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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

[British Navigators, 1780 to 1800]

British Navigators, 1780 to 1800

At the end of Cook's third voyage in 1780, the only important Polynesian islands remaining to be discovered were the Mangarevan (Gambier) Islands, the northern islands of the Marquesas, and a few individual islands in the page 35Cook and Tuamotu groups. The subsequent voyages discovered most of these additional islands and served as a check on the latitudes and longitudes given by the original discoverers. They also confirmed and added to the information regarding the inhabitants of the islands visited. It seems advisable at this point to depart from the strictly chronological sequence of the voyages and deal with the explorers in national groups in order to indicate the navigating activities of the various countries concerned. Commencing with the British, the dates, commanders, ships, and islands visited, are given in the following list. The few new discoveries are in capitals and small capitals.

Date Commander Ships Islands
1785-1788 Portlock, Nathaniel King George Hawaii
1785-1788 Dixon, George Queen Charlotte Hawaii
1786-1787 Meares, John Nootka and Sea Otter Hawaii
1787-1788 Watts, John Lady Penrhyn Kermadecs, Tahiti, Tongareva
1787-1789 Bligh, William Bounty Society, Aitutaki, Tonga
1788-1789 Meares, John Felice and Iphigenia Hawaii
1789 Mortimer, George Mercury Society, Hawaii
1790-1791 Edwards, Edward Pandora Society, Tuamotu, Tonga, Samoa, Tokelau
1791-1795 Vancouver, George Discovery and Chatham Society, Rapa, Marquesas, Hawaii, Chatham
1791-1793 Bligh, William Providence and Assistant Society, Aitutaki, Tuamotu
1795-1798 Broughton, William Providence Society, Hawaii
1796-1798 Wilson, James Duff Mangareva, Tuamotu, Society, Tonga, Marquesas

Portlock and Dixon

1785 to 1788

On Cook's last voyage, a number of furs were obtained on the north-west American coast and sold for good prices in China when the Resolution and Discovery called at Macao on their way back to England. The crews almost mutinied in their desire to return to the north-west coast for more furs. The reports spread in England in 1780 opened up the possibility of a new source of wealth, and in the spring of 1785 the South Sea Company was formed and obtained a charter to trade for furs on the northwest coast of America and dispose of them in China. Two vessels were bought by the company, the King George and the Queen Charlotte, and were placed under the commands of Nathaniel Portlock and George Dixon. These men, besides being able navigators, had served on Cook's third voyage and were acquainted with the country where the furs were obtained. The ships sailed together over the period of 1785 to 1788. Hawaii was a convenient place for obtaining provisions, and both Portlock and Dixon recorded useful information concerning the native inhabitants. Some of the Hawaiian implements figured by Portlock have been of value in identifying museum artifacts concerning which no details had been recorded.

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John Watts

1787 to 1788

Lieutenant John Watts, R.N., was a lieutenant on the Lady Penrhyn (340 tons) under Captain Sever. According to Watts, the ship was "a clumsy vessel and a heavy sailor." She was one of a fleet of eleven ships which sailed from the Isle of Wight on May 13, 1787, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, to found the earliest colony in Australia, New South Wales. This was the fleet which La Pérouse saw in Botany Bay on January 26, 1788, when it was weighing anchor to enter Port Jackson. After discharging her cargo of 102 female convicts at Port Jackson, the Lady Penrhyn sailed on May 5 for the further prosecution of the voyage. Though Captain Sever was in command of the ship, the three islands discovered are usually credited to Lieutenant Watts.

On May 31, 1788, were observed three of the four islands later known as the Kermadecs. Captain Sever went ashore on one of them which he named Macauleys Island after G. M. Macauley. The other two islands to the southward were named Curtis Isles, after Timothy and William Curtis. The smaller of these two islands was probably the small rocky islet which D'Entrecasteaux later named Esperance, after one of his ships, for his chart indicates that the name of Curtis Island was applied to the longer island.

Tahiti was reached on July 9 and refreshments were obtained for the ship. On July 23 she sailed for Macao. On August 8 the atoll of Tongareva was discovered and named Penrhyn Island, presumably after the ship. The Lady Penrhyn sailed out of Polynesia and arrived at Macao on October 19, 1788.

William Bligh

1787 to 1789

The accounts of Dampier, Anson, and Cook concerning the food value of the breadfruit led, in 1787, to a request from the merchants of the West Indies to King George III that the tree be introduced into those islands. This request, supported by Sir Joseph Banks, was granted, and the 215-ton Bounty was fitted for the task. William Bligh, who had accompanied Cook on his third expedition as Master on the Resolution, was raised to the rank of lieutenant and placed in command of the ship and its complement of 44 men and officers. Two specially selected men were appointed to look after the plants.

The Bounty sailed from Spithead on December 23, 1787, to reach Tahiti via Cape Horn, but encountering contrary winds off the Strait of Le Maire, she altered her course and sailed east via the Cape of Good Hope and south of New Holland and New Zealand. She reached Tahiti on October 26, 1788, and remained for nearly six months. With her supply of breadfruit plants, she sailed away on April 4, 1789. After calling at Huahine, Bligh discovered the most northerly of the high islands of the Cook group on April 11, 1789 page 37A native came out in a canoe, rubbed noses with him, gave him a pearl-shell breast ornament suspended with human-hair braid, and told him the island was Wytootackee (Aitutaki). Savage Island was seen next, and on April 23 the ship anchored off Annamooka (Nomuka) in the Tongan islands.

On April 27 the ship sailed between the Tongan islands of Tofoa (Tofua) and Kotoo (Kotu). It was the next day that Bligh was seized in his cabin by Fletcher Christian and some of the other mutineers. Bligh and eighteen others were placed in the ship's launch and set adrift with a scanty supply of provisions, and Fletcher Christian and 24 others took the Bounty back to Tahiti. The story of their ultimate fate is well known. Bligh made the historic boat voyage through the Fijian islands and along the coast of New Holland, and reached Timor in June 1789. He reached England on a Dutch packet on March 14, 1790. His boat trip evidently impressed his superiors, for he was raised to the rank of Commander and soon after to that of Post Captain.

1791 to 1793

King George had not lost interest in the breadfruit mission, and he directed that Captain Bligh be given command of two ships to complete his original mission, the procuring of breadfruit plants from Tahiti for the West Indies. His two ships, the Providence and Assistant, sailed from Spithead on August 3, 1791. They called at Table Bay and Van Diemens Land and steered south of New Zealand until they reached the meridian of Tahiti. On the way north, on April 5, 1792, Bligh discovered another atoll in the Tuamotus. It was Tematangi, which he called Lagoon Island. The ships made a short call at Meetia and anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on April 9. Having collected the breadfruit plants, Bligh sailed from Tahiti on July 20. After passing Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea, he sailed for Aitutaki to make closer acquaintance with the discovery of his first voyage on the Bounty. He reached the island on July 25 and recorded useful information concerning the inhabitants, who proved very friendly. Lieutenant Tobin drew a picture of one of their canoes, and Lieutenant Portlock, commander of the Assistant, recorded valuable information in his journal. Bligh sailed past Savage Island and called at the Tongan group of Vavau. He sailed on through Fiji, Melanesia, the Torres Strait, and the East Indies.

The ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and on December 17 called at St. Helena, where Bligh left some breadfruit plants. He arrived at St. Vincent in the West Indies on January 23, 1793, and anchored at Port Royal, Jamaica on February 5. The plants were duly delivered in Jamaica, but subsequent information revealed that the West Indians disliked the flavor of breadfruit and preferred their own bananas. The two ships anchored at Deptford on August 7, 1793. Thus, Bligh's two voyages resulted in failure as far as the breadfruit project was concerned. However, apart from the mutiny on the Bounty providing much literary material, they did result in the discovery of Aitutaki and Tematangi.

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John Meares

1786 to 1787

John Meares, who also entered the fur trade, made two voyages. The first one was sponsored by patrons in Bengal who bought two ships, the Nootka, 200 tons, and the Sea Otter, 100 tons. The ships were ready on February 20, 1786, and sailed from Calcutta on March 2. Meares, on the Nootka, sailed first to Madras to deliver a Government official and his suite, then to the northwest coast of America. The Sea Otter, commanded by William Tipping, sailed direct to Malacca with a cargo of opium and went on to the northwest coast. The two ships never met, and the Sea Otter was eventually listed as missing. On the northwest coast of America, Meares met Dixon and Portlock who, according to Meares, failed to respond to his requests for aid. Finally, Meares sailed south to Hawaii, where he remained during August of 1787. He sailed from the Sandwich Islands on September 2 and arrived at Typa Harbor, near Macao, on October 20, 1787. He took with him a Kauai chief named Tianna (Kaiana), aged 32 and 6 feet 5 inches in height.

1788 to 1789

Two ships were bought for his second voyage, the 230-ton Felice and the 200-ton Iphigenia. Meares commanded the Felice, and the Iphigenia was commanded by Captain Douglas. In addition to collecting furs on the northwest coast, Meares proposed to return Kaiana and three other Hawaiians stranded in Canton to their homes. The ships sailed from Typa Harbor on January 22, 1788, and went first to the northwest coast. After collecting furs, Meares sailed south and arrived at the Sandwich Islands on October 17. He sailed from Niihau in the following month and duly arrived at Macao.

The Iphigenia, which had remained longer on the northwest coast, arrived off Maui on December 6, 1788. The ship sailed on to Hawaii, where King Tome-homy-haw (Kamehameha) gave Kaiana a large tract of land. Captain Douglas, who got on well with the king and his subjects, stayed in the islands until March 18, 1789, when he sailed from Niihau for the northwest coast. He returned to the Sandwich Islands in July and saw the King and Kaiana in Hawaii. He then anchored off "Waitetee" Bay (Waikiki), whence he sailed on August 10. He arrived at Macao on October 5, 1789.

George Mortimer


The Mercury, a fine copper-bottomed vessel, was built at Deptford to engage in the fur trade on the northwest American coast. It was owned and commanded by Captain John Henry Cox, but its story was told by George Mortimer, a lieutenant of marines who sailed with Cox. The ship left from Gravesend on February 26, 1789, and sailed via the Cape of Good Hope. As Cox wished to see some of the south sea islands before going page 39north, he kept to the south and picked up Amsterdam Island, where 1,000 seal skins of very superior quality were obtained. The neighboring island of St. Paul was seen and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) was reached on July 6. The Mercury entered the south Pacific, and on August 9 passed the island of Toobouai (Tubuai) in the Australs. The ship anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on August 12. After friendly intercourse with the people on Tahiti and Eimeo (Moorea), Cox sailed north on September 2, stopping at Tetteroa (Tetiaroa) on the way. He sighted Hawaii on September 20 and anchored in Kealakekua Bay two days later. King Kamehameha and Kaiana visited the ship and the king presented Captain Cox with a helmet and two beautiful cloaks "richly interwoven with scarlet and yellow feathers." Cox had seen Kaiana earlier at Canton, where, because of his physique, the Chinese called him Great Stranger.

Cox sailed for the north on September 25, passing Maui, and seeing Molokai and Oahu in the distance. October and part of November were spent along the northwest coast. Then the ship sailed south, reaching Saypan (Saipan) Island, Tinian, and Aguigan on December 12 and finally arrived at Canton on January 1, 1790. The references to the people of Tahiti and Hawaii are brief but useful.

Edward Edwards

1790 to 1791

The return of William Bligh to England in 1790 with the news of the mutiny on the Bounty caused the Admiralty to send the frigate Pandora with 24 guns and 160 men under the command of Captain Edward Edwards, R.N., to search for the mutineers and bring them back to justice. Apparently, no regular journal of the voyage was kept by Edwards, and most of the information concerning it was derived from interim reports sent back by him to the Admiralty. However, George Hamilton, the surgeon on the Pandora, published an account of "A voyage round the world" which supplies some additional details.

The Pandora sailed from Jack-in-the-Basket on November 7, 1790, bound for the south seas via Cape Horn. It passed Easter Island on March 4, 1791, and a new atoll was discovered on March 16 which Edwards named Ducie Island after Lord Ducie. However, there is some suspicion that it is the Encarnacion of Quiros. Had Edwards continued west on this parallel of latitude, he should have found the most mutinous of the mutineers on Pitcairn Island only 300 miles away, but he turned northward. He thus missed discovering the Mangarevan Islands, but on March 16 he discovered an atoll to the north which he named Lord Hoods Island (Marutea). Two days later he discovered Tureia, which he named Carysfort Island. No other islands seem to have been encountered until they reached Meetia and anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti on March 23.

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Of the sixteen mutineers who had been left on Tahiti, two had been killed, four gave themselves up, and ten were captured without resistance. A great deal of grief was caused because the prisoners had wives and children from whom they were to be parted forever. A round house was built on the quarter deck of the ship to confine the fourteen chained and handcuffed prisoners. It was eleven feet in diameter, with an access opening in the roof, and was alluded to as "Pandora's Box."

The mutineers had built a fast schooner in Tahiti in which they hoped to escape in time of need. This, Edwards took over and equipped for use as a tender in his search. He put on a prize crew, consisting of midshipman Renouard, petty officer Oliver, and seven men.

The Pandora and her tender sailed from Tahiti on May 8 and, after passing Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Borabora, and Maurua, sailed to Aitutaki to search for the mutineers who had taken the Bounty. The Pandora sailed on to Palmerston Island and then to Duke of York Island (Atafu) in the Tokelaus which had been discovered by Byron in 1765. A few days later, on June 12, they discovered a new island which Edwards named Duke of Clarence Island (Nukunono). Edwards then sailed south and, on June 18, came to Savaii which he named Chatham Island, stating that the native name was Otewhy. He passed on to Upolu and gave the native name as "Oattooah." If the prefix O is left out, attooah is a good phonetic rendering of Atua, the eastern district of Upolu. The search was continued south to the Haapai group of the Tongan islands which Edwards termed the Happy Islands. The ship anchored at Annamooka (Nomuka) where a rendezvous had been arranged with the tender. Unfortunately, the tender, which had been attacked off the island of Upolu and was desirous of avoiding further attacks, had sailed on to the west. The Tongan high chiefs Fattahfahe (Fatafehi) and Toobou (Tubou) went as passengers on a visit to Tofua, but the inhabitants did not reveal the visit of the tender.

The wind was against a visit to Tongatabu, so Edwards turned north for another call at Upolu. He saw the Vavau group but did not call in. On July 14 he sighted the three Manua Islands of Eastern Samoa. The next day he came to a larger island, which he learned from the people in canoes was "Otootooillah." With the prefix O discarded, this is a perfect rendering of Tutuila. He ran along the south side of Upolu, and sailed for Vavau. Not knowing that Maurelle had discovered the group in 1780, he named it Howes Islands, and also gave names to a number of smaller islands in the vicinity. Edwards went south again, and this time he reached Eua and Tongatabu, on July 26. He left for Nomuka to find trace of the tender and, after getting a supply of wood and water, sailed north. He sighted the island of Niuafou and, ignorant that it was the Good Hope Island of Schouten, named it Probys Island. He passed on to Wallis Island (Uvea) and traded with the natives. page 41He bore west for the Santa Cruz Islands, and, on August 8, discovered Rotuma, which he named Grenville Island. He saw some other islands, one of which was a new discovery which he named Cherry Island (Anuda). He saw smoke on Pitt Island (Vanikoro); and had he called in, he should have rescued the survivors of La Perouse's expedition and solved the mystery which was not cleared up until thirty-six years later.

Edwards sighted New Guinea on August 23 but, in trying to find a passage through numerous reefs at night, he was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef on August 28. Through the humanity of a member of the crew, ten of the prisoners were freed of their shackles and saved. Four were drowned in their chains. Of the crew, eighty-nine were saved and thirty-one drowned.

The survivors of the crew and the ten mutineers were distributed among four boats which were launched on August 31. They set out for Timor, which they sighted on September 13, and landed at Coupang two days later. Edwards and his company were given transport by a Dutch ship, which later called in at Samarang. Here they found the tender had arrived and been detained because Oliver could produce no commission or papers. However, the tender and crew were handed over to Edwards. The tender was sold and the money used to buy clothes for the men. Edwards reached Batavia on November 7, where the crew and mutineers were sent back to Europe on three Dutch ships. Edwards transferred his own party to H.M.S. Gorgon at the Cape and arrived at Spithead on June 18, 1792. The ten mutineers were transferred to H.M.S. Hector two days later.

The court martial assembled on September 12 and four were acquitted after a five-day trial. Of the remaining six, three were later pardoned and the others were hanged on board the ship Brunswick in Portsmouth Harbor on October 29, 1792. Among those pardoned was the midshipman Heywood, the hero of the popular book "Mutiny on the Bounty" by Nordhoff and Hall. Heywood reentered the Navy, and when he retired in 1816, he was nearly at the head of the list of Captains.

Edwards gave a list of his discoveries including those which had been discovered previously. His actual discoveries in Polynesia consisted of Ducie, Lord Hood (Marutea), and Carysfort (Tureia) in the Tuamotus, and Duke of Clarence (Nukunono) in the Tokelaus. Outside of Polynesia, he discovered Rotuma and Cherry (Anuda) Islands, where the people have Polynesian affinities.

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.

William Robert Broughton

1795 to 1798

The British sloop Providence, after her return from the West Indies where she had delivered the breadfruit plants collected on Bligh's second voyage, was refitted and placed under the command of William R. Broughton for survey work in the north Pacific. The Providence sailed from Plymouth Sound on February 15 with a convoy. She reached Trinidad on April 22 and Rio de Janeiro on May 5. From Rio de Janeiro she sailed for Goughs Island in latitude 40° 19′ S. and longitude 9° 21′ W. and, passing along the south of Australia, reached Van Diemens Land on August 2. She sailed up the east coast of Australia, called at Port Jackson, and set her course for the north of New Zealand intending to call at Tahiti en route. On the way north, she passed "Ohetorea" (Rurutu) in the Australs on November 25. She anchored in Matavai Bay on November 29 and sailed from Tahiti on December 11, after friendly intercourse with the people. An island was sighted on December 16 on latitude 9° 57′ S. which Broughton named Carolina Island, after the daughter of one of the Lords of the Admiralty. The ship arrived off the Sandwich Islands on January 1, 1796, and anchored in Kealakekua Bay on January 8. After a fortnight, she went on to Maui and anchored off Lahaina. She then sailed by Molokai for Oahu and anchored in Waikiki Bay. King Kamehameha visited the ship clad in European garments but with a beautiful yellow feather cloak almost entirely enveloping him. (This was probably the yellow cloak of mamo feathers now in Bishop Museum.) Kamehameha presented Broughton with one of his "dresses" (feather cloaks). The Providence later entered the harbor of Fair Haven (Honolulu) which had been discovered by William Brown, commanded of the British merchant ship Butterworth, in 1794. After a visit to Kauai and Niihau, the ship sailed for Nootka Sound on February 22.

From the northwest coast of America, the Providence returned in July to Hawaii and anchored at Kealakekua Bay, where the watches were checked and the ship watered. The Hawaiians carried water in calabashes from hills four page 46or five miles distant, and they were paid 100 nails per hogshead, a price which Broughton found too expensive. Broughton visited Oahu and Kauai on friendly terms, but at Niihau, a watering party was attacked, apparently without provocation, and two marines were killed. Broughton, in reprisal, set fire to the native houses and destroyed sixteen canoes on the beach. He sailed west by south on July 31 to look for Bird Island, which he sighted the next day.

The rest of Broughton's voyage is of no interest insofar as Polynesia is concerned. However, he surveyed islands north and south of Japan; made friendly intercourse with the Ainu people (whose women had their upper lips tattooed); and providentially, bought a schooner in Macao to serve as a tender. The Providence was wrecked on a coral reef near "Typinsan" Island on May 17, 1797, but the crew was safely transferred to the schooner which stood by. The schooner sailed to Macao, where seventy-three men were allocated to various ships to return to England. Thirty-five officers and men were retained to man the schooner, which continued to survey islands off the China coast and finally sailed to England via the Strait of Malacca, Madras, and the Cape of Good Hope. Broughton arrived in February 1799.

James Wilson

1796 to 1798

The last important British voyage to the Pacific during the eighteenth century was for an entirely new purpose, the conversion of native peoples to the Christian religion. This objective was to bring about great changes in the native culture of the Polynesians. The Spaniards had used religion as an accessory to conquest for gold in the New World. Both Mendaña and Quiros had taken priests with them for the conversion of the heathen, but the priests did not remain on the islands when the ships left. The establishment of Spanish missionaries at Tahiti in 1774 by Boenechea had proved a failure, because the Spanish authorities had failed to provide the missionaries with an armed guard to enable them to deliver their message of peace in safety. The reports on the inhabitants of Tahiti and other islands of the south seas, made by Wallis, Cook, Banks, and others had created great interest in England. The interest extended to the churches, and it was felt that something should be done to convert the heathen of the south seas to the Christian religion. The London Missionary Society was formed in 1795, and funds were provided for sending missionaries into the field.

The ship Duff was purchased and placed under the command of Captain James Wilson, who was deeply religious. The party of missionaries selected consisted of thirty men, six women, and three children. Of the men, four were ordained ministers and the others were skilled craftsmen who would be of practical value in the manual requirements of the new homes as well as spreaders of the gospel. The Society's orders to Captain Wilson were to sail to Tahiti page 47via Cape Horn, unless circumstances made that route too difficult, and to establish missionaries at Tahiti, Tonga, and the Marquesas. If possible, the Sandwich Islands and the Palaus were to be considered. A Committee of the missionaries was to assist the Captain in the selection of the personnel to be taken to the various stations.

The Duff sailed from the Thames on August 10, 1796. She reached Rio de Janeiro on November 13 and sailed for Cape Horn. However, rough weather and contrary winds led Captain Wilson to change the original plan and to sail east, south of the Cape of Good Hope and south of Australia and New Zealand, until he reached the longitude of Tahiti and turned north. On February 21, 1797, the ship passed within sight of Tubuai, and it anchored at Matavai Bay in Tahiti on March 6. The missionaries received a friendly welcome. A house erected by Cook at Point Venus was still standing and was given over to them. It was decided that of the thirty men, eighteen should remain in Tahiti, ten go to Tonga, and two go to the Marquesas. The four ordained ministers and the women and children remained in Tahiti. One of the missionaries for Tonga and one for the Marquesas were ordained as ministers before leaving Tahiti.

A short visit was paid to Moorea, after which the ship sailed for Tonga on March 25, passing within sight of Tetiaroa and south of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Borabora. Palmerston Island was reached on April 1, and boats went ashore to gather coconuts. Savage Island was passed, and Tongatabu was reached on April 10. The ten missionaries for Tonga were landed with their goods, the chiefs having provided accommodations for them. Wilson left Tongatabu for the Marquesas, but he kept well to the south to find westerly winds. On May 23 an atoll was sighted which turned out to be a new discovery and which was named Crescent Island (Timoe). A day later, he made the more important discovery of a group of high islands which he named the Gambier (Mangareva) Islands in compliment to Admiral Gambier whose department had attended to the equipment of the Duff. A high hill on the main island was named Mount Duff after the ship. No landing was made. On May 26 Lord Hoods Island (Marutea) was sighted, and on May 28 a new atoll was discovered and named Serle Island (Pukarua) after a friend of Wilson in the Transport office in England.

The Marquesas were reached on June 4, and the ship anchored next day off La Dominica (Hivaoa). The arrangements for housing the two missionaries were satisfactorily arranged, but the one who had been ordained in Tahiti complained that he could not eat the fermented breadfruit (mahi) which was the staple food of the island. He underwent a still greater trial when some of the women made a physical examination of his person to see whether his inhibitions were due to natural deformity. Horrified at the prospects before him, he quit the field and left his fellow worker to face the future alone. The Duff sailed on June 27, made observations at Huapu (Uapou) and Nukuhiva, page 48 Stepped Marae (Langi), Drawn by William Wilson, Who Accompanied James Wilson on the Duff. page 49 then sailed southwest for Tahiti. On the way, Tiookea (Takaroa) and some other atolls were sighted, and the ship anchored at Matavai Bay on July 6. During Wilson's second visit in Tahiti various observations were made including an estimate of the population of the island which was assessed at 16,050 including both sexes. A good sketch of a unique stepped marae was made.

On August 4 the Duff sailed for Tongatabu. The boats landed at Palmerston Island where thirty-four breadfruit trees, eighteen plantains, and several vi apple trees were planted, and they collected 600 coconuts for the ship. Anchor was cast in Tongatabu on August 18, and the missionaries were found to have established themselves with various chiefs. The Duff started her homeward voyage on September 7. She sighted Rotuma, and discovered various islands in Melanesia, including the Duff group. The course led through the Carolines and Palaus to Macao. Finally the ship anchored in the Thames on July 11, 1798.