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LAKE MBA AND SAVU SA V U.
It has been stated that the Porpoise parted company with the Vincennes on the 8th May, off the island of Fulanga. From this time, until June 9th, when I met her at Somu-somu, Lieutenant-Commandant Ringgold had been engaged in the survey of the eastern islands of the group; and it is now time that I should revert to the operations in which he had been engaged.
A heavy gale blowing from the southward and eastward for several hours, and which afterwards hauled to the northeast, was followed, after it moderated, by heavy rain. These prevented the surveys from being commenced as early as I had hoped. When it cleared off, the work was begun at the southeast island, called Ongea. There are, in fact, two islands enclosed in the same reef, called Ongea-levu and Ongea-riki. A good entrance was found on the northwest side of the reef, and a harbour, to which the name of Port Refuge was given; but there is little or no inducement to enter it, for the islands are barren, and no water is to be found. A few wretched inhabitants are on them. The position of these islands is given in the tables.
Three miles to the southward and eastward of Ongea is a dangerous reef and sand-bank, called Nugu Ongea.
Fulanga was the next examined. This is a fine island, surrounded by the usual coral reef, which has an entrance through it on the northeast side, (suitable for small vessels,) that expands into a large basin, with many islets and reefs, where large quantities of biche de mar have been gathered. The boats circumnavigated this island, and their crews were on shore all night, in consequence of having been obliged to return to the place where they first began their work,
and of there being no possibility of passing over the reef to enable them to join the brig before the night closed in. They were kindly treated.
During the night a heavy squall was experienced from the northnorthwest, with vivid lightning and rain; but the following day proved fine. In the morning the boats rejoined the brig and brought off a native who gave his name as Tiana, and through Jim, the interpreter, they gathered the information that the island is subject to Tui Neau, king of Lakemba. He also gave the names of all the islands in sight He knew our flag, and spoke of vessels often visiting this island.
In preparing the boats for service after dinner, an accident happened which nearly proved fatal to a man named Henry Hammond; in passing the arms into the boat, one of the carbines went off when the muzzle was within six inches of his side; he gave a loud shriek, and fell; his shirt took fire from the explosion, and all thought the ball had passed through his body; but his position was fortunately such that it only passed through the integuments, and came out about three inches from the place where it entered, having glanced off from one of the short ribs. The wound did not prove dangerous.
The boats left the brig in the afternoon, under the pilotage of Tiana, finished the survey of the island, and made the west bluff of Fulanga, by triangulation, one hundred and fifty feet high. They then returned, bringing on board a chief of the island, whose name was Soangi, and the native missionary from Tonga, called Toia. Neither of them had any covering but the maro. They remained on board all night.
In the morning, Lieutenant-Commandant Ringgold and several officers visited the island. The passage through the reef was intricate, and a strong tide was rushing through it. After passing the reef, an extensive basin, with numerous islets and reefs in it, is reached, in which the water is deep and of a dark blue colour. The islets are composed of scoriaceous materials of volcanic origin, and, what seemed singular, was their being undermined by the action of the sea to the distance of ten or twelve feet. Some of the rocks had, in consequence, the appearance of a large overhanging shelf, of the form of a mushroom.
They landed at the village at the head of the bay, which consists of twenty or thirty huts. These were of an oval form, and composed of a light frame covered with mats. They contained little else than a few mats spread on the ground, and had but a temporary appearance. The natives were civil, and had picked up some phrases in English, in which they soon began to beg for small articles, such as buttons, needles, &c. They sold their fowls and vegetables for tobacco, cloth,
and knives. Their stock, however, was not very abundant, and they had no yams. Lieutenant-Commandant Ringgold supplied them with some for planting, and also with Indian corn, potatoes, onions, &c. The native missionary, who is one of the most prominent men among the inhabitants, received directions for planting them, and he promised that they should be well taken care of.
This island is one of those on which fine timber grows, and is, therefore, resorted to by the Vavao and Friendly Islanders for building canoes. Three of these were seen in the process of construction, under a long shed, one of which, on measurement, was found to be one hundred and two feet long, seven feet wide, and five feet deep, of a beautiful model; the other two were somewhat smaller. The builders said that they were constructing them for a Vavao chief, called Salomon, for the Tonga war. The work was performed under a contract, and the price agreed on was to be paid in whales' teeth, axes, guns, &c. Salomon was at the village, and went off with Lieutenant-Commandant Ringgold to the brig, for the purpose of accompanying him to the other islands. He was a remarkably handsome man, and resembled the Tonga chiefs more than the other Feejees.
There is another village situated on the southeast side of the island, but it is inaccessible by water except for canoes.
Good water, fruit, vegetables, and poultry, can be obtained here; the natives are friendly, and under the care of a Tongese missionary. The population was one hundred and fifty souls, three-fourths of whom were converts to Christianity. They manufactured native cloth, mats, and other articles of Feejee property in abundance.
Just before the brig made sail, they were boarded by a large double canoe, in which there were fifteen persons, bringing quantities of fowls and taro for trade. This canoe resembled those which have been described as seen at Tonga, with a platform, and had the immense triangular mat-sail. Salomon said that it was capable of containing two hundred persons.
Assistant-Surgeon Holmes obtained some few botanical specimens, and the other officers many shells. The beach abounded with very good oysters, and many small turtles were seen.
At Fulanga several cases of severe pulmonary and cutaneous diseases were observed by Dr. Holmes, and also a case of well-marked consumption in a young woman.
After liberally rewarding the chief and missionary, LieutenantCommandant Ringgold bore away for Kambara, having first surveyed the small island of Moramba, which is half a mile in diameter. It is
well wooded, and is surrounded by a reef, but offers no facilities to vessels.
Enkaba, which is two miles long by one wide, is inhabited, well wooded, and has a breach in the reef, but no harbour.
Kambara was the next island in course. It is of a rectangular form, is about three miles and a half long and two wide, and is the westernmost of what I have termed the Eastern Group. It is fertile and well wooded; its timber is esteemed above that of all the other islands of the group for canoe-building; and cocoa-nut groves abound along its shores. The island is not entirely surrounded by the reef, which is wanting on the northwest side. On examination it proved to have no anchorage for large vessels, but small ones and boats may find protection. This island may be known by a remarkable bellshaped peak on its northwest side, which is a good landmark. It is covered with rich verdure, and was found to be three hundred and fifty feet high.
Tabanaielli is a small uninhabited island on the western side of Kambara.
Namuka, which was the next to claim attention, has a very extensive reef surrounding it, and offers no anchorage. There are but few natives upon it.
Angasa and three smaller islands are enclosed in one extensive reef, along with several small uninhabited islets. Angasa is the largest and most eastern of them. It is easily distinguished, and is remarkable for long regular ridges, that extend through the centre, and appear as though they had been artificially formed.
Ularua is a small desolate island encompassed by an extensive reef.
To the north of these were found two small islands, Komo-levu and Komo-riki, enclosed in the same reef, through which there is a passage on the northeast side. Good anchorage was found here, except in northeast winds.
Motha lies to the eastward of Komo. It is one of the most picturesque islands in the group, with an undulating surface; its hills were more free of wood than those they had before surveyed; it is about two miles in diameter, and is surrounded by an extensive reef, through which there is only a boat-entrance on the north shore. Karoni, which is of small size, lies within the same reef, towards its southern end. Motha forms the southern side of what I have called the Oneata Channel; it is a good landmark to run for in making the group, being high and surrounded with sloping sides. Its soil is rich. Its population