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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Josiah Roberts

Josiah Roberts

1792 to 1793

Josiah Roberts was the master of the Boston ship, Jefferson, 153 tons, owned by J. and T. Lamb and associates. She sailed from Boston in November 1791 and carried with her the material to build a schooner at the Marquesas. Captain Roberts lay in Resolution Bay, Santa Christina (Tahuata), from November 11, 1792, to February 24, 1793. Having become intimately acquainted with the natives, Roberts asked how many islands they knew in the neighborhood. They described ten and produced an elderly native who was an inhabitant of the largest island, Nooheeva (Nukuhiva). They also stated that an island could be seen from the tops of the mountains on a clear day; and one day when the horizon was clear Roberts, from the deck of his ship, did see high land bearing northwest by west. This the natives said was Wooapo (Uapou).

The schooner built at the Marquesas was duly launched and named the Resolution after the bay in which it was built. The Jefferson and Resolution sailed at 3 P.M. on February 24, 1793, and at 4 A.M. the next day they discovered Uapou, which Roberts named Jefferson Island after his ship. The small island off its southern end was named Resolution Island after the schooner. At 3 P.M. they saw the large island of Nukuhiva, which was named Adams Island, and at 4 P.M. Ooahoona (Huahuna) was sighted and named Massachusetts Island. It should be mentioned that Roberts had brought an page 65old man "Tooe-no-haa" from Nukuhiva with him and that he gave Roberts the native names of the islands.

Roberts bore for Nukuhiva for supplies, and at 5 P.M. they saw an island, which the old native called Fatoo-e-tee (Motuiti) and which Roberts named Blake Island. Some days were spent at Nukuhiva in standing off and on and trading with the shore by means of the boats. Tooe-no-haa, after receiving liberal presents, left the ship. The vessels sailed north-northwest on March 2, as the old man had told them there was land in that direction. Next morning, March 3, they did discover two more islands, to which Roberts gave the names of Freeman (Eiao) and Langdon (Hatutu). Roberts thought that the islands were new discoveries and he gave them the group name of Washington Islands, which is a good name for distinguishing the northwestern group from the southeastern, or Mendaña, group. Roberts sailed on to prosecute his business on the northwestern American coast, thus ending his interest so far as Polynesia is concerned.