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A Discovery in Dusky Sound

 

Dusky Sound from our helicopter

 


In early 2010, I attended a function at the Wellington Club, in Wellington, New Zealand, at which the renowned scholar of James Cook, Dame Anne Salmond, was a guest speaker. Myself and some of the other attendees facilitated Dame Anne being presented with a beautiful 150mm working brass replica of the Endeavour cannon that is on display at Te Papa, the National Museum of NZ.

After her presentation I engaged Dame Anne in conversation, and said that she must have travelled to many of Cook’s destinations. She confirmed she had, but acknowledged that she had never been to Dusky Sound and, specifically, not to Astronomers Point, where it is possible to still see stumps of trees cut down by Cook’s men. Being a bit cheeky, I said to Dame Anne, “I am heading there in May 2011. You are welcome to join our party”. She suggested I email her, and the upshot was she and her husband, Jeremy, joined our party of fifteen. We flew to Supper Cove, Dusky Sound, by helicopter to join two boats we had chartered for the next six days.

We arrived in Dusky Sound, 238 years to the day after Captain Cook arrived there in Resolution. Having Dame Anne with us was a very special privilege, and every night for five nights she read from a copy of Cook’s journal of his time in Dusky Sound. Every following day we went out to explore and do the things that Cook described in his journal—except, we did not chop down any trees!

We arranged for Dame Anne to bring her replica cannon with her, and she gave it its first firing at Astronomers Point. One day we clambered up to Cascade Falls, the setting of one of William Hodges’s paintings of the voyage. One of our party was so inspired by the occasion that he proposed to his partner alongside Cascade Falls, and his partner said YES. So, we had an engagement party on board that night! Dame Anne proved very capable on the guitar, so, along with another guitarist, they strummed out the tunes while our group did our best to harmonise.

One morning I accompanied a father and son member of our party who were going deer hunting. We were dropped ashore for a few hours, but didn’t see any deer. Whilst we were on a small beach waiting to be picked up, I noticed an old rusty shackle on the beach. Seeing the shackle prompted me to say, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to find something associated with Cook?” I recollected that people have found coins that Cook had taken on his voyages.

Later that morning we decided to visit Indian Island to look at a Maori midden high on Indian Point. We then headed down to the rocky shoreline that was the scene for another William Hodges painting.1 It depicts the scene when Cook engaged with a Maori family that was living on the point,2 with a small whare (house) located above the high water mark. I was in the lead, heading to the point I thought where Hodges had painted the scene. My friend walking behind me called out, “What’s this”?


I returned to the rock he was standing beside just as he prised a blue glass bead from a crevice in the rock. We were all amazed, as it was clearly a very old bead, and not entirely regular in shape. Subsequent research led to a description of Cook’s encounter with the Maori family, during which Cook laid down a white handkerchief as a sign of peace. JR Forster recorded in his journal that he was there, “and threw one glass bead that I had upon my person” in the direction of the Maori family.

Archaeologists who have seen photographs of the bead describe it as being Venetian 18th century glass. As Indian Point is a rarely visited place, the odds must be extremely high that the bead my friend found was the same one thrown by Forster. It appears that the Maori Family left the area, or were murdered, by the time sealers arrived in Dusky Sound some 34 years after Cook’s visit. The find was certainly a highlight of our trip to Dusky Sound! The friend who found the bead intends donating it to the Southland Museum in Invercargill, which also holds an original painting by William Hodges of Cascade Falls.3

I encourage all CCS members to try, if possible, to visit Dusky Sound. It’s not an easy place to get to, but is well worth the effort.

Tony Southall

References

  1. Cook’s Log, page 48, vol. 38, no. 1 (2015).
  2. Cook’s Log, page 1512, vol. 21, no. 2 (1998).
  3. Cook’s Log, page 1562, vol. 21, no. 4 (1998).

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 45, volume 39, number 4 (2016).

 

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 45, volume 39, number 4 (2016).

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