An Emigrant’s Tale (#2)

Sailing ship Hesperus from a postcard.

My father, John Grubb, a ship-builder by trade, came to New Zealand in 1847, and after spending about a year in Wellington, went to Lyttelton under agreement with the Canterbury Association to build a jetty and make other arrangements for the arrival of the first settlers.

During this time my mother and three children lived in Dundee, until arrangements were made for them to join Father and come to New Zealand in the Charlotte Jane, one of the four ships chartered by the Canterbury Association to bring the first settlers to Lyttelton.

Before the ships sailed, Lord Lyttelton, the president of the Association gave the passengers a farewell luncheon at Gravesend, where four marquees were erected, one for each ship. During the voyage Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald, who was in charge of the expedition, edited two papers, The Cockroach and Sea Pie; he also composed the Night Watch Song of the Charlotte Jane, of which the first verse ran as follows:-

” ‘Tis the first watch of the night, brothers,
And the strong wind rides the deep,
And the cold stars shining bright, brothers,
Their mystic courses keep.
Whilst our ship her path is cleaving
The flashing waters through,
Here’s a health to the land we’re leaving
And the land we’re going to.”

Mrs T. V. Whitmore, Canterbury Pilgrims’ Association. Reproduced in ‘Tales of Pioneer Women’. 1940.

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Wellington whales

Matariki, the southern right whale that’s been entertaining the population of Wellington for the past week and making headlines around the world, is lucky to be living in the 21st century and not the 19th or 20th. Back in the early 1840s, when the fledgling settlement pinned its economic hopes on becoming the port of choice for the whaling industry, he or she would have met with a very different reception.

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Wellington in September 1841 drawn by Charles Heaphy, “draftsman” to the New Zealand Company.

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator. Saturday 30th July 1842.

During the past week, more than one of the cetacea have entered our harbour. They were mostly considered by those who saw them, to be young, or small species of the common or black whale. In one case a female followed by her cub were distinctly made out. The appearance of these strangers in Port Nicholson is by no means a common occurance, and all the spare hands and boats went in pursuit, but hitherto without success.

With the knowledge that most of the species of true cetacea frequenting the South Seas are by no means satisfactorily determined by systematic naturalists, we feel as strong a desire to see a specimen, for the sake of science, as the practical whaler can for the oil. The crania and imperfect skeletons of many of the larger cetacea are to be met with on the coast, and although the crania are in themselves of high prize to the comparitive anatomist, it yet does not, as we have distinctly repeatedly shewn, enable him to distinguish species.

The living specimens now in the bay, are said to have had no appearance of protuberance or fin on the back, and consequently must belong to that species possessing the elongated baleen, but all measurements which are simply comparitive, however they may differ, will not determine species – without the number of vertebrae composing the spinal column were at the same time given.

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Port Nicholson as British settlers found it in 1840. They could never have imagined a time when a right whale would be allowed to roam their harbour unmolested – and stay long enough to start its own Facebook page.

The last shore-based whaling station in New Zealand closed as recently as 1964.

(Images from the Te Papa collection).

The Wool Wagon

Bullock Team and Wool Wagon, Cheviot. Nelson Province, Hon. W. Robinson‘s Station.

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This photograph represents one of the methods by which wool is conveyed from the wool sheds on the Cheviot Station to Port Robinson in Gore Bay, a distance of about nine miles. The land is very undulating as far as “First Beach,” after which the track lies through shingle and sandhills until the pass of “Cathedral Cutting” is reached, where the numerous steep zigzags put the strength and temper of the bullocks to the severest test.

Bullock wagon pulling a wagon of wool bales. Image from Te Papa collection.

Port Robinson is afterwards gained by a steep descent. There a large woolshed has been erected, also a wharf running directly into the bay. The wool is placed in an iron pontoon, 70 or 80 bales at a time, then run down the inclined plane of the wharf by a wire rope worked by a stationary engine, until the pontoon reaches deep water, when it is hauled alongside a steamer moored a short distance away.

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 ‘The Wool Season’ by John Gibb, 1885.

It is said that two or three days only are required to ship wool from this station, the value of which may reach £30,000.
Messrs. F. Bradley & Co., Photographic Publishers, Christchurch. c. 1880s.

(‘Station’, in this case, refers to what Americans would call a ranch)

The start of an era

DH.4A

“This machine is fitted with a special covered in saloon comfortably furnished, with sliding windows, and is used as a passenger machine by the Communication Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. It has also been in constant use between London and Paris for conveying Cabinet Ministers, &c., to and from the Peace Conference. This machine designed and built by The Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Ltd., [Air-Co] Hendon, London, N.W. 9.”
Postcard caption, 1919.

Described as a passenger carrying biplane for one pilot and two passengers – or 360 lbs of freight in a 47 cubic foot space, the 4A had been adapted from a WWI light bomber. The rear gunner’s position had been removed and a small cabin fitted, giving the plane a humped back look. When the conference concluded in mid-1919, some of these aircraft were sold to private companies and, on 25th August, one of them had the honour of opening “the world’s first daily aeroplane service for passengers and goods between London and Paris”.

Claustrophobia Airways.
The “comfortably furnished saloon” image was encouraged by the manufacturers and operators to give the impression of a luxury air taxi where an executive and his secretary could continue to work during their 2½ hour flight. The reality, of course, was a little different. You will have noticed a ladder on the side of the plane – but no door. That was on the top of the cabin. Air correspondent Harry Harper gives an eye witness account.

“I remember, quite clearly, seeing a couple of passengers, resigned but still somewhat apprehensive, being packed into one of these small aeroplanes like sardines in a tin. There seemed barely room for them to sit in the tiny cabin facing each other. And then when they had been tucked into their places, and seemed incapable of doing more than moving their heads slightly, a sort of metal lid was shut down with a clang and fastened into position above their heads. And so they flew to Paris. Not more than a few feet in front of them was the big engine, and the noise it made was so terrific, combined with the shriek of the propeller, that even if you put your head close to a fellow passenger’s ear, and shouted with all your might, it was doubtful whether he would hear you, and the best thing to do was to scribble a message on a piece of paper and pass it across the table.
‘The Romance of a Modern Airway’, Harry Harper, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd. 1930.

The hatch was “unscrewed” by ground crew at their destination. I wonder if they knew the petrol tank was conveniently located between the cabin and the pilot? Or if they thought about what might happen to them in a crash landing?

The 4A deserves its place in aviation history but its career as a passenger carrier was mercifully short. Comparitively bigger aircraft, adapted from bigger bombers, replaced it. The aircraft in the picture, F5764, was sold to Handley Page Ltd in April 1921 and scrapped the following year.

 

A Royal Church

Image from a late 1940s postcard by Valentines.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church – Built 1721-26, is perhaps the finest work of James Gibbs. Familiar to all “Listeners” on account of its Broadcast Services.
Postcard by Valentine & Sons, Ltd.

We come now to a place known through the broadcasting world, St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Proudly it stands by [Trafalgar] Square, broadcasting to the millions its message and the music of its bells, alive with every kind of good activity, its crypt open every night to scores of London’s homeless.

It is one of our finest churches, the masterpiece of Wren’s friend and disciple James Gibbs, whose bust (by Rysbrack) is inside. There had been a church here for centuries, and the fields were still green in [Oliver] Cromwell’s day, but St. Martin’s as we see it comes from 1726. Its architecture should be admired from across the square, where the splendid proportions of the classical design are best seen. The impressive portico is one of the best in London, and above it the royal arms remind us that this is the parish church of Buckingham Palace, so that the name of a royal baby born at the palace is entered in the register here.

[The interior is] full of interest, though unhappily so dark that it must always be lit by day. The roof is unusual for curving down in the shape of an ellipse, an arrangement James Gibbs thought “much better for the voice.” It is panelled in blue and gold, and adorned by fretwork. Royal boxes, like open windows, look down on the sanctuary, and between them is an east window of the Ascension with expressive faces.

Plain in architecture but warm in welcome, the crypt is like a second church below the first. It is one of London’s Ever Open Doors, and is used for worship when the crowd is too great for the church itself. In the crypt is a rare little Children’s Chapel, domed and coloured like the vault of heaven, and among the interesting things kept here is a fine model of the church by its architect, waiting to light up for a penny, an old chest, a kneeling Tudor figure, a row of ten kneeling children, a whipping-post of 1752 from Trafalgar Square, and a tablet to a lady of 1687 whose early death led her friends to write of her:
A friendly neighbour and a virtuous wife,
Doubtless she’s blessed with Everlasting Life.
‘London’, Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton, 1937.

In 2006, work began on a two-year £36 million “renewal programme” for St. Martin’s. The crypt is now a cafe and concert area.

The Tarawera eruption

(Hint: this post will make more sense if you’ve read the previous two).

The ridge known as Mount Tarawera in New Zealand’s North Island, that lies alongside a lake of the same name, is actually made up of three ancient volcanoes fused together. They were considered long dormant in the 19th century and certainly didn’t feature as a threat in local Maori tradition. But Tarawera was surrounded by an extensive and active geothermal field that drew tourists from all over the world.

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Painting by Charles Blomfield.

On the night of 10th June 1886 all three vents burst into life, ripping the top off the ridge and creating a deep rift that ran for its entire length. It continued down the southern end of the mountain and through Lake Rotomahana, site of the world famous Pink and White Terraces, which were never seen again. The shape of the landscape had been changed forever. Dust from the eruption spread right across the Bay of Plenty as far as East Cape but most of the hot ash and boulders were dumped in the immediate area.

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The shaded area shows the extent of ash deposits. The parallel lines indicate the geothermal corridor from Mount Ruapehu to White Island.

Small family settlements around the edge of Lake Tarawera were wiped out and Wairoa village was buried under three feet of mud and ash. Over 150 people died, although that can only be an estimate. The magnitude of the disaster can be understood best through photographs taken over the days that followed.

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Wairoa village, once a tourist base for trips to the Terraces. The humps in the ground forming a line at left are buried Maori huts (whare). The remains of buildings can be seen in the middle distance.

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McRae’s Rotomahana hotel at left (see last Tuesday’s post) and the Terrace hotel, right.

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The old mill in a desert of ash.

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The remains of a church.

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Moura, a small Maori settlement, used to stand here beside Lake Tarawera. Searchers found only waist deep mud.

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Part of the rift that split open Mount Tarawera.

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These huge craters were blasted out of Tarawera’s southern end. Lake Rotomahana and steam from new vents lie beyond. The landscape is covered in ash as far as the eye can see.

The land took decades to recover but curious tourists returned to the area within weeks of the eruption. The buried village is still a popular attraction.

A Bath for the Gods

Continuing from Tuesday’s post, following J. A. Froude’s account of his adventures in the geothermal region of New Zealand’s North Island in 1885.

Leaving the White Terrace behind, the guides Kate and Mari led the group on a track past boiling pools where the “heat, noise and smell were alike intolerable”, and steaming cones of mud. “Suspicious bubbles of steam spurted out under our feet as we trod, and we were warned to be careful where we went.”

After lunch beside Lake Rotomahana, Mari ferried them accross the “weird and evil looking” hot lake in a leaky dugout canoe.

The Pink Terrace, the object of our voyage, opened out before us on the opposite shore. It was formed on the same lines as the other, save that it was narrower, and was flushed with pale-rose colour. Oxide of iron is said to be the cause….

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A painting of the Pink Terrace and Lake Rotomahana by Charles Blomfield. The White Terrace can be seen in the background on the other side of the lake. The height and shape of Mount Tarawera has been exaggerated and distorted. (Compare with the photograph at the bottom of the post).

The party landed at the terrace-foot “with no more misfortune than a light splashing”. Some intrepid tourists of the time felt their trip wouldn’t be complete without bathing in the terrace pools and Froude was keen to take the plunge.

To my great relief I found that a native youth was waiting with the towels, and that we were to be spared the ladies’ assistance. The youth took charge of us and led us up the shining stairs. The crystals were even more beautiful than those which we had seen, falling like clusters of rosy icicles, or hanging in festoons like creepers trailing from a rail. At the foot of each cascade the water lay in pools of ultra marine, their exquisite colour being due in part, I suppose, to the light of the sky refracted upwards from the bottom. In the deepest of these we were to bathe. The temperature was 94°F or 95°F. The water lay inviting in its crystal basin.

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Falling like clusters of rosy icicles.

The water was deep enough to swim in comfortably, though not over our heads. We lay on our backs and floated for ten minutes in exquisite enjoyment, and the alkali, or the flint, or the perfect purity of the element, seemed to saturate our systems. I for one, when I was dressed again, could have fancied myself back in the old days when I did not know that I had a body, and could run up hill as lightly as down.

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The bath over, we pursued our way. The marvel of the Terrace was still before us, reserved to the last. The crater at the White Terrace had been boiling; the steam rushing out from it had filled the air with cloud; and the scorching heat had kept us at a distance. Here the temperature was twenty degrees lower; there was still vapour hovering over the surface, but it was lighter and more transparent, and a soft breeze now and then blew it completely aside. We could stand on the brim and gaze as through an opening in the earth into an azure infinity beyond.

The hue of the water was something which I had never seen, and shall never again see on this side of eternity. ….. Here was a bath, if mortal flesh could have borne to dive into it! It was a bath for the gods and not for man.
Extracted from ‘Oceana’, J. A. Froude, Ed. Geoffrey Blainey. Methuen Haynes, 1985.

Froude was right – he would never see the sight again. One year after his visit, this landscape changed forever. More about that tomorrow.

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