Extracts from the Remarks of H.M.S. North Star, Captain Sir E. Home Bart., R N.
(From the Naval Magazine for November, 1846)
On the first of August the North Star sailed for Auckland, New Zealand, where she anchored on the 10th, the winds were from the north to south, by the west, and once south by east ; south-west, west, and north-west, were the prevailing winds. The first three days the weather was fine, after which there was a succession of strong gales and fresh breezes, with squalls and rain, and fine weather. On the 4th the breeze being light at south by east with fine weather, it shifted to south and south-west, and came on to blow ; and on the 5th blew hard, shifting to south, and returning to south-went, moderating at west, west-north-west, and north, with light airs and fine weather.
On the 6th and 7th it blew hard, coming, on from north, when it was fine ; shifting to northwest, and increasing at west and west-south. west, and south-west ; after which it moderated, but strong breezes from the same quarters continued until sheltered by the land. The barometer had fallen gradually from 29.97 on the 1st until noon on the 3rd, when it was 29.62 ; it then rose during the 4th, and at 8 a.m. on the 6th stood at 30 inches, and fell by noon on the day following to 29.60, and then continued to rise gradually to 30.12 by 8 am upon the 10th. The thermometer between the 1st and 12th ranged between 54° and 67°.
On the morning of the 8th we were off the Three Kings, a group of high barren rugged rocks of different sizes ; having rounded the northern extremity of the island, the water was smooth, and the weather very fine. After rounding the North Cape, at 1 p.m., a course was shaped for Cape Brett, east-south-east ; the land of North Cape is high, sloping off on the inside to a long low neck of land, forming the north extreme of Doubtless Bay. Cape Brett is a barren high pointed headland, with a small island off it by which it may be known. This cape was passed at 9 a.m. and the group of islands called the Poor Knights at two a.m. They are rugged islands of moderate height. At daylight passed between the Hen and Chickens and Bream Head, the first a most remarkable group of islands, as the latter is a headland, high and rugged in the extreme ; large fragments of basaltic rock piled up in most fantastic forms, which vary their appearance as the ship passes them. This done, the Great and Little Barrier Islands open, and a low flat-topped rock is to be looked for a-head. Off Bream Head and the islands Poor Knights and Hen and Chickens, the greatest abundance of the finest bream, or schnapper, with other fish, are to be caught with hook and line.
The space between Bream Head and Cape Rodney is a bay of considerable depth, the land at the back hilly, and, like the rest which we had passed, clothed with trees to the top. The Great Barrier Island is rather high, and is remarkable for its copper ore. Cape Rodney is of moderate height and considerable extent, terminating in a bluff, within which at a distance of about ten miles there is a harbour, called Motu-ka-ka, which is said to be good. Passing on towards the harbour of Waitemata, at the entrance to which the town of Auckland is situated, we passed between the island of Tiri-tiri Matanghi and the point Wangaprava. The island is low and covered with brush wood ; the point is moderately high, with rocks off the north side of it, which were breaking ; the passage is very good, we worked through, the wind south-west. The island of Ranguitoto had been for some time visible, and cannot be mistaken ; it is to be known by two points which stand upon each side of the peak which forms the apex of the mountain, and have the same appearance which ever way they are-viewed. Under this island is good anchorage all round ; a signal station will now be seen upon the top of a remarkable hill, called Mount Victoria, which is left on the starboard hand, passing to the left of a red buoy which is placed upon a rock, over which there is six feet water. Having passed which, the port of Waitemata opens ; the north head is rounded at about a quarter of a mile to avoid a sandy spit, which extends easterly.
A remarkable rock, in form of, and called, the Bastion, is seen, from which extends a rocky ledge in a north direction one mile ; a standing beacon is placed upon the outer extreme, and a black buoy is in-shore of it, avoiding which there is a good working passage of seven fathoms up to the town, in which depth, or from five to ten fathoms, anchor, the church bearing south, the Bastion rock east-half-south ; the holding ground is very good. Moor with open hawse to south-west. The tide runs about three knots per hour. Wind from south-west or north-east, with squalls and rain, prevails during the day, falling light or calm towards sunset, and coming on again most commonly about 10 a.m. ; the harbour of Waitemata is capable of containing three hundred large vessels.
The town of Auckland is built on the south side of this strait. At the upper part of the harbour, it was at first proposed to place the town, but the shoal water near the land, and the distance which it would be necessary for vessels to be brought from sea, was a sufficient objection. Above the harbour is an extensive piece of water, very shallow ; near the middle of it is a rock called the Boat Rock, which, at a little distance exactly resembles a boat ; it is about fifteen feet long and four above the surface at high water ; this rock is usually covered with cormorants. Near the centre of the gorge, in the narrowest part, opening into this basin, are the remains of a small island about thirty feet high, having bushes on the top, called the Centinel ; it is composed of a sort of soft sandstone and clay, off which there is very good fishing with hook and line. It is about two miles and a half from the head, the opening between which is about one mile and a half. This is sheltered to the east by the southern part of the main land and the island of Koreha, the island of Waihekah being eastward of it, is some distance further out.
The North Head is a round hill of moderate height, from the base of which rises another hill round and high, Mount Victoria, upon which is the signal station ; behind which in the distance, is to be seen the summit of Ranguitoto. These two hills are upon a peninsula, which, like the greater part, of the country where it is not forest land, is covered with fern. From these hills the land continues of a regular form, and of moderate height for some distance round the north side of the harbour, bare of trees, and having a cliff of light brown sandstone, the strata horizontal and well defined. The South Head is lower than the North, it is a precipice, and is of the same formation as the rest. This harbour is broken into numerous bays, the surface of the land undulates in moderate hills and slopes ; in one of these bays a the south side, about half way between the South Head and the Centinel rock, is the town of Auckland ; it is called Commercial Bay ; it is separated from Official Bay by Britomart Point, upon which are the barracks, and south of that the church is built, a brick building unfinished.
In Official Bay are the principal government officers' allotments, where they reside. Upon the ground above is the government house, a long low building of wood upon a brick foundation. A stream of water rushes from this bay into the sea ; the stream is small, but a convenient watering place might be made there with little trouble. There is no landing place, and shoal water extends to a considerable distance, so that a boat cannot come close up to the beach excepting at high water. A ship lately sailed out of the harbour laden with coals, which the inhabitants stood in need of, because there was no means of landing them is any moderate length of time. The various bays eastward are all occupied by different settlers ; that next eastward of Official Bay is called Mechanic Bay ; here is a rope walk of some extent, the property of three brothers, who make cordage from the New Zealand hemp, that which is prepared by the natives being much the best ; the demand is greater than their power to supply, and although we wanted rope there was none on hand for sale.
These bays have sandy beaches, the rocks projecting from the points which form them some distance into the water, flowering shrubs overhang the precipices which form these points ; the land between them rises with a gradual slope to the level ground, which forms the face of the country, it is here entirely covered with fern, upon which and the grass which grows under it the cattle thrive exceedingly. At the back of the town stands Mount Eden, the town itself standing in the county of Eden, the family name of the Earl of Auckland ; this mountain, with others in its neighbourhood, is of volcanic origin, as is the island of Rauguitoto, and probably the whole country. These hills were formerly fortified places and are nearly all encircled near the summit with a succession of trenches, many of great depth, giving the appearances of terraces, as many as five or six, one below the other. Mount Eden has a large deep crater in its centre, and is very remarkable as a native fortification. The hills rise abruptly from the plain, are steep, and of considerable height ; are well formed for strong-holds and places of defence in a country filled with warlike tribes. Masses and blocks of scoria of immense size cover the ground near these mountains, and are excellent for building. From the harbour there is no appearance of cultivated land, except a few small neat gardens, in and near the town. The prospect is not, however, sterile, but has the appearance of down land.
In the neighbourhood of Auckland, but not further south, are forests of the Dammara Australis or Kawri trees, particularly about Manakau harbour, westward ; and up a creek in the basin, above the Centinel Rock, upon the right hand side, at some distance there is a forest of considerable size ; some of the trees were measured which, at four feet from the ground, would square three feet eight inches, three feet six, and three feet seven, perfectly erect and smooth for forty and fifty feet below the branches ; trees squaring two feet seven and a half were common, but there are no remarkably large trees in this forest. Kawrie-gum streams copiously from the stumps of the trees, which have been felled, covering the stump with an appearance like wax, and hardening in the air ; this, gum is also to be found in large lumps in places where the trees are now no longer to be found. At a little distance below the surface of the ground, it is collected by the natives, and sold to speculators who have lately commenced a trade with it to England. The population of the county of Eden, parish of Waitemata, is the years 1843-4, in an area of twenty-four square miles, was
European males, 1506, females 1016.
Natives " 350 " 250
Total 1856 1266
The North Star remained at Auckland from the 10th of August to the 14th, during which time the winds were from west and west-south west, east, and north-east. The dip of the needle was found to be 68 19, in the garden of the Harbour-master in Official Bay. The barometer, which had been gradually rising for three days previous to our arrival at Auckland, attained its greatest height on the day after, standing at noon at 30.18. It then fell as gradually, and when she sailed upon the 14th, stood at 8 p.m., at 29.94 ; the range of the thermometer, in the mean time, between the 10th and 14th, was from 54° to 66°. We arrived at Wellington upon the 31st of August. In this passage the winds were from the north-east and south-east, calm, north-west, west, north-east, south-east, south-west, south, north-west, south-west, and south-east, south, south-west and south, north-east, north-west, north, east, and north. The first three days after sailing were fine, with light airs and calms, but from that time to the end of the passage a succession of strong breezes and gales of wind, with thick cloudy weather and rain, particularly of the East Cape, the worst weather being from the south-south-east.
Port Nicholson is a large harbour of an oval form, the depth of water from seven to fifteen fathoms, mud. It is surrounded with very high land covered with trees. There are numerous gullies, down which the wind rushes with great violence, rendering it extremely dangerous for boats. The prevailing winds in this harbour are, as is Cook's Straits, from north-north-west to south-south-east.
The entrance is formed by two heads, the eastern is called Pencarrow, and the western Sinclair's Head ; between Sinclair's Head and the entrance is a long reef of rocks, which extend eastward two-thirds of the passage across. There are two passages, the western is called Chaffers, which should not be attempted by a stranger. The eastern or main passage is safe, using common caution, the dangers being all above water. The depth in the eastern passage from 7 to 10 fathoms, and until after the heads have been passed. From a little rugged island, which is left on the starboard hand, a bank extends a quarter of a mile with 4 fathoms water ; a small rock called the Pyramid is left, on the port hand, from which a small bank also extends about a cable's length. Point Journingham is to be rounded upon the port hand at a convenient distance ; the anchorage is in what is called Lampton harbour, off Thorndon flat, the latter point bearing east, and the centre of a large island called Soames Island bearing N.E. The best watering place is at the heads of the harbour near the custom-house ; on the Te-Aro flat. This town stands upon the beach, for the most past it is very straggling, and extends from the Te-Aro to Thorndon flats, a distance of about two miles. A shallow but rapid river called the Hutt flows into the N.E. part of the harbour. The tide in the harbour is scarcely perceptible ; at the entrance it sets N E. and S. W. 1½ knots.
Vessels have been known to mistake Pallisser bay for Port Nicholson, the wind blowing in, they have been unable to work out, and have been lost. The ship remained at Port Nicholson from the 31st of August until the 6th of October, during which time the winds blew alternately from north-west and north-north-east, south-east, and south-south-east, varying occasionally to the cardinal points and east-south-east ; the barometer ranged between 29.26 and 30.08 ; the thermometer from 64° to 50°.
On the 5th of October the ship sailed for Cook's Straits. In rounding Cape Tera-whiti, the Islands of Maua and Capiti are seen ahead ; the first is a table-land of moderate height ; bare of trees, with anchorage on its eastern side. The ship anchored under this island in the afternoon of the same day, in five fathoms water, sand, and mud, Broken Head bearing north-north-east ½ east four miles, and the extremes of the island of Maua, west ¼ north, and north-west one mile. The tide here sets through the strait, the flood three knots two fathoms, the ebb two knots six fathoms per hour. On the 7th she moved to the anchorage off the island of Kapiti, which is distant from that of Maua about eighteen miles. Midway between the islands, the depth is thirty-three fathoms, dark sand. Kapiti is high and thickly wooded : upon the eastern side are three islands, the anchorage is between the northern and southern ones ; they are used as whaling stations. The bearings are extremes of Kapiti from south-east by east half east to north by west. Evans island, north-west, Maua Island, south by east, the depth seventeen fathoms. It is exposed to the north-easterly winds, but the fetch is not great, the coast extending eastwards of these islands, from Cape Tera-white to Cape Egmont, forms a curve north-northwest, and south-south-east, at a distance from them of about seven miles.
Between Maua and the main the tide runs two and a half knots, and between the main and Kapiti three knots, it runs in the direction of Cook's Strait ; at the anchorage on the day of full moon it was high water at 9h. 30m. the force of tide one mile and a half per hour.
On the 9th October we sailed for Nelson. In crossing the strait when Cape Tera-Whiti bore south-south-west, and was in one with the east extreme of Maua Island, Gibraltar rock bore north-east three quarters north, and the extremes of Kapiti north half west and north three-quarters east ; the extremes of Maua west-south-went and south-south-west ; the patent log was put over. Stephens Island appears at the extreme entrance to Blind Bay, when the centre of this island bore south-west by south, the distance run was forty-one miles. At the bottom of this lies Nelson haven. The anchorage is in seven fathoms, sand and mud, with the east point of a small island called Pepins Island, which is left open on the port hand coming in north-east, and the Company's flag staff, which is on the high ground in the town of Nelson, south-south-east quarter east. Outside the haven the distance from the town measured by sound two miles and fifty-six yard. This haven is formed by a natural breakwater, or bank of boulder stones, two miles in length. The entrance to it is very narrow, and at length times dangerous to enter or depart from excepting at slack water, the force of the tide being at the springs eight, and at neaps six knots per hour. The anchorage outside the haven is considered to be perfectly safe. The winds very seldom blowing home into the bay, but the finest and mildest weather prevails there, when the very reverse is found outside. The distance from Stephens Island to the town of Nelson is about sixty miles, and the space between Stephens Island and the point of Massacre Bay is about the same.
The North Star left Nelson on the 14th, and returned to Wellington on the 16th. The winds in Cook's Straits were from leaving Port Nicholson to our arrival at Nelson, from the south-east principally, varying occasionally to east and south. In Blind Bay it was calm nearly the whole of the time we remained there, and returning from thence to Port Nicholson it was north-north-east and north-east light, and the weather fine. The barometer had been regular from the day we left Port Nicholson, when it had risen to 30.16, until our arrival at Nelson, when it stood at 30.07 ; during our stay there it fell from that to 29.97, at which it remained stationary for thirty-six hours, and then continued to fall from 8 a.m. on the 30th (29.07) to 8 p.m. on the 16th, at noon of which day it had fallen to 29.07. We were at that time off the entrance to Port Nicholson. It was not my intention to have gone in, but as the mercury was lower than I had yet seen it, I did not pass the port, and anchored ; making every preparation for bad weather. At 8 that evening it stood at 28.97, and began to rise ; during the time that the mercury was stationary, when is Blind Bay between the evening of the 11th and the morning of the 13th, the weather was calm and very fine, and between that time and the evening of the 16th, when the barometer had fallen to the lowest, the same light breezes and fine weather continued, the winds from north-east, and north-north-east, and north-north-west ; for the greater part of the 16th it was calm and fine, a light air from the east and south-east, which shifted in the evening to north-west, clouded over, and towards midnight became squally. It rose on the 17th to 29.10 with strong breezes and squalls, which continued until the evening of the 19th, when it blew a gale from the north-west, which moderated into a fresh breeze from that quarter and fine weather by noon of the following day. At noon of the 19th, it had risen gradually to 29.28, and at noon of the 20th had fallen again to 29.07. As the weather which attended this extraordinary fall of the mercury was by no means equal to what might have been expected, I delayed our departure no longer. and upon that day, 20th, sailed for Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. The thermometer ranged between sailing from Port Nicholson until our return to it from 48 ° to 65°, and when in Blind Bay from 55° to 64°.
Leaving Port Nicholson, on the 20th of October, arrived at Akaroa on the 24th ; the weather was fine and the winds light and moderate from south, south-west ; and south-south-west ; there were occasionally squalls, and showers of rain ; for twelve hour it was calm, the barometer during the four days rose gradually from 29.07 to 29.86, and the thermometer ranged between 51° and 60°. Running along the eastern part of Banks Peninsula, the entrance to the harbour of Akaroa may be known by a ledge of large flat black rocks which are off the northern part of the entrance. From the entrance to the anchorage is a clear passage of about five miles, from a mile to a mile and a half wide, and in one past about one-third of the way up, not more than three-quarters of a mile. There is no anchorage for the first two miles within the entrance, being open to the sea, the bottom rocky, and the water from 15 to 20 fathoms deep.
The anchorage is with the Government flag staff south-east by east, and the extreme of a remarkable promontory at the upper part of the harbour north-west quarter north, the depth four fathoms mud. Wood here is most abundant, and water is to be found in large and rapid streams in several places, particularly one which runs past the house of the Government resident. It must be rafted ; no other supplies except a few vegetables are to be obtained here. Fish and crayfish are plentiful, the land all round this harbour, which is perfectly land locked, is very high and thickly covered with timber.
The tide is scarcely perceptible ; the wind blows generally in or out of the harbour ; a reef extends for half a mile from the southern head in an, easterly direction, to seaward the sea breaks over it. It is necessary to be prepared for squalls of wind which may be expected from the high land at entering or leaving the place. There are plenty of pigeons to be shot here is the woods, but great care should be taken not to go alone, or to separate from the party, for there a nothing easier than to be lost in the thick high forest, and few things more difficult than to find the way out again. The natives here are few in number, and very well disposed. Southward of the Lockers-on, or Cape Campbell, the number of natives on the middle island do not exceed 2000.
In the seven days that the ship remained at Akaroa the barometer ranged between 30.08 and 29.35, the thermometer from 49º to 64°, the winds were variable and moderate from north-east to north-north-east and north, south-east, south-west, west, and west-south-west, the weather fine, but cloudy. The dip of the needle by five sets of observations 66.30.
The North Star left Akaroa on the 1st of November, and anchored off Auckland on the 10th following. During this passage she had for the first four days strong gales and fresh breezes, with squalls from the south-west, west, and west-north-west, after which it was fine, with light and moderate breezes from the same quarters ; the barometer ranging between 29.30 and 30.07, the thermometer from 53º to 68º. Upon the 15th she sailed for Sydney, where she arrived on the 27th, the weather throughout which was fine with moderate breezes, occasionally fresh. In this passage the barometer rose to 30.15, and two days after fell to 29.78 the weather changing from light breezes from east-south-east and hazy, to fresh and strong breezes from north by west and south by east at which change it rose rapidly to 30.10, the thermometer in the mean time ranged from 71º to 69º.
On the 9th of December the ship again sailed for New Zealand. Between our arrival at Sydney and departure from it nothing remarkable took place, excepting the occurrence of what is these called a 'brick-fielder.' I felt the effects of two. They are by no means to be overlooked. The barometer ranged during our stay from 29.55 to 30.18, and the thermometer from 67º to 80º, seldom falling below 70º in the night. The morning of the 30th November had been oppressively hot and calm. Upon a sudden, about noon, the south-west was clouded with dust, and in a few seconds it blew extremely hard from that quarter, the dust so thick as to equal one of the thickest London fogs ; the land over which the wind passes is, in dry weather, thickly covered with this dust, which is the colour of brick-dust. No boat could pull against it, and ships is the harbour drove ; the barometer had continued to fall gradually from 8 a.m. of the 29th until noon on the day following, by 8 p.m., to 30.05, and so continued until the 4th, when for the next four days with little apparent cause by change of weather, it varied, on the 4th from 29.86 at 8 a.m. to 29.55 in the evening. It rose by noon on the 5th to 29.83, and by eight o'clock the neat morning had fallen to 29.68 ; at eight in the evening it was 29.84, and eight next morning 29.70 ; by eight o'clock on the 7th it had risen to 30.15, and so continued. The wind during the time south-west and west as above stated.
The North Star sailed on the 9th of December for Auckland, from whence she proceeded to Port Nicholson, Nelson, and touching again at Wellington, returned by Cook's Strait to Sydney. In this repetition of our former visit little new presented itself. The season was, however, different the winds were as follows:- for the first six days from the north-east, north-north-east, north, once south by east, and once north by west, being then in latitude 35º 13' south, and longitude 164º east ; the wind shifted to south-west and south-east, and south-south-west, then to south-east; and so remained for the next three days, then to south-west, west, and south-west, at which last it blew a gale for twelve hours.
Excepting this gale the weather was fine and the winds light or moderately strong all the way. The range of the barometer during the passage was from 29.74, to 30.08. The thermometer between 64º and 74º. She remained at Auckland from the 23rd of December to the 18th of January, 1844, during which time the winds were from south-west, west-south-west, west, south, and south-west ; the south-west and south-south-west, prevailing for thirteen days, then north, east-north-east, east, northeast, north, calm, west-north-west, west, southwest, south-south-west, south, south-south-east, east-south-east, south, east, east-north-east, north-east, south-west, south, south-south-west, south-south-east, south, south-south-west, and south-west, the breezes moderate for the most part, generally fresh towards noon, sometimes calm, the weather fine : and here when it is fine it is most beautifully so ; the dews at night are extremely heavy. The barometer in this period rose to 30.28, and fell to 29.65, this was on the 10th of January ; the mercury stood on the 8th at noon at 30.25. At noon on the 8th at 30.13, and then fell gradually until 8 p.m. on the 10th when it was 29.65, and then rose as gradually as it had fallen, being at 8 a.m. on the 12th 29.88, and at the same hour on the 13th 30.03. In this time between the 8th and 13th, there was no perceptible interruption to the fine weather, excepting that on the 10th about noon and afterwards, the breeze was unusually fresh, and in the evening there was rain. The thermometer rose to 76° and fell to 60°.
SG & SGTL ; Vol 4 ; Page 102-4.
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