Well, I had some nice pictures of Russell and somehow managed to delete them, so I will just have to tell the story without. Sorry.

First, I have some pictures enroute from Miniwhangata to Opunga Bay in the Bay of Islands where we set up for yet another blow. The following shots are taken at Cape Brett – a formidable looking place – as things were beginning to build.


Opunga is a very secure bay with great holding and we rode out the next blow overnight there. Winds really came up at 0500 (I know I said that it always happens at 0200 – the winds weren’t much but torrential rain arrived at 0200). The next morning was dismal, windy with heavy rain.


This Nordhavn 64 was anchored next door and reminded me of our Nordhavn 50.


Things eased a bit later in the morning so we motored around to Russell, put in the dink and went ashore. Russell is a quaint town with roughly 2000 permanent residents. Primary trade these days is all tourist based, but Russell has a pretty unsavory history.

The first Maori arrived from Polynesia in their waka’s around 1000 AD. A permanent fortress/settlement was established here around 1500. The Maori named it Kororareka (translated Sweet Penguin – seems a Maori chief favored them for dinner). Captain Cook on HMS Endeavor spent about a week in this region in 1769 but did not visit Kororareki and spoke highly of it and the word spread back to Europe. In the early 1800’s, the first European settlers arrived. the town quickly became known as the “hell hole of the Pacific”. In the mid 1830’s, dozens of whaling ships were anchored off Russell at any given time and sailors on leave do what sailors on leave do.

Charles Darwin landed here in 1835 on Beagle and described it as full of “the refuse of society”.

There were also conflicts with the local Maori’s and after a number of deadly skirmishes, the Maori and British signed the Treaty of Waitanga. That treaty (all of 4 articles long) handed the British sovereign control of all New Zealand – and the Maori’s got – you guessed it. For a short while, the capital of NZ was nearby here in Okiato, but was officially moved to Auckland in 1841.

In 1845, a disgruntled Maori chief, Hone Heke started chopping down the British flagstaff on the hill. Each time, the Brits would rebuild it, but by the fourth time, the Brits determined it was time to go to war. They were outwitted by the Maori and had to flee the town aboard the HMS Hazard. The Hazard lost a number of its men but opened fire on the town effectively destroying it.

The oldest church in New Zealand, Christ Church (1836) still bears scars from this encounter. Eventually peace was brokered between Governor Grey and the Maori with no clear winner.

No more drunken sailors, grog shops and brothels in Russell – today it is a tourist destination with boutique shops and restaurants. The town also hosts a fine little museum which is well worth a visit. It includes a 1/5 scale replica of HMS Endeavor and a video of Russell’s history.

Back to Opunga late in the day – winds up again.

Sorry about the pictures.

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One Response to Russell

  1. It is worth noting that Te Rauparaha liked the Treaty of Waitangiso much that he signed it twice, once on 14 May and again on 19 June of 1840. (There may have been additional inducements, like rifles and guarantee of rights to the land he claimed credit for.) It is worth noting that the British promised no French occupation of the islands, and they did deliver that (with certain exceptions during the America’s Cup, but what can you do). And if the treaty was good enough for the composer of “Ka Mate”, who are we to judge.
    Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
    Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
    Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
    Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
    Ā, upane! ka upane!
    Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!
    ’Tis death! ‘tis death! (or: I may die) ’Tis life! ‘tis life! (or: I may live)
    ’Tis death! ‘tis death! ’Tis life! ‘tis life!
    This is the hairy man
    Who brought the sun and caused it to shine
    A step upward, another step upward!
    A step upward, another… the Sun shines!
    Of all the helpless exploited native peoples, I worry about the Maori the very, very least…unless they are looking for a special guest for dinner. (Although they haven’t done that for years, I’m reliably told.) That there still are Maori is more than can be said for some neighboring folk.

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