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An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]

Chap. V

page 57

Chap. V.

Of the Manufacturers, Boats, and Navigation of Otaheite.

If necessity is the mother of invention, it cannot be supposed to have been much exerted where the liberality of Nature has rendered the diligence of Art almost superfluous; yet there are many instances both of ingenuity and labour among these people, which, considering the want of metal for tools, do honour to both.

Their principal manufacture is their cloth, in the making and dying of which, I think, there are some particulars which may instruct even the artificers of Great Britain, and for that reason my description will be more minute.

Their cloth is of three kinds, and it is made of the bark of three different trees, the Chinese paper mulberry, the bread-fruit tree, and the tree which resembles the wild fig-tree of the West Indies.

The finest and whitest is made of the paper mulberry, Aouta; this is worn chiefly by the principal people, and when it is dyed red takes a better colour. A second sort, inferior in whiteness and softness, is made of the bread-fruit tree, Ooroo, and worn chiefly by the inferior people; and a third of the tree that resembles the fig, which is coarse and harsh, and of the colour of the darkest brown paper: this, though it is less pleasing both to the eye and the touch, is the most valuable, because it resists water, which the other two sorts will not. Of this, which is the most rare as well as the most useful, the greater part is perfumed, and worn by the Chiefs as a morning dress.

All these trees are propagated with great care, particularly the mulberry, which covers the largest part of the cultivated land, and is not fit for use after two or three years growth, when it is about six or eight feet high, and somewhat thicker than a man's thumb; its excellence is to be thin, straight, tall, and without branches; the lower leaves, therefore are carefully page 58 plucked off, with their germs, as often as there is any appearance of their producing a branch.

But though the cloth made of these three trees is different, it is all manufactured in the same manner; I shall therefore describe the process only in the fine sort, that is made of the mulberry. When the trees are of a proper size, they are drawn up, and stripped of their branches, after which the roots and tops are cut off; the bark of these rods being then slit up longitudinally, is easily drawn off, and, when a proper quantity has been procured, it is carried down to some running water, in which it is deposited to soak, and secured from floating away by heavy stones; when it is supposed to be sufficiently softened, the women servants go down to the brook, and stripping themselves fit down in the water, to separate the inner bark from the green part on the outside; to do this, they place the under side upon a flat smooth board, and with the shell which our dealers call Tyger's Tongue, Tellina gargadia, scrape it very carefully, dipping it continually in the water, till nothing remains but the fine fibres, of the inner coat. Being thus prepared in the afternoon, they are spread out upon plantain leaves in the evening; and in this part of the work there appears to be some difficulty, as the mistress of the family always superintends the doing of it; they are placed in lengths of about eleven or twelve yards, one by the side of another, till they are about a foot broad, and two or three layers are also laid one upon the other; care is taken that the cloth shall be in all parts of art equal thickness, so that if the bark happens to be thinner in any one particular part of one layer than the rest, a piece that is somewhat thicker is picked out to be laid over it in the next. In this dare it remains till the morning, when great part of the water, which it contained when it was laid out, is either drained off or evaporated, and the several fibres adhere together, so as that the whole may be raised from the ground in one piece.

It is then, taken away, and laid upon the smooth side of a long piece of wood, prepared for the purpose and beaten by the women servants, with instrument page 59 ments about a foot long and three inches thick, made of a hard wood which they call Etoa. The shape of this instrument is not unlike a square razor strap, only that the handle is longer, and each of its four sides or faces is marked, lengthways, with small grooves, or furrows, of different degrees of fineness; those on one side being of a width and depth sufficient to receive a small packthread, and the others finer, in a regular gradation, so that the last are not more than equal to sewing silk.

They beat it first with the coarsest side of this mallet, keeping time like our smiths; it spreads very fast under the strokes, chiefly, however, in the breadth, and the grooves in the mallet mark it with the appearance of threads; it is successively beaten with the other sides, last with the finest, and is then fit for use, Sometimes, however, it is made still thinner, by beating it with the finest side of the mallet, after it has been several times doubled it is then called Hoboo, and is almost as thin as a muslin; it becomes very white by being bleached in the air, but is made stil whiter and softer by being washed, and beaten again after it has been worn.

Of this cloth there are several sorts, of different degrees of fineness, in proportion as it is more or less beaten without being doubled; the other cloth also differs in proportion as it is beaten; but they differ from each other in consequence of the different materials of which they are made. The bark of the bread-fruit is not taken till the trees are considerably longer and thicker than those of the fig; the process after-wards is the same.

When cloth is to be washed after it has been worn, it is taken down to the brook, and lest to soak, being kept fast to the bottom, as at first, by a stone; it is then gently wrung, or squeezed, and sometimes several pieces of it are laid one upon another, and beaten together with the coarsest side of the mallet, and they are then equal in thickness to broad-cloth, and much more soft and agreeable to the touch, after they have been a little while in use, though when they come immediately from the mallet, they feel as if they had been starched. This cloth sometimes breaks in the page 60 beating, but it is easily repaired by pasting on a patch with a gluten, that is prepared from the root of the Pea, which is done so nicely, that it cannot be discovered. The women also employ themselves in removing blemishes of every kind, as our ladies do in needlework or knotting; sometimes, when their work is intended to be very fine, they will paste an entire covering of hoboo over the whole. The principal excellencies of this cloth are its coolness and softness; and its imperfections, its being pervious to water, like paper, and almost as easily torn.

The colours with which they dye this cloth are principally red and yellow. The red is exceedingly beautiful, and, I may venture to say, a brighter and more delicate colour than any we have in Europe; that which approaches nearest is our full scarlet, and the best imitation which Mr. Banks's natural-history painter could produce, was by a mixture of vermilion and carmine. The yellow is also a bright colour, but we have many as good.

The red colour is produced by the mixture of the juices of two vegetables, neither of which separately has the least tendency to that hue. One is a species of fig, called here Matte, and the other the Cordia Sebestina, or Etou; of the fig the fruit is used, and of the Cordia the leaves.

The fruit of the fig is about as big as a rounceval pea, of very small gooseberry; and each of them, upon breaking off the stalk very close, produces one drop of a milky liquor, resembling the juice of our figs, of which the tree is indeed a species. This liquor the women collect into a small quantity of cocoanut water: to prepare a gill of cocoa-nut water, will require between three and four quarts of these little figs. When a sufficient quantity is prepared, the leaves of the Etou are well wetted in it, and then laid upon a plantain leaf, where they are turned about till they become more and more flaccid, and then they are gently squeezed, gradually increasing the pressure, but so as not to break them; as the flaccidity increases; and they become spongy, they are supplied with more of the liquor; in about five minutes the colour begins to appear upon the veins of the leaves, and in about page 61 ten, or a little more, they are perfectly saturated with it; they are then squeezed with as much force as can be applied, and the liquor strained at the same time that it is expressed.

For this purpose the boys prepare a large quantity of the Moo, by drawing it between their teeth, or two little sticks, till it is freed from the green bark and the branny substance that lies under it, and a thin web of the fibres only remains; in this the leaves of the Etou are inveloped, and through these the juice which they contain is strained, as it is forced out. As the leaves are not succulent, little more juice is pressed out of them than they have imbibed: when they have been once emptied, they are filled again, and again pressed, till the quality which tinctures the liquor as it passes through them is exhausted; they are then thrown away; but the Moo, being deeply stained with the liquor is preserved, as a brush to lay the dye upon the cloth.

The expressed liquor is always received into small cups made of the plantain leaf, whether from a notion that it has any quality favourable to the colour, or from the facility with which it is procured, and the convenience of small vessele to distribute it among the artificers, I do not know.

Of the thin cloth they seldom dye more than the edges, but the thick, cloth is coloured through the whole surface; the liquor is indeed used rather as a pigment than a dye, for a coat of it is laid upon one side only, with the fibres of the Moo; and though I have seen of the thin cloth that has appeared to have been soaked in the liquor, the colour has not had the same richness and lustre as when it has been applied in the other manner.

Though the leaf of the Etou is generally used in this process, and probably produces the finest colour, yet the juice of the figs will produce a red, by a mixture with the species of Tournesortia, which they call Taheinoo, the Pohuc, the Eurhe, or Convolvulus Brasiliensis, and a species of Solanum, called Ebooa; from the use of these different plants, or from different proportions of the materials, many varieties are observabe in page 62 the colours of their cloth, some of which are conspicuously superior to others.

The beauty, however, of the best is nor permanent, but it is probable that some method might be found to fix it, if proper experiments were made, and perhaps to search for latent qualities, which might be brought out by the mixture of one vegetable juice with another, would not be an unprofitable employment; our present most valuable dyes afford sufficient encouragement to the attempt; for by the mere inspection of indico, woad, dyer's weed, and most of the leaves which are used for the like purposes, the colours which they yield could never be discovered. Of this Indian red I shall only add, that the women who have been employed in preparing or using it, carefully preserve the colour upon their fingers and nails, where it appears in its utmost beauty, as a great ornament.

The yellow is made of the bark of the root of the Morinda citrifolia, called Nono, by scraping and insusing it in water; after standing some time, the water is strained and used as a dye, the cloth being dipped into it. The Morinda, of which this is a species, seems to be a good subject for examination with a view to dyeing. Brown, in his History of Jamaica, mentions three species of it, which, he says, are used to dye brown; and Rumphius says of the Bancuda Augustifolia, which is nearly allied to our Nono, that it is used by the inhabitants of the East-India islands as a fixing drug for red colours, with which it particularly agrees.

The inhabitants of this island also dye yellow with the fruit of the Tamanu; but how the colour is, extracted, we had no opportunity to discover. They have also a preparation with which they dye brown and black; but these colours are so indifferent, that the method of preparing them did not excite our curiosity.

Another considerable manufacture is matting of various kinds, some of which is finer, and better in every respect than any we have in Europe; the coarser sort serves them to sleep upon, and the finer to wear in wet weather. With the fine, of which there are also two sorts, much pains is taken, especially with that page 63 made of the bark of the Poerou, the Hibiscus tiliaceus of Linnaeus, some of which is as fine as a coarse cloth; the other sort, which is still more beautiful, they call Vanne; it is white, glossy, and shining, and is made of the leaves of their Wharrou, a species of the Pandanus, of which we had no opportunity to see either the flowers or fruit: they have other matts, or, as they call them, Moeas, to sit or to sleep upon, which are formed of a great variety of rushes and grass, and which they make, as they do every thing else that is plaited, with amazing facility and dispatch.

They are also very dextrous in making basket and wicker-work; their baskets are of a thousand different patterns, many of them exceedingly neat; and the making them is an art that every one practises, both men and women: they make occasional baskets and panniers of the cocoa-nut leaf in a few minutes, and the women who visited us early in a morning, used to send, as soon as the sun was high, for a few of the leaves, of which they made little bonnets to shade their faces, at so small an expence of time and trouble, that when the sun was again low in the evening, they used to throw them away. These bonnets, however, did not cover the head, but consisted only of a band that went round it, and a shade that projected from the forehead.

Of the bark of the Poerou they make ropes and lines from the thickness of an inch to the size of a small packthread; with these they make nets for fishing; of the fibres of the cocoa-nut they make thread, for fastening together the several parts of their canoes and belts, either round or flat, twisted or plaited; and of the bark of the Erowa, a kind of nettle which grows in the mountains, and is therefore rather scarce, they make the best fishing-lines in the world; with these they hold the strongest and most active fish, such as bonetas and albicores, which would snap our strongest silk lines in a minute, tho' they are twice as thick.

They make also a kind of seine, of a coarse broad grass, the blades of which are like flags; these they twist and tie together in a loose manner, till the net, which is about as wide as a large sack, is from sixty to page 64 eighty fathom long; this they haul in shoal smooth water, and its own weight keeps it so close to the ground that scarcely a single fish can escape.

In every expedient, indeed, for taking fish, they are exceedingly ingenious; they make harpoons of cane, and point them with hard wood, which in their hands strike fish more effectually, than those which are headed with iron can do in ours, setting aside the advantage of ours being fastened to a line, so that the fish is secured if the hook takes place, tho' it does not mortally wound him.

Of fish-hooks they have two sorts, admirably adapted in their construction, as well to the purpose they are to answer, as to the materials of which they are made. One of these, which they call Wittee Wittee, is used for towing. The shank is made of mother-of-pearl, the most glossy that can be got; the inside, which is naturally the brightest, is put behind. To these hooks a tuft of white dogs or hogs hair is fixed, so as somewhat to resemble the tail of a fish; these implements, therefore, are both hook and bait, and are used with a rod of bamboo, and line of Erowa. The fisher, to secure his success, watches the flight of the birds, which constantly attend the bonetas when they swim in shoals, by which he directs, his canoe, and when he has the advantage of these guides, he seldom returns without a prize.

The other kind of hook is also made of mother-of-pearl, or some other hard shell; they cannot make them bearded, like our hooks, but, to effect the same purpose, they make the point turn inwards. These are made of all sizes, and used to catch various kinds of fish with great success. The manner of making them is very simple, and every fisherman is his own artificer; the shell is first cut into square pieces, by the edge of another shell, and wrought into a form, corresponding with the outline of the hook by pieces of coral, which are sufficiently rough to perform the office of a file; a hole is then bored in the middle, the drill being no other than the first stone they pick up that has a sharp corner; this they fix into the end of a piece of bamboo, and turn it between the hands page 65 like a chocolate-mill; when the shell is perforated, and the whole sufficiently wide, a small file of coral is introduced, by the application of which the hook is in a short time completed, few costing the artificer more time than a quarter of an hour.

Of their masonry, carving, and architecture, the reader has already formed some idea, from the account that has been given of the Morais, or repositories of the dead: the other most important article of building and carving is their boats; and, perhaps, to fabricate one of their principal vessels with their tools, is as great a work as to build a British man of war with ours.

They have an adze of stone; a chissel or gouge of bone, generally that of a man's arm, between the wrist and elbow; a rasp of coral; and the skin of a sting-ray, with coral sand, as a file or polisher.

This is a complete catalogue of their tools, and with these they build houses, construct canoes, hew stone, and sell, cleave, carve, and polish timber.

The stone which makes the blade of their adzes is a kind of Basaltes, of a blackish or grey colour, not very hard, but of considerable toughness; they are formed of different sizes, some, that are intended for selling, weigh from six to eight pounds; others, that are used for carving, not more than so many ounces; but it is necessary to sharpen both almost every minute, for which purpose a stone and a cocoa-nut shell full of water are always at hand.

Their greatest exploit, to which these tools are less equal than to any other, is felling a tree; this requires many hands, and the constant labour of several days. When it is down, they split it, with the grain, into planks from three to four inches thick, the whole length and breadth of the tree, many of which are eight feet in the girt, and forty to the branches, and nearly of the same thickness throughout. The tree generally used is in their language called Avie, the stem of which is tall and straight; though some of the smaller boats are made of the bread-fruit tree, which is a light spongy wood, and easily wrought. They smooth the plank very expeditiously and dexterously with their adzes, and can take off a thin coat from a page 66 whole plank without missing a stroke. As they have not the art of warping a plank, every part of the canoe, whether hollow or flat, is shaped by hand.

The canoes, or boats, which are used by the inhabitants of this and the neighbouring islands, may be divided into two general classes, one of which they call Ivahahs, the other Pahies.

The Ivahah is used for short excursions to sea, and is wall-sided and flat-bottomed; the Pahie for longer voyages, and is bow-sided and sharp-bottomed. The Ivahahs are all of the same figure, but of different sizes, and used for different purposes; their length is from seventy-two feet to ten, but the breadth is by no means in proportion, for those of ten feet are about a foot wide, and those of more than seventy are scarcely two. There is the fighting Ivahah, the fishing Ivahah, and the travelling Ivahah; for some of these go from one island to another. The fighting Ivahah is by far the longest, and the head and stern are considerably raised above the body, in a semicircular form, particularly the stern, which is sometimes seventeen or eighteen feet high, though the boat itself is scarcely three. These never go to sea single, but are fastened together, side by side, at the distance of about three feet, by strong poles of wood, which are laid across them and lasted to the gunwales. Upon these, in the fore-part, a stage or platform is raised, about ten or twelve feet long, and somewhat wider than the boats, which is supported by pillars about six feet high; upon this stage stand the fighting men, whose missile weapons are slings and spears; for, among other singularities in the manners of these people, their bows and arrows are used only for divertion, as we throw quoits: below these stages sit the rowers, who receive from them those that are wounded, and furnish fresh men to ascend in their room. Some of these have a platform of bamboos, or other light wood, through their whole length, and considerably broader, by means of which they will carry a great number of men; but we saw only one fitted in this manner.

The fishing Ivahahs vary in length from about forty feet to the smallest size, which is about ten; all that are of the length of twenty-five feet and upwards, of page 67 whatever sort, occasionally carry sail. The travelling Ivahah is always double, and furnished with a small neat house about five or six feet broad, and six or seven feet long, which is fastened upon the fore-part for the convenience of the principal people, who sit in them by day, and sleep in them at night. The fishing Ivahahs are sometimes joined together, and have a house on board; but this is not common.

Those which are shorter than five and twenty feet, seldom or never carry sail; and, though the stern rises about four or five feet, have a flat head, and a board that projects forward about four feet.

The Pahie is also of different sizes, from sixty to thirty feet long, but, like the Ivahah, is very narrow. One that I measured was fifty-one feet long, and only one foot and a half wide at the top. In the widest part it was about three feet, and this is the general proportion. It does not, however, widen by a gradual swell, but, the sides being straight, and parallel, for a little way below the gunwale, it swells abruptly, and draws to a ridge at the bottom; so that a transverse section of it has somewhat the appearance of the mark upon cards, called a Spade, the whole being much wider in proportion to its length. These, like the largest Ivahahs are used for fighting, but principally for long voyages. The fighting Pahie, which is the largest, is fitted with the stage or platform, which is proportionably larger than those of the Ivahah, as their form enables them to sustain a much greater weight. Those that are used for sailing are generally double; and the middle size are said to be the best sea-boats. They are sometimes out a month together, going from island to island; and sometimes, as we were credibly informed, they are a fortnight or twenty days at sea, and could keep it longer if they had more stowage for provisions, and conveniences to hold fresh water.

When any of these boats carry sail single, they make use of a log of wood, which is fastened to the end of two poles that lie across the vessel, and project from six to ten feet, according to the size of the vessel, beyond its side, somewhat like what is used by the flying Proa of the Ladrone Islands, and called, in page 68 the Account of Lord Anson's Voyage, an Outrigger. To this outrigger the shrouds are fastened, and it is essentially necessary in trimming the boat when it blows fresh.

Some of them have one mast, and some two; they are made of a single stick, and when the length of the canoe is thirty feet, that of the mast is somewhat less than five and twenty; it is fixed to a frame that is above the canoe, and receives a sail of matting about one third longer than itself; the sail is pointed at the top, square at the bottom, and curved at the side, somewhat resembling what we call a shoulder of mutton sail, and life for boats belonging to men of war; it is placed in a frame of wood, which surrounds it on every side, and has no contrivance either for reefing or furling; so that, if either should become necessary, it must be cut away, which, however, in these equal climates can seldom happen. At the top of the mast are fastened ornaments of feathers, which are placed inclining obliquely forwards; the shape and position of which will be conceived at once, from the figure in one of the cuts.

The oars or paddles that are used with these boats, have a long handle and a flat blade, not unlike a baker's peel. Of these every person in the boat has one, except those that sit under the awning; and they push her forward with them at a good rate. These boats, however, admit so much water at the teams, that one person, at least, is continually employed in throwing it out. The only thing in which they excel is landing, and putting off from the shore in a surf; by their great length and high sterns they land dry, when our boats could scarcely land at all; and have the same advantages in putting off, by the height of the head.

The Ivahahs are the only boats that are used by the inhabitants of Otaheite; but we saw several Pahies that came from other islands. Of one of these I shall give the exact dimensions from a careful admeasurement, and then particularly describe the mannar in which they are built.

page 69
Feet Inch
Extreme length from stem to stern, not reckoning the bending up of either 51 0
Breadth in the clear of the top forward 1 2
Breadth in the midships 1 6
Breadth aft 1 3
In the bilge forward 2 8
In the midships 2 11
Aft 2 9
Depth in the midships 3 4
Height from the ground on which he stood 3 6
Height of her head from the ground, without the figure 4 4
Height of the figure 0 11
Height of the stern from the ground 8 9
Height of the figure 2 0

To illustrate my description of the manner in which these vessels are built, it will be necessary to refer to the figure; in which aa is the first seam, bb the second, and cc the third.

Black and white cross-section diagram of a canoe showing points where seams occur.

The first stage or keel, under a a, is made of a tree hollowed out like a trough; for which the longest trees are chosen that can be got, so that there are never more than three in the whole length; the next stage under b b, is formed of strait plank, about four feet long, fifteen inches broad, and two inches thick: the third stage, under c c, is, like the bottom, made of trunks, hollowed into its bilging form; the last is also cut out of trunks, so that the moulding is of one piece with the upright. To form these parts separately, without saw, plane, chissel, or any other iron tool, may well be thought no easy task; but the great difficulty is to join them together.

When all the parts are prepared, the keel is laid upon blocks, and the planks being supported by stanchions, are sewed or clamped together with strong thongs of plaiting, which are passed several times through holes that are bored with a gouge or auger of bone, that has been described already; and the nicety with which this is done, may be inferred from their being sufficiently page 70 water-tight for use without calking. As the plaiting soon rots in the water, it is renewed at least once a year; in order to which, the vessel is taken entirely to pieces. The head and stern are rude with respect to the design; but very neatly finished, and polished to the highest degree.

These Pahies are kept with great care, in a kind of house built on purpose for their reception; the houses are formed of poles set upright in the ground, the tops of which are drawn towards each other, and fastened together with their strongest cord, so as to form a kind of Gothic arch, which is completely thatched quite to the ground, being open only at the ends; they are sometimes fifty or sixty paces long.

As connected with the navigation of these people, I shall mention their wonderful sagacity in foretelling the weather, at least the quarter from which the wind shall blow at a future time; they have several ways of doing this, of which, however, I know but one. They say, that the Milky-way is always curved laterally; but sometimes in one direction, and sometimes in another: and that this curvature is the effect of its being already acted upon by the wind, and its hollow part therefore towards it; so that, if the same curvature continues a night, a corresponding wind certainly blows the next day. Of their rules, I shall not pretend to judge; but I know that, by whatever means, they can predict the weather, at least the wind, with much greater certainty than we can.

In their longer voyages, they steer by the sun in the day, and in the night by the stars; all of which they distinguish separately by names, and know in what part of the heavens they will appear in any of the months during which they are visible in their horizon; they also know the time of their annual appearing and disappearing with more precision than will easily be believed by an European astronomer.