A Voyage Towards the South pole and Around the World/Volume II/Chapter III
The Passage from the Friendly Isles to the New Hebrides, with an Account of the Discovery of Turtle Island, and a Variety of Incidents which happened, both before and after the Ship arrived in Port Sandwich, in the Island of Mallicollo. A Description of the Port, the adjacent Country, its Inhabitants, and many other Particulars.
On the first of July, at sun-rise, Amattafoa was still in sight, bearing N.E., distant twenty leagues. Continuing our course to the west, we, the next day at noon, discovered land bearing N.W. by W., for which we steered; and, upon a nearer approach, found it to be a small island. At four o'clock it bore from N.W. half W. to N.W. by N., and, at the same time, breakers were seen from the masthead, extending from W. to S.W. The day being too far spent to make farther discoveries, we soon after shortened sail, hauled the wind, and spent the night, making short boards, which, at day-break, we found had been so advantageous that we were farther from the island than we expected, and it was eleven o'clock before we reached the N.W. or lee-side, where anchorage and landing seemed practicable. In order to obtain a knowledge of the former, I sent the master with a boat to sound, and, in the mean time, we stood on and off with the ship. At this time four or five people were seen on the reef, which lies round the isle, and about three times that number on the shore. As the boat advanced, those on the reef retired and joined the others; and when the boat landed they all fled to the woods. It was not long before the boat returned, when the master informed me that there were no soundings without the reef, over which, in one place only, he found a boat channel of six feet water. Entering by it, he rowed in for the shore, thinking to speak with the people, not more than twenty in number, who were armed with clubs and spears; but the moment he set his foot on shore, they retired to the woods. He left on the rocks some medals, nails, and a knife, which they no doubt found, as some were seen near the place afterwards. This island is not quite a league in length, in the direction of N.E. and S.W., and not half that in breadth. It is covered with wood, and surrounded by a reef of coral rocks, which in some places extend two miles from the shore. It seems to be too small to contain many inhabitants; and probably the few whom we saw, may have come from some isle in the neighbourhood to fish for turtle; as many were seen near this reef, and occasioned that name to be given to the island, which is situated in latitude 19° 48' south, longitude 178° 21' west.
Seeing breakers to the S.S.W., which I was desirous of knowing the extent of before night, I left Turtle Isle, and stood for them. At two o'clock we found they were occasioned by a coral bank, of about four or five leagues in circuit. By the bearing we had taken, we knew these to be the same breakers we had seen the preceding evening. Hardly any part of this bank or reef is above water at the reflux of the waves. The heads of some of the rocks are to be seen near the edge of the reef, where it is the shoalest; for in the middle is deep water. In short, this bank wants only a few little islets to make it exactly like one of the half-drowned isles so often mentioned. It lies S.W. from Turtle Island, about five or six miles, and the channel between it and the reef of that isle is three miles over. Seeing no more shoals or islands, and thinking there might be turtle on this bank, two boats were properly equipped and sent thither; but returned without having seen one.
The boats were now hoisted in, and we made sail to the west, with a brisk gale at east, which continued till the 9th, when we had for a few hours, a breeze at N.W., attended with squalls of rain. This was succeeded by a steady fresh gale at S.E., with which we steered N.W., being at this time in the latitude of 20° 20' S. longitude 176° 8' E.
On the 15th at noon, being in the latitude of 15° 9' south, longitude 171° 16' east, I steered west. The next day the weather was foggy, and the wind blew in heavy squalls, attended with rain, which in this ocean, within the tropics, generally indicates the vicinity of some high land. This was verified at three in the afternoon, when high land was seen bearing S.W. Upon this we took in the small sails, reefed the top-sails, and hauling up for it, at half-past five we could see it extend from S.S.W. to N.N.W. half W. Soon after we tacked and spent the night, which was very stormy, in plying. Our boards were disadvantageous; for, in the morning, we found we had lost ground. This, indeed, was no wonder, for having an old suit of sails bent, the most of them were split to pieces; particularly a fore-top-sail, which was rendered quite useless. We got others to the yards, and continued to ply, being desirous of getting round the south ends of the lands, or at least so far to the south as to be able to judge of their extent in that direction. For no one doubted that this was the Australia del Espiritu Santo of Quiros, which M. de Bougainville calls the Great Cyclades, and that the coast we were now upon was the east side of Aurora Island, whose longitude is 168° 30' E.
The gale kept increasing till we were reduced to our low sails; so that, on the 18th, at seven in the morning, I gave over plying, set the top-sails double-reefed, bore up for, and hauled round the north end of Aurora Island, and then stretched over for the Isle of Lepers, under close-reefed topsails and courses, with a very hard gale at N.E.; but we had now the advantage of a smooth sea, having the Isle of Aurora to windward. At noon the north end of it bore N.E. 1/2 N., distant four leagues; our latitude, found by double altitudes, and reduced to this time, was 15° 1' 30" south, longitude 168° 14' east. At two o'clock p.m. we drew near the middle of the Isle of Lepers, and tacked about two miles from land; in which situation we had no soundings with a line of seventy fathoms. We now saw people on the shore, and many beautiful cascades of water pouring down the neighbouring hills. The next time we stood for this isle, we came to within half a mile of it, where we found thirty fathoms a sandy bottom; but a mile off we found no soundings at seventy fathoms. Here two canoes came off to us, in one of which were three men, and in the other but one. Though we made all the signs of friendship, we could not bring them nearer than a stone's throw; and they made but a short stay before they retired ashore, where we saw a great number of people assembled in parties, and armed with bows and arrows. They were of a very dark colour; and, excepting some ornaments at their breast and arms, seemed to be entirely naked.
As I intended to get to the south, in order to explore the land which might lie there, we continued to ply between the Isle of Lepers and Aurora; and on the 19th, at noon, the south end of the last-mentioned isle bore south 24° east, and the north end north, distant twenty miles. Latitude observed 15° 11'. The wind continued to blow strong at S.E., so that what we got by plying in the day, we lost in the night. On the 20th, at sun-rise, we found ourselves off the south end of Aurora, on the N.W. side of which, the coast forms a small bay. In this we made some trips to try for anchorage; but found no less than eighty fathoms water, the bottom a fine dark sand, at half a mile from shore. Nevertheless, I am of opinion that, nearer, there is much less depth, and secure riding; and in the neighbourhood is plenty of fresh water and wood for fuel. The whole isle, from the sea-shore to the summits of the hills, seemed to be covered with the latter; and every valley produced a fine stream of the former. We saw people on the shore, and some canoes on the coast, but none came off to us. Leaving the bay just mentioned, we stretched across the channel which divides Aurora from Whitsuntide Island. At noon we were abreast the north end of this latter, which bore E.N.E., and observed in 15° 28' 1/2. The isle of Aurora bore from N. to N.E. 1/2 east, and the Isle of Lepers from N. by W. 1/2 W. to west. Whitsuntide Isle appeared joined to the land to the S. and S.W. of it; but in stretching to S.W. we discovered the separation. This was about four o'clock p.m., and then we tacked and stretched in for the island till near sun-set, when the wind veering more to the east, made it necessary to resume our course to the south. We saw people on the shore, smokes in many parts of the island, and several places which seemed to be cultivated. About midnight, drawing near the south land, we tacked and stretched to the north, in order to spend the remainder of the night.
At day-break on the 21st, we found ourselves before the channel that divides Whitsuntide Island from the south land, which is about two leagues over. At this time, the land to the southward extended from S. by E. round to the west, farther than the eye could reach, and on the part nearest to us, which is of considerable height, we observed two very large columns of smoke, which, I judged, ascended from volcanoes. We now stood S.S.W., with a fine breeze at S.E.; and, at ten o'clock, discovered this part of the land to be an island, which is called by the natives Ambrym. Soon after an elevated land appeared open off the south end of Ambrym; and after that, another still higher, on which is a high peaked hill. We judged these lands to belong to two separate islands. The first came in sight at S.E.; the second at E. by S., and they appeared to be ten leagues distant. Holding on our course for the land ahead, at noon it was five miles distant from us, extending from S.S.E. to N.W. by W., and appeared to be continued. The islands to the east bore from N.E. by E. to S.E. by E., latitude observed 16° 17' south. As we drew nearer the shore we discovered a creek, which had the appearance of being a good harbour, formed by a low point or peninsula, projecting out to the north. On this a number of people were assembled, who seemed to invite us ashore; probably with no good intent, as the most of them were armed with bows and arrows. In order to gain room and time to hoist out and arm our boats, to reconnoitre this place, we tacked and made a trip off, which occasioned the discovery of another port about a league more to the south. Having sent two armed boats to sound and look for anchorage, on their making the signal for the latter, we sailed in S.S.W., and anchored in eleven fathoms water, not two cables' length from the S.E. shore, and a mile within the entrance.
We had no sooner anchored than several of the natives came off in canoes. They were very cautious at first; but, at last, trusted themselves alongside, and exchanged, for pieces of cloth, arrows; some of which were pointed with bone, and dipped in some green gummy substance, which we naturally supposed was poisonous. Two men having ventured on board, after a short stay, I sent them away with presents. Others, probably induced by this, came off by moon-light; but I gave orders to permit none to come alongside, by which means we got clear of them for the night.
Next morning early, a good many came round us, some in canoes, and others swimming. I soon prevailed on one to come on board, which be no sooner did, than he was followed by more than I desired; so that not only our deck, but rigging, was presently filled with them. I took four into the cabin, and gave them various articles, which they shewed to those in the canoes, and seemed much pleased with their reception. While I was thus making friends with those in the cabin, an accident happened that threw all into confusion, but in the end, I believe, proved advantageous to us. A fellow in a canoe having been refused admittance into one of our boats that lay alongside, bent his bow to shoot a poisoned arrow at the boat-keeper. Some of his countrymen prevented his doing it that instant, and gave time to acquaint me with it. I ran instantly on deck, and saw another man struggling with him; one of those who had been in the cabin, and had leaped out of the window for this purpose. The other seemed resolved, shook him off, and directed his bow again to the boat-keeper; but, on my calling to him, pointed it at me. Having a musquet in my hand loaded with small shot, I gave him the contents. This staggered him for a moment, but did not prevent him from holding his bow still in the attitude of shooting. Another discharge of the same nature made him drop it, and the others, who were in the canoe, to paddle off with all speed. At this time, some began to shoot arrows on the other side. A musquet discharged in the air had no effect; but a four-pound shot over their heads sent them off in the utmost confusion. Many quitted their canoes and swam on shore; those in the great cabin leaped out of the windows; and those who were on the deck, and on different parts of the rigging, all leaped overboard. After this we took no farther notice of them, but suffered them to come off and pick up their canoes; and some of them even ventured alongside of the ship. Immediately after the great gun was fired, we heard the beating of drums on shore; which was, probably, the signal for the country to assemble in arms. We now got every thing in readiness to land, to cut some wood, which we were in want of, and to try to get some refreshments, nothing of this kind having been seen in any of the canoes.
About nine o'clock, we put off in two boats, and landed in the face of four or five hundred people, who were assembled on the shore. Though they were all armed with bows and arrows, clubs and spears, they made not the least opposition. On the contrary, seeing me advance alone, with nothing but a green branch in my hand, one of them, who seemed to be a chief, giving his bow and arrows to another, met me in the water, bearing also a green branch, which having exchanged for the one I held, he then took me by the hand, and led me up to the crowd. I immediately distributed presents to them, and, in the mean time, the marines were drawn up upon the beach. I then made signs (for we understood not a word of their language) that we wanted wood; and they made signs to us to cut down the trees. By this time, a small pig being brought down and presented to me, I gave the bearer a piece of cloth, with which he seemed well pleased. This made us hope that we should soon have some more; but we were mistaken. The pig was not brought to be exchanged for what we had, but on some other account, probably as a peace-offering. For, all we could say or do, did not prevail on them to bring down, after this, above half a dozen cocoa-nuts, and a small quantity of fresh water. They set no value on nails, or any sort of iron tools; nor indeed on any thing we had. They would, now and then, exchange an arrow for a piece of cloth; but very seldom would part with a bow. They were unwilling we should go off the beach, and very desirous we should return on board. At length, about noon, after sending what wood we had cut on board, we embarked ourselves; and they all retired, some one way and some another. Before we had dined, the afternoon was too far spent to do any thing on shore; and all hands were employed, setting up the rigging, and repairing some defects in it. But seeing a man bring along the strand a buoy, which they had taken in the night from the kedge-anchor, I went on shore for it, accompanied by some of the gentlemen. The moment we landed, it was put into the boat, by a man who walked off again without speaking one word. It ought to be observed, that this was the only thing they took, or even attempted to take from us, by any means whatever. Being landed near one of their plantations and houses, which were just within the skirts of the wood, I prevailed on the man to conduct me to them; but, though they suffered Mr Forster to go with me, they were unwilling any more should follow. These houses were something like those of the other isles; rather low, and covered with palm thatch. Some were enclosed, or walled round with boards; and the entrance to those was by a square hole at one end, which at this time was shut up, and they were unwilling to open it for us to look in. There were here about six houses, and some small plantations of roots, etc., fenced round with reeds as at the Friendly Isles. There were, likewise, some bread-fruit, cocoa-nut, and plaintain trees; but very little fruit on any of them. A good many fine yams were piled up upon sticks, or a kind of raised platform; and about twenty pigs, and a few fowls, were running about loose. After making these observations, having embarked, we proceeded to the S.E. point of the harbour, where we again landed and walked along the bench till we could see the islands to the S.E. already mentioned. The names of these we now obtained, as well as the name of that on which we were. This they called Mallicollo;* the island that first appeared over the south end of Ambrym is called Apee; and the other with the hill upon it Paoom. We found on the beach a fruit like an orange, called by them Abbimora; but whether it be fit for eating, I cannot say, as this was decayed.
[* Or Mallicolla. Some of our people pronounced it Manicolo or Manicola, and thus it is also writ in Quiros' Memorial, as printed by Dalrymple, vol. ii. p. 146.]
Proceeding next to the other side of the harbour, we there landed, near a few houses, at the invitation of some people who came down to the shore; but we had not been there five minutes before they wanted us to be gone. We complied, and proceeded up the harbour in order to sound it, and look for fresh water, of which, as yet, we had seen none, but the very little that the natives brought, which we knew not where they got. Nor was our search now attended with success; but this is no proof that there is not any. The day was too far spent to examine the place well enough to determine this point. Night having brought us on board, I was informed that no soul had been off to the ship; so soon was the curiosity of these people satisfied. As we were coming on board, we heard the sound of a drum, and, I think, of some other instruments, and saw people dancing; but us soon as they heard the noise of the oars, or saw us, all was silent.
Being unwilling to lose the benefit of the moon-light nights, which now happened, at seven a.m. on the 23d, we weighed; and, with a light air of wind, and the assistance of our boats, proceeded out of the harbour, the south end of which, at noon, bore W.S.W., distant about two miles.
When the natives saw us under sail, they came off in canoes, making exchanges with more confidence than before, and giving such extraordinary proofs of their honesty as surprised us. As the ship, at first, had fresh way through the water, several of them dropped astern after they had received our goods, and before they had time to deliver theirs in return. Instead of taking advantage of this, as our friends at the Society Isles would have done, they used their utmost efforts to get up with us, and to deliver what they had already been paid for. One man, in particular, followed us a considerable time, and did not reach us till it was calm, and the thing was forgotten. As soon as he came alongside he held up the thing which several were ready to buy; but he refused to part with it, till he saw the person to whom he had before sold it, and to him he gave it. The person, not knowing him again, offered him something in return, which he refused, and shewed him what he had given him before. Pieces of cloth, and marble paper, were in most esteem with them; but edge-tools, nails, and beads, they seemed to disregard. The greatest number of canoes we had alongside at once did not exceed eight, and not more than four or five people in each, who would frequently retire to the shore all on a sudden, before they had disposed of half their things, and then others would come off.
At the time we came out of the harbour, it was about low water, and great numbers of people were then on the shoals or reefs which lie along the shore, looking, as we supposed., for shell and other fish. Thus our being on their coast, and in one of their ports, did not hinder them from following the necessary employments. By this time they might be satisfied we meant them no harm; so that, had we made a longer stay, we might soon have been upon good terms with this ape-like nation. For, in general, they are the most ugly, ill-proportioned people I ever saw, and in every respect different from any we had met with in this sea. They are a very dark-coloured and rather diminutive race; with long heads, flat faces, and monkey countenances. Their hair mostly black or brown, is short and curly; but not quite so soft and woolly as that of a negroe. Their beards are very strong, crisp, and bushy, and generally black and short. But what most adds to their deformity, is a belt or cord which they wear round the waist, and tie so tight over the belly, that the shape of their bodies is not unlike that of an overgrown pismire. The men go quite naked, except a piece of cloth or leaf used as a wrapper*.
[* The particular manner of applying the wrapper may be seen in Wafer's voyage, who mentions this singular custom as existing, though with some little variation, amongst the Indians of the Isthmus of Darien. See Wafer's Voyage, p. 140.]
We saw but few women, and they were not less ugly than the men; their heads, faces, and shoulders, are painted red; they wear a kind of petticoat; and some of them had something over their shoulders like a bag, in which they carry their children. None of them came off to the ship, and they generally kept at a distance when we were on shore. Their ornaments are ear-rings, made of tortoise-shell and bracelets. A curious one of the latter, four or five inches broad, wrought with thread or cord, and studded with shells, is worn by them just above the elbow. Round the right wrist they wear hogs' tusks, bent circular, and rings made of shells; and round their left, a round piece of wood, which we judged was to ward off the bow-string. The bridge of the nose is pierced, in which they wear a piece of white stone, about an inch and a half long. As signs of friendship they present a green branch, and sprinkle water with the hand over the head.
Their weapons are clubs, spears, and bows and arrows. The two former are made of hard or iron-wood. Their bows are about four feet long, made of a stick split down the middle, and are not circular. The arrows, which are a sort of reeds, are sometimes armed with a long and sharp point, made of the hard wood, and sometimes with a very hard point made of bone; and these points are all covered with a substance which we took for poison. Indeed the people themselves confirmed our suspicions, by making signs to us not to touch the point, and giving us to understand that if we were prickled by them we should die. They are very careful of them themselves, and keep them, always wrapped up in a quiver. Some of these arrows are formed with two or three points, each with small prickles on the edges, to prevent the arrow being drawn out of the wound.
The people of Mallicollo seemed to be a quite different nation from any we had yet met with, and speak a different language. Of about eighty words, which Mr Forster collected, hardly one bears any affinity to the language spoken at any other island or place I had ever been at. The letter R is used in many of their words; and frequently two or three being joined together, such words we found difficult to pronounce. I observed that they could pronounce most of our words with great ease. They express their admiration by hissing like a goose.
To judge of the country by the little water we saw of it, it must be fertile; but I believe their fruits are not so good as those of the Society or Friendly Isles. Their cocoa-nut trees, I am certain, are not; and their bread-fruit and plantains did not seem much better. But their yams appeared to be very good. We saw no other animals than those I have already mentioned. They have not so much as a name for a dog, and consequently have none, for which reason we left them a dog and a bitch; and there is no doubt they will be taken care of, as they were very fond of them.
After we had got to sea, we tried what effect one of the poisoned arrows would have on a dog. Indeed we had tried it in the harbour the very first night, but we thought the operation was too slight, as it had no effect. The surgeon now made a deep incision in the dog's thigh, into which he laid a large portion of the poison, just as it was scraped from the arrows, and then bound up the wound with a bandage. For several days after we thought the dog was not so well as it had been before, but whether this was really so, or only suggested by imagination, I know not. He was afterwards as if nothing had been done to him, and lived to be brought home to England. However, I have no doubt of this stuff being of a poisonous quality, as it could answer no other purpose. The people seemed not unacquainted with the nature of poison, for when they brought us water on shore, they first tasted it, and then gave us to understand we might with safety drink it.
This harbour, which is situated on the N.E. side of Mallicollo, not far from the S.E. end, in latitude 16° 25' 20" S., longitude 167° 57' 23" E., I named Port Sandwich. It lies in S.W. by S. about one league, and is one-third of a league broad. A reef of rocks extends out a little way from each point, but the channel is of a good breadth, and hath in it from forty to twenty-four fathoms water. In the port, the depth of water is from twenty to four fathoms; and it is so sheltered that no winds can disturb a ship at anchor there. Another great advantage is, you can lie so near the shore, as to cover your people, who may be at work upon it.