Scrimshaw showing the whaler Indian off Tahiti
Eight months passed before Indian reached New Zealand's Bay of Islands, arriving with Foxhound, another London whaler. Early whaleships replenished at the Galapagos Islands and throughout the Pacific before sailing with caution into New Zealand waters. Captains and crew were wary of the native New Zealanders; the burning of the Boyd and massacre of its crew a few years earlier still on every sailorís mind.
As ships arrived, Maori in waka paddled out to surround them, each world sizing the other up. Whalers needed water, pork, potatos, and wood for repairs. Tribal Maori were out for trade, very quickly realising they could gain advantage over rivals with the skills and items visiting ships had on board. On John's first night at the Bay of Islands Captains Swain and Watson were joined on board Foxhound by missionaries Kendall, King and Hall. New Zealandís first mission station was only three years old, and visiting ships were still relatively few and far between.
Unknown artist's depiction of The Missionary Settlement Rangihoua on the North Side of the Bay of Islands. Permission to use this image kindly granted by National Library of Australia
The missionaries sought news and supplies from the outside world while the whaleship masters were eager to hear how they could replenish their ships. John and his crewmates found themselves in very different company. New Zealand's native men where physically big and strong, and they displayed sharp inquisitive minds. They were good humoured until offended and worked hard as crew when they joined whalers.
Indian's next port was Sydney Cove where John and his crewmates unloaded a cargo of Porterís Ale, slop clothing and soap. In 1818 convicts still outnumbered settlers in the prison colony but business and enterprise were beginning to develop. After a month Indian left for the fishery with three more hands on deck including a convict whoíd just been granted freedom. After almost two years at sea hunting whales, John arrived home to England in July 1819. The crew were paid off and once more with pockets jingling, John headed for London.
The women, despite being treated as currency, made the best of their situation. Full of song and laughter, many whalers formed close attachments to Maori girls and would seek them out on returning visits to the Bay. They stayed on the ships while in port and some remained on board for the voyage to the fishing grounds.
"This anthology gathers some of the most vivid accounts of these cultural exchanges for the first time, placing the works of well-known figures such as Captain James Cook and Robert Louis Stevenson alongside the writings of lesser-known explorers, missionaries, beachcombers, and literary travelers who roamed the South Seas from the late seventeenth through the late nineteenth centuries."
"This account is an even-handed portrayal of the exciting, grisly, and sometimes profitable business of pelagic whaling, told from the perspective of young whalers through their detailed journal entries and letters."
Indian returned to the South Seas just two months later but this time John was not onboard. He had transferred to another whaler Vansittart, commanded by Captain Thomas Hunt. On Vansittart John was now a boat steerer, so his cut was higher than that of an ordinary seaman. With him from Indian went Thomas Davis, James Sawyer, and Luke Wade. John and his crewmates set out from Deal in January 1820 bound once again for the South Seas and eight months later Vansittart arrived in Sydney having taken on 100 barrels of oil during her voyage out.