Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.
Extract from the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne, Lieu- — tenant on the “Saint Jean Baptiste,” for the Voyage — of Discoveries in the South, started in 1769 and ended — 1773. (Captain M. de Surville lost his life on the Peruvian — coast before Chilca.)
Extract from the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne, Lieu-
tenant on the “Saint Jean Baptiste,” for the Voyage
of Discoveries in the South, started in 1769 and ended
1773. (Captain M. de Surville lost his life on the Peruvian
coast before Chilca.)
Descriptions and Remarks concerning the Bay of Lauriston in New Zealand, the Natives, the Land, and the Products of this Part of the Land where we landed.
The land which on the map bears the name of New Zealand was discovered by Abel Tasman on the 13th of December, 1642. He coasted alongside of it from the 42° 10′ latitude south until the 34° 35′ south also. What he says about the country does not seem to be very clear, and appears to me to be false on certain points.
The Natives are generally of a rather good height, without being giants. Some even are rather small—for instance, the one we took away with us. They would be well built if their legspage 317
were not that big that they seem to be swollen. Their colour is not black; they are generally a dark copper. Their faces are not at all disgusting, and their features are regular enough. I have even seen some children with charming faces and beautiful eyes.
What I have said about the men does not apply to the women. They are generally very ugly. If one comes across one who is passably good-looking, she is looked upon as a beauty compared to the others. I have, however, seen one pretty girl with regular features, but the eyes did not correspond with the rest of the face. She might have been fifteen or sixteen years old. She was as disgusting as the ugly ones, on account of the dirtiness which is common both to men and women.
What I noticed in the conduct of men and women would make me believe that a man and a woman attach themselves to each other only if their union bears any fruit, and then the men are jealous of their wives as long as their relation lasts. It did not appear to me that the women who were not attached to any man by their fecundity depended on any one, for how could one otherwise explain the conduct, entirely void of modesty, which we saw was theirs when they tried to provoke passion by indecent gesture, showing themselves naked for the bare asking, offering themselves to caress before anybody, and, if they were repulsed, taking the refusal as a matter of course? On the eve of our departure three of the best looking, or, rather, least ugly among them, belonging to the village near which we were, came to dance before us in their own fashion in a most indecent way. There was no mistaking their intentions. But their demonstrations had no success. While they were dancing there was an old woman squatting on the ground urging them on by voice and gestures. During the first few days many of them came in canoes near the vessel, and from there tried to attract the attention of our sailors by signs which they thought very alluring. But, however, I saw some men who seemed to me to be very jealous of their wives, while others offered their women to us.
One cannot say that these men are absolutely naked, and yet one cannot say that they are sufficiently covered to be decent. The dress common to both men and women consists of a large mat made of several small mats pieced together, which covers them from their shoulders to their heels, and is secured on the chest with a little bit of string. This mat greatly resembles a priest's chasuble, but it doespage 319
not cover them in front, and they make no attempt to conceal the fact.
Instead of mats, the chiefs wear large rugs made of several dog-skins sewed together, and these rugs are more or less long, according to the rank of the chief. They wear them with the hair outside for ceremonies, and on ordinary occasions they turn the hair inside to protect themselves against the cold. All the chiefs, or most of them, and even the old men, wear round their middle a kind of mat (of which I shall speak further on) besides the other rug or mat, which covers them down to the knees; but this is rather to protect themselves from the cold than from sentiments of modesty, of which they have so little notion that they go through natural functions wherever they stand, just like any animal, and without trying to hide themselves from anybody.
Some of them, instead of the mat, wear on their shoulders a kind of woven fabric which reaches to the calf of the leg, but which does not give them any better covering than the mats, although it is more flexible. It is made from a plant which has fibre like the hemp (I have not seen that plant growing). The plaiting of it is very tight, and the length according to the use it is intended for; but between each plait there is the space of an inch. From the belt hang a number of thick strings like the fabric, intended to give more warmth to the garment. It is with this kind of material that the chiefs and the old men cover their loins. All the women wear a similar garment, or a piece of mat, in which they are more modest than the men, but they are more immoral than the men.
Their ways of living are very miserable. Their most ordinary food is the fern-root. They dry it, and before eating it they warm it by the fire and beat it. They use it as bread. They have besides this root fish in plenty. Mackeral, flounders, bull-head, a kind of skate called the “sea-devil,” plaice, cod, red gurnet, and ordinary gurnet, &c., are all found there, and are excellent to eat. They dry it for the winter, as in that season fishing on the coast is impossible. In the summer they eat fish cooked in the same fashion. They dig a hole in the ground, fill it up half-way with stones, on which they light a fire. When the stones are heated up to the right point they get them out of the hole and put in the fish, already prepared and wrapped in leaves. Then they put back the stones on top of the fish, and cook it to the right point. They also have some sweet potatoes and some squash, but only in small quantities, and a root which resembles the iris. They feast now and then on dog's meat and on human flesh when they can catch some ofpage 321
their enemies (for they are cannibals, as I shall tell about later on). One can see by the above description that their food is generally very poor, so that their droppings are similar to the pigs.
I must mention amongst their ornaments the way they paint their faces, their thighs, and other parts of the body. The painting of the face is a sign of distinction, so that all of them do not have their faces painted, and those who do have it done different ways. Some have three parts of the face painted, which gives them a funny and rather peculiar appearance, for the only part not painted is the upper half of the forehead. I have only seen one painted in this manner, and he was the chief of all the neighbouring villages. It is possible that this chief had a superior who had the whole of his face painted. Some are only painted from the corner of the eyebrows and upper part of the nose down to the lower part of the face. They have painted at the corner of the eyebrows, on the side of the nose, two kind of horns of about ¾ in. or more long. Those painted in this way are inferior to the man who has three-quarters of the face painted. Some others have only one side of the face painted, and then the design comes along the neck down to the shoulder. Lastly, others have only the two horns painted between the eyebrows, and these horns vary in shape. These last-mentioned men seemed to me to be the lower of the chiefs. As to the painting on their thighs, it is common to all men and women without any distinction. This painting consists of bands about 1 in. wide, and painted in a spiral manner. The Natives made me understand that this painting was a religious act. The chiefs add to the spiral bands some ornamentations, varying in length according to their rank. Some of them also have on each calf of the leg a painting similar to the drawing in the margin. The man that we had taken was painted in this way on each leg.
The women do not have their faces painted, except the lower lip, and even that is not usual, for the one who appeared to me to be the prettiest only had two small square spots on the lower lip, and four other round ones, two each side of the mouth, one above the other. But besides the painting of the thighs, which they have similar to the men, they are painted under the breast, on the pit of the stomach. I did not notice that these paintings were a sign of rank for the women. I believe rather that they are a fanciful ornamentation, as very few are painted. I have really only seen two or three who were painted, and the chief'spage 323
wife was not one of them. I did not notice any children who were painted.
The men, as a rule, have little hair on their chins. I have, however, seen an old man who had a well-furnished beard. It seemed to me that they did not care for the hair on the face, and that they pull it out as much as possible; but as it will keep on growing in spite of their care, they do not know how to get rid of it, which is a great annoyance to them. One of the Natives entered my cabin one day while I was shaving; he appeared so pleased to see how quickly I got rid of my beard with the razor that he asked me to shave his, which I willingly did, as much to my satisfaction as to his own. He had a good many admirers among his mates who wanted me to do as much for them, but I was not inclined to do so much work.
Their hair is long and straight, but they tie it on top of the head, and put in it some feathers, chiefly white ones, of which they are very fond. They arrange the feathers according to their taste. These ornaments are common to both men and women. They dye their hair with a red paint dissolved in oil (I could not ascertain what they extracted it from, or how they extracted it), which at first made me think their hair was red. They also use this paint on their forehead; some even use it all over the body, but I think that this last use of the paint was only for the elegant ones.
They all have holes in the lobe of the ears—men and women —and from these holes hang different ornaments. The most common is a kind of stone of a green colour, sometimes pale, sometimes milky, and sometimes bright, but always the same kind of stone. It is transparent; not very hard, and can be highly polished. Except for the hardness it resembles the stone from the Amazons mentioned by M. de la Condamine. These stones are sometimes shaped like a cylinder pointed at the bottom; sometimes they are flat like playing-counters. It has a hole through one end, through which they pass a rather coarse string to hang it to the ear. Others, instead of the stone carry in the ears some bone or fish-teeth shaped like a serpent's tongue, and finely jagged on both sides. In general, they believe that whatever hangs from the ears is ornamental. I have seen some of them who had hanging from their ears pieces of biscuits which had been given to them by the sailors. Many of them wear round their neck a kind of image made of the same stone as mentioned above. I shall speak about these images when telling about their religion.
I must not forget to mention here that the painting is not simply laid on, but it is an inlaid painting in the skin, in thepage 325
same way as certain people have crosses inlaid on their arms. They use for this purpose a piece of wood bent at one end to a right angle, and very sharp at the end. They strike on this wood with another piece, and make the part of the body which is to be painted bleed slightly, according to the drawing to be made. They then apply some very fine coal-dust. They do this operation very quickly, and once done it never disappears.
Their huts or dwellings are generally of an oblong square. The walls are about 3 ft. high, and the roof 7 ft. or 8 ft. The length is about 8 ft. or 10 ft. and the width 4 ft. or 5 ft. They are not all the same size. The opening is rather small. The largest opening I have seen was only 2 ½ ft. high and 1 ½ ft. wide. They light fires outside the doors of the huts. The door, which is the only opening in the hut, always faces the opposite way to the prevailing bad wind. These huts are built with wooden battens crossing each other at right angles, and strongly fastened together at each meeting-point, and connected with stabbs well driven in the ground at each corner. They cover this frame with several layers of bullrushes, which provide them with good shelter against bad weather. Most of the openings have no door. The ones provided with a door have the upright of the door-frame carved like an image, which I thought was their household god. The plank which answers as a door is closed in such a way that, to one who does not know how, it is very difficult to open it. The chief had several huts of his own in which he went to lodge either for his pleasure or when he had to go there for the nation's business. When he moves from one to the other habitation he carries away with him all his belongings. I believe that the men who have several habitations do the same, then the huts remain empty and generally open.
Such in general is the way their huts are constructed. I have seen, however, a few of a round shape and covered with bullrushes, but they did not appear to me to be intended for permanent habitation. I shall say further on what I think of these huts, scattered here and there, and which seem to be meant for temporary concealment. Their villages contain only five or six huts, but their towns, which I shall call their strongholds and citadels, are composed of a larger number. They have their town on the steepest point of access that they can find. The huts are arranged in terraces, and it is there they take refuge against the aggressions of their enemies and their attacks. On these occasions all the huts scattered in the country are abandoned, and everybody falls back on the citadel; but, as there are not enough huts to shelter each family in one, severalpage 327
families reside in one. So when we arrived they always kept gathered together near their citadel. All the huts in the country were abandoned, and, while taking walks about, we only found, out of more than fifty huts, one that was inhabited, and even then the inhabitants of it were hiding.
One can see by this that these Natives have not much experience of the art of war. They only know for fortifications, places naturally difficult of access; they have no walls to guard against surprises from the enemy. A kind of ditch of ordinary size, which may be called a drain, behind which a few posts have been erected constitutes all the fortifications of the most accessible places. Their weapons do not give a better idea of their military knowledge. The principal weapon is a lance, if such a name can be given to a bit of wood rounded and pointed at the end. I have measured one which was 21 ft. 8 in. long and nearly 3 in. in diameter. By these dimensions one can judge how redoubtable this weapon may be. These lances are not all of the same length. At the point of these lances some of the men fix a bone which they get from the tail of a fish called the “sea-devil.” This fish carries the bone near the top of the tail. The bone is rather sharp, and jagged towards the root. They sometimes ornament it with a tuft of dog's hair and some feathers.
When they have knocked down their enemy with the lance they use another weapon to finish killing him. This weapon is carried in a large belt made of straw, and hanging in front of the stomach; it resembles a spatula, at the end of the handle of which is carved a kind of a ball to enable them to grip it. It is ornamented with carving. It is about 12 in. or 14 in. long, and its greatest width 3 in. or 4 in. In the middle it is about 1 in. thick. From the middle towards the edges it gets thinner, so that the edges are bluntly sharp. This weapon is generally made of a greyish stone, well polished, and very hard. Some of these weapons are made of a whalebone. The Natives gave us to understand by signs that once they have knocked down their enemy with the lance they jump on him and brain him with that weapon. The last one of their weapons is made of a whalebone which appeared to me to be a rib in its natural shape, except that at the end they carve a kind of knob which resembles the extremity of the crossbones painted on the shields used at funerals. As everybody cannot procure whalebones, they make some of the last-described weapon of wood. They give them the same shape, the large end being rounded and flattened a little, and the edge being made sharp. They madepage 329
us understand by signs that they use this weapon to strike the head near the temple. Its curved appearance makes the use of it appear singular.
If New Zealand is a continent, as it appears, it is probable that all its inhabitants use the same weapons. The Natives of the part where Tasman landed must have used them, and therefore it seems to me very surprising that with such weapons they could kill three or four men in his boat as recorded in the general history of the travels.
The chief of the village opposite which we anchored the last time—that is, Refuge Cove—possessed by kind sentiments, asked us one day to climb to the top of the citadel. When we stood on the plateau he took a lance, and, swinging it here and there, showed us the way they defend themselves when attacked. He gave us to understand that when there were but a few enemies left on the battlefield they cut them in pieces and divide the pieces among themselves, to eat them. There was no mistaking the meaning of his signs. The chief we have in our power, who, I believe, is one of the principal chiefs of the locality, was even more explicit. He made us understand by signs that they seized their enemies by the tuft of hair on the top of the head, gave them a blow with their spatula near the temple, and after having killed them they dismembered them, opened their bellies with a cross-like incision, drew out the intestines, cut the trunk and members in pieces, and distributed these pieces among themselves to be eaten. I cannot say if they eat this horrible food raw or if they cook it.
These people have some cruel wars among themselves. The great chief of the land near Chevalier Bay made us understand that he was on bad terms with another chief, and that he would be much obliged to us if we would help him to wage war against his enemy. This proposal made me believe that they had no other motive to wage war against one another than their ferocious greed for food. Believing that we were well armed, the chief would have been very pleased if we had furnished him with some good square meals, for all the time that we spent about we heard of no act of hostility committed by his enemies, and the thorough quietness which existed everywhere seemed to point to a general peace. Or perhaps was it a trap he had laid for us, thinking that if we accepted his proposal he would take us to places where he could easily overpower us, and would with great delight feast on the flesh of the white men, the first he had ever seen.
The people appeared to me to be of a very primitive genius, their arms, their fortifications are yet very backward; withoutpage 331
doubt their tactics must be on the same level. They have even no suspicions of the advantages they would derive from the sling. If they throw a few stones it is by hand. How far off are they yet of the knowledge of the bow and arrow! They manufacture some kinds of woodwork which in the distance look like some carved pieces of furniture, but when one gets near one can see that the work is very roughly done. It is true to say that they have not handy tools, having no knowledge of iron. One can see from what I said before that the genius of these savages is not any more advanced in the arts of first necessity, such as agriculture and weaving. As for fishing, if they know the proper instruments for it, that knowledge has been almost forced upon them by the prodigious abundance of fish on their coasts. Their nature seems to be timid, but thoroughly lazy. They are treacherous, thieving, suspicious, ready to get at you by surprise; they are without much foresight, which proves the narrowness of their genius, for it seemed to me that they did not mind the consequences in the least.
The chief one day invited our chaplain to go with him to some huts where he was going with his wife and a few people. The chaplain pretended to accept the invitation, but kept walking rather apart. While he was hunting he noticed that on the way the chief's suite had increased threefold of what it was at first, and that the followers were armed with their long lances, their spatulas, and whalebones. He was by himself, and already out of hearing of our people. He recognized that he had been very imprudent to trust himself so to the good faith of these savages, for though their arms are not very formidable, a treacherous blow is soon delivered. He therefore thought it best to rejoin our people, and without showing any distrust he went to take leave of the chief. The lance-bearer of the chief put his hand on the chaplain's chest, and the chief put his hand on the chaplain's gun. But the latter laughingly disengaged himself, making them understand by signs that the gun might kill them. They allowed him to depart. When he had proceeded back some distance he saw the troop divide itself and the the chief remain with only the three or four followers he had with him when they started. Our chaplain then thought about the increase in the suite of the chief, and the quickness with which the people had gathered round him, coming out from amongst the ferns, and how quickly they had disappeared, each his own way. He strongly suspected, and I think with some reason, that the chief's urbanity had only for object—his voracity, and desire to possess the gun. Our chaplain felt the imprudence of having wandered out of hearing of our people, and took the resolution to be more circumspect in the future.page 333
If we can judge these Natives by the one we have in our power they are wonderfully voracious. The one on board is continually eating. Although we give him enough for three good meals, yet he goes and begs for something to eat from the sailors, and devours everything eatable that is given to him. In spite of all that, he made us signs to make us understand that he longed for his fern-roots. We noticed that his teeth were very short, and as we were looking at them he made us signs to say that they had been shortened according to the custom of the country. He has much difficulty in pronouncing the French words, especially the ones with the sound of s.
I only noticed two carpentry tools belonging to these tools. Natives—one an adze, of which the heel and the handle are made of one piece of wood. At the end of the heel they fix a stone, of the same kind as their spatulas are made of, about 3 in. long, and 1 ½ in. wide. The edge of it has the shape of a donkey's nose. Besides this adze, they have another tool, of which I only saw the blade. It is a stone about 10 in. or 12 in. in length, and about 3 in. or 4 in. wide, carved in the shape of an axe at one of the ends. I do not know if they fix it to a handle, or if they use it as a chisel. It is with these two tools that they work the wood, and especially hollow out some big trees to make canoes.
Their boats are, indeed, of one piece of wood, pointed at both ends, but the sides are made higher by some boards strongly fixed to the boat with ropes made of rushes. These boards are called fargues in the navy, and they do not reach as far as the ends of the boat. The point of the boat is covered with a piece of wood, carved so as to fit exactly. They make a groove in this piece of wood, in order to fit it across a board. The fargues are joined to this cross-plank at each end, and keep it in its place. On the two ends of the boat are also fixed two pieces of wood ornamented with carving and fretwork. These figures are also ornamented with feathers and tufts of dog's hair. I saw some boats which did not have these ornaments on the forepart. I believe that these ornaments are a sign of distinction, as I noticed that the chiefs only had them on their boats. Without doubt the greatest chiefs have the ornaments at both ends, and the secondary chiefs only at the front part of the boat.
Their fishing-tackle consists of nets, lines, and fish-hooks. The nets are very large ones, and made like the ones we call “seine.” Instead of lead, they fill up with stone a kind ofpage 335
pocket which runs the whole length of the net. The material they use for these nets is a kind of very fine rush, which ties very easily. These nets are so large that all the inhabitants of the village have to turn out to pull them. Therefore, I concluded that the nets were held in common. What is certain is that they divide amongst the whole population the products of the fishing. Their fishing-lines, or at least their fishing-hooks, consist of a piece of root similar in shape to the one on the drawing enclosed. At one of the ends they fix a very sharp fish-bone, whose point curves inwards, following the shape of the wood. I very much doubt if they catch many fish with this tool.
Their implements for ploughing the ground are in proportion to the little use they make of this art, as they only cultivate very small patches of ground. They have only two implements, and these are very primitive. One is an implement shaped like a trowel, the other is also wooden and shaped like a grubber, and about 2 ft. or 3 ft. in length.
Their songs are not devoid of a kind of modulation which is not too wild, but the gestures they make when singing are either very indecent or very grotesque. I have seen two musical instruments; one has the shape of an olive, but much bigger and longer—that is to say, it may be 2 in. long, and hollow all its length, with a hole in the middle. They produce with this instrument five or six distinct sounds as sweet as the notes of the flute. The other instrument appeared to me to be their war-trumpet. It is a shell, to which is fixed a cylindrical tube 3 in. or 4 in. long; with this instrument they produce a sound similar to the sound of bagpipes, which does not resemble the common trumpet, as Tasman thought when he heard it.
These people have some notion of a Divinity, for the image some of them carry round their neck is certainly an idol. This figure seems to be squatting on its heels, with very wide thighs, very broad shoulders; the mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out, and a limb pointed like a dog's protruding. The signs they made us to explain to us it was a god were to join their hands together and raise their eyes to the sky. Besides this idol, the uprights of their doors are ornamented with similar images, carved on a larger scale, but which appeared to me to hold themselves in the same attitude. They also ornament their boats with the same images, but carved so roughly that one can hardly distinguish the features. There are two such images to each end of the boat. I could not ascertain what was their religious worship towards these images, or if they believed in several gods, or if they only admitted one.page 337
When they lose one of their relations by natural death they made us understand that they hold the funeral by digging a hole in the ground, in which they deposit the corpse. They afterwards mourn the dead by scratching their face and chest with shells which they break and use the sharp bits. I have seen some of them with scratchings on the thighs, which had been done on purpose. This is all their mourning consists of. I do not know if they mourn in the same way the relations who, having been killed or made prisoners by their enemies, are eaten by their captors.
Their way of saluting each other is rather peculiar. The one who receives the salutation squats on the ground. The one who gives it advances towards the first one, and brings the tip of his nose in contact with the nose of the first. They remain in this position for half a minute, and then they talk to each other, for they remain silent while touching noses. It was comical to see our captain saluting in this way the chief of these savages, who made no difficulty whatever about sitting down to receive his salutation.
The women go in the boats, and handle the paddle as well as the men. They carry their children on their backs, wrapped in their mats. They go fishing too. Anyhow, I did not notice that they gave themselves any more to domestic duties than the men.
These people are extremely dirty. They eat the lice produced by dirtiness of the body, but they do not eat the lice from the head. I have seen several suffering from eczema, and a kind of ulcer or itch, which I think is brought on by uncleanness.
All the land on this coast appeared to me to be very poor. In the hollows it is nothing but sand covered by a light crust of earth formed by the decaying of leaves and grass. The hills show only a stony ground, with a reddish clay, and absolutely bare. In some patches where it was bare it seemed to me to be pipeclay. The creeks, which only run in the valleys, make the scrub grow higher and thicker, and the rushes and ferns flourish. The following are the products of this country: Among the scrub I noticed two shrubs worthy of attention, and of which I secured the seed. One has some resemblance to the juniper in shape, but the scent of it is quite different. If one rubs the leaves between one's fingers, they give an odour similar to that of the rose. The other shrub has no scent, but it grows in a very bushy manner, and is a handsome green; the leaves resemble the barley before it comes to ear, but not so long. Both these shrubs would make a fine show in a garden if they were pruned. The trees are not very plentiful. They are only found inpage 339
clumps in the valleys and on the banks of the creeks, between the rocks, and on the sides of the hills alongside the coast. Amongst these trees I only noticed two worthy of mention. One bears a fruit which has the shape of the olive, but larger and longer. This fruit is yellow when quite ripe; its flesh, which is not thick, is covered by a skin as fine as the skin of a plum. This flesh covers a stone not as hard as the prune's, for one can crack it between the teeth, and it is quite flexible. In the stone is found an almond covered with a brown and membraneous skin, which peels easily, leaving on the surface of the almond the well-marked impression of the membrane. When skinned, the almond divides itself in two parts; like an acorn, it is very white, hard to eat, and has a very bitter taste. The tree which produces this fruit grows high and bushy; its leaves rather resemble the Spanish laurel, but not quite so large, I think. The flesh which covers the stone has not a bad taste. The wood of this tree is very hard. Some people say that it grows in quantities in America.
The other tree I mentioned produces big bunches of flowers of a rather soft red, which flowers, mixed with the green of the leaves, form a sight rather agreeable to the eye. I did not notice any fruit on this tree, which grows very high.
This country, bare and sterile as it appeared to us, supplied us with some plants the use of which produced a wonderful effect on our sick ones. These plants were: two kinds of water-cress, one of which has a straight stem and rather tall; its leaves are long, and larger at the extremity than in the centre. They are dented. This plant is not shaped like any species of cress known in Europe, but it has a very strong taste, so strong that it brings the tears to the eyes when one eats much of it raw, its milk being so acid. The other species has a rounded leaf similar to the leaf of our watercress. The stems are thick, and therefore creeping. Its taste is the same as that of our cress, but inferior in strength to the flavour of our watercress. The last species of plant of which I wish to speak is a kind of wild parsley, which appeared to me to be a sort of celery. Its root tastes like the celery, and it only requires to be cultivated as in Europe to acquire the same shape.
We made great use of these three plants, but our sick ones especially felt the great effects derived from the use of them. Every one of the sick ones who went ashore and ate some ofpage 341
these plants not only did not die, but got better remarkably quickly. One of the most desperate cases, whose body was swollen all over, and whose mouth was rotten, and who had been given up, was only fit to go on shore twice, but the use he made of these plants then and on board relieved him wonderfully, and at the end of a month he started walking, and was quite well shortly after. I found the effects of these plants so wonderful that I took some seeds of the two first mentioned. They grow in great profusion in the country. I could not gather any seed from the wild parsley, as it was not then, seeding. Besides these three kinds of plants, I noticed a good number of others belonging to European species.
I have spoken previously of the sweet potatoes which the Natives cultivate. I must add here that they also cultivate a kind of sweet calabash, but only in as small quantity as the potatoes.
I have not noticed any other reptile on land but a little black lizard about 4 in. long. The only quadrupeds I know of are the dogs, in rather a small quantity, and the rats. The dogs are of an average size, with long, fine hair. The Natives feed them as we do our sheep, and eat them likewise.
There are land birds in quantities, probably because the natives do not possess the cleverness to kill them. There are some quail, a kind of bird with the shape, size, and colour of a blackbird, except that he has under the beak two little red combs similar to our domestic fowl. There is another bird of the same shape, colour, and size, but which, instead of the red combs under the beak, has a little tuft of white feathers. There are a great number of other species, in no way extraordinary except that they were very tame. Amongst all, I have noticed one, which appeared to me to be smaller than our wren.
As for the water-fowl, we have seen a great quantity of wild ducks, of curlews, of sea-larks, snipe, and another kind of bird whose plumage is black, and the legs and beak red; this last resembling in shape and size the beak of our woodcock, but flattened in the opposite way to the beak of geese and ducks. Its toes are webbed up to a quarter of their length, and, therefore, this bird only alights on the sea-shore. It is about 1 ½ ft. from the tip of his beak to the extremity of the tail, which is not very long. It is about the size of a hen, with plenty of flesh and of an excellent flavour; but it must be skinned first.page 343
One finds on these coasts amongst the sea-weed that the tide leaves behind some pieces of resin or bitumen, nearly round in shape, of a yellowish colour, transparent, friable, light, inflammable, of a much sweeter scent than that of the resin, but somewhat similar. This stuff, which seems to me remarkable, and worthy of the notice of the naturalist, seems to belong to the amber family.
The tobacco is unknown to these savages. I should have made the same remark concerning the natives of the Arsacides Islands, to whom the tobacco is equally unknown.
We made these people some very valuable presents if they appreciate them to their full value—some wheat; and we showed them by signs how to sow it, harvest it, crush it to make flour of it, turn this flour into a paste, and cook it to get bread, which they found greatly to their taste. We also gave them some peas and some ears of rice; but I doubt if this country would be fit to produce rice. We also gave them two young pigs, male and female, a hen and a rooster, the only ones we had left, and they were of small species, white and leggy, that we reared on board out of curiosity. That was all that was possible for us to part with in the penury in which we found ourselves. If they know how to take care of all these things there are enough of them to reproduce the different species. But the laziness of these people is so great that it is to be feared that our seed fell in a very unproductive ground.page 316page 317page 318page 319page 320page 321page 322page 323page 324page 325page 326page 327page 328page 329page 330page 331page 332page 333page 334page 335page 336page 337page 338page 339page 340page 341