Hard Men #4: Captain Dutton

Sealers and Whalers 1800-1850

Captain Dutton

1. Pioneer at Portland Bay
Sworn statement signed by Willam Pelham Dutton at Portland on February 11, 1873
Published in Hamilton Spectator on September 23, 1874
Reproduced in Noel Learmonth, 1834, The Portland Bay Settlement, pp. 30-31

"I was born in Sydney on August 31, 1811; my parents emigrated to that town from England. About the year 1813 I went with them to Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land. I was brought up in Hobart Town until I took to the sea.
I first visited Portland Bay in the month of December 1828, in the schooner Madeira Packet, Captain McMullen. We were on a sealing expedition; we landed a boat's crew (myself among them) at Blacknose Point, a little on the south of the bay. We remained in this neighbourhood until the middle of January 1829.
In July 1829 I returned in the schooner Henry, Captain McLean; we were again sealing. I was captain of a boat, and was landed at Whaler's Point or Single Corner, where the creek from the lagoon enters the sea, and remained to seal. I built a house and lived in it. In January 1830 I embarked again in the same schooner, and went away sealing. 
I again came to Portland in March 1831 in the same schooner, but then under Captain Griffiths. We came to anchor off Blacknose Point, and came around to the bay in the boats. I landed at the same place and returned to my house, and lived in it for over twelve months. The Elizabeth schooner, under Captain Griffiths, took me away, but I returned in the same vessel in November 1832, and again lived here until March 1833.
I then took a trip to Launceston and back, going in the Elizabeth, and returning in the Henry, of which last named vessel I had then command, and established a whaling fishery in Portland Bay. I erected buildings and grew potatoes and other vegetables for my own use.
While living here Mr. Edward Henty paid the bay a visit in the schooner Thistle, Captain Liddell, in July 1833, on his way from Swan River to Launceston, and he returned in November 1834 to live here. In 1835 the Hentys commenced 'tonguing' [providing provisions for, and processing whales captured by, other boats]. I was during this time living here."

[Summary of Statement: Dutton was sealing at Portland from December 1828 to January 1829, from July 1829 to January 1830, from March 1831 to March 1832, and from November 1832 until March 1833. During the last three expeditions he was landed on shore and left to live in his own shelter, for 7 months, 12 months, and 5 months, while the supporting vessels went away. Dutton was not just a hard man. He was also extremely hardy.]

2. An alternative biography
Brian Plomley & Kristen Anne Henley, 1990, The Sealers of Bass Strait, Blubberhead Press, Hobart
Information largely taken from previous publications of George Augustus Robinson's diaries 1830-1833

2.1 Appendix A: The Sealer
"DUTTON, William Pelham
Alternative Name: Bill Dutton
Origin: Dutton was born in Sydney on 31 August 1811. In 1813 the family moved to Hobart. In 1828 he visited Portland on a sealing voyage in the schooner Madeira Packet; he paid several visits there between July 1829 and March 1832. Early in 1831 he went on a sealing voyage; at least one other followed, in July 1836.
Usual Resorts: Kent Group; Portland Bay; Kangaroo Island.
1. RE.NAN.NING.HE (Little Tuery).
2. KAL.LOON.GOO (Sarah, Charlotte) a New Hollander from Port Lincoln, South Australia.
1. Dutton left Kent Group in July 1836 to go on a whaling voyage, abandoning Sarah but taking his daughter by her. Dutton is said to have married a white woman at this time.
2. By February 1873 he had been settled at Portland Bay for many years. He died there on 19 July 1878. When he first settled at the Bay he was in charge of a whale fishery, and at that time he erected buildings and grew potatoes and other vegetables."

2.2 Appendix B: The Women
English Names: Little Tuery (PUER.RE; PUCRE), Emma.
Aboriginal band/location: Georges River.
Notes: Lived with Bill Dutton at Kangaroo Island. By February 1832 living in the Straits with Thomas Baily (Robinson's journals).
KAL.LOON.GOO (NH) [native of New Holland; i.e. mainland Aborigine, not Tasmanian]
Alternative Names: COW.WER.PITE.YER; WIN.DEER.RER.
English Names: Sarah, Charlotte.
Aboriginal band/location: Port Lincoln.
Notes: Joined Aboriginal Settlement [on Cape Barren Island] 1 June 1837. [Previously] abducted by James Allan in company with Bill Johnson (now drowned), who took her to Kangaroo Island. There for a considerable time, until Johnson forced her on to the schooner Henry (Captain J. Griffiths) and brought her to the Straits. There she was sold to Bill Dutton, who subsequently abandoned her; by him she had a child (female) whom he took when he went away. Emma's brother [was] her husband. Had a male child by a Sydney black, a sealer, now aged 5; this boy now with her; description; she was a big girl when Allen kidnapped her; Dutton had left about 10 months earlier and had married a white woman. Gives birth to a male child at the Aboriginal Settlement [June 1838]; the father perhaps George Robinson's servant."

3 A tough 'old man of the sea'
LOG BOOK of the Lady Mary Pelham, Commanded by William Dutton from Launceston, Van Diemen's Land To the South Seas on a Whaling Voyage, Kept by G. Wilson, Surgeon, Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, November 13, 1834 [selected excerpts below]
Reproduced in Noel Learmonth, 1934, The Portland Bay Settlement, pp. 35-44

Nov. 13, 1844 - The pilot came on board at noon; weighed anchor and proceeded down the river Tamar in tow of Gipsy steamer. At 9 h. p.m. came to anchor in 7 fathoms of water. Received a chronometer on board which was slow of Greenwich mean time November 11, 1844, at noon 4 min. and 41 sec., and gaining daily 17 secs...
Nov. 14. - ...At 5 h. a.m. weighed anchor and proceeded to sea...
Nov. 15. - At 7 h. a.m. a man made his appearance who had stowed himself away. He gives his name as Thomas Millar, a shoemaker by trade. He states that he is a native of Sydney, a free man, and has never been a prisoner. At 10 h. a.m. bore up for Bank's Straits...
Dec. 11. - At 6 h. a.m. made [Lord] Howe Island bearing N.E. by E. People employed trimming ship...
Dec. 12. - At sundown Howes Island bore N. by W. and Balls Pyramid North.
Dec. 13. - At 6 h. 30 m. p.m. Capt. Dutton, 1st and 2nd mate, with several of the ship's company were amusing themselves by swimming about the ship. At 7 h. p.m. rose whales, lowered 3 boats. At dark boats returned without having identified what they were. At 8 h. a.m. rose a school of black fish. Lowered three boats. Capt. Dutton fastened and killed one. The second mate also fastened and killed another, but his iron drew and he lost it.
Dec. 14. - At 1 h. p.m. brought black fish alongside and hauled it on deck.
Dec. 17. - At 7 h. 30 m. a.m. the steward went forward and requested a bucket of one 'Mow the Jew', which he refused to give him; some words ensued which led to 'Mow' knocking the steward down. The captain then interfered and knocked down the Jew. 'Jerry' immediately came out of the hold and struck the captain. A scuffle ensued and both parties went down. Capt. Dutton's forehead was very much bruised and had a cut above the right eye. 'Jerry's nose received punishment. The affair here ended...
Dec. 25. - This being Christmas Eve grog was issued out to the men, when some of them became riotous, which ended in a fight among some of them on deck. This being Xmas day no work was done. Some disorder among the men this morning; a fight took place between Robt. Roberts and Wm. Copeland, which ended in favour of Roberts. The Captain interfered with them, when G.H. Lewis challenged him to fight, which he declined, and told him to go forward, which he hesitated to do when he was joined with Copeland. They both complained of their bread and refused to eat it, asserting it was bad. Sample brought and kept.
Dec. 26. - At 1 h. p.m. a barque and a schooner standing to the southward. At 2 h. p.m. the Captain went on shore [at Three King's Islands] and returned on board at 8 h. p.m. with six New Zealanders, consisting of two men, one woman, and three boys...
Dec. 27. - At 2 h. p.m. the chief's mate's boat went on shore with five New Zealanders, two men and the three boys [note: the Maori woman remained on board], when Thos. Millar (the man who came on board clandestinely at Launceston) and John Holly deserted from the boat...The boy, Wm. Spong, admitted to Capt. Dutton that he was the party who assisted Millar in secreting himself. Millar when on shore admitted to Mr. Barnes that he was a prisoner of the crown.
Dec. 28. - At 9 h. a.m. the larboard watch refused their duty when ordered to get potatoes from below that were spoiling, viz., Wm. Stokely, James Shaw, Joseph Francis, Patk. Carrole, J.H. Lewis, and Wm. Spong. Compared the chronometer with the longitude and found her to gain 27 seconds daily, and to be 16 m. 30 sec. fast for Greenwich mean time. Allowed bread and water only to those men who refused their work.
Dec. 29. - At 1.30 h. p.m the chief mate's boat went on shore with the New Zealand woman and returned at 7 h. p.m...John Holly returned with the boat of his own accord...
Dec. 30. - Wm. Spong returned to his duty. At 7 h. a.m. made sail and rose a school of black fish. Lowered and got two, Mr. Bates and Mr. Arnott one each. Rose finbacks at various times.
Dec. 31. - Today all hands returned to their duty. At 4 h. p.m. rose a school of black fish. Lowered three boats and got four fish, the Captain and Mr. Arnott one each, and Mr. Barnes two. People employed trying out the black fish...
Jan. 20, 1845 - ...at Preservation Island. All hands employed cleaning and preserving fish. At 1 h. 30 m. lowered the boats to procure wood and water. Squally weather and rain. At 9 h. p.m. John McCarthy went forward and requested the men to keep watch, at which they only laughed. The captain then went and they served him with nearly the same disrespect, but subsequently kept watch...
Jan. 25. - ...at 12 h. 30 m. weighed anchor, made sail and proceeded to sea. At 3 h. p.m. saw a schooner standing in. About half an hour after she lowered a boat and came on board us. The schooner is the Success, of Sydney, Capt. Stirling, out two months, with three sperm whales...
Jan. 27. - Wrote a letter to S.G. Henty, Esq., whose intention it was to proceed to Hobart Town in about three weeks. A Moary belonging to the schooner came aft and told us that several of the men forward were dressed with two and three shirts and two pair trousers ready to make a bolt. Kept strict watch...
Jan. 29. - At 7 h. 30 m. a.m. weighed anchor, set sails and proceeded to sea...
April 3. - At 6 h. a.m. rose whales; out all boats. About 10 h. Dutton fastened (the other boats were then a great distance from him) and got his boat stove. The boat made water very fast, and required two or three hands to bail her out. They were unable to hold any strain on the line; she took away both lines and the drogue. At 11 h. the boats returned on board.
April 4. - At 1 h. 30 m. p.m. rose a sperm whale, lowered two boats. Mr. Arnott fastened her with two irons. Mr. Barnes then came to his assistance when the irons drew. After the whale was spouting thick blood and the boats remained pulling about in the hopes of coming across her again, as she could not live long. At dark boats returned. At 6 h. 30 m. a.m. rose whales, lowered all boats; At 11 h. boats returned without success. A great many whales were seen this morning, upwards of 100, but all were going fast to the windward.
April 6. - At 6 h. a.m. rose a dead whale, supposed it to be the one Mr. Arnott fastened to. At 8 h. lowered two boats to tow her to the ship. At 11 h. a.m. brought the whale alongside and commenced cutting her in.
April 7,8,9 - Employed cutting in and trying out...
May 2. - Received information from John McFain and George Brittain that Peter Molloy, steward, did sell and dispose of a quantity of spirits to some of the crew of the schooner Success while lying at anchor in company with her at Preservation Island, New Zealand, and that he also sold two bottles of spirit to one J.H. Lewis, for which he received the sum of one dollar. People employed getting the large anchor up from below and stocking it.
May 3. - At 9 h. a.m. Cape Otway bearing N. by E., distance 8 miles...[heading] towards Portland Bay, Wm. Dutton, Master."


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