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Castaway on the Auckland Isles

Chapter XI. — arrival at auckland island.—joyous meeting with our fellow-castaways.—dog versus seal

page 116

Chapter XI.
arrival at auckland island.—joyous meeting with our fellow-castaways.—dog versus seal.

Thursday, August 24.—We were up and on shore as soon as it was daylight this morning, and to my great surprise the tent, which we had left standing, and many things which we had left about, had all disappeared. It was evident that the men had been down here, but what means they had employed in taking the things away I could not conjecture, unless they had constructed a raft for the purpose. We walked across the neck to the back of Masked Island, where we found farther evidence of their having come down on a raft—half a tent hanging to a tree, and a rudely constructed oar and mast. Fortunately these latter were placed above high-water mark, or I should at once have concluded that they had been washed off the raft, and that the poor fellows had been drowned. We then went back to the cutter, had breakfast, and went round to Masked Island in the boat, so as to have a look up the harbour, which was white with foam, and showed the impossibility of getting up at present. We found two seals on shore and killed them—a cow and calf—put them in the boat, and went on board to dinner.

It was very showery in the forenoon, but at noon the showers took off, and at 3 p.m. the wind moderated a little, and we at once got under weigh, and under double-reefed canvas beat up to our old house; and as we did not come in sight of it until within about a mile from it, the boys did not see us until we were close upon them. Then page 117the one who saw us ran into the house to tell the other, and before they reached the beach Captain Cross and myself had landed, leaving the cutter under weigh, as there was too much wind and sea to anchor her. One of them, the cook, on seeing me, turned as pale as a ghost, and staggered up to a post, against which he leaned for support, for he was evidently on the point of fainting; while the other, George, seized my hand in both of his and gave my arm a severe shaking, crying, 'Captain Musgrave, how are ye, how are ye?' apparently unable to say anything else.

The excitement of the moment over, I hurried them off to get anything they might want to take on board with them for the present; for it was now getting dark, and we wanted to get back to the cove as soon as possible: the distance is seven miles. In a very few minutes we were all on board the 'Flying Scud,' and off before the wind down the harbour again, and reached the anchorage in Camp Cove at half-past 6. Immediately after anchoring we had supper, which consisted of fish and potatoes, tea, and bread and butter, and which the two poor fellows set about with such a zest as I have seldom seen exhibited over a meal. My first meal in Port Adventure bore no comparison to this of theirs (although I had been five days without food); and I did ample justice to it. They tell me that they have been very much pinched for food since I left them, and on one occasion they were obliged to catch mice and eat them. Moreover, it appears that they could not agree, and, strange as it may seem, although there were only the two of them on the island, they were on the point of separating and living apart! Snow has been two feet thick. They tell me that they have not been on the mountains since I left them; therefore if it was smoke which we saw the other day, there must have been some other unfortunates on the island, and it is our intention to run along the shore as we go back, and endeavour to find out whether there is anyone else on the page 118island or not. 10 p.m.—barometer 29·50; weather dark and misty; wind N.W., inclined to moderate.

Friday, August 25, 1865.—At midnight last night it fell calm, and about an hour before the break of day we took up anchor and pulled the cutter up to Epigwaitt. This is the name we gave to the place where our house stands, and where the 'Grafton' was wrecked. It is an Indian word, and means 'a home by the wave,' or 'a dwelling by the water.' In naming it we all chose a name, wrote it on a slip of paper, folded them all up alike, placed them in a bag, and shook them up; then one man put in his hand and drew out a slip, which was to have on it the name that we were to give to the place. Epigwaitt—which was mine —came out. We were about four hours in getting up there. My boys picked up what things they wanted, and Captain Cross also took anything that he could pick up that might be of any service to him, and we started off again from the cove, where we anchored about 5 p.m. We had a light air from the westward to come down with. I furnished my boys with pipes and tobacco, and gave them the clothing which was sent down for them, with which they were highly delighted, and, like myself, I think they can appreciate the kindness of those who sent them; but I find on opening the parcels that there were no shirts, and as I know that I ordered two Crimeans, I am sorry they have omitted sending them, for they are very much in need of them.

I have now got one great burthen off my mind, but a gigantic source of uneasiness yet remains—my wife and family. God grant that it may be speedily removed, and that I may soon enjoy their society again, and once more breathe the air of civilization, from which I have now so long been exiled! The men had constructed a raft with four empty casks, and come down and taken away everything that we had left, amongst which was an oar, which they substituted for the one that I found yesterday. The mast they had left, as it was calm, and they had no use for page 119it, and the half seal they could not very well carry, and they happened to have a good stock at home at the time. Barometer, 29·50.

Saturday, August 26.—Light northerly and N.E. airs all this day. Captain Cross is very desirous of having a knock down amongst the seals; he and my men have been pulling round in the boat to-day, and the dog killed two young ones, but they did not fall in with any more. The other day, when we got the two on Masked Island, I had shot the young one, as I wanted to make sure of him, so as to give them a taste of young meat. After I fired, Cross saw the old cow running towards him, and at once bolted down a cliff and made for the boat. The cow, however, turned in another direction, and the other man and I followed, and killed her. Cross, not seeing the seal follow him, took courage, and went up the hill again; and, seeing the young seal lying there, thought he was asleep, and set on him with his club, and cried out in a joyous tone of excitement—'Where are you, boys? I've killed a seal.' 'Are you sure you've killed him?' said I. 'Killed him? yes,' he said, 'his brains are coming out of his mouth.' On looking at him I saw that the calf had been vomiting milk; and on showing him the hole where the ball had gone through its head, he was quite crest-fallen. 'Well,' he said, 'I thought I'd killed a seal.'

Sunday, August 27.—Light N.E. airs, and moderate pleasant weather. This is an extraordinary spell of fine weather; it is very seldom that we have three fine days together down here. This morning we went for a pull in the boat up the western arm. We killed three young seals. Cross and one of his men fell in with an old cow, but she escaped from them, and got into the water. They had the dog with them, too, who fastened boldly to the seal, but only came off second best, with part of one of his ears torn entirely off. He is a large, noble dog; such a one would have been of the greatest service to us while down here. He held fast to the seal until she dragged page 120him into the water, and would not have let go then had not one of the men hit him on the head with his club, instead of the seal. I was at some distance from the scene of action, but it appears they were afraid to go near the seal, or they might easily have killed it. We went to the very head of the western arm. I had never been so far up before, and I find that there is a good ship entrance on the west side of Monumental Isle, not less than 300 yards wide, and the sea does not roll so heavily through it as through the east one, which I have before recommended. Strong tides rush through them, and neither should be attempted by a stranger without first sending in a boat, although I have no hesitation in saying that they are both safe; and good anchorage may be had immediately after entering, by hauling into the north-east basin and shutting in the entrance, or running half a mile up.

Monday, August 28.—Light N.E., wind and fine weather until sundown, when the wind hauled to the N.W., with rain, and it is now (10 p.m.) blowing hard from that quarter, and raining heavily. I have been employed the whole of the day in skinning a young lion, and it is not yet finished. I am taking the skin off complete. It is the first seal I have skinned in this way, and I find it a very tedious job. I don't know any other animal that would be so difficult to skin. I have promised one to a gentleman in Invercargill for stuffing. The other people have been skinning other seals, and trying out the blubber. They have got about 20 gallons of oil. There is no appearance of a favourable change in the wind, and I fear much that we shall not get one before full moon, and next month will, in all probability, be stormy. Barometer falling, 29·30; thermometer 48°.

Tuesday, August 29.—Strong northerly wind and dark cloudy weather until evening, when, as yesterday, it hauled to N.W., and now blows hard, with rain. It page 121has taken me nearly all day to finish my skinning. They have been away in the boat to-day, and got another seal.

Wednesday, August 30.—Heavy N.W. gale, and gloomy dark weather. They have been out with the boat to-day, and got two seals. The poor dog got dreadfully torn with one of them, but I believe it did not damp his courage in the least. He fastened to the next one more savagely than he has ever done before. He is a noble brute, weighs about 90 lbs., and is as courageous as a lion; still he is no match for those large seals, one of which would soon kill him were not some person on the spot immediately to knock it down. He is, however, of the greatest service in finding and holding them. It is one month to-day since we left Invercargill, and a long dreary month it has been to me; and how much longer we shall be humbugging till we get a chance of starting I don't know. Barometer 29·15.

Thursday, August 31.—Strong northerly gale, and constant heavy rain till 6 p.m., when the rain ceased and died away, and the sky broke, showing every indication of a S.W. wind, as also a low barometer, 29·80, which I have never known to fail here. Notwithstanding the heavy rain, Captain Cross and two men went in the boat to look for seal, and had the good luck to kill six. I have undertaken to skin another young one for stuffing. This-I intend to present to Mr. Macpherson, if he will accept of it.