Frederic Helleur

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Akaroa Harbour

When 19-year-old Frederick Helleur set out from London on 19 November 1849, after leaving his native island of Jersey, he was bound for Auckland in New Zealand.

Bad weather en route meant that the barque first made landfall at Akaroa, on the South Island, rather than Auckland in the north, and Frederick decided to settle there, nine years later marrying Ella Harrington, a fellow passenger, seven years younger than him, and raising a family of 11 children.

Departure

This story of the fateful voyage was written for the Akaroa Mail in 1877 by passenger Samuel

”It is now 28 years ago since we first turned our thoughts towards New Zealand. The idea speedily ripened into resolve, and finally we took passage in a small barque named the Monarch, of 375 tons register, the owners, Messrs Robinson and Smith, coming out with her. The crew consisted of the captain, David Smale, three officers, six able seamen, and an apprentice, while the passengers numbered 52, including a doctor.
”With a small vessel, a short crew, and a few adventurers, for such we might be termed in those days, we set sail for Auckland, but Akaroa was to be our destiny, and there we proved to to be the first direct English settlers in what is now called Canterbury. The town of our adoption, Akaroa, now boasts of a periodical publication, and it has been thought an epitome of our voyage, and the subsequent career of some of those ante-pioneers to the Canterbury settlement - anti-diluvians as we have been jocosely termed - might prove interesting to the readers of that journal.
”The Monarch sailed from Gravesend on Thursday 22 November 1849, stopping briefly at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Early on the morning of Tuesday 27 November the voyage was continued down the Channel and as night fell the land that was their home and that many would never see again slipped from view. Out of sight of land, the Monarch, a smart little sailor, continued her journey south. She was able to escape the mean and sometimes fatal storms that beset immigrant ships in the Bay of Biscay and seems, in all, to have had a pleasant and uneventful voyage down the Atlantic Ocean.
”Since leaving England, the passengers first sight of land was a fleeting glimpse of the island of Madeira off to port. Some of the passengers wished to linger a little while or even draw nearer to this dot of land in the ocean, but Captain Smale thought it prudent to remain as near the middle of the ocean as practicable. On board, he was the boss.
”The Monarch and her adventurers continued south across the Equator and in about 150 South latitude she fell in with a smart looking craft, the Pilot Fish, bound from Liverpool to Rio in Brazil. For two days the vessels sailed together before a light breeze and held a long nautical conversation which ended in a promise by the master of the Pilot Fish to report the Monarch on her arrival back at Liverpool.

Destination Hobart

Akaroa Harbour
”A fine wind continued to favour the Monarch on her southerly voyage as she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and commenced running her easting down towards New Zealand, making the meridian of Hobart, Tasmania, in 21 days - a smart trip. During the voyage across the great southern ocean it had been discovered that provisions were running low and a decision was made to set a course for Hobart. The wind, however, was set against her and favoured a continuation of her present course. After four days of attempting to reach Hobart it was decided that Captain Smale should revert to his original course.
”All good things do come to an end and on that very evening a fearful squall struck the little vessel from behind and forced her through the water at an immense speed. Before sail was shortened to reduce the effect of the wind, Monarch's rudder broke from its mounting and her stern windows were dashed in, flooding the saloon with almost three feet of water. In this helpless state the Monarch was driven across the Tasman Sea and down the west coast of New Zealands South Island. The storm abated during which time the crew were able to fix a temporary rudder and the ship sailed down and around the bottom of the South Island. This was, after all, the way they had been facing.

Rudder problems

”A fortnight after arranging the temporary rudder, the Monarch passed the Snares, south of New Zealand, and altered her course to the north with hopes of soon sighting the mainland. Progress was steady and all went well until the ship neared Cape Saunders on the Otago Peninsula where the temporary rudder parted from its bearings and left Monarch, once again, at the mercy of wind and current. Here, though, the situation was more hazardous as rocks were nearby and an on-shore breeze was drifting Monarch inexorably towards them. Soundings were constantly taken and when it was found that less than twelve fathoms lay between the seabed and her keel the ships boats were readied for launching to drag her off. The anchor was also let go but it was immediately noticed that it had not been fixed to the anchor chain. Having lost the anchor and in a desperate effort to slow the ship, the anchor chain was let out and this served to slow her progress toward the rocks.
”A starless night fell and the fate of the Monarch seemed sealed as the passengers, none obviously able to consider sleep, stared up at the looming headland above them. Then, about midnight, as if ordained by God, the wind changed direction 1800 and commenced to drift Monarch out to sea and to comparative safety. All on board gave thanks that night for their timely deliverance and at dawn the next day a steerage mechanism was constructed which enabled them, under sail, to set out in search of the nearest port. Any port.
Early settlers at Akaroa
”It was thus that the Monarch with her eleven crew and fifty-two passengers arrived first, not at Auckland, but at Akaroa. On Wednesday, March 27th, 1850, Monarch arrived at the heads of Akaroa Harbour. Attempts were made to enter the harbour but again the wind proved her undoing. Although almost starving due to the shortage of provisions, Monarch was compelled to remain outside the heads for almost a week. On Tuesday April 2nd, and much to the delight of the weary and hungry passengers, the wind changed and Monarch was able to sail into Akaroa Harbour where a boat was spotted coming out to meet her. Their presence outside the harbour had been reported by one of the Monarch's boats the previous day. On board the arriving boat was an old sea captain who had come to pilot Monarch to a safe anchorage. With him he had brought fresh bread, butter and water cress which the hungry passengers accepted with sincere gratitude.

Safe arrival

”On their arrival at the anchorage, and having been taken ashore, all of the passengers were delighted to once again feel the firm earth beneath their feet. They were warmly greeted by the French inhabitants (Comte de Paris) and felt most fortunate that one of their number, a young man, spoke fluent French. At night they returned to the ship but as the days went by more and more of their time was spent ashore. The first day of their arrival was well described by Samuel Farr: We partook of tea on the day of our landing at Bruce Hotel. The table was well furnished, and the cooking excellent. As may easily be imagined, we did ample justice to the substantial repast placed before us, and enjoyed it as only those can who, for a long time, have neither tasted fresh meat, nor, indeed, a proper meal. For this, our first meal in our new country, we each paid two shillings and sixpence.
”As will be well understood, many of the passengers by the Monarch who had so unexpectedly been thrust upon the shores of Akaroa Harbour, decided to stay, among them Frederick Helleur and Eliza Harrington.
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