"thirty of them forced themselves through a very heavy surf" - page 57.
floating on finely constructed rush mats that were:
" four feet and a half long, and fifteen inches and a half broad, consisted of sugar-cane, platted over with rushes", - page 59.
The use of reed boats on the South American mainland is extensively recorded, see:
1831 Lt. Hiram Paulding : Rescue With Peruvian Caballito.
La Perouse, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), c 1770.
"La Perouse remarked of the natives of Easter Island: 'They swim so well that they will leave the shore to the distance of two leagues in the roughest sea, and by preference, for the sake of pleasure, land on their return at the place where the surf beats the strongest.' "- Best: Maori Canoe (1925,1976), pages 204-205.
D'Urville, Captain Rugg, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) , c1840.
"D'Urville recounts how Capt. Rugg of the English schooner The Friends informed him that he had lain off Easter Island without being able to land, because of the south-east wind, and that nine natives had come aboard his ship with single planks (simples planches) which served to sustain them in the water even to a distance of four or five miles.- Hornell: Water Transport (1946) page 4.
Roquemaurel, a member of D'Urville's staff, adds that each of these men was stretched out on a single plank, a description which tallies with that of the Hawaiian surf board when used for business and not sport."
Hornell gives the
Dumont D'Urville: Voyage Au Pole Sud Et Dans L'Ocanie Sur Les Corvettes L'Astrolabe Et La Zle. Pendant 1837-1840.
Paris, 1846, pages, 111, 162 and 387.
round the south point, I steered towards the west side of the island ;
and when at the distance of about three miles, I recognised Cook's Bay,
against the shores of which a heavy swell broke.
Not far from the beach we observed four statues, three of which were very tall; the other appeared to have been broken down, so as to have lost half its height.
They bore a great resemblance to the monuments described by La Perouse, in the voyage in which this navigator so unfortunately perished.
21st April 1804
The next morning the weather was so squally, that I could not reach Cook's Bay till eight o'clock.
I wished to have dropped anchor there, but the heavy south-west swell prevented me.
Determined, however, to leave some indication on the island, by which the Nadejda, in case of her touching there, might trace us, I dispatched lieutenant Powalishin in the jolly-boat, with knives, small pieces of iron, empty bottles, and some printed linens.
His orders were, to go as near the shore as the surf would permit, and distribute the above-mentioned articles to the natives, who, without doubt, would swim off to him.
near Cook's Bay, we saw a great number of people; who, on perceiving our
boat, swam off to meet it, expressing their joy with a loud noise, and
pointing out with their hands the best place for landing.
Finding, however, that the boat did not intend to land, thirty of them forced themselves through a very heavy surf, and joined it.
The knives were received with great eagerness by the islanders; and I was very sorry that I sent so few, as an old islander of sixty, who came after the rest, and presented Mr. Powalishin with a …
… bag made of
grass, filled with sweet potatoes, solicited one in the most earnest manner:
there were, however, none left, and he only received some copper ear-rings,
and a few other trifles; but with these the poor old man was so satisfied,
that he left with Mr. Powalishin all he had, including the rush-mat, which
he used as a support in swimming.
When they were desired to go to the ship, they expressed by signs, that it was too far; which proves, as also do the rush-mats, which every one had to assist him in swimming, that the boats seen by La Perouse, do not at present exist on the island.
From what he, and all who were with him in the boat observed; it appears that these islanders are stoutly built, and tall, some of them being six feet, and of a colour resembling a sun-burnt European. Those that swam to him had their faces and hands tatooed, which was all that was remarkable in their appearance.
I cannot well
judge of the handicraft of these islanders; but the bag and mat of the
old man are deserving of notice.
The first, which was fifteen inches long and ten wide, was made of hard grass, in a very masterly manner.
The second, which was four feet and a half long, and fifteen inches and a half broad, consisted of sugar-cane, platted over with rushes; and, in point of workmanship, was scarcely inferior to any thing of the kind made in Europe.