Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dearly beloved wife

We have discovered that Captain John married Anne Willcox on the 12th October 1858 in the St Barnabas Church in Auckland. We had initially dismissed that date as Anne was so young, she was 17 years old. He is listed as 28 on the marriage certificate but was actually 36. He is also listed as a "widower". The marriage seems to have been a happy one and they had 9 children, 5 boys, and 4 girls (more than we first thought). When Anne died in 1923 her death notice read:
On April 28th at her daughter's residence, no.10 Baker Street. Anne, the dearly beloved wife of the late Captain John Austen, aged 81 years. Deeply regretted.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In which our intrepid Captain goes exploring in the South Island!

The Aquila arrived in Invercargill on 20th July 1863 with passengers. This account of her voyage was published in the Southland Times:
"The cutter Aquila, Captain Austen, left Invercargill on March 25th with a light air from N. At midnight fell in with a heavy gale from S.W., accompanied by thunder, lightning, and rain.
Put into Port William [Stewart Island] and was there detained THIRTY days by heavy gales from the S.W. and W.N.W., accompanied by thunder, lightening, and rain.
On April 27 rounded the West Cape with light breeze from the N.E,
April 28, fell in with a heavy gale from the N.W. Bore up under close reefed canvas for Brachsea Sound. When within two miles of the land it fell calm. Got out the sweeps and pulled the ship into the Sound at 6 p.m, Came, to anchor and lay there three days, with heavy gales from N.W., SNOW and rain.
Left the Sound on May 2nd. with strong winds from the S.W. and rain.
May 4th. anchored in Milford Haven in Fresh Water Basin [Milford Sound]
May 13th, left Milford Haven for Master Bay. May 15 landed passengers and went back to Milford Haven with strong winds from N.W. When within four miles of the Haven it fell calm, with heavy swell rolling in from W.N.W. Vessel driving on the Brig Rock. Let go the anchor in eighteen fathoms water about half a mile from the Brig Rock. Saw two other rocks with heavy sea breaking over them, which are not on the charts.
At daylight strong wind came in with heavy sea rolling in from W. Hove short when the cable parted at thirty fathoms. Made sail and ran into Milford Haven and anchored again in Freshwater Basin.
Some of my passengers who came overland from Martin's Bay, saw part of a wreck painted light stone color, also a square, log of American timber.
Sailed from Milford Haven on Saturday, 30th May, and arrived in Marten's Bay on 1st June.
Found seven fathoms at low water, and went in on the 2nd. Sailed up the river about four miles, and then came into a lake about ten miles long and four miles broad.
The passengers took the boat and went up the lake- and found another river, and beyond that another lake running N.N.E., went to the head of the lake and could get no further for SNOW.
The passengers returned June 20th, and the ship came down the lake to the mouth of the river, but finding the sea running too high over the bar, did not get out to sea till July 8th, when we left with a strong gale from the N.W., at night the gale increased to a HURRICANE. Hove the slip to under close reefed storm trisail.
July 9th, put into Dusky Sound with a heavy gale from the westward. Barometer standing at 28 8O.
Left on the 15th, with strong wind from S.W., and put into Port William on the 16th with, strong gale attended by rain. Saturday, July 18th, weighed anchor with a light wind from S., and made the port of Invercargill about 3 p.m 19th July.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


From 1858 Captain John Austen sailed the cutter AQUILLA - she was built at Mercury Bay, Coromandel in 1858 by Geo. Browning. He sailed her to Thames, Russell, Otago, Akaroa, Napier, Wellington and "the Society Islands" (part of French Polynesia). He carried gin, timber, furniture, bricks, a few passengers and 30,000 oranges and 2,500 coconuts. It was not always plain sailing - no motors, no G.P.S - and in October 1861 the Aquila very nearly was lost. This report appeared in the Hawke's Bay Herald on the 8th October 1861:
"The 'cutter Aquila, while drifting out on Saturday, morning, to resume her voyage to Otago, got aground , abreast of the flagstaff. The wind was blowing hard at the time, with heavy squalls, from the westward. There was no pilot on board— the master himself having usually taken the vessel out and in. The ship after touching rolled heavily. Her passengers and cargo were landed— the latter, consisting of nails, soft goods, &c, damaged by sea-water. She was got afloat on Sunday afternoon by means of empty casks and other appliances, and was immediately hauled round to the Iron Pot— about 40 men lending a hand. When opposite the stores of Messrs. Stuart, Kinross, & Co., she heeled over and came right on her beam ends — the mast in the water. She is considerably damaged, but it fortunately happens that the damaged planks can be got at easily, and the necessary repairs are being rapidly proceeded with. The passengers (13 in number) are clamorous at the delay thus occasioned in their voyage, and threaten proceedings against Captain Austen. It is said that the vessel will not be thoroughly repaired under £200."
It can't have been too bad because on 22nd October she resumed her journey to Otago.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just found an even earlier reference to Captain Austen in January 1853.
"The Bremen whaling ship "Republik," Capt. Austen arrived in harbour from the Fishing ground, on Saturday afternoon, having sailed from Honolulu on the 20th Nov. The Republik is a very fine ship of 500 tons register, built at New York ;— from which port, under her original appellation of "Phillip The First," she ran for some time as an English packet ship."
And there was this notice in the "Daily Southern Cross" newspaper:

CAPTAIN AUSTEN will not be responsible for any debts contracted by the Crew of the above vessel. Bain & ├čurtt Agents:

And Captain Austen and the Republic took part in the Auckalnd Regatta in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the colony on Saturday 29th January 1853.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The cutter TAY

In 1857 we find many references to a Captain Austen and the cutter Tay. It sailed regularly between Auckland Coromandel and Thames. They also made journeys to Wellington and Northland. The ship's cargo seemed to include timber, maize, sugar, rope, "sundries" and passengers.
From the Hawke's Bay Herald on the 26th December 1857 comes this report:

Sailing Match At WELLINGTON--(.From a Correspondent.) A match took place this day (Wednesday, Dec. 16), between the fine little clipper cutter Tay, of Auckland — owned and sailed by Capt. Austen ; and Mr. Worsley's smart fore-and-aft schooner the "Matilda Hays." The race was from Swinbourne's wharf to outside the Heads ; the competing vessels to round the outer rock of Barrett's reef and return to their anchorage. The race was watched by a great number of people, both on shore and on board the other vessels ; and perhaps there has never been a sailing match in Port Nicholson that excited so much and such general interest. At starting — the Cheetah being flag- ship for the occasion — the wind, unfortunately, was very unsteady, and some difficulty was experienced by both crafts in getting clear of the shipping. The schooner made the best start — the cutter fouling the Glance and carrying away her own topmast stay. From the time thus lost, the schooner, to all appearance, would win, and that easily. She rounded Point Halswell 9 minutes before the Tay, and of course the general impression was that the Tay and her skipper had made a mistake, and that Wellington would carry off the prize. It was soon found out however, that the mistake was the other way About 7 o'clock in the evening a sail was observed coming round Point Halswell, and, to the astonishment of the knowing ones, it proved to be the Tay. The cutter, it appeared, notwithstanding her bad start, had rounded the outer rock two minutes before the Matilda Hays, and was a quarter of a mile ahead on opening out the town. She anchored just one hour before her less fortunate competitor. The latter had got becalmed towards evening, which Capt. Austen avoided by keeping well free of the shore. We congratulate the latter on the result.

Introducing the Captain

There are something things we just don't know about Captain John Austen - like how he got to New Zealand, who his parents were and when he married, but here are some of the things we do!
John Austen was born around 1823 in Sussex. He married Anne WILLCOX who was 20 years his junior. They had 4 children - Elizabeth Kezia in 1876, Alfred Edward in 1879, Joseph in 1881, and Arthur Weselley in 1885. He was 62 years old when Arthur was born. Arthur's son Mervyn is Greg's father.
John Austen was a master mariner and we have tracked his career in Pages Past - we are not totally sure of some of the details but it has been great fun finding out about this man. John died in 1899 and is buried in Waikumete cemetery.