7.  ROBERT JILLETT (1812 - I860), SHORE WHALER


KAPITI ISLAND - NEW ZEALAND
(late 1830s - 1840s)


Robert Jiilett (=Gillet, Gillett, Jillet, etc., also known as Ropata Tireti), (1812 - 1860).

Shore whaler of Kapiti Island, in the northern approaches to Cook Strait between North and South Islands, later stock-keeper/licensed victualer of Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

Robert Jiilett was born in Hobart Town, Van Diemen s Land (^Tasmania), on 25th September, 1812, the son of Elizabeth and Robert Jiilett. He was baptised twice, once at St. David s, Hobart, when seven weeks of age and again at St. Matthew s, New Norfolk, as a young man in 1833.

Robert s father, also Robert, was a colourfully recalcitrant convict who had arrived at Sydney, New South Wales, on the ship Hillsborough in July 1799, having left a wife and five children in England.
Robert senior s crimes were burglary with theft of bedding and bedroom furniture (Surrey 1795), escaping from custody (London 1796), and theft of salted pork from government stores (Sydney 1803). The last two crimes both attracted death sentences, later reduced to life imprisonment, involving transportation to
Sydney in the first instance, and to Norfolk Island with subsequent transfer to Hobart  Town in the second.

He was conditionally pardoned in 1814, nearly two years after Robert the younger s birth, and died at New Norfolk, Van Diemen s Land, in 1832, aged 72, owning a significant amount of property in dwellings, stock and land.

Robert s mother Elizabeth had also arrived at Sydney, on the same Hillsborough in July 1799, a free woman accompanying her convict husband. Thomas Bradshaw, who probably died soon after arrival in Sydney, had been convicted at the Warwick assizes.
When Elizabeth Bradshaw and Robert Jiilett married in 1812, they had lived as man and wife since at least 1800 at Sydney, Norfolk Island and Hobart Town and already had a family of six, of whom the eldest, Mary Ann, was almost certainly not Robert s daughter.
Four further children were born after their marriage, of which Robert was the eldest. The ten children in order were Mary Ann, James, William, Susanna, Rebecca, Eliza, Robert, Charlotte, Thomas and John.

In 1808 the family had been transferred from Norfolk Island to Hobart where they lived in a modest house near the Hobart Rivulet, in what was to become Collins Street, in central Hobart. Later, this house was described in 1825 by a government official as "a miserable hut", when negotiating compensation for its forced removal to make way for a market place.

In Van Dieman s Land, Elizabeth Bradshaw was allocated land in compensation for her considerable holdings on Norfolk Island, which had included dwellings, nearly 100 acres of land, crops of maize, barley and wheat, and stock, including about 50 sheep and 20 pigs. As a free person, Elizabeth Bradshaw could own
property and have assigned convict "servants", notably her companion Robert Jiilett.

The younger Robert, bom in 1812, grew up in and about Hobart Town. After being conditionally pardoned, his father was variously listed as stock-keeper, butcher and farmer, who owned farmland near Hobart Town and further a field at Back River, New Norfolk and at York Plains, near Oatlands, in Central Tasmania.
The family living seems to have been made from subsistence agriculture, grazing stock, and supplying meat for government stores.

No doubt the younger Robert grew up familiar with agriculture and animals, and also with the sea. A superb harbour lies on Hobart s doorstep, the Derwent estuary providing a deep and sheltered haven which, in the first three decades of the nineteenth century was the site of winter whaling for southern right whales. Shore whaling seems to have gone hand-in-hand with farming as a common seasonal occupation of free-born Tasmanian youths, offering exciting and potentially lucrative employment during winter when farming demands were low.

Tasmanian shore-whaling in the late 1820 s has been described vividly at first-hand by John Boultbee.

At least two of Robert s brothers-in-law who seem to have been heavily involved in seafaring and whaling, were Charles Dowdell who married Susanna in 1822, and William Young who married Rebecca in 1825.

Both these men owned ships and had leases for shore whaling purposes at various sites in southwestern Tasmania. William Young in particular was prominent in whaling circles, on both shore and the high seas, and was jointly involved in whaling ventures with Askin Morrison, a farming neighbour of the Jilletts near Oatlands in central Tasmania.

To this day the driveway leading to the Morrison homestead on the St. Peter's Pass property is lined with whaling try pots. On this same property is a modest hut known as Jillett's Hut, known to have been on the site since 1825. Jillett's Hut was the original dwelling in the district and was built when Robert senior had a grant to run sheep there from around 1817. It bears a striking resemblance to dwellings subsequently drawn by Gilfillan on Kapiti Island.

When Robert senior died, his son Robert appears to have operated in the Oatlands district, not only working land and grazing stock, but also licenced to cart goods in the 1830s. He had convict servants assigned to him in May and September, 1836. Then in November 1836, the renewal of his carrying Licence is the last known record in Tasmania of Robert Jillett who appears to have turned up in 1837 at Kapiti Island, Cook Strait, New Zealand,  when he would have been about 25 years of age.

Exactly how and when Robert Jillett came to New Zealand is uncertain because there is only a shadowy record until his death in 1860. He seems to have been resident on Kapiti Island itself rather than any of the offshore islets. Most of the whaling stations in the area were known by their owner/operator s names, for example Browns , Evans , Mayhew's and so on. The station at Waiorua Bay seems generally to have been known simply as "Kapiti".

There are a few references to the presence of men and ships from Van Dieman s Land in this area. Then in 1844, the artist/settler J. A. Gillfilan visited Kapiti and, amongst other things, drew a sketch of Waiorua Bay labelled "Gillet's Whaling Station". This later became the basis of a watercolour painting, by W.A. Bowring, now held by the Alexander Turnbull Library and widely reproduced in books on early New Zealand
pakeha history

                                                                                                                                 



In shore whaling statistics for the 1844 season, the Kapiti station, owner s name Gillett, is listed as being as large and productive as any in the country, operating 5 boats, employing 40 men, and producing 140 tuns of oil and 5 tons of bone. By this time shore whaling was well into decline.

In the 1847 season, Gillett s station was reduced to 2 boats, employing 16 men who produced 19 tuns of oil and 1 ton of bone.

Discrepancies in spelling the surname Jillett are very common to this day. In any case, there was no one else by the name of Gillet or Gillett known to be in the area at the time. The name itself is peculiarly Australasian, having only become standardised from the original Gillett on the arrival of Robert Jillett s convict father at Sydney in 1799.

Anyone who spells their name in this way today is certain to be descended from the same convict forebear.

On Kapiti, Robert Jillett appears to have married a Ngati Raukawa woman, Te Kaea (Te Tara, Etara), daughter of Te Morere, possibly at the Rangiuru Pa, Otaki. He was also known by the Maori name, Ropata Tireti. Substantiated family tradition has it that she took him under her protection when his life was threatened as a consequence of having upset Te Rauparaha. In any case, it was a wise and mutually beneficial custom for pakeha men to be tolerated in Maori society only if they lived in approved relationships with local women.

Robert s wife was subsequently known as Sarah, or the Maori equivalent, Etara. Her father appears to have lived at Pukekaraka (Otaki) in association with, Ngati Kapumanawawhiti, though his own hapu were possibly Ngati Turanga/Ngati Te Au.

Etara and Robert are known to have had seven children between 1845 and 1860, of which the first four were probably bom on Kapiti. The family appears to have moved to Lower Hutt by 1854 when their third son, Robert Jillett, aged 19 months, was buried in St. James  churchyard, drowned after accidentally tumbling into a well. There were to be three further Jillett burials in the St. James churchyard at Lower Hutt over the next 9 years. The eldest child, James died, aged about 14, in 1859. Then Robert senior himself died in 1860, followed by Etara less than three years later, in 1863, of phthsis (tuberculosis).

Robert-the-whaler's funeral notice, at the end of September 1860, locates "his late residence, next Whitewood s Hotel, Hutt , where the family presumably lived. How long they had been there is unknown. Apart from the drowning of his son at the Hutt in 1854, Robert was listed as a stockowner and qualified juror of River Hutt in 1856, and at the time of his death he was described as a licenced victualer.

In Robert s will, made in November 1859, he named the Alexander and Thomas Fraser, of Mana Island, amongst his executors. Alec and Thomas Fraser, coopers by trade, had started operating as shore whalers on Mana Island in 1837, around the same time Robert Jillett arrived on Kapiti.
The Fraser s station was still operating on Mana until around 1850, after which they continued there as sheep farmers into the 1860s .

At the time of his death, Robert Jillett owned 175 acres of freehold land on which there was a dwelling, the whole leased to Messrs Hurley and Carter at an annual rental of 55. He also held the lease of Whitewood s Hotel and attached land which was let to Mr N. Valentine at 208 per anum. Robert also received a half share of the rent of "Coach & Horses", Manners Street, Wellington, but had given up his right to renewal of the lease.
Receipts from winding up the estate exceeded 1600, approximately equal to 25 years  wages for a manual labourer at the time.

Etara s death in 1863, left five or six orphan children ranging in ages from nearly three to nearly sixteen.. The five or six surviving children were: Charlotte, John (Hone), Susan, William, Sarah and a further Robert, born after his father s death. Young Sarah was born in 1858, and she was certainly alive when her father made his will in 1860, but there is no further record of her. I know little of who cared for these children though when Etara made her will, she named John White, butcher, and William Williams, blacksmith, both of the Hutt.

Etara s will also referred to lands at Otaki and Kawhia in which she believed she had entitlement. Williams was a Maori speaker and translated the will to Etara before she signed it. When son John married twelve years later, in 1875, the ceremony took place in the house of John White, Lower Hutt.

All five of Robert and Etara s surviving children subsequently married pakeha spouses. Three of the five, Charlotte, Susan and William, married into the Whitehouse family. Descendants of the remaining two, John and Robert, appear to have continued to live in Otaki-Horowhenua-Manawatu areas, possibly in association with the Tainui marae of Ngati Kapu at Pukekaraka.

John became a butcher/farmer, first at Foxton and later Otaki. He was secretary of the O.taki Racing Club which went bankrupt. He died at Otaki in 1883, and is buried at Pukekaraka. John Jillett left a young family of four, two sons and two daughters, of whom the eldest, Sabina was a teacher at Ohau before she became a nun and taught at the Catholic Maori Mission, Pukekaraka.

One son, John, became a saddler, first at Lower Hutt, later at Urenui in North Taranaki and, in between times, ran a coaching business at Titahi Bay. The other son, Joe, served in both the Boer War and the Great War, later becoming involved with horse racing at Trentham.

So much for the limited facts. Robert (the whaler) Jillett s arrival at Kapiti was quite probably direct from Hobart Town and connected with his brother-in-law, William Young, who was an active shore whaler in Tasmania and no stranger to New Zealand waters. Vessels known to have been in New Zealand waters and with which William Young was connected, either as master or through ownership interests included:
Tasmanian Lass (1833,1834), Industry (IKW, 1835,1836), Highlander (1837,1839, 1841), Wallaby (1840, 1842), Fortitude (1842) and Bandicoot (1841, 1842).



An old Australian whaling captain, reminiscing about his youthful days on the whaleship Tasmanian Lass, recalled how interesting it was to watch his captain bargaining with Maoris for pigs in the early 1830s. One chief he found amusing:  he would appear to get into [a rage] at some offer from the Captain, and only after if he thought he had got the best he would laugh and shout and tell all the others." . There is also reference to Kapiti shore whalers as employees of Raymond and Young, of Hobart, in an account of their confrontation with the crew of the American ship Adeline, which was lying at Kapiti in December 1839.

It seems likely that there were major Hobart Town interests in shore whaling undertaken from Waiorua Bay, most probably including William Young and Askin Morrison amongst others.

Robert Jillett must have been amongst the shore gangs, though he was not mentioned by name until Gilfillan labelled his sketch in 1844, by which time shore whaling was past its peak and beginning to decline. The whalers seem to have stayed on at Kapiti living a moderately contented lifestyle, for when Waiorua Bay was visited by the surveying ship H.M.S Acheron in 1849, the following description was penned by G.A. Hansard:

"1/2 Past 5 A.M. saw the Island of Kapiti looming on our starboard bow. Landed and found the shingly beach thickly strewn with the vertebrae of whales - nearly a foot in diameter. This has always been the resort of whalers. A beautiful lawn like piece of land close to the water is occupied by their village, where houses peep forth from knots of trees, and the blue smoke curls upwards; the whole, cheered by bright sunny weather, forming a delightful tranquil scene. Meandering through the centre of this grassy spot is a little transparent brook, where,  turkies  lay basking in the herbage; abundance of common poultry made war upon our enemies the sandflies, and scores of English Geese & ducks disturbed by us rushed hurry-scurry into the water.

"Everybody seemed engaged in active industry One party busy at the sawpit; another squaring logs for building; this man repairs his boat; that has killed and is cutting up a wild pig. In front of a cot - an European s, judging by the few tattered books and two formidable harpoons ranged over the fireplace, two or three dark women are busy extracting muttonfish [pauas] from their shells.

Afterwards they string them up upon strips of green flax, to be dried in the smoke of their wood fires. They cleanse their potatoes by scraping with a broken shell, and wash them by placing one foot in the basket as they dip and shake it about in the water with both hands.

"The whalers are well looked after by their Maori wives, who keep the home in nice order. On entering one cottage surrounded with a neat paling, within which was a flowerbed, I saw the Englishman at dinner, assiduously waited on by his wife, a fine specimen of Maori beauty; tall, well-formed and having handsome and intelligent features. With one hand she covered the table; a beautiful baby, clean and well clothed, was cradled in the other. Her husband, quiet and well mannered, very happy & contented - still more so, if he could procure a few books.

"They have about 200 goats, 500 fat sheep & thirty head of domestic cattle A wild herd exists in the centre of Kapiti. Numbers of poultry breed at large in the bush, wilder than English pheasants ~ for which they furnish an active and persevering sportsman with no despicable substitute. The breed of wild pigs has spread so as to become a nuisance here, interfering with and destroying their plantations. The Trochus imperialis and a very large kind of Terebratula abound. Many were obtained by dredging alongside.

"Sat.Sep. 8th-Left Kapiti "[for ManaIsland].

Another visitor, emphasised that the wives were "extremely inexpensive too, their dress consisting of a calico gown and blanket, and their only luxury an occasional pipe of tobacco, the cost of which they fully repay by obtaining potatoes and fish, without charge, from their relatives."

It is clear from these last accounts, though clearly written from pakeha perspectives, that in 1849 there was still a significant community, comfortably established on Kapiti, with an abundance and variety of livestock, produce and kaimoana (seafood) at hand.

References

1 Sherrin, Early History of New Zealand, Bretts, Auckland, Robert Jillett also listed as a
pre-1840 resident at the Early Settlers  Memorial, Petone waterfront.

2 New Zealand Spectator and Cook s Strait Guardian, 22 August 1845

3 Wakefield, EJ. 1848. The Handbook for New Zealand. John W. Parker, London,
493p. (p. 115)

4 quoted in: H. A. Morton, The Whale s Wake (p.215), University of Otago Press.

5 Hansard. GA. An account of the work of HMS Acheron in New Zealand waters.  Ms vol. 157, copy held in the Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

6 quoted in: Morton, Harry and Johnston, Carol Morton, 1988. The Farthest Corner: New Zealand -A Twice Discovered Land, Century Hutchinson.

Researched and prepared by:

John B. Jillett
51 Every Street,
DUNEDIN.

Great-great-grandson of Robert Jillett, shore whaler.


Extract from the Tasmanian Newspaper

Mercury, Saturday 26 January 1861

DIED.

At Wellington, New Zealand on the 29th September, 1860, aged 5O, Mr. ROBERT JILLETT, brother
of Mr. Wm. Young, of this city, and Messrs. Thomas and John Jillett, York Plains.


Robert Jnr s life in New Zealand  has been well documented by his great-great grandson, John Jillett, but his life in Tasmania between his father dying and his leaving for New Zealand raises some questions.

Robert Jnr was baptised in 1812, and again in 1833, when he was 21.  One wonders just why a strong young man would arrange to get himself baptised at that age.

There are some probabilities.  His father died in 1832, leaving his estate to Robert.  However, Robert was under age at the time of his death.  Under the terms of his father s will Robert inherited a some  of the estate.

It has since been discovered that Robert Snr may not have re-registered his land grants, thereby allowing a lot of them to lapse, and this was not done after his death.  Research indicates that there were several unclaimed letters from the government.

However, in 1835, as reported in the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, that on Thursday 3rd September  1835,  that the sherrif was putting up for Auction a farm of 30 acres under part cultivation with a Dwelling house thereon, at Back River.

The property was owned by Robert Jillett.  The property was sold to a wealthy Hobart businessman, and the funds held in trust for the sheriff, John Beamont.

In 1835 Robert Jellett from Oatlands received a licence to be a carter.
In 1836 a convict was assigned to R. Jillett, York Plains, in May and another in September to R.Jellett in Oatlands.

Then Robert must have decided to go to New Zealand.  Perhaps he had a disagreement with his brothers and sisters over his actions?  This is one mystery that will remain.

His father's will was not put into probate until 1844, and by that time, much of the land had been sold, or re-assigned.







Who was William Morgan Orr?   It would seem he was a scrupulous business man who lived in Hobart and seemed to spend his time gaining the goods and chattels of many people to whom he must have either lent money or been very friendly.

Three years after Robert Jillett snr died, the sherrif s office places a notice in the paper advising they are selling 30 acres of his lands in New Norfolk.

The owner has to be Robert jnr. 
He then seems to sell the property to William Morgan Orr who holds it in trust for John Beamont.

Now John Beamont is the sheriff, responsible for these sales.

Orr, William Morgan ( - 1843)
Birth:
Death: 2 November 1843, Van Diemen s Land (Tasmania), Australia
Occupation:
ORR, WILLIAM MORGAN (d.1843), merchant and landowner, sailed from London in the Cyprus and arrived at Hobart Town via Sydney and Launceston in August 1825. With recommendations from the Colonial Office and assets of more than 3000 in goods, he was granted 2000 acres (809 ha) in the Hamilton district. His main business, however, was commerce and he rapidly accumulated great wealth. Although he was seriously disturbed by Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur s administration and Press Licensing Act, he generally managed to keep out of colonial politics. As a merchant and shipping agent he had a store on the old wharf at Hobart. With small ships like the Richmond Packet and William IV he organized much sealing and bay whaling, and by 1831 he was shipping large quantities of whale-oil to London. By 1837 he had whaling stations at Recherche and Storm Bays and became prominent as an investor in large ships for the deep-sea fisheries. In 1838 his 289-ton Maria Orr was launched, the first full-rigged ship built in Hobart; the government presented a suit of sails and Orr s enterprise was applauded as a benefit to the colony. On 3 June 1835 at St David s Church of England he married Maria, the daughter of Michael Lackey of O Brien s Bridge. They had a well-appointed home at Humphrey Rivulet near New Town.
Most of Orr s profits from trade and whaling were invested in land. His holdings increased by purchase and lease to some 80,000 acres (32,375 ha) in various parts of the island. When depression struck in 1841 he was one of the biggest and wealthiest merchants in Hobart. Caught with many bad debts, he had to solicit aid from friends to meet his commitments. When he was riding home one afternoon his horse was frightened by a gang of boys and bolted. It stumbled outside the Waggon and Horses Inn; Orr had a violent fall and fractured his skull. He was unconscious for three days and died on 2 November 1843. His death spread a gloom over Hobart that was rarely equalled, for he was highly respected by all classes for his sincerity. Although his probate was sworn at 26,000, his death financially embarrassed some of his friends, but by 1846 all his creditors were fully paid after part of his land was sold by the sheriff for 20,000. His home at New Town was sold for 2400.
Orr was survived by two children and by his widow, who married Charles D A. Lempriere on 13 May 1847. His brother, Alexander, who arrived in Hobart in November 1828, also became a merchant of wealth and high character; in 1846 he was nominated briefly to a vacancy in the Legislative Council. At St John s Church of England, Launceston, on 7 May 1839 he married Harriet Byron. In December 1855 Alexander Orr sailed for England in the Heather Bell with his wife and family.
Elizabeth's Children  Robert Jillett & Etara
John Jillett on RHS, with cousin, several times removed, John Herron.

New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian 18th August 1849 shows
Last Saturday, the 11th inst., as Mr. Jillet (sic), with John Grotto his shepherd, were removing five head of cattle from his station at Kapiti to another
part of the island in a large boat, when about 300 yards from the station the cattle became restless, and one of them broke adrift, and threw himself across the gunnel of the boat, when she commenced to fill. Mr. Jillet (sic) succeeded in cutting three of the beasts adrift; the other two being secured to the boat were drowned along with the shepherd, who was not able to swim. The next day with assistance of the whale boats, the boat and the body of poor Grotto were recovered. The deceased was about 52 years old and has left one son to bewail his loss.

New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian 9th October 1850 shows
To Cover this Season,
The Imported Draught Horse Samson
Samson is a dark bay horse, stands sixteen hands high, with strong muscular power, and is allowed to be one of the best draught horses in the colony, Samson will be at Mr. Burcham's, River Hutt, every Monday and Tuesday; at Mr. Ames's, Wellington, every Thursday; at Mr. Brown's, Porirua, every Friday and Saturday; and Messrs. Hammond's, Porirua Road, the remainder of the week. For the convenience of Mares, Paddocks will be provided at 3s. per week, but without responsibility.
    Terms - Three Ponds each Mare, payable 1st January, 1851. An allowance will be made to the bona fide owners of three or more Mares.
Robert Gillett, and M. & R. Hammond
Porirua Road, 2d(sic) October, 1850

George Buck and Robert Jillett were on the committee wanting to secure the return of W. B. Rhodes, Esq., J.P to represent the Wellington Country District in the General Assembly
-
A meeting was held every evening at seven o'clock at Mr. McKaine's, Halfway House and Mr. Calder's Rainbow Hotel, Barrett's Hotel.
-
Details from a poster on Times frames at the National Library. Poster dated Wellington 11/8/1853
Cemetery Fiche for St. James Anglican Church shows Burial Record Robert Jillett, Date: 29/9/1860, Aged: 47

The Wellington Independent 2nd October 1860 shows
Died - At his residence, Hutt, on Saturday, 29th September, Mr. Robert Jillett, aged 57 years
-
The Friends of the late Mr. Robert Jillett are respectfully informed that his remains will leave his late residence, next Whitewood's Hotel, Hutt, on Thursday, 4th October, at 1 o'clock, p.m.
Alfred Keys, Undertaker
October 2, 1860

The Wellington Independent 5th October 1860 shows
The Estate of the Late Robert Jillett
Notice is hereby Given, that all persons having claims against the above Estate, are requested to forward the same to the undersigned immediately for payment, and all persons indebted to the above Estate are requested to pay their accounts without any further notice.
Thomas Mills, Hutt
Acting Executor
Oct. 5. 1860
Note for:   Robert Jillett,   25 SEP 1812 - 29 SEP 1860         Index
Burial:  
     Date:   4 OCT 1860
     Place:   St James Anglican Church, Lower Hutt

Individual Note:
     Some details from B Bennett nee Pye

Date of Birth and Place from M Ross

The New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 27th October 1842 shows
20 pounds Reward.
Whereas, it has been represented to the undersigned, that certain persons have instigated the natives at Kapiti to destroy cattle for the purpose of purchasing the carcase.
The above reward will be paid on conviction of any person or persons destroying cattle on the Island of Kapiti, or instigating the natives to do the same.
N.B. — The above cattle are placed under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Jillett.
W. B. Rhodes and Co.
October 20, 1841.
Note for:   Charlotte Jillett,   23 JUL 1847 - ABT 28 AUG 1913         Index
Burial:  
     Date:   29 AUG 1913
     Place:   Porirua Cemetery, Porirua

Individual Note:
     Some details from B Bennett nee Pye

Date of Birth and Place from M Ross

*Could not locate a Birth Folio for Charlotte Jillett*

*Marriage Details Date: 1868, Folio No: 964, Names: John Whitehouse and Charlotte Jillett*

The Evening Post 28th August 1913 shows
Whitehouse - At the residence of Mrs. Edwin T. Coal, Charlotte, relict of the late Mr. John Whitehouse, after a long and patiently borne illness; aged 67 years
-
Funeral Notice
The Friends of the late Mrs. T?. Whitehouse are respectfully invited to attend her Funeral which will leave the residence of Mrs. E. F. Cole, Porirua, on Friday, the 29th inst., at 2 p.m., for the Cemetery, Porirua
J. Greer and Sons, Undertakers, Tawa Flat
 
The first recorded Shore Station to be set up on the New Zealand Coast was located at Dusky Sound, Fiordland, in the year 1792, when, sealing parties were landed to establish a base to hunt the seals for their pelts. These were in vogue in the fashion industry in America, Britain and Europe, where they were made into men and ladies hats.

Whaling ships from several countries, plied up and down the coast of New Zealand for several years during the whale hunting season, but it was not until 1828 that the first so-called 'Shore-Whaling' Station was introduced in the South Island at Cloudy Bay.

A second Whaling Station began operations soon after in 1829, on Arapawa Island, Malborough Sounds. This was followed in November 1831, by the setting up of an Australian station, Weller's Bay Whaling Station, in Otago Harbour.
In April of the following year, while back in Sydney, Weller was to learn that his station and its whalers houses, had been burned to the ground by a Maori raiding party.

Undaunted, Weller sailed with Captain Worth in the Lucy Ann in 1833 to rebuild the station again for bay-whaling and was successful in the hunt, collecting 130 tuns of whale oil and seven tuns of whalebone, together with a bale of sealskins during that season.
(Note:* Whale oil was measured in tuns or barrells.)

The whales were usually found close inshore in the bays, between 2 and 7 miles off the coast. The whalers moved in with their fleet of small whaleboats and made their kill, dragging their large carcasses back to the station, which, depending on the size and weight, could sometimes take up to a total of 14 hrs. hard rowing over several days. If the weather blew up stormy, they sometimes had to anchor their catch in the swell and row for the safety of the distant shoreline and return the next day.

Beached whale

After the whale had been dragged back to the shore station, it would be hauled up the beach so that the 'flensers' could climb over the carcass with their sharp 'spades' to cut the strips of blubber down the entire length of the body. These strips were then dragged off with the help of a capstan and chopped into blocks to be thrown in the trypots which were heated with 'scrag', the name given to the residue flesh of previous rendering, which burned well. As the oil rose to the surface, it was skimmed off and stored in large wooden casks for cooling, ready to be loaded aboard the visiting whalers.

The whale jawbone was carefully cut out also and buried in the sand for ten days, by which time the hair on the plates had rotted away. Washed, scraped and carefully packed, whalebone was a valuable commodity, the pliable bone from the mouth being used by the makers of ladies corsets and stays. A further use of this bone, was in the manufacturer of flexible 'buggy' horse whips.

One such station, already mentioned, was Cloudy Bay, (Te Awa-ite, north of Kaikoura), which was set up in Marlborough Sound during early 1829, under the control of Captain John Guard. He had the station built and up and running for that whaling season. The number of whalers and settlers working and living at the station gradually rose over the following years to a population of nearly two hundred people, where it became the largest white settlement and Whaling Station on the South Island of New Zealand.

A one-time whaler and settler named Dick Barrett had been living and working at the whaling stations in New Zealand for ten or twelve years. He decided to settle at the Te Awa Iti whaling station, Marlborough Sounds. By 1839 he had built a house of sawn timber, floored and lined inside, with a sheltered verandah, perched on the flat of a knoll overlooking the settlement and anchorage.

The Rev.Edward J. Wakefield came out to New Zealand in 1839 and on a visit to the station met Dick Barrett. It was Sunday and some of the whalers were dressed in their Sunday best. Others worked. Wakefield in his narrative wrote:
"A large gang were busy at the try-works boiling out the oil from a whale lately caught.....The whole ground and beach about here were satuarated with oil and the stench of the carcasses and scraps of whale flesh lying about in the Bay was intolerable..."
As the men stoked the furnace and stirred the reeking pots, one of them was asked if they always worked on Sunday?
Contemptuously the worker had replied, "Oh! Sunday. It never comes into this Bay!"

Whalers wait Wakefield's journal continued:- "The workers at these bay-whaling stations were not paid wages, they were paid in slops (loose fitting trousers; ready made clothing), spirits or tobacco. They were a bearded, unkempt mixture of runaway seamen, deserters, or escaped convicts of several nationalities. They could earn the equivalent of 35 wages during the season between May and October, while carpenters, blacksmiths and coopers (barrel-makers) were paid at the higher rate of 10/- a day.
The women at Cloudy Bay were from the maori tribe of Kawhia, those in the Sounds were Ngati-awa. There were twentyfive children at the whaling station, all part-maori."
Reading through the journals of the early travellers to New Zealand, it was apparent that the Whaling Stations left a strong impression with them, for the same descriptive terms were used for each one visited by them:-
Te Koroiwa, "looked filthy and had a disgusting stench from the putrid carcasses of the whales"
Waikouaite Whaling Station, "the whole beach was strewn with gigantic fragments of bones.........the pigs and seagulls picked over the refuse left lying there." Whaling was not for the faint hearted!

The year 1830 had been a bumper year for the whalers at Cloudy Bay.

Lying at anchor in the Bay was the whaler Waterloo, a 66 ton schooner which had aboard, in the cargo hold, some 66 tuns of whale oil and 1,185 seal skins. The previous year, the brigantine Hind, owned by R. Campbell & Co. Sydney, picked up a cargo of flax from Kapiti Island and from the 'bay-whaling' station at Cloudy Bay, some 25 tons of sperm oil.

In 1832 six vessels arrived in Cloudy Bay at the start of the whaling season and set off into the Bay after the whales which could be seen basking and spouting from the shoreline.

The Dragon out of Hobart, later reported a haul of 1600 barrels of oil in her hold, the Courier 300 barrels of black oil and 400 of sperm oil. The William Stoveldhad 300 barrels of black oil and 400 of sperm oil and the New Zealander the same amount. All of this oil was landed in Sydney.

Porirua whale station The Juno, an American vessel, had her hold full to capacity with nearly 1000 barrels of oil procured from her whale hunt along the New Zealand coast.

Meanwhile in November, 1832, Captain W. Kinnard, together with four seal hunters, were left at Rocky Point to establish a sealing station. They arrived aboard the Admiral Gifford out of Sydney. When the ship returned to pick them up with their bales of sealskins some six months later, they could find no trace of them. To their horror, they learned that their party had been seized by a band of local Maori, their camp burned and that they had all been slaughtered and eaten.

Excitement mounted in Sydney as merchants began preparations for the whaling season off New Zealand in the year 1836. Two whaling vessels were dispatched, however, when they arrived at Cloudy Bay, they found they were not the first.
Two British whalers lay at anchor alongside a French schooner, which had arrived a few days before. On the other side of the Bay some thirteen American whalers lay clustered together.

For several days the fleet lay quietly waiting for the whales arrival. At dusk came the news from the returning lookout whaleboats that a school of 21 or more whales had been sighted and counted in the outer Bay; the next day, anchors were weighed and the hunt began in earnest.

Whaleboat parties would be launched from every vessel once they were among the whales; some 20-25 boats set out, each with a crew of six, comprising four strong rowers, a steersman in the stern and a harpoonist standing in the bow ready to strike as they persued their quarry.

The Chase

Adrenaline would have run high as the chase continued. The most dangerous time was when the whale had been harpooned and the ten fathoms of line had snaked out. The crew then prepared for the ride of their lives as the whale set off at a fast pace, dragging the whaleboat and its crew behind; others would sound (dive to the bottom) and then surface again among its attackers. The whales gigantic tails, thrashing in the swell, caused many a persuer's whaleboat to be smashed or capsized and crew members killed, maimed or drowned. Others would become swamped and founder, the crew cast into the sea clinging to the upturned boats awaiting rescue from the others in the vicinity.

When a kill was made, the catch would be pulled alongside the whaler where it would be secured and the task of stripping the blubber and whalebone begin. Boiling trypots aboard the whalers would then extract the valuable whale oil which would be stored in wooden barrels.

Whale oil cargo records taken from the vessels involved, give a good indication of the size of the haul and the huge profits that the merchants would have made:
Whaling in New Zealand.
Return to Elizabeth Jillett
Jillett's Whaling Station