oil for 18 vessels, 38,554 barrels or 4819 tuns.
The whole of the black oil, if not obtained in the bays of the South Island, was obtained in New Zealand waters, and at £28 per tun makes £134,932 the value of the cargoes of oil of these eighteen vessels in New Zealand waters.
The same principle of remuneration of the men prevailed in the American as in the Australian ships—they were paid by the lay. The following scale, dated New Bedford, September, 1832, was the one adopted by the Americans, particularly by those sailing out of New Bedford, New London, and Nantucket.page 193
|Rank.||500 tons.||350 tons.||300 tons.||150 tons.|
|Boat steerers, Carpenters,|
|A.B., Cook and Steward||1/175||1/140||1/120||1/50|
£29 per ton old measure was allowed for oils; £7 10s. allowed for black oil.
In addition to the fleet of whalers, there appeared in Foveaux Strait a schooner—the Ionic—from Boston. Captain Bruce spoke her on 8th May with only 52 skins on board although she had been thirteen months out. Her captain, Clark, transhipped his cargo to the Selma, and sailed about the middle of June from the Bay of Islands for California. On her road she called in at the Sandwich Islands, where she remained from the middle of August to about the end of September.
From the logs of the Mary Mitchell, and the other American vessels of the Cloudy Bay fleet, a general idea of the 1836 whaling season, from the American side, can be gathered. It is worthy of mention, incidentally, that of the vast fleets of whaling vessels which represented America, Britain, New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land, the only logs which can now be obtained are those of a small craft called the Bee, sailing out of Sydney, and those of the Americans, which can be obtained in great numbers. The author knows of not one other log of all the vast fleets of British whalers which visited our shores up to 1840.
The American whalers were on an entirely different footing to the Sydney and Hobart Town vessels. The latter were near their own headquarters and could come and go at their own convenience, while the former were compelled to make the bay their headquarters for the page 194 whole of the season, and even at the end of it were indebted to the natives for the supply of provisions which were to last them for the years of their voyage. For similar causes the proportion of men who knew and could converse with the Maoris was very much smaller than in the Sydney and Hobart fleets. The Americans had, therefore, to rely to a greater extent on Maori labour, and to be indebted to the services of interpreters. These men were locally called “tonguers.” There were two or three such men at Cloudy Bay—Europeans and mostly runaways from ships. Each tonguer had a boat, and had also a number of natives attached to him. On the arrival of a vessel he went on board and canvassed for employment, which consisted of interpreting and furnishing a boat's crew to help to tow the dead whales, and to cut them up. The remuneration for these services was the carcass and tongue of the whale. This would provide about six or eight barrels of oil per whale. The tongue was always left on the carcass under the Cloudy Bay whaling conditions. In “The Piraki Log” the word “tonguer” is suggested as a corruption of the Maori “tonga.” This is quite wrong. A tonguer was a man who interpreted and assisted in cutting up and who was paid with the tongue of the whale. Wakefield has fully described his duties; so also has Pitt Johnston.
No sooner was the anchor down in Cloudy Bay than provision had to be made for the season's stay. One of the first things was to arrange for the building of a house ashore, in which to do coopering and to mend boats. Arrangements were made with the chiefs who held power locally delegated to them by Te Rauparaha. Sometimes they were difficult to deal with, but as they were jealous of their patrons leaving them for another part of the Bay, where they would be under another chief's jurisdiction, the ordinary commercial instincts of the parties were responsible for a working tariff, generally of some 100 heads of tobacco. These same chiefs exercised control over the coves, and would, for a consideration like two muskets, give a captain the use of a whole cove for wood and water page 195 and for landing casks, and would also give him power to exclude others therefrom.
The ships rode at anchor in the many little coves of Port Underwood, and, as they came from the same ports in the United States, and had been long removed from their own country, a custom grew up of parties visiting from the different ships when things were quiet. Some of the captains did not like the riot which this custom brought about, and did their best, by securing isolated anchoring places, to get clear of it altogether.
On board the Navy was a doctor, to whom the many casualties of the fleet were taken for treatment.
If the captain desired to man more boats than the number of his crew would permit, recourse was had to the Maori village for able-bodied men accustomed to handle an oar. They were got at what is now known as Tory Channel, at that time not distinguished from Queen Charlotte Sound, but called simply, the Sound. Sometimes the boats, on returning from the Sound, were found to contain more women (called squahs by the Americans) than men. Numbers of these Maori women associated themselves with the crew during the ship's stay in port, and only left when the ship sailed at the end of the season.
The question of labour to man the boats was complicated by the attractions held out on shore to the sailors to abscond and seek other employment. A rum shop ashore was responsible for enticing the men from their work, with the result that they often came on board mad drunk, and either broke the captain's skull, or had their own broken by him. Employment in a shore gang sometimes proved too attractive for the weaker men, and the log of the Mary Mitchell records the fact that the fourth mate applied for and obtained employment in Guard's whaling party ashore. As he appears to have been a useless man he was got rid of without any regrets.
There were also charges made against one man associated with Sydney whaling—enticing men from their ships. The Sydney records which mention the fact carefully omit page 196 the name of the accused, but Captain Joy, in his log, gives his name as Richards, the captain of the Roslyn Castle.
After arranging the crews, the usual course of procedure was to mate with another vessel. Thereafter the two vessels worked in concert, and, according to rules well recognised, shared between them the whales caught by their two boats.
The day's procedure was for the full number of boats the ship could supply to go out early in the forenoon and scour the Bay for whales. At five they returned with what “fish” they had secured. As many as twenty to twenty-five boats were recorded as being out at one time. The captain generally remained with the vessel and attended to the woodcutting or boat repairing on shore, or the cutting, boiling, or stowing away on board. If by reason of the distance it was impossible to tow the dead whales to the vessel they were anchored. In one case recorded a whale was anchored on Sunday, after having been towed for six miles; on Monday it was found seven miles off, but as only one boat was there it had to be left; on Tuesday there was no appearance of it and with it were lost the anchors, two lines, and six irons. It was no uncommon thing for the anchored whale not to be got in until the third day.
These derelict dead whales were sometimes secured by other vessels, or by shore parties; sometimes they drifted ashore and were taken possession of by the Maoris, who took out the bone and sold it to the whalers. Sometimes the harpoon would draw after the whale was fastened, and the latter would thus be lost.
It was but natural that with whales escaping alive, and getting free when dead, disputes sometimes took place regarding the ownership of a dead “fish.” The unwritten law of whaling jurisprudence settled many of the questions, but local conditions sometimes caused even these to be varied. Thus, on one occasion, the captain of the Mary Mitchell formally notified the different masters that where he was obliged to cut from a whale on account of his boat being stove in, he would not agree to give up his claim to page 197 the whale. Where a contention took place as to the ownership of the “fish,” the dispute generally went to settlement by arbitration. Thus where one of the whales anchored by the Mary Mitchell boats was claimed by the John Adams, three referees met and awarded the prize to the Mary Mitchell.
A popular custom observed in connection with the towing of whales was to take out a bottle of rum and give it to the boat's crew after a heavy drag.
The stove boat question was found to be a very serious one for the Americans. With the help of Maoris to supplement their crews, a whaler could launch five boats to scour the Bay, but boats were getting stove in so often that it was seldom that one at least was not in the hospital undergoing repairs. Whether it was due to the inexperience of the mass of the men engaged cannot be ascertained in the absence of the like information from British and Sydney whalers.
Independence Day was kept with all the honours by the American fleet, much ammunition being expended in the process.
The two nationalities—British and American—appear to have carried on their work side by side without anything in the nature of a rupture. In the quiet waters of the New Zealand bays the Americans sold to the British quantities of whalebone to enable a British certificate to enter it into the Port of London at a lower duty. The ships also helped one another when short of tackle. Captain Joy records having purchased an anchor from an English vessel for 40lbs. of tobacco and a steering oar. The same American captain had, however, a very poor opinion of the crews of British vessels. He had landed on one occasion with some twenty other boats, five of which were English, and he records “the most blackguard language from 5 English boats there sparing no person at all in short I shall ever keep clear of English ships as they have no authority.”
In spite of Captain Joy's opinion, a friendly relationship between the two nations was the order of the day, and page 198 when Captain Bateman, of the English whaler Cheviot, who had a number of his men enticed away, retaliated by seizing some of the boats of the offending party, Captain Neil, of the American whaler Navy, forwarded him the following remarkable justification:—
Ship Navy Oct. 7 1836. Manna.
I received your letter of the 6th instant, and as you request my opinion in writing, tending the loss you sustained by part of your crew deserting you and joining a shore party employed by of Sydney, I am well aware that your men were taken from Cloudy Bay in the barque and to my certain knowledge distressed your ship much. It is my opinion had not these men been enticed from your vessel you would have had double the quantity of oil you now have, your crew being much reduced; but as Captain ….. told me there was “no law in New Zealand” I commend you for having taken the boat as part payment for the injury sustained.
I remains dear Sir,
An important source of revenue to the natives who lived at the Bay was the supply of food to the whaling fleet. They brought on board fish, turnips, and potatoes, which they sold for their dearly beloved pipe and tobacco, a head of the latter, with a pipe, purchasing fish enough to supply the ship's company for a meal. The employment of the natives in small jobs ashore, and in manning the boats, has already been referred to.
The domestic and sanitary conditions prevailing in the native villages evoked expressions of disgust from the American whaling captain.
“This afternoon I saw with disgust the manner these Natives live or rather exist—in an enclosure containing 9 huts each of which had but one side and page 199 the two ends thatched the other side entirely open some facing one way some another to screen them from the wind in whatever direction it might blow. In one I observed 4 sows 2 with litters of Pigs 2 boars 5 dogs a bitch with 5 large pups Sucking, a woman asleep on a mat another scraping raw potatoes to boil another suckling a young child 2 other women sitting on a mat deliberately picking the vermin from their shoulder mats and the men nearly all asleep on the damp ground with nothing under them but their mats. Accordingly as might be expected tho inured to it from their infancy they all had a bad cold and accompanied with a cough such a miserable set of Natives I never before witnessed and to these disgraces of humanity we must pay tribute in shape of presents! Shame!”
After the completion of the bay whaling of the 1836 season, the American fleet of whalers separated, the full vessels making for home, and those not yet ready to leave following the whales off the coast.
Of the homeward bound vessels the Nile sailed direct from Port Cooper to New Bedford, and negotiated the voyage in 137 days. Generally, however, the whalers made for the Bay of Islands, where were to be obtained first-class provisioning and equipping facilities for the long homeward journey. Some made a call at one or other of the Brazilian ports of Bahia, Pernambuco, St. Catharina, or Rio Janeiro. The Warren, the Martha, and the Erie called in at the first-named port; the Columbus, the Favourite, and the Vermont stopped at Pernambuco; the Jasper at St. Catherina; and the Navy, the Mechanic, and the Rosalie at Rio Janeiro.
While on the coast of Brazil, trading was sometimes indulged in. The Warren sold 1400 barrels of her oil at Bahia, and the Rosalie 2000 at Rio and loaded up with coffee for home.page 200
More whalers sailed from the Bay of Islands than direct from the bays where they had taken the whales, and the great bulk of them relieved the tedium of the long homeward journey by a run ashore in Brazil. The length of the home voyage varied from 90 days in the case of the James Stewart, to 137 days in the case of the Nile.
Of the whalers recorded as being on the coast in 1836 there appeared there in 1837, the Gratitude, the Erie, the Tuscaloosa, and the Jasper. On the other hand we have mentioned for the first time, the Mechanic and the Margaret Rait, of St. Johns; the Courier, the Orozimbo, the Virginia and the Julian, of New Bedford; the Thule, of Nantucket; and the Rosalie and the Chariot, of Warren. There were, therefore, thirteen American whalers recorded as being on the coast during 1837.
The following was the distribution of the whaling fleet on the various bay whaling grounds:—
|Tuscaloosa||New Bedford||Hussey||May 6 to July 18|
|Erie||Newport||Dennis||June 17 to Aug. 1|
|Thule||Nantucket||Coleman||July 18 to Aug. 1|
|Virginia||New Bedford||Krudup||July 18 to Aug. 24|
|Orozimbo||New Bedford||Sherman||Oct. 13|
|Mechanic||St. John's||Cudlip||Oct. 13|
|Jasper||Fairhaven||Raymond||Feb. 18 to Mar. 1|
|Orozimbo||New Bedford||Sherman||July 7|
|Stewart island and foveaux strait.|
|Courier||New Bedford||Worth||May to Oct. 6|
|Margaret Rait||St. John's||May to Oct. 6|
|Julian||New Bedford||Trapp||Aug. to Sept. 18|
The above disposition shows that the American whalers had been disappointed with the results at Cloudy Bay the previous season. The Tuscaloosa and the Erie were the only two which returned to the Bay, and they mated from 11th May onwards. The Thule alone put in a first appearance. No other Americans cast anchor at this celebrated station until the Orozimbo, the Chariot, and the Mechanic came up from the Southern bays with good cargoes in their holds towards the end of the season.
The log of the Tuscaloosa shows that she came to anchor in Cloudy Bay on 6th May and had her boats out on the bay on the eighth. On the eleventh she mated with the Erie, and the first whale of the partnership was killed the following day, which was a Friday. On the Saturday the whale was towed in and cut up, on the Sunday boiling down was commenced, and on Tuesday that process was completed and the coopering done. On 20th May three whales were killed, and another on the twenty-sixth, one on 2nd June, two on the fourth, one on the sixth, one on the eleventh, two on the twelfth, one on the fifteenth. These figures will serve to indicate how often whales were captured when two vessels were acting in concert.
Nothing is said in the log of the Tuscaloosa about other ships being in the Bay until 16th June, when it records the arrival of H.M.S. Rattlesnake. That there were other ships in the vicinity is shown by the fact that the journal of Captain Symond's brother records the fact that while the Rattlesnake lay there several whales were killed and that there were no less than 30 boats out manned by Maoris, Englishmen, Americans, and Frenchmen. Beyond the knowledge that the American boats were those of the Tuscaloosa and the Erie we have no further information.
The entries towards the latter part of the season indicate that comparatively few whales were captured, and the Tuscaloosa sailed on 18th July.
Banks Peninsula is only known to have been used by the Mechanic and the Orozimbo. The captain of the former vessel is given as Doggett, when in Foveaux Strait. page 202 Cudlip, when at Banks Peninsula and in Cloudy Bay, and Pease, on arrival at St. John's. The Jasper simply called in for refreshments while whaling along the coast in the early part of the year before leaving for home. Her log records the fact that she was at anchor at Akaroa during the period given.
The information regarding the Otago harbours was brought to New Bedford by the Courier, which sailed home from Stewart Island under Captain Worth on 6th October, and reached New Bedford under the command of Captain Crowell on 12th January, 1838, Captain Worth having died when the vessel was eight days out from Stewart Island. In May, the Courier, the Gratitude, and the Margaret Rait were all at the Neck, Stewart Island, but it is probable that they visited the Bluff and other ports during the bay whaling season.
The following are the particulars of the return home of the whalers not already given:—
|Ship.||Tons.||Return.||Cargoes, in barrels and lbs.|
No particulars are available of the Margaret Rait beyond the fact that she had 2000 barrels on board when at Stewart Island.
The cargoes of the seven vessels ascertained amounted to 18,259 barrels of oil, and from the few cases where the weight of bone has been given it can be seen that 10lbs. of bone went to 1 barrel of black oil.
Of all the American whalers none has a greater interest to New Zealanders than has the Julian, of New Bedford, page 203 which “fished” the Foveaux Strait bays during this season. Taking to himself a wife from among the daughters of a Foveaux Strait chief, there was born to Captain Trapp, the commander, a son, who, in the person of the Hon. Tama Parata, M.L.C., represented the South Island in the Parliament of New Zealand for nearly a quarter of a century, and retired to the Legislative Council, from which elevated political station he now sees his former position filled by his son, Charles Parata, M.P. The third generation of this talented and distinguished family is represented by Miss Te Kahureremoa Hinehoukiterangi Parata.