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Geschichten rund um den Globus

1839 - James C. Crawford
On a Whaling Station
Queen Charlotte Sound

I proceeded to what was then the chief settlement of Queen Charlotte's Sound, Teawaiti, called by the Pakeha Maoris Tarwait. It is situated in a bay of the Island of Arapaoa, near the entrance called Tory Channel, and was the headquarters of a whaling station. Here Mr. Elmslie had his own residence, in which I took up my quarters.
   At the head of the whaling station was a man well known in those days, called George Toms, but who generally went by the cognomen of Geordie Bolts, for what reason I know not. It was necessary for the discipline of a whaling station that the man in charge should be of a powerful body and determined character, for it rested with him personally to keep order among the community, which consisted of a set of wild daring men, often inflamed to madness by the abominable liquor which he himself sold to them. Toms was a noted disciplinarian. No one dared to disobey his orders. If any one ventured to dispute with him, he would tie him up, and hold him prisoner. He was a short stout man, with a trunk like a barrel and a bullet head, standing firm on his legs, and looking every one straight in the face. Men of the same type may be seen on Deal beach and at other parts of the south-east of England. He had a strong and lusty voice, and was upon the whole a good sort of fellow.
   One of the horrors of a whaling station was the smell of arrack rum, which infested the settlements, and even infected the air to a great distance. It was simply the most detestable liquid that I have ever met with, and although I tasted it, I could not get further; it must have been poisonous; and as it was the liquor with which the whaling stations were generally supplied, many deaths must have resulted from the use of it. As most of the whalers had Maori wives, a good many half-caste children toddled about the settlement. It was not the season for killing whales, and any work that was done consisted in coopering casks, repairing boats, &c., or in attending to small cultivations.
   I now found myself the denizen of a whaling station for a longer time than I had any fancy for. I was obliged to remain for about a week at Teawaiti, and the time passed in an irksome manner. As this station was so repulsive to me, I wandered about the hills during the day, and passed my evenings and nights in Mr. Elmslie's house. The population were generally more or less drunk, the smell of the arrack throughout the village was unbearable, and row and fights were of constant occurrence. Toms kept as good order as in the circumstances could be expected; but it was his business to make as much profit as he could out of his rum, so that it was not his interest to enforce sobriety. His object was always to keep the hands well in his debt, so that a the end of the whaling season there was little to pay in cash.
   There was a good story afterwards told about Toms. A Wellington merchant asked him how he managed to make a cask of rum go so far. "Why", said Toms, "when I takes out a glass of rum, I puts in a glass of water; when it gets too strong of water, I puts in turps, and when ist gets to strong of the turps, I put in bluestone."
   At length a crew was ready to go over to Port Nicholson in a whale boat. It being the season of nor'westers, which blow hardest in the middle of the day, we pulled in the evening outside Tory channel and hauled the boat up in a bay to the northward, where we camped, ready to make a start very early in the morning.
   The next day broke calm and fine, and we got well over before the nor'wester began; but at last we saw the "white horses" and the flying clouds, and before we landed on the North Island, which we did after dark, we had along and stiff pull for the job was over, for it is not altogether safe passing the tide rips of the Straits in an open boat.
   We landed somewhere about Island Bay, hauled the boat up, gathered some fern and other plant for bedding, cooked our food and retired to rest. On the following day the nor'wester had increased, so that we had great difficulty in pulling into the harbour. I landed I think about the present pilot station, and walked into the place where Wellington now stands.

Crawford, James Coutts
Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia
London 1880

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