HMS BUFFALO Visits Tutukaka 173 years ago continued…
By Wade Doak
I have come to see that the Buffalo visit is a foundation story for our district rather like that of the first four ships in Canterbury or the Mayflower in America. It really set the ball rolling for the community that developed and the tone for good race relations. Just as surprising is how little we know about her and the early history of the Tutukaka Coast.
Working parties are at present clearing a path along the harbour shore from the marina to the old jetty where it may be possible to erect a cairn from Buffalo ballast stones and an information kiosk. For this reason I am sharing a little from my book. Local histories are seldom published without some sort of grant or sponsor. In these hard times it is unlikely my book, product of several years work, will ever be published. But here is an extract from chapter three of River in Time: A Coastal History by Wade Doak.
“On 29 September 1837 H.M.S. Buffalo, British Royal Navy Storeship, arrived in Ngunguru Bay from Kororareka in the Bay of Islands. Commander James Wood dispatched shore parties to check the district for tall kauri trees handy to the water. Spar-getters Thomas Cheesman and Bowler took two cutters up the Ngunguru River while Mr Chetwyn took the gig around to Tutukaka Harbour to determine if it was a safe haven for a vessel as big as the Buffalo to anchor for several months. A 589-ton ship, she drew almost eighteen feet when laden, was 120 feet long and 34 feet in beam. In her hold she carried 12 hundredweight of Negro Head tobacco, axes and trade goods for barter with the locals for their labour.
In her Spirit Room were eight puncheons of rum, seventy-two gallons each, to reward her crew, eighty-eight men and nine officers, for heavy effort. Her bilge carried as ballast thirty-six tons of honey yellow Sydney sandstone rock, which would be dumped into the harbour as she took on timber. Penned on deck was a team of four log-hauling bullocks with two tons of hay to munch on. Well stowed was a complete suit of gleaming bright armor gifted by King William, [who, unknown as yet to the Buffalo men, had died on the twelfth of June] to the eminent Hokianga chief, Patuone. In a dingy corner below decks were the leg irons of convicts transported to Australia.
On 1 October the ship shifted up to Tutukaka Harbour where she anchored broadside on across the outer harbour in four fathoms of water with a hawser from her bows to rocks on the north side, an anchor from her stern.”
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