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The Old Whaling Days



The year 1839 found more American whalers on the coast, than any year up to that time. The numbers so far had been (1834) 1, (1835) 2, (1836) 20, (1837) 13, (1838) 24. The number now rose to 37. Of these, the Erie had been whaling on the coast in 1834; the Warren, in 1835; the South Boston, the Gratitude, the Samuel Robertson, the Navy, the Warren, the Erie, and the Favourite, in 1836; the Margaret Rait, the Gratitude, and the Erie, in 1837; and the Izette, the Gratitude, the Luminary, the Averick, the Warren, the Erie, the Fortune, the Atlas, and the Adeline, in 1838. The Erie was on her 3rd voyage; and the South Boston, the Margaret Rait, the Gratitude, the Samuel Robertson, the Warren, and the Favourite were on their second. From the point of view of the ports on the eastern seaboard of America from which the whalers came, we find that they are arranged as follows:—New Bedford, 12; Fairhaven and Warren, 5 each; New London, 4; New-buryport 3; Salem 2; and Plymouth, Poughkeepsie, New York, Hudson, Wilmington, Sag Harbor, and St. John's 1 each. At the New Zealand extremity there was no change of any consequence in the distribution of the fleet; the following being the arrangement so far as it can be ascertained.

Station. Vessel. Home Ports. Captain.
Paterson's Bay South Boston Fairhaven Butler
Gratitude New Bedford Fisher
The Bluff William Hamilton New Bedford Swain
General Williams New London Holdridgepage 309
Margaret Rait St. Johns Coffin
Amethyst New Bedford Reynard
Roman New Bedford Bartlett
Otago Sarah Frances Fairhaven Cox
Arab Fairhaven Russell
Izette Salem Hall
Ann Maria New London Middleton
Superior Wilmington McLean
John and Edward New London Bailey
Julius Cæsar New London McLean
South Boston Fairhaven Butler
Thorn Sag Harbor Tuttle
Banks Pen's'la. Jasper Fairhaven Adams
Luminary Warren Mayhew
Sarah Frances Fairhaven Cox
Helvetia Hudson Cottle
White Oak New York Barney
N. P. Talmadge Poughkeepsie Post
Gratitude New Bedford Fisher
Averick New Bedford Lawrence
George New Bedford Chace
Samuel Robertson New Bedford McKenzie
China New Bedford Potter
Favourite Fairhaven Swift
Atlantic Warren Howland
Cloudy Bay Navy Newburyport Brock
Merrimac Newburyport Starbuck
Adeline New Bedford Brown
Warren Warren Lewis
Erie Newport Dennis
Fortune Plymouth Goodwin
Grand Turk New Bedford Dexter
Samuel Robertson New Bedford McKenzie
Favourite Fairhaven Swift
Atlas Warren Mayhew,
Cherokee New Bedford Cook
Kapiti Island China New Bedford Potter
Lydia Salem Ramsdelpage 310
Kapiti Island Roman New Bedford Bartlett
Auckland Id. North America Warren Simmonds
Roman New Bedford Bartlett
Amethyst New Bedford Reynard
Chatham Id. William Hamilton New Bedford Swain

Stewart Island, which never had a long array of American whalers visiting it, had only two recorded. Very-early in the year—probably in January—the South Boston was at Paterson's River, and had secured 1500 barrels of oil during the 9 months since she sailed from Fairhaven. Her captain—Butler—told Captain Bruce of the Magnet that something like 1500 whalers were fitting out in America for the whaling trade on the western coast of Australia, very favourable news having been received of the success of the whalers already there.

The only other mention of Stewart Island is the statement made by the captain of the South Boston that the Gratitude passed Otago Bay on 16th May, bound for Paterson's River for recruits, as she was a full ship and was making for home.

At the Bluff, at the end of July, were the following:—The William Hamilton, the General Williams, the Margaret Rait, the Amethyst, and the Roman, all reported by the coastal shipping at Sydney. The Margaret Rait sailed in July with 700 barrels. Her voyage had commenced on 8th July, 1838, and she had called at Sydney on 19th February to tranship her oil for London. The William Hamilton sailed on 29th August, with 500 barrels, and the Roman on 1st September, with 1500. All had left for the whaling grounds. The General Williams was the last to leave, and she was at the Bluff on 12th September.

The Sarah Francis was at Otago in January. She had been to Rio, sent home 1500 barrels of oil, refitted, and had secured 1160 barrels of black and 70 of sperm on her second venture. Later on, probably in April, there were at Otago the barque Arab, the Izette, and the Ann Maria. All were full and bound for home. After leaving Pater- page 311 son's River the South Boston made for Otago, and sailed from that port on 22nd May with a full cargo of 2900 barrels. She left there, the Superior, with 700 barrels, the Julius Caesar, with 500 barrels, and the John and Edward, with 2000 barrels. A week before the South Boston sailed the Thorn had also sailed with 700 barrels for the Bay of Islands, where she arrived on 15th June, sailing again on 11th July.

Banks Peninsula maintained its popularity with the whaling captains. On 6th February the Jasper called at Piraki and Captain Adams spent some time ashore with Hempleman. The Jasper left the very next day. It will be remembered that the Jasper was in the habit of calling at Akaroa for refreshments. She was now virtually a full ship and, on 25th March, sailed for New Bedford, leaving at Akaroa the Sarah Frances, with 1880 barrels on board, and the Luminary, which had put into port to repair some damage to her cutwater, and was to sail in a few days on another cruise.

On 16th February a boat from an American ship lying at Akaroa called in at Piraki and purchased a supply of potatoes. Though her name is not given, an entry in Hempleman's log would suggest that it was the Sarah Frances.

During March, when the whales were procured off the land and the bays were deserted of “fish,” there were recorded as “fishing off Banks Peninsula” the Helvetia, the White Oak, the N.P. Talmadge, the Gratitude, and the Averick. The Gratitude had met with a serious accident and her second officer, Charles Howard, had been killed by a whale in December. She was just about full at this date, and, later on, made for Stewart Island, to get recruits, it was said, but more probably to land Stewart Island men who were among her crew, prior to sailing homeward.

During the first three months of the year, when there were no whales in the Bay, the Piraki station confined itself to getting ready for the busy season, and supplying potatoes to the French and American shipping which frequented page 312 the various bays of the Peninsula. Thus Hempleman records the doings at his station [21st Feb.] “Diging Potatoes up the two boats Left for wangeloar (Akaroa) with A load of Potatoes.” [16th Apl] “At 1 p.m. launch'd the Big Boat with three tons of potatoes, which the Capt. Chase and the 2nd Mate tow'd to Wangooloa.” Captain Chase, mentioned here, was the commander of the Fairhaven whaler, George, and American files report that she was at Akaroa, on 10th May, with 800 barrels, bound sperm whaling.

Another American whaler here at this date, and which also sent round to Hempleman's for supplies of potatoes, was the Samuel Robertson of New Bedford, commanded by Captain McKenzie. The following statement signed by Captain McKenzie was found amongst Hempleman's papers and shows the trade between the American whaler and the station:—

Bought of Capt Hempleman
to 3 tons potatoes at 5 £15 0 0
½ chest tea at 3 3 0 0
50lbs White Lead at 4d 1 Bag Shot at 0 16 8
25lbs green paint at 4d 0 8 4
5 gallons good Cape Wine at6s 1 10 0
Cr By
$ c
1000 Iron hoops at 5$ 50
500 Ibs Bread at 5½c 27 50
10 Gallons paint oil at 75c 7 50
85 00
or £17
Danl Mckenzie
Ship Saml Robertson of New Bedford.

On 12th June, off Akaroa, the Atlantic, 323 tons, Howland, of Warren, was lost. The crew were saved, and the page 313 master, officers, and six seamen were taken to the Bay of Islands, on board the French whaler France, of Havre, and landed there on 23rd July. The remaining seamen stayed to look for employment at Akaroa. At the Bay of Islands J. R. Clendon, the American Consul, rendered the shipwrecked seamen every assistance, finding employment on board the American whalers in the Bay for one officer and five seamen, and sending the master, first mate, and one seaman, home in the General Jackson on 3rd August. According to Hempleman's log on 12th June there were strong winds from the southward, so that probably the Atlantic was blown ashore. On the sixteenth, Robinson, the tonguer at Akaroa, came round to Piraki with a crew of the Atlantic. They returned to Akaroa on the eighteenth, and on the twentieth “the Atlantic's People signed articles” at the Piraki station.

This was the first American whaler lost in Southern New Zealand.

On 20th June the China with 1000 barrels, and the Favourite with 75, were both at Akaroa.

During the month of April a large number of Americans gathered in Cook Strait, chiefly in Cloudy Bay. The names of the following are given:—

  • Full—
    • Warren, 382 tons, 21 mos out.
    • Luminary, 432 tons, 21 mos. out.
    • Merrimac, 414 tons.
    • Navy, 356 tons.
    • Adeline, 329 tons.
  • Loading.—
    • Fortune, 278 tons, 300 barrels.
    • Erie, 375 tons, 700 barrels.

Of these the Navy got away on 23rd April, and reached Gloucester, U.S.A., on 6th September; the Merrimac, and the Fortune sailed on the twenty-eighth of the same month.

The Luminary and the Warren both belonged to the whaling port of Warren, Rhode Island, and sailed under John Smith Jr. & Co., of that place. From what cause is unknown, but Lewis left his ship, the Warren, at Cloudy Bay without provisions or crew to take her home, although page 314 she had on board, 3000 barrels of black oil and 250 of sperm. Seeing this, Mayhew, the captain of the Luminary, sent his vessel, which was also full, home in charge of the chief mate, Price, while he took the Atlas, which was used as a tender for these two vessels, and carried to the deserted whaler men and provisions for the homeward voyage.

Lewis afterwards established a whaling station on one of the small islands at Kapiti, known later on by his name, and when the Tory was there, on 12th November, a vessel called the Tokerau, which had formerly been an American whaler, but, having been wrecked at the Bay of Islands, had been bought by its present owner, refitted, and given the New Zealand flag, called in to take Lewis on board as its commander. In addition to the island called Lewis', another was called Mayhew's, and it also had a whaling station upon it.

The Grand Turk arrived at Cloudy Bay before the Merrimac sailed on 28th April, and she, in her turn, sailed on 2th July. There were then in the Bay the Warren and the Atlas, the former ready to leave for home, which she did next day in charge of Russell, who formerly commanded the Atlas. Mayhew remained with that vessel, and appears to have traded to and from the Bay of Islands. The Samuel Robertson wanted only two whales to complete. She got away on 3rd August. There were then only two other vessels in the Bay, the Erie with 1600 barrels, and the Favourite with 400.

The other known American visitor was the Cherokee, out 14 mos., with 900 barrels of black, and 450 of sperm oil.

For the remainder of the year the few American vessels which frequented Cook Strait appear to have called at Kapiti. Late in July the China was there, and in November the Adeline, the Lydia, the Atlas, and the Tokerau. The Lydia left to cruise to the southward, on 16th December, and about the same time the Roman called.

Towards the end of the year, when the Adeline was lying at anchor at Kapiti, one of her boats, while towing a raft of water from the shore to the ship, was forcibly page 315 taken from the crew by an armed party of eight Europeans and one New Zealander, belonging to a shore whaling party at Kapiti. Captain Thomas Brown reported this to the American Consul at the Bay of Islands, who forwarded it on to Washington and informed the Secretary of State that not a season passed without American whaling ships suffering more or less from “the lawless wretches in the whaling Bays of Cooks Straits,” at the same time expressing his regret that no U.S. Ships of war had yet visited New Zealand.

At Chatham Island only one whaler was reported. After the action taken by the Rebecca Sims the previous year it is not surprising that they were not very keen to visit the spot, and they had been warned by the American press to be on their guard.

We have the Auckland Islands mentioned this year for the first time as a whaling resort for Americans. On 3rd April there were there three whalers:—the North America, the Roman, and the Amethyst. The first-named sailed on the date mentioned, a full ship, and the other two shortly afterwards made for the Bluff.