1831 - Tyerman, D. Journal of Voyages and Travels... Vol. II. [One chapter] - CHAPTER XXXV

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  1831 - Tyerman, D. Journal of Voyages and Travels... Vol. II. [One chapter] - CHAPTER XXXV
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Coast-scenery of New Zealand--Approach and Appearance of the Natives .--Their Canoes--Their ferocious Conduct, and the perilous Situation of the Deputation and the Crew, while the Ship was in possession of the Savages--Deliverance from Captivity and Death by the Chief George, and the Wesleyan Missionary, Mr. White--Visit to the Wesleyan Station--Remarkable Cure of a Diseased Native, with his own description of it--Sail from Wangaroa Bay--Anchor in Sydney Cove, New Holland.

July 15. This bay, which we duly reached, is so completely shut in, that it was not discovered till we had approached nearly alongshore of it. The entrance is about a quarter of a mile in length, and no more than a furlong in width, but of sufficient depth of water to admit any ship to sail into the harbour, which, at the extremity of the strait, broadens into a beautiful basin, surrounded with rocks and highlands. This, however, is only the anti-port, and through another narrow channel we passed into the main harbour--an immense expanse of sheltered water--which (with the loveliest image of repose that nature can exhibit, as clear and tranquil as the over-arching firmament itself) seemed to bring the deliciousness of rest into our very souls, after the anxieties and toils of a weary voyage on a turbulent ocean. In front of this entrance appears a circular island, very precipitous, and about seven hundred feet in elevation. On the slopes are seen the houses and fatas

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(wooden stages, on which potatoes are stored, out of the reach of hogs, dogs, and vermin) of a considerable village. Leaving this island on the larboard, we came to anchor about a mile above it, in six fathoms water. The view, on every hand, from our vessel, was singularly attractive to our eyes, and refreshing to our spirits, worn out with the monotony of billow on billow, in calm or in gale, presenting the aspect of an uninhabited, uninhabitable waste, rarely even crossed by a solitary ship like our own, with nearly as little probability of descrying another sail as the raven of Noah, that never returned, had the chance of meeting the dove on its first excursion from the ark, while, as yet,

"One shoreless ocean tumbled round the globe."

This bay is coasted by bold headlands, between which run numerous coves, bounded by eminences of great height, some bare, others wooded, and in many places patches of cultivation occasionally rising from the edge of the beach to the mountain-top. The whole is about ten miles in length, stretching north and south, while the breadth varies from three to four miles.

We were presently visited by the natives, in their canoes, carrying six or seven each--men, women, and children. All appeared friendly, without any war-weapons that we could discover, except two old spears, at the bottom of one of the boats. They brought, in no great quantity, potatoes, cabbages, fowls, and natural curiosities, for sale; but their demands for articles in exchange were so exorbitant, that few bargains were made. The general appearance of these people was savage and filthy; some of them had smeared their bodies over with red paint. Their faces, and other parts of their persons, were frightful with tatooing, which, with them, is very deep scarification, and far inferior in

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delicate and curious execution to what we have been accustomed to see in the Society Islands. The lines appeared like grooves ploughed upon the skin, yet the figures were cleverly and ably expressed. People of both sexes had great holes bored in their ears, through which were thrust bits of cloth rolled tight, or rounded pieces of wood. Their clothing consisted chiefly of mats made of rushes, or native flax, so intertwisted that the ends overhung the outside like thatch. This dress, being flung over the shoulders, reached towards the calf of the leg; few of the men used any thing beside; but the women wore girdles of the same materials. Both males and females had long hair, which some gathered up in a knot, with a wreath of cloth, upon the top of their heads. The manners of young and old were as disgusting, and contrary to decorum, as their raiment and persons were filthy and annoying to more senses than one. They were unashamed of what is most unseemly, and appeared astonished at our insensibility to their courteousness. Towards nightfall they all returned on shore. Ammunition had been the principal commodity for which they wanted to exchange their produce.

Their canoes were from thirty to forty feet in length, and three to four in width, each hollowed out of the trunk of a single tree, narrow at either end, and broadest in the middle; having cross-bars to strengthen the sides. Some of these were painted red, and rudely carved with figures, which, without being in the secret of what the sculptor aimed at, might be guessed at by knowing what he had missed. Their paddles were long, lancet-shaped, and very narrow. With these they navigate their simple vessels sufficiently well; the latter, being wide above, and reduced to an angle along the keel, are calculated for steady sailing.

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Anxious to see the Wesleyan Missionaries, whose station lay about six miles from our anchorage, we engaged a large canoe to take us thither, but were obliged, on account of the cold and squally weather, to relinquish the attempt. Captain Dacre (one of our owners), however, went in the ship's boat to inform the brethren of our arrival.

July 16. This morning our little vessel was surrounded with canoes, containing several hundreds of the natives, of both sexes, who presently climbed up, and crowded it so much that we were obliged to put up a bar across the quarter-deck, and tabu it from intrusion. The commerce in various articles, on both sides, went on pretty well for some time, till one provoking circumstance after another occurred, which had nearly led to the seizure of the ship and the loss of our lives. In the confusion, occasioned by the great throng within so narrow a space, the natives began to exercise their pilfering tricks, opportunities for which are seldom permitted to slip away unimproved. Suddenly the cook cried out, "They have stolen this thing," but scarcely had he named the thing (some kitchen article) when he called out again, "They have stolen the beef out of the pot!" and then a third time, "They have stolen my cooking-pans!" Presently another voice bawled out from the forecastle, "Captain! they have broken open your trunk, and carried away your clothes." Up to this time we had been in friendly intercourse with the chiefs, rubbing noses, and purchasing their personal ornaments and other curiosities, suspecting no mischief. But now, in the course of a few moments, without our perceiving the immediate reason, the whole scene was changed. We found afterwards, that the captain (Dibbs), on hearing of the audacious thefts above mentioned, had become angry, and while he was endeavouring, rather boisterously, to clear the deck of some

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of the intruders, one of them, a chief, on being jostled by him, fell over the ship's side into the sea, between his own canoe and the vessel. This was seized instantaneously as the pretext for commencing hostilities. The women and children, in the course of a few seconds, had all disappeared, leaping overboard into their canoes, and taking with them the kakaous, or mantles of the warriors. The latter, thus stripped for action, remained on deck, of which, before we were aware, they had taken complete possession, and forthwith made us their prisoners. Tremendous were the howlings and screechings of the barbarians--while they stamped, and brandished their weapons, consisting principally of clubs and spears. One chief with his cookies (his slaves) had surrounded the captain, holding their spears at his breast and his sides, on the larboard quarter of the vessel. Mr. Tyerman, under guard of another band, stood on the starboard; and Mr. Bennet on the same side, but aft, towards the stern. Mr. Threlkeld, and his little boy, not seven years old, were near Mr. Bennet, not under direct manual grasp of the savages. The chief, who, with his gang, had been trafficking with Mr. Bennet, now brought his huge tatooed visage near to Mr. B's, screaming, in tones the most odious and horrifying, "Tangata New Zealandi, tangata, kakino?--Tangata New Zealandi, tangata kakino?" This he repeated as rapidly as lips, tongue, and throat could utter the words, which mean, "Man of New Zealand, is he bad man?--Man of New Zealand, a bad man?" Happily Mr. Bennet understood the question (the New Zealand dialect much resembling the Tahitian), wherefore, though convinced that inevitable death was at hand, he answered, with as much composure as could be assumed, "Kaore kakino, tangata New Zealandi, tangata kapai:"-- "Not bad; the New Zealander is a good man." And

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so often as the other, with indescribable ferocity of aspect, and sharpness of accent, asked the same question (which might be a hundred times) the same answer was returned. "But," enquired Mr. Bennet, "why is all this uproar? Why cannot we still rub noses, and buy and sell, and barter as before?" At this moment a stout slave, belonging to this chief, stepped behind Mr. Bennet, and pinioned both his arms close to his sides. No effort was made to resist or elude the gigantic grasp, Mr. B. knowing that such would only accelerate the threatened destruction. Still, therefore, he maintained his calmness, and asked the chief the price of a neck ornament which the latter wore. Immediately another slave raised a large tree-felling axe (which with others had been brought to be sharpened by the ship's carpenter) over the head of the prisoner. This ruffian looked with demon-like eagerness and impatience towards his master, for the signal to strike. And here it may be observed, that our good countrymen can have no idea of the almost preternatural fury which savages can throw into their distorted countenances, and infuse into their deafening and appalling-voices, when they are possessed by the legion-fiend of rage, cupidity, and revenge.

Mr. Bennet persevered in keeping up, conversation with the chief, saying, "We want to buy buaa, kumara, ika, &c, (hogs, potatoes, fish,) of you." Just then he perceived a youth, stepping on deck, with a large fish in his hand. "What shall I give for that fish?" "Why, so many fishhooks." "Well, then, put your hand into my pocket and take them." The fellow did so. "Now put the fish down there, on the binnacle, and bring some more, if you have any," said Mr. Bennet. At once the fish, which he had just bought, was brought round from behind and presented to him again for sale. He took no notice of the knavery,

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but demanded, "What shall I give you for that fish?" "So many hooks." "Take them: have you no other fish to sell?" A third time the same fish was offered, and the same price, in hooks, required and given, or rather taken, by the vender, out of his jacket-pockets, which happened to be well stored with this currency for traffic. A fourth time Mr. B. asked, "Have you never another fish?" At this the rogues could contain their scorn no longer, but burst into laughter, and cried, "We are cheating the foreigner," (tangata ke,) supposing that their customer was not aware how often they had caught him with the same bait. Just then one of the cookies, behind, plucked off Mr. Bennet's seal-skin travelling-cap. This did not give him particular alarm; on the contrary, expecting every instant to feel the stroke of the axe, it slightly occurred to him that the blow, falling upon his naked head, would more likely prove effective, and need no repetition; at the same time, in earnest inward prayer, commending his spirit to the mercy of God, in whose presence he doubted not that he should very soon appear; the thought of deliverance having no conscious place in his mind during this extremity. While Mr. Bennet stood thus pinioned, and in jeopardy, the axe gleaming over his head and catching his eye whenever he looked a little askance, he marked, a few yards before him, his friend and companion, Mr. Tyerman, under custody of another chief and his cookies. These wretches were, from time to time, handling his arms, his sides, and his thighs, while, from the paleness of his countenance-- though he remained perfectly tranquil--it was evident that he was not unaware of the meaning- of such familiarities; namely, that they were judging, with cannibal instinct, how well he would cut up, at the feast which they anticipated, while each, like Milton's Death--

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------------"grinn'd horribly, a ghastly smile,
And bless'd his maw, destin'd to that good hour."

The captain, hemmed in with spears, continued a close, but evidently a very indignant, captive, near the larboard-bow; while Mr. Threlkeld and his son moved backward and forward, a few steps, on Mr. Bennet's left hand. In the course of the scene the carpenter, who had been in these parts before, and knew the people, came aft, till he got quite close to Mr. Threlkeld, when, looking earnestly towards Mr. Bennet, he said, "Sir, we shall all be murdered and eaten up, in a few minutes." Mr. Bennet replied, "Carpenter, I believe that we shall certainly all be in eternity by that time, but we are in the hands of God." The carpenter then crept out of his view; but Mr. Threlkeld's little boy having heard, with affright, what he had so emphatically predicted, grasped his father's hand, and cried out, sobbing bitterly, "Father! -- father! -- when -- when they have killed us,--will it--will it hurt us when they eat us?" The carpenter had some apprehension of the same kind as the poor child's, and, apparently, felt greater horror of being devoured than of dying; for presently Mr. Bennet --who kept his eye, as much as possible, turned from the impending axe, lest the sight of it should affect his countenance,--happening to glance aloof, spied the carpenter athwart the larboard yard-arm, waiting the issue, with a stern determination, which indicated that, come what might, he had chosen his lot. On being asked by Mr. Bennet, afterwards, why he had been so foolish as to go aloft, as though there were a better chance there of escaping the expected massacre than below, he frankly answered, "I knew that I must die; but I was resolved that the savages should not eat me, and as soon as I saw them cut you down with the axe, I would have dropped down into the sea, and only have

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been drowned, for I had weights about me which would have sunk me at once."

The whole of this strange occurrence (during which the cannibals never ceased to rage, and threaten a destruction which an invisible and almighty hand stayed them from executing) lasted nearly two hours. At length deliverance came as suddenly as the peril itself had come upon us. Several voices, from different parts of the deck, cried out, "A boat! a boat!" It sounded like, "Life! life!" in our ears. Happily, it was our boat, returning from the Wesleyan settlement, in Wangaroa Bay, with the owner of our little vessel, who had gone thither in it the night before. He brought with him Mr. White, the Methodist Missionary, and George, the principal chief in this part of the island. The natives immediately released us from restraint, and forbore from violence, as soon as they perceived who had come with the boat. When George got on deck, his authority at once cleared it of our enemies, who yielded implicit obedience, though reluctantly, on account of the wrong which they imagined had been wilfully done to their chief, who fell overboard at the commencement of the affray. To Mr. White, also, we were greatly indebted, for his friendly assistance and seasonable interference on this occasion. At his request, George consented to remain on board, as our protector, till we should quit the station. It is remarkable that this dreadful chief, formerly the terror of Europeans, was made the Lord's instrument for preserving our lives, though, but fifteen years ago, at the head of his cookies and clansmen, he had captured the ship Boyd, Captain Thompson, and slaughtered and devoured her whole company, of ninety persons, except a young woman and a cabin-boy. This act of exterminating vengeance, for inhuman treatment which he had himself experienced on

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board, while a passenger in the same vessel from Sydney to New Zealand, took place in this very bay; and, while we were held in durance, and menaced with the like fate, a portion of the wreck of the Boyd was visible from our deck, at intervals, as the waves between rose and subsided in perpetual fluctuation.

Mr. White had come to invite us to visit the settlement. When, therefore, peace had been perfectly restored, and there appeared no reason to apprehend any further attack from the natives, we proceeded with him in a canoe to see the Wesleyan Missionary friends there. On our way we sailed up a considerable creek, which runs inland towards the east, and encounters a river of fresh water. This stream is very winding, and in some places so shallow that the native rowers were obliged to get out, and haul the boat along. The banks are pleasingly diversified with flowering shrubs and scattered trees, among which there is a species of pine, rising to the height of seventy or eighty feet, without a lateral ramification, and, near the ground, more than two yards in diameter. The foliage, in general, was full upon the shrubs and trees, but many were bare, or withered, and there is, by no means, that luxuriance of vegetation to which our eyes have been so long accustomed in the South Sea Islands that nature here seems impoverished by the mere absence of superfluity.

We passed many hovels, and were occasionally addressed by their inhabitants, as well as by straggling natives whom we met on the road, with the national salutation, "Tenarki kokoe!" Three hours after leaving the ship we arrived at the expected station, where we were most kindly welcomed, and hospitably entertained. The little family consisted of the Rev. Mr. Turner, Mrs. Turner, and the Rev. Mr. White, with Messrs. Hobbs and Stack, two assistants, and

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Drawn by John Dennis from a sketch by D. Tyerman.
Engraved by Fenner, Sears & Co.

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a young girl, as domestic servant. Hitherto the Lord has caused them to dwell in safety in this dark land, amidst savages and cannibals, whose menaces and aggressions have only been used as means to extort property, occasionally, from them; but who usually dwell on fair terms with them, though little inclined to hearken to the good word of God. On our walk in the neighbourhood, we observed, at the door of one of the huts, a man sitting, whose looks betokened late or actual indisposition of a severe kind. On inquiry we found that he was a principal priest, who had been tabued-- given over, in this case, to death--forsaken of his friends, and left to perish; the symptoms of his disease (a pleurisy) being such that the superstitious people fancied the god, or, rather, the devil, within was devouring his heart. The Missionaries hearing of his distress, and guessing the real nature of the complaint, obtained his consent to lay a large blister--a very large one, indeed, it was--upon his chest. In the night afterwards, the agony of the disorder, and the irritation of the remedy, were so intolerable that the poor patient appeared to become insane, and ran, like one crazed, out of his house. The cure, however, followed, and he is now convalescent. He says that, during the crisis of suffering, the bad spirit within was pulling with all its might against the Christian (the blister) spirit without, so that between them he was almost torn to pieces; the Christian, however, proved the strongest, and in plucking off the plaister fairly dragged the bad spirit out of his breast.

For the encouragement of our Methodist brethren here, we related to them, as far as time would allow, what God had been pleased to do for the poor heathen in the South Sea Archipelago, and how even the Sandwich Islanders had received the gospel. We spent the evening, till a late hour, in Christian fellowship, instructive conversation, and prayer.

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July 18. Yesterday we returned to the ship, accompanied by Messrs. White and Hobbs, who kindly staid with us till we sailed out of the bay, early this morning; and thus escaped further anxiety and apprehension, lest the treacherous people should again find a pretence to assault and seize the vessel, which the captain seemed fully persuaded they would attempt.

Aug. 15. After a tedious voyage, we once more saw land--Cape Hawke and the Sugar-loaf Point--about twenty miles distant, and something better than a hundred from Port Jackson.

Aug. 19. We came to anchor at midnight in Sydney Cove, New Holland, having been out seventy-five days from Borabora. This harbour is justly celebrated as one of the best in the world, both for amplitude and safety, it branching off, in various directions (we are told), into nearly a hundred coves.

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