A native of Bradfield, Essex, part of a seafaring family, Thomas Wing (1810-1888) first ventured into the South Pacific in 1829 as a crew member on a ship transporting convicts to the penal settlement in Sydney. He was the cousin of Samuel Stephenson, the dominant merchant in the Bay of Islands (in partnership with James Reddy Clendon), and in 1832 this family tie secured him the position of first mate on a trading schooner plying New Zealand’s northern coastline. Two years later, Stephenson and Clendon chose him as skipper of their new vessel, the Fanny, and he began to explore waterways and harbours previously unknown to Europeans. He returned to England in 1839 but did not settle there permanently. In the mid-1850s he lived with his family in Melbourne, where he served as assistant harbourmaster. In 1857 he moved to Auckland and became harbourmaster of the Manukau. He held that job for the rest of his life.
The first ever made, Wing’s chart of the Kaipara contains copious navigational notes. These were by no means pedantry but matters of life an death. Wing’s inscription in the top left corner reads: ‘A sketch of the entrance of the harbour on the West coast of New Zealand by Captn Wing, Master of the schooner Fanny of the Bay of Islands New Zealand, January eighteen hundred and thirty six, high water on the full and change of the Moon at nine thirty am and rises about twelve feet; the tides run about five knots per hour causing heavy tide rips in the channels about the heads. Even in moderate weather many native canoes have been upset and all perished in crossing the Heads on the ebb tide. NB. In coming from the northwest, the entrance of Wing Channel appears to be blocked up with Breakers, and shows no entrance until the North Head. Bears NNE by compass, distance seven or eight miles, and then by going to the Mast Head the entrance is plainly seen, and take it only at slack water or flood tide, as the ebb sets very strong over that part of the north spit where the Fanny passed over. I found anchorage on the south side of the channel in seven fathoms, and laid all night with a fresh breeze off the land about NNE.’
Once part of the collection of pioneering artefacts in Auckland’s Old Colonists Museum, the chart was transferred to Library when the museum closed in 1957. From the same source, the Library also has Wing’s charts of Whaingaroa Harbour, Kawhia Harbour and the entrance to Fox River.