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The Narrative of the Sufferings and Most Miraculous Escape of Mr John F Atkins, Second Officer of the Brig HAWEIS which was treacherously captured by the natives of New Zealand on the 22nd of March 1829 and a part of the crew massacred.

Date: c 1830
Overall: 323 x 206 mm, 5 mm, 0.12 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Caroline Jones
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Manuscript
Object No: 00030504
Related Place:East Cape, Sydney, Bounty Islands, Plenty, Bay of,

User Terms

    This manuscript documents 'The Narrative of the Sufferings and Most Miraculous Escape of Mr John F. Atkins, Second Officer of the brig HAWEIS which was Treacherously Captured by the Natives of New Zealand in the 22nd of March 1829 and a part of the Crew Massacred'. The narrative is written in the first person, possibly by someone listening to Atkin's story shortly after the event - possibly Captain James - rather than by Atkin's himself.

    Versions of this manuscript have been published in the United Service Journal (1830), a French journal Revue Britannique (1830) and in Historical Records of New Zealand, 1904. But significantly the manuscript is not mentioned in Mander - Jones's Manuscripts in the British Isles Relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (1972) or in Ferguson's Bibliography of Australia (1941) which would seem to indicate the original manuscript has not been located or no longer exists.
    SignificanceManuscript journals of early 19th century trading voyages are rare. While the Australian National Maritime Museum has some 19th century manuscripts in its collection none of these manuscripts describe early colonial trading voyages, contact with indigenous peoples or describe in vivid details the reaction of these people to foreign trade.

    This manuscript's association with the colonial trading empire of Campbell and Co and the work of the London Missionary Society - two major influences on 19th century Pacific history - make it of particular significance.

    HistoryThe HAWEIS

    The 72 ton, wooden schooner HAWEIS was built on the island of Moorea, Society Islands for the London Missionary Society by the missionaries George Bignall and John Williams. The vessel launched in December 1817 by King Pomare of Tahiti, was named after Dr Thomas Haweis whose interests led to the founding of the London Missionary Society.

    Originally the London Missionary Society intended to use the HAWEIS between the Colony of New South Wales and their missions in Tahiti, New Zealand and Tonga. However after two very unprofitable voyages the vessel was leased to Robert Campbell (1769 - 1846) of Campbell Clarke & Co, Campbell's Wharf, Sydney, New South Wales. Campbell re-rigged the vessel as a brig, armed it with a couple of small cannons and then engaged it - sometimes on his behalf sometimes on the behalf of the Society, on a series of trading voyages throughout the Pacific.

    Between 1818 and 1828 the vessel made at least thirty five voyages between Sydney and the Pacific visiting the Society Islands, Norfolk Island, Batavia, New Zealand, Tonga and possibly Fiji. During a voyage in 1819 the vessel charted a series of previously unknown - at least to the Europeans - reefs and islands including North and South Minerva Reefs.

    In 1828 and 1829 the vessel made a number of voyages to New Zealand (one of which is the subject of the manuscript) before the brig left Sydney for the last time on October 24 1829. Bound for New Zealand, Tongataboo (Tonga) and Otaheite (Tahiti) with missionaries and school supplies the vessel is believed to have never reached any of its ports and in January 1830 was reported missing, believed to have been taken by either convict stowaways or Pacific Islanders.

    Robert Campbell and the London Missionary Society

    Robert Campbell was born in Greenock, Scotland in April 1769. In 1796 Campbell journeyed to India where he joined his older brother John Campbell who was one of the major partners in the Calcutta based trading agency Campbell Clarke and Co. In January 1798 Robert Campbell became a partner in the company and in 1799 with his brother John bought out the Clarke's interests in the company and formed Campbell and Co.

    Despite the initial set back caused by the loss of their vessel SYDNEY COVE in 1797 Campbell Clarke and Co - subsequently Campbell and Co - had by 1799 established themselves in the penal settlement at Port Jackson. Robert Campbell taking up residence at Dawes Point where he began to build warehouses and a wharf in an area that later became known as Campbell's Cove.

    By 1804 Campbell and Co were heavily involved in the Australian, Pacific and Indian trade, having over 50,000 pounds worth of goods in its Sydney warehouses.

    Despite some local opposition Campbell's became known for their fair trading, reduced prices, and generous credit. These features no doubt made them very attractive to the London Missionary Society which was founded in 1795 as a non-denominational organisation dedicated to spreading the Christian faith in the non-European world. The Society sent missionaries to Africa, China, India, Southeast asia and the South Pacific islands.

    From 1818 onwards Campbell was closely associated with the LMS which acknowledged his 'constant kindness and effective acts of friendship' (Shaw, p205). The Society's missionary activities in the Pacific were on a number of occasions blended with speculative trading - the HAWEIS being an example of this, and Campbell acted as agent, banker and suppler to the Society.

    The HAWEIS incident

    In November 1828 the vessel, still leased by Campbell and under the command of Captain John James sailed with twelve sealers for various southern islands before arriving at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand to trade with the Maoris for pigs.

    It was an interesting and exciting time in New Zealand's history called by some historians 'The Musket Wars' - when the Maori tribes were engaged in internal power struggles influenced by European weaponry and the activities of missionaries and traders.

    Due to a number of problems with obtaining pigs and salted pork, Captain James decided to send Atkins along with an interpreter and another sailor to the Maori Pah at Whakatane to trade for the pigs. After discussions Atkins returned to the HAWEIS anchored off Tauranga and the vessel sailed around to Whakatane to pick up the remaining pigs, butcher them, cook them in the hot thermal springs and then pack the cooked and salted pork in barrels.

    On Monday 2 March 1829 the First Officer, eight of the crew and a number of Maoris went ashore at Whale Island to prepare the remaining pigs. During the course of the morning using a preconceived plan the Maoris simultaneously attacked the shore party and the remaining crew on board the HAWEIS.

    'not a moment was to be lost…I went up myself (to get to the muskets stored in a barrel attached to the fore mast) giving orders to keep a sharp look out to which they (three of the HAWEIS'S crew) paid little attention, telling me that I was meditating (sic) the life of an innocent man. As I was ascending the fore-rigging the men were joking…regardless of the motions of the natives, though I kept cautioning them, but as soon as the chief saw me unlashing the muskets he fired at the oldest man…and shot him through the head, and with his 'maree' (a short stone club) he split his skull…’ (Atkins, 1829)

    The Captain and some of the crew managed to escape in the ship's boats but not before three of the crew had been killed and the Second Officer James Atkins wounded.

    '…The steward was shot at several times before he left the deck, and then he made for the foretop with me. They then fired a volley at us, seeing me prime my piece, and in so doing Ngarar broke my arm with a bullet' (Atkins, 1829).

    After the Maoris took care of the remaining crew members they searched the HAWEIS for food, alcohol, muskets, ship's guns and gun powder before storming the fore-top and dragging down the wounded Europeans. Fortunately for Atkins - the Chief of the Whakatane Pa decided to keep the remaining Europeans alive and ransom them at a later date.

    Meanwhile Captain James and the surviving crew members had rowed and sailed up the coast until they arrived at Tauranga where they found another Campbell and Co vessel the NEW ZEALANDER under the command of a Captain Clarke at anchor. James informed Clarke of what had happened and persuaded him to return to Whale Island and assist James in the recapture of the HAWEIS.

    On Tuesday 3 March the NEW ZEALANDER sailed down to Whale Island and a heavily armed crew, covered by the guns of the ship went over to the HAWEIS and recaptured it. This event was observed by Atkins who was being held prisoner in the Whakatane Pa which overlooked Whale Island.

    Although the steward died in captivity from his wounds, Atkins managed to survive by 'predicting' - Atkins used the ship's sextant and guessed - an attack on the Whakatane Pa by Maoris from another Pa at Tauranga. Thanks to Atkins 'prediction' that Tauranga Maoris were defeated and Atkins goes into elaborate details describing the event and the subsequent feasting that took place.

    A few days later Atkins was released by the Maoris at Whakatane in exchange for a fowling piece, a blunderbuss and three canisters of gun powder.

    Following the capture of the HAWEIS, the killing of three of its crew and the ransoming of Atkins a number of unofficial punitive expeditions were carried out against the Whakatane Maoris by visiting sealing and whaling vessels - during which a number of Maoris were killed.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: The Narrative of the Sufferings and Most Miraculous Escape of Mr John F Atkins, Second Officer of the Brig HAWEIS which was treacherously captured by the natives of New Zealand on the 22nd of March 1829 and a part of the crew massacred.

    Web title: Manuscript 'The Narrative of the Sufferings and Most Miraculous Escape of Mr John F Atkins...'

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