The Life of John Coleridge Patteson HTML version

The Melanesian Isles. 1856-1857.
And now, in his twenty-ninth year, after all the unconscious preparation of his education,
and the conscious preparation of two years, Coleridge Patteson began the definite work of
his life. Bishop Selwyn was to sail with him in the "Southern Cross," making the voyage
that had been intermitted during the expedition to England, introducing him to the
Islands, and testing his adaptation to the work there. The first point was, however, to be
Sydney, with the hope of obtaining leave to use Norfolk Island as the headquarters of the
Mission. They meant to touch there, weather permitting, on their way northward.
Ascension Day was always Bishop Selwyn's favourite time for starting, so that the charge
might be ringing freshly in his ears and those of his companions, 'Go ye and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'
There was morning service and Holy Communion at the little College chapel on the 1st
of May, Ascension Day of 1856; then the party went on board, but their first start was
only to Coromandel Bay, in order that the Bishop might arrange a dispute with the
Maoris, and they then returned to Auckland to take up Mrs. Selwyn. The crew were five
in number, and Mr. Leonard Harper, son of the future Bishop of Lyttelton, likewise
accompanied them, and relieved Patteson of his onerous duties as steward.
The first adventure was such a storm as the little vessel had never yet encountered. The
journal-letter thus describes it:--'On Saturday morning it began to blow from the north-
east, and for the first time I experienced a circular gale or hurricane. Mrs. Somerville, I
think, somewhere describes the nature of them in her "Physical Geography." The wind
veered and hauled about a point or two, but blew from the north-east with great force, till
about seven P.M. we could do no more with it and had to lie to. Ask old D. what that
means, if you can't understand my description of it. The principle of it is to set two small
sails, one fore and one aft, lash the rudder (wheel) amidships, make all snug, put on
hatches, batten everything down, and trust to ride out the storm. As the vessel falls away
from the wind by the action of one sail, it is brought up to it again by the other-sail. Thus
her head is always kept to the wind, and she meets the seas, which if they caught her on
the beam or the quarter would very likely send her down at once. About midnight on
Saturday the wind suddenly chopped round to W.S.W., so that we were near the focus of
the gale; it blew harder and harder till we took down the one sail forward, as the ropes
and spars were enough for the wind to act upon. From 1 P.M. to 7 P.M. on Sunday it
blew furiously. The whole sea was one drift of foam, and the surface of the water beaten
down almost flat by the excessive violence of the wind, which cut off the head of every
wave as it strove to raise itself, and carried it in clouds of spray and great masses of
water, driving and hurling it against any obstacle, such as our little vessel, with
inconceivable fury. As I stood on deck, gasping for breath, my eyes literally unable to
keep themselves open, and only by glimpses getting a view of this most grand and
terrible sight, it seemed as if a furious snow-storm was raging over a swelling, heaving,
dark mass of waters. When anything could be seen beyond the first or second line of
waves, the sky and sea appeared to meet in one cataract of rain and spray. A few birds