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Historical Records of New Zealand

Chapter Captain Hunter To Secretary Stephens

Chapter Captain Hunter To Secretary Stephens.

Sirius, in Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope, 3rd January, 1789.


His Excellency M. Van de Graave,* Governor of this settlement, having, upon my arrival here, very politely offer’d an immediate conveyance to Europe for any dispatches I might have to forward, I therefore embrace that opportunity of informing my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that, in obedience to an order from his Excellency Arthur Phillip, Esq., Governor of his Majesty’s territory of New South Wales, &c., &c., a copy of which I send enclosed, together with the state and condition of the ship, I sailed from Port Jackson on that coast, in his Majesty’s ship Sirius, under my command, on the 2nd day of October, 1788; but Governor Phillip having declined to direct by what rout I should perform the voyage, I judged that at that season of the year the rout to the eastward, by Cape Horn, promised fairest

* In other despatches the name is given as Von Graaffe

The enclosures are not recorded.

page 75 for an expeditious passage; I therefore steered for the South Cape of New Zealand, which I passed on the 12th, and made the coast of Terra del Fuego on the 26th November. The weather off Cape Horn, altho’ the summer was well advanced, was so exceedingly cold, occasioned by the vast mountains of ice which we daily fell in with, that the ship’s company, who had been upon salt provisions ever since we left the Cape of Good Hope outward bound, and without any kind of vegetable, fell down very fast with the scurvy. I arrived in this bay on the 1st January, 1789, having Scurvy buryed three seamen on the passage.

On the day I sailed from Port Jackson the ship sprung a leak, A leak. which admitted 2 feet 4 inches water in the four hours, but as before my arrival here we had discovered it to be about two or three feet below the wale, starboard side, I hope to be able to have it stoped before I sail on my return to the coast of New South Wales.

I transmit by this opportunity a box containing dispatches from Governor Phillip, directed to Lord Sydney, one of his Majesty’s Principal Secretarys of State. On the 12th of July last four transports* under the command of Lieutenant Shortland sailed from Port Jackson for Europe. They took their route to the northward, and might possibly have called at Batavia. They have not touched here; I therefore imagine they may have passed on to St. Helena and water’d there on their way home.

I think it necessary, in case Governor Phillip’s dispatches by the above transports should not arrive before this may reach the Admiralty, to mention for the information of their Lordships that the harbour of Port Jackson, which is about 4 leagues to the northward of Botany Bay, having been examined and found a safe, extensive, and commodious harbour, the Governor had fixed the seat of Government there, instead of Botany Bay. Its latitude is 33° 50′ and its longitude 151° 25′ Et. of meridian of

* Alexander, Prince of Wales, Friendship, and Borrowdale.

Captain Hunter did not sight the South Cape on this occasion. In his Historical Journal, published in London in 1793, p. 95, when describing this trip, he says:—

“On the 12th, we passed the South Cape of New Zealand, but the weather being very hazy and squally, we did not attempt to make it, but kept a degree and a half to the southward of it; here we met with vast numbers of birds of various kinds, mostly aquatic, such as albatrosses, pentada birds, divers, peterels, and a variety of gulls; some of a kind I had not before seen during the voyage, very large, of a dark brown or mouse colour; and another sort not quite so large, with a white body, dark wings, and the head of a light blue or lead colour. Much seaweed was also seen here in very large patches. We now had the wind fresh from the north-west quarter, with frequent squalls, attended with rain, and the weather cold. We found the variation of the compass 40 leagues south-south-east from the South Cape of New Zealand, to be 16° 54′ east.“. [The Editor.]

page 76 Greenwich. The three transports chartered by the East India Company for China* were discharged, and left Port Jackson on the 6th May last; two of the store-ships remained when I sailed, and would be ready to sail for Europe about three weeks after my departure.

As no part of the service on which I came to this place is yet in any forwardness I cannot give their Lordships any information upon it, but will leave an account of my proceedings to be forwarded from hence after my departure, if no opportunity should offer before I sail.

I am, &c.,

Jno. Hunter.

* Scarborough, Charlotte, and Lady Penrhyn.

Hunter was sent to the Cape for supplies.