The Plough Boy Journals

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19th Century American Whaling

Bonin Islands

Pitcairn's Island

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Ashley's Glossary of
Whaling Terms

Dana's Dictionary of
Sea Terms






British India and its Dependencies:






36 Memoir of Robert Ker, Esq. [July,

. . . .


      THE notice In the Asiatic Journal for April last (vol. ix. p. 385) of a subscription at Calcutta, for supplying this infant colony with several useful articles, has induced a correspondent to send us an extract from the first piece of intelligence which surprised the public at home with the discovery of the place, and the existence of its new inhabitants. A part of this revived account will be a suitable introduction to the progressive materials furnished by recent visitors.

      Notice of the original discovery, and its confirmation by Sir Thomas Staines.

      This is derived from a London publication, dated Dec. 1815.

      It is well known that in the year 1789, his Majesty's armed vessel the Bounty, while employed in conveying the breadfruit tree from Otaheite to the West Indies, was run away with by her men, and the captain and some of his officers put on board a boat, which after a passage of 1,200 leagues, providentially arrived at a Dutch settlement on the island of Timor. The mutineers, headed by one Christian, twenty-five in number, were supposed to have made sail towards Otaheite. It has lately been discovered, first by an American captain, and afterwards by Sir Thos. Staines, of the Briton frigate, who made the casual discovery without knowing of the prior one, that after successively visiting the islands of Tubi and Otaheite, a part of the renegades, deserting their companions, and taking with them wives and six men servants, on a sudden proceeded by themselves to Pitcairn's Island, also in the Pacific Ocean, where they destroyed the ship, after taking every thing out of her which they thought would be useful to them. It was by accident that Sir Thomas Staines fell in with this island, which is not laid down in the maps, and great was his astonishment on find- ing that the whole of the inhabitants spoke very good English; they were the descendants of the deluded crew of the Bounty. A venerable old man, named John Adams, is the only surviving Englishman of those who last quitted Otaheite in her, and whose exemplary conduct and fatherly care of the whole little colony could not but command admiration. The pious manner in which all those born in the island had been reared, the correct sense of religion which had been instilled into their young minds by this old men, had given him the pre-eminence over the whole of them, to whom they looked up as the father of the whole as one family. A son of Christian's was the first born on the island, in 1815, now about twenty-five years of age, named Thursday October Christian, a fine young man, about six feet high. This interesting new colony, it seemed, now consisted of about

1820.] Pitcairn's Island. 37

forty-six persons, besides infants. The young men were very athletic, and of the finest forms; their countenances open and pleasing, indicating much benevolence and goodness of heart; but the young women were objects of particular admiration: tall, robust, and beautifully formed. The island is abundant in yams, plaintains, hogs, goats, and fowls, but completely iron-bound with rocky shores, and landing in boats at all times difficult. Being once assured that Sir Thos. Staines's visit was of a peaceable nature, it is impossible to describe the joy these or people manifested on seeing those whom they were pleased to consider as their. countrymen.

      Captain Henderson's Narrative. – The following description of the inhabitants of Pitcairn's island, and their pursuits, is contained in a letter, addressed by Capt. Henderson, of the ship Hercules, to the editor of the Calcutta Journal, dated July 15, 1819.

      In looking over Capt. Bligh's narrative of his voyage in the boat, I observe he says: "The secrecy of this mutiny is beyond all conception. Thirteen of the party who were with me had always lived among the people, yet neither they, nor the mess-mates of Christian, Steward, Haywood, and Young, had ever observed any circumstance to give than suspicion of what was going on."

      The conversation that I had with old Adams, while on shore at Pitcairn's Island, will set this at rest: but I shall give you the history of my intercourse with these islanders as it occurred.

      We made Pitcairn's Island on the morn- ing of the 18th of January, 1819, and I make it to lie in lat. 25º 58' south, long. 130º 23' west, nearly the same as Sir Thomas Staines. On getting within two or three miles of the shore, we observed a boat coming off, which was very small, being one given to them by an American that had touched at the island about eighteen months before. On approaching us, the first thing they asked was, whether we were a man of war or a merchantman, American or English? On being answered that we were a trading ship under British colours from India, they came on board, nine in number, and all young men.

      After breakfast I went on shore, at 7 A.M., and was received on the rocks by old Mr. Adams, and all the other inhabitants of the island; but not before the islanders that were in the boat with me had given a shout or cry peculiar to themselves, to signify my being a friend. I delivered to Adams the box of books from the Missionary Society in London, and a letter from Adams's brother, who is still living at Wapping in London. I read this letter to him, giving him a description of his family, mentioning the death of one sis- ter, and prosperity of another. This affected him much, and he often repeated that be never expected to see this day, or indeed one of his countrymen more.

      I then ascended the rocks, and was led through groves of bread-fruit, cocoa-nut, plantain, and what they call the tea-tree, till we reached their village, forming an oblong square. Their dwellings are all of wood, and very ingeniously contrived, so as to be shifted at pleasure, and were uncommonly clean. They had also built one or two houses with second stories since the frigates were there.

      The following particulars were related to me by Adams, respecting the mutiny of the Bounty, and I believe it to be correct, as old Adams said several times to me, "You shall hear nothing from we but the truth."

      A few days after leaving Otaheite, while still to windward of the Friendly Islands, Christian and Capt. Bligh had a quarrel before Capt. B. went to bed. When Christian came on deck in the middle watch, he called one of the quarter-masters named Quintal, aft, and said he wanted to leave the ship, as the conduct of the captain was insupportable, and wished Quintal to assist in making a raft of the spare spars, as he was determined to leave the ship, and did not wish to distress the crew, or thwart the voyage by taking any body away with him. Quintal remonstrated, and said if he went all would go, and proposed to seize the captain and turn him off in the long-boat which was agreed to by the whole watch then on deck, and put into execution immediately.

      Adams was in his hammock at this time, as he belonged to the watch below, which was called up one by one, told what had taken place, and asked whether they would go or stay, leaving it entirely to themselves, no force being used to any one but Capt. Bligh.

      They then went to one of the islands, Tubi, to make a settlement, but could not agree with the natives. The majority were then disposed to steer for Otaheite, and there they went, taking with them two of the natives who would not leave them.

      When they arrived at Otaheite, the stores, sails, and all other moveable articles, were shared out among the crew. The Bounty fell to the lot of Christian and eight others, who after taking on board live stock, women, the two natives of Tubi, and two of Otaheite, left the Island in the night, Christian not acquainting any person where he was going, until out of sight of the island. He then communicated his intention to his ship-mates, who approved of his determination, and they then steered for Pitcairn's Island,

38 Pitcairn's Island. [July,

where they landed all the useful articles from the Bounty, and set her on fire off the north-east end of the island, to prevent being discovered; but she drove on shore before she was entirely consumed, though there is not a vestige of her now to be seen. They carried their precautions so far, as even to destroy all the dogs, for fear the barking of these animals might at any future time betray them.

      About four years after they landed on the island, one of their wives died, which was Williams's. The rest agreed to give him one of the black females, or natives of Otaheite, as a wife, to supply the place of his former one, and this caused the first disturbance on the island, and the consequent death of Christian and four others, viz. Brown, Martin, John Mills, and John Williams, as also two of the Otaheitans. Christian was the first, who was shot while at work in his yam plantation.

      The next disturbance took place about three years afterwards, and arose from one of the remaining Otaheitans refusing to work: but he was killed before he could do much mischief, except his wounding old Adams in the right shoulder. He attempted indeed after this to knock his brains out: but Adams being a strong man, parried off the blow, having his left hand much shattered, and losing his forefinger. Before he could repeat this blow Quintal dispatched the first Otaheitan, and the other, his companion, ran off to the woods; but coming back a few days afterwards, the women killed him in the night, while asleep, as they were afraid he might treacherously kill some of the Englishmen, to whom they were more attached than to their countrymen. Thus only four Englishmen were left, of whom one went mad and drowned himself, and two died natural deaths; "the last, about eighteen years ago, leaving me,' says Adams "to bring up their children, which I have done in the most christian-like manner my means would allow." – They say a prayer in the morning, one at noon, and another at night, and never omit asking a blessing, or returning thanks at meals.

      Adams is now fifty-seven years of age: has three daughters and one son; the last is about fourteen years old. The whole of this little community are in number forty-five, including men, women, and children. Christian left three sons, who are now all alive on the island. They have had two births since the frigates were there; they were then forty-three, and not forty-eight, as stated by Sir Thomas Staines. Adams said, this must have been a mistake, as no deaths had occurred since the ships left them. They have plenty of fowls, goats, and hogs, on the island, and I left them a ram, two ewes, and a lamb of the South American breed; as well as some potatoes, wheat, and paddy, for cultivation; with such other useful articles as the ship afforded.

      Adams reads the Bible to the islanders every Sunday evening; but he has not been able to get any of them to learn to read for want of a spelling book, of which he had only a few leaves. Their greatest want was implements for agriculture, mechanic tools, and cooking utensils, of which we could only supply them with our pitch-pot, one or two spades, and a saw, with a few knives and forks, some plates, a few pairs of shoes, and the reading glass of my sextant for old Adams, whose sight was failing.

      There are five Otaheitan women, and old Adams, that alone remain of the original settlers. Two ships had been seen from the island before the frigates appeared; but although they were near enough to see the people on board them, and made signs to them from the shore, they did not land. There were no canoes built on the island at that time, so that they could not go off.

      These are the principal facts with which my memory furnishes me at present, but I hope I shall be able to give you a better description of the island and its inhabitants when I return again to Calcutta.

      The Tale of a Taheitan Woman. – The next account, considering the source from which it has emanated, is more curious than all the rest. In the time of publication, it was nearly simultaneous with Capt. Henderson's, having first appeared in the Sydney Gazette, New South Wales, on the 17th July, 1819. It was transmitted to a gentleman of Sydney by a correspondent writing from the Society Islands. We give the whole for a comparison with John Adams's story.

      In some of the names by which she calls the nine Europeans who abandoned the other mutineers at Otaheite, and stole off in the Bounty to Pitcairn's Island, there is a palpable discrepancy. For example, by John Main she seems to intend John Mills, by Isaac Madden, – Martin, and by Adam Smith, Old John Adams himself. The island appears to have been a long while nothing but a secluded theatre for tragedy; however it may now be a seat of peace.

      The following account I have just received from a Taheitan woman, who was the wife of Isaac Madden, one of the mutineers. She has been apparently a good looking woman in her time, but now begins to bear the marks of age. She is marked on the left arm A.S. 1789, which

1820.] Pitcairn's Island. 39

was done by Adam Smith, to whom she attached herself at first, and sailed with him both before and after the ship was taken. She has lately arrived hither in the King George from Nugahiva, at which place she was left by an American ship, the captain of which took her from Pitcairn's Island to the Spanish main, and afterwards left her at Nugahiva. She has resided at Nugahiva about three months, and it is more than double that time since she left Pitcairn's Island.

      "When Fletcher Christian cut his cable and left Taheite, the following persons were on board the Bounty: Fletcher Christian, John Main, Bill M'Koy, Billy Brown, Jack Williams, Neddy Young, Isaac Madden, Matt or Matthew, and Adam Smith – nine Europeans. Teirnua, Naiu (a boy), and Manarii – Taheitans. Tarara, a Raiateau, and Oher and Titahita, Tubuans. – The Taheitan women were Manatua, Christian's wife; Vahineatua, Main's wife; Teio, the wife of M'Koy, who was accompanied by her little daughter; Sarah Teatuanirea, Brown's wife; Faahotu, Williams's wife; Terrura, Young's wife; Teehuleatuaonoa or Jenny, Madden's wife, before mentioned; Obuarei, Adam Smith's wife; Tevarua, Matt's wife; Toofaiti, Tararo's wife; Mareva, common to the two Taheitans; and Tinafornea, common to the two Tubuans.

      In their passage to Pitcairn's Island they fell in with a low lagoon island, which they call Vivini, where they got birds, eggs, and cocoa-nuts. They also passed between two mountainous islands, but the wind was so strong they could not land.

      When they arrived at Pitcairn's Island they ran the ship ashore. Fletcher Christian wanted to preserve the ship, but Matt said, "No, we shall be discovered;" so they burnt her. The island is small; has but one mountain, which is not high but flat, and fit for cultivation. They put up temporary houses of the leaves of the tea, and afterwards more durable ones thatched with the palm, as at Taheiti. They found the bread-fruit there, and all were busily engaged in planting yams, taro, plantains, and aute, of which they made cloth. The account this woman gives of their proceedings in this new country is very amusing to the Taheitans. Neddy Young taught them to distil spirits from the tea root. They made small canoes, and caught many fish. They climbed the precipices of the mountain, and got birds and eggs in abundance.

      In the mean time many children were born. Christian had a daughter, Mary, and two sons, Charley and Friday. John Maine had two children, Betsy and John. Bill M'Koy had Sam and Kate. Neddy Young had no children by his own wife; but by Tararo, the wife of the Raiotean, he had three sons, George, Robert, and William. Matt has had five children, Matt, Jenny, Arthur, Sarah, and a young one that died when seven days old. Adam Smith has Dinah, Eliza, Hannah, and George, by his wife. The Taheitans, &c. have left no children. Jack Williams's wife died of a scrophulous disease, which broke out in her neck. The Europeans took the three women belonging to the natives, Toafaiti, Mareva, and Tinafarnea, and cast lots for them, and the lot falling upon Toafaiti, she was taken from Tararo and given to Jack Williams. Tararo wept at parting with his wife, and was very angry. He studied revenge, but was discovered, and Oher and he were shot. Titahiti was put in irons for some time, and afterwards released; when he and his wife lived with Madden, and wrought for him.

      Titahiti, Niau, Teimua, and Manarii still studied revenge; and having laid their plan, when the women were gone to the mountain for birds, and the Europeans were scattered, they shot Christian, Main, Brown, Williams, and Madden. Adam Smith was wounded in the hand and face, but escaped with his life. Ned Young's life was saved by his wife; and the other women, and M'Koy and Matt fled to the mountain.

      Inflamed with drinking the raw new spirit they distilled, and fired with jealousy, Manarii killed Teimua by firing three shots through his body. The Europeans and women killed Manarii in return. Niau, getting a view of M'Koy, shot at him. Two of the women went, under the pretence of seeing if he was killed, and made friends with him. They laid their plan, and at night Niau was killed by Young. Taheiti, the only remaining native man, was dreadfully afraid of being killed; but Young took a solemn oath that he would not not[sic] kill him. The women, however, killed him in revenge for the death of their husbands. Old Matt, in a drunken fit, declaring that he would kill F. Christian, and all the English that remained, was put to death in his turn. Old M'Koy, mad with drink, plunged into the sea and drowned himself; and Ned Young died of a disease that broke out in his breast. Adam Smith, therefore, is the only survivor of the Europeans. Several of the women also are dead. Obuarei and Tavarua fell from the precipices when getting birds. Teatuahitea died of the dropsy, and Vahineatua was killed, being pierced by a goat in her bowels when she was with child. The others were still alive when the women left.

      The descendants of the Europeans, for there are no descendants of the natives, are very numerous. Of Christian's family, Mary Christian remains unmarried. Charley

40 Cursory Remarks on board the Friendship. [July,

Christian married Sarah, the daughter of Teio. She has borne him Fletcher, Charley, and Sarah, and was with child again. Friday Christian has got Teraura, formerly the wife of Ned Young. She has borne him Joe, Charley, Polly, Peggy, and Mary. All these descendants of Christian, together with Manatua, or old Mrs. Christian, yet survive. John Main was killed by falling from the rocks. Betsy Main is the wife of young Matt, and has borne him two sons, Matt and John. Sam M'Koy has taken Sarah Matt, and has by her Sam and M'Koy. Kate M'Koy is the wife of Arthur Matt, and they have children, Arthur, Billy, and Joe. Dinah Smith is the wife of Edward Matt by Teraura. She has a young son.

      They have hogs and fowls, and are very diligent in cultivating the ground. They dress their food like the Taheitans, having no boilers. They make cloth, and clothe themselves like the Taheitans, the man with the maro and tibuta, the women with the paren and tibuta. They have sent away their still, the fruitful cause of so much mischief, in the American that called last; and they have obtained a boat from him, which greatly adds to their comfort. The women work hard in cultivating the ground, &c. This woman's hands are quite hard with work. They have a place of worship, and old Adam Smith officiates three times every sabbath. He prays extempore, but does not read. Their ceremonies of marriage, baptism, and at funerals, are very simple. It does not appear that any of the people have learned to read. The first settlers discouraged the Taheitan language, and promoted the speaking English. This woman, however, can speak neither English nor Taheitan, but a jumble of both. They speak of seeing two ships some years ago, which kept in the offing, and did not come near the island, except Master Folger, as they call him, and the two King's ships; they have seen no ship till the American that brought away Jenny. Jenny says they would all like to come to Taheiti or Eimao. We were thinking that they would be a great acquisition at Opunohu, along-side of the sugar works, as they have been accustomed to labour, for the Taheitans will not labour for any payment.

. . . .



"Pitcairn's Island", The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and its Dependencies, Vol. X, No. 55 (July 1820), pp.36-40.