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happy? – Feb 16 (set down in Open Bay)

Abby Sale 16 Feb 06 - 03:19 PM
Barry Finn 16 Feb 06 - 05:46 PM
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Subject: happy? – Feb 16 (set down in Open Bay)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 03:19 PM

In January 1809 a poster appeared on Circular Quay in Sydney saying something like "Wanted, several able active men for a well-found sea voyage – apply Captain Bader, the brig Active'.

The Active landed a party of sealers under the command of David Loweriston on Secretary Island, just off Open Bay south of Haast on New Zealand's south-west coast, with basic provisions to last them until the ship came back a few months later. Unfortunately she was wrecked on the way back to Sydney, off the north-west tip of the South Island.

The party eventually came to the conclusion that if anyone was going to get them to the relative safety and civilisation of Sydney it would have to be themselves. They built a boat of seal-skin and saplings, planning to row it to Australia. A storm came up the night before they were to set off and destroyed it. They then set about building a clinker-built boat, one tree to a plank; they were taken off by the Government schooner Governor Bligh (named after Captain Bligh, he of the Bounty, who while Governor of New South Wales made himself exceedingly unpopular with the businessmen of Sydney when he insisted that they obey the law, and had virtually another mutiny on his hands…).

During the two years they were on Secretary Island, Loweriston's sealing party clubbed to death some 14,000 New Zealand fur seals. This number, like the names and dates, has been slightly Folk Processed – and despite the song's gloomy story, they all lived. Tough buggers as they were.

        1. My name is Davy Lowston, I did seal, I did seal...

        2. Twas in eighteen hundred and ten we set sail, we set sail...

        3. We were set down in Open Bay, were set down, were set down
           Upon the sixteenth day of Februar-i-ay
           For to seal, etc.

                "Davy Lowston" is traditional in New Zealand. [thanx Arthur Toms, Gisborne, New Zealand]

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
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Subject: RE: happy? – Feb 16 (set down in Open Bay)
From: Barry Finn
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 05:46 PM

A court action later followed the rescue over ownership of the seal skins, the men or the company, the court determined the sealers owned the the skins.

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