11th November 1769
[At Mercury Bay, North Island, New Zealand]
Fresh Gales at East-North-East, and Cloudy, hazey weather with rain. Between 7 and 8 o'Clock p.m. I returnd on board from out the River, having been about 4 or 5 Miles up it, and could have gone much farther had the weather been favourable. I landed on the East side and went upon the Hills, from whence I saw, or at least I thought I saw, the head of the River. It here branched into several Channels, and form'd a Number of very low flat Islands, all cover'd with a sort of Mangrove Trees, and several places of the Shores of both sides the River were Cover'd with the same sort of wood. The sand banks were well stored with Cockles and Clams, and in many places were Rock Oysters. Here is likewise pretty plenty of Wild Fowl, such as Shags, Ducks, Curlews, and a Black bird, about as big as a Crow, with a long, sharp bill of a Colour between Red and Yellow; we also saw fish in the River, but of what sort I know not. The Country especially on the East side is barren, and for the most part destitute of wood, or any other signs of Fertility; but the face of the country on the other side looked much better, and is in many places cover'd with wood. We meet with some of the Natives and saw several more, and Smokes a long way inland, but saw not the least signs of Cultivation, either here or in any other part about the Bay, so that the inhabitants must live wholy on shell and other fish, and Fern roots, which they Eat by the way of Bread. In the Entrance of this river, and for 2 or 3 Miles up, it is very safe and Commodious Anchoring in 3, 4, and 5 fathoms, and Convenient places for laying a Ship ashore, where the Tide rises and falls about 7 feet at full and Change. I could not see whether or no any considerable fresh Water Stream came out of the Country into this river, but there are a number of small Rivulets which come from the Adjacent hills.
A little within the Entrance of the River on the East side is a high point or peninsula juting out into the River on which are the Remains of one of their Fortified towns. The Situation is such that the best Engineer in Europe could not have Chose a better for a Small Number of men to defend themselves against a greater; it is strong by Nature and made more so by Art. It is only Accessible on the land Side, and there have been cut a Ditch and a Bank raised on the inside. From the Top of the Bank to the Bottom of the Ditch was about 22 feet, and depth of the Ditch on the land side 14 feet; its breadth was in proportion to its depth, and the whole seem'd to have been done with great Judgment. There had been a row of Pickets on the Top of the Bank, and another on the outside of the Ditch; these last had been set deep in the ground and Sloping with their upper ends hanging over the Ditch. The whole had been burnt down, so that it is probable that this place had been taken and destroy'd by an Enemy. The people on this side of the Bay seem now to have no houses or fix'd habitations, but Sleep in the open Air, under Trees and in small Temporary shades; but to all appearance they are better off on the other side, but there we have not set foot. In the morning, being dirty rainy weather, I did not Expect any of the Natives off with fish, but thinking that they might have some ashore I sent a Boat with some Trade, who return'd about noon loaded with Oysters, which they got in the River which is abreast of the Ship, but saw no fish among the Natives.
Joseph Banks Journal
Rain and blowing weather all this day so that no canoes came off nor did we go ashore. An oyster bank had been found at the river by the wooding place, about ½ a mile up on the starboard hand Just above a small Island which is coverd at high water; here the longboat was sent and soon returnd deep loaded with I sincerly beleive as good oysters as ever came from Colchester and about the same size. They were laid down under the booms and employd the ships company very well who I verily think did nothing but Eat from the time they came on board till night, by which time a large part were expended, but that gave us no kind of uneasiness as we well knew that not the boat only but the ship might be easily loaded in one tide almost, as they are dry at half Ebb.
Sydney Parkinson Journal
It blew very hard all day from the N. and N. by E. and a great swell tumbled into the bay, which rendered our situation a very favourable one; for, had we been out at sea, we should have had a lee-shore. The inhabitants did not venture out in their canoes this day; and, the night before, we were almost swamped in coming off in the long-boat, being upon the shoals, and the tea running high. While we lay in this bay the natives brought us a great number of cray-fish, of an enormous size, which were very good. These were caught by women, who dived for them in the surf amongst the rocks. A long-boat full of rock oysters, too, were brought on board of us at one time, which were good food, and tasted deliciously. A little way up the river there were banks entirely composed of them. We also got abundance of parsley for the ship's use; and, at the place where we watered, we found a great quantity of fern, the root of which partakes much of a farinaceous quality: the natives dry it upon the fire, then beat it upon a stone, and eat it instead of bread.
Posted by Arborfield at 08:27