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The Journal of George Hepburn
Part I - The Journal of George Hepburn, 1850 - Chapter VIII

First sight of Mount Egmont—The Sugar Loaf Rocks—Again driven to sea—They cast anchor at New Plymouth—Brief notes of Nelson and Wellington.

Thursday, June 27th, 1850..—This morning at 8 o’clock the cry of land in sight was made, when very soon (mostly) all were on deck to see if they could, a small speck in the distant horizon like a white cloud or tent, said to be top of Mount Egmont, nearly 100 miles off. This is the highest mountain in New Zealand, 9,600 feet above the level of the sea, that is twice the height of the highest in Scotland. It became much brighter through part of the day, but at times again invisible. Still all are satisfied that it is the long looked for land, and the anchor chain has been drawn up from the hold this afternoon, making further preparation for landing, but when we may yet cast anchor is uncertain, the wind being still right against us, but so very light that we are making very little progress. Indeed, the weather is so very fine since the last gale that we would fancy we were to land in midsummer instead of in midwinter. The moon also has been most brilliant for some nights past, making it very pleasant to walk the deck in the evenings. What a contrast from the time of a storm, when you can’t show your face out of doors. This is now 17 weeks and two days from sight of land to land. We had considerable delay and difficulty in leaving the English coast; so it is now with delay at least we can reach that coast now so long looked for.

Saturday, June 29th.—Yesterday morning a fine stiff breeze sprang up in the right direction, carrying us straight on to New Plymouth at about eight knots. Every hour the landing came more visible, and every eye was also stretched trying to discover some new object. In approaching New Plymouth in this direction the most prominent object is two rocks, which stand boldly out from the shore alone in the water like two large hay ricks, hence they are called the Sugar Loaf Rocks. Sailing nearby them, about one and a half miles further on, guides you into the anchorage ground, which we reached about 5 o’clock p.m. We fired a gun to arouse the natives. Shortly after we saw a small boat coming off to us, pulling against a head wind by six oars. They brought a pilot on board to guide our anchorage, there being no harbour here. The pilot said it would be inadvisable to anchor that night, the wind blowing rather fresh inshore, so after putting out the letter bags and four of our passengers who went ashore, the pilot remaining with us, we put ship about and put out to sea.

The wind soon increased almost to a gale, bringing us under close reefed topsails. We were said to be 50 miles off before midnight, and a heavy sea. This morning the wind moderated a little, and the ship was again put about, but under short sail, as it is no use attempting the shore again until the wind changes, so up to this hour (4 o’clock) we have never seen land again, it being so hazy. This want of a safe anchorage or harbour at New Plymouth is certainly much against it ever becoming a place of great importance, although the pilot on board speaks highly of it. Everyone so soon becomes his own master that they have no labourers for hire; neither can they get them. The first appearance of it to us was certainly not very inviting, but it was the gray gloaming. We hope the next sight will be more favourable. Came to an anchorage on Sabbath morning, and remained there until next Sabbath evening week, when we weighed and set off for Nelson, which we reached on Tuesday evening in very wet misty weather, which continued for a week. The account of this place is given in my letter to Andrew. Here I made my first merchandise in this new country; having sold all the herrings at a good price I rebought 1,200lbs. fine flour at 14s. per 100lbs., which I expect 20s. for at Otago.

Nelson seems a prosperous settlement, exports a good quantity of produce to other settlements, including Sydney, where they always have a ready market by a regular trading small brig which brings all kinds of British produce to the merchants and takes in return wood, wool, potatoes, etc., etc. Here are two very comfortable breweries which send beer at £4 10s. per hogshead to Otago. I was introduced to both by a Mr. Ross, baker and storekeeper here from Edinburgh, who showed me great kindness, and told the brewer to send what I wanted. Mr. Ross came here as poor as a mouse and as thin as a lantern, but is now worth £1,000 and is as fat as any provost. Says he has enough and to spare, would not return to do business in Edinburgh again for £200 a year guaranteed. This settlement is chiefly sheep, but depastured chiefly at 15 to 50 miles off. There are about 90,000 in the settlement; and many thousand goats at 5s. each. Geese without number very large, at 2s. 6d. each; fowls, 1s. each; pigs from 6s. to £2 in abundance. One of Mr. Nicholson’s elders, a Scotsman from Glasgow, has a ropery of the native flax. Saw him dress it to a very fine fabric, makes from waste twine small cord up to ship lines, and has a good demand from Wellington and Otago. I bought 20s. worth at 4 1/2d. per pound. He says he is making money ; has seven acres of land, several cows, etc., etc.

Wellington, Thursday, August 15th, 1850.—Left Nelson on Monday evening, July 29th, in fine weather. Arrived here all well. Since then have been on shore daily and in the country ten to fifteen miles. Like all the other stations, the country is mountainous and wooded in the extreme. Our journeys were both romantic and wild, but the settlers everywhere were prosperous and happy and very hospitable. Little or no farms—all cattle and sheep runs. The town of Wellington is considerable; a great many shops and stores filled with goods of every description, yet most of them making money. The mail leaves to-day, otherwise would have wrote a longer account of this place. Have lived two days on shore with the Rev. Mr. Kirton, late of Pathhead. They were extremely kind. He is the Scotch minister here; has a good congregation and preaches well. Our vessel expects to sail for Otago on Sabbath. Will write again soon. Have also posted a letter for Andrew, and one for Mr. Paterson, Edinburgh, and some newspapers which you may see. Have never had an opportunity of writing home sooner, but all is well. With kind regards to all friends.

The first part of the journal is sent to Mr Paterson, which you can have, and send him this when you have all seen it.

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