The Voyage Out by J. Buller
Published in Forty Years in New Zealand, 1878
My wife and I left England in 1835. It was in the month of October that we cast a
last, fond, lingering look, on the white cliffs of old Dover. We were young and
hopeful. Our good ship was the Platina, Captain Parker, commander. In those days
there were neither the huge steamers, nor the large clippers, that now make such
quick voyages, to and from, the South Pacific. Our long passage was marked by few
incidents. The most trifling thing gives an agreeable break to the monotony of a
We sighted the Madeiras on one glorious moonlit evening. When off Cape Verd, a
suspicious-looking vessel was hovering on our track. That coast was then noted for
pirates. Therefore our captain took counsel with caution, lest we might be greeted
by a hostile visitor. Rusty swords, old pistols, and other arms, were hunted up,
and put in order. As the shades of night closed around us, all lights were put out.
Our course was changed. Despite some fear, we saw no more of the supposed marauder.
We called at the lone island of Tristam D'Chuna, but none of us landed. A boat came
off to us, manned by Governor Glass, and a crew of his co-settlers. Their costume
was very primitive--goat-skins doing service for shoes and caps. We were glad to
buy from them supplies of butter, potatoes, and other vegetables. On this stormy
and grim-looking islet, about a dozen families were located. Their wants were met
from the products of the soil, and by means of barter with ships, which now and
then visited them.
After eighteen weeks, we saw the heads of Port Jackson--the magnificent harbour of
Sydney. At that day, it was better known, in England, by the name of Botany Bay,
which is, in fact, a few miles to the south of it. We stayed at Sydney six weeks.
It was summer-- hot and dusty. But to weary voyagers, the sojourn was pleasant. It
was a small place then, compared with its present size. Many of the houses and
shops were of one storey, and built of wood. A dead wall ran up, a long way, on one
side of George Street, which may now be compared with Cheapside in London. The
streets were narrow. When the town was planned, it was meant for a penal settlement.
No one dreamt that it would rise to what it is to-day. We saw convict gangs, with
their clanking chains, marched to their daily work, with an armed escort. Thus the
foundation of a great colony was laid with the offscourings of the criminal classes
of Great Britain!
From Sydney we took ship to New Zealand, in the the brig Patriot. Besides ourselves,
were the Rev. N. Turner, Mrs. Turner, and their large family; also Mr. and Mrs. Monk,
with their little boy. We had been told that we were bent on a hopeless task, in
seeking to convert cannibal savages. "There was nothing for it," men said, "but to
polish them off the face of the earth." But we had "counted the cost." We knew who
had commanded the gospel to be preached to every creature. From Him we had our
"marching orders;" and in obedience to His word, and in hope of His presence and
blessing, we entered upon our work, and "in the name of the Lord set up our banners."
We made the N. W. coast of New Zealand, April 21st, 1836. It was off the Hokianga,
S. lat. 35 deg. 32', and E. long. 173 deg. 27'. On the next day we tried, in vain,
to cross the bar at the entrance of the harbour. The wind was from the shore, and
we had to "back ship." We came near to the Heads again on the Saturday; but again
the "wind was contrary." A small dark speck was seen to emerge from the river; -
came towards us. Very soon we found it was the little schooner Tui (parson bird).
One of our missionaries was on board her. He was on his way to the south, to visit
two stations that had lately been planted at Kawhia and Waingaroa. He stayed with us
till we were safe at anchor, and his local knowledge was of no little use. At night,
the wind freshened into a gale, so that we were driven far out to sea.
It was not till Wednesday, the 27th, that we could take the bar. On the afternoon of
that day, the pilot (Martin) succeeded in reaching us in his whale-boat. Before dark,
we had passed between the bold heads of the noble river--mountains of rolling sand
on either side of us. And now we felt how true are the Psalmist's words: "Then are
they glad because they be quiet: so He bringeth them into their desired haven;" and,
accordingly, we "praised the Lord for His goodness, for His wonderful works to the
children of men."
Next morning, we were early on deck to see the land. It was a clear, balmy, autumnal
day. Nothing can exceed the loveliness of April weather, in that exhilirating climate.
Lady Barker, in one of her books, naively but truly says: "In no other country does
Nature know how to make a fine day, as she does in New Zealand." Less sunny than
Australia, more stimulating than England, it is a climate of rare excellence. At all
events, our first day was a bright one. Native villages were perched on the
hill-sides. Stalwart Maories came alongside, in their canoes. They were clothed in
rough mats, or in dirty blankets. Fish, potatoes, etc., were brought on board, in
exchange for pipes, tobacco, and the like.
As we glided up the river with the flood-tide, they were, here and there, eyeing us
from their low huts, squatting on their haunches. Covered with the Ngeri (a coarse
flax mat), they looked like so many thatched bee-hives. A gentle breeze favoured our
progress, so that before dusk we cast anchor abreast of the Mission Station,
twenty-three miles from the Heads.
Did you find this diary using a search engine?
Click here --> New Zealand Yesteryears