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quickly given, “ That it would be the last of him and them; that there were some foolish people, who thought they would live in some otner world; but they were very ignorant, and there were very few who thought in this way."
The next morning the boats were ordered to survey and sound out Ya-sau-y-lau Harbour, and thence to go on beyond the island of Naviti, passing those of Androna and Yangata. All these islands have passages between them, and are little incommoded with coral reefs. Some of them rise to a considerable height, that of Naviti being nine hundred and fifty-four feet high. They all have many small villages on them, which are generally built on a snug bay, and have near them a secure place of retreat, on the top of some inaccessible rock. I had expected to find anchorage and a good position for observing at Naviti, but none was accessible.
Just to the south of Naviti, is an island, the name of which I could not obtain, and which I subsequently called Eld Island, after Passed Midshipman Eld. To three others near it I gave the names of Fox, Agate, and Sinclair. Eld Island was found to be adapted to my purposes. We ascended its peak, and obtained the requisite observations. I then despatched the tender to bring up the boats.
During the absence of the tender, we discovered three or four canoes with a number of natives concealed just around the bluff of the next island. These natives were watching our motions very closely, and I deemed it necessary to put the men at the boat, which was some distance from us below, upon their guard, and sent extra boat-keepers to reinforce them. These natives learned that we were well-armed, by the occasional firing of our guns at birds, and did not trouble us. On the arrival of the tender, they went off, and we saw no more of them. It was by no means pleasant to be constantly feeling that if one of us should straggle, he might be kidnapped and taken off to furnish a cannibal feast. The boats again at night pitched their tents on the beach near the tender.
Naviti has several large villages, though there is little level ground for cultivation. From the top of Eld Island, that of Biva, in the west, extensive coral reefs trending north from the island of Vomo to the east, and the small islands in the southern part of this group, could be distinctly seen.
A few natives were seen on this island, who had swum across the narrow passage between it and Naviti. They were living in a miserable hut, and their principal food appeared to be the yaka, which an old woman was baking in the fire. From the natives digging in search
of this root, all the hills on these islands had an appearance as if rooted up by pigs.
At daylight I despatched the Vincennes' first cutter and the Leopard to survey the small islands in their route towards Malolo, where I had ordered a rendezvous with the brig; and with the tender and Peacock's first cutter I took the inner islands and shoals. The former passed to the right of Waia Island, while the latter took the left side.
Waia is the highest and most broken island of this group, its peak being about sixteen hundred and forty-one feet above the level of the sea. Connected with it are Waialailai and Waialailaithake, all very rugged and broken. On the latter I landed, and succeeded, after some difficulty, in getting to the top of one of its rocky peaks, which I called Observatory Peak. At the first view it appeared almost inaccessible, but in making the attempt, we found that the difficulties fortunately diminished as we neared the top. We found the ascent very fatiguing encumbered, as we were obliged to be, not only with our instruments, but with fire-arms, for it was very necessary to keep constantly on our guard against attacks by the natives. On landing, we had thought that this island was uninhabited, but we were not long on the top before we saw several natives keeping a close watch upon us. This constant necessity of keeping on one's guard for fear of surprise was not a little harassing, and made my anxiety for the parties very great. The more knowledge I obtained of the natives, the less was I disposed to trust them.
The Waia Islanders are said to be quite independent of any authority except that of their own chiefs. All endeavours made to subjugate them have proved unavailing; and they keep themselves retired within their own fastnesses, avoiding communication with the other natives, except when they occasionally make an incursion, with a strong force, on the defenceless towns of other islands. From their cruel conduct on these expeditions, they have obtained, even from their cannibal neighbours, the name of savages. The island is said to be fruitful, but I can hardly credit the assertion, for it seems little better than a craggy rock: it is thought to contain three thousand inhabitants. It is surrounded by a few patches of coral reef, but not enough to afford it a harbour. The western sides of the islands are very much worn by the sea, in consequence of there being no sea-reef to protect them from the full swell of the ocean, in the storms which at certain seasons rage here with violence.
The observations from Observatory Peak were quite satisfactory, for we were fortunate in having very clear weather, so that we had all
the objects under view that we desired. The height of this peak was found to be about five hundred and fifty-five feet.
In the afternoon, I made for Vomo, and anchored under it. Here I found Lieutenant Emmons, on his return from his examinations of some detached reefs.
The southern half of Vomo has a high, narrow, and almost perpendicular bluff; the northern half is sand, covered with a thick growth of bushes, the resort of many pigeons: it is two miles in circumference. There is a detached rock, of a somewhat castellated appearance, at its northwest end, which I called Castle Rock. There is anchorage for a small vessel, but in any thing of a gale even she would be badly protected.
Messrs. Sinclair and Eld were sent at early daylight to the top of the rocky bluff, to get a round of angles, in which they succeeded. I passed the greatest part of the day on the beach, making the usual series of observations for latitude and meridian distances, and also taking a round of angles. At about half-past three, just as we were about getting under way,
, a large fleet of canoes was seen approaching the island from Waia. Vomo is usually their place of stopping, being about half way to the Vitilevu shore from their island. They are always very cautious in their descent on the large island, although it is supposed that many of its towns hold communication with them, and the original inhabitants of the Naviti and Waia Islands are said to have been renegades from the larger islands.
Tom told me they must be after some mischief towards us, as they seldom left their island with so large a force. However true this might have been, we were soon under way, standing towards the Vitilevu shore, for the wind did not permit us to lay our course for Malolo. We passed through narrow passages in reefs, and over patches of rock, where there was little more water than the tender drew.
Our pilots had never been over this ground, and thought the natives, who are well acquainted with it, must have calculated upon our meeting with some accident, and intended to be near, to take advantage of it.
Vomo, the island just spoken of, is famous for its turtles, more being caught here than on any other island of the group; the time for taking them is from December to March. During this season every place to which the turtles are in the habit of resorting is occupied by the natives, who remain in these haunts of the animal for the whole of the
above time, engaged in taking them. At other seasons turtles are occasionally taken in nets, made of cocoanut-husk sennit, among the shoals and reefs.
We have seen that the chiefs keep turtles in pens; and I have been informed, by credible witnesses, that when they do not wish to kil. them, and have an opportunity of disposing of the valuable part of the shell, they will remove it from the living animal. They do this by holding a burning brand close to the outer shell until it curls up and separates a little from that beneath ; into the gap thus formed a small wooden wedge is inserted, by which the whole is easily removed from the back. After they have been thus stripped, they are again put into the pens, and although the operation appears to give great pain, it is not fatal.
Each turtle is covered with thirteen pieces, five on the back, and four on each side. These together make what is called a head, whose average weight is about fourteen pounds.
Tortoise-shell, I am informed, sometimes sells in Manilla for from two to three thousand dollars the picul (one hundred and thirty-three English pounds). It constitutes the chief article of trade in these islands, and causes them to be visited by traders every season, while it is the chief inducement for the residence of whites among them, who endeavour to monopolize the trade.
The visits of the traders in tortoise-shell, who come in small vessels, are attended with no little risk, and there are many accounts of attempts made by the natives to cut them off. They resort to many methods of effecting this purpose; among others, one of the most frequent is to dive and lay hold of the cable: this, when the wind blows fresh towards the shore, is cut, in order that the vessel may drift upon it; or, in other cases, a rope is attached to the cable, by which the vessel may be dragged ashore. The time chosen for these purposes, is just before daylight. The moment a vessel touches the land, she is considered and treated as a prize sent by their gods.
By five o'clock we had anchored under the Vitilevu shore, off the point called Viti-rau-rau, where we lay until 2 A. M. Having the advantage of the moon, by whose light we trusted to find our way through the reefs, and being favoured by a land-breeze, we then weighed anchor, in hopes of reaching Malolo in time for early observations. At eight o'clock, A. M. it fell calm, and not wishing to lose the day, I determined to land on a small sand-island, a mile and a half in circumference, (which I called Linthicum Island, after my cockswain,) that was near us, and afterwards to connect it with that of Malolo by triangulation. The anchor of the tender was accordingly
dropped, her sails remaining up, as a signal to the boats of our position. We were then about five miles east of Malolo. I soon landed, with Mr. Eld, and became engaged in our observations. In the afternoon, I was congratulating myself that I had now finished my last station of the survey, and that my meridian distances and latitudes were all complete. We were putting up our instruments to go on board, when it was reported to me that the three boats were in sight, coming down before the breeze. So unusual an occurrence at once made me suspect that some accident had occurred; and on the first sight I got of them, I found that their colours were half-mast and union down. I need not describe the dread that came over me. We reached the tender only a few moments before them, and when they arrived, I learned that a horrid massacre had but a short hour before taken place, and saw the mutilated and bleeding bodies of Lieutenant Joseph A. Underwood and my nephew, Midshipman Wilkes Henry.
The boats were taken in tow, when we stood for Malolo, and as the night closed in, anchored in its eastern bay.