Sealers & native women from VDL 1826

Sealers and native women of Van Diemen's Land left on the Island of Rodrigues  by the Hunter in 1826.

Irene Schaffer


On the third of August 1826 the schooner Hunter made an agreement with three sailors John Tyack, Thomas Taylor and John Tahilian to procure seal skins on the Isle of St. Paul, in the Indian Ocean.


The owners of the Hunter Captain G.W. Robertson and Captain James Craig signed the agreement to take the men, plus five native women, their dogs and property to the island and to convey them from Kings Island to the Isle of St. Paul, for the purpose of procuring seal skins, on the condition that each of the three men receive five per cent, that is to say, five skins out of every hundred.


The skins were to be purchased by Robertson at a rate of one dollar per skin, to be paid in sterling, if the parties proceeded into the port with the vessel, but should the parties choose to stay on the Island of St.Paul they were to receive provisions and other necessities .The parties also agreed to assist in procuring four tons of fish; should there be time to do so, without receiving any centage on them, and to receive a centage of five per cent on all they shall procure afterwards.


It was agreed that the weekly ration should be 40 pounds of bread & flour, 28 pounds of pork during the voyage, and the same allowance on arrival at the Isle of St. Paul as the ship's company.


James Craig agreed to land the sealers, women and dogs along with their property on to the island, and if they choose to stay on the island he was to give them discharge at the expiration of the voyage. If they choose to proceed into the port he would take them without charge of the voyage. The party agreed not to sell to any other ship except the ship should be absent for a space of four months and then to produce receipts for skins delivered for provisions obtained.


Paper 12 December 1826                   
Police Department Port Louis 15 December 1826


Process (verbal) taken from Joseph Peters who was mate on the Deux Charles.

Arrival from Mauritius from Rodrigues with four native women and three children and a whale boat containing one native woman and two men. The women being natives from from Van Diemen's Land. One man being English (Taylor) the other (Otahertia) who had been left on the Island of Rodrigues by the ship Hunter on her voyage to this port in May last, with the promise to return for them.


Finding the Hunter did not return for them they availed themselves of The Deux Charles to come to this island.  I have therefore to beg I may be favoured with His Execellence command how these persons are to be disposed of until the oppointed time offers of conveying them back to New Holland.


The English sailor having in his possession a document which proves him having embarked from Port Dalrymple on board a vessel in 1823. He may be employed in some vessel sailing from the port if it should be his Excellence's pleasure. Signed John Fenniss.


Copy: 12 December 1826


The English seaman's name was Thomas Taylor. Tahilian declares that they were at King Island under agreement to work for the Hunter with five women and a child, who joined the vessel with them on the purpose to take charge of their things and to assist them at St. Pauls Island, to procure seal skins, to remain on the the island for their account if they should choose to but if they did not to remain there or on the island on the coast of New Holland (they were to be returned to King Island).


That they landed their boat with three men to procure seal skins at King George's Sound, but left after having been there for a few days. They accounted bad weather and received damage to the sail and rigging, and being deficient of rope and canvas and also short of provisions, the Captain decided to return to Port Dalrymple for fresh supplies and provisions and stores for the voyage.


Before the Captain bore up he requested that they could stop with their boat at King George Sound to procure such seals as they should be able to during the time that the vessel should be gone. They agreed to remain there entering into an agreement for that purpose and the Captain left the First Officer of the Vessel to assist them and promised to return in December to proceed to the Isle of St. Paul according to the first agreement. He returned on the 6 March and after wooding and watering at King George Sound and leaving another 5 men aboat there, they proceeded again to the Isle of St. Paul.


They arrived in sight of the island, but with the wind changing they were unable to get to the island. They remained off the island for ten days when they found that provisions were low  - only enough for one week on short rations. The same day they saw a vessel the Lady Lewancy. Captain Russel from London to Sydney with convicts and she supplied them with 12 bags of biscuits, some rope and canvas.


For the next three weeks they waited for a fair wind to enable them to reach the Isle of St. Paul, at the end of which the Captain called Thomas Taylor into the cabin and stated that provisions were again short. That he would soon be obliged to reduce the allowance of water which was then 3 quarts a day per person, that the season appeared to be past for getting seals on the Isle of St. Paul and that he must try to reach the Isle of France while he had supplies sufficent on board for the passage and it was in his intention to land the women on Rodrigues, and asked him if he would consent to stay there to take care of them which Taylor consented to do. On the 25 May they arrived in sight of Rodrigues and went ashore with provisions to last seven days.


When they left the vessel Mr. Robinson the owner of the Hunter told them that they would return in the course of 7 days, and requested them to procure fish an dwood for use in the Hunter when she returned.  Then he made sail and never was seen since. When the schooner Deux Charles arrived at Rodrigues they heard that Robinson had been at Mauritius with the schooner Hunter and had been left again. Thinking there was no chanch the Hunter would return to take them off, they got the message for four of the women and children on the Deux Charles and that both of them and a women came in the boat in company with the schooner for the purpose of procuring a passage for the women from this place to there own country an an endeavour to get employment there.


They declared that Captain Craig told them that the reason he sent those women on shore was for fear of meeting a Kings vessel between Rodrigues and Mauritius, hearing that the Captain of the Man of War would not believe that the women were free people and would seize the ship.


                        Signed this with Taylor and Tahilian

                                    Signed I Delasye

                                                Thomas Taylor




Corrospondence  from Chief Secretary. Port Louis.   28 February 1827

To Alex MCLeay, Colonial Secretary NSW



            I am directed by the Governor to aquaint you for the information of his Excellency Lieutenant Governor Arthur, that two black women and a child native of Van Diemen's Land who have been left on the island Rodirigues by the master of the schooner Hunter and forwarded hither by the Government of Mauritius now proceeding to Launceston on board the ship Admiral Cockburn, Captain Cooling, their passage money having been here.


A third women who accompanied them is now in hospital at this place and will follow as quickly as practiable and by that on by some earlier oppontinuty. I shall do myself the honour of hand writing copies of communation received from the Mauritius Island.