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The Old Whaling Days



Details of the 1833 season are not very full. The Lord Liverpool, which had spoken the Emma Kemp in Cook St. at the end of the year, came up to Sydney with a flax and oil cargo, on 20th January. There appears to have been a considerable quantity of oil over from the last season, 38 tuns of which, and a small parcel of seal skins, was brought up to Sydney in the Waterloo by Hall on 25th February. While in Cook Strait the Waterloo spoke the brig Helen loading timber for Sydney, where she afterwards delivered a very fair cargo of pine.

In May news reached Hobart Town of the total loss by fire of the Dragon, and of the murder of her captain and crew by the Maoris. The crew had made fast to two whales and had followed them into a small inlet where were a number of natives, who promptly overpowered, killed and ate them, and burnt the vessel to the water's edge. The news of this disaster was obtained by the Lindsay, which had picked up, in an open boat at sea, a New Zealand lad who had witnessed the incident. Unfortunately no information is available of the locality of the disaster.

On the second trip of the Waterloo to Sydney she sailed from Cloudy Bay on 1st July, and made for the south where she experienced very bad weather, and was hove to for 10 days off Macquarie Harbour (the Bluff) and lost her bulwarks and boats. She then made for Preservation Inlet and loaded up with 39 tuns of oil, which she brought up to Sydney on 2nd August. When she left Cloudy Bay the natives had been at war with one another and had committed serious depredations on the property of a Sydney merchant. The Harriett, of Sydney, had procured 40 tuns page 61 of oil, and the Marianne, of Hobart, was also there. Guard's gangs at Kekapo had procured 100 tuns but it was feared that they would have to leave on account of the hostile disposition of the natives.

The third trip of the Waterloo was a phenomenal one. She sailed from Sydney on 12th August with stores, left Cloudy Bay on her return on 9th September, and reached Sydney with 45 tuns of oil on the twenty-fifth of the same month, having performed the round trip in 44 days. She reported the following shipping at Cloudy Bay—

The Harriett, Irving, with 150 tuns on board.

The Caroline, Blinkinsopp, 100 tuns.

The Denmark Hill, Finlay, 90 tuns, and in a leaking condition.

All of these vessels were about to put to sea.

Guard's gangs had procured 240 tuns of oil, and whales were very numerous.

Captain Hall also reported that the Caroline had lost a mate named Baker, and the Harriett, a mate named Gully. both killed by whales while fishing. While the Waterloo was at Cloudy Bay the schooner Speculator was at Port Nicholson, and the natives there had gone on board of her, killed one Maori whom they found there, and took the remainder away as prisoners.

On 7th October, 1833, the Marianne, the property of Hewitt. Gore & Co., arrived at Hobart Town with a splendid cargo of no less than 260 tuns of oil (100 barrels being sperm) and about 15 tons of whalebone. She had been absent for only some seven months, but had, in that short time, brought a profit of upwards of £4,500 to her owners. She had sailed from Cloudy Bay on 10th September, and reported whales to be plentiful enough there to provide loading for any number of ships.

The various whalers which had gone out from the Derwent had all returned to port with exceptional cargoes but the trip of the Marianne appears to have attracted public attention more than any of the others, and interest in her reports took the form of a proposal to establish a page 62 new colony at Cloudy Bay. “The accounts of Cloudy Bay,” says the “Colonial Times,” brought by the Marian, have been so extremely gratifying, that half the people of Hobart Town are crazy to leave for the new Colony now establishing. The soil is described as of the very best quality, and the climate, although rather cold, salubrious in the extreme.” The Article in question went on to point out that the facilities for procuring labour would do away with the necessity for convicts, and it expressed the opinion that the native question could be dealt with if properly taken in hand.

The promoters, in an outline of their scheme, stated that the intention of the families comprised in the movement was to charter a vessel and proceed to the Southern Island of New Zealand, taking with them suitable articles for trade. The settlement was to be on a river, and the sections were to be disposed of by lot. For some time to come the produce of the land was to be in common. Whaling was to be an occupation, strict observance of the Sabbath a feature, compulsory education an essential, and universal training a necessity, of the young settlement. Te Rauparaha's presence was responsible for the necessity. Generally speaking, the promoters hoped to establish an independent community, governed by laws of its own making, and ruled by magistrates of its own selecting.

The scheme was taken up with enthusiasm by a few, and treated with ridicule by many, but it directed men's minds to the question of utilizing the valuable resources of New Zealand in the interests of Hobart Town, and in that way did good. The whole question was not allowed to die, but vessels were sent to New Zealand, and a satisfactory timber trade ultimately opened up between the Derwent and Hokianga. With this development the idea of a Settlement in the South Island dropped out of sight.

During the year a portion of Mana Island was cultivated and a crop of tobacco grown thereon. Europeans resided on the Island, as is shown by the fact of a letter dated, “Island of Manno, Cook's River, 9th November, page 63 1833,” giving particulars of the shipping over a considerable period. Bell's vessel, the William Stoveld, had called in on her road to England six weeks before and a Van Diemen's Land celebrity had evidently been there painting the pahs a deep vermilion. “You doubtless,” says the correspondent, “have heard of Lincoln Bill's pranks at Hobart Town; he sailed from this island on the 24th September, not known for what Port; he had a constable on board and several other gentlemen from Hobart Town.”

Who Lincoln Bill was remained a mystery to the author until he read, in a note in a Sydney paper intimating the death of W. Cuthbert of the brig Bee, that he was known as Lincoln Bill. The remaining portion of the mystery was cleared up, by the discovery, among the Pacific Ocean papers in the Record Office in London, of a letter written by Wm. Stewart to Captain Charlton, the British Consul of the Sandwich Islands. The letter was copied because the author identified the signature of the writer as that of the “discoverer” of Stewart Island. It was not until long afterwards that it was found to clear up the mystery of the Mana Island visitor of 1833. It is here given, being written at the Sandwich Islands where the Bee arrived on 6th January, 1833.

8th January 1834
Captain Charlton


As His Britannic Majesty's Consul at this place I call your attention to the following few lines.

In July last I joined the Brig Bee in New Zealand at the particular request of Mr. W. Cuthbert, the owner, to proceed as Navigating Master. We left New Zealand on the 21st of July the orders I, received were to steer for Van Diemens Land, and arrived at Storm Bay on the 11th of August. On the following morning anchored in Adventure Bay. Mr. Cuthbert left the Brig and proceeded to Town, page 64 during his absence the Port Captain came on board and demanded the ship's Papers. I had not them in my possession. The Brig was taken possession of and obliged to go into Port where was discharged the deck load of timber. On the morning of the 23rd August I received orders from Mr. Cuthbert as to my future proceedings, the following morning he came on board and gave me an order to get myself endorsed on the Register & clear out the Brig for Sydney that he himself was going down the River and might probably find him at Maria Island. I shipped a crew and cleared out accordingly but soon ascertained that Mr. Cuthbert had been arrested in a criminal matter and had actually absconded from Justice and taken the officer who had been in charge away with him. On the 29th August left Hobart Town and in consequence of Strong Northerly winds did not make Maria Island till Sept 2nd early in the morning perceived our Whale Boat, she came along side with certain strange men who Mr. Cuthbert said he had shipped then gave me positive orders to steer for New Zealand. I found on the passage he had brought away the constable and three prisoners. At New Zealand some of the crew left. On the 10th October made the Island of Rumutu. Sent two prisoners on shore. At Tahiti the constable and one prisoner were sent on board the ship Erie. There being no person at Tahiti that I could address on the subject I let it stand over till we arrived here.

It has always been Mr. Cuthbert's plan to get rid of all the people who know anything of the business at Van Diemens Land but I hope you will do your duty.

I remain,

Yours faithfully

W. Stewart.

page 65
Sworn to the truth of the contents hereof as Woahoo this 25th day of January, 1834 before me W. Stewart Pudent (?) Charlton

When at Cook Strait Cuthbert sent the mate, and several of the others who were on board the Bee, ashore amongst the natives, entirely unprovided with clothes or provisions, and threatening to blow their brains out if they returned. The mate got away to Sydney in the Harriett, and told that the conditions on board the Bee were terrible, the motley crew whiling away the hours fiddling, drinking, and fighting. Cuthbert himself had stated that he was going to Tahiti to discharge his cargo and then steer on a speculative trip to the Spanish Main.

It was on this wild trip that Stewart called the attention of the British Resident at the Sandwich Islands to the condition of things. Action was at once taken and the Bee was seized, but the Crown prisoners managed to make their escape on board an American vessel, and Cuthbert himself got away in a small schooner to California. On being brought to Sydney the Bee was sold for the benefit of Cuthbert's creditors and fell into the hands of Long & Co. for £800.

On 5th September the Sarah sailed from Sydney for England and was compelled to put into Cloudy Bay leaking. On board of her were Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Kentish and their two children. The description of what follows is from the pen of Mr. Kentish.

“The pumps were obliged to be worked in the Sarah long before she had lost sight of Sydney Heads, and she was so leaky, making from 3 to 5 inches of water in an hour, that it was necessary to pump her out every watch day and night. This the commander and crew generally were aware of before she put to sea, as whilst lying in the harbour she was pumped out every night, and before daylight every morning but of course I was totally ignorant, and without suspicion of anything of the kind, or page 66 I would never have taken a passage in her. The captain, however, well aware of the circumstances, directed his course from the Heads to Cook Straits, New Zealand, for the purpose of causing a survey to be held on her, by which he said he should be bound to abide, and which alone could exonerate him. The following is the report of the Board of Survey forwarded to Sydney for the information and guidance of the owner and underwriters.
Whaling Harbour. Cloudy Bay,
September 26, 1833.

“We the undersigned Masters of vessels lying in this harbour, having been requested by Captain Jack, commander of the brig Sarah, bound from Sydney to England, with a general cargo (which vessel put into this port on the 26th instant, in a leaky state) to hold a survey upon her, we have repaired on board, and having perused her log and questioned her commander his chief and second officers and passengers, and having ourselves with the assistance of two carpenters, examined her upper works, and having ascertained that the above-named vessel makes whilst lying in the harbour, three inches of water per hour, we the undersigned are unanimously of opinion that the brig Sarah is not seaworthy for a passage to England, and we have earnestly recommended her commander for the benefit of the underwriters and those concerned, to cause her topsides to be caulked, and to proceed with the least possible delay to Sydney for further inspection.

  • John Blinkinsopp Com. of the barque Caroline

  • John Irving Com. of the barque Harriett

  • John Finlay Com. of the barque Denmark Hill

  • John Guard Com. of the schooner Waterloo

“The brig was accordingly caulked above water, and two planks were discovered as rotten as tinder, page 67 and the carpenter declared the whole bottom to be in the same state, and they, the two mates, the seamen and Captain, all expressed the greatest alarm at even returning in her so far as Sydney, for fear of some other, and worse leak springing in her bottom; but it was Captain Jack's avowed intention to return, who repeatedly declared he could not do otherwise, even if he considered her safe, as it would be illegal, and the insurance would of course be forfeited; however, when such repairs were nearly completed as could be effected in the Bay, it transpired that Captain Jack would not return to Sydney, by his dismissing the second mate (the only person in the brig who understood navigation besides himself) because he, as well as the seamen in general, refused to go in her to Valparaiso, whither he said he would run the chance of proceeding, as he considered the brig was as likely to reach that port as Sydney, and there, if she should appear tolerably safe and tight, he would obtain a supply of provisions and proceed on to England, or if she should still be in a dangerous state cause a fresh survey to be held, when if she should be condemned, the passengers might get a passage in some other vessel, and all who did not choose to go on with him, might go to hell. This was the reason of myself and family leaving the Sarah, and obtaining a refuge at Mr. Campbell's whaling establishment, at Cloudy Bay, intending to return to Sydney in the Waterloo, at that time daily expected, but about a week after the sailing of the Sarah, the news of the total wreck of the Waterloo was brought to us by Mr. Hall the master, who with his men crossed the straits in a boat, after narrowly escaping with their lives from the cannibals, who pillaged and then set fire to the hull of the Waterloo. I then entreated Mr. Irving to give us a passage in the Harriett to the Bay of Islands, where we might have remained in safety page 68 and comparative comfort, and from thence obtained a passage to Sydney three months ago, but he was inexorable, which I thought was unfeeling, and under these circumstances, inhuman towards my wife and children, as we were existing among a gang of whalers not only destitute of every comfort (and subsequently of common necessaries, as we foresaw must be the case, from the exhaustion of provisions) but in the greatest terror of a descent from a powerful tribe of one or two thousand natives from the Southward, under a chief called Tyroa (Taiaroa). who are at war with the tribes about the Straits, and last year destroyed fifty tons of barrels, and some oil with the huts and the property on the same beach, belonging to Mr. Mossman, and at the reported approach of which hostile tribe, the natives in Cloudy Bay were so much alarmed that they (our chief protectors) deserted us and fled away into the bush.”

After the phenomenal trip of the Waterloo already recorded no time was lost in getting her away to Cloudy Bay again. Her luck had now changed, however; she met very bad weather on the road down, and about the middle of October was driven on to the rocks on the mainland near Kapiti and had to be left to her fate. The captain and mate were seized by the natives and stripped of everything they had saved from the wreck, and were about to be killed, when a chief, who was on friendly terms with Captain Hall, saved their lives, saying, “Kill me, don't touch white people.” The natives afterwards burnt the wreck. Guard, who managed the gangs for which the Waterloo was sailing, told his son that the scene of the wreck was at Waikanae.