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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Early Whalehs

The Early Whalehs.

In 1837 two fisheries were established, one by Ward Brothers at Waikokopu, and the other by Mr Ellis at Mania, and a number of whites collected together in consequence. At the time Mania, like the Wairoa, was thickly populated by natives, Hapuku, Puhara, Morena and the principal chiefs of Heretannga then residing there, so that there could have been no fewer than 2000 Maoris at that end of the bay. The whites lived a careless, reckless kind of life, drinking and gambling, having nothing to check them, and it is said that more people died of drink at these settlements than by the accidents of the trade, hazardous as it was. The two fisheries named employed about eight or nine five-oared boats, carrying six men in each, besides a little army of hangers-on, such as look-out men. Black oil was page 35 the chief harvest, the sperm whales not showing up till 1842.

The Wards retired after the first season and Mr Ellis took over their station. In 1841 the Auckland people began to take an interest, Messrs Morris and Brown working under their auspices. In 1842 Mr Perry, an American, appeared on the scene, and gradually seems to have acquired the rights of most of the other principals. Mr Morris shortly afterwards shifted to Whaiaari, ana Mr Kllis to Kini Kini (Long Point, where he resided till 1843. when Mr Perry bought him out. In 1844 Mr George Morrison Started at Wairoa. Most of these men were no doubt agents for outsiders. One, Mayo, of the Bay of Islands, seems to have been the principal concerned in the fisheries, and later Messrs Macfarlane and Salmon, of Auckland. Whaling continued to increase in importance till 1852, at which time there were 50 boats engaged in the pursuit in Hawke's Bay, one person having as many as 18 under his direction. Some of the natives owned boats and others took part in the boats of the whites.

Most of the owners paid a rental for the ground occupied by the fishery huts and other works to the natives. The oil sold for £18 to £26 a tun, leaving big profits to the buyers. The boats were worked on shares. The headsman would receive 1½ shares the boat steerer 1¼, the boat 1, each pulling hand 1 and the try works ¼. The owners would appear to have been worst off under this arrangement, but in reality everything went to them. Clothing, food—lodging perhaps—had to be paid for and the balance—when there was any—went for rum, which the owners supplied. In 1845 a record catch of sperm whales was made, page 36 26 being taken at Kini Kini alone. Each of these fish was worth on an average £200.

The "Now Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator" for August 27th 1842 states: "The schooner Kate from Hawko's Bay reports the whaling stations to be in a prosperous way. At the station belonging to Messrs Hay and Machattie 40 tuns of oil (black) had been procured and one sperm whale captured. The owner states the value of this sperm whale ot be about £300, a small sum certainly for a sperm whale." I find in the "New Zealand Spectator" for January 11th 1845 the home prices are given as follows:—Sperm oil per tun £84, head matter £92, whalebone £250.

In the "Handbook for New Zealand" published in 1848 (edited by E. J. Wakefield) I find a statement from official returns of the stations in Hawke's Bay in 1847. These were as follows:—
  • Kidnappers (Morris) 3 boats and 20 men.
  • Wairoa (Lewis) 2 boats and 18 men.
  • Waikokopu (Morrison) 3 boats and 20 men.
  • Mawai (Babbington) 3 boats and 20 men.
  • Long Point (Ellis) 3 boats and 20 men.
  • Portland Island (Mansfield) 3 boats and 20 men.
  • In that year 150 tons of oil worth £20 a ton, and 5 tons of whalebone worth £140 a ton, were taken in the bay.