|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Information about text on this page|
|II||Hydrographer's Opinion …|
|III||Ready for Sea …|
|IV||Loss of the Thetis|
|V||Eastern Pampa Coast|
|VI||Beagle Sails with Paz and Liebre|
|VII||Southern Aborigines of South America|
|VIII||Horse Indians of Patagonia|
|X||Set out to land Matthews|
|XI||Historical Sketch of the Falkland Islands|
|XII||First Appearance of the Falklands|
|XIII||Anchor in Berkeley Sound|
|XIV||Paz and Libre begin work|
|XV||Beagle and Adventure Sail from Monte Video|
|XVII||Beagle and Adventure sail from Port Famine|
|XXI||Andes … Galápagos|
|XXIII||Continuation of the Meeting|
|XXVI||North Cape of New Zealand|
|XXVII||Remarks on early migrations|
|XXVIII||Remarks with reference to the Deluge|
|Show King et al Proceedings … (vol. 1)|
|Show Darwin's Journal … (vol. 3) or|
Voyage of the Beagle
|HMS Beagle track, England to Strait of Magellan|
Challenger sails—Sounds off Mocha—Wrecked on the mainland—Crew saved—Stores landed—Camp formed—Great exertions, and excellent conduct—Mr. Consul Rouse—Leübu—Plague of mice—Curious rats—Return to Blonde—Ulpu—Araucanian dress—Arauco—‘Boroanos’—Tubul—Bar rivers—Apples—Ferry—Blonde sails—Seek for the Leübu—Schooner Carmen—Errors and delay—Embark Challenger's crew—Rescue the Carmen—Talcahuano—New Concepcion—Valparaiso—Coquimbo—Challenger's sail in Conway—Reflections
The Challenger sailed from Rio de Janeiro on the 3d of April 1835: she had much bad weather off Cape Horn, which lengthened her passage considerably.
On the 18th and 19th of May, strong north-west winds, with thick weather and heavy rain, prevented observations being taken; except a few for time only. The ship was approaching the land, and her position estimated by dead reckoning from the last observations.
At five P.M. on the 19th, the Challenger hove-to, bent cables, unstowed the anchors, and sounded, but no bottom was found with two hundred and ten fathoms of line. This sounding was taken as a matter of form rather than utility, for no one supposed that the ship could be less than fifty miles from a steep coast, off which soundings extend a very little way. At this time, she was really about twelve miles from Mocha, which bore from S.E. to S. The weather was clear overhead, but too hazy near the horizon to see land, or any object distant more than four or five miles. Mocha is high, bold land, which in clear weather may be seen at thirty, forty, or even fifty miles distance; but soundings are no guide in its neighbourhood. They are irregular, and indeed not to be got, except very near the land.
A course was shaped for passing Santa Maria, and approaching the entrance of Concepcion Bay; and with a strong wind from W.N.W., the ship ran eight or nine knots an hour, under treble-reefed topsails, courses, and jib, steering N.b.E. until eight o'clock, when it was thought prudent to haul to the wind until daylight. By many on board even this step was deemed unnecessary caution. Captain Seymour proposed putting her head to the south-west till daylight; but the master felt so confident of the ship's place, and so much disliked the idea of losing both time and ground, that his opinion was preferred, and her head was kept to the northward. About nine, or soon after that time, the Challenger was lying from N. to N. ½ E., going about four knots, under the sail before-mentioned. The wind had moderated; but a thick haze surrounded the ship, though the sky overhead was clear.
Captain Seymour had been walking the deck for some time, and had only just gone to his cabin, when a change in the appearance* of the water alongside, and an unusual motion of the ship, startled the officer of the watch, and induced him to order the ‘helm’ down and ‘about ship,’ while a midshipman was sent to tell the captain there was a suspicious alteration in the water. Just then breakers were seen by the look-out men and by the officer of the watch at the same moment; and as the captain flew up the ladder, (the ship coming round) he saw her position, and gave the order, ‘mainsail haul,’ as she was rising to a heavy rolling breaker. The after-yards swung round, but while bracing them up, she struck heavily; then ‘hauling the head-yards,’ and bracing up, she seemed to ‘gather way;’—the foam alongside, from the recoiling waves, probably deceiving their eyes. A high breaking sea struck her bows—and astern upon the rocks, a helpless wreck, the proud Challenger was dashed.† Again, a great roller approached, threatening to overwhelm her; but it broke short, and only drenched her fore and aft with force sufficient to wash men overboard. While bracing-up, the topmen had been ordered aloft to shake the reefs out, and readily they went, without a moment's hesitation. They were, however, quickly recalled—a few moments sufficing to show that saving lives was all that could be attempted. Each succeeding sea drove the ship's stern higher than the bow‡ upon the shore, and along shore withal, inside some rocks, which partly deadened the fury of the great south-west swell, that rolls in directly against this part of the coast. That the sea did not break at first upon the hull of the vessel, and drive every thing before it, is accounted for by her position—with the bow to seaward—and by the defence afforded by a large rock near her bow which received the first shock of each wave.
* Lines of foam, and intervals of light-coloured water.
† When the ship was thus hove violently astern, her rudder, stern-post, dead-wood abaft, g-un-room beams, cabin-deck, and many timbers, besides planking, crashed awfully as thev broke at once before the resistless power of an ocean swell.
‡ The peculiarity of her form—drawing as much water forward as she did abaft—may have been partly the cause of her bow remaining to seaward, which contributed so much to the preservation of lives.
Heavily the ship continued to beat upon the shore, reeling from side to side as seas struck her, yet her masts, though tottering at every shock, did not fall; nor did her strong hull yield to the continual striking, until hours had passed. Then, indeed, the rising of the tanks and contents of the hold showed that her frame had given way, and that the well-built Challenger would never float again. There was scarcely any wind; but the roar of the breakers and the clouds of spray would have almost stupified the crew, had not life been at stake. No land could be discerned till after the moon had risen—no one could even conjecture where the ship had struck, excepting only the master, who thought they must be on the Dormido shoal, off the island of Santa Maria. The purser collected the ship's papers, and saw them headed up in a water-tight cask: each person endeavoured to secure some valuable:—till daylight came further preparation would have availed nothing.
The captain was asked to cut away the masts; but he refused to let more than the mizen-mast be touched, because their weight, after the first few seas, steadied the ship, as she lay over, and prevented her rolling to seaward with the recoiling waves. When she first struck, he was asked to let go the anchors; another request which he wisely refused, rightly judging that having struck, anchoring could not improve their condition, but might prevent their drifting past the rocks and nearer to the shore; both anchors, however, were kept in readiness, in case the water astern should deepen, which might have happened had they struck upon an isolated shoal, like the Dormido.
Soon after the moon rose, at about two in the morning, land was seen astern of the ship, not far distant. It seemed to be rather extensive, though not high; and as there was no longer any doubt of their having struck upon the mainland, better hopes of saving life relieved the torturing, anxious suspense they had hitherto endured. Daylight shewed them the shore on which they were. Near the ship lay an extensive sandy beach, and beyond it, gradually rising in the interior, a thickly wooded country appeared to reach to distant mountains. The mizen-mast was then used to form part of a raft; the jolly-boat was lowered over the stern; and in her Mr. A. Booth (mate), after a long struggle, reached the shore, with the end of the deep-sea lead-line. Mr. Gordon (midshipman), next tried to land in another boat, to assist in hauling a rope ashore, but the boat was upset, rolled over and over, and Mr. Gordon and one of the men were drowned. The other man was saved. Mr. Gordon was one of the most active and able young men of his age, and very much esteemed by all his shipmates.* His fellow-sufferer, John Edwards, was one of the best men in the ship.
* He had anxiously sought to go in the first boat.
A stream of tide or current, setting two or three knots an hour, along the shore, much increased the difficulty of reaching it, or of assisting those who were making the perilous attempt. Meanwhile, each succeeding heave of the sea forced the ship higher upon the sandy beach, and rendered the situation of those on board less critical.
The men who reached the land safely, hauled stouter ropes ashore with a line; rafts were then made; the large boats got overboard; the sick landed, and a party was sent ashore to protect them. A few Indians appeared at a distance, whose approach, with numbers of their countrymen, was a serious evil in prospect.
Before much had been done in landing stores, a great many Indians and some creole natives had assembled. Nearly all came on horseback, and many assisted in hauling the rafts ashore, or helping the people to land. Even the Indian women rode into the furious surf, and with their lassoes helped very materially: some took the boys up behind their saddles, and carried them ashore; others fixed their lassoes to the rafts. Thus instead of molesting the sufferers, these ‘uncivihzed barbarians’ exerted themselves much for them. What a lesson to the ‘wreckers’ of some other coasts, whose inhabitants are called civilized!
But notwithstanding these friendly acts, Captain Seymour was too prudent to put confidence in the natives. He remembered the saying, ‘Nunca, nunca fiarse à los Indios;’§ and forming a small encampment upon the beach, he barricaded it with spars, boats, casks, and other moveables.* There every thing was carried when landed, and put under care of the guard. All this day was anxiously occupied in landing stores and provisions. A small party remained on board; but the rest were on shore, during the night of the 2Oth.† Throughout the following days, some of the ofiicers and all the men who were not on guard ashore, were constantly occupied in bringing provisions, ammunition, and stores from the wreck. Heavy and laborious as this duty proved, it was persevered in until every transportable article of value was removed. Two boat carronades were mounted on shore, which, with small arms and the barricade above mentioned, would have kept off a considerable force of Indians.
§ Or “… de los Indios” in a similar sentence in Chapter 8.
* The barricade was finished on the 25th.
† It was on this day that the Swede saw the unfortunate Challenger.
On the 21st, Lieutenant Collins and Mr. Lane (assistant-surgeon) set out to go to Concepcion: whence, directly after they arrived, Mr. Rouse set out, with horses and mules, taking such few useful things as he could carry, among which were two small tents, that had belonged to the Beagle, and were lent to Mr. Rouse, when his own house was shaken down by the destructive earthquake of February.
Wherever Mr. Rouse went he carried with him the thorough good-will and high respect of the inhabitants of the province of Concepcion—a feeling inestimably valuable at such a time, and totally different from the mere outward formal civility shown to him as the British consul! This feeling forwarded him on his journey, induced others to assist in earnest, and afterwards enabled him to procure a large supply of fresh provisions for the shipwrecked crew.
From Concepcion Lieutenant Collins went to Talcahuano, to hire a vessel. Only one fit for such a purpose was in the port, the Carmen, an American schooner, but her owner asked a price so utterly unreasonable, that the Lievitenant refused to engage with him, and returned to the wreck.
After Lieutenant Collins was despatched to Concepcion, Captain Seymour and the master went to examine the mouth of the river Leübu, about eighteen miles to the N.N.W. of Point Molguilla, where the ship struck. They found that boats might enter and leave the river with most winds; that there was no bar at the entrance; and that under Tucapel Heights* there was a spot very suitable for their encampment, until some means of embarkation should offer. Travelling overland so great a distance as to Concepcion, in such a country, would have been almost impracticable, except as a last resource; for it must have involved the total loss of every thing which they could not carry on their backs, and rendered useless the many days hard labour, in a raging surf, by which so much had been landed. It was therefore resolved, that as soon as all valuable stores which could be removed were landed, measures should be taken for shifting their camp to the Leübu.†
* Immediately over the entrance of the river.
† While Captain Seymour was away at the Leübu, the officers availed themselves of the opportunity to get the greater part of his stores and private property, books, &c. landed; for he would not allow any of his own things to be moved, or a man to be employed about them, while an article of the ship's stores could be saved, though his private property was very valuable.
When the consul arrived his advice strengthened the opinion of Captain Seymour, and their immediate removal was decided upon. Though the Indians as yet had been inoffensive, Mr. Rouse had heard as he came of a large body who were approaching from the interior, and whose intentions he suspected to be hostile. The tribe then about Molguilla was that of an Indian cacique, in alliance with the Chihans, and therefore inclined to be civil, while the plunder was not very tempting, and while all the party were well armed and on the alert.
A few days after the ship was wrecked, this cacique gave a fine young heifer to Captain Seymour, who thanked him for his present, and expressed regret that any thing he could offer in return must be very trifling; when he was startled by a violent exclamation from the chieftain, who indignantly refused to accept any thing from men in distress. He would not take the paring of a nail from them, (biting his thumb-nail angrily as he spoke).
By Mr. Rouse's exertions and assistance, as interpreter and adviser, several yoke of oxen were procured, as well as many horses, mules, and donkeys; but even with such unhoped-for help, the removal of the heavy stores which had been saved was a tedious and difficult undertaking. Once established, however, at Leübu, they felt comparatively secure: tents were made out of sails; a palisade was fixed and a ditch dug: but the guns, spars, anchors, cables, and large boats, were left on the beach, as they were too heavy for removal overland; and to transport them by sea, from such an exposed coast, was out of the question.
Leaving their good ship a wreck upon the shore, in the hands of those who would soon destroy her, to get at the copper and iron, was to all a melancholy sensation. But the feelings of her captain at that moment—how little those who obeyed orders had to feel, compared with him who gave them!
On the 8th of June the wreck was abandoned: and the whole party were encamped at Leübu. Time passed away but no tidings of assistance arrived. Sickness began its insidious attacks: for cold wet weather had succeeded to a duration of fine dry days unusual at that time of year. Some of their essential articles of provision were exhausted: inactivity and uncertainty were depressing the minds of all, and Captain Seymour had begun to concert measures for abandoning the ships' stores, which had been so painfully saved, and travelling overland to Concepcion, when the letters from Commodore Mason were given to him. It ought not to be forgotten that Mr. Rouse decided to remain with Captain Seymour, and share his fate, whatever plan he might adopt.
Among evils of magnitude trifling vexations are little noticed; an absolute plague of mice caused amusing occupation, rather than annoyance. The ground, the tents, their beds, everything and every place was infested by mice: nothing was safe from their teeth; provisions were hung up, and people were obliged to watch them. Hundreds were killed every hour, for they literally swarmed over all that part of the country, and curiously enough the old people attributed their appearance to the earthquake! Besides these mice, which had feet like those of a lizard, enabling them to climb in all directions, even along the smallest line or branch of a tree, there were animals that they called rats, about the encampment at Leübu, which deserve mention, not on account of their numbers (as there were comparatively few) but because they were formed like opossums, having a pouch to contain their young for some time after birth.
Early the next morning (24th) I went up with Captain Seymour to the heights of Tucapel, which overlook the river and command an extensive view of the sea. Flag-staffs had been erected there, and large piles of wood collected, in order that flags might be kept flying by day, and fires burning at night. The little camp below presented a regular and very respectable appearance: fourteen or fifteen tents, pitched in regular order, and surrounded by a palisade with a ditch, would have caused even a large body of Indians to hesitate before they attacked it. I was much struck by the strength of the position, and the ease with which it might be defended by a small force against numbers, and still maintain communication with the sea. There was formerly a small settlement there, called a town, though in truth only a very small village: but latterly, the river Leübu has scarcely been noticed, except as the last retreat of the pirate Benavides. Nevertheless it is a situation admirably adapted for a commercial as well as agricultural settlement.
Though bread and other things were deficient, the ship-wrecked party never knew the want of water, and they had always an abundant supply of a very fine kind of potato, which perhaps is hardly to be surpassed in size or quality by any in the world. Not one of the ofiicers of the Challenger had seen its equal, and I never recollect eating any that were so good, and at the same time so large.* Neither beef nor mutton were scarce, in consequence of the ‘credit’ obtained by Mr. Rouse. Money was soon exhausted, but the high character of the consul was known all over the country, and the natives trusted implicitly to his word.
* The officers of the Blonde were of a similar opinion, after trying a great many that were sent on board from the Leübu.
The report of a ‘wreck’ had quickly drawn numerous plunderers, even from Concepcion and Talcahuano: but those pilferers satisfied themselves secretly, I believe, without attempting any daring robbery. During the confusion of the first day no doubt much was stolen by Indians, and hidden in the neighbourhood: since many articles were sold to the Talcahuano people for spirits or tobacco, and being taken by them to that place, occasioned a report of the officers and crew having been stripped and plundered.
But it must not be supposed that Captain Seymour and his ofiicers had no internal troubles, and that strangers were their only foes. Shameful acts of robbery were committed by some of the Challenger's own party: a very few of her marines scrupling not to rifle chests and boxes belonging to officers. This conduct, in connexion with a spirit of insubordination which began to show itself, among some of those who knew Captain Seymour the least, occasioned his calling the crew together on the beach, and causing one man to be corporally punished.
On this trying occasion Captain Seymour animadverted on the thoughtless conduct of a few who talked of what ought to be done, as if they were on equal terms with those whose authority at such a time was more than ever necessary; and who, in their unguarded conversations, heeded not who was listening, or which of their inferiors might be influenced by their opinions. He reminded them of the treacherous and often hostile disposition of those Indians who then surrounded them, and were daily increasing in numbers; and made known not only his own determination to stay by the stores, at all hazards, but that those who attempted to desert should do so at the peril of their lives. He well knew that the majority (and that majority included all the worthiest and best) would stand by him to the last, and think little of difficulties or dangers incurred in doing their duty.
After this well-timed public admonition not a word more was heard about “abandoning the stores, and making the best of the way to Concepcion.” Neither was there again occasion to inflict punishment. This one act of necessary justice, executed so properly and decidedly, was probably the means of saving much property, of upholding character, and even of preserving many lives: for when once anarchy begins, who can foretel all its consequences?
Anxious to return as soon as possible to tell the Commodore how easily the Blonde might take off both people and stores, at the mouth of the Leübu, that he might lose no time in effecting the embarkation—I recrossed the river and was galloping towards Quiapo, before noon (on the 24th) hoping to reach Arauco ere midnight; and, certain of fresh horses, I and my two companions spared neither whip nor spur. Our guide dropped behind, but as we could find the path by our tracks of the previous day, we did not wait for him. Such ravines (quebradas) as we passed: how we got through them during the black darkness of the preceding night astonished me, for we could hardly scramble along in broad daylight: and had I known the nature of those passes, I certainly should not have tried to get through, excepting by day.
At Quiapo we had a mixture of corn and water, which I thought tolerably good. It is a common mess among the lower class of natives in many countries besides Chile.* A few handfuls of roasted corn, roughly pounded between two stones, were put into a cow's horn, half full of cold water, and well stirred about with a stick until changed into a substantial mess of cold porridge. Our haste shortened the journey, and we should have reached Arauco in good time, had not a second guide (the man who waited at Quiapo with the Arauco horses) mistaken the road, and taken us along a track which was crossed by two rivers, not then fordable. His error was not discovered until too late, and to pass the rivers we were obliged to make a delay of several hours. The tract of country we traversed this day, was as fine as any that I have attempted to describe. I do not think we rode over or even saw an acre of unproductive land. The woody districts were very pleasing to the eye, and as specimens of a rich and fertile country almost in a state of nature, equally so to the mind. In many places our road lay through an open forest, where fine trees stood at considerable distances apart, and not being surrounded by underwood allowed us to gallop between them as we pleased. I thought of England's forests in the ‘olden time.’
* Among the Araucanian aborigines it is made with maize, and called ulpu.
In one of the quiet woodland glades we passed through, some of the finest cattle I ever saw were grazing. One immense animal would have attracted admiration, even by the side of show-cattle in England. Very large, well-shaped, and extremely fat, he looked and moved as if few things had ever caused him to turn against his will. These cattle have owners, I was told, but are seldom molested: once perhaps in some years a large number may be killed for the sake of their hides and tallow; and even then so extensive and so little known are these woods, that a considerable proportion of the cattle are not seen by their indolent destroyers, nor yet at the almost nominal musters which take place annually. The soil being usually of a tenacious, clayey nature, and streams of water numerous, moisture sufficient for vegetation is ensured, even at the dryest periods. Indeed, these countries never have suffered from drought; their climate being a happy mean between the dry, parching heat of Northern Chile, or Peru, and the continual wet, wind, and chilliness of Chilóe.
The first river we had to cross was not more than fifty feet wide, but the banks were hollow and rotten. Our guide looked along the stream till he found a tree which had fallen across, so as to form a bridge over two-thirds of the width: and with a pole in his hand, he climbed as far as the boughs would bear him: then finding that the water beneath was not above his middle, he waded through the remainder. Unsaddling, we sent all the gear across by help of the tree and lassoes, and turned the horses over, much against their will, for they had to plunge in and scramble out.
Again using our spurs, we hoped to pass the second river also before dark, but in vain; there was only just daylight enough left to see that it had overflowed its banks, and seemed to be wide and rapid. Even Vogelborg thought it impossible to cross before the next morning, so we turned back to look for some hut in which we might obtain shelter from heavy rain, which was beginning to pour down. The night was very dark and our prospect rather comfortless, when we were fortunate enough to find a ‘rancho,’ and there we gladly took refuge. Its owners were absent at a merry-making in the ‘neighbourhood’(about twenty miles off!); their daughters, however, and an Indian captive (from Boroa) were not deficient in hospitality. Poor girls! they were rather frightened at first, at their house being so suddenly occupied, but our guide quieted their alarm. As soon as the horses were provided for, we looked about for food for ourselves, and could find nothing but potatoes, till, hearing Vogelborg call for help in his broken English, I ran to him thinking he was hurt or attacked. He was struggling with a sheep which he had caught, and was dragging to the hut. Greatly were the poor girls alarmed when they saw that the sheep was to be sacrificed; they exclaimed that their father would beat them terribly, that the sheep was worth eight rials!* A dollar for the sheep, and another for each of themselves, altered their tone; and before long we had such a fire and supper as the old ‘rancho ‘had not witnessed since the wedding-day of its owners.
* Or a dollar, equal to about four shillings.
But what a night of penance we passed—the place swarmed with fleas, not one moment could I rest, though very tired; and it was raining too hard, and was too cold to sleep outside in the open air. These insects are the torment of travellers in Chile. The natives appear either not to feel, or not to be attacked by them, but an unlucky stranger who ventures to sleep within the walls of an inferior kind of house, or even any country house, in Chile, is sure to be their victim. When I stripped to bathe the next day, I found myself so covered, from head to foot, with flea-bites, that I seemed to have a violent rash, or the scarlet fever.
As the day broke (on the 25th) we mounted our horses, eager to get away from such unceasing tormentors: and the Indian girl undertook to show us a place where we might pass the river, even flooded as it was. By the help of fallen trees, lassoes, and poles, we conveyed ourselves and the saddles across; but to get the horses over was very difficult. The stream being rather wide and rapid, and the banks steep and rotten, occasioned so much difficulty, that two whole hours were spent in getting the animals across and out of the river. Our united strength applied to good lassoes, was barely sufficient to help the struggling and frightened creatures up the muddy broken banks. When one had passed, the others followed in their turns more readily; but I thought we should have lost one of them. From this river to Arauco was not above an hour's ride, at the pace we went, though it is called seven leagues.
During the last two days I had seen several Indians of pure Araucanian blood, in their native dress, and was much struck by the precise similarity of that worn by the women, to the dress of the aborigines of Peru, as described and figured in Frezier's voyage. The square cloak, or mantle, thrown over the shoulders, and fastened in front by a pin with a very large flat head, the size of a dollar, or even the palm of a hand; the broad band round the waist ornamented with beads; and the beaded or brass ornaments in the hair, ears, and round the neck, caught my eye sooner than their features, which are so similar to those of the almost Indian breed who live on the borders, that at first sight the difference was hardly noticed. Perhaps the eye of one of those Indians who has never lived with civilized people, is the only feature which differs strikingly: so much have the lower classes of Chilian Creoles mixed with the aborigines. In the eye of a free, wandering Indian, there is a restless suspiciousness, which reminds one of the eye of a wild animal: but this peculiar expression is soon removed by civilization.
The clothing of the Araucanians, made by themselves, is very strong good cloth. Indian ponchoes will keep out rain longer than any others. Dark blue is the usual colour of their clothes, from ponchoes to petticoats; and they are all of woollen manufacture.
The women dress their hair with some pains, and ornament it with beads, bits of brass, or large-headed pins, such as those I have described. Some few have ornaments of gold: and to see an Indian woman dressed in her national costume, with large golden ornaments, quite transports the imagination to the days of Cortes and Pizarro. I saw but one so ornamented, a fine-looking young woman, the daughter of a cacique, who had accompanied some of her tribe to look at the ship-wrecked white men. Her horse was a beautiful animal, looking as wild as herself.
At Arauco the worthy colonel welcomed me to breakfast, but regretted that I had been prevented from proceeding to the wreck: he thought some accident had happened, and hardly could believe that we had actually passed a night at the Leübu. D. Geronimo told me he had received intelligence of a large body of Indians, about three thousand strong, who were marching northward against Colipi, and his allies, the Chilians. He thought it probable that they would molest the Challenger's people, for the sake of plunder as well as because they had been on friendly terms with Colipi.
This hostile tribe, whose visit he was anticipating, was that called ‘Boroanos,’ by the Chilians (‘Boroa-che,’ by the Indians). I have before said that in Boroa there are fair Indians; and that I saw, when at Valdivia, one of the natives of that district. The Indian girl, whom I mentioned just now as a captive, agreed exactly in what she stated of them, with the account I had previously heard. She and the ‘Boroana’ at Valdivia both said, that “their fathers had told them that the ‘rubios’ (meaning red and white, or red-haired people) were children of the women whom their ancestors took prisoners when they destroyed the seven cities.” Many of these ‘rubios’ had blue eyes, with rather fair complexions; and some few had red hair. If this is the true story, they must be gradually losing such striking peculiarities; and the assertion made a century ago that there were white Indians in Araucania, might well be thought erroneous now. Both of the ‘Boroanos’ whom I saw had dark blue or grey eyes, and a lighter complexion than other Indians; but their features were similar to those of their countrywomen, and they had long black hair.
In our way to Arauco this morning, we passed by Tubul, a place admirably adapted for a large town, but now occupied only by a few poor families living in huts. Hills surround a fine plain, through which the river Tubul winds to the sea: lying in that river, I saw the remains of a whaler (the Hersilia) captured by Benavides, when at anchor near the island of Santa Maria.* She was brought into the Tubul, plundered, and partly burned.
* Captain Hall's Journal, vol. i. p. 312-13.
Some years ago, ships of two hundred tons could enter the mouth of this river, and pass up nearly a mile; but the late earthquake had raised the land so much, that only very small vessels could enter at this time. May not changes of relative level, similar to this, have occurred at the rivers Cauten, Tolten, and Bueno? The Cauten, or Imperial, is spoken of by the earlier writers on Chile, as admitting ships of burthen; but now the entrance of each of those rivers is almost closed by a bar.
In opposition to this idea it may be urged, that where a large river runs into the sea exactly against the direction of the prevailing wind and swell, a bar of sand, shingle, and mud must be formed by deposition from the opposing waters; and that it is only where a river runs uninterruptedly into the sea, protected from wind and swell by a projecting islet or point of land, that a perfectly clear entrance may be expected; and, therefore, that the Spanish accounts must have been incorrect. I suspect that they described those rivers as they found them at some distance in-Iand, not at the mouth.
Leaving the hospitable colonel assembling a remarkably awkward squad, whom he was anxiously preparing for the threatened attack of the ‘Boroanos,’ we rode away upon the good horses which, three days previously, had brought us from Concepcion.
At the Carampangue there was no balsa. What was to be done? To wait until some one brought a boat from the opposite shore might expend the day; but the river was wide and deep, and the weather too cold for so long a swim: nevertheless, five dollars excited our guide, or rather horse-keeper, to make the trial, and during several minutes I thought he must have been drowned: for, instead of slipping off the horse, and holding by the mane or tail when he began to swim, the man sat bolt upright, so that the poor horse's head was scarcely visible; and both horse and man appeared to get confused, turning round in the stream two or three times, while the current was carrying them down the river. At last they struggled out, to my infinite joy, and galloped off in search of the men whose business it was to attend at the ferry with a balsa. While we were anxiously waiting, a large party appeared on the opposite bank, with whom were the balsa-men. They had been merry-making, the previous day having been the feast of St. John; and as they had hardly recovered from the effects of ‘chicha,’ and other favourite libations, to carry so large a number across upon a small raft, was a difficult undertaking. Talking at the pitch of their voices, laughing and tumbling about, their reaching the opposite shore without a cold-bath, was attributed by Vogelborg to the protection of the saint whose anniversary they had so dutifully celebrated. The ‘chicha,’* is sometimes fermented, and then soon affects a person's head, if drank to excess: but these votaries of St. John had doubtless improved its insipid taste by aguardiente. During the chicha season, or autumn, the Indians are said to be more dangerous than at other times, as they indulge in this, their favourite beverage, to excess.
* ‘Chicha’ is made with maize, apples, or other things.
Apple trees are now abundant in southern Chile, throughout the Indian aswell as Spanish territories. They were also plentiful on the eastern side of the Andes, particularly about the river Negro and the great lake ‘Nahuelhuapi,’ in the middle of the last century. Whether they are indigenous, or were planted by the early missionaries, has been much disputed in that country; but as the Indian name for them is ‘manchana,’* I should incline to think they were introduced by the first missionaries.
* Manzana is Spanish for apple.
Our road over the heights of Villagran was much worse than at our former passage. Heavy rain and constant traffic, in consequence of the wreck, had worn it into a curious succession of steps: and each animal endeavouring to place his feet in the holes made by those which had previously passed—the rain having filled up the hollows with mud and water—had worked the clayey track into a continuation of transverse ridges and trenches. A man might step from ridge to ridge without wetting his feet; but the horses always planted their legs, up to the knees and hocks, in the mud and water of the trenches. Their motion was just as if they were stepping over logs of timber: unpleasant enough for the rider, and extremely tiring to themselves. We helped them however as much as possible, to the surprise of our lazy guide, by dismounting and leading them up the hills as well as down.
We reached ‘Playa Blanca’ as it got dusk. The heights near Point Coronel were difficult, in the dark, but we passed without worse disaster than a roll in the mud, from my girths breaking while struggling in a slough. Along the level lands of Don Juan de Dios Rivera we galloped briskly, until we were completely bewildered in the darkness. At last we found ourselves among enclosures, and by pulling up rails and breaking fences, made our way to a farm-house, where such information was obtained as enabled us to reach San Pedro, on the south bank of the Bio Bio, soon after midnight. No inducement could prevail upon the owner of the ferry-boat to let her take us across before daylight, so we sat down by a fire, after feeding our excellent horses, and dozed till daybreak.
With the first dawn we drove the lazy boatmen to their barge, urging them alternately with money, entreaties, reproaches, and threats. The river was exceedingly swollen by late heavy rains, so that it was almost twice as wide, and quite as rapid, as usual. Our heavy ferry-boat was ‘tracked’ up it until it seemed possible for us to reach the other bank before the current swept us out to sea; but the appearance of the boat and men, and the utter uncertainty caused by a very thick fog, gave me no great hopes of reaching Concepcion in any reasonable time, though a vivid expectation of passing a few hours upon a sand-bank at the mouth of the river, if we escaped being hurried into the open sea. In this clumsily-built, flat-bottomed boat (a sort of large punt) were five horses, a troublesome young bull, six men, and three nominal boatmen, one of whom merely attempted to steer. With very long poles our unwieldy craft was pushed into the stream, and while the shore could be distinguished through the fog, made progress in a proper direction, though most crab-like was the movement. When fairly out of sight of land, the boatmen became alarmed and puzzled; but just then a large bell was heard tolling at Concepcion, which served to animate them, and to ensure our trying to go in the right direction. After an hour's unpleasant work, in a very cold morning, we landed about a mile below Concepcion, having started about as much above it on the opposite side. No time was then lost in galloping to Talcahuano, and going on board the Blonde, so that Captain Seymour's letter was delivered to Commodore Mason soon after ten.
I found that the commodore had engaged an American schooner* to go in search of the crew of the Challenger; and that Mr. Usborne had been sent in her, with the second master of the Blonde,† three seamen of that ship, my coxswain, and the whale-boat which I took from the Beagle; she was a poor craft, and wretchedly found, though reputed to have sailed well, and to have been a fine vessel in her time. They left Talcahuano on the day after a gale from the north-west (on the 24th), which, by all accounts, was one of the severest that had been experienced during many years.
* The Carmen; for which such exorbitant demands had been made in answer to Lieutenant Collins.
§ Mr. Biddlecombe.
The Blonde sailed from Concepcion Bay on the 27th, the morning after I arrived; but unfortunately, during all that day, thick weather and half a gale of wind from the northward, prevented our having even one glimpse of the land, as we were running towards the entrance of the Leübu.
On the 28th, thick weather kept us in the offing. On the 29th, at daylight, the schooner Carmen was seen, and soon afterwards, through the haze, we made out Tucapel Head. At this time, neither Vogelborg (who was on board as local pilot) nor I, knew that the Heights of Tucapel Viejo were identical with the headland we recognized by the name of Tucapel Head. We both thought that Tucapel Viejo was in the bay where the river ‘Lebo’ is placed in the old Spanish charts. This error appears almost unaccountable to me now; though both he and I were then drawn into it by a variety of reasons unnecessary to detail here, and we therefore advised the commodore to run along-shore towards the supposed place of the Leübu (or Lebo), which he did; but the weather was so unfavourable, so thick and hazy, that nothing could be seen distinctly. Scarcely indeed could we discern the line of the surf, heavily as it was beating upon the shore; and at noon we were obliged to haul off, on account of wind and rain.
I should have mentioned that we spoke the schooner at eight in the morning, when Mr. Usborne said they had seen nothing in their run along-shore on the 26th, the only clear day they had had. After speaking us, he kept to the northward, intending, as we concluded, to close the land about Tucapel Head, and again run along-shore to the southward. In the haze we quickly lost sight of the schooner; but thinking that we should soon meet again in clearer weather, little notice was taken of this circumstance, which was afterwards so much regretted. Continual thick weather prevented any observations being taken, as well as the land from being seen, until the 2d of July, whea Tucapel Head was indistinctly made out in the distance. But strong wind and a high swell were reasons sufficient to keep the Blonde far in the offing, while thick hazy weather lasted; and after making the land we actually stood to sea again, without even attempting to show the ship to the poor fellows on shore. In the course of this night a few stars were seen; and their altitudes were the only observations that could have been obtained at any moment since we left Concepcion Bay, during six days of constantly clouded and hazy weather, in which neither sun, moon, nor stars, nor even the horizon could be seen!
On the 3d, Tucapel Head was again made out indistinctly; but nothing was done, a wide offing being still preserved.
On the 4th, the weather had improved enough to allow of a partial view of the coast between the supposed place of the Leübu and Cape Tirua; but no signal-fire, nor any thing like a flag, could be perceived on any of the heights.
Land appears so different when viewed from an offing at sea and when seen closely, especially from the land side, that it is less surprising that Vogelberg, who had visited the Leübu dozens of times by land, and also by sea in a boat, should be as much at a loss as myself to recognise the height which we had both ascended with Captain Seymour.
How it happened that I, who had surveyed this coast, should be ignorant of the real place of the Leübu, as I then certainly was, is another affair entirely, and one which I feel bound to explain. A momentary reference to my instructions shows that the Beagle was only expected to “correct the outline, and to fix the positions of all the salient points”* of the coast between Chilóe and Topocalma (near Valparaiso); and the Beagle's charts of that coast prove that a great deal more was accomplished than was thought practicable when those instructions were framed.
* Hydrographer's Memorandum, p. 31.
Between Cape Tirua opposite Mocha, and Tucapel Head, the shore was laid down on our chart as determined by triangulation connected with the ship under sail, her distance from the land varying from one mile to five miles; and as no river was seen thereabouts, nor any break in the coast-line where a river's mouth could be, our chart contained merely a note, saying, “River Lebo, according to the Spanish chart.” Now, the erroneous place of this Lebo (meant for Leübu) was twenty miles south of the real position, which, shut in behind Tucapel Head, could never have been seen from any vessel sailing past, however near the shore she might have been. The coast-line in the Beagle's chart was proved to be perfectly correct; but the place of the Leübu, which could only have been obtained by landing, or having a local pilot on board, was not known; and not being a navigable river, I did not deem it of sufficient consequence to be worth our delaying on an exposed coast, without an anchorage or a landing-place—so far as I then knew—while it was sought for.
Considering the multiplicity of places the Beagle had to visit subsequently, I often found it necessary to sacrifice such details as seemed to me of least consequence. Every seaman knows how very difficult it is to make out the openings of some small rivers, while he is sailing along a coast little known, and all marine surveyors know that there is seldom any way of making sure of such openings without landing; or entering them in a boat. I do not say this to excuse neglect—not feeling culpable—but simply to explain how the case stood.
On each day, when near the land, guns were fired at intervals, and sometimes three or four were fired at once; blue lights also were occasionally burned during the nights, in hopes that the schooner might see them.
On the 5th of July, the day broke clearly for the first time during the longest week I ever passed, and we saw the land distinctly, from Cape Rumena to Tirua, with Mocha Island, strange to say, for the first time—near it as we had often been. Now that the tops of the hills were quite free from fog or cloud, I recognised the Heights of Tucapel at the first glance; and after looking for some minutes at their summits, through a good glass, I distinctly saw smoke rising. Standing towards them—in half an hour flags were discerned on the heights, and there was no longer any doubt; yet no steps were taken until near one o'clock, though it was a beautiful, and almost calm day. From nine in the morning until one, the Blonde lay almost becalmed, about five miles from the land. At one, three boats were sent to the mouth of the Leübu, with some money and a small supply of bread; but a current setting along the shore from the northward delayed their reaching the entrance of the river until evening.
We found the greater part of the Challenger's crew still in health; but delay and bad weather had increased the sick-list, and two of her party (the assistant-surgeon and a young midshipman) were in danger: waiting so long in uncertainty, and without employment, in a wet, dirty place, had tried all their constitutions severely. It was too late to attempt going out into the offing after the Blonde, (which was standing to sea) with the gig and cutter, two indifferent boats; so manning the barge with a double crew, one crew being men of the Challenger, and taking one of her officers (Lieutenant Collins) with me, I hastened out of the river as the sun was setting. A light breeze from the land favoured us, and though the Blonde was hull down in the south-west when we started, we were happy enough to get on board at about eight o'clock.
In going off to the ship after it became dark, we kept the end of a piece of old gun-breeching burning, held up in the bow of the boat. The light, as strong almost as that of a false fire, was seen plainly on board the ship, and then she was hove-to.
As soon as the barge was hoisted in, the frigate again made sail off shore; but a fortunate mistake caused the main-yard to be squared about midnight, and at daybreak next morning we were in a good position off the entrance of the river. The Blonde then steered towards the land, and at nine anchored near the River Leübu, about a mile from Tucapel Head. Every boat was hoisted out, and the work of embarkation proceeded rapidly. Though a swell made the ship roll heavily, and delayed the boats along-side, the weather was so fine and a south-east wind so favourable, that the quickness of going and returning made amends for some delay in discharging each cargo. At six in the evening, Captain Seymour came on board with the last party of his crew, and at eight, the Blonde weighed and made sail, before a fresh and favourable breeze.
Most of the tents remained standing, being of very little value, and some of the stores were left. For what was abandoned, both there and at Molguilla, the commodore appointed Vogelborg to be agent, leaving him on the spot to take charge: and he wisely asked one of the Chilians who lived in the neighbourhood, and had generally supplied the shipwrecked crew with provisions, to join him in his undertaking. Between them they might have recovered many things of value to individuals, but, to the British Government, nothing worth the great expense of carriage to Concepcion.
Mr. Rouse sent his servants back by land, with his horses and mules, and accompanied his esteemed friend, Captain Seymour, in the Blonde. The numerous Indians and others whom we left gathering round the encampment, in all probability saved Vogelborg and his partner the trouble of taking care of much of the property. They reminded me of the vultures which in those countries gather round the places where men are slaughtering cattle.
During the night of the 6th, the Blonde passed rapidly northward, running before a fresh southerly breeze; and at eleven in the morning of the 7th, she was off Point Tumbes, when seeing a dismasted vessel, with an English blue ensign hoisted, about five miles to the northward of us, the frigate stood towards her, and finding that she was the schooner Carmen, closed and took her in tow. But for the Blonde's opportune arrival, she would have been drifted to the northward, and obliged to run into any port she could reach. Mr. Usborne came on board, and as soon as he had refreshed himself by a few hours' sleep, gave me the following account of his proceedings and accidents.
After leaving Talcahuano, wind and weather favoured the Carmen until she had run along the coast from Tucapel Head to Cape Tirua, at about a mile from the surf, without seeing either smoke, flags, people, or wreck; but, during one night, a fire was seen on Tucapel Head. When Mr. Usborne spoke the Blonde, on the morning of the 29th, the schooner was on her way to the place where she had seen the fire; and he would have said so when the Blonde hailed him had he had time, but as she passed on without stopping, and he felt sure that the Challenger's people were not in the direction which she was taking, he kept a different course. At about two in the afternoon of that day, while four seamen were aloft on the topsail yard, furling the topsail, the schooner gave a sudden plunge into a high swell, and away went the foremast head, fore-topmast, and topsail-yard. The four men were carried overboard, but saved; though one (James Bennett) was severely bruised. The mainmast followed, being dragged downwards and broken by the rigging attached to the head of the foremast; and in this state, a mere wreck, the Carmen drifted towards Mocha. So wretchedly was the vessel provided in every way, that the only tools which they had to cut the laniards of the rigging with, were knives and a cooper's old adze.
After clearing the wreck, they got up a small spar abaft, on which was set the Beagle's boat's sail; and by means of cleats,* Bennett and J. Nutcher (boatswain's mate of the Blonde), got to the head of the stump of the foremast, although, being loose in the step, it swayed to and fro as if it would go overboard, and fixed temporary rigging, A staysail and trysail were then set, and just saved her from going ashore upon the weather side of Mocha, while it was blowing hard, with a high sea running; and in all probability, not one person would have been saved had she struck. If Mr. Usborne had not known this land well, from his late survey, it is not likely that they would have escaped, because when they found themselves about half a mile from the breakers, the tack which appeared to the others to be by far the best, was in truth the worst: had they gone on that tack, nothing could have saved them. Mr. Usborne saw their position exactly, and knowing how the current would affect them, determined upon what they thought the wrong tack, and rescued them. I say that Mr. Usborne did this; because Mr. Biddlecombe was sick, and the master of the vessel reluctantly yielded to the person who he saw was at home, while he himself was utterly bewildered.
* To secure these cleats to the mast, they were obliged to draw nails out of the vessel's beams, having no others.
After this narrow escape, the schooner was drifted to the southward, as far as the latitude of Valdivia, before the southerly wind, which took the Blonde to the mouth of the Leübu, drove the Carmen back slowly to the northward. Mr. Usborne and his companions had almost entered the opening of the Bay of Concepcion early in the morning of the day on which the Blonde took them in tow, but had been drifted away again by a fresh wind, and were falling to leeward fast, for want of sail, when the Blonde arrived. Mr. Usborne recovered from his fatigue in two or three days, but Bennett was ill for a fortnight.
During the few days they were away, they suffered much. As for the ten men belonging to the vessel, they were utterly useless, being frightened or sick during the whole time; so that but for the exertion of the Blonde's seamen, of Bennett, of the master of the vessel (Mr. Thayer), of Mr. Biddlecombe, and above all, Mr. Usborne, the Carmen might have left her remains on the shore, when perhaps few, if any, would have survived to tell the fatal tale.*
* Mr. Usborne's narrative of this affair is in the Appendix, No. 27.
The Blonde worked to windward, with the schooner in tow, during the remainder of the day and early part of the night, and at midnight they both anchored off Talcahuano.
Until the 10th, it was necessary to remain at anchor, as there were accounts to settle between the convmodore, the consul, the pursers, the officers, and the owner of the schooner; there were visits to the Authorities, to thank them for their assistance, and, as usual on board men-of-war, there was much to do in very little time. To Don Jose Alemparte, the yntendente of the province; to Colonel Boza, the principal military authority; to D. Miguel Bayon, the governor of Talcahuano; and to Don Pablo Delano, captain of the port, sincere thanks were really due for their earnest exertions. Mr. Rouse took his leave of us on the 10th, and we then sailed.
While the Blonde was lying off Talcahuano, I had a few opportunities of looking about, and seeing that both Concepcion and Talcahuano were rising out of their ruins, and that their unfortunate inhabitants had, at least, roofs over their heads. Concepcion was, and is still nominally, a city: but it wall be long before it again appears as such to the eye of a stranger. Some idea may be formed of the low scale to which every thing was there reduced, when I mention that it was very difficult to find a carriage of any kind in which the Commodore could go to visit the Yntendente.
Great discussions had arisen on the subject of rebuilding the city. The government party wished to remove the site to a better position; but there was so strong an opposition, that the result was likely to be the gradual rebuilding of the town in the same place, while the removal was still undecided, and under consideration. Two situations were named as much more eligible than the former: one on the banks of the little river Andalien, about a mile from the old city; and the other, on a rising ground about two miles on the Talcahuano side of Concepcion. This latter position has many and great advantages, as all acknowledged; but people were reluctant to move; each one had or fancied an advantage in the old situation of his house, encumbered as it was with ruins. Besides, many more serious difficulties would arise in leaving small freeholds, and obtaining equivalents in another place: however, an active government might have accomplished so desirable a change without injuring anyone, by purchasing the ground, and distributing it so fairly that each man should gain rather than lose. The sum necessary for purchasing ground for a new city, would not have been greater than might have been borrowed; and repaid in ten years out of the custom-house.
Perhaps there is not a situation in the world much more advantageous to the prosperity of a commercial city than this of which we are speaking. Centrally placed between the great and navigable river Bio Bio, the port of San Vicente, the noble bay of Concepcion, and an easy communication by land with the best part of Chile, a part which may well be called one of the finest countries in the world:—with a large extent of level and fertile land on all sides—with the means of obtaining water by sinking wells to a small depth, as well as by an aqueduct from the Bio Bio—and with the blessing of an unexceptionable climate—how could the New Concepcion fail to thrive, and increase rapidly? It might be shaken down and destroyed by an earthquake as soon as built, may be said. Probably, may be replied, if the inhabitants should be so unwise as to build houses of brick and stone, one or two stories in height, and with heavily tiled roofs. But let them try another mode of building. Wood is abundant, and let them make that the only material of which either walls or roofs shall be composed. A strong frame-work, similar in some measure to that of a ship, lightly covered or ceiled with thin planks, and roofed with shingles,* would, if placed on the ground and not let into it as foundations usually are, withstand the convulsions of any earthquake which has yet happened in that tormented country. Why do not the Chilians pay more attention to the remark of the aborigines of Peru, who, when they saw the Spaniards digging deep foundations for their buildings, said, “You are building your own sepulchres.”†
* Small pieces of wood, like tiles.
† Ulloa, vol. i. p. 340.
The houses of the natives of Peru were in those days built without foundations, simply upon the levelled ground; and they withstood the severest shocks. No house should extend far upwards. Nothing should be above the ground floor but a light strongly-secured wooden roof: and they should be placed upon firm ground—if possible, upon rock. The principal objections against the present site of Concepcion are—that the earth upon which the houses stand is every where loose, and sandy, and that it is too near the river.
One day, while visiting a gentleman at Talcahuano, he called three little Araucanian boys into the room where Mr. Rouse and I were sitting with him, and desired them to harangue or make speeches to one another in their own way. The little fellows stepped forward boldly, and one of them spoke to the other two in a very fluent and expressive manner; but ended every marked sentence, or portion of his subject, by the singular sharp rise of the voice which has so often been noticed as a peculiarity in the oratory of Indians in this country. Another boy replied in a similar manner; and then they began to fight with their fists. This part of the display of course we stopped; but we were much interested by the composure and readiness with which the little boys spoke. One of the speakers was son of a cacique. All three had been obtained by actual (though secret) purchase from their countrymen, through the intervention of one of the ‘Capitanes de los Amigos,”* one of whose offices is to take the part of and protect the natives. Perhaps, in the first instance, these boys had been stolen or taken prisoners, and were not the children of those who sold them to the ‘captain of the friends.’ In the family of Don ——— those boys found a comfortable and a happy home; he had taken them from the rascally ‘capitan de los amigos’ as an act of charity, and intended to give them employment and land on his estate. I thought of Lautaro, as I noticed the bright eye of the little cacique.
* See page 399.
When I took leave of the Yntendente, he said that he was about to make a journey to the frontier, for the sake of inspecting the outposts and securing the assistance of the friendly Indians: and this, I afterwards understood, was in consequence of the rumoured approach of those hostile tribes of whom Colonel Valenzuela had spoken to me at Arauco.
We sailed from Talcahuano with a fair wind, which carried us quickly and pleasantly along-shore; but crowded, and anxious as we were, the ship could not go fast enough for us. The sick people, excepting Mr. Lane, were improving when we reached Valparaiso on the 13th. Much attention and kindness were shown to Captain Seymour by his acquaintance at Valparaiso; but it could not be expected that he should be cheerful, or inclined to see people, excepting intimate friends, at that time; particularly as the death of Mr. Lane was an additional blow much felt by him. I was very glad when we weighed anchor, on the 17th, for every hour caused an increase of painful feeling.
A fresh fair wind drove us in twenty-four hours to Coquimbo, where the Conway was at anchor ready for sea. It was then arranged, that all the officers and two-thirds of the crew should go home in the Conway; and, of course, no small bustle of preparation for so many passengers was caused. Captain* and Mrs. White already occupied one-half of the captain's cabin, and their luggage a considerable space below; but as both Captain Eden and the senior lieutenant, Johnstone, were bent upon accommodating the ship-wrecked party to the utmost of their power, stowage-room was cleverly contrived.
* Then Vice-Consul at Valparaiso.
How striking the contrast appeared between the fertility and verdure of the Concepcion country, and the dry barrenness of the naked earth or rocks about Coquimbo. Scarcely any one went on shore; a mixture of unpleasant feelings occasioned a gloomy heaviness in most of our minds.
On the 2nd, both ships sailed from Coquimbo, and soon afterwards parted company. The Conway stood to the westward, ‘close-hauled;’ while the Blonde steered towards the north with a fresh southerly wind.
What caused the loss of the Challenger.?—is a question not easy to answer with certainty. The error in her reckoning amounted to more than forty miles; and the only way in which I can account for it to my own satisfaction is, that while the north-west wind was blowing, a current set to the southward and eastward, for which no allowance was made, as those on board could not be aware that such a current might be found, its existence not being known. A south-east current was not to be expected thereabouts; for the general set of the waters is northerly, excepting near the land, and they thought themselves in the offing. But currents are very uncertain and treacherous in most places. Unusual winds, peculiar seasons affecting the weight of the atmosphere, and those powerful interrupters of all order—earthquakes, have immediate effect upon the great ocean, as well as upon small bodies of water, though not always so visibly.
Scarcely four months had elapsed since that tremendous earthquake, which destroyed so many towns in Chile, had altered the movements of the Pacific Ocean upon all the extent of coast which reaches from latitude forty-five to the parallel of twenty-five. Even in July, the land about Concepcion was scarcely considered to be at rest, and recovered, as it was said, from those awful convulsions. Can it then be considered improbable that the currents of that sea should have taken unusual directions, and betrayed even cautious seamen, such as Captain Seymour and Mr. Macdonald (the master) were well known to be. So much care and judgment had always been shown in conducting the Challenger, and she had visited so many places in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, and among the South Sea Islands, that of all the King's ships at that time in commission, those who sailed in her (unconnected even with her management) thought her one of the last that would end a voyage disastrously.* The surprising manner in which the hull of the Challenger held together, and so long resisted heavy shocks, reflects infinite credit upon her architect (Hayes), and upon the dockyard where she was built.
* This I have heard from several persons who were wrecked in the ship, whose opinions I have reason to respect.
Andes—Aconcagua—Villarica—Islay—Powder—Callao—Rejoin Beagle—Constitucion—Plans—Wilson—Carrasco—‘Galápagos’§—Iguanas—Lava Rocks—Land-tortoises—Craters—Turtle—Shells—Dye—Volcanoes—Settlement—Albemarle Island—Cyclopian Scene—Tagus Cove—Tide Ripples—Settlers—Climate—Salt—Dampier—Birds—Transportation of Tortoises—Currents—Temperature of Water
§ Galápagos is consistently spelled Galápagos throughout this chapter (Galāpăgo once, in a footnote), and Galapagos in subsequent chapters.
The irreclaimably barren appearance of the sea coast of Northern Chile, is very repulsive to an eye accustomed to woodland scenery: yet there is an effect in its lofty mountains, which seem to rise abruptly almost from the ocean, that charms one for a time. Just before sunrise is generally the most favourable moment for enjoying an unclouded view of the Andes in all their towering grandeur: for scarcely have his beams shot between their highest pinnacles into the westward vallies, when clouds of vapour rise from every quarter, and during the rest of the day, with few exceptions, obscure the distant heights.
It has been long supposed that the Andes are higher about the equator than near or beyond the tropic; but the Beagle's measurements of Aconcagua* and Villarica,† prove that there is still much to be ascertained on this subject. Few results, depending upon angular measurement, are more difficult to obtain with accuracy than the heights of distant mountains. With respect to Aconcagua, though a variety of measurements, taken by different officers at various times, agreed together so closely as to give from 23,200 to 23,400 feet for the vertical elevation of that volcano above the level of the sea, I would not claim to be much nearer the truth than within 500 feet.
* Lat. 32°. 39'. S.: height, 23,000 feet above the sea level [But 32° 38' 30" in FitzRoy's Table, actual elevation; 22,837'].
† Lat. 39°. 10'. S.: height, 16,000 feet above the sea level§§ [39.420851° S, 71.939657° W].
§§ Villarica's actual elevation is 9,341 feet, and the source of FitzRoy's gross over-estimation is unknown. The Beagle anchored at Valdivia, some 75 miles from the volcano, and Darwin's 20 February, 1835 Diary entry reads in part:
The generally active Volcano of Villa-Rica, which is the only part of the Cordilleras in sight, appeared quite tranquil.
Earlier he had hiked overland to Cudico, about 45 miles from Villarica. Possibly he again saw the volcano, or was given the wrong information, which he subsequently passed on to FitzRoy.
The Blonde touched at Cobija, Arica, and Islay—hapless arid dwelling-places for either man or beast, as I have ever seen. Of these and other ports along the coasts of Northern Chile and Peru, nautical information will be found in the Appendix.§ I will only delay the general reader with one or two observations.
§ Appendix, 40: “Remarks on the coast of Northern Chile” & 41: “Remarks on the coast of Peru”
From near Iquique to Arica the precipitous coast is so lofty, and approaches so much to the character of enormous cliffs, about a thousand feet high, that it is really sublime. Near Islay, the land is in several places covered with a whitish powder, or dust, which lies many inches thick in hollows or sheltered places, but is not found abundantly in localities exposed to wind. Much difference of opinion has arisen about this powder. People who live there say it was thrown out of a volcano near Arequipa a great many years ago: other persons assert that it is not a volcanic production, and appertains to, or had its origin, where it is found. My own idea was, before I heard any thing of the controversy, that there could be no doubt of its having fallen upon the ground within some hundred years, for it was drifted like snow, and where any quantity lay together, had become consolidated about as much as flour which has got damp in a damaged barrel.
In one of the old voyages there is a passage which seems to throw some light upon this subject: “As they (of Van Noort's ship) sailed near Arequipa, they had a dry fog, or rather the air was obscured by a white sandy dust, with which their clothes and the ship's rigging became entirely covered. These fogs the Spaniards called ‘arenales.’ ”—Voyage of Van Noort, in 1660, from Burney, vol. ii. p. 223.
On the 9th of August, the Blonde anchored in Callao Bay, and I enjoyed the satisfaction of finding all well on board the Beagle. She had touched at Copiapo and Iquique, for Mr. Darwin, in her way to Callao, where she arrived on the 19th of July. Lieutenant Sulivan brought his little vessel safely to an anchor near the Beagle on the 30th, having accomplished his survey in a very satisfactory manner. So well did he speak of the Constitucion, as a handy craft and good sea boat, and so correctly did his own work in her appear to have been executed, that after some days' consideration I decided to buy her, and at once set on foot an examination of the coast of Peru, similar to that which Mr. Sulivan had completed of the coast of Chile. Don Francisco Vascuñan had authorized the sale of his vessel at Callao: she was purchased by me for £400, and immediately fitted out afresh.§
§ The vessel was the Constitución, subsequently referred to as the Schooner Constitution.
I could not spare Lieutenant Sulivan to remain on the coast of Peru, while the Beagle would be crossing the Pacific, on her return to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope; but there was Mr. Usborne, able and willing to undertake the task, who, from his station, could be spared without prejudice to the duties yet remaining to be executed on board the Beagle, and a better man for the purpose I could not have desired. With him Mr. Forsyth volunteered to go, and Commodore Mason was prevailed upon to allow Mr. E. Davis, a master's assistant of the Blonde, to join the little expedition; who, with seven good seamen, and a boy, volunteers from the Beagle, completed Mr. Usborne's party.§
§ See Woram: Ship's Company, … for the crew list.
A stranger might well smile at the idea of such a boat affair being started to survey, in eight or at most ten months, the whole coast of Peru, from Paposo, near Atacama, to the River Guayaquil; but the task was completed; the charts are now engraved; and very soon seamen will be able to test their accuracy.
Most people are aware that the coast of Peru is free from storms; that the wind blows moderately along the land or from it; and that there is little or no rain. Consequently, as the sea is seldom much disturbed (except by a south-west swell), and there are neither ‘races’nor dangerous streams of tide, an open boat might undertake such a task, if safety alone were to be considered, provided that she did not try to land in a surf. The real impediments to surveying that coast are—the surf caused on those steep rocky shores by an occasional heavy swell, almost amounting to rollers, from the south-westward; the delays and doubts created by prevalent fogs; and the loss of positions, as well as time, consequent upon being drifted by currents during a calm. Mr. Usborne had also to prepare for, and provide against, as much as possible, difficulties of a very different nature—those arising out of the disturbed state of that country—the anarchical internal dissensions which are the bane of all South America, but especially of Peru. In this respect there were so many prospective dangers, as well as difficulties, that I should not have ventured to let him encounter them, had we not had such a man as Belford Hinton Wilson* to rely upon for foresight, advice, influence, and as hearty unflinching assistance, as any one public servant could afford to another, Mr. Wilson's exertions were unceasing, until he procured every passport and document that could by any possibility be required for Mr. Usborne. He introduced him as well as myself, to the hydrographer (Don Eduardo Carrasco) who assisted us in many ways most materially; and after I left the coast he showed every possible attention and kindness to all the Constitution's party; winding up by advancing a large sum of money out of his own purse, to forward the service in which they were engaged, and increase their comfort during a long passage to England round Cape Horn.
* Then consul general, now charge d'affaires of H.B.M. in Peru.
Captain Carrasco, formerly in the Spanish navy, and now Director of the Nautical School at Lima, gave me, and afterwards Mr. Usborne, every particle of information which he and I thought might be useful—both verbally and in writing—besides which he ransacked the archives for manuscripts, charts, and books, from which he allowed extracts to be taken or copies made, in the most truly liberal manner; and I long to see the results of our voyage, whatever they may be, laid before him and his friends, as an acknowledgment—however slight—of their free assistance and co-operation.
On the 6th of September Mr. Usborne sailed.* He was to commence near Paposo; work along the coast thence to Guayaquil, and afterwards return to Callao.
* Orders in Appendix. [30: “Orders to Mr. Usborne”]
The following day the Beagle left Callao, and steered direct towards the Galápagos Islands, of which, as they are novel ground, I shall be rather minute in my description.
15th. Uncertain of the strength, and even of the direction of the currents—though aware that at times the former is very considerable—we were anxiously looking out for land, when what appeared to be an islet was seen from the mast-head. This seeming islet turned out to be the summit of Mount Pitt, a remarkable hill at the north-east end of Chatham Island. (Charles Island of Cowley, 1684).§ As the breeze and current carried us onwards, the tops of other hills successively appeared, and for a short time looked very like a cluster of islets.
§ Although FitzRoy correctly notes the name given to this island by Cowley, later on he follows the common error originating with James Colnett (which persists to this day) of referring to Isla Santa María/Floreana as Charles Island.
Gradually rising above the horizon, the greater part of Chatham Island became distinctly visible: in this neighbourhood it is not often that the air near the water is clear enough to allow of very distant high land being thus gradually raised above the horizon of an eye at the mast-head; for, in general, clouds hang about these islands, and the atmosphere itself is hazy. Towards evening the higher parts of the land were clouded over, but we were near enough to see that the island was very rugged—in some places quite barren—in others covered with a stunted and sun-dried brushwood—and that the heights, on which the clouds hung, were thickly clothed with green wood. The shores seemed to be bold, and easy to approach, though not to land upon, because of a continual high surf.
A number of little craters (as they appeared to be) and huge irregular-shaped masses of lava rock, gave a strangely misleading appearance to the lower parts of the island; and when first seen through that indistinct glimmer which is usually noticed over land on which a hot sun is shining, were supposed to be large trees and thick wood.* Hood Island, small and rather low, was seen before dusk, when we tacked and stretched to seaward for a few hours.
* This glimmering haziness is at times a great impediment to making accurate measurements of an object, when both it and the observer's eye are near the ground. Raising either some few feet higher, remedies this inconvenience, which is much felt when using a micrometer for measuring a base.
16th. Assisted by a current running to the westward, we worked up to Hood Island during the night, and at daylight lowered a boat down and prepared her for Mr. Chaffers, who, with Mr. Mellersh, was to examine this island and the anchorages about it. Under the land we saw two whalers at anchor, which showed North American colours. The island is small—neither high nor low—rugged, covered with small sunburnt brushwood, and bounded by a bold, rocky shore. Some small beaches of white sand are visible here and there.
As soon as Mr. Chaffers had set out, the Beagle steered towards Chatham Island, with a moderate breeze, which allowed us to prepare the yawl for another party, under Lieutenant Sulivan. At noon, Barrington Island was visible from the deck, and appeared to be distant about twenty miles; when with Messrs. Stewart and Johnson, and ten chosen seamen in the yawl, Mr. Sulivan left us to examine the central islands of the archipelago.
In continuing our course, we passed through several ripplings, apparently caused by the meeting of streams of current which set along the shores of Chatham Island, from the east towards the west. If not so caused, they must be the effects of currents passing over very uneven ground, but we got no bottom, with fifty fathoms of line. When such appearances are created by shoals, it should be remembered that the shallowest place is generally under the smoothest part, close to the ripple. Favoured by smooth water and fine weather, we passed close to the low south-west extreme, and anchored directly [at] that point [that] was found to defend us from the swell.
This part of the island is low, and very rugged. We landed upon black, dismal-looking heaps of broken lava, forming a shore fit for Pandemonium. Innumerable crabs and hideous iguanas started in every direction as we scrambled from rock to rock. Few animals are uglier than these iguanas; they are lizard-shaped, about three feet in length; of a dirty black colour; with a great mouth, and a pouch hanging under it; a kind of horny mane upon the neck and back; and long claws and tail. These reptiles swim with ease and swiftness—but use their tails only at that time. At a few yards from the water we found vegetation abundant, though the only soil seen was a little loose dusty earth, scattered upon and between the broken lava. Walking is extremely difficult. A hand-barrow was lying at the landing-place, which showed that terrapin were to be got near us, though we did not then see any. The men from whalers and sealing vessels carry the large terrapin, or land-tortoises, on these barrows.
Ascending a little hill, we were surprised to find much brush or underwood, and trees of considerable size, as large in the trunk as one man could clasp. These were prickly pears, and a kind of gum-tree: how their roots are able to penetrate, or derive nourishment from the hard lava, it is hard to say; for earth there is scarcely any. Wild cotton shrubs are numerous. This first excursion had no tendency to raise our ideas of the Galápagos Islands.
17th. Weighed and stood alongshore, sounding. There was good anchorage, until near the south-west point of Stephens Bay, off which the water is shoal, and the bottom uneven. We anchored in Stephens Bay, and found an American whaler lying there. This bay is large, and the anchoring ground generally good; but the landing is bad at low water. There is no fresh water: and it is frequently difficult to enter, as well as to leave, because usually becalmed by high land, it seldom feels the true wind. Enderby Cove is only fit for a boat; at low water it is full of rocks. The Kicker Rock is a curious mass of stone, rising almost perpendicularly from the bottom of the sea, where it is thirty fathoms deep; and in the offing is another (called the Dalrymple, by Colnett§), which looks exactly like a ship becalmed, with all sail set. Seeing a remarkable hill at the north-east side of the bay, which had not an appearance like other parts of the island, I went to it in a boat, hoping to find water near the foot, and to have a good view from the summit. Disappointed in both ways, the hill being composed of a crumbling sand-stone, and almost inaccessible, I returned to the ship early next morning. Several new birds were seen by those who were on shore, and many fish were caught on board, of which the best and most numerous were a kind of rock cod, of large size.
§ Actually, Colnett did not mention the Dalrymple name, which appears on the Galápagos chart by Aaron Arrowsmith, included in Colnett's Voyage to the South Atlantic.
18th. Weighed and stood alongshore until noon, when we anchored close to a low rugged point, near the north-east end of the island: employed two boats in examining the shore, and landed a party to look for terrapin: Mr. Darwin and Mr. Stokes went to the top of a neighbouring hill. Throughout this day it blew so fresh a breeze, that double-reefed topsails were as much as could be carried: but I think this strength of wind only prevailed under the lee of the island, where the wind rushed down in squalls, after having been intercepted and checked by the high land. All the hills appear to have been the craters of volcanoes: some are of sandy mud, others are lava. There is plenty of wood hereabouts, though stunted and dry. On no part of this shore is there a chance of finding water; all is stony, without any soil which could either collect or carry it off.
Our party brought eighteen terrapin on board. In size they were not remarkable, none exceeding eighty pounds. This animal appears to be well defended by nature; but, in truth, it is rather helpless, and easily injured. The shell is slight, and becomes weaker (in proportion to the animal's size), as the tortoise grows older.
19th. Sailed round the north-east extremity of the island, and worked to the southward against a tide, or rather current, setting strongly to the north-west.
20th. At daylight we were off the south-east part of the island; and continued working to the south-west, during the forenoon, along a shore quite bold, excepting the small rocks above water in ‘Middle’ Bay. At noon, seeing a small cove, I went in a boat to examine it, and look for water. We found no signs of any in that place; but a little farther west, a fine stream was seen falling from a lava cliff, about thirty feet high. Mr. Low had described this waterfall correctly; and his account of the watering place near it was soon verified, by our discovering a cove half a mile to the westward of the cascade. We landed on a stony beach in the cove, § and found a fine stream of excellent water: two others were likewise seen, but they were inaccessible. This water runs from the highest parts of the island (which are almost always enveloped in clouds) down a large valley.* All this southern side of the island is well wooded; and on the higher ground the wood is very green.
§ Called “Watering Cove beach” in FitzRoy's Table of Positions.
* There is no other place in the Galápagos where ships can water at all times of the year.
Continuing our course along shore, we arrived at our former anchorage in Stephens Bay soon after dark, when Mr. Chaffers returned on board, having reached the anchorage in the morning.
22d. So generally cloudy is the weather here, that a day such as this proved to be, of hot, vertical sunshine, was much felt by every body; and to show how objectionable our anchorage was in this respect, I may mention that a fresh breeze was blowing all day in the offing; yet in the bay only light variable airs were felt.
Some fine turtle were brought on board, the first we had seen here; they are rather like the green turtle of the West Indies, but not exactly. Among the shells found about the islands one is common, which reminded me of the purple murex, as the fish emits a strongly dyeing liquid of a similar colour.* A kind of mangrove grows near the water, on the sandy beaches of this island; and the shape and colour of that curious tree are some relief to an eye tired of looking at rugged lava or withered bushes.
* Found also on the coast of Peru (Ulloa).
23d. While becalmed we tried the clamms * in fifty fathoms water, and brought up as much sand as would fill a bucket, but nothing curious. Afterwards we had a breeze, and passed Barrington Island pretty closely. It is not high, yet the shores are bold and fronted by cliffs; the more elevated parts appear to be level, and rather woody. This night was spent under sail between Charles and Hood Islands.
* An indifferent contrivance of mine, made and put together by our own armourer.
24th. While we were endeavouring to reach the anchorage in Post-Office Bay (Charles Island), Mr. Chaffers and Mr. Mellersh went away in a boat to visit the islets that lie near the eastern side of that island: and it was found that they had all been the summits of volcanoes. Charles Island is peculiar in its outline: for a succession of round topped hills, precisely similar in shape, though differing in size, shews on every point of view. This exact similarity is very remarkable. Must not all these volcanoes* have been thrown up under the same circumstances, such as similar action of the ocean, or even a strong wind—perhaps at the very same time? †
* For volcanoes they certainly have been.
† See page 493.
The highest and largest of these hills rises 1,800 feet, the next about 1,700; the rest are of various smaller heights. The northern sides of the island are wooded, but the wood looks as brown as that on the lower parts of Chatham Island. Post-Office Bay is sheltered, easy of access, has excellent anchorage, and only wants fresh-water to make it a most desirable harbour for shipping. Its name is the result of a custom established by the whalers: a box was placed on a post, to receive letters, and homeward-bound ships examined the directions [ie, addresses], taking with them all which they might have means of forwarding; but since the island has been peopled the box has been empty, for letters are now left at the settlement. §
§ Writing almost 40 year later (1872), Elizabeth Cary Agassiz noted that she found no trace of the post-office barrel. The date of its subsequent restoration is unknown.
25th. Mr. Nicholas O. Lawson, acting for the governor of this archipelago,* came on board. With him and me a party went to another anchorage called Black Beach Road, landed, and walked up towards the settlement. In 1832, the republic of the ‘Ecuador’decided to use these islands as a place of banishment, and sent a small colony to Charles Island. ‘La Floriana’ is the name given to this island by the Guayaquilians, though by the Spaniards it was once called ‘Santa Maria de l'Aguada.’ The governor, at the time of our visit, was Don Jose Villamil. There were then about eighty small houses, or huts, and nearly two hundred souls upon the island, most of whom were convicts.
* An officer of the republic of the Equator.
After walking rather more than a mile along a good path, through the underwood (which as the ground rises becomes very thick), we reached a small spring of water, near which are a few huts, but no cultivated ground. The water from this spring might be conveyed to shipping by means of leaden pipes, without much difficulty, but it is not of very good quality. Having ascended gradually during another half-hour's walk, we reached the ridge of that height which limited our view from the sea; when surprisingly sudden and agreeable was the change. Heated and tired by a dusty uphill walk, through sun dried trees and over rugged lava stones, our bodies were here refreshed by a cool breeze, while our eyes enjoyed the view of an extensive, fertile and cultivated plain. Surrounded by tropical vegetation, by bananas, sugar canes, Indian corn, and sweet potatoes, all luxuriantly flourishing, it was hard to believe that any extent of sterile and apparently useless country could be close to land so fertile, and yet wear the most opposite appearance. Our eyes having been accustomed to the desert shores of Peru and northern Chile, during many months, were completely dazzled by a sight so new and unforeseen.
It appears that rain falls very frequently on these higher grounds, and is absorbed by rich black mould of a nature sufficiently clayey to enable it to retain moisture. During the wet season this plain becomes quite muddy, while the little rain that falls on the lower ground is so quickly absorbed, or finds its way so soon through the loose lava stones that its effects are not there visible.
Most of the houses are in this fertile space, but it appears that a house on the dry ground, and plantations in the moist valley, would answer better: for at Mr. Lawson's house salt cannot be kept dry, books and paper become mouldy, and iron rusts very quickly. At his table we found the welcome of a countryman, and a variety of food quite unexpected in the Galápagos Islands, but fully proving their productiveness. At the foot of a hill we saw water dropping plentifully, and from this spring, called the “Governor's Dripstone,” the inhabitants obtain a certain supply throughout the year.
Although most of the settlers were sent here against their wish, there are many who do not desire to return to the continent. Some are married and have children on the island.
In a small cave near the “governor's dripstone,” an old sailor lived during several years: he had been unfortunate, and was tired of the world. Terrapin and potatoes were his food, till a former friend, the master of a whaler, recognised him, and carried him away by force. So strongly was the old man attached to his cave, that he shed tears when taken away.§
§ FitzRoy does not reveal his source, but possibly this is a variation on the story of “Irish Pat” Watkins, who left the cave (voluntarily) about twenty years earlier.
There are goats and hogs upon this island, but they are scarce and wild, not having yet had time to increase much; they are hunted with dogs, though it would be wiser to let them alone for a few years. The settlers have abundance of vegetables, and depend chiefly upon terrapin for their meat. Many of these animals being large and heavy, the people who go in search of them kill and open them on the spot, then take out the fleshy pieces and put them in a bag. Thus one man can carry away the useful parts of more terrapins than several men could lift.
The quantity of tortoise shells lying about the ground, shows what havock has been made among these helpless animals. On the lower ground, near the spring, I saw an apology for a garden, in which the large terrapin shells were used to cover young plants, instead of flower pots. In a place one has not seen before, some marked peculiarity occasionally reminds one, more forcibly than the ordinary novelties of scenery, that all around is strange and new. The palm-trees and arid appearance of St. Jago, the sedan chairs of Bahia, the boats of Rio de Janeiro, the beef carts of Monte Video, the travelling waggons of Buenos Ayres, the ‘toldo’ of the Patagonian, the wigwam of the Fuegian, the wooden houses and clogs of San Carlos de Chilóe, the stockades of Valdivia, the effects of earthquake at Concepcion, the concentrated bustle of Valparaiso, the quiet and uniform serenity of Coquimbo, women riding astride and troops of ill-used donkeys at Lima, are a few instances among the multitude of such local peculiarities.
Small birds are numerous on this island, and so remarkably tame that they may be knocked down with a stick. Lizards are also numerous; and there are a few small snakes, but those we caught were not venomous. Among the useful vegetables we noticed the plaintain, pumpkin, yuca, Quito orange, castor oil plant and melon, besides those before mentioned.
Returning on board we met Mr. Stokes on his way from the southern parts of the island: he described the lava thereabouts as having such a form and rugged surface as the sea would present if suddenly congealed, while ruffled by a very strong wind.
26th. After completing the necessary observations in Post-Office Bay, we weighed and worked round to an anchorage off Black Beach: and at nine in the evening Mr. Chaffers returned, having been round the south side of this island after visiting the small eastern islets. He found much difficulty in landing on them, but succeeded, and from the top of Gardner Islet saw a dangerous breaker about a mile to the south eastward.
27th. Being Sunday, many of the officers and ship's company were on shore in the afternoon, and some of the officers went to the top of the highest hill, which has a crater, as have all the hills we examined about these islands; and these craters are all similarly broken down on the side towards the south.
28th. Having taken on board live pigs and a quantity of vegetables, we weighed and stood towards Albemarle Island. Four small islets [Crossman], the remains of volcanoes, lie near the low south-east extreme of this island, and together with Brattle [now, Tortuga] Islet, are extremely useful in warning vessels of their approach to a very dangerous piece of coast. So low are the south-eastern extremities of Albemarle Island that they are not discernible until you see the surf on the shore. A heavy swell setting towards the land, and generally light winds, add to the danger of getting near this coast; but there is anchorage in case of necessity.
Albemarle Island is a singular mass of volcanic ejections. Six volcanoes have there raised their summits from two to four thousand feet above the ocean, and from them immense quantities of lava have from time to time flowed towards the sea; so that this island, large as it is, may be literally described by saying that it consists of six huge craters, whose bases are united by their own overflowed lava. The southern side, which is exposed to the trade wind, and completely intercepts it, with all the clouds it brings, is thickly wooded, very green, and doubtless has fresh water; but how is that water to be obtained where such a swell rolls upon the shore? The weather side of Chatham Island is partially protected from the great south-west swell of the Pacific by Hood Island, yet even there it is difficult to land.
We passed this night under easy sail, off the south-west extreme of Albemarle Island; and on the 29th we found a small cove,§ in which we anchored; but such a wild-looking place—with such quantities of hideous iguanas as were quite startling! Hence I despatched Mr. Mellersh and Mr. King, to examine the depth of Elizabeth Bay, and rejoin us beyond Narborough Island; we then weighed, and continued our examination of this unearthly shore. Passing a low projecting point, our eyes and imagination were engrossed by the strange wildness of the view; for in such a place Vulcan might have worked. Amidst the most confusedly heaped masses of lava, black and barren, as if hardly yet cooled, innumerable craters (or fumeroles) showed their very regular, even artificial looking heaps. It was like immense iron works, on a Cyclopian scale!
§ Iguana Cove. Though neither FitzRoy nor Darwin mention landing here, the description of the iguanas suggests that FitzRoy did go ashore, perhaps accompanied by Darwin.
When this lava flowed from the heights it must have been stopped rather suddenly (cooled) by the water; for the lava cliffs are in some places twenty, and in others forty feet high, while close to them there is water so deep that a ship could not anchor there, even in a calm while the sea is quite smooth. Until we rounded this point the wind was very strong, eddying round the high south-west cape; but here we were becalmed, and passed some anxious hours, till at length light variable airs carried us off-shore.
30th. This morning we passed a remarkably fine American whaler, the Science, carrying nine whale-boats! On the south-eastern height of Albemarle, smoke was seen issuing from several places near the summit, but no flame. Profiting by every breeze, we hastened towards Tagus (or Banks) Cove.
Narborough Island is exactly like a part of Albemarle—a great volcano, whose base is surrounded by an extensive field of lava: it is utterly barren and desolate. A few mangroves, on the sandy beaches near Albemarle Island, are not seen in the distance; neither are there enough of them even to diminish the dismal appearance of the island.
We entered the passage in the afternoon, and anchored in the little cove first described by Capt. Pipon, who then commanded H.M.S. Tagus. This cove is the crater of an extinct volcano, and its sides are so steep as to be almost inaccessible.*
* In 1825 H.M.S. Blonde, commanded by Lord Byron,§ anchored here. In her voyage (pp. 92, 93, 94) the black and the red (or brown) iguanas are described, and it is stated that a specimen of the black kind was brought to England from Mexico. Lord Byron saw a volcano burning on Narborough Island.
§ The poet George Gordon Byron's cousin, George Anson Byron; 6th and 7th Lords Byron, respectively.
1st October. Our first object was to find water: none could be got in the cove, but at a short distance from it a few holes were found, out of which a bottle might be filled in an hour. Around this scanty spring draining continually through the rock, all the little birds of the island appeared to be collected, a pretty clear indication of there being then no other fresh-water within their reach: yet during the rainy season there must be considerable streams, judging by gullies which are worn in the rock. All the heights hereabouts, and the sides of the craters, are composed of sandstone that looks like fine sandy mud half baked; but the low grounds are lava. The crater in which we anchored gave me the idea of its having been a mud volcano. The climate is very different from that of the Windward Islands; for wind clouds and rain appear to be obstructed in their northward passage, by the heights on the southern part of this island. The heat is here far greater than in other parts of the archipelago, and the land is more sterile. Numbers of another sort of iguana were seen for the first time, and many were killed and eaten. In size and shape they resemble the black kind, but their colour is a dirty orange red, inclining to reddish brown above and yellow beneath. These reptiles burrow in the earth like rabbits, and are not bad eating. Of the black kind a vast number run about the rocks near the sea, living either upon fish or sea-weed. As we went afterwards in a boat along the ragged irregular shore, we saw numbers of turtle. There are small sandy beaches here and there, to which these animals approach in the evenings: when, as it gets dark, they land and usually lie on the beach during the night, even if it is not the season in which they seek a place for their eggs.
From a height near Tagus Cove dismal indeed was the view, yet deeply interesting. To see such an extent of country overwhelmed by lava, to think of the possible effects of the seven dormant volcanoes then in sight, and to reflect that at some one period all was activity and dreadful com])ustion where we then witnessed only silent desolation, was very impressive.
2d October. We passed this day and the following night in Banks Bay. On the 3d, Mr. Mellersh returned, having examined Elizabeth Bay and the western shore of Narborough Island. We then went round the north-west end of Albemarle Island, and passed the night under sail off the north extreme. At daybreak, on the 4th, we made all sail towards Abingdon Island, which is small, rather high, and tolerably covered with stunted wood; we did not maintain a position even near where I wished to pass the night, but were carried about forty miles away, dead to leeward, during only a few hours of light wind. The current hereabouts runs between one and four knots an hour to the north-westward, yet the depth of the water is unfathomable by ordinary means: excepting for which it is like a vast river in the sea.
5th. While working to windward, endeavouring to regain our lost ground, we saw Bindloes Island: and passed through many ripplings, some of them dangerous for a boat; these were northward, and rather eastward of Abingdon. During the 6th, other indications of a strong current were noticed, besides ripplings such as these, which, in very deep water, and in the open sea, are difficult to explain: sometimes at night, while all around was smooth and tranquil—a short, deep plunge suddenly startled every one: but in a minute afterwards the ship was again quiet. We continued to work to the southward in order to reach James Island, and meet Lieutenant Sulivan.
7th. While working to windward we saw Towers Island, which is different in appearance from all the other islands of this archipelago, being low and flat. We passed it about noon, and Bindloes at sunset. The latter has an irregular hilly surface, partially wooded, but like the rest is a mass of lava, and indurated sandy mud.*
* Of course much of the information given in these pages was collected by the officers.
8th. The Beagle was close to James Island, a high, large, and well-wooded tract of ground, or rather lava. We anchored at the northern end,§ and a boat came alongside loaded with fish, for there was a party of settlers here, detached from Charles Island, whose employment was salting fish and extracting oil from terrapin.* This oil is of a light colour, and exceedingly good quality, being very like pure olive oil. Lieutenant Sulivan returned with his party, and I then detached Mr. Chaffers in the yawl, accompanied by Mr. Johnson and six men, to examine Bindloes, Abingdon, and Towers Islands. As Mr. Darwin anxiously desired to see as much as possible of the productions of this central and large island, he was landed, accompanied by Mr. Bynoe, besides his servant and H. Fuller, to remain until the Beagle's return. Although there is abundance of water on the higher parts of this island, so broken and dry are the lower grounds that it does not arrive at the shore: at two places only can enough water for even a boat's crew be procured, in the dry season; and for a ship there is scarcely hope of a sufficiency. The poor fellows who brought us the fish had been living so long upon terrapin, and the produce of their lines, without any thing else, that half a bag of biscuit (50 lbs.) which we gave them, appeared to be an inestimable treasure, for which they could not sufficiently thank us. We sailed in the evening, but made very little progress towards our destination (Chatham Island) this day (9th). The winds appear to be much lighter and more variable, to leeward of the archipelago, while the current is considerably stronger.† We got pretty close to Chatham Island at dusk, worked to windward during the night, and on the following morning stood along the weather shore towards the watering place.
§ At Buccaneer Cove. FitzRoy's Galápagos Islands coordinates mistakenly assigns duplicate labels (“Adam Cove” and “cove on N. E. side”) to the cove. Both entries list the actual coordinates of Buccaneer Cove.
* They also salt the terrapin; or tortoise.
† It appears that the Norfolk Island of Colnett, is the north-east extreme of Indefatigable Island.§§
§§ As seen on the Galápagos chart by Aaron Arrowsmith in Colnett's Voyage ….
11th. How remarkably different is the climate of the windward and leeward islands of this group! Here we were enveloped by clouds and drizzling fog, and wore cloth clothes. At Tagus Cove and James Island, a hot sun, nearly vertical, overpowered us;—while the south side of Albemarle, Charles, and Chatham Islands, were almost always overshadowed by clouds, and had frequent showers of rain. We anchored close to the watering place: but it appeared strange to remain at anchor in such a spot, only three cables' lengths from a surf breaking high upon a steep cliffy shore, with nothing but the ocean between us and the antarctic; and such was our position; yet it was a safe one, because the great south-west swell of the Pacific is interrupted by Hood Island, and the southerly trade, or perennial wind is so moderate, that it has neither power to raise a sea nor to harm a vessel lying at anchor, if her ground tackle is not defective.
The 12th was spent in filling water, washing, cutting some wood, and bringing thirty large terrapin on board. These animals abound hereabouts; and some are very large, deserving the name of elephant-tortoises. Two of our party tried to reach the higher and thickly wooded part of the island, but found their task impracticable, in so short a time as they could spare, for the wood grows impenetrably thick, though none is straight or of a large size. The upper grounds have a rich loamy soil, lying upon rock, in which the terrapin wallow like hogs, and may be found by dozens. This was a very hard day's work for so few men as were then on board our small vessel. (18th) We had some difficulty in ‘casting,’ so as to clear the land, but got out of the scrape and were working towards Hood Island when the man looking out aloft reported a breaker, which proved to be on a rock at the west end of MacGowen shoal. When first seen it was on the horizon, and hardly differed from the topping of a sea;—once only in about ten minutes it showed distinctly. We steered for it, lowered, two boats, and employed the rest of the day in examining this very dangerous shoal, and fixing its position. One rock at the west end is just a-wash, but there is another under water, except in the hollow of a swell, about half-a-niile to the eastward, which is exceedingly treacherous. We had two narrow escapes this day; while weighing from Chatham Island, baffling winds sent us a great deal too close to the cliffs before our anchor was up, or the ship under command; and while sounding along the edge of MacGowen shoal we were drifted so close to the second rock, mentioned above, that I was not sure on which side of us it lay.
14th. Anchored and examined Hood Harbour, having heard there was a sunken rock in it which our boat had not discovered, but we found nothing dangerous for a ship. Shoal water and large blocks of lava lie near the shore in the harbour; but a vessel must have stood too close in if she touches thereabouts. Left Hood Island at noon, and steered for the southern part of Charles Island. Having a fine breeze we rounded Saddle Point at eight, and anchored at nine off Black Beach.
15th. I went to Post-Office Bay and near the best landing place, found some excellent salt, which though but small in quantity gives a hint that more may be got elsewhere.
16th. Weighed in the afternoon, having obtained the necessary observations, and went to Black Beach Road to take in wood, potatoes, and pigs. We there found a small schooner at anchor, just arrived from Guayaquil, and having, among other things, a bag of letters from England, for the Beagle. That very evening we were to leave Charles Island; not to return! In the schooner were some emigrants; who brought cattle, and information that the governor, Villamil, might be expected to arrive in a few days, with a vessel laden with animals, and supplies for the settlement. We stood across, during the night, to the four islands near Point Woodford; and at daylight next morning (17th) resumed our usual occupations, while sailing along the east side of Albemarle Island. At noon we steered for Albany Islet, to embark Mr. Darwin and Mr. Bynoe; and after our party were on board, we returned towards the shore of Albemarle Island, and there passed the night under sail, in order to start early from a particular position. Our landsmen had enjoyed their stay and profited by it, though the heat was oppressive, and the sky nearly cloudless by night and by day: how different was this from the weather we had had on board! The higher grounds of James Island are extensive, and would be adapted to cultivation if the wood, which now grows thickly, were cleared. There is a fine salt spring, or lake, in an old crater; the salt is excellent, in colour and quality: and the men employed by Mr. Lawson were using it daily for curing their fish and terrapin.
When at some height upon the island, among the thick wood, it is extremely difficult to find the way: men have been lost thereabouts, and it is said that some of the bodies never were found. The day we re-embarked Mr. Darwin there was a man missing, belonging to an American whale ship, and his shipmates were seeking for him. The master of this whaler was very obliging to our party, supplying them with water, and offering his hearty assistance in any way which lay in his power. The earnest wishes to be of use, and the attentions of North Americans to us on all occasions, have been often and gratefully remarked by many on board the Beagle.
18th. Continued our examination of Albemarle Island. When off the northern volcano, the black streams of lava, which have flowed in every direction down the sides of the mountain, looked like immense streams of ink. Thence we steered for Abingdon Island to meet Mr. Chaffers. I thought the current less strong, and setting more to the west, than when I was here on a former day.
On the 19th we were close to Abingdon Island, where there is a fine bold-looking clifF, at the west side, considerably higher than any I had seen in the Galápagos. Mr. Chaffers soon came alongside after we closed the land; when, his orders being all executed, the boat was hoisted in, and we made sail to the north-west in search of Wenman and Culpepper Islets.
Next day (20th) we saw and steered for Wenman Islet, another crater of an extinct volcano. It is high, small, and quite barren: correctly speaking, there are three islets and a large rock, near each other, which, at a distance, appear as one island, but they are fragments of the same crater. We afterwards passed Culpepper Islet, which is a similar rocky, high, and barren little island. At sun-set we made all sail and steered to set well into the south-east trade wind, so as to expedite our passage towards the dangerous archipelago of the Low Islands, and thence to Otaheite (or Tahiti). While sailing away from the Galápagos, impelled westward over a smooth sea, not only by favouring easterly breezes but by a current that set more than sixty miles to the west during the first twenty-four hours after our losing sight of Culpepper Islet, and from forty to ten miles each subsequent day until the 1st of November,* I will look back at those strange islands, and make a few more remarks on them.
* Lat 10° 14' S. long. 120° 35' W.
There are six principal ones, nine smaller, and many islets scarcely deserving to be distinguished from mere rocks. The largest island is sixty miles in length, and about fifteen broad; the highest part being four thousand feet above the sea. All are of volcanic origin, and the lava, of which they are chiefly composed, is excessively hard. Old Dampier says,* “The Spaniards, when they first discovered these islands, found multitudes of ‘guanoes’ and land-turtle, or tortoise, and named them the Galápagos † Islands.” Again, “the air of these islands is temperate enough, considering the clime. Here is constantly a fresh sea-breeze all day, and cooling refreshing winds in the night; therefore the heat is not so violent here as in most places near the equator. The time of the year for the rains is in November, December, and January:[‡] then there is oftentimes excessive dark tempestuous weather, mixed with much thunder and lightning. Sometimes before and after these months there are moderate refreshing showers; but in May, June, July, and August, the weather is always very fair.” I can add nothing to this excellent description, except that heavy rollers occasionally break upon the northern shores of the Galápagos during the rainy season above-mentioned—though no wind of any consequence accompanies them. They are caused by the ‘Northers,’ or ‘Papagayos,’ which are so well known on the coast between Panama and Acapulco. Colnett also gives a good description of these islands:—in his voyage, p. 58, he says, “I consider it as one of the most delightful climates under heaven, although situated within a few miles of the equator.” The buccaneers often resorted to them for refreshments, and as a place where they might refit their vessels, share out plunder, or plan new schemes of rapine, without any risk of being molested.
* Dampier's Voyage round the World, 1681—1691. [At the Galápagos in 1684]
† Galāpăgo being Spanish for tortoise.
‡ During the rainy season, or from November to March (which is not, however, at all to be compared to a continental rainy season) there are calms, variable breezes, and sometimes westerly winds: though the latter are neither of long duration, nor frequent.
Striking instances of the manner in which high land deprives air of its moisture may be seen at the Galápagos. Situated in a wind nearly perennial, those sides only which are exposed to it (the southern) are covered with verdure, and have water: all else is dry and barren, excepting such high ground as the passing clouds hang upon indolently as they move northward. In a similar manner may we not conclude that western Peru is deprived of rain—since the easterly trade wind which carries moisture, and consequent fertility, to eastern Peru, is drained, or dried, as it crosses the Andes? And may we not extend this reasoning to other countries similarly situated, such as Patagonia, perhaps Arabia, and even Africa, upon whose arid deserts no moist wind blows? Currents of air, moving from ocean to land, convey vapour; but as these currents pass over high land, or even a considerable extent of low country, much if not the whole of their aqueous contents is discharged, and until such a body of air has again acquired moisture, it is found to be dry, parching, and unfavourable to vegetation.
All the small birds that live on these lava-covered islands have short beaks, very thick at the base, like that of a bullfinch. This appears to be one of those admirable provisions of Infinite Wisdom by which each created thing is adapted to the place for which it was intended. In picking up insects, or seeds which lie on hard iron-like lava, the superiority of such beaks over delicate ones, cannot, I think, be doubted; but there is, perhaps, another object in their being so strong and wide. Colnett says, p. 59 [sic, p. 53], “they observed an old bird in the act of supplying three young ones with drink, by squeezing the berry of a tree into their mouths. It was about the size of a pea, and contained a watery juice, of an acid, but not unpleasant taste.” “The leaves of these trees absorb the copious dews which fall during the night; the birds then pierce them with their bills for the moisture they retain, and which, I believe, they also procure from the Various plants and evergreens.” “The torch thistle contains a liquid in its heart, which the birds drank, when it was cut down. They sometimes even extracted it from the young trees by piercing the trunks with their bills.” For thus squeezing berries, and piercing woody fibre, or even only stout leaves, a slight thin beak would be scarcely available. Colnett* observes, that some of the birds which he saw resembled a few that he had seen at New Zealand, but as he also remarks that all the dead shells which he found upon the beach were familiar to him, I think one may suspect the accuracy of his eye, if not his memory, in those instances.
Mr. Stokes made some notes about the tortoises (terrapin), while with me, and as he and I are satisfied as to the facts, I will add them. Fresh water was first discovered on Charles and on James Islands, by following the terrapin paths. These animals visit the low, warm ground to seek for food and deposit their eggs; but it must be a toilsome journey indeed for them to ascend and descend the rugged heights. Some that Mr. Stokes saw in wet, muddy places, on high ground, seemed to enjoy themselves very much, snuffling and waddling about in the soft clayey soil near a spring. Their manner of drinking is not unlike that of a fowl: and so fond do they appear to be of water, that it is strange they can exist for a length of time without it; yet people living at the Galápagos say that these animals can go more than six months without drinking. A very small one lived upwards of two months on board the Beagle without either eating or drinking: and whale-ships have often had them on board alive for a much longer period. Some few of the terrapin are so large as to weigh between two and three hundred weight; and, when standing up on their four elephantine legs, are able to reach the breast of a middle-sized man with their snake-like head,* The settlers at Charles Island do not know any way of ascertaining the age of a terrapin, all they say is, that the male has a longer neck than the female.† On board the Beagle a small one grew three-eighths of an inch, in length, in three months; and another grew two inches in length in one year. Several were brought alive to England. The largest we killed was three feet in length from one end of the shell to the other: but the large ones are not so good to eat as those of about fifty pounds weight—which are excellent, and extremely wholesome food. From a large one upwards of a gallon of very fine oil may be extracted. It is rather curious, and a striking instance of the short-sightedness of some men, who think themselves keener in discrimination than most others, that these tortoises should have excited such remarks as—“well, these reptiles never could have migrated far, that is quite clear,” when, in simple truth, there is no other animal in the whole creation so easily caught, so portable, requiring so little food for a long period, and at the same time so likely to have been carried, for food, by the aborigines who probably visited the Galápagos Islands on their balsas,‡ or in large double canoes, long before Columbus saw that twinkling light, which, to his mind, was as the keystone to an arch. Honest Dampier immediately reverted to the tortoises of the West Indies, and of Madagascar‡‡ when he saw those of the Galápagos. He had observed too many varieties caused by climate, soil, food, and habits, to entertain a doubt of their being other than a variety of the tortoise kind. As to the ‘guanoes’ they were, to his eye, familiar objects.
* When their long necks and small heads are seen above low bushes they look just like those of snakes.
† Their eggs were found in great numbers in cracks of a hard kind of clayey sand; but so small were the cracks that many of the eggs could not be got out without being broken. The egg is nearly round, of a whitish colour, and measures two inches and a half in diameter—which is about the size of a young one when first hatched.
‡ I have heard that driftwood, not the growth of these islands, is frequently found on the south-east shores. On this subject Colnett says (p. 58), “on several parts of the shore there was driftwood, of a larger size than any of the trees that grow on the island: also bamboos and wild sugar canes, with a few small cocoa nuts at full growth, though not larger than a pigeon's egg.”
‡‡ Dampier, vol. i. p. 102.
The currents about these islands are very remarkable, for in addition to their velocity, which is from two to five miles an hour, and usually towards the north-west,* there is such a surprising difference in the temperature of bodies of water moving within a few miles of each other, that this subject must be reserved for further discussion. On one side of an island (Albemarle Island) we found the temperature of the sea, a foot below the surface, 80° Faht.; but at the other side it was less than 60°. In brief, those striking differences may be owing to the cool current which comes from the southward along the coasts of Peru and Chile, and at the Galápagos encounters a far warmer body of water moving from the bay of Panama, a sort of ‘gulf stream.’ The retentive manner in which such ocean rivers preserve their temperature has been frequently remarked: and must have a great effect upon the climates of countries near whose shores they flow.
* In the twenty-four hours immediately previous to first making these islands, the Beagle was set fifty miles to the west north-west.
Dangerous Archipelago of the Low Islands—Krusenstern—Squalls—Discoveries—Otaheite—Matavai—Natives—Houses—Point Venus—Theft—Singing—Pomare—Sugar—Papiete—Church—Mr. Pritchard—Thierry—Shells—Mr. Nott—Bible—Paamuto Natives—Falkner—‘Ua’—Papawa—Relics—Divine Service—Hitote—Henry—Audience—Queen—Missionaries—Roman Catholics—Forming head—Meeting at Papiete—Dress—Behaviour—Eloquence of natives—Honourable feelings—Interesting discussion—Venilia
After sailing before the wind twelve days, our approach to land was indicated by a black tern which flew past the ship.* Tropic birds were seen on the previous day (2d), but they roam farther than tern. On the 9th we saw Honden Island, one of the low coral formations, only a few feet above water, yet thickly covered with cocoa-nut trees.† Our observations corroborated the position assigned to it by Admiral Krusenstern,‡ in his excellent chart and memoir, the only documents of any use to us while traversing the archipelago of the Low Islands. This archipelago is indeed extremely deserving of its appellation, ‘Dangerous;’ for numerous coral islets, all low, and some extensive, obstruct the navigation, while unknown currents and strong squalls, and a total want of soundings, add to the risk of sailing there at night. Singular interruptions to the trade-wind are caused by these low lagoon ^ islands; not only does the easterly wind often fail among them, but heavy squalls come from the opposite direction, and more frequently by night than by day. This is especially the case from November to March.
* 3d November, lat. 11° 45'S, long. 126° W.
† About 110 feet from the water level to the top of the trees.
‡ Admiral Krusenstern had the kindness to send me a copy of his Atlas of the Pacific Ocean, accompanied by an elaborate memoir.
^ Most of them are little better than dry reefs encircling a shallow lake or lagoon.
I have before remarked (pp. (65, 66), that extensive shallows, such as the Abrolhos and Bermudas, are liable to heavy squalls; and so far as I have heard or observed, it is usually the case that on land, a wide tract of flat country, without hills, or at sea, a considerable space of partly-covered ground, nowhere rising much above high-water, is subject to more frequent and violent blasts of wind than mountainous or even hilly regions, whether continental or island.
Clouds are certainly attracted, even if their formation be not hastened, by land; especially when it is covered by trees: and as low islands (such as those of the Dangerous Archipelago, between 14° and 20° south) have no hill or height of any kind, about which clouds attracted by the archipelago (taken together) can gather and discharge a portion of their contents, electrical as well as fluid, it may, I think, be inferred, that the want of such a conductor as would be furnished by a mountain five or six thousand feet high, is the reason why clouds in various electrical conditions unite or oppose one another, as the case may be; and, in consequence, cause rapid changes in the atmosphere around them; of which the effects are seen in squalls (sometimes with heavy rain, sometimes without), and even in whirlwinds. Where high land acts as a conductor between the earth and certain portions of our atmosphere, there may be a continual, though unperceived, electrical action. In connection with this subject I would, if I were able, consider the effects of rapidly varying temperature over land, and comparatively uniform temperature over ocean during twenty-four hours; which latter fact I might suspect to be one reason why the great Humboldt could not discover any particular electrical action, as indicated by his electrometers, while sailing from Europe to Brazil: although those same instruments were far from inactive after he landed. But I feel myself out of my depth, and will leave such speculations to those who are qualified to indulge in them.*
* See note (a) at the end of this chapter. [Note is now immediately below.]
Note (a) referred to in page 507:
That the electric agent (whether fire or fluid) goes upward from the earth to the atmosphere, as well as in the contrary direction, showing that a mutual action takes place between air and land, many facts might be brought to prove: I will only mention two.
“On October 25th we had a very remarkable storm: the sky was all in flames. I employed part of the night in observing it, and had the pleasure of seeing three ascending thunderbolts! They rose from the sea like an arrow; two of them in a perpendicular direction, and the third at an angle of about 75 degrees.”—(De Lamanon, in the Voyage of La Pérouse, vol. iii. pp. 431-2).
While H.M. corvette Hind, was lying at anchor off Zante, in 1823, in twelve fathoms water, an electric shock came in through her hawse, along the chain-cable, by which she was riding. Two men, who were sitting on the cable, before the bitts, were knocked down—felt the effects of the shock about half an hour—but were not seriously hurt. A noise like that of a gun startled every one on board; yet there was neither smell, nor smoke, nor any other visible effect. The sky was heavily clouded over; small rain was falling; and there was distant thunder occasionally, but no visible lightning. The cable was hanging slack, almost ‘up and down.’ I witnessed this myself.
On the 13th, after having passed some anxious nights in very squally weather,* we were gratified by seeing an islet whose existence we had not suspected. Tairo is the name by which it is known to the islanders of the archipelago. A few hours afterwards we ranged along the shore of another and much larger island, or rather group of islets, till then not laid down in any chart, the native name of which is Cavahi. We saw a number of islets covered with cocoa-nut trees, surrounding a lagoon; but could not delay to examine the south side, because we had been so unexpectedly detained by contrary winds, and I was very anxious about the chronometer measurement, the interval being already considerable.
* All the squalls were from the westward.
Hastening on, therefore, we passed between the Elizabeth and Wittgenstein (or Faarava) groups, which are similar to Cavahi in appearance, and carried a press of sail to reach the Society Islands. It was singular that directly we were clear of the Low Islands, we got into a steady trade-wind, such as we had enjoyed before seeing Honden Island; and were no more troubled by westerly wind, or squalls, till long after we had left Otaheite* and were approaching near New Zealand.
* Some diversity of opinion has arisen respecting the spelling of this name. No person now doubts that Tahiti is the native word, and therefore the most correct to be used when talking to Polynesian islanders, or writing for them; but as our immortal countryman, Cook, wrote Otaheite, and it is difficult to hear or see the word without thinking of him, I shall beg to be allowed the same privilege that Frenchmen claim when writing ‘Londres,’ or Englishmen when they write ‘Sicily;’ and for the future use only the word Otaheite.
15th. Early this morning we saw Otaheite; but clouds hanging over the high land and a haziness about the horizon, at first disappointed our expectations. As the sun rose higher, the clouds shrunk away, vanishing as they rolled along the grandly formed mountains: high, sharp, irregular peaks, and huge masses of rock appeared between the mists, and again were hidden—deep vallies or glens showed darkly, and while the shadows passed, seemed to be denied the light of day. Strikingly different in appearance were the lower hills and dales, and the richly wooded land at the sea-side. There the bright sunshine heightened the vivid and ever-varying tints of a rich verdure. The beautiful alternation of light and shade, each moment changing as the flitting shadows passed over every kind of green; the groves of graceful palm-trees; the dazzling white foam of the breakers on the coral reefs, contrasted by the deep blue of the sea, combined to form a most enchanting view. At a distance in the west, Eimeo (Moorea) showed a picturesque outline, and added to the beauty of a scene which surpassed our ideas, even heightened as they had been by the descriptions of former voyagers.
Passing Point Venus, and avoiding the Dolphin Shoal, we worked up to an anchorage in Matavai Bay. No pilot appeared, but had we waited in the offing, a very good one* would have offered his services. With a fresh breeze, we gained the anchorage so quickly that few natives had time to hasten on board, as is their usual custom: only one long canoe came alongside while we sailed in: it was made of half a tree, hollowed out, with a narrow rough plank laced to each side, and an outrigger, consisting of two crooked branches, secured to the canoe and to a long piece of light wood which floated in the water parallel to it. This out-rigger extended eight or ten feet from the ticklish conveyance, and enabled four men to sit at their ease in the narrow trunk of a tree that had never exceeded a foot in diameter.
* Called James Mitchell, though an aboriginal Otaheitan.
The personal appearance of these men was to me most remarkable: tall and athletic, with very well-formed heads and a good expression of countenance, they at once made a favourable impression, which their quiet good-humour and tractable disposition afterwards heightened very much. To my eye they differed from the aborigines of southern South America in the form of their heads; in the width or height of the cheek-bones; in their eye-brows; in their colour; and most essentially in the expression of their countenances. High foreheads; defined and prominent eyebrows; with a rich, bronze colour, give an Asiatic expression to the upper part of their faces; but the flat noses (carefully flattened in infancy), and thick lips, are like those of the South Americans.
By the time the vessel was secured, a number of canoes had assembled, each containing from two to ten persons. A few, indeed, were so small that they could only hold one man each. The outriggers hindered their approach, as much as hoops impeded the motions of our maternal ancestors; but those who could not get near looked equally happy at a distance. All were cheerful, tractable, and patient, though eager to see the ‘manua’ (their corruption of man-of-war), and dispose of their merchandize (shells and fruit) to the new-comers.
The work necessary for securing the ship being completed, permission was given to admit the natives; and on board they swarmed like bees. In a minute, our deck became a crowded and noisy bazaar. ‘One dălă’ (dollar), and ‘my ty’(‘maitai,’ meaning ‘good, fine, agreed,’ &c.) sounded in all tones, except those of women, none of whom appeared afloat. The current price of every article was ‘one dala’: a pig, a shell, a whole basket of shells, a roll of cloth, a heap of fruit, or a single fishhook, of the worst description, were offered as equivalents for the coveted dollar. Old clothes, if of cloth, they would not take, unless as a gift; but linen was acceptable. Every man had a light linen or cotton garment, or the remains of one, of some kind; the more respectable wore shirts, and loose wrappers for trowsers; a few had jackets and trowsers. Many had straw hats; some had a wreath of leaves, some flowers in their hair: only a few of the youngest boys were nearly naked.
Mr. Darwin and I went to Point Venus, and landed among a mob of inquisitive, laughing, and chattering natives, most of whom were women and children. Mr. Wilson, the respected missionary, so long resident at Matavai, met us on the beach; and with him we went, attended by the younger part of the mob, to his house. Ten minutes' walk along level land, every where, except at the sea-side, covered or shaded by thick underwood, tall palms, and the rich foliage of the bread-fruit tree, brought us to the quiet dwelling. The free, cheerful manners of the natives who gathered about the door, and unceremoniously took possession of vacant seats, on chairs, or the floor, showed that they were at home with their benefactors; and that any seclusion or offensive intimation of superiority had not existed in the conduct of Mr. or Mrs. Wilson. Two chiefs, of inferior rank, made acquaintance with us; they walked into the room, shook hands, sat down at their ease, and conversed with Mr. Wilson in exactly the manner of respectable English farmers. They were large, but inactive-looking men, and round-shouldered—suitably clothed, above the knees, in clean white jackets, shirts, and wrapper trowsers, with their closely-cut hair hidden by a large straw-hat—their appearance was very respectable. ‘la-orana,’ pronounced ‘yoronha,’ was a salutation we soon learned; but one of my younger shipmates was a little perplexed during his first excursion, “Why does every one call me ‘Your honour,’” said he. Most of our officers and many of the men passed the evening on shore, and Mr. Darwin and myself rambled about until darkness summoned all on board.
Often as the native houses have been described, I found them different from the idea I had formed. Perhaps they are now rather slighter, and not constructed exactly like those of other times. Upon slight posts, placed in the ground in a long ellipse, a very light and elegant frame-work of ‘purau’* is supported. This frame-work forms the low, but extensive roof; and upon it a thatch of pandanus leaves,—simply doubled upon twigs or reeds placed crosswise on the purau-wood rafters, which have their ends outwards,—forms a light covering, impervious to water, regular, indeed pretty to the eye, impenetrable by heat, and easily replaced once in eight or ten years. The middle of the roof forms an obtuse angle, as a common low roof does elsewhere; but the ends are rounded. The purau rafters are placed at equal distances around the circumference, converging as radii to the centres and central line of the ellipse. All of them are of equal length and size, and their ends are generally ornamented with a neat matting, made of a mosaic † pattern. Each line of twigs, holding the leaves, is straight and equi-distant from the next; and as, in the house, only about three inches of the smooth surface of each leaf is seen between the lines of twigs, the flat under surface, of an uniform appearance and light straw colour, aids the smooth, round purau in agreeably surprising the eye of a stranger by a new kind of architecture, as admirable as it is simple. Around the house, instead of a wall, are strong canes, regularly placed between the supporting posts, at distances (one or two inches) equal to the diameter of the canes; they are driven into the ground, and secured to the roof; one opening only is left for a door. Within are some screens of native cloth, or framed bed-places, or simply mats spread upon dry grass. There are a few low stools, some baskets, joints of bamboo holding cocoa-nut oil, and calabashes with water, besides a variety of smaller things, which I had not time to examine. What house in a tropical climate could be more agreeable than one of these elegant wicker-work cottages, shaded round by large trees, and profiting by the fresh air of every breeze?
* The ‘purau’ is something like bamboo.
† Or arabesque.
Pretty shades for the face (they cannot be called hats, as they encircle and project from, without covering the head) are made with the palm-leaves. When fresh, adorned by white, or deep red flowers, and tastefully placed, this head-dress is unique and pleasing.
Perhaps my eyes were prejudiced in favour of features and complexion; for the shambling gait and flat noses of the native women had no charms for me. I saw no beauty among them; and either they are not as handsome as they were said to be, or my ideas are fastidious. The men, on the other hand, exceed every idea formed from the old descriptions.
On this day, with us the l6th, but to agree with the reckoning of Otaheite and those who came from the west, changed to the 17th, I was fully occupied in making observations upon the spot where once stood Cook's observatory, a classical, and to us, important place. Upon the situation of this celebrated point, Venus, depend most of the geographical positions of islands in the South Sea; and its locality upon our globe has been deemed well known. Messrs. Wales, Green, and Bayley are particularly entitled to the greatest share of credit for having by their observations attained to so great a degree of accuracy.
While we were engaged with the instruments on shore, a crowd of natives were eagerly displaying their merchandise along side or on board the ship. From the dawn of day, until they were admitted at breakfast time, canoes had been approaching from every direction. Their occupants had heard of the dollars, and every canoe within reach had been loaded. This sort of competition could not last; so I thought it better to give them as much opportunity to dispose of their wares as our small deck allowed; and desired Lieut. Wickham to let the market be held, till trade grew dull. Some wanted to build us a house; many asked to be allowed to wash our clothes. There appeared to be no want of will to work, if dollars were to be gained.
On shore it was difficult to make the required observations, among a crowd of curious observers of ourselves and our instruments; for though they readily drew back as far as we wished, it was quite impossible to keep them from running about and shaking the ground. While employed with the dipping needle under a tent, I thought myself fortified: but they besieged the small opening so closely, in their eagerness to see the sight, that the heat caused by a vertical sun was soon increased to that of an oven, from their thus blocking up the only air-hole.
At my return to the ship in the evening, I found that the fair had not lasted above an hour after breakfast. All the natives had behaved well excepting two; one of whom absconded with the top of a brass stanchion. The other tried to carry off an axe; but was detected, and pointed out to the more respectable of his countrymen, who said he should be tried, and that his sentence would probably be a fine of ten hogs.*
* The man who tried to steal the axe was fined eight hogs and a large piece of cloth. Five of the pigs went to the queen, and three were sent on board the Beagle. The cloth was given to the man who caught the thief.
This evening some of our party were much pleased by hearing the pretty plaintive songs of the children, as they sat in groups upon the shore. Their voices accord in the most perfect manner; and, although the tunes are rather monotonous, they detained us, sitting upon the sandy beach, till we could stop no longer.
18th. Mr. Wilson went with me in a boat to Papiete, the most frequented harbour of Otaheite. We passed inside the reefs, by narrow twisting passages among the coral rocks. Seeing two marks set up on an extensive rocky flat, partially covered by the water, I concluded they were placed as beacons; but was told they were tabu (taboo) marks to keep people from fishing or picking up shells upon the queen's ‘preserve.’ We passed the royal burying-ground, which is adorned by that peculiar tree, the aito, whose wood is so hard that it is called iron-wood. This tree looks like the English yew. It is purposely planted by the natives near their burying-grounds, and used to be considered sacred. Another remarkable tree, resembling (although larger and finer than) the ilex, also casts a solemn shade over the tomb of Pomare.*
* The late king.
The point of land on which the tombs and one of the royal houses stand, is one of the most agreeable places on the island, in point of position; and was a favourite residence of old Pomare. A portion of their superstition hangs about the natives yet: I could not persuade them to approach the tomb of their king, although they told me to go and look at it. The tomb is a plain mass of masonry, sheltered by a roof of wood.
At Toanoa, between this place (called Papawa) and Papiete, we saw Mr. Bicknell's sugar-mill. The sugar made there from native cane is of a very good quality, and cheap. Mr. Bicknell told me that the natives brought their canes to him; and that latterly he had given up growing and attending to them himself. Noticing a large deficiency in some lead-work, he remarked: “That lead was stolen in the last civil war; our books were then in high request, not to be read, but to make cartridges.” That such a sad misapplication of numbers of books sent out by missionary societies, has also occurred in New Zealand, as well as among the eastern Indian nations, I i have heard from many quarters.
Papiete is a pretty and secure little bay. Around it is low land, ornamented with trees and European as well as native houses: but immediately behind the level part, hills rise to a height of two or three thousand feet. Lying to leeward of the island it enjoys less sea-breeze, and is therefore hotter than other harbours. In the middle of the bay is a little island belonging to the queen, where the colours of Otaheite (red, white, red, horizontal) are displayed.
Several neat-looking white cottages showed that European ideas had extended their influence hither: but I was sorry to see the new church, a large wooden structure capable of holding six hundred people, covered by a partly Otaheitan roof, in lieu of one formed completely in their own style. Instead of the circular end, an ugly gable terminates a high box-shaped house, resembling a factory.
Mr. Pritchard* arrived from Eimeo as we landed. Leaving him for a short time, I went to see a person who styled himself Baron de Thierry, King of Nuhahiva † and sovereign chief of New Zealand. About the house in which resides this self-called philanthropist,—said to be maturing arrangements for civilizing Nuhahiva and New Zealand—as well as for cutting a canal across the Isthmus of Darien,—were a motley group of tattowed New Zealanders, half-clothed natives of Otaheite, and some ill-looking American seamen. I was received in affected state by this grandee, who abruptly began to question me with—“Well, Captain! what news from Panama? Have the Congress settled the manner in which they are to carry my ideas into effect?” I tried to be decently civil to him, as well as to the ‘baroness’ but could not diminish my suspicions, and soon cut short our conference.
* Now Her Majesty's Consul.
† One of the Marquesas.
In his house was a pile of muskets, whose fixed and very long bayonets had not a philanthropic aspect. He had been there three months, and was said to be waiting for his ships to arrive and carry him to his sovereignty. Born in England, of French emigrant parents; his own account of himself was that he was secretary of legation to the Marquis of Marialva, at the congress of Vienna; and that in 1815 he belonged to the 23d Light Dragoons (English). In 1816 he was attache to the French ambassador in London. In 1819 he was studying divinity at Oxford. In 1820-21, he was a student of laws at Cambridge. Afterwards he travelled on the continent: and lately had been sojourning in the United States. He visited and brought letters from the Governor of St. Thomas, in the West Indies. He showed papers to prove these assertions: had a wife and four children with him; and he had succeeded in duping a great many people.
Mr. Pritchard had seen the queen (by courtesy called Pomare, after her father, though her name was Aimatta) at Eimeo, the day before he arrived at Otaheite; and as she had not intimated an intention of coming thence, I agreed to go with him in a few days to pay my respects to her, and to make a formal application upon the subject of the Truro, a merchant vessel plundered and destroyed by the Low Islanders in 1830-31.* I returned to Matavai in the evening, and, after landing Mr. Wilson, remained nearly two hours listening to the natives singing. I asked them to dance; but they said it was forbidden, and that the watchman would take them to the governor of the district, who would fine them heavily. Singing, except hymns, is also forbidden to the grown people, but they seemed to like listening to the children.
* This I was requested to do by Commodore Mason.
This evening, before dark, there was a sight upon the Beagle's deck, which dehghted us who wished to collect shells but had not time to look for them. An Englishman† had spread out a large collection which he had just brought from the Low Islands, and soon found eager purchasers.
† John Middleton.
19th. We weighed anchor, and went into the little cove of Papawa, for the sake of watering quickly, without exposing the men and boats to a heavy surf. It is easy to avoid the numerous rocky patches, while there is a breeze, and the sun shining on either side, or astern; but if the sun is a-head, it is ahnost impossible to distinguish the reefs, by the colour, or relative smoothness of the water. Walking to the house of Mr. Nott, I saw an elderly native writing in a cottage, and apparently very intent vipon his employment. He showed me what had engaged his attention, an Otaheitan version of the book of Jeremiah, in Mr. Nott's writing, which he was copying in a very distinct, good hand.
Mr. Nott, the senior missionary upon the island, had then almost completed a great work, the translation of the Bible.* When we consider the judgment and persevering industry required to translate the Bible from one written language into another, it becomes easier to obtain a fair conception of the labour necessary to fix, and make proper use of an unwritten, and very peculiar language, in order to effect such a work,—a work worthy of the fathers of our church. I paid my respects to the author of this immense undertaking, and asked his advice and opinion respecting the affairs in which I was instructed to take a part, while on the island.
* This noble work is completed. I have now lying by me a copy of the entire Bible, in the language of Otaheite, translated and compiled by Mr. Nott, who has just sailed from England on his return to Otaheite, carrying with him an ample number of copies of the Book of Books. I felt deeply gratified by that good man's kindness in giving me one of the first copies which were printed.
In the course of another visit to Papiete, I again met the titular king of Nuhahiva, and told him my suspicions, so plainly, that he said he should appeal to the governor of New South Wales, to the Admiralty, and to the king of England himself, against the unjust suspicions and improper conduct of the captain of the Beagle!
Since the 17th the weather had been too cloudy, by night and by day, to admit of astronomical observations. Instead of fine clear weather, there was a thickly overcast sky, and only light and variable wind. From the latter end of December to the beginning of March cloudy weather (with much rain, and westerly winds) is usual at Otaheite. Singular interruptions to the regularity of the trade-wind occur among all the tropical islands of this ocean. One instance has already been given of the uncertain and changeable state of the weather among the Low Islands, and many more may be found in the narratives of voyages in the Pacific between the tropics.
20th. While conversing with Middleton about those Low Islands (where he had passed much time), I was very much struck by the unpleasant personal feeling shewn by him when alluding to the missionaries, and their regulations, as contrasted with the strong terms in which he mentioned the good effects of their intercourse with the Low Islanders; and how much more missionaries were required. His own words, as I find them in a paper of remarks he gave me, are, “the inhabitants (of the Low Islands) are familiarized to Europeans; and are partly civilized, owing to the Gospel having been preached to them by the missionaries.” In another place he says, “there are inhabitants enough to require the constant residence of one or two missionaries. They have some books of the Gospel in their hands, but are yet too ignorant to profit by their contents.” His own antipathy to the missionaries had arisen, I found, in consequence of their restraints upon his conduct, while at Otaheite.—Among other information he said that the natives of Chain Island told him frequently, that the first ship they ever saw was manned with black people; but the captain, whom the natives styled the ‘King of the Spirits,’ was a white man. They were much alarmed when they saw the vessel come close to their island, and their old men deemed it an omen of impending disasters. Soon after this event, the island was inundated by the sea, and many people perished. They were then cannibals, and always at war with the natives of the neighbouring islands: since that time, which was ‘long ago’ (how long he could not ascertain), the Chain Islanders have invaded and successively conquered the other Low Islands, invariably killing and eating the greater proportion of their captives. (The Low Islands are called Paarauto.)
Middleton arrived at Otaheite from Chain Island, only two days before this conversation took place. He came in his own open whale boat, with a crew of five natives; two being Chain Islanders, one a native of the Gambier Islands, one from the Marquesas, and one from the ferocious set who live upon an island called Aura.* Knowing their habits, and understanding their language, radically the same though differing in dialect, had assisted his daring and enterprising disposition in a series of wanderings about all the islands which lie in this quarter of the Pacific. He sold me a chart, made by himself, in which, he said, every one of the Low Islands was marked, though not correctly.† From him I obtained their native names also, with the proper pronunciation. He says the natives are great talkers, and have very good memories: for hours at a time he has often listened, with the deepest interest, to their traditions, and to the terrible tales of their inhuman warfare. About the year 1800, as near as he could ascertain, a ship was cast away upon the low island Arutua:‡ her crew were Europeans (meaning white men). The people of Arutua offered no violence, but the blood-thirsty natives of Aura hearing of the wreck, repaired to the place in a body, and massacred every man.
* Excepting the savages of Aura the natives of Chain Island have conquered, successively, all the other islanders in their neighbourhood. On Chain Island there are more hogs and fruits than on any other low island.
† Some of these data were used in adding to Admiral Krusenstern's chart.
‡ I do not know its position.
In the year 1831, the master and mate of the unfortunate Truro, passing by Aura in a small boat, were invited ashore by many friendly signs. They suspected no danger, landed together, without arms, were instantly speared by the treacherous natives, and fell, embracing each other.* Those islands are supposed, by Middleton, to have received their earlier inhabitants from the Marquesas; and a few, latterly, from Otaheite.
* I remarked that the heads of the Otaheitans and those few of the Chain Islanders whom I saw, were strikingly different, but truly conformable to their respective characters.
By frequent intercourse, by presents, and by some slight knowledge of medicine, Middleton thought he had established himself among the low islanders so securely that he scrupled not to visit any of their islands, Aura alone excepted. How necessary it must be for a missionary to have a knowledge of medicine and surgery. The Jesuit, Falkner, wandered alone in safety among the tribes of South American Indians, owing, in a great measure, to his knowledge of the healing art.*
* “Mr. Thomas Falkner was the son of a surgeon of eminence at Manchester, and was brought up in his father's profession, for which he always manifested the most promising disposition. To complete his professional studies, he was sent to London to attend St. Thomas's Hospital; and, happening to lodge in Tooley-street, on the Surrey bank of the Thames, he made an acquaintance with the master of a ship, employed in the Guinea trade, who persuaded the young surgeon to accompany him in his next voyage in his professional capacity. On his return to England, he engaged to go in the same situation on board a merchant ship to Cadiz, from which he continued his voyage to Buenos Ayres, a Spanish settlement on the River La Plata. Here he fell sick, and was in so dangrerous a state when his ship was ready to depart, as not to be in a condition to be carried on board; so she sailed without him. The Jesuits, of which there was a college at Buenos Avres, nursed him during his illness with the greatest care and kindest assiduity; and perceiving the very great advantage which they would derive, in their missions, from possessing a brother who was so well skilled in medicine and surgery, spared no pains to win his affection and secure his confidence. In short, they so worked upon his mind, as to persuade him to enter into their college, and finally to become one of their order. He now entered upon his ministry among the Indians who inhabit the vast track of country between the River La Plata and the Straits of Magellan. His skill in the cure of diseases, and in performing chirurgical operations, together with his knowledge of mechanics, rendered his mission successful beyond example. In this country he remained near forty years, and was among the persons appointed by the Spanish government to make a survey of the coasts between the Brazils and the Tiera del Fuego, Falkland Island, &c. When the society of Jesuits was dissolved,§ he was sent back to Spain, and after an absence of near forty years, arrived in his native country. Soon after his return to England he became domestic chaplain to Robert Berkeley, esquire, of Spetchley, near Worcester, a Roman Catholic gentleman of distinguished knowledge, most respectable character, and large fortune. There he wrote the account of Patagonia, which has been quoted in this volume, and was afterwards published, with a map corrected from that of D'Anville, according to his own observations. Mr. Falkner possessed a very acute mind, a general knowledge, and most retentive memory. Of his medical experience and practice, I have heard physicians of eminence speak in the highest terms of commendation. His manners, as may be supposed from the tenor of his life, were at once singular and inoffensive: and he retained somewhat of his Indian habits to the last. He died, as I have been informed, about the year 1781.”—Colnett's Voyage, page 25, note.
§ The Jesuits were expelled from Argentina in 1767, but their order—Society of Jesuits—was not disolved.
21st. I went to see ‘Ua,’ an old man, who remembered ‘Toote’ (Cook); yet was still strong and active: he told me that in those days he was a little boy. There were many more people then in Otaheite; ten to one, as compared with the present numbers: but sickness had destroyed a great many, he thought. The island was not so healthy as in former times; and they had caught diseases, in those days unknown. Asking who brought this or that disease, he imputed the worst to the ships which came after Cook's first visit, and left men upon the island until their return the following year.* Curvature of the spine, or a hump-back, never appeared until after Cook's visits; and as he had a hump-backed man in his ship, they attribute that deformity to him. ‘Ua’ told me that I need not yet have any anxiety about a westerly wind, or bad weather. “The wind would be light and variable during that day, but on the morrow would draw round to the eastward, and two days afterwards the sky would be nearly free from clouds.” Thanking the old man with some presents, I returned on board; and the Beagle then got under weigh, ‘swept’ out of the harbour, and, by the sails and sweeps, alternately employed, regained her former anchorage in Matavai Bay. In the course of a walk among the cottages between Papawa and Matavai, I found numerous tokens of industry, such as I had not expected in a South Sea island. In an enervating climate, where abundance of food is easily procured, one ought not to expect the contented natives to distress their minds or bodies, with anxious and industrious endeavours to supply wants which they do not feel, in any degree like the inhabitants of cold or temperate climates; yet the men of Otaheite undergo great fatigue, and carry heavy burthens up and down most difficult tracks in the mountains, in a manner astonishing, if not impossible, to Europeans. Mr. Darwin, who made a three days' excursion among the wildest parts of the mountains, was quite enthusiastic in his account of the strength, activity, and above all, the excellent disposition and good conduct of the two natives who were his companions and guides.
* Spanish ships, from Lima, in 1774-6.
At the door of one house I saw the owner reading a book attentively. It was the New Testament translated into his native language. His wife was rolling up some of the large green leaves which they use as substitutes for plates; and two merry little children had been running after me, singing, in hopes of a present of some trifle. The superior expression of that man's countenance, and his unaffected employment (for I came upon him suddenly, and unperceived till the children spoke), made an impression upon my mind, which, I hope, will not be forgotten.
In my way back, passing some tall palm trees, I asked a native to get me some cocoa-nuts. Putting a strip of bark between his feet, he threw off his shirt, and jumped ‘at’ the tree, catching the trunk with his feet and hands at the same moment; then moving his hands alternately, and his feet by short jumps, the band of bark assisting their hold on the slender trunk, in a few seconds he was at the top of a tree seventy feet in height, quite straight and perpendicular, and tapering in size from a foot to six inches in diameter.
Some curious relics of former times were found for me, which had long remained in dusty quiet; among them were tortoise-shell masks, and head pieces surmounted by feathers of the tropic bird; also an apron, ingeniously, or rather laboriously made of small pieces of mother of pearl. So long was it since they had been used, that a native about thirty years of age did not know what they were for: but from the signs and expressions of the old man to whom they belonged, I think they formed part of the dress of a priest, used when sacrificing a (perhaps human) victim.* Two English sixpences also found their way to me, bearing the date 1787; memorials of the ill-fated Bounty.
* A whole dress may be seen at the British Museum, brought to England by Cook in 1771.
News arrived that the queen intended to return to her headquarters at Papiete, and that she had ordered a present of fruit and pigs to be prepared.
22d. Sunday. Early this morning a party went with me to Papiete, and others went to Mr. Nott's church, while those who could not go far from the ship attended Mr. Wilson, to hear as well as see the natives at divine service. At Mr. Pritchard's church we found an orderly, attentive, and decently dressed congregation. I saw nothing “grotesque,” nothing “ludicrous,” nor anything which had a tendency to “depress the spirits,” or “disappoint one's expectations.”*
* I had read Kotzebue's voyage a few days previously.
The church was quite full and many were sitting outside; I suppose six hundred people were present besides children, who, like others of their happy age, required an occasional touch with the white wand of a most stern looking old beadle, to prevent their chattering to one another about the strangers, and their ‘money.’*
* All gold or silver is by them called ‘money;’ the gold lace on a coat, an epaulette, a gold coin, or a dollar, is ‘money.’
Mr. Pritchard's fluent delivery in the native language surprised and pleased us much. The greater part of the natives were very attentive. Two were making notes upon paper, of the subject of his discourse. A few were careless, but only a very few; and their eye-wanderings were caused chiefly by the strangers in uniform. Where is the English congregation of five or six hundred persons, in which a captious observer could not occasionally detect inattention to the clergyman? Hymns were sung with much propriety, and a very pleasing musical effect. The language is so soft and so full of vowels, that the good voices and very correct ears of the natives succeed admirably in hymns. After the service in the native language had ended, we repaired to the English chapel with Mr. Pritchard, who performed divine service in the manner of the Independents. Occasional visitors from ships at the island, and the few European residents who are within reach, frequent this chapel.
It was certainly better to suppress altogether, rather than only to restrain and alter their former licentious amusements, but it seemed to me that some kind of innocent recreation was much wanted by these light-hearted islanders. There is a void in the mind where a naturally thoughtless and volatile disposition exists, which it is extremely difficult to fill with serious thoughts of any duration. To such minds “a quiet reflecting day,” (as my respected and much lamented messmate in the Thetis, the Rev. Henry Hall, used to term Sunday), is, in a great measure, a vacant time of leisure, which if not occupied by innocent thoughts which interest without doing harm, is certain to be seized upon by evil imaginations and bad passions.
During the time we passed in the churches it was sufficiently plain that there was no harshness usually shewn towards the children: for they clustered round their minister so closely when he moved about, that he was obliged to push them away, good naturedly, several times. From the manner of elderly, as well as young natives, I should conclude that “Pritate,”* as they called Mr. Pritchard, was a favourite.
* Having so few consonants in their language, obliges them to change most of our names.
23d. With Mr. Henry (the son of the missionary) a well known chief, ‘Hitote,’ came on board to share our breakfast. Captain Beechey has introduced him in his work and described his character. Mr. Henry was born upon the island, and had never visited England, yet a more English countenance, or more genuine English ideas, I have seldom met with in any part of the world. From him I received some information, to me very interesting, and to those for whom it was my duty to collect nautical intelligence, I hope useful.* Afterwards I hastened to Papiete to pay my respects to Queen Pomare. I was in time to see her arrive from Eimeo, sitting on the gunwale of a whale-boat, loosely dressed in a dark kind of gown, without anything upon her head, hands, or feet, and without any kind of girdle or sash to confine her gown, which was fas tened only at the throat. There was no reception at landing: no attendance, no kind of outward ceremony showed that the ‘Queen of the Isles ‘had arrived at her home.
* Mr. Henry's data were also used in adding to Krusenstern's chart.
Some time afterwards, when I heard that she was inclined to give an audience, I went to the royal cottage with Mr. Pritchard. A parcel of half-dressed merry looking damsels eyed us with an amusing mixture of shyness and curiosity. These, I concluded, were a part of the ‘Queen's mob,’ as our interpreter had ignorantly or democratically called the royal attendants. Only a few men were about the house, one of whom was the queen's foster-father (‘feeding father” in the Otaheitan language) and another her husband.
Entering a small room, ‘la-orana Pomare,’ with a shake of the hand, was the salutation given by Mr. Pritchard, and by myself, following his example. On the only three chairs in the room we sat down, but the queen looked very uncomfortable, and certainly not at all dignified. I could not help pitying her, for it was evident she was expecting a lecture on the subject of the Truro, and felt her utter helplessness: I was therefore glad, after a few words of compliment, to see her mother, husband, and foster-father enter the room, though they sat down upon chests or the floor.
I delivered a letter from Commodore Mason, which she asked Mr. Pritchard to interpret, and sent out to her secretary. A meeting of the chiefs, herself presiding, was proposed and decided to be held on the following day. Some conversation then passed on other subjects, and we took our leave by shaking each individual by the hand. This is certainly preferable to pressing noses, but I was sorry to see that the missionaries had attended but little to the outward demeanour, to the manners, to the attendance, and to the dwelling of the sovereign of a people whose happiness and improvement would certainly be increased by raising the character, and improving the condition of their ruler. While called a queen, Pomare ought to be supported by some of those ceremonious distinctions, which have, in all ages and nations, accompanied the chief authority. That the missionaries should interfere harshly or sweepingly, would doubtless irritate; but a beneficial influence, almost unnoticed except in its effects, might be exerted in these temporal, and seemingly trifling affairs, which might assist hereafter in a day of need.
I have been told that the natives have been very ungrateful to the missionaries. Perhaps they are not all aware what a debt of gratitude they owe. Certainly, the better informed and the older inhabitants understand and appreciate the kindness and the labours of their devoted teachers; but whether the younger or the lightly-disposed have, generally speaking, a kindly feeling towards them I doubt. More temporal enjoyments, and more visible or tangible benefits are asked for by the younger inhabitants, who are daily becoming more aware of the manners and habits of civilized nations. Surely the queen, a young and lively woman, is likely to compare her own habits and personal comforts, and the degrees of attention or deference shown to her, with those of foreigners, either resident in or visiting Otaheite.
Dispensing temporal benefits, with an evident desire to better their condition in every way, excites the gratitude of ignorant minds, and often paves the way towards teaching them to acquire abstract ideas, and to wage war against many of those things which they would rather do than leave undone. There is a Roman Catholic mission at the Gambler Islands, amply provided with presents and property fit for the natives, and it is said that they are succeeding well. At Otaheite the missionaries were afraid that the doctrines of the Roman church would obtain a greater influence, and agree better with the disposition of the natives than the strict discipline in which they have hitherto been held. Unless preventive measures are taken in Europe, religious strife and internal warfare may again be caused in these islands, even by those whose aim is peace. Already there is a remarkable bitterness of feeling on the subject, which is unlikely to diminish if the success of the Roman Catholic mission increases.
But I have wandered away from Pomare—her small ill-furnished room and her awkwardly-contrived house, neither English nor Otaheitan. Before she became sovereign, she was known by the name of Aimatta, which signifies ‘eye-eater;’* but Pomare has since been adopted as the royal name. In affixing her signature, ‘Vahine’ is added, which means ‘female’—thus ‘Pomare Vahine.’ Her husband is a young, intelligent man; but he has no share in the government, being only king-consort. This man was the only native of the island, that I saw, whose nose was sharp and projecting. It is amusing to think that they call a man ‘long nose,’ in this country, when they wish to wound his feelings deeply.
* I need not remark upon the offering made to the king in the time of human sacrifice.
During the first few days after a child is born, the mother or her attendants keep pressing the back of the infant's head with one hand, and the forehead and nose with the other, to make the head high and the nose and brow flat. Children of the higher ranks undergo more compression, because they are more carefully attended.* How the queen's husband escaped, or could be chosen by her with such a nose, I am at a loss to discover.
* Mitchell, the native pilot, described this process to me minutely.
24th. With all the officers who could be spared from the duty of the ship, Mr. Darwin and I repaired early to Papiete. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Henry, and Hitote, were of the party. Arrived at the hospitable abode of Mr. Pritchard, we waited until a messenger informed us of the queen's arrival at the appointed place of meeting—the English chapel. From our position we had just seen the royal escort—a very inferior assemblage. It appeared that the chiefs and elderly people had walked to the chapel when our boats arrived, leaving only the younger branches of the community to accompany Pomare. The English chapel is a small, wooden structure, with a high, angular roof; it is about fifty feet in length and thirty feet wide; near the eastern end is a pulpit, and at each corner a small pew. The rest of the building is occupied by strong benches, extending nearly from side to side; latticed windows admit light and air; the roof is thatched in a partly Otaheitan manner; none of the woodwork is painted, neither is there any decoration. Entering the chapel with my companions, I turned towards the principal pews, expecting to see Pomare there; but no, she was sitting almost alone, at the other end of the building, looking very disconsolate. Natives sitting promiscuously on the benches saluted us as we entered.:—order, or any kind of form, there was none.
The only visible difference between Pomare and her subjects was her wearing a gay silk gown, tied however round the throat, though entirely loose elsewhere; being made and worn like a loose smock-frock, its uncouth appearance excited more notice from our eyes than the rich material. In her figure, her countenance, or her manner, there was nothing prepossessing, or at all calculated to command the respect of foreigners. I thought of Oberea,* and wished that it had been possible to retain a modified dress of the former kind. A light under-garment added to the dress of Oberea might have suited the climate, satisfied decency, and pleased the eye, even of a painter.
* Queen of Otaheite in 1767. “Both men and women are not only decently, but gracefully clothed, in a kind of white cloth, that is made of the bark of a shrub, and very much resembles coarse China paper. Their dress consists of two pieces of this cloth: one of them, a hole having been made in the middle to put the head through, hangs down from the shoulders to the midleg before and behind; another piece, whiich is between four and five yards long, and about one yard broad, they wrap round the body in a very easy manner.”—Wallis's Voyage Round the World, I767.
Disposed at first to criticise rather ill-naturedly—how soon our feelings altered, as we remarked the superior appearance and indications of intellectual ability shown by the chieftains, and by very many of the natives of a lower class. Their manner, and animated though quiet tone of speaking, assisted the good sense and apparent honesty of the principal men in elevating our ideas of their talents, and of their wish to act correctly.
Every reader of voyages knows that the chiefs of Otaheite are large, fine-looking men. Their manner is easy, respectful, and to a certain degree dignified; indeed on the whole surprisingly good. They speak with apparent ease, very much to the purpose in few words, and in the most orderly, regular way. Not one individual interrupted another; no one attempted to give his opinions, or introduce a new subject, without asking permission; yet did the matters under discussion affect them all in a very serious manner. Might not these half-enlightened Otaheitans set an example to numbers whose habits and education have been, or ought to have been, so superior?
It had become customary to shake hands with the queen, as well as with the chiefs. This compliment we were expected to pay; but it seemed difficult to manage, since Pomare occupied a large share of the space between two benches nearest to the wall, and the next space was filled by natives. However, squeezing past her, one after another, shaking hands at the most awkward moment, we countermarched into vacant places on the benches next in front of her. The principal chiefs, Utaame, Taati, Hitote, and others, sat near the queen, whose advisers and speakers appeared to be Taali and her foster-father. It was left for me to break the silence and enter upon the business for which we had assembled. Desirous of explaining the motives of our visit, by means of an interpreter in whom the natives would place confidence, I told Mitchell the pilot to request that Queen Pomare would choose a person to act in that character. She named Mr. Pritchard. I remarked, that his sacred office ought to raise him above the unpleasant disputes in which he might become involved as interpreter. The missionaries had approached, and were living in Otaheite, with the sole object of doing good to their fellow-men, but I was sent in a very different capacity. As an officer in the service of my king, I was either to do good or harm, as I might be ordered; and it was necessary to distinguish between those who were, and ought to be always their friends, and men whose duty might be unfriendly, if events should unfortunately disappoint the hopes of those interested in the welfare of Otaheite. These expressions appeared to perplex the queen, and cause serious discussions among the chiefs. Before any reply was made, I continued: “But if Mr. Pritchard will undertake an office which may prove disagreeable, for the sake of giving your majesty satisfaction, by forwarding the business for which this assembly was convened, it will not become me to object; on the contrary, I shall esteem his able assistance as of the most material consequence.”
The queen immediately replied, through the chieftain at her right hand, Taati, that she wished Mr. Pritchard to interpret.
Removing to a position nearer the queen and chiefs (he had been sitting at a distance), Mr. Pritchard expressed his entire readiness to exert himself on any question which might affect the good understanding and harmony that hitherto had existed between the natives of Otaheite and the British; and he trusted that those persons present who understood both languages, (Messrs. Wilson, Bicknell, Henry, and others,) would assist and correct his interpretations as often as they thought it necessary.
Commodore Mason's letter to me, authorizing my proceedings, was then read—in English, by myself—and translated by Mr. Pritchard. Next was read an agreement or bond, by which Queen Pomare had engaged to pay 2,853 dollars, or an equivalent, on or before the 1st day of September 1835, as an indemnification for the capture and robbery of the Truro at the Low Islands.
The queen was asked whether her promise had been fulfilled?
Taati answered, “Neither the money nor an equivalent has yet been given.”
“Why is this?” I asked. “Has any unforeseen accident hindered your acting up to your intentions; or is it not to be paid?”
Utaame and Hitote spoke to Taati, who replied, “We did not understand distinctly how and to whom payment was to be made. It is our intention to pay; and we now wish to remove all doubts, as to the manner of payment.”
I observed, that a clear and explicit agreement had been entered into with Capt. Seymour; if a doubt had arisen it might have been removed by reference to the parties concerned, or to disinterested persons; but no reference of any kind had been made, and Mr. Bicknell, the person appointed to receive the money, or an equivalent, had applied to the queen, yet had not obtained an answer.
I then reminded Pomare of the solemn nature of her agreement; of the loss which her character, and that of her chiefs, would sustain; and of the means England eventually might adopt to recover the property so nefariously taken away from British subjects. I said that I was on my way to England, where her conduct would become known; and if harsh measures should, in consequence, be adopted, she must herself expect to bear the blame.
These words seemed to produce a serious effect. Much argumentative discussion occupied the more respectable natives as well as the chiefs; while the queen sat in silence.
I must here remark, in explanation of the assuming or even harsh tone of my conduct towards Pomare, at this meeting, that there was too much reason for believing that she had abetted, if not in a great measure instigated, the piracy of the Paamuto people (or Low Islanders). For such conduct, however, her advisers were the most to blame. She was then very young; and during those years in which mischief occurred, must have been guided less by her own will than by the desires of her relations.
I had been told that excuses would be made; and that unless something like harshness and threatening were employed, ill effects, instead of a beneficial result, would be caused by the meeting: for the natives, seeing that the case was not taken up in a serious manner, and that the captain of the ship of war did not insist, would trouble themselves no farther after she had sailed away; and would laugh at those by whom the property was to be received.
The ‘Paamuto,’ or Low Islands, where the piracies have occurred, in which she and her relations were supposed to have been concerned, were, and are still considered (though nominally given up by her), as under her authority and particular influence. Her father was a good friend to all the natives of those islands; and the respect and esteem excited by his unusual conduct have continued to the present time, and shown themselves in attachment to his daughter. So much hostility has in general influenced the natives of different islands, that to be well treated by a powerful chief, into whose hands a gale of wind, or warfare throws them, is a rare occurrence.
The Paamuto Isles are rich in pearl oysters. Pomare, or her relations, desired to monopolize the trade. Unjustifiable steps were taken, actuated, it is said, by her or by these relations; and hence this affair.
They soon decided to pay the debt at once. Thirty-six tons of pearl oyster-shells, belonging to Pomare, and then lying at Papiete, were to form part of the equivalent; the remainder was to be collected among the queen's friends. Taati left his place near her, went into the midst of the assembly, and harangued the people in a forcible though humorous manner, in order to stimulate them to subscribe for the queen. After he had done speaking, I requested Mr. Pritchard to state strongly that the innocent natives of Otaheite ought not to suffer for the misdeeds of the Low Islanders. The shells which had come from those ill-conducted people, might well be given as part of the payment; but the queen ought to procure the rest from them, and not from her innocent and deserving subjects. A document, expressing her intention to pay the remaining sum within a stated time, signed by herself and by two chiefs, with a certainty that the property would be obtained from the Low Islanders, would be more satisfactory than immediate payment, if effected by distressing her Otaheitan subjects, who were in no way to blame.
Taati replied, “The honour of the queen is our honour. We will share her difficulties. Her friends prefer assisting her in clearing off this debt, to leaving her conduct exposed to censure. We have determined to unite in her cause, and endeavour to pay all before the departure of the man-of-war.”
It was easy to see that the other principal chiefs had no doubt of the propriety of the demand; and that they thought the queen and her relations ought to bear the consequences of their own conduct. Taati, who is related to her, exerted himself far more than Utaame, Hitote, or any of the others. This part of the business was then settled by their agreeing to give the shells already collected, such sums of money as her friends should choose to contribute, and a document signed by two principal chiefs, expressing the sum already collected and paid; and their intention of forthwith collecting the remainder, and paying it before a stipulated time. Difficulties about the present, as compared with the former value of the shells, were quickly ended by arbitration; and their value estimated at fifty dollars per ton: the ready way in which this question about the value of the shells was settled, gave me a high idea of the natives' wish to do right, rather than take advantage of a doubtful point of law.
I next had to remark, that the queen had given up the murderers of the master and mate of the Truro in a merely nominal manner, and not in effect; and that she must expect to receive a communication upon that subject by the next man-of-war.
She asked me—whether I really thought they would be required from her by the next man-of-war?
I replied: “Those men were tried and condemned by the laws of Otaheite. Your majesty, as sovereign, exercised your right of pardoning them. I think that the British Government will respect your right as queen of these islands; and that his Britannic Majesty will not insist upon those men being punished, or again tried for the same offence; but the propriety of your own conduct in pardoning such notorious offenders, is a very different affair. It will not tend to diminish the effect of a report injurious to your character, which you are aware has been circulated.”
After a pause, I said, “I was desired to enquire into the complaints of British subjects and demand redress where necessary. No complaints had been made to me; therefore I begged to congratulate her majesty on the regularity and good conduct which had prevailed; and thanked her, in the name of my countrymen, for the kindness with which they had been treated.”
I then reminded Pomare of the deep interest generally felt for those highly deserving and devoted missionaries, whose exertions, hazardous and difficult as they had been, and still were, had raised the natives of Otaheite to their present enlightened and improved condition; and that every reason united to demand for them the steady co-operation of both her and her chiefs. Finding that they Ustened attentively to Mr. Pritchard's interpretation, which I was told was as good as it appeared to me fluent and effective, I requested permission to say a few words more to the queen—to the effect that I had heard much of her associating chiefly with the young and inexperienced, almost to the exclusion of the older and trustworthy counsellors whom she had around her at this assembly. To be respected, either at home or abroad, it was indispensably necessary for her to avoid the society of inferior minds and dispositions; and to be very guarded in her own personal conduct. She ought to avoid taking advice from foreigners, whom she knew not, and whose station was not such as might be a guarantee for their upright dealings: and she ought to guard carefully against the specious appearances of adventurers whose intentions, or real character, it was not possible for her to discover readily. Such men could hardly fail to misinform her on most subjects; but especially on such as interested themselves; or about which they might entertain the prejudices and illiberal ideas which are so prevalent among ignorant or ill-disposed people. I tried to say these things kindly, as the advice of a friend: Pomare thanked me, acknowledged the truth of my remarks, and said she would bear them in mind. Turning to the chiefs, a few words passed, previous to Taati asking me, in her name, “Whether they were right in allowing a foreigner to enlist Otaheitans to serve him as soldiers; and in permitting them and other men to be trained, for warlike purposes, upon their island?”* My reply was, “If Otaheitan subjects, so trained, almost under the queen's eye, act hostilely against the natives of any other island, will not those natives deem her culpable? To my limited view of the present case, it appears impolitic, and decidedly improper to do so.” After a few words with Utaame and Hitote, Taati rose and gave notice that no Otaheitan should enlist or be trained to serve as a soldier, in a foreign cause. By this decree de Thierry lost his enlisted troops, except a few New Zealanders, and whaling seamen.
* With reference to the so-called Baron de Thierry.
One of the seven judges, an intelligent, and, for an Otaheitan, a very well educated man, named ‘Mare,’ asked to speak to me. “You mentioned, in the third place,” said Mare, “that you were desired to enquire into the complaints of British subjects, and demand redress, if necessary. You have stated that no complaint has been made, and you have given us credit for our conduct: allow me now to complain of the behaviour of one of your countrymen, for which we have failed in obtaining redress.” Here Mare detailed the following case of the ‘Venilia,’ and said that no reply to their letter to the British government, had yet been received. Mare then added, in a temperate though feeling manner, “does it not appear hard to require our queen to pay so large a sum as 2,853 dollars out of her small income; while that which is due to her, 390 dollars, a mere trifle to Great Britain, has not obtained even an acknowledgment from the British government?”
I ventured to assure Mare that some oversight, or mistake, must have occurred, and promised to try to procure an answer for them, which, I felt assured, would be satisfactory.
The letter on the subject of the Venilia, very literally translated, is as follows: it is, for many reasons, a curious document.
“Our friend, the king of Britain, and all persons in office in your government, may you all be saved by the true God!
“The following is the petition of Pomare, of the governors, and of the chiefs of Tahiti.
“A whale-ship belonging to London, has been at Tahiti: ‘Venilia"’ is the name of the ship, ‘Miner’ is the name of the captain. This ship has disturbed the peace of the government of Queen Pomare the first. We consider this ship a disturber of the peace, because the captain has turned on shore thirteen of his men, against the will of the governor of this place, and other persons in office. The governor of this district made known the law clearly. The captain of the ship objected to the law, and said that he would not regard the law. We then became more resolute: the governor said to the chiefs, ‘Friends, chiefs of the land, we must have a meeting.’ The chiefs assembled on the twenty-second day of December 1831. The governor ordered a man to go for the captain of the ship. When he had arrived on shore, the governor appointed a man to be speaker for him. The speaker said to the captain of the ship, ‘Friend, here are your men, take them, and put them on board of your ship; it is not agreeable to us that they should remain upon our land.'’ The captain said, ‘I will not by any means receive them again: no, not on any account whatever!’ The governor again told his speaker to say, ‘Take your men, and put them on board your ship, we shall enforce our laws.’ The captain strongly objected to this, saying, ‘I will not, on any account, again receive these bad men, these mutineers.’ We then said, ‘It is by no means agreeable to us for these men to live on shore: if they are disturbers of the peace on board the ship, they will disturb the peace on shore.’ Captain Hill, who has long been a captain belonging to Britain, spoke to the captain of the ship: this is what he said to him: ‘It is not at all agreeable to the laws of Britain that you should discharge, or in any manner turn away your men in a foreign land.’ This is another thing Captain Hill said, ‘you should write a document, stating clearly the crime for which these men have been turned on shore; that the governor and chiefs may know how to act towards them, and that they may render you any assistance.’ But this was not agreeable to the captain; he would not write a document. The governor then said to the captain, ‘If you will not take your men on board again, give us the money, as expressed in the law.’ The captain said, ‘I will not give the money, neither will I again take the men: no, not on any terms whatever; and if you attempt to put them on board the ship, I will resist, even unto death.’ The governor then said, ‘We shall continue to be firm; if you will not give the money, according to the law, we shall put your men on board the ship, and should you die, your death will be deserved.’ When the captain perceived that we were determined to enforce the law, he said, ‘It is agreed; I will give you the money, three hundred and ninety dollars.’
“On the 24th of December the governor sent a person for the money. The captain of the ship said, ‘He had no money.’ We then held a meeting: the governor's speaker said to the captain, ‘Pay the money according to the agreement of the 22d day of this month.’ The captain said, ‘I have no money.’ The governor told him, ‘If you will not pay the money we will put your men on board the ship.’
“One Lawler said, ‘Friends, is it agreeable to you that I should assist him? I will pay the money to you, three hundred and ninety dollars! I will give property into your hands: this is the kind of property; such as may remain a long time by the sea-side and not be perishable. In five months, should not the money be paid, this property shall become your own.’
“Mr. Pritchard said that this was the custom among foreigners. We agreed to the proposal.
“On the 26th of December we went to Lawler's house to look at the property, and see if it was suitable for the sum of money; and also to make some writings about this property. While there, Lawler made known to us something new, which was, that we should sign our names to a paper, written by the captain, for him to show his owners. We did not agree to this proposal, because we did not know the crime for which these men were turned on shore. We saw clearly that these two persons were deceiving us, and that they would not pay the money; also that the captain would not again take his men; but we did not attempt to put his men on board the ship, because another English whaler had come to anchor. We told the captain that we should write a letter to the British government, that they might order this business to be investigated, and might afford us their assistance.
“This is the substance of what we have to say:—We entreat you, the British Government, to help us in our troubles. Punish this Captain Miner, and command the owners of the Venilia to pay us three hundred and ninety dollars for thirteen of their men having been left on our land; and also to send the wages of a native man who was employed to supply the whole crew with bread-fruit while at anchor here. Let them send a good musket for this man, because the captain has not given him a good musket according to the agreement at the beginning. Captain Miner also gave much trouble to the pilot. He took his ship out himself: the pilot went after the ship to get his money, and also the money for Pomare, for anchorage. He would not give the pilot his share. After some time he gave the pilot some cloth for his share.
“In asking this, we believe that our wish will be complied with. We have agreed to the wish of the British government in receiving the Pitcairn's people, and in giving them land. We wish to live in peace, and behave well to the British flag, which we consider our real friend, and special protection. We also wish that you would put in office a man like Captain Hill, and send him to Tahiti, as a representative of the king of Great Britain, that he may assist us. If this should not be agreeable to you, we pray you to give authority to the reverend George Pritchard, the missionary at this station.
“This is the conclusion of what we have to say. Peace be with you. May you be in a flourishing condition, and may the reign of the beloved king of Britain be long! Written at Tahiti on the sixth day of January, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two.
“On behalf of Pomare, the queen.
Apaapa, chief secretary.
Ardpaea, district governor.
Tepau, district governor.
Tehoro, one of the seven supreme judges.
Mare, a district judge, (since raised to be a supreme judge).”
“Addition:—“This man, Lawler,* is an Irishman: he has been living at Tahiti about three months: he came from the Sandwich Islands. Of his previous conduct we can say nothing. We much wish that a British ship of war would come frequently to Tahiti to take to their own lands these bad foreigners that trouble us. It is useless for us to depend upon the consul at the Sandwich Islands. We have long known that we can obtain no assistance from him.†
“We wish to do our duty towards you Britons. You are powerful and rich—but we are like weak children.
On behalf ofPom are, the queen.
Apaapa, chief secretary.”
“Paofai (close to Papiete),
Tahiti, 7th January 1832."
* This Lawler was so remarkably good-looking a man, that the natives used to say (literally translated) that “he was as beautiful as a glass tumbler.” (Many years ago, when Wallis discovered the Society Islands, a drinking-glass excited so much notice, that ever since it has been referred to as one of the most beautiful of objects.)
† The British government has since appointed Mr. Pritchard to act as Consul for the Society and Friendly Islands.
This interesting letter needs no apology for its insertion at full length. Besides explaining Mare's application, it helps to give an idea of the state of Otaheite; and it appeals to our better feelings in a persuasive manner.
Continuation of the Meeting at Papiete—Questions—Explanation—Meeting ends—Pilotage—Mr. Wilson—Queen's Visit—Fireworks—School—Intelligence—Letters—Inhabitants—Dress—Conduct—Abolition of Spirits—Defect in Character—Domestic Scene—Aura Island—Newton at Bow Island—Pearl Oyster Shells—Divers—Steering—Queen's Letter—Collection—Sail from Otaheite—Whylootacke—Flight of Birds—Navigators—Friendly—Feejee Islands—English Chief—Precautions—LaPérouse
Reverting to the meeting at Papiete:—The queen's secretary next asked to speak, and said that a law had been established in the island, prohibiting the keeping, as well as the use or importation of any kind of spirits. In consequence of that law, the persons appointed to carry it into effect had desired to destroy the contents of various casks and bottles of spirits; but the foreigners who owned the spirits objected, denying the right to interfere with private property. The Otaheitan authorities did not persist, as they were told that the first man-of-war which might arrive would certainly take vengeance upon them if they meddled with private property. He wished to ask whether the Otaheitans ought to have persisted in enforcing their own laws; and what I should have done, had the law been enforced with a British subject, and had he made application to me.
My answer was, “Had the Otaheitans enforced their law, I could in no way have objected. In England a contraband article is seized by the proper officers, and is not treated as private property while forbidden by the law.”
Much satisfaction was evidently caused by this declaration: also, at a former part of the discussions, when a remonstrance was made against Otaheitans paying the Truro debt, the greater part of the assembly seemed to be much pleased.
A respectable old man then stood up, and expressed his gratification at finding that another of King William's men-of-war had been sent—not to frighten them, or to force them to do as they were told, without considering or inquiring into their own opinions or inclinations, but to make useful enquiries. They feared the noisy guns which those ships carried, and had often expected to see their island taken from them, and themselves driven off, or obliged in their old age to learn new ways of living.
I said, “Rest assured that the ships of Great Britain never will molest Otaheitans so long as they conduct themselves towards British subjects as they wish to be treated by Britons. Great Britain has an extent of territory, far greater than is sufficient for her wishes. Conquest is not her object. Those ships, armed and full of men, which from time to time visit your island, are but a very few out of a great many which are employed in visiting all parts of the world to which British commerce has extended. Their object is to protect and defend the subjects of Great Britain, and also take care that their conduct is proper—not to do harm to, or in any way molest those who treat the British as they themselves would wish to be treated in return.”
I was much struck by the sensation which these opinions caused amongst the elderly and the more respectable part of the assemblage. They seemed surprised, and so truly gratified, that I conclude their ideas of the intentions of foreigners towards them must have been very vague or entirely erroneous.
The business for which we had assembled being over, I requested Mr. Pritchard to remind the queen, that I had a long voyage to perform; and ought to depart from her territories directly she confided to me the promised document, relating to the affair of the Truro; and I then asked the queen and principal chiefs to honour our little vessel by a visit on the following evening, to see a few fireworks: to which they willingly consented: some trifling conversation then passed; and the meeting ended.
Much more was said, during the time, than I have here detailed: my companions were as much astonished as myself at witnessing such order, so much sensible reasoning, and so good a delivery of their ideas! I shall long remember that meeting at Otaheite, and consider it one of the most interesting sights I ever witnessed. To me it was a beautiful miniature view of a nation emerging from heathen ignorance, and modestly setting forth their claims to be considered civilized and Christian.
We afterwards dined with Mr. Pritchard, his family, and the two chiefs, Utaanie and Taati. The behaviour of these worthies was extremely good; and it was very gratifying to hear so much said in their favour by those whose long residence on the island had enabled them to form a correct judgment. What we heard and saw showed us that mutual feelinos of esteem existed between those respectable and influential old chieftains and the missionary families.
It was quite dark when we left Papiete to return, by many miles among coral reefs, to the Beagle; but our cat-eyed pilot undertook, to guide our three boats safely through intricate passages among the reefs, between which I could hardly find my way in broad daylight, even after having passed them several times. The distance to the ship was about four miles; and the night so dark, that the boats were obliged almost to touch each other to ensure safety; yet they arrived on board unhurt, contrary to my expectation; for my eyes could not detect any reason for altering our course every few minutes, neither could those of any other person, except the pilot, James Mitchell. Had he made a mistake of even a few yards, among so many intricate windings, our boats must have suffered (because the coral rocks are very sharp and soon split a plank), though in such smooth and shallow water, a wrong turning could have caused inconvenience only to ourselves, for there was little or no danger of more than a wetting.
The observations at Matavai being completed, I was enabled to leave the place, and invited Hitote and Mr. Henry (who had returned with us) to pay another visit to Papiete in the Beagle, and meet the royal party.
25th. At daylight this morning, while the Beagle's crew were unmooring and hoisting in the boats, I went to Mr. Wilson's school-house, then used also as a chapel—the old chapel having been blown down by a violent gale of wind. Divine service (a hymn, a long extempore prayer, and another hymn) was performed. This is the established custom at all the missionary stations at Otaheite on Wednesday mornings: on other mornings one or two hours after daylight are employed in the schools. The congregation was numerous, and very attentive. I noticed that all the principal men of the district, besides Hitote who came from a distant part of the island, were present.
Mr. Wilson's manner pleased me much; it was the sincere, and naturally impressive manner of a kind-hearted, honest man, earnestly performing a sacred and paramount duty. I went to see the new chapel after the morning-service was ended; but only the floor-timbers and the posts for the roof were then fixed in their places. The natives were irregular in their work, sometimes doing much, at others little, just as they felt disposed. Being a voluntary work, they took their time about it.
Mr. Darwin and I breakfasted with Mr. Wilson at his house: it happened that Mr. and Mrs. Henry were about to make a journey to some distance; that a favourite son was undertaking a new and diflicult mission at the Navigator's Islands, and that we were both about to take leave of the pious teacher of the heathen: and for each he asked a blessing, in an extempore prayer of some length, the result of unaffected, genuine piety. A kinder, or less exceptionable prayer, so far as I could pretend to judge, than that unprepared one by Mr. Wilson, I could not have wished to hear. That it was unprepared I feel certain, because he had not expected us to be present, and the manner in which our prospects were intermingled with those of the others he mentioned, showed that there was no premeditation. There was no affected expression, or unusual tone: it was the sincere devout manner of a pious plain-spoken man.
When under sail we tried to approach the entrance of Papiete Harbour, but baffling winds prevented our anchoring until three in the afternoon; and then, anticipating the royal visit, we tried to make such preparations as our little vessel could accomplish. Dressing the ship with flags, and preparing to man yards, was all we were able to do: salute we could not, on account of the chronometers.
We were told that the queen had walked to Papawa, distant about two miles, to inspect a quantity of fruit, cocoa-nuts, pine-apples, &c. (which she had ordered to be collected as a present to the man-of-war): and, with our glasses, we saw the royal party hastening along the beach, and in the midst of a number of women, children, and men, the queen was observed advancing at a quick walk. Soon afterwards, when it was supposed she had rested and dressed, we sent the boats. The chiefs were already on board. Mr. Pritchard undertook the troublesome offices of interpreter and master of the ceremonies, and by his assistance we saw the whole party collected on the Beagle's upper deck, while the seamen manned yards, and we all gave the queen three cheers.
A bad dinner, accepted after the four mile walk, in a manner it did not deserve,—was succeeded by a few rockets, blue lights, and false fires,—the only fireworks we possessed. Luckily the rockets were good and gave high satisfaction. Lying in the middle of a bay, whose radius, supposing it semi-circular, may be half-a-niile, our ears were startled by a thrilling outcry of delight echoing around the beach, as each successive rocket rushed into the sky and burst. This outcry from the natives on shore, who were taken by surprise (the night being very dark) showed how much they enjoyed the sight. Our visitors on board, being told what would happen, only repeated ‘maitai,’ ‘maitai,’* with earnestness. I much wished then to have had a few good fireworks of a more artificial character. To any one about to visit distant, especially half-civilized or savage nations, let me repeat a piece of advice given to me, but which from inadvertence I neglected to follow: “take a large stock of fireworks.”
* Very good—beautiful.
Some presents to each of our guests helped to amuse them and keep up their cheerfulness. After tea I proposed hearing a few of the seamen's songs,—as some of our crew were very good singers,—not at the time thinking of their prejudices against any singing except hymns. Mr. Pritchard had no word to interpret ‘song’ but ‘himene;’ and Rule Britannia, with one or two other grave performances, passed ofF very well, but, to the perplexing of Mr. Pritchard and surprise of the Otaheitans, a merry comic song was struck up, which obliged Mr. Pritchard to answer the queen's inquiries plainly, by saying, “No, that was not a hymn,” it was “sea singing.” ‘God save the King ’sounded more gravely, and suited better.
We landed the party almost at their own doors, and if they were half as well pleased as we were, our little preparations had not been a waste of time and trouble. Their behaviour on board was extremely correct: their habits and manners perfectly inoffensive. No doubt they are improving yearly, and the example of the missionary families has an influence over them, exceeding that of very differently disposed people by whom they are too frequently visited.
26th. At daylight this morning some of us visited the school. As I had heard of ‘compulsion’ and other absurdities, I went early to get there before Mr. Pritchard arrived, without having hinted at such an intention.
About the large chapel or church, groups of elderly and old people were sitting by threes and fours in a place, helping each other to read the New Testament. While one read the others listened, and, if able, corrected him. One man not less than fifty years of age, was learning to read, with spectacles. Some came in, others went out, just as they chose, for there was not any one even to watch them till Mr. Pritchard came: and during about an hour after sunrise, every day, those people;, both women and men, thus instructed one another, previous to beginning their daily out-of-door labours.
In the school-house I found a number of children, waiting for their teacher, who soon arrived and gave them their tasks. The greater part of them wrote sentences on slates from his dictation, with ease and correctness. One sentence he gave them was, ‘the captain wishes you happiness,’ which they wrote instantly, and some of their own accord added, ‘and we wish happiness to the captain.’ The handwriting of many, indeed most of the elder girls and boys, was very good: and to verbal questions they replied readily. They seemed to be in good discipline, and yet a merrier or more cheerful looking set of children I never saw. A hymn excellently, or, I ought perhaps to say, prettily sung, ended their attendance.
Returning by way of the church, I saw Hitote, his brother, and other chiefs, engaged in eager discussion. Mr. Pritchard and I went in: “You are just come in time,” said they, “we are disputing about the lightning conductors on board the Beagle, and cannot determine whether they end in the ship's hold, or whether they go through her bottom, into the water.” Mr. Pritchard explained: a momentary pause ensued—each seemed trying to understand the puzzling subject; when a shrewd old man, hitherto a quiet listener, remarked—“you white men are wonderfully clever, you know and do most things, I wish some of you (passing his hand over his chin in a drolly rueful manner) I wish some of you would tell us how to rid our faces of these troublesome beards!” (He had just been shaved).
The rapidity with which intelligence is communicated among savage, or partially civilised nations, has often been remarked: but I do not remember meeting with an explanation, till Mr. Nott told me it was passed verbally—from one to another—each man calling to his neighbour. No method could be speedier, where a population is numerous; as at Otaheite or New Zealand, when Cook was there.
In the course of the morning I waited upon the queen to inform her that the Beagle was then going out of the port; and that I waited only for her commands, and the letter she had promised: upon which she sent for her secretary and the chiefs; when we left her for a time. Two of the persons who had been on board our vessel the previous evening, sent me letters this morning, which are so peculiar and interesting, in many points of view, that I here insert them.
Translation of a letter from ‘Mare,’ one of the seven supreme judges of Otaheite; written in a round distinct hand, in his own language, and directed to me.
“Tahiti, Nov. 26, 1835.
“To you the officer of King William!
“May the peace of God be with you. This is what I have to say to you, my dear friend. I praise you with grateful feelings in my heart for your kindness to me, an insignificant man, in giving to me a box and some other things besides. I and my wife will feel grateful to you when we look at these things. This is another thing with which I feel pleased; your having shown me the many good things on board your ship; and your men; they have great excellence, and a good character.
“That you may be saved is the wish of your servant,
A letter from Paofai, the brother of Hitote, directed to ‘Fitirai,’ is similar.
“Dear Friend, “Tahiti, Nov. 26, 1835.
“Peace be unto you and your family, in the name of God. These are my words to you. I feel very much gratified by your great kindness in giving me a trunk, and several other things. For this cause I thank you with grateful feelings. My wife and family will also feel grateful to you. Dear friends may the peace of the Messiah, who is the King of Peace, be with you. Amen.
* The original letters, in the hand-writing of Mare and Paofai, are in my possession.
Among the natives of Otaheite let us not overlook the sons and daughters of the earlier missionaries. Those whom we had the pleasure of seeing did credit to the country of their parents; to Otaheite; and to those excellent persons who must have taken such pains with their education. I presume not to speak from what I have seen only, but from the corresponding accounts of others, added to what I witnessed myself.
I will now make a few general remarks, previous to quitting the island. It did not appear to me that the men of Otaheite are separated visibly into two classes, as some accounts had led us to expect. All of the higher class, whom we saw, or about whom we could learn anything, certainly were large, but rather unwieldy: yet among the lower class there were numerous stout tall men, as tall as the chiefs, and more actively made. A few were of a middle size, and a very few, low in stature: but all well-proportioned and muscular; though their muscles are not hard and knotty, like those of a hard-working white man; they are rounded, and smooth. They stride along in an imposing manner, occasionally recalling ideas of the giants of history. Although, generally speaking, they are taller than the Patagonians, they do not, to the eye, appear so large. This ocular deception must arise from the better proportion of the Otaheitans. The native of Patagonia has a large, coarse looking head, with high cheek bones, and a ‘mane-like’ head of hair: his shoulders are high and square; his chest very wide; while to heighten the effect of these traits, each of which gives one an idea of size, a great rough mantle, made of the woolly skin of the guanaco, thrown loosely round his shoulders, hangs almost to his feet. But the Otaheitan head is singularly well formed; and, if phrenology is not altogether a delusion, few men are more capable of receiving instruction, or doing credit to their teachers, than these islanders, so often described, yet by no means enough known. Their hands, and more especially their feet, have been said to be of the Papua form; but the shape of the latter is owing, it appears to me, to their always going barefooted: and I observed their hands particularly without being able to distinguish any peculiarity whatever in the form.
The young men frequently wear a wreath of leaves, or flowers, round the head, which, though becoming, has rather a Bacchanalian appearance. Some cut their hair short, others shave the greater part of their head, but solely from caprice: not one could give me any reason beyond that which is implied in “it is the fashion.”
It is seldom that one meets a native entirely naked; I mean naked excepting the girdle which is always worn: generally they have a garment, or a piece of one, obtained from a white man. These remnants, often tattered, and, among the lower classes, always dirty, disfigure them much. Those whom I saw, with only a native girdle, but whose bodies were tattowed in the old fashion, appeared to my eye much less naked than the yovmg men, not tattowed, and only half clothed. I shall not forget the very unpleasant impression made upon my mind, at first landing, by seeing a number of females, and children, with a few men, half dressed in the scanty, dirty, and tattered scraps of clothing, which they unfortunately prefer to their native dress. A woman, who has around her waist a substantial native garment, which falls as low as the calf of the leg; and over her shoulders, folding in front across the bosom, a mantle, or cloak, of similar material—appears to the eye of a stranger much more decently dressed than the hasty lover of novelty; who seems proud of a dirty cotton gown, tied only at the neck, and fluttering in the wind. Their Sunday dresses, however, are clean and decent, though those of other days are certainly much the contrary. An under-garment alone need[s] be added to the women's former dress of native manufacture, to make it answer every purpose. Why should not home ingenuity, and domestic industry be encouraged?
The moral conduct and character of these islanders have undergone so much discussion; so various have been the decisions, and so varying are the opinions of voyagers and residents, that I, for one, am satisfied by the conclusion, that the good and the bad are mixed in Otaheite, much as they are in other parts of the world exposed to the contamination of unprincipled people. That the missionaries have done so much, in checking and restraining depravity, is to me matter of serious reflection. But let us also remember, that the testimony of very trustworthy witnesses shews that there, even in earlier days, iniquity did not search after those who sought not her abode! *
* Cook says—“Great injustice has been done the women of Otaheite, and the Society Isles. The favours of married women, and also the unmarried of the better sort are as difficult to be obtained here, as in any other country whatever. I must, however, allow, that they are all completely versed in the art of coquetry, and that very few of them fix any bounds to their conversation. It is therefore no wonder that they have obtained the character of libertines.”
In the excellent descriptions of Turnbull, we read:—“Much has been said as to the licentiousness and loose conduct of the women. It is but justice to say, that I saw nothing of this. Their ideas of decency are doubtless very different from ours; they must be judged therefore by a very different standard.”
The Beagle's stay was too short to enable us to form any just conclusions. I witnessed no improprieties, neither did I see any thing that would not have inclined me to suppose (had I read or heard nothing of them), that their habits are, in most ways, better than those of many civilized nations. The missionaries have succeeded in carrying attention to religion, and general morality, to a high pitch: may they continue to succeed, in future years, and become an example to larger, older, and nominally wiser nations.
Is it not a striking fact, that the people of a whole country have solemnly refrained from drinking spirits: does not this act alone entitle them to respect, and high consideration? So sincere are they on this subject, that, a short time since, when they heard that a small vessel, lying in their harbour, had on board a cask of rum, which the master intended to sell to some of the residents, they went off to the vessel, and destroyed the obnoxious liquor.
Upon enforcing their first law on this subject, every part of each house was searched. They were very minute in their scrutiny, but overlooked a bottle of brandy, which Mr. Pritchard had kept in the house for medical purposes. After their search, when leaving him, he called them back and showed the bottle, saying for what purpose it had been kept, Some said, ‘keep it for that purpose;’ others said “no, it is ‘ava,’* destroy it let us make no distinction, let us utterly discard the use of so baneful a liquor! have we not other medicines, about whose use there can be no doubt?” However, the milder party prevailed, and the brandy bottle would have preserved its contents had not Mr. Pritchard poured them on the ground before their eyes.†
* Or cava, their word for intoxicating liquor of any kind.
† I was surprised, when I first arrived at Otaheite, by finding that none of the natives who came on board would touch spirits; and that they would drink but very little wine. Afterwards, however, one chief was noticed who seemed differently disposed.
One horrible defect in the former character of the Otaheitans has hardly been mentioned in the earlier writers. They were unkind, and utterly inattentive to the old and infirm:—they were yet worse: they scrupled not to destroy their aged or sick, yes, even their parents, if disabled by age or by sickness.*
* From enquiries made among the missionaries and natives, I convinced myself of this startling fact.
Mr. Wilson assured me that in former times, when a person had lingered in sickness, they would carry him to the waterside, under pretence of bathing him, dig a hole, and bury him alive! Thus they ended the life of a young man who had been servant to Mr. Wilson, until he sickened, and, by the natives, was supposed to be dying. Mr. Wilson tried all he could do, in the way of medical assistance, and had hopes of his recovery, when he suddenly disappeared: and not until a long time afterwards could he ascertain the horrid cruelty of which the natives had been guilty!
That they do not even now pay that attention to infirm old age which, in our estimation, is a sacred duty, may be inferred from the following anecdote. Mr. Stokes rambled into a secluded spot near Matavai, where, surrounded by old trees, stood a small and tottering hut. On a filthy worn-out mat, lay a venerable looking old man, hardly covered by a ragged cloth. His only friend, an aged hobbling dog, limped to his side as if hoping that his example would excite some one to show compassion to the old man, his master.
The helpless state of this poor sufferer, whose legs were swollen by elephantiasis to an unwieldy bulk, and his utter destitution, induced Mr. Stokes to make immediate inquiries, and endeavour to get him relieved from some of his misery. It was ascertained that a daughter and son-in-law were usually living with him, but the new ‘manua’ had engrossed their attention, and the poor father had been left to the care of his faithful though helpless dog!
At Matavai the memory of the captain of H.M.S. ‘Racoon,’ known as the ‘long captain,’ also as ‘Tapane matapo,’ or ‘Captain blind eye,’ is still cherished. The conduct of both him and the officers of the Racoon, seems to have highly delighted all classes. How pleasant it is to hear a countryman, especially of one's own cloth, spoken of in such terms of friendship and respect, and how much that pleasure is increased when one reflects, that many years have elapsed since the conduct took place which caused these sensations.
Mr. Stokes passed some nights in Otaheitan cottages. He told me that the natives, both men and women, are extremely fond of their children, and are very kind to them. Not content with nursing and amusing them, they cram them as managers of poultry cause turkeys to be crammed, not exactly with pepper corns, or walnuts,* but with bananas and other nutritive food. At each end of the houses he visited there was a small fire, one being for the elder, the other for the younger folks; this was in the evening, at their last meal time.
* The very best thing for fattening turkeys.
Breadfruit, which had been previously roasted, and wild plantains brought from the mountains, were put to the fire to be warmed. Meanwhile cocoa-nuts were opened, their milk was poured into cups, made of empty nutshells, and handed about with the nuts. Each person had a nut and a cup of the milk, or juice.* Taro-root roasted was then served, together with the bread-fruit and plantain, on leaves freshly gathered; there was also a piece of brownish yellow wood, like the rotten root of a tree, hanging up in the hut, which the people sometimes eat; it is called Ti.† Grace was said (a duty never omitted), and a clean, comfortable meal enjoyed by the whole party. Afterwards the fires were put out, and a queer little wooden pipe passed round. The strongest tobacco is thought the best, and they like to swallow the smoke. Sometimes, instead of tobacco, they use an indigenous herb.
* Cocoa-nut milk makes an indelible black stain, and is sometinaes used for dyeing.
† The root of the Ti plant is sweet, like sugar cane of indifferent quality. Molasses has been made from it.
Before sleeping the oldest man said prayers: one of the young men read a short portion of the New Testament, and then a hymn was sung by the whole family. A lamp was kept burning all night. A curious snuff was observed by Mr. Stokes, and from the method of using or taking it, I am inclined to think it an old custom, not imported by the white men. A substance, not unlike rhubarb in its appearance, but of a very pleasant fragrance, was rubbed on a piece of shark's skin, stretched on wood; and much it appeared to please an old man, who valued this snuff-stick so highly, that he would not part with it.
The Otaheitans are fond of going to sea, and take great interest in seeing new countries. Mr. Henry said there was no difficulty in getting a crew of natives, for boats or small vessels, provided that a promise was made to bring them back to their own island. From four to six yards of ordinary linen, or cotton cloth, with good provisions, was accounted enough remuneration for the zealous services of an able-bodied active man, during one month.
While we stayed at Otaheite we were supplied with excellent beef, and passably good vegetables; the latter however happened to be scarce. Most of the cattle belonged to the missionaries, who were trying to persuade the natives to rear them, and were beginning to succeed, though the people are fonder of their horses, of which there are a good many on the island, but ill kept and little understood.
Mr. Stokes obtained another account of the murder of the master and mate of the Truro, which says: “The master and mate of the Truro had left the northern end of Aura Island, intending to go to Otaheite; the chief of the northern district having treated them very kindly, and told them to avoid the south end of the island, because bad men lived there.
“The wind would not allow them to keep a sufficient offing; and a small canoe, with only two men, approached their boat with the apparent design of offering fruit for sale; but when near the boat they threw spears with such effect, that the white men were both killed.” I place more confidence in the former account.
The seizure of a ship at Bow Island (barque Newton, of Valparaiso, under Chilian colours, though owned by British subjects), has by some persons been supposed to have been excited by Queen Pomare: but the following statement, from Mr. Middleton, who was pilot on board the ship at the time, gives a very different idea.
The master of that vessel (named Clarke) had employed some natives of Bow Island to dive for pearl oyster-shells on his account; he had agreed to pay them a certain quantity of cloth, and to give them so much provision per month. Repeated ill-treatment, and a miserable supply of provisions (at one time only one cocoa-nut each day, without any thing else), induced the natives to think of deserting him; yet they were unwilhng to lose the reward of their labours, which had been very severe. One morning he had agreed to the pilot's earnest request that the natives should have more food, and had ordered a biscuit a-piece for them! Soon after the pilot, who was charged with the care of the natives, had delivered the biscuits, the master came on deck, affected to deny his orders, snatched the biscuits away from each of them, and threw them overboard! Sullen and fierce looks were exchanged; and the pilot warned Mr. Clarke that the natives would attack him, and take the vessel, if he did not alter his harsh conduct: to which he replied, by defying half a hundred of them!
A few words from the pilot, in their own language, appeased their resentment at the moment, and the brooding storm passed over; but in the course of that day, while Middleton was away getting shells, the master beat a chief. This was an unpardonable affront; they took possession of the vessel; bound all the white people; and carried them on shore.
What extraordinary mildness among savages
When the pilot returned with his cargo of shells, he saw none of the crew; and at first hesitated to approach. But the natives seeing this, hailed him, saying, that they did not intend to hurt any one; that they were his friends; and had touched none of his things. This he found true. His own cabin was shut up—untouched; though every other place in the ship had been ransacked, and the furniture of the hull torn to pieces. They afterwards allowed the pilot to take the vessel to Otaheite, where she was sold by auction for the benefit of those who had insured her.
Obtaining the pearl oyster-shell is well known to be a difficult and dangerous employment: though the divers at the Paamuto Islands seldom go down deeper than four or five fathoms, they remain at the bottom from one to three minutes, sometimes bringing ten shells at one time to the surface; and during four or five hours they continue this extreme labour. After a long dive, blood gushes from the ears and nose; and the poor diver is quite blind during ten or twenty minutes. He may then be seen squatting on the reef, his head between his knees, and his hands spread over his face—a pitiable object: yet for the small monthly pay of ten or twelve yards of calico, or coarse linen, do those hard-working natives endure such straining exertions!
At some of the islands, a good hatchet or axe will purchase as many shells as would fill a small canoe.
In making their voyages from one island to another, the natives steer by the stars, by the direction of the wind, and the flight of birds; but their ideas of distance are extremely vague. Those who have seen a compass used in a boat esteem it highly. Middleton, who had made many voyages among the Low Islands, in whale-boats manned solely by natives, said that they always expressed astonishment at his predicting the time at which they would arrive at their destination. Sometimes they asked if he could see the land in the compass; more than once they exclaimed, “Ah, you white men! you know every thing! What simpletons we are, notwithstanding all our canoes!” The canoe occupies so much time and labour in constructing, and is so essential to their every purpose, that a fine one is to the natives of any of these islands what a three-decker is to us.
The queen's letter being finished, and sent to me by her messenger, I will give the translation made for me on the spot by Mr. Pritchard.
“Tahiti, November 26, 1835.
“To the Captain of the ship of war:
“This is what I have to say to you, before you leave us, respecting the debt. We have 2,338 dollars, which we are now taking to the person who is to receive this property, who is Mr. Bicknell. We are now collecting the remainder.
“Peace be with you,
“And with your king, William,
“(Signed) Pomare Vahine.
“(Witnessed by) Hitote and Taati.”
Taking leave of the queen was our next engagement. At the door of her house was a table, on which the loyal and kind-hearted natives were depositing their dollars, and fractions of dollars: to enable her to pay the debt. To me it was an affecting and an unpleasing sight,—not the proofs of loyalty and affection—Heaven forbid!—but the reflection that those individuals had in no way done wrong, and that their dollars had been hardly earned and were highly prized. To show how little a metallic currency was then understood, I may mention that many individuals wished to subscribe fractions, who could not afford a whole dollar; but they were prevented, at first, because the collector knew not how to reckon a fraction of a dollar. Mr. Pritchard easily explained this, and then the smaller coins, (rials, and two rial pieces,) were soon numerous upon the table. Frequently, while walking about the island, men had asked me to give them a dollar in exchange for its value in small coin, which, to their surprise, I was always glad to do, when I had dollars with me.
About Pomare was rather a large assemblage of maids of honour, but their postures and appearance, as they sat about upon the floor, were not the most elegant. The contrast between our own neatly dressed, and well-mannered country-women, whom we had just left in the house of Mr. Pritchard, was rather striking as compared with these brown and oily Otaheitans: but our visit was not long, and we tried to make it agreeable. Returning by the beach, we talked for some time with Taati, Utaame, and others. Old Ua was there also, to thank me for some trifles sent to him by one of the queen's maidens, who had attended her when on board the Beagle; and I was glad to hear that the damsel had executed her commission in a most punctual manner.*
* She was his grand-daughter.
They expressed great anxiety about the arrival of another man-of-war, with, perhaps, harsher orders: and were very desirous to know when I should arrive in England, and when they would hear from me. I endeavoured to satisfy them on these points, before Mr. Darwin and I wished them farewell (in the most earnest meaning of the word) and, after taking leave of Mr. Pritchard's family, embarked. Mare and Mr. Pritchard accompanied us to the vessel, then under sail outside the reefs,—wished us a great deal more happiness than most of us will probably enjoy, and returned with Mr. Henry and the pilot in their own boats. We made all sail, and soon lost sight of this beautiful island.
Easterly winds swept us along a smooth sea for many days, after leaving Otaheite.* At daylight on the 3d of December we saw Whylootacke (or Wailutaki) a small group of islets encircled by a coral reef, from four to eight miles in diameter. The principal one is 360 feet high, and nearly four miles long. There was a native missionary upon it, educated at Otaheite. On the 11th a few white tern were seen near the ship, (in lat. 28° S. and long. 180°) and as she was about 120 miles from any land then known, this notice may help to show within what limits the sight of those birds may be considered to indicate the vicinity of land. I am not at all surprised that the early voyagers should have taken so much notice of the appearance and flight of birds, when out of sight of land; since in my very short experience I have profited much by observing them, and I am thence led to conclude that land, especially small islands or reefs, has often been discovered in consequence of watching particular kinds of birds, and noticing the direction in which they fly, of an evening, about sunset. Short winged birds, such as shags or boobies, seldom go a hundred miles from land, and generally return to their accustomed roosting place at night; and even those with longer wings which fly farther, do not habitually remain on the wing at night, though they are known to do so sometimes, especially if attracted by a ship, on which, doubtless, they would perch if she were to remain motionless, and her crew were to be quiet for a short time. Mistakes may occur in consequence of floating carcases, trunks of trees, wrecks of vessels, or drifting seaweed, all which attract birds and afford them rest at night; but, generally speaking, if there is land within fifty miles of a vessel, its existence will be indicated, and the direction in which to look will be pointed out by birds. Decided oceanic fowl, such as albatrosses and all the petrel family, sleep upon the surface of their favourite element; therefore the flight of that description of bird can be no guide whatever, except in the breeding season, when they frequent the vicinity of land.
* We sailed with the land breeze, which at Otaheite is so regular that a ship might sail round the island (in successive nights) with the wind always a-beam, and off the land!
Until I became aware of these facts, the discovery of the almost innumerable islands in the great ocean of Magalhaens, (erroneously, though now probably for ever called Pacific,) caused great perplexity in my mind. That Easter Island, for instance, such a speck in the expanse, and so far from other land, should have been—not only discovered—but repeatedly visited and successively peopled, by different parties of the human family, seemed extraordinary, but now, connecting the numerous accounts related by voyagers of canoes driven hundreds of miles away from their desired place, with these facts respecting birds, much of the mystery seems unravelled.
Every one is well aware that uncivilized man is more attentive to signs of weather, habits of animals, flight of the feathered tribe, and other visible objects, important to his very existence, than his educated brother,—who often diminishes the perceptive faculties of the mind, while he strengthens the power of reflection and combination.
Before arriving at New Zealand I will add a very brief remark or two about the Navigators, the Friendly, and the Feejee Islands. At the first mentioned, where De Langle and Lamanon were massacred, there is now a prosperous mission established by the exertions of the London Missionary Society, and I hear that a large proportion of the islanders are no longer blood-thirsty savages. At the Friendly Isles much opposition had been encountered, chiefly in consequence of former hostilities brought on by a runaway convict, who excited the natives to murder the first missionaries who went there: and the prejudices then caused are scarcely yet removed. Mariner's account of the Tonga, or Friendly Islands, is considered by English residents at Otaheite, to be a very accurate one,* and is full of interesting information. I obtained a few notices of the Feejee group from the owner of a schooner that was lost there; and as they are comparatively little known, my mite may as well be contributed in this place to the general fund.
* Among a variety of very curious facts mentioned by Mariner, one may be noticed here, because I shall have to refer to it in a future page. I mean the rat shooting practised by the chiefs as an amusement.
The whole group of islands called Feejee, or Fidji, by Europeans, but of which the native name is, I believe, Navihi—is of very dangerous navigation: not only on account of coral reefs, scarcely hidden by a few feet of water, but because the natives are ferocious and treacherous cannibals. My informant* said, that the master of his schooner † (who was long detained a prisoner among them, his life being spared in hopes of obtaining a large ransom), was an unwilling participator in a cannibal feast on some prisoners of war, taken in an attack on a neighbouring island. That they have an idea of the superiority of white men may be inferred from a message sent previous to this battle, saying, “We shall kill and eat you all—we have seven white men to fight for us!” Although many unfortunate seamen have fallen victims to the thoroughly savage Feejee Islanders, a few whites have not only escaped death, but have established themselves in some authority among the natives. A man known by the name of Charles, was more respected than almost any of their own chieftains, on account of his extraordinary valour: and so highly was he considered by all of them, that he was allowed to have a hundred wives.‡
* Mr. Green, of Valparaiso.
† ‘The Terrible;’ Clark, master.
‡ Only chieftains of note are able to maintain many wives: very few had so large a number as that man: scarcely any had more.
No small vessel ought to venture near any of the Feejee islands without being armed, and prepared to act defensively. Boarding nettings, if she has them, should be triced up; and no professions, or appearance of friendship, ought ever to put strangers off their guard. In case of an unavoidable rupture, a chief, the highest in rank that can be secured, should, if possible, be made prisoner—by force if fair means fail; and he should be made to understand that his life depended upon the conduct of his countrymen. Of course no right-minded man would act otherwise than to avoid or prevent any hostilities with ignorant savages, so long as he could do so without risking the lives of his own countrymen; but he must remember that, in hand to hand fighting, a band of fierce savages, armed with a variety of weapons, are more than a match for seamen unused, perhaps, to muskets, and equally awkward with pistols or swords: however brave and determined they may be, if dispersed, as usually happens, they are sure to be by far the greatest sufferers. I here allude to those savages who are really warriors. At some islands, and other places, they are comparatively timid, though seldom less treacherous.
Remarking on the criticisms of such as have animadverted on officers who found themselves obliged to take harsh measures in self-defence—La Pérouse, whose humanity and good sense not one individual among the nations who regret his untimely loss, ever questioned, says, “I am, however, a thousand times more angry with the philosophers who extol the savages, than with the savages themselves. The unfortunate Lamanon, whom they massacred, told me the very evening before his death, that the Indians (meaning the natives of the Navigator Islands) were worthier people than ourselves!
“Observing rigidly the orders I have received, I have always treated them with the greatest mildness; but I confess to you, that if I were to undertake another voyage of the same kind, I would demand different orders.
“A navigator, on quitting Europe, ought to consider the savages as enemies, very weak indeed, and whom it would be ungenerous to attack and barbarous to destroy, but whose assaults he has a right to prevent when authorised to do so by well-grounded suspicions.”—Voyage of La Pérouse, vol. iii. p. 413.
When a vessel approaches the Feejee Islands, numberless canoes put off, and soon surround her so closely, that unless the wind is pretty fresh, she is placed in no slight jeopardy. At such a time the principal chief ought to be invited on board; and presents should be given to him, while he is made to understand that it is necessary he should order the canoes to keep off. His commands will be implicitly obeyed; and while he is on board, and well treated, there will be less risk; but he must not be relied on implicitly.
Some of the canoes are very long, from sixty to eighty feet in length: and when two such are fastened together, with a light structure erected upon them, the men who stand on their raised deck are above the level of a small vessel's bulwark.*
* Heaps of stones form not only ballast but ammunition for these formidable canoes. Indeed, among all savage nations, a stone held in the hand, or thrown, perhaps from a sling, is a common, and by no means despicable weapon. These easily collected missiles, and the manner of using them, recal[l] to mind the victory gained by the English fleet over that of France, off Sluys, on the 22d of June 1340; in which “though the battle was fought on the sea, it could scarcely be called maritime; for little depended on the accidents of winds and waves, or on the skill of a commander in availing himself of them. Piles of stones on the deck formed a part of the magazines. The archers of both nations used their crossbows as if they had been on land. They employed grappling irons for boarding, and came to such close quarters as to exhibit a succession of single combats.”—Mackintosh, vol. i. p. 294.
At the time that Mr. Clark was a prisoner among them, a musket was considered to be a fair ransom for a white man; and (perhaps fortunately for him) they had then an idea that the flesh of white men was not wholesome.
They have many articles of trade, such as shells, tortoise-shell, coral, spermaceti, whales' teeth, ‘bicho de mar,’ mats of exquisite workmanship, fruit, and provisions: among the latter are pigs and ‘iguanas.’ Excepting a great alligator, the Feejee men never saw an animal on their island larger than a dog or a pig. The monster just mentioned made its appearance on the island Pau, the largest of the group, some years ago, to the extreme consternation of the natives, who thought it was a sea-god. After destroying nine people, at different times, the ‘enormous lizard,’ as they called it, was caught by a strong noose passed over the bough of a large tree, the other end of the rope being held at a distance by fourteen men, who lay concealed, while a daring old man offered himself as a bait to entice the brute to run into the snare.*
* A feat hardly surpassed by Mr. Waterton.—Mariner's Tonga Islands, vol. i. pp. 268, 269, 270, in Constable's Miscellany, vol. xiii.
Mr. Mariner supposed that this alligator, or crocodile, had made its way from the East Indies; a curious instance of the manner in which occasional migrations take place. On an island in that neighbourhood, called Lotooma, Mariner heard of two enormous bones, not at all like any human bones, nor resembling those of a whale. The natives of the island have a tradition that they belonged to a giant, who was killed in former ages by the united attack of all the population.*
* Ibid. vol. i. p. 262. [ie, previous footnote]
On the 16th of December indications of a westerly wind appeared; and for the next three days we were buffeted by a hard gale from south-west to south-east. This was the more annoying on account of the chronometer measurement, because it was accompanied by a sudden change of temperature, which I thought would alter their rates. During the twenty-four hours previous to this southerly gale commencing, we found the current setting northward, about a mile an hour; but after the hardest part of the gale was over, it set to the south-west, at about the same rate.
Both before and during these three days, I was struck by the precise similarity of the clouds, sky, peculiarities of wind, and weather, to what we had been accustomed to meet with off the coast of Patagonia: and I may here remark that, throughout the southern hemisphere, the weather, and the turn or succession of winds, as well as their nature and prognostications, are remarkably uniform.
On the 19th we made the northern hills of New Zealand; but tantalized still by adverse winds, all the next day was spent in beating to windward, and not till the 21st could we succeed in obtaining access to the Bay of Islands.
We were all a good deal disappointed by the view. After Otaheite, the northern part of New Zealand had, to our eyes, a very ordinary appearance.
New Zealand—Bay of Islands—Kororareka—Fences—Flag—Paihia—Natives—Features—Tattow—Population—Colour—Manner—War-Canoes—Prospects—Mackintosh—Fern—Church—Resident—Vines—Villages—Houses—Planks—Cooking—Church—Marae—First Mission—Settlers—Pomare—Marion—Cawa-Cawa—Meeting—Chiefs—Rats—Spirits—Wine—Nets—Burial—Divine Service—Singing—Causes of Disturbances—Reflections and Suggestions—Polynesian Interests—Resources for Ships in the Pacific
Dec. 21. At daylight we were about four miles from Cape Brett, and nearly the same distance from Point Pococke; while in the north-west the Cavalle islands showed themselves indistinctly. A light easterly breeze enabled us to steer towards the Bay of Islands.—Few places are easier of access than this bay: excepting the Whale-rock, whose position is well ascertained, there are no hidden dangers: and within the line of the heads, there is little or no current deserving notice: outside that line, the current generally sets to the south-east about a mile an hour.
Compared with mountainous countries, the northern parts of New Zealand are not high; but they cannot be described as low land. Perhaps the expression, ‘moderately high land,’ may convey an idea of such as is more than two hundred, but less than twelve hundred feet above the level of the sea; which are the limits I have in view. In distant profile the land inclines too much to regular and convex outlines to be picturesque. It is only along the sea-coast that steep cliffs, and a more broken boundary, cause enough variety to please the eye of a lover of landscape. Approaching nearer, the interior of the country, varied by hill and valley, with an agreeable mixture of woodland and cleared ground, makes a favourable impression upon the mind, from the natural association of ideas of capability and cultivation; but whether it pleases the eye, as a picture, must depend probably as much upon the kind of scenery lately viewed, as upon preconceived ideas. With us the recent impressions caused by Otaheite, rendered the view of New Zealand, though novel, rather uninteresting.
Cape Brett is a bold promontory, higher than any neighbouring land. When first seen from a distant offing, while no other land is in sight, it makes like a quoin-shaped island. As the sea around is free from danger, it is an excellent landfall for shipping approaching this part of the coast. Detached from, but near the cape, is the rock, with a hole or archway through it, named by Cook, ‘Piercy Islet.’
Point, or rather Cape Pococke, is a steep cliffy headland, of a dark colour, rather picturesque in its appearance: near it there is a conical rocky islet. Numerous islands, small and large, are scattered over the bay; an expanse of water really about ten miles square, though to the eye it appears much smaller, because so many islands intercept the view.
Near the middle of the west side of the bay is the opening of Kororareka Harbour, a secure but shallow port; better adapted to merchant shipping than to the use of men-of-war.
After passing Cape Pococke, and advancing about a mile, a small settlement appeared in the northern bight of the bay; and the English look of the houses was very gratifying to us. This, I found, was Tipuna, or Rangihoua, the place where the first settlement of white men was made upon the shores of New Zealand. On the farther side of Kororareka other houses were then seen—neat, and apparently comfortable dwellings, well situated under the lee of the western hills, while close by, on our right hand, a curious line of flat-topped black rocks, a few feet only above the water, reminded us of the remains of a great mole.
Within the line from Cape Pococke to Cape Brett there is not more than thirty fathoms of water; and every where, excepting close to the rocks, the bottom is soft and tenacious, so that an anchor may be let go in any part. We saw small straggling villages of native huts in many places, and around each of them a substantial fence of palisaded posts and rails. These fences, and the cultivated spots of ground which appear as you proceed up the bay, might give a more favourable idea of the native habits than they yet deserve; for the fences are fortifications—defences against intruding men, not cattle.
In a conspicuous solitary position, opposite to the entrance of Kororareka harbour, a single English house, without another building within a mile of it, nor any protection except that of a tall staff, on which waved the British Union-jack, presented a contrast to the fortified villages; and forcibly impressed one's mind with a conviction of the great influence already obtained over the formerly wild cannibals of New Zealand.
The entrance to the harbour is narrow, even to the eye, but it is still more confined by shoal water. In entering or leaving it, a ship ought to keep close to Kororareka Point: after rounding that point, at the distance of a cable's length, the sheltered part of the port is seen, looking like the mouth of a navigable river. On the western side, the native village of Kororareka, a straggling collection of low huts, strongly palisaded; on the eastern, three or four English houses, the head-quarters of the missionaries; on the rising ground, near the water, far up the harbour, several more houses and villages—gave an appearance of population and successful exertion as surprising as satisfactory. Near a detached house of European form, a large white ensign excited our curiosity; and we found it was the flag of New Zealand; differing only from the ensign of St. George in the upper ‘canton,’ next the staff, where, instead of a Union-jack, there is a red cross on a blue field; each quarter of the blue field being ‘pierced’ by a white star.
We anchored between Kororareka and Paihia (the missionary settlement): farther up the harbour were several whale-ships which had anchored there, I was told, in order to avoid the spirit-shops of Kororareka.
From this anchorage the view on all sides is pleasing. An appearance of fertility every where meets the eye; but there are no grand or very remarkable features. There is nothing in the outward character of the country corresponding to the ferocious sanguinary disposition of its aboriginal inhabitants. The British resident, some English settlers, and two of the native chiefs came on board during the afternoon; and in the evening I made acquaintance with Mr. Baker, a missionary residing at Paihia. The resident's boat was manned by young Zealanders, whose smooth faces, cropped hair, Scotch caps, and jackets and trowsers, were much approved of (perhaps hypocritically), by a chief whose long war-canoe was well-manned by athletic savages with half-naked figures, faces deeply-scarred—rather than tattowed—and long curly hair.
We were amused by finding that the Beagle had been mistaken for a ship of the (so called) Baron de Thierry. Her small size; the number of boats; and her hoisting a white ensign (thought to be that of New Zealand), so completely deceived them all, that one boat only approached reluctantly, after we had anchored, to reconnoitre; but as soon as it was known that the expected intruder had not arrived, visitors hastened on board. Had he made such an experiment, he would hardly have escaped with life, so inveterate and general was the feeling then existing against his sinister and absurd attempt. He would indeed have found himself in a nest of hornets.
In walking about the missionary establishment at Paihia, I was disappointed by seeing the natives so dirty, and their huts looking little better than pigstyes. Immediately round the dwellings of the missionaries I expected a better state of things; but I was told, that their numerous and increasing avocations engrossed all their time; and that the native population were slow in adopting habits, or even ideas, of cleanliness.
My first impression, upon seeing several New Zealanders in their native dress and dirtiness was, that they were a race intermediate between the Otaheitans and Fuegians; and I afterwards found that Mr. Stokes and others saw many precise resemblances to the Fuegians, while every one admitted their likeness to the Otaheitans. To me they all seem to be one and the same race of men, altered by climate, habits, and food; but descended from the same original stock.
Of a middle size, spare, but strong frame, and dark complexion, the New Zealauder's outward appearance is much in his favour; hardiness and activity, as may be expected, he eminently possesses. The expression of his features indicates energy, quickness of apprehension, without much reflection; and a high degree of daring. Ferocity is a striking trait in the countenances of many among the older men, and it is increased considerably by the savage style in which their faces are disfigured, or, as they think, ornamented by lines cut in the skin with a blunt-edged iron tool, and stained black. These lines are certainly designed with as much taste, even elegance, as could possibly be exerted in such disfiguring devices. The expression which, it appears, is anxiously desired, is that of a demon-warrior. All their old ideas seem to have had reference to war. Well might the Spanish poet's description of the Araucanians have been applied to the New Zealanders in their former condition:—
“Venus y Amor aqui no alcanzan parte,
Solo domina el iracundo Marte!”
The lines upon the face are not, however, arbitrary marks, invented or increased at the caprice of individuals, or the fancy of the operator who inflicts the torture; they are heraldic ornaments, distinctions far more intelligible to the natives of New Zealand than our own armorial bearings are to many of us, in these unchivalric days. Young men have but few: slaves, born in bondage, or taken young, have scarcely any marks; but the older men, especially the more distinguished chiefs, are so covered with them that the natural expression of face is almost hidden under an ornamented mask. One object of the tattowing, is to prevent change of features after middle age. Some of the women, whom the missionaries endeavoured to persuade not to follow this practice, said, “Let us have a few lines on our lips, that they may not shrivel when we are old.”
Every one has heard of, and many people have seen the war-dance. What exaggerated distortions of human features could be contrived more horrible than those they then display? What approach to demons could human beings make nearer than that which is made by the Zealanders when infuriating, maddening themselves for battle by their dance of death!
The hair of a New Zealander is naturally luxuriant, though rather coarse; its rough, free curliness in an unadorned, almost untouched state, heightens that expression of untameable ferocity which is so repulsive in the older men, especially in those of inferior degree. Many of the young women are good-looking; and they dress their hair with some pains, and not a little oil.
Although cannibalism and infanticide have ceased in the northern parts of New Zealand, the aboriginal race is decreasing. The natives say frequently, ‘The country is not for us; it is for the white men!’ and they often remark upon their lessening numbers. Change of habits, European diseases, spirits, and the employment of many of their finest young men in whale-ships (an occupation which unhappily tends to their injury), combine to cause this diminution. Wearing more clothes (especially thick blankets), exposes them to sudden colds, which often end fatally. We were surprised at seeing almost every native wrapped up in a thick blanket, perhaps even in two or three blankets, while we were wearing thin clothing.
The countenances of some of the men (independent of the tattowing) are handsome, according to European ideas of line beauty. Regular, well-defined, and high features are often seen; but they are exceptions, rather than the usual characteristics. Generally speaking, the New Zealander has a retreating and narrow forehead—rather wide, however, at the base; a very prominent brow; deeply-sunk black eyes, small and ever restless; a small nose, rather hollow, in most cases, though occasionally straight or even aquiline, with full nostrils; the upper lip is short, but that and the lower are thick; the mouth rather wide; white and much blunted teeth; with a chin neither large nor small, but rather broad. Some have higher and better heads, and a less marked expansion of brow, nostrils, and lips; others, again, are the reverse: usually, their eyes are placed horizontally; but some are inclined, like those of the Chinese, though not remarkably; indeed not so much so as those of a Scotchman whom I met there. Among the women I noticed a general depression of the bridge of the nose, and a flat frontal region.
Few engravings, or paintings, show the real expression, features, or even colour of the Polynesian tribes. They give us a half naked, perhaps tattowed* manor woman; but the countenance almost always proves the European habits of the artist. The features have a European cast, quite different from the original, and the colouring is generally unlike; especially iu coloured engravings.
* Amoco is the native word for the tattow marks.
The general complexion of both women and men is a dark, coppery-brown; but it varies from the lightest hue of copper to a rich mahogany or chocolate, and in some cases almost to black. The natural colour of the skin is much altered by paint, dirt, and exposure. Before closing this slight description of the personal appearance of the Zealanders, I must allude to the remarkable shape of their teeth. In a white man the enamel usually covers all the tooth, whether front or double; but the teeth of a man of New Zealand are like those of the Fuegians, and at a first glance remind one of those of a horse. Either they are all worn down—canine, cutting-teeth, and grinders—to an uniform height, so that their interior texture is quite exposed, or they are of a peculiar structure.*
* This apparent wearing away of the teeth is not found in the Zealanders alone. The Fuegians, Araucanians, and Society Islanders show it more or less, and it is very remarkable among the natives of New Holland. I have also seen some white men (Europeans) with similar teeth, but they were all elderly; whereas in some young savages I have noticed incisors shaped rather like those of a horse.
The New Zealanders' salutation has often been talked of as ‘rubbing noses,’ it is, in fact, touching, or crossing them; for one person gently presses the bridge of his nose across that of his friend. Mr. Darwin informed me that when a woman expects to be saluted by a person of consequence, in the ‘nose pressing’ manner, she sits down and makes a droll grunting noise, which is continued, at intervals, until the salute has been given.
The usual manner of the native is very inferior. Accustomed to a low, wretched dwelling, and to crouching in a canoe, his habitual posture of rest is squatting on his hams, or upon the ground, with his knees up to his chin; hence, also, his limbs are rather inferior in their shape. But arouse his spirit, set him in motion, excite him to action, and the crouching, indolent being is suddenly changed into an active and animated demoniac. The Zealander is extremely proud; he will not endure the slightest insult. A blow, even in jest, must be returned!
Every one has seen or heard so much of their weapons and canoes, that it is almost superfluous to speak of them; yet, in examining one of their larger canoes—seventy feet in length, from three to four in width, and about three in depth—I was much interested by observing what trouble and pains had been taken in building and trying to ornament this, to them, first-rate vessel of war. Her lower body was formed out of the trunk of a single tree—the New Zealand kauri, or cowrie—the upper works by planks of the same wood; the stem and stern, raised and projecting, like those of the gallies of old, were carved and hideously disfigured, rather than ornamented, by red, distorted faces with protruding tongues and glaring mother-of-pearl eyes. Much carving of an entirely different and rather tasteful design* decorated the sides. Beneath the ‘thwarts,’ a wicker-work platform, extending from end to end, served to confine the ballast to its proper position, and to afford a place upon which the warriors could stand to use their weapons. From forty to eighty men can embark in such canoes. But their day is gone! In a few years, scarcely a war-canoe will be found in the northern district of New Zealand.† Judging only from description, the largest canoes ever seen by the oldest of the present generation, must have been nearly ninety feet in length; formed out of one tree, with planks attached to the sides, about six or seven feet wide, and nearly as much in depth. Several old men agreed, at different times, in this account; but perhaps each of them was equally inclined to magnify the past.
* Arabesque, like the ornaments at Otaheite.
† North of latitude 38° S.
New Zealand much requires assistance from the strong but humane arm of a powerful European government. Sensible treaties should be entered into by the head of an over-awing European force, and maintained by the show, not physical action, of that force until the natives see the wonderful effects of a changed system. Finding that their protectors sought to ameliorate their condition, and abolish all those practices which hunger, revenge, and ignorance probably caused, and alone keep up; that they neither made them slaves, nor took away land without fair purchase; and that they did no injury to their country, or to them, except in self-defence—even then reluctantly—would give the natives satisfaction and confidence, and might, in a few years, make New Zealand a powerful, and very productive country. I say powerful, because its inhabitants are very numerous, and have in themselves abundant energy, with moral, as well as physical materials; productive also, because the climate is favourable; the soil very rich; timber plentiful, and very superior; minerals are probably plentiful; flax is a staple article; corn and vines are doing well; and sheep produce good wool.
While our thoughts are directed to the natives of New Zealand, let us refer to what Sir James Mackintosh says of the former savages of our own island.
“B.C. 54.—At the time of Caesars landing, the island of Great Britain was inhabited by a multitude of tribes, of whom the Romans have preserved the names of more than forty. The number of such tribes living in a lawless independence, is alone a sufficient proof of their barbarism. Into the maritime provinces southward of the Thames, colonies probably recent from Belgic Gaul began to introduce tillage; they retained the names of their parent tribes on the continent; they far surpassed the rest in the arts and manners of civilized life. The inhabitants of the interior appear to have been more rude and more fierce than any neighbouring people. The greater part of them raised no corn; they subsisted on milk and flesh, and were clothed in the skins of the beasts whom they destroyed for food. They painted and punctured their bodies, that their aspect might be more horrible in war. The use of carriages in war is a singular instance of labour and skill among such a people. Their domestic life was little above promiscuous intercourse. Societies of men, generally composed of the nearest relations, had wives in common. The issue of this intercourse were held to belong to the man (if such there should be) who formed a separate and lasting connexion with their mother. Where that appropriation did not occur, no man is described as answerable for the care of the children.”
Again, Sir James says—
“The Britons had a government rather occasional than constant, in which various political principles prevailed by turns. The power of eloquence, of valour, of experience, sometimes of beauty, over a multitude, for a time threw them into the appearance of a democracy. When their humour led them to follow the council of their elders, the community seemed to be aristocratic. The necessities of war, and the popularity of a fortunate commander, vested in him in times of peril a sort of monarchical power, limited by his own prudence, and the patience of his followers, rather than by laws, or even customs. Punishment sprung from revenge: it was sometimes inflicted to avenge the wrong's of others. It is an abuse of terms to bestow the name of a free government on such a state of society: men, in such circumstances, lived without restraint; but they lived without security. Human nature, in that state, is capable of occasional flashes of the highest virtues. Men not only scorn danger, and disregard privation, but even show rough sketches of ardent kindness, of faithful gratitude, of the most generous self-devotion. But the movements of their feelings are too irregular to be foreseen. Ferocious anger may, in a moment, destroy the most tender afffection. Savages have no virtues on which it is possible to rely.”
Speaking of missionaries, the same historian states, that—
“Our scanty information relating to the earliest period of Saxon rule, leaves it as dark as it is horrible. But Christianity brought with it some mitigation. A.D. 596. The arrival of Augustine in Kent, with forty other missionaries, sent by Gregory the Great to convert the Saxons, is described in picturesque and affecting language by Bede, the venerable historian of the Anglo-Saxon church. It cannot be doubted that the appearance of men who exposed themselves to a cruel death for the sake of teaching truth, and inspiring benevolence, could not have been altogether without effect among the most faithless and ruthless barbarians. Liberty of preaching what they conscientiously believed to be Divine truth, was the only boon for which they prayed.”
22d. On the little island of Paihia, where our instruments were landed for observations, the remains of half-burned human bones were found: and as the dead are not burned in this country, they must have been the remains of a former meal. It was difficult to decide upon the time which had elapsed since that feast was made, by the appearance of the bones. They might have been covered by earth for some time, and only lately exposed; or they might have been the remains of a very modern feast, indulged in upon a little island to which it was not probable that a missionary, or any one who might give information to him, could approach unperceived.
We were much struck by the beautiful appearance of an evergreen tree, resembling an ilex, or a large myrtle, when seen from a distance; whose bright red flowers, in large clusters, upon the dark green foliage, gave an effect which I longed to see transferred to an English garden. This tree seemed to be common. After landing, the fern attracted more notice than any other vegetable production: every where in New Zealand this useful plant is found. Why useful? may be thought. Because it was one principal article of food, before the introduction of potatoes. Owing to its abundance, and to the edible, as well as tolerably nutritious, nature of its roots, no man can ever starve in New Zealand who is able to gather fern: but that it is not a pleasant food may be inferred from the fact that no native eats fern-roots when he can get potatoes. Where the fern grows thickly, and high, the soil is known to be rich: where it is small, and scarce, the land is not worth cultivating.*
* Humboldt mentions fern-roots being used for food near the Orinoco.
Mr. Williams, the elder, formerly a lieutenant in the navy, was absent on an exploring and negociating expedition to the southern parts of the island. I much regretted having missed seeing him, as he was considered the leading person among the missionary body in New Zealand; and was said, by every one, to be thoroughly devoted to the great cause, in which he was one of the first, and most daring. I walked with Mr. Baker about the little village, or hamlet, of Paihia. A substantial stone building I thought must be the church; but was a good deal disappointed at being shown a small low edifice, as the place of worship; and hearing that the large stone house was the printing establishment. This I did not like; for I thought of the effect produced on ignorant minds by the magnificence of Roman Catholic churches. No doubt education overcomes superstitious ideas and observances; and the devotion of an enlightened man is not increased or diminished by the style, or by the decorations of a building: in him probably no building made by hands would excite such emotions as the starry temple of a cloudless sky. But ought he, therefore, to despise, or think lightly of those outward forms, and ceremonious observances, which influence ignorant people, who see without thinking; and are too much guided by that which makes a vivid impression. Would a little outward show do any harm among such ignorant human beings as the savages of New Zealand; or among Fuegians, and New Hollanders? And may one not expect that an intelligent native should notice that the ‘House of God’ is in every respect inferior to the other houses which they see erected by Christians?
Paihia is a pretty spot. The harbour of Kororareka lies in front; and an amphitheatre of verdant hills forms the back ground. But it must be hot during the summer, as it is in a hollow, facing the sun. A visit to Mr. J. Busby, the ‘British Resident,’ at his house (protected by the flag, as I have already mentioned) occupied Mr. Darwin and myself some time. Like most of the missionary dwellings, it is a temporary boarded cottage, intended only for present purposes. Mr. Busby was taking great pains with his garden; and among other plants he anticipated that vines would flourish. Those at Waitangi (the name of his place) are favoured by climate, as well as by the superintendance of a person who so thoroughly understands their culture. At a future day not only New Zealand, but Van Diemen's Land, and all New Holland, will acknowledge the obligation conferred upon them by this gentleman, who made a long and troublesome journey through France and Spain solely for the purpose of collecting vines for Australia, his adopted country.
Mr. Busby's official occupations at New Zealand appeared to me of a very neutral character. An isolated individual, not having even the authority of a magistrate, encircled by savages, and by a most troublesome class of his own countrymen, I was not astonished at his anxiety to receive definite instructions, and substantial support; or at the numerous complaints continually made by the English settlers.
Afterwards we went to Kororareka. On a sandy level, narrowly bounded by a low range of hills, or rather rising grounds, stands the principal assemblage of houses in the island; or as the missionaries say, ‘in the land’. I have said assemblage of houses, because it did not agree with my ideas of a town, a village, a hamlet, or even an Indian encampment. Near the beach were a few small cottages which had once been whitewashed. At the foot of the hills were two or three small houses of European build; but the remaining space of ground appeared to be covered by palings, and pig-styes. The temporary enclosures which are made in a market-place, for cattle, might give an idea of the appearance of these sadly wretched dwelling places. The palings, or palisades, are intended to be fortifications: they are high, sometimes eight or ten feet; and, almost encircling the whole, a stronger palisade is fixed, but so inefficiently that either strength, an axe, or fire, would ensure an entrance to resolute men. There is neither embankment nor ditch. Within the small square spaces, enclosed by the slighter palings, are the huts of the natives: the angular, low thatched roofs of which are scarcely set off from the ground by walls a foot or two in height. These roofs slope downwards, lengthwise as well as sideways; so that the front of the hut is the highest part. The upper point of the roof may be eight feet from the ground; the space of ground occupied, about ten square feet; seldom more, indeed usually less. Besides the door, through which a man cannot pass excepting upon his hands and knees, there is neither window, nor aperture of any kind. The New Zealand ‘order of architecture,’ is marked by two wide planks placed edgeways in front, joined together at the top by nails or pegs, and forming a wide angle, in which the space is filled up, excepting a door-way two feet square, with materials similar to those of the walls and roof, namely wicker work, or ‘wattling,’ covered by a thatching of broad flag leaves or rushes. The eaves of the roof project two or three feet beyond the front; so likewise do the side walls. In this sort of porch the family sit, eat, and, in the daytime, often sleep. At night most of them huddle together, within what, in every respect, deserves the name of a sty: even a Fuegian wigwam is far preferable, for as that is frequently left vacant during many successive weeks, heavy rains and a cold climate are antidotes to any particular accumulation of dirt. In a fine climate, surrounded by beautiful trees and luxuriant herbage, can one account for human nature degrading itself so much as to live in such a den? Is it not that the genuine, simple beauties of Creation are understood, and enjoyed, only in proportion as man becomes more refined, and as he differs more from his own species in what is falsely called a state of nature.
I was inquisitive about the large planks, generally painted red, which appeared in front of every house. The natives told me that such boards had always been made by their ancestors, before tools of any metal were seen in the land: they were from twelve to twenty feet in length, about two feet in breadth, and two inches thick: and they seemed to have been ‘dubbed’ down to a fair surface; but I am inclined to think that the wood is of a kind that splits easily into plank, like the alerse of southern Chile.* Being the evening meal time, some women, and male slaves, were removing the cinders from holes in the earth, whence steam was issuing profusely, under a shed, near the house I was examining. The shed was a light roof, upon upright poles, covering the cooking place—a few square yards of cinder-covered ground. Out of each hole dirty looking bunches of fish and leaves were raked with fingers and sticks. Hot stones were at the bottom of the hole, placed in the usual Polynesian and Chilote method. The fish had been wrapped in the leaves, but taking it out of the oven in such a manner had displaced the leaves, and substituted a coating of ashes and cinders. Potatoes, raked out of another hot hole, looked more eatable: but leaving the natives to their dirty food, we walked to the new church. A slightly built edifice of bricks, and light frame work, with an abundance of bad glass windows, gave me the idea of a small methodist meeting-house, or an anabaptist chapel, rather than an episcopal church. A good deal of money having been subscribed by residents, and visitors, specially for this church, it might be wished that a portion of it had been employed in obtaining a better design, and better materials, as it stands in a very conspicuous situation. To place a church in a stronghold of iniquity, such as Kororareka, the resort of the worst disposed inhabitants of New Zealand, native and foreign, was a daring experiment: yet notwithstanding the ill-will entertained towards the missionaries, by their ‘spirit-selling’ countrymen; by native chiefs, whose pandering trade was yearly lessened; and by the evil disposed of every description, no molestation had been offered, and not a plane of glass had been broken! neither had the church service been performed in vain to inattentive hearers.
* Kauri? or some other pine?
Returning to the beach, we saw some of the fine canoes I have already mentioned: we then paid a formal visit to one of the chiefs; and for another, who was not at home, I thought I could not do better than leave a present: his wife, or rather one of his wives, was pointed out to us, as the sister of the notorious Shunghi. ‘Titore’ was the absent chief's name. He was out in the country, with a hundred well-armed followers, cultivating, as we were told, his yam and potato grounds. We next saw a burying place, or rather a place where the dead are exposed, upon a raised platform, to the wind and sun. Wrapped in cloth of the country, the bodies are placed upon small square platforms of boards, which are fixed upon single central posts, ten feet high. Bushes were growing, unmolested, in the enclosure (or ‘Marae’), no foot entering to tread them down. Among these thickets I saw several large boards standing upright like gravestones, some of which were painted red, and uncouthly carved. Returning to our boat, the chief whom we had visited presented me with a garment of the country manufacture: his assumed haughtiness was amusing, from being characteristic. Our evening was passed in very interesting conversation with Mr. W. Williams, and Mr. Baker;* the former had just arrived from Waimate, an agricultural settlement, lately established by the missionaries, in the interior.
* I learned that de Thierry was sometime resident in the King's-bench, and that his alleged purchase of land, in New Zealand, was a theme of ridicule among the aborigines.
Of the difficulties encountered and surmounted by the first missionaries in New Zealand full accounts have been lately published: the little we then heard strongly excited our curiosity. Mr. Marsden appeared to have been the originator, as well as the main instrument, in forwarding the great work.
On the 23d, I went with Mr. Baker to Tipuna, the place where the first missionaries, Mr. King and Mr. Kendal, established themselves in 1813. Mr. King was absent, but I saw his wife and son, who told me that he was travelling about among the natives, and would not return for several days; he was on horseback, his son said, but quite alone. Mrs. King described the former state of things which she had witnessed herself in strong terms; she eould not look back to those days without shuddering. Being told in the evening, that “before morning their house would be in flames;” and that “stones were heating for the oven in which they themselves were to be cooked,” was a quieting farewell, from a mob of angry natives, on more than one occasion. But Mr. King always found a trusty friend in a chief, whose name has been often noticed—‘Waripoaka.’ I met him near the house, in company with a young chief, whose sense of propriety was so delicate that he would not appear before Mrs. King, because he was not dressed ‘well enough!’ Waripoaka was satisfied with his own attire, and went with us. To my prejudiced eye, the dress of the young man, a mat, or mantle of the country, loosely wrapped around a fine figure, appeared far more suitable than the long-tailed old coat, thread-bare pantaloons, and worn-out hat, which utterly disguised and disfigured the old chief.
Mr. King's son talked of his sheep, and I found that though not more than eighteen or twenty, he was already a farmer, possessing land and a flock of sheep. Returning by a different route, we landed upon an island lately bought from the natives by two persons who had been masters of whale-ships.
This island, purchased for a trifling price, will become very valuable, as the trade to the Bay of Islands increases; and I regretted to see a spot of such future consequence in the hands of men, whose verbal attacks upon the missionaries, and illiberal aspersions of Mr. Busby's character, disgusted me so much that I had hardly patience to make the inquiries which were the object of my visit; or to wait while Mr. Baker told them of a plan which was in contemplation among the settlers, for the prevention, or at least restriction, of the sale of spirits.
Such men as these, strongly prejudiced, deaf to reason, and too often habitually vicious; run-away convicts, whose characters may be imagined; and democratic seceders from regular government, cause the principal difficulties against which honest, upright settlers, and the whole missionary body, have to contend. One of the men, whose share in the property of the island I have been regretting, was partly intoxicated while we were with him; but Waripoaka, who accompanied us, significantly warned me of his state as I entered the house.
24th. I went with Mr. Baker to a scattered village, called Cawa-cawa. Leaving the ship early, we followed the windings of an estuary which forms Kororareka Harbour, until its shores contracted it to the limits of a fresh-water river. Three good houses on the eastern shore, lately built by respectable English settlers, attracted our notice in passing; and afterwards the ‘Pah’* of Pomare,† a well-known chief, appeared like a cattle enclosure upon a hill. Pomare is the man who killed and ate a part of his female slave, when Mr. Earle was there; he has still large possessions, and had larger, but has sold much for ammunition, muskets, and spirits. His honourable office at this time was that of supplying the numerous whale-ships which visited the harbour with his slaves; and he found such an employment of his female vassals answer better than the horrible one well described by Mr. Earle.§ Dismal alternative! On board each of the ships we passed there were many of these women; but before we notice the ‘mote,’ let us consider the great ‘beam,’—think of what our own seaports were in times of war, and be charitable to the South Sea Islanders.
* Or Paa; by Cook called Hippah.
† This chief said that his father had adopted the name of ‘Pomare,’ because he had heard of a very distinguished warrior at Otaheite, who bore that appellation.
§ Presumably, a reference to the following excerpt from Augustus Earle's Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in New Zealand, Chapter XXVIII; “A War Expedition and a Cannibal Feast.”
One morning, about eleven o'clock, after I had just returned from a long walk, Captain Duke informed me he had heard, from very good authority (though the natives wished it to be kept a profound secret), that in the adjoining village a female slave, named Matowe, had been put to death, and that the people were at that very time preparing her flesh for cooking. … On a spot of rising ground, just outside the village, we saw a man preparing a native oven, … As we approached, we saw evident signs of the murder which had been perpetrated; bloody mats were strewed around, and a boy was standing by them actually laughing … and then pointed towards a bush. I approached the bush, and there discovered a human head. My feelings of horror may be imagined as I recognised the features of the unfortunate girl I had seen forced from our village the preceding evening!
Pomare was heard to say that his son would be a greater man than himself: and the New Zealanders in general are impressed with the idea that their sons will be better, or greater men, than themselves.
The estuary, or arm of the sea, whose windings we were following, forms an excellent harbour for ships not larger than third-class frigates; or to speak in a more definite manner, for those which do not draw more than seventeen feet of water. On each side the land rises to five or six hundred feet, sheltering the anchorage without occasioning those violent squalls alternating with calms, that are found under the lee of very high land, over which strong wind is blowing. As far as I know, there are very few shoals or banks in the wide space which forms the inner harbour. A slight stream of current and tide runs outwards during about seven hours, and the tide sets inwards about five, though with still less strength. At times, the outward stream may run about two knots in the narrow places. Mr. Mair's house and shipping-yard, Mr. Clendon's establishment, and the pleasantly-situated house and garden of Mr. Wright gave an English aspect to the eastern side of the harbour; while boats passing and ships lying at anchor in an estuary, much resembling one in our own country, prevented the frequent occurrence of a thought, that we were near the Antipodes; and that on the western side of the harbour is the place where ‘Marion’ and so many of his crew were massacred, and afterwards eaten! That horrid catastrophe is now said to have been caused by mutual ignorance of language. The Frenchmen not understanding that the spot was tabooed, persisted in fishing there, and endeavoured to maintain their intrusion by force.
Canoes met and passed us as we proceeded. It was pleasant to witness the cordial greetings exchanged between most of their occupants and Mr. Baker. All these canoes were going to Kororareka, to sell their cargoes of firewood, potatoes, yams, or pigs. Here and there, by the water-side, we saw a house, or rather hut, with a patch of cleared and cultivated ground, a great pile of firewood, ready for sale, and perhaps a canoe close by, which the native owners were loading with the marketable produce of their land. When the estuary had diminished, and we found ourselves in a fresh-water river, there was much resemblance to parts of the river at Valdivia; but the amount of ground under cultivation, and the number of huts scattered over the face of the country and along the banks of the river, were less near Valdivia, exclusive of the town itself, than in this so lately a cannibal country.
Though on a small scale, the banks of this river are interesting and picturesque. On each side, the soil is extremely good on the low grounds, and the hills are well clothed with wood; they are not high, but approach the river rather closely in some places, so that the winding stream, spaces of level and partially cultivated land, and woody heights, are agreeably mingled, and formed a rapidly varying view as we proceeded.
Mr. Baker had been urged by the natives of Cawa-cawa to visit them, and endeavour to settle a dispute which had arisen with a neighbouring village, or rather tribe. He also wished to gain more advocates for the abolition of spirits; and I was glad to profit by the opportunity of seeing a little of the natives and their habits, in a place said to be Christianized, and uncontaminated by the spirit-sellers.
A few of our own countrymen were employing themselves as sawyers, on the banks of the river, near the village of Cawa-cawa; but neither their huts, their mode of living, nor their outward appearance, caused any feeling of good-will towards them on my part.
Having ascended the stream, as far as the boat could go, which was about four miles from the salt-water, we landed, and walked towards the village of Cawa-cawa, escorted by several elderly and a mob of young natives. Our way led through open underwood, maize-grounds, and damp swampy soil, in which I saw plenty of the plant called ‘flax,’ supposed, a few years since, to be very valuable, and now probably much undervalued. Across a stream the natives seemed delighted to carry us; indeed, I may say once for all, that at this village their whole behaviour was affable, friendly, and open, to a degree nearly approaching that of the merry Otaheitans.
Under the shade of a large tree, the inhabitants of the widely-scattered huts soon assembled. For me they brought a chair out of a cottage; but for themselves their native soil offered a sufficient place of rest. In all positions, half-enveloped in blankets or coarse country mattings, with their rough, curly hair protecting their heads from the sun's rays, and almost shading their tattowed faces, about a hundred men, women, and children surrounded their apparently most welcome friend ‘Payka,’ as they called Mr. Baker. Many fine forms and most expressive countenances were there. Such heads, indeed I may say, such a group for a painter! I had sufficient leisure to admire them; for it is etiquette in New Zealand to sit in silence during some minutes, previous to commencing any conversation. Engrossed by the fine, the grand heads of some of the old warriors, whose amply tattowed features had withstood the ravages of time more successfully than their once dark hair, and by the graceful figures of the younger women, I was sorry when the ceremonial silence was ended. By turns the principal men discussed with Mr. Baker (whose speaking appeared to be to the purpose, as well as fluent), the business for which they had assembled.
I could understand few words used, but the gestures of the natives were sufficiently expressive to give a general idea of their meaning. Mr. Baker's interpretation to me afterwards was to this effect:—“A neighbouring tribe has encroached upon the district which this tribe claim as hereditary property. These men prove their right to it by bringing forward several of their elders, who have at various times killed and eaten ‘rats’ upon it.”
In other days, the war-club and the patoo-patoo—a sanguinary contest to determine whose should be the land and whose bodies should fill the ovens—would have been the unfamiliar mode of decision. “What would Mr. Baker recommend them to do, now that they had become Christians?” was their question. He recommended arbitration, each party to choose a ‘wise man;’ and if the two wise men disagreed, they should refer the question to the deliberation of the missionaries, at their next general meeting. He also promised to visit the other tribe, enquire into the case, and exert himself for the sake of both parties, who were equally his friends, and whose interest, as well as duty, it was to remain at peace.
By temporising, talking to each party, and inducing one to meet the other half way, Mr. Baker had no doubt of amicably arranging the affair.* Is it not extremely gratifying to find the missionaries thus appealed to, and acting as mediators and peacemakers?
* Before the Beagle sailed it was settled.
The singular reason for laying claim to this land, appears less extraordinary when explained. Formerly there were no wild quadrupeds, excepting rats, upon New Zealand: and while so destitute of animal food, a rat was considered ‘game ’ by the natives; and no man would attempt to kill his neighbour's rats, or those which were found on his territory, without intending, or declaring war against him. Had not the rats, eaten by the older men of Cawa-cawa, belonged to them, the lawful or understood owners of the rats would long since have made war upon the people of Cawa-cawa. Rats having been there killed, and war not having been consequently declared, were irresistible arguments in the minds of those men, who never forgot, and who knew not how to forgive an injury.* Some of us are apt to think modern game laws harsh inventions, and the result of civilization. Yet if, in our own history, we look back seven hundred years, we find that human lives were then forfeited for those of beasts of the chase: and if we look at this country, which may be supposed two thousand years behind our own, in point of civilization, we find, that to kill a rat upon a neighbours land, is an offence almost sufficient to cause a general war.
* In Mariner's Tonga Islands a full description is given of the manner in which the Friendly Islanders shot rats: as an amusement.
The precise manner in which territory is divided among these savages surprised me not a little: I thought land was but slightly valued by them. Though sold to Europeans for what we consider trifles, the sale is, to them, [a] matter of high importance, in which every free man of the tribe ought to be consulted. Uncleared land is supposed to belong to the tribe, collectively. Cultivated spots, and houses, are private property, but cannot be sold, or given away, out of the tribe, without the consent of the whole community. This division of land among small tribes,* looks much like a comparatively late appropriation of the country. To make a purchase of land in New Zealand, in a manner which will ensure quiet and unquestioned possession, it is necessary to assemble all the tribe of owners, or as many as can come; a few absentees, of little consequence, not being thought about. The goods intended to be given, as an equivalent for the land, are then spread out for inspection; and if the contracting parties agree, their word is given, and their marks are perhaps put to a deed which they cannot read,† but whose purport they are told. The goods are forthwith carried away; each man appropriates what he chooses, and it often happens that the chief men of the tribe receive the smallest portion of the purchase goods.
* There are several varieties of the human race in New Zealand; differing from one another as much as the lightest olive-coloured Otaheitan differs from the ‘brown-black’ New Hollander.
† A few natives can now read and write.
One, among many objections alleged against the purchase of land, said to have been made by de Thierry, was, that he could not have bought land in New Zealand, while absent, because, in order to make a purchase valid, it is necessary to buy from the tribe, not from individuals.
Mr. Stokes was informed that when a tribe is utterly vanquished, the conqueror generously gives the survivors a grant of land, and even slaves. I do not see how to reconcile this act of generosity with the blood-thirsty warfare which has usually ended in indiscriminate slaughter, and cannibal feasts.
Satisfied, for the time, on the principal subject:—the much desired abolition of the use and importation of ardent spirits, was discussed. An old man, named ‘Noah,’ spoke to the tribe; and after alluding to the disgraceful and unfortunate events, caused by drinking, which had happened to their friends, and to neighbouring tribes, since the white men had introduced the vice of intoxication, old Noah ended a short but eloquent harangue, by saying, “expel the liquid fire.” Noah is a Christian: his name was his own choice, when baptized, some years ago. The principal men, eight in number, signed, or made marks upon the paper, which contained the resolutions agreed to by acclamation. Noah wrote his name in a distinct hand: each of the others made marks resembling a small part of the tattowed lines upon their faces. One man imitated the mark upon the side of his nose; another that near his eye. Baked potatoes were afterwards brought to us; and a curious wine, of which I had not heard. It was dark coloured, and not unlike good elderberry-wine. It is made from the small currant-like fruit of a shrub, which the settlers call ‘native vine;’ but the resemblance to a vine is about as evident as that of a common elderberry bush. The fruit grows in clusters, much like small elderberries in appearance, but it contains stony kernels, which are said to be unwholesome, if not poisonous. Women collect the juice by squeezing the bunches of fruit with their hands. I have heard that it is used after fermentation as well as in its pure juicy state, but some assert the contrary: it might then assuredly cause intoxication; I doubt, however, their often obtaining, or keeping, a sufficient quantity. It dyes the hands of the women and children who collect the juice, so deeply, that they cannot efface the stain for many days afterwards.
Instead of rubbing, or rather pressing, noses, these people have adopted the custom of shaking hands: everyone expects to have a shake. Yet with all their asserted equality , and democratic ideas, there must be a considerable distinction of rank, and difference of occupation, among them; for I particularly noticed that two chief persons of this tribe, who rather resembled the higher class at Otaheite, had far less swarthy complexions, and less hardened extremities, than the others: one of them, considered by Mr. Baker to be the head of the tribe, was more like an Otaheitan ‘Eri,’ and less like the ordinary New Zealanders than any other native I saw, while at their island. From the meeting place under the large tree, we went to see a chapel which the natives were building, by their own free will and labour; and in our way we passed through yam and potato grounds, so neatly kept, that no gardener need have hesitated to commend them.* The intended chapel was a lightly framed building of wood, with a thatched roof. The natives seemed to be very proud of it, and were much gratified by our praises. Some large oxen, in a pen, were feeding on young branches, and leaves of trees, gathered for them by the natives, which they appeared to relish as much as hay: they were called ‘booa-cow.†
* Cook speaks in strong terms of the neatness and regularity of their cultivated grounds.
† Literally cow-pig. Before white men brought others, pigs were the only domestic animals known in Polynesia besides dogs:—and when a cow first appeared in a ship, she was called cow-booa, or booa-cow.
At the door of a house, or rather in the porch (before described), I saw a woman reading: she was sick, Mr. Baker told me, one of a long list of invalids, who frequently applied to the missionaries for advice and medicine. I looked at her book, it was the Gospel of St. Matthew, printed at Paihia, in the New Zealand language. Now, certainly, there was neither constraint, nor any thing savouring of outward show, in this woman's occupation, for my seeing her was sudden, and quite accidental, arising from my going out of the usual path to look at the oxen. Mr. Baker told me, that one of the most troublesome, though not the least gratifying duties, of the missionaries, was that of attempting to act as medical men. No regularly educated practitioner having at that time established himself in the land, every complaint was entrusted to the kind attention, and good will, but slight medical knowledge of the missionaries. We saw several nets for fishing placed in separate heaps, each upon a small platform, at the top of a post eight or ten feet in height: in a similar manner yams and potatoes are preserved from the rotting influence of the damp earth. The nets are made with the split leaves of the ‘flax’ plant, not merely with the fibres, and last for many years: both they and the food, thus exposed to the air, are thatched, like the houses, with the broad leaves of an iris-like rush, or flag, which grows abundantly by the river sides, and in marshy places. I was here informed, that after the bodies of the dead (which are exposed to the air, on platforms similar to those I have just mentioned), are thoroughly dried, the bones are carried away, and deposited in a secret burying place.
25th. Being Christmas-day, several of our party attended Divine service at Paihia, where Mr. Baker officiated. Very few natives were present; but all the respectable part of the English community had assembled. Instead of performing the whole service first in one language, and afterwards in the other, as at Otaheite, the two entire services were mixed, and the whole extended to such a length that had even the most eloquent divine occupied the pulpit, his hearers could scarcely have helped feeling fatigued. Mr. Baker appeared to be more fluent in the language of New Zealand, than in his own, a fortunate circumstance for the natives, though not for the English who attend his church. In the mere glimpse which I had of the missionary body at New Zealand, it appeared to me that they rather undervalued their white congregations. They say, “We are sent to the heathen, it is to their improvement that every effort should be directed.” “This is true,” may be replied; “but does not the example of respectable settlers, or visitors, assist the influence of missionaries?” Would not the natives take notice if foreigners whom they see in the land refused, generally speaking, to conform in their habits and conduct, to the principles so earnestly insisted upon by the missionaries? But unless Divine service is performed in a manner which will, at the very least, increase respect for it, and give rise to no feelings of slight towards those who, from the nature of their highly responsible office, are expected to perform it tolerably well—it does not seem likely that such as are only sojourners in the land, will be seen at the church as often as might be desirable; thus a part of their example, so beneficial to the great cause, will perhaps be lost.
A very correct musical ear seems to be as general among the people here, as among those of Otaheite. The responses of thirty natives, women and men, were made so simultaneously, and so perfectly in harmony, that I could no more distinguish the different voices, than I could those of a number of good choristers singing together. Their singing was equally melodious, yet neither I nor others were disposed to think it equal to that of Otaheite.
26th. Disputes between masters of whale ships and their crews, and between both these classes and the New Zealanders, obliged me to meddle, though very reluctantly, in their affairs.
To show what anarchy has been caused in this country, by the partial, half measures, which have been taken, I will try to describe the state of things, at the Bay of Islands, as we found them.
I will not attempt to give the slightest sketch of events which had occurred anterior to the Beagle's visit, full and authentic details being accessible in other publications; farther than to say that the rumoured approach of de Thierry had stimulated Mr. Busby (holding the undefined office of British resident) to take measures adverse to such foreign intruders, by issuing a public announcement,* and by calling together the principal chiefs of tribes inhabiting the districts of New Zealand, north of the Thames, with a view of urging them to frame a sort of constitution ,† which should have a steadying influence over their unwieldy democracy, and leave them less exposed to foreign intrusion.
* Appendix, No. 35.
† A copy of the constitution, or form of government, decided upon at a meeting of all the chiefs of the northern districts (excepting two or three of minor consequence), is in the Appendix, No. 36.
Thus much had been done by words and on paper; the chiefs had departed, each to his perhaps distant home, and the efficiency of their authority, in a ‘collective capacity’ was yet to be discovered. No ‘executive’ had been organized; the former authorities—each chief in his own territory—hesitated to act as they had been accustomed, owing to a vague mystification of ideas, and uncertainty as to what they really had agreed upon, while the authority of Mr. Busby was absolutely nothing, not even that of a magistrate among his own countrymen; so of course he could have no power over the natives. To whom then were the daily squabbles of so mixed and turbulent a population, as that of the Bay of Islands and its vicinity, to be referred?
Late events had impressed the natives with such a high idea of King William's men-of-war, that even the little Beagle was respected by them, and, in consequence, appeals were made to me—by natives, by men of the United States of America, and by British subjects; but, not then aware of the peculiarity of Mr. Busby's position, I referred them to him, under the idea that his office was of a consular nature, and therefore that I ought not to act in these cases, excepting as his supporter. Finding him unwilling to take any steps of an active kind, not deeming himself authorised to do so: and the aggrieved parties still asking for assistance, I referred them to the only real, though not nominal, authority, in the place, that of the missionaries. By the active assistance of Mr. Baker, the more serious quarrels were ended without bloodshed, and those of a more trifling nature, in which the natives were not concerned, were temporarily settled: but I doubt not that in a few days afterwards anarchy again prevailed.
To give an idea of the nature of some of these quarrels, and of the serious consequences they might entail, I will describe briefly two or three cases which were referred to me.
Pomare had been beaten while on board a whale ship, by some of her crew. No New Zealander will submit to be struck, but thus to treat a chief is unpardonable. Burning with indignation he maltreated the first Englishman whom he met on shore, and was concerting serious measures of revenge, when the master of the ship, and a number of his men, came to ask for assistance and protection.
Again; a chief, whose name I do not know, had been refused admittance on board a whale ship, where he had heard that one of his female slaves was living. He did not wish to injure her, or even take her away. His only motive, in asking admittance, was to satisfy himself that she was there. Highly affronted at the refusal, he spoke to me, (as he said) previously to collecting his warriors and attacking the ship.
Another case was unconnected with the natives, but tended to expose a fraudulent system, and to show the necessity of arming British authorities, in distant parts of the world, with a definite degree of control over the licentious, or ill-disposed portion of their own countrymen, who, in those remote regions, are disproportionably numerous, and now able to do pretty much what they please.
A person who stated himself to be the master of an English whaler, lying in the harbour, came on board the Beagle, accompanied by a man said to be the third mate. The former complained of the mutinous state of his crew, who had ill treated this third mate, and then refused to work or obey any orders. Inquiry on board the whaler, showed that the crew had been ill-used, especially as to provisions: and that not only the nominal master, but the chief as well as the second mate were North Americans, (U.S.) The legal master, it appeared, was the so-called third mate, an Englishman. His name appeared in the ship's papers as master; that of the person who had been acting as master did not appear at all. But the acting master, who before me styled himself ‘supercargo,’ produced a power of attorney from the owners of the vessel,* which appeared to authorise him to control the proceedings of the vessel, as he thought proper; to displace the master and appoint another person in his stead, and in every way to act for the owners, as if he, the American, were sole owner. Nearly all the seamen were British subjects. How far his power of attorney might carry weight against the spirit and intent of the navigation laws, I had much doubt; but as it appeared to me that the owners in such cases, ought to know their own interest better than other persons could; and that in suiting their own interest they certainly would add their mite towards the general interest of their country; and as the supercargo had a circular letter from the Commander-in-chief on the West-India and North American station, asking for the assistance of any King's ship he might meet (with the view of encouraging the whale fishery out of Halifax); I refrained from doing what my first impulse prompted—putting an officer on board, and sending the ship to the nearest port (Sydney), in which correctly legal measures might be adopted, if necessary. Meanwhile as the British resident did not think himself authorised to interfere, and disorder, with ‘club-law,’ were prevailing and likely to continue, in the Rose, I went on board, accompanied by Lieutenant Sulivan and Mr. Bynoe.
* The ‘Rose’ of Halifax.
After examining the provisions and all the ship's papers, I spoke to the crew (every man of whom wished to leave the vessel) and to the nominal master; obtained an assurance, in their hearing, that their future allowance of provisions should be unobjectionable, and, for the time, restored order. But I felt that the calm was unlikely to last, and two days afterwards fresh appeals were made, to which I could not attend, being in the act of leaving the port.*
* Afterwards (at Sydney) I heard that the men had all left the vessel, and were living among the natives.
The laws which regulate our merchant shipping, especially sealers and whalers, do not appear to extend a sufficient influence over the numerous vessels, which, with their often turbulent inmates, now range over the vast Pacific. For many years past, Great Britain and the United States have annually sent hundreds of large whale ships into the Pacific: during late years, Sydney has sent forth her ships, amounting at present in number to more than sixty, most of which are employed in whaling or trading in the Pacific: and be it remembered that their crews are not the most select seamen—the nature of many of them may easily be imagined—yet in all this immense expanse of ocean, little or no restraint except that of masters of vessels, on board their own ships, is imposed either upon Americans or British subjects! There is the nominal authority of a consul at the Sandwich, and Society Islands; and occasionally a man-of-war is seen at the least uncivilized places. But how inefficient is so widely separated, and so nominal a control? When ships of war visit the less frequented parts of the Pacific, they are too much in the dark, as to the state of things, to be able to effect a tenth part of what might be done, in equal time, by a ship employed solely on that ocean. In so peculiar a portion of the world as Polynesia, it takes some time to learn what has been taking place: and what ship of war has stayed long enough for her captain to lose the sensation of inexperience—which must embarrass him if called upon to decide and act, in cases where he really is about the most ignorant person (as regards the special case) of any one concerned with it? In consequence of that ignorance, he must inevitably be more or less guided by the advice of parties, of whose individual interest in the matter so short an acquaintance cannot give him a proper idea.
A great deal of prudence, and good management, is required in the commander of a man-of-war, who has any business of consequence to transact with the natives of Polynesia, or who has to deal with his own countrymen in that distant region. A single ship, assisted perhaps by tenders, might, if well commanded, do more good in a few years among the islands of the Pacific, than can now easily be imagined. But then she must be stationary; not that she should remain in one place—far from it—her wings should seldom rest; I mean only that she should stay in the Pacific during three or four years. In that time so much information might be gained, and so much diffused among the natives; such a system of vigilant inspection might be established, and so much respect for, and confidence in the British nation, be secured—that our future intercourse with Polynesia would, for a length of time, be rendered easier and infinitely more secure, as well as creditable.
The few ships of war which have remained during any length of time among the islands, have been occupied by exploring and surveying, to an extent that has interfered with the earnest consideration of other matters. But in a ship, employed as I have described, a surveyor might be embarked, who would have ample opportunities of increasing our knowledge of that ocean. And if a sensible man, whose natural ability had been improved by an education unattainable by sailors, could be tempted to bear the trials and losses of a long sea voyage, in a busily employed ship, how much might Science profit by the labours of three or four such years?
Having thus entered freely into ideas which I have so often dwelt upon that they are become familiar, I will venture to suggest the kind of ship which would do most, in my humble opinion, at the least ultimate expense consistent with efficiency. Moral influence over the minds of natives, as well as over wanderers from our own or other countries, is a primary object, and that influence might be at once obtained by the mere presence of a large ship.
Compare the manner in which the natives of the Marquesas behaved to the Tagus and Briton frigates, with their hostility to vessels whose appearance did not overawe them. An outward show of overpowering force would often prevent a struggle, and probably loss of life, which, however justifiable, cannot too anxiously be avoided. From what I have seen and heard, I feel authorised to say that one ship of force, well-manned, and judiciously commanded, would effect more real good in the Pacific than half a-dozen small vessels.
Frigates have already been seen among some of the islands of Polynesia, and heard of in the greater number. To send a ship of a lower class to establish a general influence over the Polynesians, and our own wandering countrymen, as well as for the purposes I have previously mentioned, would be to treat the business so lightly that, for the credit of our country, it would perhaps be better let alone; particularly as a frigate does occasionally go from the South American station, and a sloop from Australia, or the East-Indies. No European or American nation has now a duty to perform, or an interest to watch over, in the Pacific Ocean, equal to that of Great Britain. The North Americans are increasing their connections, and consequently their influence, rapidly. Russia has extended her arm over the Northern Pacific. France has sent her inquiring officers, and Roman Catholic missionaries* are sowing the seeds of differences, if not discord, among the islanders, in the Gambler Islands and elsewhere.
* Sent out immediately after the first circulation of Captain Beechey's interesting work.
Independent of expense, what are the principal local objections to employing a frigate in such a duty? In the first place, among the islands there would be risk of getting ashore, increasing with the size of the ship:—in the second; it might be difficult to obtain suppHes, and in the event of losing spars she might be obliged to return; perhaps to England:—in the third; to get ashore, in a ship drawing so much water, would be a much more serious affair than a similar accident happening to a smaller vessel: and, by obliging her to return to England, or go to an East-Indian dockyard, would upset all plans and expose Polynesia to greater irregularities and less control than ever, until new arrangements could be made.
To the ‘risk of getting ashore,’ I answer: large ships are in general more efficiently officered and manned than small ones, and they are less likely to get into danger, because they are consequently more carefully managed. The Pacific is, technically speaking, a ‘deep water ’ocean: all its coral reefs are ‘steep-to.’ Sand or mud banks are unknown, except near the shores of continents, and even there they are rare, unless on the Japanese and Chinese shores. Small ships attempt to sail in intricate passages, and get ashore:—large vessels use warps, or await very favourable opportunities, and are not risked. Secondly: supplies may now be obtained in any quantity on the coast of South America, as well as in Australia; and fresh provisions can be obtained by regular, reasonable purchase, at the principal islands. New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the north-west coast of America and other places, are stocked with the finest spars: and lastly: a large ship, well provided, has the resources of a small dock-yard within herself.
An East-India trader of eight hundred tons, was hove down by her own crew, and the natives, at Otaheite. Cook laid his ship ashore for repair in Endeavour River, on the north-east coast of New Holland; where the rise and fall of tide is very great. Sydney is an excellent place for heaving down and repairing a ship of any size. Guayaquil has a great rise and fall of tide. Lima, or rather Callao,—and Coquimbo, are good places for a ship to refit in. But Sydney is superior to all as a rendezvous, and any repairs may be effected there.
Large ships are able to do all their own work, while small vessels are frequently obliged to ask for the help of their neighbours, when they get into difficvilty, or want repairs. These considerations, however, should not prevent a frigate from having a good tender, for much risk would then be avoided: and although the large ship might be repairing, the knowledge that she was in the Pacific* would be quite sufficient, if she had only established such a character as that which was borne by many a British frigate during the last general war. Such a ship could detach efficient boats for surveying, or other purposes; she could carry animals, seeds, plants, and poultry, to those islands which have none; and by her countenance and protection, she could assist and encourage the missionaries in their all-important occupation.
* No accident need oblige her to quit that ocean. Many large ships are built there, and never leave its waters.
Waimate—Cultivation—Flax—Apteryx—Gardens—Missionaries—Farm—Barn—Mill—Grave of Shunghi—Horses—Kauri Pine—Keri-keri—Children—Waripoaka—La Favorite—Political condition—Relics—Images, or Amulets—Mats—Leave New Zealand—Remarks—Intercourse—Convicts—Effects of Missionary exertion—Irregular Settlements—Trade—Residents and Consuls—Missionary Embarrassments—Society's Lands—Discontent of Settlers—Purchase of Land—Influence of Missionaries—Their sphere of action
28th. Accompanied by Mr. Baker, I set out to go to Waimate, a settlement formed by the missionaries with the view of introducing agriculture and mechanical arts among the natives, in addition to the truths of the Gospel. Entering one of the numerous creeks (Waitangi) by which the north-eastern shores of New Zealand are intersected, we went a little way in a boat, then landed and got on horseback.* Two natives, who had been waiting with the horses, ran by their side during the rest of the day with much ease, though we trotted or cantered rather fast. One of them even carried a bundle weighing about thirty pounds. The men did this by choice, for the sake of riding back from Keri-keri, a place we were afterwards to visit, and whence Mr. Baker and I would return by water. While running thus easily and cheerfully, by the side of our horses, they reminded me of men at Madeira; and still more of the Maltese, whom they both resembled in feature, figure, and colour. To see fern every where, was a remarkable peculiarity. In some places it grew thickly, and to the height of a man, in others it was scantily scattered. It is said to be an index to the quality of the soil, which is productive in proportion to the quantity of fern. After ascending the first low hills, I was a little disappointed by the uniform and unpicturesque appearance around me. A rather level or irregularly imdulating country, in which extensive plains were more remarkable than hills—every where verdant, in many places wooded, and intersected by numerous streams of water—pleased by its supposed capabilities, though not by the picturesqueness of its appearance. From seeing the remains of forest, or rather irregular-looking woods, in a variety of situations—at the summits of hills, as well as in the hollows of vallies; and from the prevalence of fern instead of grass, I was led to think that the whole land had once been thickly wooded, but that the natives had cleared away the trees by burning.
* A few horses had been brought over from Sydney.
We passed by a native village, around which were many acres of well cultivated ground, with maize and potatoes in a thriving state. They were planted in little heaps of earth (like mole-hills), at exact distances, laid out by line. For planting the sweet potato (cumera), a kind of yam (tarp), or the lately introduced potato, a wooden stake is used as a substitute for a spade, in preparing the ground. The natives acknowledge themselves much indebted to tbe white men for pigs and potatoes; but they speak angrily of the ‘liquid fire’—and diseases which they brought. One old native also made a shrewd remark about certain seven-barrelled guns sent among them by some of our countrymen, even while others were preaching the gospel of peace, and trying to check their inclination to quarrel.
Abundance of the flax plant was growing on the low moist ground, and also on higher, apparently dry soil. I was told that the flax plant does not like a swamp, but thrives where the ground is rather moist. With leaves like those of an iris or large lily, whence the fibres are obtained which are ‘called’ flax, this plant has always been of great consequence to the natives. Those immense nets which are mentioned in the faithfully descriptive accounts of Cook, are made with the leaves split into long narrow shreds, not scraped or peeled. For the manufacture of smaller cordage and thread, the leaves are scraped by a shell, which removes the upper or green part and leaves the strong white fibres, that run longitudinally along the under side. With these fibres, in less or greater numbers, and twisted more or less, the New Zealand cordage has been made, which was so much liked at its first introduction, but is now said to be of a quality very inferior to that made with European, or even Chilian, hemp. The principal objection I have heard urged against the New Zealand rope is, that it does not endure frequent bending; not being sufficiently tenacious if used where its pliability is much tried. In sailor's language, ‘it soon goes in the nip.’ Perhaps this objection might be removed by a peculiar mode of treating the plant, or by another way of seasoning and preparing the fibres. Very fine mats for clothing are made with these fibres, which, when properly prepared, are of a fine silky texture, extremely durable, and capable of withstanding a great deal of washing and wear. I have one by me which has been in constant use sixteen years, and frequently washed. This being the case with respect to the mats, how does it happen that rope made by white men, of the very same material, has not been found to answer? Surely, it can only be because the material has not been properly treated by those who are, perhaps, little acquainted with its nature, with the best season for cutting it, and with other peculiarities probably well known to the natives. Do not many of our own handicraftsmen make a mystery of their art, and, in consequence, are not the secrets of most trades hidden to those who have not learned them, and cannot read?
An open-sided house, or rather shed, standing apart from the little village, I was told was a chapel, which the natives had lately built of their own accord, and without telling the missionaries of their intention: when it was completed they applied to Mr, Williams for a teacher.
A very fine-looking native passed us, whose air and manner of carrying his gun reminded me of an Albanian's. Every man now carries a gun or musket, who, a few years since, would have been armed with a war club, or patoopatoo, and a mieri.*
* Or mearee (spear).
So accessible is the country between Waimate and the Bay of Islands, that, except across a few small ravines, which require log bridges, a cart might travel easily; though there was at this time no road; water conveyance also is every where at hand, so intersected is the land by arms of the sea. Fresh water, in rivers, brooks, and springs, is plentiful, and never fails.
There is a rare and curious bird in New Zealand, which few persons have seen. It is shy, and seldom visible in the daytime: the natives are said to chase it by moonlight. It is of the bustard or emu kind, unable to fly, though provided with short wings; it is said to be more hairy than feathery, and about the size of a small emu.*
* This bird (Aptcryx Australis) has lately been described by naturalists, therefore I say no more about it.
On rather a high plain, or very flat-topped hill, stands Waimate—the agricultural establishment of the Church Missionary Society. After so long an absence from every similar sight, and in New Zealand, the sudden appearance of three English houses, surrounded by outhouses, gardens, and cultivated fields, was striking and delightful; I looked at it as a fragment of Old England, small indeed, but apparently genuine. About twenty acres of land, judging only by eye, seemed to be cultivated. Corn was in full ear, and looked well. The buildings showed at a distance to greater advantage than on a nearer approach; because they are built in the form of gentlemen's cottages, but entirely of wood, and were then unfinished. There were also nice gardens, which had evidently profited by much industrious care, and knowledge of gardening: my hasty survey was however stopped by the approach of a person, whose appearance and manner showed that he was an essential actor in this English scene; and whose intelligent, kind, and truly respectable demeanor was of that description which at once excites esteem and goodwill. This was Mr. Davis, the superintendant of the farming establishment. He told me that Mr. Wm. Williams (the brother of Henry Williams) and Mr. Clarke, were gone to Hokianga, at the opposite side of the island, to attend the last hours of a young Wesleyan missionary.
I have hitherto spoken of missionaries in general terms, as if they formed a distinct and undivided class. That as a body they are distinct, in the scale of worldly divisions, is true; their self-devotion, their habits of life, peculiar education, and incessant anxiety, attach them to a class, of which the good, and therefore truly great Bishop Heber was one of the leading members. But of course they are separated, among themselves, by distinctions which are a natural result of more or less education and of early habits.
The Church Missionary Society have distinguished by the term ‘missionary’ only those educated, well-informed men who have taken holy orders, and they are styled ‘reverend.’ Those who are not in orders are termed ‘catechists.’ Without an idea of finding fault with the present conduct of any individual belonging to either of those two classes, it has occurred to others as well as to me, that a third class might be added advantageously, that of ‘visiting’ or ‘inspecting missionaries.’ A clergyman of Heber's character, embarked on board a man of war, might advise and assist those who are now too much on an equality to give free advice to one another, or readily to see the small defects from which no human beings or institutions ever can be free.
Human nature, tried during a long course of years, has seldom steered a uniformly steady course; and may not slight defects, if unnoticed, increase into real blemishes? Difficulties have arisen in New Zealand, as well as in other parts of the Pacific, unnoticed by many people, because, till lately, they were but little felt. These difficulties particularly interfere with the missionaries, and if not remedied by timely measures, will lead to continual embarrassment.
To return from this digression. Near the houses a number of sheep were grazing: plenty of fowls, geese, and pigs; some cattle and horses; and several calves and colts, added to the comfortable, farm-like appearance. We accompanied Mr. Davis into his house for a few minutes, walked over the garden and farm, looked at the farm-yard, barn, and mill, and returned to dinner. The house was well constructed of wood; and though unfinished had a remarkably clean and neat appearance. The compact manner in which the walls were boarded or wainscotted struck me particularly, from being such a contrast to the manner in which a South American carpenter would have constructed a house of similar size. A little room, used by Mr. Davis, pleased me much; for, in addition to clever contrivances and good carpentry, it contained a collection of excellent books, and a frame on which an unfinished plan of the Society's farm bore testimony to the nature of the in-door occupations of our host. I did not expect to see much indication of reading, certainly none of drawing, in a newly-built house, standing in the midst of a tract of New Zealand, which two years previously was covered with fern.
In the garden, European vegetables seemed to thrive, and the farm-yard was quite English; a large barn, built entirely by natives, under Mr. Davis's direction; a blacksmith's shop; carts and farming implements, successively engaged our attention. In the barn, a surprising work for the New Zealanders, two natives were thrashing, and a winnowing machine was attended by a third. The mill and mill-dam were well worth examination, as good works of their kind, independent of the interest occasioned by their locality. An embankment (made entirely by natives) had changed the upper part of a small valley into a large pond; and on the middle of the pond-head, or embankment, stood the mill.
A powerful water-wheel, equal to the performance of far more work than the mill required, seemed to be easily turned by only a part of the stream admitted through the mill-dam or sluice. In answer to a remark upon the surplus power, Mr. Davis said that the Society contemplated erecting a thrashing machine, and that Mr. Coates* had encouraged him to anticipate its arrival. A thrashing-machine might be worked easily, in addition to the mill, and yet there would be power to spare.† When embanking the pond, an unfortunate accident occurred, which almost stopped the work: one of the natives, incautiously digging under an overhanging mass of earth, was smothered by its sudden fall. Superstitious and easily excited, the natives abandoned their allotted tasks, and not without much difficulty could the missionaries induce them to resume their employment. When at last the mill was finished and in full operation, nothing could exceed the surprise and delight of the natives, especially those who had assisted in the work. They called it a ‘ship of the land.” “Wonderful white men!” said they; “fire, water, earth, and air are made to work for them by their wisdom; while we can only command the labour of our own bodies!”
* Secretary to the Church Missionary Society.
† The Church Missionary Society have sent out the thrashing machine, and probably it is now in full operation.
Many natives have visited Sydney; some have been round the world; and, of course, their ideas and descriptions have been imparted to their countrymen; but nothing, not even that, to a savage, awfully-mysterious object, a steam-vessel, has yet effaced their early-formed opinion, that a large ship of war is the greatest wonder of the world.
Returning from the mill, Mr. Davis showed me where Shunghi was buried. No monumental mark indicates the tabooed place in which the remains of the slaughter-loving cannibal were deposited; a few dark-leaved trees and some thickly-growing fern alone point out the spot.
While looking about, highly gratified by all we saw, we met Mr. W. Williams, who had just returned from his attendance upon the young Wesleyan before-mentioned. The sufferer had been released from painful illness by death.
A thriving young English oak, near Mr. Davis's house, augured well; for where English oaks succeed, many other useful trees will certainly grow. Several younger saplings, just fit for transplanting, occupied a part of Mr. Williams's well-stocked garden; and these interested me more than all the other plants and trees in the garden taken together. Englishmen one now meets every where; but a living, healthy, English oak was a sight too rare, near the Antipodes, to fail in exciting emotion.
I was much struck by the harmony and apparent happiness of those families whose cheerful hospitality I was enjoying. An air of honesty, and that evident tranquillity of mind which can only be the result of a clear conscience, offered a forcible contrast to the alleged gloom and selfishness of which some missionaries have been accused by those whose society was not, perhaps, even tolerable to them, because of their vicious habits and indulgences. It was also very gratifying to me to mark the lively interest taken by Mr. Williams, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Baker in every detail connected with the Fuegians, and our attempt to establish Richard Matthews in Tierra del Fuego. Again and again they recurred to the subject, and asked for more information; they would not hear of my calling the attempt ‘a failure.̵ “It was the first step,” said they, “and similar in its result to our first step in New Zealand. We failed at first; but, by God's blessing upon human exertions, we have at last succeeded far beyond our anticipations.” Their anxiety about the South American aborigines generally; about the places where missionaries might have a chance of doing good; and about the state of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, gave me a distinct idea of the prevalence of true missionary spirit.
In the minds of Mr. Williams and his brother I should have expected high and generalizing ideas, similar in a great degree to those of the ‘Apostle of the South’—the ‘heroic Marsden,’ as he has been most deservedly styled; but I was unprepared to find all the members of this missionary body anxious to hear about, and talk of Fuegians and other distant tribes of savages, rather than to draw attention to themselves, to their troubles, and ultimate success, or to their own interests.
At this interview it was fully decided that Richard Matthews should remain with his brother, a respectable young missionary mechanic, established at the northern end of the island, and lately married to Mr. Davis's daughter. Among many subjects of conversation we discussed the dress of the natives; and Mr. Williams assented fully to the inconvenience of their present awkward mode, and expressed an intention of trying to introduce something like the poncho and ‘chilipa’* dress of South America. With sincere regret I took leave of the residents at Waimate. Instead of hours, I could have passed days with them, had other duties allowed of following my own inclination.
* The chilipa is a kind of loose breeches.
Riding across a valley close to Waimate, we passed some young horses of a good breed, though fitter for the saddle than for agricultural purposes. They were the produce of mares brought from Sydney. A picturesque wooden bridge, which had been thrown across the stream at the bottom of the valley, reminded me strongly of one well-known in England; and caused that rush of associated ideas sure to follow an unexpected meeting with the semblance of an object familiar in other days.
In a large wood I saw the noble cowrie (kauri) pine. The trunk of this gigantic offspring of New Zealand is in size and shape like an immense antique column. From the ground to the lower branches, more than ninety feet have been measured; and around the trunk, at a yard from the ground, more than forty feet; while thirty feet in circumference is not an uncommon size. But the upper portions are comparatively meagre, and utterly devoid of any of the beauties so remarkable in our English oaks, cedars, and firs. The woods of New Zealand have rather a naked appearance; for the branches seem inclined to grow upwards instead of spreading, or feathering.
Cantering along, across an open easy country, passable for wheel carriages, we soon approached Keri-keri. A deep ravine, into which a considerable stream falls over a precipice about a hundred feet in height, was pointed out to me as the limit of an arm of the sea which penetrates from the Bay of Islands. The waterfall is rather picturesque. Passing on over rounded hills covered with fern, I almost started at a thoroughly English scene suddenly exposed. In the valley beneath, a quiet little village; a church-like building of stone, with a clock on the tower; an English cutter at anchor, with her ensign flying, in the arm of the sea before-mentioned, close to the village; gardens full of flowers, surrounding the neatly-built and white-washed cottages; cattle grazing about the surrounding hills; and a whole school of little English children, hallooing and screaming to one another as they played in a field, quite transported me in imagination to the other side of the world. Recalled to the truth by our pedestrian companions asking us to stop for them, I enquired of Mr. Baker how long that respectable church had been built? and was disappointed to hear that the fancied church was a store-house. A small, low building, which he pointed out, was the chapel—it looked much more like a small school-house.
I was glad to see that our native companions took pains to dress themselves decently before they entered the village; as, while running along the road, they had carried their clothes in their hands; but of their own accord they put them on as soon as the houses were seen.
In the village of Keri-keri we found an English welcome, and an abundance of happy-looking, healthy children. Their parents seemed to bear the Church missionary character, open integrity, and the outward indications of a sincere wish to do that which is right. It may seem absurd to speak thus decidedly upon a hasty glance and first impression; but there is a talisman in a truly honest face, and a charm in the manner of one who ‘thinketh no evil,’ that to me is irresistible; and I have never yet found cause to think lightly of ‘ten minutes sight.’
At about ten o'clock, Mr. Baker and I embarked in my boat, to return to Paihia. As we passed down a river-like arm of the sea by moonlight, but little idea of the country on either side could be formed. What I could distinguish was undulating, and rather low land. We were four hours on the water, though the boat moved fast with a fair wind.
I was glad to learn from all quarters that the natives are very fond of the white children. Mr. Davis told me, that his sons could engage the attention and assistance of natives a great deal more easily than he could himself. Speaking the native language more fluently may assist the young people in their intercourse; but they are liked chiefly because born in the land, and because of the naturally kind disposition of the New Zealanders. Many instances have proved that they are kind by nature, and that their feelings are keenly sensitive, as well as very strong. But there are opposing feelings, each powerful, in the same individuals; and upon education, habit, and the accidents of moments, depend their development and the ascendancy which either may obtain.
On the following day (29th), Waripoaka visited the Beagle; he was accompanied by a mixed assemblage of men, women, children, pigs, dogs, and fowls, all in one large canoe. His own appearance, a spare figure and tattowed face, ill-dressed in a shabby old suit of European clothes; and the disorderly group in his train, formed an unfavourable outward contrast to the warlike array of a heathen New Zealand chief. Waripoaka seemed to be very intelligent and unassuming; perhaps his manner to white men was too humble. It did not agree with pre-conceived ideas of an independent, haughty New Zealander, to see bows and awkward grimaces (intended for good manners) made by a man whose eye and aspect at once precluded the idea of any approach to refined habits.
During our stay at New Zealand we heard much of the zealous activity of the officers of ‘La Favorite’—a French surveying ship—which had lately visited, and made a minute plan of the Bay of Islands. They must have examined every corner and ascended every hill, by the accounts we received; but neither natives nor English settlers seemed able to comprehend the principle which animated Captain La Place and the officers of La Favorite to take so much trouble in a foreign country for no good to themselves alone. I was able to explain this to some of them by instancing my own occupation on the shores of South America, and showing that nations acted upon grander principles than individuals. I was told that M. La Place had likewise examined, with much care, a considerable extent of the eastern sea-coasts of the northern large island (Eaheinomawe, or Yahinomaui).
The term Rangatira, Rangateeda, or Rangatida, has spread among all classes, excepting only the slaves, who are prisoners taken in war or their descendants. Every free Zealander now styles himself rangatira.
At Otaheite there is a very limited number of raatiras, as the secondary chiefs are there called; and each of those so styled is really a person possessing a considerable estate, and having influence over his neighbours. There can be little doubt that originally the words were alike; or rather there was but one word which expressed either ‘freeman’ or ‘privileged person;’ and that the first people of New Zealand were animated by the spirit of equality and apparent liberty, which is seen to prevail in most colonies. Is not this the natural spirit of an association of adventurers, whose objects are similar, whose origin, individually, as to birth and place in the parental society does not differ much—if it does, the difference is unnoticed when not upheld by accidental circumstances—and whose property is very similar?
Democratic, essentially democratic, is the present political state of the New Zealanders; and one cannot help pitying their short-sightedness in exposing themselves to the caprice and dissensions of the many who obtain temporary influence, and to the wars, harsh slavery—for in the heathen districts the life of a slave depends upon the caprice of his master—and dreadful consequences. But this shocking existence, so utterly repugnant to our ideas of happiness, excited and still excites the New Zealander to animal enjoyments, and a sort of pleasure resulting from the gratification of his horrible propensities which is almost incomprehensible to us, however intelligible it may have been to our earlier ancestors. Do not let us entirely forget the painted savages who opposed Caesar—or the sacrifices of the Druids!
Some of the Zealanders have amulets and other similar trifles hung around their necks. Small uncouth images, much like the Burmese or Chinese ‘josses,’ formed out of a very hard stone (‘jade’?), are so highly prized by them that they are, generally speaking, very reluctant to part with any. I got one from the daughter of Shunghi, but could not obtain a second, though she had several. I was told that they value them as hereditary relics, as well as supposed charms. Many nations, even at the present day, put faith in relics, some more especially in such as have a word or words upon them, which it is supposed the evil spirit would not like to see or to hear, and therefore would avoid. Particular figures and shapes also are considered to be disagreeable to the author of evil and his agents.* Surely the New Zealanders must have tried thus to frighten Satan by their hideous images, and by the uncouth, horrible faces which they delight in making. The little images, or amulets of jade, are formed in a similar fashion!
* Mosheim, in his edition of Cudworth's Intellectual System.—Encyc. Brit.
These small idols, or talismans, seem to me to have been cut into the rude likeness of an ape, or a ‘ribbed-nosed baboon’* Yet, excepting the face, they resemble figures of Hindoo gods! What time and pains must have been bestowed in working such hard pieces of stone, unless indeed, a method of acting upon them by fire or chemistry was known; or that when first taken from the ground they were softer.†
* The mandril, of Buffon. Apes were worshipped in India.—Ibid.
† It is still a matter of conjecture how the Penivians worked in the yerv hard stone of which some of their ornaments were made.
Besides the use which the natives make of the flax for clothing by day, a mat, coarsely woven of its fibres, is tied at night, or while it rains, round the neck, and forms a sort of thatch, under which the owner squats upon his heels, and, at a little distance, looks very like a bee-hive. The rough tuft of coarse and curly black hair, which shows at the top of the conical roof, does not at all injure the resemblance; and in this manner a great number of the natives pass their nights, especially if there is the least chance of a surprise or attack from an enemy. I was told that they sleep as well in this way as if they were lying down, but I doubt it much, and think that only a part of the whole number at any place, keep watch, or remain ready in this manner, while others sleep lying down, though frequently in the open air. A more watchful way of resting could not well be devised.
30th. Unpleasant discussions, on the local discordances I have already mentioned, obliged me to delay sailing for some hours: but at last I escaped, happy to disentangle myself from a maze of disagreeable questions, in which it was not my proper business to interfere, though unavoidably I had become involved in them. By evening we had gained a good offing, and profited by it in the night, during a strong gale of wind from the eastward, with a lee current, setting to the northwest, about a knot an hour. When we sailed there was every appearance of a gale coming on, but all our necessary operations were completed, and to have stayed an hour longer in that place would have been far worse than passing some hours in a gale of wind at sea.
That the few notices here given of a small part of New Zealand are scanty and quite insufficient for those who seek general information, I am well aware: but the Beagle's stay was very short, and I have made it a principle in this narrative to restrict myself to writing what I or my companions collected on the spot: admitting a few quotations from other authorities, only where they seemed to illustrate or explain a particular subject, without requiring much space. To those interested about this important and rising country, I need hardly mention the volume of evidence taken before the House of Lords, as the latest,—and Cook's account as the earliest,—as well as best sources of information.
I will now endeavour to draw attention to a few of the difficulties against which missionaries have to contend, while anxiously labouring in their holy cause among Polynesian, Australian, and European infidels. It may be supposed that population and occasional intercourse had every where extended, even before the ever-memorable epoch, when the ‘Victory’ was steered by the daring Magalhaens across an unexplored ocean: but since that time, intercourse with Polynesia has so much increased, that the most interesting islanders—those of Otaheite and the Sandwich Islands—are already more civilized than the natives of some of the Spanish settlements in America.
The New Zealanders are improving; so likewise are the natives of many other islands, which have been visited by missionaries: but those islanders who have been altered only by the visits of whalers, sealers, and purveyors for Chinese epicures, have in no way profited. On the contrary, they have learned to show less respect to their own ordinances, and have been taught no others in stead. The most abandoned, profligate habits and ideas, have been encouraged by the latter classes of visitors. By their fire-arms, ammunition, and spirituous liquors,—exchanged every where for provisions, and for the gratification of their animal inclinations,—lamentable effects have been caused.
Some men-of-war have allowed an unrestrained intercourse with the natives, receiving them on board, and permitting them to remain, as is still usual among the whalers. Others have not admitted any on board, excepting visitors who were formally received, and did not remain. Such, for example, as the Queens of the Sandwich Isles or Otaheite, with their attendants. But although in that respect men-of-war may have to plead guilty, they are free from any charge of exciting mutual hostility between neighbours; of taking any part in hostilities which were being carried on between rival tribes at the times of their visits; or of acting in any manner which could be likely to lower Europeans in the estimation of the natives, or to excite a feeling of animosity against white men in general.
Stray, or rather escaped convicts, are the chief draw-back. Unrestrained by any religious, or even mere moral principle, those abandoned men have done vast injury, but have frequently fallen victims to the just indignation of the provoked islanders, whose hospitality they abused. Convicts are seldom brave, but usually unprincipled, designing, and cunninsg; can one then wonder at the natives of some South Sea islands taking an aversion to white people, if their only acquaintance with them has been through such characters, transported to Australia for life, in consequence of felony: who have again, perhaps, been banished from Australia to the doubly penal settlement of ‘Norfolk Island;’ and have thence escaped to wander through those countries in which they have the strongest hope of avoiding apprehension.
It is little known, and difficult to estimate, how much anarchy, tumult, and destruction of human life have been prevented by the presence and active exertions of missionaries, during the last twenty years, in which French, Russian, American, and English intercourse with the Pacific, has so much increased. Under the colours of the United States, and of our own country, more than five hundred sail of vessels have been annually employed in the Pacific, during late years. To obtain refreshments and supplies, such as I have mentioned, only those islands on which there are white or native missionaries, are considered safe for single merchant ships. But even while profiting by the influence of the missionaries, and assisted by them in their intercourse with the natives, men who belong to those very ships hesitate not, in many instances (but not in all), to ridicule the means by which the missionary has gained his influence—to encourage immorality, and the use of ardent spirits, and to seek for faults in a system, as well as in the behaviour of individuals according to that system, because it has a tendency to limit the indulgence and expose the impropriety of their own unrestrained misconduct. If the opponents of missionaries could be prejudiced so far as to allow no other good character to have been earned by those hardworking men, they can never deny them that of peace-makers.
Many sailors have left their ships, and settled for life, upon various islands. Though generally immoral, some of these men have established a character among the islanders, so very different from that of the convicts, that persons who understand the native descriptions are seldom deceived in their estimation of a man who, they hear, has recently settled in any place.
Some of these seamen have astonished the New Zealanders, and even men of the Feejee Islands, by hardy courage in war-like enterprises. One, known by the name of Charles, has been already mentioned as having distinguished himself so much by his activity and daring in wars with other islanders, that he was treated as a chief of very high rank, and allowed to have a hundred wives: while the greatest chieftains had from fifty to a hundred and fifty, according to their rank. There are now said to be upon the southern large island or middle island of New Zealand, settlements supposed to be formed by some two or three hundred abandoned characters, European, Australian, and American. These outcasts, of whom a proportion are convicts, have established a sort of system amongst themselves, in order to regulate their intercourse with the natives. I was told that they were living with native women, and, at that time, cultivated the soil; but, what will be the consequence of such a colony, if left to their own devices in that distant corner of the world? Yet, again, where could outcasts, whose state of exile (if they may be supposed to have good feelings) would be as insupportable to themselves as pitiable in the minds of others—where could such unhappy wretches be placed more appropriately than at the Antipodes? They should, however, be frequently watched, to check any approach to piratical preparations, as well as to give timely notice of such an intention.
Settlements of a different character are elsewhere forming, and the establishments of individuals are increasing in North New Zealand, at Otaheite, and in the Sandwich Islands. Between these establishments, small vessels are always in motion: and not trifling is the trade in oil (cocoa-nut oil), arrow-root, and sugar, between Otaheite and Sydney: in flax, spars, potatoes, and whale-oil, between New Zealand and Sydney; in sandalwood, bicho-do-mar, nut-oil, pearl-oyster-shells, and curiosities (such as native arms, implements, and clothing) between other islands, and Australia, Tasmania,* the East-Indies, China, and South America.
* Van Dieimen's Land.
Thus surrounded by those who are engaged in a commerce annually increasing; unavoidably involved in local dissensions; referred to on all occasions as interpreters or as peace-makers; and I may say, as the consular agents of white men of all nations;* it argues very favourably for the missionaries that they have as yet upheld the character of their sacred office, though sneered at by nominal friends, censured by enemies, and always struggling against opposition. I have said that at the Sandwich Islands there is a consul; on those islands there are missionaries from the United States, but none from England. At Otaheite, also, there is now consular authority. At New Zealand there are two officers, holding the indefinite station of ‘Resident.’ One of these officers had a salary, but denied having any authority to act as a consular agent, or even as a magistrate. The other resident (who lived at Hokianga) was not in the receipt of any salary; his appointment having been given for the reasons stated in a letter from the Colonial Secretary at Sydney, dated 29th June 1835, of which a copy is inserted in the Appendix (No. 37), accompanied by extracts from an excellent letter addressed to Mr. Busby. (No. 38.)
* At Otaheite and Owyhee excepted.
Upon reading these statements, it will not be difficult to form an idea of some of the embarrassments of a secular nature, which perplex the missionaries, after having overcome all the primary dangers and difficulties of establishing themselves in savage—even cannibal countries. Although they are now able to assist their own countrymen, who have eagerly profited by their exertions,—settling in every direction upon those very lands to which access was obtained by their hardy, daring enthusiasm, and is preserved by the united efforts of the supporters of missionary societies, assisting and encouraging individual exertion,—their own strength is failing!
Embarrassments of many kinds are arising; one, jealousy of that influence which has enabled even those who are jealous to approach the spot upon which they now stand, and oppose the missionary as he exerts himself to suppress licentious habits and the use of ardent spirits. While assisting their early settlement, the missionaries were the best friends of those adventurers who sought a livelihood among the islands of the Pacific—in New Zealand especially. But when once established, ingratitude and utter want of reflection became too prevalent among the worst sort of settlers, whose only occupations were those of publicans and especial sinners. The few respectable settlers—men of character and property—such as Mr. Clendon and Mr. Mair at New Zealand, Mr. Bicknell and Mr. Henry (junior) at Otaheite, have acted—I rejoice to say—in the most honourable and praiseworthy manner. Their conduct deserves unanimous applause. To many it appears, that the respectable support and steady countenance of these upholders of the real character of Britons have, in a quiet, unpretending manner, much assisted the progress of the missionaries, and the spread of incipient civilization which must accompany the sacred truths of the gospel. If a few such men had not appeared upon that side of the world, how low might the character of Englishmen have fallen there. A few isolated missionaries would have been always opposed by numerous reprobates.
By such men as those who are jealous of the influence of the missionaries, an outcry has been raised against their “attempts to monopolize the lands.” Said those men, “Why should a missionary be allowed to purchase so much land as to prevent people who come afterwards from obtaining an eligible piece of ground near a frequented port?” “Why should Mr. —— be allowed to try to prevent Waripoaka and his tribe from selling me that piece of ground, because he thinks that I shall sell spirits, or build a public-house? Have not the missionaries already monopolized the best land in the finest situations?”
In answer to this, lest the reader should think that the missionaries have been covetous, and have taken undue advantage of their influence (gained, it ought to be remembered, at the imminent risk of life, and when no ordinary men dared to stop in the land), I will explain—that a large extent of land in New Zealand was long ago purchased by the missionaries, on behalf of the Church Missionary Society: and that many of the outcriers supposed that land to be the private property of individuals. And I will ask for attention to the too little considered fact, that these unjustly blamed individuals have (by their engagements) divided that tie which once held them to a country whose inestimable value can only be fully felt by those who have long been wanderers in other lands. New Zealand, or Otaheite, or a less known island, is now their home; and there are around them a host of little children whose smiling healthy looks would interest even strangers in their behalf, whose country is that adopted by their parents, and to whom every good father would anxiously desire to leave a sufficient maintenance, such as his own honourable exertions could procure. Shall the missionaries be debarred from providing in a proper manner for the future welfare of their own children? If a missionary and a more recent settler are each in treaty for a particular piece of ground, and the former obtains it upon easier terms than the latter, is it not a natural consequence of the good-will entertained towards him by the natives; many of whom understand and appreciate his motives, and are themselves very fond of the little white children, considering them as belonging to their country? The missionaries have bought land, as opportunities offered; and they, of course, from their residence upon the spot, have had better opportunities than occasional visitors or late settlers.*
* After a purchase of land has been made by a settler (or immigrant, as the colonists say), he is considered to be under the protection of the chief of the tribe from whom the purchase was effected.
If anathemas, indulgences, or excommunications were in vogue among British missionaries, one might have a suspicion of undue influence; but as such engines of spiritual, or indeed temporal power, have not, as yet, travelled out of the coral circle of the Gambler islands, I think we need not impugn the characters of highly religious men, by puzzling ourselves to learn how protestant ministers—unassisted by artifice, supported by no temporal power, except that of public opinion, excited by their own good conduct—could have obtained so great an influence over tribes of New Zealanders, as to induce them to part with their paternal lands upon terms which the natives thought unfavourable, or less advantageous than those oflfered by other persons.
In opposition to such an idea as that of their eagerly grasping at territory, and using undue means to procure it, I know with certainty, that the Rev. Henry Williams, and his brother William, exerted all their real influence—that of advice—in pointing out the consequences which would result to some tribes who were inclined to part hastily with extensive tracts of valuable pine forests. The real value of those trees was explained to the natives; and they were shown distinctly how a careful management of such stores of spars would ensure a future property, and sufficient maintenance for the native children who would otherwise be deprived of their birthright. Did this show a desire to monopolize?
But I must hasten to a conclusion of the subject. When authorized agents of European or American governments assume active functions in New Zealand (where at present they are little more than cyphers), I hope they will have the good sense to ask for advice from the missionaries; who, no doubt, will duly remember, that, however they may have been called upon to act during emergencies, the duties of their office are, or ought to be, separated as much as possible from affairs of a secular nature. Neither in politics, nor in any kind of hostilities or dissensions, ought they to take a part, excepting as peace-makers, if an officer or authorized executive agent of government is within their reach.
Among many omissions which I am obliged to make in the subsequent chapter, are the following:—On the 7th of January, while more than two hundred miles from any known land, we saw a boatswain-bird and two white tern. To those who are interested about the distances to which birds fly from land, this remark may be worth notice: as some persons say that tern never fly far.
Mr.Chaffers obtained the jaw of a huge blue shark, at Hobart Town, which had been killed by the boat's crew of Mr. James Kelly's whaling vessel. The extreme length of the monster was thirty-seven feet. Its jaw is now in the United Service Museum.
About Van Diemen's Land, the barometer ranged higher than I had witnessed in the southern hemisphere.
North Cape of New Zealand—Superstitions—Cook's great Lizard—Traditions—Currents—Thermometer—Sydney—Dr. Darwin—Drought—Aqueduct—Position—Disadvantages—Ill-acquired wealth of Convicts, or Emancipists—Hobart Town—Advantages of Van Diemen's Land—King George Sound—Natives—Dance—Keeling Islands—Tides—Soundings—Coral formations—Malays—Fish—Weather—Mauritius—Cape of Good Hope—St. Helena—Ascension—Bahia—Pernambuco—Cape Verde Islands—Azores—Arrive in England
On the last day of this year (1835) we passed the north cape of New Zealand, and steered for Port Jackson. It has been said that the New Zealanders entertain vague ideas about the spirits of their dead hovering near this north cape. I had no opportunity of inquiring into this superstition, but as other authorities besides Cook mention it, no doubt there is some such belief among those who have not acquired different notions from foreigners. To my mind it is interesting in two points of view; one, as showing their belief in a future state of existence; and the other, as indicating the quarter whence New Zealand was first peopled; for it appears to be an impression common to many savage nations, that their souls should go to the land of their ancestors. This is particularly remarkable among the South American aborigines. It is not easy to imagine any motive for the New Zealanders supposing that spirits hover about the North Cape, in preference to any other promontory of New Zealand, unless in connexion with the idea that from the point nearest to the country whence those people formerly migrated, the souls of the deceased would, after a time perhaps, depart to their permanent abode.
In taking leave of this interesting country I will refer to Cook once more, for a curious notice, given in his third voyage, respecting great lizards in New Zealand, which have not, so far as I am aware, been lately described, or even met with. ‘Taweiharooa’ gave an account of snakes and lizards of an enormous size; “he describes the latter as being eight feet in length, and as big round as a man's body. He said that they sometimes seize and devour men; that they burrow in the ground; and that they are killed by making fires at the mouths of the holes. We could not be mistaken as to the animal; for, with his own hand, he drew a very good representation of a lizard on a piece of paper; as also of a snake, in order to show what he meant.”—(Cook's third Voyage, chap. VII.) Perhaps this huge kind of lizard has become extinct; but it is possible that it yet exists on the southern (or middle) island. In its burrowing we are reminded of the great lizard, or iguana, of the Galapagos Islands; but the assertion that it sometimes seizes men seems to refer to an alligator, or crocodile. Cook heard of it shortly after leaving Queen Charlotte Sound, from a native of the southern large island.* If such a reptile ever existed upon the northern island it must have been exterminated by the earliest aboriginal settlers, as they have now no tradition of any animals except dogs, pigs, rats, mice, and small lizards. Pigs and dogs, say the natives, were brought from the north, in canoes.
* At New Zealand the southern large island is usually called the Middle Island.
On New Year's day, while in sight of the islets called Three Kings, we passed through several tide ‘races,’ one of which was rather ‘heavy,’ and would have been impassable for a boat. These races moved towards the north while we could trace their progress. The temperature of the water fell six degrees after passing through the principal one. Next day, at noon, we found that during the past twenty-four hours we had been set as many miles southward (S.S.E.), and hence I am inclined to infer that we were influenced by regular tide-streams, rather than by currents setting always in one direction. To the succeeding day at noon (3d) we were set only seven miles, by the water, and that due east. Afterwards, in our passage to Port Jackson, we had alternately northerly and south-easterly currents of about ten miles a day, and it was easy to tell which current we were in, by the temperature of the sea:—while the stream set from the north, the water thermometer showed about 72°; but when the current was running from the southward, the temperature of the ocean, a foot below, as well as at, the surface,* was only 67°. I ought to have remarked elsewhere, if I have not already done so, that the thermometer may be used at sea to detect and trace currents; but little, if any, confidence can be placed in its indications as a guide to the approach of land. Icebergs may indeed affect it, but they will affect the temperature of the air probably sooner than that of the ocean.
* For no difference could be detected, under ordinary circumstances.
Near midnight, on the 11th, we saw the red, revolving light of Sydney Light-house, and next day entered Port Jackson, and anchored in Sydney Cove. Much as I had heard of the progress and importance of this place, my astonishment was indeed great, when I saw a well-built city covering the country near the port. Not many days previously I had been reading the account of Governor Phillip's voyage to Botany Bay in 1787-8, and little did I think that, in forty-eight years from the first discovery of Port Jackson, a city, upon a large scale, could have arisen out of a wilderness so near our antipodes. In the account just mentioned it is stated that “from a piece of clay imported from Sydney Cove, Mr. Wedgwood caused a medallion to be modelled, representing Hope, encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, to pursue the means of giving security and happiness to the infant settlement. The following lines, in allusion to this medallion, were written by Dr. Darwin.” §
“Where Sydney Cove her lucid bosom swells,
Courts her young navies and the storm repels,
High on a rock, amid the troubled air,
Hope stood sublime, and wav'd her golden hair;
Calm'd with her rosy smile the tossing deep,
And with sweet accents charm'd the winds to sleep;
To each wild plain, she stretch'd her snowy hand,
High-waving wood, and sea-encircled strand.
‘Hear me,’ she cried, ‘ye rising realms! record
Time's opening scenes, and Truth's unerring word.—
There shall broad streets their stately walls extend,
The circus widen, and the crescent bend;
There ray'd from cities o'er the cultur'd land,
Shall bright canals, and solid roads expand.—
There the proud arch, Colossus-like, bestride
Yon glittering streams, and bound the chasing tide;
Embellish'd villas crown the landscape scene,
Farms wave with gold, and orchards blush between.—
There shall tall spires, and dome-capt towers ascend,
And piers and quays their massy structures blend;
While with each breeze approaching vessels glide,
And northern treasures dance on every tide!’
Here ceased the nymph—tumultuous echoes roar,
And Joy's loud voice was heard from shore to shore—
Her graceful steps descending press'd the plain;
And Peace, and Art, and Labour, join'd her train.”
§ In Erasmus (Charles' grandfather) Darwin's Botanic Garden (p. 246).
When I was at Sydney in 1836, all that was foretold in this allegory had come to pass, with one exception only, that of canals. It was always a country comparatively dry; and unfortunately the more wood is cleared away, the drier both climate and soil become, therefore it is unlikely that canals should ever be made there. This want of fresh water is the only drawback to the future prosperity of this mushroom city; which is now dependent upon a supply brought through iron pipes from a distance of several leagues. Mr. Busby, father of the resident at New Zealand, was the projector and executor of this aqueduct, but,—like many other really valuable things,—his useful work as ably planned as it was perseveringly carried on against uncommon difficulties, is but little appreciated, even by those who daily drink the pure water which it supplies.
It is difficult to believe that Sydney will continue to flourish in proportion to its rise. It has sprung into existence too suddenly. Convicts have forced its growth, even as a hotbed forces plants, and premature decay may be expected from such early maturity. Other rising colonies have advantages in point of situation and climate, which the country about Sydney does not possess; and if our government establishment should be withdrawn, from that day the decline of the city would commence, because its natural advantages are not sufficient to enable it to compete with other places in those regions, excepting while fostered by the presence of regularly paid government officers, troops, and a large convict establishment. There must be great difficulty in bringing up a family well in that country, in consequence of the demoralizing influence of convict servants, to which almost all children must be more or less exposed. Besides, literature is at a low ebb: most people are anxious about active farming, or commercial pursuits, which leave little leisure for reflection, or for reading more than those fritterers of the mind—daily newspapers and ephemeral trash. It was quite remarkable to see how few book-sellers' shops there were in Sydney, and what a low class of books—with some exceptions—was to be found in them. These few exceptions were the works usually called ‘standard,’ which some persons who buy books, for show as furniture, rather than for real use, think it necessary to purchase. Another evil in the social system of Sydney and its vicinity, is the rancorous feeling which exists between the descendants of free settlers and the children of convicts. Fatal, indeed, would it be to the former, if the arm of power were removed; for their high principles and good feelings would be no match for the wiles and atrocities of such abandoned outcasts as are there congregrated, and almost rejoice in their iniquity. Money is gained by such people by any and every means, save those of honest industry. By selling spirits, frequently drugged—by theft—by receiving and selling stolen goods—by the wages of iniquity—and by exorbitant usury—fortunes have been amassed there in a few years which would make an honest man's hair stand on end. But do such men enjoy their wealth? Does it benefit them or their children No. Their life is a miserable scene of anxiety, care, fear, and generally penuriousness; they die without a friend and without hope.
The Beagle sailed from Sydney on the 30th, and anchored off Hobart Town (or Hobarton) on the 5th of February. The change of scene was as striking as a view of Gibraltar or Madeira after leaving the Downs. Comparatively speaking, near Sydney all was light-coloured and level; while in Van Diemen's Land we almost thought ourselves in another Tierra del Fuego. But this was only a first impression, on a blustering wet day. Fields of ripe corn, dotted, as it were, about the hilly woodlands, told us that the climate must generally be favourable; and the number of red brick cottages, thickly scattered about, though apparently at random, proved an extent of population incompatible with an unproductive place.
During a few days' stay in Sullivan Cove, the chief anchorage, we had opportunities of going to some distance into the country, and seeing things which led me to think that there is a more solid foundation for future prosperity in Van Diemen's Land than can be found near Sydney. Natural advantages are greater; and likely to increase as the country is cleared and inhabited—because rain is now almost too plentiful, though corn ripens well and is of excellent quality. As a convict colony, it of course partakes of the evils I have mentioned; but it does so in a far less degree, partly because the convicts went there were of a less profligate and more reclaimable class than those landed at Sydney, and partly because an excellent local government restrained the licentious, and encouraged the moral to a far greater extent than was, or perhaps could be effected among the more numerous and dispersed population of Sydney and its environs.
On the 17th, we sailed out of the picturesque Derwent, an arm of the sea extending inland many miles beyond Hobart Town, and thence worked our way southward round the Land of Van Diemen. We then steered westward, or as much so as the contrary winds would admit, until we made the land off King George Sound on the 6th of March; and a few hours afterwards moored in the principal anchorage, called Princess Royal Harbour; a wide but shallow place, with a very narrow entrance. The country round King George Sound has a dull, uniform aspect; there are no mountains or rivers;* few trees are visible; white, sandy patches; scrubby bushes; bare masses of granite; and a slightly undulating outline meet and disappoint the eye of a stranger.
* Unless a few brackish, indeed salt-water, brooks can be termed rivers.
A few straggling houses, ill-placed in an exposed, cheerless situation, were seen by us as we entered the harbour; and had inclination been our guide, instead of duty, I certainly should have felt much disposed to ‘put the helm up,’ and make all sail away from such an uninviting place.
Next day, however, we found that appearances were worse than the reality; for behind a hill, which separates the harbour from the sound, a thick wood was discovered, where there were many trees of considerable size; and in the midst of this wood I found Sir Richard Spencer's house, much resembling a small but comfortable farm-house in England. This sort of isolated residence has a charm for some minds; but the loss of society, the numerous privations, and the vastly retrograde step necessarily taken in civilized existence by emigrating to perfectly new countries, are I think stronger objections to the plan than usually occur to persons who have not seen its consequences in actual operation.
At this time there were about thirty houses, or cottages, in the neighbourhood of the sound and harbour; some had small gardens; but, generally speaking, there was no appearance of agi-iculture, excepting immediately around Sir Richard's house, where a few fields had been cleared and cultivated in the midst of the wood.
There is an extraordinary degree of local magnetic attraction about this place. We could not ascertain the amount of variation with any degree of accuracy until our compasses were placed upon a sandy beach of considerable extent, near the sea. Wherever there was stone (a kind of granite) near the instruments, they were so much affected as to vary many degrees from the truth, and quite irregularly: those on board were not influenced, at least not more than a degree. We were also perplexed by the irregular and peculiar tides; but as they are mentioned elsewhere, I will refrain from farther remark on them here.
We had a good opportunity of seeing several of the aborigines; for not only were there unusual numbers of neighbouring natives then about the settlement, but a strange tribe, called ‘Cocotu’ had lately arrived from a distance, and as the residents wished to conciliate them, a ‘corobbery’ was proposed, and Mr. Darwin ensured the compliance of all the savages by providing an immense mess of boiled rice, with sugar, for their entertainment.
About two hours after dark the affair began. Nearly all the settlers, and their visitors, had assembled on a level place just outside the village, while the native men belonging to both tribes were painting, or rather daubing and spotting their soot-coloured bodies with a white pigment, as they clustered round blazing fires. When all was ready—the fires burning brightly—the gloom at a little distance intense, by contrast, and the spectators collected together—a heavy tramp shook the ground, and a hundred prancing demon-like figures emerged from the darkness, brandishing their weapons, stamping together in exact accordance, and making hoarse guttural sounds at each exertion. It was a fiendish sight, almost too disagreeable to be interesting. What pains savage man takes—in all parts of the world where he is found—to degrade his nature; that beautiful combination which is capable of so much intelligence and noble exertion when civilized and educated. While watching the vagaries of these performers, I could not but think of our imprudence in putting ourselves so completely into their power: about thirty unarmed men being intermixed with a hundred armed natives. The dancers were all men; a short kangaroo-skin cloak was thrown about their hips, and white feathers were stuck round their heads: many were not painted, but those who were had similar figures on their breasts; some a cross, others something like a heart. Many had spears, and all had the ‘throwing-stick’; and a kind of hatchet,* in a girdle round the waist. Much of the dancing was monotonous enough, after the first appearance, reminding me of persons working in a treadmill; but their imitation of snakes, and kangaroos, in a kind of hunting dance, was exceedingly good and interesting. The whole exhibition lasted more than an hour, during most of which time upwards of a hundred savages were exerting themselves in jumping and stamping as if their lives depended on their energetic movements. There was a boy who appeared to be idiotic, or afflicted with a kind of fit; but the man who was holding him seemed to be quite unconcerned about his convulsive efforts, saying, “by and bye he would be a doctor” (as I was told by a resident who understood the language), which reminded me of what Falkner says of the Patagonians.† After the corobbery the natives collected round the house where the feast was preparing; and it will not be easy to forget the screams of delight that burst from old and young as they looked in at the door and saw the tub in which their rice was smoking. Before the food was distributed they were told to sit down, which they immediately did, in a circle round the house. They separated, of their own accord, into families, each little party lighting a small fire before them. Their behaviour, and patience, were very remarkable and pleasing. One family had a native dog, which in size, colour, and shape, was like a fox, excepting that the nose was not quite so sharp, nor the tail so bushy.
* This hatchet is made of two pieces of stone, joined together by a lump of gum, almost as hard as the stone: it is used for notching trees, that the men may climb after opossums.
† Page 163.§
§ Falkner's work is 144 pages, so FitzRoy's reference to a page 163 is unclear.
Most of the aborigines had rather good countenances, and well-formed heads, as compared with those about Sydney, or in Van Diemen's land. The lathy thinness of their persons, which seemed totally destitute of fat, and almost without flesh, is very remarkable. I have since seen some drawings of South African aborigines, executed under the critical eye of Doctor Andrew Smith, by the correct hand of Mr. Charles Bell, which are so like the natives who live near King George Sound in colour, as well as countenance, and extraordinaiy shape, that they might be taken for full-length portraits of the latter instead of Africans.
Many of these natives have features smaller and less marked than are usual among savages; but their foreheads are higher and more full: they are not tall, few exceeding five feet eight inches in height: and the women are wretched objects. Some of the men had pieces of bone stuck through the cartilage of the nose, which, I heard, was to prevent their being killed by another tribe, who were seeking to revenge the death of one of their own party. I was told also, that when any death occurs in one tribe, the first individual of another that is encountered is sacrificed by the bereaved party, if strong enough; but I suspect my informant confused revenge for manslaughter with the strange story—that for every death in one tribe, however caused, a life must be taken from another. Should it be true, however, the scarcity of aboriginal population would have an explanation in addition to those which various writers have given. These natives bury their dead in a short grave; the body being laid on its side, with the knees drawn up to the chin.
During our stay at this place we caught plenty of fish, of twenty different kinds, with a seine; yet with such an abundant supply close at hand, the settlers were living principally on salt provisions.
Before quitting King George Sound I must add my slight testimony to the skill and accuracy with which Flinders laid down and described those parts of New Holland and Van Diemen's Land that I have seen. His accounts also of wind, weather, climate, currents, and tides, are excellent; and there are other points of information in his large work, useful to many, but especially to seamen, which would be well worth separating from the technicalities among which they are almost lost in the present cumbersome volumes.
March 13th. We sailed, and advanced towards Cape Leuwin, but it was the 18th before our little ship was sufficiently far westward of that promontory to steer for my next object, the Keeling Islands.
From the 27th to the 30th we had a severe gale of wind, when near the situation of those remote isles, and on the 31st were in much doubt whether they lay eastward or to the west of us. There was most reason to induce me to steer eastward—indeed I was about to give orders to that effect just as the sun was setting, (no land being seen from the mast-head, though the horizon was clear)—when a number of gannets flew past the ship towards the west. We steered directly after them, and early next morning (after making but little way during a fine night) saw the Keelings right ahead, about sixteen miles distant.
A long but broken line of cocoa-palm trees, and a heavy surf breaking upon a low white beach, nowhere rising many feet above the foaming water, was all we could discern till within five miles of the larger Keeling, (there are two distinct groups) and then we made out a number of low islets, nowhere more than thirty feet above the sea, covered with palm-trees, and encircling a large shallow lagoon.
We picked our way into Port Refuge (the only harbour), passing cautiously between patches of coral rock, clearly visible to an eye at the mast-head, and anchored in a safe, though not the best berth. An Englishman (Mr. Leisk) came on board, and, guided by him, we moved into a small but secure cove close to Direction Island.
Many reasons had induced me to select this group of coral islets for such an examination as our time and means would admit of; and, as the tides were to be an object of especial attention in a spot so favourably situated for observing them, a tide-guage was immediately placed. Its construction was then new, and, being found to answer, I will describe it briefly. Two poles were fixed upright, one on shore (above high water mark, and sheltered from wind), the other in the sea beyond the surf at low water. A block was fastened to the top of each pole, and a piece of well-stretched log-line ‘rove’ through them.* One end of the line was attached to a board that floated on the water; the other suspended a leaden weight, which traversed up and down the pole, on shore, as the float fell or rose with the tide. Simple as this contrivance was, and useful as we should have found it in many places where the surf or swell made it difficult to measure tides at night, without using a boat, I never thought of it till after we left King George Sound.
* A very small metal chain would be better, because a line, however stretched, will shrink after being wetted by rain, and give out again as it dries.
Until the 12th every one was actively occupied; our boats were sent in all directions, though there was so much wind almost each day as materially to impede surveying. Soundings on the seaward sides of the islands could seldom be obtained; but two moderate days were eagerly taken advantage of to go round the whole group in a boat, and get the few deep soundings which are given in the plan.* The two principal islands (considering the whole southern group as one island,) lie north and south of each other, fifteen miles apart; and as soundings were obtained two miles north of the large island, it may be inferred, I think, that the sea is not so deep between the two as it is in other directions. Only a mile from the southern extreme of the South Keeling, I could get no bottom with more than a thousand fathoms of line.
* This plan of the Keeling Islands will be found in the third (Mr. Darwin's) volume.
The southern cluster of islets encircle a shallow lagoon, of an oval form, about nine miles long, and six wide. The islets are mere skeletons—little better than coral reefs, on which broken coral and dust have been driven by sea and wind till enough has been accumulated to afford place and nourishment for thousands of cocoa-palms. The outer edges of the islands are considerably higher than the inner, but nowhere exceed about thirty feet above the mean level of the sea. The lagoon is shallow, almost filled with branching corals and coral sand. The small northern island is about a mile in diameter; a strip of low coral land, almost surrounding a small lagoon, and thickly covered with cocoa-nut trees.
These lonely islands (also called Cocos,) were discovered in 1608-9 by Captain William Keeling, who was in the East India Company's service, and held a commission from King James I.* Little or no notice was taken of them from that time till 1823, when one Alexander Hare, a British subject, established himself and a small party of Malays, upon the Southern Keeling Island, which he thought a favourable place for commerce, and for maintaining a seraglio of Malay women, whom he confined to one island,—almost to one house.
* Of these facts I was credibly informed, on the authority of the late Captain Horsburgh; and presumptive evidence of their reality is afforded by the following extract from the work of a well-known historian.
Extract from a Summary of Universal History, translated from the French of M. Anquetil, First Edition, page 50. London, 1800—
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a Venetian galley, deeply laden, was driven on shore at the Isle of Wight. The sight of the riches it contained excited a desire of attempting to open a trade with Turkey, through which the merchandize of India was transported. The advantages arising from this Turkish trade to the Eastern merchants shewed that it might be rendered still more lucrative if it were carried on by a direct route. In order that no measures of prudence which seemed likely to ensure success to this grand enterprise might be omitted, the queen sent to explore the two routes already opened, that of the Cape of Good Hope, by Captain Stephens, in 1582, and that of the Strait of Magellan, in 1587. From the reports which they made, it was conceived impossible for England to appropriate to itself, by means of single ships, a part of that commerce, to the prejudice of two nations, jealous, and well established; and, that, while it employed all the exertions of industry, it would be necessary also to show a respectable force. These considerations, highly judicious, gave rise to the East India Company, which sent out its first adventure with a capital of £74,000, and four ships equipped from that sum. In 1601 the company was established under the auspices of the state, which granted it a charter of protection for a time limited.
Lancaster, who commanded this squadron, behaved like a private merchant, entered into a treaty of commerce with the King ot Achen, and found means to establish a small factory, but not without experiencing some marks of displeasure from the Portuguese. He took on board a considerable quantity of pepper and other spices. His successful return encouraged the company to send out three ships under the command of Henry Middleton. The latter, however, began to assume a higher tone than that of a plain merchant. He found the Dutch and Portuguese engaged in war; not on their own account, as appeared, but as auxiliaries, the one of the King of Ternate, and the other of the King of Tidore. It seemed most advantageous to Middleton at that period to espouse the part of the Portuguese. The Dutch were incensed, and threw impediments in his way, which, however, did not prevent him from returning with a very rich cargo; but the company sent out another squadron under Edward Michael Bourne, who assumed with the Dutch that air of superiority which his force authorized, and threatened open hostilities in case they interrupted the English commerce. To support these threats, William Keeling arrived, in 1608, with a body of regular troops. The Dutch made no resistance, and even applied to the English to defend them against the inhabitants of Banda; but after this service they behaved with duplicity to their benefactors, and fettered their commerce: yet Keeling found means to return with a very rich cargo, and, what is remarkable, without the loss of a single man.
In 1826, or within a year of that time, Mr. J. C. Ross, some time master of a merchant ship, took up his abode on the south-eastern islet of the group; and in a very short time Hare's Malay slaves, aggrieved by his harsh treatment of them, especially by his taking away the women, and shutting them up on an island which the Malay men might not approach, deserted in a body, and claimed protection from Mr. Ross. Hare then left the Keelings, and about a year afterwards was arrested in his lawless career by death, while establishing another harem at Batavia.
From that time Mr. Ross and the Malays lived peaceably, collecting cocoa-nut oil, turtle, tortoise-shell, and bicho do mar; and occasionally sailing to the Mauritius, Singapore, or Batavia, to dispose of them, and buy necessaries with their produce. Another Englishman, Mr. C. Leisk, who had served as mate of Mr. Ross's ship, lived with him, and they both had wives (English) and children, the whole party residing together in a large house of Malay build—just such a structure as one sees represented upon old japanned work. At the time of our visit Mr. Ross was absent on one of their trading excursions, and his deputy, Leisk, was left in charge of everything.
By some strange misconception, not intentional act of injustice, Mr. Ross had refused to give Hare's slaves their freedom, for fear that the executors of that man should demand their value from him; but he paid them each two rupees a week, in goods (at his own valuation), provided that they worked for him, both men and women, as he thought proper. Mr. Leisk told me this, and said that “many of the Malays were very discontented, and wanted to leave the island.” “No wonder,” thought I, “for they are still slaves, and only less ill used than they were by the man who purchased them.”
These Malays were allowed to rear poultry, which they sometimes sold to shipping. They were also allowed to have the produce of a certain number of cocoa-nut trees, and might catch fish and turtle for their own use; but the sale of turtle to shipping, when they touched there, and the immense crops of cocoa-nuts which are produced annually on all the islets of the group were monopolized by Mr. Ross for his sole advantage. One daily task imposed upon the Malay women was to husk” a hundred nuts, collected for them by the men, who extract a gallon of oil from every ten.
Another kind of oil, said to be very good, is derived from the fat tail of a large land-crab, which feeds on cocoa-nuts. About a pint and a half may be obtained from one crab. The manner in which these creatures—nearly the size of a large cray-fish—tap the nuts in order to get at their contents is curious. Numbers of windfall nuts, in a comparatively soft state, are always to be found lying about under the trees: a crab seizes one of these, and pegs away at the eyes (each nut has three eyes) with one of its claws, that is long and sharp, purposely, it would seem, until it opens a hole, through which the crab extracts the juice, and some of the solid part.
The manner of ascending tall palm-trees is similar to that described at Otaheite, and requires strength as well as agility: both which are also shown by these Malays in their chases after turtle among the shallows and coral ‘thickets’ of the lagoon, where they abound. A party of men go in a light boat and look for a fine turtle in some shallow place. Directly one is seen, they give chase in the boat, endeavouring to keep it in a shallow, and tolerably clear place, till it begins to be tired by its exertions to escape; then, watching a favourable moment, a man jumps out of the boat and seizes the turtle. Away it darts, with the man on its back grasping its neck until he can get an opportunity, by touching ground with his feet, to turn it over, and secure his prize. Only the more active men can succeed well in this sort of fishing.
Other unusual things were seen by us at this place, one or two of which I will mention. There are fish that live by feeding upon small branches of the coral, which grows in such profusion in the lagoon. One species of these fish is about two feet and a half long, of a beautiful green colour about the head and tail, with a hump on its head, and a bony kind of mouth, almost like that of a turtle, within which are two rows of saw-like teeth.—Mr. Stokes saw a dog, (bred on the island), catch three such fish in the course of a few hours by chasing them in shallow water, springing after them, almost as a kangaroo springs on land. Sometimes one would take shelter under a rock, when the dog would drive it out with his paw, and seize it with his mouth as it bolted.
Among the great variety of corals forming the walls around the immediately visible basement, and the under-water forests of the Keeling islands, there is more difference than between a lily of the valley and a gnarled oak. Some are fragile and delicate, of various colours, and just like vegetables to the eye, others are of a solid description, like petrified tropical plants; but all these grow within the outer reef, and chiefly in the lagoons.*
* One kind of coral, while alive, stings human flesh painfully when touched by it. Another kind is so hard that it gives sparks when struck by steel.
The wall, or outer reef, about which so much has been said and thought, by able men, without their having arrived at any definite conclusion, is solid and rock-like, with a smooth surface; and where the surf is most violent, there the coral is fullest of animated matter. I was anxious to ascertain if possible, to what depth the living coral extended, but my efforts were almost in vain, on account of a surf always violent, and because the outer wall is so solid that I could not detach pieces from it lower down than five fathoms. Small anchors, hooks, grappling irons, and chains were all tried—and one after another broken by the swell almost as soon as we ‘hove a strain’ upon them with a ‘purchase’ in our largest boats. Judging however, from impressions made upon a large lead, the end of which was widened, and covered with tallow hardened with lime, and from such small fragments as we could raise, I concluded that the coral was not alive at a depth exceeding seven fathoms below low water. But this subject has been, or will be, fully discussed by Mr. Darwin, therefore I need say no more.
As if in speaking of these singular, though so small islands,—where crabs eat cocoa-nuts, fish eat coral, dogs catch fish, men ride on turtle, and shells are dangerous man-traps,*—any thing more were necessary to ensure the voyager's being treated like the old woman's son who talked to her about flying-fish,—it must yet be said that the greater part of the sea-fowl roost on branches, and that many rats make their nests at the top of high palm-trees.
* Chama gigantea. There is a large one in the United Service Museum.
Except sea-fowl and the domestic creatures* which have accompanied man to the Keelings, there is no bird or animal; but a kind of land-rail, which is numerous. Besides the palm there are upon the largest islets other trees, particularly a kind of teak, and some less valuable wood, from which a vessel was built.
* Rats and mice included; which swarm on those islands.
Fresh water is not scarce on the larger islets of the group, but it is only to be got by digging wells in the coral foundation, covered as it is by vegetation. In these wells, about six feet deep, the water rises and falls as the tide of the ocean flows and ebbs; which I believe to be the case at most other coral islands where there is fresh water. It appears that the fresh water of heavy rains is held in the loose soil, (a mixture of coral, sand, and decayed vegetable substances,) and does not mix with the salt water which surrounds it, except at the edges of the land. The flowing tide pushes on every side, the mixed soil being very porous, and causes the fresh water to rise: when the tide falls the fresh water sinks also, A sponge full of fresh water placed gently in a basin of salt water, will not part with its contents for a length of time if left untouched. The water in the middle of the sponge will be found untainted by salt for many days; perhaps much longer, if tried.
A word about the inhabitants, and I leave the Keelings. No material difference was detected by me between the Malays on these islands, and the natives of Otaheite or New Zealand. I do not mean to assert that there were not numbers of men at each of those islands to whom I could not trace resemblances (setting individual features aside,) at the Keelings; I merely say that there was not one individual among the two hundred Malays I saw there whom I could have distinguished from a Polynesian Islander, had I seen him in the Pacific.
Two boys attracted my notice particularly, because their colour was of a brighter red* than that of any South American or Polynesian whom I had seen, and upon enquiry I found that these two boys were sons of Alexander Hare and a Malay woman.
* Brighter by comparison; their colour was that of copper in its very reddest state—without any tinge of yellow.
Excepting the two English families I have mentioned, all on the Keelings in 1836, were Mahometans. One of their number officiated as priest; but exclusive of an extreme dislike to pigs, they showed little outward attention to his injunctions. As no Christian minister had ever visited the place, and there was no immediate prospect of one coming there, I was asked to baptize the children of Mrs. Leisk. So unusual a demand occasioned some scruples on my part, but at last I complied, and performed the appointed service in Mr. Ross's house; where six children of various ages were christened in succession. This and other facts I have mentioned respecting these sequestered islands shew the necessity that exists for some inspecting influence being exercised at every place where British subjects are settled. A visit from a man of war, even once only in a year, is sufficient (merely in prospect) to keep bad characters in tolerable check, and would make known at head quarters the more urgent wants of the settlers.
In observing the sun's meridian altitude at this place, the sextants were used, which I have adverted to before (p. 396 [footnote]), and the latitude deduced from their results only differed two or three seconds from that obtained by stars, without using the additional glass: I forgot to say, in speaking of the Galapagos, how useful those instruments were there; enabling us to measure the sun's meridian altitude in an artificial horizon when nearly eighty degrees high. I would not say this in favour of my own invention, if I did not feel certain that seamen will find it useful, and that somebody ought to tell them of it, for their own sake. (These sextants were made by Worthington.)
I was informed by the residents that between October and April, they are occasionally visited by severe gales of wind, at times almost hurricanes, so strong as to root up trees, strip the leaves off others, and unroof or blow down houses. These storms begin between south-east and south, and when they abate draw towards the west (by the south) there ending. For those who take interest in the course of storms I subjoin extracts from Mr. Ross's Journal given to me by Leisk.* Earthquakes have been felt several times, I was told by Mr. Leisk, but I could get only one extract from the Journal which mentioned a shock.†-
* “April 4th, 1835. Wind south, blowing very hard all day, with a hard cloudy sky. 5th. Blowing heavily from the same point; with rain. 6th. Wind S.E. still blowing heavily, with rain. 7th. Wind increasing, at midnight the tops of many trees blown off; trees falling, and roofs of houses suffering, wind still S.E. At two a.m. on the 8th wind south; several houses laid flat; excessive thunder and lightning, with torrents of rain. About three a.m. the storm abating, and drawing to the west; at four, moderate west wind. 9th. N.W. light breeze, clear weather; went with a party (Mr. Ross, Leisk, &c.) to South-East Bay (inside South-East Island), found the bay strewed with dead fish of all sorts and sizes, which we supposed to have been killed by the fresh water. Numbers of trees blown down every where, and the earth cut through in many places by the runs of rain-water.” On the 26th of November 1835, a south-east gale increased almost to a hurricane, causing similar effects, though less in number, because it lasted only two hours, and then ended by shifting to the westward, and moderating.
† That notice says, “May 25, 1830, weather calm and sultry, light N.E. breeze: about 1-30 a.m. an earthquake, of a rocking description, was felt. It continued about three minutes, and made our wooden house reel and strain considerably.”
On the 12th we sailed, carrying a good sea-stock of cocoanuts, pigs, poultry, pumpkins, and turtle. Maize and sugar-cane might have been had, if wanted. We first went round the northern Keeling:—on this island, about a mile across and but a few feet above the ocean, two English vessels have been lost since 1825, and probably other ships met a similar fate there in earlier years, when its existence was hardly known. We found the current setting towards the north-west, as I had been led to expect; but, from what I could observe, during our stay, as well as from oral information, I am led to believe that the current only sets strongly during about the last half of the flood tide, and the first half of the ebb; and that during the other six hours there is little or no current; as is the case off Cape Horn, and in many other places.*
* Varying from three parts, to one-quarter of a tide difference between the time of low water and the beginning of flood stream.
Our passage to the Mauritius was slow, but in smooth water. Tropic birds, a few terns, and gannets were seen, at intervals, when passing the neighbourhood of the Chagos Islands, and at our approach to the island Rodriguez. We anchored in Port Louis, at the Mauritius, on the 29th of April: sailed thence on the 9th of May: passed near Madagascar—thence along the African shore—and anchored in Simon's Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, on the 31st. From that well-known place we went to St. Helena, Ascension, Bahia, Pernambuco, the Cape Verde Islands, and the Azores; and anchored at Falmouth, on the 2d of October, after an absence of four years and nine months from England.
From Falmouth we went to Plymouth; and thence, calling at Portsmouth, to the Thames. On the 28th [of October, 1836] our anchor was let go at Greenwich; and, after the chronometer rates were ascertained, the Beagle dropped down to Woolwich, where she was paid off on the 17th of November.
Greenwich was the last station at which observations were made; and, singularly enough, Mr. Usborne and his companions came on board as we anchored there. Independent of the gratification of meeting them again, after so wide a separation, it may be supposed how my mind was relieved by his safe return from a very successful expedition, in which he had surveyed the whole coast of Peru, from Atacama to Guayaquil, without loss or accident. Although his own life was seriously risked on two or three occasions, by shots fired under misapprehension; I must not omit to mention that hostilities were suspended for a whole day, at Arica, between the land forces and an attacking squadron, in order that Mr. Usborne might carry on his operations. Throughout the survey of the Peruvian coast, the cordial assistance of Mr. Wilson, Charge d'affaires at Lima, was found to be of paramount consequence. I would now speak of the steady support and unvarying help which I received from the officers of the Beagle: but where all did so much, and all contributed so materially to the gatherings of the voyage, it is unnecessary to particularise, farther than by saying that Mr. Stokes's services hold the first place in my own estimation.
In this long voyage, rather exceeding that of Vancouver, fatal disease was unknown, except in the lamented case of the purser, and in that mentioned at Rio de Janeiro; neither of which had the least reference to the particular service on which the Beagle was employed: and it is perhaps remarkable, that while the Beagle was in commission, between February 1829 and November 1836, no serious illness, brought on or contracted while on service, happened on board; neither did any accident of consequence occur in the ship; nor did any man ever fall overboard during all that time.
The freedom from illness must be attributed, under Providence, to active employment, good clothing, and wholesome food,* in healthy, though sometimes disagreeable climates: and our immunity from accident† during exposure to a variety of risks, especially in boats, I attribute, referring to visible causes, to the care, attention, and vigilance of the excellent officers whose able assistance was not valued by me more than their sincere friendship.
* See Appendix, No. 48.
† Excepting that mentioned in vol. i. p. 445.
Having ended my narrative of the Beagle's voyage, I might lay down the pen: but there are some reflections, arising out of circumstances witnessed by myself, and enquiries since made respecting them, that I feel anxious to lay before those who take interest in such subjects; and who will detect fallacies which I, in a purblind search after truth, may have overlooked.
A few of these reflections bear on the origin and migration of the human race: and, deeply feeling the difficulty of the subject, as well as my comparative ignorance and inability, I would beg that my remarks may be viewed solely as those of a sailor who writes for the younger members of his profession—not as the scheme of a theorist.
Before mentioning the particular facts which have fallen under my own observation, and made most impression on me, in connexion with this subject, it may be well to defend myself from any imputation of indulging hastily formed or capricious ideas, by saying that from boyhood I have always taken interest in observing the various countenances, heads, shapes, sizes, colours, and other peculiarities of the human race; especially of those varieties in which education has not masked the mind, by teaching man to restrain or conceal his emotions. The result of this attention to outward tokens, occasionally retained more distinctly in my recollection by sketches, has been a conviction that external form, especially of the head and features, is exceedingly dependent upon mind; and that as the human being is more or less educated, accustomed to better or worse habits, more or less obliged to think and act for himself; so will his external appearance vary for better or worse, and become, in a great degree, the index of his mental quality. This power of mind over matter exists in each individual, who besides may receive from his parents, outward peculiarities, and general inclinations, but in a modified degree: since the child partakes of the nature of both father and mother, (perhaps even, slightly, of that of a foster mother, if one is employed). That such hereditary peculiarities are not to be quickly or easily altered, every one will admit; but that they may be gradually changed, and in a few generations altogether obliterated, by pains being taken with successive children, many facts have been published which seem to prove incontrovertibly. This ought to give great encouragement to the exertions of parents in educating their children,* since exterior expression, if not feature, as well as the infinitely more important result, actual character, may depend so much upon training the mind aright. Supposing this to be the case, it is not surprising to find savages so very different from civilized men in outward feature, as well as in mind; or to see them, where civilization has not been known, precisely in the same condition now, as that in which we learn they were several centuries ago.
* Not in overburthening their tender minds with the contents of books, or over exciting them with a whirl of ideas calculated to rouse even the listless spoiled child of fortune from his apathetic indifference—but in a wholesome mixture of general education, bodily as well as mental, adapted to their years, and calculated to prepare them, in their respective stations, for doing their duty happily to their Maker, and to their fellow-men.
Some years since I read a long article in the “Dictionnaire Classique” under the head of “Homme,” which described a great many distinct races of men—at least thirteen: and at the same time I saw a map which professed to show the geographical distribution of those several distinct races. Almost the first spot which my eye rested on was Tierra del Fuego, coloured black, to indicate that its inhabitants were black; and upon reference to the “Dictionnaire Classique” I found that the Fuegians were there described as being black, like the natives of Van Diemen's Land. This mistake, so extraordinary considering the numerous voyagers who have seen the natives of Tierra del Fuego during the last three hundred years, stimulated me to inquire further into the data upon which that division of the human family into separate ‘races’ was founded. The more I have sought, the more evidence has appeared to demonstrate the erroneous nature of such a view; and the probability, nay certainty, that all men are of one blood.
In the course of years spent in various quarters of the world, I have had opportunities of leisurely considering people from all the principal countries. I have read much of what has been written, during late years, on the subject of their resemblance, or difference; and the conclusion to which I have been obliged to come is—that there is far less difference between most nations, or tribes (selecting any two for the comparison), than exists between two individuals who might be chosen out of either one of those nations or tribes; colour and hair alone excepted.
In the city of Lima there are now at least twenty-three distinct varieties of the human race, which are not only recognised and well known in that capital, but have been carefully enumerated and described by Stevenson, in the following table. All these varieties have arisen from the intermarriages of three, the Spaniard, the aboriginal Peruvian, and the negro: and among their descendants almost any coloured skin, or kind of hair, may be matched. It may be observed that although negro and white produce the zambo, which is a dark copper; and although it may be inferred from the table that zambo and some lighter variety would produce a lighter shade of copper-colour—there is still the long black hair, and scarcity of beard, observed in most American aborigines, to be accounted for. This peculiarity, however, may be derived from white and negro: and I think it would not be difficult to show that every variety of hair and colour might be produced from these two originals only.
|Castes arising from the mixture of European, Indian, and Negro|
|White||Indian||Mestiso||68 white, 28 Indian, fair|
|Indian||White||Mestiso||48 white, 48 Indian.|
|White||Mestiso||Creole||White, often very fair.|
|Mestiso||White||Creole||White, rather sallow.|
|Mestiso||Mestiso||Creole||Sallow, often light hair.|
|White||Negro||Mulatto||78 white, 18 negro, often fair.|
|Negro||White||Zambo||48 white, 48 negro, dark copper.|
|White||Mulatto||Quarteron||68 white, 28 negro, fair.|
|Mulatto||White||Mulatto||58 white, 38 negro, tawny.|
|White||Quarteron||Quinteron||78 white, 18 negro, very fair.|
|Quarteron||White||Quarteron||68 white, 28 negro, tawny.|
|White||Quinteron||Creole||White, light eyes, fair hair.|
|Negro||Indian||Chino||48 negro, 48 Indian, dark.|
|Indian||Negro||Chino||28 negro, 68 Indian.|
|Negro||Mulatto||Zambo||58 negro, 38 white.|
|Mulatto||Negro||Zambo||58 negro, 48 [sic, 38] white.|
|Negro||Zambo||Zambo||1516negro, 1 16white.|
|Zambo||Negro||Zambo||78 negro, 18 white.|
|Negro||Chino||Zambo Chino||1516negro, 1 16Indian.|
|Chino||Negro||Zambo Chino||78 negro, 18 Indian.|
Colours are classed according to appearances: a child receives more of the colour of the father than of the mother.*
* Stevenson's South Ameria, vol i. p. 286.
That colour is not alone dependant upon, or caused by climate, however much it may be altered by exposure to sun and wind, or by seclusion, no person can doubt who has at all attended to the subject, and read the opinions of men who have made it their study: but that its various hues may be derived from intermarriage, without any change of climate, this table goes far to prove.*
* It did not, however, satisfy me as to the production of a bright red copper colour; but of that I afterwards saw an excellent example at the Keeling Islands. See page 636.
Having seen how all the varieties of colour may be produced from white, red, and black, we pause, because at fault, and so we should remain, did we rely on our own unassisted reason. But, turning to the Bible, we find in the history of those by whom the earth was peopled, after the flood, a curse pronounced on Ham and his descendants; and it is curious that the name Ham should mean “heat—brown—scorched,” while that of Cush his son, means “black:” that Japheth should imply “handsome,” and that Shem, from whose line our Saviour was descended, should mean “name—renown—he who is put or placed.” I cannot myself read this explanation of Cush, and the denunciation “Cursed be Canaan—a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” without believing that Cush was a negro, and that from the intermarriages of his descendants with those of Shem and Japheth, came hosts of mulatto, copper, or dark-coloured men who peopled a great part of Asia, Polynesia, America, parts of Africa, and part of Australia. According to this view the black descendants of Cush overspread part of Africa, Australia, and Van Diemen's Land, New Guinea, and portions of other islands: while white families, children of Japheth and Shem, spread over Asia Minor, the Caucasian district, great part of Northern Asia, and the whole of Europe.
We read, in another place, that Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines, and sent them away eastward from Canaan, unto the east country: many years before this separation, Ishmael, the son of Hagar, an Egyptian slave belonging to Abraham, was established in the country next to the eastward of Canaan; and as his descendants were “not to be numbered for multitude,#8221; it follows that those of some of the sons above mentioned must have migrated to a great distance.* It is likely that some of Abraham's bond-women were either black or mulatto, being descendants of Ham; perhaps of Cush: and it is hardly possible that Hagar should not have been dark, even black, considering her parentage;† in which case Ishmael would have been copper-coloured, or mulatto,‡ and some, if not all of Abraham's sons by concubines, would have been of those colours. If this be assuming too much, there can be no doubt that in the next generation Esau, or Edom, was a red man, and that his descendants, the numerous Edomites, or Idumeans, were also red: now as Esau married the daughter of Ishmael, we have, in this case, distinct evidence of the origin of a race of red, or copper-coloured men. Had the common colour of the human race been at that time red, Esau's colour would not have been remarked; had it been black, Cush would have been no distinctive appellation. It must then have been originally fair, as no colours are mentioned in the Scripture, with reference to the human race, except fair, red, and black.
* See Genesis, Chap. xiii. for evidence of the necessity there was to emigrate in those early times.
† Herodotus, lib. ii.
‡ The Arabs, next to the Jews the most marked people on earth, who have preserved their genealogies in an unbroken line, assert that they are descended from Ishmael; their colour is the same as that of the Malays, the Polynesian islanders, and the Americans.
A rapid increase of flocks and herds, as well as population; a consequent diminution of vegetable food; jealousies and disputes between the children of bond-women and those of the free, and the comparative indifference of fathers to the offspring of their slaves, must have stimulated migration in every direction; and, when once begun, no doubt the love of novelty, and desire of finding countries still better than those yet explored, increased, and eventually perpetuated that passion for wandering which we see to this day in the Arab, the migratory Malay, the roving Tartar, and the ever-restless South American Indian.
Climate, habits, and food operate to cause a considerable change in the form and size, though their permanent effect on the colour of the human race is slight. The effect of climate, considered alone, may be seen in the descendants of English families settled in some parts of North America, in Australia, or Van Diemen's Land; countries where neither habits nor food differ much from those of England. We see there that our sturdy thick-set labourer's son becomes a tall lathy youth, though perhaps none of his family while in England exceeded the middle height: and not only does the form alter, but the gait and voice acquire peculiarities which mark the American born, the Australian, or the Tasmanian. Exposure to cold, wet, and wind, together with but little walking exercise, shortens the legs, and increases the stoutness of body, as may be seen in the Fuegian, the Esquimaux, and the Laplander,—in fishermen, sailors, coachmen, and others; but, activity on foot, warmth, and a fine climate, have contrary effects, which may be shown by the youth above mentioned, by the African Negro, by the Indian, by the South Sea Islander, and others. Habits require little notice, for we can hardly look around us without seeing many instances of faculties or forms altered in one way or other, by exercise or the want of it, or by certain customs: porters, smiths, dancers, grooms, jockeys, are remarkable instances. That food is a material agent in affecting the human form I think no one can doubt; and when all three combine to cause alterations, how considerable must be the change effected. That colour may be altered a little by seclusion and particular diet, or by exposure to wind and sun, need not be remarked, except for the purpose of adding that a change so caused is not permanent, or transmitted to children, like peculiarity of form. The Otaheitans used to shut themselves up for a month at a time, and eat only particular food, in order to become fairer; yet their descendants are as dark at this day as their fathers were when Wallis first discovered them in 1786.
I will now endeavour to point out those lines of communication across the oceans which appear to me, as a seaman, the most likely to have been followed by the earliest wanderers. Of overland routes I say nothing, because where land extends, in the vicinity of water, there is no obstacle sufficient to prevent the migration of animals, as well as men; neither need I notice intervals of sea which can easily be crossed.
Wandering eastward, from Asia Minor, roving tribes may have begun to people Eastern Asia and the Indian Archipelago, while other parties were exploring Africa; and while the sons of Japhet were advancing northward, and towards the west. A slight acquaintance with ancient history informs us at how early a period extensive commerce was carried on by ships,—to Britain in the west, and to the Indian Archipelago in the east; before which time it is obvious that those extreme regions must have been tolerably well peopled: but it is not possible that they could have been so without the employment of ships, boats, canoes, or rafts. The earliest explorers of unknown lands must have been naturally enterprising, and habitually disposed to wander. Children brought up under such instructors as their migratory parents, always eager to seek for new countries, would increase their roving inclinations; and as long as another region could be found, doubtless they would try to explore it, partly from a ruling passion and habit, partly for the sake of procuring food with greater ease, and partly in consequence of feuds among themselves, which, in such a state of society, must end in the defeat and expulsion, if not subjugation or destruction of the weaker party. Add to these motives, those which I mentioned in a previous page, consequent upon intermarriage between various castes or colours, the desire of independence, or the love of wealth,* and more than enough reasons appear to account for the early dispersion of the human race, provided they possessed the means of migration.
* Real wealth—not money, its symbol and equivalent now.
That in the early ages large trees were more abundant near the water side in many countries than they now are, appears indisputable; but even as we see them in many uncivilized though inhabited countries, how numerous are huge trunks, out of which canoes might be formed, with fire, with stones, and with shells. Considering the abundance of trees once standing in places, perhaps easy of access, whence the hand of man may have long since cleared them away, and the quantity of animal,* as well as vegetable food which may have abounded where then there had been no arch-destroyer,—how easy, comparatively speaking, may it have been, in those early ages, to fell, hollow out, and launch great trunks of trees, which, secured two and two, and covered over, would form excellent vessels. Like the double canoes of modern Polynesians, they might have carried a platform, above the reach of common waves, on which families and their provisions could voyage in security. Neither refined art nor any tool would have been required in the construction: with fire to hollow and to divide, stones, shells, and bones would have sufficed for so simple a work, and thus enabled the least informed savages to make sea-worthy and even burthensome vessels.
* For proofs of the extraordinarily rapid manner in which animals multiply when comparatively unmolested by man, we need only turn to South America.
Unlike some modern canoes, however, these primitive vessels would have been capable of sailing only before the wind, or nearly so, and would therefore have been almost at the disposal of every breeze, when once at sea. Hence, in attempting to follow their course, we must attentively consider prevailing winds, and by no means omit to regard currents, of which the first sailors could have known nothing, and which must have caused the mis-direction, if not loss, of many early adventurers.
In alluding to easily constructed rafts, and double canoes, I do not for an instant dream of excluding better vessels, which no doubt, were soon constructed after men began to roam by sea;*- but I wish to show, so far as I am able, how readily means of transport were accessible to the first wanderers.
* The Piragua now used at Chilóe, and by the savages of the Chonos Archipelago, exactly resembles in every minute detail the Maseulah boat of Madras. Its ‘sacho,’ or wooden anchor with a stone in the middle, is precisely like that used in Chinese and Japanese Junks: but doubtless these coincidences may be accidental.
I must pause for a moment to explain why I consider these explorers as savages, although they were spoken of before as descendants of Abraham and his countrymen, who were civilized. Let us suppose, for illustration, that a party of men and women left Asia Minor in a civilized state. Before they had wandered far, no writing materials or clothes would have remained (had they even possessed them), and their children would have been taught only to provide for daily wants, food, and perhaps some substitute for clothes, such as skins. Their grand-children would have been in a still worse condition as to information or traces of civilization, and each succeeding generation would have fallen lower in the scale, until they became savages in the fullest sense of the word; from which degraded condition they would not rise a step by their own exertions; so long as they received no assistance, no glimmerings of intelligence, from others who had branched off from the main trunk at a much later period, and had means of preserving more knowledge. The degree of degradation would depend upon climate, disposition, description and quantity of food, recollection of origin and traditions, keeping up old observances, and intercourse with other families, tribes, or nations, among whom more traces of their common origin and descent might have been preserved. Were a dozen men and women now cast away upon unknown land—supposing that not one of the party could read or write—that there was no substance with which they could clothe themselves except the skins of animals—that the climate was variable—that they had neither tools nor arms—that the extent of habitable land admitted of their wandering—that it had no other human inhabitants, and that it should be visited by none for the space of some hundred years after the arrival of this party,—in what state would their descendants be found by the next adventurers who might land on the shores of that country?
India, China, Mexico, Peru, regions separated from the central seat of population, but advanced in civilization at the earliest period of their history with which we are acquainted, preserve traditional accounts of superior men who arrived there, and first began to improve the condition of their people, but we are not told whence those men came. No one, however, can read about those countries, as well as Tartary, Japan, and Polynesia, without being struck by the traces of Hebrew ceremonies and rites, by the evidences of the worship of Baal, or by remains of Arkite observances, scattered through the more populous, if not through all the nations upon earth.
That man could have been first created in an infant, or a savage state, appears to my apprehension impossible; (for a moment taking a view of the case, unaided by Scripture;) because—if an infant—who nursed, who fed, who protected him till able to subsist alone? and, if a savage, he would have been utterly helpless. Destitute of the instinct possessed by brutes,—wth organs inexperienced (however perfect), and with a mind absolutely vacant; neither his eye, his ear, his hand, nor his foot would have been available, and after a few hours of apathetic existence he must have perished. The only idea I can reconcile to reason is that man was created perfect in body, perfect in mind, and knowing by inspiration enough for the part he had to perform;—such a being it would be worse than folly to call savage.
Have we a shadow of ground for thinking that wild animals or plants have improved since their creation? Can any reasonable man believe that the first of a race, species, or kind, was the most inferior? Then how for a moment could false philosophers, and those who have been led away by their writings, imagine that there were separate beginnings of savage races, at different times, and in different places? Yet I may answer this question myself; for until I had thought much on the subject, and had seen nearly every variety of the human race, I had no reason to give in opposition to doubts excited by such sceptical works, except a conviction that the Bible was true, that in all ages men had erred, and that sooner or later the truth of every statement contained in that record would be proved.
To return to the lines and means of communication:—
Following the various routes of population into the Indian Archipelago, to Japan, to Kamschatka, and to Australia, we are stopped by the vast Pacific—except at one point, Kamschatka, and there, by the Aleutian isles, is an easy road to America. Now it is not probable that intercourse should have been begun by water, between various points on those extensive shores, (reaching from 60° N. lat., to 40° S. lat.), without numerous accidents happening, such as vessels, boats, canoes, or rafts being carried out of sight of land by storms; when, ignorant how to steer as their crews must have been, they were driven before the wind till they reached some unknown land, or were engulfed in ocean.
Many such vessels, out of the numbers which must have been tempest-tost among currents and dangers of every kind incident to navigation, may have failed in finding land before their store of provision was consumed, and their crews reduced to the horrible necessity of feeding upon human flesh. When once the natural antipathy to cannibalism was overcome, recurrence to similar food would have been less revolting on other occasions; especially if, excited by rage or animosity, and deprived of animal food, men had accustomed themselves to anticipate satisfying their hunger by the flesh of a miserable slave, or even of a late friend whom accident had estranged and turned into a blood-thirsty enemy.
Looking over a modern chart of the Pacific we see a multitude of islands scattered, like stars over the sky, from the Indian archipelago to Salas y Gomez;* whence to Mas-a-fuera, on the South American coast, the distance is not fourteen hundred miles; and to the main land itself, about eighteen hundred. It is possible that other islands may have existed, but we now find a comparatively short distance between Easter Island and South America; besides favouring circumstances of wind and weather which lead me to believe that a line of population went in that direction. It is not impossible that vessels should have crossed from New Zealand to South America, running always before the fresh westerly winds so prevalent southward of 38°; neither is it at all unlikely, on the contrary it is highly probable, that Chinese or Japanese Junks were driven to the Sandwich Islands; perhaps across to the North American coast.
* Near Easter Island.
Between the tropics in the Pacific an easterly trade wind is found during more than half the year; but it is not generally known (except by readers of voyages) that from November to March there is much west wind, rain, and occasional tempest, between the vicinity of the equator, and about fifteen degrees south. This westerly monsoon, for such in fact it is, sometimes is steadily regular, and at others interrupted by calms, storms,* or heavy rains. The eastern limit to which it usually reaches is about 110° W. long., but there is reason to suppose, that it extends at times, irregularly, to the Galapagos Islands, if not to the adjacent continent, when Guayaquil is suffering from heavy torrents of rain. While the sun is far south, this westerly monsoon extends to the tropic of Capricorn, between the meridians of 150° E. and 120° W. longitude. At other times of the year the tropical regions of the Pacific are refreshed by pleasant easterly winds, varying in moderate strength, and in their direction from the northward or southward of east.
* During these storms, which begin very suddenly, not only vessels are driven out of their course, but birds, insects, and seeds are carried to great distances.
Beyond the region of tropical or trade winds, an almost continual succession of westerly winds is found to prevail. In those middle latitudes easterly winds sometimes blow; but their amount is not more than one-fifth that of the west winds, throughout the year.
In the Southern Atlantic and Southern Indian ocean similar winds prevail, between the parallels of 30° and 60°. Instances in profusion may be found in narratives of voyages, where very small vessels, boats, or canoes, have made long passages across an open ocean, or have passed months in ignorance of their geographical situation, enduring the most dreadful privations. In the event of a float, whether raft, canoe, or rudely constructed vessel, being carried out of sight of land by current or wind, or by both, and taken into a steady trade, or lasting westerly wind, it would be impossible for her to struggle against it for many days; she must eventually run before it as the last expedient, with the hope, often forlorn, of falling in with some land to leeward.
When we reflect on the tedious coasting voyages undertaken formerly, even in historical times; and on the quantities of provision embarked for those long passages; may we not infer that the earliest explorers would take as much food with them as their rafts or vessels could carry; and therefore, that if driven out to sea, they were capable, in some instances at least, of holding out for a considerable length of time without having recourse to the last alternative.
If a vessel were drifted from Easter Island* by a northwest wind (occasional in July, August, or September,) she would be carried towards the coast of Chile; she might be drifted directly there, or she might be driven eastward for a time, and then, in consequence of wind changing, drifted towards the north; so that it would be uncertain whether Chile, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, or the wide ocean would receive the lost wanderers. It is also possible that a vessel may have been driven to South America from the neighbourhood of New Zealand; but this does not appear nearly so probable as the former conjecture. That the Araucanians about Valdivia originally arrived in that country by water, from the west, is I think indicated by what is stated in page 400 of this volume.
* At Easter Island in 1722, Roggewein found idolaters and fire-worshippers, and he says that one of the chief idols was called Dago. In 1774, people differently disposed, were found there by Cook; the idols still remained, but no traces were observed of fire-worship.
But while man was thus spreading eastward across the Pacific, are we to suppose that no vessel was ever blown off the coast of Africa, or that of Spain, and drifted by easterly winds across the Atlantic? How easy is the voyage, before a steady trade wind, from the Canary or Cape Verde Islands to the West Indies or Brazil; from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of America. Tradition in Brazil says that such arrivals took place there, and certainly there is a resemblance in some points between the Patagonians and what history states of the Guanches.
Let us now turn to the Negro population, descendants of Cush. Spreading to the south and west, they may have overrun extensive regions in Africa, but by no means to the exclusion of the mixed varieties of men, who also explored and colonized that continent, chiefly towards the northern and central regions. From the coast opposite Madagascar a party of negroes might have embarked to cross the Mosambique Channel, or they might have been driven off by a storm while coasting along near Algoa Bay, in which cases the current, always setting south-westward along that coast, would have hurried them into the region of strong westerly winds, by which they must have been carried, if their vessel and provisions held out, to the coast of New Holland, or to Van Diemen's Land. Now it is worth notice that the men of the south-western quarter of Australia are exceedingly like some of those who frequent the countries near Algoa Bay—and that the native dances and superstitions are very similar; while the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land, though of like colour, are shorter, stouter, and have coarser features; differences which might be expected to result from living in a wetter, windier, and colder climate. That other negroes arrived on the northern shores of Australia, brought there as slaves by red men, or making their escape from Asiatic masters, is probable: and from one or other source, if not from each, the black men in Australia and Van Diemen's Land may have been derived. That red men must have landed in Australia, we now know by the notices of late travellers, and their presence accounts for the colour observable in many of the so-called blacks, whose actual hue, when washed, is a deep brown—next to black, certainly, but with a perceptible red tinge. They are nearly the variety which would be produced by the intermarriage of a Negro and a Chino (see table, page 643,) called Zambo-chino in Lima: but there are gradations of colour, as might be expected, and varieties of hair; some being more or less woolly, others frizzled, almost like that of a mulatto.*
* Of the natives of Van Diemen's Land Cook remarks that their hair diflfered in texture from that of the natives of New South Wales, being in Adventure Bay as woolly as that of any native of Guinea, while that of the aborigines of New South Wales was naturally long and black, though cropped short.—Cook's Voyage, 1769-71.
Bligh says that the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land are black, and that their hair, “which resembled the wool of the Caffres,” was separated into shreds, and powdered with red ochre. They were generally slender, tolerably well made, kept their shoulders back, and upon their prominent chests several had marks raised in the skin.—Bligh's Voyage—Adventure Bay, 1788-1792.
Flinders saw only one native of this country, but his appearance much resembled that of the inhabitants of New South Wales. He had also marks raised upon the skin, and his face was blackened, and hair ruddled, as is sometimes practised by them. The hair was either cropped close, or naturally short, but it had not the appearance of being woolly.
In Marion's voyage a skirmish with the natives of Van Diemen's Land took place, after relating which, the writer says, “on entering among the trees they found a dying savage. This man was a little more than five feet seven inches in height, (French measure). His breast was marked like those of the Mosambique Caffres, and his skin appeared as black; but, on washing off the soot and dirt, his natural colour appeared to have a reddish tinge.”
The occasional peculiarities of outward form, on which so much stress has been laid, to the prejudice of the Hottentots especially, are considered by able anatomists whom I have consulted to be of no more real consequence than that existing in a six-fingered family. On their authority it may be shown that such occasional deviations from ordinary conformation, which are sometimes continued in particular families, and therefore might be found in a whole tribe who were originally but one family, in no degree constitute distinct species. From there we learn also that all varieties of the human race are alike in their anatomical structure, and that intermarriage between any two varieties whatever is productive of a prolific offspring.
Considerable stress has been laid on language as a means of tracing affinities or descents; but with great deference for the learned men who have devoted so much time to following its intricate traces, I would ask whether, when a language was not written, or in any manner fixed, it was not liable to vary continually as fresh separations of families into tribes occurred; and whether therefore it is possible to do more than classify unwritten languages, following some few traces of resemblance which may occasionally be marked, and detecting the root, though not the branch? In such an interesting pursuit, however, every sign, even the faintest, is valuable;—but only men of deep research and extensive learning can advantageously pursue this method of inquiry into the migrations and early history of our race.
I believe it will be found that the remarks I have ventured to make in the preceding pages, are by no means at variance with most of their deductions; and I much regret that our opportunities of collecting words, and modes of expression, were not such as to enable me to add many to their collections.
“You will be amused with FitzRoy's Deluge Chapter — Lyell, who was here to-day, has just read it, & says it beats all the other nonsense he has ever read on the subject.”
In Charles Darwin's 27 October, 1839 letter to his sister Caroline [Wedgwood].
To account for offering a few remarks on a subject so important and difficult as that of the Deluge, I beg to say that reflections, arising out of facts witnessed during the Beagle's voyage, have occasioned them; and, as results of that expedition, it has appeared to me that they are neither irrelevant to the narrative, nor likely to be altogether uninteresting to young men in the navy.
I suffered much anxiety in former years from a disposition to doubt, if not disbelieve, the inspired History written by Moses. I knew so little of that record, or of the intimate manner in which the Old Testament is connected with the New, that I fancied some events there related might be mythological or fabulous, while I sincerely believed the truth of others; a wavering between opinions, which could only be productive of an unsettled, and therefore unhappy, state of mind. Some young men, I am well aware, are in a similar condition, while many others are content to set aside all reflection, and do as the world does; or rather, as those do among whom they generally live. Natural affection and respect for good parents, relations, and elders, never can lead a young man astray; but there is, perhaps, no guide more fallible or dangerous than the common custom of those inexperienced persons who associate together, chiefly for lack of fixed occupation; and whose principal object is to drive away self-examination, or prolonged thought, by a continual succession of idle amusement, or vivid excitement.
Wholesome and necessary as amusement and recreation are, both for mind and body, every one knows how insipid, even painful their excess becomes; and external evidence shows but too plainly where the happiness, the blessings, and the comfort men might enjoy, have by themselves been slighted, or destroyed, from forgetting the line between using, and abusing; and by turning a deaf ear to the reflection that they are but ‘tenants at will.’
Much of my own uneasiness was caused by reading works written by men of Voltaire's school; and by those of geologists who contradict, by implication, if not in plain terms, the authenticity of the Scriptures; before I had any acquaintance with the volume which they so incautiously impugn. For geology, as a useful branch of science,* I have as high a respect as for any other young branch of the tree of knowledge, which has yet to undergo the trial of experience; and no doubt exists in my own breast that every such additional branch, if proved by time to be sound and healthy, will contribute its share of nourishment and vigour to the tree which sprung from an immortal root. For men who, like myself formerly, are willingly ignorant of the Bible, and doubt its divine inspiration, I can only have one feeling—sincere sorrow.—Few have time, as well as inclination, to go far into both sides of any question; but truth can hardly be drawn out of the well unless some exertion be made, in examining each argument, or in selecting a well-tried and experienced guide. It is idle to say, as I have heard asserted, that such works as those above-mentioned do little harm; experience proves the contrary; of which I am made painfully aware, not only by my own conscience, but by conversation with friends.
* By which word I mean ‘Knowledge,’ in its most comprehensive signification.
While led away by sceptical ideas, and knowing extremely little of the Bible, one of my remarks to a friend, on crossing vast plains composed of rolled stones bedded in diluvial detritus some hundred feet in depth, was “this could never have been effected by a forty days' flood,”—an expression plainly indicative of the turn of mind, and ignorance of Scripture. I was quite willing to disbelieve what I thought to be the Mosaic account, upon the evidence of a hasty glance, though knowing next to nothing of the record I doubted:—and I mention this particularly, because I have conversed with persons fond of geology, yet knowing no more of the Bible than I knew at that time. Thus much I feel it necessary to say, in accounting for my own approach to a subject in which all men feel deeply interested; and which has therefore been so well treated of, that these remarks would be useless, were it not that they may reach the eyes of young sailors, who have not always access to works of authority.
The Mosaic account of the Creation is so intimately connected with that of the Deluge that I must ask my young reader (whom alone I presume to address on this subject) to turn to the first chapter of Genesis, and refer to a few verses with me. We soon find a remarkable fact, which shows to my mind that the knowledge of Moses was super-human: his declaration in an early age that light was created before the sun and moon, which must till then have appeared to be the sources of light. In the fourth verse it is stated that “God divided the light from the darkness.” This may have been effected by a rotation of the earth on its axis, turning each side in succession to the light; otherwise, had the earth remained stationary, light must have been destroyed to admit darkness, and there must have been repeated creations of light. The light was called day—“and the evening and the morning were the first day.” Of course there could have been no morning previous to the creation of light; and the first portion of time, consonant to our present expressions, would have been that which elapsed between light and darkness, or evening. The length of a day being determined by the rotation of the earth on its axis; turning round once, so as to make an evening and a morning to each spot on the globe; the time occupied by that rotation is a natural object of interest. In the 12th verse it is said that grass, herbs, and trees, were brought forth; in the 14th and 16th, that lights were made to divide the day from the night; and that the greater light was to rule the day. It is known that neither trees, herbs, nor grass can exist long without the light and heat of the sun, therefore the rotation of the earth between the third day, when vegetation was produced, and the fourth, could not have been very different, in velocity, from its present rotation. Some men, of rare abilities, have thought that the “days” of creation were indefinite periods, notwithstanding the statement in verse 14, which affirms that the lights in the firmament of heaven were to divide the day from the night; and to “be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” In this one verse do we not see that the day was less than a year (signs and seasons, days and years); for had the day there meant been more than a year would not the words have been differently placed, namely—signs and seasons, years and days? Can we think that day means one space of time in the former part, and another space of time in the latter part of that one verse? Another indication that the word day, used in the first chapter of Genesis, does not mean a period much, if at all, longer than our present day, is—that it is spoken of as alternating with night. Although the word day is used in other chapters of the Bible, even so soon as the 4th verse of the 2d chapter of Genesis, to express a period, or space of time longer than our present day, the word night is never so applied.—hence, as the earth turns uniformly on its axis, and, so far as we can reason from analogy, must have turned uniformly, while turning at all, the word night in the 5th verse interprets the length of a day.
Some have laid stress upon the declaration that a thousand years are with the Lord as one day:—but what is the context?* To lengthen the day to a thousand years, on account of this and a similar expression, is not more reasonable than it would be to reduce it to a night-watch. What is a watch in the night when passed?—next to nothing:—so are a thousand years with the Almighty. These considerations tend to show how, without Chaldee or Hebrew learning, a man, with a common English education, may convince himself of a fact which has lately been so much controverted.†
* “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”—Ps. xc. ver. 4.
† I may, however, here remark to my young sailor friends, that the Jews, who perform their worship in Hebrew, and are naturally at least as much interested in the Old Testament as any people, use and prefer our authorised English translation.
Partly referring to such indefinite periods as we have been discussing,—and partly to reasoning unaided by revelation,—some geologists have said that there were successive creations, at intervals of vast duration. They have imagined an age in which only the ‘so-called’ lowest orders of animated creatures existed,* an age of fishes, an age of reptiles, an age of mammalia, and an age in which man appeared: statements which have obtained much attention. Fossil fishes and shell mollusca† have been found in coal measures, and in subjacent formations:—how could this have happened if vegetables had been produced first; then swept away and converted into coal, and that afterwards the lower orders of animals had appeared? We know that the fossil plants of the coal formations are similar in structure to vegetables now growing on the earth, which cannot flourish without warmth, and the light of the sun. Vegetation was produced on the third day, the sun on the fourth. If the third day was an age, how was the vegetable world nourished? But anomalies such as these appear to be endless in most geological theories: I will leave them for the present and continue my course.
* In classing one order of creatures above or below others, we may perhaps consider them as they appear to our apprehension, in comparison with others, but we must beware of thinking them more or less imperfect. Every creature is perfectly adapted to the condition and locality for which it is designed, and absolutely perfect (speaking generally). Some that are intended to live in the dark; or some that are to exist under pressure; may at first sight appear to us imperfect; perhaps shapeless, unsightly objects: but, after examination into their natural history, our hasty remark is succeeded by expressions of astonishment at such wonderful arrangements of Providence as are shewn—even in the most shapeless sea slug.
Multitudes of creatures exist now, especially in the sea, quite as apparently imperfect as those of the so called lowest order of animated creation, whose impressions are found in solid rocks. There may also be animals in deep waters that could not exist except under pressure.
† Rhind,§ Keith, Lyell, &c.
§ Probably, William Rhind: The Age of the Earth considered Geologically and Historically, p.44. Edinburgh, 1838. Fraser & Co.
In the 16th verse it is said that “God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night: the stars also;” that is, he made the stars also.
It is not stated here that the Almighty made all the stars at that time; nor can I, after consulting very able men, find any passage of such an import. That all the stars dependant upon, or connected with, our solar system, namely, the planets and their satellites, were then created, seems to be evident from the fact of their revolving round our sun; but farther than this, it is not thought necessary (may we not presume) for man to know; therefore it is not revealed to us. In the ancient book of Job, the creation of the world is thus alluded to. “Who laid the corner stone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”* But the earth was finished, and vegetation produced, before the creation of stars mentioned in Gen. i. 16; therefore, unless the ‘corner-stone’ alludes to man, it may be inferred that there were stars in existence besides those made on the fourth day. Of course, the ‘singing of the stars’ is a figurative expression; but as we do not meet with any similar metaphor in the Bible, unconnected with some object that we know exists; we may infer that stars existed when the allegorical, or mystical corner-stone was thus laid.†
* Job. xxxviii. 6, 7.
† Much must depend upon the limit attached to the meaning of the word Heaven in the 1st Chapter of Genesis, and Heavens in the 2nd; viewed in connection with verses 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, and 20 of Chap, i.; 1, 4, of Chap, ii.; verses 5, 7, 10, 13 of 2 Peter iii.; and very many other passages; not omitting the Lord's prayer.
In verses 29 and 30, the food for man and beast is mentioned, and with reference to the Deluge this should be borne in mind. It may be said that the teeth of some animals are so formed as to be fit only for grazing, or browzing; that beasts of prey have teeth adapted to tearing and gnawing; and that man requires meat; but we must remember that dogs and wild beasts thrive upon a vegetable diet, and that some men never touch meat, even in the present state of the world: very different probably from its condition before the flood, as may be concluded from the inferior duration of human life.
The 2d and 3d verses of chap. ii. recall to mind the wonderful fact that the seventh day has been a marked division of time from the earliest period of historical record.*
* We find it ordained in Gen. ii. 3; alluded to by Noah, chap. viii. ver. 10, 12; and afterwards observed regularly, down to the present time.
It is now well known that all nations, and almost all tribes of the human race, preserve traditions of a great flood in which nearly all men were destroyed:* and it is also established as a fact, that nearly all parts of the earth, hitherto examined, bear witness to their having been at some time covered by the ocean. Instead of ascribing these effects to the universal deluge, many geologists say that the earth is in a continual, though gradual state of change; that in consequence of this general mobility, places now far above the sea were once beneath it; that districts, or countries, may have been inundated in one quarter, and other regions elsewhere, but that an universal deluge never could have happened. This is implied plainly enough, if not asserted, in several geological works.
* Sharon Turner, Harcourt, &c.
In the Beagle's examination of the southern parts of South America, I had opportunities of observing immense tracts of land composed, solely, of fossil shells, bones, and an earth which looked like dried sandy mud:—extensive ranges of country where no solid rock could be found, only rolled or shingle stones, embedded to a great depth in earth, exactly like that described above;—and a wide district, at least fifty miles across, covered with lava of which the surface was nearly horizontal. (San Jose, San Julian, Santa Cruz.)
I brought to England many specimens of these shells, which, although taken from within a few feet of the surface of the land, were found to have been pressed together, crushed, and penetrated by mud, in a manner that never could have been caused by the weight of earth then lying above them, because, though solid, it could neither have mashed the shells, nor worked into their inmost recesses. It seems evident to me that those shells have undergone enormous pressure beneath an ocean, when they were surrounded with mud.* But previous to such pressure, the shells must have grown naturally somewhere:—certainly not at the bottom of an ocean; because they are shells of a comparatively delicate structure which are usually found within a few feet of low water; some at least of the number being identical with living species.
* On this subject, the pressure of an ocean, Mr. Lyell remarks, (Elements of Geology, ] 838, pp. 7, 8, 9.) “When sand and mud sink to the bottom of a deep sea the particles are not pressed down by the enormous weight of the incumbent ocean; for the water, which becomes mingled with the sand and mud, resists pressure with a force equal to that of the column of fluid above.” “Nevertheless if the materials of a stratum remain in a yielding state, and do not set or solidify, they will be gradually squeezed down by the weight of other materials successively heaped upon them, just as soft clay or loose sand on which a house is built may give way. By such downward pressure particles of clay, sand, and marl may become packed into a smaller space, and be made to cohere together permanently.”
“But the action of heat at various depths is probably the most powerful of all causes in hardening sedimentary strata.”
In reflecting upon these passages it appears to me that Mr. Lyell has supposed what may not always take place in a deep sea, namely—that sand and mud sink to the bottom.
Whenever particles of sand and mud are at the bottom, they must be lower than contiguous particles of water, or they could not be at the bottom; therefore those particles of sand and mud have water above, while resting upon some other substance below. Pressure there can be none, excepting of some earthy particles upon others, while the specific gravity of the sand and mud exceeds that of the displaced fluid. But, if the depth of water be increased, and its specific gravity at the bottom augmented, the sand and mud at the bottom must rise, if they do not cohere together, and to the surface on which they lie; in which case the increasing weight and density of water would tend to compress and make them cohere still more.
The smaller kinds of sea shells are very little heavier than sea water. This would prevent their being carried by the action of the sea to great depths, even if it were possible for them to be so rolled over rocks, sand, or mud, in which they would stick, or be buried, before they had been moved many miles from the place where they grew. These two considerations may help to account for the fact that seamen do not find impressions of shells, on the ‘arming’ of the lead, when sounding in very deep water, at a considerable distance from any shore where they grow. Sea-shells, I need hardly remark, grow only in comparatively shallow water.
The specific gravity of oyster shell, when dead, is about twice that of sea-water (2092,1028). Most other shells are much lighter, and but few at all heavier than the oyster.
Before ending this note I must remark that the horizontal movement of water near the bottom, though gentle, may tend to press together and smooth any loose sand, mud that sinks, oazy clay, or fragments of shells, before many of their particles travel far. Water in rapid motion is known to hold sand as well as mud in suspension, but not shells, unless the current is very strong. To such a constant agitation of the sea, oscillating gently with each tide, we may perhaps ascribe the comparatively level and smoothened state of the bed of the ocean, where it has hitherto been sounded. Excepting near irregular, rocky land, one finds, generally speaking, no ravines, no vallies, no abrupt transitions in the bottom of the sea. For miles together there is an almost equal or gradually altering depth of water: and little similarity can be traced between the contour of the bed of a sea and the neighbouring dry land, until you are near the shore, where the sea acts differently, and irregular bottom is as frequent as it is usually dangerous for shipping.
If the square miles of solid land in which those myriads of shells are now embedded, had been upheaved (as geologists say), either gradually, or rapidly, shells could not be found there in their present confused and compressed state. Had the land sunk down many thousand feet with shells upon it, they might have been covered with mud, and on being afterwards upheaved again they would have appeared embedded regularly where they grew, in a matrix which, with the pressure of a superincumbent ocean, might have flattened and penetrated them: but they would not have been torn away from their roots, rolled, broken, mashed, and mixed in endless confusion, similarly to those now in my possession.
There is also another consideration: geologists who contend for the central heat of the earth assert that substances subjected to great pressure under the sea become altered: hence, in conformity with their theory, these shells could not have been long buried under a deep ocean, and afterwards raised in their pristine state. So little changed are these shells, except in form, that they appear as if they had been heaped together and squeezed in mud within a few years from the present time.
One remarkable place, easy of access, where any person can inspect these shelly remains, is Port San Julian. There, cliffs, from ten to a hundred feet high, are composed of nothing but such earth and fossils; and as those dug from the very tops of the cliffs are just as much compressed as those at any other part, it follows that they were acted upon by an immense weight not now existing. From this one simple fact may be deduced the conclusions—that Patagonia was once under the sea; that the sea grew deeper over the land in a tumultuous manner, rushing to and fro, tearing up and heaping together shells which once grew regularly or in beds: that the depth of water afterwards became so great as to squeeze or mass the earth and shells together by its enormous pressure; and that after being so forced down, the cohesion of the mass became sufficient to resist the separating power of other waves, during the subsidence of that ocean which had overwhelmed the land. If it be shewn that Patagonia was under a deep sea, not in consequence of the land having sunk, but because of the water having risen, it will follow as a necessary consequence that every other portion of the globe must have been flooded to a nearly equal height, at the same time; since the tendency to equilibrium in fluids would prevent any one part of an ocean from rising much above any other part, unless sustained at a greater elevation by external force; such as the attraction of the moon, or sun; or a strong wind; or momentum derived from their agency. Hence therefore, if Patagonia was covered to a great depth, all the world was covered to a great depth; and from those shells alone my own mind is convinced, (independent of the Scripture) that this earth has undergone an universal deluge.
The immense fields of lava, spoken of in a preceding page (633)§, and which to an ordinary observer appear to be horizontal, are spread almost evenly over such an extent of country, that the only probable conclusion seems to be, that the lava was ejected while a deep sea covered the earth, and that tidal oscillations,* combined with immense pressure, spread and smoothed it, while in a rapidly cooling though viscous state, over the surface of the land.
§ There is nothing on page 633 about lava fields. Possibly this should be page 336; Chapter XVI, in which lava fields are described.
* See remarks on tides in the Appendix. [47: “Remarks on Tides”]
The vast quantity of shingle, or rounded stones of all sizes, may be accounted for in a manner unconnected with that of water acting upon a shore; though doubtless a great proportion of the shingle we see has been rounded in that manner. Melted stone, thrown out of a volcano, and propelled through water with great velocity, might be rounded and cooled as shot are when dropped into water from a tower. In modern volcanoes we observe that some matter is thrown into the air, while other, and the greater quantity, runs over the edges of a crater, overflowing the adjacent tracts of land.
Proceeding to the west coast of South America, we find that near Concepcion there are beds of marine shells at a great height above the level of the sea. These, say geologists, were once under the ocean, but, in consequence of the gradual upheaval of the land, are now far above it. They are closely compressed together, and some are broken, though of a very solid and durable nature; and being near the surface of the land are covered with only a thin stratum of earth. They are massed together in a manner totally different from any in which they could have grown, therefore the argument used in Patagonia is again applicable here. But in addition to this, there is another fact deserving attention: namely, that there are similar beds of similar shells, (identical with living species) about, or rather below the level of the present ocean, and at some distance from it.*
In crossing the Cordillera of the Andes Mr. Darwin found petrified trees, embedded in sandstone, six or seven thousand feet above the level of the sea: and at twelve or thirteen thousand feet above the sea-level he found fossil sea-shells, limestone, sandstone, and a conglomerate in which were pebbles of the “rock with shells.” Above the sandstone in which the petrified trees were found, is “a great bed, apparently about one thousand feet thick, of black augitic lava; and over this there are at least five grand alternations of such rocks, and aqueous sedimentary deposits, amounting in thickness to several thousand feet.”* These wonderful alternations of the consequences of fire and flood, are, to me, indubitable proofs of that tremendous catastrophe which alone could have caused them;—of that awful combination of water and volcanic agency which is shadowed forth to our minds by the expression “the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”
* Mr. Darwin's letters to Professor Henslow: printed for the Cambridge Philosophical Society—1835.
The upheaval of the island of Santa Maria has been quoted by geologists, from my statement; and it will be interesting to learn whether that island has remained at its new elevation, or whether, like the shore at Talcahuano,* it has sunk down again. If the coast in that neighbourhood has been gradually rising, it is strange that old Penco Castle should still stand so low (p. 421).
* See pages 420-1.
In Mr. Lyell's Elements of Geology,* he mentions Mr. Darwin having found, near Callao, “at the altitude of eighty-five feet above the sea, pieces of cotton thread, plaited rush, and the head of a stalk of Indian corn, all of which had evidently been imbedded with the shells” (marine). “At the same height on the neighbouring mainland, he found other signs corroborating the opinion that the ancient bed of the sea had there also been uplifted eighty-five feet, since the region was first peopled by the Peruvian race.” The neighbourhood of Lima has suffered from immense waves caused by earthquakes, and the relics found among the shells may have been scattered by one of those waves. The bed of shells may have been disturbed by the earthquake and its consequences, the ground may have been rent, and afterwards closed again, or the opening may have been filled up by loose earth and anything lying on it, as has taken place at Concepcion. That the country near Callao, or Lima, has not been upheaved, to any sensible amount, since the last great earthquake, which was accompanied by a wave that swept over and destroyed Callao, is evident from the present position of a pillar erected soon after that event to mark the place to which the waves advanced inland.† This pillar now stands so low, that waves, such as those which ruined Talcahuano, would inevitably reach its base; again destroying the whole of Callao, still situated on a flat, very few feet above the sea, near where old Callao stood.
* 1838, pp. 295-6.
† In 1746.
I have now mentioned the principal facts connected with the Beagle's voyage, which I am desirous of noticing with reference to the Deluge. Want of space prevents my adding others: I have hardly room left to lay before my young readers some general considerations, arising partly out of these facts, which I hope may interest—perhaps be useful to them.
When one thinks of the Deluge, questions arise, such as “where did the water come from to make the flood; and where did it go to after the many months it is said to have covered the earth?” To the first the simplest answer is “from the place whence the earth and its oceans came:”—the whole being greater than its part, it may be inferred that the source which supplied the whole could easily supply an inferior part:—and, to the second question,—“part turned into earth, by combination with metallic bases; part absorbed by, and now held in the earth; and part evaporated.”* We know nothing of the state of the earth, or atmosphere surrounding it, before the Flood; therefore it is idle and unphilosophical to reason on it, without a fact to rely on. We do not know whether it moved in the same orbit; or turned on its axis in a precisely similar manner;—whether it had then huge masses of ice near the poles;—or whether the moon was nearer to it, or farther off. Believers in the Bible know, however, that the life of man was very much longer than it now is, a singular fact, which seems to indicate some difference in atmosphere, or food, or in some other physical influence. It is not so probable that the constitution of man was very different (because we see that human peculiarities are transmitted from father to son), as it is to suppose that there was a difference in the region where he existed.
* Electricity may have acted a prominent part in these changes.
It is easy to settle such speculations by the reflection—“It was the will of Him who is Almighty;” but as in most cases we see that secondary causes are employed to work out His will, we may imagine that the extraordinary prolongation of man's existence was effected by such means.
Connected with these questions respecting the additional quantity of water is the reflection that the amount must have been very great. This may be placed in another light. Sir John Herschel says,* “On a globe of sixteen inches in diameter such a mountain (five miles high) would be represented by a protuberance of no more than one hundredth part of an inch, which is about the thickness of ordinary drawing paper. Now as there is no entire continent, or even any very extensive tract of land, known, whose general elevation above the sea is any thing like half this quantity, it follows, that if we would construct a correct model of our earth, with its seas, continents, and mountains, on a globe sixteen inches in diameter, the whole of the land, with the exception of a few prominent points and ridges, must be comprised on it within the thickness of thin writing paper; and the highest hills would be represented by the smallest visible grains of sand.”—Such being the case, a coat of varnish would represent the diluvial addition of water; and how small an addition to the mass does it appear!
* Treatise on Astronomy, Cabinet Cyclopedia, page 22.
Let us now refer briefly to the recorded account of the Flood. Without recapitulating dates and events, I will at once advert to the ark:—an immense vessel,* constructed of very durable wood,† and well stored with vegetable provision for all that it contained. Some cavillers have objected to the heterogeneous mixture of animals embarked; on the ground that they could not have been assembled; and would have destroyed one another. We may reply: He who made, could surely manage. But, without direct miraculous interposition (though we should never forget that man is a miracle, that this world is a miracle, that the universe is a miracle), imagine the effect that would be produced on the animal creation by the approach of such a war of elements.
* Sharon Turner, Harcourt, Burnett, &c.
† Some of our English ships have lasted more than a century.
Do we not now find animals terrified by an earthquake—birds shunning the scene of violence,—dogs running out of a town,* and rats forsaking a sinking ship? What overcoming terror would possess the animated beings on an island, if it were found to be rapidly sinking while worse than tropical ‘torrents, aggregated water-spouts, thunder and lightning, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions united to dismay, if not to paralyse, the stoutest human heart: yet such probably would be but a faint similitude of the real deluge. Those who have themselves witnessed the war of elements, in some regions of our globe, are perhaps more able to conceive an idea, however inadequate, of such a time, than persons who have scarcely travelled beyond Europe, or made more than ordinary sea voyages. Happily for man, hurricanes or typhoons occur but rarely: earthquakes, on a great scale; their overwhelming waves; and devastating eruptions of volcanoes, still less often. That the approach of a general calamity would have affected animals, what we now see leads us to infer, and that many would have fled to the ark, is only in accordance with the wonderful instinct they are gifted with for self-preservation. Proud man would, in all probability, have despised the huge construction of Noah, and laughed to scorn the idea that the mountains could be covered, even when he saw the waters rising. Thither, in his moral blindness, he would have fled, with numbers of animals that were excluded from the ark, or did not go to it; for we do not see all animals, even of one kind, equally instinctive. As the creatures approached the ark, might it not have been easy to admit some, perhaps the young and the small, while the old and the large were excluded † As we do not know what was the connection or partition of land, before the deluge; how the creatures were distributed; or, what was the difference of climate between one region and another; we cannot say that any particular kind could not have been near the ark because of crossing the sea, or having far to travel.
* Concepcion and Talcahuano, pp. 403, 5.
† The small number of enormous animals that have existed since the Deluge, may be a consequence of this shutting out of all but a very few. We are not told how many creatures died in the ark; some of those least useful to man may have gone: but, even if none died, the few that quitted the ark could hardly have long withstood the rapid increase of enemies, unless their increase had been proportionably quick. Whether Job had himself seen, or only heard of, the leviathan and the behemoth, does not appear; but that these monsters were the megalosaurus and the iguanadon there seems to be little doubt (Burnett, p. 67.) Excepting the serpent in Africa, which opposed the passage of Regulus and a Roman army, I am not aware whether profane history mentions any well-authenticated instance of such enormous reptiles; but I cannot look at our representations of dragons, wyverns, griffins, &c. without thinking that, at least, tradition must have banded down the memory of some such monsters; even if a stray one here and there did not actually live in the earlier historical ages: pterodactyles, plesiosauri, ichthyosauri, &c. are too like them, in general figure, to admit of this idea being treated as altogether chimerical. Tradition, no doubt exaggerated by imagination, may have handed down the fact of such creatures having once existed: indeed the casual finding of a skeleton might confirm reports, if not originate them.
There is abundant proof that animals have changed their habits, shape, coat, colour, or size, in consequence of migration, or transportation to different climates; therefore we cannot tell, from what is now seen, what alterations have taken place since their second dispersion.
Many able men* have pointed out how water penetrating to metallic bases, may cause volcanic eruptions; how matter thrown up, and materials torn or washed off the earth may have combined, mechanically as well as chemically; how gases may have assisted the transformations: how creatures may have been instantaneously overwhelmed, or gradually entombed; how lime may have been one among many powerful agents; how seeds, and spawn, and the germs of insects may have been preserved; and why, among such multitudes of fossil remains as we now find, only in a few places are there remains of man incontrovertibly fossil.†
* Davy, Sharon Turner, Fairholme, Burnett, Granville Penn, Sumner, Young, Rhind, Lyell, Cockburn, &c.
† These fossil remains of man are not only mixed with those of animals, or fish; but in some cases they are buried at a distance beneath fossil bones of animals.—See Fairholme on the Mosaic Deluge, pp. 41—52; Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 455, &c.
Still there are some points but lightly touched, or unnoticed, by any person whose works bearing particularly on this subject I have yet seen. One is the rapidity with which certain substances combine under water, and form stone; such, for instance,* as those used in Roman cement:—another is the possibility of fragile substances, such as shells, small creatures, leaves, corallines, branches, &c., being enveloped in a muddy matrix, while floating at various depths, according to their specific gravities; and the precipitation (chemically speaking) or consolidation, or simple deposition of such cohering masses.†
* Lyell, Elements of Geology, 1838, p. 75-6.
† The simplest experiments with pulverised, or numerous minute substances in water, shew that they attract one another mutually, and then cohere.
The similarity of coal to asphalte inclines one to suspect an identity of origin; and that coal, in a fluid state, enveloped quantities of vegetable matter—was for some time agitated by the continual tides and tidal currents of the diluvial ocean, and afterwards hardened by cooling, by pressure, or by chemical change; if not by all three. We find the impressions of leaves, stems, and branches—and even large woody trunks embedded in coal: but that the matrix, in which the leaves were enveloped and subjected to pressure, was not triturated vegetable matter is probable, because the casts of delicate vegetable substances found in it show few, if any, signs of friction or maceration. The impressions are as beautifully perfect as those of shells in fossils where the shell itself has disappeared. Might we not as well say that limestone was formed out of decomposed or pulverised shells, as assert that coal was formed out of the luxuriant herbage, the ferns and the palms, of a former state of the world?
Asphalte is at first buoyant; that trees and other vegetable productions are so I need not remark; but coal sinks in water, and asphalte may be altered chemically so as to sink like coal. Experiments on the asphalte of the famous lake at Trinidad have proved that there is so very close an analogy between that substance and coal, that a gas, exactly resembling coal gas, and burning equally well; a bituminous oil; a substance like coal-tar; and a residuum, similar to coke; result from its distillation.
Electricity may have been a powerful agent in crystallization; in the rapid deposition of strata;* in the formation of mineral veins;† in earthquakes and volcanoes; in the formation or decomposition of water; and in other ways of which we are yet, and perhaps ever shall be, totally ignorant.
Successive strata may have been rapidly deposited by tidal oscillations and currents, aiding chemical or mechanical combinations.
The depth to which bodies would sink in an ocean several miles deep has not been proved, and there is reason to think that it is much less than people generally imagine. An eminent man has said that a knowledge of “the depression of the bed of the ocean below the surface, overall its extent, is attainable (with whatever difficulty and however slowly) by direct sounding;”* and, in consequence of a conversation on this subject with him in 1836, he wrote to me, suggesting a mode which might be tried. I consulted with a friend as to the possibility of success, and his letter,† taken in connection with the facts related by Scoresby;‡ with what has been found by those who have sounded to great depths; and with my own practical experience in sounding—has induced me to think that man never will reach the lowest depths of the deepest oceans by any method his ingenuity may contrive;—because the water increases in density with the depth, in a ratio perhaps more than arithmetical.
* Treatise on Astronomy, by Sir John Herschel—Cabinet Cyclopaedia—page 154.
† “I return Sir John Hersehel's letter on deep-sea sounding. Anything from him is sure to be interesting and instructive; but there is a circumstance unnoticed in his communication which might obstruct the descent of a sounding apparatus to very great depth. (Liby. of Useful Knowledge, vol. 1. Art. Hydrostatics.) Hydrostatic pressure has usually been estimated from depth alone, assuming that the density of the fluid was uniform; such, however, cannot be the case in an elastic fluid like water, for at great depths, being in a compressed state, it is more dense than at the surface.
“In estimating the amount of hydrostatic pressure at great depths, we should know the vertical height of the column and mean density of the fluid; and since density increases with depth, by reason of superincumbent pressure, the water at great depths must be enormeusly compressed, and, consequently, in a very dense state. Let us now inquire how increasing density (from compression alone) might affect an apparatus sent down by a weight, in order to reach the bottom, presuming that the solids composing the float and sinker were incompressible, and retained their form and magnitude during the operation.
“Let bees-wax be a float, and cast-iron a sinker, and let each, for illustration, be one cubic foot in dimensions. Let it be possible that at some depth water may be compressed into one-fourth of its bulk at the surface, and still retain the properties of a fluid; let it also be granted that a solid will swim if specifically lighter than the contiguous fluid, and sink if heavier than an equal volume of the fluid. The specific gravity of bees'-wax is stated to be 964; that of cast iron, 7248; and that of seawater at the surface, 1028: hence the buoyancy of wax immersed in seawater at the surface, may be called 64, and the tendency of cast-iron to sink, from the same surface, 6220. Deducting 64, we have 6156 as the whole tendency of the mass (wax attached to iron) to sink from the surface. Let us now suppose that the machine has attained a depth where the water is compressed into a four-fold density, represented by 4112 for a cubic foot; and we have 3148 for the tendency of the wax to float, but only 3136 for the tendency of the iron to sink: and the inclination to ascend rather than descend, might be represented by 12. Thus we see that an apparatus may not be certain of arriving at the bottom of an ocean: as in an opposite manner, a balloon may not reach the highest regions of the atmosphere. Either machine could only attain a position where there would be no tendency either to descend or ascend.
Plymouth, 24th Feb. 1837. “William Walker.”
‡ Scoreshy's Arctic Regions.
Every seaman knows that in sounding at great depths very heavy leads must be used with ordinary lines, or very thin lines with ordinary leads; the object being the same—that of overcoming the augmenting buoyancy of the line by a weight unusually heavy. But line, such as is used for sounding, is not buoyant at the surface of the sea; a coil of it thrown overboard sinks directly. Then what is it that causes any weight attached to a sounding-line to sink slower and more slowly, after the first few hundred fathoms, the deeper it penetrates; if not the increased resistance to sinking, found by the weight and line? “Friction, caused bypassing through the water,” I may be told. Can that friction be compared with the augmented tendency to sink that would be given by the continually increasing weight of line, if the water did not increase in density?
The pressure of the column of water over any weight, after it has been sunk some hundred fathoms, is shown by the time and exertion required to haul it up again. The operation of sounding in very deep water, with any considerable weight, occupies several hours, and a great number of men. That water is elastic has been proved by Canton's experiments as well as others: but there are familiar illustrations of this fact visible in ricochet shot, in ‘ducks and drakes,’ in the splashing of water, and in the rebounding of rain-drops from water. Being elastic, and the lower strata being under enormous pressure, it follows that those strata of water must be more dense than the body above them. No one doubts that the lower regions of the atmosphere are denser than the higher; yet air is but a rarer and much more elastic fluid than water. That which takes place in air, to a great extent, may be expected to occur in a very diminished degree with water. If it were not so, why should stones be blown up, casks violently burst, or rocks suddenly torn asunder by the application of the principle usually described as the hydrostatic paradox? If the water were not highly compressed before the explosion takes place, would there not be a gradual yielding, a tearing asunder by degrees, instead of a sudden and violent bursting.?
The object of this digression is to show that although bodies which are not buoyant may sink to a considerable depth, it does not follow that they must sink to the bottom. Each separate thing may sink a certain distance, in proportion to its specific gravity, and there remain. The greatest depths ever reached by heavy weights, attached to lines, do not exceed a mile and a-half; a small distance, probably, compared with the depth of the diluvial flood.
Although metals, stone, rock, or coal may have sunk deeply in the waters, other substances, such as earth, mud, bones, animal and human remains, &c., may have been held at various depths until decomposed by water; or combined and consolidated by volcanic gases, or electric currents. In this manner the preservation of delicate corallines, shells, skeletons of animals, &c., may be accounted for. Suspended in water, surrounded by earth in a dissolved state, combined by chemical agency, deposited on land, and consolidated by pressure, by volcanic or by latent heat, they may have become fossils. Thick skinned animals may have floated longest, because their hides would have buoyed them up for a greater length of time,* hence their remains should be found near, or upon the surface of the ground, in some cases waterworn, in others uninjured, according as they had been strewed among shingle, or deposited in a yielding mass. That bones were not rolled about much among the stones in which they are found,† is evident from the fact that bones, if so rolled among them, would soon be ground to powder. It is clear that, however much the bones may have been water-worn before deposition on land, both they, and the adjacent shingle, must have been deposited there nearly about the same time.
* When ‘blown’ after putrefaction began.
† Those, for instance, of Blanco Bay, p. 112. [No reference to Blanco Bay on that page.]
Tripoli stone, and other substances composed chiefly, if not entirely, of microscopic insects, may have been formed by the accumulation and cohesion of myriads of such minute creatures, swept together off the land, like swarms of locusts, aggregated by the rolling of the waves, agglutinated, deposited on the land, and afterwards heavily compressed. Or they may have been insects bred in water; such as those which Mr, Darwin calculated to amount to “one hundred thousand in a square inch of surface;” while the sea was streaked with them for a great distance.* Microscopic objects such as these may have been killed by some gas rising from a volcano beneath; then drawn together by mutual attraction, rolled over and over, and landed among other recent compositions. In what other way could such a mass of these animalcules be heaped together?
* Darwin's Letters to Professor Henslow, printed for private distribution among the members of the Cambridge Philosophical Society: in 1835.
There are also effects of existing causes which authors have only mentioned by name, in reference to the Deluge, without explaining that the effects alluded to would have been enormously increased at that time;—I mean the tides.—In the Appendix§ to this volume is a short statement of the manner in which tides may act—upon the principles of the ocean oscillating in its bed; and of tides being caused, partly by the water being elevated by the moon and sun, partly by a westward momentum given to it by their attraction, and partly by the oscillation caused by the return of the fluid after being elevated. If this globe were covered with water to the height of a few miles above the present level of the ocean, three more particular effects would take place: an enormous pressure upon the previously existing ocean, and on all low land; a diminished gravity in the uppermost waters, resulting from their removal from the earth's centre; and immense tides, in consequence of the increased depth of the mass, the diminished weight of the upper fluid, and the augmentation of the moon's attraction. As the waters increased on the earth, the tides would also increase, and vast waves would rush against the sides of the mountains, stripping off all lighter covering, and blowing up,* or tearing down, enormous masses of rock. Similar effects would take place as the diluvial ocean decreased, until it became bounded by its proper limits. Such oscillations I conceive to be alluded to by the words “going and returning,”† and by the expression, “they go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys”‡ which exactly describes the rushing of enormous waves against high land. When a wave strikes against a rock, it dashes up every projection that opposes it; but—its impetus at an end—down the water runs again through cavities and hollows: such, on a grand scale, would be the effect of a diluvial wave urged against a mountain side.
* By the extraordinary power, or principle, called the hydrostatic paradox.
§ Appendix, 47: “Remarks on Tides,” p. 283.
† Gen. viii., V. 5, marginal translation.
‡ Psalm civ. ver. 8.
In such a war of waters, earth, and fire; a buoyant, closed-in vessel—without masts, rudder, or external ‘hamper’ to hold wind, or catch a sea—might have floated uninjured; and the fewer openings, of any description, in her cover, or sides, the better for her security. Seeing nothing of the conflict around might have diminished the excessive terror which must have been felt by those that were within, except the confiding Chief. We do not find that the largest or highest ‘swell’ injures a good ‘sea-boat,’ when in deep water, and far from land: the foaming ‘breakers’ alone destroy. But, after all, such conjectures as these are vain, we cannot now know how far miraculous interposition extended—how far secondary causes were employed.
The landing of the ark on a mountain of middle height appears remarkable; because the climate of the highest, on which we might naturally suppose the ark rested, did we not know to the contrary, might have been insupportable during the time that Noah waited for the recess of the waters.* Reasoning from existing circumstances, the temperature of the surface of the ocean would have been nearly that of the contiguous air: but after the waters had receded, high mountain tops would have gradually acquired their present frozen state.
* The Deluge began in the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, and seventeenth day of the month (Gen. vii. 11),; and Noah quitted the ark in the six hundred and first year, in the second month, and twenty-seventh day of the month (Gen. viii. 14), making a period of twelve months and ten days. Noah waited in the ark nearly five months after it grounded on Ararat.
Here the reflection arises—when did icebergs begin to appear? Was not the climate equable and temperate all over the world for some time after the Deluge, in consequence of the slow drying and warming of tropical regions, and gradual formation of ice near the poles? Such a condition of climate would have favoured the distribution of animals. Those who oppose the idea that animals migrated to various quarters of the globe, surely do not reflect that the swallow, the wild swan, the wild goose, the wild horse, the Norway rat, and numerous other creatures, now migrate periodically in search of food or a better climate. Similar instinct may have taught animals to wander then, till they reached the places suited to them;* and there the same instinct would retain them. Want of proper food, or climate; or the attacks of enemies,† may have destroyed stragglers who did not migrate; therefore, when we find no kangaroos in Europe, it is no proof that kangaroos did not once exist there. Elks are now found in North America—we know they were formerly in Europe—is that race here now? During the first few hundred years after the flood, extraordinary changes may have taken place in the geography of the world, in consequence of the drying and altering of various portions; also from the effects of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, occasioned perhaps by electric action on newly-exposed land, as well as by other causes. Many places, now islands, may have been united to a continent for a considerable period after the deluge; much land may have sunk down, much may have risen up, in various parts of the world. Such changes are said to be going on even now, though on a small scale (Lyell, Darwin, &c.); what may they not have been during the first few centuries after the flood? Volcanic eruptions, such as those of the Galapagos, Andes, Etna, Auvergne, Indian Islands, &c., were then perhaps in such activity as they have never shown since.
* We see abundant evidence that either living creatures are adapted to particular climates and localities, or that climates and localities are adapted to particular creatures; which latter, it has been proved by many authors, are altered by any material change of the former.
† It should be remembered, that man was allowed to eat flesh after the flood. Gen. ix. ver. 3.
What the division in the earth was, in the days of Peleg, does not distinctly appear: but it could only have been a separation from the true faith; a partition of territory among men; or some mighty convulsion, some rending or contraction, as it were, of the earth, which was so general as to have occasioned a marked and unqualified record, as of an event well known to all.
Many philosophers think that the world has a central region of surpassing heat, and that the greater part of the interior of the globe is in a state of incandescence, if not of fusion. That small portion which they call the crust of the earth is supposed to be the only cooled part; and they differ merely as to the degree of fluidity in the central region. I take it for granted that they have duly estimated the moon's tendency to cause tides in a fluid mass, within her influence:—if there were no crust, of course she would cause such an effect, but a well hardened case, we must suppose, can resist any such movement in the central fluid mass. Upon the principle of the arch, it would be easier to imagine resistance to pressure from without than from within; but the case or crust of our globe must be so solid that it neither yields nor vibrates to an internal expansive force.
This theory, however, is unsupported by any satisfactory evidence. Men of character and attainments have advocated it, although resting on conjecture: but when we look back along the roll of history, and discover so few philosophers who have not greatly erred, although famed in their day, it is natural to pause, and not acquiesce hastily in mere human assertion unsubstantiated by proof. Boring the ground, or examining the temperature of the bottom of a deep mine, affords no estimate for that of the central regions:—Sir John Herschel says,* that “the deepest mine existing does not penetrate half a mile below the surface; a scratch or pinhole duly representing it on the surface of such a globe, (sixteen inches in diameter), would be imperceptible without a magnifier.” As our globe is about eight thousand miles in diameter, and external influence may be supposed to penetrate some distance, we can draw but unsatisfactory conclusions from experiments at depths not nearly so great even as that to which the ocean descends, and made chiefly in temperate or cold climates.
* Treatise on Astronomy; Cabinet Cyclopsedia, p. 22, Art. 30.
Having no pretension to more knowledge than any observant seaman may acquire in the course of a few years active employment afloat, it would be as vain as presumptuous in me, were I to offer any conjecture about the central mass of the earth. Perhaps, at a future day, when the nature of aerolites; the agency of electricity; and of electric communication through the superficial, if not through the interior regions of the globe, are better known, other opinions, respecting this wonderful world which we inhabit, may be formed by philosophers.
I have now fulfilled my intention of endeavouring to be useful, in however small a degree, to young persons of my own profession. If the few remarks laid before them, in this and the preceding chapter, at all increase their interest in the subjects spoken of; and tend, even in the least, to warn them against assenting hastily to new theories—while they induce a closer examination into the Record of truth—my object in writing them will be fully attained.