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corney  : hawaii and columbia river, 1815 

Peter Corney : Hawaii and Columbia River, 1815.

Extracts from
Corney, Peter:
Voyages in the Northern Pacific.
Thos. G. Thrum, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A., 1896.

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Despite the publication date of 1896, Corney's Pacific voyages took place from 1815 to 1818.

January yth, in latitude 27 north, we fell in with the N. E. trade-wind; on the 16th January, 1815, made the island of Owhyee (Hawaii), ran close in shore; some natives visited us, and informed us that Tameamah (Kamehameha) was at the village of Tyroa (Kailua).
We made all sail for that place, and the next day ran between Owhyee (Hawaii) and Mowee (Maui), and stood close in shore.
The natives came off in great numbers, bringing with them hogs, vegetables, rope, and cloth of the country ; we allowed a few to enter the vessel, and took a chief woman on board, who acted as pilot.
About midnight we reached Tyroa (Kailua), where we anchored in 30 fathoms water, very foul bottom; saluted the king.
Mr. McDougal went on shore, and returned with the king next morning.
Tameamah (Kamehameha) was dressed in a coloured shirt, velveteen breeches, red waistcoat, large military shoes, and worsted stockings, a black silk handkerchief round his neck, no coat : he is a tall, stout, athletic man, nose rather flat, thick lips, the upper one turned up; an open countenance, with three of his lower front teeth gone.
We weighed anchor, and towed close in shore in 14 fathoms sandy bottom; the canoes collected from all parts, and, in a short time, there were no fewer than eighty of them, with from three to ten men in each, and some hundreds of men, women, and children swimming about the ship, regardless of the sharks; the decks were soon covered with them.
Captain Robson, being rather alarmed at having so many on board, told the king to send them on.



Page 52

The Island of Oonalaska is in the latitude of 53 55' north, and longitude 166 22' west.
The island is the chief depot for all the furs collected on the Aluthean Islands; and appears quite barren, without the least sign of wood.
There is an excellent harbour, off the N. W. side, capable of holding several hundred vessels, and completely land-locked.
The town consists of about twenty houses, a church, and some large sheds for the purpose of drying salmon and other fish.
There are about twelve Russians here ; the remainder of the inhabitants of the town are Kodiacs, and natives of the island, all converts to the Greek church.
The natives of these, as well as of all the Aluthean Islands, are low in stature, broad, flat faces, with black eyes, and coarse black hair.

Page 53

Their canoes or bodarkees, are made from the skins of the hair-seal, stretched over a light wooden frame, leaving one, two, or three holes on the top for the sitters ; the frame is sometimes of whalebone, and the vessels are from 10 to 16feet long, and about 3 feet wide in the middle, gradually tapering towards the ends.
They are pulled with great swiftness by a double paddle, about 12 feet long, with a blade at each end, and held by the middle; they are generally made of ask.
The canoes perform voyages along the coast for several hundred miles, for the purpose of hunting the sea-otter and seal ; they also kill black whales, which are about these islands in great plenty. If in their hunting excursions they are


overtaken by a gale of wind, they lash all their canoes together in form of a raft, and in this manner float lightly on the top of the sea without the least danger.
The large boats, or bodarkees, are made from the skins of the sea-lion or elephant, stretched over a stout wooden frame, open at the top, and are capable of carrying 50 or 60 men.
In these boats they go to all the Aluthean Islands, to collect the furs; and sometimes to the main land, for timber.

Page 56

On the 6th, of January, 1817, Lewis Lapham, our armourer, died, truly regretted, as he was a very serviceable man.
On the 10th, we crossed the bar and got safe to sea.
And now, while the ship is making for the Sandwich Islands, I shall


endeavour to give an account of the Columbia River, with the manners of the people.

page 60

The chief employment of the men is to hunt and fish; they are, however, generally speaking, very lazy, and their young men lie basking in the sun, on the sides of the river, for hours together.
The women and girls are employed in making hats, mats, etc., and in collecting berries and wood.
These people have not the least notion of tilling the ground; they trust to Providence for every thing, and derive their chief support from the river and sea.

Page 62

Their original tools are chisels made out of the pine knot, axes of stone, and stone mallets.
With these they split large cedar trees into planks, with which they build their houses.
Their canoes are very simple ; some are large enough to carry 30 people, being about 40 feet long, the middle nearly six feet broad, and becoming gradually narrower toward the end.


They are about two feet deep, handsomely ornamented and painted ; the ornamental parts are the teeth of the wolf and sea-otter, which navigators have taken for human teeth.
The paddles are made light and small, the length generally 6 feet, of which 2 1/2 feet forms the blade; the lower end is forked like a fish's tail, and the upper end is crutched very neatly.
In the canoes they keep nets, hooks, harpoons, and fish-gigs, etc., also long spears for spearing salmon.


It may be remembered, we left the river on the 10th day of January, 1817, for the Sandwich Islands, our object was, to refit the brig and cure pork.
We were also to bring as many of the Sandwich Islanders to the Columbia river as we could conveniently accommodate.
On the 2xth we saw Owhyhee (Hawaii), after a quick and pleasant passage; we stood along shore as usual; the natives came off in great numbers, bringing pigs, tarrow, yams, goats, plantains, rope, and fruit of every description.


On the i3th of February we were off the harbour of Honorora (Honolulu), and John Harbottle, the king's pilot, came on board; but it was not till the 20th that the trade wind suffered us to get in shore.
We found a brig and a ship here belonging to the king, the former was called the Forester, now Taamano (Kaahumanu), after the king's favorite wife, and had been sold to him by Captain Piggot; the ship was an American, called the Albatross, sold by Captain Winship.
The Taamano (Kaahumanu) was fitting out for Canton, and taking sandal wood on board for the China market; she was commanded by Mr. Adams, the man who had navigated the Forester under Captain Piggot, and the crew consisted of about ten natives and ten white men.
She sailed for Canton on the 22nd of February, 1817.


 On the 14th of April, being complete in provisions, repairs, etc., we took on board 60 natives (being- all we could conveniently accommodate), for the Columbia River, and stood out of the harbour, after saluting the fort, which was returned.
Made sail toward Atooi; on the 16th we got off the village of Whymea (Waimea), and were surprised at not seeing any of the natives push off.


49 ' North, longitude 123 56' West.
On the 14th it cleared up, and we saw Cape Orford, bearing S. E. seven leagues; the nearest land two miles, latitude 43 North; observed many smokes on shore.
About noon, several canoes came off within hail of the ship ; we waved to them to come closer, which they did, displaying green boughs and bunches of white feathers; they stopped paddling, and one man, whom we took to be a chief, stood up, and made a long speech, which we did not understand.
Their canoes do not seem to be so well constructed as the canoes in the Columbia, which cannot be occa- sioned by want of material, as the country appears to be well wooded.

Page 78

We were driven fast to the southward by the current; on the 24th a breeze sprang up, and we made sail for Port Trinidad, in latitude 41 3',
longitude 123 54' west; hauled into a small sandy bay, where we moored, sheltered from all winds, a few ships' lengths from the shore, in nine fathoms sandy bottom.
This bay is full of high rocks, which are always covered with birds, and round it are scattered many Indian villages.
We had scarcely time to moor before we were surrounded


with canoes; we triced our boarding nets up, and shut all our ports but one, at which the natives entered, keeping all the canoes on the starboard side ; and, as the Indians came on board, we took their bows and daggers from them, at which they seemed much displeased.

Page  80

Their canoes are loy far the safest I ever saw on the coast, being from 16 to 20 feet long, and from 6 to 8 feet broad, square at both ends and flat bottomed.
They have ridges inside about a foot apart, which look exactly like the timbers of a boat, and serve to strengthen them very much.

Page 81

Next day, July 26, we saw Cape Mendocino, (latitude 40 19' north, longitude 124 7' west), north about four leagues, found our bowsprit sprung, and determined to run to Bodago-bay and fish it; stood along shore accordingly, and on the 28th got off the settlement, fired a gun, and several
bodarkees came off, bringing with them some fresh pork and vegetables.
We here moored and fished our bowsprit.
Captain Jennings then went to the settlement in the whale boat to try and dispose of his cargo to the Russians, but returned to the ship in two days without having effected his purpose.
While we lay here the Russians sent us some fresh provision and vegetables; the natives also visited us in their canoes, which are nothing more than several large bun- dles of rushes lashed together.
They seem to be the poorest tribe in these parts, although the


country is by far the finest ; the climate is so pure and the grounds so good, that the Russians grow two crops per year.

Page  76 ???

Next day we stood close under Point St. George to find anchorage, seeing a very large village and many natives on the shore.
We sounded round the bay in from 12 to 20 fathoms, over a foul bottom, one and two miles from shore.
Many canoes came off, and the natives appeared quite friendly.
We bought several good sea otter skins at an axe for each skin ; many bows, arrows, daggers, etc., for small beads.
The canoes here are similar to those at Port Trinidad.

Page 82

Our passage to the Sandwich Islands was quick and pleasant.
On the 6th of December we made Owhyhee, stood along- shore towards Toyhoy (Kawaihae) bay, and ran in.
Finding no natives came off, we sent the whale boat on shore to know what was the reason.
The boat soon returned with an account that the natives were celebrating their annual festival, called muckka-hitee (makahiki).
This festival lasts a month, during which time a canoe is not allowed to go on salt water.

Page  83

We made all sail for Woahoo, and on the 11th arrived off the harbour.
Captain Jennings went on shore, and sent off an anchor.
We then came too outside the reef, in 14 fathoms over a sandy bottom, and on the 18th we got into the harbour.
We found the king's brig had returned from Canton, and was laid up
We found here the brig Bordeaux Packet, which had been purchased from the Americans about a month before.
A large ship, called the Myrtle, was condemned by the Russians, and hauled on shore.
We moored close to the shore and ??
In rounding Diamond hill the village of Wyteetee (Waikiki) appears through large groves of cocoanut and bread-fruit trees; it has a most beautiful appearance, the land all round in the highest state of cultivation, and the hills covered with wood ; a beautiful plain extending as far as the eye can reach.
A reef of coral runs along the whole course of this shore, within a quarter of a mile of the beach, on which the sea breaks high ; inside this reef there is a passage for canoes .
Ships frequently anchor in the bay, in from sixteen to twenty fathoms, over a sand and coral bottom.
Several of the king's old vessels are hauled upon shore and sheds built over them.
His Majesty formerly resided at this village, but of late years has preferred his native place, Owhyhee.
About four miles to the westward of Wyteetee is the village and harbour of Honorora; it is the largest on the island, as the natives collect from all other parts to be near the shipping.
The harbour is known by a deep and remarkable valley over the village, through which the N. E. trade wind blows very strong.
The island is not more than five leagues across at this part.
The best time to get into the harbour is early in the morning, before the wind sets violently in a contrary direction; the chief generally sends a number of large double canoes to tow the ship in, as the entrance of the harbour is not more than a quarter of a mile wide.
Small vessels, when about to enter, run close to the east side of the


reef, where hundreds of the natives are collected, and, by throwing a rope to them, the ship is pulled up to the anchorage.
Ships can moor close to the shore, so as to have a stage from thence, and be as safe as if they were in the London Docks.


The boys are always practising throwing the spear, swimming, diving, and playing in the surf; flying kites is a favourite amusement; while on shore here I made several.


The ships then made sail for Woahoo, where we took on board a supply of hogs and vegetables and a number of natives; and on the 20th of October we took our final leave of those friendly natives, bound for the coast of California, to cruise against the Spaniards.
The ship Santa Rosa was American built, about 300 tons burthen; mounting eighteen guns, twelve and eighteen pounders; with a compliment of 100 men, thirty of whom were Sandwich Islanders, the remainder where composed of Americans,
Spaniards, Portuguese, Creoles, Negroes, Manila men, Malays, and a few Englishmen.
The Argentina had 260 men, fifty of whom were Islanders, the remainder a mixed crew, nearly similar to that of the Santa Rosa.
On our passage towards California we were employed exercising the great guns, and putting the ship in good condition for fighting, frequently reading the articles of war which are very strict, and punish with death almost every act of insubordination.

Corney, Peter:
Voyages in the Northern Pacific.
Thos. G. Thrum, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A., 1896.

Internet Archive

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Geoff Cater (2012) : Peter Corney : Hawaii and Columbia River, 1815.