C H A P T E R X.
SITUATION OF BONIN ISLANDS. — FIRST DISCOVERY OF THEM. — EUROPEANS HAVE NO CLAIM AS THE DISCOVERERS. — MIXED CHARACTER OF PRESENT SETTLERS. — EXTERNAL APPEARANCE OF PEEL ISLAND. — GEOLOGICAL FORMATION. — HARBOR OF PORT LLOYD. — PRODUCTIOS OF THE ISLAND, ANIMAL AND VEGETABLE. — RESORT OF WHALERS. — CONDITION OF PRESENT INHABITANTS. — COMMODORE CAUSES THE ISLAND TO BE EXPLORED. — REPORTS OF EXPLORING PARTIES. — KANAKAS. — EXAMINATION OF STAPLETON ISLAND, AND REPORT THEREON. — SURVEY OF HARBOR OF PORT LLOYD.-- LAND PURCHASEED FOR A COAL DEPOT. — DEPARTURE FROM BONIN ISLANDS ON THE RETURN TO LEW CHEW. — DISAPPOINTMENT ISLAND. — ITS TRUE POSITION. — BORODINOS. — ARRIVAL AT NAPHA.
The Bonin Islands, lying in the Japanese sea, extend in a direction nearly north and south, between latitudes of 26° 30' and 27° 45' north, the centre line of the group being in longitude about 142° 15' east. The islands were visited by Captain Beechey in1827, and, with the proverbial modesty and justice of English surveyors, named by him, as if they had been then first observed. The northern cluster he called Parry's Group; the middle cluster, consisting of three larger islands, respectively Peel, Buckland, and Stapleton; and the southern cluster was named by him Bailey's, utterly regardless of the fact thus stated by himself;
The southern cluster is that on which a whale ship, commanded by a Mr. Coffin, anchored in 1823, who was first to communicate its position to this country, and who bestowed his name upon the port. As the cluster was, however, left without any distinguishing appellation, I named it after Francis Bailey, esq., late President of the Astronomical Society. — Findlay's Directory of the Pacific Ocean.
To the principal port of Peel Island he gave the name of Port Lloyd.
This was a pretty liberal distribution of honors by an accidental visitor in 1827, to a group of islands that had been known, and of which we have authentic accounts as early as the seventeenth century. According to Kaempfer, these islands were known to the Japanese at a period as far back as 1675, and were described by them under the name of Buna Sima, signifying an island without people. According to the account of this traveller, whose words we quote, the Japanese accidentally, about the year 1675, discovered a very large island, one of their barques having been forced, in a storm, from the island Fatscyo, from which place they computed it to be three hundred Japanese miles distant, toward the east. They met with no inhabitants, but found it to be a very pleasant and fruitful country, well supplied with fresh water, and furnished with plenty of plants and trees, particularly the arrack tree, which, however, might give room to the conjecture that the island lay rather to the south of Japan than to the east, as these trees grow only in hot countries. The Japanese marked it as an uninhabited place, but they found upoon its shores an incredible quantity of fish and crabs, "some of which were from four to six feet long." The description of Kaempfer, as well as that of an original Japanese writer, given in the note below, was found by Commodore Perry to correspond exactly with the present appearance of the island. The arrack, or areca tree, alluded to in the extract is found upon Peel Island.
Extract from Klaproth's translation of
San Kokp Tsoir Ran To Sits.
The original name of these islands is O-gasa-wara-sima, but they are commonly called Mon-nin-sima, (in Chinese, Wu-jin-ton,) or the islands without people, and this is the name which I have adopted in my work. That of O-gasa-wara-sima, or the O-gasa-wara islands, was given to them after the navigator who first visited them, and who prepared a map of them. In the same manner has the southern part of the New World been called Magalania, (Magellan,) who first discovered it some two hundred years since.
The Bonin islands are found 270 ri to the southeasterly of the province of Idsu. From Simoda, in that principality, it is 13 ri to the island of Myake; from thence to Sin-sima or New island, seven ri; from Sin-sima to Mikoura, five ri; from thence to Fatsicio or Fatiho, 41 ri; and, lastly, fro this to the most northern of the uninhabited islands, it is reckoned to be 180 ri; and to the most southerly 200 ri.
This archipelago lies in the 27th degree of north latitude. The climate is warm, and makes the valleys lying between the high mountains, watered by rivulets, to be very fertile, so that they produce beans, wheat, millet, grain of all kinds, and sugar cane. The tree called Nankin, faze or tallow tree (Stillingia sebifera) grows there, and likewise the wax tree. The fishery is good, and might be made very productive.
Many plants and trees grow in these islands, but there are very few quadrupeds. There are trees so large that a man cannot embrace them with his arms, and which are frequently thirty Chinese fathoms in height, (or 240 feet.) Their wood is hard and beautiful. There are also some very high trees resembling the siou-ro-tsoung-liu, or chamaropa excelsa, cocoa nuts, areca palms, that tree whose nuts are called pe-couan-tsy in Chinese, the katsirau, the red sandal wood, the tou-mou, the camphor, tub figs of the mountains, a high tree whose leaves resemble those of the ground ivy, the cinnamon tree, mulberry, and some others.
Among the plants the smilax China, (or China root,) called san-ke-rei, the to-ke, a medicinal herb called assa-ghion-keva, and others are to be reckoned.
Among birds there are different species of parokeets, cormorants, partridges, and some resembling white sea-mews, but more than three feet long. All these birds have so little wildness that they can be taken with the hand.
The chief productions of the mineral kingdom in this archipelago are alum, green vitriol, stones of different colors, petrifactions, &c.
Whales are found in the sea, also huge crawfish, enormous shells, and echini, which are called 'ball of the sea.' The ocean here is unusually rich in various products.
In the third year of the reign Ghen-Fo, (1675,) Simaye Saghemon, Biso Saghemon, and Simaye Dairo Saghemon, three inhabitants of Nagasaki, took a sea voyage to the principality of Idsu. They were embarked in a large junk, built by a skillful Chinese carpenter. These three men were well acquainted with astronomy and geography, and accompanied by Fatobe, the chief ship-carpenter of the port of Yedo, who dwelt in the lane of nets. The vessel was managed by thirty sailors. Having obtained a passport from the imperial marine, they left the harbor of Simoda, the 5th day of the 4th moon, and steered for the island of Fatsio. From thence they sailed towards the southeast and discovered a group of eighty islands. They drew up a map and an exact account of them, in which are some curious details respecting the situation, climate, and productions of this archipelago. They returned the 20th day of the 6th moon, in the same year, to Simoda, where Simaye published an account of his voyage.
It is singular that this writer makes no mention of the swift current, kuro-se-gaw, which is experienced between the islands of Mikura and Fatsio. Its breadth exceeds twenty matze, (about half a ri,) and it flows with great swiftness from east to west, [The writer in describing the direction of the current is mistaken.] about one hundred ri. This omission would be inexplicable if this current was not much less rapid in summer and autumn than it is in winter and spring. Simaye, in his passage to the Bonin islands, passed it in the first part of the intercalary month, which succeeds the fourth moon; on his return, the latter part of the sixth moon, he should have found the current less rapid, and thus his attention was not called to this dangerous passage.
The largest of the eighty islands if fifteen ri in circuit, and thus is a little less than Iki island in size. Another is ten ri in circumference, and about the size of Amakusa island. Besides these two there are eight others which form two to six and seven ri around. These ten islands have flat plateaux which could be made habitable, and where grain would grow very well. The climate is warm and favorable to cultivation, as one might infer from their geographical position. They afford various valuable productions. The remaining seventy islets are only mere steep rocks, and produce nothing.
A colony of condemned criminals has been sent to these islands, there to labor; they have tilled the earth and planted some patches. They are collected in villages, and have brought together the same things found in other provinces of the empire. One can visit these islands, and bring back its products in the same year. In this way a trade would easily spring up, and the benefit to be drawn from it would be considerable. This must be plain to all.
In the reign Au-Yei (from 1771 to 1780) I was sent on a commission into the province of Fisen, where I became acquainted with a Dutchman named Aarend Werle Veit, who showed me a geography, in which mention was made of some islands lying 200 ri to the southeast of Japan, called Woest eiland by the author. The word Woest means desert, and eiland (or yeirand, as the original reads) island. He remarks, that these islands are not inhabited, but that many sorts of herbs and trees are found there. The Japanese might establish a colony on one of these islands on which grain and other productions would thrive. In spite of the length of the voyage thither, the establishment would be useful to them for these purposes. The Dutch company would derive very little advantage from the possession of these islands, they being too small and too remote for their use.
I have thought proper to repeat these words, which deserve to be borne in mind, and with them I bring to a conclusion all that I have to say respecting the Bonin Islands.
The green turtles which abound in the island were probably mistaken for crabs, which may account for the gigantic size attributed by Kaempfer to these animals. Other accounts give a much earlier date for the discovery by the Japanese than that of 1675, stated by the authority just quoted. At any rate, the English have not a particle of claim to priority of discovery. In illustration of the discovery of the Bonins by the accidental visit of a Japanese junk, it may be stated that the Commodore was informed by Mr. Savory, an American resident, that a Japanese vessel of about forty tons burden came into Port Lloyd thirteen years before, having been driven by stress of weather from the coast of Japan. After remaining during the winter she sailed on her return home in the spring, and, as she had brought with here nothing but a small supply of dried fish, was provided gratuitously by the settlers with provisions. On another occasion, some eight years subsequently, a French ship, cruizing off Stapleton island, discovered a fire ashore, and on sending a boat to the spot found the wreck of a Japanese junk and five of its crew, the only survivors, in a most helpless plight. They were then taken on board and carried to Port Lloyd, and thence subsequently removed by the humane Frenchmen with the intention of landing them on one of the Japanese islands. In confirmation of this statement we have the fact that a party of officers from the Susquehanna, on a visit to Stapleton Island, accidentally saw the wreck of this same vessel. The remains of the junk were found in a little bay where they landed, the wreck being still partially kept together by large nails of copper and portions of sheets of this metal. From these materials and other indications, it was inferred that it was a Japanese junk, and as the edges of the planks were but little rubbed or decayed, it was concluded that the wreck could not be very old.
Captain Coffin, whose nationality is not mentioned, but who, from his name, was probably an American, and if so, doubtless from Nantucket, visited and gave his name to that part of the group so singularly appropriated and modestly christened by Beechey as the Bailey Islands. They are spoken of by the inhabitants as the southern islands, and were always regarded by them as belonging to the Bonin group. They are about twenty miles to the south of Port Lloyd. It was not until 1827 that Captain Beechey, commanding the English surveying vessel, the Blossom, visited the islands, and taking formal possession in the name of the British king, gave English titles to them. The inhabitants practically disown the paternity of the English sovereign, and do not recognize the names given in his self-assumed sponsorship by the English captain. For example, the very dignified appellations of Buckland and Stapleton, with which Beechey as honored two islands of the northern group, are quite ignored by the inhabitants, who speak of these places respectively as Goat and Hog islands. When the English visited and took possession of the Bonins, the date of the visit and the act of appropriation were duly engraved upon a copper plate which was nailed to a tree, but the plate and the tree are no longer there, and the only evidence of British possession is the occasional hoisting of the English flag on one of the neighboring hills, a duty that was originally delegated to a wandering Englishman who chanced to be on the spot. It is now considered merely a signal to be hoisted on the arrival of a vessel. No government is recognized by the inhabitants, who declare that they have no need of any foreign control, as they can take good care of themselves.
In the year following the visit of Captain Beechey, a Captain Lutke of the Russian navy arrived and went through very much the same ceremony of taking possession and of otherwise appropriating as his English predecessor.
It is quite clear that the Japanese were the first discoverers of these islands. They probably settled and then subsequently abandoned them. It is possible that the early Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch navigators may have been acquainted with the Bonins, and in later years they have been visited occasionally by the Americans, English, and Russians. The fact of a Spanish visit would seem to be proved by the name of Arzobispo or Archbishop, by which the islands are somtimes distinguished. One of the inhabitants reported that he recollected, on his arrival on the spot, that there was a board on a tree which recorded the first Russian visit. Neither of the European nations have as yet made any attempt at colonization.
In 1830, several Americans and Europeans came to the Bonins from the Sandwich Islands, accompanied by various natives — men and women — of that country.
The leaders of this adventure were five men, two originally from the United States — Nathaniel Savory and Aldin B. Chapin, of Massachusetts — one from England of the name of Richard Mildtchamp, one Charles Johnson, of Denmark, and the fifth a Genoese known as Mattheo Mazara. The only one of these remaining on the island during the visit of Commodore Perry was Nathaniel Savory, an American. Mildtchamp still survives, but has taken up his residence at Guam, one of the Ladrone Islands. The Genoese, Mazara, is dead, and Savory as married his widow, a pretty and young native of Guam, by whom he has offspring. Savory occupies himself with the culture of a little farm, which is tolerably productive. He also carries on a trade in sweet potatoes of his own raising and in a rum of his own distillation from sugar cane, with the whaling ships which frequent the place; and he has prosecuted his business with such success as to accumulate, at one time, several thousands of dollars. These he deposited in the ground, when, some three or four years since, a schooner arrived under the American flag, bringing a few worthless scoundrels, who ingratiated themselves, under the pretence of great friendship, with the old man, who was thus induced to make them the confidants of his success, and of its proof which he had stored away. These villains, after living for several months on terms of great intimacy and confidence with Savory, left the island, having first robbed their benefactor of all his money, despoiled his household of a couple of young women, whom they took away with them, carried off his journal, and wantonly injured his property. Fortunately for justice, the guilty party were afterwards arrested at Honolulu, but the captive women expressed themselves quite contented with their lot, and declared that they had no desire to return. As for the money, it was not learned whether that was ever recovered or not.
The islands of Bonin are high, bold, and rocky, and are evidently of volcanic formation. They are green with verdure and a full growth of tropical vegetation, which crowds up the acclivities of the hills, from the very borders of the shore, which is, here and there, edged with coral reefs. The headlands and detached rocks have been thrown by former convulsions of nature into various grotesque forms, which assume to the eye the shape of castle and tower, and strange animals, of monstrous size and hideous form. Numerous canal-like passages were observed opening in the sides of the rocky cliffs, which had almost the appearance of being hewn out with the chisel, but which were evidently formed in the course of volcanic changes, when the rock flowed in liquid lava, and found issue in these channels, which the torrents that came down the sides of the mountains in the rainy season toward the sea have worn smooth by constant attrition. Some of these dykes, or canal-like passages, less affected by time and the washing of the water, still retain their irregular formation, which has so much the appearance of steps that the observer, as he looks upon them, might fancy they had been cut by the hand of man in the solid rock, for the purpose of climbing the mountain. On the Southern Head, as it is called, within the harbor of Port Lloyd, there is a very curious natural cave or tunnel, which passes through the basaltic rock, from the Southern Head to the beach on the other side. The entrance has a width of about fifteen feet, and a height of thirty, but the roof within soon rises to forty or fifty feet, where it has so much the appearance of artificial structure, that it may be likened to a builder's arch, in which even the keystone is observable. There is sufficient water for a boat to pass from one end to the other. There are several other caves or tunnels, one of which is at least fifty yards in length, and passes through a headland bounding the harbor. This is constantly traversed by the canoes of the inhabitants.
The geological formation of the island is trappean, with its various configurations and mineralogical peculiarities; columnar basalt appears, and hornblende and chalcedony are found. There are all the indications of past volcanic action, and the oldest resident of Peel Island stated that two or three tremblings of the earth, giving evidence of a liability to earthquake, are experienced annually even now.
The harbor of Port Lloyd (as Beechey named it) is on the western side, and nearly in the centre of Peel island. It is easy of ingress and egress, and may be considered as save and commodious, though of deep anchorage. Vessels usually anchor in from eighteen to twenty-two fathoms. The port is laid down on Beechey's chart as in latitude 27° 5' 35'' north, and 142° 11' 30'' east longitude. This position, however, is believed to be erroneous, for, according to two sets of observations, made by the master of the Susquehanna, the longitude was found to be 142° 16' 30'' east; five miles more to the eastward than Beechey makes it. The safest anchorage is to be found as high up the harbor as a ship can conveniently go, having regard to the depth and room for swinging and veering cable. Beechey's directions for entering the port are sufficiently correct, and these, together with the Commodore's own observations, will be found in the Appendix.
Wood and water can be procured in abundance, though the former must be cut by the crew, and taken on board the ship green. The water is obtained from running streams, and is of good quality. Timber for building purposes is rather scarce, and would soon be exhausted if any increase of population were to render the erection of many houses necessary. The best kinds of wood are the jamana and wild mulberry, the former of which is very like the red wood of Brazil and Mexico, and is very enduring.
The harbor of Port Lloyd and the neighboring waters abound with excellent fish, which may be taken by the hook or net, although the places for hauling the seine are few, owing to the coral which in many parts lines the shores. The best place for this purpose is upon the beach which borders "Ten Fathom Hole," a deep portion of the bay which is close to the coral reef that extends out from the shore. The varieties of fish are not numerous; among those taken in the seine belonging to the Susquehanna there were but five observed: the mullet, which seemed to be the most abundant, two varieties of perch, the gar, and the common ray. Sharks are very numerous, and, when quite small, frequent the shallow places among the coral rocks, and are there pursued by the dogs, seized upon and dragged on shore.
There is an abundance of excellent green turtle, of which the ships obtained large supplies; there are also plenty of cray fish. The varieties of the testacea are numerous, but none that was observed of any rarity, and none edible except the chama gigas, which, however, is very tough and indigestible. The family of the crustacea is very extensive, of which the land crab forms the chief part, and which exists in every variety of size, form, and color; one of the most abounding is that which is commonly known as the "pirate." This animal can be seen in every direction near the shore, travelling about with its odd-looking domicil upon its back, which it seems to have got possession of rather by chance than from choice. The "pirate" has no home of its own, but appropriates, whence its name, that which belongs to the others. It has a decided preference for the shells of the buccina, murex, and bulla, which have the comfortable proportions of an inch and a half or so in length; but if such desirable quarters should, by any mischance, happen to be scarce, the "pirate" readily turns into the next most suitable dwelling of some neighbor at hand. It is necessary that the animal should have some snug corner wherein, if not to lay its head, at any rate to put its tail, for the latter is soft and requires constant protection. Thus, when the "pirate" moves about, his head and claws are always protruded, but his rear is covered with his borrowed shell. It is still an unsettled question whether this animal appropriates the domicils of others by first rudely ejecting their living occupants, or more considerately waits until a natural death or some fatality vacates the quarters, and then takes possession. The "pirate" is a voracious creature, and seizes with great avidity upon anything eatable that comes in its way.
The scarcity of birds, both of the sea and land species, struck every one as singular. There were not more than four or five varieties of the latter, the largest of which were the crow and the pigeon, the others being of small size. There were but few gulls or other sea-birds; on approaching the islands, some petrel were observed, of unusually large size and of singularly brilliant plumage.
Among the quadrupeds there were found sheep, deer, hogs, and goats, with an infinite number of cats and dogs. The cats and dogs, having lost some of their quiet domestic virtues, had strayed into the jungle, and were dignified by the inhabitants with the title of wild animals, and were accordingly hunted with dogs. On Stapleton Island, the goats, which were placed there by some of the early settlers, have increased prodigiously, as have also these animals, together with the hogs, put upon the other islands. Commodore Perry left on shore on the north side of Peel Island, with a view to their increase, two bulls and two cows, and on North Island five Shanghai broad-tailed sheep, of which two were rams, and six goats.
Peel Island is the only one of the Bonin group inhabited, and it contained on the visit of the Commodore only thirty-one inhabitants, all told: of these, three or four were native Americans, about the same number Englishmen, one a Portuguese, and the remainder Sandwich islanders and children born on the island. The settlers have cultivated patches of land of some extent, and raise a considerable quantity of sweet potatoes, Indian corn, pumpkins, onions, taro, and several kinds of fruit, the most abundant of which are water-melons, bananas, and pine-apples. These productions, together with the few pigs and poultry that are raised, find a ready sale to the whale ships constantly touching at the port for water and other supplies. During the few days the Susquehanna was at anchor in the harbor, three whalers, two American and one English, communicated by means of their boats with the settlement and carried away a good stock of supplies. These are obtained ordinarily in exchange for other articles from on board the ships, of which ardent spirits is to some of the settlers the most acceptable. Were it not for the scarcity of labor a much greater extent of land would be cultivated. At present there cannot be more than a hundred and fifty acres throughout the whole island under cultivation, and this is in detached spots, generally at the seaward termination of the ravines through which the mountain streams flow and thus supply an abundance of fresh water, or upon plateaux of land near the harbor. The soil is of excellent quality and resembles very much that of Madeira and the Canary islands, which are in the same parallel of latitude. It is admirably adapted for the cultivation of the vine, and for the raising of wheat, tobacco, sugar-cane, and many other valuable plants. In fact, the settlers already produce enough sugar and tobacco for their own consumption.
The few people who live on Peel Island seem happy and contented. Those of European origin have succeeded in surrounding themselves with some of the comforts and appliances of civilization. In one of the cottages there was observed several compartments, and what with hangings from the walls of Chinese matting, a chair or two, a table, a plentiful distribution of blue paint, and some gaudily colored lithographs, there seemed not only on the part of the proprietor a desire for comfort, but even a taste for luxury.
The Sandwich islanders, or Kanakas, as they are not familiarly known to sailors and traders, live very much as they do in their native islands, and have grouped together their palm thatched huts which have very much the appearance of one of their native villages. The inhabitants, living a quiet and easy life in a climate which is genial and wholesome, and upon a land whose fertility supplies them, in return for but little labor, with all they want to eat and drink, do not care to change their condition. The Americans and Europeans have taken to themselves wives from among the good natured and substantial Kanaka women.
Commodore Perry being desirous of obtaining as full information as possible of Peel Island during his short visit, determined to send parties of exploration into the interior. He accordingly detailed certain officers and men for the purpose, who were divided into two companies, one of which was headed by Mr. Bayard Taylor, and the other by Dr. Fabs, assistant surgeon.
These gentlemen, having been duly armed and equipped, started early on the morning of the 15th of June, with the view of devoting the day to the proposed exploration. The party headed by Mr. Taylor, whose steps we shall first follow in the narrative, and whose report as submitted to the Commodore we shall freely use, was composed of eight: Mr. Bayard Taylor, Mr. Heine, the artist, Mr. Boardman, midshipman, Mr. Lawrence, assistant engineer, Mr. Hampton, purser's steward, Smith, a marine, Dennis Terry, seaman, and a Chinese coolie. As Peel Island is only six miles in length, it was thought that one day was quite sufficient time for two parties properly distributed to explore so small a space. The northern part of the island, which is that which stretches immediately around the harbor, was the field of operation appropriated to the doctor's party, while the southern half fell to the duty of the explorers whose steps we are now about to follow.
At early sunrise the party left the Susquehanna and were rowed ashore to the watering place at the head of the bay. On reaching this point the rations and ammunition were distributed to each, so that all might, as far as possible, be equally burdened. A Kanaka, who was met at the landing, was urged to accompany the party as a guide, but he was not disposed to comply, although he pointed out a small footpath, which he stated led over the hills to a Kanaka settlement about three miles distant. This direction was at once followed, which led them by a steep and slippery path through a wilderness of tropical growth. Palm trees, among which was the sago palm, that produces the sago of commerce, abounded; parasitic plants hung in festoons from branch to branch, and by their close net work, interwoven with the trees, hindered the progress at every step, while the dew which dripped in the early morning from the thick foliage of the overgrown thicket wetted each one to the skin. The soil was observed to be hat which is common about Port Lloyd and other parts of the island, and seemed composed of the detritus of trap rock and the decomposed refuse of the plants and trees. Rock of trap formation protruded frequently in rough crags from the steep sides of the hills, and in the crevices grew a beautiful variety of the hibiscus, with its large flowers of a dull orange, whose petals were tipped with yellow of a lighter shade. A shower of white blossoms, which had fallen from a large tree of thirty feet in height, strewed here and there on the ground.
The course was up the ridge of the hill, and as it continued to the summit the vegetation became more and more profuse, until the expanding tops of the palm, the crowding together of the trunks of the trees, and the dense net work of the hanging vines, so shrouded the sun that the path was covered with a deep shade, through the darkness of which they eye could hardly penetrate to a greater distance, in any direction, than twenty or thirty feet. It was difficult at times to trace the path. When the party had reached the water-courses of the streams which flowed down the other side of the ridge they were ascending, multitudes of the land crabs pattered away in every direction, frightened out of their coverts by the approaching footsteps.
The ridge at its summit widened into an undulating surface of a mile and a half or so in breadth, and was furrowed with deep gullies. The declivity on the other side of the ridge, below which opened a deep ravine, was so steep that the men were obliged to let themselves down by swinging from tree to tree. This ravine between the steep mountains, which, with the exception of the bared rock here and there, were profusely covered with vegetation, presented a wild aspect, with a stream of water flowing over a rocky bed through thickets of undergrowth and masses of tropical vegetation spreading over the rock cliffs and down the hills on all sides.
The party now crossed the stream, and coming upon a field of the taro plant, which was of remarkably luxuriant growth, struck directly through it and reached the forest beyond. Finding it impossible, however, to make their way in that direction, they turned back through the taro and regained the stream. The path was now recovered, which was found to lead through a valley which bore signs of habitation. Cultivated patches of ground showed themselves here and there with flourishing crops of sweet potatoes, taro, tobacco, sugar-cane, pumpkin, and the sida or Indian gooseberry, which seemed to grow with wonderful luxuriance. In the centre of the valley two palm thatched huts were observed, but the party, upon coming up to them and entering, found they were uninhabited, although there were signs of their having been occupied that morning. Guns were then fired to attract the attention of any inhabitants who might be within hearing, and a good result was soon apparent by the answering signal of a shout, which was immediately followed by the appearance of a South Sea islander, with a face tattooed of a light blue and clothed in coarse cotton shirt and trowsers. He introduced himself under the dignified title of "Judge," and professed to be a native of Nukahwa in the Marquesas islands. This Marquesite seemed to be inn very flourishing condition. He had a hut to live in, a plantation to cultivate, and made a fair show of live stock with his dogs and four pigs. The "Judge" was very affable, and a very friendly manner gave freely all the information at his command. He pointed out to his visitors how the valley turned round the spur of the mountain and opened westward to the sea. The stream was here only a creek in appearance, but was of sufficient depth to float canoes, in one of which the "Judge" had just arrived from a turtle hunt, and had brought with him a fine animal, which he busied himself with cutting up in the wishful company of his four dogs, who were licking their chops with a hopeful anticipation of their share of the feast.
The "Judge" was requested to guide the party to the southern end of the island, which he stated to be about three or four miles distant, without, however, any pathway to it. His companion, however, who knew the way, was sent for, and a copper colored Otaheitan, who hardly spoke English, soon presented himself. He acknowledged that he was acquainted with the route, and familiar with the wild boar haunts, but refused to go with the party unless joined by the "Judge," who, after some hesitation, consented, with the understanding that he should be allowed to stow away his turtle flesh before starting. This, of course, was readily conceded.
The valley in which the explorers found themselves was estimated to be about a mile in length, and its widest part was a quarter of a mile in breadth. The main branch of the valley was not that which had been entered, but took an easterly direction, through which a stream flowed; the southern part seemed to be impassable, from being walled up with rocks heaped one above the other. From the "Judge's" hut the sea was said to about half a mile distant. The soil of the valley is of a rich loam, and, judging by the flourishing appearance of the vegetables and crops grown by the settlers, exceedingly fertile. The tobacco was particularly vigorous in growth, being five feet in height. The water of the stream is sweet and pure, and the supply constant. Some lemons, which the "Judge" had stored away in his hat, he said came from the north of the valley.
The party, now under the guidance of the "Judge" and his companion, took an E.S.E. course, following through the ravine the stream. The bed of the stream was in various places crowded with large boulders of trap rock, heaped confusedly one upon another. The vegetation presented the usual tropical profusion of trees, parasite plants, and under growth. From the denseness of the woods and the greasy, slippery nature of the soil, the progress of every step was toilsome and painful. Two of the party in the rear, while those in advance awaited upon a cliff their coming up, started a wild boar, and fired at him a passing shot, but without effect. The dogs which belonged to the settlers were not of much use, for they kept clinging to the heels of their masters, instead of ranging the forest and beating up the game from its cover.
On leaving the water-course the explorers climbed the southern side of the ravine, which they could only do by clinging to the roots or to the tough vines which hung from the trees. In the deep shadow and turnings of the wood, through which there was no path, the members of the party became scattered, and the leaders were again obliged to await at the summit of the ridge the coming of those who lagged behind. Among the various palms, which grew abundantly, some specimens of the palma latina were observed at this spot, with immensely broad leaves and stems nearly eight feet in length, the jagged edges of which wounded the travellers' hands as they struggled through the forest. The pandanus was also seen, with its shoots, sometimes twenty or thirty in number, sticking down and outwards from the lower part of its straight trunk, and rooting themselves in the ground, until they formed a pyramidal base, from which the tree rose in a slender column, covered with a graceful capital of foliage.
While some of the party were resting upon the ridge, waiting for their companions who had fallen behind, a great barking of dogs rose from a neighboring ravine, at which two of the party started off at once. Several shots from the company were soon heard, and Mr. Taylor, the leader, followed, making for the direction of the sound, and, after plunging through an almost impenetrable thicket, in the course of which he came upon the lair of a wild boar, arrived at the bed of a brook, where the hunters were grouped about a young boar. He was not over a year old, and, with his long snout and the dirty, dark grey color of his bristling hide, looked somewhat like the Chinese hog. Mr. Hampton, one of the party who had been left behind upon the ridge, was now sent for; but the "Judge," who had gone in search of him, soon returned, stating that he was sick, and unable to come up. Mr. Hampton, however, in a short time gathered strength enough to follow, and succeeded in reaching the party, although evidently much overcome with fatigue. As the Otaheitan guide, however, said that it was only two miles to the southern end of the island, Mr. Hampton resolved to continue with his companions, instead of returning, as had been proposed, with the "Judge" to the valley. The explorers having taken with them the liver and kidneys of the wild boar, hung up his carcase upon a tree to remain until their return, and then continued their course.
In about a half hour afterward the ridge which divides the island was crossed and the top of the slope of the southern side reached. From this point the sea was seen and a view obtained of Bailly's Island, rising from the surface in the distance, a little west of south. It was now found necessary to alter the course of the route, for the guide had taken the party too far to the right and led them to the brink of a steep precipice which it was impracticable to descend. There was some difficulty now in retracing their steps, for they had got so near to the precipice that they were forced to creep along with great caution, clinging to the strong grass and shrubs which grew upon the brink. By this mode of procedure, for the extent of two hundred yards or so, they succeeded in reaching a place where the precipice terminated; but where the descent was still so steep that it was found necessary for each man, as he descended, to place himself upon his back and thus slide down the declivity, taking care to check his speed by occasionally clenching the earth or some projecting bush. Finally, the ravine below was reached, but there was considerable disappointment on finding that the worst was not yet over; for instead of coming upon a water-course, as was expected, which might lead gently to the sea side, it was discovered that there was a succession of rocky steps, varying from ten to fifty feet, down which it was necessary to clamber. At last the beach was reached; and as those in advance looked up to their remaining companions, some standing upon the edge of the cliffs, and others letting themselves down their precipitous sides, the undertaking just accomplished seemed a marvellous feat of labor, difficulty, and danger.
The party now found themselves in what the guide called the South East Bay, which was said to be frequently visited by the whalers; some of whom had left evidence of their visits in the stump of a tree, which showed marks of having been smoothly cut with a large axe. There was also a neglected bed of tomatoes, overgrown with weeds, seen stretched along the banks of the stream, which had certainly been planted there by the hand of man. On the gathering of all the company, who were almost worn out, and suffered much from the excessive heat, a fire was lighted, and the boar's liver and kidneys being duly cooked, a very excellent extemporaneous feast, with the addition of the pork and other rations brought with them, was prepared and voraciously discussed. The party being refreshed by their banquet and the rest they had enjoyed, and it being as late as two o'clock, determined to return. When the guides announced that it was necessary to go back the way they came, the resumption of the labors, and the exposure to the dangers which had just been undergone, seemed quite appalling. There was, however, no alternative, and the party was forced to retrace their steps, but succeeded, finally with a renewed experience of their former troubles, and after excessive fatigue, in reaching the valley whence they had set out with the "Judge" and his Otaheitan companion.
It was six o'clock in the evening when they arrived at the "Judge's" quarters, so they spared themselves but little time for repose, but soon continued their journeying. One of the party was so wearied with fatigue as to be obliged to proceed to the Kanaka settlement, at the south end of Port Lloyd, by the way of the sea, in a canoe, piloted by the Otaheitan. The rest went by land, attempting to return by the same route as that they had come. The path was not easily found, however, and the explorers suffered another hard experience in the forest and over the rough crags, where they were nearly lost among the entangled undergrowth and much battered by the irregularity of the ground. Another member of the party gave out, but was brought along by main force, and having been deposited in a save place on the summit of the ridge, under the care of one of the men, the rest pushed on; and having reached the Kanaka settlement, at the south end of Port Lloyd, took their station on a cliff which overlooked the bay, and whence the great hull of the Susquehanna could be barely discovered in the surrounding darkness. Firing a volley with their guns, as a signal, they were soon answered by the arrival of the ship's cutter, and having sent back for the tired member of the party, they all pulled off for the steamer, where they arrived at ten o'clock at night, sorely bruised and fatigued by the hard day's work. The other party, under the command of the assistant surgeon, returned about the same time, and the result of the observations, as reported by Dr. Fahs, is now recorded.
The volcanic origin of the island was clearly manifest from the existence of ancient craters. Trap rock, intermingled with amygdaloid and green stone, formed the basis of the island, as it did the loftiest peaks of the hills; basaltic dykes were observed to pass through beds of sand, scoria, and cinders, and strata of old lava were traced along the seacoast and inn other parts where deep sections of rock were exposed. A sulphur spring, characterized by the unusual strong odor and taste of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, was discovered issuing from one of the ravines, and iron pyrites abounded in many places. The vegetation, too, was not such as is generally found in volcanic countries of the same latitude as the Bonin Islands. It would appear that Port Lloyd was at one time the crater of an active volcano, from which the surrounding hills had been thrown up, while the present entrance to the harbor was formed by a deep fissure in the side of the cone, through which a torrent of lava had poured into the sea, leaving, after its subsidence, a space into which the waters subsequently were emptied, bringing with them their usual deposits, which, together with the coral formation, now forms the bottom and sides of the harbor.
The surface of the island is varied. Plains extend from the basis of the hills toward the seashore, and are composed of a dark vegetable mould, sometimes five or six feet deep, intermixed with the shells of marine animals and the detritus of trap rock, and spread upon a foundation of coral. These plains are highly fertile, and those now cultivated produce a rich harvest of sweet potatoes of immense size, Indian corn, sugar-cane of wonderfully vigorous growth and excellent quality, yams, taro, melons, and the ordinary products of a kitchen garden. The Irish potato has been tried, but not sufficiently long to form an estimate of its probable success. The plains on the bay only have been cultivated as yet, but there is every reason to believe that the others are equally fertile, and might be made to yield sufficiently to support a large population.
The hills rise in some places by a gentle slope from the plains, and in others abruptly by steep ascents, which give them the appearance of terraces rising one above the other. At the head of the bay two prominent peaks rise, which are known by the name of the Paps, one of which reaches the elevation of a thousand feet, and the other eleven hundred. They are clearly seen on entering the harbor, and are important guides to the navigator. The springs in the northern half of the island, which was the field of survey now reviewed, are few, two only of which run constantly with a supply of pure drinking water. In the valleys there are several others, but they are so brackish or so frequently dry that they cannot be relied upon as sources of supply. Through the ravines which intersect the valleys streams pour down into the sea during the rainy season, but their beds, crowded here and there with large boulders of trap rock, are hardly moist during the dry weather.
The flora of the island is tropical, and was observed to be as beautiful as can be found in any similar latitude. In the valleys and along the sea beach a tree of large size, called by the people living on the island the Crumeno, was seen in abundance. It had a thick and short trunk, with a gray bark, a very dense foliage, with large oval leaves of smooth surface and bright green color, arrayed in clusters around the branches, from the ends of which grew tufts of beautiful white flowers.
Dense forests of palm crowded up the hill-sides and into the ravines, and were of such close growth that their full development was hindered and other vegetation prevented. The fan-palm was the most abundant of the six species observed. Among the various trees was noticed a variety of the beech of considerable size, a large tree growing in abundance on the mountains, which somewhat resembled the dog-wood, and an immense mulberry with an occasional girth of thirteen or fourteen feet. Of smaller trees and plants, there were the laurel, the juniper, the box-wood tree, fern, banana, orange, pine-apple, and whortleberry. Lichens, mosses, and various parasitic plants were abundant. There were but few kinds of grasses, and most of them unfit for pasturage. The jungle weed, in the uncultivated tracts, is so dense that it crowds out almost everything else of its kind.
The animals on the island were mostly imported but had become wild in their habits from staying in the woods. Pigeons, finches, crows, and sandpipers, were found among the native birds, and the tortoise, the iguana, and a small lizard were the principal indigenous animals seen.
In addition to the two surveys of Peel Island, the interesting results of which have been just recorded, the Commodore dispatched an officer to report on the general aspect and character of the island of Stapleton, from whose statement some valuable facts are derived. Stapleton Island, like the rest of the Bonin group, is of volcanic origin, and has a varied surface of plain, hill, and valley, with large tracts of fertile land. A small bay was found on the western side with apparently deep water, and surrounded by rocks and mountains varying from 800 to 1,500 feet in height, which protect it from the S.E. typhoons.
A small promontory and coral reef were observed to divide this bay, and on the land bordering the northern section was a spring of cool, well-tasting water, coming out of a rock and giving a supply of nearly three gallons per minute. The indigenous productions of Stapleton were the same as those on the other islands, but the goats which had been introduced there had increased marvellously, to the extent, it was supposed, of several thousands, and had become very wild in the course of their undisturbed wanderings through the secluded ravines and over the savage rocks of the island.
The Commodore, having been long satisfied of the importance of these islands to commerce, was induced to visit them, chiefly by a desire of examining them himself and recommending Peel Island as a stopping place for the line of steamers which, sooner or later, must be established between California and China. To this end he caused the island to be explored, the harbor to be surveyed, and a few animals to be placed upon two of the groups of islands, as the commencement of a provision for future wants. Garden seeds of every description were also distributed among the present settlers, and hopes were held out to them by the Commodore of a future supply of implements of husbandry and a greater number of animals. A suitable spot too was selected for the erection of offices, wharves, coal-sheds, and other buildings necessary for a depot for steamers. A title was obtained to a piece of land which is admirably adapted to the desired purpose. It is situated on the northern side of the bay, near its head, with a front on the water of 1,000 yards and a good depth near the shore for the length of 500 yards, it might, by the building of a pier extending out fifty feet, be conveniently approached by the largest vessel afloat.
In a letter addressed to the Navy Department Commodore Perry has given at length his views of the conveniences of Peel Island for the establishment of a depot for steamers. In this communication he says:
As my instructions direct me to seek out and establish ports of refuge and refreshment for vessels traversing these distant seas, I have, from the commencement of the cruise, kept constantly in view the port in which we are now at anchor,* [*The Commodore is writing from Napha, in Lew Chew.] and the principal harbor of the Bonin Islands, as well for general convenience of resort as to furnish connecting links, or suitable stopping places, for a line of mail steamers, which I trust may soon be established between some one of our Pacific ports and China, an event so much to be desired, and, if accomplished, one that will be distinguished, even in the history of these remarkable times, as of the highest importance to the commerce of the United States and of the world.
The mails from the United States and Europe, by the way of Egypt, the Red sea, and Indian ocean, arrive regularly at Hong Kong, almost to a day, twice a week in each month. From Hong Kong to Shanghai, five days may be allowed for the passage. To this point the British government would doubtless extend it mail if it were taken up by us and continued on to California.
Its transportation, by steam, from Shanghai to San Francisco, via the Bonin and Sandwich Islands, would occupy thirty days, allowing three days for stopping for coal, etc. Thus, the distance from San Francisco to Honolulu, in the Sandwich Islands, is roughly estimated at 2,093 miles; from Honolulu to Peel Island, 3,301 miles; and from Peel Island to the mouth of the Yang-tzse-Keang, or Shanghai river, 1,081 miles; in all, 6,475 miles; and allowing 240 miles per day, the time at sea would be twenty-seven, and the time in port three days; from San Francisco to New York twenty-two days would be required, making from Shanghai to New York fifty-two days.
The usual time occupied in transporting the mail from England to Hong Kong, via Marseilles, (the shortest route,) is from forty-five to forty-eight days; add to that two days' detention at Hong Kong, and five more to Shanghai, would make the time required to reach the latter place from fifty-two to fifty-five days.
Shanghai might be considered the terminus of the English and the commencement of the American mail; and thus an original letter could be sent west by way of Europe, and its duplicate east by way of California, the first arriving at Liverpool about the time its duplicate reaches New York.
But apart from the advantages, and, I may add, the glory of perfecting a scheme so magnificent, this line of steamers would contribute largely to the benefit of commerce. Already many thousands of Chinamen are annually embarking for California, paying for their passages each $50, and finding themselves in everything, excepting water and fuel for cooking their food.
These provident people are the most patient and enduring laborers, and must, by their orderly habits, add greatly to the agricultural interests of California.
But Shanghai is now becoming the great commercial mart of China; already does it outrival Canton in its trade with the United States, and when it shall be considered that the fine teas and silks, and other rare and valuable commodities of that part of China, can be conveyed by means of steam to California in five, and to New York in eight weeks, it is impossible to estimate in anticipation the advantages that may grow out of an intercourse so rapid and so certain.
The importance of the Bonin Islands to the advancement of commercial interests is so great that the subject has more or less occupied the mind of the Commodore since his return; and this importance is best shown by the following document which has been placed in the hands of the compiler by Commodore Perry since this chapter was written:
Notes with respect to the Bonin Islands
My visit to the Bonin Islands forcibly impressed me with the idea of their importance as a point of rendezvous for vessels navigating that part of the Pacific ocean in which they lie, and especially as offering a port of refuge and supply for whaling ships resorting to those regions, as well as a depot for coal for a line of steamers which, ere long, must unquestionably be established between California and China, via Japan.
Whales of several varieties abound in those parts of the ocean lying between the Bonins and the coast of Asia, and are in greater numbers in the neighborhood of Japan. Until the establishment of a treaty with that singular empire the masters of whaling vessels were cautious not to approach near to its shores, under a well-founded apprehension of falling into the hands of the Japanese, and suffering, as a consequence, imprisonment and cruel treatment. These fears should no longer exist, as the stipulations of the treaty make provision and offer guaranties not only for kind treatment to those Americans who may approach the coast, or be thrown by accident upon its hitherto inhospitable shores, but allow all American vessels under press of weather to enter any of its ports for temporary refitment; and the ports of Hakodadi and Simoda are open for all purposes of repair or supplies.
As, therefore, the obstacles to a free navigation of the Japan seas no longer present themselves, our whaling ships may cruise in safety and without interruption as near to the shores as may be convenient, or in the seas lying more to the eastward. But to render this part of the ocean in all respects convenient to our whaling ships something more is wanted, and that is a port of resort, which shall be in all respects free for them to enter and depart without the restraints of exclusive laws and national prejudices; for though, as before remarked, the ports of Hokodadi and Simoda, in Japan, to which we may add Napha, in great Lew Chew, are by treaty open to American vessels, a long time may elapse before the people of those parts will probably divest themselves of the jealousies which they have hitherto entertained against strangers, and it is well known that the crews of whaling vessels visiting the ports of the Pacific are not remarkable for their orderly behavior or conciliatory deportment, hence my argument in favor of an establishment at the Bonin Islands is strengthened. My plan is to establish a colony at Port Lloyd, Peel Island, the principal of the Bonin group, leaving the question of sovereignty to be discussed hereaftere. I have already in the narrative described these islands, and shall now proceed to set forth my plan for building up a thrifty settlement which shall extend over the entire group of islands.
First, then, a company of merchants, in connexion with a few artisans, should form a joint stock company for the purpose of establishing a colony on Peel Island. The experiment need not involve any very great outlay. Two vessels, each of three or four hundred tons, suitably equipped for whaling, should be employed first in transporting to the island materials for the construction of a storehouse and a few small dwellings, and the necessary supplies for furnishing a store with chandlery, naval stores groceries, and all such articles as are usually needed by whaling and other ships. After landing the passengers and cargo, these vessels might proceed to cruise in the neighborhood and in the Japan seas in pursuit of whales — returning occasionally to the settlement for refreshment, &c.; when these two vessels shall have jointly secured enough of oil to load on of them, that one should be sent home to be again refitted and freighted with additional colonists and fresh supplies for the storehouse and for the settlers; and so the two vessels might alternate in their voyages to the United States. Thus in a short time a colony could be built up, and the results prove profitable to all parties concerned. Whaling vessels, American, English, and French, would resort in greater numbers to the port for refreshment and supplies, becoming customers in the purchase of needful articles for their vessels, and giving employment to the artisans and farmers of the colony. If money should be wanted by the whalemen visiting the port, to make payment for labor or supplies, oil at just prices would be taken in lieu thereof. There should be sent out by the company none but young married people, quarters for whom could be obtained in the houses of the present settlers till dwellings could be erected for their exclusive occupation. Thus the settlement would, in all probability, form the nucleus of a religious and happy community, and here a missionary station might be formed without obstacle, from whence missionaries at a proper season might be sent to Japan, Formosa, and other benighted countries in that quarter of the globe. At the present time whaling vessels cruising in the seas lying between the Sandwich Islands and Japan are frequently obliged to resort either to those islands or to Hong Kong for refitment and supplies, a distance from some of their whaling grounds of several thousands of miles; in such a voyage, and in the unavoidable delay in port, much time is occupied; and apart from the enormous charges made at those parts, which make it necessary to draw heavily upon the owners at home, the crews become sickly and demoralized by their indulgence in dissipation. Now, a depot established at Peel Island would be central, and would probably be wanting, for a length of years, at least, in the means for improper indulgence, for which the ports before mentioned are notorious. The right of sovereignty undoubtedly belongs to Japan, as the earliest known occupant of the islands; beyond this claim the present settlers have unquestionably priority of right of jurisdiction.
After a stay of four days at the Bonin Islands, the Susquehanna weighed anchor, and taking the Saratoga in tow sailed on the morning of Saturday the 18th of June, on the return voyage to Lew Chew. After clearing the harbor of Port Lloyd, the course was steered toward Disappointment Island. On the passage from Lew Chew to the Bonin Islands the Commodore had desired to sight and determine the position of this island, but, although it had been made by the Susquehanna which stood directly for it on the day previous to her arrival at Port Lloyd, there was no opportunity, in consequence of the approaching darkness, to make any observation but an approximation by means of computation. The Commodore, therefore, on his return voyage, was particularly desirous of seeing the island of Disappointment and determining with precision its position, about which so much has been said and written. Accordingly, as the island was made directly ahead a short period after noon, and passed at a distance of only three or four miles, its exact position was accurately determined by data derived from the noon-day observation.
It is a low island, with two detached rocks extending a cable or two in length from its extreme point, and lies in latitude 27° 15' north, and in longitude 140° 56' 30'' east from Greenwich.
It is presumed that Disappointment and Rosario are one and the same island. In addition to the nautical observation of the officers of the ship, the artist made a drawing of the appearance of the island, which will be found in the Appendix.
From Disappointment Island the course of the ship was steered directly for the Borodinos as laid down in the ordinary charts. They were made on the 22d of June directly ahead, and were found to be two in number, situated five miles apart, and lying in a N.N.E. and S.S.W. direction. They appeared to be of coral formation but of great antiquity, as trees of considerable size crowned the uplands, the most elevated part of which may have been forty feet above the level of the sea. The navigation in the immediate neighborhood seemed free of danger, but no indentions were seen in the surrounding shore which might afford save anchoring places. No signs of people were discovered, and it is presumed that the islands are uninhabited. The position of the extremity at the south of the southern island was estimated to be in latitude 25° 47', and in longitude 131° 19' east.
As during the return voyage moderate breezes from S.S.W. to S.W. prevailed with warm weather, and as, in fact, the wind ever since the first departure from Napha had continued from the southward and westward, it may be inferred that the southwest monsoon extends as far north as the parallels of latitude in which the course of the ships laid. The Susquehanna and Saratoga reached, in the evening of June 23d, their anchorage in the bay of Napha, where they found the Mississippi, the Plymouth, and the Supply.