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From Tasman To Marsden.

Chapter IX. — The Day of Te Pahi, 1806 to 1809

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Chapter IX.
The Day of Te Pahi, 1806 to 1809.


On board the Lady Nelson, when she arrived at the Bay of Islands with Te Pahi about the end of March, was a convict named George Bruce. Unfortunately he was an illiterate and extremely ignorant man, and, although he left a story of his life in a manuscript dictated by him to a companion in Chelsea Hospital during his later years, its statements are challenged at every step by the Reports on Bruce given by the Authorities in Sydney. In weighing these conflicting statements in order to ascertain the facts, the “official" version must always be accepted as against such a combination of illiteracy, ignorance, and general bad character, as the author of Bruce's narrative stands for. This man, before the Lady Nelson left the Bay, deserted and went to live with the Natives.

During the months of May and July the various vessels which had been spoken by the Argo, with the exception of the Betsy, called in at Sydney. In addition to these, another—the Vulture, Captain Folger—came in from the New Zealand coast.

Later on in the year a vessel called the Atlantic visited Sydney. She had, on the list of her crew, some New Zealanders, picked up probably on the New Zealand coast, and, on the night of 25th November, during a severe thunderstorm in the Harbour, one of them was killed by lightning which struck a boat belonging to the ship.


On 9th April the snow Commerce came into Port Jackson from the Penantipodes, with 39000 skins for the London market. She touched at that part of the New Zealand coast page 110 which was governed by Te Pahi, and Captain Bierney was informed that the Venus, which had been piratically seized and taken away from Port Dalrymple the previous year, had been there, and that two of the pirates—Kelly and Lancashire—had been left behind. Kelly had, since that, been taken prisoner to England by the master of the Britannia, and Lancashire, by the master of the Brothers. The Venus was then supposed to be wandering about the coast without anyone who understood navigation on board, a state of things which would soon bring her crew into the hands of British, or, more likely still, into the mouths of New Zealand, justice.

Te Pahi behaved very well to the Commerce, supplying her with potatoes and anything else the place produced. He had sown some maize, but it had unfortunately been devoured by the pigs; a second effort however, with his whole reserved stock, had proved successful. The Inspector and the Albion were both at the Bay.

The same day as the Commerce, Captain Bunker arrived at Sydney in the Elizabeth from the Bay of Islands, bringing news got from Captain Turnbull of the Indispensible, and what he had himself learned at the Bay in December of the previous year. Captain Bunker stated that, in addition to Kelly and Lancashire, two women and a child were put on shore from the Venus, and that the charge of the vessel had fallen into the hands of a black man who had stated his intention of returning to Port Jackson, but, unfortunately, he was incapable of piloting the vessel. One of the women had died on shore, and the other, with her child, had refused an offer to accompany Captain Bunker. Kelly and Lancashire had each erected a hut which they were occupying when taken, and which were now occupied by eight or nine men from the Inspector, whose captain took from there five or six others left by a former vessel.

The Venus was the first of a number of vessels piratically seized by convicts on the Australian coast, and brought over here for some spot where a residence would mean for the pirates freedom from the avenging arm of the law. This particular craft was well known in the New Zealand trade, page 111 and had latterly been associated with the sealing at the Penantipodes, where, on its last visit, Captain Stewart had been left behind, and the brig taken to Port Jackson by Chace, the mate. At Sydney she was loaded with grain, flour, and salt pork, and various public and private stores for the settlements at Port Dalrymple and Hobart Town. It was also understood that she was to proceed to the Penantipodes in the interests of her gangs. Being short of labour the vacant places were filled with convicts. Trouble started with the purloining of the cargo, and culminated on 17th June, in Port Dalrymple, when the captain was ashore, with first mate Kelly, pilot Evans, and private Thompson of the N.S.W. Corps, knocking down and confining the second mate, turning five seamen out of the brig, and sailing away. On board the pirate craft were eleven persons, including two women and an infant child.

At Sydney, when the news of the piratical seizure became known, a Proclamation dated 18th July 1806 was issued describing the occupants of the vessel and appealing to

“all Governors, and Officers in Command at any of His Majesty's Ports, and the Honourable East India Company's Magistrates or Officers in Command, at Home and Abroad, at whatever Port or Ports the said Brig may be taken into, or met with at Sea, against any frauds or deceptions that may be put in practice by the offending Parties; and to require their being taken into custody wherever found; and information rendered thereat to the Governor or Officer in Command at these Settlements, or to any other British Authority, that they may be brought to condign punishment."

We next hear of the pirate brig at the Bay of Islands not later than December. The “black man" who had charge of the brig, and was unable to navigate her, was, probably, Joseph Redmonds, a mulatto who came to Sydney in the whaler Venus. The two women, who are the first white women known to have resided in New Zealand, are thus described in the Proclamation:

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Catherine Hagerty, a convict; middle sized, light hair, fair complexion, much inclined to smile, and hoarse voice.

Charlotte Edgar, convict; very corpulent, with full face, thick lips, and light hair; has an infant child."

It was evidently Catherine Hagerty who died not long after landing, and Charlotte Edgar who, “with her child" refused to go on board the Elizabeth with Captain Bunker.

Regarding the subsequent movements and fate of the Venus there is not that amount of definiteness which the author likes to present to his readers. It is recorded that the colonial schooner Mercury, which touched at New Zealand, learned that she had been taken by the Natives, who killed and ate her crew and burnt the hull for the sake of the iron. Marsden, in 1815—nine years after the event—tells us, on Native authority, that she visited Bream Cove (Whangarei), the North Cape, and the Thames, stealing Native women at all these places. At the last-named anchorage a chief and two women were taken, but the former, watching his opportunity, jumped overboard and was rescued by a friendly canoe. The women never returned. It is quite probable that both accounts are correct, as they describe what one would naturally expect to happen. In the case of the women their reported death and eating at the East Cape was the cause of more than one Native war.

On 30th March 1807, while on a visit to Tahiti, McArthur and Blaxcell's vessel, the Elizabeth, which had been a Spanish prize, called in at the Bay of Islands for provisions and some repairs. On board of her was one Gregory Warner, a medical missionary. She remained in the Bay twelve days, and was assisted by some other whalers which were there at the same time. Beyond the fact that the actions of the crew fairly horrified the missionary, nothing is recorded of her doings.

Amongst other vessels which called at New Zealand during 1807 was the General Wellesley on her road to the Prince of Wales Island in Malacca Strait. She called in at the Bay of Islands for a cargo of spars, and was there in page 113 October when the Venus, Captain Birbeck, looked in on her road from Sydney to Tahiti. The Inspector was there also, a full ship, and sailed for England with a cargo of sperm and black oil during the stay of the Venus.

Other successful whalers reported off New Zealand were the Seringapatam, the Albion, and the Eliza.

It was mentioned, when recording the movements of the Lady Nelson, that a convict had run away from her at the Bay of Islands. George Bruce, the convict in question, got under the protection of Te Pahi, and ultimately married his daughter. When Captain Dalrymple was on the eve of sailing with a cargo of spars, he asked Bruce to go to the North Cape with him, promising to land him before leaving New Zealand. Bruce went, and took with him his wife, but Dalrymple, when the mission to the North Cape was over, after an unsuccessful attempt to land Bruce, sailed away with him to India. The voyage was an exceedingly protracted one and Malacca was not reached until some nine months had passed. While Bruce was ashore here complaining to the Governor of his treatment, Captain Dalrymple sailed away for Penang, on Prince of Wales Island, taking Mrs. Bruce with him. Bruce followed, and ultimately got possession of his wife after an absence of three months. From Penang Bruce took ship to Bengal and placed his unhappy plight before Lord Minto, who, after some delay, put him on board an Australian vessel and in due course he reached the Derwent where deposed Governor Bligh was at that time on board H.M.S. Porpoise. It was a singular coincidence that Mrs. Bruce's brother, Matara, had lived with Governor Bligh's family in Sydney while he was waiting for a New Zealand bound ship. At last Bruce, with his wife, and a child born during the passage from India to Hobart Town, reached Sydney in 1809, having just missed Te Pahi, Mrs. Bruce's father, and Matara, her brother.

On board the General Wellesley, when she came to New Zealand, was another interesting individual named Roberts, who had dwelt for some years at Nukahiwa, where he had married a relative of one of the chiefs. He had acted as pilot for the ship, more especially among the Ladrone

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Islands, and accompanied her to Penang. His name figures in Krusenstern's account of his visit to Nukahiwa.

The last vessels at the Bay of Islands during the year were the Mercury, Reibey, trading to Tahiti, and the King George, bound for Fiji. Both sailed from Sydney on 10th December, and, after obtaining refreshments at the Bay, separated in latitude 33° 29′ S.

As a matter of interest to students of Cook it may be mentioned that when the Mercury was at Ulitea, a Chief named Mahee gave the Captain a medal which his father had received from Cook during his Second Voyage. Five of these have been found in New Zealand, but this is the only one recorded as found beyond our shores.

It was during this year—1807—that Whangaroa was discovered; prior to this it had been but mentioned to Governor King by Tuki and Huru in 1793. Captain Wilkinson carried on extensive sealing operations at the Penantipodes and other islands to the south, on board a vessel called the Star. Leaving his gangs on the southern islands Wilkinson ran up the western coast of New Zealand, rounded the North Cape, and came down the eastern coast looking for some harbour between the Cape and the Bay, where he could get wood and water.

“In coasting along, he discovered an open bay, only sheltered by a small island, under which he came to an anchor for the night. The coast of the main-land was high and precipitous, and appeared one continuous line; he was, therefore, greatly surprised next morning to see a great number of canoes, filled with natives, approaching the ship for the purpose of trading. They informed him that they came from a place called Wangerooa [Whangaroa], the entrance to which lay at the bottom of the bay. Captain Wilkinson immediately examined it with his boats, and found a narrow entrance which expanded to the right and left into two capacious basins, while a high middle head projected so immediately into the entrance, as entirely to conceal the harbour. … Captain Wilkinson having obtained such supplies as the page 115 natives were capable of affording, returned to the southward, to relieve his sealing gang, without, for the present, entering into the harbour."

After sailing south and attending to the necessities of his gangs, Captain Wilkinson returned to Whangaroa to make a more complete examination of its potentialities. He found that a chief called Kytoke ruled the district; he was “equally feared and beloved" by the Natives, possessed an excellent understanding and a most pacific disposition, together with great courage and bodily strength. The stay of the Star was marked by the most perfect harmony between Natives and Europeans, and when Captain Wilkinson sailed away there accompanied him as a sailor a young Native chief called Tara, to whom the name of George was afterwards given by the sailors.


Early in the year a calamitous event happened to a vessel called the Parramatta, which traded between Sydney and Tahiti. Leaving Port Jackson on 14th April, Captain Glynn sailed for the Bay of Islands, and nothing definite was heard about his fate until John Besent, who went to the Bay in the King George in 1812, and lived among the Natives, learned from them the sad fate which had befallen the ship and her crew of eleven men. She had, in distress, put into the Bay for provisions and water. The Natives supplied them with pork, fish, and potatoes, as much as the Parramatta could stow away. After the schooner had received her refreshments, the Natives naturally wanted their pay, but, on making application, were thrown overboard and fired at by the crew, who immediately thereafter weighed anchor and sailed away. Besent saw three who had been wounded with small shot in the fight. A heavy gale of wind came up immediately and blew the vessel on shore not far from Cape Brett, where her remains lay for several years. The New Zealanders naturally took advantage of the wreck to have their revenge, the shipwrecked sailors were cut off to a man, and the fate of Marion and his companions was theirs.

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The year 1808 saw a second vessel seized by pirates and taken off to New Zealand. On Monday morning, 14th May, the brig Harrington was missed from her anchorage at Farm Cove, and Captain Campbell reported the circumstance to the Lieutenant Governor. Inquiries were at once instituted, when it was found that one Robert Stewart and several others were absent from their work that morning; it also transpired that a vessel had been seen from the South Head, at daylight, standing off. The Halcyon was manned, and, with a flotilla of boats, set off in pursuit, but as it was a dead calm, and the Harrington was already out of sight, the attempt to follow her had to be given up.

Between three and four in the afternoon the chief officer and crew arrived in two boats, and reported that about 10 o'clock the night before, while the vessel was at anchor and the men in their beds, he was awakened by armed men. They took possession of the ship, cut away both anchors and towed the vessel out to sea. About seven in the morning, when about 20 miles out, they put the crew into boats to make the best of their way ashore. Stewart was the leader, and there were about 30 pirates all told. As the Harrington was ready to sail for Fiji she was fully provisioned for a long voyage.

On Tuesday the Pegasus was chartered, and the Government artificers employed to fit her up. In less than 24 hours she was ready, furnished with water and provisions, several guns, stands of arms, and other equipment. On Wednesday she sailed with Captain Symonds, Captain Eber Bunker, his first and second officers, Captains Graham and Campbell, Mr. Fisk, and part of the Harrington's crew. A military detachment of 20 privates, 2 corporals, and 2 sergeants, completed the personnel of the ship.

It was supposed that the pirates intended to make for the Bay of Islands, to seize the American brig Eliza which had sailed for that port on the twenty-second of the previous month, hoping to supply their wants in this manner and make themselves masters of all the specie Captain Coley was known to have on board. They had no anchor, no boat, and no time- page 117 piece on board. The Captain and the cook being both ashore with their watches at the time of seizure, and the mate having left his ashore, accounted for the strange situation of there not being a single timepiece on the ship.

Reaching the Bay of Islands it was found that the pirates had not been there, and the Pegasus, after a short stay, proceeded to Fiji. Two days afterwards a brig hove in sight, stood in, and then, hauling her wind suddenly, went off to the eastward. This was supposed to be the Harrington, alarmed at finding three vessels lying in the Bay.

The Pegasus was unsuccessful in her search and, on 22nd July, returned to Sydney in sore straits. Some time afterwards it was reported that the Harrington was captured by the frigate Phœnix on her road to Manilla, and that Stewart and some others were taken out of her, but that she went ashore later on and the prisoners escaped.

The Commerce was one of the vessels in the Bay when the Harrington was supposed to have entered. She was returning from the sealing islands with about 3000 skins on board. When she sailed she was accompanied by the other two vessels—the Inspector, Captain Poole, and the Grand Sachem, Captain Whippey, both of which were homeward bound full of oil.

Te Pahi, with three of his sons and several attendants, took advantage of the Commerce coming to Port Jackson, to accompany Captain Ceroni to Sydney. Acting on the advice of the Chief, Ceroni took the Commerce around to Whangaroa where all food stuffs were more abundant than at the Bay, which had been cleared out by the great number of whalers which had recently visited it. The result of the visit was quite satisfactory to Captain Ceroni.

Connected with this visit is a strange piece of history, told by Mr. Berry of the City of Edinburgh, in 1819, as having been heard by him when at the Bay of Islands in 1809. Amongst other things owned by Captain Ceroni was a watch, which so impressed the simple Natives that they called it Atua or God, and in a rather vain-glorious way this watch was displayed by the Captain on every occasion. Once, unfor- page 118 tunately, it fell into the sea, to the great terror of the superstitious Natives. Later on when the Commerce sailed, she left in the night and without the usual formal farewells having been given. The superstitious fear of the Natives was intensified. To crown all an epidemic broke out, carrying off great numbers, amongst whom was the Chief Kytoke. This was attributed to the evil spirit left among them when the watch was flung overboard, and the survivors vowed vengeance against the white men.

On his road to Sydney, Captain Ceroni called in at Norfolk Island just as that Settlement was being evacuated, and Mr. Berry, who was there engaged in that work, met Te Pahi at the house of Captain Piper the Commandant, and afterwards placed on record the following recollections of his appearance, &c.:

“He was dressed in certain robes of state presented to him when on his former visit by Governor King. They were covered with tinsel, and in some measure resembled those worn by a merry Andrew, with some improvement, emanating from his own invention. He was lame of one leg, on which he wore a black stocking, and on the other a white one. He appeared a man of considerable gravity, displaying an easy consciousness of his own dignity. Upon the whole, he showed himself a man of some observation, and was by no means deficient in intellect, but the most prominent features of his character were a certain shrewdness, and low cunning; from what I had an opportunity afterwards of observing, he was much inferior to several of his countrymen of equal rank. Being the first of his nation of any consideration who appeared at Port Jackson, he obtained unmerited distinction among Europeans, and eventually amongst his own countrymen, who were equally dazzled by the riches he brought back, and the attentions which were shown him by men so much superior to themselves. The Europeans amongst whom he first appeared had formed a very wrong estimate of the character of savages in general, from their intercourse with the poor natives of page 119 New Holland; they were, therefore, surprised to see a man of observation and clear judgment, and regarded him as a phenomenon, when a little more intercourse with the natives of New Zealand would have convinced them that he only displayed the common attributes of his nation."

The old chief was very ill during his voyage, and on his arrival in Sydney on 10th July 1808, Lieutenant Governor Foveaux gave directions that he should receive every possible attention and nourishment. For a home he was provided with accommodation in the Governor's own house.

After some months Te Pahi returned to New Zealand.

In addition to the seal skins on the Commerce was a cargo of New Zealand timber which was advertised for sale by Mr. Blaxcell, “a number of desirable fine logs, fit for flooring boards, and spars for masts, just imported from New Zealand in the snow Commerce."

The whaler Seringapatam touched at Tahiti in distress, about the end of 1807. She was bound for New South Wales, and, taking on board James Elder, the missionary who had come out in the Royal William in 1801, she sailed for the coast of New Zealand, where she cruised about some two months. There were seven or eight English whalers about at the time, and the Seringapatam, in company with three of them, visited the Bay of Islands and spent a week obtaining refreshments. As a result of what he saw there Elder reported to Marsden various acts of cruelty perpetrated on the New Zealanders, and expressed his surprise that the latter did not rise and murder the Europeans. If Elder's statement is not exaggerated, one can understand what took place when the crew of the Parramatta fell into their hands.

On 15th October the Mercury sailed for Fiji and, on her road, put into the Bay of Islands, where she remained for some time. When she had been ten days lying in the Bay, Captain Campbell brought in the Favourite with a cargo of 100 tons of sandalwood for Sydney. On 14th February 1809, the last-named reached her destination.

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In November 1808, the ship Speke, Captain Kingston, reached Sydney from London, with Matara, the son of Te Pahi, who had gone to England with ex-Governor King in H.M.S. Buffalo. While waiting for a chance of getting across to New Zealand the young chief lived with the family of Governor Bligh, and on 26th January 1809, sailed on board the City of Edinburgh, commanded by Captain Pattison, and having, as supercargo, Mr. Berry, who had met Te Pahi at Norfolk Island about the middle of 1808. Matara is thus described by Berry:

“He spoke English tolerably, dressed and behaved like a gentleman, and, of course, lived in the cabin; he spent, however, the greatest part of the day with a countryman of his own, who was employed as a sailor on board, and was indefatigable in his endeavours to regain a knowledge of his national songs and dances. His first appearance at New Zealand in the uniform of a naval officer, not only gratified his own vanity, but excited the greatest applause from his countrymen. In a few days, however, he resumed his national costume, and with it his national habits,—but having been accustomed to delicate treatment for a length of time, his constitution proved unequal to resist the mode of living in use amongst his countrymen. He became affected with a hoarseness which gradually settled on his lungs, and in a few months brought him to his grave."

On the road across to the Bay of Islands Berry determined to call in at Whangaroa, largely influenced in that determination by the previous accounts given of the harbour by Captain Ceroni, who was at that moment a passenger on board the City of Edinburgh. As they approached Whangaroa, however, Ceroni's whole attitude changed, and he now vigorously opposed making Whangaroa the destination of the vessel. The problem was finally solved by the weather conditions which compelled the ship to be steered for the Bay of Islands.

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At the Bay Berry applied to Te Pahi for assistance to load the vessel, but was told that nothing could be done there, that the City of Edinburgh should come round to Whangaroa; that Kytoke had recently died there and the funeral rites were awaiting his arrival, he having succeeded by right of inheritance to the dead chief's possessions at Whangaroa. Before adopting his suggestion, however, Mr. Berry made inquiries amongst the other chiefs at the Bay.

The chiefs visited were Tara and Tupe, whose possessions were at Kororareka and Kawakawa, and there two brown potentates gave Mr. Berry the heartiest of welcomes, and, under their protection, from 1st March to the end of May 1809, he landed the stores of the City of Edinburgh, a vessel of 526 tons,

“hove her down, completely stripped her of her copper, caulked, repaired her bottom and resheathed her with plank made of New Zealand pine."

During all this time Berry lived ashore in a house built by the Natives.

As the City of Edinburgh was leaving, Captain Ceroni again dropped his watch into the sea, and Tara, who was standing by, wrung his hands and uttered a shriek of distress, exclaiming that Ceroni would be the destruction of the Bay of Islands as he had already been of Whangaroa. Six or eight New Zealanders accompanied the City of Edinburgh to Fiji.

On 6th March the Otter, Captain Hopper, which had sailed from England on 16th June 1808, on a sealing cruise, came to the Bay and found there the Antipode, a schooner commanded by Captain Birbeck, in great want of supplies. These the Otter provided as far as she could, and reported in Sydney that the Antipode might shortly be expected there. Sixteen days later she arrived.

Later on in the same month the American whaler Ann, Captain Gwynn, was at the Bay of Islands and found there the City of Edinburgh in the midst of her repairs.

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At Fiji Captain Ceroni left the City of Edinburgh, and returned to Sydney on board the Perseverance on 15th September. He gave the first account of the doings of the City of Edinburgh in the Bay of Islands, and that account is published here to enable the reader to determine how much—if any—Berry was, later on, deceived about Te Pahi. Ceroni says:

“The [City of] Edinburgh underwent a very thorough and compleat repair at the Bay of Islands, which was accomplished in the space of three months; during which interval the native princes had attempted to get the vessel into their hands, for the purpose of possessing themselves of the trade put on board her for the Fejees. This plan appears to have been agitated by King Tippahee [Te Pahi] and Prince Matarra, his son, who went to England in the Buffalo, and returned hither in the Porpoise [? the Speke], and who had been favoured with a passage back to New Zealand in the Edinburgh, during which he had been treated in the most liberal and friendly manner. This circumstance, joined to the remembrance of the very handsome treatment Tippahee [Te Pahi] had himself experienced from Mr. Ceroni, who at his own pressing solicitation gave him a passage to this Colony [New South Wales] in the Commerce, had sanctioned a hope of assistance from the King and prince; but on the contrary, they proved to be the leaders of the conspiracy to take the ship, which was then keel out, and the crew, being encamped on shore, were in the first instance alarmed at the appearance of about 100 armed men lurking about a quarter of a mile from the tents, though it was unusual for more than two or three of them to assemble in one party. On perceiving this, Mr. Berry ordered his people to get under arms and advanced to inquire into the cause of their assembling in such force armed; but on their approach the natives fled. The same night a chief Toopie [Tupe] gave information of the plot that had been formed against the Europeans; and stated that a number of war canoes were then ready page 123 to attack the vessel, which was only delayed until daylight should appear. In order to intimidate them, a random shot was fired, which had a very salutary operation, as it struck one of the canoes, and threw them into such a consternation that many others were upset in their confusion. A boat commanded by an expert officer was immediately despatched to scatter them with musketry, in which the boat's crew succeeded, and made prizes of all their canoes; which were restored upon their afterwards making a proper concession for their treachery, and promising never to attempt the capture of that or any other English vessel."

Though Berry makes no mention of the incidents recorded here, it is unthinkable that they were imaginary, and they go far to indicate that Te Pahi had changed very much in his attitude towards Europeans.

Having procured what cargo was wanted at Fiji, the City of Edinburgh set sail for New Zealand and came to an anchor once more in the Bay, towards the end of October. It had been the intention of the captain of the ship to put into Whangaroa, but, when that intention was made known, the Natives on board came in a body, told the story of the lost watch, and pleaded that Whangaroa should not be visited. Contrary winds again solved the problem and the vessel was steered for the Bay.

Tara and Tupe, friends on the last visit, came again to the fore, put the whole power of the Bay at the service of Mr. Berry to get his ship filled, and sent raft loads of spars floating down the River, as fast as they could be taken on board and stowed into the ship's hold.

By the time the vessel was half loaded, a hitch took place. One of the local chiefs, while journeying southwards, was murdered by the Natives of the district he was passing through. At once all the bush camps became meeting places where the leaders addressed the crowd urging revenge for the death of the murdered chief, and, as the passions of the Natives were gradually but surely roused, interest in the work of loading page 124 the vessel grew less and less, and instead of sending down spars, they began to collect together war canoes from all quarters. So far was it carried that it soon became patent that the Natives desired to get rid of the City of Edinburgh so as to be able to follow the war fever untrammelled.

At this stage, with his vessel almost ready to sail, there was reported to Mr. Berry the most awful sea tragedy which our intercourse with the Polynesian race has been responsible for.