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The Old Whaling Days

Chapter XIII. — Cook Strait Trade, 1838

page 221

Chapter XIII.
Cook Strait Trade, 1838.

While the Sydney trade viâ Foveaux St. was practically in the hands of Jones and Weller and the shore whaling confined to them, quite a different condition of things prevailed in Cook St. There a fairly miscellaneous trade flourished with the natives and whaling stations existed more independent of Sydney ownership than were the southern ones. The result was that shipping masters advertised for cargo when sailing to Cook St. and many of the voyages partook more of the nature of trading expeditions.

The first regularly advertised sailing is to be found in the “Sydney Herald” of 8th January, 1838, thus:—

  • For Queen Charlotte's Sound, Cloudy Bay, &c.

  • Will positively sail in ten days

  • The new Fast-sailing

  • First-Class Schooner

  • Hannah

  • For Freight or Passage, Apply to Captain Hay on board:

  • or to

  • Messrs. A. Mc Gaa, Breed & Co.

  • Sydney, January 8, 1838.

She sailed on 1st February and reached Queen Charlotte Sound on the fourteenth, where she found the brig Vanguard, which had been at anchor there since 13th January. The Hannah remained only seven days, and four days later the Vanguard sailed. On 2nd April the former reached Sydney, having on board 29 tuns oil, 12 cwt. whalebone, 6 casks of pork, 1 cask lard, 8850ft. plank, 25 bundles flax, 12 pigs, and 4 tons potatoes for W. Wright; 30 casks oil, and 58 bundles whalebone, for Ellison; and 15 bundles page 222 whalebone, and 2 casks salted fish for R. Jones & Co. Mr. John Ellison came up as a passenger.

The miscellaneous nature of the cargo is due to causes already mentioned, and to the fact that, being the “off” season for whaling, the schooner had to be satisfied with the cleanings up of the various stations.

At Cloudy Bay the Denmark Hill had been lying at anchor since December. Her captain, Cole, had left her, and the command had devolved on the mate. Halliday, who procured a small cargo of timber which he landed at Sydney on 12th March. Two American whalers—the Montana and the Mechanic—had sailed into Cloudy Bay on 20th and 21st February, and on the twenty-eighth Guard arrived home in the Speculator from Sydney. He was accompanied by his wife and children. The Speculator had sailed from Sydney along with the Hannah.

On 7th February, a very serious disturbance took place at Queen Charlotte Sound (Tory Channel). Te Rauparaha and his friends having joined with the Ngati Awas, who protected the Sound, on an excursion to the southward for slaves, some dispute arose on the road and a canoe belonging to one of the local chiefs got broken up. In consequence of this the chief returned and took his revenge by smashing some of the canoes belonging to Te Rauparaha and his allies. “Old Robulla” was quickly on the track of the offenders, and a fight took place on a hill not 300 yards from a store belonging to an European. A great deal of ammunition was expended between 2 p.m. and dark, and six of the local men were killed. Te Rauparaha admitted to only one death on his side. The Europeans on the beach nearly all left and took refuge on board the Vanguard, then lying in the Sound. Captain Walker offered to move their stores elsewhere, but the Europeans thought it better to leave them where they were. All that was lost by doing this was a quantity of potatoes which were lying in a house some distance from the store. As the owner had had an offer from an American whaler to take the lot and pay in tobacco he felt his loss rather keenly. After the battle Te Rauparaha page 223 sent word to the storekeeper that he would not be hurt and would he kindly send the chief a bottle of brandy. Of course it was sent, and Te Rauparaha left about three days afterwards.

These dates coincide with those given in Hempleman's log of movements of the southern Natives. From 9th to 12th January Piraki was visited by five boats of Otago Maoris moving northward, on fighting bent. On 12th and 14th February the natives were again at Piraki, returning home. On the twentieth and the twenty-fifth of the same month Hempleman reports rumours of the redoubtable Maori general being at Kaiapoi.

On 17th April the Hannah sailed on her second vovage to New Zealand and made the round trip, calling at Kapiti, Mana, Queen Sound, and Cloudy Bay. She reported:—

  • At Kapiti (2nd June),
    • Samuel Cunard, clean.
    • Fame, 90 bar. sperm.
    • Warren, 100 bar., 10 mos. out.
    • Luminary, 600 bar., 6 mos. out
  • At Mana, Caroline, Cherry, 120 bar., sp. and 1 black whale.
  • At Cloudy Bay, two American and one French whaler, names not known.

The Martha had sailed for the East Coast the latter end of May.

The Hannah left New Zealand on 27th June and reached Sydney on 28th July with 15 tuns of oil for R. Jones and a small cargo of whalebone for R. Duke, H. Hay, and W. Wright. In a dreadful gale of wind at Mana Island she lost an anchor and was very nearly driven ashore, and on her passage to Sydney she lost her foremast owing to the boisterous weather.

The Martha returned to Sydney viâ the Bay of Islands on 8th August, with a small cargo of oil and flax. She struck the same gale as the Hannah, and the second mate, while reefing sail, fell from the main yard arm into the sea, and was drowned, despite every effort made to save him page 224 The Martha was commanded by H. Hay, the Hannah by W. Hay.

Eight days after the Martha, the Minerva brought up a cargo of 5 tuns of oil and “4 bales wool, shorn from the back of sheep at Mayna (Mana) N.Z. and the first imported into this Colony (N.S.W.).” So far as being the first wool was concerned this was not the case, as we have already had a cargo of wool recorded (p. 133) from Mana Island to Sydney. Captain Leslie reported that the whaling season had been unsuccessful in Cook Strait, and that when he left there on 17th June, the Luminary (American), and the Caroline (Sydney), had each caught only one whale. The Samuel Cunard was then at Mana with 530 barrels.

On 22nd August H.M.S. Pelorus sailed into Port Underwood and cast anchor in Oyster Cove. She was at the time under the command of Lieutenant Chetwode and had come from Tauranga to pay a visit to the various whaling stations in the vicinity of Cook Strait. In the quiet waters of the whaling port she found the Janet Izet and the Martha, and she remained for a week, fitting up a false stern, taking in a supply of fresh water, procuring a sufficiency of firewood, and making an accurate survey of the harbour. During her stay John Guard of Kakapo Cove reported to Lieutenant Chetwode that he had seen a river between Queen Charlotte Sound and Admiralty Bay, and had, on one occasion, taken refuge in it during a gale of wind. Guard was well known to the naval men from his connection with H.M.S. Alligator four years before, and Chetwode at once decided to take him as pilot and ascertain whether the river would supply a suitable place for the settlement which the New Zealand Company, then in progress of formation in London, intended to establish in the vicinity of Cook Strait. Guard came on board on the thirty-first, and there were also taken on board two distressed British subjects named Wm. Davy and Thos. Briant.

On 1st September Chetwode sighted the river and page 225 named it the Pelorus, after his command. He worked up the inlet for about 20 miles and cast anchor for the night within a cable's length from the shore, in a bay on the eastern side. By sunset on the third he had reached a spot about 40 miles from the mouth, when the water was found to shoal suddenly, and the anchor was cast in 3½ fathoms. Chetwode left the ship and pushed on in the pinnace. At 10 miles from the ship he found the water fresh and good, but at 15 miles was unable to proceed, although a native chief, who lived at the entrance and. who accompanied Chetwode, told him that the river extended for 50 miles further into the interior and that the land became flatter.

The Pelorus left her anchorage on the eighth, and got clear into Admiralty Bay on the tenth. She then rounded Jackson Head and entered Queen Charlotte Sound. While running into a cove to anchor for the night the water suddenly shelved, and the ship grounded, while rounding to come to an anchor. In about four hours she was got off, none the worse for her experience. Sailing up the Sound the next day she turned down what is now known as Tory Channel, and “anchored off a settlement about two miles inside the eastern entrance formed entirely of Europeans amounting to between 90 and 100.” Here, at Te Awaiti, was found the Hannah lying at anchor. Chetwode says that there were 12 boats employed here under Messrs. Thorns, and another whose name cannot be deciphered, and the log of the Pelorus has this interesting entry: “4 p.m. saluted the Settlement with 9 guns in answer to the same number from them.”

“Nothing,” says Chetwode, “could have been more pleasing to the residents than my arrival at this juncture; Mr. Thoms had been robbed by the Natives of property to a great amount. As they were living only two miles from where the vessel lay, I went immediately to the spot to demand restoration, but the very name of a man-of-war had so frightened them (as it was the first that had ever page 226 anchored there) that the principal chiefs and all those who were any way concerned in the robbery, had fled to the Bush in great consternation, leaving their slaves to deliver up the property we were in search of, in addition to which they brought numerous articles scarcely before missed, and during the whole of that night they were constantly passing and repassing the ship returning the plundered goods. After seeing things thus peaceably settled for Mr. Thorns, I collected as many of the principal natives as would venture to return from the mountains, and addressed them in a friendly manner, assuring them that so long as they did not interrupt Englishmen, a man-of-war would always be friendly towards them.”

The interview with the native chiefs took place on the afternoon of 13th September, Lieutenant Chetwode landing with a party of seamen and marines. Moioio Island, well up the channel, is stated by Dieffenbach, writing in 1839,. to be the spot, and this writer states that Chetwode fired some shots into the rock to frighten the Maoris; but the log of the Pelorus records nothing of that sort, and Dieffenbach is certainly in error when he states that Chetwode afterwards went to Te Awaiti. He called on the Maori chiefs after leaving the European Settlement. It should be noted that the Pelorus did not sail out into Cook Strait at Te Awaiti, but returned to Queen Charlotte Sound.

Hearing, while in the Sound, that Captain Cherry of the Caroline had been killed by the Natives near Mana Island, Chetwode made for the scene of the murder, and anchored near Mana on the fifteenth. Two English and two American vessels were found anchored there; their names are not given, but they were probably the Sydney whaler Caroline and the Hobart Town whaler Highlander; and the Adeline of New Bedford was probably one of the American vessels.

The same day a Court of Enquiry was held. It consisted of Lieutenant P. Chetwode, Acting Master D. Craigie, and page 227 Acting Purser V. A. Haile; and there were examined James Ames, chief mate, James Reilly, second mate, George Potter, boatsteerer, and John Davies, A. B. of the Caroline. The evidence disclosed that about 11 o'clock on 27th August Captain Samuel Cherry and the third mate of the Caroline had landed on the mainland opposite Mana Island, at a spot about two miles from where the Caroline lay, for the purpose of looking out to seaward for whales. After a short time Captain Cherry left the mate to go and look at some potatoes which a native wanted him to purchase. About one o'clock a Maori came and told the third mate, who still kept watch at the same place, that Captain Cherry had been murdered. The mate, fearing the worse might happen, ran down to the boats and took them back to the ship. About 4 p.m. he returned and landed with a boat's crew, when he found Captain Cherry's body lying on a litter on the beach, with several natives round it, and one of the seamen of the Caroline, who had been left ashore, had put his own clothes over the stripped body of his captain. The body was then removed to the ship and the wounds washed and examined in the presence of Captain Lovett of the Highlander, and Captain Brown of the Adeline; when it was found that the back part of the head on the right side had been severely bruised, as if by a piece of wood and done suddenly, but, as there was no medical man present, no accurate examination could be made.

When the third mate was putting off in the boat to give the alarm to the ship, Mitikakau, a chief resident near the spot, forced into the boat, against the wishes of the mate, a slave to be killed as payment for Captain Cherry, according to Maori custom. This slave told that the chief struck the fatal blow, and that he. the slave, was obliged to hold Captain Cherry's feet to keep him down. On board the Caroline were several natives who were very much attached to Captain Cherry, and these men threatened to kill the slave if he remained. He was accordingly taken away for safety to Mana Island, but was killed and eaten by the natives page 228 there immediately he was landed. A week after the catastrophe Ames went to Kapiti, to get Captain Finlay of the Samuel Cunard and Captain Hayward of the Fame to come over and assist in having the deceased's affairs settled.

Suspicion fastened upon a man named Thomas Ellison, who had been a mate on board the Caroline, and who had left on account of a misunderstanding with Captain Cherry. At this time he had married a daughter of a chief and was in charge of a whaling establishment only half a mile from where the murder took place. George Potter, the boatsteerer, told that two or three weeks before the murder, Ellison, or Thomas, as he was called, had threatened to break Captain Cherry's head with a stick, if he landed there. Lieutenant Chetwode had Ellison sent for and closely examined, but came to the conclusion that he was not concerned in the murder.

The decision come to was that Mitikakau killed the captain, not from any ill-feeling, but simply to obtain a new suit of Flushing which he wore on that occasion. Some of these clothes the chief afterwards gave up, at the same time telling the chief mate he was ashamed of what he had done, but considered himself blameless as he had not done the deed himself. However, when he heard of the expected visit of H.M.S. Pelorus he fled towards Port Nicholson with his canoes. He was described as a desperate man and one who had great influence over the others.

Owing to the absence of the guilty person, Chetwode had to be satisfied with threatening future pains and penalties. If the murderer was not taken and delivered up by the time another man-of-war arrived, all the pas would be destroyed. Te Hiko, after consultation with the other chiefs, promised to deliver him up in two months. There, was always the danger that harsh measures might recoil on the heads of the innocent, and Mr. Bell, who was farming at Mana, and had 400 to 500 head of sheep and 27 head of cattle on his farm, told Lieutenant Chetwode that harsh measures on the Natives there, who were quite page 229 innocent, would prove more injurious than beneficial to the Europeans. The whole matter had to rest at that.

Chetwode's opinion of the whalers about the locality was neither wordy nor flattering.

“They are, generally speaking, a disreputable and lawless set, distrusting each other, and telling innumerable falsehoods to support their villany.”

While the Pelorus lay at anchor at Mana there came a call from Kapiti for the services of Lieutenant Chetwode, and that officer set sail on 17th September and reached his destination next morning. There, were found three English and two American whalers. Though their names were not given—an old complaint with H.M.S. vessels—the English whalers were the Samuel Cunard, the Minerva, and the Harlequin, and the Americans were the Luminary and the Warren.

The trouble was that Captain Finlay of the Samuel Cunard had, after losing the greater part of his men by desertion, and while in a state of intoxication, jumped overboard and drowned himself. The mate thereupon took charge, got the vessel ready for sea and was in a fair way to sail in a few days. The services of the Pelorus were therefore unnecessary.

Before the arrival of a man-if-war an Australian aboriginal member of the Samuel Cunard's crew had been murdered by the Natives, and a young man named Stubbs had been drowned at Kapiti.

That same day—the eighteenth—the Pelorus sailed for Port Underwood, and discharged her pilot at Kakapo the following day. At Cloudy Bay her arrival was very opportune. A dispute had taken place between the crew of an American whaler and one of the shore whaling gangs, relative to their respective rights to a whale which the gang had in its possession, and which they refused to deliver up. The American had cleared for action; and was on the point of carrying out their threat of firing on the shore party when the Pelorus arrived. Lieutenant Chetwode settled page 230 the dispute and the Pelorus sailed finally from Cloudy Bay on 24th September.

While at Port Underwood “firing practice (General quarters)” was indulged in on the twentieth, but whether it was in connection with the settlement of the dispute over the whale, or only the ordinary practice, the log does not say.

On 27th September, the Harlequin, Anderson, sailed from Kapiti for Sydney with 36 tuns oil and 4¾ tons bone. Mr. Howell and Thos. Chandler went up in her as passengers.

The Cloudy Bay Whaling this season proved a total failure, not more than 300 tuns of oil being taken, counting shore parties and American whalers. The reason assigned for this was that there had been so many ships on the Off Ground that they had destroyed the whales which, in the ordinary course, would have been coming into the Bay. The cow whales produced the most oil, and they had been the scarcest, their places being filled by young bulls and “scrags.” Ferguson's party at Ocean Beach with their six boats secured 70 tuns, and Messrs. McGaa's party of four boats, 60 tuns. Too many American, English, and French whalers, for the number of whales, was the trouble, and it was believed to be intensified by the fact that many of the whalers were new to the work, and their ignorance caused too many of the whales to escape, only to die.

The above was a summary of the news which Captain Hay of the Martha, one of McGaa & Co.'s boats, brought up. He left Cloudy Bay on 1st October with 70 tuns of oil and 3 tons of bone, and reported that, on the day of his departure, the Janet Izet and the Speculator had sailed for Queen Charlotte Sound. The last-named, with Guard in command, reached Sydney only two days after the Martha, with 2 tons of bone, 2½ of pork and 2 of potatoes. Shortly after her arrival the Speculator was sold to Mr. Hibblewhite for £200.

On 29th October W. Hay took away in the Hannah from Kapiti, 55 tuns of oil and 6 tons of bone, consigned page 231 to W. Wright. James Field came up in her as a passenger. Captain W. Hay told the same story of failure at the Island; Peterson's shore party alone having proved successful. The whalers had left for the sperm fishery, the Fame and the Caroline, on the fifteenth, and American whalers Luminary, Warren, and Adeline (with her tender the Atlas), on the twentieth. Although no mention is made of the fact, and Hempleman's log, not being written up for this season, throws no light on the subject, it is more than probable that Captain W. Hay took the Hannah down to Piraki and brought away the oil from that station. The silence maintained on the subject would be due to the fact that Hempleman was bound to deliver his oil to a rival firm.

The barque Janet Izet sailed on 20th October with 210 tuns of oil, 12 tons of bone, and the gangs belonging to Messrs. Ferguson and Furby. Captain James Scotland reported that the Chieftain, Howey, had called for potatoes, and sailed again, and that the Tamar, with 120 tuns of oil on board, was refitting for a six months' cruise.

The Minerva was at Kapiti from 14th September to 3rd November when she sailed with 56 tuns of oil, and 5 tons of bone, and Messrs Evans and Radford, and 15 members of Peterson's whaling gang.

Dealing with the doings at Piraki the following letter in the author's hands discloses the relationship between Wright. Hempleman, and Clayton, and gives us an indication of the reason why so little oil was shipped from the station this year.

Sydney, 20th November, 1838.
Mr. Hempleman


I hereby agree to whatever arrangement Capt. William Hay of the Hannah has, or may enter into with you on acct. of oil, whalebone or flax, for the ensuing season, and would desire particularly to impress on your mind the necessity of retaining all the whalebone for me as it takes up but little room. page 232 Also you must be more particular in keeping your dark or tonguers oil separate and branded as such, as I have been obliged to allow a deduction of £3 per tun on six tuns of the parcel now sent—the usual allowance on such qualities, as I had sold to arrive to Captain Duke “Claytons” agent. The fact of the oil having been purchased from you soon transpired, consequently Capt. Duke shewed me your obligation to Clayton to pay £632—odds—and binding yourself under a penalty of £1000 to sell neither oil nor bone until this debt should be liquidated, hence Capt. D. thought himself justified in laying a foreign Attachment in my hands upon the oil. This I disputed after taking my Attorney's opinion on the subject. However, Capt. D. ultimately agreed to refer the case to the judgment of Council who gave it against him as the property now had passed into, or vested in Clayton, and you having sold it to a third party it could not be touched save so much as of the price as was not paid, but that he could proceed agt. you on the bond for breach of contract, &c. And as Capt. Hay assured me that you had just cause of complaint agt. Clayton for leaving you without supplies, &c., I venture to send you your entire order which will enable you to commence the fishing with vigour next season, and as you can depend fully on the punctuality of Captn. Hay's trips, and as I have interested myself so much on your behalf in the above affair, I hope you will feel yourself in duty bound to act up to the letter of Agreement, and not act as in Clayton's case. I would just mention further that if the oil had been given up to Captn. Duke I should have been paid for all the goods delivered you as well as freight on the oil. Yet as a matter of course you would have not have received any of the supplies now sent as the schooner would not have returned at all—hence you would have been fairly crippled for next season. I must charge page 233 you a guinea for Council's fee on the subject which I am sure you will willingly pay considering how Clayton treated you.

I have purchased one of the most complete medicine chests that you have probably seen but I am afraid it is too costly for you as £5 was somewhere about your limits, but if so, return it as I cannot replace it less than £25. I think everything else is of such a quality and at such prices as you receive considerable satisfaction from.

The Success has gone to your place with an order to take in your oil & whalebone. The oil of course is gone and the captain informs me that you expect a ton of bone from Port Cooper, &c. I hope the Success has not got it from you. As you are aware from the difficulty of going to Peeraikie that a ton of w.bone will not pay the schooner's expenses altho' no charge was made, how much more will the disappointment be if you give the bone to Clayton as ordered.

I am &c.,

Your most obdt. St.

W. Wright.

Returning to Piraki, the history of which has only been dealt with in connection with the Maori raids, we find that Hempleman's log ends up on 24th May, and does not commence again until 26th December. During the five months of which we have the daily record, Piraki remained unvisited by any vessel from Port Jackson, and Hempleman had to rely upon the American and French vessels which called in at Akaroa and Piraki. Harassed by visits of war parties of Maoris, and no supplies coming in, it took the little party all they knew to sustain life, and every energy had to be directed to that one object. On 20th February, hearing that a vessel had arrived at Akaroa, Hempleman went over and found that it was the Rosalie, of America, bound to Sydney for provisions. Notwithstanding his own bad plight the captain supplied the old whaler page 234 with 200lbs. flour, 200lbs. pork, and 447lbs. bread, “a happy deliverance for all hands has they had nothing but what Providence sent.”

On 31st March two French vessels were reported at Akaroa. and on 1st April they came on to Piraki. From the Adele was obtained brandy, tea, coffee, molasses, beef, pork, and flour. The name of the second French vessel is not given in the log but a pencilled note on the margin that it was the Ajax has been accepted by the editor. The vessel's name, obtained from the French Records, was the Pauline. These two vessels were later on joined by the Gange.

It is probable that Captain Pickens of the Rosalie told at Sydney, on his arrival there on 16th March, of the destitute condition of the Piraki station, with the result that the Hannah when she sailed on 17th April, was sent down by W. Wright with stores and to bring back oil and bone if she could get it. Hempleman, disgusted at Clayton's neglect of him, may himself have applied to Wright.

In his letter, Wright mentions the Success as having sailed from Sydney for the whalebone at Piraki. As a matter of fact the Success was in Sydney Harbour at the moment Wright was penning the letter, and it is more than probable that he referred to the brig Skerne which had sailed from Sydney on 28th October under the command of Catlin. Subsequent developments support this view as, later on, Captain Hay,met Catlin coming out of Piraki in the Skerne, her delay in getting there being due to the fact that she sailed viâ the Bay of Islands.

The Hannah sailed on 29th November on the day following Wright's letter to Hempleman. We do not know when she arrived at Piraki, but she sighted the Skerne coming out of that port on 19th December, and when Hempleman's log opens on 26th December, she is leaving Piraki bound for Sydney.

The following table gives the quantity of oil taken away from the shore stations approached through Cook St. to the owners own stores in Sydney. Only those of which page 235 express evidence is obtained of their having been in Cook St. are included, and it is believed, therefore, that the list is not quite complete. Owing to much of the Cook St. trade being carried on via the Bay of Islands, and on the road picking up oil at some of the smaller coastal stations, it is sometimes impossible to ascertain whether a vessel at the Bay came from or went to Cook St, or what her cargo from the latter place was. To arrive at the season's output for Cook St. it should be noted that the first three cargoes are those of the previous season, and that some of the Hannah's cargoes came from Piraki:—

Arrival Vessel Tons Captain. Tuns Oil.
Mar. 8 Hind 141 Jones 40
April 2 Hannah 90 W. Hay 29
July 28 Hannah 90 W. Hay 34
Aug. 16 Minerva 122 Leslie 4
Oct. 12 Harlequin 71 Anderson 36
Oct. 29 Martha 121 J. Hay 70
Nov. 12 Hannah 90 W. Hay 55
Nov. 12 Janet Izet 229 Scotland 200
Nov. 18 Minerva 122 Leslie 50