Friday, 21st September, 1770

Friday, 21st. We got under sail, and stood away to the Westward along the North side of the Island, and another smaller Island, which lies farther to the Westward, which last bore from us at Noon South-South-East, distant 2 Leagues.

Before we proceed any further it will be proper in this place to say something of the Island we have been last at, which is called by the Natives Savu. The Middle of it lies in about the Latitude of 10 degrees 35 minutes South, Longitude 237 degrees 30 minutes West. It may be about 8 Leagues in length from East to West, but of what breadth I know not, because I only saw the North side. There are, as I am told, 3 Bays where Ships can Anchor; the best is on the South-West side of the South-East point; the one we lay in, called Seba, lies on the North-West side of the Island. This bay is very well sheltered from the South-East Trade wind, but lays wholy open to the North-West. The Land of this Island which bounds the Sea is, in general, low, but in the Middle of the Island are Hills of a moderate height, and the whole is agreeably diversified with woods and Lawns, which afford a most pleasing prospect from the Sea. We were told that the Island is but indifferently water’d in the dry Season, especially towards the latter end of it, at which time there is no running Stream upon the whole Island, only small Springs, which are all at a distance from the Sea side. The dry seasons commences in March or April, and ends in November; the remaining 3 or 4 Months they have Westerly winds with rain, and this the time their Crops of Rice, Calivances, and Indian Corn are brought forth, which are Articles that this Island produceth.

They also breed a great Number of Cattle, viz., Buffaloes, Horses, Hogs, Sheep, and Goats. Many of the former are sent to Concordia, where they are kill’d and salted, in order to be sent to the more Northern Islands, which are under the Dominion of the Dutch. Sheep and Goats’ flesh is dried upon this Island, packed up in Bales, and sent to Concordia for the same purpose. The Dutch resident, from whom we had this information, told us that the Dutch at Concordia had lately behaved so ill to the Natives of Timor that they were obliged to have recourse to this Island and others Adjacent for provisions for their own subsistance, and likewise Troops (Natives of this Island) to assist the Dutch against those of Timor. Besides the above productions, here are an Emmence Number of Palm Trees, from which is extracted the Palm Wine, as it is called, a very sweet, agreeable, cooling Liquor. What they do not immediately use they boil down and make Syrup or Sugar of, which they keep in Earthen Jarrs. Here are likewise Cocoa Nutts, Tamerind Trees, Limes etc., but in no great plenty; Indico, Cotton, and Cinnamon, sufficient to serve the Natives; these last Articles, we were told, the Dutch discourage the growth of.

The Island is divided into 5 Kingdoms, which have lived in Peace and Amity with each other for these hundred Years. At present the whole Island is partly under the direction of the Dutch East India Company, who have a Resident or Factor who constantly lives here, without whose leave the Natives are not to supply any other Nation with anything whatever; but the whole produce of the Island, besides what serves themselves, is in a manner the property of the Company. The Company by way of a Tribute oblige them to raise and pay Annually a certain quantity of Rice, Indian Corn, and Callivances, for which the Company makes Each of the Kings a yearly present of a Cask of Arrack, and some other Trifles; the live stock, Sheep and Goats’ flesh, etc., they pay for in goods. The small Islands which lie about a League to the Westward of this pays Annually a Certain quantity of Arica Nutts, which is almost the only produce of that Island.

The Island of Rotte is upon the same footing as this of Savu; both these Islands, and the 3 Solors, belong to the Government of Concordia. From what we could learn of the Island of Timor, it seems to be much upon the same footing as it was in Dampier’s time, which is that the Dutch possess little more of that Island than what lies under the Command of the Fort Concordia; the rest is in possession either of the Native Indians or the Portuguese. We were likewise told that the Island of Ende belongs to the Portuguese; that the principal settlement is at Larentucha, where there is a Fort and a good Harbour. We were told that the Concordia, on the Island Timor, is a free Port for Ships of any nation to touch at, where they would not only be supplied with refreshments, but Naval Stores also. Trading ships might probably meet with a good reception, but Kings’ ships, I am perswaided, would be looked upon as Spys. For my own part was I only in want of refreshments, and obliged to touch at any of these Islands, I should prefer going to a Portuguese settlement before any of the Dutch, and when I was solicited by the Officers to call at Timor, I proposed going to one of the Portuguese settlements; but this Mr. Hicks made some Objections to, which was sufficient for me to lay it aside, as I had not the least inclination to touch any where till we arriv’d at Batavia, for my falling in with Savu was more chance and not design.

But to return to this Island, the Natives of which are of a Dark brown Colour, with long lank Hair; their Cloathing is a peice of Calicoe or other Cotton Cloath wrapped about their Middle; the better sort have another peice, which they wear over their Shoulders, and the most of them wear Turbands or Handkercheifs tyed round their Heads. They Eat of all the Tame Animals they have got, viz., Hogs, Horses, Buffaloes, Cocks and Hens, Dogs, Catts, Sheep and Goats, and are esteem’d much in the same order, as I have mentioned; that is, their Hog flesh, which is certainly as good as any in the world, they prefer before anything else; next to Hogs, Horses, and so on. Fish is not esteem’d by them, and is only eat by the common or poor people, who are allowed little else of meat kind.

They have a Custom among them, that whenever a king dies all the Cattle, etc., that are upon his Estate are kill’d, with which the Successor makes a feast, to which is invited all the principal people of the Island, who stay until all is consumed; after this they every one, according to his Abilities, make the young King a present, by which means he gets a fresh stock, which he is obliged to Husband for some time. The other principal men make also feasts, which are as extraordinary as these, for they seldom end so long as the giver has got anything left alive upon his Estate. They are said to be a people of good Morals, Virtuous and Chaste, each man having only one wife, which he keeps for life; Fornication and Adultry is hardly known among them. When a great Man marrys he makes presents to all his Wife’s relations of European and other Foreign commodities to the value of 100 Rix Dollars. This Custom the Dutch East India Company find it to their Interest to incourage. They speak a Language peculiar to themselves, into which the Dutch have caus’d the new Testament to be Translated, and have introduced it, with the use of letters and writing, among them. By this means several hundred of them have been converted to Christianity; the rest are some heathens, and others of no religion at all, and yet they all stick up to the strict rules of Morality. They all, both Men and Women, Young and Old, Chew of the Beetle Leaf, Areca Nutts, and a sort of white lime, which I believe is made from Coral stone; this has such an effect upon the Teeth that very few, even of the Young people, have hardly any left in their Heads, and those they have are as black as Ink. Their houses are built on posts about 4 feet from the Ground; we asked the reason why they built them so, and was told that it was only Custom; they are, however, certainly the Cooler for it. They are thatched with Palm Leaves, and the Floors and sides are boarded.

The man who resides upon this Island in behalf of the Dutch East India Company is a German by birth. His name is Johan Christopher Lange.
It is hard to say upon what footing he is here. He is so far a Governor that the Natives dare do nothing without his consent, and yet he can transact no sort of business with Foreigners either in his own or that of the Company’s name; nor can it be a place of either Honour or Profit. He is the only white man upon the Island, and has resided there ever since it has been under the direction of the Dutch, which is about 10 Years. He is allowed 50 Slaves (Natives of the Island) to attend upon him. These belong to, and are Maintained by, the Company. He goes the Circuit of the Island once in 2 Months; but on what account he did not tell us. When he makes these rounds he carries with him a certain quantity of Spirit to treat the great men with, which, he says, he is obliged to look well after, otherwise they would steal it and get drunk; and yet, at another time, he told us that he never knew a theft committed in the Island; but some of the Natives themselves contradicted him in this by stealing from us an Axe. However, from their behaviour to us in general I am of opinion that they are but seldom guilty of these Crimes. This going round the Island once in Two Months is most likely to see that the Natives make the necessary preparations for fulfilling their engagements with the Dutch, and to see that the Large Boats or small Vessels are taken proper care of, which the Dutch keep in all the Bays of this Island in order to collect and carry the grain, etc., to the Ship which comes Annually here. They are likewise employed in carrying cattle, grain, etc., to Timor; and, when not wanted, they are hauled ashore into Houses or Sheds built on purpose. As I have mentioned Slaves, it is necessary to observe that all the great men have Slaves which are the Natives of the Island. They can dispose of them one to another, but cannot sell them to go out of the Island. The price of a Slave is a good, large, fatt Hogg, Horse, etc. I have before mentioned that many of the people can speak Portuguese, but hardly any one Dutch. From this it is probable that this Island was formerly under the Jurisdiction of the Portuguese, tho’ the Dutch Government never own’d as much, but said that the Dutch had Traded here these hundred years past.

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