Art. XL.—Captain Dumont D'Urville's Exploration of Tasman Bay in 1827.
Translated from the French*
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 28th August, 1907.]
So far as I am aware, no translation of the voyage of the “Astrolabe,” under the command of the celebrated French explorer, Dumont D'Urville, has ever appeared in English, though it has been briefly summarised more than once. Hence it will prove of interest to New-Zealanders to see what was accomplished in the way of geographical exploration in Tasman Bay, the “Astrolabe” being the first ship, so far as is known, to actually enter that bay since the time of Tasman in 1642.
It is proposed to follow this by a translation of the proceedings during the visit of the corvette to Tologa Bay, and to the Waite-mata, where Auckland now stands.
Captain D'Urville made a subsequent visit to New Zealand in 1840, during his long voyage in the same ship, the “Astrolabe.” an account of which is published in his “Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l'Océanie,” Paris, 1841. But he did not live to see the completion of the publication, for he, his wife, and son were killed in a railway accident in Paris on the 8th May, 1842, whilst the later volumes were passing through the press. He had been appointed a Rear-Admiral not long previous to his death.
I have added a few notes to the translation; they are enclosed in brackets, thus: [ ].
The “Astrolabe” left Port Jackson on the 19th December, 1826, bound for New Zealand. Captain Dumont D'Urville, in the second volume of his history of the voyage, expresses the feelings of pleasure with which he anticipates renewing his acquaintance with a country which he had previously visited in the same frigate, but then called “La Coquille,” in 1824. On this occasion the corvette's course was directed towards the south-west coast of the Middle Island, with the intention of visiting Chalky Inlet, near the south-west cape; but the passage across the Tasman Sea was so tempestuous, and the wind so contrary, that the commander had to abandon his
[Footnote] *Voyage de la corvette L'Astrolabe, exécuté par ordre du Roi, pendant les années 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829, sous le commandement de M. T. Dumont D'Urville, Paris, 1833.
design for lack of time to accomplish it, and consequently directed his course to the northwards, with a view of entering and exploring those parts of Cook Strait which had not been closely inspected by the great navigator after whom the strait is named.
The history of the voyage (vol. ii, p. 9) may now be given in detail:—
These tempestuous times finally determined me, on the 8th January, 1827, at 8 a.m., to steer to the E.N.E. in order to approach more nearly the coast. We were already in about lat. 43o south, and, no doubt, with a little more perseverance, it had been possible to have attained the southern region of New Zealand; but I could not neglect the other objects of my mission, and time was already pressing.
10th January, 1827.—The weather was still very bad, and we experienced frequent squalls of rain, with a heavy sea from the S.W.; whilst the presence of clouds of black-and-white petrels, and, still more, of some terms, announced to us the proximity of the land. In fact, at 7 o'clock I clearly distinguished it to the E.S.E. and S.E. As we were at that time from thirty to forty miles distant at least, that to the S.E. showed like a high island notched on the top. As we approached, it extended more and more; but the summit was still toothed like a saw, with sharp teeth inclined towards the north, in a uniform and singular manner, whilst it seemed to be separated from the land on the left, so much so as to cause suspicion that the intermediate space was occupied by the entrance to a port. [The range referred to was no doubt the Paparoa Range of mountains, and the apparent entrance to a port was the valley of the Grey River.]
We now steered right for that part of the coast, and at noon were not more than four leagues distant. It was then easy for us to convince ourselves that the coast was continuous, and that our illusion had been caused by its sensible decrease in height in the space where we supposed a bay to exist. The geographical work was at once put in hand, and M. Gressian was charged with the survey of all the extent of New Zealand comprised from the most southely land in view, situated in lat. 42o 28′ S., up to Cape Farewell. The soundings indicated 100 fathoms, sand and fine mud, whilst the temperature, 16.2o in the air, 17.2o at the surface, and not more than 13.2o at that depth.
Each of us, at the view of this wild coast, those lofty mountains battered by the furious winds of the Antarctic, rejoiced to be at last, after so much fatigue, at the end of his wishes, on a theatre worthy of his researches. Proud to follow the tracks
of Tasman, Cook, and Marion, we hoped to add to science new documents on these countries still so little known, and to study as closely as possible the various kingdoms of nature; but, above all, to scrupulously observe the bizarre customs and extraordinary institutions which tend here to give the human species a character so particular.
As soon as the midday station was complete we bore away to the N.E. and N.N.E., with an uncertain wind and cloudy sky, in order to follow the coast at five or six miles distant. The dense fog which enveloped the summits of the mountains generally prevented our distinguishing the details. We were only able to ascertain that the shore is very uniform, and elevated in steep, inaccessible, wooded ridges, and dominated in the interior by mountains of a considerable height, of which many summits were divided into sharp peaks. One of them, remarkable for its five points, imitated the fingers of an open hand, and received the name of the Central Five Fingers, to distinguish it from the Five Fingers of Cook, near Dusky Bay.
At half-past 3 and at 5 p.m. we found 50 and 40 fathoms, fine sand and mud, at least four miles from the coast. At ten minutes after 5 the wind fell, and left us at the mercy of a heavy swell from the S.W., and facing a fearful coast, where the sea broke with unexampled fury. Already I had serious reflections on our situation, when at 7 a fresh breeze up from the N.W. permitted us to draw off from the coast.
At the moment when we made our tack outwards, the mountains of the coast were seen to be interrupted by a wide and profound ravine, probably occupied by a river, or at least by some remarkable torrent [probably the Fox River, on which is the township of Brighton]. At three or four miles from that ravine, and more than three miles from the sea, the peak Five Fingers rises, whilst at fifteen miles N.N.E. we perceived a low point which projected some distance into the sea [Cape Foulwind].
All night the wind blew from the N.W. in heavy squalls, with rain, and an obscured sky of the most sinister appearance. Beyond that, the swell from the S.W., which we met right ahead, caused us much heavy pitching. Our position, already sufficiently critical on this iron coast, became more disquieting towards 4 a.m. At that time the sky was charged with clouds in all parts, and the rain fell in vertable torrents, whilst the wind blew very fresh, with heavy squalls, from the N.W. to the W.N.W. It became necessary to reef the mizzen and the smaller topsails, whilst we lay as near the wind as possible, but it was impossible to save them. During some hours I felt extreme anxiety, for if the wind had changed to the W.S.W. and S.W., and blew with the same force and as long as we had it a few
days previously, it would have made an end of the corvette. Forced by the tempest to become embayed by degrees on the coast, she would have finished by being cast ashore and broken into a thousand bits.
11th January.—But, to my great satisfaction, at 7.30 a.m. the fury of the tempest decreased, and at 10 a.m. the wind became manageable, and varied to the W., which enabled us to steer N.N.E. At 12.30 p.m. we saw the land with the saw-tooth peaks about forty miles distant, which proved that, not-withstanding the wind and sea, we had gained to windward of the land during the night. At 4.30 p.m. we were on the parallel, and about twelve miles distant from the ravine or depression remarked the preceding evening; and at 7 p.m. Cape Foulwind bore N.E. ½ N. at twelve or thirteen miles distant, appearing as a low point which projected far to the west, and terminating in a flat hillock; beyond that point the coast decreases much in height, although the interior chain of mountains remained quite imposing.
We continued to run six or eight miles until 11.15 p.m., when we tacked to port, having there found 65 fathoms, sand and mud, and being at the time five or six miles off Cape Foul-wind. The sky, fine up to that moment, became again obscured, and rain fell almost continuously until daylight, with a slight N.N.W. breeze.
12th January.—At 4 a.m. Cape Foulwind showed itself bearing E.N.E., and our course was laid so as to pass it within three or four miles. When we got near we recognised that the point which distinguishes it was low land covered with beautiful forest, and projecting two or three leagues seaward. At a mile and a half off its northern extermity are situated three bare rocks, isolated, and about from 60ft. to 80ft. high. We gave these the name of “Trois-Clochers” (the Three Steeples) [so called still], from the appearance they present from a certain distance. As soon as we found ourselves opposite to them, at 9.22 a.m., and at least a league off, the corvette sailed through muddy water, with scattered trunks of trees, leaves, and débris of vegetation. This continued until 4 p.m., over the space of about nineteen miles, without our being able to perceive the limits of this discoloured water. As to the cause, there is reason to believe that it was due to the presence of a river or strong torrent which falls into the sea to the north of the valley which forms Cape Foulwind. We saw a depression in lat. 41o 16′ S. which might well be the mouth of that river, and from whence came the numerous débris of vegetation and the muddy waters carried out by the current in consequence of the late rains. [This was, of course, the Buller River.]
During this time the soundings were successively 80, 53, 35, and even 30 fathoms, sand and mud. Without doubt, on all that part of the coast vessels might anchor in shelter as long as the winds were easterly. But to do this with certainty it would be necessary to acquire local knowledge of the direction of the winds and the indications which would announce their duration and change. Until then it would be very imprudent to hazard such an anchorage, for all the experience I have acquired during three months' stay on these tempestuous coasts has taught me never to count on the finest weather and the most favourable wind from appearances.
Moreover, it is probable that if the human species has found means to penetrate to this inhospitable coast, it is sure to have established itself near Cape Foulwind; and the telescope allowed us to perceive agreeable and beautiful sites susceptible of cultivation. Nevertheless, our close attention failed to discover either house or trace of inhabitants, nor even any fires. [There must, however, have been inhabitants there-abouts at that time, for D'Urville's visit was prior to Niho's raid, in 1828, which drove most of the West Coast, or Poutini Ngai-Tahu, to the mountains and secret fastnesses inland.]
Beyond the promontory the coast rises suddenly in escarped ridges from the seaside, and offers not the least appearance of low coast (lisiere) practicable to the foot of man. [No doubt, the very low stretch of land bordering the sea north of the Buller, and along which the Ngakawau Railway now runs, would not be visible a few miles at sea in the thick weather D'Urville refers to.] A little before night we passed before a place where the coast, on the contrary, seemed lower, and covered with fine trees; but the thick mists which covered that part very shortly after hid the place from our eyes….
At night the wind fell, and this was followed by showers. During a sudden and fresh squall at 12.15 the wind shifted to the N.E., shortly after returning to the N.W., where it remained, uncertain and irregular. We passed the night in making short tacks.
13th January.—This morning was again little favourable to our operations; the sky was charged in all parts, and with sudden squalls, sufficiently violent, from the W.N.W. and N.W., which succeeded one another without interruption from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m., with much rain and a heavy sea.
Nevertheless, we made all sail to double the Point of Rocks, which is a high steep cape with some rocks at its base near the coast. For some miles to the south of the cape the coast is very steep, high, and covered with trees, without any appearance of a port or inhabitants. At the point itself [Rocks Point,
twenty-eight miles south of West Whanganui, six miles south of Kahurangi Point] is a white streak, which contrasts with the sombre hue of the land, and indicates the presence of a cascade, the waters of which precipitate themselves vertically into those of the ocean.
We had passed beyond it some miles, when at the “station,” at 3.30 p.m., the soundings were 60 fathoms, heavy sand, at a league and a half from the shore. Subsequently, driven by a fine breeze from the west, we sailed rapidly along the coast, of which the aspect became more and more agreeable as we approached the straits. The mountains retired towards the interior, and the parts near the sea showed up in more easy slopes; here and there we distinguished beautiful spots, with pretty clumps of wood, but no trace of inhabitants.
Towards 6 p.m. we believed we could see on the coast a vast basin capable of offering a good anchorage, and I had great hope of being able to enter it next morning to examine that part of New Zealand. In consequence, I approached the coast closely, to reconnoitre the place. We passed at less than two miles; and at that moment M. Gressian mounted on the crosstrees to obtain a more exact view. He assured me that the basin was very extensive, but, unfortunately, communicated with the sea only by a narrow channel, completely barred by breakers. I was consequently obliged to renounce my hopes of entering. We gave it the name of “harbour-barred.” [This is West Whanganui Harbour, only available occasionally for small craft.]
At 7 p.m. we were on the parallel of Cape Farewell, and three or four miles off it. The land is of moderate elevation, and falls rapidly to the coast, and here our watches gave us an enormous difference with the position of Cook.
The weather had decidedly improved; the night was tranquil, and we passed it in making short tacks, with a nice westerly wind.
14th January.—At 3 a.m. I steered in the direction where I presumed Cape Farewell lay; but at daylight I perceived that the current during the night had carried us far to the E.N.E., and we were already considerably within the straits. I hastened to pick up the coast, and very soon, favoured by charming weather and nice breeze from the west, our corvette glided lightly over a most tranquil sea at less than a mile from the coast. The soundings were 8, 10, and 12 fathoms. It was easily seen from the tops that the land which we were following was nothing but a narrow tongue, with small round sand-dunes and a few tufts of shrubs here and there [Cape Farewell Spit]. Beyond that (to the south) was a vast basin
bordered by high mountains, of which the most distant were snow-clad. [Massacre or Golden Bay.] That coast extends between twelve and fifteen miles east and west, and terminates in a low narrow point. Just as I had decided to steer south, to pass close to the point into Tasman Bay, we perceived breakers extending off the point for more than five miles. Nearly at the same moment the breeze changed to the south and ended in a dead calm. Without doubt the turn of the tide changes daily the direction of the current, and in two hours' time we lost three or four miles to the west. Our proximity to the coast, and the impossibility of steering the ship, commenced to cause some anxiety; and I had decided to anchor off the coast, when at 11 a.m., the breeze having returned to the north, allowed us to resume our route with full sail. Having rounded the breakers at a mile distant, we directed our course south into the bay which Cook in his second voyage had named “Tasman Bay.”
The visit of that celebrated navigator having procured an extensive knowledge of Admiralty Bay and Queen Charlotte's Sound, I judged that we might render greater service to geography by guiding the corvette to an anchorage in Tasman Bay, which hitherto no expedition had made known to us.
Since the morning M. Guilbert had succeeded M. Gressian in the hydrographic work, and was charged with the survey of all these parts of Cook's Straits. We may remark here that the task of the geographical officer is an extremely arduous one. From daylight until night closes in he remains close to the compass, in order that no useful detail may escape his notice, and to increase his obserations and render them of the greatest utility possible. Rarely does he quit his post except to take a hasty meal, whilst violent squalls alone cause him to temporarily leave his post. Then, when he has completed the portion of the coast which has been assigned to him, up to the time when his turn comes again, every instant which the service allows him is devoted to charting his observations, a species of work which, though less fatiguing, is not less delicate or less engrossing.
As we advanced towards the south, we saw that the vast bay comprised between the land of Cape Farewell on the one part and that of Cape Stephen on the other, and which cook in his first voyage named “Blind Bay,” is divided into two basins very distinct by a remarkable point which I named “Separation Point.” [This point separates Tasman from Golden Bay.] The western basin, which Cook named “Massacre Bay,” is somewhat vaguely traced on our chart, because at the distance at which we passed it we could but ascertain the outline.
On the contrary, the souther basin, to which I have conserved the name of “Tasman's Bay,” following Cook in his second voyage, became more particularly the object of our attention, and it is this bay we now have to do with.
We continued our route to the south until 4 p.m., when the wind suddenly changed to the S.S.E., with the appearance of bad weather. Not wishing to beat against a contrary wind, I profited by a good bottom of soft mud to anchor in 26 fathoms to pass the night.
15th January.—The night was fine, and to the calm, which lasted till 1 a.m., succeeded a slight breeze from the south, which gradually augmented, and was blowing quite strong enough at daylight.
From our anchorage an imposing view extended round us. Two elevated coasts bordered the bay right to its head; and that to the west, which was much nearer, offered to us agreeable forests and a pleasing verdure. The head of the bay seemed to be occupied by low land, barely visible, dominated in the distance by mountains, whitened by perpetual snow.
As the wind did not permit me to advance further towards the head of the bay, and because I was desirous of procuring for M. Guilbert the means of making a station on Point Separation (from which we were only distant two leagues), at 6 a.m. I sent that officer away in the whaleboat with MM. Quoy, Gaimard, and Dudemaine. The breeze off the land ceased at 10 a.m.; an interval of calm ensued, and at 11.30 the wind off shore set it. Impatient to profit by it, I fired a gun to recall the boat. Shortly after we saw it leave the point we got under sail, and the “Astrolabe” sailed slowly along the coast to give them time to join us, which they did at 3 p.m.
M. Guilbert had much trouble to climb the ridge to make his station, and lost not a single moment of the time he had at his disposal. The sailors, in rambling about the vicinity, discovered some abandoned huts, from which they had taken many objects used by the Native. I addressed strong reproofs to them on that subject, and menaced them with servere punishment, as well as those who permitted suchlike license. One cannot at all doubt that the greater number of serious quarrels which arise between savages and Europeans have their origin in causes of that nature. As it was impossible for me to send these objects ashore, I ordered them to be placed with others which will form part of the King's collection.
We proceeded along a good part of the west side of the bay at two miles distant, and with regularly decreasing soundings from 25 to 10 fathoms, always with muddy bottom. After having passed two islands situated under the land, the coast
decreases in height, and leaves a large margin of much lower land, on which we noticed some cabins, a fire, and a group of Natives moving about. At half a league to the south of the village rose a massive group of enormous trees, with long straight stems and foliage of sombre hue [probably kahikatea trees, of which ther used to be several in that locality], and which I suspect belong to the genus Podocarpus. Already the valley appeared of very large extent, and M. Dudemaine, on the lookout on the crosstrees, distinguished clearly, at a mile or more from the forest, a narrow channel which penetrated the land [probably the Motueka River]. I would have been delighted to find a safe anchorage for the corvette, but the soundings gave only 7 fathoms. In consequence, I laid to, and sent M. Lottin to sound in that direction. At less than a mile from the corvette he found only 4 ½ fathoms. I then made signal to him to return on board, and continued to follow the coast towards the S.E. in the direction of a perpendicular white cape, of not much elevation.
I have no doubt that the channel seen from the tops, entering for some distance into the land, was the course of a river of considerable size, fed by the snows of the interior summits. The night approaching, I was desirous of finding a depth of water convenient for anchorage, the more so as the soundings were now from 6 to 7 fathoms, rocky instead of a muddy bottom, which offered to us little safty for the night. In consequence, I put about, and at 7.10 p.m., having 27 ft. of water (mud and gravel), I anchored with the starboard anchor with 20 fathoms of cable. Shortly after the wind fell, and the night was fine. The obscurity prevented us from ascertaining the depth of this gulf; nevertheless, we had come 27 miles since our last station. Thus, that bay, shown on Cook's chart as a slight embayment of a few miles of depth and width, seemed to take on a great development. This unexpected discovery caused us the greatest staisfaction, and we congratulated ourselves in being the first to give more exact notions on these coasts until now unknown. [The position of D'Urville's anchorage was about three miles N.E. of Moutere Bluff.]
16th January.—In looking around the corvette as soon as the light allowed me to distinguish objects, I was surprised to see that we had in reality attained the head of the bay, which terminated to the south in low-lying lands, often bare, and in appearance marshy. The depth was wanting at a considerable distance from the shore, and no part announced a sure anchorage for the “Astrolabe.” In consequence, directly the “station” had been made, the anchor was lifted, and we ran across to the opposite [i.e., east] coast to within three miles and a half
of the shore. The land near here arose in elevated escarped bluffs, fairly well wooded. [This was Mackay's Bluff, seven miles north of Nelson.] Two canoes, from the head of the bay, were approaching us, and as the wind was very light they were not long in arriving near us. I laid to, and hailed them in their language to come on board; but these Natives rested a long time on their paddles, with an air of distrust. From time to time one of them addressed us in a short harangue, to which my sole response was each time, “Aire mai ki te pahi, e oa ana matou.” (Come to the vessel; we are friends.) ** Tired at last to see my efforts inutile, I bore away, when they came alongside, and soon after climbed on board without distrust. One of the canoes carried ten Natives and the other nine. Half of these people seemed of a superior rank, to judge by their tattooing, their fine forms, and distinguished expression of their faces; the others, without tattoo, and features common and nsignificant, were slaves, or belonging to the lower classes, and might easily have been taken for men of another race, so much thev seemed to differ from the chiefs at the first glance.
These savages appeared to know of the effect of firearms, but very little of iron, or instruments made of that metal, for they attached no value to anything but cloth. They brought with them no kinds of arms, and their mats were all made of rushed or the thick mouka [muka] (Phormium tenax) [pl. xli.], one only excepted, of a fine and silky texture, which its possessor gave up in exchange for an indifferent shirt of blue cloth, after having refused to exchange it for a fine axe, or even a sword.
After some trials I soon recognised that the language of these islanders was, radically, the same as that of the Bay of Islands, with some little differences, which were more in pronunciation than the nature of the words. Thus I was able to understand fairly well what they said by means of the words I had learnt from the vocabulary of the missionaries. During four hours the calm permitted them to pass with us they ceased not to comport themselves with the greatest probity, and an admirable reserve for a people as warlike and as advantageously treated by nature in the way of physique.
At 11 a.m. the breeze increased a little from the N.N.E., and the Natives, finding themselves already two leagues from their village, which they showed to us on the borders of the
[Footnote] ** I have before remarked the facility with which D'Urville seemed to pick up the Maori language. The above sentence is good Maori, except that Aire should be haere; e should be he; and oa, hoa.—(Translator.)
sea in an agreeable site, and which they named “Skoi-Tehai,” ** they gave us to understand that they were about to leave us, but that they would return the following day to the anchorage with their women. So they departed in their canoes, but four chiefs demanded of me to remain on board, to which I consented with much pleasure, astonished at this proof of their hardihood and the entire confidence with which we had inspired them.
I did not dream otherwise than to direct out course towards the anchorage, which I hoped to find on the west coast, between the shore and the two islets near which we had passed the previous evening. The wind having freshened from the N.N.E., it was necessary to make some tacks, with a constant depth of 10 to 15 fathoms. At 5.30 p.m. arrived within a mile of Adèle Island. I sent M. Lottin on ahead to clear up our route. At 6 p.m. I doubled, at less than half a cable's length, the N.E. point of the island, and a few minutes after let go the anchor in a bay [pl. xxxvii], which received the name of our ship, in 5 fathoms of water. This time our two chains served to moor us in that port, and we found them hold well….
With what pleasure we enjoyed again the calm and repose after the torments which we had suffered in the channel of New Zealand [Tasman Sea], and the inquietude inseparable from the difficult navigation we had for eight days along those dangerous and mostly unknown coasts! The basin where our corvette reposed, sheltered in all parts, offered to the eye a coup d'æil the most picturesque, and promised to our eager regards all sorts of discoveries. A land agreeably broken, although generally mountainous; of fresh and sombre forests; of spaces more open, covered only with high fern; of beautiful beaches of sand, occupied all our attention, and we lamented that we had to await to-morrow to satisfy our ardent curiosity.
On their side, our guests continued to be well satisfied with us, nor manifested any regrets or fear of our intentions towards them. Notwithstanding, everything about them caused us to believe that they had never had any relations with Europeans before, but only had confused notions conveyed to them by their neighbours, or perhaps by the warriors of their tribe, who had encountered some during their voyages. They frequently repeated that their canoes would return in the morning with women, as if that were a powerful interest to us. They explained to us that some neighbours armed with guns came often from the N.W. to pillage and exterminate them, and they feared
[Footnote] ** Judge Mackay, who knows this part well, cannot recognise this name, nor does he know of an old settlement in that part. It may have been a temporary camp.—(Translator.)
them singularly. Often they asked if we would not go and kill and eat them, openly testifying the pleaure they would experience. They cultivated the potato, but had no pigs, which they only knew of by name—pouaka [poaka]. For bed I gave them a sail, in which they enveloped themselves, and slept well in one of the boats.
17th January.—At an early hour in the morning all the work commenced at the same time. MM. Jacquinot and Lottin went to establish their observatory on a little sandy beach near where were found abandoned houses; MM. Guilbert and Dudemaine commenced the plan of Astrolabe Bay; and a party was sent to the woods. About 8 a.m. three canoes came alongside, containing about forty persons. Two of these canoes were those we had seen the previous evening; the third contained new faces. The savages brought this time only three women, who remained hidden under some mats whilst the canoes remained alongside, and who, on shore, fled into the fern if one wished to approach them. These islanders remained some time near the corvette, occupied in exchanging mats, hemp of their country, and divers other objects for European bagatelles. In general they manifested much gentleness and good faith in their bargains, and one could only praise their conduct. When they had finished they went to the beach where was the observatory, hauling up their canoes, and establishing themselves in the adjacent huts [pl. xxxviii]. It was very agreeable to me to see them fix themselves near us: nothing could better demonstrate to us their confidence, and the sincerity of their intentions; but, thus placed under the range of our cannon, the least outrage on their part could be followed by a punishment prompt and severe.
After I had assured myself of the pacific disposition of the Natives, and having also otherwise prepared if they testified differently, I went ashore at 9.30 a.m., followed by M. Lesson and the sailor Simonet. I landed at the beach named in our chart “the watering-place” [pl. xxxix]. The first thing I remarked with joy was a pretty stream of water, very limpid, that twisted and turned down through the sand to the sea, and where our long-boat could, at high water, obtain all our water with the greatest facility.
The land around was very broken, mountainous, and difficult to climb. At first I was struck with the rôle played in the vegetation of a climate so far distant from the line, by the ferns of all descriptions, identical with those of the tropics, or, at least, perfectly analogous. The ligneous and also the arborescent species inhabit in crowds the humid ravines, whilst the slopes are entirely occupied by that kind of which the root furnishes
an alimentary substance to the inhabitants of these regions. The Phanerogams are little varied compared to the ferns; the season was too advanced, few of them offering either flowers or fruit. It is the same with the trees, many of which are remarkable for the elegance of their forms and the beauty and solidity of the wood. Amongst the parasites I observed the beautiful Epidendrum, or Dendrobium: but no róot of Phormium was seen. No species of coleopterous insects, except the Cicindèle sabulicole; no butterflies animated the scene. There are, nevertheless, a number of birds; I shot seven or eight species, and saw many others I could not get. It is worthy of remark that they are all wild, with the exception of a moucherolle [? black robin], which is excessively familiar. Directly one stops in any part of the forest, one is sure to see appear at least one or two of these birds around one. They look at you in silence and with curiosity; if you remain quiet they push their confidence so far as to alight on the barrel of your gun. The beautiful merle à cravate (Ceathia circinata of Forster) [tui] is common in the woods. A rat was the only species of quadruped I saw.
The sky became overcast at 4 p.m., and soon the rain fell, and continued until midnight.
18th January.—The weather continued overcast, and rain recommeced at daylight, and continued until noon.
Another canoe arrived, and those on board united with the others. They came on board from time to time to continue their barter, as peacefully as usual, and returned to their huts as the rain came on.
Although it still continued to rain heavily, at 7.30 a.m. I landed on the beach that is beyond the observatory to the south, and, accompanied only by Simonet, I walked towards the interior. After having followed a stream for some distance, which runs in the bottom of a ravine occupied by fine ferns and beautiful trees, I climbed, with much trouble, the bluff which dominates the coast. As soon as one arrives at 50 or 60 fathoms above the level of the sea the soil is very dry, and almost completely covered with the edible fern, of which the interlaced branches formed thickets often 5 ft. or 6 ft. high, and almost impenetrable. Some Lepstospermum and two or three other species of shrubs are seen here and there in these parts. No birds, no insects, or reptiles: that absence of all animated species, that profound silence has something of solemnity and sadness. In walking over these solitary bluffs one believes one's-self transported to that age of the world where nature, after having produced the vegetable kingdom, waited the Eternal command to bring forth the animated races. To complete the illusion, one does not encounter any human traces on these heights
Without doubt, the Natives are not anxious to quit the foodproducing coasts to wander in these sad and sterile deserts.
In spite of the bad weather, and the fatigue I experienced in traversing a country so broken, after having attained the summit of a hillock that faces towards the S.W. of the anchorage I was well recompensed for my trouble by a complete view of Tasman Bay, and by the discovery of a second basin situated beneath my feet, and which appeared to offer an anchorage not less secure than Astrolabe Bay, from which it is separated by an isthmus of 500 or 600 fathoms in width only [Torrent Bay]. Three fine torrents discharge themselves there, and a pretty margin to some level land occupied part of its extent, and in the south a corner completely closed to the swell from outside announced a harbour most commodious for small vessels. Besides, an immense forest of fine trees, of which many would be useful in construction, occupied the depths of the ravines down which the streams came. I at once promised myself to explore and make a plan of this fine basin, to ascertain if it really possessed the advantages that it promised.
My eyes, running successively over all the details of Tasman Bay, could, from the prominent station where I was placed, assure me that in all the southern part it offered no chance of any bay suitable as shelter to vessels. I recognised the clump of Podocarpus near the village to the west, named by the Native “Mai-Tehai.” [This seems very like “Maitai,” the name of the river falling into Nelson Haven, near the town of that name; but it is shown on the chart as lying to the west of Astrolabe Bay, about the Motueka Valley.] Beyond, the opening discovered by M. Dudemaine, clearly seen in the form of a river-bed well inland; at the same time, its brown waters communicated their colour to that of the bay as far as four or five miles from the coast. [This, no doubt, was Motueka River.] To the S.E. an island (Isle Pepin), situated on the coast, announced a channel, and perhaps shelter, between the island and the main. More to the north, and on the coast directly opposite to that on which I found myself, a deep opening made me already suspect a communication between Tasman Bay and that of Admiralty. [The French Pass.] Lastly, to the N.E. the land is composed of abrupt mountains, which terminate in the cape called “Stephens” by Cook.
After having wandered nearly eight hours across these wild slopes, and having entirely gone round the crest of the mountain, I descended to the coast through the wood above the wateringplace, and returned on board about 4 p.m., enriched with many new specimens of plants and birds. Among the latter were
two of the brown parrakeet of New Zealand (Psittacus nestor), a curious and rare bird, even in its own country.
The long-boat had made during the morning three consective trips to the watering-place, which work was executed with such ease and celerity that the water we were in want of had been completed. The weather was still rainy in the evening; at night it cleared up, and the following morning it was more passable.
19th January.—At 8 a.m. I started in the whaleboat to visit the bay of which I have already spoken, and which henceforth I will refer to under the name of “Bay of Torrents.” I followed the coast northwards from our anchorage; it offers from 5 to 8 fathoms of water at a ship's length from the shore. But it is necessary to avoid an isolated reef distant two cables or more from the point N.E. of the entrance, and on which M. Guilbert found only 10 ft. of water at high tide…. After having followed the coast for a mile we found ourselves off the south point of Torrents Bay, which is formed by a narrow ridge of rocks that extend about 200 fathoms from the land. A similar extension seems to take place at the N.E. point; it follows that the entrance to the basin is thereby reduced to at least half a mile in width, and the interior is thus the better sheltered. Also, the sea is perfectly calm inside. I found, and M. Guilbert after me, a good bottom of mud, diminishing from 45 ft. to 25 ft. from the entrance up to the little bluff above the interior peninsula. close to the shore, nearly everywhere, not less than from 20 ft. to 25 ft. of water is found. I recommend above all the southern bay, where ships of our dimension or less will find one of the best anchorages in the world, with 18 ft. to 20 ft. of water, and in front of a fine beach, from which rises a gentle slope.
Beyond the interior peninsula ther is a kind of interior bay, which at high water forms a large basin of 200 or 300 fathoms in diameter, but which dries mostly at low water, so that only a channel of 4 ft. or 5 ft. of water is left, formed by the union of the three torrents which there discharge. I went up the course of two of these streams for a distance of one or two miles, and, although neither was deep, the water there was as abundant as at their mouths. But, like all the streams of the Oceanic isles, the courses of the streams become confined, the slope rapid, and with enormous rocks which at each instant encumber their beds, preventing the progress of the most determined traveller.
On the shore are found trees of an admirable height and dimensions, which would be easy to work. The little margin of flat land which runs along the beach, and which has evidently
been formed by the streams, seems of a prodigious fertility, and probably the adjacent slope wouuld be susceptible of culture. It is not to be doubted that this place would be convenient for a small establishment. Plantations of a larger size could only be placed on the banks of the River Mai-Tehai (Motueka) and the surrounding plains.
MM. Quoy and Lottin, who came to Torrents Bay overland by crossing the isthmus which separates that harbour from Astrolabe Bay, joined us about 11 a.m. We visited together the little valley of which I have spoken, and we found some houses where the Natives had left some of their utensils, and near them some potato plantations. No doubt these are places where the inhabitants of Mai-Tehai or Skoi-Tehai establish themselves for a time when occupied in fishing, or to pass the time at the harvesting of their crops of potatoes. We all returned on board at 4.30 p.m.
MM. Guilbert and Dudemaine finished this morning the detailed plan of Astrolabe Bay, and the numerous soundings on it leave nothing to be desired.
20th January.—The weather remained cloudy, with feeble breezes. From 5 to 10 a.m. it rained, and then became fine. I had not many days to devote to this anchorage, and did not wish to lose an instant. At 9 a.m. I was ashore with M. Lesson and Simonet on the large beach to the south of the anchorage. This is the most agreeable place, and more rich in birds than any part of the coast. A narrow and sandy flat, covered only with herbaceous plants, occupies the edge of the sea; it is surrounded by an immense and profound forest of easy access; a fine stream traverses it, running over a bed of granite; in many parts of its course it has pretty waterfalls. The fresh and delicious shade echoes with the songs of various birds, and that scene so full of life contrasts with the funereal silence which I had observed on the ridge near, barely two or three miles distant. The nature of these places, the aspect of the streams and forests, perfectly recalled to me many similar sights in New Guinea, near Dorie, and the surprising resemblance of the ferns struck me more and more. The almost complete absence of insects recalled to me the coasts of Tavai-Pounamou [Te Waipounamu = South Island, New Zealand]; indeed, in all my visit I did not remark more than one, coloured red, which I could not catch, but which I took to be a Hymenoptère. I do not count some small and insignificant species of locusts, crickets, and cicadas inhabiting the plants of the shore. Simonet and I made a successful chase after birds, of which we brought back more than forty individuals, of many sorts, amongst others a large pigeon with brilliant reflections, two Glaucopis with pendant drops, and many fine philédon â cravate [? tui].
I had sent back the boat, thinking I could easily proceed by land to a point opposité the corvette in following the coast; but when we came to return we found only too well why the Natives so seldom visit these rough shores. The sea, in rising, had nearly covered the narrow and rocky space which was dry in the morning; so we had to cross, with great trouble, the ravines and steep hills, covered with scrub, which alternately succeeded one another. Halfway we corssed an advanced point by passing under a natural vault more than 100 paces long, which passes right through the point; but the slopes beyond caused us fresh difficulties, for we had to climb a nearly perpendicular face; we crawled, holding by feeble shrubs or fragile stalks of fern, and ran each moment the risk of being precipitated on to the sharp points of the rocks below if these frail supports had given way. Lastly, after excessive fatigue and veritable dangers, we arrived at the beach of the observatory, where we found a boat, which carried us on board the corvette.
21st January.—Soon after midnight the rain commenced to fall in torrents, and continued up to 2 a.m. At the anchorage we had only slight breezes from the S.E., and more often calm; but the sea had risen, and even in our bay, so well sheltered, we had some swell and surf on the shore. I concluded that a gale prevailed at that moment in the straits, and I esteemed myself happy to have escaped it. This decided me to postpone our departure to the morrow, the more so as M. Lottin had still and observation to make to complete the comparison of our watches.
No doubt our stay here will seem short; it appeared so to myself. If I had only to consult the wishes of the naturalists, whose collections were enriched each day by most interesting material—if I could have listened to my own desires, I would have traversed those plains at the head of the bay [Waimea Plains], to which my thoughts returned involuntarily, and visited the Natives in their own village; but I could not forget my instructions. The hydrographic work was finished, our water, our wood had been completed, and other parts of New Zealand equally claimed our attention. A longer stay could not be justified, and would have nullified our future operations.
At 2 p.m., the sky having somewhat cleared, I went, with several officers, to take a last walk on the larger beach; but, the rain having driven the birds to their retreats, we were only able to secure a few; and also, the underscrub, still charged with the rain it had received, completely wetted those who wished to penetrate into the woods. Hence we returned early on board to make our preparations for departure.
The Natives had continued to visit us from time to time, and their conduct had always been without reproach. Their
chiefs often offered me their women, and they appeared surprised at my refusal. It is true that, more gallant or more courageous, three of our young officers braved the vermin, the stench, and the dirt, and retired each evening to their homes to pass the night with la belle Zélandaises, who conceded to the wishes, or rather the presents, of their adorers.
These Natives are incontestably very inferior in industry, as in intellect, to those of the North Island, of whom they are probably only colonies. A soil more ungracious, a climate more rigorous, and greater privations have prevented the human species from taking on here the same development, and to form themselves into powerful tribes as are found in Te Ika-na-Maui [North Island]. They appeared to me to be ignorant of the national chant called pihe, and other songs given in Mr. Kendal's grammar. Their pronunciation is also more defective, for they rarely articulate the “r” in their words; * thus they say koeo for korero, to speak; tainga for taringa, the ear, &c; often it is the same with the “d,” which brings them nearer to the language of the Tahitians. [In the early missionary writings the “d” is often found instead of the “r.”]
The anchorage of Astrolabe Bay, in Tasman Bay, is, without contradiction, one of the best in these parts, owing to the security that a vessel may enjoy, its ease of access and departur, the resources that it offers for wood and water, and lastly, for the excellent fish which it can furnish each day. We quitted the place well satisfied, completely revictualled and enriched with an unbelievable quantity of new objects.
I have already observed that Torrents Bay is not inferior to it in any respect, and also offers space on the shore more open and better suited to the works that have to be executed during a long stay, or in consequence of accidents that have to be repaired.
We know that it was the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman that discovered New Zealand, and that on the 18th December, 1642, he anchored in the great bay bearing his name. The morning after his arrival the savages killed four men of the crew in one of his boats, which induced him to quit the place, leaving the name of Bay of Murderers. In casting the eye over our chart it is difficult to assign exactly the place where Tasman anchored. If his latitude 40o 50′ S. was exact, it would be, as I have indicated, opposite a little stream four miles south of Separation Point. It may be that the vessels of Tasman had doubled that point, and were, in fact, brought up in the bay that we have
[Footnote] * This dropping of the letter “r” is characteristic of the old Ngati-Tu-mata-kokiri Tribe of Tasman Bay, and also of the Ngati-Rakai of South Canterbury. In this they are like the Marquesans.—(Translator.)
continued to call, after Cook, Massacre Bay. That basin demands a further exploration, and one might think that it offers better anchorage, because the seas from outside cannot enter from any side.
It results from the observations of M. Jacquinot that our observatroy in Astrolabe Bay was situated—40o 58′ 22″ lat. S., 170o 35′ 25″ long. E. (of Paris), 14o variation N.E.
(End of Chapter XII.)
[With regard to the Natives met with by Captain D'Urville in Tasman Bay, they belonged to the Ngati-Apa-ki-te-ra-to Tribe (or Western Ngati-Apa), a branch of the tribe of that name which have occupied Rangi-tikei, Turakina, &c., on the North Island, for many centuries. These people, about the end of the seventeenth century, migrated from the North Island, and conquered the original inhabitants of Tasman Bay, known as Ngati-Tu-mata-kokiri. Most of the men were killed and the women taken as slaves. Those people who, D'Urville remarks, appeared to be slaves were in all probability some of the descendants of the conquered tribe, still in a state of vassalage. When these people mentioned the fact of their having suffered through the tribes from the N.W., who were armed with muskets, they refer to Ngati-Toa, of Kawhia, and Ngati-Awa, of Taranaki, who occupied Kapiti Island and the adjacent shores in 1822. But it was not until 1828, the year after D'Urville's visit, that Tasman's Bay was conquered by Niho, Takerei, Te Puohu, and others of Ngati-Toa and Ngati-Awa. Therefore, the collisions these people referred to must have been when they, together with all the other tribes of Cook's Straits, attacked Te Rauparaha at Kapiti Island, and at the battle of Wakapaetai suffered a very severe defeat at the hands of the Ngati-Toa chief. This was in 1824. For full particulars of these times see “History and Traditions of the Taranaki coast,” by the translator hereof.]