Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EUTERPE: THE VOYAGE OF 1879 – LAND HO!


All voyages come to an end, although the last two weeks of this one were as frustrating and hard as the first two. The dangerous rocks of The Snares, south of New Zealand, were sighted on 12th December but four days later diarist James Martin wrote that there was still a headwind and they had not got far. They caught sight of Stewart Island’s lighthouse that evening but drifted too close to the Traps, and had to retreat again. Two days later a stiff breeze sent the ship bowling up the coast but that didn’t last, and Euterpe bounced around off the coast for several more days at the mercy of the currents and hard winds that blew and blew.

The passengers caught tantalising glimpses of their future home but it took the ship twelve days to reach harbour after the first sighting of land. The South Island appeared and disappeared “like a cloud” and “some say they can see land from the rigging” although Martin didn’t climb up to check it out. On Monday 22nd December they sighted Timaru, halfway up the coast, and the next day, in spite of the wind still blowing in their faces, there was Banks Peninsula, with Lyttelton harbour tucked around the corner. On Wednesday the battered but gallant little ship beat around the headland and into the safety of the harbour where she dropped anchor at about four o’clock. It was Christmas Eve, 1879.

The passengers’ diaries all end with the arrival of the ship in the beautiful Lyttelton harbour. What would I have done without the three diligent diarists who brought this voyage to life for us, 130+ years later, so we could read about it and marvel at the courage and perseverance of all those thousands of people who made the voyage down-under from the other side of the world to start new lives.

Practical Joshua Charlesworth noted the welcome sight of small boats which "brought us fresh provisions including meat, potatoes (fresh), vegetables, milk etc for our sea stores were just about being finished and in some instances were finished. You may judge that living for 20 weeks on sea fare (biscuits, salt junk, preserved potatoes, pea soup, burgoo, rice & mollasses) we heartily enjoyed the above addition of New Zealand beef & mutton for the first time very much."

Prosaic George Lister thought that the “land seemed very pleasant and it was very warm. It is the warmest Xmas Eve I ever felt, for it is the middle of summer. The Harbour is a fine inlet but I had to ask where Port Lyttelton was for we only could see a few houses and they looked very pretty on the side of a hill and plenty of trees around them.”

Sometimes lyrical James Martin reported that "the scenery today has been more like a panorama than a reality with the sun shining warm and a gentle cooling breeze.  On our left, slopes of sheep-rearing land. Before us and on our right the snow-capped Southern Alps.  It seems just like entering a little heaven. Wild ducks and divers just like a young duck with a long neck. The water very tranquil." 

This is only the end of this voyage. There are more sailing stories to tell – of this ship’s other voyages and of her captain. And there are other masters – my great-great grandfathers Captain Samuel Clarke Gibson and Captain Robert Aurelius King.
 

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