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thomas : norfolk island and tanna, 1886. 

Julian Thomas : Norfolk Island and Tanna, 1886.

Extracts from
Thomas, Julian
Cannibals & Convicts:
Notes of Personal Experiences in the Western Pacific.
Cassell & Company, London, 1886.

Open Library


Page 32
(At Norfolk Island)
The steamer Gunga dropped her anchor in Cascade Bay at eight o'clock one evening, and we commenced to send up rockets to arouse the attention of the islanders, but our fireworks were wasted.
We lay on the east side, the old convict settlement being on the west, but its harbour, Sydney Bay, has a dangerous surf.
At sunrise we were pulled ashore, landing at a rough stone pier under the rocks, over which the torrent fell which gave this bay its name.
A surf breaks all around the island, but in Cascade Bay it is, in fine weather, toned down to a heavy ground swell.
We saw some boats moored alongside the landing-place ,* others were pulled up on the beach ; and two magnificent whaleboats were under a shed.

Page 34

The surf rolled in heavily over a dangerous coral reef.
Passage there was none, but the least dangerous spot was protected by a breakwater, permitting of a landing which, however easy to the Norfolk Islanders, who (both men and women) are, like their Tahitian ancestresses, at home in the surf, was never without peril to the ordinary sailor.
Looking down from the bluff on the ruins of the past, I found the first view of Sydney Bay as impressive in the associations it called to mind any place I had visited in the world.


In the morning we were skirting alongside the shores of  Mar.

Page 166

In one word, M. Jones has identified himself with the natives, and they ought consequently to have a very great affection for him and profound respect.
And, as I know, every white man has also a great respect for Mr. Jones as a man who would take his oar in a boat to pull through the surf to a ship in distress, and who would nobly succour a wrecked crew.

Page 247

(On Tanna), the line

Page 248

which divides the "salt-water" from the "bush'' tribes is a narrow one.
Four or five miles inland the natives are described as bushmen.
But as Tanna is only some fifty miles in circumference, it is not possible to get very far away from the sea.
One could see that this fertile soil would, with very little exertion, maintain a large population.
On the south-west and south-east coasts the inhabitants were reckoned at 100 for every mileof beach.
Long jagged reefs ran out far into the sea ; there was a deep swell on the shore, on which the waves dashed in a surf as powerful as at Hokitika.
The sunbeams striking on the spray formed brilliant rainbows.
There was a turquoise sky above, and opal depths below.
To lie back in the stern sheets and imbibe the influence of these surroundings was happiness.
I thought of dear friends far away, and wished that some were with me to enjoy these summer cruises in the South Seas.
The Sayspring was seen in the offing beating in on a light wind.

It was four hours from the start when we ran through an opening in the dangerous reef into the beach at Kwamera.

Page 290

Sometimes, far out from the shore, we were boarded by some youth, who had breasted his way through the surf, and who sprang into the boat
dripping like a young sea god.

Thomas, Julian
Cannibals & Convicts: 
Notes of Personal Experiences in the Western Pacific.
Cassell & Company, London, 1886.

Open Library

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home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2012) : Julian Thomas : Norfolk Island and Tanna, 1886.