Samuel Wallis | State Library of New South Wales

Samuel Wallis

In 1766 the British Admiralty officially took up the search for the Southern Continent, sending out Captain Samuel Wallis (1728-1795) in command of HMS Dolphin, accompanied by Philip Carteret in HMS Swallow. They were given orders to explore the Pacific in search of the mythical Great South Land. Although Wallis failed to find the mythical continent, he was to discover many islands including the beautiful island of Tahiti, and his reports led to Captain Cook’s later voyages in the region.

After setting sail from Plymouth in August 1766, Wallis and Carteret entered the Straits of Magellan in December and began a gruelling four months’ passage. They subsequently lost sight of each other, and Carteret went on alone to discover Pitcairn Island. Wallis steered a more northerly course and discovered a string of Pacific Islands including Tahiti (or Otaheite) in June 1767, which he named King George the Third island, after the English sovereign. He charted and accurately recorded the longitude of the Tahitian islands, thus determining Tahiti as the destination for James Cook’s first Pacific voyage.

Wallis is known to have made at least 40 drawings on the voyage, many of them offshore coastal views of the islands he encountered. In most of these drawings, his ship HMS Dolphin is prominently positioned in the foreground, while native canoes can often be seen in the surrounding waters. A skilled artist, Wallis’ drawings add greatly to existing accounts of the voyage.

 > View a selection of Samuel Wallis’ drawings from the voyage 

Samuel Wallis coastal views

The History of Wallis’s & Carteret’s Voyage round the World, published in London in 1784, featured an account of the voyage as well as descriptions of encounters with the natives of islands through which the ships passed.  

> Read a published History of Wallis’s & Carteret’s voyage round the World

Samuel Wallis published accounts

The thrill of exploration inspired not only the commanders of these naval expeditions but the crew as well. Contained in Wallis’ original log book, held by the Mitchell Library, is a poem written R. Richardson, a seaman aboard the HMS Dolphin. Richardson's colourful verse records the adventures of his heroic Captain and their voyage across the Pacific.

> Read more of the logbooks of Samuel Wallis, via the Library’s online catalogue


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'A poetical essay on the Dolphin sailing round the globe in the years 1766, 1767 & 1768 - by R Richardson, Barber of the said ship', from Samuel Wallis - Log book kept during his voyage around the world in command of HMS Dolphin, Volume 1: 19 June 1766- 27 July 1767.
Manuscript. Safe 1 / 98.


Given me on the Passage from St. Helena to England –
A Poetical Essay on the Dolphin Sailing Round the Globe in the years 1766, 1767,& 1768 – by R: Richardson. Barber of the Said Ship –

Let Holland France or Haughty Spain
Boast their Discoveries o’er the Main
and Sing their Heroes Mighty Fame
which now with time Decays.
Brittania’s Isle at length hath found
A Man who Saild the Globe around
Discovering Isles ‘till now unfound
And well deserves the Bays.
Wallis I sing the Hero Brave
who to his Country like a Slave
undaunted Plough’d the Southern Wave
In search of Land unfound:
His ship the Dolphin, and his Crew
all young & healthy, tho’ but few
get with him Dauntless, Bold and True
they sailed the Globe around.
A wellcome Breeze fills every Sail
No more the Maidens tears avail
for Honour o’er their Tears prevail
Adieu to Plymouth Sound
ye Virgins fair forbear to Weep
for you; sincere our hearth will keep
for you will plough th’ extensive Deep
and Sail the Globe around –
Madeira first supplyd our need
St. Jago next; from thence with speed
whilst Oxen for us daily Bleed
So West; our Course we steer.
The Well known Streights we enter then
so famed for its Gigantic Men
whose Height from Six feet, reach’d to ten*
and safely Anchor’d there –
* Six feet Ten Inches.
as farther thro the Streights we go
where lofty Cliffs are tip’t with Snow
And rapid Cataracts swiftly flow
adown their Craggy Sides
Where Winter too incessent Reigns
and AEolus mighty God, distains
to curb the Wind, who free from Chains
Our Allmost derides.
Some Natives here, the few we find
a Savage Race of human kind
scarce blest with Sense, to reason Blind
In Ignorance rudely bred
nought to defend their Swarthy lives
but Beasts, or Fishes nauseos hides
more Nauseous Food, and nought besides
Morassy Ground their Bed.
Into the Wide Paciffic sea,
from such unpleasing sights as these
West as some fair auspicious Breeze
and be our constant Guide
The Mighty God the Prayer received
our Sails we loos’d, our Ship relieved
the Streight we clear, & undeceived
Our Toils he well rewards
No longer now our greif he mocks
no more Our ship in Streights he locks
from Dangers freed we see those Rocks
At Distance far behind
Pleased with the Change those Danger O’er
with Joy we View the Distant Shore
and Bless the God whose awfull Pow’r
is ever unconfin’d
*Six feet Ten Inches.
[Page 2]
Now fraught with Wind our Canvass Swell
tho’ some rude squalls our Ship assail
yet all in vain, they nought avail
Wide from the Dangerous Coast
For Neptune kind with Pleasant Gales
for some few Weeks repleats our sails
and on his Son such Fame entails
as Europe nee’r could Boast.
Swiftly he wafts us o’er his Waves
grants every Boon our Hero craves
Scarce in the Southern Seas he leaves
an Isle to him unknown
Respecting every Son of Fame
Great Wallis gives to each a Name
with titles free from others claim
But trusts to Fate his Own.
On Whitsunday the first was seen
which bore the Name with due esteem
the next to Brittains Royall Queen
Charlotte’s Name he fixed
some few we pass’d in Number Four
whose names are still reserved in Store
tho next the Royal Bishops Bore
And George great George the next
Here wait my must awhile to View
a Beauteous Scene to Brittain: New
whose Climate equall’d is by few
The British Monarch’s Isle.
And Or my Muse thou Heavenly Maid
an Artless Bard Invokes your aid
let all his skill be here display’d
and O’er this Essay smile.
Our Anchors well secured in ground
sails furled, yards Topmasts Lower’d down
well pleased we view the Fertile ground
well worth a Monarchs care
Safe in Port Royal Bay we Ride
Where’s no rude Wind, no rapid Tide
Or Rugged Rocks unseen abide
but all’s Serene and fair
The Swarthy Indians round us flock
with each a pittance from their stock
which they for various trifles truck
Content with what we spare
Oft on our Ship they fix their Eyes
as oft on us with Deep Surprize
and deem our Floating world a prize
for them next Morn to share
Prepar’d next Morn with Stones they came
which well they Hurled with Dextrous Aim
but soon were all repulsed with Shame
and some Canoes unmann’d,
Fatal attempt, Ambitious thought:
poor simple men, to late you’re taught
that Brittons ne’er are easy Caught
with Schemes so badly plann’d
No safe Retreat they now can finde
for dire Distraction unrestrain’d
With Balls swift Whistling thro’ the Wind
O’ertakes the Insulting Band
but O! to paint their Vast Surprize
the Terror sparkling in their Eyes
Or their confused & hideous Cries
Requires an Abler Hand.
Then cease my Muse the Cannons Roar
is ceased: the Vanquish’d make for Shore
their Comrades fate with Tears deplore
and seek a speedy flight.
A gentler theme demands your care
to paint the Beauteous Isle prepare
whilst we fatigue’d tho’ void of fear
In slumbers pass the Night
The Morning Dawns the well known Call
from gentle Sleep awakes us all
our Boats well mann’d and arm’d withal
The Conquer’d Isle we claim
soon as the Sea Beach Side we make
the Indians all their Hutts forsake
And we in form Possession take
In Georges Royal Name
[Page 3]
Now free to Range we find with Fruits
Pigs, Fowles and most salubrious Rootts
Refreshments such as aptly Suits
the Seamens Briny food
Than all of these an Iron Bar
or Rusty Nail’s more precious far
to them, ee’n Gold or Diamonds are
less valued, less aproved.
The Natives yet more polished are
than other Savage Indians are
The girls well featur’d passing fair
and kind in all respects,
The Men well made, Robust and Tall,
Subject to none, by none enthrall’d
thoughtless of every future call
They Give as life directs.
In Tillage quite a useless Band
but Nature kindly tills their Land
whose fertile soil at her Command
Guilds all the Sweets of Life
at least such necessary Store
that pleased with it they seek no more
nor Covet gold or Silver Oar
the Common Source of Strife
The Slender Garb their Bodies hide
is far too Curious to Discribe
In this Invention’s well supply’d
with Nicest Art their Wants
attend ye Criticks of the Trade
whom here I seek not so degrade
It’s neither wove, nor Spun but made
from Wild & simple plants.
I scorn with Lyes your thoughts to Bilk
but know its’ neither Flax no Silk.
Cotton nor Wool tho’ white as Milk
and wrought with Matchless pains
some coarse, some fine, and Painted O’er,
some Plain; In Breadth two yards or more
and Oft in length full seven Score
each Curious peice Contains
Thro’ every Grove a Silver Stream
clear as the Brightest Christal Gem
which Banks of Beauteaus flowers hemm
unnumberd Vales Adorn
whilst unmolested Birds unite
To form the Rural Sweet Delight
closing with Various Notes each Night
and ushering in the Morn –
A Thousand Beauties more’s too few
to give this Royall its due
but here I cease, least these tho’ true
Should seam romantic talk
Yet let me not in Silence pass.
What well in this deserves a Place
an Island Sacred to his Grace
The Royal Duke of York –
Which here in View with grandeur rears
Proud of the Royal Name it Bears
High as the lofty Glittering Stars
Its ever Verdant Head.
Beneath whose Shades Pleasant Lawn
Which Various Fragrant shrubs adorn
and Beauteous flowers daily born
around the borders spread.
But hark! the Boatswains call, how shrill
up Anchor Boys your Topsails fill
and staysails hoist with free good Will
Each Jovial Tar Obeys.
and now we dare the wave once more
neer Plow’d by Europe Keels before
discovering Still a long hid Shore
of Isles within those Seas
For daily now fresh Land we make
and all in course their titles take
Saunders & How the first partake
Next Scylly, dagerous Isles we Spy
A Beauteous Island then we made
be that Boscawen’s; allis said
tho’ low in Dust the Hero’s laid
his Name shall never Dye
[Page 4]
The next we made was Keppels Isle
where Nature kindly seem’d to Smile
Fertile in fruits as Rich in Soill
Inferior to none
Then Several Days (with Gentle Gales
smooth seas, nor more than half fill’d sails
Elaps’d.) But Neptune horn’d to fail
a Work so well begun.
Pleasd with his Noble Generous Soul
who rather chose the fame to Enroll
of Absent friends, than keep the whole
to Immortalize his own.
An Island soon the God prepared
which just at Dawn of Day appeard
and thus the friendly Monarch’s heard
to address his Darling Son
Wallis be this your own he said
Rearing above the Waves his head
whilst Narieds round the God head spread
And all approved the same
From me Your Sire my Son receive
with Laurells such as I shall give,
this Isle, which time shall n’eer outlive
But ever Crown your Fame
Pursue your Voyage with utmost Speed
may every future Wish succeed
Long may you Wear what Fate’s decreed
Should only Crown your Brow
my Self will o’er the Dangerous Seas
Escort you safe where’er you please
Then disappeard. a gentle Breeze
confirm’d The Monarch’s Vow.
The Breeze Increas’d and freshning Gales
Repleat the Bosoms of our Sails
Swift O’er the Boundless deep She Steals
Our Course for Tinian steer
But nothing notice worth Occars
no Isles Except the Piscadores
we make, and those described before
Need no discription here
of Wind or Weather Good or Bad
or weather calms or storm we had
or whereabouts these Lands were Made
Some may Conjecture well
Let home bred Travellers as they Please
Whose Book’s their Helm, their Ships & Seas
perplex their thoughts. To such as these
O‘ Muse forbear to tell.
Why Starts my muse, what Sudden Cry
proclaims the wish’d for Island Nigh
from topmast head Tinian the Spy.
at least some Neighbouring Cliffs
Wellcome thrice Wellcome happy Isle
whose much reputed fertile soil
so well rewards the Seamens Toil
with Natures Bounteous Gifts
With Crowded sails we make the Shore
Our Anchors Drop not long before
Our Boats we Mann & ply each Oar
the friendly beach to gain
With some few Spanish Huts we found
Our Tents we Pitch and form a Town
and groves with Various fruits around
compleats a Rural Scene
Domestic Fowles Around us fly
Wild as the Birds that Climb the sky
of these each Day a Number Dye
each Day as many’s hatch’d
Reptiles of many Various forms
tho’ few from which we fear much harm
yet Flyes innumurable swarm
unmissed tho’ Millions catch’d
And now O’er Hills with Swiftest pace
young steers or fiercer Bulls we Chace
who Stranger to all Human Race
gaze at this unusual form

In numerous Herds they daily feed
Undaunted all, yet Fate’s decreed
One of their Milk white Herd shall bleed
For us each coming Morn.
[Page 5]
And Once in Chace we kill’d a Boar
Thick as the Shield Great Ajax wore
his Brisley Hide, with hideous roar
The Aged Monster falls
His Burnished Tusks of Wondrous size
Ploughs up the Ground the savage Dies
Triumphant home we bear the Prize
Astonishing to all.
Minute details I here forbear
In Ansons’ Voyage they’re better far
Described in Prose than here I dare
attempt to Write in Verse
may it suffice that whilst we staid
Refreshment Various ways we had;
Our Ship repair’d our Anchors Weigh’d
and Steer’d our Destind Course
For Javas famous Belgick Isle
the Pride of Holland Seamans Toil
Batavias ever fertile soil
Which all their States Obey
Here Grandeur Luxury and Pride
and all the Pomp of Wealth beside
O’er all their Indian States Preside
with Arbitrary Sway
Hither in some few weeks we came
but all remarks I cease to Name
The Indian Seas so well has Fame
Described in every Realm
Let Infant Bards such Themes decline
at least an artless pen like mine
wholly unformed for such design
shall n’eer attempt the Helm
We Anchor here tho’ short our stay
and soon refresh’d our Anchors Weigh
Wing’d with success we skim the Way
and Princes Island made
Which Water, Wood, & fowl affords
and Turtle too a feast for Lords
Of these our Ship’s not slightly flor’d
when we our Anchor Weighd.
Homeward our Voyage we now pursued
but Long before the Cape’s in View
a Dreadfull Flux seized half our Crew
and Gastly Death Appear’d
Yet scarce th’ Almighty’s aid implored
ee’r heaven all kind our health restore
and Only Two of all Onboard
the Dire Effects has shar’d
Now O! my Muse aloud proclaim
Once our much Loved Captains Name
nor leave Exempt from Circling Fame
One Officer apart
To Heaven and them our Lives we owe
as fuller Journalls best can their
by them their Daily care you’ll know
unmixed with Flattring text.
Stiff Gales now Waft us O’er the Sea
The Cape we make in Table Bay
Amidst the Belgian Fleet we lay
and safe at Anchor Ride
But Ah why faints my friendly Muse
or why your former Aid refuse
O speak what’ers the fatal News
with me your Grief divide
Then know thy Muse was n’eer thy Foe
then Cease to ask what when you know
will Damp you joys with Deepest Woe
and quite enerve your hand
I n’eer denied a Boon before
and must I then the case Explore.
Know then thy Prince Great York’s no more
The Pride of all your Land
At this the Sailors all confest
their loss & Tears their greif Exprest
and hope & fear in every Breast
their various thought divide
we then our Rigging overhaul
Repair our Ship but best of all
repair our Health, for Natures call
is finely here Supplyed –
[Page 6]
With fresh Provisions every day
and greens & fruit: a Month we Stay
then Cheerfully our Anchor Weigh
for St Helena Bound
but needless ‘tis to observe that here
Refreshment Scarce & very Dear
our Stay’s as short, then straight we steer
our Course for British Ground
Bless’d with a fair and Pleasant trade
we soon Assension Island made
But Anchor’d not no ee’n delayd
An hours time to Wait
For Turtle which for Size or Store
it yields the Best but nothing more
from such a Wretched Barren Shore
Kind Heaven Avert our Fate
Be kind ye Gales & waft us O’er
The Briny Waves to Brittanias Shore
Let us with joy behold once more
Our much loved Native Sand
Then Shall our Voyage on lists of Fame
Immortalize the Dolphins Name
wrote in a more aspiring Strain
by some more able hand

[Transcribed by Robin Matthews for the State Library of New South Wales]




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