Whaling heritage draws researcher to New Zealand

Historian Haureh Hussein from Germany recently found himself immersed in the middle of his field of research in the Bay of Islands.

Haureh Hussein smiles in front of his research. He has a tablet in front of him and a bookcase behind.
Haureh Hussein undertaking research in the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Northland office.expand/collapse

The Trier University PhD student, who has Kurdish heritage, is currently in New Zealand looking into the connection between Quaker whaling families, who were temporarily based in Kororāreka-Russell in the early 1800s, and Māori.

During his travels he delivered a paper at the recent ASHA (Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology) conference held at Russell, which was once the provisioning port for scores of whaling ships from all over the world, and which Haureh believes could be a goldmine of information for his research.

“Throughout the first half of the 19th Century, the Bay of Islands – and Kororāreka in particular – was a key stopover for ships that were undertaking whaling activity in the North and South Pacific,” says Haureh.

“On the other side, Māori Rangatira actively fostered interactions with whaling ships as they sought to benefit in many ways.

“Many people of different nationalities were involved in whaling – including indigenous people such as Māori who worked on the ships. My research project will explore significant whaling families like the Swains and the Starbucks and their connection with Māori with a view to enabling the Māori aspect of this history to be recorded and told.”

One whaler in particular, Captain Swain, is of particular interest to Haureh who shared his knowledge about the mariner in a paper he gave at the conference.

According to Haureh, Captain Swain left his ship the Indian during a Bay of Islands stopover in September 1826 and rowed up the Waikare River accompanied by botanist Robert Cunningham. What Captain Swain might have had in mind, remains a matter of speculation, but Haureh has a lead, which he is following through his research stay in Aotearoa New Zealand, which links him to Ngāpuhi Rangatira such as Pōmare II at the Bay of Islands.

It’s a connection that Haureh is keen to learn more about. A number of archives, libraries and museums are on his visiting list during his research stay. In Northland, he has also spoken to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga staff during his time in there and came in touch with leading Bay of Islands historians like Lindsay Alexander and (former) Russell Museum curators such as Kate Martin and Heather Lindauer.

“I would like to contribute to the comprehensively researched history of the whaling industry in Aotearoa New Zealand by reconstructing the interactions between Māori and specific whaling families in particular,” he says. 

“I’m hoping that my research project will help balance things out.”

Haureh will travel to  Wellington and Dunedin over the next two months as part of his research trip. He is a Research Associate in the research project “Family Business: Creating a ‘Maritime Contact Zone’ in the Colonial Anglo-World, 1790-1840” at Trier University and can be contacted on his research blog: www.transoceanic.hypotheses.org/.