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company. I had compiled a chart of the comparatively unknown sea we were about to traverse; but the weather was threatening, and from the specimen we had had in the morning of its dangers, I thought it would be prudent to haul off, which I did, at 2 P. M. At five, land was reported ahead, and on the lee bow; it proved to be the island of Totoia, which I now found was thirty miles out of the position assigned it by former navigators. I at once came to the determination of running into the group, feeling assured we should thus save much time, and probably find smoother water; the dangers we had to encounter in either way were about equal. It was now blowing a fresh gale, which obliged us to take three reefs in the topsails ; it is by no means a pleasant business to be running over unknown ground, in a dark night, before a brisk gale, at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour The sea was unusually phosphorescent, and the night was disagreeable with rain and mists. The Peacock and Flying Fish followed us. The morning proved fine, and at daylight we were within a short distance of the Horse-shoe Reef, unknown to any of us but Tom, who thought we must be at least twenty miles from it. We found ourselves in the midst of a number of beautiful islands, viz.,* Goro, Vanua-levu, and Somu-somu on our right; Nairai, Ambatiki, and Matuku, on the left ; whilst Ovolau, Wakaia, and Mokungai, were in front; they were all girt by white encircling reefs. So beautiful was their aspect, that I could scarcely bring my mind to the realizing sense of the well-known fact, that they were the abode of a savage, ferocious, and treacherous race of cannibals.
Each island had its own peculiar beauty, but the eye as well as mind felt more satisfaction in resting upon Ovolau, which as we approached, had more of the appearance of civilization about it than the others; it is also the highest, most broken, and most picturesque. In consequence of light winds, we did not succeed in reaching the harbour of Levuka that evening, and passed the night under way, between Ovolau and Wakaia. At daylight on the 8th of May, we were off the port, and made all sail for it. At nine o'clock, being off the entrance, I took the precaution, as the breeze was light, to hoist the boats out (having to pass through a passage only eight hundred feet in width), and sent them ahead to tow. At first it is not a little alarming to approach these entrances with a light wind, and often with a strong current setting in or out; the ship rolling and tossing with the swell as she nears the reefs, the deep-blue water of the ocean curling into
* In the orthography of the names of the Feejee Group, I have followed the pronunciation, and not the true construction of the language, which will be explained in a subsequent cliapter.
white foam on them, with no bottom until the entrance is gained, when a beautiful and tranquil basin opens to the view.
The remarkable peculiarity of these coral harbours, if so I may call them, is that in gaining them, it is but an instant from the time the sea is left until security is found equal to that of an artificial dock; this is particularly the case with the harbour of Levuka. The shore was lined with natives, watching our progress with their usual curiosity; and it was amusing to hear the shouts of applause that emanated from the crowds on shore, when they witnessed the men, dressed all in white, running up the rigging to furl the sails.
In passing to the anchorage, we saw a tiny boat, in which was David Whippy, one of the principal white residents here, with one of his naked children. This man ran away from a ship, commanded by his brother, that was trading in this group, in consequence of the ill treatment he received on board; he now has been eighteen years on this island, and is the principal man among the whites. He is considered a royal messenger, or Maticum Ambau, and is much looked up to by the chiefs. He speaks their language well; is a prudent trustworthy person, and understands the character of the natives perfectly : his worth and excellent character I had long heard of.* He immediately came on board to welcome us, and after we had anchored near the town, he brought off Tui Levuka, the chief of the Levuka town. This dignitary was a stout, well-made man, strong and athletic, entirely naked, with the exception of a scanty maro, with long ends of white tapa hanging down before and behind, and a turban of white fleecy tapa, not unlike tissue-paper, around his head, of enormous size. These turbans designate the chiefs, and frequently have a small wreath of flowers over them. His face was a shining black, having been painted for the occasion; his countenance had a good expression, and he seemed, after a few moments, to be quite at his ease. As is customary, I at once gave him a present of two whale's teeth and two fathoms of red cotton cloth, with which he was well satisfied, clapping his hands several times, which is their mode of expressing thanks. His hair was crisped, with a small whalebone stick or needle, twelve or fourteen inches in length, stuck into it on one side; he did not leave me long in doubt as to the use to which the latter is put, for it was continually in requisition to scratch his head, the vermin being not a little troublesome. He was very desirous of doing every thing for me, and said that any ground I wished to oc
* He has, since our return, been appointed vice-consul for the Feejee Group
cupy, was at the service of the countrymen of his friend Whippy. Mr. Drayton during our stay obtained a camera lucida drawing of him, whilst he was leaning against a tree.
FEEJEE CHIEF, TUI LEVUKA.
Ovolau is the principal residence of the white men in the group, to whose general deportment and good conduct I must bear testimony; I met with none better disposed throughout the voyage than were found there. I at once engaged them to become our interpreters during the time we stayed, which afforded us many advantages in communicating with the natives.
About three hours after the Vincennes anchored, the Peacock entered; but there was no news or sign of the Flying-Fish, nor had she been seen while the Peacock was in the offing. I felt much uneasiness about her, more so as I specially dreaded any accident to that vessel in the vicinity of cannibal islands.
I directed the chief, Tui Levuka, to send a message immediately to Ambau, to inform King Tanoa of my arrival, and desire him to visit me. This was at once assuming authority over him, and after the fashion (as I understood) of the country; but it was doubted by some whether he would come, as he was old, and a powerful chief. I thought the experiment was worth trying, as, in case he obeyed, it would be considered that he acknowledged me as his superior, which I thought
might be beneficial in case of any difficulty occurring during our stay; I believed, moreover, that it would add greatly to the respect which the natives would hold us in.
The town of Levuka contains about forty houses; it is situated on the east side of the island of Ovolau, in a quiet and peaceful valley, surrounded by a dense grove of cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees, with a fine stream of fresh and pure water running through it to the beach ; high, broken volcanic peaks rise to the west, forming the background.
The frames of the houses are built of the bread-fruit tree, and are filled in with reeds, whilst the roof is covered with a thatch of the wild sugar-cane. They are usually oblong in shape, and from twenty to twenty-five feet in length by fifteen in breadth.
The most conspicuous and remarkable structure is the mbure, or spirit-house, which is built on a raised and walled mound: its proportions are exceedingly uncouth, being nearly twice as high as it is broad at its base, and forming a singular, sharp-peaked roof; the piece of timber serving for the ridge-pole, projects three or four feet at each end, is covered with numbers of white shells (Ovula cypræa), and has two long poles or spears crossing it at right angles. A drawing of one of these mbure will be seen in the succeeding chapter. At the termination of the thatching, the roofs of all the houses are about a foot thick, and project eighteen inches or two feet, forming eaves, which secure them from the wet. For the most part they have two doors, and a fire-place in the centre, composed of a few stones. The furniture consists of a few boxes, mats, several large clay jars, and many drinking vessels, the manufacture of pottery being extensively carried on by them. The sleeping-place is generally screened off, and raised about a foot above the other part of the floor.
Having settled definitively the mode of operation I intended to pursue in surveying the group, I was desirous of fixing some of the main points in my own mind, as well as in that of the officers, and therefore ordered a large party from each ship to be prepared to accompany me on the following morning, to one of the high peaks of the island, called Andulong, taking with us the barometers, &c., for measuring its altitude. I likewise issued an order, directing officers who left the ship for any purpose, to be armed; being well satisfied that every precaution ought to be taken, in order to prevent surprise in any shape; I also impressed upon all the necessity of circumspection, and of keeping themselves on their guard, which, as I learned from the few incidents related to me by Whippy and others, was highly necessary; orders were also given to prepare the boats of both ships for surveying duties.
I understood that about forty whites had taken up their residence here, but we only found twelve, who were all married to native women, and generally had large families.
We found lying at anchor here a small sloop, about the size of a long-boat, called “Who'd have thought it !" a tender to the ship Leonidas, Captain Eagleston, who was at another island curing the biche de mar; she was in charge of his first officer, Mr. Winn, who had been about trading for tortoise-shell at the different islands. He reported to me that one of his men had been enticed from the boat, and had been murdered, and probably eaten: this was said to have occurred near Muthuata, on the north side of Vanua-levu. It appeared that Mr. Winn, with only four or five men, had been trading in this small boat, for vessel she could not be called, around the group; they had with them a small skiff or punt, capable of holding only one man.
In this one of the crew had been sent on shore, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the natives had any thing to dispose of. On his landing, he was led up from the beach, and never returned. This incident claimed our attention afterwards, and our proceedings in relation to it will be spoken of in their proper place.
On the morning of the 9th, the weather proved fine, and at half-past seven we all went on shore with our instruments. Orders were left with the ship to fire guns, on a signal being given from the top of Andulong. I put up both of the barometers, and made several comparisons, and then left one under charge of an officer to make half-hourly observations. We set off for the peak of Andulong, apparently but a short hour's walk. Our party consisted of about twenty-five officers and the naturalists, all intent upon their different branches of duty. Being entirely unused to so fatiguing a climb, some gave out, and were obliged to return; the strongest of us found no little exertion necessary to overcome the difficulties which beset our path: every now and then a perpendicular rise of fifteen or twenty feet was to be ascended, then a narrow ridge to be crossed, and again a descent into a deep ravine ; the whole was clothed with vines at intervals, and the walking was very precarious, from the numbers of roots and slippery mud we encountered; water continually bubbled across our path from numerous rills that were hurrying headlong down the ravines. The last part of the ascent was sharp and steep, having precipices of several hundreds of feet on each side of us. On passing up the path, I saw our native guides each pull a leat when they came to a spot, and throw it down; on inquiry, Whippy told me it was the place where a man had been clubbed: this was considered as an offering of respect to him, and, if not performed, they have a notion they will soon be killed themselves.