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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 9 (December 1, 1934)

“From Island unto Island.”

“From Island unto Island.”

After a wait of two months, the mission party boarded the American ship “Europa,” which was bound for Hawaii, via the Gambier Islands (Mangareva) and Tahiti. At the latter island he found a schooner of about sixty tons called the “Raiatea,” a trading craft owned by the American Consul. The Bishop chartered this little craft for his diocesan cruisings, and sailed for Vavau, in the Friendly Islands, of which he had heard as a good safe harbour and a convenient place from which to explore the other groups of islands.

On this inter-island voyage Pompallier and his companions began the viva voce study of the English language, a difficult task but indispensable to those travelling or working in Oceania. The captain and mate were English, and nothing but English was spoken by the crew.

The Bishop, in the course of his description of this island voyage, made some shrewd comments on the method of procedure he intended to adopt with the natives of the islands where the missionaries were landed. The first essential was to learn the language of the people. “It is important,” he wrote, “from the outset not to teach religion, nor to make known your intention of changing that of the country. You can only succeed in the ministry of teaching when you are sufficiently conversant with the language of the people. It is enough in the beginning that they receive you with hospitality, and only recognise you as well-instructed travellers belonging to some great and civilised nation, desirous of learning their language to enable you to establish with them friendly and social relations. Generally the natives are flattered by these proposals.”

The missionary Bishop had many a taste of the perils of the sea in his cruises, but his experience in the Tonga Archipelago was the most disturbing of all. The wind dropped when Vavau harbour was being entered, and the becalmed page 26 schooner was carried by a strong current towards the surfbeaten rocks. “Just at the moment when we were awaiting all the horrors of shipwreck and death,” he wrote in his narrative, “a breeze sprang up from the direction of the very rock upon which we were drifting; it filled our sails, we gained open sea, and in less than half-an-hour we were out of all danger.”