Mangonui and Butler Point have strong historical ties with the whaling industry. In 1792 the American whaleship captain Eber Bunker made the first recorded visit by a white person to Doubtless Bay. Bunker and other whaling captains probably had contact with local Maori. Department of Conservation archaeological excavations on the pa (hillfort) at Butler Point have uncovered such items of non-Maori manufacture as clay pipe pieces and glass bottle fragments. Artefacts belonging to local Maori are displayed by their courtesy in the Museum.
William Butler, who built Butler House and developed extensive Gardens at Butler Point, was a former whaling captain. On Butler Point he constructed a trade store from which he supplied visiting whaling ships. Butler also advertised a service recruiting crew for whaleships.
Butler Point Whaling Museum has been developed to commemorate the close association of the Point and Mangonui with whaling. Exhibits represent almost 40 years obtaining authentic items associated with the whaling industry. Pieces have been sourced from New Zealand, Australia, England and North America. Together they represent one of the finest private collections in New Zealand.
Among the items on display in the Museum are a refurbished ship's whaleboat; a reconstructed tryworks; examples of whalebone; a large range of harpoons and cutting in equipment; paraphernalia associated with shipboard life, including a full set of ship's surgical instruments; old prints and photographs of aspects of the whaling industry; and models of whaleships and whaleboats.
An extensive collection of scrimshaw, including some unique and very notable pieces, is also on display.
Text and images © L. Ferguson, 2002.