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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

[British Voyages, 1800 to 1850]

British Voyages, 1800 to 1850

The British voyages of the first half of the nineteenth century were numerous. The ones which recorded the most information concerning Polynesia were made by ships of the Royal Navy conducting surveys. In the early part of the century, however, the fur trade with the northwest American coast and, later, the whaling industry led to some Polynesian discoveries and to the recording of additional information regarding, the inhabitants of Polynesia. The principal voyages of interest are listed as follows:

Date Authority Ship Islands Visited
1800-1804 Turnbuil, John Margaret Society, Hawaii, Tuamotu
1813-1818 Corney, Peter Columbia Hawaii
1824-1826 Byron, George Anson Blonde Hawaii, Malden, Mauke (Cook)
1825-1828 Beechey, Frederick W. Blossom Easter, Mangareva, Pitcairn, Tuamotu, Society, Hawaii
1827-1828 Dillon, Peter Research New Zealand, Tonga, Rotuma [Tikopia]
1833-1836 Bennett, Fred D. Tuscan Society, Hawaii, Marquesas
1831-1836 Fitz-Roy, Robert Beagle Tuamotu, Tahiti, New Zealand
1836-1842 Belcher, Edward Sulphur Hawaii; Marquesas, Tuamotu, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Vavau
1836-1837 Russell, Edward Actaeon Pitcairn, Tuamotu, Tahiti
1849 Erskine, John E. Havannah New Zealand, Savage Is., Samoa

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.

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.

George Anson Byron

1824 to 1826

The voyage of H.M.S. Blonde, under the command of Captain Lord Byron, was dictated by feelings of sympathy on the part of the Government of Great Britain for the then independent kingdom of Hawaii. Liholiho, or Kamehameha II, with his queen and their suite, paid a visit to England to obtain a firsthand view of western civilization. Measles, which is merely an incident to the children of western peoples, proved fatal to the adults of a race from the open Pacific, where resistance had not been built up by subjection to the ills which persisted with cultural progress. In spite of the care of Sir Henry Halford and the best physicians in London, Queen Kamamalu died on July 8, 1824, and King Liholiho died six days later. The British Government paid all the expenses of the unfortunate visit and detailed the Blonde to return the embalmed bodies of the deceased, together with their suite, to Hawaii.

The Blonde sailed from Spithead on September 29, 1824, rounded the Horn, and after visiting the Galapagos Islands for a stock of land turtles for provisions, sighted Hawaii on May 3, 1825. On May 6, the Blonde anchored off Honolulu and fired a salute of fifteen guns which was returned by the forts. At the reception for Lord Byron and his officers, the young king and the princess were seated on a cane sofa covered by a beautiful feather garment which had been made expressly as a skirt (pa'u) for the Princess Nahienaena. (This page 92historic garment, which was the first and only feather garment made for a female after the abolition of the tabu law prohibiting women from wearing garments made of feathers, is preserved in Bishop Museum.)

The Hawaiians were naturally grateful for the return of their dead, and valuable gifts were lavished upon the officers of the Blonde. A wooden image and a feather cloak which were given to Andrew Bloxam, the naturalist with the Blonde, were bought from his descendants a century later and are also preserved in Bishop Museum. The provisioning of the Blonde during its stay at Oahu was done entirely from Boki's estate, and it was with great difficulty that Lord Byron induced Boki to accept the payment for goods, as directed by the British Admiralty orders.

The Blonde left Honolulu on July 12, and after touching at Kealakekua Bay, sailed south for Tahiti. However, after trying for ten days to get to windward, Byron gave it up. On July 29 land was sighted, and its position proved that it was a new discovery. Charles Malden, surveying officer, and others went ashore, and Byron named the atoll Malden Island. A structure found on the island and composed of coral-limestone slabs was drawn by Robert Dampier.

On August 8 another island was encountered which Byron named Parry Island. This later proved to be Mauke (called Mauti by Byron) in the Cook Islands. As all hopes of making Tahiti were abandoned, Byron sailed for Juan Fernandez and the Chilean coast, where he spent some time. He doubled Cape Horn on December 29 and anchored at Spithead on March 15, 1826, after carrying out one of the most gracious acts that one country has ever extended to another.

Frederick W. Buechey

1825 to 1828

The voyage of H.M.S. Blossom, under Captain Frederick W. Beechey, was ordered by the British Admiralty as a relief expedition to Bering Strait to await the separate expeditions of Captains Parry and Franklin who had set out in 1824 to search for a northwest passage to the Pacific. Beechey was also instructed to explore such parts of the Pacific as were within reach on his way to Tahiti before sailing for Bering Strait, his rendezvous being Kotzebue Sound not later than July 10, 1826.

The Blossom weighed from Spithead on May 19, 1825, rounded Cape Horn, and reached Easter Island on November 16. Beechey continued west and, after sighting Ducie and Henderson (Elizabeth) Islands, landed at Pitcairn and heard the story of the mutiny on the Bounty from John Adams, last of the mutineers. He sailed past Oeno and Crescent (Timoe) Islands and, on December 29, anchored in the lagoon in the midst of the Mangareva (Gambier) Islands. Though Wilson had discovered the group in 1797, only scanty observations were made as his ship sailed past. Beechey was the first European to page 93land, and his account of the natives is up to the high standard set by Captain James Cook.

Beechey sailed from the Mangareva Islands on January 13, 1826, to check up on islands in the Tuamotus. His northward course took him to Lord Hood Island (South Marutea), Clermont Tonnerre (Reao), and Serle (Pukarua). He then turned southwest and checked Whitsunday (Pinaki), Queen Charlottes (Nukutavake), Cook's Lagoon Island (Vahitahi), Thrumb-Cap (Akiaki), and Egmont (Vairaatea). From Egmont, he sailed south to pick up Carysfort (Tureia), but being to the west, he made his first discovery on January 26. It was Vanavana, which he named Barrow Island in compliment to the Secretary of the Admiralty. He picked up Carysfort and then sailed south in search of the Matilda Rocks and Osnaburgh Island (Mururoa) of Carteret. He sighted land on January 29, and two anchors were seen on the reef. At daylight next day, another small island was observed to the south. The island (Fangataufa) was mapped and named Cockburn Island in compliment to Sir George Cockburn, one of the Lords of the Admiralty. An examination of the first island was made. Wreckage in addition to the two anchors previously seen led to the conclusion that they were the remains of the whaler Matilda, which had been wrecked on a reef in the southern waters in 1792. As the position of the island differed so greatly from that given by Carteret, a search was made both east and west on the same latitude without result. Beechey therefore concluded that the island was the Osnaburgh of Carteret and that the Matilda Rocks coincided with it. Both Osnaburgh and Cockburn were uninhabited.

Beechey then checked up on Bligh's Lagoon Island (Tematangi) and sailed north where he made his third discovery, Ahunui, which he named Byam Martin Island, after Sir Thomas Byam Martin, the Comptroller of the Navy. At Ahunui he found a party of natives who had been driven to the east while sailing from Anaa to Tahiti. After great suffering, they had landed at Barrow Island; and the signs of previous habitation which had been observed by Beechey were due to them. They had accumulated dried fish, pandanus flour, and water for their journey home and had made the first stage by reaching Ahunui. Beechey took on board a native named Tuwarri with his wife and child and sailed by Gloucester (Paraoa) to reach Bow Island (Hao). At Hao, an extraordinary meeting took place between Tuwarri and his brother, who was with a party from his home island of Anaa (Chain) diving for pearl shell for a ship named the Dart belonging to the Australian Pearl Company. The Dart was anchored in the Hao lagoon, and from a member of the crew who understood Tahitian, Beechey learned the story of Tuwarri's enforced voyage to the east. Three double canoes had set out from Anaa to Tahiti to pay their respects to the young king, Pomare. On the way a hurricane struck them and drove them to the east. When it subsided Tuwarri's canoe again sailed west, page 94 Fleet at Otaheite, Drawn by William Hodges, Artist With Cook on his Second Voyage. page 95 but a second hurricane drove it east until, at length, the crew managed to land on Barrow Island. Taking into consideration that they were two days on their way, Beechey estimated that they must have been driven east not much less than 600 miles.

After leaving Hao, Beechey encountered Hikueru, which he named Melville Island in honor of the first Lord of the Admiralty, and Haraiki, which he named Croker Island, in compliment to the right honorable secretary. However, Hikueru had been discovered by Boenechea on November 1, 1774, and named San Juan by him. Haraiki was discovered by Boenechea on October 31, 1772, and named San Quintin. The names Melville and Croker persist on the maps, and Beechey's patrons have thus received second class honors.

Beechey reached Meetia and Tahiti on March 15, 1826, sailing after more than a month for the Hawaiian Islands. He arrived off Molokai on May 19. After some days at Honolulu, he sailed north for Kamchatka, where he anchored at Petropavlovsk, or the old port of St. Peter, and St. Paul, on June 28. Here he received dispatches announcing the return of Captain Parry to England. On July 5 he sailed to keep the rendezvous with Captain Franklin. He entered Kotzebue Sound on July 22 and remained there, surveying and searching until the middle of October. Giving up hope of news of Franklin, he sailed south along the American coast to Monterey Bay. He then sailed for Hawaii, which he reached on January 25, 1827. After refreshing, he sailed to Macao, worked north on the Asiatic side, and again entered Kotzebue Sound, on August 18, 1827. Still obtaining no news of Franklin, he sailed south in October, touching at various ports in Peru and Chile; passed the meridian of Cape Horn on June 30, 1828; and finally arrived in England, where the crew were paid off at Woolwich on October 12, 1828. The voyage had lasted three and one-half years and the ship had sailed 73,000 miles.

Peter Dillon

The interest in Peter Dillon's scattered voyages lies in the fact that he solved the mystery of the death of the French navigator, La Perouse. Dillon was an officer on the Calcutta ship Hunter in 1813, when it called at the Fiji Islands to trade for sandalwood and found itself involved in a punitive expedition against the Fijians. As a result of the strained situation, a man named Martin Bushart and his Fijian wife asked to be taken elsewhere. The Hunter on her way to Canton dropped Bushart, his wife, and a lascar off at Tikopia Island on September 20, 1813.

In 1826 Peter Dillon was captain and owner of a ship named the St. Patrick. On a voyage from New Zealand to Bengal, he anchored off the island of Tikopia on May 13, 1826. Martin Bushart and the lascar came on board, the lascar with a silver guard from a sword. This guard, together with several iron page 96bolts and chain plates from a ship, axes, knives, china, and glass beads, all of French manufacture, were in the possession of the Tikopians who stated that they came from Malicolo (Mannicolo, or Vanikoro), where two large ships had been wrecked. Dillon took Bushart and a Tikopian on board to visit Vanikoro, which was ordinarily two days sail, but Dillon abandoned the search after being becalmed for seven days. He reached Bengal on August 30.

Captain Dillon entered into correspondence with the Bengal Government, urging that a search expedition be placed under his command, and he also brought the matter up before a meeting of the Asiatic Society. Finally, the Government decided to place the East India Company's surveying vessel, the Research, under the command of Dillon to proceed to Vanikoro to obtain full and accurate information regarding the shipwreck of the two vessels presumed to be the French frigates commanded by La Perouse.

1827 to 1828

After repairs and delays caused by trouble with a Dr. Tytler, who had been appointed ship's surgeon, the Research finally sailed out from the mouth of the Hooghly River on January 23, 1827. During the voyage to Tasmania, Captain Dillon placed Dr. Tytler under arrest and confined him to his cabin. The ship reached Hobart on April 5, and Dr. Tytler brought an action against Dillon for assault. The Civil Court sentenced Dillon to two months' imprisonment in Hobart jail, a fifty pound fine, and sureties for 400 pounds to keep the peace for twelve months. A petition to the Lieutenant-Governor stating that two months delay in prison would prevent him from reaching Vanikoro, owing to the coming on of the monsoons, resulted in Dillon's discharge after paying the fine set by the court. Meanwhile, Dr. Tytler had evaded reprisals by leaving on a convenient ship for India.

Dillon sailed for Port Jackson and then to New Zealand, where he arrived at the Bay of Islands on July 1. After pottering about, he reached Tonga on August 12, and Tikopia on September 5, where he made a list of articles brought in from Vanikoro. He reached Vanikoro on September 7, bought up all the relics of the wrecks that he could and located the remains of the ships on the reef. He made additional lists and then sailed for New Zealand, arriving at the Bay of Islands on November 5. As the Research was in bad shape, he tried to buy or borrow the missionary ship Herald from John Williams and was much annoyed at a refusal. The Research, however, was able to sail to Port Jackson in January 1828, and finally entered the Hooghly on April 5. Dillon interviewed the Governor General of Bengal, showed him the relics he had brought, and was ordered to take them to Europe. He sailed on May 20 in the Mary Ann and arrived at Plymouth on October 26.

After some negotiation, Captain Dillon was officially received at Paris. Viscount Lesseps, who had been sent back from Kamchatka with La Perouse's first reports, and who thus became the sole survivor of the expedition, recog-page 97nized, among other things, the carronades and mill stones brought back by Dillon. The French adequately rewarded Dillon with the order of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, paid all his expenses from India to Europe, and granted him an annuity of 4,000 francs a year for life, with half of that sum to go to his family survivor. The crowning incident of Dillon's visit to Paris was his presentation to the King of France.

Frederick Debell Bennett

1833 to 1836

Frederick Debell Bennett, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, sailed on a whaling cruise round the globe to obtain some knowledge of the anatomy and habits of southern whales and the mode of conducting a sperm whale fishery, to make observations on Polynesia and other lands, and to collect natural history specimens. The ship was the Tuscan, 300 tons, commanded by T. R. Stavers.

The Tuscan sailed on October 17, 1833, and took three missionaries and their wives as passengers. She rounded Cape Horn on January 19, 1834, and reached Pitcairn on March 7. The Society Islands were visited, and the ship sailed from Raiatea on April 17 with her deck covered with pigs and poultry. However, a few days later, the crew petitioned for a return to salt beef as they were tired of fresh meat. Caroline and Stavers Islands were passed and Oahu was reached on May 15. After a week's stay, the ship cruised north in search of sperm whales.

After great success, the ship returned to Maui on October 2. Refreshed, she sailed for the Marquesas on October 20, with three Marquesans who had been left by an American whaler. After whaling on the way, Hoods Island in the Marquesas was reached on February 27, 1835. A short stay was made at Resolution Bay, Santa Christina (Tahuata), and the three Marquesans were returned to their home island. Sail was set for Raiatea, where the ship arrived on March 18. She sailed north on April 14, took on a supply of yams at Maurua, and passed the equatorial islands of Caroline, Christmas, and Jarvis, After further success in whaling, the ship anchored off Honolulu, Oahu, on October 4 where she stayed a month. Further operations were conducted to the southeast, and the ship called for refreshments at the Marquesas on February 19, 1836. The Society Islands were visited in March and April, and the ship sailed from Tahiti on May 2. She took a northwest course, and then west, between the parallels of 2° and 3° N., whaling on the way. The high lands of New Guinea, Gilolo, and Timor were seen on the way to the Cape of Good Hope. Finally, on November 27, the Tuscan dropped anchor at Gravesend, after a voyage of three years and twenty-four days without a single loss from accident or disease.

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Robert Fitz-Roy

From 1826 to 1830, the Beagle, a barque of 235 tons which was on her first voyage, surveyed the southern end of South America and Tierra del Fuego. The surveying expedition authorized by the Admiralty had two ships: the Adventure under Captain Philip Parker King, the Commander of the Expedition, and the Beagle under Captain Pringle Stokes. After Captain Stokes' death in 1828, Captain Robert Fitz-Roy was appointed to the command of the Beagle, and he remained with her until the voyage was over.

The Admiralty recommissioned the Beagle for a second voyage to continue the survey in South America and Captain Fitz-Roy was retained for the command. Anxious that no opportunity to collect useful information should be lost, Fitz-Roy sent out an invitation for some well-educated and scientific person to accompany the expedition. A Cambridge professor recommended Charles Darwin, the grandson of the poet, as a young man of promising ability, fond of geology and the natural sciences. Thereupon, Darwin was invited to be the captain's guest on board, and he accepted with the provisions that he be at liberty to leave the Beagle and retire from the expedition when he thought proper and that he pay a fair share of the expenses of the captain's table. Permission was obtained for his embarkation and an order given by the Admiralty that he be borne on the ship's books for provisions. Thus Charles Darwin embarked on a voyage which was to render the Beagle and himself famous.

1831 to 1836

The Beagle sailed on December 27, 1831, and until October of 1835, worked along the South American coast on her survey assignment. She then visited the Galapagos Islands, whence she sailed for Tahiti to test her chronometers at Point Venus, On November 9, 1835, she reached Honden Island (Pukapuka) and passed through the Tuamotus. Two islands were seen on November 13 which Fitz-Roy learned were named Tairo (Taiaro) and Cavahi (Kauehi) by the natives, but he did not have time to make a close examination. The same islands were examined more closely by the Wilkes' Expedition and named King and Vincennes respectively. The Beagle passed between Elizabeth (Toau) and Wittgenstein (Fakarava) and reached Tahiti on November 15.

At Tahiti, Captain Fitz-Roy had the unpleasant task of reminding Queen Pomare that her agreement to pay 2,853 dollars for the capture and robbery of the English whaling ship Truro in the Tuamotus had not been met. The Queen and chiefs promised to raise the money but pointed out that it was unfair that they should be forced to pay a fine while acts of atrocity by foreigners went unchecked.

After leaving Tahiti, the Beagle passed Whylootackee (Aitutaki, Cook Islands) on December 3, and anchored in the Bay of Islands on December 21. page 99Fitz-Roy and Darwin visited various places, but the ship left for Port Jackson at the end of the month. She left Port Jackson on January 30, 1836, called at Hobart, King George Sound, Keeling (or Cocos) Islands in the Indian Ocean, and the Cape of Good Hope. She reached Falmouth on October 2, 1836.

The expedition, in addition to its prescribed work, resulted in the discovery of two islands in the Tuamotus and some observations by Darwin on the Tahitians and the Maoris of New Zealand. Darwin, on his short visit, did not form a very high opinion of the Maoris, but their subsequent history has proved that even a great mind like Darwin's could make mistakes.

Edward Belcher

1836 to 1842

H.M.S. Sulphur under the command of Captain Beechey, with her consort, the Starling under Lieutenant Kellett, were commissioned by the Admiralty to fix certain reported shoals and survey the west coast of America from Valparaiso to latitude 60° 30′ N. The ships sailed from Plymouth on December 24, 1835. After rounding the Horn and reaching Valparaiso on June 9, 1836, Captain Beechey had to be invalided home. Lieutenant Kellett took command of the Sulphur and continued work along the Peruvian coast and northward to Panama, where he was to await instructions. He reached Panama on January 29, 1837.

Meanwhile, Captain Sir Edward Belcher, who had served under Beechey in the voyage of the Blossom in 1825-1828, was appointed to take command of the expedition. He left England on November 30, 1836, for the West Indies and, after surmounting various difficulties, crossed the Isthmus of Panama and assumed command of the Sulphur. After continuing the survey along the coast, he sailed for the Hawaiian Islands where he arrived on July 7, 1837. At Honolulu, trouble had arisen over seizure by the Hawaiian Government of the British brigantine Clementine for refusing to return two Catholic missionaries to California, from whence she had brought them. At this juncture Du Petit-Thouars arrived on the French frigate Venus. Both British and French commanders evidently blamed the American missionary Hiram Bingham for attempting to forcibly prevent competition. However, the matter was peaceably settled when the Catholic missionaries were allowed to remain.

After more than a month, Belcher sailed north to continue his survey of the American west coast. The survey continued for the rest of 1837 and the whole of 1838. On May 29, 1839, Belcher returned to the Hawaiian Islands. He sailed from Kauai on June 16 for the Columbia River, then worked south along the coast and crossed to the Marquesas, where he arrived on January 20, 1840. After ten days, Belcher sailed south to the Tuamotus to conduct page 100boring operations on Hao, where he arrived on February 5. He reached a depth of 45 feet, at which point the lateral pressure of the coralline sand filled in the bore. Belcher left Hao on March 28 and called at Anaa, where he bought fourteen large hogs for twenty-eight yards of duck cloth. On April 5 he anchored at Papeete, where he found thirteen American whaling ships at anchor. In sailing south, he passed Mauke and landed at Rarotonga on April 14. It was at Rarotonga that Belcher bought what he termed the fancy Mangaian axe handles, so it is evident that these carved artifacts for trade were made as early as 1840. From Rarotonga, Belcher sailed to Vavau, then continued west through Fiji and Melanesia to the East Indies. He proceeded to Macao where the Sulphur formed part of the British fleet which attacked Canton. The year 1841 was spent in the East.

Finally, the Sulphur reached England via the Cape of Good Hope and anchored at Spithead July 19, 1842. She was paid off at Woolwich on August 2, after being away nearly seven years, and the officers and crew were given extra pay and allowances.

Lord Edward Russell

1836 to 1837

Except for a brief notice in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, no published details of the voyage of the H.M.S. Actaeon under the command of Lord Edward Russell were available to me. It is evident that the Actaeon was in Tahiti in 1836, for on her voyage from that island to Pitcairn she encountered a group of uncharted islands in the Tuamotus on January 3, 1837. Captain Russell named the islands the Actaeon Group after his ship, but their discovery is generally credited to Captain Thomas Ebrill of the Tahitian trading ship Amphitrite (1833). While at Tahiti, Mr. Biddlecombe, master of the Actaeon, received some information from Captain Ebrill regarding islands in the Tuamotu Archipelago which were not on the charts, and it is probable that this group of four islands was included. However, only three low, wooded islands were seen and charted by Biddlecombe. These Russell named Bedford, Minto, and Melbourne. From west to east the four islands are: Tenararo, Vahanga, Tenarunga, and Matureivavao. Biddlecombe's chart gives the middle island as the largest, whereas Maturei-vavao, the most easterly and southerly, is the largest. It is possible that the two middle islands, Vahanga and Tenarunga, were seen as one overlapping stretch of land. Hence, the most westerly, which was named Bedford, would correspond to Tenararo; the two middle Ones, to Minto; and the remaining island of Maturei-vavao, to Melbourne. Melbourne is given on modern maps as the alternate name of Maturei-vavao, Minto as Tenarunga. The Actaeon sailed on to Pitcairn, and the brief notice in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society ends there.

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John Erskine

1849Captain John Elphinstone Erskine made a short trip with H.M.S. Havannah in 1849, through islands of the western Pacific. Erskine sailed from Russell, New Zealand, on June 25, 1849, and reached Niue, or Savage Island, on July 6. During July, he visited Manua, Tutuila, and Upolu of the Samoan Islands. At Apia, he met the British Consul, Pritchard, who had left Tahiti. Next, Vavau, Lifuka, and Tongatabu were visited, then Fiji, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia. Port Jackson, Sydney, was reached on October 7, 1849.


The British voyages from 1800 to 1850, besides checking the accuracy of the position of various Polynesian Islands and adding to our knowledge of the Polynesian people, led to the discovery of a few additional islands. With the single exception of Malden Island, discovered by Captain Lord Byron on July 29, 1825, the discoveries were in the Tuamotuan Archipelago. Commencing with Turnbull's voyage in the Margaret, three islands were discovered: Margaret (Nukutipipi), Phillips (Makemo), and Holt (Taenga). Beechey discovered Barrow (Vanavana), Cockburn (Fangataufa), and Byam Martin (Ahunui). His claims to Melville (Hikueru) and Croker (Haraiki) have been preserved erroneously on the charts. Captain Fitz-Roy is credited with Taiaro and Kauehi, but the names of King and Vincennes were applied to them later by Wilkes. Lord Edward Russell may be credited with first charting the Actaeon Islands though it was done badly. Of the voyages enumerated, that of Beechey in the Blossom was the most valuable.