A Yachting Cruise in the South Seas.

p. 6-7, Chapter I: The weather now was intensely hot and fine, and that feeling of drowsiness and languor came over me, which I have always experienced on first reaching the tropics. Reading becomes a delusion and a snare, and to take up a book means to be asleep in a few minutes. On Sunday, May 11th, we sighted Rotumah. This was the first island I intended visiting, my object here being to ship some of the natives, to strengthen my present crew. No one ought to attempt a voyage through the South Sea Islands without carrying an extra crew of this kind. For in the first place there are so many islands where there is no anchorage or perhaps a very precarious one, that it is better to keep the vessel standing off and on, worked by the white crew, while those who wish to visit the island go away in the boat manned by the South Sea Islanders. A coloured crew, too, are better able to row about all day in the hot sun; they are cheery, light-hearted companions, and are always ready, and enjoy the fun of diving into the water after any shell or piece of coral that one may fancy whilst rowing over the reefs.

p. 45, re smaller islands of the Sandwiches: Futuna and the smaller island Alofa were discovered as long ago as 1617, by two Dutchmen, Le Maire and Schouten, who first rounded Cape Horn, which owes its name to their birth-place. They were in search of the supposed great southern continent, but failing to find it, went on to Batavia. These islands were known to the Tongans, for we read in Mariner’s work how Cou Moala, a Tongan chief, started on a roving expedition in the spirit of a knight-errant, and how he was driven by a gale to this place, where the people seized all he was possessed of, according to the custom of their country, some of the plunder was then offered to their gods, the remainder divided among the chiefs. However, when the strangers wished to depart, those who had shared the plunder were compelled to fit them out again. The habit of plundering all shipwrecked strangers was also indulged in at Fiji, only that the strangers were generally eaten as well as plundered.

p. 181-84, quoted from the Dutch cruise of the Roggewein in 1722: Terrible liars were some of these old navigators, or perhaps they allowed other people to lie for them. Take for instance the cruise of Roggewein, a Dutchman, in 1722. He discovered Easter Island, and gives an interesting account of it. But in Dalrymple’s collection of voyages there is an extract from the Dutch relation of Roggewein’s voyage. Here it is stated that when Roggewein was on the point of anchoring at Easter Island, “there came off to them a boat managed by a single man, a giant of twelve feet high, who exerted all his strength to escape us but in vain, for he was surrounded and taken.” The writer then goes on with a description of the Dutchmen landing, which smacks more of the Odyssey than anything else: —

“On the 10th of April we made for the island in our boats, well armed in order to take a view of this country, where an innumerable multitude of savages stood on the seaside to guard the shore and obstruct our landing; they threatened us mightily with gestures, and showed an inclination to await us and turn us out of their country, but as soon as we, through necessity, gave them a discharge of our muskets, and here and there brought one of them to the ground, they lost their courage. They made the most surprising motions and gestures in the world, and viewed their fallen companions with the utmost astonishment, wondering at the wounds which the bullets had made in their bodies, whereupon they hastily fled, with a dreadful howling, dragging their dead bodies along with them.

“So the shore was cleared and we landed in safety. Thus far my narrative will gain credit, because it contains nothing uncommon. Yet I must declare that all these savages are of more than a gigantic size, for the men being twice as tall as the largest of our people, they measured one with another the height of twelve feet. So that we could easily — who will not wonder at it? — without stooping have passed between the legs of these sons of Goliath. But none of their wives come up to the height of the men, being commonly not above ten or eleven feet. The men had their bodies painted with a red or dark brown, and the women with a scarlet colour.

“I doubt not that most people who read this voyage will give no credit to what I relate, and that this account of the height of these giants will probably pass for a mere fable or fiction, but this I declare, that I have put down nothing but the real truth, and that this people, upon the nicest inspection, were in fact of such a surpassing height as I have here described.”

All this is very strange, but it is still stranger that when Captain Cook visited this island some years after, he found that the natives had assumed the average size of the human race. [Shades of Gulliver’s Travels.]

p. 189: In addition to these there were three white men living in one house, with a large suite of half-castes of both sexes. They told me they had recently arrived from Pleasant Island. They had lighted on the place like a pestilence ; and now, finding there was not much that suited them at this island, they were anxious to leave again, and begged me to take them to an island called Providence, which I found, on looking at the chart, lay considerably to the north. It appears there are only sixty to seventy natives there; and they gave me the paucity of the natives as one reason why they wished to be taken there. This I refused to do point blank; for with their retinue of about twenty Pleasant Island natives and half-castes of both sexes, they would soon have crushed, demoralized, and possibly enslaved a miserable population of sixty….

p. 190-91: Such men as these, capable of lending themselves to any villainy, should be wiped off the face of the earth. When they told me they came from Pleasant Island, I took down a book from my shelf, and read them the following extracts from the log of a vessel that visited that island: “This island is infested by Europeans, who are either runaway convicts, expirees, or deserters from whalers, and are for the most part men of the worst description. They live in a manner easily to be imagined from men of this class — without either law, religion, or education to control them, with an unlimited quantity of ardent spirits which they obtain from distilling the toddy that exudes from the cocoa-nut tree. When under the influence of intoxication, the most atrocious crimes are committed by these miscreants. These fiends frequently urge the different tribes to warrant deeds of blood, in order to participate in the spoils of the vanquished. They are in constant dread of each other, and by their deeds even horrify the untutored savage."

The extract I quoted went on to say that on one occasion eleven Europeans were deliberately murdered by a monster named Jones. "He invited them all to a feast, and when he had got his victims intoxicated with the island spirit, he gave them food in which he had previously mixed poison. This proved fatal to seven. The remaining four having refused to eat, he watched his opportunity and shot them. Vain and futile will be the attempt to introduce Christianity and civilization, while these miscreants are permitted to remain with the natives, corrupting them by their baneful example and selfish advice, introducing intoxication and disease in its many horrible forms, and teaching these naturally mild and tractable men the grossest depravity."

p. 217-18: Hence it is that laughter, song, and dance are everywhere suppressed, and the natives supposed to be on perpetual “Sunday behaviour.” The melancholy consequence of this is, that the so-called Christian congregations grow up to be a set of hypo-critical humbugs.

It would be a far pleasanter task to sit down and write a glowing account of the success of missions, and the wonderful spread of Christianity, but I cannot do it with truth. No one can deny that the missions have done much good, but I do not think that the result corresponds to the reports of the various societies or that the subscriptions are judiciously laid out. The Christian religion as introduced by our missionaries in the South Seas, appears to pass over a country like a tidal wave, that presently recedes and leaves it worse than ever, as witness the results in New Zealand and Fiji. And I think this in a great measure arises from a want of method. We take away from converted natives their dancing, their singing, and their manly sports, but nothing is given to supply their place. I believe that this dancing and singing and wrestling, &c. were natural and necessary habits of exercise to them, and in taking these away we ought to have sent out missionaries to teach them some useful trade such as carpentering, boat-building, &c., for without such habits of industry their moral condition can never be improved. Many intelligent Christian natives have told me that with the introduction of Christianity a kind of stupor has fallen on the people — they become idle and shiftless.