Queen Charlotte Sounds, 17th December 1773. Captain Tobias Furneaux of the Adventure had become separated from Cook in the Resolution and so entered Queen Charlotte Sound, the agreed rendezvous, which Cook had in fact, left just six days earlier. Relations with local Maori appeared hostile from the start, with thefts and confrontations. Furneaux sent the large cutter ashore in charge of John Rowe, with ten men, including the captain's black servant, to gather greens preparatory to leaving. When they did not return a search was mounted the next day, led by Lieutenant James Burney. He was of the opinion the cutter may have been stove in and the carpenter sent him with sheets of tin. Next to Grass Cove (Wharehunga Bay) they saw a large double canoe hauled up on the beach.

 

Burney searched the canoe and to his dismay found one of the cutter’s rowlock ports in it, a shoe belonging to Woodhouse, and a piece of meat, which they thought might be dog’s flesh. Nearby on the beach they saw about twenty food baskets tied up. When they cut these open, they found them packed with roasted meat and fern root, still warm from the fire. Burney hoped that this might also be dog’s flesh, but they soon found more shoes and a hand tattooed ‘TH’. This was unmistakably the hand of Thomas Hill, who had worn this tattoo since their stay in Tahiti. Behind the beach they saw a circle of freshly dug ground about four feet in diameter, almost certainly a hangi, or earth oven. As the marines feverishly began to dig there with a cutlass, Burney prepared to burn the canoe, but a great plume of smoke billowed up from one of the nearby hills and they hurried back to the launch.


By now it was almost dusk. They rowed the launch to Grass Cove, where a single and three double canoes were hauled up on the beach, and a crowd of hundreds (or according to Furneaux, fifteen hundred to two thousand people) were gathered on the hillside and the shore. According to Burney, there was a large fire on the hill behind the cove. He ordered a musketoon to be fired at one of the canoes, where he thought some warriors might be hiding, then ordered his men to fire muskets and musketoons at will into the crowd. At the first volley the people seemed stunned; at the second they broke and ran for the trees, howling with fear and pain. The marines kept on shooting until nobody was left in sight.

Burney left Peter Fannin, the ship’s master, to guard the boat while he searched the beach with a party of marines. They found two bundles of wild celery gathered by the cutter’s crew, one of her oars broken and stuck upright in the ground, and behind the beach ‘such a shocking scene of Carnage and Barbarity as can never be mentioned or thought of, but with horror’. Dogs were chewing at the discarded entrails of four or five men. They found the eyes, hearts, lungs , livers and heads of their comrades, including the head of Furneaux’s black servant, together with various feet and Rowe’s left hand (identified by its scarred forefinger) roasting on fires or scattered on the ground. Fannin called out that he could hear people shouting in the valley, perhaps preparing to attack, so they gathered up some of the body parts and hurried back to the launch. They destroyed three of the canoes on the beach, searched again for the cutter, fired one last volley at a large crowd of people gathered on the hillside up the valley, and left the cove in darkness. There was little doubt of what had happened to the men, and no sign of the cutter apart from the broken oar and rowlock ports. Those lost on the cutter were Mr Rowe, a cousin of Tobias Furneaux, Mr Woodhouse, Francis Murphy, quartermaster, William Facey, Thomas Hill, Michael Bell, Edward Jones, James Swilley, captain’s man, Jno Cavanagh and Thomas Milton. The latter two belonged to the afterguard.
“We brought on board two hands, one belonging to Mr Rowe, known by a hurt he had received on it, the other to Thomas. Hill, and the head of the captain’s servant.”

Stunned by the awful blow which had unexpectedly fallen upon the expedition, and realizing the uselessness of any form of punitive treatment, Furneaux took the first opportunity which good weather gave them on the 23rd December to leave the sound which had proved such a disastrous resting place. The body parts were collected, tied in a hammock with ballast and shot, and later buried at sea off the entrance to the sound.

Maori themselves dated a great epidemic, known as Te upoko o te rewharewha, which swept through the country in the late 1700s, to the killing and eating of the crew of one of Cook's ships that was wrecked. What makes this 'shipwreck' significant is it upset the population balance, making the tribes in the south of the North Island more vulnerable to the tribes from further north.

In 1811 the Adventure was wrecked in the St. Lawrence River. The cutter has never been seen again.

In White’s Tainui volume of his Ancient History of the Maori he recorded “the Maori collected [from the Adventure’s cutter] the ropes from the masts, and from the sails, and from the ship, and the ship was allowed to drift on the beach, where the various things on board were taken by the Maori and the dinner plates were broken by the Maori and bored in the pieces, which were worn by the people instead of the greenstone hei-tiki. Now, the figures on some of these pieces of plate were not unlike Maori trees, and hence these imitation plate hei-tikis were called Te-upoko-o-rewarewa (the head of rewarewa - Knightia excelsa), as the Maori thought the figures on the plates were like that Maori tree…. From this ship, a weapon was obtained which is not unlike a Maori mere pounamu in shape, which is still in the possession of the chiefs of the tribe called Ngati-hine; and that was the first time iron was seen by the Maori. The nails were rubbed on stones to make them have a sharp point; these nails were then put on to a long spear. Other pieces of iron were made into axes like our stone axes which we call kapu. For these carved handles were made, and to these dogs’ hair of our Maori dogs was tied, and pieces of the paua shell were inserted, and these were also rubbed over with the gum of the tarata tree. One of these axes was called by the name of Kai-tangata (man-eater).”

Of interest here is the description of the plate hei-tikis, though the translator may have misunderstood the reference to Te-upoko-o-rewarewa. One such ornament made from a broken willow pattern plate, with a conically bored hole for hanging, is in the Otago Museum and was collected at Murdering Beach, or Whareakeake, on the coast just north-west of Otago Harbour. It is made more significant, for it was also in this locality that one of Cook’s Resolution and Adventure medals, which he had handed out in Queen Charlotte Sound, was also found. An old chief at Waikouaiti in the 1840’s also claimed that as a child he had seen Captain Cook. Taken together, these artefacts and the testimony suggest that the residents had migrated from the Queen Charlotte Sounds area after the affair with the Adventure’s cutter, and that they might well have been involved in it. It is possible the broken plates could have come from Adventure’s cutter. However, both Christies of London, and other experts in England, including the Transferware Collectors’ Club, after examining an image of the pottery pendant, have determined it was English transfer-printed earthenware which was only perfected in 1784, the type, design and engraving being typical of about 1820. While officers on HMS vessels of the Cook era did use china, I am sceptical the cutter carried china from which the Maori made pendants. However, if they did, the sample held in the Otago Museum is not one of them.

On the 25th July 1910, Robert McNab and party visited Grass Cove. Mr Howard Greensill, who owned the property in that bay, showed them an old flintlock, a barrel, a bayonet, and another weapon, identified by McNab as an officer’s hanger (a kind of sword) which had been dug up in his garden while building a new pipeline up the gully. When cutting down a whiteywood tree, they found three muskets in the trunk. Most of the woodwork had rotted off but the ironwork was still intact. Midshipman Rowe alone had killed two men and had wounded their chief before he was overpowered. The weapon used was fully described, and is undoubtedly the hanger unearthed in the settler’s garden. Being tapu, it was probably buried on the spot.

Adventure Cutter Relics
From Heather Heberley's book Riding With Whales - Displayed at Marlborough Museum

The musket pieces and a boat hook are now on display at the Marlborough Museum in Blenheim. The musket was identified as a Brown Bess, a type issued by the Admiralty in Cook’s time. However an antique arms expert, John Milligan, having examined images of the musket, has determined it is an Indian Pattern Brown Bess, a type not issued until 1810. He gives his reasons.

“The ‘Brown Bess’ musket was in service throughout the British Empire for over 150 years in one form or another. By comparing the minor changes it went through, it is possible to establish the date of the ‘Pattern’ of a certain musket (or parts thereof). Muskets were still individually hand-made and expensive to produce so they remained in service a surprisingly long time – compared to our modern preoccupation with ‘this year’s model’.

So, although one might find identifiable parts of say a ‘Pattern 1703’ musket on an archaeological site, it could perhaps have been discarded or lost during a battle on that site in the 1840s. This is particularly so in the far flung reaches of the Empire. The British were in the habit of passing on ‘obsolete’ (but perfectly serviceable) arms to their colonial allies or volunteer militia. They might even have been used as trade goods.

The early Brown Bess Patterns 1703 and 1718 were distinguished by the ‘ring neck’ on their cocks. (You’ll notice how a lot of bird terminology is used in the naming of gun parts.) But the subsequent 1727, 1740 and 1756 Patterns had ‘swan necks’.

It is reasonable to assume that, on such a journey, the muskets carried by HMS Adventure in 1773 would have been of the current – or at least a very recent pattern. So it is most likely that they were ‘Swan necked’ ‘Pattern 1756.’ But the musket in question has a ‘ring neck’.

Cairn at Burneys Beach
Cairn at Burneys Beach

It wasn’t until the ‘New Land Pattern of 1802’ and the ‘India Pattern of 1810’ that the ‘ring neck’ would make a comeback. In addition, the earlier (1703 and 1718) locks that had ring-necked cocks had a pronounced ‘banana’ shape to their lock plates. The Pattern 1802 and 1810 lock plates are very nearly flat across the bottom. But the most compelling evidence of all is that, of all the ‘ring necked’ cocks; only the Pattern 1810 cock has the distinctive ‘pigeon breast’ shape. So the relic musket found at Burney’s Beach, on Arapawa Island, could not possibly have come from HMS Adventure’s 1773 visit.


The small bay immediately north of Wharehunga Bay is Burney’s Beach. The name was officially approved by the NZGB in 1972. A cairn and plaque, were erected there, approved by the NZGB in 1972. A cairn and plaque, were erected there in 1971 and unveiled by the first New Zealand- born Governor General, Sir Arthur Porritt. Grass Cove on Arapawa Island, was known by the locals in 1902, as Nott’s Bay. He used to muster the block behind the bay. Although he didn’t own it, it was known as Nott’s block. Wild celery still grows (2009) on the shores of Wharehunga Bay.

The Adventure was wrecked 24th May 1811 at Cape Gaspé, St Lawrence River. All crew were saved. From the Edinburgh News, 1st August 1811 “The Adventure, Snowden of Whitby, from Leith, for Quebec, was lost on 24th of May last in the Gulf of St Lawrence—crew saved. This is the identical ship that the circumnavigator, Captain Cook, sailed round the world in. She had a thorough repair in Whitby last year.”

China Pendant

Celery still growing at Wharehuga

China pendant

Celery still grows at Wharehunga

References: Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, page 228-31, and Between Worlds,. page 102-105. S.P. Smith, Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, page 59, McNab’s Murihiku, Mark Adams & Nicholas Thomas, Cook’s Sites Revisited and Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 1902. Heather Heberley’s Riding With Whales.

Research, Ian Church and Lynton Diggle.

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