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MBUA BAY AND MUTHUAT A.
On the 26th of May, the Peacock was off Vatulele. Leaving Mbenga to the north, Kantavu on the south, and passing through the sea of Kantavu, they had surveyed the southwest side of Vatulele, and afterwards stood for the opening in the reef off the west end of Vitilevu, through which they passed after sunset, anchoring on the inside of the reef of Navula, in thirteen fathoms water. . This is the limit of the king of Rewa's authority.
On the morning of the 27th, they coasted along the land inside of the reef. The shores of Vitilevu are here low; but the land within a short distance rises to the height of one thousand feet, and has a brown and barren appearance. It is destitute of trees, except on the low points along the shores, which are covered with mangrove (Rhizophora) and cocoa-nut groves. Here and there is a deep valley or mountain-top clothed with wood, which is seen in no other places. This was afterwards observed to be generally the case with the leeward side of all the islands, and particularly of the large ones. I do not think that this can be accounted for by the difference of climate, although it is much drier on the lee than on the weather side; but I deem it probable that the practice of burning the yam-beds and clearing the ground by fire, may have consumed all the forests, in dry seasons. The yam is extensively cultivated every where, and, from our observations, it would seem that the leeward parts of the island would afford most excellent pasturage for cattle; yet it is remarkable, that, although several head of cattle were introduced about five years before our visit, they have not in a single instance multiplied.
Beyond the immediate coast, the land rises in mountain ranges, between four and five thousand feet high.
The islands to the west-the Asaua Group, with Malolo, Vomo, and the adjacent low coral islands—are all in sight, with their labyrinth of reefs; whilst the numerous towns of Vitilevu, perched on their eyrie cliffs, continued to meet the eye, showing very conclusively that the savage character of the natives had rather increased than diminished.
Towards sunset the vessel ran upon a coral lump, which gave her a considerable jar; but, on getting out a kedge, they very soon hauled off, when Captain Hudson anchored for the night. He describes the channel through which he was compelled to beat as being tortuous. There are many sand-banks on the reefs, and small patches of rock, but it is easy to avoid them. The sunken knoll of coral on which they struck had about twelve feet of water on it, and was of small dimensions: the bow and stern of the ship were, one in thirteen the other in ten fathoms, while she hung amidships.
In the evening, partly as a signal for the absent boats that were appointed to meet the ship here, and partly for effect on the natives, they fired an evening gun, burnt a blue-light, and set off three rockets, or as the natives term them, “fiery spirits." These brought forth many shouts from the land, which were audibly heard on board, although the vessel was at a great distance from the shore. These sig. nals were soon answered by a rocket from the boats, which joined the ship early the next morning.
Lieutenant Emmons, his officers and boats' crews, were all well. No accident had occurred to them, and he reported that he had finished his work. After leaving the ship at Rewa, he passed outside the reef for several miles, until he came to a narrow and deep passage through the reef, which led to a spacious harbour, on which lies the village of Suva. The natives of this village told Mr. Emmons's interpreter, that they were subjects of the king of Rewa, and that they had lately become Christians. This is the village where the Reverend Mr Cargill had been the Sunday preceding, and its inhabitants were the first proselytes he had.
Suva Harbour was surveyed and found to be an excellent one, free from shoals, well sheltered, and with good holding-ground, easy of ingress and egress, with an abundance of wood and water. It lies ten miles west of Rewa Roads.
During their stay there, they had some heavy squalls, accompanied with thunder, lightning, and much rain. From the frequent occur
rence of these squalls every thing in the boats became wet, compelling them to sleep in their wet clothes.
On the 20th, the boats stood over for Mbenga. They found the current setting very strong to the eastward, which made a disagreeable short sea, obliging them to keep two hands baling to prevent the boat from swamping. Towards night they entered the reef that sur rounds Mbenga through a shallow passage, and anchored off a deep harbour, where they remained for the night. The next morning, Lieutenant Emmons examined Sawau Harbour, which he found two miles deep and one wide, contracting at the entrance to a quarter of a mile; it has good anchorage in from four to ten fathoms water, on a muddy bottom. This harbour enters from the north, and nearly divides the island in two.
Mbenga rises on all sides towards two very prominent peaks, which were found by triangulation to be twelve hundred and eighty-nine feet in height. The land round the harbour of Sawau rises in most places from one to two hundred feet. At the head of the harbour a few huts were seen perched upon a perpendicular craggy rock, about five hundred feet higher than the surrounding land. The natives were very civil, and laid aside their arms at some distance from the party, before they approached; they brought bread-fruit, yams, &c., to trade. The island appears in many places burnt, the natives setting fire to the tall grass before planting their crops. Another harbour was found on the west side, which I have called Elliott's. This is not so deep as the one on the north, but is more open at its entrance, and is surrounded by equally high land. On the left of the entrance is a white sand beach, and a neat village of about thirty huts. There are two small islands in the neighbourhood of Mbenga, one of which lies to the south, and is called Stuart's, and the other to the eastward, to which Lieutenant Emmons gave the name of Elizabeth.
The island of Mbenga has suffered severely of late years from the tyrannical power of the Rewa chiefs, and is now ygali to Rewa. Formerly, its inhabitants had a high idea of their importance, styling themselves “ Ygali dura ki langi”—subject only to heaven; but of late years, in consequence of their having offended the king of Rewa, he sent a force which finally overcame them, and butchered nearly all the inhabitants.
Ngaraningiou is said to have been the bloody executioner of this act. Since that time these descendants of the gods, according to their mythology, have lost their political influence. Mbenga, like all the large islands of this group, is basaltic.
Its shape is an oval, five miles long by three wide.
The boats now explored the reef, and anchored at night under Namuka, within the same reef as Mbenga. They found about one hundred natives on this island, who were very friendly, bringing them quantities of cocoa-nuts, fish, and some small articles, for traffic.
The reef on the northwest side was found to contain many shippassages.
After the examination of these, they visited Bird Island, lying in the passage between Mbenga Reef and Vitilevu. The reef off this part of Vitilevu nearly joins that of Mbenga. Two miles beyond this, Lieutenant Emmons entered a well-sheltered harbour, where the boats stayed over-night. About three miles to the westward of it, they found another similarly situated, after which they continued to proceed down the coast, along the reef, without meeting any harbour until after dark, when they succeeded in getting into the exposed one at Ndronga. Just before anchoring, it being quite dark, they were hailed several times in the native language from a small vessel, and not answering, they were about being fired into from the “Who would have thought it !” Mr. Winn, who was lying here collecting tortoise-shell for the ship Leonidas, Captain Eagleston, which vessel was then curing biche de mar at Ba, on the north side of the island.
The harbour (if so it may be called) of Ndronga, affords no protection against the southwest winds, and is only suitable for small vessels. The anchorage is in five fathoms water. The reef from this point westward increases in distance from the shore from one to two miles. It extends to the westward six miles further, where an opening in the reef occurs, which leads to a harbour. The entrance of this was narrow, and open to the southward and westward, the reef broken, and some sunken patches of rock. On the eastern side of the harbour there is a small islet with cocoa-nut trees, on which Lieutenant Em. mons landed. Here he found a native's hut, but no inhabitants. Some shells and cocoa-nuts were procured, and the harbour was sounded out, after which the boats put to sea.
Five miles beyond this harbour they came to the Malolo Island Passage, where the great sea-reef from the westward joins, having two entrances, the largest of which I have named the Malolo Passage. That to the eastward, which I called the Navula Passage, they passed through, and anchored at night under the town of Navula. The “Who would have thought it !" again joined their company.
On the 26th, Lieutenant Emmons gained Ba, the point where his work was to terminate, and be joined by that of the other parties. On the 28th they went alongside of the Peacock, after having been in the boats seventeen days.
The Peacock now took the launch and cutter in tow, and began beating up for the purpose of reaching the Malaki Islands, in order to take a departure from Amboa Bay.
The natives on this side of the island speak quite a different dialect from that of the other portions of the group, and the interpreters were not able to understand them at all. Few canoes were seen, and none visited them. The land close to the shore is low, but it gradually rises for five or six miles in hills from five to seven hundred feet in height; and here and there through the breaks may be seen the distant blue mountains, towering above them.
While the ship was standing in towards Ba, the launch capsized and sunk. At the time there were two men in her, by whose carelessness the accident occurred; these were both picked up. Captain Hudson immediately brought the Peacock to an anchor, lowered all the boats, and made every possible exertion to recover the launch, but without success. This was a great loss to our surveying operations, and compelled us to redouble our exertions.
In the evening they anchored off Ba, where the ship Leonidas, Captain Eagleston, had been fishing for biche de mar. He had left his long biche de mar house, which was deserted, but contrary to the custom of persons in this business, had not been destroyed. A large quantity of wood was found near it, which Captain Hudson supplied himself from. This was the only house in the valley, but there are several towns along this part of the coast, though it has not the appearance of being densely inhabited ; and the natives, who are usually found following a vessel, seemed all to have vanished. Paddy Connel, who was with the boats that landed, showed himself a true Feejee man on the occasion, for finding the officers were desirous of having communication with the natives, he ascended one of the hills, and kept up a continuous hallooing in such a variety of voices that those who were left on the beach, believed that a whole host was coming down; but he did not succeed in bringing any to the shore.
The 30th and 31st they continued beating up to the windward. On the latter day, in getting under way, William Dunbar (seaman) had the misfortune to have his hand caught in the chain-nipper, which crushed several of his fingers so much, that amputation of them became necessary.
On the 30th, they anchored off the town of Tabooa, to the northward and eastward of the island of Votia. Off this island is a passage through the sea-reef, which I have called the Ba Passage.
On the 1st of June, they reached Dongaloa, where they had some communication with the natives. They were very shy, which Paddy