Chapter XIII.—Traverse From Astrolabe Bay to Houahoua * Bay.
22nd January, 1827.—A good part of the night the wind blew with force, with squalls and rain. At 2 a.m. the wind suddenly ceased, but rain continued until 5 a.m., when the wind set in from the south. Immediately the stern anchor was raised, and the corvette got under way. Seeing our preparations for departure, all the Natives embarked in one of their canoes with their women and children, to the number of thirty, to pay us a last visit and obtain a few more trifles from us. Their per-
[Footnote] * Houahoua is the nearest D'Urville could get to Uawa (or Tologa) Bay.
petual cries deafened us, and their presence was much in the way of the sailors, and interfered with working the ship. I endured their presence, however, importunate as they were, up till the last, in order to leave a good impression of the character of their guests. Happily, as the rain ceased we were deprived of their presence, as we lay becalmed at two miles from the shore. The Natives profited by that circumstance to make a short demonstration alongside about noon. Lastly, by aid of a light breeze from the N. and N.N.W. I made the best of my way towards the opening that I had observed on the east coast of the bay. At 3.45 p.m., and at the distance of fifteen miles about, that opening presented the appearance of a deep bay, so I steered N.E. ½ E. towards another opening much more prominent. Nevertheless, an hour afterwards the first embayment took on another aspect, and M. Guilbert believing he could see a channel, I steered right for it, in order to approach and spare myself any after-regrets. At 7.40 p.m. we were opposite that bay, and at less than a league's distance from the two points. From there we convinced ourselves that it did not offer any channel practicable by our ship. At the same time that bay, which I named “Croiselles Bay,” should offer a large and good anchorage in all winds from south, the east, and even north-west, because of some islets situated near the north point, and which perfectly shelter that side. Near to us the coast was very steep every where, and the depth was constantly 25 fathoms. It was too late to look for a suitable anchorage; in consequence, I steered off the land to pass the night; but hardly had we shifted the sheets when it fell dead calm, leaving us at the mercy of the current and a somewhat heavy swell. So we passed the entire night less than three miles from the land, a prey to the most lively inquietude, and dreading to be carried, in spite of ourselves, on to the coast. The lead cast every half-hour showed 25 fathoms constantly, with a muddy bottom; but I refrained from anchoring lest obliged to do so, for I feared to be surprised at anchor by a strong N.W. wind, which would have left us without any resource.
23rd January.—Towards 4 a.m. we recognised that we had, in spite or our care, much approached the land, and were not more than half a league off it. Vainly I had out the oars of the gallery [? galley, boat], and manæuvred to profit by the least puff of wind; the swell continued to carry us nearer and nearer to the shore, and at 8.10 a.m., in spite of my repugnance and all our efforts, there remained nothing for it but to anchor in 20 fathoms. We were at that time not more than 500 fathoms from the rocks on the shore, on which the sea was breaking heavily. [According to the chart, the anchorage was about a
couple of miles south of Cape Soucis, the south head of Croiselles Harbour.]
There exists an astonishing difference between the west coast of Tasman Bay and that of the east. The latter, battered by the gales from the west, only offers an escarped land, often bare, and nearly everywhere without landing. It recalled to us, by its sad and monotonous aspect, that which we had followed from Cape Five Fingers up to Rocks Point; also, the swell from the west appeared almost permanent, and thus renders the navigation as dangerous as the coast opposite is safe.
Between 8 and 9 a.m. a canoe manned by two Natives appeared at the mouth of Croiselles Harbour, but disappeared again. We were so anxious about our position that we gave but slight attention to them.
At 9.45 a.m. I profited by a fresh breeze from the N.W. to get under way in haste, and to conduct the ship towards the channel I had observed the previous evening in the N.N.E., and which seemed to me to establish a communication between Tasman and Admiralty Bay. We followed the coast at less than two miles distance, although the breeze was uncertain, and frequently threatened to leave us at the mercy of the swell. At 4.15 p.m. we had arrived opposite to the channel, and I stood for it with all sail, when the look-out on the crosstress announced that the pass was barred by breakers, from which we were distant not more than three or four cable-lengths. In an instant M. Guilbert flew up to the corsstrees and confirmed the report. There was not a moment to lose; instantly all the sails were lowered, and the starboard anchor let go in 26 fathoms in mid-channel, a mile or more form each of the tow points. The wind threatened to freshen from the N.W., and the swell had much increased, so I at once paid out 50 fathoms of cable.
MM. Lottin and Gressian were sent away in two boats to follow each of the two sides of the channel, to search for dangers and to find out if the pass would, in effect, conduct us to Admiralty Bay. They were nearly four hours absent, and on their return informed me that, with the exception of the breakers that extended for a considerable distance from the N.W. point, the channel appeared to them quite safe right through. They could not, nevertheless, make sure that the channel was practicable in its narrowest part, where it debouched into Admiralty Bay. M. Lottin, who approached that part nearest, found it almost barred by rocks barely above the surface, and there prevailed there a very violent current, accompanied by eddies and whirlpools, which had nearly carried his boat into the breakers, and it was only with extreme difficulty he had been
able to withdraw from this perilous position. That pass was distant a league and a half from our anchorage. In returning, the current had caused great trouble to these two officers, whilst the crews were extremely fatigued.
I expected to see the wind fall at night as usual. It did not do so; on the contrary, it freshened rapidly from the N.W. At 9 p.m., when the boats returned, it was already so strong, and had raised such a sea, that they had great trouble in hoisting in the boats without breaking them. From 10 to 11 p.m. the wind blew very hard, and the sea had become very heavy. The corvette pitched with great violence, causing a great strain on the cable, and in the strongest gusts the waves came right over the ship, covering entirely the forecastle. We ran the risk of foundering. At 11 p.m. I paid out 70 fathoms of cable, and some minutes after, having drifted sensibly, we let go the port anchor with the heavy chain, purchased at Port Jackson, giving 20 fathoms more on the other cable. Our position was extremely critical, for if the chain and the cable did not hold the corvette would have smashed up on an iron coast, from which we were only distant three or four cable-lengths. The sea was breaking with such fury that to reduce the “Astrolabe” into fragments would have been an affair of some minutes only. It was very certain not one of the crew would have escaped from such a catastrophe; it is even doubtful if any vestige would have been preserved on the coast, so complete would have been the destruction of the ship.
Great as our anxiety already was, it became much more so when, at 2.45 a.m., we found ourselves again dragging, and ascertained that the starboard cable had parted. We immediately paid out 60 fathoms of chain, which had now become our only resource, and made fast another cable to an old anchor on the port side ready for use in case of want. But the single chain held us, and at the same time the wind decreased suddenly, the sea went down, and the sky cleared as by enchantment. Whoever has found themselves in a similar situation will understand what a burden had been removed.
Hardly had the day broken when we commenced to haul in the end of the broken cable; it had been cut at 12 fathoms from the hawse-hole, and was much frayed in other parts. This proved that the bottom was covered with sharp rocks, and we felicitated ourselves that the accident had not taken place at the worst of the weather.
The large boat carried out small cables, and attached them to the buoy-rope of the anchor, in order to save the latter. At 8 a.m. we hauled on the chain, and when the anchor came to the surface of the water we recognised, with as much surprise as
regret, that one of its flukes was broken, which no doubt was occasioned by the nature of the bottom. Thus, during many hours the safety of the “Astrolabe” had depended upon nothing but a thread, as it were.
We then hauled on the broken cable, having care to strengthen the buoy-rope with a solid mailon. That precaution was useful, for hardly had the anchor approached the surface when the buoy-rope broke, and without the mailon the anchor had been lost.
At 9.10 a.m. we got under way with a little sail to enter the channel of communication between the two bays; we passed to starboard two rocks under water, very dangerous, and shortly found ourselves in a basin of calm water, and which presented no appearance of currents. As the breeze still held in the west, I followed the east side at about 200 fathoms distance to hold the wind. Our navigation in that narrow channel, between two chains of elevated mountains, had something imposing in it: on one side thick forests, on the other copses, or nothing but tall fern; behind us Tasman Bay, losing itself in the horizon; before us the islands and islets of Admiralty Bay, appearing through the pass as in a telescope, and gradually increasing in size to the eye. Such was the extraordinary spectacle, which we could have enjoyed if care of the vessel had not prevented us.
Arrived about 400 fathoms within the pass, I saw that it was almost completely barred by rocks just showing above water, and I was obliged to send M. Gressian to take a nearer view, while I advanced slowly under very little sail. After having taken some soundings, and examined the pass, that officer returned and reported that it was practicable, though very confined, and that the greatest depth was on the east side; but that the current had commenced to enter, and that without a strong breeze it would be difficult to contend with. Nevertheless, I decided to try it, and made more sail. When the corvette was not more than a cable's length from the pass the bar all at once became covered with boiling foam, and the water came rushing through in whirlpools of an unbelievable violence. On the instant the corvette obeyed the action of the currents, which carried her back rapidly into the bay of currents [Current Basin], making her turn round several times.
I was better pleased to see her resting in the basin than carried on to the breakers in the pass, but I was disappointed as much as surprised to find the current, instead of following the middle of the channel, directing itself straight to the coast on to a point [Point Tourbillons—Whirlpool Point] which was immediately to the south of us. Thus, in two or three minutes,
before the anchors could be let go, the bow of the vessel was not more than a few fathoms off the rocks of the coast. She was rushing on to the point with all the swiftness of the current. To deaden the violence of the blow, I sent the longboat with a tow-line, and at the same instant the anchor was let go. Although the anchor was apeak, it held us afloat; but it could not protect the ship from grazing if the whirlpool in which she was had again made her turn right round twice or thrice, with the depth of 7 or 8 fathoms, at not many feet from the rocks. It was now noon; M. Jacquinot had gone ashore in the long-boat to observe the sun, and all these movements had been so rapidly made that that officer had not observed them till all were terminated. The lesser anchor was immediately placed in the long-boat, and carried outside to the distance of a short cable; but, although strongly manned, and towed by the yawl, the boat, carried by the current, could only with difficulty carry it out some 30 or 40 fathoms. However, as soon as we had the end of the cable we hauled on it, dragging after us the large anchor, which by good luck had not held. Towards an hour after noon we found ourselves nearly apeak over the small anchor and at 20 fathoms from the coast.
Anxious to give to each of our collaborators the means of utilising his time, I at once sent to the neighbouring shore the naturalists and the artist of the expedition, also MM. Guilbert and Pâris. These two latter each climbed the summit of a hill which overlooked both Tasman and Admiralty Bays, in order to obtain an exact view of their details, and make observations useful for the geography of the strait. In thus acting I had a double end in view—that of utilising the zeal of persons whose presence aboard was of no use in the manæuvres we had to make, and, above all, to impress the crew with the fact that, notwithstanding the dangers we were incurring, the work was carried on as if we were under the happiest circumstances in our navigation. It was the course I constantly followed, and I believe it to be indispensable, especially with individuals so pusillanimous as were most of our crew.
Whilst our companions were usefully occupied ashore, on board we redoubled our efforts to place the corvette in safety. The long-boat, having taken on board two short cables and a stream-anchor, departed to place it as far out as possible, but, always mastered by the current, which carried them towards Tasman Bay, they could not take it further than a cable's length from the shore. We hauled on it, at the same time slacking out on the other, but the current caused it to become entangled with the large anchor, which was dragging. The cables, the short cables, and the buoy-ropes were so thoroughly twisted
that it took some time to clear them. Lastly, at 4 p.m. all was ready, and we let go the smaller anchor with the little chain in 21 fathoms, gravel and shells, at a good cable's length from the shore; afterwards the stream-anchor was lifted.
It was not until then that the crew, which had worked hard ever since 4 a.m., and had only had a quarter of an hour's respite for breakfast, could take their dinner. On that occasion I remarked that the sailors, naturally idle and grumblers in ordinary bad times, showed themselves active, submissive, and even resigned in the dangers we had seen. That observation gave me great pleasure, as showing what they were capable of in decisive moments.
In the evening we occupied ourselves in clearing up the poop, which was more encumbered with chains and warps than it had ever been before, and in preparing for the manæuvres which remained to be executed to take us into Current Basin.
During that time, accompanied by M. Guilbert, who had returned from his excursion, I embarked in the whaleboat to visit the pass. What I ascertained this time convinced me that it would be very imprudent to risk the passage before being well acquainted with it, as well as the part of the sea beyond, in Admiralty Bay, and it was at that moment impossible to sound either one or the other. The current had turned, and now ran toward Admiralty Bay, but its action was too irregular, and the sea boiled in whirlpools in a frightful manner. The N.W. point was continued in a chain of rocks just showing, and which, by closing three-fourths of the pass, stopped the waters in their course, and formed a bar almost continuous in the only open part. The effect of this contraction of the mass of water was felt in our basin, and its surface was more elevated than that of the water of Admiralty Bay. With the whaleboat it required all the force of six men to pull against the current outside the main stream, so one may judge of its impetuosity in its true sphere of action. There was reason to believe that low water would be the most favourable time to attempt the passage; but at that time the current was contrary, and the help of a favourable and constant breeze would be indispensable. Almost touching the bar, and opposite the east point, I found 20, 25, up to 40 fathoms depth. A crowd of cormorants, perched on the bushes on the opposite shore, were the sole guardians of this basin.**
[Footnote] ** In reference to these cormorants or shags, it is interesting to read the Maori account of the (mythical) formation of the French Pass by a cormorant named Te Kawau-a-Toru. See “Journal, Polynesian Society,” vol. ii, p. 53 et seq. The Maori name of the pass is “Te Aumiti.”—(Translator.)
We passed the night with the smaller anchor down, with 42 fathoms of chain. It was calm up to midnight, after which time the sky became overcast, and squalls came on from the N.W. with rain, which lasted some hours.
25th January.—M. Guilbert employed the whole morning in making a plan of the basin in which we were, and it resulted from his explorations that the soundings are regular from 20 to 25 fathoms, gravel and shells, right up to the shore.
I left at 10 a.m., with M. Gressian, to again examine the pass, or at least its sides. The tide was nearly low, and I found with pleasure that the sea only broke feebly on the rocks, in spite of the whirlpools which were there. I sounded in the very middle of the channel and found a great depth, whilst, without our perceiving it, the current carried us rapidly towards Admiralty Bay. For the moment I was somewhat anxious as to the manner by which we should return to Current Basin, because of the redoubtable bar which the back current always established. Lastly I decided, certain that we could always return by land over the peninsula, and, after all, it would only mean the sacrifice of the boat.
Hence I advanced with confidence for half a mile into Admiralty Bay, the basin of which appeared quite safe, and the entrance much less obstructed by islands and islets than Cook had shown. On the shore we observed some Native villages, and a canoe at sea, which I would willingly have waited for, but it was essential not to lose precious time for the object which I proposed. I therefore hastened back to the pass, where I found the sea perfectly calm. It was the very moment when the current was absent, and during our stay there we observed that this calm rarely lasted more than a quarter of an hour. It was to us altogether an extraordinary event to be able to move in that space which we had seen occupied by impetuous whirlpools and a menacing bar. I profited by it to sound it with care. I recognised that all the N.W. part of the pass was effectively barred by rocks just at the surface, at that time quite uncovered, and also that some isolated rocks 8 ft. or 10 ft. under water prolonged the chain. Thus the only part of the pass practicable is reduced to 30 or 40 fathoms in width near the S.E. point; that point is as accessible as a quay, and might be closely approached without any danger.
From that moment I decided to take the “Astrolabe” through the pass with the first favourable wind, from the double consideration that this would save us a long and disagreeable round, and at the same time procure us the means of delineating properly the coasts of Admiralty Bay. I called to M.
Guilbert, whom I saw at some distance going on board, and asked him to hasten to the pass, and profit by the calm to make some soundings. But already the current commenced to turn into our basin, and it became impossible for him to approach the pass, in spite of all his and his crew's efforts.
From there I went to a beach on the isle, not far from the pass, where I remained an hour walking over it and collecting plants. Again I was struck with the resemblance that exists in general terms between the vegetation of this part of the world and that of Polynesia. On the other hand, one discovers that New Zealand possesses plenty of Australian species, notwithstanding the differences that at first present themselves between the floras of the two countries. That double observation conducts naturally to the thought that New Zealand, in spite of its high latitude, presents a system of vegetation intermediate between that of Polynesia and that of New Holland—a sort of transition from one to the other.
That spot offered me many bunches of Phormium, and, although its favourite station is on the banks of streams, I have seen it grow with vigour on the almost bare maritime rocks [pl. xliii]. Near the shore a pretty cascade rolls its waters over the rocks and débris which have succumbed to the action of the winds, or of centuries of storms, and would furnish easily the wants of a fleet.
On returning on board about 1 p.m. I sent the long-boat to place a stream-anchor two cable-lengths outside, towards the middle of the channel; we afterwards hauled up to it, after having heaved up the lesser anchor, with which we proceeded to replace the other, when the wind began to rise from the N.W., with squalls charged with rain, which caused us to drift. Fifty fathoms of chain were paid out, and the corvette held at about a cable-length from the shore. Thus our whole day's work was wasted, and we found ourselves not more advanced than before. During the night the wind increased, and blew very fresh, with squalls, rain, thunder, and lightning. To spare the small chain, which worked a good deal, and to prevent our dragging on to the shore, it became necessary to let go another anchor, with the great chain of which we paid out 30 fathoms.
26th January.—The wind decreased at midnight, and at daylight work was again commenced. The large and the small anchors were both lifted, and then we hauled on to a streamanchor placed at three cables' length to windward in 21 fathoms of water. We remained with 84 fathoms of the small cable, awaiting a favourable moment to get under way. At 9 a.m. a nice breeze from the W.S.W. arose, and seemed to hold. The
anchor was quickly hauled in, the mizzen and the top sails set at the same moment; but hardly had we fallen off on our course when the wind fell, and came round to the north. Just then the current took us broadside on, and carried us again within half a cable's length of the unfortunate Whirlpool Point. A stream-anchor could not hold us, and it became necessary to add the smaller anchor and chain.
We then towed off shore with three hawsers, which, with difficulty, took us a cable-length off the land. This movement was repeated, but we were so contraried by difficulties that at 5 p.m. we had to content ourselves with anchoring about a cablelength and a half from the shore. We had been engaged thirteen hours in this continued and hard labour, removing, mooring, and lifting a number of anchors and cables, and were still less far advanced than in the morning. Hardly had the boats, laden with anchors and cables, reached a short distance from the ship when the current would sweep them away to the southward with irresistible violence, and the longest tow-line was thus reduced to a half-cable or more. In this fatal basin the punishment of the Danaids was renewed for us, and it seemed as if some evil genius wished, each day to destroy in an instant the fruit of our greatest efforts.
For several days I had suffered from pains in my side, and the successive fatigue of the day had not contributed to lessen them. All night long a strong wind from the N.W. and W.N.W. prevailed with squalls, but a clear sky. Our chain, now well tried, assured our position, otherwise it would not have been without inquietude.
27th January.—At 7.30 a.m. I went in the yawl to look for a spot to place a stream-anchor at four cables' length to windward of the ship, in order that we might haul towards the other side of the bay, where we should be in a position to get under way with the prevailing wind. To my great surprise, in sounding at 200 or 300 fathoms from the pass I found all that space occupied by a sand-bank covered with only 15 ft., 12 ft., and even 11 ft. of water at low tide. Beyond that the depth suddenly returned to 22 and 24 fathoms, and formed a narrow channel along the island. The presence of that sand-bank proved to me that the pass was even more dangerous than I had thought for a ship drawing so much water as ours; but, on the other hand, I was pleased with the discovery, because it offered a point of safe support for the stream-anchors which I wished to place there.
Directly I returned on board I sent the long-boat to place a stream-anchor towards the sand-bank, and it returned with the end of the three hawsers with which it was furnished. At the
same time I sent the whaleboat with two other hawsers to join on to those of the other boat whilst we hauled on our anchor; but by a new fatality, at the moment when the two boats approached one another, the current, which up to that time had been quite moderate, returned with violence towards Tasman Bay, and rapidly carried the boats away, each on its own side. All attempts for the moment became useless. Thus we remained with the anchor apeak; the whaleboat was hauled to the ship with its hawser; and I gave the order to the long-boat to remain at anchor.
At 11.30 a.m. the current still ran with the same force, and, fearing that the time of high water would be too short to execute our movements, I sent M. Lottin towards the long-boat with orders to haul up the stream-anchor, and to let it go near the corvette, so that the end of the three hawsers could be brought on board. This was carried out with success. At 1.30 p.m. we had hold of the end of the hawsers; the great anchor was lifted, and we hauled on the stream-anchor.
At 3 p.m. we let go another anchor in 5 ½ fathoms of water, on the edge of the sand-bank, and at 500 fathoms from either side of the channel. We now found ourselves in position to get under way at the first favourable wind.
In the evening, accompanied by several of the officers, I again visited the shores of the island [D'Urville Island]. I wished to penetrate into the interior, but the thickets and the steep slopes of the hills soon stopped me. From Reef Point I again attentively examined the pass, and promised myself to accomplish the passage the day following, if the weather permitted. In returning on board, our boat was surrounded by the foaming whirlpools of the pass, and we had some trouble to disengage ourselves. Nevertheless, on that occasion we ascertained that their aspect was very much more fearful than dangerous—at least, in manæuvring carefully.
In the morning some Natives came from Admiralty Bay as far as the reefs of the pass, and communicated with our people, but they would not venture on board. When we entered Current Basin we noticed near Lebrun Peninsula a small village, and when M. Guilbert was on the top of the hills which overlook the two bays he saw another village underneath him, on the side towards Admiralty Bay. None of the Natives of these villages showed themselves, although they could not have been ignorant of our presence. The tribes of these parts probably only knew of Europeans by tradition, and not one of them dared to make a close acquaintance with us.
During the evening and the night the eternal west wind blew with violence in heavy squalls. At this time our position
was more precarious than the preceding night, for if we had drifted the wind would have carried us directly on to the reefs of the pass, and there our end would not have been doubtful.
28th January.—At last I saw arrive a day which announced itself under happier auspices, and presaged to me a favourable wind. So as not to neglect any precautions in my power, at 4.30 a.m. I went to the S.E. point of the pass, and climbed to the top of the ridge overlooking it. It was not an easy thing to do, on account of the steepness and the thickets of impenetrable fern which covered the slopes for some distance; but I succeeded, and from a hillock my view plunged down on the pass, demonstrating that it was practicable with extreme precaution. Nevertheless, I did not dissimulate from myself that the enterprise might have a fatal ending. In looking towards the corvette I could not prevent myself fancying involuntarily that that machine, so well organized, so imposing, and destined for such a long career, would be for some instants, by the sole effect of my will, exposed to be lost on the rocks situated at my feet. Ten officers, an entire crew, inhabitants of that floating city now become their veritable country, might in a few hours find themselves reduced to seek their safety on a sterile and inhospitable shore, to lead a miserable existence, and perhaps perish without ever seeing again their relatives and friends. Such reflections for a moment shook my resolution; but it strengthened itself shortly, and I returned aboard decided to try my fortune.
At 7 a.m. the stream-anchor was got up and dropped near the ship, in 6 fathoms. A short time afterwards the breeze appeared established and moderate in the W.S.W., the tide was also slack, and I decided to get under way at once, so as to be master of my movements. We had taken the short cable to the stern, which presented the bows towards our route, and put us in position to catch the wind in the sails when unfurled. This was executed with great celerity. At the same instant the foresail, jib, the mizzen and lower topsail were set, and for some minutes we steered very well; but at the moment when we entered the pass the wind failed, and the current, coming against us with impetuosity, caused us to swerve to port. In vain I instantly put the helm up, and furled all after-sail, to try and approach the coast to the right—to touch it, as one might say, if it were necessary. The corvette would not obey at all, and, mastered by the current, she could not avoid being carried on to the rocks at the end of the reef, on which I knew there was but 10 ft. or 12 ft. of water [pl. xl]. Shortly after the “Astrolabe” touched twice. The first shock was slight; but the second time a lugubrious cracking, accompanied by a prolonged shaking, by a sensible
pause in the movement of the corvette, and by a strong inclination to starboard, caused us a serious doubt that she rested on a rock, and would not come off. The crew at that moment involuntarily raised a cry of alarm. “It is nothing; we are over it!” I cried, with a loud voice, to reassure them. In fact, the current, continuing to drag the corvette, prevented her from remaining on the rock; beyond that the breeze freshened, and we got steering-way on her, and shortly, free of all fears, we sailed along under full sail in the peaceful waters of Admiralty Bay. We got off with the loss of several fragments of the false keel which the shock detached, and which floated in the wake of the ship.
Entirely occupied in the manæuvres of the moment, it was not possible for me to occupy myself with what passed around me. But those of my companions who could give more attention assured me that it was at that time an imposing spectacle to see the “Astrolabe,” first heeling over as if ready to sink in the whirlpools that surrounded her, and then rising again gracefully and nobly, advancing through waters now become peaceful.
To preserve the recollection of the passage of the “Astrolabe,” I named that dangerous strait the “Passe des Français” [French Pass]; but unless in case of urgency I would not recommend any one to try it, and then only with a strong breeze well established and nearly aft. For the rest, the charts that M. Guilbert has made from his surveys of all parts of the strait will considerably facilitate the navigation by those who follow us in the same place.
At 9 a.m. we laid to to make a “station,” in 31 fathoms of water, and hauled up and secured all the boats. At that time we could contemplate at our ease the fine basin where we were. It merits certainly all the eulogiums of Captain Cook. I recommend, above all, a fine little harbour a few miles to the south of the place where that captain anchored. Protected by an advanced point (Point Bonne) against the swell and winds from the north, it offers an excellent shelter from all winds. [Probably Forsyth Bay, north-east entrance of Pelorus Sound.] I regretted sincerely that time did not permit me to spare some days to explore this bay, the more so that a Native village, situated just opposite us, promised fresh observations of interest. [The Natives that the expedition saw along this part of the coast were some of the Ngati-kuia Tribe of Pelorus, whose settlements extended in those days round Admiralty Bay, D'Urville Island, &c.—(Translator).]
Our navigation of the French Pass had positively proved the land which ends in Cape Stephens, of Cook, to be an island, It is divided from the mainland of Tavai-Pounamou [Te Wai
Pounamu] by Current Basin. High and mountainous in all its extent, the coasts are sombre, escarped, and savage on the west, which looks out on Tasman Bay; but its aspect is much softer on the side of Admiralty Bay; there are even some very pleasant sites there. The island is twenty miles from north to south, and something under eight from east to west. The officers of the “Astrolabe,” impressed with the desire to perpetuate the memory of their captain, wished his name to be attached to that part of the discoveries of the voyage, and he did not think it well to refuse that mark of esteem on the part of his brave companions. The name of D'Urville Island therefore will remain until the epoch when we shall learn the name it has already received from its inhabitants. [D'Urville Island is known to the Maoris as Rangi-toto; but even now, eighty years after the French captain's visit, it is better known by the name given it by his officers. The observation made by the celebrated French explorer in the last sentence quoted shows how fully he recognised the propriety of retaining the Native name of places. and is in keeping with the broad-minded views expressed all through his narrative.]
We may leave the “Astrolabe” here, to follow at a later period the interesting account of her stay at Tologa Bay and Auckland.