Wednesday, 9th. P.M. had a light breeze of wind at North; in the night had much rain. A.M. little wind and Variable, with some Showers of rain. At 11 a.m. a breeze of wind sprung up at East, which carried us out of the Harbour, and as soon as the Boats were hoisted in made Sail to the Southward. Since we have been about these Islands we have expended but little of our Sea Provisions, and have at this last place been very plentifully supply’d with Hogs, Fowls, Plantains, and Yams, which will be of very great use to us in case we should not discover any lands in our rout to the Southward, the way I now intend to Steer.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLANDS, ULIETEA, OTAHA AND BOLABOLA.
So called by the Natives, and it was not thought adviseable to give them any other Names; but these three, with Huaheine, Tuibai, and Maurua, as they lay contigious to one another, I have named Society Isles.
They are situated between the Latitude of 16 degrees 10 minutes and 16 degrees 55 minutes South and between the Longitude 151 degrees 00 minutes and 151 degrees 42 minutes West from the Meridian of Greenwich. Ulietea and Otaha lay close to each other, and are both inclosed within a Reef of Coral Rocks; and altho’ the distance between the one and the other is near 2 Miles, yet there is no Passage for Shipping. By means of this reef are form’d several excellent Harbours. The entrance into them are but narrow, but when a Ship is once in nothing can hurt her. Those on the East side have been already described. On the West side of Ulietea, which is the largest Island of the 2, are 3, the Northermost of which, called Oraotanue, we lay in, the Channell leading in is a 1/4 of a Mile wide and lies between 2 low sandy Islands, which are the Northermost small Islands on this side. You have good Anchorage between or just within the 2 Islands in 28 fathoms soft ground. This harbour, tho’ but small, yet it is preferable to any on the Island, on account of the easy getting of fresh Water, and being seated in the most fertile part of the Island. The other 2 harbours lay to the Southward of this, and not far from the South end of the Island. In both of them are good Anchorage in 10, 12, and 14 fathoms water: they are readily known by 3 small woody Islands that lay at their entrance, the Southermost Harbour lies within and to the Southward of the Southermost Island, and the other lies between the Northermost. There are more Harbours at the South End of this Island, as I am inform’d, but these were not examind by us.
Otaha affords 2 very good Harbours, one on the East and the other on the West side; that on the East side called Ohamane hath been already mentioned, the other is called Oharurua and lies about the middle of the South-West side of the Island. It is pretty large, and affords good Anchorage in 20 and 25 fathoms, and there is no want of fresh Water. The breach in the Reef which forms a Channell into this harbour is 1/4 of a mile broad, steep too, on both sides, and the same may be said of all the others, and in general there is no danger but what is Visible.
The Island of Bolabola lies North-West by West from Otaha, distant 4 Leagues, it is incompassed by a reef of Rocks and several small Islands, and the Circuit of the whole appear’d to be about 8 Leagues. On the South-West side of the Islands (as I am inform’d) is an opening in the Reef which admits of a Channell into a very good Harbour. This Island is very remarkable on account of a high Craggy hill upon it, which Terminates at Top in 2 Peaks, one higher than the other; this hill is so perpendicular that it appears to be quite inaccessible. The land on Ulietea and Otaha is of a very hilly, broken, and uneven surface, except what borders upon the Sea Coast, and high withall, yet the Hills look green and pleasant and are in many places cloathed with woods.
The Produce of these Islands, and manners and Customs of the Natives are much the same as at King George’s Island, only as the Bread fruit Tree is here in not such plenty, the natives to supply that deficiency plant and Cultivate a greater Quantity of Plantains and Yams of several sorts, and these they have in the greatest Perfection.
The inhabitants are rather of a fairer Colour than the Generality of the Natives of George’s Island, but more especially the Women, who are much fairer and handsomer, and the Men are not so much Addicted to thieving, and are more Open and free in their behaviour.
The only differance we could see in their Religion was in the Houses of their Gods, which were very different to those we saw on George’s Island. Those here were made about the Size and shape of a Coffin open at one End; they are laid upon a Number of small Wooden Arches, which are fram’d and fastned together like the Roof of a House, and these are generally supported about 3 or 4 feet above the ground by Posts. Over the box is a small roof or shade made of Palm thatch; in this Box are deposited the Oblations of the Gods, such as Pieces of Cloth, Human bone, etc., and these places they hold sacred, and some are placed in their Mories, and some not. They have a Custom of preserving the Sculls and under Jaw bones of the Dead, but wether of their Friends or Enemies I cannot pretend to say. Several of the Sculls, we observed, were broke, and its very probable that the owners of them had been kill’d in battle, as some of their Weapons are well Calculated for breaking of Heads; and from what we could learn it is a Custom with them to cut out the Lower jaw of their Enemies, but I believe not before they are kill’d, and these they keep as Trophies, and are sometimes hung up in their Houses.
The Chief or King of Bolabola hath of late Years Usurped the Sovereignty of the other two, and the Bolabola men at this time possess great part of the Lands on Ulietea and Otaha that they have taken from the Natives. The Lands adjoining to the Harbours of Oraotanue belong’d to Tupia, the Person we have on board, who is a Native of Ulietea. These people are very ingenious in building their Proes or Canoes, and seem to take as much Care of them, having large Shades or Houses to put them in, built for the purpose, and in these houses they likewise build and repair them, and in this they shew a great deal of ingenuity far more than one could expect. They are built full Bellied, and after the very same Model as those Six we saw on George’s Island, which I have already described, and some of them are full as large; it is more than probable that these 6 Proes were built at some of these Islands. In these Proes, or Pahies as they call them, from all the accounts we can learn, these people sail in those Seas from Island to Island for several hundred Leagues, the Sun serving them for a Compass by day, and the Moon and Stars by night. When this comes to be proved, we shall be no longer at a loss to know how the Islands lying in those Seas came to be peopled; for if the inhabitants of Ulietea have been at Islands laying 2 or 300 Leagues to the Westward of them, it cannot be doubted but that the inhabitants of those Western Islands may have been at others as far to Westward of them, and so we may trace them from Island to Island quite to the East Indies.
Tupia tells us that during the months of November, December, and January Westerly winds, with rain, prevail; and as the inhabitants of the Islands know very well how to make the proper use of the winds, there will no difficulty arise in Trading or Sailing from Island to Island, even tho’ they lie in an East and West direction.