Underwater Heritage Group New Zealand
The Sunken Cannon
Is there a cannon lying in the shallow water off Mill Island just to the south of Russell town?
Mill Island with mill, sans wings off Russell. Circa 1866-1869. Detail from Philip Walsh, 1843-1914; Illustrated London News Dated 1869. Ref: A-436-024. Note; is very similar to a drawing by Thomas Samuel Kemp, from 1866, possibly the original drawing. Ref: B-079-001
The Socabaya, the Sack of Russell and a curious case of Copper Bolts.
(This article originally published in the book 'Chasing the White Whale' by Lindsay Alexander)
While snuffling around dusty, tattered edges of forgotten nooks and crannies of Russell’s old history I recognised bits of a story worth the telling. Using a combination of luck and intuition, threads that tantalisingly appeared over an expanse of time and place were followed. A story has emerged that solves 170 year old mysteries and also encompasses a powerful Morality Tale.
Let’s begin with the ‘Sourabaya’, purportedly the ship that brought the cannon on the waterfront to Russell. But can we? The ‘Sourabaya’ is a fiction. She never existed, despite being mentioned in books, learned writings and worthy rambles about the Bay of Island’s past.
Here is the real story. And what a story!
Adventure's Cutter 1773
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.