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The Old Whaling Days



Mr. Kentish threatened to publish “in blank verse” a description of his voyage to New Zealand, and of his stay at Cloudy Bay, but there is no record of the threat having ever been carried out.

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Of the other vessels mentioned in the survey certificate of the Sarah, the Harriett arrived in Sydney on 22nd January, 1834, having called in at the Bay of Islands, with the captain and crew of the Waterloo and 133 tuns of black oil on board, and the Denmark Hill reached Sydney on 20th March, with 860 barrels of the same commodity. The Hind also called in at Cloudy Bay, and, taking away Mr. Kentish and his family on 12th January, landed them at Sydney on 28th February.

When Captain Elley brought the Hind to Sydney he reported “a very dangerous sandbank in Cook's Straits which seems to have hitherto escaped notice and is not marked on any chart of that coast at present extant.” He described it: “From Cape Farewell there is a sand spit, bearing about due east, to a distance of 9 leagues, and cannot be seen until within about a mile from it. It is, without exception, the most dangerous place in Cook's Straits; and, if not aware of its position, destruction is inevitable. From Cape Farewell, however, as long as your vessel can carry canvas, and may be depended upon, East and by North will keep you clear.” It must appear to the reader strange that the discovery in 1834, of a sand spit which had been seen by Tasman in 1642, and by D'Urville in 1827, and particulars of which had been given by both, should have entitled Elley to “the thanks of the mercantile community.” Poor charts indeed of the coastline must have been at the disposal of shipping at that date.

Mr. Kentish had mentioned the fear of an invasion by the southern natives, under which the shore whaling gangs at Cloudy were at that time labouring. This fear proved in due course to be well founded. On 29th March, Captain Shaw, in the schooner Harlequin, reached Sydney with a cargo of potatoes and reported that she had sailed from New Zealand on the thirteenth of the month under the following circumstances:—

“It appears that some time ago the natives of Cloudy Bay, then at war with those belonging to page 70 the province of Otargo, had taken a Chief of the latter place, Eacho (?Tamaiharanui) with his daughters, both of whom they killed. In revenge the natives of Otargo had come in great numbers to Cloudy Bay to seek revenge for their injuries. Upon the 6th instant headed by Tiharoah (Taiaroa), Tarbooco (Te Whakataupuka) and another chief, they proceeded in a body about 400, with the intention of commencing war against the Cloudy Bay tribes, who it appears, were in the interior engaged in civil war among themselves. Not finding them, they proceeded in the work of devastation. Every station was completely annihilated—those of Messrs. Campbell and Captain Blinkensoppe in particular—their men taken prisoners, and one or more of the women shot—two of the white men, accompanied by several native women, escaped in a whale boat. On the 7th March the Harlequin schooner came to anchor in the Bay. Three boats, filled with natives, bringing the remaining two white men (for whom they expected ransom boarded her, and commenced plundering the vessel of sails, colours, muskets, &c., cutting part of her running rigging, &c., and but for the good policy of Captain Shaw, the vessel doubtless would have been taken, nearly two hundred of the natives being on deck searching for plunder and scarcely a part of the vessel but what underwent their scrutiny. However, Captain Shaw, with much address, persuaded the New Zealanders to go on shore and immediately made sail for Cavity (Kapiti) Island, where a similar fate awaited him, from which he also luckily managed to extricate himself.”

The little schooner, Speculator, which had got into trouble with the natives at Port Nicholson in 1833, came up to Sydney on 4th March, after a sealing voyage which had commenced on 13th April, 1833. Her captain, Parker, reported a successful voyage. The Maoris at New Zealand page 71 had seized one of his boats, but, after a little altercation had surrendered it.

On 30th March our first farmer set out from Sydney to establish himself in Southern New Zealand. Mr. John Bell had made the necessary arrangements for settling himself and his belongings at Mana Island, and, with a cargo of 10 head of cattle, 102 sheep, and 2½ tons of hay, sailed in the Martha for Cook Strait. With the exception of the domestic animals which accompanied the expeditions of Cook and Vancouver, this is the first record of any such having been taken to New Zealand, though it is incredible that sheep, cattle, goats and rabbits were unknown at the shore whaling stations of Preservation, Otago, Cloudy Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound and Kapiti.

On 7th June the brig Eleanor, Mann, brought up 130 tons of flax and 1 cask of oil, consigned to R. Jones & Co. She had come up from Macquarie Island and had spoken the brig Martha in Cook Strait.

Captain Blinkinsopp, in the barque Caroline, left Cloudy Bay on 3rd June and reached Sydney on 5th July, 1834, from Campbell's establishment, with a cargo of 100 tuns of black and 60 tuns sperm oil. When the vessel left, the natives were quite peaceful and in the Bay were the Hobart Town whaler, Marianne, and the American whaler Erie of Newport. The sperm oil on the Caroline had been obtained at Curtis Island. The Erie, here mentioned, was the pioneer ship of that immense fleet of American whalers, which, during the next few years, filled every bay in the South Island with whaleboats.

Encounters between the whalers and the natives, which so disturbed the peaceful carrying on of the whaling trade during the year 1834, were not confined to Cloudy Bay, uor yet to Port Otago, to be described hereafter. Admiralty Bay was the scene of rather a remarkable attack on a whaling craft. The Mary and Elizabeth, under the command of W. Lovitt, sailed from Hobart Town on 12th April, 1834. During the voyage she called in at Otago, and when there her boat, gear, and dead whales were seized page 72 and Captain Lovitt only escaped by a precipitate retreat. She then made for Cloudy Bay, where she was deserted by her crew and had to return to the Derwent, which she reached on 9th July. James Young was then put in command and she put to sea again on the thirteenth of the same month. She returned on 12th September and reported as follows:—

“On the 10th August, in Admiralty Bay, lat. 41. 19. South, lon. 175 East, the Mary and Elizabeth, having been drove in by stress of weather, several of the natives, amongst whom Captain Young recognised our old acquaintance, Tomawk, came alongside; Tomawk claimed acquaintance with Captain Young, and was received into the ship with his followers, one of whom he introduced as his brother, Waktoob, and others as his cousins (we suppose Highland cousins). Tomawk and his brother were invited into the cabin, and breakfasted with Captain Young—they appeared very friendly. Tomawk, on coming on board, said—‘This brig belongs to Mr. Kelly.’ Captain Young said, ‘No, it belongs to Mr. Hewitt,’ and endeavoured to explain the nature of the charter. About an hour after breakfast, the weather clearing, Captain Young ordered his men to weigh the anchor, and requested Tomawk and his brother to sit on the companion, and to order their men into the canoes; they appeared to consent, and rose, as Captain Young thought, to comply with his request. Captain Young turned round to the head of the ship to give his orders to his own people, when the two chiefs, Tomawk and Waktoob, seized hold of him, and attempted to push his overboard; he resisted, and prevented their effecting their purpose, by entwining his arms in the main rigging; another New Zealander then struck him with a scrubbing brush on the hip, and brought him down on the deck; they then dragged him alone the deck to the page 73 larboard pump, where they made him fast. Three of Captain Young's crew took to the rigging, the natives had knocked down the other three, and lashed them to the ring bolts—they then commenced plundering the ship, and took everything they could move, including harts, chronometers, ship's register, and other papers. At last they quarrelled about a keg of tobacco, and fought with the ship's muskets, which happened to be loaded—two of them were killed, and Captain Young thinks that several more must have been wounded. When the natives began to fight amongst themselves, they left the ship, and took to their canoes, on which the men, who had fled to the fore-top, came down, and released their commander and comrades. When the natives saw this, they gave up quarrelling, and made for the shore. One of the canoes was alongside, and Captain Young observed the chronometer in the bows of the canoe, and, stretching from his own deck, succeeded in rescuing it, though one of the natives made blows at him to prevent it. He then got up the anchor, and stood to sea, making for Cloudy Bay, where the Marian was whaling—he got within six miles of the station, and could distinctly see the smoke of the try works, but the weather was such that he could not get into the Bay. After striving to accomplish this, from the 11th to the 27th of August, without any bedding, and hardly any clothing left them, Captain Young was compelled to run for Hobart Town, his crew being unable to stand the rigours of the season in their destitute condition.”

To that the editor adds the following, in the best Van Diemen's Land editorial style of that period:—

“We publish the above as a caution to mariners who may have occasion to visit New Zealand. But we confess that we are much surprised and disap- page 74 pointed at hearing of our friend Tomawk being engaged in an outrage of this nature. It is true that the neglect and contempt with which Tomawk and his friend Tooet were treated by our bum burocrat oligarchy was calculated to inspire him with any feelings, rather than feelings of respect or kindness for British subjects. We predicted what would be the consequence to our shipping interests trading to New Zealand, of the contemptuous conduct of the Governor to Tomawk, who is not only a powerful Chief in his own country, but a near relation, we believe an uncle, to “Hecho,” the paramount Chief or King in Cook's Straits.

“We have often, too often, had occasion to predict the consequences of the negligence and positively bad acts of our Government—acts of which we could not help foreseeing the evil consequences; and we could quote a long record of cases wherein, either personally, or through the press, we have given the head of the Government, in the most respectful maner, timeous warning of consequences against which he might have guarded, and which he might, in fact, have altogether obviated, but which fell out exactly as we had predicted. It will cost much bloodshed, and take many years, to remove the effects of the Governor's neglect of Tomawk, and to accomplish that which an opposite line of conduct, on the part of His Excellency, might with ease have effected. What was the economy philosopher about, that he did not point out to his patron, the example of great men in every age, who had such an opportunity of conciliating powerful savages—he surely could inform his patron of what history relates of Cyrus, Cæsar, Scipio, and a hundred illustrious names, not to mention Buonaparte. And he could have assured him that the respectability of those names would prevent the imitation of their example, from proving any con- page 75 tamination to bum burocrat purity, or degradation of deputed Autocracy. His Excellency might have learned from ‘his Philosopher’ that he might have worn his cock's feathers, and his glittering coat, and headed his soi-disant Aristocracy, and bum burocrat ESQUIRE!!! Clerks, with undiminished grace and dignity; at the same time, that he would have done a duty to his Sovereign, which that Sovereign had shewn, in more than one instance, that he would not have thought beneath him to perform, by contributing to the safety of his Majesty's subjects, trading to New Zealand, had he condescended to have treated ‘Tomawk and Tooet,’ as General Macquarie and his high-spirited lady always treated every New Zealand Chief, who ever visited Sydney, and as George the Fourth, without any fear of degradation, treated the Chiefs who visited London.

“Tomawk's mind was not formed of bum burocrat materials. He could feel as one of “Nature's” Princes, and we know from himself, that though he was impressed with the kindest feelings towards many individuals here, nothing could exceed the contempt and dislike which he felt personally for the Government. Often have we heard him draw comparisons, the most unfavourable to the latter, between the Sydney Government and ours. We have received a very large packet from Captain Parker, who went passenger in the Emma Kemp, giving a most interesting detail of Tomawk's conduct on the passage, and of his reception in his own country, which confirms the opinions which we have already held concerning him. We have mislaid Captain Parker's packet, but when we find it we will publish it for the entertainment of our readers. With regard to the particular case of the Mary and Elizabeth, it was known to us, that Tomawk, had a personal grudge to Mr. Kelly, on account of a page 76 former occurrence in some port of New Zealand, and between one of Mr. Kelly's vessels and the natives. And also on account of Mr. Kelly having, as Tomawk told us, declined taking him passenger to Cloudy Bay—stating as his reason, that he expected Tomawk and his friends would plunder any vessel that would take Tomawk back, in revenge for the disappointment which that Chief suffered by his detention here. However, Mr. Kelly was mistaken, for nothing could exceed the kindness with which they treated all the persons on board the Emma Kemp, and the good will which Tomawk expressed for Mr. Horne.”

Tomack and Tooet were two of the three chiefs landed in Hobart Town by Captain Steine in the William the Fourth, on 1st September, 1832. After remaining there for some time they had approached Captain Kelly to carry them home, but that shipowner feared the wiping out of old scores, and declined. Why Steine did not take them back when he sailed for Rio in the Emma Kemp on 13th December, 1832, is not known. It was certainly stated in Hobart on his sailing that the Emma Kemp would visit New Zealand, and she was afterwards recorded as calling in at Cook Strait for water. When the Emma Kemp returned from Rio on 12th August, 1833, the Maori chiefs were still at Hobart. And there they remained, unable to get passage home, until Mr. Horne, whose vessel had brought them away from New Zealand, purchased the Emma Kemp and sent her to New Zealand on 22nd April, 1834, under the command of Captain Doyle. Captain Parker also sailed as a passenger to bring back to Tasmania a vessel laden with New Zealand produce. Parker's trade was, in the main, leather belts with buckles for the natives to use in fastening their mats. Costing one shilling apiece he expected to purchase pigs, giving one belt for a 100lb. pig. On his return to Hobart Town, Captain Parker handed in an account of the reception of the long absent chiefs by their page 77 tribes, but, as explained, this interesting document was lost.

Amongst the papers available in Tasmania are the Articles under which the crew of the Mary and Elizabeth served during these exciting voyages. They form the only contract of that nature which the author has found in Australia. Captain Young having lost his register, the correspondence regarding the granting of a new one is of sufficient interest to accompany a copy of the Articles, and will be found with them in Appendix D.

A writer, R. W. S., under date August, 1834, sent to “The Sydney Herald” an interesting account of a trip round the North Island of New Zealand. The portion relating to Cook Strait is here reproduced.

“Owing to contrary winds on my arrival in Cook's Straits, I was necessitated to beat about for several days previous to reaching my first destination, the Island of Manna (Mana), the Warspite Island of Captain Dundas, R.N., during which I discovered a shoal, not previously noticed, lying about ten miles south-west of Manna (Mana), upon which, as far as I could judge from the great way on the vessel, there is about five fathoms of water. You approach the roadstead of Manna (Mana) either from the northward or southward, the only danger being a reef, visible at half tide, which runs out about a mile off the southermost head-land of a Bay or Harbour on the opposite shore, called Purrirua (Porirua), which is immediately facing you on entering from the northwest, and which vessels may always avoid by keeping the island aboard. The best anchorage is abreast of the Boat-house at the north end of the native Pa or Fort, at about a quarter and a half mile off shore; small vessels may, however, anchor with safety, a cable's length off the island, abreast of the settlement: This island is the property of Mr. Bell, who is just gone down with page 78 a quantity of cattle, for the purpose of forming an establishment to supply vessels with Stock, &c. A part of the Island is already in cultivation, and a very fair crop of tobacco was grown there last season. Vessels homeward bound through Cooke's Straits will find Manna (Mana) a very convenient place to refresh at. The anchorage is safe at all times; wood and water are both good and plentiful, and fresh beef, mutton, lamb, and pork, with rabbits, poultry, and vegetables may be procured at Mr. Bell's establishment on reasonable terms. Whilst at Manna (Mana) I had an opportunity of witnessing an assemblage of the principal Chiefs of most of the tribes on this part of the coast, who met there for the first time since the war, which had been carried on for five months previous to my arrival. Te Rowparra (Te Rauparaha), one of the oldest Chiefs, who had been the principal occasion of hostilities, was at first dubious as to the reception he would meet with from his compeers, so much so, that instead of going on shore, on arriving in his canoe from Cabitie (Kapiti) he stowed himself away in the vessel's cabin, and it was not till the succeeding evening at dusk, that he would leave her. On the morning of our departure the meeting of the Chiefs took place, when several speeches were made. Peace was proclaimed, and, as usual, a feast concluded the ceremony! I could not but observe the sarcastic and significant looks of some of the principal Chiefs, from which I would infer, that their present acquiescence was but feigned, and that hostilities would break out again, at no very distant period. Be that however as it may, Te Rowparra (Te Rauparaha), from all accounts, have proved himself in the late war an able General, and experienced Tactician, and by a cunning peculiar to himself, has not only overcome a vastly superior force, but actually embroiled a more inveterate foe page 79 in the contest, whom, he first made fight his battle, and afterwards propose a cessation of hostilities in the very camp of the adversary.”

When the Joseph Weller was at Cloudy Bay on 14th July, the Marianne and the Erie were still there and they had been joined by the Denmark Hill and the Sussex, the latter an English vessel which had been out for three years and was not yet full. This is the first mention in Sydney papers of an English whaler taking up the South Island black whale trade. A schooner and a brig, supposed to be the Shamrock and the Carnarvon, were coming in when the Joseph Weller left.

On 28th July, a vessel of 435 tons, called the Bardaster, sailed from Sydney for New Zealand, to bring up a cargo of flax before sailing for England. She made for Cook Strait and found in Cloudy Bay no less than seven vessels:—

  • The Caroline, Blinkinsopp, with 130 tuns of oil.

  • The Denmark Hill, Finlay, with 150 tuns of oil.

  • The Cornwallis, Bardo, with 2 whales.

  • The Sussex, British barque, full of sperm and black oil.

  • The Erie, American whaler, half full.

  • The Marianne, Sinclair, full, for Hobart Town.

  • The Shamrock, schooner, with potatoes, oil and bone.

After leaving Cloudy Bay the Bardaster made the circuit of the flax stations in the North Island, and at one of them picked up a pakeha Maori named Barnet Burns. Captain Chalmers brought his vessel through Cook Strait, calling at Cloudy Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound, and when at the last-named anchorage, so is alleged by Burns, an attempt was made to seize the vessel, and was frustrated through his knowledge of the Maori language. It was found that the Shamrock had capsized and sunk, drowning 3 Europeans and 7 Maoris. Williams, the captain, was saved. The Caroline had secured from the Maoris the papers they had seized from the Mary and Elizabeth. All page 80 that information was brought to Sydney by Captain Chalmers when he came up on 2nd November.

Burns became so enamoured of life on board the Bardaster that he changed his plans of staying at Sydney and went on to Liverpool with Captain Chalmers. In 1835 he published a short sketch of his New Zealand experiences, which, though it went through new editions in 1842, 1844, 1848, and 1850, is now very difficult to secure.

One of the items of information brought up from Cloudy Bay was that the Denmark Hill was so leaky that the Caroline would accompany her to Sydney. This reminds the author of one of John Guard's stories, told now by his son, of Harriett rescue fame. A Maori, desiring something better to live in than the primitive whare of his race, built a house after the manner of his white friends. All went well till the rain came, when it was found that a perfect mill stream poured through the would-be mansion. As his friends gathered round to commiserate with him and discuss what next should be done, the philosophical old Maori who owned the house said, “We will call it the Denmark Hill, it leaks so much,” and the Denmark Hill that house was known as ever after. He had been a sailor on board the old leaky whaler.

Of the vessels which the Bardaster found in Cloudy Bay in August, the Marianne was the first to leave, and reached Hobart Town on 23rd September, with a cargo of 60 tuns of sperm oil, 160 of black, and 9 tons of bone. The Shamrock was capsized, as has already been described. The date of the departure of the Sussex for England is not recorded. The Erie sailed for the Bay of Islands on 5th October, full; and the Caroline, Denmark Hill, and Cornvallis were left at Cloudy Bay. On 9th November the Caroline and her leaky consort, the Denmark Hill, sailed for Sydney. The latter brought up the captain and five men of the Shamrock, and three men of the Harriett, and landed with a cargo of 190 tuns of oil on 23rd November.

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The Caroline reached Sydney two days later with 200 tuns of oil and 11 tons of bone on board. On board the Caroline was a runaway named George Wilson, who, with several others, had stowed away when the vessel left Sydney, but when at New Zealand the others had managed to get away among the natives.