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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

John Turnbull

John Turnbull

1800 to 1804

John Turnbull and John Buyers, while serving respectively as second and first officers on the Barwell in her voyage to China in 1799, were aware of the lucrative fur trade which the Americans were carrying on with the northwest coast of America. On their return to London, they succeeded in interesting merchants in a venture in which they invested some of their own funds. The ship Margaret, built of English oak, was bought and fitted up for the trade. John Buyers was placed in command of the ship and John Turnbull, who subsequently wrote the history of the voyage, was entrusted with the business arrangements regarding the cargo and the trading.

The Margaret, after some delay, left England on July 2, 1800, and sailing by way of the Cape of Good Hope, reached Sydney in February 1801. Specula-page 90tion on the northwest coast proved a failure and, after a trip to Macauleys Island in the south, the Margaret arrived in the Society Islands in September 1802. After trading with various islands in the group, the ship sailed for the Hawaiian Islands, arriving at Oahu on December 17. After trading for salt at Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, and Hawaii, the Margaret sailed south on January 21, 1803. The ship sailed in among the Tuamotuan atolls and, on March 6, 1803, Nukutipipi, one of the Gloucester group, was visited and named Margaret Island after the ship. On March 10, Makemo was discovered and named Phillips Island after a late sheriff of London, Sir Richard Phillips. On the same day, Taenga was discovered and named Holts Island. Other islands were sighted on the way to Tahiti, but they had been discovered previously. In Tahiti, Turnbull set up an establishment ashore for buying pigs and salting them down with the salt obtained in the Hawaiian Islands. The Margaret, under Captain Buyers, set out to trade for hogs with the neighboring islands, but she ran onto a reef in the Palliser group and was wrecked. Captain Buyers and the crew, after considerable hardship, managed to reach Tahiti on a roughly constructed barge made of planks from the wreck. A ship which called in at Tahiti afforded passage to Sydney for both Turnbull and Buyers. They left Sydney on March 16, 1804, on the Calcutta and reached England via Cape Horn. Though a financial failure, the voyage obtained interesting information about the Society and Hawaiian Islands and the discovery of the islands Margaret, Phillips, and Holt in the Tuamotu Archipelago.