Story: Nearshore islands

Open Bay Island

In the early 19th century, sealers were often dropped at islands to hunt for their prey. In 1810 a group of 10 sealers were taken to Open Bay Island in South Westland, but their ship, under Captain John Bedar, was lost at sea. The men were stranded on the island for almost four years before being rescued. Listen to the song that tells of their ordeal.

We were set down in Open Bay, were set down, were set down,
We were set down in Open Bay, were set down.
Upon the sixteenth day
Of Februar-aye-ay,
For to seal, for to seal.

Our Captain, John Bedar, he set sail, he set sail.
Yes, for Port Jackson he set sail.
‘I’ll return, men, without fail!’
But she foundered in a gale,
And went down, and went down, and went down.

We cured ten thousand skins, for the fur, for the fur.
We cured ten thousand skins for the fur.
Brackish water, putrid seal,
We did all of us fall ill,
For to die, for to die, for to die.

Using this item

Department of Conservation
Reference: 10048349
Photograph by Paddy Ryan

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Sound file from Bach Choir of Wellington

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How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney, 'Nearshore islands - Early inhabitants', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/speech/13019/open-bay-island (accessed 19 October 2019)

Story by Eileen McSaveney, published 24 Sep 2007