On 20th March 1837, German whaler, Captain George Hempleman started up his whaling station at Piraki Bay(now known as Peraki and original French spelling), Banks Peninsula for the Australian firm of ‘Clayton and Duke’. He and his brave men were the first Europeans to make a permanent go of things, against incredible odds. Hempleman was New Zealand’s first German settler.
Hempleman had been working for the firm of ‘Long and Wright’ but after a string of disagreements and the fact that Mrs. Hempleman joined her husband at sea against instructions was the final straw. So Hempleman offered his experience and talents elsewhere. Sailing from Australia, the ‘Bee’ first saw Banks Peninsula late in February 1837. At that time, Humpback, Sperm and Right whales were known to swim off the Peninsula’s shores.
Hempleman took two trips into Akaroa harbour to employ further men for the station. The Maori he employed were a great asset as they knew the land well and were excellent seamen. On his second return to Peraki, he brought back with him an ill and old man, named ‘Tuauau’ and his two wives. An interesting old Maori, he would proudly tell anyone who would listen that he had been the first Ngai Tahu to step on a European ship in 1815 – returning to shore in European clothes and happily full up on biscuits.
In 1839, Hempleman and his men faced their biggest scare when 15 Ngai Tahu war boats appeared at the opening of Peraki Bay. Led by ‘Bloodly Jack’, they soon came ashore. Claiming that they were chasing down the last remains of the Ngai Toa tribe, they swarmed up over the valley. There had been two Ngai Toa boys working for Hempleman, both being captured up pretty quickly. One, unfortunately, was killed and eaten but Hempleman managed to save the other. ‘Bloody Jack’ also helped himself to the schooner, named “Mary Ann’ which Hempleman had been building. It was soon clear that it had been the schooner that ‘Bloody Jack’ had wanted all along.
Even without this cannibal feast, the Peraki Whaling Station wasn’t known as the most civilized place as more whaling stations opened and more Europeans arrived. A farming party that had settled at Putaringamotu (Riccarton) in 1840 only dealt with Hempleman for trading if times were really hard. They were the nearest but the roughest.
Hempleman and his employers were amongst many attempts to purchase parts of Banks Peninsula. Unsuccessful of course, and now with the arrival of other Germans with the ‘Compte de Paris’ in 1840, Hempleman happily retired to German Bay with additional plots of land in Akaroa after the station closed in 1843.