A Voyage to the South Sea/Chapter 12

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At the Island Huaheine. A Friend of Omai visits the Ship. Leave the Society Islands. A Water-spout. The Island Whytootackee discovered. Anchor in Annamooka Road. Our Parties on Shore robbed by the Natives. Sail from Annamooka. The Chiefs detained on board. Part friendly.

1789. April. Sunday 5.
We steered towards the island Huaheine, which we got sight of the next morning. At noon we brought to near the entrance of Owharre harbour, it not being my intention to anchor. We could see every part of the harbour distinctly, but my attention was particularly directed to the spot where Omai's house had stood, no part of which was now visible. It was near three o'clock before any canoes came off to us, for the people on shore imagined that the ship was coming into the harbour. The first that arrived had three men in it, who brought a few coconuts. I enquired about the chief or Earee Rahie; and one of the fellows with great gravity said he was the Earee Rahie, and that he had come to desire I would bring the ship into the harbour. I could not help laughing at his impudence: however I gave him a few nails for his coconuts and he left us. Immediately after a double canoe in which were ten men came alongside; among them was a young man who recollected and called me by my name. Several other canoes arrived with hogs, yams, and other provisions, which we purchased. My acquaintance told me that he had lived with our friend Omai. He confirmed the account that had already been given and informed me that of all the animals which had been left with Omai the mare only remained alive. He said that Omai and himself had often rode together, and I observed that many of the islanders who came on board had the representation of a man on horseback tattooed on their legs. After the death of Omai his house was broken to pieces and the materials stolen. The firearms were at Ulietea but useless. I enquired after the seeds and plants and was informed that they were all destroyed except one tree, but of what kind that was I could not make out from their description. I was much pressed to take the ship into the harbour, and Omai's companion requested me to let him go to England. When they found that I would not stop among them they seemed jealous of our going to Ulietea, and it appeared to give them some satisfaction when I told them that I should not go near that island.
The canoes had left us and we were making sail when we discovered an Indian in the water swimming towards the shore, which in all probability he would not have been able to reach. We took him up and luckily another canoe coming alongside we put him in her. The people of the canoe said that the man was insane, but how he came to be swimming so far from the land we could not conjecture. At six o'clock we made sail and ran all night to the south-west and south-west by south, between the islands Huaheine and Ulietea. The next morning I altered the course, steering more to the westward for the Friendly Islands.
Thursday 9.
On the 9th at nine o'clock in the morning the weather became squally and a body of thick black clouds collected in the east. Soon after a water-spout was seen at no great distance from us, which appeared to great advantage from the darkness of the clouds behind it. As nearly as I could judge it was about two feet diameter at the upper part, and about eight inches at the lower. I had scarce made these remarks when I observed that it was advancing rapidly towards the ship. We immediately altered our course and took in all the sails except the foresail, soon after which it passed within ten yards of our stern, making a rustling noise but without our feeling the least effect from its being so near us. The rate at which it travelled I judged to be about ten miles per hour going towards the west in the direction of the wind. In a quarter of an hour after passing us it dispersed. I never was so near a water-spout before: the connection between the column, which was higher than our mastheads, and the water below was no otherwise visible than by the sea being disturbed in a circular space of about six yards in diameter, the centre of which, from the whirling of the water round it, formed a hollow; and from the outer part of the circle the water was thrown up with much force in a spiral direction, and could be traced to the height of fifteen or twenty feet. At this elevation we lost sight of it and could see nothing of its junction with the column above. It is impossible to say what injury we should have suffered if it had passed directly over us. Masts I imagine might have been carried away, but I do not apprehend it would have endangered the loss of a ship.
Saturday 11.
As we sailed very near the track made in former voyages I had little reason to expect that we should at this time make any new discovery: nevertheless on the 11th at daylight land was seen to the south-south-west at about five leagues distance, which appeared to be an island of a moderate height. On the north part was a round hill: the north-west part was highest and steep: the south-east part sloped off to a low point.
The wind had been westerly since the preceding noon, and at the time we saw the land the ship was standing to the north-west. At six we tacked to the southward, and as we advanced in that direction discovered a number of low keys, of which at noon we counted nine: they were all covered with trees. The large island first seen had a most fruitful appearance, its shore being bordered with flat land, on which grew innumerable coconut and other trees; and the higher grounds beautifully interspersed with lawns. The wind being light and unfavourable we endeavoured all day but without success to get near the land. In the night we had a heavy squall which obliged us to clew up all our sails and soon after it fell calm.
Sunday 12.
The winds were light and variable all day with calms. At two in the afternoon we were within three miles of the southernmost key and could see a number of people within the reefs. Shortly after a canoe, in which were four men, paddled off to us and came alongside without showing any signs of apprehension or surprise. I gave them a few beads and they came into the ship. One man, who seemed to have an ascendancy over the others, looked about the ship with some appearance of curiosity, but none of them would venture to go below. They asked for some boiled fresh pork which they saw in a bowl belonging to one of the seaman, and it was given them to eat with boiled plantains. Being told that I was the Earee or chief of the ship the principal person came and joined noses with me, and presented to me a large mother of pearl shell, which hung with plaited hair round his neck; this he fastened round my neck with signs of great satisfaction.
They spoke the same language as at Otaheite, with very little variation as far as I could judge. In a small vocabulary that I made whilst conversing with these men only four words out of twenty-four differed from the Otaheite. The name of the large island they told me was Wytootackee, and the Earee was called Lomakkayah. They said that there were no hogs, dogs, or goats upon the island, nor had they yams, or tarro; but that plantains, coconuts, fowls, breadfruit, and avees, were there in great abundance. Notwithstanding they said that no hogs were on the island it was evident they had seen such animals; for they called them by the same name as is given to them at Otaheite, which made me suspect that they were deceiving me. However I ordered a young boar and sow to be put into their canoe with some yams and tarro, as we could afford to part with some of these articles. I also gave to each of them a knife, a small adze, some nails, beads, and a looking-glass. The latter they examined with great curiosity; but with the ironwork they appeared to be acquainted; calling it aouree, which is the common name for iron among the islands where it is known.
As they were preparing to leave us the chief of the canoe took possession of everything that I had given to the others. One of them showed some signs of dissatisfaction, but after a little altercation they joined noses and were reconciled. I now thought they were going to leave the ship, but only two of them went into the canoe, the other two purposing to stay all night with us and to have the canoe return for them in the morning. I would have treated their confidence with the regard it merited but it was impossible to say how far the ship might be driven from the island in the night. This I explained to them and they reluctantly consented to leave us. They were very solicitous that somebody from the ship should go on shore with them, and just before they quitted us they gave me a wooden spear which was the only thing, the paddles excepted, they had brought with them in the canoe. It was a common longstaff pointed with the toa wood.
The island of Wytootackee is about ten miles in circuit; its latitude from 18 degrees 50 minutes to 18 degrees 54 minutes south, and longitude 200 degrees 19 minutes east. A group of small keys, eight in number, lie to the south-east, four or five miles distant from Wytootackee and a single one to the west-south-west; the southernmost of the group is in latitude 18 degrees 58 minutes south. Variation of the compass 8 degrees 14 minutes east.
The people that came off to us did not differ in appearance from the natives of Hervey's Islands, seen in Captain Cook's last voyage, though much more friendly and inoffensive in their manners. They were tattooed across the arms and legs, but not on the loins or posteriors, like the people of Otaheite. From their knowledge of iron they have doubtless communication with Hervey's Islands, which are not more than eighteen leagues distant from them.
In the night a breeze sprang up from the south and we continued our course to the westward.
Saturday 18.
On the 18th at sunset we saw Savage Island, and in the night passed by to the southward of it.
Tuesday 21.
At eleven o'clock in the forenoon of the 21st we saw the island Caow from the masthead, bearing north-west by west three-quarters west. This island is a high mountain with a sharp-pointed top, and is the north-westernmost of all the Friendly Islands. At noon we saw it very distinctly from the deck, it being then nineteen leagues distant from us.
Thursday 23.
The wind being to the southward we could not fetch Annamooka, at which island I intended to stop, before the evening of the 23rd, when we anchored in the road in twenty-three fathoms, the extremes of Annamooka bearing east by north and south by east, our distance from the shore being half a league. In the middle of the day a canoe had come off to us from the island Mango in which was a chief named Latoomy-lange, who dined with me. Immediately on our anchoring several canoes came alongside with yams and coconuts, but none of the natives offered to come on board without first asking permission. As yet I had seen no person with whom I could recollect to have been formerly acquainted. I made enquiries after some of our old friends, particularly the chiefs, but I found myself not sufficiently master of the language to obtain the information I wanted.
Friday 24.
Our station being inconvenient for watering at daylight we weighed, and worked more to the eastward where we anchored in twenty-one fathoms; the extremes of Annamooka bearing north 85 degrees east and south 33 degrees west; the Sandy bay south 73 degrees east; our distance from the shore half a league. Sounded all round the ship and found the ground to be a coarse coral bottom, but with even soundings.
By this time some large sailing canoes were arrived from different islands in the neighbourhood of Annamooka; and an old lame man named Tepa, whom I had known in 1777 and immediately recollected, came on board. Two other chiefs whose names were Noocaboo and Kunocappo were with him. Tepa having formerly been accustomed to our manner of speaking their language I found I could converse with him tolerably well. He informed me that Poulaho, Feenow, and Tubow, were alive and at Tongataboo, and that they would come hither as soon as they heard of our arrival, of which he promised to send them immediate notice. He said that the cattle which we had left at Tongataboo had all bred, and that the old ones were yet living. He enquired after several people who were here with Captain Cook. Being desirous to see the ship I took him and his companions below and showed them the breadfruit and other plants, at seeing which they were greatly surprised. I made each of them a present, and when they had satisfied their curiosity I invited them to go on shore with me in the ship's boat.
I took Nelson with me to procure some breadfruit plants, one of our stock being dead and two or three others a little sickly. When we landed there were about two hundred people on the beach, most of them women and children. Tepa showed me a large boat-house which he told me we might make use of, thinking we should have a party on shore as our ships had formerly. I went with him in search of water but could find no better place than where Captain Cook had watered, which is a quarter of a mile inland from the east end of the beach. I next walked to the west point of the bay where some plants and seeds had been sown by Captain Cook; and had the satisfaction to see in a plantation close by about twenty fine pineapple plants but no fruit, this not being the proper season. They told me that they had eaten many of them, that they were fine and large, and that at Tongataboo there were great numbers.
When I returned to the landing-place I was desired to sit down and a present was brought me which consisted of some bundles of coconuts only. This fell short of my expectations; however I appeared satisfied and distributed beads and trinkets to the women and children near me.
Numerous were the marks of mourning with which these people disfigure themselves, such as bloody temples, their heads deprived of most of the hair, and what was worse almost all of them with the loss of some of their fingers. Several fine boys, not above six years old, had lost both their little fingers; and some of the men besides these had parted with the middle finger of the right hand.
The chiefs went off with me to dinner, and I found a brisk trade carrying on at the ship for yams; some plantains and breadfruit were likewise brought on board but no hogs. In the afternoon more sailing canoes arrived, some of which contained not less than ninety passengers. We purchased eight hogs, some dogs, fowls, and shaddocks. Yams were in great abundance, very fine and large; one yam weighed above forty-five pounds. Among the people that came this afternoon were two of the name of Tubow, which is a family of the first distinction among the Friendly Islands; one of them was chief of the island Lefooga; with him and Tepa I went on shore to see the wooding place. I found a variety of sizable trees but the kind which I principally pitched upon was the Barringtonia of Forster. I acquainted Tepa with my intention of sending people to cut wood, which meeting with his approbation, we parted.
Saturday 25.
On the 25th at daylight the wooding and watering parties went on shore. I had directed them not to cut the kind of tree* which, when Captain Cook wooded here in 1777, blinded for a time many of the woodcutters. They had not been an hour on shore before one man had an axe stolen from him and another an adze. Tepa was applied to, who got the axe restored but the adze was not recovered. In the evening we completed wooding.
(*Footnote. Excoecaria agallocha Linn. Sp. Pl. Called in the Malay language caju mata boota, which signifies the the tree that wounds the eyes.)
Sunday 26.
In the morning Nelson went on shore to get a few plants but, no principal chief being among the people, he was insulted, and a spade taken from him. A boat's grapnel was likewise stolen from the watering party. Tepa recovered the spade for us, but the crowd of natives was become so great, by the number of canoes that had arrived from different islands, that it was impossible to do anything where there was such a multitude of people without a chief of sufficient authority to command the whole. I therefore ordered the watering party to go on board and determined to sail, for I could not discover that any canoe had been sent to acquaint the chiefs of Tongataboo of our being here. For some time after the thefts were committed the chiefs kept away, but before noon they came on board.
At noon we unmoored, and at one o'clock got under sail. The two Tubows, Kunocappo, Latoomy-lange, and another chief, were on board, and I acquainted them that unless the grapnel was returned they must remain in the ship. They were surprised and not a little alarmed. Canoes were immediately despatched after the grapnel, which I was informed could not possibly be brought to the ship before the next day, as those who had stolen it immediately sailed with their prize to another island. Nevertheless I detained them till sunset, when their uneasiness and impatience increased to such a degree that they began to beat themselves about the face and eyes and some of them cried bitterly. As this distress was more than the grapnel was worth, and I had no reason to imagine that they were privy to or in any manner concerned in the theft, I could not think of detaining them longer and called their canoes alongside. I then told them they were at liberty to go, and made each of them a present of a hatchet, a saw, with some knives, gimblets, and nails. This unexpected present and the sudden change in their situation affected them not less with joy than they had before been with apprehension. They were unbounded in their acknowledgments and I have little doubt but that we parted better friends than if the affair had never happened.
We stood to the northward all night with light winds.
Monday 27.
And on the next day the 27th at noon were between the islands Tofoa and Kotoo. Latitude observed 19 degrees 18 minutes south.
Thus far the voyage had advanced in a course of uninterrupted prosperity, and had been attended with many circumstances equally pleasing and satisfactory. A very different scene was now to be experienced. A conspiracy had been formed which was to render all our past labour productive only of extreme misery and distress. The means had been concerted and prepared with so much secrecy and circumspection that no one circumstance appeared to occasion the smallest suspicion of the impending calamity.