A Voyage to the South Sea/Chapter 11

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Arrival of an Arreoy Woman from Tethuroa. A Present delivered by Tinah for his Majesty. Other Occurrences to the Time of the Ship's Departure from Otaheite.

1789. March.

From the 5th to the 14th of this month the wind blew constantly from between the north-west and south-west with a great deal of rain. This was the longest continuance of westerly winds without interruption that we experienced. On the 13th several canoes arrived here and at Matavai from Tethuroa: in these were a large tribe of Arreoys, and among them Huheine Moyere, the wife of Oreepyah, who is an Arreoy woman, and remained at Tethuroa after Oreepyah came away. On her arrival a ceremony was performed called Hooepippee, which seemed to be designed as a public visit to all their friends, who are collected on the occasion. In this ceremony there was nothing remarkable: the Arreoy men took their opportunity to plunder the women who were near them, and Iddeah made a present of some cloth to Huheine Moyere, and a baked hog to the Arreoys.

Friday 13.

After this ceremony a present was produced from many of the principal people for young Otoo, the Earee Rahie, which was received by Iddeah, Tinah being absent. This present consisted of five hogs, and forty-eight baskets filled with breadfruit, coconuts, tarro, and different kinds of puddings. The baskets were decorated with slips of cloth, stained with variety of colours and carried by 24 men, each of whom had a pole on his shoulder, at each end of which was a basket.

I have seldom spoken of Otoo who was too young to have any share in the management of affairs, and with whom we were not permitted to have any intercourse, except speaking to him now and then across a river; at which times I did not neglect to send the children some little presents, so that they always rejoiced to see me. I might have been admitted to a nearer acquaintance if I would have gone with my shoulders uncovered, as his parents did, but this I declined. The children do not all live under the same roof, the two sisters eating and sleeping in a separate house, though at other times they are generally together.

The island Tethuroa may very properly be compared to some of our watering-places in England, producing a similar effect upon those who visit it. Many who went there covered with scurf returned plump and fair, and scarce like the same people. This alteration for the better is in a great measure to be attributed to the discontinuance of the Ava, which Tethuroa does not produce: the coconut trees, likewise, which supply them with their only beverage, growing on low sandy keys and having their roots below the level of the sea may probably have qualities different from the coconuts of Otaheite which, with a plenty of fish, that at other times they are not accustomed to, must no doubt contribute to the amendment described.

Saturday 14.

I was visited today by a very old man, an uncle to Tupia, the person who went from these islands in the Endeavour in the year 1769, and who died at Batavia. He appeared to be near 70 years old and was treated with much respect by the natives. He made several enquiries concerning his nephew and requested that when I came again I would bring his hair. At the time that Tinah mentioned to me his desire of visiting England I asked what account I could give to his friends if he should not live to return; to which he replied that I must cut off his hair and carry it to them and they would be perfectly satisfied.

Monday 16.

On the 16th I was informed that a stop was put to the sale of hogs in the district of Tettaha. Teppahoo, the Earee of that district, told me that they had very few hogs left there, and that it was necessary for a certain time to prohibit every person from killing or selling, that they might have time to breed. I did not think it reasonable to solicit any indulgence on this head: my friends at Matavai and Oparre promised to supply us as long as we remained here, though we had considerably thinned their stock. After our departure the same restriction was to take place in these districts, and it being delayed on our account certainly deserves to be regarded among their acts of friendship towards us.

As it was generally known that we were preparing to sail a number of the natives from other parts of the island were constantly with us, and petty thefts were committed whenever the negligence of our people afforded an opportunity: but no attempt of any consequence was made.

Thursday 19.

This evening Mr. Samwel my clerk returned from an excursion to the mountains, having been two days absent. He described the hills to be well clothed with wood, except the tops of the higher mountains which only produced bushes and fern. The birds he saw were blue parakeets and green doves, except one which he found burrowing in the ground and brought to me. This bird was about the size of a pigeon, and proved to be a white-bellied petrel of the same kind as those seen in high latitudes, which are called shearwaters. He likewise brought a branch of a plant like the New Zealand tea-plant, and which at Van Diemen's land we had made use of for brooms. From the hills he saw the islands Maitea and Huaheine, which are situated nearly in opposite directions from Otaheite and are 70 leagues distant from each other.

Friday 27.

For some days past Tinah had been busied in getting two parais, or mourning-dresses, made, which he intended as a present to King George. Being finished they were this morning hung up in his house as a public exhibition, and a long prayer made on the occasion, the substance of which was that the King of England might forever remain his friend and not forget him. When he presented the parais for me to take on board he could not refrain from shedding tears. During the short remainder of our stay here there appeared among the natives an evident degree of sorrow that we were so soon to leave them, which they showed by unusual kindness and attention.

We began this afternoon to remove the plants to the ship. They were in excellent order: the roots had appeared through the bottom of the pots and would have shot into the ground if care had not been taken to prevent it.

The weather was considerably altered for the better and the tradewind appeared settled. The rainy and bad season of the year may be reckoned to begin towards the end of November and to continue till near the end of March. During this time the winds are variable and often westerly, though we seldom found them to blow strong in that direction. We likewise experienced frequent intervals of fine weather; but during these months so open a road as Matavai bay is not a safe anchoring-place for ships that intend remaining any length of time at Otaheite.

Tuesday 31.

Today all the plants were on board, being in 774 pots, 39 tubs, and 24 boxes. The number of breadfruit plants were 1015, besides which we had collected a number of other plants. The avee, which is one of the finest-flavoured fruits in the world. The ayyah, which is a fruit not so rich but of a fine flavour and very refreshing. The rattah, not much unlike a chestnut, which grows on a large tree in great quantities: they are singly in large pods from one to two inches broad, and may be eaten raw or boiled in the same manner as Windsor beans, and so dressed are equally good. The oraiah, which is a very superior kind of plantain. All these I was particularly recommended to collect by my worthy friend, Sir Joseph Banks. I had also taken on board some plants of the ettow and matte, with which the natives here make a beautiful red colour; and a root called peeah, of which they make an excellent pudding.

I now made my last presents to several of my friends with whom I had been most intimate, particularly to Teppahoo. Several people expressed great desire to go with us to England. Oedidee, who was always very much attached to us, said he considered it as his right, having formerly left his native place to sail with Captain Cook. Scarce any man belonging to the ship was without a tyo, who brought to him presents, chiefly of provisions for a sea store.

April. Friday 3.

Tinah and his wife, with his parents, brothers, and sister, dined with me today and, as I meant to sail early the next morning, they all remained on board for the night. The ship was crowded the whole day with the natives, and we were loaded with coconuts, plantains, breadfruit, hogs, and goats. In the evening there was no dancing or mirth on the beach such as we had been accustomed to, but all was silent.

Saturday 4.

At daylight we unmoored: the stock of the best bower anchor was so much eaten by the worms that it broke in stowing the anchor: the small bower had an iron stock, and in these voyages it is very necessary that ships should be provided with iron anchor stocks. At half-past six there being no wind we weighed and, with our boats and two sweeps, towed the ship out of the harbour. Soon after the sea breeze came, and we stood off towards the sea.

The outlet of Toahroah harbour being narrow I could permit only a few of the natives to be on board: many others however attended in canoes till the breeze came, when I was obliged to leave them. We stood off and on almost all the remainder of the day. Tinah and Iddeah pressed me very strongly to anchor in Matavai bay and stay one night longer but, as I had already taken leave of most of my friends, I thought it better to keep to my intention of sailing. After dinner I ordered the presents which I had preserved for Tinah and his wife to be put in one of the ship's boats, and as I had promised him firearms I gave him two muskets, a pair of pistols, and a good stock of ammunition. I then represented to them the necessity of their going away, that the boat might return to the ship before it was dark, on which they took a most affectionate leave of me and went into the boat. One of their expressions at parting was "Yourah no t' Eatua tee eveerah." "May the Eatua protect you, for ever and ever."

All the time we remained at Otaheite the picture of Captain Cook, at the desire of Tinah, was kept on board the ship. On delivering it to him I wrote on the back the time of the ship's arrival and departure, with an account of the number of plants on board.

Tinah had desired that I would salute him at his departure with the great guns, which I could not comply with for fear of disturbing the plants; but as a parting token of our regard we manned ship with all hands and gave him three cheers. At sunset the boat returned and we made sail, bidding farewell to Otaheite where for twenty-three weeks we had been treated with the utmost affection and regard, and which seemed to increase in proportion to our stay. That we were not insensible to their kindness the events which followed more than sufficiently proves: for to the friendly and endearing behaviour of these people may be ascribed the motives for that event which effected the ruin of an expedition that there was every reason to hope would have been completed in the most fortunate manner.

To enter into a description of the island or its inhabitants I look upon as superfluous. From the accounts of former voyages and the facts which I have related the character of the people will appear in as true a light as by any description in my power to give. The length of time that we remained at Otaheite, with the advantage of having been there before, gave me opportunities of making perhaps a more perfect vocabulary of the language than has yet appeared; but I have chosen to defer it for the present as there is a probability that I may hereafter be better qualified for such a task.

We left Otaheite with only two patients in the venereal list, which shows that the disease has not gained ground. The natives say that it is of little consequence, and we saw several instances of people that had been infected who, after absenting themselves for 15 or 20 days, made their appearance again without any visible symptom remaining of the disease. Their method of cure I am unacquainted with; but their customary diet and mode of living must contribute towards it. We saw a great many people however with scrofulous habits and bad sores: these they denied to be produced from any venereal cause; and our surgeon was of the same opinion.

The result of the mean of 50 sets of lunar observations taken by me on shore gives for the Longitude of Point Venus 210 degrees 33 minutes 57 seconds east.

Captain Cook in 1769 places it in 210 degrees 27 minutes 30 seconds east.

In 1777, his last voyage, 210 degrees 22 minutes 28 seconds east.

The tide in Toahroah harbour was very inconsiderable and not regular. The greatest rise that I observed was 11 inches; but what was most singular the time of high-water did not appear to be governed by the moon, it being at the highest every day between noon and two o'clock. The variable winds and weather at this time of the year has no doubt an influence on the tides: on some days scarce any rise was perceptible.