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The Old Whaling Days

Chapter XIX. — American Whalers and Scientists, 1838 to 1840

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Chapter XIX.
American Whalers and Scientists, 1838 to 1840.


Only four American whalers of the 1837 season were reported on the South Island coast in 1838. Of these the Gratitude and Erie had gone home and were back on another whaling voyage, the Rosalie and the Mechanic were the only ones lingering on to complete their cargoes. In addition to the Gratitude, there were, of the 1836 fleet, four others, which had gone home, discharged their cargoes, and returned to the New Zealand bays. These were the Erie, the Friendship, the Vermont, and the Warren. The Erie, which was the pioneer American bay whaler on the New Zealand coast, was therefore on her third voyage. In all we find records of twenty-four American whalers, of which New Bedford sent 7, Warren 4, Fairhaven and British America 2 each, and Plymouth, Wilmington, Salem, Rochester, Bristol, Poughkeepsie, Newport, Fall River, and Nantucket 1 each; a sure sign—the spread of the ports—that the New Zealand trade was proving very profitable to the Americans.

At the New Zealand end a well-marked alteration had taken place in the bays to which the vessels resorted. Instead of crowding into Cloudy Bay, as had been done in 1836, or spreading evenly over all the bays, as had been done in 1837, the American whalers showed a preference for Kapiti Island, Banks Peninsula, and Bluff Harbour: treating Mana Island, Cloudy Bay, Otago Harbour, Molyneux bay, Stewart Island, Preservation Inlet, and Chatham Island as minor stations.

The following table will give a very fair idea of the distribution of the fleet throughout the year:—

Station Vessel. Home Port. Captain.
Stewart Island Gratitude New Bedford Fisher
Preservation Bay Fortune Plymouth Goodwinpage 303
Bluff Alexander Barclay New Bedford Norton
Rosalie Warren Pickens
Lucy Ann Wilmington Parker
Izette Salem Hall
Molyneux Fortune Plymouth Goodwin
Otago Columbus Fairhaven Ellis
Friendship Fairhaven West
Akaroa Rosalie Warren Pickens
Vermont Poughkeepsie Howland
Honqua New Bedford Mosher
Gold Hunter Fall River Estes
Rajah New Bedford Nickerson
Averick New Bedford Stetson
Port Cooper Friendship Fairhaven West
Shylock Rochester Taber
Bowditch Bristol Ramsdell
Rajah New Bedford Nickerson
Cloudy Bay Warren Warren Lewis
Erie Newport Dennis
Montano Nantucket Sayer
James Steward Brit. Amer. Gardner
Mechanic Brit. Amer.
Mana Island Adeline New Bedford Brown
Kapiti Warren Warren Lewis
Luminary Warren Mayhew
Atlas Warren Russell
Adeline New Bedford Brown
Chatham Island Rebecca Sims New Bedford Ray

Stewart Island may be ignored as a whaling ground. The Gratitude arrived there on 10th October with four families or parties who had, some time before, settled at King George's Sound, Western Australia, and, desiring to shift their quarters, had taken advantage of the American whaler calling in there to shift in a body. They consisted of the Cheyne family, the Skinner family, and Messrs. Townshend and Robinson. It was at first reported in Sydney that they had purchased Stewart Island, but as they made their way to Sydney later on, it is more than page 304 probable that Port Jackson was their ultimate destination, and that they were utilising the best means at their disposal for getting there.

At the Bluff, the Alexander Barclay, the Rosalie, the Fortune, and the Lucy Ann, were whaling at the opening of the season. The Rosalie had come from Sydney, where she had been driven in quest of provisions, having before that been at Akaroa, but she does not appear to have waited long at the Bluff. By 11th July the others had been joined by the Salem whaler Izette, the first whaler fitted out from that port in the effort to establish the whale fishery in Salem, which, though one of the greatest shipping ports in America, had never cultivated this branch of trade until 1831. The celebrated Joseph Peabody was one of her owners. These vessels did practically all their whaling for this season at the Bluff, and our meagre knowledge of their movements is obtained chiefly from “Johnny” Jones' captain—Bruce—when reporting the arrival of the Magnet at Sydney. American journals never spread themselves to give whaling news, and even scraps of information are only to be got when a vessel filled in the bay and sailed direct for home. If the last barrel was stowed away out on the banks no bay news was recorded.

Captain Wm. Wells reported in Sydney that the Fortune was to sail from Molyneux Bay for home on 14th November with a cargo of 1500 bar. of oil and 10 tons of bone. Why she did not reach her destination until thirteen months afterwards the author cannot say, unless, as the “Sydney Monitor” reported, she was merely refitting at the Molyneux, and the statement of her being bound home was premature.

Otago did not appear to present very many attractions to the Americans. The Columbus was the only whaler to spend the full season there. The Friendship, the other American reported there, left some time in July for Port Cooper. The Columbus sailed direct home, a full ship.

The Rosalie called in at Akaroa, on her road to Sydney for provisions, on 20th February, and while there she page 305 relieved the necessities of Captain Hempleman whose station at Piraki was very hard pressed for stores. Captain Pickens himself visited Piraki on 22nd and 23rd February. He reached Sydney on 19th March and sailed again on the twenty-eighth. Another American whaler visited Akaroa on 1st May, but details are not available. Our information about the Vermont, the Honqua, the Gold Hunter, and the Rajah, is obtained from the first-named, on her arrival at New York, when her captain reported that he had left the others at Akaroa. She took 125 days on her passage, which would place all four at Akaroa on 29th May. On 4th August the Gold Hunter and the Honqua were still at Akaroa, the Rajah at Port Cooper, and the Averick, mentioned now the first time, at Akaroa. Hempleman's log, which might have given us valuable information about the movements of the Americans at Akaroa, is not written up for more than a small portion of this whaling season.

In the case of Port Cooper the Governor Bourke, of Sydney, reported the four vessels mentioned in the table as being all full, and ready to sail for home. The Friendship had come up from Otago, and the Rajah round from Akaroa, but of the other two we have no information further than their presence there. The Rajah left on 4th August for the Bay of Islands, and the next day the Shylock sailed direct for home, reaching her destination on 6th December. She reported on arrival that the two left behind wanted three whales each to fill up.

The Warren is reported to have narrowly escaped shipwreck at Cloudy Bay in January. The Montano arrived there on 20th February and the Mechanic, a full ship, the following day. Two Americans, names not given, are stated to have been at Cloudy Bay in June. These last-named were probably the Erie and the James Stewart, as these two vessels sailed from the Bay on 26th December for the ocean whaling. The Erie was our old pioneer whaler from Newport, and the James Stewart was from British North America. From the great falling-off in whaling here it was evident that the Americans had had enough of it.

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The Commander of H.M.S. Pelorus found two American whalers at Mana Island in September, but the Adeline, whose captain gave every assistance on the occasion of the murder of Captain Cherry, is the only one we can identify.

The Luminary and the Warren “fished” at Kapiti during the season, as they are recorded from American sources as being there on 1st June, and from Sydney sources, as having sailed with the Adeline for the sperm fishery, on 20th October. The Atlas was a tender to the Luminary and the Warren, both of which vessels were under the one proprietary.

The only American known to have visited Chatham Island during 1838 was the Rebecca Sims. It is of her third visit there that we have particulars. On arrival the Natives failed to come on board, as had been their wont on former occasions, and Captain Ray, astonished at his treatment, went ashore to learn the cause. He was not long in finding out that they had taken and burned the Jean Bart, a French whaler, and were fearful of European vengeance for their misdeeds. From the information which Captain Ray picked up, he came to the conclusion that the Jean Bart had been taken shortly after anchoring, and that the Natives, who had come on board in great numbers, with the design of taking possession of the ship, had seized advantage of the moment when the men were occupied furling the sails. It was thought that the Natives had seized some of the whaling lances and used them against the crew, as some clothes which had belonged to the French sailors, and which were found on the Natives, had gashes in them as if made by cutting instruments. They were also seen to be smeared with blood, when obtained by the men of the Rebecca Sims. The Americans also saw ashore a number of the islanders who bore marks of wounds, as though from that class of instruments. From what he saw Ray come to the conclusion that the whole French crew had been massacred. He was told, however, that some of the men had embarked in four boats, and had gone to Pitt Island. He examined this island page 307 with much care; but, though skirting it at less than half a mile distance, saw neither smoke nor other indication of the presence of the unfortunate Frenchmen. It was told to the Americans, by a woman, that a cabin boy of the Jean Bart, found on board after the massacre, had been spared and taken ashore alive. Captain Ray, as soon as possible, set sail for the Bay of Islands, where he found the French corvette, Heroine, on the eve of sailing for Tahiti, and he at once informed Captain Cecille of the awful calamity which had befallen his countrymen.

Captain Ray accompanied Captain Cecille, in the expedition which that officer organised to Chatham Island, and his movements in that connection will be detailed with the doings of the French whalers.

The Rebecca Sims was not a “right” but a “sperm” whaler, and her calls at Chatham Island were only to obtain refreshments for the ship's company. When she arrived home her cargo consisted of only 90 barrels of black oil, but 2490 of sperm. With bay whalers the figures were generally reversed.

The following information is available about the return journeys of the fleet and of their cargoes:—

Ship. Tons. Return. Cargoes in Barrels and Lbs.
1838. Black. Sperm. Bone.
Vermont 292 Oct. 2 200 2600
Shylock 278 Dec. 6 41 2444
Bowditch 398 Jan. 12 300 2400
Friendship 360 Jan. 22 119 2615 28,000
Rajap 250 Jan. 28 310 1649
Columbus 382 Feb. 21 135 3065
Gold Hunter 281 Apr. 10 2200
Lucy Ann 309 Apr. 24 100 2400 24,000
Honqua 330 May 8 2741 25,000
Montana 365 May 30 53 2710
Rebecca Sims 400 Sep. 19 2490 93
Luminary 432 Oct. 2 600 3200
Averick 470 Oct. 3 4200
Gratitude 337 Oct. 27 260 2490 page 308
Fortune 278 Oct. 31 2300
Alexander Barclay 465 Nov. 26 4500
Izette 275 Dec. 20 250 2050
Adeline 329 May 16 100 2400
Warren 382 July 16 235 3065

The cargoes for the 19 vessels mentioned total 49.122 barrels of black oil. or 2585 barrels per ship.


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.


The six months of the year with which we are concerned saw 26 whalers recorded on the coast of Southern New Zealand. Of this fleet New Bedford and Sag Harbor sent 7 each, New London 3, Fairhaven 2, and Warren, Newark, Poughkeepsie, Newport, Providence, St. Johns and Fall River 1 each.

The Alexander Barclay, 465 tons, Norton, of New Bedford, was the only vessel reported in Foveaux Strait. When 4 months out she had obtained 200 barrels.

Otago was rather better patronised than its neighbouring whaling ground. When D'Urville called in at the end of March there were two American whalers at anchor. Though their names are not given us they were probably the Washington, 340 tons, Osborne, of Sag Harbor, and page 316 the Superior of New London, ready for home, as these vessels are known to have been there in April.

During the month of May quite a number visited the Port. Sydney captains reported four:—The Fanny, 391 tons, Edwards, Sag Harbour; the Columbus, 382 tons, Fish, Fairhaven; the Ann Maria, 368 tons, Middleton, New London; the Newton, 283 tons, Hathaway, New Bedford. Of these the first wanted 600 barrels to fill up, the second 500, while the third intended to stay for the bay season there, and the fourth had 1400 barrels in her hold.

The Chariot, 355 tons, Littlefield, of Warren, was off Banks Peninsula on 9th February with 1000 barrels, and an American was at Akaroa when D'Urville called on 8th April.

On 1st April the Addison, Tower, New Bedford, sailed from Cloudy Bay with 1800 barrels of oil on board. The Favourite, Swift, followed on 2nd May, leaving the two New Bedford vessels, Good Return and Octavia, at that port. The former had on board 1300 barrels, and the latter 900. By 8th May they were joined by the John Wells, Russell, of Newark, and the barque Vermont, Kendrick, of Poughkeepsie. The Octavia was on the eve of leaving for a cruise to the Chatham Islands. Shortly afterwards the General Williams, the Columbia, and the Cherokee arrived, and there were at that date the following five American whalers in the Bay:—

Vessel. Tons. Captain. Port.
General Williams 446 Holdridge New London
Columbia 285 Edwards Sag Harbor
Cherokee 261 Cook New Bedford
>John Wells 366 Russell Newark
Vermont 292 Kendrick Poughkeepsie

all of them well on to complete their cargoes and return.

By this time the Town of Britannia was in a very forward state on the shores of Port Nicholson, but the whalers avoided it rather than sought opportunities to refresh at it; their captains, probably fearing the desertion of their men, seemed to avoid towns where law and order prevailed. page 317 When H.M.S. Herald called at the Bay on 10th June and proclaimed British sovereignty, Captain Nias reported that there were five American whalers at anchor. So far as we can determine they were those mentioned above.

The following whalers were reported at and around Chatham Islands:—

Date. Vessel. Tons. Master. Port.
Jan. 1 Chariot 355 Littlefield Warren
Jan. 8 Franklin 333 Howland New Bedford
Feb. 15 Panama 464 Crowell Sag Harbor
Feb. 15 Superior McLean New London
Mar. 4 Ann Maria 368 Middleton New London
Mar. 4 10 Neptune 338 Sleight Sag Harbor
Mar. 18 Hannibal 311 Bennett Sag Harbor
May 1 Concordia 265 Woodward Sag Harbor
May 9 Erie 375 Dennis Newport
May 9 Envoy 392 Pease Providence
May 9 Royal William Jenney St. Johns
May 9 Gold Hunter 281 Estes Fall River

Of these the Concordia sailed on 1st May and the Gold Hunter seven days later. On 17th May the Erie was lost. She was taken aback while attempting to beat out of the bay, was thrown upon the beach and bilged, and went to pieces a few days afterwards in a gale. She had on board 2600 barrels, including 230 of sperm, and 2400 were saved. Captain Dennis sold 1100 barrels to Captain Littlefield of the Chariot, and the remainder to Captain Jenney of the Royal William, at 1 dollar per barrel. All the sails, spars, and rigging were saved. The Captain, mate, and two boatsteerers, and two of the crew, came up in the Royal William and the remainder of the crew stopped on the Island. The vessel and her cargo were insured in New York and Boston. The Royal William and the Chariot left the Island on 18th June.

Wilkes' Expedition, 1839 and 1840.

The great development of American whaling in the Southern Pacific early directed the attention of that young nation to the necessity of exploring and surveying these page 318 waters, to determine the existence of doubtful islands, and to fix accurately the position of those that lay in the track of their whalers. For this purpose large Appropriations were made by Congress, and several vessels were put into commission. It is not necessary to go into the details of the difficulties which were encountered and overcome before the Expedition left Hampton Roads on 17th August, 1838: we are more concerned with what was actually accomplished. On the date just mentioned, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes sailed with a squadron consisting of the Vincennes, a sloop of war of 780 tons; the Peacock, a sloop of war of 650 tons; the Porpoise, a gun-brig of 250 tons; two tenders, the Sea Gull and the Flying Fish, of 110 and 96 tons respectively; and the store ship Relief.

The Expedition was in Sydney, preparing for the Antarctic portion of their voyage, when H.M.S. Druid arrived with Captain Hobson, on his way to take over the governorship of New Zealand. By this time it had been reduced to the Vincennes, the Peacock, the Porpoise, and the Flying Fish, the Relief having landed her stores and sailed for home some ten days before the arrival of the other vessels. Of these the Flying Fish was reported as quite unfit for the rigours of the Antarctic, and throughout all the vessels, indeed, it was felt that the equipment was not up to the standard required for the dangerous work ahead of them. It says a great deal for Wilkes, that after getting what refitting Sydney could give him, he pushed on for the Antarctic on 26th December, 1839.

The ships separated on 2nd January, 1840, and, as Macquarie Island had been named as the first rendezvous, they all made for that place. The Peacock reached the Island on the tenth and landed Mr. Eld and a quartermaster to fix up the signals agreed upon. After this was completed these two officers visited the penguin rookeries for specimens. The vast congregation of birds they found there was a revelation to the Americans, but, although they made strenuous efforts to secure some good specimens, they had to come away empty-handed, the difficulties page 319 encountered at the landing preventing the specimens being shipped. Before the Peacock left the Island, the Flying Fish had arrived, and those on board the latter saw the former, but were not in turn seen by them. On the eleventh the acting master of the Flying Fish got ashore and erected a staff and signal, and reported experiences similar to those of the Peacock officer.

The Vincennes and the Porpoise failed to reach the Island. On 7th January they found themselves to leeward of their objective, and Lieutenant Wilkes directed a course to be steered for Emerald Island, the second rendezvous.

That none of the four vessels ever reached the second rendezvous goes without saying when we mention the interesting fact that there is no such island as Emerald Island—at least in the South Seas.

We will not follow Wilkes' movements in the Antarctic, but will pick up the Porpoise, on her return, when she saw the Auckland Islands, on 5th March, and cast anchor in Sarah's Bosom two days later. Her stay was a short one of only two days, but Dr. Holmes took advantage of that short respite to explore the land and visit some of the smaller islands.

Near the watering place was a large hut erected by a French whaler, another ruined one stood near by, and the grave of a French sailor, with his name cut on a wooden cross, showed that this was the resort of French vessels to refit, and to await the coming of the whales in April and May. Before leaving, a board was erected on a pole and the following notice displayed:—“U.S. brig Porpoise,73 days out from Sydney, New Holland, on her return from an exploring cruize along the Antarctic Circle, all well; arrived the 7th, and sailed again on the 10th March, for the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.” A paper, with a statement of their visit endorsed, was also left as an additional notification.

It is interesting here to note that D'Urville anchored in Sarah's Bosom the following day, and actually saw the American brig and heard her guns.

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The only other visit of Wilkes' vessels to the Southern Islands was that of the Peacock to Macquarie Island on 4th February, but she merely sailed past, bound for Sydney, where she arrived on the twenty-first, and where she was joined by the Vincennes on 11th March. Two days before that date the Flying Fish had reached the Bay of Islands, where she was joined, on 26th March, by the Porpoise. The subsequent movements of the American squadron are outside the province of this work.