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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

George Vancouver

George Vancouver

1791 to 1795

The British Admiralty decided to continue the survey of the northwest American coast, and Captain George Vancouver, R.N., was selected to carry out the project. He was given command of the armed ship Discovery (340 tons) with a crew of 100 men and the armed tender page 42 Karakakoa Bay, Owyhee, Drawn by Thomas Heddington, Artist with Vancouver. page 43 Chatham (135 tons) with a crew of forty-five under the command of Lieutenant W. R. Broughton. The supply ship Daedalus under command of Lieutenant Richard Hergest was later sent out to meet Vancouver on the American coast.

The Discovery and Chatham sailed from Falmouth on April 1, 1791, via the Cape of Good Hope and sighted the southwest coast of New Holland on September 26. After some survey work, the ships sailed for Dusky Sound, New Zealand, sighting Van Diemens Land on the way. They reached Dusky Sound on November 2, and after some days, sailed round the south end of the South Island on the way to Tahiti. During the voyage, the ships were separated by a storm. On November 24 the Discovery sighted some rocky islets which Vancouver called the Snares; and on December 22 the island of Rapa was discovered. Canoes came out and Vancouver named the island Oparo based on what he could gather from the natives, who spoke the language of the "Great South Sea nation." The Duke of Gloucesters Islands discovered by Carteret and Osnaburgh (Meetia) were passed, and the ship anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on December 29. At Tahiti, where Vancouver met "Pomurrey" (Pomare) and other chiefs, he recorded useful information regarding the people.

The Chatham was already at anchor when the Discovery arrived. Broughton had also found a new island (oh November. 29, 1791), east of the South Island of New Zealand. He named it Chatham Island after the Earl of Chatham.

On January 24, 1792, both ships sailed for Hawaii, but owing to light winds, they did not sight it until March 1. They anchored in Kealakekua Bay, where they were visited by Kaiana, who had been to Canton with Meares. They next sailed for Oahu, where they anchored in Waikiki Bay, then to Kauai and anchored in Waimea Bay. From Kauai, they went to Niihau, and sailed for the northwest coast on March 16.

After surveying various sounds and coastlines, the two ships made for Monterey, where Vancouver found the Daedalus, his store ship, had. already arrived. The Daedalus was in command of the Master, Thomas New, because Lieutenant Hergest, the commander, William Gooch, the astronomer, and a seaman had been treacherously killed on Oahu while getting water for the ship. Lieutenant Hergest's papers revealed that after rounding Cape Horn his ship had made for the Marquesas to obtain water, had anchored in Resolution Bay in Ohetahoo [Tahuata?], and had completed watering after some trouble with the inhabitants. She sailed from Resolution Bay on March 29, 1792, and on the 30th, sighted three islands, which were named Rious Island (Uahuka), Trevenens Island (Uapou), and Sir Henry Martins Island (Nukuhiva). Later, some rocky islets were named Hergests Rocks (Motuiti) and two islands farther north were named Roberts Islands (Eiao and Hatutu). These islands page 44actually formed the northern group of the Marquesas, the southern group having been discovered by Mendaña. Vancouver, thinking that they were a new discovery, named the group Hergests Islands. However, they had been visited the previous year by Ingraham and Marchand independently. Even so, it is remarkable that they had escaped discovery so long, particularly since Cook visited the lower group in 1774.

Lieutenant Broughton was sent from Monterey to carry reports to England, and Lieutenant Peter Puget was placed in command of the Chatham. The ships sailed south and arrived at Hawaii on February 12, 1793, and a survey of the islands was carried out. On March 20 the ships anchored in Waikiki Bay, Oahu. Through the assistance of the chiefs, three men suspected of the slaying of Lieutenant Hergest, Gooch, and the seaman were apprehended and given a careful and fair trial on the Discovery. They were declared guilty with the full concurrence of the chiefs, and their execution by shooting was conducted by their own chief "Tennavee," who afterwards confessed that the executed men were innocent of the murder, though guilty of tabu violations. After a visit to Kauai, the ships set sail on March 29 for Nootka Sound.

After further surveys were conducted along the northwest coast by both the Discovery and the Chatham, they returned to the Sandwich Islands and saw Mowna-kah (Mauna Kea) showing its snow-capped head above the clouds on January 9, 1794. A stop was made at Kealakekua Bay, and Vancouver landed livestock on Hawaii. On February 25 King Kamehameha formally ceded the island of Hawaii to Great Britain.

The store ship Daedalus, under the command of Lieutenant Hanson, was sent to Port Jackson with copies of the survey and some breadfruit plants for Norfolk Island. The survey of the islands having been completed, the Discovery and Chatham sailed on March, 15. They looked up Bird Island (Modoo Mannoo, or Nihoa) and sailed north to continue the surveys on the northwest coast.

The northern surveys continued until September 1794, when they sailed south from Nootka Sound. The ships called in at Monterey, Cocos Island, the Galapagos, Juan Fernandez, and finally, in April 1795, at Valparaiso for stores and repairs. In May, the ships sailed south of Cape Horn, reaching St. Helena on July 2. Here they found that war had been declared between England and Holland. When a Dutch East Indiaman, the Macassar, came into the harbor, Vancouver promptly took it as a prize. The Chatham was sent to San Salvador, Brazil, with dispatches. The Macassar was left under Lieutenant Johnstone with a crew of seventeen to follow in the next convoy, while Vancouver set sail to overtake a convoy which was leaving for England when the Discovery came in. When Vancouver caught up with the convoy, commanded by Captain Essington on H.M.S. Sceptre, he found progress was slow because some of the Dutch prizes were in bad repair. Vancouver mentions that he had to help two page 45that were in trouble and that one sank. This was probably the Hoogly, upon which Lieutenant Rossel was conveying the papers and collections of the illfated D'Entrecasteaux Expedition. The convoy reached the west coast of Ireland and entered the Shannon to await more ships of war for protection.

Vancouver, after farewelling his crew, went on to London to report to the Admiralty with his papers. The Chatham arrived in England on October 17, 1795, the Discovery on October 20, and the Macassar on November 22. The voyage had lasted a little over four and one-half years, during which time the casualty list out of a total of 145 consisted of five killed by accident and one dead of fever contracted from another ship in Brazil.