Finally, at 11:30am
on 12th December 1769, the "St Jean Baptiste" sighted the coastline
of New Zealand, just south of Hokianga Harbour. The ship continued
sailing north, looking for a safe anchorage spot. Weather conditions
were bad. On the 13th December de Surville rounded Cape Marie Van
It was here that the St Jean Baptiste passed by The Endeavour,
with neither ship sighting the other due to the bad weather conditions.
This was all the more amazing as both de Surville and Cook were
at the same time navigating a land which had not been visited by
a European since Tasman, a century earlier.
In the evening of the 17th December, the St Jean Baptiste anchored
in a bay which de Surville had baptised "La Baie de Lauriston","
in honour of Lauriston, Governor of French India. Captain James
Cook had already named this bay Doubtless Bay, although he had simply
sailed by and not anchored at this point.
here for a map (25k) showing the position of Doubtless Bay)
To de Surville's relief, friendly relations were established
between the Māori and the French at Doubtless Bay. De Surville
was able to replenish the ship's supplies, and commence care for
his numerous sick crew members.
Unfortunately, Doubtless Bay, or "La Baie de Lauriston" was not
particularly sheltered as a harbour, and de Surville was obliged
to consider seeking a more secure spot. However, as the sick crew
members were returning to the "St Jean Baptiste" after a day on
shore, on the 27th December, a strong wind lifted, forcing their
boat back. At the same time, the "St Jean Baptiste" found itself
in difficulty, and its anchors were not holding. The risk of the
ship striking nearby rocks grew.
After much effort, the crew were finally able to manoeuvre the
ship into a small cove, which de Surville named "Refuge Cove". There
was considerable damage to the "St Jean Baptiste" - broken rudder,
damaged masts and sails, and two anchors had been lost. On 29th
December the weather finally permitted the crew to commence repairs.
Suddenly, a yawl, which De Surville had thought lost in the storm,
was sighted from the ship two days later. The yawl was being studied
with interest by a small group of Māori. On noticing de Surville,
the Māori dragged the yawl inland, and hid it from view. Furious,
De Surville and his men managed to capture a Māori, and forced
him to reveal the whereabouts of the yawl. However, instead of releasing
his prisoner De Surville took him aboard the ship, and the "St Jean
Baptiste" then hurriedly left New Zealand waters on 31st December
1769 before reprisals by the local Māori.
The prisoner, Ranginui, who happened to be a chief, died from scurvy
on the 24th March 1770. De Surville himself drowned in heavy seas
off the Peru coast, in April 1770, while seeking help for his once
again scurvy ridden crew.
Today there is a commemorative plaque
which marks the anchorage of the St Jean Baptiste at Doubtless Bay,
which reads: "Jean François Marie de Surville anchored his ship
"St Jean Baptiste" in Doubtless Bay 17 - 13 December 1769 to refresh
his men. He visited a Pa on this headland, 30 December."
The Surville Cliffs, to the far north of New Zealand, are named
after Jean-François-Marie de Surville.