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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Joseph Ingraham

Joseph Ingraham

1790 to 1791

Joseph Ingraham was the master of the 70 ton American brigantine Hope, owned by Thomas H. Perkins and James Magee of Boston. The ship was equipped to make a trip round Cape Horn to the northwest coast of North America, thence to China and back to Boston, making a circuit of the globe.

The Hope sailed from Boston on September 17, 1790, and after obtaining refreshments at the Falkland Islands, sailed round Cape Horn on January 24, 1791. The Marquesas of Mendaña were sighted on April 14, and the Hope anchored in Madre de Dios Bay. Trade was established with the people, and the ship procured a supply of wood, water, fruit, and pigs. Sailing in, Ingraham had seen all five islands of the Mendaña group, namely Magdalena, San Pedro, Santa Christina, Dominica, and Hoods Island. On April 19 he sailed north northwest from Dominica and was greatly surprised to see two new islands at 4 P.M. He named one Washington Island (Uahuka) after the President of the United States and the other Adams Island (Uapou) after the vice-president. At 5 P.M. two more islands were seen. One, between Washington and Adams Islands, Ingraham named Federal Island (Nukuhiva); and the other, a small island near the south end of Adams Island, he named Lincoln Island (Motuoa) in honor of His Excellency, General Lincoln. He stood off Washington Island all night, intending to land on it next day and take possession. However, he saw no favorable place for landing, so he mustered the crew and page 64told them that the islands were new discoveries and belonged to the United States. The men gave three cheers and confirmed the name of Washington Island. Thus, the discovery of the northern group of the Marquesas Islands was officially credited to the United States. On the same day, April 20, a small island was seen west and north of Federal Island and named Franklin Island (Motuiti) in memory of His Excellency, Doctor Benjamin Franklin. On April 21 two more islands were seen to the west and northwest and, at 2 P.M., the ship sailed between them. One was named Hancock Island (Hatutu) in honor of His Excellency, the Governor of Massachusetts, and the other was named Knox Island (Eiao) after His Excellency, General Knox.

The subsequent proceedings of Captain Ingraham are of no interest insofar as Polynesian discovery is concerned. He did, however, make three trips to the Hawaiian Islands, where he acquired some feather work about which he cared little, as is evident by the following quotation:

  • I shew everything which I thought would induce them to trade among them were some feather'd caps and cloaks I had rec'd as presents at the Sandwich Islands with which they seem'd enamour'd I sold a Cap and 2 Cloaks for 5 excellent skins. Skatzi prais'd them highly which induced Skeetkis [the high chief] to buy them but after posessing them a little while he repented his bargain and ask'd for his skins again, but as sea otter skins were to me much better curiosities than caps and cloaks I chose to adhere to the bargain…