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their landing, and the island affords no anchorage. While off this island, the current was found setting to the northeast, at the rate of twelve miles in the twenty-four hours.
The positions in this neighbourhood where five islands have been reported to exist, were diligently searched for eight days; but no land was seen, and Captain Hudson became satisfied that none but Washington Island is to be found.
On the 20th December, they made Jarvis's Island, in latitude 0° 22' 33" S., and longitude 159° 54' 11" W. This is a small coral island, triangular in shape, a mile and three-fourths in length east and west, and a mile wide north and south. It exhibits the appearance of a white sand-beach, ten or twelve feet above the sea, without a tree or shrub, and but a few patches of grass. The sea breaks violently around its shores, but no reef extends to any distance from the island, which may be closely approached. A few sea-birds were seen about the island. No landing could be attempted, the surf being too heavy. Captain Hudson considers this a dangerous island for navigators.
The Peacock and Flying-Fish, for the next fifteen days, were engaged in searching for Brooks's Island, Clark's Reef and various shoals; but without success, and, after examining the neighbouring sea, left the locality, fully satisfied that if any islands or shoals had existed, in or near the places assigned to them, they must have been seen. They experienced here a current, setting to the westward at the rate of a mile an hour. Captain Hudson remarked, that although they had experienced generally a current setting to the westward, yet, almost invariably, the current-log gave a contrary result.
In latitude 2° 55' S., longitude 160° 26' W., they found, by the dipping-needle, that they had reached the magnetic equator, which they followed until they reached longitude 171o W.
On the 9th January, 1841, they made Enderbury's Island, of the Phænix Group, which has before been spoken of, as seen in the route of the Vincennes from the Feejee to the Sandwich Islands.
On the 11th, they made and surveyed Birnie's Island, which lies southwest from Enderbury's, in latitude 3° 34' 15" S., longitude 171° 33' W. It has an elevation of no more than six feet above the sea; is about one mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, trending about northwest and southeast. It is but a strip of coral, apparently uplifted, , and is exceedingly dangerous for vessels, as it cannot be seen from a distance, and a vessel, in thick weather, would scarcely have time to avoid it after it was discovered.
A number of islands and reefs, reported to exist, were searched fo. in this neighbourhood, viz.: Mary Balcout's, Brothers', Robertson's
Phenix, Harper's, and others, laid down, but not named, all of which are believed to have no existence whatever.
On the 17th January they made Hull's Island, which has already been described, and was surveyed by the Vincennes. The party of Tahitians employed in taking turtles had left it. Captain Hudson, believing this to be Sydney Island, ran off forty-five miles to the westward, for Hull's Island, but, of course, saw nothing of it, as it lies that distance to the eastward, in the same latitude.
The position of an island supposed to exist in latitude 5° 23' S., and longitude 173° 25' W., was passed, but no signs of land were seen. They then ran over the supposed place of Fletcher's Island, in latitude 7° 02' S., longitude 173° 22' W., without seeing any shoal, island, or reef.
The effects of the rainy season were now felt in these latitudes, in sudden gusts of wind, with torrents of rain, that continued for a few hours of the night, and cleared up partially towards sunrise, after which the weather continued cloudy throughout the day, with squalls visible in various parts of the horizon. Our experience corroborated the generally conceived idea that this kind of weather usually occurs near small islands; but that these isolated spots, of such comparatively small size, can exert so great an influence in arresting and condensing the vapour, is not to me a satisfactory explanation. I am rather inclined to believe that it results more from the fact of the high temperature of the ocean in the neighbourhood, it being here nearly 90°, or several degrees greater than that of any other part of the ocean; consequently, the evaporation would go on much more rapidly, which, becoming condensed in the higher portion of the atmosphere, is again thrown down in copious streams at night. This is particularly the case when the trade-winds are interrupted, that would otherwise carry off the vapour. As far as respects the interrupting or arresting the flow of currents, these islands may exert some influence; but the main cause I should be inclined to impute to the high temperature acquired by the water in consequence of there being no currents.
The next day they proceeded to the Duke of York's Island, which they made on the 25th, in latitude 8° 36' S., longitude 172° 23' 52" W. This is a lagoon island, of coral formation: its length east and west is three miles, and its width two and a half miles, north and south. There is no passage into the lagoon; the sea breaks on the reef with violence; but at high water a boat may pass over without difficulty, if proper care is taken. The islets that have been formed on the reef are eight or ten feet above the water, and are covered with cocoa-nut and pandanus trees.
As they approached the island, three double canoes were seen coming towards the ship, but with great caution; the mizzen-topsail was backed to allow them to come up, which they did, singing and shouting, making many gestures, and waving pieces of matting. A white flag was waved in return, and various articles exhibited to induce them to come alongside, which they at last did; but no inducement could prevail on them to come on board.
The canoes were all double, made of pieces of wood sewed together like those of Samoa, and were ornamented in like manner with white ovula-shells. The blades of their paddles also resembled those of the Samoans, being oblong and slender. The colour and features of these people showed that they belonged to the Polynesian race, and it was observed there was little or no difference between their appearance and that of the Samoans, to which dialect their language was allied. A Samoan who was on board the Peacock could partially understand them, but not unfrequently was entirely at a loss; Mr. Hale, however, was enabled to comprehend many of the words. It appeared that their refusal to come on board proceeded from the singular apprehension that the ship would be lifted out of the water, and taken up to the sky, from which they believed she had descended. Some few of them got as far up as the gangway, one of whom had an ulcerated arm, which he desired might be cured.
In each canoe there were ten men, who wore the maro, which was braided like matting. On their head was a piece, made in some cases of matting, in others of tortoise-shell, and occasionally this ornament resembled an eye-shade, or the front of a cap, to protect the face from the sun; their hair was cut short, and was the same in character as that of the Polynesians; they wore necklaces of shells, and small pieces of sponge, and wreaths of pandanus-leaves around the neck. Only one of those in the canoes seemed to be a person of note: in his shade were stuck several of the tail-feathers of the tropic-bird. A plane-iron and some blue beads were seen in their possession : this, with their knowledge of trade and desire of carrying it on, proved that they had before had intercourse with ships. They exhibited great expertness in showing off their various articles to view, and were very eager to sell in order to obtain our articles.
They had matting, nets, fish-hooks of bone, wooden boxes, paddles, and miniature canoes. Whilst the bartering was going on, the ship fired a great gun, for the base by sound, with the tender. This created much consternation, and they all scrambled into their canoes under strong excitement, making a prodigious clamour, seized their paddles, and pulled for the island, in great trepidation.
After the natives had thus made a precipitate retreat, the boats were lowered, and a large party proceeded to land at the nearest point. The landing was effected on the coral shelf with some difficulty, and they found the natives, who had come alongside, ready to receive them, with every sign of friendship. They had apparently recovered from their alarm, and met the officers before they reached the beach, greeting them by rubbing noses and throwing their arms around their necks. Their excitement seemed to be so great that it was difficult for them to continue still for a moment, distracted by the numerous novel things around them. Some of them, however, were exceedingly shy, and would not suffer themselves to be approached; others had greater confidence, but at the same time showed a respectful fear; while a few put their arms round the officers' necks, and exhibited a boldness devoid of dread of any kind. The latter urged the party to accompany them to their village. These different states of feeling were associated with a peculiar mode of singing, which they would continue for some time, during which nothing could induce them to stop; this ended, their astonishment and excitement would again appear to find relief in vociferating with great volubility for several minutes, at the end of which they would break out in a hearty laugh, without the least apparent cause.
These islanders are tattooed on the cheeks, breast, legs, and above the hips.
A part of these marks consisted of two rows of lines running from the tip of the ear across the cheek and nose, with small crosses between. There were others passed around the body below the chest; many marks resembling fish were on the arms, and a sort of triangle, together with figures of turtles, on the breast. On the legs were many concentric rings. The markings were distinct and
Their village, to which our party went, was on the inner or lagoon side of the island, and contained about thirty houses, which were raised about a foot above the surrounding earth: they were of oblong shape, about fifteen feet high to the ridge-pole, sloping gradually, and of a convex form to within two or three feet of the ground; the roof was supported on high posts, whilst the lower part rested on short ones, three feet within the eaves, having a strong piece extending around, on which the rafters are tied; the gable-ends' were overtopped by the roof, and seemed necessary to protect them from the weather. Below the eaves, the whole was open from the ground to the roof. The thatching, made of pandanus-leaves, was of great thickness, and put on loosely. The interior of the houses was very clean, but there was no furniture except a few gourds, and a reclining
stool, cut from a solid block of wood, having two legs at one end, which inclined it at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees: to show the manner of lying in it, they imitated a careless and comfortable lounge, which they evidently considered a luxury. It was conjectured that they had removed their various household utensils to a secret place.
The most remarkable constructions of the islanders near the village, were three small quays, five or six feet wide, and two feet above the water, forming slips about ten feet wide: at the end of each of se was a small house, built of pandanus-leaves, partly on poles in the water. These appeared to be places for securing their canoes, and for the purpose of keeping their fishing implements. Three canoes were seen lying a short distance off in the lagoon, filled with the women and children. This was a precaution adopted to enable them to escape if it became necessary; yet they did not seem to apprehend any hostility. No kind of war implements was observed among them, and their bodies exhibited no marks of strife with each other.
There was an open space in the town, covered with coral-sand and pebbles, which they called malæ. When they were asked by Mr. Hale for their “fale atua,” (house of God,) they pointed to a place at a distance, and evidently understood the meaning of the question.
There was no cultivation whatever, and their only food appeared to be the cocoa-nut and fish. There were no animals seen, no fowls, dogs, or hogs. Captain Hudson left there a few young pigs, of which the natives took charge, but they did not evince that surprise which was expected at the sight of an unknown animal.
They have no water on the island, and the supply is wholly obtained from excavations made in the body of the cocoa-nut trees, two feet from the ground. These trees are all dug out on the lee side, towards which all are more or less inclined. These excavations are capable of containing five or six gallons of water.
Our gentlemen were under the impression that they saw the whole population, and counted forty male adults, which, on the supposition that they were one-third, would make the population one hundred and twenty.
This island was discovered by Byron, in 1765, who reported it as destitute of inhabitants. The natives gave the name of their island as Oatafu, and acknowledged themselves the subjects of a chief who lived on a neighbouring island, called Fakaafo, pointing to a southerly direction. With this exception, they did not appear to possess the knowledge of any other islands but their own.