Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

John Byron

John Byron

1764 to 1766

The British government, having awakened to the fact that Pacific exploration would add to England's prestige as a maritime power, began a series of voyages in 1764. The first expedition consisted of a copper-sheathed ship, the Dolphin, under Commodore the Honorable John Byron, who had sailed with Anson, and the sloop Tamar, under Captain Mouat. Byron was to explore the south Atlantic for land between the latitudes 33° and 53° S., identify Pepys Island, and go on to the Pacific. The ships sailed from the Downs on June 21, 1764 and reached Port Desire in Patagonia in November. Byron examined the Falkland Islands in January 1765 and took possession of them, rightly concluding that they were identical with Pepys Island. It took seven weeks and two days to sail through the Strait of Magellan, and he entered the Pacific on April 9, 1765.

After refreshing at Masafuero, the ships sailed northwest to get the trades, and on June 7 Byron encountered two islands of the northern Tuamotus (Napuka and Tepoto) which he named Islands of Disappointment because the hostile appearance of the natives prevented the boats from landing. On June 9 he picked up Takaroa and Takapoto which he named King George Islands. He established a beachhead after killing two or three natives, and boatloads of coconuts and scurvy grass were obtained. On June 13 an island, probably Manihi, was seen and named Prince of Wales Island, but no attempt was made page 22 The Island of Otaheite, Drawn by Willam Hodges, Artist With Cook on His Second Voyage. page 23 to land. Continuing westward, he sighted another island on June 21 which he named the Island of Danger because the high surf rendered it too dangerous to land boats. It was what is now known as Pukapuka in the northern Cook group, not to be confused with Pukapuka in the Tuamotus which was discovered by Le Maire and Schouten and named Honden, or Dog, Island by them. From Danger Island, Byron passed on to an uninhabited island which he named Duke of York Island. After obtaining coconuts there, he proceeded west and evidently picked up an atoll [Byrons Island?] in Micronesia where the natives had weapons with attached shark teeth. He arrived at Tinian in the Marianas on July 31.

On his return voyage, he rounded the Cape of Good Hope in December and anchored in the Downs on May 9, 1766. The results of Byron's voyage were meager.