237 1792 July
Pass Moreea or Eimeo – Another Otahytean on board besides Mideedee, his name Baubo – Very good look out kept – Island Whytootackay – Intercourse with the Natives – Language somewhat similar to the Otahytean – No Harbour appeared – Women dance the Heeva – Some account of the Bounty's mutineers – Want of Journal – Make the Mayorga Islands – Blighs Islands – Intercourse with the natives – Christened the Islands alphabetically – Canoes – Sir Joseph Banks – A mutiny nearly taking place in the Endeavour, 17 – Paradise Island – White, and Ocean Water, the terms at the Bahamas – Alphabet expended, begin naming the Islands numerically – proceed westward [inserted]New Hebrides – South Coast of New Guinea – Noddies, Boobies &c &c – Zeal of Lieut. Portlock – Armour for the Boats crews – See the Reefs Eastward of Torres Straits – Enter the Straits – Boats employed – Affair in the cutter with the Natives – Canoes – Various Islands – Anchor frequently – Eight Canoes approach the Vessels, and consequence – Two men wounded in the Assistant, one mortally – Arrows &c &c – Proceed westward – Look out Island – Dangerous anchorage – Enter the Indian Ocean – &c &c &c
Thetis, Coast of Virginia Apl. 1797
19th. Leaving Otahytey a course was shaped to the Westward, passing Moreea (or Eimeo) at a few leagues distance. It appeared to be surrounded with reefs. The valleys exhibited plenty, being well supplied with bread fruit, cocoa nut, and other useful trees, the mountains rising above them in the most picturesque forms, one in particular on the North West part of the Island
238 1792 July Moreea, or Eimeo
bearing a close resemblance to the steeple of a church.
It was now found that there was another Otahytean on board besides Mideedee. Baubo had, in a manner, concealed himself in the ship, yet perhaps not without the knowledge of some of his English friends. He had ever attached himself to the botanists Messieurs Wiles and Smith; to the latter in an affectionate degree, and was determined to follow his fortunes across the ocean, nor could this poor fellow have fixed his faith on a more worthy man. But Baubo never reached England—on the arrival of the Providence at Jamaica it was decided that Mr. Wiles should remain there to superintend the plants, and Baubo knowing that his presence could not but be of service to "the cause" joined him, with every hope ere long to make the last stage after the plants were permanently established, yet with great regret at the seperation from his friend Mr. Smith. At Jamaica by his great good humour he had become a favorite with all the neighbourhood. He had been inoculated with Mideedee at St. Vincents for the small pox and with every favorable effect. What his disorder was afterwards at Jamaica I did not learn, but some time after our return to England his death was announced in the newspapers.
The most difficult part of the voyage was now opening, and until we reached the Indian Ocean by Torres Straits, each night was passed in an anxious "look out"
24th. The Latitude at noon was [blank] South. Longitude by [blank]
Before Sun set the Island Whytootackay was seen about six leagues distant
25th. Early in the morning bore up for the southern
239 1792 July Whytootackay
part under easy sail, from which, at the distance of our or five miles, are some Keys with trees on them, connected by a reef appearing Otahytey encircle the Island. Many natives were on the beach and in canoes about the reef. On hauling our wind off the western part, three canoes containing in all about a dozen men, after our making signs of friendship, came along side. Nails and every implement made of iron were enquired for with the greatest avidity, in return for which they bartered the only ornament about their persons, a pearl oyster shell hung to their breast by a collar of plaited human hair, in the manner of a gorget. They also disposed of some spears about twelve feet in length, the sharp point being of a very dark hard wood, and jagged like a turtle peg. Whether these spears are used as weapons of war, or to procure fish, we could not determine. One man had a club formed of the Toa tree of Otahytey. They were muscular and well formed, and in colour the same as the Otahyteans. (But I believe nothing has been yet said on this subject; I must therefore go back again, and observe that it is a clear olive, yet varying much in shade, more so perhaps than is to be observed in England between the darkest and the fairest skins, but of whatever tint there is a transparency, if the expression may be used, diffirent from what is to be seen among the people of colour in our own colonies, nor did we always look in vain for the blood "mantling" in the cheeks—certainly not gifted with the lily or the rose—of some of these island beauties. The male part of the royal family were darker than most of the natives, (young Otoo indeed, was an exception, being more of the colour of his mother) with coarse black hair, in some flowing loosely of great length down
240 1792 July Whytootackay
the back, others having it cropped quite short. Tatowing is practiced by them, but the breech, so common in the Island we had left, was free from these stains. One among our visitors had every part of his body marked with scars from one to three inches long, which did not appear to be accidental. Some had their faces daubed over, not a little proud of it, with a kind of red pigment. Their beards were not wholly eradicated, but cropped short. With the comfort of cleanliness they seemed unacquainted, being by no means free from vermin. One man wore the exact dress of the ratteera or gentleman of Otahytey, that of the others was simply a piece of the Island cloth passed round the loins and brought up between the thighs.
Their language bore some affinity to that of Otahytey, yet neither Mideedee or Baubo allowed it to be the same. On the canoes first approaching, we called to them arromaye, (come here, or bring) which they perfectly understood.
As the vessels drifted to the westward the natives were anxious to get away, and while we were in the act of wearing put off in the canoes, leaving two of their countrymen on board, nor could all our waving and calling bring the canoes back again. This brought us to the necessity of making the two take the water, in the hope the canoes would pick them up, but no attention was paid to them, and one became so very exhausted that had not Mr. Portlock in the Assistant taken him on board, he most likely would soon have been drowned. The Brig then stood in shore and stopped the canoes.
The conduct of these Islanders on this occasion gave us but an unfavorable opinion of their humanity, nor could our kind and gentle Otahyteans help
expressing their indignation in the most feeling manner against those in the canoes, for deserting their countrymen.
The Island appeared destitute of harbours, and from the very light colour of the water within the reef, it could not be many feet deep. The dark blue line of "ocean water," as it is termed by the Bahama pilots, formed a striking contrast, and particularly on being viewed from the mast head, where we sometimes went (not indeed as is now the case, when the hands are turned up to make sail to reconnoitre the chace,) to get a more enlarged range for the eye. It was my first trip aloft on these occasions after quitting Otahytey, and as well as a commanding view of Whitootackay, our floating garden was particularly attractive. I might add that besides the bread fruit and other plants to be seen on the quarter deck, and in part of the cabin, a great deal of the rigging was crowded with plantains, cocoa nuts, and other fruits and vegetables, which had been taken on board for ourselves and Stock. Some consumption, it is true, had eased the shrouds and stays, but still a "birds eye" view gave the Providence nearly in a garb of green, attended by her Assistant in the same gay livery.
Whytootackay is three or four leagues in circuit, of a fertile appearance, and abundantly supplied with cocoa nut trees, amid which were the huts of the inhabitants, who, in proportion to the extent of the Isle, were numerous. It was remarked that numbers of the cocoa nut trees had lost their foliage and some broken off nearly half way down the trunk; probably from high winds.
As we sailed past the island it was easy with our glasses to see the women dancing the Heeva on the beach in its full latitude the signs made by them for a closer intercourse with the ships being by no means repulsive but inviting.
242 1792 July Whytootackay
Their canoes were formed with much neatness, and so very narrow that without the outrigger it would be impossible to prevent their overturning. The sail was a piece of cloth about the size of an handkerchief fastened by the corners to two spears held upright by one of the crew. Some canoes within the reef contained ten or twelve persons.
At Otahytey we had learnt that many of the mutineers of the Bounty had been secured by Captain Edwards of the Pandora about a year before our arrival, yet as the fate of the others was still unknown, particular enquiries were made at this Island but could only learn that some vessel had been there not long before us. This doubtless was the Pandora, Captain Edwards having examined Whytootackay without success in his voyage homewards.
Captain Bligh ever entertained an idea that the mutineers would visit this Island.
Where these wretched men may be, if in existence, we have yet to learn. The Otahyteans stated that, Christian (Titreano) returned there with a plausible tale of some accident having happened to Captain Bligh and such of the officers and crew who were not in the ship. Here the Bounty remained but a shore time, and then sailed for Tobouai an Island above an hundred leagues to the southward. On her arrival at Tobouai little stock of any kind was found there, which induced Christian to again seek Otahytey and lade the ship with such articles as would be useful in his intended settlement. Still no suspicion was entertained by the natives of the mutiny, and after taking on board a quantity of Hogs, fowls, and goats, he again departed and arrived safely at Tobouai, accompanied by several natives; but the inhabitants were by no means desirous for his remaining, opposing it by every means in their power. Several encounters took place, Christian having entrenched his party in the hope of forcing a settlement,
243 1792 July
but after remaining about three months and dissensions arising among themselves, the plan was relinquished, and the Bounty returned a third, and last time to Otahytey. The Armourer, Joseph Coleman, who Captain Bligh in his distressing narrative states as being "kept contrary to his inclination," I have since conversed with, when he assured me that Christian was so intent on fixing his party at Tobouai as to have begun a drawbridge, the hinges being actually completed.
The ship was no sooner anchored that most of the mutineers went on shore, where they were again received by the chiefs with cordiality and good will, but a suspicion soon arose in the minds of the natives that foul play had been used to Captain Bligh; possibly insinuations to that effect were made by some of the crew. This so much raised the indignation of Orepaia and the other Chiefs that they determined to attempt getting possession of the ship, and in which, they said, many of the mutineers offered to cooperate. Christian by some means received an intimation of their intentions, and aware of the danger of delay, waited only until night when he cut the ships cable and stood to sea. There were with him seven or eight of the crew, about an equal number of Otahytean women, two men, and a child or two. The ship was plentifully supplied with all kinds of provisions and stores.
The remainder continued at Otahytey until Captain Edwards, who in the Pandora was sent in search of the mutineers, arrived there in March 1791. Two of them indeed were killed previously, Churchill the Master at arms, and Thompson. It appears that one having shot the other in a quarrel, the native friends of the deceased instantly revenged themselves on the murderer.
At the Morai in Oparrey there was a skull, which the natives reported to be Thompsons, preserved with
244 1792 July Whytootackay
After reading the preceding account, (which was collected from the natives,) you will no doubt encourage various conjectures respecting the fate of Christian and his followers; so have I, but, to be still in darkness. It seems that Captain Edwards, in May 1791 discovered a yard and some spars at the Palmerston Isles in Latd. [blank] South, Longde. [blank] marked "Bounty," yet this is not even a proof of that ship having been in the neighbourhood. It has been mentioned that some articles, from the wreck of the Matilda Whaler were found at Otahytey, a distance of three hundred leagues from where she was lost, only four month before, and the Bountys spars most likely had drifted to the Palmerstons Isles from her wreck, whether purposely destroyed by Christian or accident. His persevering efforts to form a settlement at Tobouai naturally leads us to believe that a similar attempt was made elsewhere, which if accomplished, was the more free from discovery by the destruction of the ship. But, to return to a voyage more auspicious than that of the Bounty, which my pen shall drop, at all events, for the present, however much I may think of it. Yet may it as well be remarked that the Pandora was wrecked about four months after quitting Otahytey on a reef in Latitude 11°..22′ South, Longitude 143°..38′East, near the easter entrance of Torres Straits, when four of the mutineers (and thirty five of the crew) were drowned.
It has been observed that, owing to our journals being in "requisition" I had but some loose scraps remaining to lead me along. This already appears, in the Providence reaching Whytootackay without any of the Society Islands having been noticed. It is true they were passed at so great a distance, we had no communication with their inhabitants.
245 1792 August Mayorga Isles
2d. The Course was continued Westward. In the night, land was seen to the WNW. The vessels were instantly hauled by the wind, and kept working with as much sail as they could bear. The weather was dark and squally, but fortunately had cleared for a short time to give us a sight of the land, towards which, the vessels were steering a direct course.
3d. As the day broke, the land bore from South West by West, to West by North half North, four or five leagues distant. Bearing away, it was passed at three or four leagues distance. The Latitude at noon was 18..29 South, Longitude corrected from Time Keepers [blank] East. The North East part of the Island bearing S73°Et. West Cape S19°E. A high mountainous Island S42°W, and another Island N29°Wt 11 or 12 leagues distant. The shore appeared bold, in most parts rising in cliffs from the sea and well clothed with wood. Cocoa nuts were growing in the lower grounds. No inhabitants or huts were observed, or smoke, or any thing to indicate its being peopled. At sun set the ship were hauled by the wind, and kept their situation throughout the night by tacking.
4th. At day light bore away, and in a few hours lost sight of the land. The Latitude at noon was 18°..20′ South. Longitude by Time Keepers 184°..35′ East. These three Islands, it seems, were discovered by a Spaniard in 1781, who gave them the name "of Mayorga Isles."
5th. The Assistant leading in the forenoon made the signal for Land. At noon the Latitude was 18°..26′ South Longitude by Time Keepers 182°..07 East, when Sunday Island, which acquired its name from the day, and which was the most eastern of Blighs Islands seen by the Providence, bore South 48° West eight or nine leagues distant, two other Islands being in sight from the Mast
246 1792 August Blighs Islands
head in the WSW and WbS. The weather was remarkably pleasant with a fine South East trade wind. Soon after, extensive breakers were observed in the North West quarter, and before four OClock more in the South East. Shaping a course between them, more land appeared to the Southward. Towards sun set, having reached close under Sunday Island, more breakers were discovered six or seven miles to the Northward. A very comfortless night was passed between the Island and these breakers. Natives had been seen on the beach before dark, and fires were burning on the upper grounds, probably to alarm the neighbouring isles of our approach, and some hours before day light a canoe, in which were two natives, came along side with cocoa nuts, their fears were such that they soon paddled away. Another canoe, when the day opened on the 6th visited us, her crew, consisting of four men, requiring but little solicitation to come on board, where they exchanged their cocoa nuts and a few weapons for iron, with which article they were thoroughly acquainted. Our shipmates who had been at the Friendly Isles thought these people to be of the same race. Some of their weapons were exactly the same. That there is an intercourse between them can hardly be doubted, some large sailing canoes which were afterwards seen among Blighs Islands being equal to navigate with safety between the two groups.
The natives are of the common size and well formed, their colour a duller brown than that of the Otahytean, and the hair, which was daubed with a kind of black paste, of a more wooly texture. With the Whytootackayans they are equally filthy. None had their beards eradicated, nor does the custom of plucking the hair from various parts of the body prevail, which last circumstance gave great disgust to Mideedee and Baubo. There appeared to be some similarity in their language and that of our passengers; on naming Tatow they instantly repeated it, pointing at the
247 1792 August Blighs Islands
same time to a man who had a few marks on his heel, the others were without any. Each man had two joints of either the right or left little finger missing, one indeed, had lost them from both hands. At the Friendly Islands such a custom is followed on the death of a relation which may be adduced as a presumptive proof of their having communication with each other. The lobe of the ear of one man was perforated so that an egg might have been passed through, it hanging down nearly to the shoulder. Except a girt round the middle, they were not encumbered by dress of any kind, and their only ornaments were a breast plate of the Pearl oyster shell, and necklaces of a smaller kind.
Their Canoes are formed of a single piece of wood of a dark red colour, very sharp at both ends, about eighteen feet long and three in breadth with an outrigger on one side supported by three projecting pieces, serving to carry their fishing spears on. None of the sailing canoes were near enough for any accurate account to be given of them.
Sunday Island is surrounded by a reef on every part that came within our view, at about half a mile distant the hills were bare and arid, but near the sea, cocoa nuts were growing in plenty, as well as the Toa Tree of Otahytey. Could a passage be found through the reef, landing would be easy as there are several sandy beaches between the cliffs. No habitation of any kind was observed, probably our visitors were on a fishing excursion from a neighbouring Isle.
6th. Proceeding westward more Islands appeared. The Latitude at noon was 18°..28′ South. Longitude by Time Keepers 181°..14′ East. Sunday Island bearing South 69° East six or seven leagues distant, having other Islands in the West and North West. The Variation per amplitude in the afternoon 9°..16′ Westerly. A large sailing Canoe was observed following
248 1792 August Blighs Islands
the ship, the people in her using every exertion to overtake us, but we had the mortification to see her return without effecting it. On such occasions it was regretted that the grand object of the voyage forbade any delay, as otherwise much information might have been gained instead of the cursory view allowed us in passing on any Islands. The very fine cluster (which became so numerous after our departure from Sunday Island that they were christened alphabetically) at this time around, which were part of the same see by Captain Bligh, in his launch, in May 1789, would have taken many months sedulous employment in a nautical survey of them, but our apprehension of losing the monsoon wind before reaching Torres Straits, would not admit of the smallest deviation from a direct course, and it was only in the day time the vessels could be put to their utmost speed; as, when darkness closed on them, their safety depended on proceeding with the utmost care and caution.
The plants, although in a flattering state, had experienced some mortality, and there were many months trial of various climates for them yet to encounter, so that no time could be spared in attending to other pursuits but in a passing way, yet is Captain Bligh so prompt at every kind of nautic science that the relative situation of such of these Islands as were seen by the Providence may be depended on. There is very little doubt but that more extend to the north and the opposite quarter than came within our view.
With our glasses it was discovered that the canoe contained full a dozen people, and there appeared a kind of shed on it similar to what has been described at the Friendly Islands; more cannot be said with certainty. Although we had a fine breeze she had considerably the advantage of the ship in sailing. At 8 OClock the vessels were brought to for the night.
Shortly after quitting Otahytey a
249 1792 August Blighs Islands
warrant officer was added to each watch, and as well as for reefs and shoals, a vigilant eye was kept upon the crew, not that their conduct, created any particular degree of suspicion, but they had passed some months at a South Sea Island and in the full swing of its indulgences. They might possibly look back to them. And here, I cannot help remarking a circumstance mentioned by our Commander a short time before, that, "he heard Sir Josh. Banks tell the King at Court, a similar case to what took place in the Bounty was in contemplation, and nearly put in practice on board the Endeavour; a person then under government being principally concerned in it."
All however went on right in the Providence, nor could any crew, as well as that of her Assistant, have conducted themselves better throughout the whole expedition.
7th. Several Islands were in sight as the day broke, when the vessels bore away to the westward with a fine trade wind being at noon in Latitude 17°..42′ South. Longitude by Time Keepers 180°..18′ East By Account.
Four Islands now in sight were called; Guernsey, Jersey, Aldernay, and Sark.
8th. The Latitude at noon was 17°..52′ South. Longitude by Time Keepers ° ′ East. By Account [blank]. East Thermometer 73¼°. Islands being in sight from North round by the West to South South East, the latter eleven or twelve leagues distant, from which quarter a swell came.
Shortly after, the Assistant leading, we bore away to make
250 1792 August Blighs Islands
a passage between V([blank]) and U([blank]) the wind having failed us in the intention of weathering the former. The cry of breakers from the mast head, produced a short alarm which was soon done away, the apparent danger proving to be a gleam of sun shine on the water. The vessels passed on the northern side of V([blank]) at the distance of three or four miles. Towards sun set the western part was doubled, leaving U([blank]) on the right hand, which with our glasses, was distinguished as a very similar Island.
Numbers of natives were collected about the hills and reefs of V,([blank]) indicating by waving and other tokens, an anxious desire for us to communicate with them. Many carried a long spear, particularly those on the reefs, which led us to suppose they were for the purpose of striking fish.
Three canoes resembling those of Sunday Island were at this time launched, their crews paddling strenuously to overtake us, but the ship outsailing their exertions, disappointed us of a visit. It was noticed that, as well as the common paddles, a long one over the stern was used in a similar manner to the Chinese scull. The men were ornamented with the pearl oyster shell breast plate. Some of them wore a kind of white Turban, which with a girt round the middle, were their only incumbrance, being otherwise in a state of nature. One man was particularly desirous of drawing our attention to a peice of scarlet cloth, from which it would seem that they had been before visited by Europeans.
From the futile and picturesque aspect of the Island it acquired the name of Paradise. Its circuit is from eight to ten leagues, surrounded, like most of the South Sea Islands, by a reef, within which the water did not reach above the natives knees. There appeared to be an opening through the reef on the lee side, but the day closing as passed, this was left undetermined.
This might indeed have been the Island cloth, as a red Dye is common among them.
251 1792 August Blighs Islands
These encircled Islands have been before noticed, yet I cannon help adding that, among the Bahamas and the opposite Florida shores where the Thetis has recently been the appearance of the sea is very similar. She not long ago anchored near the Island of Providence in less than forty feet "white water," so very clear that every fish could be distinguished at the bottom, while but a short half mile from her stern no soundings could be found in the "ocean water" but, to return to a scene where our avocations differed widely from those of the present hour.
Paradise Island is diversified by hill and dale, and agriculture appeared to have made advances unknown to the indolent Otahyteans, the valley and sides of the hills being laid out in plantations, fenced in the most compact manner. Plantains were in great abundance, and, if our glasses did not deceive us, a great proportion of yams and sweet potatoes. The higher hills were wooded to their very summits, the fern tree being among it in numbers.
The habitations were in general on the sides of the first range of hills, in appearance like the cottage huts of England, ten or fifteen being situated together. On an eminence on the west part a crowd of natives collected where they displayed flags from cocoa nut trees, probably to signify our approach to the neighbouring isles, and as soon as the day closed fires were made and kept burning until the next morn, when our distance was so much increased that every hope was given up of acquiring more knowledge of this delightful Island.
9th. At noon more Islands were in sight, the Latitude being 18..30 South. Longitude by Time Keepers [blank] East. By Account 173..56 East. Variation [blank] The vessels were kept under a press of sail to weather the most southern land, but breakers a head soon obliged them
252 1792 August Blighs Islands
to tack. A sailing canoe made an effort Otahytey reach us, but soon put back to Island(Number 1). In christening these Islands the alphabet was now expended, obliging us to continue them numerically. There was in the evening a long swell from the southward. The wind throughout the night was from the East South East; the vessels were frequently tacked until daylight, to keep a safe situation.
10th. The weather was dark and unsettled, the wind from the Eastward. Flying fish and various Sea birds were seen. At noon the Latitude by account 18..31 South. Longitude by Time keepers [blank] By Account 179..04 East. Much sail was carried the whole afternoon to weather No. 2 ([blank]). Variation 9°55′Easty. The swell from the southward encreased, which indicated the ocean was getting more open in that quarter.
11th. Hazy weather prevented our seeing far. The sun was obscured at noon, but the dead reckoning gave the Latitude 19°..24′ South Longitude by Time Keepers [blank] East. By account 178.23 East, Number 3 bearing from N22°W to N10°Et.
A high promontory, forming the western part of Number 3 (as well as of Blighs Islands, seen by the Providence) N16°W, four or five leagues distant.
Leaving Blighs Islands the course was continued to the westward.
253 1792 August New Hebrides
[The rest of the page is blank, except for three drawing notations.]
254 1792 August Eastern Entrance of Torres Straits
30th. At break of day mountainous land was seen in the North East quarter, which was judged to be the southern coast of New Guinea, or Islands contiguous to it. The course was now West North West, with a fine South East trade wind. At noon a good observation gave the Latitude 10..05 South. Longde. by Time Keepers [blank] East. By Account [blank] East, the land bearing from North North East, to North East half East, eleven or twelve leagues distant. Various sea birds were around the ship, particularly Noddies and Boobies, their slothful habits being such, that, after settling about the decks and rigging our seamen caught them with ease. The Noddie, I never recollect to have seen but in the neighbourhood of land, and navigators ever exercise more than usual vigilance on their appearance. It is about the size of a pigeon, of a dull brown colour, except a white spot on the top of the head. The Boobie is a much larger bird with a bill in some measure resembling that of the Gannet. Rock Weed was also seen, another indication of being near a Coast.
The course was continued WNW and WbN until Noon the next (31st.) day, the Assistant leading several miles a head, which vessel from her small draught of water always took this post when danger was apprehended. Nor could it possibly have been in better keeping. I think I now see the zealous and pe[r]severing Portlock at our little consorts Top gallant mast head, his eye travelling in every direction. The Latitude was observed in 9°..27′ South. Longde. by Time Keepers [blank] East. By Account [blank] East. Signal flags had been prepared, for all the boats as we approached Torres straits, as well to denote soundings or danger when detached from the ships, as the approach of natives. To guard against their arrows Captain Bligh had dresses fitted for the boats crews of the thickest Otahytean cloth of many folds in the form of those used by the Ratteras of that Island which did no interfere with rowing, while great protection was given to the more vital parts. Just before sun set, the signal was made for breakers, which
255 1792 September Torres Straits
which soon appeared from SWbW to WbS, two or three miles distant. Night closing on us prevented their extent being correctly ascertained. The vessels were instantly hauled by the wind, when with ninety fathom of line no bottom could be found. The discovery of this reef before dark was a fortunate event, as the couse we were steering would probably have led the vessels into some difficulty. At midnight tacked, and until day break, kept making short boards to secure a safe situation.
1st. We now bore away with the intent of passing to the southward of the reef, but just after breakfast more breakers were seen on the lee bow, on which, the ships were hauled by the wind, but being unable to weather the danger, were soon tacked. At noon the Latitude was observed in 9°..37′ South Longitude by Time keepers [blank] East. By Account [blank] East. There was no land in sight, but breakers, from the mast head, in the NNW, which in the afternoon were left to the southward. At 6 they bore South seven or eight miles distant, when it not being judged prudent to proceed westward in the night, the wind was hauled, and the vessels tacked every two hours. At four in the morning on putting about, the broken water had the same bearings as before dark, but at not above a fourth the distance, a proof that the current had been from the northward.
2d. At Day light bore away, at which time the reef was just discernible from the mast head in the
South. The course until noon was WbS. Westerly, thirty four miles, when the Latitude was observed 9°.26′
South. Longitude by Time Keepers [blank] East. By Account — The Variation in the
morning 5°..31′ Easty.
A Signal had been made by the Assistant just before the sun was on the meridian, for breakers, which were soon seen from the mast head in the WSW and WbN. These we hauled to the southward of, a Sandy Key at one o'clock bearing South West, at which time an alarm was given
256 1792 September Torres Straits
of discoloured water close under the bows; The sails were instantly thrown aback, and on sounding, a bottom of grey sand and coral was found with sixty fathom of line. The wind continued from the SE and ESE throughout the night the vessels being tacked every two hours keeping in about fifty fathom water.
3d. At early day an officer was sent in a boat with sounding signals to lead a head of the Assistant, and shortly after we bore away making a course WNW and NWbW about eighteen miles, when Signals were made to denote danger. The Tacks were immediately hauled on board to the northward. At noon the Latitude was observed 9°..06 South. Longitude by Time Keeper [blank] East. By Account [blank] East, breakers being in sight from N½W to WNW. After noon the wind died away. At four OClock a sandy key was discovered and soon after an Island A([blank]) of moderate height in the SW. At sun set it bore SWbW [blank] miles, and the sandy Key SbW¼W [blank] miles. The anchor a short time after, was dropped in thirty seven fathom on a sandy bottom, the tide setting to the West, about one mile an hour. At midnight it turned to the East. The vessels rode very secure during a night of less anxiety than we had experienced for some time.
4th. At day break the anchor was weighed. At the sandy Key bore S¼W four or five mil distant; shoal water from some parts of it. The boats and Assistant leading, the course was continued westward.
The want of materials will prevent my trying your patience much more with bearings, distances and other nautic phrases. You are now fairly entered into this labyrynth of rocks and shoals, but to get you regularly through them, I am at a loss; yet, were I briefly to say that after about three weeks of danger and difficulty, the Providence and her little leading Assistant, by the great care and caution of their Commanders, entered the Indian Ocean over a bank with less than four fathom water on it, several
257 1792 September Torres Straits
occurrences would be left untold. Let us then get on by patch work.
After running a few leagues westward, shoals again obliged the vessels to anchor. On looking around from the mast head, the colour of the water promised a passage in the South West quarter.
5th. Before dawn Mr. Nicholls the master in the whale boat, and myself in the cutter, left the ship to explore, when finding it practicable for the vessels to pass, a signal was accordingly made, but they were at so great a distance I was fearful it would not be distinguished, and therefore directed Mr. Nicholls to make every effort to reach them with the report of a passage, while the cutter followed him. Making a direct course and sounding occasionally, in some places no bottom was found with thirty fathom of line - then suddenly came on coral banks with not five feet on them. The bottom here, had a beautiful appearance, with a great variety of tints from diffirent marine productions, particularly what is generally known as the sea fan. Four large canoes were soon observed shaping a course towards by boat from Island A,([blank]) and their rapid approach made it necessary to be on my guard, having only a young gentleman, Mr. Bushby, and the boats crew, while our pursuers were numerous. The whale boat was on shore far advanced towards the ship that I had the mortification to find, a signal I made for assistance, was unnoticed. the leading canoe soon reached our wake, about a quarter of a mile distant, the people in her waving flags for us to stop. The wind and tide were adverse, but we still kept on our course towards the ship, at this time about five miles off.
The second canoe had lowered her sails and was paddling to windward having considerably the advantage of the cutter's oars. From their strenuous exertions, it remained no longer a doubt that they were
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determined, if possible, to have intercourse with us, and seeing it utterly impossible to avoid it by flight every preparation was made to repel any attack they might make. She soon hoisted her sails and edged down to cut us off, waving and making signs for the boat to stop, but remote as we were form the ships, and having heard but an unfavourable account of the inhabitants of these straits I considered this too great a risk and continued our course. Paddling close across our bows a man help up a cocoa nut, which was given from a kind of enclosed place in the middle of the canoe. On observing this, I directed him by signs to carry it to the ships, which was by no means satisfactory, and in a moment the whole crew were busy about the enclosure furnishing themselves with bows and arrows which had hitherto been concealed from view. This allowed me the opportunity of observing that, there were more men that had at first been apparent, several having been hid. There were in all about fifteen, without the least article of dress whatever, except that the arms of some were covered with a sort of matting, or cane work, which we afterwards conjectured was to aid them when using the bow and arrow.
Two of them now took a deliberate aim at the stern sheets of the boat, about twenty yards distant, while the rest were stringing and preparing their bows with great expedition. As it appeared that they only waited to be ready for a general discharge of arrows, and as any misfortune or loss on our part must inevitably have placed us in the power of the other canoes, which were closing fast, self preservation prompted me to fire a volly of musketry among them, and to which I have little doubt, from what occurred but a few days afterwards near the Island O [blank] and P [blank] we were indebted for our safety; yet, had they rallied and attacked the boat in conjunction, our opposing efforts perhaps, would have been but impotent against such
Vide Collins Account of New South Wales. The Chesterfield and Harmuzear, two ships from Port Jackson bound to India through Torres Straits, on the 7 July 1793 lost some of their men in this neighbourhood. A boat was sent on shore to an Island, called Tate's Island in Latd. 9°..39′..30 South Longitude 217°..00..45 East. The Ships were driven to
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numbers, with weapons nearly as destructive as fire arms.
Our musketry caused great consternation among them, the whole striving to shelter themselves under the railing of the enclosure, and of which we availed ourselves by fresh charging, and then using every exertion with the oars. They soon withdrew from their retreat, but after viewing us some minutes, seemingly undetermined how to act, made sail for Island A [blank] the other canoes soon taking the same direction.
It is possible that some were hurt by our fire, the coxwain seemed confident that one of the two who had taken aim, fell, as if mortally. The signal was, of course, repeated for Assistance, fearing we might again be pursued, and not long after my messmate Guthrie came to us well armed in the pinnace.
On the part of our shipmates, the greatest vigilance was ever observed when the boats were absent on discovery, that succour might be sent if necessary, yet on this occasion Baubo had a claim to our gratitude, who dreading some trouble from the natives, had stationed himself in the main top, from whence he discovered the firing.
An opportunity soon after offered of examining the canoes of these straits with some correctness. They were from about thirty five feet to fifty in length, formed (no joining at least being perceptible) of a single tree, about two deep. The extreme breadth was near the head, being double that at the stern, where it did not exceed two feet. A kind of Forecastle was raised and laced to the main body in the man[ner] of the canoes at Otahytey. The stern rose in a curve about a foot and an half, from which part two points projected, one over each quarter, being hung with shells and other ornaments, and to an upright staff was a flag of rushes. About one fourth from the bows, a platform was fixed, extending to midships. This
[Marginal note continues:]
leeward, but on their return on the 3d no boat was found but it has since appeared that, five of the party our of eight, were murdered by the Natives; among them Captain Hill of the New South Wales Cape. The other three effected their escape severely wounded, and after suffering much from want of water and provisions, reached Timor Land on the 11th. When these men made their miraculous escape in the boat, the natives were dragging their murdered companions towards fires. (GT 1803)
[Insert from newspaper:]
The following extracts from the log-book of the Frederick, which we have taken from The Asiatic Mirror, will doubtless be interesting to those of our Readers who, are desirous of adding to their stock of nautical knowledge.
"On May 20th, when steering for Torres Straits from Port Jackson, she passed to the eastward of a large and dangerous shoal, hitherto undiscovered, or unnoticed. Its eastern side extends along eight miles N.N.E. and S.S.W. about three of which are under water, and thus give the extremities the appearance of being unconnected, but the breakers which are discernible in this vacancy betraying the continuation. The southern part is considerably the largest, appearing to be the main body of the shoal. The extent of the back part, to the N.W. could not be ascertained while passing, as it exceeded the limits of the horizon. On each of the north and south extremities is a sand bank; that on the north point the highest, and, to appearance steep too. The water was not in the least discoloured in its neighbourhood. The latitude of this point was deduced from observation 21 deg. 1 min. S.—and its longitude per chronometer 154 deg. 28 min. E."
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projected from each gunwhale three or four feet, at the extremities of which was a bamboo railing as many high. On this platform the sails and weapons are kept, the former being made of matting; but probably its chief use is to shelter the crew in battle. Outriggers extended from each side about six feet ornamented with bunches of shells. In managing the sails, as well by the wind as before it, the natives were very expert, as also in striking the masts which are of bamboo; but the most remarkable part of these vessels was a Leeboard used in the same manner, as by the dutch fishermen in the North Sea and many other parts of Europe.
The knowledge we had now gained of their celerity, as well as the unfriendly disposition of their crews, rendered every caution necessary to guard against surprise; but though in the very detached duty of the boats, apprehensions were entertained, we could not admit of a possible suspicion that their temerity would ever lead them to be hostile to the ships. It very shortly proved otherwise.
Leaving Island A ([blank]), the boats and Assistant leading, the course was continued westward. Early in the morning, as on the preceeding afternoon, it was the occupation to search for a channel, when after a short stage of a few leagues, as the sun declined towards the western horizon and thereby obstructed our view the vessels were again anchored for the night.
A ([blank]) appeared about three leagues in circuit, of a moderate height, and in some parts woody. Where free from trees it was barren and parched; yet was it by far the most fertile to the eye, of the many passed in these straits. On every part that came within our view it was surrounded by reefs and shoals. Not far within the beach, among the trees, a few huts were noticed.
More Islands were now passed, but of little extent; all well supplied with wood, some of the trees being of considerable height
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and magnitude. Mangroves were growing in the water near the shores of many of them.
The natives, in canoes, had now visited us, from which circumstance most probably they were ignorant of the affair with their countrymen and the cutter. They remained but a short time alongside, appearing full of fears and an anxious desire to get away. Besides those who came to the ship we passed about twenty on a sandy key not above as many yards in extent. They were huddled together in a group, seemingly to view the ships, and from their sable skins in contrast to the light sand were taken, with our glasses, for large birds or animals.
Sailing close past F ([blank]) gave us an opportunity of seeing about forty more, two women being of the party. The men were not the heavier by dress of any kind, and the covering of the other sex was scarcely a short apron of rushes. A Dog was following them, the only quadruped seen, yet it would appear, from the tusk of a boar being afterwards brought on board that such an animal must be known to them. On this Island were a few huts similar in form to a beehive, the eaves shelving very near the ground. They were detached a few yards from each other, and encircled by close railing.
The vessels anchored near H ([blank]) and a dog being seen on the beach, left little doubt of it being inhabited. In the afternoon several natives were observed coming round the south part armed with bows and arrows, which they soon put away, wading into the sea and waving green branches to us. A little before sun set Captain Bligh sent Guthrie and myself in the whale boat and cutter with nails and other articles in the hope of cultivating their good will. They evinced no fear at our landing, meeting us up to their middle in the sea, with fresh water in a large shell, which they called Whabow, and asking in
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return for Toorey, which was ceselessly repeated with greedy eagerness. A coarse kind of plumb was also brought by them.
Both sexes readily dismantled themselves of their few ornaments of shells in exchange for Toorey. It is rather remarkable that the word in use for iron the whole way from the Society Isles to these straits is nearly the same, however the appearance manners, and general language of the various Islands, may differ. At Otahytey it is called Aoorey, nor at Whytootackay and Sunday island was the term very diffirent.
Aware that the disposition of these people was by no means pacific, we returned before the night set in, much to their dissatisfaction as they were desirous of detaining the boats on shore, some force being necessary to prevent their being dragged higher up the beach. Among other articles procured, were some very neat fish hooks made of turtle shell and necklaces of the Panama. At this Island were the remains of several huts close together, but enclosed by a railing as at F ([blank]).
9th. At early day break the natives were on the beach waving green branches for us to pay them another visit, but seeing no boats approach they soon launched a canoe and paddled towards us. By this time the vessels were under sail, when, after following us some time, they reluctantly put back.
more canoes were seen under sail about an extensive reef to leeward, as we passed I ([blank]) K ([blank]) L ([blank]) and M ([blank]), all small, low, and woody. On M there were a few huts and a canoe hauled on the beach. Several Sea Snakes, from five to ten feet in length were seen, apparently asleep on the surface of the water until disturbed by the motion of the ship. They were all ringed black and yellow.
About this time more natives visited us, three or four, after
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much perswasion, quitting their canoes and coming on board, where they remained but a short time, expressing by their countenances and every limb the greatest distress until they left us. No solicitation could induce them to go lower than the Quarter Deck. Iron, which as before was called Toorey they received with unbounded satisfaction.
This visit allowed me a very correct view of their persons. They were of the middle size, rather delicately than well formed, of a colour similar to the negroe with short curly hair, but not of a close wooly texture, nor were their lips more than ordinarily thick. The septum narium of the nose being perforated and a ring worn inside, prevented our telling its natural shape. One of these rings was procured large enough to go on a mans little finger. Their beards were not in any degree eradicated, and their teeth were of a very foul colour. There was a considerable projection of the brow, the eyes being small and much sunk in the head. The ear being divided, the lobe reached below the chin, the upper part being decorated with small bits of cane stuck through it. In both sexes the left shoulder was burnt or scarified in the shape of an epaulet, and some had this mark on the right. None were tatowed but a sort of red pigment was rubbed over various parts of their bodies, as well as grease and filth, insomuch that, after swimming, they came on board perfectly dry. Except two compact cases of canework fitting the arm tightly, the whole length above and below the elbow, which we conjectured was of some service in using the bow, they were in a state of nature. One among them indeed, perhaps a chief, diffired from his countrymen in having a shell fastened to a girdle round the loins, for the same purpose that in remote times a fig leaf was used. Their ornaments were shell necklaces, with tassels of different colored cord strung with the same kind of red seed, called jumbee
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beads, now so much in fashion in Europe, besides bracelets of cocoa nut husk on the legs and arms. Among other articles a mask was procured from them, which is probably used in battle. The only women I had a tolerable view of were two at H ([blank]). They had no covering but a short apron of rushes. Diffirent from the men, part of the hair on the crown of the head was shaved close. Mideedee was in the boat with us, and though not notorious for being insensible to the many charms of his own nankeen coloured countrywomen, expressed great disgust at these damsels; nor indeed without reason, for in good truth, they were neither formed to "raise envy in woman or desire in man." T'was in vain we here looked for the bewitching countenance and delicately moulded figure of the ductile Otahytean. All seemed cheerless and debased. The parched soil on which the wretched inhabitants of this wretched country dwell, appeared every way unproductive, a few cocoa nuts and plantains were noticed, but the bread fruit, the yam, the Tarro and other edible plants, the support of the healthy South Sea Islander is here looked for in vain. Fish, it would seem, must be the chief sustenance, and in which the straits abound, particularly Turtle, as whenever we landed their bones were found near the remains of fires, and the ships passed many in the water. Whether the natives are Canibals has not yet been ascertained, nor did we wish to learn by putting ourselves in their power. That one of our seamen seriously believed them so, appears from a letter to his friends in England which fell nuder my perusal. In giving an account of the attack made on the Assistant, he says "Fires were prepared on the beach by the women, who were licking their lips in hopes of making a meal of us." And this, for anything I know to the contrary, might have been
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true enough. This affair happened between O ([blank]) and P ([blank]) on the [blank]. Six canoes from P having been joined by two from O, containing in the whole about an hundred persons, approached the vessels without any suspicion being entertained of their hostile intentions. Our consort was at some distance, when she was observed to make the signal for Assistance, and about the same time open a fire on the canoes surrounding her. One of the boats was also engaged. At this time two or three canoes were about the Providence and others closing, their crews by the most friendly, yet treachrous signs, inviting us to P where a number of natives, chiefly females, were collected around several large fires. Our visitors held up large bamboos containing water, which as at H, they called whabow, but none came alongside. The arrows procured on a former visit were of such a murderous shape it became necessary to guard against their effects, therefore some muskets were fired in the hope of dispersing the canoes, on which their crew made a wild and dreadful yell, instantly returning some arrows, none of which fortunately reached on board. Still they evinced no disposition to withdraw, and continued to discharge more arrows, but without effect from the distance. Two or three four pounders were now fired; one of which charged with grape shot took immediate effect on a canoe, the natives in her, save one who was wounded, instantly leaping into the sea with great terror, and it is hardly conceivable their wonderful exertions to get away, by throwing themselves forward, nearly half their bodies above the surface at an amazing rate. It was observed, as indeed is the case with most indians, they they swam by using a hand alternately in the manner of a paddle, different from the common European way. Another gun made their
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whole squadron retreat, when seeing us discontinue firing, they picked up the disabled canoe and paddled to their women at P ([blank]). On closing with the Assistant we had the mortification to learn that, without any provocation on the part of our countrymen, the natives had discharged a volley of arrows at her, wound two of the crew, one of them mortally, nor did the other perfectly recover the use of his arm Sep 5, 1792 the whole voyage homeward. It can hardly be supposed that these miserable people were acquainted with the effect of fire arms who attacked the Assistant, and the little fear the others evinced at the musketry from the Providence surely serves to strengthen this opinion. Had they known of the firing from the cutter on the 5th near Island A.
The dread of again being exposed would most probably have kept them at a distance; yet is there little doubt, but that, this was a premeditated plan of hostility; nor, is it possible to say what might have been the issue, had the whole force acted against our little consort, as she was too remote to have received any immediate succour from the Providence.
The small party who were in the cutter on the 5th, while they feeling lamented the loss on board the Assistant, derived no small degree of relief by this encounter between the natives and the Shipping, as the Captain, on the former occasion, had by no means approved of what had taken place. The present transaction, brought a thorough conviction to his mind of the truly desperate people he had to deal with in these straits, and of his good fortune in no loss having attended the boats while distantly exploring a channel, on which hazardous service they were so long employed.
In a narrative of the proceedings of the Pandoras boats in Augt. or Sept. 179 (after her shipwreck) towards Timor through Torres Straits, the hostile disposition of the natives is noticed. Captain Edwards
There were no symptoms in the wounded men of the arrows being poisoned.
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stopped at one Island where the inhabitants brought him a small supply of water, in exchange for knives and other articles, but on his refusing to go on shore for more water, which was placed on the beach, they discharged a shower of arrows at the boats. Fortunately none of the crews received injury, but an arrow fell between the Captain and third Lieutenant with such force, as to go through the boats thwart formed of oak plank an inch thick. Some muskets from Captain Edwards put them to flight. That the natives of these straits live in amity with each other is sincerely to be hoped, else, naked and exposed as they are, war with such destructive weapons must be dreadful. Their bows are of split bamboo, above six feet in length, the string being a strip of cane. The most robust of our people, as well as Baubo and Mideedee, tried ineffectually to string them; yet the natives, by no means so muscular, did it with little apparent exertion. The[y] carry their arrows in a quiver on the back. These are of various kind some being nearly as long as the bow, barbed with fish bone, or pointed with the tail of the sting-ray, or hard sort of iron wood; but you have specimens in our museum. Slings, and heavy clubs, were also observed. To guard against their arrows, it has before been noticed that Captain Bligh had fitted Armour of Otahytean cloth for the boats crews. Mideedee who did not all relish the appearance of their sable gentry, always took care, when he went in a boat, to put it on. Baubo, less gentle, cared little about such a precaution. Baubo was of Christians party when he attempted a settlement at Tobouai, and ever recounted their exploits at that island with wonderful satisfaction. The population of the straits did not appear to be great. The novelty of vessels passing, it is fair to suppose, brought all the inhabitants to the
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sea shores,throughouthoutr the whole navigation I do not believe five hundred were seen.
More islands and reefs were passed, the vessels as usual being anchored as the sun in the afternoon obscured the western view.
Turtleback Island is of a moderate height, rocky and clothed with wood to the summit. The Cap, and Island with large detached rocks to the top, bare of wood but on the west side, where it terminates in a sandy spit; its circuit about two miles. The Brothers have rocks on the summit like those of the Cap, apparently left bare by the soil having been washed away. No huts or natives were observed on either of these three islands.
At [blank] the vessels were anchored about [blank] miles from Possession Island, which acquired its name from Guthrie having been sent by Captain Bligh to take formal Possession of these Straits in the name of our royal Master. Our messmate reported that, there was very good landing, five or six fathom water being close to the beach. From this anchorage lands were in sight from [blank]
Leaving Possession Island, we passed some others where little verdure was to be seen though their summits were not free from wood, and on the low grounds trees with a light coloured bark were noticed. Huge rocks were scattered about in such a manner as to leave little doubt but that this country had under gone some violent convulsion of nature, or perhaps, they had been rendered bare by the washing away of the soil in heavy rains.
In our way from Possession Island to Hell Gates (an anchorage so called by us from its being somewhat similar to a place of that name between York and Long Islands in America) about fifteen natives were seen, and near them on the beach poles with white flags, apparently as signals for us to stop. They were like the rest seen in the straits, entirely naked. As the ships passed, several waved green branches to us, as at
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H ([blank]). No hut or habitation was seen. To Hell Gates from Possession Island is about [blank] leagues. The channel as we advanced westward, appeared so full of reefs and shoals that the vessels were anchored and boats sent on their daily occupation of searching for a passage. The tide was running with such strength that it was with difficulty the ship "brought up." By our Longitude we were well convinced that the Indian Ocean was at no great distance, however intricate the channel to it. The boats proceeded to an Island (Look out Island.) about three miles to the North West, but at a slow rate from the strength of an adverse tide. As natives had been seen in the neighbourhood the crews were ordered to be on their guard while Guthrie and myself proceeded to the summit, from whence as far as could be distinguished with our glasses, it was bounded to the northward by shoals and small Island Keys round by West to the South West where they joined the Southern lands; but the eye was cheered by the appearance of one small passage in the West North West which was speedily communicated by signal to our anxious shipmates, when the vessels again weighed anchor. The tide was, by this time, setting so rapidly to the eastward they made scarcelyprogressogess, though assisted by a favorable breeze. The Sun was nearly sinking in the horizon ere they reached abreast of outok ou Island when the clouds gathered and the atmosphere became unsettled and full of threats. To continue westward after the night set in amid this labyrinth of dangersimpracticablecalbe, so that our only trust was the "ground tackle" on this rough and unpromising bottom. After looking for a spot as free as possible from rocks, the anchor was dropped in [blank] fathom water. The night was passed in much anxiety, it blew a strong gale, and the tide set violently, but both vessels "rode it out" with out loss or accident of any kind.
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The boats at early day were again sent to explore, when to the great joy and relief of every one, a passage after much search, was discovered over banks with less than four fathom water on them, and in a day or two the vessels safely entered the Indian Ocean from this truly intricate and dangerous navigation.
Look out Island, like the Brothers and some other Islands passed, is an assemblage of huge rocks to the summit, with scarcely any soil, yet some trees were growing of a tolerable size bearing a pod with red seeds similar to those in the West Indies called by the negroes Jumbee beads. The wild pine (Wharra of Otahytey) was observed, but of the dwarf kind. At every step our admiration was called to a variety of beautiful shrubs, which in this remote quarter of the globe, save to its ruthful inhabitants, are "born to blush unseen, And waste their sweetness in the desert air." The track of a canoe on the beach assured us that, the natives had recently left the Island, their pathways indeed, were easily distinguished, but neither hut or habitation of any kind. About the remains of fires, Turtle bones were scattered, and on a rock, the sculls of several of these animals were piled with great regularity as if sacred to some occasion. No water was discovered, but, as many land birds were seen of the Pigeon and Paroquet kind most probably it is to be found at no great distance. The shore abounded with Herons, Curlews, and various kind of sand larks. The reptile tribe were lizards, and an incredible number of large grasshoppers or Locusts. Among the bushes we were much annoyed by the bite of a large green ant, whose nests were attached to the branches. The skin of a snake was found above nine feet in length, which appeared to have been recently quitted by its tenant. Various kinds of shell fish were about the beach, one in particular from its excellent flavour
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served our party to "fare sumptuously" on, and without any bad effects. It was of the oyster kind, adhering
so firmly to the rocks as to be with difficulty disengaged. It is true that we looked in vain for porter to
our oysters, and even of "adams ale," were at a sadly short allowance.