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ellis : hawaii journal, 1825 

Rev. William Ellis : A Journal of a Tour Around Hawaii, 1825.

Extracts from
Ellis, Rev. William: A Journal of a Tour Around Hawaii, the Largest of the Sandwich Islands.
J. P. Haven, New York, 1825
Crocker, Boston, 1825.

Rev. William Ellis (1794-1872)

Also see:
1830 Rev.William Ellis : Surf-riding in the Society and Sandwich Islands.
Extracts from Polynesian Researches
Fisher, Son and Jackson, London, 1831. Volume IV Pages 368 to 372.

Page 65

Before we left Karuaokalani, the inhabitants pointed out to us a spot called Maukareoreo, the place of a celebrated giant of that name, who was one of the attendants of Umi, king of Hawaii, about twelve generations back; and who, they told us, was so tall, that he could pluck the cocoa nuts from the trees as he walked along; and when the king was playing in the surf, where it was five or six fathoms deep, would walk out to him without being wet above his loins; and when he was in a canoe, if he saw any fish lying among the coral at the same depth, would just put his hand down and take them. They also told us he was a great warrior, and that to his prowess, principally, Umi was indebted for many of his victories. The Hawaiians are fond of the marvellous, as well as many people, who are better informed; and probably this passion, together with the distance of time since Maukareoreo existed, has led them to magnify one of Umi's followers, of perhaps a little larger stature than his fellows, into a giant sixty feet high.

Page 93
For about a mile along the coast, they found it impossible to travel without making a considerable circuit inland.
They therefore procured a canoe, and passed along the part of the coast, where the sea rolled up against the naked rocks, and about 1 P. M. they landed in a very high surf.
To a spectator on the shore, their small canoe would have seemed every moment ready to be buried in the waves; yet, by the dexterity of the natives, they were safely ...

Page 94

... landed, with no other inconvenience, than a little wetting from the spray of the surf.


The natives, who probably viewed the scene with thoughts and feelings somewhat different from ours, seemed, however, equally interested.
They sat most of the night talking of the achievements of Pele, and regarding with a superstitious fear, at which we were not surprised, the brilliant exhibition.
They considered it the primeval abode of their volcanic deities.
The conical craters, they said, were their houses, where they frequently amused themselves by playing at konane; the roaring of the furnaces, and the crackling of the flames, were the Jeani of their hura, (music of their dance;) and the red flaming surge was the surf wherein they played, sportively swimming on the rolling wave.*
* Swimming on the sea, when there is a high surf, is a favourite amusement throughout the Sandwich, and other islands in the Pacific.

Page 161

The head-man brought some ripe plantains, of which we ale a few, and then proceeded on our way, leaving them very busy in conversation about the news they had heard.
After travelling a mile and a half along the shore, we came to Kehena.
The village was populous, and the people seemed, from the number of their canoes, nets, &c. to be much engaged in fishing. Their contrivance for ...


... launching and landing their canoes, was curious and singular.

The bold coast is formed of perpendicular, or over-hanging rocks, from 40 to 60 feet high, against which, this being the windward part of the island, the swell beats violently.
In one place, where there were a few low rocks about 30 feet from the shore, they had erected a kind of ladder.
Two long poles, one tied to the end of the other, reached from these rocks to the top of the cliffs.
Two other poles, tied together in the same manner, were fixed parallel to the first two, and about four or five feet distant from them.
Strong sticks, eight or ten feet long, were laid across these at right angles, and about two or three inches apart, which were fastened to the long poles by the tough fibrous roots of a climbing sort of plant, found in the woods, and thus formed the steps of this ingenious and useful ladder.
The canoes of the place were small and light, seldom carrying more than one man in each.
A number were just landing, as we arrived at the place.
Two men went down and stood close to the water's edge, on the leeward or southern side of the rock.
The canoes were paddled up one at a time.
The person in each then watching a convenient opportunity, rowed swiftly to shore, when the rolling billow carried the canoe upon a rock, and it was seized by two men, who stood ready to receive it.
At the same instant that it was grasped on each side by the men on the rock, the one in the canoe, who steered it, jumped into the sea, swam to the shore, and helped them carry it up the ladder to the top of the cliff, where they placed it upon some curiously carved stools, and returned to the rocks to bring up another in the same manner.
In this way five or six were brought up while we were looking at them.
Mr. Ellis took a sketch of their useful contrivance.

Page 189

Soon after 6 A. M. we embarked on board our canoe, and passed over the reef to the deep water on the western side of the bay.
The weather was calm, and the men laboured with the paddle till about S (?), when the marania (east wind,) sprang up, and wafted us pleasantly along the shore.

We found our double canoe very convenient, for it had a pora, or stage, raised in the middle, which provided a comfortable seat, and also kept our things above the spray of the sea.
The pora is formed by tying slight poles to the iako, or cross pieces, that connect the two canoes together, from the foremost iako to the one nearest the stern.
These crosspieces are not straight, but bent like a bow, and ...


... form an arch between the two canoes, which raises the pora, or stage, at least two feet higher than the sides of the canoe.

When the breeze sprang up, four of the men laid down their paddles, and attended to the sail, while one man sat in the stern of each canoe with a large paddle to steer.
Our canoe, though made of heavy wood, was very thin, and therefore light, and, as the wind increased, seemed at a rapid rate to skim along the tops of the waves.

The canoes of the Sandwich Islands appear eminently calculated for swiftness, being long, narrow, generally light, and drawing but little water.
A canoe is always made out of a single tree.
Some of them are 70 or 80 feet long, one or two feet wide, and upwards of three feet deep; though their length is seldom more than 50 feet.
The body of the canoe is generally covered with a black paint, made by the natives, of various earthy and vegetable substances.
On the upper edge of the canoe is sewed, in a remarkably neat manner, a small strip of hard white wood, from six to eight inches in width, according to the size and length of the canoe.
These strips meet and close over the top at both stem and stern, and shoot off much water, that would otherwise enter the canoe.
All the canoes of these islands are remarkably strong and neatly made, and though not so large as those of New Zealand, the Society Islands, or some of the other islands to the southward, are certainly better made, and would probably paddle or sail faster than either of them.
One man will sometimes paddle a single canoe faster than a good boat's crew could row a whale-boat.
Their tackling is simple and convenient.
The mast generally has a notch cut at the lower end, and is placed on one of the cross-pieces to which it is tied.
The sails they now use are made of mats, and cut in imitation of the sprit-sails of foreign boats, which they say they find much better, than the kind of sail they had when first visited by


... foreigners.
When sailing with a fresh breeze, the ropes from the lower corner of the sail are always loosened, and held in the hands of persons, whose only business it is to keep them properly trimmed.
Their paddles, which are large and strong, are generally four or five feet long, have an oval-shaped blade and round handle, and are made of the same hard and heavy wood employed in building their canoes.
They are never carved, do not appear handsome, and their weight must make the paddling very laborious.

The face of the country by which we sailed, was fertile and beautiful, and the population throughout considerable.
The numerous plantations on the tops or sides of the deep ravines, or vallies, by which they were frequently interspersed, with the meandering streams running down them into the sea, presented altogether a most agreeable prospect.
The coast was bold, and the rocks evidently volcanic.
We frequently saw the water gushing out of the hollows in the face of the rocks, or running in various cascades from the top to the bottom.

After sailing very pleasantly for several hours, we approached Laupahoehoe.
Although we had come upwards of twenty miles, and had passed not less than fifty ravines, or vallies, we had not seen a spot where we thought it would be possible to land, without being swamped; and although we knew we had arrived at the end of our voyage, we could discover no place, by which it seemed possible to approach the shore, as the surf was beating violently, and the wind blowing directly towards the land.
However, when we got within a few yards of the surf, we perceived an opening in the rocks, just wide enough to admit our canoe.

Into this our pilots steered with uncommon address and precision, and before we could look round, we found our canoe on a small beach, a few yards long, entirely defended by the rocks of lava, from the rolling surf on the outside.

Ellis, Rev. William: A Journal of a Tour Around Hawaii, the Largest of the Sandwich Islands.
J. P. Haven, New York, 1825
Crocker, Boston, 1825.

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Geoff Cater (2010) : Rev. William Ellis : Journal of a Tour Around Hawaii, 1825.

Levi Chamberlain Journal Nov 11, 1822- Jan 1, 1849

Volume II  August 5, 1823 -January 11,1824.

Wednesday 8th (October, 1823). Having had for some time a desire to see Waititi & Leahi (Diamond-hill) Mr. Loomis  & myself mounted the horses after dinner & rode up there, afterwards making the circuit of Diamond hill.
The situation of Waititi is pleasant, & enjoys the shade of a large number of cocoanut &. kou trees.
The kou has large spreading branches & affords a very beautiful shade.
There is a considerable extension of beach and when the surf comes in high the natives amuse themselves in riding on the surf-board.

Volume V    •    June  27,  1825  - April  14,  1826
Saturday Jan  7, 1826
  The rain having fallen in torrents during the night raised the waters  o f Lahaina very much— A  large stream from  die high lands ran through the  center of Lahaina so that a  communication was opened from the sea to  the  cultivated plats  and the  people  paddled  with their canoes  into the banana groves over fields  of potatoes  &.  taro.-—-The Chiefs  amused themselves by playing on surfboards  in the heart
of Lahaina.