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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology

John Byron

John Byron

The next country to take an interest in Pacific exploration was England. Commodore George Anson had made his notable voyage in 1740-1744, but as he was after Spanish galleons, he followed their path across the north Pacific and failed to touch Polynesia. The British Admiralty, however, had become interested and sent out their first Pacific expedition in 1764, under the command of Commodore John Byron, who had sailed with Anson. The expedition had two ships, the copper-sheathed Dolphin, commanded by Byron, and the sloop Tamar, under Captain Mouat. They sailed from the Downs on June 21, 1764, made some investigations in the south Atlantic, and entered the Pacific after spending seven weeks and two days in passing through the Strait of Magellan. From Masafuero, the ships sailed northwest to get the trade winds. On June 7, 1665, Byron made his first discovery, two islands in the northern Tuamotus which he named Islands of Disappointment (Napuka and Tepoto), because the inhabitants prevented his boats from landing. Two days later he encountered Takaroa and Takapoto, which he named King George Island as they appeared to him to be one island. These had been named Bottomless Island by Le Maire and Schouten. He also saw Manihi, the Waterlandt Island of Le Maire and Schouten. On June 21, he discovered Pukapuka in the northern Cook group and named it Danger Island, on account of the high surf, which made it too dangerous to land boats. Farther on, he found an uninhabited island with coconut trees which he named Duke of York Island. This has been identified as Atafu in the Tokelau group. Byron went on to Tinian in the Marianas and returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope. He was a good seaman, but he did not seem particularly keen to make new discoveries.