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porter : madison's island, 1813 
Capt. David Porter : Madison's Island, Marquesas, 1813.

Extracts from
Porter, Capt. David:
Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter in the United States
Frigate Essex in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814 (2 Vols in One).
 Wiley & Halsted, New York, 1822. 2nd Edition.
First edition: Bradford and Inskeep, Philadelphia,1815.

Commanding the Essex, Porter left the U.S. at the beginning of the War of 1812 with orders to cruise against British shipping in the Atlantic.
He exceeded his instructions by rounding Cape Horn and attacking British shipping and whalers operating off South America and in the Galapagos, then landing in the Marquesas and conducting a war against the natives and annexing the islands to the United States, although the government never followed up on his annexation of Nuku Hiva, which he named Madison's Island for the current U.S. president.
His expedition ended off Chile in 1814 when his boat was captured by British warships.
Paroled, he returned to a hero's welcome in the U.S. and wrote his account of the voyage, first published in 1815, which was quickly suppressed.

The second edition contains Porter's lengthy Introduction defending himself against a negative review in the English Quarterly Review and also includes material about his encounters in Valparaiso and the fate of the party left at Madison's Island.

Extracts were later printed in:
Phillips, Sir Richard: New Voyages And Travels: Consisting Of Originals, Translations, And Abridgements, Volume 8, 1822.

The book has been cited as a source for Herman Melville's Typee, see:

1849 Herman Melville : Rare Sport at Ohonoo.
Extract from Mardi and A Voyage Thither, Richard Bentley, London, 1849.

On Madison's Island (Nuku Hiva - Nooaheeva) Porter records:

 "a kind of surf board, similar to that of the natives of the Sandwich Islands.
These, however, scarcely deserve to be enumerated among their vessels, as they are used chiefly by the boys and girls, and are intended solely for paddling about the harbour."- page 74.

Given the military campaign waged by Porter with and against local tribes, it is not suprising that he did not observe, or the natives had the time or inclination for, surfriding.

Also see:
1595 De Quiros : Marquesas.

For a later detailed report, see:

1914 Fredrick O'Brien : Surfriding in the Marquesas.


On the meridian of the 23d October (1813), the man at the masthead discovered land bearing S.W. Our latitude at this time was 9° 6' south, and the longitude by chronometer 138" 27' west, from which we supposed it to be Hood's Island, one of the group of the Marquesas Islands, discovered by lord Hood, while a midshipman with captain Cook; and from its position it could be no other.
Yet the description given of this island by the historian of that voyage, answers so little to Hood's Island, as seen by us, that I should have had my doubts as to its identity, did not its latitude and longitude both correspond with that given by Cook, Hergest, and other navigators.
Cook describes Hood's Island to be mountainous, cut into valleys, and thickly covered with brush-wood, and about fifteen or sixteen leagues in circuit.
The Hood's Island, seen by us, is a barren lump of rock inaccessible on all its sides, destitute of verdure, and about three miles in circuit.
After making this island, which is the most northerly of that group called the Marquesas de Mendania, first discovered by the Spaniards, I hove-to for my prizes to come up, which were a great distance astern, as they had been generally during our passage.
On their joining me, I steered a little more to the northward, under easy sail, to fall in with the island of Rooahooga, one of the group discovered by captain Roberts of Boston, in the month of May, in the year 1792.
This group was called by him Washington Group, and some of the islands were named by him, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, &c. &c.
They were seen the preceding year (1791) by a captain Ingraham, of the same place; but he had done no more than point out their situation.

Madison's Island (Nooaheeva)

Page 72

The war canoes of this island differ not much from those already described as belonging to the natives of the island of Ooahooga, or Jefferson's island.
They are larger, more splendid, and highly ornamented, but the construction is the same, and like them they are furnished with outriggers.
They are about fifty feet in length, two feet in width, and of a proportionate depth; they are formed of many pieces, and each piece, and indeed each paddle, has its separate proprietor.
To one belongs the piece projecting from the stern, to another the part forming the bow.
The pieces forming the sides belong to different persons, and when a canoe is taken to pieces, the whole is scattered throughout the valley, and divided, perhaps, among twenty families.
Each has the right of disposing of the part belonging to him, and when she is to be set up, every one brings his piece, with materials for securing it.
The setting up of a war canoe goes on with the same order and regularity as all their other operations.
These canoes are owned only among the wealthy and respectable families, and are rarely used but for the purposes of war or for pleasure, or when the chief persons of one tribe make a visit to another.
In such cases they are richly ornamented ...

Page 73

... with locks of human hair intermixed with bunches of gray beard, strung from the stem projection to the place raised for the steersman.
These ornaments are in the greatest estimation among them, and a bunch of gray beard is in their view what the feathers of the ostrich, or heron, or the richest plumage would be in ours.
The seat of the coxswain is highly ornamented with palm leaves and white cloth; he is gayly dressed and richly ornamented with plumes.
The chief is seated on an elevation in the middle of the canoe, and a person fancifully dressed in the bow, which has the additional ornaments of pearl-shells strung on cocoa-nut branches raised in the forepart of the canoe.
She is worked altogether by paddles, and those who use them are placed, two on a seat, and give their strokes with great regularity, shouting occasionally to regulate the time and encourage one another.
These vessels, when collected in a fleet and in motion, with all their rowers exerting themselves, have a splendid and warlike appearance.
They were paraded repeatedly for my inspection, and in all the reviews they appeared greatly to pride themselves on the beauty and splendour of their men of war.
They are not however so fleet as might be expected, as our whale boats could beat them with great ease.

Their fishing canoes are vessels of a larger and fuller construction, many of them being six feet in width, and of an equal depth.
They are managed with paddles more resembling an oar, and are, in some measure, used as such, but in a perpendicular position, the fulcrum resting on the outriggers projecting from each side.
With those they proceed to the small bays on the coast, where they fish with the scoop net, and with the hook and line.
They have also smaller canoes, which are commonly nothing more than the hollow keels of the large ones, after the upper works are taken off; these are furnished with outriggers, and are used for fishing about the harbour.
The canoes used for the purpose of navigating from one island to another, a navigation very common, are similar in their construction to the larger kind of fishing canoes, and are secured two together by beams lashed across.
These are called double canoes, and are furnished with a triangular sail made of a mat, similar to that generally called a shoulder-of-mutton sail, but placed in an inverted position, the ...

Page 74

... hypothenuse forming the foot of the sail, to which is secured a boom.
These are also worked during a calm with paddles, and appear capable of resisting the sea for a long time.
The canoes formed for the sole purpose of going in search of new lands are of a still larger construction, and are rigged in the same manner.
They use also occasionally a kind of cattamaran, which they construct in a few minutes, and a kind of surf board, similar to that of the natives of the Sandwich Islands.
These, however, scarcely deserve to be enumerated among their vessels, as they are used chiefly by the boys and girls, and are intended solely for paddling about the harbour.

Porter, Capt. David:
Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter in the United States Frigate Essex in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814 (2 Vols in One).
 Wiley & Halsted, New York, 1822. 2nd Edition. 

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Geoff Cater (2010) : Capt. David Porter : Madison's Island, Marqueas, 1813.