Dumont D'Urville passes Great Barrier Island 1827

20th February, 1827.—At daybreak the land which had been in view all night showed up at less than two leagues' distance to windward, and the whole of the island of Otea [Aotea, Great Barrier] was developed to its full extent. It is formed by a chain of elevated mountains, cut up by deep ravines, and is generally sterile. A small island situated on the N.E. of Otea [Rakitu], which we passed at about two miles and a half distant, offers a most arid aspect. On the whole coast of Otea we did not remark any indication of inhabitants; no smoke denoted the presence of human beings. By noon we were at a point precisely to the east and less than half a league from the north point of Otea. On that side the island is terminated by a peninsula, without vegetation, of a brownish colour, and the flanks of which  battered by the sea, have something of a lugubrious though imposing appearance. It is also accompanied by some pointed rocks of singular shape, some of which are very slender on top. For this reason we gave to that part of Otea the name of Pointe des Aiguilles [still so called]. At the same time the soundings were 72 fathoms, hard yellow mud.

As soon as we had passed the Pointe des Aiguilles, we discovered successively the numerous islands dispersed at the entrance to the Bay of Shouraki [Hauraki], a view which produced a most picturesque and animated scene. Here the work of Cook was again found to be very unexact, and a new exploration became indispensable.

With the wind W.N.W. then prevailing I already flattered myself with the hope of doubling the north point of Otea, and of penetrating into the Bay of Shouraki by the channel which lies between that island and Shoutourou [Hauturu, Little Barrier]. A black squall, however, rose in the S.W., and prevented me, and therefore I kept away to starboard. At 1.30 the squall burst upon us with violence, but it did not last long. Presently the sky cleared, and the wind returned to the S.S.W. and obliged me to keep outside the islands, and soon after we sighted the Poule et les Poussins [Hen and Chickens Isles], just before night. At 12 p.m. a brilliant meteor showed in the east for some seconds.

21st February.—When daylight came we sighted all the land seen the previous evening, and at the same time found that the current had driven us eight or ten miles to the north. We also commenced to see the Tawiti Rahi (Poor Knights of Cook) [Tawhiti-rahi] and the broken summits of Tewara [Bream Heam], although distant one and the other nearly twenty-five miles.

At noon we passed, at six miles distant, to the north of the islets, apparently uninhabited, of Moko-hinau.[Moko-hinau]. The breeze having changed to the S.E. and even E.S.E., I steered the corvette under all sail towards the Harbour of Wangari [Whangarei], where I hoped to cast anchor before night. Unfortunately, at the moment when we arrived on the meridian of the east group of Moro-Tiri (and it was already 4.30), the breeze fell, and barely allowed us to move more than a knot an hour. It was then impossible to stand out to sea, and I decided, as well as I could, to gain the anchorage of Wangari, with the sounding-line in hand. We passed at less than half a league the narrow and loftly chain (sic) of Moro-Tiri. [The Moro-tiri, or Chicken Islands, however, are, comparatively speaking, quite low; probably D'Urville means the Hen Island.] On its desert shores nothing but the monotonous sound of the breakers and the fearful cry of the sea-birds was heard.

Up to midnight we had successively from 48 to 22 fathoms of water, sand, and shells. … At 4.30 in the morning of the 22nd I laid to; and at 6 a.m., having recognised the land at less than three miles off, I stood towards Cape Rodney. Soon the sky, up to that time clear, became overcast from the east, with a heavy sea, and it appeared as if bad weather was again setting in. I did not judge it prudent to expose ourselves to the fury of the wind on an open coast, and thought it better to find an anchorage in shelter.

In consequence, I steered towards the head of Wangari Bay, where I hoped to place the “Astrolabe” under the shelter of Cape Tewara. Unfortunately, we had already fallen too far to leeward, and a bank appeared in our route, which obliged us to anchor in the mouth of the bay in a place little sheltered against the wind prevailing.


1st March.—A fresh breeze from the east blew all night, which we profited by at 5.20 a.m. to continue our route, following the coast two or three miles distant, so as to seize on all the details. At noon we made a “station” on the parallel of the northernmost of the Islands of the East, of Cook, the Wai-Hao [Waiau, probably—i.e., Coromandel Harbour], Wai-Mate [Waimate], Papa-Roa [Paparoa, which is a place on the mainland five miles north of Coromandel], and Moutou-Kawao [Motu-Kawau] in the Native language. These islands would offer excellent anchorages, as also would several well-marked bays along the coast. This latter rapidly rises everywhere in escarped mountains covered with forest. The summit, Moe-Hao [Moehau],* which ends in the cape of the same name (Cape Colville of Cook), is remarkable for its elevation. All this land seemed to us uninhabited, and we saw no other smoke but that of which I have already spoken.

We had charming weather and a smooth sea; but the breeze, but the breeze, which was feeble, only allowed us to advance slowly. All the same, we succeeded in getting to the north of the channel formed by Cape Moe-Hao and the island of Otea [Aotea]. We passed at five miles an island in the channel [Takapau, otherwise Te-poito-o-te-kupenga-o-Taramai-nuku!], and at 6 p.m. were about mid-channel between Shoutourou [Hauturu] and Otea. The calm surprised us in that place, and we were obliged to pass the whole night directing all our efforts to avoid falling on one or the other.

Every time we were becalmed the crew caught with lines an astonishing quantity of fine fish belonging to the species Dorade unicolor, which are excellent eating. It is the same fish that Cook calls “bream,” and appeared to be prodigiously abundant in these parts. Whilst we were at anchor off the Mogoia [Tamaki] River, the Natives of Tamaki loaded their canoes in the space of a few hours. To-day the crew soon caught hundreds, and there was enough to supply each plate with ample provision.

2nd March.—At 2 a.m. we found that the current had taken us near to the coast of Shoutourou [Hauturu, or Little Barrier], and afterwards carried us towards the strait of Moe-Hao. At daylight the calm still prevailed, and we were obliged to remain in the same position. The channel which separates the two islands of Shoutourou and Otea has a width of seven or eight miles, and appears very safe, with regular soundings of 30 fathoms. Shoutourou rises rapidly on all sides up to a conical mountain of a considerable height, and is easily seen from all parts of Shouraki Bay [Hauraki Gulf]. The surf breaks all round it, rendering it difficult for

[Footnote] * [The Geological Department, quite wrongly, call this mountain “Te Moehau,” which is not the name given to it by Tama-te-Kapua, captain of the “Arawa” canoe, circa 1350. There is no “Te” in the name.—Translator.]

small boats to land. It is the same with Otea, of which the coast is even steeper, cut up with gullies, and often devoid of vegetation; nevertheless, ships would probably find shelter under the little islands situated near the larger one. At two or three miles to the south of the west cape of Otea, which we named Cape Krusenstern, is a little group of bare rocks, which at a distance have the appearance of canoes under sail, which caused us to give it that name.

3rd March.—A light breeze from the S.W. having arisen, we profited by it to advance on our route towards the north. At midnight, being then about three miles to the east of the island Moko-Hinou [Mokohinau, also Poko-hinau], I laid to to await daylight. Afterward I steered as much west as possible, to regain the coast near Wangari, to continue the explorations ended some days before near that point. But the wind remained in the west, and I was reduced all day to beat to windward to approach the coast. …

[We may leave the “Astrolabe” here, with the hope of being able to take up the narrative of her visit to the Bay of Islands on another occasion.




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