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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Peter Corney

Peter Corney

1813 to 1818

The English firms of Inglis, Ellice, and Company and McTavish, Fraser, and Company fitted up the schooner Columbia, 185 tons, for the fur trade between the northwest coast of America and China. The captain of the ship was Anthony Robson; and Peter Corney, who wrote the story of this and other voyages, sailed as first lieutenant. The crew consisted of twenty-five men.

The Columbia sailed from England on November 26, 1813, and after doubling Cape Horn, April 18, 1814, it reached the Columbia River on July 6. After completing a cargo of furs along the coast, she sailed for Canton, calling in for refreshments at Hawaii on January 16, 1815. She arrived at Macao on March 9 and sold her furs at Canton, where Captain Robson left her to return to England. Captain Jennings was appointed to the command of the Columbia, which returned to the coast along the route north of latitude 30° N. and anchored in the Columbia River on July 1, 1815. After completing another cargo of furs, she again sailed for Canton, calling in at Hawaii on December 10. Three weeks later, she sailed for China, where she arrived on February 11, 1816. After her return to the Columbia River, she traded along the coast and page 91then sailed for Hawaii to refit and to cure some pork. She reached Hawaii on January 27, 1817, and an establishment for curing pork was set up in Honolulu. After refreshment, repairs, and the curing of 100 barrels of pork, the Columbia sailed from Honolulu on April 14, taking sixty Hawaiians to work on the Columbia River. The ship called in at Kauai, but Dr. Scheffer, the leader of the Russian colonists who had recently landed, came out to notify the ship that he would not allow anyone ashore.

The Columbia continued trading along the northwest coast, but it was finally decided to take her to the Hawaiian Islands and sell her. She arrived at Hawaii on December 6, and after negotiations with King Kamehameha's representatives, it was agreed to sell her for twice the full load of sandalwood she could carry. The ship was used to collect the sandalwood from various ports. An amusing incident occurred at Kailua when Kamehameha stopped the firing of a salute in his honor because he needed the powder for other purposes. The full quantity of sandalwood was finally assembled and stored at Honolulu on May 1, 1818. On the following day, the British flag was hauled down and the Hawaiian colors hoisted. The final act of transfer was marked by a salute of seven guns. Peter Corney had other adventures, but the voyage of the Columbia provided much interesting information concerning Hawaii and the abortive Russian settlement on Kauai.