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Castaway on the Auckland Isles

Chapter XIII. — last view of the island.—an uncomfortable voyage.—arrival at stewart island.—conclusion of journal

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Chapter XIII.
last view of the island.—an uncomfortable voyage.—arrival at stewart island.—conclusion of journal.

Tuesday, September 5.—First and middle part of this day heavy gales from W.S.W., with frequent bitter squalls, with snow. In the afternoon Condors and I took a walk up the hills at the back of the harbour, but found it very difficult to penetrate the scrub, which is very dense from the water's edge to the summit of the hills, and is of the same description as that on the southern part of the island. We saw no clear land, neither do I think that there is any near this end of the island. On our return we passed the grave of the departed stranger, and arrived on board again at 5.30 p.m. The wind had moderated, and we made up our minds to make a start; so at 7 p.m. we unmoored and sailed down the bay with a strong breeze, weather clear, with good moonlight, and we are now, 8.30 p.m., again tossing about on the boisterous ocean, with Enderby Island nearly astern. As we came round it, we suddenly were into one of the most ugly seas that ever I got into. The craft is kicking and jerking so dreadfully that it is almost impossible for me to scribble—writing is out of the question altogether. I begin to fear that we have done wrong in coming out, for the wind is no better than west. She does not lie her course, and we are already under double-reefed canvas, and very likely to be under smaller sail very shortly; but she must face it now—there is no turn back this time. I guess the little craft will be able to buffet it out, and, no doubt, we shall get a fair wind some day.

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Wednesday, September 6.—Since midnight last night we have had a very hard gale, and till eight o'clock this evening we managed to carry close reefs; but since that time we are lying-to under the balance-reefed mainsail and a small jib. There is a very dangerous sea running, but the vessel seems to ride very comfortably—much better than I would have expected her to do; still a sea falls on board now and then, and the water is finding its way to almost every part of her; but she is not making any water in her bottom. The wind is at W.N.W., and inclined to back to the northward. I fear that the heaviest of the gale is yet to come. Since noon it has rained heavily, with gloomy dark weather, and it is very cold—thermometer 42·37.

Thursday, September 7.—Hard gale and high dangerous sea. The little vessel is being knocked about unmercifully. Heavy rain. No place to lie down. Blankets and every stitch of clothing wringing wet. Can't get anything cooked, not even a cup of tea. Second edition of our trip in the boat. Misery. 4 p.m.—Blowing a hurricane; sea frightful; vessel labouring, and straining immensely; if not very strong she cannot stand this long; consider her in a highly dangerous situation. Just taken in mainsail and jib, and set a small boat's sail, under which she feels somewhat easier; but if one of the high seas that are coming round her in every direction falls on board, she is gone; it would knock her into ten thousand pieces. Frightful. Midnight: at 6 p.m. the gale began to moderate, and, fortunately, the sea quickly followed suit. We set the mainsail, but carried away the traveller, and tore the sail. 8 p.m.—The wind came from the S.W., and continues very light, but sufficient to keep her steady, while the sea is rapidly running down; hope soon to be able to make her stretch her legs again. She has weathered this storm bravely, and without sustaining any visible damage about the hull. Surprising what these little vessels will stand: but she is an amazingly good sea-boat, rides like a sea-gull, and holds her ground well. Bravo, 'Flying Scud!'

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Friday, September 8.—Noon; strong and increasing breeze; double reefs in. We have just made the Snares Islands, bearing W.N.W., distant about 15 miles. The 'Flying Scud' is again bounding merrily off before the wind; she is now going through the water at the rate of 11 knots, which I think is the height of her speed. If the wind will only stand just as it is at present, we shall be up to Pakiwia, Stewart Island, before dark. 5 p.m.—Sorry to say that at 3 o'clock the wind, which previously was inclined to back to the westward, went in to S.E., and now blows very hard. At 3.30 we made Stewart Island, South Cape bearing north. We are carrying all the canvas that the poor little craft will bear, and the sea is now and then making a clean breach over her. We want to make Port Pegasus, and get in there, if possible; but I fear we shall not be able to do it, for the ebb tide is setting her to the westward, and the wind is hauling to the eastward, with every appearance of a hard N.E. or easterly gale. 8 p.m.—Stiff gale (E.N.E.), and an ugly, confused sea. South Cape bearing N.W. about 6 miles. I fear much that she will not do it; we shall have to run to leeward of the Cape.

Saturday, September 9.—We thrashed her at it all night last night, endeavouring to get up to Port Pegasus; sometimes two, and sometimes three reefs in. The little craft got a severe drubbing, and would with another hour or two's perseverance have got in; but at 8 a.m., when within a mile and a half of the entrance, the gale freshened, and hauled to N.E. This was thoroughly disheartening, and, considering the severe weather and misery we have had to contend with, and going without sleep (I have had the smallest share of hardship, and I can safely say I have not slept half-an-hour since we left the Aucklands; and at the present moment, 4 p.m., I am sitting by a fire on shore, comfortably smoking my tobacco, and might have been asleep for the last four hours, but I have not the slightest inclination to do so), it is no wonder that we gave it up, and ran round the Cape, and made for Port Easy, where page 136we anchored at a quarter past eleven this morning. Port Easy is ten miles to the northward of the South Cape, and by passing between the islands and the shore, and keeping the shore close on board, within three-quarters of a mile, you are bound to sail right into the port, which I must pronounce the snuggest and easiest of access that ever I have entered in the southern hemisphere. There is room for fifty ships of any size to swing to their anchors, well sheltered from all winds, and a convenient depth of water, three to four fathoms. Immediately after anchoring, Captain Cross and I took the boat, and bundled all our clothes and bed-clothes into her, and went on shore, where we lit a fire that would roast half-a-dozen bullocks, and hung our clothes round it to dry. We then went on board, got dinner, and came on shore again, bringing with us a saucepan for heating water in, and a tub for washing in, and since performing our ablutions from top to toe we feel like new men, and we are now, as I have said, comfortably smoking our tobacco, quite regardless of the N.E. gale which is now howling outside. Our clothes are getting dry nicely, and I have no doubt but we shall sleep without rocking to-night, since we could not sleep with it.

Sunday, September 10.—Strong N.E. gale, and fine clear weather all this day. As I anticipated, I had a fine night's rest last night, and at the peep of day Cross and I got up and went on shore to try and get some game, as our meat is done. Wild fowl are abundant here; we got duck, teal, wood-hen, and red-bill. After breakfast the boat went, and they soon got a lot of fine fish, which are also abundant here. After dinner they went on shore and cut firewood, and filled up the water on board. Although it is Sunday, these things were absolutely necessary, in order to be in readiness to proceed on our voyage as soon as the weather will permit, which we have every reason to hope will be in the morning. It is now eight o'clock in the evening, and I am just going in for a repetition of last night's dose.

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Monday, September 11, 1865. — First part, calm clear weather throughout. In the morning the people were busy scraping the spars and cleaning the vessel up. There were two very large whales playing about in the port; here would have been a windfall for anyone who had gear to kill them with. I went close up to one of them in the dingy, and when he went down we pulled the boat right over him. I have seen many whales in my travels, but I never was so near one before, neither did I think that they were such large monsters as they proved to be when close to them. At 11 a.m. a light air sprang up from the N.W. We at once got under weigh, and at 11.30 left the port, with a fine breeze, which, in fifty minutes, ran us down to the South Cape, and we anticipated a speedy and comfortable run along the east side of the island; but, on arriving off the South Cape, what was our disappointment when met there, slap in the teeth, by a brisk north-east gale, which, with the flood tide running against it, created a most dangerous, confused, and breaking sea. We were at once obliged to reduce sail to double reefs; and, by giving the invincible 'Flying Scud' one more severe thrashing, we got her into Wilson's Bay, where we found a snug anchorage on the west side of the bay. At 4 p.m. brought up in it, in four fathoms water, well sheltered from all winds, and from the swell which I have no doubt rolls into the bay almost constantly. This is another excellent harbour of refuge, and anyone who had been here once could bring a large ship in with safety. Barometer 29·60.

Tuesday, September 12.—Strong N.E. breeze, and fine clear weather until noon. From noon till 8 p.m., clear weather and calm. Latter part, heavy rain and calm. Before breakfast Captain Cross and I went in the boat to try fishing. We were not more than an hour and a half away, and returned with six dozen fine codfish. I never had such sport in fishing: we were hauling them up two and three at a time, just as fast as we could haul in the page 138lines. After breakfast three of us went to try our luck, and before noon returned with eight dozen more, chiefly trumpeters. There are very few ducks or wild-fowl here. The barometer is very low—28·10. I expect we shall have more wind than we want to-morrow.

Wednesday, September 13.—It rained heavily until day broke this morning, when the rain ceased; but it continued calm, with dark, gloomy, threatening weather. Soon after daybreak Cross and I took the boat and pulled round to a small bay to the northward of the one the cutter lay in. We knew that many years ago there were some Maoris living somewhere in Wilson's Bay, but we did not know in which part of it. This small bay, however, proves to be the spot, and a lovely spot it is. It is certainly the most beautiful site for a settlement that I have seen in New Zealand, and seldom elsewhere. The basin in which this charming site is situated is perhaps two miles in circumference, with a small, round, wooded island in its centre, and its waters are as calm and smooth as a millpond. It is impossible for any wind to ruffle or disturb them, and the swell, which seems to reach almost every other nook and corner of this extensive bay, is effectually shut out from it by two reefs, which stretch out from each entrance-point, overlapping each other, but leaving a deep and safe channel between, through which the largest ship could be warped, and find a sufficient depth when inside for mooring in. Its shores, on all sides, excepting the north, are rocky, and clad from the water's edge to the top of the hills with an abundant growth of large timber of various kinds. The northern side is where the people have lived. It has a sand beach about half a mile long, and the land next the beach is slightly elevated, and level for a short distance back to the foot of the hills, which rise without undulation to the height of about 300 feet. From the quantity of land which has been cleared, I judge that a good many people have lived here. At 9 o'clock in the morning we up anchor page 139and pulled the cutter out of the bay with the last of the ebb tide, expecting to find some wind when we got outside, from some quarter or other, for we are all heartily sick of the protractions of this voyage. When we got outside we got into a most tremendous heavy sea rolling down from the eastward, and it came on to rain heavily, with light baffling airs from between north and west, which, with the flood tide, put us along our own course; but as we advanced so the head sea increased. We had every reason to apprehend an easterly gale, and we were glad to get into Port Pegasus, in the north arm of which we anchored at 3 p.m. Rain continued till 7 p.m., weather threatening, and barometer very low, 29·80.

Thursday, September 14, 1865.—Calm till 8 a.m., when a light air came from W.S.W., with which we started out of the Port by the northern passage. We found a very heavy sea still running from the eastward, which is indicative of recent heavy easterly gales on the coast. The wind continued light, and came from the same quarter until evening, and at 6 p.m. we once more anchored in Port Adventure; and I feel truly thankful that this much of our hazardous and miserable voyage has been safely accomplished. I have no doubt but the remainder will be easily performed, and from the appearance of the weather I am in hope of our reaching Invercargill to-morrow; and if the weather be favourable Captain Cross intends to tow the 'Rescue' (the boat I came up in) over, and let the good people of Invercargill look at her. Since anchoring the weather has been calm and clear. The barometer keeps very low (29·5), which I cannot understand.

Friday, September 15, 1865.—We sailed from Port Adventure in the 'Flying Scud,' having the 'Rescue' in tow, with a moderate S.W. breeze, until in crossing Foveaux Straits the wind increased, and the sea ran high, and on arriving at the New River bar the sea was breaking right across. The 'Rescue' had got full of water, parted the tow rope, and was left to her fate.

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And thus, with a grateful heart, I end my journal; with what deep thankfulness to a gracious Providence for saving myself and my companions from a miserable fate, I trust I need not set down here.

Thomas Musgrave.