home catalogue history references appendix 
mrs selwyn : norfolk island, 1868 

Mrs. Selwyn : Surfboard Riding on Norfolk Island, 1868.

Extracts from
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [Yonge,Charlotte Mary]:
Sketches of the Life of Bishop Patteson in Melanesia.
"A Revised Edition of "The Life of Bishop Patteson."
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1873, pages 63 to 64.

Inspired by the missionary work of  Gerorge Augustus Selwyn, the Bishop of New Zealand, John Coleridge Patteson joined him in there in 1856, where he worked with Maori.
He subsequently  travelled extensively in the Western Pacific and was appointed the first bishop of Melanesia.
Patteson was murdered at Nukapu Atoll in 1871.
In 1861-1862, his Pacific travels included several visits to Norfolk Island and the establishment of a mission.

In August 1868, the Norfolk Island Mission was visited by Mrs. Selwyn, the wife of the New Zealand Bishop.

Norfolk Island was previously a penal settlement established to disipline recalcitrant convicts from Port Jackson (Sydney), but was now the home to some of the Bounty descendants, who were relocated there in 1856 from Pitcairn Island.
These descendants where the progeny of European sailors and Tahitian women, who on Pitcairn retained surfboard riding as part of their Polynesian heritage and brought their skills to Norfolk Island.

Although the book does not have a accredited author, it was probably by Charlotte Mary Yonge, an enthusiastic moral and financial supporter of Patteson's evangelical work, and largely based on his correspondence.

Also see:
1862 J.C. Patteson : Santa Cruz Islands.
Extracts from Charlotte Mary Yonge: Life of John Coleridge Patteson. Macmillan, London,1875, Volume 1.

"Yonge" gives a brief overview of the Norfolk residents, in particular noting their enthusiasm for surfboard riding that was originally transfered from Tahiti (predominately by females) to Pitcairn Island.
This section essentially quotes the earlier report from Pitcairn by Dr. Ramsay in 1821.

See Source Documents:
1821 Dr David Ramsay : Surfriding on Pitcairn Island.

Importantly, this section does not appear in original 1873 edition, accredited to Yonge.
Ramsay's report appeared in print as early as 1857 (and in Missionary journals? reference need), for example:

Murray, Rev. Thomas Boyles: Pitcairn: The Island, the People, and the Pastor; with a Short Account of the original settlement and present condition of Norfolk Island.
Committee of General Literature and Education Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Great Britain, 1857, Eighth edition, pages 209-210.

It is probable that the author included Ramsay's report based on Mrs. Selwyn's account, which appears as a footnote on page 64.

This highly personalised account, like Ramsay,  was published previously:

Halcombe, Rev. J.J. (editor): Mission Life- or The Emmigrant and the Heathen.
William MacIntosh, 24 Paternoster Row, London,  1868 (Volume 5), page 562.
The revelant section is:
The Melanasian Mission, page 519.
August 1868
CHAPTER XIII, Mrs. Selwyn's Visit to Norfolk Island.

"Ondines (Latin: Onda a wave) are elementals, enumerated as the water elementals in works of alchemy by Paracelsus.
They also appear in European folklore as fairy-like creatures; the name may be used interchangeably with those of other water spirits."

The surfboard riding illustration facing page 64 is extremely rare for this period and is highly similar to the work of Wallace McKay, who also illustrated Charles Warren Stoddard's Summer Cruising in the South Seas, 1874.

Surfboard riding on Pitcairn Island was documented by other visitors, see:

1834 Frederick Bennett : Surfing on Pitcairn Island.

Surf-bathing was an established pastime on Norfolk Island for officers of the penal settlement, before the arrival of the Bounty descendants from Pitcairn in 1856.

See Source Documents:
1838-1843 Ensign Best : Norfolk Island and New Zealand.

In the summer of 1911-1912:

"The North Steyne Club has forwarded for confirmation to the Surf Bather's Association a programme for the club's annual carnival.
Fifteen life-saving clubs will be represented, and an exhibition of surf-shooting by Mr. L. Bouffett, of
Norfolk Island will be given."

- Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 1912, page 12.
(Noted in S&G Champion: Drowning, Bathing and Life Saving (2000) page 159.)

Mr. Bouffett was probably a descendant of John Buffett who arrived on Pitcairn Island in December, 1823 on  the British whaler, Cyrus.
The Pitcairn islanders, largely decenced from Bounty mutineers and Tahitian women, were renowned surfriders.

Chapter V, Visit to Norfolk Island circa 1861-1862.
Page 63

It may not be amiss here to say a few words about the condition of the Norfolk Islanders at this time.
The favourite occupation of the men was whaling, and galloping after their cattle, varied with work in their gardens and plantations.
The women were chiefly occupied in attending to their dairies, and sewing for their numerous families.
All were fond of reading, and anxious to gather information of the world and its history.
Both sexes were extremely industrious, usually rising at dawn.
Both morning and evening each household assembled for family prayer.
Both boys and girls learned to swim almost as soon as they could walk; consequently they could swim through the roughest surf, and play about in the broken water amongst rocks, without the slightest sense of danger.
One of their great amusements is to have a ...

Page 64

... slide, as they term it; that is, to take a piece of wood about three feet long, shaped like a canoe, with a small keel, called a surf-board.
Holding this before them, they dive under the first heavy sea, and come up on the other side.
They then swim out a little way, until they see a rapid, heavy sea come rolling in, the higher the better; resting their breast upon the surf-board, they are carried along on the very apex of the surf at a prodigious rate right upon the rocks, where it would seem as if nothing could save them from being dashed in pieces.*

(Footnote, originally in diminished font)
Mrs. Selwyn's observations are dated August 1868 in Halcombe (ed): Mission Life (1868), page562, see above.

*Describing a visit to Norfolk Island, Mrs. Selwyn says:
"Coming home one beautiful evening, I met some girls going down to the jetty to see fish which had been caught this calm day.
It was a pretty sight indeed, in the brief twilight, the gay-looking fish lying on the stones in the water, where the great waves were not rolling furiously in, coloured by the glowing sky.
Some of my companions longed to jump in.
'What! into those great breakers?'
'That's the fun,' whispered a young girl at my side.
At Pitcairn, it seems, the' fun' was to swim out to sea, pushing a surf-board before you, and then to come quickly back with it on the top of a huge roller.

" 'You can swim ?' asked a delicate-looking young mother of me, as we stood together; and when I owned my ignorance, the compassionate, half-contemptuous tone of her reply was very funny.
Men, women, and children here take to the water like so many ducks.
The girls think it a great pity that I, who am 'such a seafaring lady,' do not know how, and offer to teach me.
'You would soon learn from me,' said a noble-looking creature, reported, I believe justly, to be the best swimmer of the party.
These fine days promote a great desire for bathing.
It would be pleasant before the sun was so hot as to blister them, which it seems it did dreadfully at Pitcairn in the Christmas holidays, and no wonder, as they were chiefly spent in the water.
Fortunately they were short, as for six hours at a time would these mermaids remain in, with their surf-boards, swimming races.
The great piece of fun was for one to keep possession of a rock in the middle of Bounty Bay, whence the rest would try to pull her down, and whence she would fling them off into the water.
It sounded most cool and brilliant, and as if they ought all to have been named 'Undine.'
A Christmas-tree would be rather poor after this sport."

(Facing) Page 64


This surfboard riding image, opposite page 64,
is extremely rare for this period and is highly 
similar to the work of Wallace McKay.
Surfing Images 1870 - 1890.

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
(Yonge, Charlotte Mary): 
Sketches of the Life of Bishop Patteson in Melanesia. 
"A Revised Edition of "The Life of Bishop Patteson."
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1873.

Return to Surfer Bio menu
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2011) : Mrs. Selwyn : Surf-riding at Norfolk Island, 1868.