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The Old Whaling Days

Chapter XVIII. — Cook Strait and Chatham Island, 1839 and 1840

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Chapter XVIII.
Cook Strait and Chatham Island, 1839 and 1840.

When we left Cook Strait at the end of 1838, the Skerne and the Hannah were upon the coast. The latter, after leaving Hempleman's on Boxing Day, sailed to Cook Strait and Kapiti Island, which latter place she left on 29th January, 1839, for Sydney, encountering strong westerly weather which detained her until 20th February. She brought up 25 tuns of oil, ½ ton of whalebone, and ½ ton of flax. Messrs. Ferraby and Allan, and 5 New Zealanders, came up as passengers.

Captain Hay now left the Hannah to superintend the outfit of another vessel which his owner was building, and Leathart, of the Edward, took the Hannah down to New Zealand on 6th March, with a cargo of whaling stores and a gang of 36 men. She reached Piraki on 1st April, and landed £541 worth of stores at Hempleman's station, leaving again on the seventh. When she reached Sydney on 29th May, her cargo was a miscellaneous one of pork, pigs, flax, potatoes, and whalebone, consigned to W. Wright, and McGaa. She reported that when she left New Zealand on 15th May, there were, at Cloudy Bay, the American whalers Warren, Luminary, Merrimac, Fortune, Erie, Navy, Adeline, and Valiant.

On 8th March the Harlequin, under the command of Captain Kyle, left Sydney with a whaling gang of 17 men, and 7 New Zealanders. While at Kapiti the American whaler, China, was at anchor, and the Duchess of Kent, on her road from Sydney to London, obliged, through stress of weather, to run through Cook Strait, sent one of her boats to the Harlequin with mail matter for Sydney. The Harlequin, after leaving Cook Strait, went on to the Bay of Plenty, and her voyage from there to Sydney occupied from 5th to 26th August. The schooner page 290 belonged to Mr. Isaac Simmonds, but, on her return to Sydney, she was purchased by Mr. John Isaacs for £1300, and advertised for the Cloudy Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound trade.

In June Mr. Wright chartered the Siren, and on 5th July he sent her away for a cargo of oil under the command of Captain Bradley, with Captain Hay as supercargo. The passenger list included the names of Wearing, J. Guard, Mrs. Guard and three children. The Guard family were evidently returning to their home at Kakapo. The Siren reached Hempleman's station on 13th August, and remained there until the twenty-ninth, unloading goods and loading oil. The Piraki books show that she left goods to the value of £772 11s. 10d., and took away 77 tuns 5 gallons of oil, and 6 tons 13 cwt. 3 qrs. and 17 lbs. of bone. The oil was classed into two grades valued at £16 and £12 per tun, and the bone was put down at £70 per ton. After leaving Piraki, the Siren made for Kapiti and finished her loading there, sailing on 13th September for Sydney, where she arrived on the twenty-seventh. A few days before she reached Sydney, Mr. Wright, her charterer, purchased her from Mr. D. Egan for £1,600. Although she shipped 6½ tons of whalebone at Piraki, and got loading at Kapiti as well, she is credited with only 3 tons of that article on reaching Sydney. It would look as if she found a market in Cook Strait among some of the ocean whalers.

The Siren was the first vessel to report in Sydney the arrival of the New Zealand Company's ship, the Tory, and she was probably the “small schooner bound to Sydney” on board of which, on 1st September, Wakefield put his first despatches from New Zealand.

In these despatches from Te Awaiti, Colonel Wakefield mentioned that he would send the specimens and drawings by a vessel expected from the southward in a fortnight. This was the Honduras, which had sailed from Sydney on 5th August, to gather up a cargo for her journey to England, a plan adopted by several of Weller's ships. After leaving Otago (p. 280), she sailed for Cloudy page 291 Bay, and was there when the Tory came over from Port Nicholson on 4th October, and took Wakefield's letters and specimens, as he had intended. From Cloudy Bay she sailed for Te Awaiti, and, when entering the Sound, on 12th October, struck on a rock and narrowly escaped shipwreck. When got safely to anchor she was making eight inches of water per hour. In spite of her mishap she reached Sydney on 5th November with 109 tuns of oil, and 6¼ tons of bone from the Cook Strait stations, consigned to R. Duke & Co., and A. McGaa & Co.

A day or two before the Honduras sailed from Cloudy Bay, a small Sydney schooner, called the Susannah Ann, came in to take oil from the station carried on by Mr. John, a Portuguese, for a house in Sydney. This station was just inside the eastern head. The Susannah Ann had sailed from Kapiti on 1st October, leaving there the Harlequin, bound for Sydney on the seventh, the Fair Barbadian having sailed for East Cape on 26th September.

Captain Weller reported that the brig Christina was at “Waikaka” on 16th October, intending to sail therefrom the following day for the South Cape. This was probably intended for Waikawa, where Tamaiharanui was killed (p. 32), as Captain Munn was at Kapiti when Mr. J. C. Crawford arrived there, from Sydney, in November.

The second trip of the Siren was duly advertised, and passengers invited by W. Wright, for “Cooks Straits, Queen Charlotte Sound, Cloudy Bay and Port Nicholson.” The last-named place, however, there is no evidence of her having reached. Although she only arrived at Sydney on 27th September she got to sea again on 13th October under the command of Captain Watson, and with two passengers, Frazer and Henderson. She reached Kapiti on 22nd October, while Colonel Wakefield was there negotiating with the Natives for the purchase of their lands. A howling north-wester was blowing, and the captain, who was ignorant of the locality and short of hands as well, endeavoured to beat up to the Island. Evans put off in a whaling boat to give assistance, but was prevented by their page 292 bad management from getting on board, and had to pull back three miles to the shore. When the storm lulled, and the brig got to an anchor in the evening, it was found that she had no binnacle, and only a boat compass, no second suit of sails, a boat not seaworthy, a broken windlass, no chronometer, and her passengers starving. She had great numbers of deeds, sent down to agents to complete purchases of land from the Natives, and the captain reported that there was great excitement among the land-buying fraternity in Sydney, on account of the Company's movements.

The Siren reached Piraki on 17th November, landing there goods to the value of £190 10s. 8d., and sailed again on the twenty-sixth with 77 tuns 247 gallons of oil, and 2 tons 16 cwt. 11 lbs. of bone.

Shortly before the Siren's arrival at Piraki, the whaling station was thrown into a state of intense excitement by the arrival of Tuhawaiki's Expedition against Te Rauparaha. On 30th October a boat's crew went round to Little River, about seven miles from Piraki. One of Hempleman's lads was a Cook Strait boy. While at Little River 16 sealing and 4 whale boats arrived from the southward, all fully armed and manned, under Tuhawaiki, the Ruapuke warrior. The crew of the Piraki boat were at once made prisoners of, and the Cook Strait boy killed and eaten. Next day they killed a girl of their own party and ate her. The five Europeans were kept prisoners on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when they were brought to Piraki by Tuhawaiki. One report of the incident says that the Maoris were consulting among themselves whether they would kill the Europeans or not, when Tuhawaiki and Taiaroa asked the other Chiefs how could they ever go back to Sydney if they killed these white men. They then released the prisoners.

Hempleman's journal states that Tuhawaiki asked for the big boat as payment for the place and that the Captain gave it to him “with 3 New Sails.” This is the entry under date 3rd November. The report, which was brought up in page 293 the Siren to Sydney, makes no mention of any purchase, but simply says “they also took by force another whale-boat.”

When prosecuting his land claims in 1843 Hempleman produced a document which read as follows:—

November 2nd 1839.

This is to certify that Captain Hempleman has purchased the extent of land from Bloody Jack as undermentioned:—From Mowry Harbor south to Flea Bay north, including Wangoolou, as agreed by the undermentioned, viz., by payment of one big boat, by name the Mary Ann, including two sails and jib. Extent of land fifteen miles east, south island.

John Tuhawaike Toby X Partridge
Jackey X White Allon X Tommy Roundhead
Tyroa X Kikaroree X
Walkatouree X Ahane King John X
Jacky Bay X Bangana X

Witnessed by Simon Crawley, Jack X Miller. Alfred Roberts, James X Creed.

On examining the Journal it will be seen that 2nd November was the date the land was bought off, and the third the date on which mention is made of the purchase.

Two Europeans who accompanied the Maoris from Otago joined Hempleman's gangs.

On the day the Siren arrived, “Jackey White” arrived with four boats, and Captain Hay demanded the man who killed the Maori boy. There was every indication of trouble, and every man seized what weapon was nearest him, but after some discussion it was decided to let the matter drop. The Siren account says that the Southern Natives alleged that they had lost two sealing boats and had taken the lad in satisfaction for them. They offered Captain Hay 2 tons of whalebone not to report their conduct at Sydney.

We now come to the period when the first cattle stations were established in Canterbury. In September Cooper and Holt of Sydney purchased a barque of 152 page 294 tons called the Eleanor, for £1700, and, on 19th October she sailed under the command of Captain Rhodes, with 40 head of cattle on board. Amongst these were some intended for Akaroa. The following passengers sailed in her:—Captain and Mrs. Cole and child. Mr. and Mrs. Green and child, and Messrs. Coglin, T. Green, and Mrs Burton. Mr. and Mrs. Green, and one of the others, went down to take charge of the cattle that were destined for Akaroa. The Eleanor proceeded, first of all, to Kapiti, where Captain Rhodes procured refreshment for his stock, and probably, landed some of his passengers. He made the Island on 29th October, with the loss of only three of the animals. While she was lying at anchor the Falcon was there also, and, when the latter sailed for Sydney on 6th November, with a cargo of 84 tuns of oil, and with Mr. Evans and 25 whalers on board, Captain Rhodes was booked to sail for Akaroa on the following day. He probably did so, because Hempleman tells us that, at 9 a.m. on 12th November, there arrived at Piraki, “J. Robinson from Wangooloa (Akaroa) with news of a Vessel in there.” This news was considered so important that Hempleman and a boat's crew left at 10 a.m. for Akaroa, returning on the fifteenth and going back to Akaroa on the sixteenth. It is only a surmise of the author, but it looks as if Captain Rhodes had sent for Hempleman to come round and help with the landing of the cattle and the establishment of the “station.”

The Siren, after the Piraki incident, left New Zealand on 9th December and took 12 days to run across to Sydney. She landed 88 tuns of oil, and 3 tons of bone, and, as passengers, Captain Hay, Roberts, and a whaling gang of 13 men.

On 5th November the Success sailed from Sydney and reached Kapiti on the twenty-sixth. Among her passengers were Mr. and Mrs. R. Tod and children, Messrs Hasket, T. Jones, Taylor, Rea, J. C. Crawford, H. Sinclair, Elmslie, and R. Jenkins. At Kapiti, J. C. Crawford, and Sinclair, who was in his employ, left the Success and went with page 295 Captain Munn, on board the Christina, to Mana Island. There the party stopped at Fraser's whaling station for a short time, and then crossed over in a boat to the mainland where they found accommodation with a whaler named Shearer. From Shearer's hut the party went over the hills to Port Nicholson. There they found only two white men—Joe Robinson at the Hutt, and Smith, the agent of the New Zealand Company, which had now purchased the Harbour, at Ngahauranga.

With the object of seeing as much of the country as he could, if not because he was forestalled by the Company at Port Nicholson, Crawford returned to Porirua and crossed the Strait in an open boat to Cannibal Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound. There he stayed at Elmslie's house and was much taken with the general surroundings. The art of writing had recently been introduced among the Maoris through the advent of Native teachers, and it was “all the rage” then. “They wrote everywhere, on all occasions and on all substances, on slates, on paper, on leaves of flax, and with a good, firm, decided hand.” This enthusiasm will explain in some measure the spread of the art of writing, mentioned by the first Missionaries.

From Cannibal Cove Mr. Crawford accompanied a flotilla of returning Maori warriors to Te Awaiti, and there chartered a vessel called the Harriett, a cutter of about 20 or 30 tons, belonging to Thoms, for £10 per month. Arthur Elmslie was put in command. In this cranky craft Crawford returned to Port Nicholson for a supply of provisions, and there found his shipmates of the Success—Tod, Dr. Taylor, and Rea—all established on the shores of Lambton Harbour, patiently waiting the coming of the immigrants. Leaving them there, Crawford returned to Te Awaiti and sailed the Harriett through Tory Channel, en route for the present site of Nelson, to spy out the country. While rounding Stephens Island the mast snapped and the Harriett had to be taken back to a Native village on D'Urville Island. Leaving her there Crawford set off in a small two-oared boat through the French Pass, but it was page 296 found that the equipment was not good enough for the journey, and he returned to the Harriett. When at Jackson's Head on the return journey, they were unable to clear the point and were compelled to come to an anchor. Crawford went overland to Cannibal Cove, crossed the Sound to the island opposite, and then marched on foot to Te Awaiti, where assistance was obtained and sent to Elmslie, and the Harriett was finally landed in safety at Te Awaiti.

After an enforced residence at the whaling station, Crawford procured a crew to take him across the Strait in a whaleboat. It cost them a long day of toil to reach the Heads, and from there he walked to the site of what is now Wellington. Several of the emigrant ships had by this time arrived, and Crawford took up his quarters with them, and from henceforth became identified with the Company's Settlement.

On 16th December the Christina sailed from Kapiti for Sydney with 80 tuns of oil, and 3½ tons of whalebone, and Messrs. Allison and Allen, and 9 men belonging to a whaling gang. While she was at Kapiti there was exceptional activity in shipping. The Success arrived on 25th November from Sydney, and sailed for Queen Charlotte Sound 4 days later. The Harlequin from the same port and on the same day, sailed three days later for the Chatham Islands. The Samuel Winter arrived at Cloudy Bay on 29th November. The Tokerau arrived from the Bay of Islands on 24th November to complete her crew, and sailed 4 days later. The Siren sailed on 11th December. When the Christina sailed on 16th December there were at Kapiti: the Adelaide and the Lydia, of Salem, whaling, and the Atlas and the Hannah, on trading voyages.

Chiefly by means of the material supplied by E. J. Wakefield and Dr. Dieffenbach, the author is able to give here what he has been able, at no other period, to present to the reader—statistical information regarding the various whaling stations on the shores of Cook Strait. While in many ways it is wonderful what has been unearthed by a page 297 simple perusal of the shipping columns of the Sydney press, still there is a great field of material quite overlooked by the rough sea captain of these days, who saw nothing interesting or worthy to relate in the domestic life of these old gatherings of Europeans. When the New Zealand Company came, however, these commonplace conditions of the whalers were conditions of the most singular and interesting nature, and they hastened to record them for the benefit of a wide circle of readers. A synopsis here is appropriate.

At Te Awaiti, in September, were some 40 European whalers, all of whom lived with Maori women. Dieffenbach counted 21 half-caste children whose appearance struck him very favourably. In Te Awaiti, and Jackson's Bay alongside, were three whaling establishments, under R. Barrett, J. Thoms, and Jas. Jackson. In addition to these regular establishments, the Natives in the adjoining pas manned two boats, and harpooned whales, but never killed them, selling their rights to the harpooned “fish” to the regular establishments for £20. From 15 to 20 boats were sent out from Te Awaiti when all the stations and “private ventures” were in full swing. The Sound was left to the shore stations, as the ships found it difficult to negotiate, and therefore preferred the more easy access of Cloudy Bay.

Cloudy Bay, or Port Underwood, from the indented nature of its coastline, was an ideal centre for whaling. Robin Hood Bay, at the mouth, on the left-hand side as you enter, was the site of a Native Setlement, in which no Europeans resided. Next came Ocean Bay with two whaling establishments, 30 Europeans, and 100 Natives. Some small vessels were being built here, and here also resided Ferguson, an old trader, who, amongst a community which was always drinking, had earned the reputation of never being sober. In the adjoining cove of Kakapo, or Guard's Bay, resided John Guard with his European wife and children. There were only 5 Europeans here, and the boats of the station were manned chiefly by Natives. This old station, like that of Te Awaiti, still stands awaiting page 298 blubber, and, during the last few years, both have been utilised. Next to Kakapo, Tom Cane's Bay was the site of two stations, one of them managed by an American. On the eastern shore a Portuguese named John was carrying on a whaling station with 4 boats. For the season of 1839 he secured 65 tuns of oil, though much hampered by want of supplies.

Mana Island was not a great whaling centre, but the Messrs. Fraser had a station there.

Kapiti Island on the other hand, exported a great quantity of oil. Off the southern end two small islands, Tahoramaurea and Motungarara, were called Rauparaha's Island and Hiko's Island, on account of being the dwelling places of these Chiefs. On both were American whaling stations; on the former Mayhew's, on the latter, Lewis'. On Kapiti was another station, but it was on Tokumapuna or Evans Island, more to the east of Kapiti and in the roadstead, that the finest whaling station on the coast was to be found. The discipline of a man-of-war pervaded the whole establishment. The crew were in a rough uniform; boats, gear and apparatus were kept spotlessly clean and carefully attended to, and when on shore separate accommodation was provided for the headsman and the boatsteerers, and for the crew. As a result of the rigid discipline Evans' six boats supplied 250 tuns of oil during the 1839 season, while the total output of the 19 boats of the other Kapiti Island and mainland stations was 216 tuns. Tommy Evans' share alone amounted in cash, to £300. The Mainland stations were two, of which one, with seven boats, belonged to J. Thoms. Both were in the vicinity of Porirua. Thoms' station was on the flat near the Plimmerton end of the present railway bridge at Paremata.

Sydney Traders in Cook Strait, 1839.
Sailing. Vessel. Tons. Master. Return. Tuns Oil.
Skerne 121 Catlin April 22
Hannah 90 Hay Feb. 21 25
Mar. 6 Hannah 90 Hay May 29
Mar. 8 Harlequin 71 Kyle Aug. 26 21page 299
June 19 Duchess of Kent
July 5 Siren 141 Bradley Sept. 27 77
July 25 Falcon 148 Leslie Sept. 7 90
Aug. 5 Honduras 392 Weller Nov. 5 109
Aug. 27 Susannah Ann 80 Anderson Dec. 4 18
Harlequin 71 Kyle Oct. 26 31
Sept. 26 Fair Barbadian 137 Wells Dec. 6 32
Sept. 28 Christina 140 Munn Dec. 20 80
Oct. 10 Hannah 90 Leathart
Oct. 13 Siren 141 Watson Dec. 21 88
Oct. 13 Falcon 148 Leslie Nov. 22 82
Oct. 19 Eleanor 132 Rhodes April 6
Oct. 20 Samuel Winter 313 Robertson Feb. 19
Oct. 9 Harlequin 71 Kyle Mar. 11
Oct. 15 Success 80 Catlin June 5

In addition to the above, Cook Strait was visited during 1839 by the Tory, two Missionary Vessels from the Bay of Islands, and a number of American and French whalers. One local vessel—the Atlas—plied between Kapiti and the Bay of Islands, and the Harriett, owned by Thoms at Te Awaiti, was put into occasional use.


On 9th February the Vittoria, a barque of 281 tons, under the command of Captain Hawke, sailed for New Zealand with 50 head of cattle, 300 sheep, and 3 horses. Her passenger list included Colonel Wilson in the cabin, and Mr. and Mrs Russell and their two children in the steerage. On the night of the twenty-ninth, as she was running in towards the land, she struck upon the long sandspit which stretches out from Cape Farewell. The sandspit was not at all unknown, but it was claimed that it was not correctly laid down on the charts. The Vittoria struck about 11 o'clock. The sea ran very high all night, and as the vessel drove deep into the sand she remained fast until morning. About 9 o'clock the crew and passengers got into the boats, and reached the shore in safety about 11 o'clock. Little or nothing was saved, as the vessel went all page 300 to pieces some time after she was abandoned. The crew behaved throughout the unfortunate catastrophe with praiseworthy composure and exertion. Colonel Wilson's cattle were, of course, lost, but the Colonel made arrangements to get back to Sydney in the Tory.

On 2nd April W. Hay was at Port Nicholson and sent the following letter to Hempleman by the Nimrod:—

Port Nicholson,
2nd April, 1840.

Dear Sir,—

As I could not get the men to engage to whale under you I am obliged to consign my goods to the care of Mr. Samuel Hodge which will make no difference between you and me as I shall abide by former agreement that is to say you are an owner as well as myself, and Mr. Hodge will act between us

I am. Dear Sir

Your Obt Servt.

W. Hay

Captn. Hempleman

On 11th April (according to Hempleman's log) the Nimrod arrived at Piraki. The next day being Sunday the men refused to work and Captain Hempleman's men had to be employed at five shillings per day, and by Monday afternoon everything was got ashore. Goods were landed by the Nimrod to the value of £574 14s. On the Saturday following three of the men ran away, and the following day Hodge went to Akaroa and managed to procure two men, and two more were engaged a few days later.

The major portion of the Cook Strait news for 1840 will be found in the various chapters dealing with special events during that year.

The Chatham Islands.

On 18th June, 1839, the Ann and Mary, under the command of Captain Richards, which was at anchor at Chatham Island, broke from her moorings and was lost, but all hands, fortunately, were saved. Captain Richards was persuaded by the Natives to purchase some of their land and live among them, and he accordingly fixed his habitation on the Island.

page 301

We have seen (p. 296) that the Harlequin sailed on 28th November for Chatham Island. When there Captain Richards and the crew of the Ann and Mary took advantage of the opportunity which presented itself and sailed in her, on 31st January, for New Zealand and Sydney, which latter port they reached on 11th March. Captain Kyle reported that the Emma, which had left Sydney in October, had called in at Chatham Island, and had again sailed for the seal fisheries; and that the Fair Barbadian was loading there.

In February, 1840, a Mr. Walter Brodie chartered the schooner Hope, and proceeded from the Bay of Islands to Chatham Island to form there two pork stations. On his arrival he purchased some 300,000 acres of land for £2,000. The date of the Conveyance (which is now among the Manuscripts in the Mitchell Library, Sydney), is 21st March 1840, which is long after the prohibition of dealings in land made by Governor Gipps.

The Emma reached Sydney on 4th April, having sailed from Chatham Island on 18th March, and brought up a cargo of 140 seal skins. Mr. J. Lister came up in her as a passenger. Her shipping report showed that Chatham Island was becoming a most important centre.

The Martha, of Fairhaven, 16 mos. out, 800 bar. of sperm, was spoken off the Island.

The Speculator was there, ready to sail on 26th March for Sydney.

The Hope, of New Zealand, was filling up with pork.

The Hannibal, of Sag Harbour, out 19 mos., 1000 bar., homeward bound, and

The Franklyn, 800 bar., out 16 mos., were at the Island.

The Speculator sailed from Chatham Island on 26th March and brought up a Mr. Hill as a passenger. All the vessels named above had gone when she sailed. She reached Sydney on 9th April, was purchased by Mr. Weller for £1570 and put on the Port Nicholson, Cloudy Bay and Otago trade, and sailed for the coast of New Zealand on 24th May.