Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

agement. The weather till now had been good, and the sea calm; but on Friday the 5th of December, the wind blew fresh from the northwest, which occasioned the sea to break very high across the Dolphin bank ; and in the night we had such a storm, that I became convinced it would not be safe to continue in Matavai Bay much longer, and I determined to get everything ready for sailing as speedily as I could.

Our surgeon, who had been a long time ill from the effect of intemperance and indolence, died on the evening of the 9th of December. As I wished to bury him on shore, I mentioned it to Tinah, who said there would be no objection, but that it would be necessary to ask his father's consent first; which he undertook to do, and immediately left me for that purpose. When I went ashore, I found that the natives had already dug the grave. At four in the afternoon, the body was interred: the chiefs and many of the natives came to see the ceremony, and showed great attention during the service. Some of the chiefs were very inquisitive about what was to be done with the surgeon's cabin, on account of apparitions. They said, when a man died in Otaheite, and was carried to the Tupapow, that as soon as night came he was surrounded by spirits, and if any person went there by himself, they would devour him; therefore, they said, that not less than two people together should go into the surgeon's cabin for some time. I did not endeavour to dissuade them from this belief, otherwise than by laughing, and letting them know that we had no such apprehensions. In the afternoon, the effects of the deceased were disposed of, and I appointed Mr Thomas Denham Ledward, the surgeon's mate, to do duty as surgeon.

Anxious to quit the harbour of Matavai, where our recent experience of the weather had proved that we were not safe, I sent the master in the launch to re-examine the depth of water between this bay and Toahroah Harbour. He returned in the evening, and acquainted me that he found a good bottom, with not less than sixteen fathoms' depth all the way. The harbour of Toahroah appearing every way safe, I determined to get the ship there as speedily as possible, and I immediately made my intention public, which occasioned great rejoicing. Accordingly, on Wednesday the 24th of December, we took the plants on board, being seven hundred and seventy-four pots, all in a healthy state; for whenever any plant had an unfavourable appearance, it was replaced by another.

The natives reckon eight kinds of the breadfruit tree, each of which they distinguish by a different name. The plants are best collected after wet weather, at which time the earth balls round the roots, and they are not liable

to suffer by being moved. The most common method of dividing time at Otaheite is by moons; but they likewise make a division of the year into six parts, each of which is distinguished by the name of the kind of bread-fruit then in season. In this division they keep a small interval called Tawa, in which they do not use the bread-fruit. This is about the end of February, when the fruit is not in perfection; but there is no part of the year in which the trees are entirely bare.

The day after taking the plants on board, we removed to the harbour of Toahroah. I found it a delightful situation, and in every respect convenient. The ship was perfectly sheltered by the reefs in smooth water, and close to a fine beach without the least surf. A small river, with very good water, runs into the sea about the middle of the harbour. I gave directions for the plants to be landed, and the same party to be with them as at Matavai. Tinah fixed his dwelling close to our station. The ship continued to be supplied by the natives as usual. Cocoa-nuts were in such plenty, that I believe not a pint of water was drunk on board the ship in the twenty-four hours. Bread-fruit began to be scarce, though we purchased, without difficulty, a sufficient quantity for our consumption: there was, however, another harvest approaching, which they expected would be fit for use in five or six weeks. We received almost every

day presents of fish, chiefly dolphin and albacore, and a few small rock-fish. Their fishing is mostly in the night, when they make strong lights on the reefs, which attract the fish to them. Sometimes, in fine weather, the canoes are out in such numbers, that the whole sea appears illuminated.

We had not been long in Toahroah Harbour when an event happened of some consequence. On Monday the 5th of January 1789, at the relief of the watch at four o'clock this morning, the small cutter was missing. I was immediately informed of it, and mustered the ship’s company, when it appeared that three men were absent, Charles Churchill, the ship's corporal, and two of the seamen, William Musprat and John Millward—the latter of whom had been sentinel from twelve to two in the morning. They had taken with them eight stand of arms and ammunition ; but of what their plan was, or which way they had gone, no one on board seemed to have the least knowledge. I went on shore to the chiefs, and soon received information that the cutter was at Matavai, and that the deserters had departed in a sailing canoe for the island of Tethuroa. I told Tinah and the other chiefs that I expected they would get the deserters brought back, for that I was determined not to leave Otaheite without them. They assured me that they would do everything in their power to have them taken; and it was agreed that the chiefs Oreepyah and Moannah should depart the next morning for Tethuroa in search of them.

Seventeen days passed, during which I received only the vaguest intelligence of the success of the search instituted after the deserters, and during these days our intercourse with the natives went on as formerly. One day, in walking with Tinah near a Tupapow, I was surprised by a sudden outcry of grief. As I expressed a desire to see the distressed person, Tinah took me to the place, where we found a number of women, one of whom was the mother of a young female child that lay dead. On seeing us, their mourning not only immediately ceased, but to my astonishment, they all burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, and, while we remained, appeared much diverted with our visit. I told Tinah the woman had no sorrow for her child, otherwise her grief would not have so easily subsided ; on which he jocosely told her to cry again. They did not, however, resume their mourning in our presence. This strange behaviour would incline us to think them hardhearted and unfeeling, did we not know that they are fond parents, and, in general, very affectionate: it is therefore to be ascribed to their extreme levity of disposition; and it is probable that death does not appear to them with so many terrors as it does to people of a more serious cast.

« ForrigeFortsæt »