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Sharp Andrew (ed.) 1971. Duperrey's visit to New Zealand in 1824. Wellington, Alexander Turnbull Library.

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"The visit in 1824 to the Bay of Islands... of the French naval vessel La Coquille, commanded by Louis Isidor Duperrey, took place at a crucial time when the number of Europeans visiting the Bay was increasing but just before missionary teaching became effective. This book includes translations of selected extracts from French records of the visit.." (from the flyleaf).

Sharp's introduction gives background and an evaluation of the extracts. Footnotes.

The following notes are taken from the extract from "Voyage autour du monde... sur la corvette La Coquille" by Rene Primavere Lesson. Translated by Diana Quarmby. pp51-108.

p58. "Blue-gleass bead necklaces were greatly prized by the women, who brought us in exchange parcels of the magnificent New Zealand linen, ready to be made up. For powder they would bring us mats they had made from thread which was silky and strong as silk. These mats are of different weights according to whether they are for use as cloaks or skirts, and they are most artistically worked and remarkable for the patterns with which they are decorated."

pp66-67 "As we went round the i-pah we observed the meals of several families who were feasting on fish, shellfish, sweet potatoes and cakes made of pounded fern roots. Cultivated plots on these heights were planted in cabbage and turnips, and also in flax or phormium, although this plant prefers cool, damp places. In a swamp at the sandy tip of the bay we saw the most beautiful stands of it, bearing leves four inches wide and seven feet long. I collected a certain quantity of the seeds of this useful plant in order to sow them in France, so that it may more easily adapt itself to the round of our seasons."

Lesson gives a footnote which is translated on p67

"The phormium tenax of Forster, or linen plant of Cook, is the New Zealand linen of Banks; it is first mentioned in 1770, and was introduced into England in 1788. Labillardiere, Peron, Ayton, Grimwood, de Freycinet, Rose, Cels, Dumont de Courset, Faujas and Thoin have publihed many particulars of this textile plant. The strength of silk being 34, that of phormium fibres is 23, while the strength of hemp is only 16 and that of common linen 11. This plant, which resembles an iris, grows on open ground at Toulon, and M. Robert has had success in sowing it."

p73. During a visit to Kaouera [sic.] (Kahuwera), Tuai"s pa: "At the doors of the huts women were pounding phormium fibre to make it ready for weaving those beautiful, fine mats which are so supple and strong."

p74. "I saw some of them pounding in a mortar fern roots, from which they knead a kind of bread, of which great supplies are needed for periods of scarcity, and bundles of the vegetable were heaped up all around. Girls were beating phormium leaves with mallets to extract the fibres. ... The water supply was kept in big gourds which grow only in the north of the island.... I noticed in each receptacle a piece of an aromatic plant which imparts its flavour to the water and helps to keep it sweet."

p81 (on the "monotonous " vegetation) ... "on the mountain sides it took on a reddish appearance from the closely packed mass of arostichum furcatum, a fern with edible roots..... I found no edible fruit, apart from a kind of small, bluish plum which the plump pigeons swallow whole. The korarou, the phormium grown in damp places..."

pp87-88. "The women keep the phormium waistcloths which gird their loins until they are quite worn out; they do not take them off to sleep, nor even when they are squatting in the water at the bottom of the canoes, among fish-heads and intestines.

The New Zealanders dress varies very little according to sex. But as these islands afford none of the precious trees with textile bark which the Tahitians use to make their light and attractive clothing-paper, these people have turned to other materials, and the mats they w

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Duperrey's visit to New Zealand in 1824

Sharp Andrew
Alexander Turnbull Library

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12 June 2007
16 July 2020
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