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





APRIL 1. to OCTOBER 1. 1820.


Dr. BREWSTER and Professor JAMESON.





380 Account of the Discovery of New South Shetland.

. . . .

Art. XXII. – Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King of the Elizabeth.

     On the 20th of February 1819, having completed a cargo of sperm oil, we made all sail to the S.S.W., intending to touch at Pitcairn's Island, for the purpose of refreshing the crew previous to our doubling Cape Horn. Knowing we were pursuing a track not much frequented, I directed a particular look out to be kept, as I had before found our charts of these seas very defective, and as it is well known to many who frequent them that there are several dangers in existence, the positions of which are set down very erroneously.

     The weather was generally cloudy, with passing squalls of wind and rain, till the 25th, on which day we observed a great many

Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King. 381

pigeons, and other kinds of birds, which indicated our proximity to the land. Accordingly, we kept a good look out, but saw nothing like it; the next day we saw no birds. Our latitude, when the greatest number of birds was seen, was 17° South.

     On the evening of the 28th of February, we again saw numbers of pigeons similar to those observed by navigators in the neighbourhood of St Helena, Being convinced that some island must be near, and a long squally night before us, I thought it most prudent to keep under easy sail for the night, and gave particular orders for a good look out. At 5 A.M., on the morning of the 1st of March 1819, I was informed by the second officer (whose watch it was,) that there was a large island on the weather-beam, and that it was as level as a bowling- green. I immediately went on deck, and hauled by the wind, intending, as it was near day-light, to prepare two boats, with men and arms, to go on shore and visit this new discovery. Accordingly, at day-break, we tacked in for the island; and at 10 A.M., taking with me the surgeon and second officer, I went in two boats, to endeavour to land at a sandy-beach not far distant from the ship, which, after some difficulty, we accomplished. After hauling the boats up among the trees, we all went up in different directions; within hail of each other, in quest of vegetables or animals; but, after a search of four and a half hours, we returned to the boats, having seen one parrot, and shot a few pigeons. The island abounded with young trees and underwood, nor did we observe the smallest appear- ance of quadrupeds, except here and there a rat; the ship's name, Elizabeth, was now given to the island. The British Colours were displayed on the island, and greeted with three cheers, and a bumper of grog was drank to the health of his Majesty. The ship returned the compliment, by hoisting her colours and performing the same ceremony. While these ceremonies were performing, a proper person was employed in carving the ship's name, and the other particulars upon a tree, near the spot where we landed. I at first intended to have inclosed a letter in a bottle, and buried it near some remarkable place, in order that our prior discovery might be more easily proved, should it ever be disputed; but the surf increasing considerably, and the

382 Account of Pitcairn's Island, being an

ship being at too great a distance to have communication with her before dark, I gave up this idea. We landed on the southwest part of the island, among some coral rocks, at the back of which is the beach before mentioned. It appears about six leagues in circumference, and we found no anchorage; but I think opposite to the sandy-beaches to the northward of our landing-place, anchorage would be found. The latitude of Elizabeth's Island is 24° 26' S., longitude west of Greenwich 127° 50' At 3 P.M., joined the ship, and made sail at 10 P.M.

     On the 2d of March we saw Pitcairn's island: At 5 P.M. of the same day we were within half a league of it, and could not persuade ourselves, from the barren appearance of the hill, that any person who had ever seen the fertile hills and dales of Great Britain, would ever fix their residence among these barren mountains. We stood off and on all night, under easy sail, and shewed a light in the main-rigging, which was answered by two large fires on shore. A young girl, named Dorothy Young, (as we afterwards were told,) had been at work at a plantation opposite to the ship, ran to the village, and told them of our arrival, in consequence of which they made the fires in answer to our light. About 6 A.M., on Wednesday, March 3, I stood the ship close in to what the inhabitants call Shiplanding-place, (from the circumstance of the Bounty being hauled on shore and burnt at this place,) in expectation that some of the inhabitants would probably come off to me. I hove to with our head off, and prepared a boat to go on shore; in a few minutes after, we saw a boat with nine men come out from amongst the rocks, through a tremendous surf. I now sent my boat to meet them, and tow them on board. When they came alongside, they ascended the ship's side with much good humour, and came aft on the quarterdeck where I was, and taking me by the hand, gave it a hearty shake, and said, "How do you do Captain." They then asked the ship's name, my name, where bound, whence from, and made many other trifling inquiries, in very good English. After satisfying them respecting these matters, I invited them into the cabin, and set before them some salt-beef, grog, biscuit and porter, with which they seemed pleased. Putting

Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King. 383

their hands before them, in the position of prayer, and saying grace, they began to refresh themselves, and were much pleased with the porter. While they were eating, I had leisure to survey their fine open countenances, which (notwithstanding their exposure to the sun) were truly British. They were nine young men, the offspring of the deluded crew of the Bounty, most of them standing six feet high, very muscular and agile, of an engaging deportment and open disposition. After their repast, they returned thanks to God, in the same pious manner as before. They then went on deck, where they gave surprising proofs of their agility, by going aloft, jumping overboard, and swimming round the ship, while it was going through the water at the rate of two knots per hour. I now prepared to go on shore, and took the surgeon with me. Five of the natives accompanied us to assist in landing, the others remained on board till my return. When I got near the shore, I found the surf so violent, that I durst not attempt with my boat to go through it. I went into theirs, when one of them taking hold of me, bid me not fear, for should the boat upset, he would take me safe on shore. We now entered the surf, when, to my great surprise, a number of young women and children came half way into the surf to assist in landing the boat. These women ventured far beyond their depth, and assisted in bearing the boat up, by swimming and sustaining it with their hands. We landed in safety, and were immediately met by John Adams, a hearty corpulent old man, who, like the rest, was naked, with the exception of a piece of cloth round his middle. He invited us to his house, for which we set out directly, accompanied by all the population of the island. Our way lay up a very steep hill, and along a footpath so narrow, that they were actually obliged to carry the Doctor up. When we attained the summit of the hill, we had a fine road through the woods; and after crossing two valleys, which abounded with cocoa-nut trees, we arrived at the village, situated in a beautifid valley, in which were seven houses, each or which had a fine lawn before it. Two of the houses had a storey above the ground, and all had very clean convenient places for their poultry and pigs. We stopped at the house of Thursday October Christian, the first born on the island, who gave us for dinner a sucking pig,

384 Account of Pitcairn's Island, being an

cooked after the Otaheitean manner, two brace of fowls, and plenty of yams and plantains. After dinner, were served up bananas and a species of apple peculiar to the island, which we found very good. Every thing was clean, and conducted with great propriety. Grace was said both before and after dinner; John Adams saying it first, then every one in rotation, according to their seniority. After dinner, we took a look at the different plantations, and found that most of their labour consisted in raising yams. There was an abundance of plantains and some sugar-cane, from which they extract molasses and liquor. The land appeared capable of producing any thing, and abounded with many esculent roots that we had never before seen, nor could the surgeon, who upon this occasion was our botanist, find names for them. During our excursion, we were shewn a very curious tree. The trunk was about six feet in circumference, and proportionally long; the trunk, with the root and all its ramifications and earth about it, was lying in a horizontal position above the surrounding trees. The largest trees upon the island were in this manner. It appeared as if the branches had taken root downwards, and drawn the parent tree up; but we could not account for its unseemly position. John Adams informed us there were plenty upon the island growing in the same manner.

     In the evening, after supper, they entertained us with an Otaheitean dance, which consisted of various writhings and distortions of the body, by no means obscene, yet in no respect pleasant. While some were dancing, the rest sat down to look on, in company with six sailors belonging to the ship, when suddenly one of the young women jumped up and ran to her brother, saying, "she would not sit any longer near that naughty man. (pointing to one of my sailors), for he wanted her to commit fornication." I asked the man why he behaved so rude to people that had treated him so well? He told me that it was by mere accident he put his foot against hers, and that he had never spoken to her. After the Otaheitean dance, the sailors shewed their abilities in dancing, which excited great laughter and diversion. After the dance, we were shewn to bed; the surgeon and myself slept in the same room. We had each of us a good feather-bed and clean sheets, made from the bark of a

Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King. 385

tree, where we slept very comfortably all night. In the morning, we breakfasted on fowls and a beverage like tea, made from a root similar to the gentian, but which they called ginger. After breakfast we returned to the Ship Landing-place, to endeavour to go on board; but the sea was too high. Davy, as they called the sea, had never been so bad before, exceptg once in their remembrance. We were all sitting down in conversation, when a little child ran down to go into the surf. I ran to prevent the child, and so did the wife of Charles Christian, saying at the same time to Diana, the eldest daughter of John Adams, "Diana, your child will be drowned." Adams having told me, prior to this, that his daughters were not married, I expressed my surprise to the wife of Christian. Old Adams hearing this, took me aside, and gave me the following account: Notwithstanding his paternal care of his daughters, Edward Quintral and Diana had committed an offence against the laws of God, for which he supposed them worthy of death, and accordingly gave orders that they should be shot; but as no person seeming willing to execute his orders, he made the necessary preparations for executing them himself, when he was strongly opposed by Auther Quintral, who said that though the offence was certainly a great one, and the more so, as a similar one had not been committed since the death of Christian; yet he did nor conceive it to be a crime worthy of death. The rest being of the same opinion, Adams changed his mind also, but forbade them to marry. Adams, upon this occasion, probably changed his mind through interest, for he will not suffer his daughters to marry for fear of losing their labour in cultivating his plantation.

     As we could not go on board, I now searched for a watering-place, and found a very convenient one in moderate weather, and with excellent water. Each family gathered together some poultry, hogs, goats, plantains, and every thing the island produced, and next morning, Davy being milder, we went on board, accompanied by the whole population of the island. As most of them had never seen a ship, they were much pleased, but soon grew sea-sick. I now gave them a whale-boat, in return for their refreshments, some books, razors, combs, and, in short, every thing they stood in need of; but nothing pleased them so well as the books; as they wished much to read and write. I

386 Account of Pitcairn's Island, being an

offered Auther Quintral two claw-hammers, which he refused; and Adams, who was present, told him, that it was very improper to refuse any thing their countrymen offered: Auther replied, it was much more improper to take things that they do not want. While Adams was on board the ship, he gave me a brief account of the different occurences that had taken place upon the island; and, among others, he mentioned his divorcing Christian and his wife, in consequence of having read in the Old Testament, that marriages should not be allowed among those who were at all related to each other, and that they had lived separate a long time. After a great deal of conversation upon the subject, I persuaded him to allow Diana, his daughter, to he married to Edward Quintral, and Christian to live with his wife, both of which he promised to do; and calling Edward to him, he took him by the hand, saying, "Come here, my son, you shall have my daughter Diana, and to-morrow we shall keep the wedding." I now gave him some porter, wine, and spirits, to regale themselves with at the wedding. Every person in the ship was so struck with their simplicity of manners, the mildness of their language, and their modest deportment, that they were loaded with presents: They got nearly two hundred books, of various descriptions, from the officers and crew; – even the sailors belonging to the ship behaved with a degree of modesty in the presence of these naked females, that would have surprised a Joseph Andrews. John Adams now assembled his family in order to take leave, which they did in the most affectionate manner; and so grateful were they for the few things they had received from the ship, that they all kneeled down to kiss my hand, which I could by no means permit. I promised, should I come again to the island, that I would bring them some black cattle, and particularly some asses, of which they said they were greatly in want. They now went into their boat with some reluctance, particularly one young man who wished to see his friends in England, but his mother, with tears in her eyes, requested that I would not take away her son; nor were we ourselves free from regret, at leaving a people whom we considered in a moral point of view as far superior to any of the human species we ever beheld. Two young men belonging to the ship asked me to let than remain upon the island, – a request I could by no means comply with. After

Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King. 387

seeing them safe among the rocks, we made all sail, the wind being fresh from the eastward. As we were bound round Cape Horn, we sent down our royal masts and yards, and made every thing as snug as possible; for after the experience of seven voyages round Cape Horn, I am authorised to say, that preparation ought to be made for stormy weather at all seasons of the year; and I am also of opinion, that ships bound round Cape Horn from the eastward, should endeavour to be off the Cape in the winter, as I have invariably found easterly winds at that time. We experienced a very fine passage to St Helena, where we refreshed the crew, refitted the ship, and arrived safe at Deptford on the 13th July 1819.

     P.S. Adams told me, that the island had been inhabited prior to their settling upon it; for they had at several places dug up great quantities of human bones, which induced them to believe, that those places had been appropriated for the interment of the dead. They had also found below the surface of the earth a great many images. I did not hear whether they had found any metals; but I recollected, after leaving the island, that the stones with which they sharpened their tools, appeared to have a yellowish metallic appearance; and also some veins of yellow metal in them. I much regret not having examined them more closely, or bringing a piece with me. – One of the sailors gave a shilling, to be tied round the neck of one of their children; but before I left the island it was brought to me, to he restored to the donor, observing at the same time, that they had no use for it, and it would buy him something when he got to England. Old Adams informed me, when they first settled on the island, that there were plenty of fish; but for some time before my touching at this place, they could not catch any, and they thought the copper of the Bounty had poisoned them all. I have before observed, that the island produces yams, and other esculent roots, which we could not find names for. I presented them on my departure with some pease, barley, flour, orange, melon, pumpkin, celery, and many other seeds, which I had saved during my voyage, (intending to give them should I ever touch at the island). Salt is procured among the rocks, the sea being hove into the cavities during the blowing weather, is left there, and by the rays of the sun produces

388 Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King.

salt, a circumstance very common in warm climates. The only birds, which I saw were pigeons and sea-gulls. – George Young carried the Bounty's anvil and swivel from the Ship Landing-place, up the steep foot-path, (where the Doctor was carried up); the anvil was as much as I could well lift, and he says he could have carried the anchor also.

Names of Persons found on Pitcairn's Island.

John and Mary* AdamsRobert Young, do.
      Rachael Adams, spinster.George Young, do.
      Hannah Adams, do,William Young, do.
      George Adams, 15 years.      ––––––
            ––––––Mrs Christian sen. }
Thursday October Christian and
      Tohai,}Otaheitean wo-
            Wife*.      Tohai,}      men.
      Joseph Christian, 14 years,      ––––––
      Charles Christian, 12 do.
      Mary Christian, 8 doDEATHS ON THE ISLAND.
      Poly Christian, 6 do.
      Margaret Christian, 4 do.John Adams' 1st wife* fell off the
            ––––––      mountain.
Charles and Sarah* Christian.† An Otaheittan woman, grief.
      Sarah Christian, 9 years.† An Otaheitean do. dropsy.
      Fletcher Christian, 6 do.      ––––––
      Edward Christian, 4 do.Fletcher Christian, }
      Maria Christian, 2 do.Isaac Martin,}Murdered by 0-
      Charles Christian, 6 months.William Brown,} taheitean men.
            ––––––John Mills sen. }
Mary Ann Christian, spinster.John Williams,}
      ––––––      ––––––
Donald and Sarah Maccoy.‡ Taimor,}
      William Maccoy, 7 years.‡ Heiaho,}Killed each other.
      Donald Matcoy, 5 do.‡ Taralow, }
      Hewey Maccoy, 2 1/2 do.      ––––––
            ––––––‡ Manody, } Killed in a scuffle with
Elizabeth Mills, widow.‡ Nehow,}      the English.
      John Mills, 7 years.      ––––––
      Mathew Mills, 5 do.‡ Tetohita,} Killed with an axe by his
            ––––––      countrywoman.
Auther and Catherine Quintral.      ––––––
      Auther Quintral, 2 1/2 years.James Young, 7 years,} Dropsy.
      Catherine Quintral, 6 months.John Quintral, 5 years,}
            ––––––Mathew Quintral jun. drowned in a fit
Edward and Dinah Quintral.      while fishing.
      John Quintral, 1 1/2 years.William Maccoy, drowned, insane.
Jane Quintral, spinster.John Mills jun. fell off the mountain.
            ––––––* Sarah Quintral, do. do.
Mary Young, spinster.Mathew Quintral, killed in a scuffle a-
Dorothy Young, do.      mong themselves.
Edward Young, bachelor.Edward Young sen. asthma.

                  * Otaheitean women.
                  † Came to the island with the mother.
                  ‡ Otaheiteans.
                  All the rest English, and those born on the inland.



      This transcription is from: "Extract from the Journal of Captain Henry King of the Elizabeth", The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 3, no. 6 (Oct 1820), pp. 380-388.

The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 3, no. 6 (Oct 1820), pp. 380-388