Trails Through the New Zealand Countryside

Stormy Landing At Castle Point, 1843.

This interesting episode starts on a trip to Port Nicholson (Wellington) from Turanga (Gisborne) aboard the Columbine. Including those on board were William Colenso, (Archdeacon) William Williams, his son Leonard, and a number of natives.

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'On the 1st November they embarked, with a large retinue of natives. They had no sooner sailed than the weather became worse, and for the next ten days they were beating up and down the coast between Table Cape and Cloudy Bay, contrary winds preventing them from entering Port Nicholson, although on the evening of the 9th they caught a tantalising glimpse of the lights of Wellington (probably Petone).  Colenso was wretchedly sick and could not leave his bunk.  The captain at length decided to attempt a landing near Cape Palliser, and succeeded in putting the baggage and fourteen natives ashore at Pamoteao, but the quickly rising wind compelled him to hoist the boat aboard as the ship bore away from the land in the gathering darkness.

"12th. Dies Dom. A never-to-be-forgotten day! battened down! lying to; seas breaking over us, sick and without temporal comfort. The Captain declared it to be one of the worst hurricanes he was ever in."

"13th. Wind still blowing fearfully.  In attempting to go before it, as a last resource, we had our mainsail, topsail, foresail and jib all successively carried away."

On the 14th the gale still continued, and the stout little vessel was driven far from land.  Provisions were running short.  While the natives were battened down in the hold they had drawn the bungs from the water-casks in order to quench their thirst, and in the darkness and confusion practically all the fresh water had run to waste.  The Archdeacon contrived a kind of damper from flour, lard and salt water, and this went well with the hungry passengers and crew.  By early morning of the 15th they had struggled back to within four miles of the coast, and as a last resource a bid was made to reach the shore in one of the ship's boats.  As they neared the coast the wind increased, one of the four oars broke, and the craft, overladen with ten men and two large water-casks, was in danger of being blown out to sea again.  The gale had, however, driven the Columbine far out of sight, and the only chance of safety was to try and make land.  Slowly they battled on in the teeth of the wind.  Heavy seas breaking in foam at the base of a line of cliffs promised only shipwreck to the despairing boat's crew, when suddenly a stretch of smoother water showed through the spindrift, and the boat slipped through a break in the cliffs into a little harbour under the high headland of Rangiwhakaoma (Castle Point) and grounded on a sandy beach.  Weak from fifteen days of sickness, during which he had been unable to leave his bunk or remove his clothing, Colenso staggered ashore. ". . . We named with gladness this snug little place 'Deliverance Cove'; being, as we supposed, the first Europeans who had trod its sandy shores."

The captain, however, was anxious about his ship.  Water was found by digging in the sand at the base of the cliffs, and the casks were filled, firewood was collected, and with his boat well loaded the captain set off before the wind over the tumbling waste of waters in search of his ship, which by this time had again been driven out of sight of the cove.

Left to their own devices, Williams and Colenso took serious stock of their position.  For all they knew their baggage was still at Palliser Bay, seventy miles away, and it would be some days before they might expect to communicate with their natives and have it brought to them.  They had brought a little rice from the ship, and this they boiled over a fire which their resourceful native companions had lit by the primitive but effectual method of rubbing sticks together.  Before the frugal meal was ready a party of natives suddenly appeared. having been attracted by the smoke which they had seen from their village two miles to the northward.  Their proffered hospitality was eagerly accepted by the castaways, but it was not without difficulty and pain that Colenso negotiated the rough track.  The village, Waiorongo, consisted of only a few huts and was used as a fishing resort by the natives of the larger village of Mataikona, which was situated about twelve miles further to the north.  To the hungry travellers the main feature of interest in the kainga was a great collection of crayfish which the natives had caught along the rocky coast and hung up on poles to dry.  Some of these, boiled with potatoes, provided them with the first good meal they had had for many days.  The rest of the day was spent in rest, and that evening Colenso expounded the Gospel to the natives, who had not previously had a mihinare visit them.'

The following day they moved along the coast to the small village of Maitakona.

The extract above is reproduced with permission from the book WILLIAM COLENSO by A.G. Bagnall and G. C. Petersen, published by A. H. & A. W. Reed 1948.

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From the papers [W C papers 183-63 Alexander Turnbull Library.] of William Colenso are the following extracts on the same episode:

Finding 'Deliverance Cove:

'10 persons in the boat, a dog (Colenso's], baggage and water casks and only 2 sound and one broken oar . . .
As we neared the shore we found, to our almost despair, the coast presented a perpendicular Iine of cliff, against which the sea broke incessantly. It appeared as if we must return again to the vessel, if we should be able to reach her the wind having taken her considerably further off. In this strait, and after some search, we found a little opening, and got at last into a little harbour, just under Rangiwakaoma (Castlepoint) where we landed, and where I, (though I could scarcely stand through weakness, having never had my clothes off and confined to my berth as well for 15 days) in looking about fortunately found water. God he praised for all his mercies.' ( Journeys. 15 November 1841.)

When at Mataikona:

..'All this week residing at Mataikona in a native hut waiting for our Natives from Port Nicholson .... The small quantity of Tea and Sugar which we brought from the Vessel was soon exhausted, and we lived chiefly on Pork and potatoes with which we were plentifully supplied by the Natives, although they were all but actually needing food for themselves, their new potatoes not being yet ripe. We boiled down sea water for Salt: for pepper, used the pods of the Hakakawa Shrub (Piper excelsum); for Tea, we eventually adopted a mixture of Toatoa (Cereodica erecta ), Piriwetau (Acaena sanguisorbae), and Karetu (Holeus redolens): for plates & Cups we used Paua shells (Haliotis sp.) and for Soap to wash our few clothes with, wood ashes. Our beards grew rather long and we luxuriated in the idea of soon having a razor, a piece of Soap, and a clean shirt. The Archdeacon fortunately found, in one small box which had been left behind when the baggage went ashore. a little flour, with which and lard from our pigs, I made some good cakes, baking them, after the Highland fashion, on heated stones.' (Journeys, 20-25 November 1843.)