Friday, 7 June 2019

Early European Vessels and Visitors To Tauranga - The Brigantine Haweis and John Atkins, May 1829

A brigantine in sealing waters, 1820s
The sealing brig ‘Williams,’ artist Roger Finch, ‘The Poynter Journal, 1940: 13,’
The Turnbull Library Record, Vol 30. Papers Past,
Originally built as a Church Missionary Society vessel, the 110 ton Haweis was purchased by the Sydney trading house Campbell and Co. for the New Zealand trade. The brig made regular visits to the Bay of Plenty during 1828 and 1829, where it bartered muskets, powder and general trade goods. The Haweis returned to Sydney with standard New Zealand cargoes for that decade: dressed flax, live pigs or salted pork, potatoes and toi moko (smoke cured tattooed heads). The latter items were entered in the books of Sydney Custom’s under the general heading ‘Imports,’ and the sub heading ‘Baked Heads.’ [1]

The missionary Henry Williams saw the Haweis' busily trading muskets and powder at Motiti Island during his visit to the Bay of Plenty on the Herald in April 1828. Anchoring alongside to exchange news and to trade with the Maori provisioners, Williams complained that they offered the Herald not ‘a single basket of potatoes.’ Entering Tauranga Harbour on 14th May, after visiting Whakatane and Opotiki, Williams noted ‘the Haweis is here’, and how Ngai Te Rangii, again ignored their missionary vessel, preferring to trade for powder and muskets with the brig. The few Maori provisioners who did barter with Williams, demanded ‘twice the price’ when exchanging their pigs and potatoes for his axes and blankets. [2]

In November 1828, the Haweis left Sydney for the southern sealing grounds. After landing gangs  at the Antipodes and Bounty Islands, Captain James and the ship’s mate John Atkins took the vessel on a trading voyage to Tauranga. Unlike other New Zealand locations where European mariners and Maori had clashed, Tauranga was then ‘under the government of a chief (Hori Tupaea of Ngai Te Rangi) who, we were informed, was of a more friendly disposition.’ The Haweis anchored under Mount Maunganui where the crew began bartering muskets and munitions. They soon accumulated a cargo comprising ‘five tons of potatoes and five tons of cleaned and cured meat.’ [3] Charmed by the picturesque harbour and its environs, John Atkins later wrote:
Towrenga is a very good harbour for small vessels, with three fathoms in the channel at low water. The country is hilly, and much diversified with woods, not of any great extent, but so numerous and so delightfully dispersed as to present the appearance of a park, arranged by a tasteful hand. The hills in the distance are covered with verdure, and through every valley runs a beautiful stream, sometimes meandering in graceful silence, and at others rushing over the opposing fragments of rocks and trees in cataracts without number. [4]
Hori Kingi Tupaea of Ngai Te Rangi at Tauranga
Hori Kingi Tupaea, watercolour attributed to Henry Harpur Greer, courtesy of Tauranga Library
Sailing on to Whakatane to complete their cargo, Atkins said that Ngati Awa approached the ship in large canoes filled with pigs, all of which the captain purchased.

After stowing our decks with live-stock as thickly as convenient, and the wind suddenly changing to the S.E., we bore away again for Towranga, where we killed and salted our pigs; but not finding our quantity complete, we sailed again for Walkeetanna, where we arrived on Sunday, March 1st, 1829. The weather being very fine we anchored between the island of Matora (Moutohora or Whale Island) and the main, and we had not brought up ten minutes when the natives came off in great numbers as before, from whom we obtained 20 more hogs, which were all we required. [5]

The following morning, when Captain James and eight sailors were scalding pig carcasses at the boiling spring on Moutohora, the Haweis was attacked and plundered by the chief Te Ngarara Tenawa and the Ngati Awa people from Whakatane. Three sailors were killed, the vessel’s cargo plundered and the sails and rigging stripped. John Atkins and a Tahitian sailor were taken captive, both being wounded. At Maketu, the Danish Pakeha-Maori Phillip Tapsell, reported that Ngati Awa’s take or just cause for the attack was Captain James ‘gross mistreatment’ of Kape, one of the Haweis' Maori sailors. Unfortunately for the crew, Kape was the son of the Ngati Awa chief Te Kepa Toihu and one of Te Ngarara’s relatives. [6]

Caricature of the leading Ngati Awa chief at Whakatane, Te Ngarara Te Nawa
Artist unknown: Tenawa chief of  Ngatiawa New Zealand,’ [1830s-1840s]
A-237-043. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington
Captain James and his crew fled from Moutohora in the ship’s boat and at Tauranga, were taken aboard Captain Clarke’s New Zealand schooner. Clarke sailed for Whakatane, recovered the beached Haweis and towed it back to Tauranga. John Atkins was released and walked back to Tauranga under escort, after Clarke sent muskets and powder as a ransom. Atkins' Tahitian companion had meanwhile died of wounds. With the Haweis, now under jury rig, Captain James, John Atkins and the eight remaining crew, slowly sailed the vessel out through the Mt Maunganui entrance and on to the Bay of Islands in stages. [7]

From 1829 the Haweis proved an unlucky ship for Campbell and Company. Having been completely refitted and re-rigged in Sydney at considerable expense following the Whakatane incident, the brig disappeared during a voyage to Bay of Islands in 1830, and was presumed lost at sea. The passengers included the well known Bay of Islands missionary Charles Davis who was returning from England with his new bride. [8]

In August 1830, whaling vessels visiting the Bay of Islands reported that the Haweis had been piratically seized by its crew and ‘had been heard of in South America.’ In December 1832, another deep sea whaler confirmed the piracy and reported that the Haweis two women passengers (Mrs Davis and Mrs Hurt), had been marooned by the pirates on the most leeward of the Navigator (Samoan) Islands. The Sydney authorities, perhaps not trusting the reports, did not attempt to recover the women and they and the Haweis were never heard of again.

[1] Polack, Joel, Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders…Vol 1, 1840, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1976: 131. 
[2] Williams, Henry, The Early Journals of Henry Williams, Pegausus Press, Christchurch, 1961: 119-121.
[3] Atkins, John. Account of the Capture of the Brig Haweis at Walkeetanna [Whakatane] 1829, Sydney N.S.W. TS, sn 1907 46826829: 5.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Tapsell, Phillip, Reminiscences, ½-005486: 105. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington: 37.
[7] McNab, Robert. Historical Records of New Zealand, Vol 1, John Mackay, Government Printer, Wellington, 1908: 687.
[8 Ibid.
[9] The Christian Guardian and Church of England Magazine, Seely and Sons, London, 1832: 74-75, 317.

1 comment:

  1. Caption for image of Hōri Kingi Tūpaea by Horatio Gordon Robley (c.1864). Watercolour painting of Hōri Tūpaea in c.1864 by Horatio Gordon Robley, from the album of Henry Harpur Greer. Tūpaea is seated and wrapped in a blanket and cloak. He was the principal chief of Tauranga's Ngāi Te Rangi iwi & lived at Ōtūmoetai Pā. Digital image donated to Tauranga City Libraries in 2003 by Mike Dottridge (great, great grandson of Colonel Greer). Original painting donated to Alexander Turnbull Library (Ref: A-128-025-1). Image Credit: Mike Dottridge, Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 03-144. Link: