Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas

Remarks on the Otaheitean Language

Remarks on the Otaheitean Language.

The language is very soft, having a great number of vowels, diphthongs, and triphthongs.

Every word, almost, begins with a vowel, which they most commonly drop.

It is also very metaphorical, as I have observed in many instances; as Matapoa, a person blind of an eye, which literally is Night-eye. Mataavai, the name of the bay we anchored in, literally signifies Watery-eye; which appellation is not unapt from the great quantity of rain which falls in the bay. Tehaia, a woman's name, who being lost when a child, her friends went about, crying Tehai? which means, Where is she?

The natives could not repeat, after us, the sounds of the letters, Q, X, and Z, without great difficulty; G, K, and S, they could not pronounce at all.

Many of the names of the people of our ship having the G, K, or S, in them, they could not approach nearer the found of them than as follows:
Toote, for Cook.Matà for Monkhouse.
Opane for Banks.Petrodero For Pickersgill.
Tolano for Solander.Tate for Clark.
Treene for Green.Poline for Spoving.
Hite for Hicks.Taibe for Stainsby.
Towara for Gore.Patine for Parkinson.
page 66

They have various sounds peculiar to themselves, which none of us could imitate; some of them they pronounced like B and L mingled together; others between B and P, and T and D. Some like B h, L h, and D h.

When they mean to speak of a thing somewhat small, they often double the word, as Oorè oorè, a smallish nail.

They also double the word for the superlative, as Teá teá, very white.

Mai, when placed after a verb, signifies that the action was done to you.

Mai, when added to an adverb, signifies several things, as Mai Maroo, somewhat soft, or inclining to be soft.

They have a whoop, when they call after any person, which they pronounce like Ahu ! raising their voice very high at the last syllable.

On the 11th, the tents were struck, and we got every thing on board; but, on examining the anchor-stocks, we found them very much worm-eaten, and were obliged to wait till the carpenter had made new ones, which detained us two days longer. None of the Indians came near us till the next day, except Toobaiah, who is a sort of high-priest of Otaheite; and he designed to sail with us; however, several of the principal natives sent their servants on board with presents; we sent them others in return, and left them tolerably well reconciled to us.

On the 13th, several of the natives came on board to take leave of us, to whom we made some presents; and, at parting with us, they appeared very sorrowful. In the forenoon we weighed anchor, and sailed, with a fine breeze, from the west, fleering our course W. by N. having Toobaiah, and his little boy Taiyota, on board with us. [See pl. IX.] On our leaving the shore, the people in the canoes set up their woeful cry, Awai, Awai; and the young women wept very much. Some of the canoes came up to the side of the ship, while she was under sail, and brought us many cocoas.

page break
Plate IX. The Lad Taiyota, Native of Otaheite, in the dress of his Country.

Plate IX. The Lad Taiyota, Native of Otaheite, in the dress of his Country.

page 67

Toward night we saw an island called, by Toobaiah, Tetiroah, and altered our course a little to the westward, steering for the island of Yoolee-Etea, the native place of Toobaiah.

On the 14th, we discovered the isle of Huaheine, which is high land, but the wind being against us, we could not reach it; we therefore tacked about, and took a stretch toward an island that we saw at a distance, which Toobaiah told us was Yoolee Etea.

In the afternoon of this day it was almost calm; and we had but little wind till the next day, being the 15th: at noon we had a fine breeze; and at five in the afternoon were within fix leagues of the island of Huaheine. It was made up of several peaks of high land, and divided, like Otaheite, by some lower land intervening. The island appeared to be almost: as large again as Eimayo; and, from the mast-head, we could discover the tops of the mountains of Yoolee-Etea, over those of Huaheine.

Toobaiah praying in the afternoon, in the stern-windows, called out, with much fervor, O Tane, ara mai, matai, ora mai matai; which is to say, Tane (the god of his Morai) send to me, or come to me with a fair wind; but his prayer proving ineffectual, he said, Wooreede waow, I am angry. However, he told us that we should have wind when the sun arrived at the meridian, and so it happened, though we did not impute to him the gift of prophecy or foresight.

Toobaiah told us they often had wars with the natives of Atiarabo, a neighbouring island; and that, when they take any of them prisoners, they cut off their under-jaws, and hang them up. Several of these trophies of victory Mr. Banks saw hung up in a man's house at Atiarabo, in one of his excursions among the people of Oboreano, at a time when they had made prisoners Oroamo's four brothers, and two of Oboreah's, and had taken all her canoes.

page 68

Early on the 16th, we were close to the shore of the island of Huaheine; but, meeting with no safe place to anchor in, we doubled the point, and went to the N. W. side of the island, where we anchored, in a pretty little bay, close by the shore in eleven fathom water: the water was very smooth, and the banks shoaled so sleep, that we might have rid safe within forty yards off the shore. Several canoes came off to us as we failed along the coast, and some of the natives came on board, amongst whom was a king, who was the first that adventured to come. up the ship's side, and he approached it trembling. Toobaiah conversed with them very freely.

This country affords a more pleasing prospect than Otaheite, being more picturesque. Some of the hills are very high; and, from this bay, we can see the islands Yoolee-Etea, Otahau, and Bolabola; which last appears like a hill of a conical form, forked at the top. Before the bay, and a good way farther on, runs a reef which opens at the two ends, but has no opening in the front. The Captain Toobaiah, and some others, went on shore with the aree, or king; and, as soon as. he landed, he immediately repaired to an adjacent morai, and returned thanks, to Tane for his safe passage, whom he presented with two handkerchiefs, and some. other trifles; and, to the surgeon who assisted him, he presented a hog.

On the 17th, several of the inhabitants came on board, and brought with them some cocoa-nuts; and one of them, a friend of mine from Otaheite, brought a basket of paste or pudding, baked in bread-fruit leaves, which was made of the roots, of Taro and cocoa-nuts: they call it Etaoo, and it tastes very much like the poe of Otaheite, and is very good food. The custom of changing names prevails much in this island, and is deemed a mark of great friendship.

During the short time we were upon the coast of this island, we purchased twenty-four hogs and pigs, besides fowls, fruits, and roots, at reasonable rates; but they raised the price of their commodities before we left them.

page 69

This island, the extent of which we had not time to-learn, is considerably longer than broad; and, to all appearance, very fruitful in cocoas, bread-fruit, plantains, and eatable-roots, such as taro, eape, and the sweet potatoe. These roots, with different sorts of paste, are their principal food when there is no bread-fruit They have a plenty of cuttle-fish, but not so many of other kinds as are to be found at Otaheite. Their cloth-tree is planted very neatly, and cultivated with great. care, having drains made through the beds of earth to draw off the water; and the sides neatly built up with stones: and, in the drains, they plant the arum, which yields the yam they call Taro.

We found great quantities of a bastard sort of shagreen upon the island, and many pearls of an indifferent sort.

The natives of this island are not of such a dark complexion as those of Otaheite, and the other neighbouring islands; and the women are, in general, as handsome, and nearly of the same colour, as Europeans; [see pl. VIII. fig. 3 and 4.] from which we may draw a reason for the name of this pretty island, which I left regretting that 1 did not see more of it.

On the 19th, in the afternoon, we set fail for Yoolee-Etea, and the next morning, being the 20th, we cast anchor in a bay, which is formed by a reef, on the north side of this island. Two canoes of people came to us from the shore; and brought with them two small hogs; they took but little notice of us, and expressed as little surprize at any thing they saw. The captain went on shore and took possession of the island for the king; he saw but few inhabitants, and scarce any of distinguished rank amongst them. They behaved so coolly that the captain did not know what to make of them Toobaiah, who was with him, seemed to be quite displeased. We did not know the occasion of their reservedness; but conjectured that the Bolobola people had been amongst them.

Huaheine, the name of this island, means also a wife.

page 70

On the 21st, some of us went on shore, and bought many plantains, and cocoanuts. The plantains were mostly green, and, boiled or roasted, ate as well as a potatoe.

In the afternoon we went on shore again, and saw but few of the natives in the country, which, though very pleasant, looks, like an uninhabited or deserted place. We saw some morais, [see pl. X.] or burial places, which are similar in all these islands; and went into one of them, in which there was a whatee, or altar, with a roasted hog, and fish upon it, designed as an offering to the Ethooa, or god. Near to the whatee, or altar, there was a large house, which contained the coongdrums used at their solemnities: and; adjoining to this house, were several large cages of wood, having awnings of palm-leaves upon them. These cages are called Oro, and rested upon beams laid upon others that stood upright, and seemed intended for the reception of the birds sacred to Ethooa, of which there are two that fly about their morais, the grey heron, and a blue and brown king-fisher. These morais are paved, or rather covered with a sort of coral, and planted with various sorts of flowering shrubs, such as nonoah, etoa, and hibiscus. At the front of the morai, which faces the sea, they have built a sort of amphitheatre, of large rough stones; and, among these stones, there are a great many long boards fet up, carved in various figures, according to their fancy. Every family of note has one of these morais ornamented as much as they can afford*. I have been told, that the inhabitants of these three isles worship the rainbow, which they call Toomeitee no Tane.

* A kind of priest, [see pl. XI.] called heiva, attends these Morais, cloathed in a feather garment, ornamented with round pieces of mother-of-pearl, and a very high cap on his head, made of cane, or bamboo; the front of which is feather-work; the edges beset with quills stripped of the plumage. He has also a sort of breast-plate, of a semicircular shape, made of a kind of wickerwork on which they weave their plaited twine in a variety of figures: over this they put feathers of a green pigeon in rows; and between the rows is a semicircular row of shark's teeth. The edge of the breast-plate is fringed with fine white dog's hair.

This priest is commonly attended with two boys, painted black, who assist him in placing the hog and fish for the Ethooa; as also in strewing the body of the defunct with leaves and flowers of bamboo; and, for two or three days after, is constantly employed in ranging the adjacent fields and wood, from which every one retires on his approach. The relations, in the mean time, build a temporary house near the Morai, where they assemble, and the females mourn for the. deceased. by singing songs of grief, howling, and wounding their bodies in different places with shark's teeth; after which they bathe their wounds in the sea or river, and again return to howl and cut themselves, which they continue for three days. After the body is corrupted, and the bones become bare, the skeleton is deposited in a sort of stone pyramid built for that purpose.

page break
Plate X. A Morai, or Burial Place, in the island of Yoolee-Etea.

Plate X. A Morai, or Burial Place, in the island of Yoolee-Etea.

page break
Plate XI. In Heiva, or kind of priest of Yoolee-Etea, & the Neighbouring Islands.

Plate XI. In Heiva, or kind of priest of Yoolee-Etea, & the Neighbouring Islands.

page 71

On the 24th, in the afternoon, we went out at the west end of the bay, which the natives call Opou, but found our passage very difficult on account of the shoals one of which we narrowly escaped: the man, who founded, crying out Two fathom, we wore ship directly, or we should have been on a bank. At length however, we cleared the shoals; but not being able to get out in time, anchored over-against a deep bay; and some of our men went on shore to look, for hogs. This island is, in many respects, much like Huaheine, and the country as much variegated; but this side of the island seems to have undergone some revolution; the inhabitants are but few, and poor, and have no political distinction of rank amongst them. The shagreen is in greater plenty here, and at Huaheine, than at Otaheite, where it was a scarce commodity. They have also great plenty of taro, and eape. As to the bread-fruit it was but young; and of apples I saw none.

On the 25th, we set fail from the bay of Owhare, and steered our course to the westward, designing to go to Bolobola, or round Otahau, to the south-side of Yoolee-Etea; but, the wind blowing from the westward, we could not double the point of Otahau; so that we did nothing that day but traverse the coast of Bolobola.

The island of Bolobola is made up of one very high forked peak of land, with seven low hills round it.

In the evening, at sun-set, we discovered the island of Toopbai making in low land.

page 72

On the 28th, the wind blowing full from the west, and being often becalmed, we could not weather the point, the wind hauling round the island, and meeting us as we tacked about.

In the evening, Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and the Master, went on shore, in the pinnace, to Otahau, and, not returning so soon as expected, we fired a cannon at nine o'clock; and, still neither seeing nor hearing of them, we fired another, and hung out a light in the shrouds. We were soon answered by them with a musket, by which we found they had got out to sea; and about ten they arrived, and brought with them three hogs, fifteen sowls, with a great quantity of plantains, cocoa-nuts, and taro.

This island is but thinly inhabited, and some parts of it very barren.—We had a great swell among these islands.

On the 30th, we went round to Bolobola, and beat up to windward, to get to the other side of Yoolee-Etea, and had a sharp breeze from the S. E. all night. This day we saw the island of Maowrooah, consisting of a large round hill, with a small one the side of it.

On the 1 st of August, after so long beating to windward, we at last got alongside of Yoolee-Etea; but even then we could not get into the bay which we designed to enter; and, the wind being against us, we were obliged to cast anchor at the entrance of it, between two reefs. In the afternoon we attempted to warp the ship into the bay, but endeavouring to heave the anchor, we found it was fastened to some rock, where we left it till the next morning. The natives came off to us in great numbers, and we bought of them ten hogs, for ten spikes each, with plenty of cocoas, and plantains, and they seemed very joyful at our arrival.

Early on the 2d, we attempted again to get up the anchor; with some difficulty happily succeeded; and, afterwards, warpt the ship into the bay, which is called Amameenee, and moored her in a proper station, about a mile from shore. The natives flocked to us again; appeared highly delighted, and were so fond of page 73our commodities, that, for a few small nails, they gave us many things of considerable value amongst them; and whatever we gave them, whether nails, pewter, watches, or other toys, were immediately hung upon their ears.

On the 4th, we went on shore, and took a walk up into the country, which is very pleasant, and saw a great quantity of Taro and Eape growing: We saw also a great quantity of the true Yam, which is so common in the West-Indies; and bread-fruit trees, which were nearly in perfection; though the crop of fruit upon them did not appear to be so large as I have seen.

There are several Morais in this part of the island; in one of which we saw a string of jaw-bones hung up on the Afale, or house, of the Ethooa, with several skulls laid in rows: and we met a man of a fair complexion, whose hair was white as milk; also their Aree Dehei, or king, who is called Oorea, and his son; the former appeared to be a very modest sort of a man, and the latter as handsome a youth as I ever saw. Opoone, who is king of Bolobola, stays in the next bay; they say he is a very old man, and we suppose the people of this island have submitted to him.*

The border of low land round the hills is very narrow here, and not very populous; but several of the inhabitants are comely, and in a much more flourishing

* Toobaiah informed us, that, some years past, the chiefs of Otaheite, and the neighboring islands, banished such of their criminals as were convicted of thefts, and other crimes which they thought did not deserve death, to an adjacent island called Bolobola, which, before the commencement of that law, was almost barren and uninhabited; which practice continued several years. In process of time their numbers so greatly increased, that the island was insufficient for their subsistence. Being men of desperate fortunes, they made themselves canoes, turned pirates, and made prisoners such of the people of the islands near them as had the misfortune to fall in their way, and seized their canoes and effects. Opoone, who was one of the worst of these criminals, by artful infinuations so wrought on the rest, that he was admitted their chief, or king; and, growing still more powerful, by frequent acquisitions of prisoners, he adventured to make war on the people of Otahaw, a neighboring island, who, not expecting so sudden an invasion, were not prepared for defence, and were obliged to submit to be tributaries to him. He afterwards conquered Yoolee-etea, and other islands, which he annexed to his dominion of Bolobola.

page 74state than those on the other side of the island, who are men of Yoolee-etea, or men of Bolobola, we could not learn which.

There is a great number of boat-houses all round the bays, [see pl. XII.] built with a Catanarian arch, thatched all over; and the boats kept in them are very long, bellying out on the sides, with a very high peaked stern, and are used only at particular seasons.

We had a great quantity of fish brought on board in the afternoon of this day, and three pounds and a half were served to each man of the ship's company.

On the 7th, in the afternoon, Mr. Banks and myself went to see an entertainment called an Heivo. We passed over four bays E. and were carried, by the natives, till we came to the bottom of a bay called Tapeeoee, where a number of people was assembled. A large mat was laid upon the ground, and they began to dance upon it, putting their bodies into strange motions, writhing their mouths, and shaking their tails, which made the numerous plaits that hung about them flutter like a peacock's train. Sometimes they stood in a row one behind another, and then they fell down with their faces to the ground, leaning on their arms, and shaking only their tails, the drums beating all the while, with which they kept exact time. An old man stood by as a prompter, and roared out as loud as he could at every change. These motions they continued till they were all in a sweat; they repeated them three times alternately, and, after they had done, the girls began. In the interval, between the several parts of the drama, some men came forward, who seemed to act the part of drolls; and, by what I could distinguish, they attempted to represent the Conquest of Yoolee-etea, by the men of Bolobola; in which they exhibited the various stratagems used in the conquest, and were very vociferous, performing all in time to the drum. In the last scene, the actions of the men were very lascivious.

The people, in the part where this farce was performed, are chiefly Bolobola men, and they seem to be settled in the best part of the island, the low-land being wider here than in any other part near the harbour. On this coast there are many spits and shoals, formed of coral rocks; and, on the reef, the surf breaks very page break
Plate XII. A Boat-House, in which the Natives of Yoolee-Eitea, and the Neighbouring Islands, preserve their Canoes of State from the Weather.

Plate XII. A Boat-House, in which the Natives of Yoolee-Eitea, and the Neighbouring Islands, preserve their Canoes of State from the Weather.

page break
Plate XIII. Various Instruments, & Utensils, of the Natives of Otaheite, & of the adjacent Islands

Plate XIII. Various Instruments, & Utensils, of the Natives of Otaheite, & of the adjacent Islands

page 75high, and makes a noise as loud as thunder. There are some plantations of pepper in this part of the island.

It is remarkable, that, notwithstanding the people of these islands cannot pronounce the sound of the letter K, yet I have met with a great number in Yoolee-etea, who, having a bec in their speech, continually substitute it instead of that of their favourite letter T.