1838 - Polack, J. S. New Zealand [Vol.II] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Chapter IV

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  1838 - Polack, J. S. New Zealand [Vol.II] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Chapter IV
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Adventures in Tolaga Bay --Our arrival --Anchor up the river --Battle among rival tribes --Jealousy of the people towards each other --Arrival of the Chief Kani --Presented with relics of Captain Cook --Description of Uwoua --Perforated valley --Cave of Tupia --Cook's Well --Native drawings --Isle of Arches --Remarkable Caverns --A Whale Hunt --Ingenuity of the people --Native Artists.

We arrived in June 1835, after experiencing in our small vessel four successive gales from each quarter of the compass, during our passage from the river Thames (Horake); the cutter in consequence leaked much, and we were obliged to put in to repair the damages we had sustained. Night approaching fast, we anchored close to the small island of Motu Eka, (Fish Isle) previously

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to which we perceived a large canoe, about seventy feet long, crowded with natives. On the canoe running along side, some chiefs hastily stepped on deck, and after mutual interrogations, we agreed the canoe should take us in tow, as it fell calm.

A couple of European flax traders soon joined us, who behaved with much hospitality. As an assurance to the natives that we should remain at our anchorage during the night, we gave them our water casks to be filled and brought off in the morning, and also ordered some firewood. Early the next morning about thirty canoes, each of a very large size, came off to us filled with people, and bringing a quantity of wood as might well have supplied a ship of five hundred tons for twelve months; we afterwards understood the axe had not lain dormant, but that the natives had been chopping wood all night. However, the rejection of this redundant article did not lessen the mutual friendship that apparently sprung up between us; yet our European friends bade us beware of surprize; treachery might be intended, as it appeared during the preceding evening that it had been strongly debated among the natives, whether or not our vessel and selves should be taken as a prize; the most greedy and adverse party stating as a rea-

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son that we had doubtless arrived from Port Jackson, and that it could not possibly be known in that colony whether we perished at sea, or were lost on an inhospitable coast; that nobody being left alive to tell the tale, it would not militate against the place. Notwithstanding the many arguments in favour of the scheme, our good fortune prevailed, as it was urged that the principal chief of the district, then absent at Turunga, (Poverty Bay) some forty miles to the southward, would be greatly enraged at the circumstance of any vessel being despoiled during his absence, also that his conduct had hitherto favoured the visits of shipping, and that such an act must spread abroad through their European residents, who, in consequence of all future vessels avoiding the port, would themselves also leave, and they would be wholly without European trade; --these arguments had prevailed.

As we could not undertake to do our repairs in so open a place as we then lay at anchor, I determined to have the vessel towed into the small river at the head of the bay, which we accordingly had performed by some canoes and our whale boat, the vessel's keel just touching the sand. This was on the turn of the flood tide, and the weather was serene and beautiful. It is not easily to be forgotten, the motley assemblage that

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greeted the arrival of our vessel, the first that had ever entered the river, following us on either bank, as the craft was slowly towed to her place of anchorage; shouts, acclamations, dancing, songs made for the occasion, cries of "airemai," waving of native garments, blowing the conch with the most discordant din; some of the natives jumping high in the air, others rushing into the water, throwing small sticks at us, (a native mode of welcome) not a few swimming alongside the vessel, and many other feats, accompanied by a deafening noise until we dropped anchor.

Canoes then put off from all quarters, some bringing presents to us, others coming for trading purposes; hogs were brought alongside, sufficient to have filled a larger hold than our vessel possessed.

On the arrival of the chiefs on deck, I made each the necessary presents in tobacco, pipes, &c, and by dint of persuasion and entreaty, obtained some order. I told them the object of our visit was to repair the damages our vessel had sustained during the late gales, and that I would let them feel the benefit of our entering their port, by purchasing every article that I could possibly render serviceable previously to our leaving them; that I would be on shore the following day, and buy as many hogs to salt down as was

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fully necessary for the voyage. Accordingly we commenced our repairs of pitching, calking and mending the torn sails.

On our deck sat some of the oldest chiefs, wrapt up in their native mats, who had, when boys, been carried on board the "Resolution," when commanded by the illustrious Cook.

The next morning I went on shore to the village Pa, on the north side of the river, where I found in the yard of one of the flax traders, a number of fine hogs for sale. I had taken with me a carpet bag, containing a variety of trifles, much in repute among the natives, together with some tobacco, tomahawks, hoes, &c, all of which are highly prized. I purchased several large hogs, at a reasonable rate, and the sellers were perfectly satisfied with their payment. I bought from them all that were offered.

I learnt that the settlements on either side of the river, were occupied by different tribes of natives; that those on the south side were the proprietors of the adjacent lands in every direction, and had, as a patronymic, the euphonious sounding names of Te tonga au witi; that they were under the subjection of a chief renowned for his own warlike actions and those of his ancestors, and who could boast of an ancient genealogy inferior to none perhaps in the island. The

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Fortified Village near Poverty Bay, New Zealand

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name of this dignified hero was Te Kani o tekki rau; that he had invited the natives occupying the north village, whose tribe was called Urua wero, or Burnt Post tribe, from the circumstance of a former fortification formed of posts, which they had, at an earlier period, possessed, being taken in battle and themselves precipitately dispersed, while the said posts having taken fire, were still burning. This people had resided at the bay called Tokomaru, thirty miles to the northward, misnamed by Cook, Tegadoo, to prepare the manufacture of flax for the European settlers, one of whom, in different employments, lived on either side of the river.

The policy of the sagacious chief, in inviting this emigration, (for flax swamps abound for many miles in the vicinity of this bay,) could not prevent feelings of jealousy in either party against each other; trifling collisions were incessantly taking place previous to our arrival, but an occasion early arrived, after our casting anchor between the two settlements, that eventually caused their separation.

Anxious to finish our repairs and to proceed with our work undisturbed, I generally went on shore to make my purchases, but on the fourth morning after our arrival, the deck was filled with natives from the north village, selling nets,

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fishing lines, and garments, made of the flax-plant, in exchange for nails, hooks, tobacco, lead, musket flints, &c. The trade was carried on somewhat briskly, when, whether previous mischief was intended I could never discover, a musket, loaded with ball, was fired by a chief from the south village. The report of the weapon was no sooner heard by us than a chief, named Rangihuia, a chief of the south tribe, but residing with his friends in the north village, being in disgrace with his former friends and relatives from bad conduct, instantly threw off his native garments, tightened his belt round his denuded body, and with the most ferocious gestures vehemently demanded his friends and all on board to leave the vessel, and pull for the shore; to those who were slow in obeying his commands he instantly seized a rope, and, indifferent to rank, age, or sex, soon cleared the vessel by making those natives take to swimming, who had no canoes alongside. With hurried distortion of features, he commenced a war speech, vociferating with all his might, and defying the southern tribe by language and gestures equally obscene and disgusting; he then hastened on shore to the north village, which was close aboard. The chiefs and slaves, entirely naked, all armed with muskets, met this hasty personage, whose fury

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appeared to be augmented by finding himself once more on terra firma. The war dance now commenced on either side of the river, and each party during its continuance, brandished their muskets, making furious gesticulations, and shouting towards each other curses, and defiance.

Rangihuia, who appeared to be the principal in the quarrel, flew up and down the beech, a representation of an infuriated demon; his tongue was thrust out to its utmost length; his eyes glared with the frenzy of a ruthless fiend; no horrible grimace was omitted that could strike terror into the enemy. The muskets which had been hastily loaded with ball, were now discharged by either party against each other; but instead of the butt being placed against the shoulder, the pieces were hastily levelled without aim, the stock being lodged against the hip. The parties were out of reach of the ball, otherwise destructive work might have ensued; however, we being within reach of either, suffered not a little in our sails. Suddenly, within twenty minutes after the first gun was fired, a cessation of war took place; each enacted over again the war-dance. A venerable pacificator took to his canoe from the north village, hastily paddled to the opposite

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village, and settled terms of future peace. As to ourselves, we hastily made below into the cabin, at the commencement of the fracas, esteeming discretion the better part of valour, as the balls flew about us like hail; we had no inclination for so dubious a martyrdom, or to stand as targets to the misdirected aim of these pugnacious people. The venerable old gentleman, who was somewhat scantily dressed for the occasion, having himself been one of the combatants, had only hastily flung an old mat, similar in size to a kilt, and that over his shoulders, which answered the purpose of the herald's tabard; the rest of his lengthy person being after nature's fashion. He no sooner accomplished the business he was ordered on, than a musket was fired as an attestation of peace, misinterpreted by us as a renewal of hostilities, flagrante bello.

Dancing, jesting, and indiscriminate intercourse followed on either side, as if nothing had happened; each boasting of his valorous exploits. This national trait did not add much to the "pleasures of hope," as far as our security was concerned, for we now found that the original cause of the quarrel arose from a jealousy excited in the breasts of the people of the south village, for our having dealt that morning with

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too many of their opposite neighbours: of course, had any accident happened by mere chance, to any of the parties during this mad contest, we should have had to bear the brunt; the vessel would probably have been plundered and destroyed, and ourselves slain.

I determined on a different line of policy for the future, while among these people, so that should any quarrel again commence, during the absence of the principal chief, to make "assurance double sure," by detaining on board the young son and heir apparent of Te Kani, then a child of six years old, whose great rank would have been of the utmost service to us.

A few days subsequently to the occurrences above narrated, we were apprised of the Chief Kani, and his retinue of warriors, by a load report of musketry in the southern village. The usual tangi commenced, and for nearly an hour we were anything but regaled with the inharmonious concert. By the time our chief came on board all had resumed their usual gaiety and cheerfulness. He approached the vessel in a small canoe, undistinguished from his people, either in dress or style; his person was noble, in height somewhat above six feet, and, by his dignified walk, commonly assumed by superior men in rank, he shone pre-eminent above his

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companions; his age was about thirty six years, his countenance handsome, but little marked with the moko, and garnished with a large dark bushy beard which gave him the appearance of an Arab of Mocha.

Advancing up to me, we pressed noses, (ongi) and entered into conversation, regretting he had not been at home on my arrival, to prevent any previous unpleasantness; that his absence at Turunga, (Poverty Bay) was occasioned by some quarrels that had broken out among some of the minor chiefs of that place, and those under his chieftainship; that detesting war himself, he had undertaken the journey with a few friendly warriors, to obtain a league of friendship with the opposite party, and had been fortunate enough to succeed in his endeavours to allay the animosity that had then existed for some time. That he had seen no benefit arise from the continual wars that had been carried on among his relatives and friends from his childhood, in which he himself had signally suffered, both in person and property. He had determined on an opposite conduct, and as I must perceive, had invited his relations from Tokomaru, where the korari (flax) was not to be found, to aid both themselves and his tribe, in furnishing the mooka (dressed flax) which abounded around him, to the European; that two

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white men unconnected with each other had settled in his village, and that he had given the Tokomaru tribe one of them, that on that account no jealousy might be instituted. He added, (smiling) "perhaps the white man will believe my actions which are before his eyes, better than my conversation." I assured him I had much longed for his arrival, and presented him with a small box containing several esteemed trifles, on the receipt of which, by an attendant (for the chief was tapued by the priest on his arrival, and dared not handle anything) he appeared much delighted. "Aroai de pakeha!" "Katai taku oa!" "Anana!" Exclamations of surprise and pleasure burst from the lips of the gratified man, as each article was produced, and held up to him. After discussing the usefulness of each to his admiring friends, he suddenly turned to them and said, "What can I give the white man who has treated me so well?" This equally posed the gentlemen in waiting, they appeared somewhat hors de combat, when a young man who had attached himself to me, previously to the arrival of Kani said,"That the two spike nails originally given by Te Kuki (Cook) to the natives of Turunga, and captured in battle by Kani's father from the original possessor, would be most acceptable;" the chief

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sent on shore for them immediately. Kani then asked what could induce me to prize a couple of old nails, when I was giving away articles of infinitely greater value made of a similar material, and concluded by asking if Cook was my father or uncle. I told him, proud as I should be of the relationship, I could not boast of being so nearly connected, but that I belonged to the same tribe of Europeans, and was born under the same venerable chieftain; he then asked if Kuki had been a great chief in his own country Ingerani (England). I answered that no name was held in greater estimation, and that the benefit he did his tribe in making known to them countries, the existence of which they were previously to his time ignorant of, would cause his services to be cherished by future tribes yet unborn.

By this time the envoy who had been sent for the nails, returned bringing also with him two handsome garments or mats (kaitaka) made of dressed silken flax; the nails were tied together with a piece of flax; one was a five inch spike without any head, (originally formed so) the other was a six inch spike with a small projection on the head, but not lapping over on each side: they had an antique appearance, and had been used by the natives as chisels, for carving

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boxes for their little trinkets. These, together with the mats, were thrown at my feet by the command of the chief, in the usual ungraceful manner, wherein these people are wont to make presents.

They were much surprised at the visible delight I displayed in gaining such valued relics of the greatest navigator, in whatever light we view him, that ever lived. Kani was also much pleased at the reception his presents had met with, and approaching his wife, who with some of her maidens were remarkably mirthful, sitting on the taffrail of the cutter, pointed to three light blue beads that were appended round her throat, with a piece of flax, said, that those, together with the nails were the only relics left of the great Kuki; and from what I had said of him, and the delight I had felt on receiving the nails, should never be parted with out of his family.

The beads underwent an examination all round for the thousandth time, and anecdotes were repeated of that celebrated man and his Tahitian interpreter Tupia; these kept us in conversation for some time. Our anecdote on the first introduction of gunpowder was somewhat laughable. A small quantity of that combustible material had been given to the native head

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chief (Kani's father) who, to his unpracticed eye, not perceiving any vast difference between it and the seeds the Europeans had planted, was delighted at the idea of a new vegetable food, to vary the monotonous edibles then only known in the country; --accordingly the natives were ordered by the chief, superintended by himself, to prepare in the most careful manner a plot of ground for this new legume, that was to be indigenous for the future to the soil. The gunpowder was accordingly planted, after a smart shower had previously fallen, to ensure the fruition of the supposed seed; with what success need not be added; part of the stock was consumed by throwing small portions in the fire, the blazing of which surprised the people vastly; but one man, more impatient than the rest, threw the remaining quantity on the ashes, the effects of which, though the quantity was small, quickly dispersed the group exclaiming it was the "Atua no to paheha," (the Deity of the white man).

Kani requested me to accompany him next day to Opotoumu, near the south entrance of the bay, where we should walk over the same ground, and native paths that existed in the time of Cook, and which had been traversed by him. The following morning, at the beginning of the ebb,

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we went in the whale boat, the chief, the arch priest (tohunganui) who was his brother-in-law, accompanying us; we passed over the bar of the river in safety, across which, a little surf broke; we coasted the south side of the bay formed by high cliffs of argillaceous formation. The shore at the base of the cliffs was covered with stones of granite, worn perfectly round and oval by the action of the water, small pieces of burnt wood, tapued sticks, painted with kokowai (red burnt clay) washed away from some sacred shore near the sea, pieces of the vow (native cork tree,) nets and pumice stone, from the volcanic mountain of Wakari to the eastward off the Bay of Plenty, while wild celery hung about in vast profusion, with other indigenous vegetables.

Cook calls this place Tolaga Bay, which is evidently a misnomer as the word is unpronounceable by many of the New Zealanders; the place is termed by the natives Ou Auwoa or Uwoua. I repeatedly requested to know if the place had no other appellation in former times. I was answered, it had never long antecedent to Kuki's time, been known by any other name than Uwoua. This bay lies in latitude 38 deg. 32' south, longitude 178 deg. 22'E. The tide rises about eight

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feet, high water at full and change 6 p.m; the width at the mouth between the headlands, is one and a half mile, in width and depth nearly two miles. We had almost pulled to our destination, when we arrived opposite to a very large cavern, very high and of some depth; we did not stay long to admire this natural curiosity, as close adjoining it, a splendid perforated natural arch burst on our view, exceeding in grandeur anything of the kind I had ever beheld; a reef of rocks ran out into the bay from this gigantic causeway; it was of argillaceous formation similar to the cliffs around. Here I requested to land, which we accordingly did, the perforation led into a valley. I employed some time in sketching this magnificent curiosity, during which the natives made their remarks on the progress of the drawing, one proposing such an alteration, which I no sooner complied with, than not a little laughter ensued at the taste displayed by the scrutinizing eye of my Mentor.

The appearance on either side the arch was romantic in the extreme: shrubs and small trees of every description peculiar to these parts, hung in wild luxuriance from crevices among the rocks; but the mind will scarcely conceive the

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awful tempests, whose repeated ravages could have battered so large an opening in these cliffs.

Through the valley we reached the indent of Opotoumu, beautifully situated in a dell, encircled by rising hills covered with a variety of shrubby trees, evergreens that appeared equally beautiful now in depth of winter, as in the more genial season of summer; not a leaflet but bore the liveliest hue.

The friendly Kani preceded me, and led the way through the devious native paths; which are never to be found in a strait line, even when the road over a plain best admits of it. The part of the valley which we visited, was densely covered with the celebrated tree, known in the South Sea Islands by the name of Kava, here also called from its ungrateful taste kaua-kaua, or bitter: its height is about twenty feet, with a leaf of bright green similar to the laurel tribe; its leaves, when crushed, yield an aromatic fragrance. Several of the palm tribe raised their tall heads above the surrounding foliage.

One tree was pointed out to me as peculiar to this spot, and stated by the natives, who accompanied me, and whose residences were at far distant settlements on the coast, as growing only in this valley; it was in height thirty-five

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feet, with spreading branches, frondiferous, and of a similar colour to a species of phillanthus that is found in large quantities near the beech. The tree is nuciferous, and bore at the time clusters of early berries, which when in a mature state are dried by the natives, and used as beads.

The flexible tu pahihi (elder berry) with its pensile clusters of ripe fruit, pending over the surrounding fern of the colour of the mulberry, was also growing in profusion around this neglected valley, encircled by several convolvuluses indigenous only to New Zealand. The Campanula or bell flower of various hues, pink, yellow, and white was observable, climbing around the stalk of every shrub of sufficient strength to bear its light weight. Not a spot of earth lay waste; many parts teeming with the keha or wild turnip whose yellow flower on stalks of six feet in height, covered the distance, as far as the eye could discern, and emitted a pleasing fragrance.

The chief now wound his way up the side of the hill followed by myself and the friends who accompanied us. We were arrested in our progress half way by a cavern, (hana,) which stopt our farther progress. Its arch was remarkably high, but of little depth; it was similarly argillaceous as the caves we had seen below in the

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bay. Kani enquired if I felt gratified, adding "Ekoro, tenei ano te hana no Tupia," (this, friend, is Tupia's cavern.) I learnt that in this cave the favourite interpreter of Cook slept with the natives: "he was often in the habit of doing so during the heats of the day with his native friends, as is the wont of the New Zealanders," said my conductor; "Tupia was a great favourite with our fathers, so much so, that to gratify him, several children who were born in the village, during his sojourn among us, were named after him." A few yards in front of the cave, is a small hole that was dug in the granite rock, by order of Cook, for receiving from a small spring, the fluid that unceasingly flows into it. The marks of the pick axe are as visible, at the present day, as at the period it was excavated under Cook's eye. The water that overflowed this useful little memorial of our illustrious countryman, was pellucid and very cold. The sun had not penetrated this sequestered spot, for many years, from the umbrageous kaikatoa, and other trees that surround it.

Around the surface of the cavern are many native delineations, executed with charcoal of ships, canoes sailing, men and women, dogs and pigs, and some obscenities drawn with toler-

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able accuracy. Above our reach, and evidently faded by time, was the representation of a ship and some boats, which were unanimously pointed out to me, by all present, as the productions of the faithful Taheitian follower of Cook, (Tupia.) This also had evidently been done by similar materials.

This cavern is made use of as a native resting place for the night, as the villages of Uwoua are at some considerable distance from Opotoumu; it is mostly in request by parties fishing for the kohuda, (craw fish,) and other fish, which abound in all these bays, and of which an immense quantity is procurable in the vicinity.

I was much pleased with my excursion, and after a review of the beautiful and interesting localities, we entered the boat which been sent round the bay to meet us. It has seldom been my lot to fall in with scenery more romantic than I found in this small bay of Opotoumu, enhanced by the cherished associations of the immortal circumnavigator. In front of the entrance to the bay is situated the Isle of Arches, (Motu Oroe;) this small island, with deep soundings around it, is perforated in six or eight places, and from its formation, affords so many different views. From a certain point, it presents an appearance not unlike the ancient remains of a cloistered

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abbey; again, by shutting many of its perforations, and changing the former position, it recalls to review the dilapidated windows of gothic oriel architecture; it forms an addenda to the surrounding scenery of no common interest. A peculiar rock, not unlike the celebrated Cheese Ring, in Derbyshire, about sixty feet in height, adds to the singularly picturesque appearance of the scene; like the natural curiosity above mentioned, it tapers below. A heavy swell runs between it and the Isle of Arches.

At a later period of my sojourn at Uwoua, I was induced to make another trip, by sea, about forty miles farther to the southward. I was accompanied by the natives in a canoe, which was named the Urua tau, after a deceased chief much renowned for his valour and cannibalism. This canoe, which I afterwards purchased, was formed of four pieces tightly put together; sixty feet in length and six feet three inches in beam. After passing Sporing's Island, (Motu Poriwoa,) we came in sight of a number of caverns whose immense magnitude realized, in their appearance, the Asiatic palaces of the marine enchanters who commanded the winds of space and the waves of the deep, rather than any terrestrial similitude I could call to mind. These stupendous wonders, against which the whole

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strength of the vast Pacific lashes, without any intermediate obstruction for thousands of miles to ward off its force, can but seldom be viewed. It requires the calmest weather for some time previous, as a continual heavy swell, formed by immense rolling seas, break with fury on this rugged portion of iron bound coast. This series of magnificent perforations are on so uncommon a scale of magnitude and grandeur as really to defy description; they strike the beholder with awe and admiration and truly induces him to feel,

"God works in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform."

One of the caves on Poriwoa, is excavated close to the water's edge, and, refilling at half flood tide, the approaching waves cause a peculiar hollow noise on entering this submarine cavern, and are again spouted forth to some height, with a noise and appearance similar to the spouting from the spiracle of the right whale; it is named in consequence, by the natives, Mungi no te tohora, (Whale's Mouth.) The entrance to one of these interesting submarine caverns was pointed out to me, by the natives, as capable of being traversed at the lowest ebb of spring tides. It had been

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passed by a few natives some two or three miles under the ocean's depths from high water mark. The storms and continual gales, experienced during the winter season, prevented my enjoying the invaluable treat which a visit to the cave would doubtless have ensured.

On our return to Uwoua, we saw three whales, each about fifty feet in length, harmlessly spouting and gambolling in the bay. My native friends were quite in glee, and immediately gave chace to one of them, little reflecting if the canoe was upset, (a very probable circumstance,) whether or not I could swim as well as themselves. A young chief, who was in the canoe, who belonged to Kapiti, (Entry Isle,) in Cook's Straits, rose up and shewed us how Europeans kill the whales in that part of the country where he resided, making use of sharp pointed sticks, with which the bottom of the canoe was floored, as mimic lances.

The "Resolution," commanded by Cook, in 1769, remained on this part of the coast nearly three months. He adds, in his remarks, how much he preferred the pacific people he found in this place to the turbulent savages of Poverty Bay.

Sporing's Isle forms the south headland to Uwoua; it is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. On the top of this island, the

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hill is scarped, and was formerly occupied as the Pa, or stronghold; but since the introduction of European implements of war, they have been abandoned, in a great measure, and have fallen into disrepute.

On the south side of the bay the land rises in high cliffs of a similar geological formation. A small rocky islet, called Motu Eka, lies to the north-east, at a small distance from the shore, and several sunken rocks and reefs lie some few miles to the eastward.

In this district of Uwoua, I met with many clever artists in the pleasing art of wakiro, (carving,) which in beauty of workmanship and intricacy of design, (not always confined to the most modest subjects,) left, at an immeasurable distance, any thing of the kind I had hitherto seen to the northward. I gave a pair of pocket pistols to a chief, named Toura, to carve on the butts and design whatever his fancy might incline him; in a few days he presented them to me, finished in as chaste a style as I could have procured from an European artist; his modest demand of a small head of tobacco for each was immediately paid. This artist also favoured me with a carved stern post, (rapa,) for my canoe, the "Urua tou." A representation of this piece of laborious workmanship cost

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the artist six weeks' incessant labour, including the assistance he received from his friends; his bill, (six small pieces of wood tied together with a piece of flax,) when presented, was paid instanter; the sum total amounting to six heads of tobacco, or not quite one half pound of the narcotic. This native gentleman, whom I created my artist in ordinary, during my residence in his vicinity, I employed, as long as he would work, and generally gave him something to do, especially carving an elaborately engraven box; but unless kept upon short allowance, little would he do in the way of work.

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