Main content area

Endeavour journal, 28 June 1769 (Series 03.306)

Notes: Page header reads: 'Otahite'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 28 June 1769
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 28. This morn at day break we rose and agreed to stay here an hour or two in hopes to get some provision: salt beef we had with us but nothing of the bread kind, for that we depended on the natives who had on all former occasions been both able and willing to supply us with any quantity of Breadfruit. I went out meaning to go among the houses; in my way I went through several burying grounds (Marai) on the pavements of which I saw several vertebrae and sculls of men laying about as if no care was taken to bury them, in every thing else they were quite like what we had seen before. In my excursion I could not procure the least supply of provision so we were forcd to set out in hopes of meeting some countrey where provision was less scarce. We walkd and the boat followd us. In about 3 miles we arrivd at a place where were several large canoes and a number of people with them; we were not a little surprizd to find that these people were our intimate acquaintance, several at least, who we had often seen at the tents and other places, Towia who we were told was brother to Towdidde, Roudero &c . Here we thought ourselves sure o getting a supply of provisions and apply'd to our friends accordingly. They told us we should have some if we would wait, we did till we were out of patience; we then desird them to get us some cocoa nuts the kernels of which make a substitute for bread, they said yes but nobody went up the trees. We were resolvd to [have] them at least so calling for a hatchet we threatned to cut down the trees if our demands were not complied with; nobody objected to our doing so if we chose it, nor did any body atempt to climb the trees to supply us. Just now however we luckily saw two men busy in stripping a parcel of them, these we obligd to sell their stock consisting of 16, with these we embarkd taking with us Tuahów one of our Indians who had returnd to us last night long after dark. When we in the boat talkd over this behaviour of our freinds we were inclind to beleive that they were strangers here, and consequently had not the disposal of the provisions; indeed we never had before met with any dificulty in getting from them any provisions of which they had enough.

The reef here was irregular and the ground very foul so that the boat was continualy surroundd with breakers. We followd a canoe which led us to a passage where by waiting for a slatch of still water we got out, tho not without danger, for the sea broke quite across almost as soon as the boat was clear. We were now off the SW end of the Island. The land apeard very barren, no reef to shelter the coast and the hills every where butting out to the sea without any flatts; here were however some houses and inhabitants, and on ledges of the hills here and there a little breadfruit and higher up large quantities of Faé. This lasted for about a League when we again saw the reef and a flat on which we went ashore by the recomendation of our Indian guide, who told us that the countrey was rich and good. The name of this district or whennua was Ahowe: the cheif Mathíabo soon came down to us, he seemd a total stranger both to us and our trade. His subjects brought down plenty of Cocoa nuts and about 20 breadfruits, which latter we bought at a very dear rate, while his majesty sold us a pig for a glass bottle preferring that to any thing we could give him. We saw here an English goose and a turkey cock which they told us had been left by the Dolphin, both of them immensely fat and as tame as possible, following the Indians every where who seemd immensely fond of them. In a long house in this neighbourhood I saw a sight quite new to me: 15 underjaw bones of men were fastned to a semicircular peice of board and hung up at one end of it, they appeard quite fresh, not one at all damagd even by the Loss of a tooth. I askd many questions about them but the people would not attend at all to me and either did not or would not understand either words or signs upon that subject. On our departure from hence Mathiabo desird leave to acompany us which was granted, he provd a good pilot but persuaded us to land often, 5 or 6 times in as many miles. In all these districts we saw nothing remarkable; the general face of the countrey was greener than on our side of the Island and the hills were coverd with wood almost down to the waters edge, the flats in general small but fertile enough. At last we

opend a large bay, which being opposite to as large a one on the other side almost intersects the Island at the place over which they drag their canoes; about 2 thirds down this bay we resolvd to lodge at a large house which we saw and which Mathiabo informd us belongd to a freind of his. From this place many Canoes came off to meet us and in them some very hansome women who by their behaviour seemd to be sent out to entice us to come ashore, which we most readily did, and were receivd in a very freindly manner by Wiverou who was cheif of the district which was calld Owiourou. He orderd his people to assist us in dressing our provisions, of which we had now got a tolerable stock about 30 breadfruit some plantains and fish, enough to last us two days. I stuck close to the women hoping to get a snug lodging by that means as I had often done; they were very kind, too much so for they promisd more than I ask'd, but when they saw that we were resolvd to stay they dropd off one by one and at last left me jilted 5 or 6 times and obligd to seek out for a lodging myself. Supper was by this time ready and we repaird to that part of the house where Wiverou was to eat it; he sent for his at the same time and Mathiabo supping with us we made a snug party. As soon as we had done we began to think of sleeping and askd for a bed. We were shown a part of the house where we might lay; we then sent for our cloaks and began to prepare ourselves, myself as my constant custom was by stripping myself and sending my cloaths into the boat, covering myself only with a peice of Indian cloth after their fashion which I have done ever ever since I had my Jacket &c . stolen at Atahourou. Mathiabo complaind of cold and a cloak was sent for for him also, Captn Cooke and myself agreed that he had behavd so well to us that there was not the least doubt of his honesty. We laid down, Mathiabo did not come, I imagin'd that he was gone to wash as the Indians always do in the evening. I was almost asleep when an Indian who was a stranger to me came and told me that he was gone off with the Cloak, I did not beleive him but laid down again. Tuahow our Indian then came and confirmd the report; I then found it was high time to give chase so I leapd up and declard my case to the company, shewing one of my pocket pistols which I always kept with me. They took the alarm and began to walk of, I seizd however the best looking man I could see and told him that if he did not find out where Mathiabo was I would shoot him in his stead. The threat had the desird effect: he offerd to accompany me in the chase: the Captn myself and him set out as hard as we could run and in about ten minutes met a man bringing back the cloak; but our freind Mathiabo was fled and by that means escapd a severe thrashing which we had decreed to be a proper reward for his breach of trust. When we returnd every body was gone from the house; we quickly however made them sensible that our anger was intirely confind to Mathiabo and they all returnd, Wiverou and his wife taking up their lodging within 10 feet of us.