VI EXPLORATION OF SHOURAKI BAY [HAURAKI GULF]; DISCOVERY OF ASTROLABE CHANNEL
[Image of page 151]
VI EXPLORATION OF SHOURAKI BAY [HAURAKI GULF]; DISCOVERY OF ASTROLABE CHANNEL 1
1827, 23RD FEBRUARY--We steered to the S. E. by E., with a pleasant light north wind, running along the coast two or three miles out to sea. From our anchorage as far as Cape Papai-Outou, which forms the most southerly point of Wangari Bay, the coast is flat and bare and only rises as it approaches the cape where there is also a certain amount of woodland. Beyond that, there is nothing but an unbroken line of bare sand-dunes as far as four or five miles this side of Cape Tokatou-Wenoua (Cook's Cape Rodney). Then the land rises once more and is less dull in character. On our left we passed the high peaks of Moro-Tiri and Taranga, and lastly Toutourou rock standing like an isolated target without any sign of vegetation.
At exactly seven o'clock in the evening we passed between Cape Tokatou-Wenoua [Rodney] and the lofty island of Shoutourou [Little Barrier or Hauturu] at a distance of half a league from the first and about ten miles from the other.
Tokatou-Wenoua Cape itself is not very lofty and it is only four to five miles inland that it is dominated by a mountain about nine hundred feet high.
The line, which throughout the afternoon had shown thirty-two and thirty-three fathoms, reached forty near the headland although we were twice as near to the shore. Once past the cape, the reading gave a regular thirty-one to thirty-three fathoms, as before, as far as mid-channel between the mainland and Shoutourou. It was a lovely night and we spent it in peace hove to.
24th February--Sharp at four o'clock in the morning I steered W. S. W. to get near Cape Tokatou-Wenoua. When daylight made it possible for us to examine our surroundings, I saw that during the night the tidal current had carried us six or seven miles towards Cape Moe Hao (Cook's Cape Colville). I tacked to keep as close to the coast as I could, for it was my intention to go in amongst the western islands that Cook had only seen very hastily and in the vaguest way; so earnestly did I desire to complete the work of this great navigator.
[Image of page 152]
Although there was now only a very light wind, at eight o'clock we sailed across a long narrow headland ending in some little islands behind which there must be excellent anchorage. The next minute a reef appeared just under the surface of the water ahead of the ship; we passed it at eight hundred yards while M. Guilbert went to investigate it. It was only a little plateau of very slight extent, not in the least dangerous, as it has seventeen fathoms of water all round it.
After that, we scudded across a vast bay within which there must be several islands, bays and channels. At about two o'clock, we were running under full sail between an island to larboard (Tiri-Tiri-Matangui) and a peninsula on the right, which is only joined to the mainland by an extremely narrow isthmus. In this channel, which is two or three miles wide, the depth gradually decreased from twenty to seventeen fathoms. Then we found ourselves in a spacious bay in the western section of Shouraki Bay in which we were obliged to change our course to bring us into the S. W.
This splendid basin extends from ten to twelve miles in every direction. It has a chain of well wooded islands of moderate height along its S. E. shore; on the W. stretches an unbroken coastline of perpendicular cliff, mournful and sterile; on the N. N. W. a wide channel seemed to run up into the land [Weiti River]; but I preferred to direct my researches towards another opening in the south, which, according to my calculations, should bring me nearer to the opposite coast of New Zealand and reduce the width of Ika-Na-Mawi [North Island] to a very short distance at this point. I was even almost inclined to think that there might be a channel here, dividing the land into two islands.
We did not notice any trace of inhabitants, nothing but one or two fires a very long way off in the interior. There can be no doubt that this extreme depopulation is due to the ravages of war.
As the wind had dropped a lot and gone to W. S. W., in the evening we dropped anchor in twelve fathoms of water, soft mud, four miles from the coast. Within a few minutes the crew caught with their lines an enormous number of splendid fish which were most delicious to eat. In the afternoon a little hammershark followed the corvette for some time.
25th February--At five o'clock we prepared to start once again and a few minutes later the Astrolabe was under sail. The wind having settled in the S. S. W. reduced us to beating about once more and I foresaw that we
[Image of page 153]
should take a good deal of the day to reach the southern channel. So as to make the most of the time, I jumped into the whaleboat with Messrs. Lottin, Gaimard, and Lesson to go and explore the inner channels, leaving the corvette, under the command of M. Jacquinot, to come along by short tacks towards the southern channel. From about half a league away it was a pleasure to watch the Astrolabe making her way through the quiet waters of a basin surrounded by land on every side; the body of the ship gracefully riding the surface of the waves, with her sails gently filled by a light wind, was in vivid contrast to the absolute silence of nature. Lost like a speck on the immensity of the seas, the solid body of a ship regains its full importance as soon as it is surrounded by objects that can be compared with it. The effect produced by this spectacle is perhaps even more striking for the navigator, who, confined to his floating habitation, as a rule thinks of it as smaller than its true dimensions because of the restrictions from which he suffers.
Two hours later we entered the channel which had excited our curiosity. On the left is an island (Rangui-Toto), flat at both ends, with a high peak in the centre and covered with flourishing vegetation that forms a curious contrast to the bare land on the coast opposite. Then we found ourselves in a magnificent inner basin that showed a regular depth of six to eight fathoms of water and soon branched off into two channels; one stretched away towards the east and we were not able to see the farther end of it; the other, which ran to the west, seemed to be bounded by land two or three leagues farther on.
We entered the latter and landed on the right bank. While M. Lottin set up a geographical observation post on the top of a mountain, which we had noticed the day before from a great distance, I had a look at the country round. Although it was well covered with plenty of herbaceous plants, there were no trees growing here, only bushes. Already the heat seemed to have destroyed a great deal of the vegetation, and although the soil had every appearance of fertility, it seemed to me to lack fresh water, for all I could discover was a pool of brackish water. There were very few birds; we were only able to shoot a few shore species; we must, however, note a quail of the same type as the European bird. Going along this beach we experienced the sort of heat which we had seldom found since reaching the shores of New Zealand.
[Image of page 154]
At half past twelve we returned on board, crossed the arm of the sea and set foot on the southern shore. By the water's edge we found a deserted village consisting of more than one hundred cabins; but we saw that they were rough huts made out of branches, constructed to serve just temporarily as shelters for the natives in their big fishing expeditions or during their military campaigns.
Still pursued by the idea that the sea was to be found a very short way away to the south, I determined to cross the narrow isthmus that separated us from it, or at any rate to reach a hill about two leagues off, from the top of which I hoped to be able to see the two seas. I proposed to take Simonet with me, but Messrs Lottin and Gaimard, to whom I explained my plan, asked if they might come too. Their company was as useful as it was pleasant; for in crossing these unknown solitary places, one runs the risk of being met at any moment by savages, whose intentions may be suspect. However, I trusted to the fact that I was not taking anything with me that could rouse their cupidity. Only Simonet had a wretched old gun, and I should have given it up promptly as soon as I found myself in anything like a tight corner or surrounded by a lot of natives.
To begin with we were helped by a little worn path that went exactly in the direction of the spot I wanted to reach. For a long time I even thought that it was going to lead us to a dwelling of some kind. For about an hour we plodded on across hills covered with tall bracken and bushes and here and there brushwood, crossed by gullies in which flowed streams of the freshest water. To our great regret, our path got fainter and fainter and finally disappeared altogether as we approached a little wood that was denser than the others. However, as we were not more than two miles from the height that I wanted to reach, we tried to continue. But after half an hour of quite inconceivable struggles and extraordinary fatigue, at the end of which we had only advanced about two hundred paces, we found ourselves in a spot that was so swampy, so entangled with bracken, dry bushwood and shrubs, that it was impossible to put one foot in front of the other. In an attempt that he made to push on a little farther, M. Gaimard had a fall and narrowly escaped serious injury. Furthermore, it was not enough to get there, we should have had to return, which would have been a still more difficult task when our strength was exhausted. Although with the greatest reluctance, I recognized the necessity of turning back and this we did,
[Image of page 155]
going at a more moderate pace. Ligneous Veronicas, Leptospermums, Epacridaceae, a few Cyperaceae and above all the edible type of bracken constitute the chief vegetation of these wilderness regions. We could not see the slightest trace of any cultivation. Apart from the path that we were following, there were no signs of the passage of men except a few felled trees and various patches of ground recently dug for pulling the fern roots (nga doua) that are one of the chief articles of food among the natives of these regions.
From the neighbouring heights we noticed that on the west the channel in which our boat lay flowed into an enormous basin which stretched away as far as we could see to the north. It seems very probable that this communicates with the channel that we had observed during the previous evening to the N. N. W. of our anchorage. Everything indicates that in these parts Ika-Na-Mawi is intersected by an enormous number of channels and creeks that should form bays and havens rivalling one another in excellence.
We left the place at about half past three, and an hour later we were back on board. Taking advantage of the tide which was in his favour,
M. Jacquinot had brought the corvette to the entrance of the channel between Rangui-Toto and the mainland of Taka-Pouni [Takapuna]. As soon as the whaleboat was hauled up, I set sail on the starboard tack, determined to run straight away into the eastern channel. Driven by a good S. W. breeze I ran quickly round Rangui-Toto Island sailing in the wind's eye.
At five thirty-five, just as we were passing its southerly point at a distance of less than six hundred yards, the sounding, which was being taken all the time from alternate sides, suddenly dropped from six to five and five and a half and even less than four fathoms. Feeling very anxious I was going to go about, in spite of the reefs that encircled us very closely on the south, when the next casting gave us six fathoms, then the depth increased steadily to eight fathoms. However, at half past six, I found myself surrounded by land on every side and the channel had narrowed a great deal. Fearing to find myself in a less favourable spot for anchoring and not wanting to advance any farther, I dropped the starboard anchor in eight fathoms of water, mud. Twenty fathoms of chain in the sea were enough to keep us free from any anxiety. It was delightfully calm and I could at last enjoy a perfect night's rest.
[Image of page 156]
26th February--At five o'clock in the morning, wanting to pursue our discoveries, with a light wind from the S. W. and in lovely weather I set sail again to go forward in the channel into which we had penetrated. But the wind, after going to the S. and S. E., dropped altogether at half past seven and left us in a dead calm. At the same moment three canoes, that we had noticed for a long time and that had come out from the southern beach, drew alongside. I soon learned that they belonged to Rangui, the powerful chief of this coast. Rangui himself, wearing a Scottish costume, was in the largest of the canoes. On my invitation he came at once on board and without any hesitation, advanced towards me, looking solemn and self-possessed, and offered me the ceremonial greeting (shongui). I insisted that all his warriors must stay in their canoes and only allowed him and his brother and companion-in-arms, Tawiti, to come on to the corvette, which he did not seem to mind at all.
Te Rangui, whose height measured five feet nine inches, was a very fine man in the fullest sense of the word; his attitude was dignified and impressive and his features, although already adorned with numerous furrows, marks of his rank, gave an impression of remarkable calm, confidence and dignity. We were very soon perfectly at ease together and in the course of the long conversation that took place between him and myself, the following are the most important facts that I was able to gather.
The natives of Shouraki are engaged in continuous warfare with the tribes from the north, who come to ravage their territory every year.--Firearms give an enormous advantage to the latter, and Rangui showed the keenest desire to obtain some for his tribe.--Scarcely a year had passed since he had fought with a rifle against the redoubtable Pomare.--After the exchange of several shots, Pomare had at last succumbed: as was the custom, his body had been eaten on the battlefield and his head, treated by moko-mokai, was preserved in the pa of Wai-Kato, the chief stronghold of the league of tribes of Shouraki Bay.--I could buy it for a few pounds of gunpowder; it only meant waiting four or five days, the time absolutely necessary to send a messenger to Wai-Kato to get the head... I found this proposal most attractive, and I should have liked to be the one to bring to Europe the last remains of a warrior of such fame in these antarctic regions. Unfortunately the exploration of New Zealand was only a secondary operation in the campaign, and my instructions laid down that I should return to the tropics.
[Image of page 157]
Rangui and Tawiti, anxious to satisfy my inquiries, also gave me the names of the districts, channels, and islands which lay all round us. This is how the following names came to figure on our map, viz.--Rangui-Toto for the volcanic island situated to the N. W. of the anchorage, Taka-Pouni for the beach opposite, Wai-Tamata for the channel going off to the west, Wai-Mogoia for the one to the south and Wai-Roa for a third channel situated to the east. They made it clear to me that the Wai-Tamata did not communicate with the western sea; but they asserted several times and quite emphatically, that by following the course of the Wai-Mogoia one could reach a spot only a very short walk away from the shores of Manoukao Bay [Manakau], a big harbour situated on the West Coast of New Zealand.
This information seemed to me so important that I immediately conceived the idea of verifying its accuracy. I suggested at once to Rangui, that he should remain on board with Tawiti, while I would send one or two of our officers to Manoukao with his warriors as escort. He consented with such good grace and in such a sincere way, that I did not think there could be the least danger for my companions. Consequently I dropped anchor once more at a very short distance from the spot where we had spent the night; then at ten o'clock the whaleboat left under the command of M. Lottin, who had with him Messrs. Guilbert, Gaimard, Bertrand, and Faraguet. A guide provided by Rangui was responsible for showing them the way and claiming respect for them in the name of the chief.
M. Lottin had orders to go as far as Manoukao in order to survey the western sea, but to arrange his operations in such a way as to be back at the boat before nightfall. They were all told to show the greatest care in their dealings with the natives. Too many ghastly disasters, from the time of the discovery of Tasman, to the capture of the Boyd at Wangaroa , had marked with a trail of horror the passage of Europeans in these regions, to allow me to be absolutely without anxiety about the attitude of these tribes, who are as easily offended as they are barbarous in their revenge. 2
At the same time, I sent the longboat under the command of the boatswain to get wood on a little island nearby, called Koreha. Its summit is in the form of a crater and the pumice stones found at its base prove that it is of volcanic origin, although today it is almost completely covered with a thick carpet of very green grass.
[Image of page 158]
Rangui lunched with me and behaved very well at table; then he sent all his people with their canoes back to land, he and Tawiti alone remaining on board. Among all sorts of things that he told me, here are those I noted with particular care:--
So far as he knew, only three ships had reached this spot before us, viz.--The Koroman (Coromandel, Captain Downie); the Pateriki (no doubt, according to what I have thought since, the Saint Patrick that Mr. Dillon commanded); lastly, the Louisiana which I assumed to be an American boat. The last had come to grief and narrowly escaped sinking in trying to get through the Pakii channel.--The Tamaki district, which lies round the banks of the Mogoia, recognizes as leading chiefs Rangui, Kaiwaka and Tawiti, whereas Manoukao is under the orders of a great chief named Toupaia, whom my two guests spoke of as their father.--No doubt this was only a title signifying respect or adoption, since they explained a little later that their real father was Houpa, a powerful chief, formerly established near the mouth of the Wai-Kahourounga (the river Thames), who had succumbed, however, with many of his warriors in a terrible epidemic that they attributed to the anger of the God of the English.--According to their superstitious ideas, Mr. Marsden's appearance among them and the intercession of this tohunga or powerful prophet, had brought this terrible scourge upon them, but they could not give any plausible reason for such an absurd opinion. Moreover, it is well known that during the whole of his journeys in these regions Mr. Marsden lived on the happiest terms with these tribes. Whatever the explanation, looking upon these places from that moment as lying under the curse of heaven, Houpa's children and their fellows put an everlasting taboo on their old homes, and came and established themselves farther north on the left shore of Shouraki Bay.--The whole of this coast is known as Ware-Kawa, while the east coast keeps more particularly the name Shouraki. Wai-Kato, situated three or four days' journey away to the S. S. E., the stronghold of these natives, is commanded by Kanawa and defended by one thousand warriors, who would set out the moment news came that Shongui had reached Shouraki Bay.--Rangui told me about the miserable death of Hihi, one of the most redoubtable of Shongui's companions, who was drowned a year ago in the very basin where we were anchored. His canoe had capsized in a violent squall, and his body had become food for fish; to the minds of these peoples the most unhappy fate
[Image of page 159]
for a warrior.--My guest repeated over and over again, with great emphasis, that he had killed and eaten Pomare, showing his Scottish kilt with great pride, as a trophy of his victory, excuvias indutus Achillis, 3 Listening to him, one gathered that he was preparing the same fate for Shongui, as soon as the latter dared to encounter him.--Yet when I happened to speak by chance about Rangui of Pahia, whom I had met at Wangari, my hero suddenly stopped bragging and instead showed marked anxiety which was quite comic. He questioned me several times about this enemy's forces, his plans, and above all, asked more than twenty times without a break, whether he was likely to arrive there and then. Everything indicated that he was painfully upset by this news and that he was acutely worried to know that his enemy was even now so near him. When he wanted to know how I should act, if Rangui, to whom he scornfully gave the surname of Touke to distinguish him from himself, should happen to appear near the corvette, I told him that being the friend of all Zealanders without distinction, I should do him no harm, but neither should I allow any of my guests to be attacked or even insulted on my ship. I added that so long as he, Rangui of Tamaki, and his people were under my protection, no harm could come to them. This promise pleased him and seemed somewhat to calm the acute anxiety that he felt.--The path that we had followed for a long time the day before also led to Manoukao, although it was broken in certain places.--Kai-Para, the residence of Moudi-Panga, a famous chief in this region, is only three days' journey from Tamaki, and this valiant chief, who had fought successfully against Shongui for so long, at last fell under his blows and provided a repast for him and his warriors.--Kapou-Hoka, whose preserved head Touai had shown me several years previously at Paroa, was elder brother or cousin to Rangui.--In the end, it seemed to me from what I could gather, that Kanawa, the chief of Wai-Kato, was Rangui's toupouna or grandfather and Tawiti's father, from which it would follow that the latter would be Rangui's uncle and not his brother. As a general rule, the titles of brother, uncle or nephew and even cousin, are used indiscriminately among these tribes and the custom of adoptions, as frequent here as they were among the ancient Romans, adds still further to the confusion.
[Image of page 160]
Rangui could not indicate more than six chief winds, viz.--N. moudi, N. E., marangai; E., tonga; S., hawa-ourou; W., tou-araki; and N. W., kauraki. He recited the whole of the celebrated song of the pihe to me, and was amazed to see me repeat it after him, reading it from the grammar book. This chief carried, as a sort of sceptre, the carved rib of a whale, which he called patou-wairoa and which I acquired, as I did a fine cloak trimmed with dog's fur dyed in different colours, belonging to Tawiti. The latter had brought his wife with him, and she was carrying a child who seemed to be cherished quite as much by the father as by the mother. As we had found in other places, the slaves and girls of the lower classes lavished their favours on anyone in return for the least trifle, whereas the married women were inaccessible. To test how far their scruples about conjugal fidelity would go, M. Gaimard offered all sorts of things to Tawiti to procure his wife's favour; the rangatira remained deaf to every temptation; even to the offer of an ordinary gun, merely replying each time, tapou (sacred or not allowed). Only when the doctor happened to offer as a joke a repeating rifle, did the savage chief, incapable of resisting such a tempting offer, simply thrust his wife into the arms of the stranger, while he held out his other hand to take the gun. Before judging these children of nature too harshly, one must not forget that in their eyes a weapon of this kind is a greater prize today than a Lord Chamberlain's key, a Marshal's baton, or even the portfolio of a minister would be in the eyes of a European.
As I had already noticed in the Bay of Islands, Tawiti's wife showed the greatest reluctance to part with a shark's tooth that she wore in her ear. The only reason that she put forward against my persistence was that a stranger (tangata ke) had given her this tooth; the answer that had often been given me at Paroa. It must be admitted that these natives cling very tenaciously to keepsakes that have been left with them; but of course it may be merely the result of some superstition.
About five o'clock the canoes came alongside again bringing an enormous quantity of fine fish. The islanders let the sailors have them in return for scraps of biscuit and were very honest in their transactions. The longboat brought two loads of wood which is easy to get on Koreha Island.
The whaleboat returned to the ship at a quarter past seven in the evening with all our people. After following the course of the river Mogoia for three or four miles upstream, they set foot on the shores of a narrow
[Image of page 161]
isthmus which they crossed and then found themselves on the shores of Manoukao Bay. They had nothing but praise for the behaviour of all the natives and were received by them with every conceivable honour. I refer readers to M. Lottin's report 4 dealing with the details of this interesting expedition and the results that he was able to bring back from his exploration. It may be said, however, that it is now established that the island of Ika-Na-Mawi is reduced at this point to a very narrow tongue of land.
This discovery may be of great interest to settlements that will be made in Shouraki Bay and this interest will be still greater if new investigations can show that Manoukao harbour is able to take ships of a certain size, for such a settlement would then be accessible from both the eastern and the western seas.
Toupaia, the most important chief, was not to come on board till the next day; but Inaki, rangatira para paroa, 5 who had received these gentlemen at Manoukao, had come back with them. He was a man of middle height, but with an extremely well-proportioned figure, an expressive face, a proud carriage, and the appearance of a true warrior.
He seemed to be altogether independent of Rangui, who on his side affected a haughty manner towards him. Rangui kept on saying that Inaki was of much lower rank than he was, that he was only rangatira para paroa, admitting, however, that he was a very brave warrior. I deduced from this that, as in so many other countries of the world, Inaki, although inferior to Rangui by birth, had perhaps acquired by his bravery and his exploits the right to command the warriors of Manoukao. He presented to me as a token of esteem his commander's baton, which was carved at the end, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and adorned with valuable feathers.
Te Rangui, having become my special guest, slept in my room, while Inaki and Tawiti were received in the same way by the officers. Rangui had lain down very quietly on his mattress and was about to settle to sleep like a respectable man, when he heard his two companions in the next room (the officers' cabin) busy negotiating the introduction of some women that they had been asked for. My rangatira then asked me very eagerly if I didn't want any; on my replying in the negative, he sighed and said no more; then seizing the opportunity when he thought I was asleep, he slipped quietly from
[Image of page 162]
my room and went to join his two companions, taking a very active part in the gallant negotiations, no doubt in order to share the profits that would accrue to them.
27th February--At exactly a quarter past five in the morning, wanting to take advantage of a little S. S. W. wind to resume our labours, I ordered the topsail to be hoisted and half an hour afterwards we were on an E. S. E. course towards Pakii.
Our noble friends, Rangui, Tawiti and Inaki, before leaving us, made us most definite promises to come to see us again at Shouraki. I tied a little ribbon, to which were attached medals of the expedition, round the necks of Rangui and Inaki as tokens of protection and friendship, which they seemed to appreciate very much. When Rangui warned me that the Pakii channel was not safe and that I must take a different one between the islands, he offered me one of his slaves (kouki) to act as pilot, insisting that the man had a perfect knowledge of the whole locality. It will be well understood that, while I expressed my gratitude to the chief for such a proof of his interest, I was not at all inclined to place very great confidence in the nautical knowledge of such a fellow, who after all could not have piloted anything but canoes drawing two or three feet of water.
Just as the chiefs were getting into their canoes, a little incident happened which revealed the character of these races. I have already said that throughout the time that the corvette had remained at anchor at the mouth of the Mogoia river, not only had Rangui and the other chiefs behaved perfectly correctly, but also their subjects had transacted business alongside with commendable honesty. As I was getting underway, I was warned that one of the natives had just stolen a lead used for sounding, carelessly left hanging in the chainwale. Caught in the act, he gave it up without any resistance and made off as quickly as he could. Then, speaking to Rangui, I told him in a loud voice and severe accents that it was unworthy of honest people to commit thefts of this kind and that we should punish thieves very severely. This rebuke and my threat seemed to affect him deeply; he excused himself on the ground that the crime had been committed without his knowledge by a stranger, a slave. Then with a very submissive air he asked if I was not going to punish the man for this deed. I answered that there would be no punishment this time, said good-bye to him in a friendly way, and went away to give my sole attention to handling the ship. A moment later,
[Image of page 163]
the sound of heavy blows being struck and pitiable cries coming from Rangui's canoe once more drew my eyes in that direction. Then I saw Rangui and Tawiti with their paddles belabouring a cloak which looked as if it covered a man. But it was easy for me to see that the two artful chiefs were only hitting one of the seats in the canoe. After keeping up this farce for some time, Rangui's paddle broke in his hands, the man apparently fell to the ground, and Rangui, calling out to me, said that he had just beaten the thief senseless and asked me if I was satisfied. I answered in the affirmative, laughing to myself at the savages' trick, a trick, for that matter, of a type which is common among many more advanced races.
It will be realized that Rangui and his companions had often pressed me for lead to make bullets, a thing which I had not been able to give them, since we had scarcely enough for our own use. Without doubt it had been impossible for the chief to resist the temptation of getting hold of such a large quantity all at once and the sounding lead had been stolen by his orders. On seeing the theft discovered, he had not hesitated to let the blame fall on the slave and he determined to appease my anger by pretending to make amends.
With a feeble, variable wind, I could only advance very slowly along by the beautiful island of Wai-Heke, in a depth of five or six fathoms. As I drew near to the channel, I sent M. Guilbert off to take soundings in the Pakii channel and soon the red flag that he ran up informed me that he had found less than four fathoms; so I decided to take a channel on the port side which my pilot Makara assured me was practicable for our corvette.
This new channel is scarcely more than half a league wide and is made narrower by a little island (Takoupou) situated nearly in the middle. I sailed through the northern section less than two cables from this rock, with only four fathoms of water under the keel for a long time, which caused me considerable anxiety while it lasted. Soon the depth reached seven or eight fathoms, the wind grew stronger in the west and we sailed rapidly through unknown channels, whose shores were adorned with smiling vegetation and where we enjoyed charming views every moment. So we sailed among islands for about two hours; some were lofty and mountainous, covered with magnificent forests, others lower and only covered with more ordinary vegetation.
[Image of page 164]
There is no doubt that among these islands one could easily find most suitable spots for settlement. I particularly noticed on the shores of Wai-Heke some sites that seemed to me admirably suited to such use. It is useless to repeat that once again I regretted leaving these beautiful spots without being able to explore them more carefully and without taking a further selection of all their natural products. But time urged me on and other tasks called us away from these shores.
I must record that our guide, Makara, in this difficult navigation, gave proof of a degree of calm control, attention and intelligence that would really have done credit to many a European pilot. Never once did I find him at fault in his directions, and it was an experience as novel as it was interesting for us to see a savage, a cannibal, acting as the most careful and assiduous of pilots in these lonely channels. He gave me the names of the islands and districts all round us with the greatest readiness. If I had been able to understand his language more easily, I have no doubt that I should also have received information on a great many other important points.
While piloting us, he told me that without a doubt it was the white man's God who had killed Houpa and the earlier inhabitants of Shouraki. When I asked him who this god of the white man was, he pointed to the compass in the binnacle; and this was not the first time that we had found natives attributing divine power to this curious mechanism, so far above the intellectual sphere of a poor savage.
At last, at three o'clock in the afternoon, we were back in Shouraki Bay a little to the south of the spot that Cook called the Isles of the West. By a unanimous decision, we bestowed the name of our ship on the lovely channel that we had just sailed through from one end to the other and had explored so successfully. Measuring from Tiri-Tiri-Matangui Island where our discoveries really began, Astrolabe Channel 6 would not be less than fifty miles in length; but taking Rangui-Toto island as its point of origin, where, shut in between two shores only a very short distance apart, it can offer in all weathers one of the finest anchorages in the world to ships of any size; taking this point, I say, it still has nearly thirty miles of coastline, excluding the Wai-Tamata arm, the real extent of which we were unable to ascertain. There can be no doubt that one day these channels will play a
[Image of page 165]
most important part in navigation, when the colony of New South Wales has developed to the fullest extent of which it is capable. Then the labours of the Astrolabe, little thought of till that moment, will be recalled to the memory of man, as in the case of those of M. d'Entrecasteaux, which are already of interest to a whole colony, established in the regions where this navigator once found nothing but a wilderness. 7
A mile out beyond the point at which the Astrolabe Channel enters Shouraki Bay, there lies a rock quite by itself, absolutely bare and wild, and inhabited by swarms of cormorants. The natives have given it the name of Tara-Kai (from tara, cormorant and kai to live). We stopped near this rock, in thirteen fathoms, sand and mud; then we continued on our course to the south with feeble S. W. winds that went to S. at six o'clock in the evening and forced us to drop anchor in ten fathoms, less than half a league from the shores of Ware-Kawa and near a remarkable headland, called Wai-Mango.
28th February--The night was very fine and calm. The next day, by six o'clock in the morning, the Astrolabe was again under sail and I tried to advance towards the mouth of the Wai-Kahourounga. But the wind, which was at first in the E. S. E., changed to S. E. S. and even S. S. W. in turn; so renouncing the idea of advancing any further towards the head of the bay, I dropped anchor at half past eight in eight fathoms, mud, about two miles from the coast and seven and a half miles from the mouth of the river. From our anchorage we could see the two heads of the entrance quite distinctly; but the farther shore of the bay, which is no doubt an alluvial plain, is formed of such lowlying land that only from aloft could we see at all clearly the enormous forests of Podocarpus which cover a great deal of it. As soon as the corvette was anchored, I sent M. Lottin off to the coast nearby to take geographical observations, and at the same time to put our faithful pilot Makara ashore. Although a member of the slave or kouki class, the fellow had earned our sincere respect by his conduct on board. When saying good-bye to him, I rewarded him with a packet of gunpowder, a big axe, and a few trifles which made him the happiest of men. He did his utmost, by urging me and making all sorts of promises, to persuade me to wait for his chiefs, who were returning from Wai-Kato, he said, with enormous supplies of pigs, potatoes, and kumaras. I should have liked to prolong my stay in
[Image of page 166]
these interesting regions quite as much as and even more than he wished me to do, but time pressed and the Astrolabe had many places to visit besides New Zealand.
Consequently, as soon as the boat was back, we set sail once again and I went towards the Shouraki coast, to sail along it close to shore. It is much loftier, and in particular steeper than the Ware-Kawa coast, and the land would not lend itself to cultivation. At this point we will note that where M. Lottin landed, he found nothing but pebbles on the shore, on which the sea was breaking with great force, and a little farther off, impassable marshes with patches of flax. On the whole, this part of Shouraki Bay does not compare, either for the view or the apparent fertility of the soil, with the shores of Astrolabe Channel.
At twenty minutes past six, as the wind had gone round to N. N. E., and the tidal stream was carrying us farther into the bay, we dropped anchor in fifteen fathoms, mud, two miles from land. During the whole day we only saw one big fire on the Shouraki coast and not a single canoe came out to us, which showed that the tribe living in this region must be poor and small in number.
1st March--All night there was a fairly strong east wind, and we took advantage of it from twenty minutes past five in the morning to continue on our course, keeping to the coast, but not more than two or three miles away, so as to take note of all its features. At noon we hove to on the most northerly parallel of Cook's Isles of the East, viz.--Wai-Hao, Wai-Mate, Papa-Roa and Motu-Kawao in the language of the country. There must be excellent anchorages in these islands, as well as in the fairly well-defined bays along the coast. Everywhere the coast rises quickly into steep mountains covered with trees. The peak Moe-Hao which looks down on the cape of the same name (Cook's Cape Colville) is especially remarkable for its height. The whole of this territory seems to be uninhabited and we did not see any fire except the one I have already mentioned.
We were enjoying lovely weather and a very gentle sea, but the wind was feeble and we could only advance slowly. However, we succeeded in getting up to the north of the channel formed by Cape Moe-Hao and the island of Otea; we passed within five miles of the little island in the strait and at six o'clock in the evening we were almost half way through the channel between Shoutourou and Otea. The calm overtook us in this position and we
[Image of page 167]
were forced to spend the whole night keeping watch on the two shores and making every effort not to run on to the one or the other.
Whenever we are becalmed, the crew immediately catch with their lines an amazing quantity of splendid fish, belonging to the dorado group, which are delicious food. It is the fish that Cook called seabream; it seems to be extraordinarily abundant in these waters. While we were anchored in the mouth of the river Mogoia, the Tamaki natives filled their canoes in a few hours. Today the crew had soon caught hundreds of them and they had enough for each mess to be able to salt down a good stock.
2nd March--Two hours after midnight, we realized that the tidal current had dragged us much nearer to the Shoutourou coast; then it carried us back towards Moe-Hao Strait. At daybreak the calm persisted and all we could do was to remain in the same position. The channel which separates the two islands of Shoutourou and Otea is seven to eight miles wide and seems very safe with a steady depth of thirty fathoms.
Shoutourou rises rapidly on all sides to a conical mountain of very considerable height, and in such a way as to be seen easily from any part of Shouraki Bay. A heavy surf all round would make it difficult for small boats to land. Otea is the same, with a still steeper coast, very jagged and often entirely devoid of vegetation; yet ships would probably find some shelter among the little islands situated near the larger one. Two or three miles to the south of the western headland of Otea, which we called Cape Krusenstern, 8 lies a little group of bare rocks, quite isolated, which from a distance looked to us like canoes under sail; that is what made us give them the name. 9
3rd March--A little S. W. wind having at last risen during the evening, we took advantage of it to continue on our course to the north. At midnight, having reached a spot about three miles to the east of the Moko-Hinou islands, I lay athwart to wait for daylight. Then I steered as near to west as possible in order to stand in for the coast near Wangari and take up the thread of the investigations which we had completed a few days earlier near this spot. But the wind remained in the W. and all I could do throughout the day was to keep on tacks in order to get nearer to the coast.
About half past six in the evening, we changed course six miles S. E. of the little islands of Tawiti-Rahi (Cook's Poor Knights). Seen from this side, they appeared to consist of one island about a mile in diameter, quite
[Image of page 168]
round, rocky and steep at its edge, and three or four other detached rocks nearer to land, which were very steep and absolutely bare.
The wind got up a lot during the night, and we spent the time tacking about so as not to spoil our survey.
4th March--As soon as we could catch sight of the shore, we got underway with full sail and, as the wind had veered right round to the S., we were able to sail windward of the Tawiti-Rahi islands. By the calculations made at half past eight this morning, we were three or four miles to the south of the most southerly islands of this group; and, seen from this side, one of the rocks looked to us just like a very sharp compass needle. In spite of the mist, we could also see the whole of the coast north of Cape Wangari. It was not very lofty, but extremely rugged, very steep, and even undermined at its base by the waves of the sea.
At about half past eleven in the morning, in lee of the shore to the S. S. W. we could make out a flotilla of twenty or thirty canoes going towards the south. We had no doubt that they carried the warriors of the Bay of Islands. They were going to open their annual campaign against the unfortunate tribes of Shouraki Bay and join Rangui's detachment at Wangari. In the ghastly hope of feasting on the bodies of their enemies and carrying off booty, they braved the dangers of the sea and of a very risky passage in their frail canoes, in order to go and attack tribes whom nature had cut off from them by an immense barrier, so true is it that in any degree of latitude and at all stages of civilization, the human race is the same, subject to the same passions and the same rage and fury, at the two extremities of the earth's axis. At the same moment we saw dense clouds of smoke rising from the heights of Cape Wangari, no doubt signals sent up by Rangui's warriors to their companions in arms.
On the stroke of twelve we hove to half a league to the west of the most southerly of the Tawiti-Rahi islands. We were then able to observe that the northern island, which is the largest, was really divided in two by a very narrow channel. The southern rock was seen to have the form of a huge round tower, quite regular in shape and absolutely bare. The waves that passed under our ship broke the next minute with a sinister moan under the sides of this natural fortress, and every one of us watched with uneasy intentness to see whether a hidden rock would not reveal itself in our course.
The very slight wind stirring in the E. and E. S. E. made it impossible to
[Image of page 169]
hug the coast as closely as I could have wished, for fear of not being able to double Cape Rakau-Manga-Manga. However, at a distance of less than two leagues, we passed the peninsula of Motou-Aro, easy to recognize because of a very high peak that dominates it five miles inland. To the south of this peninsula are several little islands close to the shore and in the north the coast rises once more in lofty cliffs of the gloomiest and wildest character. The headland itself is surrounded by a few little islands, most of which stand up like sharp pointed wedges with their vertical face turned towards the sea. The chief of these islets has received the name of Kokako, from the shelter it affords to certain seabirds of that name.
In the last few days the surface of the water has been strewn with magnificent Fucaceae of which I am preserving a few dried specimens, and which I got my secretary to draw straight away. In the afternoon we were eight miles to the east of Rakau-Manga-Manga Cape [Cape Brett] and I was able to take the Astrolabe to the anchorage of the Bay of Islands, conscious of having carried out my instructions with regard to New Zealand. But I remembered that the Coquille, on reaching this anchorage, had seen nothing whatever of the coast. I thought, further, that it would be worth while and that the sailors would be pleased if we continued the survey, that we had begun, as far as North Cape. This decision would also give us the means of linking up our labours at this point with those of M. d'Entrecasteaux. So I decided to complete the N. E. part of Ika-Na-Mawi in the way that we had already treated the E. and S. E. coast.
I took advantage all night of a fairly strong wind from S. to S. S. W. with a cloudy sky, making such headway in a westerly direction that at the break of day we found ourselves seven or eight miles from the Motou-Kawa and Panaki islands (Cook's Cavalles islands).
6th March-While M. Lottin carried out his investigations on shore, I tried to make North Cape as quickly as possible. Unfortunately the wind slackened and by midday we could hardly handle the ship. However, from the top of the masts, we were just beginning to catch sight of the heights of North Cape at a distance of thirty to thirty-six miles. Athwartships, the two extremities of the vast bay of Oudoudou (Surville's Lauriston Bay) 10 appeared, and farther to the north the only thing that the eye could see was Mount Ohoura (Cook's Camel Mt.), remarkable because of the way it rises
[Image of page 170]
in the midst of sand dunes that link the southern portion of Ika-Na-Mawi to the northern peninsula.
Enormous patches of lovely Fucaceae often cover the surface of the sea, and a lot of gannets and big brown porpoises are about. The temperature remains fairly constant between 18°C. and 20°C., which is the most favourable to seamen; and in fact all the crew are in wonderfully good health. One would scarcely believe that for more than three months, they have, so to speak, not had a single day of real rest.
7th March--Calms and scarcely perceptible breezes prevented us from making headway during the evening and night. Further, as soon as we could make out the shore, we saw that in spite of our efforts we had only advanced eight or ten miles at the most nearer to North Cape. We ran out one hundred fathoms of line at eight o'clock and again at noon without touching bottom. At the latter hour, we were eight miles from land, and the cape appeared as a rounded bluff that descended in a gentle slope on the left, where it was linked to the heights of the peninsula by a very flat tongue of land from which rose a number of fires. The whole expanse, lying between the peninsula as a whole and Mount Ohoura, consists of rather flat land having on the seaward side a fringe of dunes so dazzlingly white that it strains the eyes to look at them.
Thanks to a scarcely perceptible wind in the east, the Astrolabe advanced slowly on the meridian of North Cape or Cape Otou. Just before six o'clock in the evening three or four canoes, which had come out from the shore round the Cape, drew alongside and sold us fish, hooks and lines. The natives who manned them were nearly all ugly, badly built, very dark skinned and filthy. However, they behaved with decency and without any hesitation gave me the names of the different points of the coast that we could see.
This was how I learned that North Cape or Otou has an offshoot in the east in the little island of Moudi-Motou, which is joined to it by a chain of rocks at surface level. The Cape next to Otou is called Otahe, and the last, on the N. W., Tasman's Cape Maria-van-Diemen, is the famous Reinga, the Taenarus 11 of New Zealand, the last point of the world known to them. Here the souls of the dead, the Waidouas, gather from every part of Ika-Na-Mawi to take their last flight into eternal glory or everlasting night. The peninsula
[Image of page 171]
behind North Cape bears the name of Moudi-Wenoua (the end of the world), and is under the rule of the chief Shongui-Kepa, who lives at Pakohou under the slopes of Cape Otou.
At four o'clock in the afternoon we hove to, two miles due north of this headland in seventy fathoms of water, mud and sand. Its slopes on every side are steep and undermined by the waves and at the top it forms a sort of level plateau. Otahe looks very similar, and Reinga ends in a rock having the form of a wedge; it is from this rock that the Waidouas take their flight.
Soon after this the natives left us. Only one of them, a sub-chief named Pako, asked to be allowed to accompany us to the Bay of Islands, where he said he had a lot of friends. As usual, I agreed in the hope of procuring the coast names in the language of the country. Pako seemed a quiet, very obliging sort of man, although his manners were not attractive and he was of very inferior physique to all the chiefs whom we had seen so far on these shores. He knew the Manawa-Tawi islands (Tasman's Isles of the Kings) and he at once showed me where they lay. He added that he owned slaves there who cultivated fields of sweet potatoes. The inhabitants of Moudi-Wenoua are at peace with all the tribes in the Bay of Islands, with the exception of Shongui-Ika, of whom they speak with horror and who would be killed, they assured me, if he fell into their hands. Pigs are plentiful on this headland, and the natives brought some water melons, which they seem to think a lot of, as they would only give them in exchange for gunpowder.
At sunset, far away on the horizon to the west by the compass, the summits of Manawa-Tawi were visible just for a moment. According to M. d'Entrecasteaux, we must have been about forty miles away from them at the time.
Throughout the night it was calm with a lovely sea and delightful temperature. The next day we again only had slight winds blowing first in one direction then in another, so that I was forced to remain six or seven miles off North Cape; we repeated the astronomical observations in order to fix its position more accurately. Taking advantage of the calm weather, enormous crowds of long-nosed porpoises, brown-headed gannets, petrels, kingfishers, and a few greedy sharks of great dimensions played on the surface of the waves. Nowhere, except along the coast and in fine weather, does the ocean ever present such lively scenes; a sort of competition in movement between the species of the air and those that live under the water.
[Image of page 172]
Our guest Pako seems very pleased with his trip. He is particularly delighted by the promise I have made him to drop anchor at Paroa and not at Kidi-Kidi. He hates the people of the latter tribe, with one exception, Wai-Kato, who is his special friend. He also told me that, in the course of his attack on the people of Wangaroa, Shongui was hit by a bullet that went through his throat, and had just died from the effects of the wound. I am not inclined to accept this story, which ought to have been known to the Shouraki people and especially to Rangui-Touke and his companions, who were allies of Shongui. My guest also informed me that the chief of Wangaroa was called Pere and that nothing but the rough sea (wara) could have prevented Shongui-Kepa from coming to visit me on board today.
9th March--We were still becalmed throughout the night, so that at nine o'clock in the morning we found ourselves at almost the same spot as at noon on the 7th, viz., eight miles south-east of Moudi-Motou [North Cape]. These conditions made it impossible for me to moor alongside the beach of Sandy Beach or to reach the entrance of Nanga-Ounou and Oudoudou Bays [Rangaunu and Doubtless Bays] as I had planned. It would have been a very unwise course to attempt with winds that make it impossible to steer and in regions such as these, where the most terrific storms follow without any warning what is apparently the finest weather.
A canoe, manned by eight to ten natives, came alongside the corvette. They brought six fine pigs which they were delighted to barter for a musket. The stores that we acquired so easily round Cape Wai-Apou had been exhausted some days before and we valued this new supply of fresh food for the crew very highly, for I already foresaw that we should find few resources of this kind in the Bay of Islands.
The islanders who visited us today were as ugly and as dirty as those we saw two days ago. Under a pretext of going ashore to get pigs and kumaras, which he would come back to sell to us, our friend Pako asked my permission to go off with his compatriots. I could not say no, but I strongly suspected that, having tired of our slow progress he was glad to seize this opportunity to return home.
At half past three in the afternoon and later at six we found ninety and seventy-five fathoms respectively, mud and sand. At the time of the second sounding, we were only six miles to the north of the little islands off Kari-Kari Head (Cook's Knuckle Point) which forms the eastern part of Nanga-
[Image of page 173]
Ounou Bay [Rangaunu]. This bay runs in a considerable distance to the south where it is bounded by not very high land and would form an excellent roadstead, if it were sheltered on the north from the ocean.
10th March--As if the winds were conspiring against our advance, they are still little more than light winds that veer from S. S. E. and E. N. E., that is to say, in a direction diametrically opposed to the course we have to take. So we are reduced to taking tacks in front of Kari-Kari Point. In the evening we tacked to within a league of the shore; towards nine o'clock there was a breath of wind from the north, which I took advantage of to go forward nine miles to the east in the course of the night.
11th March--As a result, when day broke, we found ourselves five miles out to sea and exactly opposite the entrance to the vast bay of Oudoudou (named Lauriston Bay by Surville and Doubtless Bay by Cook). This bay is nothing but an enormous indentation in the coastline absolutely open to the winds from the N. E. and bounded on its southern shore by low lying land that we could see quite extensively from the topmasts.
I wanted to sail towards its S. E. point; but the swell and the east wind stopped me once again. For a moment the weather looked threatening and the sky grew very black in the north. Then it cleared and nothing worse happened than that we were again forced to resort to tacking against the unreliable wind from the N. E.
However, at four o'clock we were able to heave to, six miles to the east of Didi-Houa Island [Mahinepua], which lies exactly opposite the entrance to Wangaroa [Bay] and three miles away. The entrance is extremely narrow and at the distance at which we lay, we could scarcely see it; but the missionaries of the Bay of Islands assured me that, as it runs farther inland, it widens into a vast basin where all kinds of ships could find excellent anchorage. In spite of the reputation for ferocity that the natives of this tribe have acquired, I should have tried to take the Astrolabe into this curious bay, if I had not been turned aside by the same reason that had already stopped me so often in my plans on this coast. Moreover, what makes the entrance to Wangaroa less dangerous is that, apparently at any point between Didi-Houa and the coast, there is a good bottom in which to drop anchor and so wait for the wind and tide to be favourable for sailing in.
Didi-Houa consists of two little islands both very steep and bare and of no
[Image of page 174]
great height, which measure two miles across from S. E. to N. W. The S. E. channel seems to be preferable to the other, as on this side a reef forms an extension of the island. Didi-Houa is an excellent landmark for boats going to Wangaroa from whichever direction they come. On one side, Motou-Kawa and Panaki [Cavalli] Islands, on the other, the entrance to the vast bay of Oudoudou will point the way to Didi-Houa.
At six o'clock in the evening, finding that I was only five miles from the Motou-Kawa and Panaki group of islands (Cook's Cavalles) I ran on the starboard tack and kept so for a long time because of the swell, the N. N. E. winds and the current which could have driven me against my will on to the coast between the islands and the mainland. Not till midnight did I turn the ship's head east again, the wind having gone round to north. At dawn I saw that we had driven considerably to the north and that consequently we were now very much to windward of the Motou-Kaka and Panaki Islands. So I bore away to place them within four or five miles, in order to make a detailed geographical survey.
12th March--Thanks to a good north wind, we advanced rapidly to the Bay of Islands. At eight o'clock in the morning we took new readings in ninety-five fathoms, muddy sand; at ten o'clock we were entering the bay. At the same moment an English ship was tacking to sail out of it. Passing near her, we read the name Asia on her prow and, judging from her draught, we concluded that it must be a whaling vessel which had nearly completed her expedition. More fortunate than ourselves, she was soon to see her own land again, whereas we were still at the beginning of a long and dangerous voyage.
On the Coquille we had not been able to locate the reef which so nearly proved fatal to the famous Englishman, Cook. We now saw it perfectly half a league to leeward, for the sea was breaking furiously on it; so M. Lottin was able to place it accurately on his map. I passed the S. W. point of Motou-Arohia at less than half a cable and I made for the Manawa anchorage, trusting absolutely to a sketch of the chart made in 1824 on board the Coquille, which showed fifteen feet as the minimum depth on the course to the anchorage. At twenty-one minutes past twelve (midday), the corvette suddenly stopped on a bank that must partially block the entrance to Manawa Bay and only leaves eleven and a half feet of water at this point. It must also be very narrow, for both our stern and our prow were afloat over a depth of fifteen to sixteen feet.
[Image of page 175]
It took scarcely half an hour to drop the launch and the longboat, run out a kedge anchor from the stern, turn the ship on the warp and so set her afloat again. I need not say what alertness was shown on this occasion, when everyone without distinction of rank put his hand to the task. Afterwards the kedge anchor was lifted, and I went slowly towards the anchorage while two ship's boats went on ahead, exploring the course to avoid any further mishap. After the sounding had for a long time given three and a half fathoms and four fathoms of water, we were at last able to drop anchor in six fathoms, sand and mud. An hour later the corvette was moored N. E. and S. W. with one hundred fathoms of chain on each side, almost in the very same spot where she had been three years before under her old name of the the Coquille.