wallis : tahiti, 1767
King George's Islands
came up with them; but notwithstanding the dreadful surf
that broke upon
the shore, the canoes pushed through it, and the Indians
them up upon the beach.
Our boats followed them, and the Indians, dreading an invasion of their coast, prepared to defend it with clubs and stones, upon which our men fired, and killed two or three of them: one of them received three balls which went quite through his body; yet he afterwards took up a large stone, and died in the action of throwing it against his enemy.
at six o’clock, I made sail for the island which I intended
to visit, and
when I reached it, I steered S.W. by W. close along the
north east side
of it, but could get no soundings: this side is about six or
long, and the whole makes much the same appearance as the
a large salt water lake in the middle of it.
As soon as the ship came in sight, the natives ran down to the beach in great numbers: they were armed in the same manner as those that we had seen upon the other island, and kept abreast of the ship for several leagues.
As the heat of this climate is very great, they seemed to suffer much by running so far in the sun, for they sometimes plunged into the sea, and sometimes fell flat upon the sand, that the surf might break over them, after which they renewed the race with great vigour.
I gave the name of KING GEORGE’S ISLANDS, in honour of his
That which we last visited, lies in latitude 14° 41’S., longitude 149° 15’W.; the variation of the compass here was 5° E.
had been sent out with the boats, informed me that they had
to the reef, and found as great a depth of water as at the
however, as I was now on the weather side of the island, I
had reason to
expect anchorage in running to leeward.
I therefore took this course, but finding breakers that ran off to a great distance from the south-end of the island, I hauled the wind, and continued turning to windward all night, in order to run down on the east side of the island.
sounding till noon, when they returned with an account that
was very clear; that it was at the depth of five fathom,
within a quarter
of a mile of the shore, but that there was a very great surf
where we had
seen the water.
The officers told me, that the inhabitants swarmed upon the beach, and that many of them swam off to the boat with fruit, and bamboos filled with water.
the ship struck appeared, upon farther examination, to be a
reef of sharp
coral rock, with very unequal soundings, from six fathom to
two; and it
happened unfortunately to lie between the two boats that
were placed as
a direction to the ship, the weathermost boat having 12
fathom, and the
The wind freshened almost as soon as we got off, and though it soon became calm again, the surf ran so high, and broke with such violence upon the rock, that if the ship had continued fast half an hour longer, she must inevitably have been beaten to pieces.
the coast, I manned and armed the boats, and putting a
strong guard on
board, I sent all the carpenters with their axes, and
ordered them to destroy
every canoe that had been run ashore.
Before noon, this service was effectually performed, and more than fifty canoes, many of which were sixty feet long, and three broad, and lashed together, were cut to pieces.
Nothing was found in them but stones and slings, except a little fruit, and a few fowls and hogs, which were on board two or three canoes of a much smaller size.
One of our
when he was on shore, run a large splinter into his foot,
and the Surgeon
being on board, one of his comrades endeavoured to take it
out with a penknife;
but after putting the poor fellow to a good deal of pain,
was obliged to
give it over.
Our good old Indian, who happened to be present, then called over one of his countrymen that was standing on the opposite side of the river, who having looked at the seaman’s foot, went immediately down to the beach, and taking up a shell, broke it to a point with his teeth; with this instrument, in little more than a minute, he laid open the place, and extracted the splinter; in the mean time the old man, who, as soon as he had called the other over, went a little way into the wood, returned with some gum, which he applied to the wound upon a piece of the cloth that was wrapped round him, and in two days time it was perfectly healed.
We afterwards learned that this gum was produced by the apple tree, and our Surgeon procured some of it, and used it as a vulnerary balsam with great success.
of these people, are of three different sorts.
Some are made out of a single tree, and carry from two to six men: these are used chiefly for fishing, and we constantly saw many of them busy upon the reef: some were constructed of planks, very dexterously sewed together: these were of different sizes, and would carry from ten to forty men.
Two of them were generally lashed together, and two masts set up between them; if they were single, they had an out-rigger on one side, and only one mast in the middle.
With these vessels they sail far beyond the sight of land, probably to other islands, and bring home plantains, bananas, and yams, which seem also to be more plenty upon other parts of this island, than that off which the ship lay.
A third sort seem to be intended principally for pleasure and show: they are very large, but have no sail, and in shape resemble the gondolas of Venice: the middle is covered with a large awning, and some of the people sit upon it, some under it.
None of these vessels came near the ship, except on the first and second day after our arrival; but we saw, three or four times a week, a procession of eight or ten of them passing at a distance, with streamers flying, and a great number of small canoes attending them, while many hundreds of people ran abreast of them along the shore.
They generally rowed to the outward point of a reef which lay about four miles to the westward of us, where they stayed about an hour, and then returned.
These processions, however, are never made but in fine weather, and all ...
on board are dressed; though in the other canoes they have
only a piece
of cloth wrapped round their middle.
Those who rowed and steered were dressed in white; those who sat upon the awning and under it in white and red, and two men who were mounted on the prow of each vessel, were dressed in red only.
We sometimes went out to observe them in our boats, and though we were never nearer than a mile, we saw them with our glasses as distinctly as if we had been upon the spot.
these vessels are constructed, is made by splitting a tree,
with the grain,
into as many thin pieces as they can.
They first fell the tree with a kind of hatchet, or adze, made of a tough greenish kind of stone, very dexterously fitted into a handle; it is then cut into such lengths as are required for the plank, one end of which is heated till it begins to crack, and then with wedges of hard wood they split it down: some of these planks are two feet broad, and from 15 to 20 feet long.
The sides are smoothed with adzes of the same materials and construction, but of a smaller size.
Six or eight men are sometimes at work upon the same plank together, and, as their tools presently lose their edge, every man has by him a cocoa nut-shell filled with water, and a flat stone, with which he sharpens his adze almost every minute.
These planks are generally brought to the thickness of about an inch, and are afterwards fitted to the boat with the same exactness that would be expected from an expert joiner.
To fasten these planks together, holes are bored with a piece of bone that is fixed into a stick for that purpose, a use to which our nails were afterwards applied with great advantage, and through these holes a kind of plaited cordage is passed, so as to hold the planks strongly together: the seams are caulked with dried rushes, and the whole outside of the vessel is paid with a ...
... gummy juice, which some of their trees produce in great plenty, and which is a very good succedaneum for pitch.
they use for their large canoes, is that of the apple tree,
very tall and strait.
Several of them that we measured, were near eight feet in the girth, and from 20 to 40 to the branches, with very little diminution in the size.
Our carpenter said, that in other respects it was not a good wood for the purpose, being very light.
The small canoes are nothing more than the hollowed trunk of the bread-fruit tree, which is still more light and spongy.
The trunk of the bread-fruit tree is six feet in girth, and about 20 feet to the branches.
The tide rises and falls very little, and being governed by the winds, is very uncertain; though they generally blow from the E. to the S.S.E. and for the most part a pleasant breeze.