Story: Sealing

Sealing song

In February 1810 a gang of 10 sealers were left here, at Open Bay Island, near Jackson Bay in Westland, by the brig Active. The ship was lost and the men were stranded on the island for almost four years, living on seal meat and fern root before they were rescued. This song 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
Of Februar-aye-ay,
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.

Using this item

Department of Conservation
Reference: 10048349
Photograph by Paddy Ryan

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Sound file from Bach Choir of Wellington

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Sealing - The sealers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 7 July 2022)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 12 Jun 2006