The following is from the ship’s journal of HMS Chatham at the time of the discovery of the Chatham Islands (Rēkohu) by Lieutenant William Broughton. It was sourced from enzb.auckland.ac.nz and is held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
JOURNAL OF THE “CHATHAM.”
EXTRACT FROM A M.S. JOURNAL KEPT ON BOARD THE ARMED TENDER “CHATHAM” DURING CAPTAIN VANCOUVER’S VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD, 1791-94. (Extract, 2nd to 29th November, 1791.)
[In the Library of A. H. Turnbull, Esq., Wellington, New Zealand.]
The 18th–being away with a sporting party to Ear Shell Cove–on our return with six brace of Birds we saw the Discovery working out of Anchor Island Harbour into Tempest Roads, where she anchor’d in her old birth, waiting for a wind, and likewise for us to go to sea, and a boat from her came on board shortly after us to inform Mr. Broughton of her situation, and with orders to join him if possible the next day, but if this cou’d not be done, and a fair wind in the meantime offer he shou’d sail without us, appointing Matavai Bay, Otaheite, the Rendezvous. We immediately began removing our things from the shore, and the next day, the 19th, being ready for Sea, we left Facile Harbour and work’d up towards Tempest Roads, but seeing the Discovery pitching there very heavy, we gave her an opportunity of seeing where we were, and came to an Anchor under Parrot Island, being there as ready to imbrace a fair wind and get to Sea as if we lay in Tempest Roads. In the Evening I went on shore with a Gentleman, and in the space of two hours shot eleven Brace of Parrots, Wood Hens, and Curlews. The way we managed with the Parrots was by at first endeavouring only to wound one, whose noise soon brought numbers to the spot. Had we had more ammunition we might have shot a hundred Parrots in a very little time. The 20th, the wind having freshen’d and a good deal of swell rolling into Tempest Roads, the Discovery came into the place we were lying in, and anchor’d close to us. We were detain’d by a foul wind till Tuesday the 22nd, when having a fresh Breeze at N.N.W. we weigh’d per Sig’l, and in a little time got clear of the Bay.
Left Facile Harbour.
Dusky Bay, in New Zealand, lies in the Latde. 45. 47 S. and the Longde. 166. 16 E. New Zealand was first discover’d by the Dutch Navigator Tasman in 1642, and has not since been visited by any one we know of except Captn. Cook, who touch’d at it in all his three Voyages. In his 2nd voyage he was in Dusky Bay a considerable time, and survey’d it accurately. It abounds in Harbours and Snug Coves, shelter’d from all winds, and the greatest inconvenience in many of them is the great depth of water, 20, 30,
and 40 fatms. being found close to shore. There are, however, numbers of Harbours that are free from this inconvenience, and those the Discovery and Chatham lay in had a moderate depth of water, and were extremely convenient for all we had to do. The water in Facile Harbor came from a beautiful Cascade, and so convenient that the Casks were not moved out of the boat. Whilst we stai’d we visited Pickergill’s Harbour, where Captn. Cook lay, and though 18 years had elapsed since that time, yet we easily found out the place where he carried on his operations ashore by the remains of Trees cut and saw’d down and the ground that was clear’d away. 15 The very Tree that he mentions they walk’d from the Ship to the Shore by was yet remaining. We saw no Inhabitants while we lay here, and the appearance of all the Huts discover’d led us to imagine that it was a considerable time since they were inhabited. Marks of Fires were likewise seen, and large quantities of Shells near them, from which it may also be supposed that Shell fish is a great part of their subsistence. When Captain Cook was here he only saw three families of Indians, and they seem’d to be stragglers.
The land about the Bay is very hilly, rising directly from the Water’s edge, and completely cover’d with Wood, but further Inland we cou’d see very high Mountains, in some places bare and craggy and cover’d at the Tops with snow. The soil as much as we could see of it appear’d for the most part to be composed of decay’d rotten Trees, and you cannot proceed ten Yards without being up to your Knee in the trunk of an old Tree. This happens from the thickness of the Woods and the heavy rains washing them down they can get down no further than the place they fell at; this, with the underwood which grows amazingly thick and compos’d chiefly of the Supple Jack, prevents any pleasure you might propose in walking on shore. Many of the Trees are large enough for Masts of Ships, and the grain of the Spruce Tree is very close and durable. The Tea plant we found in plenty and mix’d with the Spruce in Brewing. As to useful vegetables, we found none, nor did we see any tree or plant that produced a Berry. Very few pretty flowers were seen growing, but the Botanist was enrich’d most abundantly with Mosses of different kinds.
We saw some stones and pieces of Rock that had a Mineral appearance, and it is not improbable that some valuable mines might on strict examination be found on this Coast.
We saw no animals here, nor the slightest marks of any, tho’ Captn. Cook says there are animals here, and that one of his people saw one, but a Sailor when he goes ashore at a strange place is sure to see more than anyone else can. One of our Carpenters said he saw a Bear at the Wooding place, but on being question’d what it was like said it was White, like a Greenland Bear, which is so very improbable that he found few that wou’d credit his story. Birds of all kinds we found in abundance. The whole time we were in the Harbour we lived on them, and Fish. The best kinds were Ducks, Curlews, a bird very much resembling a Wood Cock, and Sea Pies. Shags, Wood Hens, and Parrots were in great abundance, and the two last were tolerable eating. The Wood Hen very much resembles the Common Barn Door Fowl in England, except in the Beack, which was longer, and the Feet in general were Red. They cou’d not fly. As to Parrots, had they been in great estimation enough might have been procur’d every day for the Ships Companies. Of the smaller kinds of birds there were great variety; many of them were very beautiful in their plumage, and their notes extremely melodious. The principal of these is the Poe Bird, as call’d by Cook. This bird is both beautiful in its plumage and harmonious in its song, which differs very much in the morning and evening, at the latter time greatly resembling the notes of a peal of Bells. Captn. Cook left 5 Geese at a place call’d Goose Cove, but tho’ we often visited this place, nothing was seen of them or their progeny. Fish, as I have before mention’d, was in very great plenty, and excellent in their kind. The best are the Cole Fish and Skip Jack. Many of the former weigh’d 10 to 15 lbs., and were equal in firmness and flavour to Codd. We never caught any Flat Fish, and the only Shell Fish besides small Mussells and Limpets were Cray fish.
We saw nothing of the reptile kind, nor in short did we see any living thing on shore except Birds and a small sand fly, but this annoy’d us more than perhaps fifty animals wou’d, for no sooner did we set our feet on shore than we were covered with these flys, and their sting is as painful as that of a Musquitto, and made us scratch as if he had got the itch; indeed, one of my legs became so much swell’d by this means that I was forced to apply a poultice to it, and was lame for two or three days.
Passage from Dusky Bay to Otaheite; Strange Land discovered on the Passage, part Company with the Discovery in a Gale of Wind.
Tuesday, 22nd Nov: With a fine fresh Breeze at NNW we shap’d our course S, and scarce had we got clear of the Bay but the wind began to freshen with a heavy swell and every indication of an approaching Storm. At 6 o’clock we took in the Top Gallant Sails and double reef’d the Topsails. Cape West bearing E 4 N, 5 Leagues. By 10 o’clock it blew so very hard as to bring us under close reef’d Topsails. At 11 the Discovery bore S b E of us a few miles, but at 12 she was not in sight, nor did we afterwards see her the remainder of the passage to Otaheite. By this time it had increased, as was prognosticated, to a very heavy Gale, and the sea ran so very high that we handed our Topsails and scudded under the Foresail during the night, and the morning brought with it such an encrease of both Wind & Sea as was dreadful to behold. Nothing like it I, nor many others on board ever witness’d. At about 6 o’clock an amazing sea struck us in the stern and dash’s the Jolly Boat to shivers, wash’d forward the two men at the Helm, the Booby Hatch, and in short every thing that came before it. The Sea having by 9 o’clock encreas’d to such a tremendous height as to render scudding any longer extremely dangerous we hove too under a single reef’d Trysail & Storm Fore Staysail. About Noon, the Wind & Sea having both abated a little, we bore away under the Foresail & close reef’d Mn. Topsail. At 2 we were surprized to see Land bearing S.S.E. about 5 Leagues distant, on which we immediately haul’d up in order to weather it. As we approach’d this Land we found it to be a cluster of Barren Rocks, which cou’d not be inhabit’d by anything except Sea Fowl of all kinds of which we saw astonishing quantities. About 1/2 past 5, observing a passage between them, we steer’d for it, and found it a very safe passage. A small Black rock about a third channel being in one with the Rocks on the starboard side bore S.W. and the centre of the Rocks on the Larboard hand N. E. We sounded close to them, but got no bottom with 80 fathoms of line.
These Rocks be in the Lat. 48.3 S. and the Longitude 166.20 E. As they were never seen by Captn. Cook or any other person we know of, we conceived ourselves to be the first discoverers of them, 16 and should this passage be ever frequent’d by Ships they may be deem’d a happy Discovery. Had we been so unfortunate as to have got among them the preceding night the consequences might have been fatal, as the night was extremely dark, and it blew so very hard that it was with difficulty we could bear Scudding, much less to have been able to haul upon a wind to weather them, had we even been fortunate enough to have seen them at any distance.
The next morning, the 24th, the wind having become more moderate, and the sea gone down a good deal, we got up our Top Gallt. Masts and Yards & made all sail with a fresh Breeze at West, altering our course to the Northwd., steering ENE and afterwards NE. In the late Gale we labour’d much and shipp’d an immense quantity of Water. There was scarce a man that had a dry Bed to sleep in or a dry Jacket to put on, even the Captain & the Officer’s Cabbins were half full of Water. The opportunity of drying their Bedding, Cloathing &c, was not neglected this fine day, and the ‘tween Decks were well wash’d & purified.
The Wind continued fresh from the N.W., with which we steer’d N. E. till the night of the 26th, when it suddenly shifted to S.W. and blew extremely hard in Squalls which obliged us to clew up everything except the Foresail, under which we went for the greatest part of the night. We had a very heavy Sea. Towards the morning the wind moderated, and we set the Top Sails close-reef’d. The squalls were still heavy, accompanied with rain. It is an old saying of seamen that a S.W. Gale comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb and a N. E. Gale vice versa, and by the evening it was quite moderate. The wind returnd from the N.W. quarter, and we made all sail, still steering N. E. Our Latitude the 27th was 45.54 S. and Longe. 177 E. The Breeze continued in its favourable quarter with fair pleasant weather, and we saw a great number of Birds, and pass’d some patches of Rock Weed.
The morning of the 29th, about 2 o’clock, we were exceedingly surprized at the man who was looking out forward calling out “Land ahead.” Upon looking we perceived we were close aboard of it, bearing from E. N. E. to N. E. We immediately haul’d our wind. At 3 we sounded in 40 fams. and hove too till daylight. At 4 the Land bore from S.S.E. to E. N. E., and then appear’d of considerable extent. We now bore up and made sail, steering E b N, and between 7 & 8 rounded the Northern point of it, and being about a mile from the shore, had soundings in 14 fathoms. From this point the Land took an E b N direction. The Land was low in general, but some Hills gradually rose up to a very moderate height, whose sides were beautifully cloathed with Wood up to the Tops, and the verdure on the rising grounds was exceedingly gratifying to the view. We ran along the shore about 14 miles, but observed nothing like a Bay or Harbour. The depth of water was moderate & gradual, and the ground good for Anchorage, being fine sand & shells. We saw smokes in several parts, particularly on the high land, but did not see any Inhabitants till we had run a good way, when a few Indians were observed running along the Beach, who were join’d by more as we proceeded. About 11 we haul’d our wind, and fetching up under the Lee of a point of Land, we anchor’d in 20 fatms. Water at Noon. The East point of this Bay, which afterwards got the name of Skirmish Bay, bore S.E. about a mile, & the N. E. point of the Island which form’d the extreme N. 83E about a League distant. The Cutter was immediately hoisted out and arm’d, and Mr. Broughton, attended by Mr. Johnstone and Mr. Sheriff, one of the Mates, went to Shore. They did not return on board till 5 in the afternoon, when Mr. Johnstone was so obliging as to favour me with the following account of their transactions.
Upon leaving the ship “We pulled in for the Bay where we had first seen the Natives, who still kept attentively observing us from the east point of it. At each extremity of this Bay the rocks project a little out, within which we found smooth water amongst a good deal of Sea Weed. As we saw no Natives on the West extremity we made choice of this place for our first landing, expecting to be able to make some observations on the productions before either the Hostile disposition or teasing curiosity of the Inhabitabts might prevent us. Here we found two canoes, if they may be allow’d that name, for so little did they resemble anything we knew of that kind that had they been found Inland instead of on the Sea Beach I believe we should have thought of various other uses before we had hit on the one for which they were really intended. In shape they were not unlike the body of a common Wheelbarrow, their sides were made of small sticks lash’d tightly with withs upon one another about 8 or 9 feet long. The widest end about 3 feet, the other about 2, and narrowing downwards, left a flat bottom better than a foot broad. Their depth, was nearly two feet, and compactly filled with sea weed almost to the top. The Paddles were a rough piece of wood rudely made into a flat form without the least neatness. The whole of their construction made it pretty evident that they could never be employ’d upon any distant embarkation, but were most probably used merely in the Bays and amongst the Rocks for fishing. So far, indeed, they appear’d sufficient, nor did the situation of their owners seem to demand anything better, for the clearness and levelness of the Island afforded an easy intercourse without requiring the assistance of water conveyance. We saw some fishing Nets that were made of small two strand line evenly twisted and others that were made from the simple Fibres of the Plant, apparently without any other preparation than being made even, after being stripp’d off. Two of those were Scoop Nets, the others were made somewhat in the shape of a Bell, the width of the mouth about 6 feet in diameter, kept open by a large rim or Hoop made of the Supple Jack, the length from 8 to 10 feet, tapering gradually to the small end, which was not wider than a foot and close netted. The Hoop at the wide end had stones fix’d to it as Sinks, and from the centre attach’d to the rim by Legs was a line for hauling it up by in fishing. The Trees we saw were but of small size, straight and free from Branches till near the tops, where they spread forth in great profusion, and whose foliage afforded a pleasant shade to the ground below, which was so free from all kinds of Bush or Underwood as might have led one to imagine that it had been clear’d by Art; this with the Trees growing so far apart render’d travelling amongst them not only easy but pleasant.
“The Natives who had quitted their station as soon as they saw us land now advanced hastily, and by their threats and gestures plainly indicated their Hostile intentions, but rather than oppose their tumult we thought best to retire to the Boat, where more in safety we might endeavour to engage their friendship. With the oars we kept her just afloat. They, without making the least stop, rush’d hastily on, some of them up to their knees in water, brandishing their Spears & Clubs with much vociferation. They were only about 40 in number, which gave reason to conjecture that they were totally ignorant of the effect of our Fire-Arms, and only reckon’d strength on the superiority of numbers. For some little time we had us’d everything we cou’d think of to conciliate their friendship but without effect. At last their violence somewhat abated, and they received some presents which we conveyed to them on the ends of their Spears which they held out for the purpose, for we did not yet chuse to trust the Boat within their depth. They now became to all appearances perfectly reconcil’d, and received ev’rything which we offer’d with avidity, but amongst the Articles, which were pieces of Red Cloth, Helmets, Beads, & Nails, we could not observe that they gave the preference to any one more than another, and though they wou’d not consent to make us the least return, yet they made no scruple, not only in receiving, but in snatching away ev’rything they cou’d reach at, and it was sometimes not without a little struggle that we could hold them fast. We had often applied by signs for something to eat & drink, with a wish to discover what their food consisted of, but we were not so fortunate as to succeed. They only answer’d by pointing to the Woods and to the opposite point of the Bay from whence we at that time concluded that their habitations were there. Mr. Sheriff stepp’d on shore to see if he could observe any of their Huts, but as their behaviour was not altogether to his liking he soon return’d, tho’ they had forcibly detain’d him longer than he wish’d. But I do not think that this was done with any other intention than for a longer opportunity of gratifying their curiosity. As we saw clearly we could have no satisfaction in landing where we were we pull’d down to ye opposite point in the hopes of finding less obstruction, but on our arrival we found that tho’ we had changed our situation we had by no means changed our company, for our new friends having kept away with our first motion and follow’d us along the Beach as we row’d down, arrived at the same time. Here we saw on the Beach the same kind of Canoes & Nets as we had observed before, but no appearance of any Huts.
“The disorderly behaviour of the Natives having deterr’d us from landing at the place we quitted, we had no reason to expect that it wou’d prove better now, so without entering into any further parley we quitted them, intending to row on board, and pull’d up towards the weather point of the Bay, which they observed with out shewing the least symptoms of either satisfaction or displeasure, remaining still on the Beach where they had first sat down. Finding this to be the case we thought it a favourable opportunity for changing our intention of going straight on board and landing again at our first situation, which we did, and whilst we were free from molestation examined the skirts of the Wood, where we found no other signs of Habitations than a small circle of clear ground, sometimes fenced in by a simple palisade. In the centre of this circle was the mark of a fire place, and a great number of Fish Shells lay about, particularly the Earshell. This had no other covering than the growing branches of the Trees.
“We nailed to one of them a piece of Lead written with the name of the Vessel and the date of our arrival. We also buried a Bottle with a paper enclosed written–Navis Britann. Majest. Chatham, Gulielm, Robertis Broughton, Princeps– 29th of November 1791. It was now call’d Chatham Island, the Union Jack was hoisted, and taken possession of in the name of the King. By the time we had made an end of these ceremonies a few of the Natives had straggled towards us, and more were inclining the same way, but they all approach’d with cautious indifference. That they might place the more confidence in our friendship our people stay’d behind whilst we advanced to meet them. At first they were rather shy, retiring back, but at last halted till I came up, and received me by saluting noses, the same as at the Sandwich Islands. Having made them some presents of Nails they were soon perfectly easy, and were join’d by more, some of our people coming in at the same time. Most of them were covered with Matts or Seal Skins hung loosely over the Shoulders, which reach’d down to about the Hip. They had no other covering except their privates which was done in the form of the Marro of the Sandwich Islands, with a small Mat neatly wrought.
“We saw no perforation either in their Ears, Nose, or any other part of the Body, nor any ornament except some few who had a small piece of Bone hung round their neck with several parts of small twisted Hair. They were of a middle stature, with straight Black Hair, which some wore tied in a Bunch on the top of their Head, whilst others suffer’d it to hang down loose in its natural order about long enough just to reach the shoulders. Amongst them were several Boys, but we did not see one of the Female Sex.
“Though they took whatever we offer’d, yet so little did they esteem them that we could not draw from them any thing in exchange. One spear with a small piece of Rope, wrought in fashion of French Sinnet, was all that we could procure. They would at first shew an appearance of making a return till they got in their hands what was offer’d–then would run off well pleas’d. The Spear we got was about 6 feet long, so thick that a man could easily grasp in the middle, tapering to a sharp point at both ends. But both their Spears and Clubs were subject to great variety. Some of the Spears were very long, and pointed only at one end, without much neatness. Their Clubs were rough pieces of Wood, some as picked up from the Beach, other as they had been broke from the Tree, and a very few had two stones lashed on at one end, which gave them the appearance of a double-headed maul. With the intention of giving them some idea of the effect of our Muskets, Captn. Broughton fir’d at some Birds; the first discharge gave them a good deal of alarm, though it appear’d to have been the report that produced it more than any thing else, for after the repetition they observed it with very little emotion, but often repeated the word ‘Tohaua.’ Whether this was the name they called it by, or what else, I could not well determine.
“We had now spent an hour in friendly intercourse, and nothing had transpired to give us reason to suspect a change of it. Their number from what it was at first had also greatly diminished, which we look’d upon as a further security for their good behaviour. Considering these instances as favourable for visiting the East. point of the Bay, which different appearances had before prevented us from, as also to examine a piece of Water which we had observed to lay within the Beach about the Centre of the Bay, Mr. Sheriff was directed with three of the people to pull down along the shore whilst with the other three I accompanied Captn. Broughton. We had proceeded but a little way when we first observed the Natives forming rather hastily in a Bay by the edge of the Wood abreast of us. I stept towards them to see if I could discover the cause of the bustle. On my approach they hastened quickly within the verge of the Wood, and quickly return’d arm’d with Clubs, preceded by one carrying a Blaze of dry Brush with which he presently made a great smoke by communicating this fire to more wood of the same kind.
“Their intentions were now no longer a mystery, for they advanced brandishing their Clubs in the most threatening attitudes. On this we thought proper to stop for the Boat which had got aground where we left her, but she soon came up, and having her to pull abreast of us, we went on keeping close by the water’s edge, whilst the Natives, though only 14 in number, follow’d us with the most menacing gestures, and often came so near as to oblige us to face about to check their coming within reach. When we came abreast of the Water, which we wish’d to examine, we struck up the Beach, and on tasting found it to be exceeding Brackish, having a brown Marshy colour. Its surface was very nearly as high as the brink of the beach, which was about 8 or ten feet above the level of the Sea. It was foun’d between two ridges of the land that was pretty high, and broke down rather steeply at this place, and lay towards the S.W. but in a winding direction, which prevented us from seeing its extent beyond a quarter of a mile. The Natives who had stopped when we did no sooner saw us returning towards the sea side than they push’d on, more violently than they had done before, particularly a Youth who was the most forward & who appear’d to encourage the others, whilst he kept swinging his Club over his head and committing various gestures. It was now but too evident that they meant to make the attack, therefore the Boat was call’d to, and Mr. Sheriff desir’d to let go the grapnell and back in with the Oars while we, in hopes of intimidating them, kept our Muskets pointed towards them and retreated backwards to prevent their getting between us and the Boat. They still resolutely press’d on. Captn. Broughton who had his piece loaded with small shot fir’d at one of the most forward but it did not in the least daunt their advance. Having now reach’d the Water we were obliged to make a stand when they clos’d in. The first blow that was made at me I received on the Musket but with such force that it broke down its level. My opponent’s Club, from its size being rather unwieldly, fell to the ground at the same time, and gave me time to recover.
“There was no alternative; I was compell’d to fire. A little before and about the same time two of the people also fired. They were in a like situation, so I found after, for at the moment I was too much occupied with those that directly opposed me to be able to pay attention to any other object. The whole of them upon this discharge and a Musket that was fired from the Boat immediately fled. At first we felt the most pleasing satisfaction not only in finding that we had secur’d our own lives, but that in doing it we had not injur’d theirs. This pleasing contemplation was but of short duration, for before they reach’d the Woods one of them fell on the Beach. In hopes that some relief might be given to his wounds that were probably not mortal, with two of the people I went up for that end, but to my utter grief found him dead. The others had made a stand by the skirts of the Wood, setting forth loud cries. As we could not be of any service to the dead man we immediately quitted the spot, which we had no sooner done than one of them came up to the corpse, but we did not see what they did afterwards, & as we were anxious not to give them any uneasiness by halting to observe, proceeded directly to the point, where the Boat was desi’d to go also, for she could not take us in where we were owing to a reef of Rocks that lay alongshore, and on which her Stern had struck after letting go the Grapnell. But at the time when this circumstance rendered our situation more critical we were ignorant of it. When we arrived we found no other kind of resistance at this point but what we had observ’d at the other. We saw none of the Natives, though we were satisfied they were at no great distance by their cries, which we sometimes heard in the Woods. Here, as at our first Landing, the Boats came easily to the shore amongst a good deal of Sea Weed. After leaving what Trinkets we had remaining in the different Canoes we quitted the Shore and went on board. After we had gone we saw one man come to the Canoes, the only one we had seen since we had left them after the Skirmish.” 17
Chatham Island lies in 43° 49′ So. Latitude and 182° 55′ Et. Longitude. Variation of the Compass, 15° Etly.
16 Here, however, we were mistaken, for on joining the Discovery at Otaheite we learned that they had seen them on the same day as we did. but early in the morning. Captn. Vancouver therefore nam’d them. He call’d them “The Snares,” and the above Late, and Longe. I have taken from him.[The above note is in the original journal. Broughton first called the island “Knight’s Island,” after Captain Knight, of the Navy. –The Editor.]