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Castaway on the Auckland Isles

Chapter X. — the voyage to auckland island in the 'flying scud.'

page 100

Chapter X.
the voyage to auckland island in the 'flying scud.'

Sunday, July 30.—At the peep of day we weighed anchor and proceeded down, and although the bar was breaking, Captain Cross perseveringly attempted and succeeded in crossing it without any further accident than the loss of one of the sweeps, along with which, however, Captain Cross had a very narrow escape from going over-board; the wind was so light, though fair (north), that it required the sweeps to keep her in the channel. A very light northerly air carried us across the Straits, and we got under the land of Stewart Island at dark. The wind then came from N.W., and gradually increased, hauling to the westward, giving us a speedy run down along the land, and at 11 p.m. we were off Port Adventure, where Captain Cross had occasion to call; but as the wind was now W.S.W., we should have been obliged to take shelter in any case, as it is useless to go out and buffet against foul winds when it can be avoided. At midnight we anchored in a cove at the neck of the peninsula which forms the southern entrance point of the Port, and where the 'Flying Scud' was anchored on my first arrival, just a week ago.

Monday, July 31.—Brisk gale at W.S.W. and cloudy squally weather, with occasional showers. People on board variously employed. I have been very unwell today; indeed, I fear that I am going to be attacked with some serious illness.

Tuesday, August 1, 1865.—Strong gale at S.W., with squalls and frequent showers of hail and rain. It is very page 101cold, although the thermometer is not lower than 37°. The people on board have all been variously employed. Captain Cross sent a man to pull me round the Port, as I wished to look at the different anchorages. In a small but snug cove on the south side of the bay, which is called Oyster Cove, we found a party consisting of an Englishman, a half-caste Maori, and two Maori women, who (with five ragged and somewhat ferocious looking dogs) were dwelling in a cave in the rocks, their business there being that of dredging for oysters, which they dispose of in the Invercargill market. They presented me with four or five dozen, which I must pronounce the finest I have met with in the Southern Hemisphere.

I was very much gratified with our pull round Port Adventure. I carefully inspected the timber, which is abundant and of considerable variety; but saw only one tree which at all resembles that on Auckland Islands. It is that of the hard-wood, and is here very appropriately called iron wood; but it grows much straighter and larger than that of the Auckland Islands. Amongst the herbage I saw nothing resembling in any way that of the Auckland Isles, excepting some of the tufty grass; and amongst the feathered tribes I only saw one little chirruper such as we had down there—this is the robin; neither have I seen any of the boggy earth such as is down there, and the rocky formations which I saw are quite dissimilar. On returning to the vessel in the evening I found the crew as busily employed as I had left them, in putting everything in order for a sea voyage, which I believe the vessel has not yet been called upon to perform. She is nearly new, and has been wholly employed in the coasting trade.

Wednesday, August 2.—Heavy S.W. gale, with bitter squalls and showers of hail. It is very fortunate that we are in a good harbour during this heavy weather and head winds; the little vessel would have got a severe thrashing had she been out in it, as it would be right in our teeth. Everything on board is snugly arranged, and she is now page 102properly ready for the prosecution of her undertaking. However, there are at present no indications of a change. I am particularly anxious to be off, but must only endeavour to wait as patiently as I can till the favourable opportunity offers. I am quite well again; so much so that I had quite forgotten my late indisposition.

Thursday, August 3, 1865.—The gale still continues, but the showers have subsided, and the weather is finer. I have been wandering about the woods to-day, and have been to where I could see the sea, which is very rough. I find an herb growing here which grows plentifully at the Auckland Islands, and which the Maoris on a pinch substitute for tea. I have tried it, but it makes such miserable insipid stuff that had I been aware that it could be converted to this purpose I should decidedly have preferred the pure water, which was our beverage.

Captain Cross entertains me at his house, which is superior to those at the village, and at some distance from it, standing quite alone on the top of a hill. I find that he holds himself very much in reserve from the rest of the villagers, who appear to look towards him with considerable respect. He has a very interesting family of three children. His wife is a half-caste Maori, and it is curious to hear them conversing together. He speaks English, and she speaks Maori, as it appears that neither can speak the language of the other, although they both understand that of the other perfectly well; consequently I can hold no conversation with Mrs. Cross. If I pass any slight remark, she will only smile without attempting to make any response, and to a question will simply answer yes or no. The children speak both languages, but always converse in Maori. I was highly amused to-day; we had a visit from the magistrate of the village, who is an aged Maori. This distinguished personage would not presume to sit at table with us at dinner, but persisted, out of deference to us, in waiting until we had done; neither does Mrs. Cross sit at table with us, which I consider very page 103strange; but Cross informs me that he cannot prevail on her to sit at table, excepting when he is entirely alone. She is a very young woman, and as light in colour as a European; the Maoris, indeed, are very light coloured down here.

Friday, August 4, 1865.—The wind is still from the southward, but appears to be moderating; it is yet blowing a brisk gale, and is again very showery. I went to look at the sea to-day, which is still running very high. There is not the slightest indication of a change, farther than a rising barometer; but I fear it will not come before the full of the moon, which takes place on the 6th.

Saturday, August 5.—There is no change in the direction of the wind, but its force is considerably abated, though it is still very squally, with occasional showers. To-day I visited the last resting-place of the oldest and first inhabitants of this island. The village burying-ground is on a lonely point jutting out into the bay, and thickly covered with trees and thick scrub, and is at a considerable distance from any of the dwellings, which is very wise and proper; but it is done from superstitious notions. They are very much afraid of the ghosts of their departed brethren paying them a visit. They are exceedingly superstitious. I was aware of this fact before, but I had not the slightest idea of its extent. I think to-morrow and the full moon will bring us a favourable change; the barometer is above 30 inches.

Sunday, August 6. — The morning was calm and the weather clear; every appearance of a northerly wind. At 2 p.m. we made a start with the first breath of a northerly wind, which, as we cleared the Port, seemed inclined to increase and haul to the eastward; but at 4 p.m. it again backed to N.W., and at 7 o'clock was at S.W., very light, and the weather continued clear and fine. It is now midnight; the appearance of the weather has changed; it is dark and gloomy, the clouds are coming up from the southward, and I fear much that we shall have the wind from page 104that quarter. However, the barometer keeps high; perhaps it may continue light. We are now between Port Adventure and Port Pegasus, beating down along the land; and should the wind continue from this quarter, we shall take shelter in the latter Port.

Monday, August 7.—At 4 a.m. the breeze freshened; the weather was dark and gloomy, but the wind seemed inclined to back to the westward, which induced us to proceed on, and not go into Port Pegasus; and as we approached the South Cape it went to N.W., which is for us a fair wind. At 8 a.m. we were about 14 miles south of the said Cape. It is now noon, the weather is thick and foggy, the breeze is strong, and the sea is running high, and the little vessel is dancing about like a cork. I am obliged to get myself chocked up in a corner to write, as it is impossible to sit, or stand, or even lie, without holding on, or being well chocked off. 9 p.m.—In the afternoon the weather bore a very threatening aspect, and the wind increased and hauled to the southward.

At 4 p.m. it was at S.W. (which is dead ahead), and blowing hard, and a very high and ugly sea running; and as to beat against it is a task for which the little craft is not calculated, we bore up again for Port Pegasus. She is now running at the height of her speed, which is about 10 knots, and in another hour I expect to make the land. We were within 10 miles of the Snares Islands, but the weather is very thick, and we did not see them. It is the most prudent plan to run back, as we were no great distance away, and by lying-to we should only have lost ground.

Tuesday, August 8.—As we proceeded to the northward again, the wind moderated and the weather cleared a little. It is now 3 a.m. We have just hove the cutter to, and will wait for daylight, as we have not yet made the land, although we have run 20 miles farther than where we should have found it. I feel very uneasy about it, as all on board do. We have only one compass on board, which I have page 105every reason to believe is out of order and is leading us astray, and where we are, or which side of the channel we are on, it will be impossible to ascertain until I can get sights in the morning. Unless we see the land at daylight, this is one of the most awkward positions that ever I remember being placed in. It is quite likely that we are in the vicinity of those ugly dangers, the Traps Reefs; and if the sea is running high and breaking all over, it will be impossible to see them before we should be on the top of them. We are now under double-reefed sails: the little vessel appears to lie-to very well. 9 a.m.—When daylight came nothing was in sight, so we continued to lie-to until 8 a.m., as the weather was thick and hazy. At 8 we stood to the N.N.W.; wind west. I have just had sights, but they are very indifferent, for the vessel is tossing about and throwing so much water over, and the sea is so rough, that it is impossible to get good ones. However, I find by using an assumed latitude that she is to the eastward of the island, but how far it is difficult to judge, as a few miles in latitude make a great difference; but she is no doubt between 60 and 70 miles from the South Cape. We are now lying-to again, as I consider it prudent to do so until noon, when I can get the true latitude.

We are all very miserable, everything wet, and we can get nothing cooked; for the man whom Captain Cross engaged, who was to have done the cooking, is a sea-sick, lazy, good-for-nothing fellow, and can't or won't do it; and Cross and the other men have to be almost constantly on deck. She is very wet and uneasy, and all this is bad enough, and we all wish the cruise well ended; but still it is pleasure compared with what I suffered on coming up in the boat, and I think now that these sufferings should have deterred me from undertaking the trip again in so small a vessel, if at all. 1 p.m.—I got the sun at noon, and find that the vessel is about 60 miles S.S.E. from the East Cape of Stewart Island, which is the nearest land. The compass must have led us nearly three points out of our page 106course. This was yesterday, no doubt, when we were steering S.W. by S. At noon, when the vessel was heading to the northward, the compass was right, or nearly so, as no doubt it will be while she is heading so near the north point. A pretty pickle poor Cross would have been in had he had neither navigator nor chronometer on board, which Captain Gray, the harbour-master of Invercargill, proposed, saying that 'he could go down there very well without a chronometer,' and undertook to explain to me how it was to be done; which was simply in the manner that some stupid Yankees, who don't know big A from a chest of drawers, take their vessels to the West Indies, viz., running down their latitude and steering west. He seemed to think he was doing a stroke by explaining this mode of navigation, but, as matters have turned out, it would not have answered in this instance.

It is very fortunate that we turned back yesterday, otherwise we might have got far to leeward of our destination before the error had been detected. It now threatens to blow a very hard gale (we are now under reefs), and whether we shall be able to get in anywhere to the northward of Otago I don't know, but we must get into the first port and get another compass, and find out how this one is disturbed, or get the deviation. It is now midnight; we are getting into smooth water; at 4·30 p.m. we made the land, East Cape of Stewart Island bearing W.N.W. about 25 miles distant. We are now beating up for it under double reefs, and intend going into Port Adventure again, where Captain Cross thinks he can procure another compass. The one I had in the boat has been destroyed by salt water. The weather looks very threatening. I fear it is going to blow very hard from S.W. I hope we shall be able to get in.

Wednesday, August 9.—It has been blowing a very heavy gale from S.S.W. since 2 o'clock this morning, which is now accompanied with frequent heavy showers of rain. At 5 a.m. we had the good fortune to get an anchor page 107in Port Adventure, in the same place we left on Sunday. We find that there is not a compass to be got here; the only place where we are likely to get one on the island is at Paterson's Inlet, about 12 miles from here. Captain Cross appears confident of getting one there. If we cannot we shall be obliged to return to Invercargill, and get one there. As soon as ever the wind moderates we shall leave here. This trip is becoming so protracted that I am thoroughly sick of it, and am getting quite downhearted about it; indeed, the question arises in my mind, am I doing an injustice to my family by prosecuting it?

Thursday, August 10.—It is still blowing a heavy gale from S.S.W., and it would have been madness to have thought of going out to-day. The sea is very heavy outside, and a very great swell is rolling on the beaches in the harbour; and, what is worse, there is not the slightest indication of a change. The glass keeps high—much higher than ever I saw it during several gales while I was at the Auckland Islands. We had the honour of a visit again to-day from the magistrate whom I have mentioned before, and his daughter. They were followed by a numerous train—viz., three dogs, one cat, an innumerable lot of poultry, and a pig. This happy family no doubt were the escort of the lady, as they did not accompany his honour on his previous visit. But when Captain Cross saw this motley train coming into his garden he seized a stick and laid about them lustily, and such a discord and confusion I never witnessed. The cackling fowls took the air; the dogs, howling, took the fence; and the pig, screaming, ran in all directions, looking for a place to get through it; whilst the cat vanished like a shadow—which direction she took I can't say. At all this the old magistrate laughed heartily, but the young lady did not appear to be so well pleased, for a frown disturbed her beautiful face—and such a frown! Her broad page 108thick lips, which seemed to have a natural antipathy to each other, rose and fell—one touching the end of her nose and the other covering her chin; her eyebrows fell, and the hair on her low forehead gave chase, and almost overtook them; whilst her nostrils distended so that her flat nose almost covered the diameter of her interesting face: but she did not condescend to say a word.

Friday, August 11.—10 p.m.—It continues to blow a very heavy gale; it has been from S.W. since noon, and it is now raining heavily, with thunder and lightning. There is no possibility of moving in such weather as this, and when it will end there is no telling—the Maoris here say that it will continue throughout this moon. I wish there was any means of getting letters across to Invercargill; but it appears that the 'Flying Scud,' on our return, will be the first vessel to go across.

Saturday, August 12.— First thing this morning we started for Paterson's Inlet, and anchored at the neck of the Peninsula at 2 p.m. We left Port Adventure with a S.W. wind blowing hard and squally; on reaching the East Cape the wind was W.N.W., and before we reached the Inlet it was at N.W., squally and showery. We were under double-reefed courses, and found some difficulty in beating up. A Mr. Lowrie furnished us with a compass, which was the object of our visit, and while there I had the honour of being introduced to Toby, the Maori chief of Ruapuke and Stewart Islands. This distinguished individual was over on a visit, as Ruapuke Island is his place of residence; he very kindly offered us the use of the compass belonging to his boat, and, as it appeared to be a better one than either of the two we had, I accepted it. Toby is by far the most intelligent-looking Maori I have yet seen; he is, I should judge, about forty years of age, and is what may be termed a good-looking man. He informs me that he had a party sealing on the Snares Islands, and that there is a snug cove on the eastern side page 109of the large island, where a boat or small vessel may lie in perfect safety from all winds. I have not heard of any such place before.

When these islands were surveyed by Drury, in H.M.S. 'Pandora,' they did not attempt a landing, but presumed that one might be effected on the north side of the large island under very favourable circumstances. If Toby's information be correct, this might prove a place of refuge for us in case of necessity, and save us from having another run back to Stewart Island; but I hope and trust that when we do get another chance of starting we shall get a run right down, or if we have to run back here again I shall feel inclined to abandon my undertaking, for I am getting out of all patience with it. Mr. Lowrie, who is one of the oldest hands — that is, one of the oldest European residents—on the islands, thinks that we may have a favourable change on Monday or Tuesday next, but strongly advises us not to attempt starting again until the wind gets in to the northward, after passing round by south and east, as in any other case a northerly or N.W. wind cannot be depended on for an hour.

At 3 p.m. we weighed anchor again, and returned to Port Adventure. We arrived at 8·30 p.m., but we were obliged to pull to the anchorage with the sweeps, as it fell calm when we were off the port. It is our intention to go down to Port Pegasus in the morning, if the weather be still favourable, and lie there till we get a wind to start with. Now we have got three compasses on board, and they all differ from each other—two of them differing as much as two points; so that it is evident that there is some local attraction which acts upon one more than another. Before we go to sea I shall be obliged to swing the vessel and ascertain their deviation, and this can only be done in a calm, and I fear will give us some trouble; but we cannot go to sea with compasses in this state; we should be as well without any. The wind has been to the southward of page 110east in Port Adventure all day, while to the northward of the East Cape it has been N.W., which, I believe, is very frequently the case. The barometer is falling rapidly. I have little doubt but we shall have a gale from S.W. to-morrow.

Sunday, August 13, 1865.—At daylight a breeze sprang up from W.S.W., and suddenly increased to a gale; we let go a second anchor. Since noon it has blown as hard as ever I saw it do, the wind about west. The bay has been one continual sheet of foam all the afternoon, and since nightfall it has been thundering and lightning, with frequent showers. The New Zealand coast pilot says that 'thunder and lightning during a gale is indicative of its long continuance.' We have had a good deal of it lately; so what may we expect now?

Monday, August 14.—From the time of writing last night (10 o'clock) until one o'clock this morning the thunder and lightning was incessant, peal rolling upon peal and keeping the earth in a continual tremor, and it rained very heavily the whole time. I don't remember ever seeing a heavier thunderstorm, not even in Australia. After this the wind died away, and during the night came from south, where it continued throughout the day, with almost constant sleet and snow, and the ground is now quite white, and it is freezing. The weather will be much more severe down at the Auckland Islands than it is here. I hope the two poor fellows down there will take no harm until we can reach them.

Tuesday, August 15.—The wind has been S.S.W. during the greater part of the day; moderate on the whole, but squally, with snow, which this morning was about two inches thick on the cutter's deck. Since nightfall the wind has fallen light, and the clouds, which still come from the southward, are not flying so rapidly as they have been doing; but still I fear the breeze from that quarter is not yet ended. The cutter 'Ellen' sailed to-day; the captain thought he page 111might go to Invercargill, but he was not sure. I sent a letter by him to Mr. Macpherson, and was very sorry that I could not send others, on account of the uncertainty of his going across.

Wednesday, August 16.—A moderate southerly wind, with occasional showers of hail and drizzling rain. The weather is milder, and the snow has disappeared in a great measure. We might have started for Pegasus to-day, but as it would perhaps take 24 hours to beat down there we are better where we are. I fear that the prediction of the Maoris, that we shall have no change during this moon, will prove true.

Thursday, August 17.—It has been raining all day; the wind has been light and baffling from between south and west, and the barometer is rising. I trust that a change is near at hand.

Friday, August 18, 1865.—Light southerly airs, and gloomy dark weather, with frequent showers of mist. I am getting truly miserable. I can find nothing to occupy my mind with, for my reading is all done; in fact I could not take an interest in it if I had more. My attention is entirely taken up in watching any slight change that takes place in the weather. This afternoon we went to Oyster Cove, and got about 30 dozen oysters. The barometer indicates a favourable change. I trust we shall get away to-morrow.

Saturday, August 19.—Calm and dull cloudy weather until noon, but every appearance of a N.E. wind. At 11 a.m. we picked the anchor up, and pulled the vessel towards the Heads. At noon we got a light air from E.S.E., and had to beat out. The wind continued very light, and at 8 p.m. died away altogether, after which, having the tide in our favour, we pulled and got into Port Pegasus at a quarter to 12 (midnight). It is now close to one o'clock in the morning; calm and cloudy. I am off to bed.

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Sunday, August 20.—Calm all this day. First tiling in the morning I attended to the compasses, one of which I am very well satisfied with, as it shows little or no deviation, and I feel that we may trust to it; the others are very much out. In the morning we went on shore, and a dog which we have caught a penguin. They also went in the boat, and in a very short time caught three dozen beautiful fish (trumpeters). Port Pegasus is one of the finest harbours I have ever been in, and there is abundance of heavy timber all over its shores. If the land be good, which the abundance and verdure of its vegetation seem to indicate, it must, in the course of a few years, become a port of considerable importance. After dinner we got the anchor up and pulled the cutter outside, in hope of finding a breeze, but we were disappointed; there was not a breath of air, so we pulled in again, and in the evening anchored about six miles to the southward of where we lay last night. The barometer keeps high, 30·20.

Monday, August 21, 1865.—First part calm. At 9 a.m. a light air came from the northward, and we at once got under weigh, and came out by the southernmost entrance, and got a light N.B. breeze, which, by sundown, had run us to about eight miles south of the South Cape, where it died away, and at 7 p.m. came out from S.W. very light, just enough to give the vessel steerage way. This is very disheartening; I almost begin to doubt whether we shall ever accomplish this trip or not. Here is an instance of the uncertainty of the weather in these regions. All day the weather and barometer bore every indication of easterly wind, and a more easterly-looking sunset I never saw; and now, in one hour and a half, we have the wind from the direct opposite point, and all the indications of one hour and a half ago are entirely reversed. All the clouds have settled down to the N.E., and the sky is now clear, with the exception of a low, thick, black, arched bank of clouds, which are slowly, but surely, rising from S.W.; but the page 113barometer is too high—30·15—for a strong breeze from that quarter. It has never deceived me in regard to a S.W. gale, and I yet have a hope that it will back into the northward again; at least, to the northward of west.

Tuesday, August 22.—I am once more tossing about on old Ocean. The little vessel is dashing the laughing spray from about her bows, and galloping away, with a fair wind from N.W., and I think we have a fair prospect of a speedy, and in some measure comfortable, run down to the Aucklands. It is now 2 p.m.; the Snares, which we passed at 10 a.m., are now out of sight astern. At 11 o'clock last night the wind came from W.N.W., as I had anticipated, and afterwards backed farther to the northward, gradually increasing to a fine steady breeze. At daylight, Stewart Island and the Snares were both in sight.

Wednesday, August 23, 1865.—After writing yesterday until midnight, the breeze freshened to a strong breeze, and at 2 a.m. we had double reefs in. At 3 a.m., having run far enough to be able to see the land in the morning, if the weather had been clear, we hove to under close-reefed sails, and lay till daybreak; but no land being in sight, we ran on again, and before I could get sights I began to feel very uneasy. At half-past eight, however, the sun peeped through the fog and gave an observation, by which I found that we were about twenty miles to the eastward of the island. We at once hauled up S.W. We had evidently been set to the eastward by a very strong current, and at least a point and a half out of our course. I have no notice of this current, but I had reason to suspect that there was such a thing, and endeavoured to guard against it; which had I not done it would certainly have put us more than fifty miles to the eastward. At 11 a.m. we made the land, and as the weather was so thick we were obliged to stand close in before we could make out which part of the islands it was. It proved to be the islands at the north end of the group. We then saw a line of breakers to leeward of us, stretching out from the land farther than we page 114could see. These are the reefs which I have mentioned in my journal while down here. We at once hauled off, and stood at about ten miles from the land before we felt sure that we were clear of them, and then went through a heavy tide race, which broke on board in all directions. These reefs are very ugly dangers, and cannot be too carefully avoided until surveyed.

After clearing these dangerous reefs we hauled in again, and sailed down close along the shore; and on the side of one of the mountains, about eight miles north of the entrance of 'our harbour,' we saw, or thought we saw, smoke. Captain Cross and the others were positive that it was smoke, but I was not so sure of it, although I think it quite probable that my two men may have been up there and set fire to the grass. This we shall ascertain when we reach them. At 4 p.m. we entered the heads of the desired harbour, and the wind, which while we were running along shore was blowing a strong double-reef breeze, drew down the sound with great fury, and we felt doubtful whether we should be able to beat up against it or not. However, we hauled her up to it, standing by the halyards, and lowering away everything in some of the squalls, which would otherwise have capsized her, or blown away the canvas. We thrashed her up, and nobly did the little craft do her work. She was frequently down, hatches in the water, while the spray flew in clouds over the masthead, smothering and nearly blinding us all. It was quite as much as I could do to keep my eyes clear enough to penetrate the darkness and fog, so as to keep her off the shore and find the way up. And as we advanced up the sound the gale kept increasing, which caused the greatest anxiety; for had we not been able to beat up, in all probability we should have been blown away to the eastward, and perhaps not been able to reach the island again at all. But Providence favoured us, and two hours ago—at 8 p.m. —we brought the brave little vessel to an anchor in the smooth unruffled waters of 'Camp Cove,' from which place page 115I sailed on this very day five weeks ago. How very different are my feelings to then! It is now blowing a living gale from N.W. Had we been one hour later we could not possibly have beat up. Now the greatest part of my anxiety is over, but I fear it will be two or three days before we can get up to where the men are. Barometer 29·50.