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Maori who went Sperm Whaling before 1840

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Rhys Richards
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As foreign sperm whaleships began to visit the Bay of Islands to get fresh water, wood and supplies, adventurous young Maori men became keen to see the wider world. At first few captains wanted to employ them, but Maori soon proved to be excellent sailors, ready to learn and enterprising. Maori joined cruises off the northern coasts, to the Kermadecs and beyond across the mighty Pacific. 

As various whaleships made repeated visits, Maori and non-Maori developed and profited from the provisioning trade. Some mis- understanding occurred, but the trade recovered and grew with mutual friendships. The relaxed habits of the whalemen were more acceptable than the righteousness and formality of the missionaries. So despite the crudeness of the first pakeha riff-raff to live ashore, the whalemen clearly helped ease the transition of the Maori into the wider foreign world. 

Like whaling, the sources are global. They include the Board of Trade records in London, early newspapers in the UK and Australia, and the whaling logbooks and journals in the USA, plus various other sources about the Pacific before 1840. 

Rhys Richards has studied historical whaling in the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. In 2000 he was awarded the prestigious L. Byrne Waterman award for Maritime History.