THE DISCOVERY OF TAHITI 1767

From the log of Samuel Wallis, Captain of The Dolphin

John Hawkesworth; "An Account of a Voyage round the World", 3 Bande London 1773

 

At two in the morning, it being very clear, we made sail again; at day-break we saw the land, at about five leagues distance, and steered directly for it; but at eight o’clock, when we were close under it, the fog obliged us again to lie to, and when it cleared away, we were much surprised to find ourselves surrounded by some hundreds of canoes…. When they came within pistol shot of the ship, they lay by, gazing at us with great astonishment, and by turns conferring with each other. In the mean time we showed them trinkets of various kinds, and invited them on board. Soon after, they drew together, and held a kind of council, to determine what should be done: then they all paddled around the ship, making signs of friendship, and one of them holding up a branch of the plantain tree, made a speech that lasted near a quarter of an hour, and then threw it into the sea. Soon after, as we continued to make signs of invitation, a fine, stout, lively young man ventured on board: he came up by the mizzen chains, and jumped out of the shrouds on top of the awning. We made signs to him to come down upon the quarter-deck, and handed up some trinkets to him: he looked pleased, but would accept of nothing till some of the Indians came alongside, and after much talk, threw a few branches of plantain tree on board the ship. He then accepted our presents, and several others very soon came on board…

The natives of Otaheite attacking Capt Wallis in the Dolphin

The natives of Otaheite attacking Captn. Wallis the first discoverer of that island    

By permission of the National Library of Australia     

 

As we had no anchorage here, we stood along the shore, sending the boats at the same time to sound at a less distance…. About three o’clock in the afternoon, we brought to, abreast of a large bay, where there was an appearance of anchorage. The boats were immediately sent to sound it, and while they were thus employed, I observed a great number of canoes gather round them. I suspected that the Indians had a design to attack them, and as I was very desirous to prevent mischief, I made the signal for the boats to come aboard, and at the same time, to intimidate the Indians, I fired a nine-pounder over their heads. As soon as the cutter began to stand towards the ship, the Indians in their canoes, though they had been startled by the thunder of our nine-pounder, endeavoured to cut her off. The boat, however, sailing faster than the canoes could paddle, soon got clear of those that were about her; but some others, that were full of men, waylaid her in her course, and threw several stones into her, which wounded some of the people. Upon this, the officer on board fired a musquet, loaded with buck-shot, at the man who threw the first stone, and wounded him in the shoulder. The rest of the people in the canoes, as soon as they perceived their companion wounded, leapt in to the sea, and the other canoes paddled away, in great terror and confusion….

 

While our people were on shore, several young women were permitted to cross the river, who, though they were not averse to the granting of consideration: the price, indeed, was not great, yet it was such as our men were not always able to pay, and under this temptation they stole nails and other iron from the ship. The nails that we brought for traffic were not always in their reach, and therefore they drew several out of different parts of the vessel, particularly those that fastened the cleats to the ship’s side. This was productive of a double mischief; damage to the ship, and a considerable rise at market….

 

On Tuesday the 7th [July], I sent one of the mates, with thirty men, to a village at a little distance from the market, hoping that refreshments might there be bought at the original price; but here they were obliged to give still more than at the waterside. In the mean time, I went in to a boat, and rowed about four miles down the coast. I found the country populous, and pleasant in the highest degree, and saw many canoes on the shore; but not one came off to us, nor did the people seem to take the least notice of us as we passed along. About noon I returned to the ship.

 

The commerce which our men had found means to establish with the women of the island rendered them much less obedient to the orders that had been given for the regulation of their conduct on shore, than they were at first. I found it necessary, therefore, to read the articles of war, and I punished James Proctor, the corporal of marines, who had not only quitted his station and insulted the officer, but struck the Master at Arms such a blow as brought him to the ground.

 

The next day, I sent a party up the country to cut wood, and they met with some of the natives, who treated them with great kindness and hospitality. Several of these friendly Indians came on board in our boat, and seemed, both by their dress and behaviour, to be of a superior rank. To these people I paid a particular attention, and to discover what present would most gratify them, I laid down before them a Johannes, a guinea, a crown piece, a Spanish dollar, a few shillings, some new halfpence, and two large nails, making signs that they should take what they liked best. The nails were first seized, with great eagerness, and then a few of the halfpence, but the silver and gold lay neglected. Having presented them, therefore, with some nails and halfpence, I sent them on shore superlatively happy.

 

From this time, our market was very ill supplied, the Indians refusing to sell provisions at the usual price, and making signs for large nails. It was now thought necessary to look more diligently about the ship, to discover what nails had been drawn; and it was soon found that all the belaying cleats had been ripped off, and that there was scarcely one of the hammock nails left. All hands were now ordered up, and I practised every artifice I could think of to discover the thieves, but without success. I then told them that till the thieves were discovered, not a single man should go on shore: this, however, produced no effect, except that Proctor, the corporal, behaved in a mutinous manner, for which he was instantly punished.

 

On Saturday the 11th, in the afternoon, the gunner came on board with a tall woman, who seemed to be about five and forty years of age, of a pleasing countenance and majestic deportment. He told me that she was but just come into that part of the country, and that seeing great respect paid her by the rest of the natives, he had made her some presents; in return for which she had invited him to her house, which was about two miles up the valley, and given him some large hogs; after which she returned with him to the watering-place, and expressed a desire to go on board the ship, in which he had thought it proper, on all accounts, that she should be gratified. She seemed to be under no restraint, either from diffidence or fear, when she first came into the ship; and she behaved, all the while she was on board, with an easy freedom that always distinguishes conscious superiority and habitual command.            

Capt Wallis being received by the Queen of Otaheite

Capt. Samuel Wallis of HMS Dolphin being received by the Queen of Otaheite, July 1767

By permission of the National Library of Australia

 

I gave her a large blue mantle, that reached from her shoulders to her feet, which I threw over her and tied on with ribands; I gave her also a looking-glass, beads of several sorts, and many other things, of which she accepted with a very good grace and much pleasure. She took notice that I had been ill, and pointed to the shore. I understood that she meant I should go thither to perfect my recovery, and I made signs that I should go thither the next morning….

 

The next morning I went on shore for the first time, and my…queen…soon after came to me, followed by many of her attendants. As she perceived that my disorder had left me very weak, she ordered her people to take me in their arms and carry me not only over the river but all the way to her house; and observing that some of the people who were with me, particularly the First Lieutenant and Purser (John Harrison), had also been sick, she caused them also to be carried in the same manner, and a guard, which I had ordered out upon the occasion, followed. In our way, a vast multitude crowded about us, but upon waving her hand, without speaking a word, they withdrew and left us a free passage. When we approached near her house, a great number of both sexes came out to meet her: there she presented to me, after having intimated by signs that they were her relations, and taking hold of my hand, she made them kiss it. We then entered the house, which covered a piece of ground 327 feet long, and 42 feet broad…. As soon as we entered the house, she made us sit down, and then calling four young girls, she assisted them to take off my shoes, smooth down the skin, and gently chafe it with their hands: the same operation was also performed upon the First Lieutenant and the Purser, but upon none of those who appeared to be in health.

 

While this was doing, our Surgeon, who had walked till he was very warm, took off his wig to cool and refresh himself: a sudden exclamation of one of the Indians who saw it, drew the attention of the rest, and in a moment every eye was fixed upon the prodigy, and every operation was suspended: the whole assembly stood some time motionless, in silent astonishment, which could not have been more strongly expressed if they had discovered that our friend’s limbs had been screwed onto the trunk; in a short time, however, the young women who were chafing us, resumed their employment, and having continued it for about half an hour, they dressed us again, but in this they were, as may easily be imagined, very awkward; I found great benefit, however, from the chafing, and so did the Lieutenant and Purser.

 

After a little time, our generous benefactress ordered some bales of Indian cloth to be brought out, with which she clothed me, and all that were with me, according to the fashion of the country. At first I declined the acceptance of this favour, but being unwilling not to seem pleased with what was intended to please me, I acquiesced. When we went away, she ordered a very large sow, big with young, to be taken down to the boat, and accompanied us thither herself. She had given directions to her people to carry me, as they had done when I came, but as I chose rather to walk, she took me by the arm, and whenever we came to a plash of water or dirt, she lifted me over with as little trouble as it would have cost me to have lifted over a child if I had been well….

 

On the 21st, the queen came again on board, and brought several large hogs as a present, for which, as usual, she would accept of no return. When she was about to leave the ship, she expressed a desire that I should go on shore with her, to which I consented taking several of the officers with me. When we arrived at the house, she made us all sit down, and, taking off my hat, she tied I to a bunch or tuft of feathers of various colours, such as I had seem no person on shore wear but herself, which produced by no means a disagreeable effect. She also tied round my hat, and the hats of those who were with me, wreaths of braided or plaited hair, and gave us to understand that both the hair and workmanship were her own: she also presented us with some mats, that were very curiously wrought.

 

In the evening she accompanied us back to the beach, and when we were getting into the boat, she put on board a fine large sow, big with young, and a great quantity of fruit. As we were parting, I made signs that I should quit the island in seven days: she immediately comprehended my meaning, and made signs that I should stay twenty days; that I should go two days’ journey in to the country, stay there a few days, bring down plenty of hogs and poultry, and after that leave the island. I again made signs that I must go in seven days; upon which she burst into tears, and it was not without great difficulty that she was pacified.

 

The next morning, the gunner sent off no less than twenty hogs, with great plenty of fruit. Our decks were now quite full of hogs and poultry, of which we killed only the small ones, and kept the others for sea stores; we found, however, to our great mortification, that neither the fowls nor the hogs could, without great difficulty, be brought to eat anything but fruit, which made it necessary to kill them faster than we should otherwise have done: two, present to Mr Stephens, Secretary to the Admiralty; the sow afterwards died in pigging, but the boar is still alive….

The Queen of Otaheite taking leave of Capt Wallis

The Queen of Otaheite taking leave of Capn. Wallis

By permission of the National Library of Australia

At break of day, on Monday the 27th, we unmoored, and at the same time I sent the barge and cutter to fill the few water-casks that were now empty. When they came near the shore, they saw, to their great surprise, the whole beach covered with inhabitants, and having some doubt whether it would be prudent to venture themselves among such a multitude, they were about to pull back again for the ship. As soon as this was perceived from the shore, the queen came forward, and beckoned them; at the same time guessing the reason of what had happened, she made the natives retire to the other side of the river; the boats then proceeded to the shore, and filled the casks; in the mean time she put some hogs and fruit on board, and when they were putting off would fain have returned with them to the ship. The officer, however, who had received orders to bring off none of the natives, would not permit her; upon which she presently launched a double canoe, and was rowed off by her own people. Her canoe was immediately followed by fifteen or sixteen more, and all of them came up to the ship. The queen came on board, but not being able to speak, she sat down and gave vent to her passion by weeping. After she had been on board about an hour, a breeze springing up, we weighed anchor and made sail. Finding it now necessary to return into her canoe, she embraced us all in the most affectionate manner, and with many tears; all her attendants also expressed great sorrow at our departure. Soon after it fell calm, and I sent the boats ahead to tow, upon which all the canoes returned to the ship, and that which had the queen on board came up to the gun-room port, where her people made it fat. In a few minutes she came into the bow of her canoe, where she sat weeping with inconsolable sorrow. I gave her many things which I thought would be of great use to her, and some for ornament; she silently accepted of all, but took little notice of anything. About ten o’clock we were got without the reef, and a fresh breeze springing up, our Indian friends, and particularly the queen, once more bade us farewell, with such tenderness of affection and grief, as filled both my heart and my eyes….

The benefit that we received while we lay off this island, with respect to the health of the ship’s company, was beyond our most sanguine expectations, for we had not now an invalid on board, except the two Lieutenants and myself, and we were recovering, though still in a very feeble condition.

 

It is certain that none of our people contracted the venereal disease here, and therefore, as they had free commerce with great numbers of the women, there is the greatest probability that it was not then known in the country. It was, however, found here by Captain Cook, in the Endeavour, and as no European vessel is known to have visited this island before Captain Cook’s arrival, but the Dolphin, and the Boudese and Etoile, commanded by M. Bougainville, the reproach of having contaminated with that dreadful pest a race of happy people to whom its miseries had till then been unknown must either be due to him or me, to England or to France; and I think myself happy to be able to exculpate myself and my country beyond the possibility of doubt.