Gaining a Foothold --- Historical Records of Otago‘s Eastern Coast 1770-1839 is a remarkable collection of contemporary records on early European explorations, sealing, whaling, interaction with the resident Kai Tahu Maori population along Otago’s eastern coast, and as far north as Bank’s Peninsula and to Stewart Island in the south. The documents include Maori sources, archaeological records, logs, journals, reminiscences of explorers, scalers, flax-gatherers and whalers, court cases, old land claims, newspaper and shipping reports. In addition the material provides new insights into European place-names, the causes of friction between Maori and Europeans, and the effects of European diseases on an indigenous people.

Though many early records have come from the Hocken Collections, they have been hugely expanded by documentation from Hobart, Sydney and elsewhere to provide the most comprehensive coverage of Otago history prior to the establishment of the first European settlement at Waikouaiti in 1840.
The extensive records place Otago at the centre of South Island whaling, with Weller Bros. the only Sydney merchants to operate from one end of New Zealand to the other. It also provides details of their North Island operations and land purchases. American, French and Canadian whaling expeditions are also covered, as well as the economics of shore whaling stations. Many of the papers on sealing vessels from Sydney and Boston have not been previously published.
The book also shows that the whole of the South Island and Stewart Island were effectively brought into the ambit of European civilisation without missionary involvement.
All students and researchers of New Zealand, Australia and Pacific whaling history will find immense value from the assembled documentation. Earlier misconceptions of history are gently corrected and the text also provides scope for further interpretation, and genealogical research, in assessing additional log books and on retrieving information from neglected court records. The comprehensive index, comprising some 3000 entries, together with an extensive bibliography, make this book an extremely valuable reference work.
Ian Church, who as General Editor assembled this document, has written extensively on New Zealand maritime history, as well as the regional history around his home-town of Port Chalmers. Gaining a Foothold complements his 2002 publication Opening the Manifest on Otago‘s Infant Years — Shipping Arrivals and Departures. Otago Harbour and Coast 1770- 1860.
A limited edition of 500 copies, Gaining a Foothold is a 467-page A4 hardback, plus 32 pages containing 96 illustrations, 32 of them in colour.

 

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