In the early 19th century, sealers were often dropped on islands to hunt for their prey. In 1810 a group of 10 sealers were taken to Open Bay Island off South Westland. When their ship, under Captain John Bedar, was lost at sea, the men were stranded on the tiny island for almost four years before being rescued. Listen to a 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
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.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
Department of Conservation
Photograph by Paddy Ryan
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Sound file from Bach Choir of Wellington