turnbull : surfboard paddling in hawaii, 1805
The Sandwich Islanders in the dominions of Tamahama, frequently make voyages to the north-west coast of America, and thereby acquire sufficient property to make themselves easy and comfortable, as well as respectable among their countrymen; to whom, on their return home, they are fond of describing with great emphasis and extravagance the singular events of their voyage. Several of them
have made considerable progress in the English language; their intercourse with the Anglo-Americans, and the navigators from Britain, having given them the opportunity, of which they have so eagerly availed themselves.
The canoes of
the Sandwich Islands far surpassed any that we had seen in other parts
of the world; not only in solidity and strength, but in the neatness and
skill of workmanship.
These canoes are so well calculated for speed, that we have seen the natives work them along with their short paddles at the rate of eleven or twelve miles in an hour, and fairly run them under water.
Although they have these excellent canoes in abundance, the natives, both men and women, often dispense with the use of them, and swim to vessels approaching the island, with no other support than a thin feather-edged slice of
wood: with these they play a thousand tricks, tumbling and plunging one another into the water, then rising to the surface and plunging again, like so many inhabitants of the deep.
for the water is indeed singular.
They may be sometimes seen extended and lolling indolently on the water for the whole day, without any occupation, and as much at their ease as if it was their native element.
Instances are very rare, I believe, of the Sandwich Islanders being drowned; their boldness and dexterity in diving is perhaps unrivalled in any part of the world.
Some of them who were employed by us to assist in certain operations in the ship, would dive in fifteen fathoms of water, and clear the cable, however entangled in the jagged rocks at the bottom.
To show their wonderful expertness in diving, they would sometimes go aloft to our top-gallant yard, then plunge into the water, pass under the ship's bottom, and again appear on the opposite side tumbling and sporting like
so many water-fowl.
We once attempted to turn this qualification to advantage, by employing some of the natives to nail parts of the copper sheeting on the ship's bottom.
They would remain not less than three or four minutes under the water, come up to the surface to breathe, and return to their work. This, had we not.witnessed, we should not readily have believed.
A Voyage Round the World,
in the Years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804;
in Which the Author Visited the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean,
and the English Settlements of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island.
Richard Phillips, London, 1805.