On page 340 he records
the swimming skills of an Hawaiian woman (Kaiha) "who, being
wrecked at sea, swam twenty miles to the shore", an account also reported
1845 Charles Wilkes : Narrative of the U.S. Expedition, pages 45 and 46.
The surfriding report
(pages 352 to 353) includes the unsuccessful attempt of a fellow American
sailor to replicate their skill.
It is followed by one of Coulton's many examples of his poetry dispersed thoughout the book.
While enjoying the luxury of sea-bathing at Sachem's Head, I received an order to report for duty on board the U. S. Frigate Congress, fitting for sea at Norfolk.
Departed Saturday; Oct. 25, 1845.
Sketches of Honolulu.
(Arrival in Honolulu)
The bay of Honolulu is only a bend in the shore.
About a mile from the strand, a coral reef emerges, over which the rollers pour their perpetual surge.
Through this reef, nature has left a narrow passage, which admits smaller vessels, but a ship of our depth is obliged to anchor outside, and nearly two miles distant from the shore.
The right extremity
of the bay, as you enter it, is guarded by the steep cone of an exhausted
volcano, which has taken the less terrific name of Diamond Hill.
The left is defended by a bold bluff, which shoulders its way, with savage ferocity, into the roaring sea.
The town of Honolulu stretches along the interval, while close in the background soars the wild crater of another extinguished volcano, under the bewildering name of the Punch-Bowl.
The steeps beyond are broken into deep ravines, which wind off in rich verdure into the heart of the island
We passed near
the shore a large number of canoes, in which the natives were engaged in
They keep them pointed towards the sea, and one person vigorously at work with the paddles, so that the rollers, which set in here with great force, may ...
... not heave
them high and dry on the beach.
They show great skill in the management of these treacherous canoes.
A novice would upset one before he was well in.
They are often themselves capsized, but it costs them only a ducking; the canoe is instantly righted, and they are back again in its hollow.
As for the water, it is almost as much their element as that of the fish for which they angle.
They can dive from ten to fifteen fathoms, and bring up shells; or swim many miles without apparent fatigue. There is a native woman, now living in Honolulu, who, being wrecked at sea, swam twenty miles to the shore of a neighboring island.
Her husband, of feebler constitution, gave out; she buoyed him up, swimming with him till they had come in sight of the shore, when he sank overpowered.
Still she clung to him, and brought the lifeless form to the beach.
Give me a kanacka wife in a gale.
Chapter XII. Sketches of Honolulu.
Surf Sport of the Natives.
Nothing here has
amused me more than the surfsports of the young chiefs.
Each takes a smooth board, of some eight feet in length, leads it over the coral shallows far out into the sea, and when a tremendous roller is coming in, jumps upon it, and the roller carries him upon its combing top, with the speed of an arrow, to the shore.
A young American, who was among them, not liking to be outdone in a sport which seemed so simple, thought he would ...
... try the board
He ventured out a short distance, watched his opportunity, and, as the roller came, jumped upon his plank, was capsized, and hove, half strangled, on the beach.
- with his digging nails he clung
Fast to the sand, lest the returning wave,
From whose reluctant roar his life he wrung,
Should suck him back to her insatiate grave."
The young females
are as fond of the water as the men.
We passed in a boat yesterday a group of them sitting on the coral reef a mile out at sea.
They were enjoying the surf, which broke over them with each successive billow.
Now and then a stronger, wave would sweep some of them from their perch, and bear them to a great distance in its whirling foam.
But they would soon swim back again amidst the laughter of their companions.
They were without covering, and plunged under the water till our boat had got past, and then recovered their posi tion on the reef; and there they sat like mermaids,
Serene amid the
Their dark locks floating on the surge,
Attuning shells, through which they po"ur
The solemn ocean's mimic dirge.
Departed Honolulu Tuesday, June 23.