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Endeavour journal, 14 August 1769 (Series 03.353)

Notes: Page header reads: 'Oheteroa'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 14 August 1769
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 14. Close under the land: a boat was sent from the ship in which Dr Solander and myself took a passage, she rowd right in for the land on which several natives appeard armd with long lances. The boat standing along shore not intending to land till she got round the next point made them (I beleive) think that we were afraid of them. The main body about 60 sat down upon the shore and sent two of their number forwards, who after walking sometime abreast of us leap'd into the water intending to swim to us but were soon left behind; two more then atempted the same thing and were in like manner left behind; a single man then ran forwards and taking good start of the boat fetchd her easily, but when he was alongside I could not persuade the officer of the boat to take him, notwisthstanding it was so fair an opportunity of making freinds with a people who certainly lookd upon us as their enemies. He was therefore left behind as was another who followd his example.

We now came round a point where all our followers left us. We had opend a large bay at the bottom of which we saw another body of men armd like the former; here we hopd to land and pushd towards the place. The natives had pushd off a canoe which came out to meet us. As soon as it aproachd us we lay upon our oars and calld to them that we were freinds and would give them nails if they would come to us; they after a very little hesitation came up to the boats stern and took the nails that were given them, seemingly with great satisfaction, but in less than a minute seemd to have formd a design of boarding our boat and taking her, in pursuance of which 3 leapd almost in an instant into our boat and the others brought up the canoe which had flown off a little intending probably to follow their countrey mens example. The first who came in the boat was close to me, he instantly snatchd my powder horn out of my pocket which I immediately laid hold of and wrenchd out of his hand, not without some dificulty; I then laid my hand on his breast and attempted to shove him overboard but he was two strong for me and kept his place. The officer orderd a musquet to be fir'd over their heads his own having mis'd fire, two were immediately fird and they all instantly leapd into the water; one of our people however inconsiderately leveld a 3d at one of them who was swimming and the ball gras'd his forehead but I beleive did him no material harm, as he recoverd his boat and stood up in her as active as ever. The canoe now stood for the shore where were a large number of people collected I beleive 200; our boat also pulld in but found the land guarded all round with a shoal upon which the sea broke much, so was obligd to go along shore in hopes of finding a more convenient landing place. We saw the canoe go ashore where the people were assembled who came down to her seemingly very eager to enquire into our behavior to them; soon after a single man came along shore armd with a long lance, he came abreast of the boat and then began to dance and shake his weapon calling out in a very shrill voice, which we understood from Tupia was a defiance sent from the people. We rowd along shore and he attended us sometime, we found it however impracticable to land and as for the gen lemans tricks we gave ourselves very little concern about them: we therefore resolvd to return to the bay and try if it would be practicable to land where the Canoe did, hoping that if we should not the people would at least come and make peace either on the shoal or in their Canoes of which we saw only two in the Island, which was one more than Tupia allowd them who said they had but one.

As we rowd gently along shore our defying champion was joind by another likewise armd with a lance and dressd with a large cap of the tail feathers of tropick birds and his body coverd, as indeed many of them were, with stripes of different coulourd cloths, yellow red and brown; he (who we now calld Harlequin) danc'd as the other had done only with much more nimbleness and dexterity. These two were soon after Joind by an older looking man likewise armd who came gravely down to the beach and hailing us askd from whence we came, Tupia answerd him from Otahite. The three then went peaceably along shore till the boat came to a shoal upon which a few people were collected; they talkd together and soon after began to póorah or pray very loud to which Tupia made his responses but continued to tell us that they were not our freinds. We after this enterd into a parley with them, telling them that if they would lay by their arms which were lances and clubbs we would come ashore and truck with them for whatever they would bring; they agreed but upon condition that we should lay down our musquets, an article which we did not think fit to comply with, so our negotiation dropt for the present at least. After a little time however they took courage and came nearer to the boat, near enough to begin to trade which they did very fairly for a smal quantity of cloth and some of their weapons, but as they gave us no hopes of provisions or indeed any thing else unless we would venture through a narrow channel to the shore we put off the boat and left them.

In this expedition we labourd under many disadvantages: we left the ship in a hurry taking with us no kind of arms but our musquets, which without bayonets would have made but a poor resistance against these peoples weapons all meant to fight hand to hand; but what was worst of all was the dificulty of landing which we could not do without wetting ourselves and arms unless we had venturd through the passage I have spoke of, which was so small that tho the weather was perfectly fine the sea often broke right across it, so that had we gone in and the least surf rose we could never have got out again but must have remaind the night in shoal water, liab[l]e to any stratagems that our enemies might devise, ill furnishd as we were to oppose their boarding us by swimming to which we were always liable.

The Island to all apearance that we saw was more barren than any thing we have seen in these seas, the cheif produce seeming to be Etóa (the wood of which make their weapons); indeed every where along shore where we saw plantations they were coverd by trees of this kind planted between them and the sea. It is without a reef and the ground in the bay we were in so foul and corally that tho a ship might come almost close to the shore she could not possibly anchor. The water was clearer than I ever saw it, I saw distinctly the ground at 25 fathoms depth.

The people seemd strong lusty and well made but were rather browner than those we have left behind; they were not tattowd on their backsides, but instead of that had black marks about as broad as my hand under their armpits the sides of which were deeply indented, they had also circles of smaller ones round their arms and legs. Their dress was indeed most singular as well as the cloth with which they were dressd which I shall first describe. It was made of the same materials as the inhabitants of the other Islands make use of and generaly died of a very bright and deep yellow. Upon this was on some sorts spread a composition which coverd it like oil colour or varnish, it was either red or of a dark lead colour; upon this again was painted stripes in many different patterns with infinite regularity much in the same way as some lute string silks in England are wove, all the streight lines upon them drawn with such accuracy that we were almost in doubt whether or not they were stampd on with some kind of press. The red cloth was painted in this manner with black, the lead coulord with white. Of this cloth, generaly the lead coulourd, they had on a short jacket that reachd about their Knees made of one peice with a hole through which they put their heads, the sides of which hole was contrary to any thing I have seen before stichd with long stitches. This was confind to their bodies by a peice of Yellow cloth which pass'd behind their necks and came across their breasts in two broad stripes crossing each other, it was then collected round their waists in the form of a belt, under which was another of the red cloth so that the whole made a very gay and warlike apearance. Some had on their heads caps as before describd made of the tails of tropick birds, but they did not become them so well as a peice of white or lead colourd cloth which the most of them had wound on like a small turban.

Their arms consisted of long lances made of the etoa or hard wood well polishd and sharpnd at one end; of these there were some near 20 feet long and scarce so thick as three fingers; they had also clubs or pikes of the same wood about 7 feet long, well polishd and sharpned at one end into a broad point. How expert they may be in the use of these weapons we cannot tell but the weapons themselves seem more intended for shew than use, as the lance was not pointed with the stings of Sting rays, and the clubs or pikes which must do more execution by their weight than their sharpness were not more than half so heavy as the smallest I have seen in the other Islands. Defensive weapons I saw none, they however guarded themselves against such weapons as their own by matts folded and laid upon their breasts and bellys under their other cloths.

Of the few things we saw among these people every one was ornamented infinitely superior to any thing we had before seen: their cloth was better coulourd as well as nicely painted, their clubs were better cut out and polishd, the Canoe which we saw tho a very small and very narrow one was nevertheless carvd and ornamented very highly. One thing particularly in her seemd to be calculated rather for the ornaments of a thing that was never intended to go into the water than a boat, which was two lines of small white feathers that were placd on the outside of the canoe which were when we saw them totaly wet with the water.

After leaving these unhospitable people we Stood to the Southward as usual and had in the evening a great dew which wetted every thing.