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The Old Whaling Days

Chapter XIV. — Foveaux Strait Trade, 1838

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Chapter XIV.
Foveaux Strait Trade, 1838.

The Magnet reached Sydney on 29th January. She had taken ten days to run down to the south of New Zealand, and seventeen to return, and she brought up 48 tuns of oil, and some whalebone and flax. Her visit was, in the main, to take down whaling gear and casks for the 1838 season. Captain Bruce found all quiet among the natives.

On 16th February Bruce commenced his second trip, and with him Edward Palmer went down to the Preservation Bay whaling station to procure evidence for his defence in the manslaughter trial which was the subject of Chapter XII. On this trip the Magnet made the full round of Jones's whaling stations, calling at Passage Island, Patterson River, New River, Waikouaiti, the Bluff, Otago, and Preservation Bay, both going and coming. The trip concluded on 29th March, when she brought Palmer back to Sydney, and landed a cargo of 15 tuns of oil, 1 ton of whalebone, and 1 cask of seal skins.

At the New River Captain Bruce got on board what remained of the cargo of the ill-fated Lynx. Of the vessel itself, not a vestige could be seen, and of the casks, the greater number had been stolen by the Maoris. Pegasus and Otago had been visited by French whalers. Captain Bruce also reported that great preparations were being made for War, and that fighting men were being gathered together in great numbers to take the field. Of these movements we have already had mention made at Cloudy Bay and Piraki. Disease had again broken out and was playing sad havoc among the Maoris.

The next vessel to sail for Otago ports was a small 81 ton schooner called the Success, under the command of Captain Leathart. She left Sydney on 21st March with the object of placing some whaling gangs along the coast, but her movements are obscure until 11th July when she is known page 237 to have been at Banks Peninsula. Grose was her agent, which would indicate that her stations were in opposition to Jones' and to Weller's.

With the third trip of the Magnet, on 17th April, Jones sent down 15 head of cattle to his whaling station, to enable beef to be bred on the spot, instead of having it brought, in the form of salt beef, on board the vessels. Jones may have also had then in his mind an idea of carrying on pastoral pursuits in New Zealand. Captain Bruce found the whaling stations in full swing, and the various bays crowded with visiting whalers. At Pegasus was the Sydney Whaler, Mary, Swindells, with 1800 bar. of oil. At the Bluff were no less than four Americans:—the Alexander Barclay, of New Bedford, 10 mos. out, 900 bar.; the Lucy Ann, of Wilmington, 12 mos. out, 800 bar.; the Rosalie, of Warren, which had called in at Sydney for provisions, and had only secured one whale since; and the Fortune of New Bedford, 19 mos. out, 750 bar. At the same port was also lying the Governor Bourke of Sydney, 4 mons. out, and with one right and one sperm whale. At Otago were two American whalers:—the Columbus of New Bedford, out 9½ mos., 1550 bar.; and the Friendship, out 9½ mos., 2300 bar. The French whaler, Faune, of Havre, was also in the port with 2,300 bar., and the Dublin Packet of Sydney made a fourth. The Magnet left Preservation station on 27th June, and reached Sydney on 13th July with 85 tuns of oil in her hold.

The Dublin Packet, which the Magnet found at Otago, had been purchased by George Weller in March, and had been put on to run to Otago. She had sailed from Sydney 12 days before the Magnet, with a whaling party on board, and when Captain Bruce called in at Otago she had shipped 15 tuns of oil. On 30th June she sailed with a cargo of 120 tuns of oil, and 10 tons of whalebone, and reached Sydney on 23rd August. Captain Wells commanded, her; When she left Otago the Columbus was still at that port, and the French whaler Faune was on the eve of sailing for Havre with 400 tuns of oil.

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On her passage to Sydney, during the month of August, the Dublin Packet experienced the most dreadful weather, and took no less than 21 days to accomplish the trip. Captain Wells reported that Jones' station at the Bluff was doing well and had obtained 150 tuns of oil. Other Bluff gangs were in a like predicament. At Preservation their luck had been bad. At Moeraki, which was under Hughes' management, the buildings had been burnt down and all the provisions destroyed. The oil, however, had been saved. The natives at Otago were peaceful, and some had gone to Port Cooper to procure whalebone.

The Bee, under the command of Hunter, on 9th June, made the fourth trip of the year for “Johnny” Jones. She found the Columbus still at Otago on 11th July, but the Faune had sailed six days before. The Alexander Barclay and the Lucy Ann were still at the Bluff, and had been joined by another American—the Izette, of Salem, 8 mos. out, with 500 bar. The Bee sailed from Waikouaiti on 21st July, and reported that there were at New River, on 23rd July, the Mary, one American, and one French whaler. Jones' parties at Waikouaiti and Moeraki were reported to be doing well, but those belonging to Mr. Weller at Otago and at Bourracon (?Purakanui) were doing rather indifferently. At Preservation 40 tuns of oil had been secured and the station had been visited by the American whaler Fortune. On 4th August the Bee left Preservation with a cargo of 95 tuns of oil and with Mr. and Mrs. T. Jones and two children as passengers.

We have already had occasion to refer to the Success at Banks Peninsula on 11th July. We now hear of her sailing from the Success River on 1st August, and reaching Sydney twenty-two days later. The Success River was what is now known as the Waikawa, and was called after Leathart's vessel. Captain Leathart brought up 30 tuns of oil, 3 tons of whalebone, and 8 tons of pork, and reported the Mary, the French whaler, Manchi, and an American, at New River on 1st August, and three Americans at the Bluff on 2nd August.

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The next trip of the Magnet was.to sail from Sydney on 5th August, and return on 4th October with 4 tuns of sperm oil, 76 of black, and 8 tons of whalebone. Mr. Hughes and Tuhawaiki, the Maori chief of Ruapuke, better known as “Bloody Jack,” came up in her as passengers. Since the Success had reported the news of the New River, the French whaler, Mancha, had broken from her moorings and gone ashore. There she lay for some time until several of the American boats, which happened to be in the vicinity, came to her assistance, and their united efforts got her off in a damaged condition. To have the necessary repairs effected she sailed for the Bay of Islands. The Mary, after spending the bay season at the New River, had sailed for the sperm whaling, and all the ships at the Bluff had left for the open sea. At Otago the Faune had sailed for Havre with a cargo of 3000 barrels obtained in twelve months, the Friendship, we have already noted, had sailed for Fairhaven, and the Columbus remained alone. The last port of the Magnet was Port William, where she was weather bound.

The Mary experienced a terrible time after leaving her winter anchorage at the New River. She set sail on 24th August for the Neck, Stewart Island, and two days later continued her journey for Sydney. On the twenty-ninth she fell in with a heavy gale of wind from the westward, and at half-past ten p.m., while lying to, in a high and cross sea, lurched heavily to windward, the mainmast going just below the cheeks and taking with it all the upper gear, the mizzenmast, and the bow and waist boats. In a.-few seconds the ship made another lurch, when the remaining portion of the mainmast broke off about four feet from the deck. So as not to injure the rudder and to get clear of the wreck the vessel was kept before the wind. One of the boats on the bearers was completely smashed. The main-yard was saved and rigged for a mizzenmast, and a spar obtained at the New River was stepped on deck and a mainmast made, the stump of the old mainmast answering as a mast-head, on which they shipped a cap for the support page 240 of the jury mast. The main top gallant mast, which was also saved, together with the topsail and top gallant yards, served to remedy that portion of the loss. After leaving New Zealand a series of westerly gales was experienced. On 10th October the Mary was off Howe's Island; on the-nineteenth she reached Sydney with 1150 barrels of sperm oil and 460 of black. The captain's wife and his little child accompanied him on this exciting voyage.

The Dublin Packet came up from Otago to Sydney on 18th November. She had sailed from Weller's station on 26th October and from West Cape on 1st November, and had experienced such fearful weather that she had been driven south as far as 50°. Her report was that the Wai-kouaiti station had procured 25 tuns of oil, the Molyneux, 45, Waikawa 25, and Stirling at the Block, 80. The American whaler, Fortune, was to leave Molyneux Harbour on 14th November with 1500 barrels of black oil, and 10 tons of whalebone. The Dublin Packet brought up 77 tuns of oil and 5 tons of whalebone. Her passengers were-J. Price, J. Brown, W. Hodges, D. Abbott, D'Anges, T. Williams, and Mr. and Mrs. Brin and child. A whaling gang of 24 persons also came up in the steerage. Some 40 tuns of oil were left behind at Otago, and Captain Wells. intended to return for it in about ten days time.

This is the first mention we have come across of the Waikawa whaling station. Edward Shortland, in his “Southern Districts of New Zealand,” states that the Waikawa “fishery” was established by Grose of Sydney in 1838—this very year. Associating this statement with the voyage of the Success under Grose's agency, and the long absence of that vessel in and about Foveaux St. we will not be far wrong in concluding that she was there establishing stations at unoccupied likely spots, and that one of these spots was Waikawa.

On 27th December the Magnet finished her last trip for the year. She left Stewart Island on the tenth and brought up 70 tuns of oil, 13½ tons of whalebone, and 1¼ page 241 tons of flax. E. Palmer, Dr. Coscoine and a whaling gang of 20 men also came up in her to Sydney.

During the latter part of the year Foveaux St. was visited by an Expedition fitted out by the old established firm of Messrs. Enderby, of London. On 16th June, 1838, there sailed from that port, under the command of Captain John Balleny, the schooner Eliza Scott of 154 tons, and her tender, the dandy-rigged cutter Sabrina of 54 tons, under the command of Captain Freeman. The object of the Expedition was to look for land and for new sealing and whaling grounds in the high southern latitudes. Though the vessels utilised were small and were said to have once been pleasure yachts, they were considered at the time to be well equipped for exploration work.

On 3rd December, Captain Balleny sighted Dusky Bay, and in the evening entered Chalky. At daylight next morning the anchor was let go in Port Chalky, where, to-the intense delight of all, the Sabrina was found, all well, having arrived three weeks before. From the date mentioned until 29th December, the two vessels remained at the-anchorage, procuring wood and water, re-stowing the hold, and allowing the men a run ashore now and again and the-use of a gun to replenish the larder. Throughout the stay the men seem to have developed a very mutinous spirit.

On the seventeenth a whaleboat from Preservation, with a party engaged in seal skinning, hove in sight, and the following day the two captains went to look for Jones” Establishment to obtain a supply of oil. They failed to locate it, and were compelled to return empty handed. On their road back they left the boat at Preservation and walked overland to Chalky.

The visit of the seal-skinning party appears to have suggested to the dissatisfied men a means of escape, and although Captain Balleny, who feared that something like this might happen, took the precaution of leaving his boat with the cutter instead of the schooner, the men, proved too clever for him, and on the morning of the nineteenth a whaleboat of the Eliza Scott, and five men—David page 242 Hellom, Henry Long, Tom Rosarie, Roderick McPeal, and Denis Driscoll—were missing, and with them a supply of slops and meat, bread, cheese, and tea. A search was made, and a visit paid to the whaling station, but all to no purpose, and boat and crew were never heard of more. Balleny speaks of them as a bad lot of men, and explains that the length of his voyage out was due to the fact that the ground tier of barrels in the hold, instead of being filled with water, were empty, thus making the vessel top heavy, endangering the lives of the expedition, preventing sail being carried, and extending unduly the length of the voyage.

On the twenty-third Captain Freeman paid another visit to Preservation, to try and procure articles required by the expedition.

Christmas Day was celebrated, by the captains, on board the Sabrina, and by the mates, on board the Eliza Scott. No embargo was laid by the Commander on the grog allowed to be consumed that day, but moderation was generally recommended. It was of little avail, however, as Captain Balleny records that when he returned to the Eliza Scott, the only one sober was the second mate, John McNab. The chief recovered the following day, but, from his demeanour, Captain Balleny concluded he had something to do with the departure of the men and that he was trying to sow seeds of dissension among the crew. So great was the friction with this officer that the captain contemplated disrating him. In the chief's log it is stated that Captain Balleny struck him, but the Captain, who afterwards obtained access to the log, placed on record an emphatic denial of the charge.

On the twenty-eighth another visit was received from Preservation and two of the party shipped for the voyage to the south. Two days later the expedition sailed round to Preservation, where they took on board, wood, water, and a new whaleboat, for which they gave in exchange the jolly boat. On 2nd January, 1839, they proceeded to Paterson River in Stewart Island, to procure the clothes of the men page 243 who had been shipped. While there three sailors of the Sabrina tried to desert, but were captured and put back on board; the new hands were shipped, and the expedition set sail for the Antarctic on the seventh.

The next place of call was Campbell Island, which was reached on 10th January. Here were found three men and one woman, who had been left on the island by the New Zealender not less than four years before. These poor unfortunates were taken on board at Preservation Harbour on the twelfth, and the 170 skins, which was all they had gathered during their long captivity, were placed in the hold under an Agreement to be purchased by Messrs. Enderby for ten shillings each, payable on delivery in London. The men themselves were put on the list of crew, without wages, but on a 180 lay.

Delayed at Campbell Island by bad weather Balleny there met, strange to say, Captain John Biscoe, R.N., on board the Emma. He had sailed from Sydney on 8th December, also on a voyage of exploration and looking for seals. Captain Biscoe had, as we have already seen, commanded Messrs. Enderby's Expedition of 1831 in the same waters. On the seventeenth, sail was set for the south.

The discovery work accomplished by Balleny in the Antarctic will be found in the Journal of the R.G.S. 1839, pp. 517 et seq. and the Antarctic Manual, 1891, pp. 336 et seq. It remains here only to chronicle that the Sabrina was last seen at midnight on 24th March, and that the Eliza Scott reached London, alone, on 17th September, in time to supply the Ross Expedition with details of their discoveries in the Antarctic. What number of the Preservation Bay, Stewart Island, or Campbell Island sailors went to their death in the Sabrina, is not recorded.

The following table gives the quantity of oil taken from the Otago shore stations to the owners' own stores in Sydney in 1838. To form an opinion of the total production of Otago waters there has to be added to this the supplies obtained by the Australian, American, and French whalers which anchored in the bays or patrolled the coastline.

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Vessel. Tons. Captain. Arrival. Tuns Oil.
Magnet 148 Bruce Jan. 29 48
Magnet 148 Bruce Mar. 29 15
Success 82 Leathart Aug. 23 30
Dublin Packet 108 Wells Aug. 23 120
Magnet 148 Bruce July 13 85
Bee 135 Hunter Aug. 23 95
Magnet 148 Bruce Oct. 4 76
Dublin Packet 108 Wells Nov. 18 77
Magnet 148 Bruce Dec. 27 70
Total 616

As shipped from Sydney for England this oil was valued at £14 to £16 in January, and £20 in December. Averaging the value at £16 would make it £9856 for oil alone.