Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Wallis and Carteret

Wallis and Carteret

1766 to 1769 Byron's voyage was followed immediately by another, which was entrusted to Captain Samuel Wallis, who took over the Dolphin. With him sailed the sloop Swallow, commanded by Philip Carteret, who had been first lieutenant of the Tamar in Byron's expedition, and a store ship, the Prince Frederick. Wallis was to search for the southern continent but, in the event that he failed to find it, he was to search for land in the Pacific on latitude 20° S. The ships sailed from Plymouth Sound on August 22, 1766, refreshed at Port Famine in the Strait of Magellan on December 17, and entered the Pacific on April 11, 1767. The Swallow disappeared in a storm and was thought lost.

Wallis sailed northwest, then west along latitude 20° S. As a result, he passed through the Tuamotu Archipelago farther south than the course followed by John Byron and thus encountered a different set of islands. The first was Pinaki, which he discovered on June 6, 1767, and which, as the day was Whitsun Eve, he named Whitsun Island. In his westward run, he discovered five more Tuamotuan islands which he named as follows: Queen Charlotte (Nukutavake), Egmont (Vairaatea), Gloucester (Paraoa), Cumberland (Manuhangi), and Prince William Henry (Nengonengo). A four-days' sail took him to Meetia, the most easterly island in the Society group, which he named Osnaburgh. On the following day, June 18, Wallis made his greatest discovery, the large volcanic island of Tahiti, which he named King George III Island. The error of identifying Tahiti with the low island of La Sagittaria discovered by Quiros has been pointed out (pp. 8-9).

At Matavai Bay Wallis met with a hostile reception from hundreds of canoes, but friendly relations were finally established in which the high chief-tainess Oberea (Purea) played an active part. The use of this anchorage by page 24subsequent explorers had a profound influence on the history of Tahiti. The Dolphin stayed over a month, affording time for the sick to recover; the ship to be amply provisioned with hogs, fowls, vegetables, and fruit; and some exploration of the island to be made. Wallis set sail on July 27 and proceeded along the shore of Moorea, which he named Duke of York Island, but he did not go ashore. Continuing in a westerly direction he encountered three more of the Society islands, which he named Sir Charles Saunders Island (Tapuaemanu), Lord How's (Howe) Island (Mopiha), and the Scilly Islands (Fenua Ura). On August 13 he saw the Cocos and Traitors Islands discovered by Le Maire and Schouten earlier and renamed them Boscawen and Keppel. Three days later, he discovered Uvea, and Wallis modestly states that his men named it Wallis Island in honor of their captain.

From Wallis Island, the Dolphin sailed out of Polynesia and, after touching at Tinian and Batavia, returned via the Cape of Good Hope to anchor in the Downs on May 20, 1768.

The Swallow had not gone down in the storm which separated her from the Dolphin, but had been saved by the consummate seamanship of Captain Philip Carteret. On July 2, 1767, when the Dolphin was at Tahiti, the Swallow was off a rocky island which was named Pitcairn Island after the midshipman who first sighted it. The sea was rough and Carteret made no attempt to land. His course was farther south than that of Wallis, and he picked up an atoll in latitude 22° S. which he named Bishop of Osnaburghs Island (Mururoa). On the next day he sighted a group which he named the Duke of Gloucesters Islands. There were actually three atolls close together, and their native names are Nukutipipi, Anuanurunga, and Anuanuraro. Carteret quitted Polynesia without any other discoveries and, after doing some valuable exploring in the western Pacific, anchored at Spithead on March 20, 1769.

Though Carteret added little to Polynesian discovery, his voyage was one of the pluckiest in history. Not only should the Swallow have been relegated to the scrap heap instead of being sent out on an expedition, the Admiralty had refused to supply Carteret with an anvil and other equipment for repairs. The story of how he circumnavigated the world in a leaking tub and kept her afloat for two years and seven months will ever remain a record for endurance, courage, and skill.

Louis de Bougainville overtook the Swallow on February 26 and sent a boat to exchange courtesies. He remarked on the condition of Carteret's ship as follows: "His ship was very small, went very ill, and when we took leave of him, he remained as if it were at anchor. How much he must have suffered in so bad a vessel, may well be conceived."