More Than Rough Seas to
An extract from the diary of John Thomas Tylee on board the immigrant ship Mariner 1849
One would normally expect that hazards faced by immigrants to New Zealand would be of the nature of storms, freezing temperatures, bad food and pestilence. The following extract, however, gives an interesting insight into another potential hazard of the high seas. Pirates! These were not so un-common and a lot of ships carried muskets, pistols and cutlasses for their protection. In addition ships were painted with fake gun ports to ward off potential attackers.
Ship MARINER departed London, Gravesend February 8th 1849 bound for Port Nicholson via Nelson
"Early today we discovered a most beautiful brig astern of us under very easy sail, it was curious to observe the various ideas of the passengers, everyone watched her all day, some called her a gentlemans yacht, another a British brig cruising after slaves, another said she was an Aberdeen Clipper trading at the Cape, and some ventured to declare her a pirate. The Captain kept his eye on her all day and every time he looked through his glass the anxious ones would look in his face as if he had the whole history of her written on his forehead, certain it was that she would sail as fast as we could and we had as much sail as we could well carry, without we were running away, while she had no topsail at the foremast and a reef in the main topsail; at teatime (6 o'clock) she ran off to windward out of sight and for the first time the Captain told us she was up to no good, after which we all went on deck to look for the "Unknown". (some friends may recognise the name but what ever her name was she was the Eastern One) soon after 7 p.m. she was discovered again running down upon us like lightening, and then the ship was put about to keep her from throwing grappling irons on us. She could run around us like a cooper would a barrel, but as she shot under our bows we tried to run her down, but she was too quick for us, lights were now put at the ports, and she, supposing we were getting the guns ready, edged off again; for a time it was an eventful night. All women and children (chief cabin passengers excepted) were ordered below. "Grog'o, there for'ard" was sung out. The male Emigrants had also grog served to give them Dutch Courage. Wine and brandy and water was served to all the chief cabin passengers. All lights were put out fore and aft, even the Binnacle light was covered up. Those men who had arms were requested to load and prepare themselves, the ships' muskets, pistols and blunderbusses were loaded with ball cartridges and slugs, the cutlasses (3 doz.) were put on the sky-lights, and a large can of powder was fixed to one Binnacle; the men were all ordered to remain on deck, and every stitch of canvas being spread, we did our best to keep a good distance between us, which we fortunately succeeded in doing. In the dead of night we altered our course and completely gave her the slip. Poor Podgee stayed on deck till twelve o'clock and then went to bed without a light, without a fear, under a promise from me to call her if any danger was near; most gentlemen walked the deck all night, some slept on deck. I walked from 12 till 4 that was a watch, and then turned in. I have since learned from good authority that she was a Spanish Cruiser about 120 tons. She had a very long gun amidships on a swivel; had she attacked us we stood no chance. Every one admired our Captains energy, all his orders were cool, decisive and determined; thus ended a memorable day. At 3.30 in the morning while on deck I saw the moon rise it was a splendid sight being full moon".