Otto von Kotzebue

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IN THE YEARS 1823, 24, 25, AND 26.









      I did not myself touch on this island, but I met in Chili an American Captain just returned from it, and in Tahaiti one of the earliest mothers of its population, who spoke English well enough to carry on a conversation. The information jointly obtained from both these persons, will not, I think, be unwelcome to my readers; and those who are unacquainted with the rise of this interesting colony, will perhaps find, pleasure in a brief account of it.

      The English government appreciating the usefulness of the bread-fruit tree, and desirous of introducing it into the West-Indian colonies, in the year 1787, commissioned the ship Bounty, under the command of Lieutenant

228 lieutenant bligh.

Bligh, who had already served as master under Captain Cook, to convey a cargo of these young trees from the South Sea Islands, to the West Indies. Forty-six men formed the ship's complement.

      After an excessively difficult voyage, during which he had vainly endeavoured, for thirty days, to double Cape Horn, and at length, yielding to necessity, had effected his passage by the Cape of Good Hope, he reached Tahaiti in safety in October 1788.

      Although the good-natured Tahaitians seem to have given great assistance, five months were occupied in lading the vessel; perhaps because Lieutenant Bligh and his crew found their station very agreeable. During this period the crew lived in the greatest harmony with the natives, especially the women; and this may probably afford a key to the subsequent fate of Bligh.

      On the fourth of April 1789, he sailed from Tahaiti, touched at one of the Friendly Islands to replace such of the young plants as had been destroyed, and on the 27th of the same month continued his course, cheered by the conviction

a conspiracy. 229

of his ability to execute his commission, and to become the benefactor of the West Indies, by extending to them one of the greatest blessings bestowed by nature on her favourite children.

      But it was otherwise written in the book of Fate. The remorseless severity with which he treated those under his command, – the insults he offered them, having subjected even his mate, Christian Fletcher, to corporal chastisement, combined with the recollection of the pleasant time spent in Tahaiti, produced a conspiracy of some of the crew, headed by Fletcher, to seize on the ship, remove from it the commander and his adherents, and, renouncing England for ever, to return to Tahaiti, and spend there the remaider[sic] of their lives in ease and enjoyment.

      The conspirators kept their plan so profoundly secret, that neither Bligh nor any of those who remained faithful to him, imbibed the least suspicion of the criminal project, which was put in execution at sun-rise on the 28th of April. The mate Christian, who then commanded the watch, entered, with two petty officers

230 success of the conspirators.

and a sailor, the cabin of Lieutenant Bligh, whom they found tranquilly sleeping. They fell on him, bound his hands behind his back, and threatened him with instant death if he uttered a sound, or offered the smallest resistance. Bligh, perfectly undaunted, endeavoured to grasp his weapons, and, on finding himself overpowered, called aloud for help; but the mutineers having, at the same moment, seized on all who were strangers to the plot, the unfortunate Commander had no resource but submission to his fate. He was carried on deck with no other covering than his shirt, and there found his faithful followers, nineteen in number, bound in a similar manner.

      The long-boat was now lowered; Bligh, in the mean time, attempting to recall the mutineers to their duty by unavailing remonstrances, to which renewed menaces of immediate death were the only answers.

      When the boat was ready, and the officers and sailors had been separately unbound and lowered into it, Christian addressed himself to Bligh : "Now, Captain, your officers and crew are ready; it is time for you to follow; any

consequences of tyranny. 231

opposition will cost your life." He was then liberated, and put into the boat with his companions in misfortune, amidst the bitterest execrations for his past tyranny, from the mutineers. After some provisions had been furnished to the boat, and a compass, quadrant, and a couple of old sabres added, at the entreaty of its occupants, the mutineers set their sails and abandoned their former comrades to their fate, with shouts of "Down with Captain Bligh! Hurrah for 0 Tahaiti!"

      A regular narrative of what afterwards befell these unfortunate outcasts would not be strictly in place here; but such of my readers as are yet unacquainted with the facts, may learn with interest, that though abandoned on the vast ocean, in an open boat only twenty-three feet long, six feet nine inches broad, and two feet nine inches deep, very scantily provisioned, and destitute of a chart, they ultimately succeeded, by unparalleled efforts, in reaching a place of safety. The boat being, at the period of its desertion, within about thirty miles of the island of Tofoa, it was determined to land there, and take in a store of provisions, then

232 an attack from savages.

proceed to Tongatabu, and solicit permission from the King of the Friendly Islands to put their boat into a practicable condition for hazarding a voyage to India.

      They effected their landing at Tofoa, and secured the boat to the strand, but were presently attacked by a multitude of savages, who saluted the defenceless strangers with showers of stones, and would soon have overpowered them, had not an heroic petty-officer, named Norton, resolved to sacrifice himself for the safety of his companions. He sprang on shore, loosened the iron chain which fastened the boat, and had only time to exclaim, Fly, fly! ere he was seized and murdered by the savages.

      This melancholy occurence discouraged the fugitives from touching at Tongatabu, or any other island inhabited by savages. All now applied to Bligh, with the unanimous entreaty that he would conduct them to some port in the possession of Europeans; and took a solemn oath of the most unconditional obedience to him in the execution of this design. In compliance with their wishes, Bligh adopted the daring resolution of passing through the Torres Straits

torres straits. 233

to the island of Timor, belonging to the Dutch. The distance was about four thousand miles; it was therefore indispensable to observe the most rigid economy in distributing the provisions. The whole crew submitted, without murmuring, to the daily allowance of an ounce of biscuit, and the eighth part of a bottle of water. On the following day a storm arose, which so filled the boat with water, that the most unremitting exertions were necessary to prevent her foundering. By a second storm, accompanied with violent rain, the small remaining provision of biscuit was transformed into a sort of paste, which now constituted their only food, and even of this they were hence-forward obliged to partake yet more sparingly, as the voyage proved of longer duration than was at first calculated.

      Thus utterly exhausted by hunger, thirst, fatigue, wet, the burning rays of the sun, and sickness arising from such complicated sufferings, the unfortunate wanderers, after a voyage of thirty-two days, had the indescribable joy of beholding the coast of New Zealand, and entering the Torres Straits. They landed on a

234 new perils encountered.

little uninhabited island near the coast, where they found fine flavoured fruits, oysters, and the most delicious water, all in abundance.

      Refreshed by wholesome nourishment, they reposed with rapture for one night on terra firma; but the rising sun discovered new perils. The savages, armed with spears, had assembled on the opposite coast, and threatened them with a powerful irruption, which they thought it prudent to avoid, by a precipitate retreat from the island.

      They sailed through the channel with fine weather, and a tranquil sea. The natives beckoned from the shore with green boughs, inviting them to land; but Bligh would not trust the intentions of this little hideous negro race.

      Some other uninhabited islands served them as resting-places, and for recruiting their stores with fresh water and fruits. Reanimated by the hope of soon reaching the island of Timor and the term of their sufferings, the best spirits now prevailed among them,

      But the object of their wishes was still far distant. When the boat had passed the Torres

island of timor. 235

Straits, and regained the open sea, all the inconveniences and misfortunes to which they had before been subjected, returned with redoubled severity. The whole crew was sick; some were ready to expire; almost all had resigned the hope of ever again finding safety in port, and besought Heaven only for deliverance from their accumulated sufferings by a speedy death. Bligh, though himself ill, did his utmost to inspire his men with courage, assuring them that they were approaching land.

      The promise did not fail. On the morning of the 12th of June, at three o'clock, the high mountains of the island of Timor rose in smiling majesty before them. This sight operated like an electric shock on the exhausted sufferers; they raised their hands to Heaven, and never certainly were thanksgivings more sincere. Two more days brought them to the Dutch settlement of Cupang, where the Governor received them with the utmost benevolence. The whole party, except one only, whose strength was entirely worn out, soon recovered their health, and found means of reaching England in March 1790.

236 christian elected captain.

      It might have been supposed, that the terrible lesson Bligh had received would have taught him caution for the future; but it made little impression on his character. As commander of a ship of the line, his severity again provoked a mutiny; and when afterwards Governor of New South Wales, an insurrection was excited from the same excess of discipline.

      To return from this digression to the history of the colonization of Pitcairn Island. The mutineers of the Bounty, after the success of their plot, unanimously elected Christian for their Captain, and sailed for Tahaiti. On their way thither, they passed the small hilly, well peopled island of Tabuai, seen in 1777 by Cook, and formed the resolution of settling there. With much difficulty they brought the ship into harbour, through numerous coral reefs. They were received in the most friendly manner by the natives, who only showed symptoms of uneasiness when they saw the new comers preparing to erect a fortress on a point of land near the harbour; even in this obnoxious undertaking, however, they assisted; but harmony was not of much longer continuance.

return to tahaiti. 237

The Europeans, confident in the superiority they derived from their weapons, soon became insolent, and especially irritated the islanders by the abduction of their women.

      A sudden attack was made on Christian and his crew, who gained a height, where they defended themselves, and so effectually, that none of the party was killed, and but one man wounded; while the fire of their muskets produced great havoc among the savages. Though conquerors in this instance, they however found it advisable to quit Tabuai, and to sail once more for Tahaiti. During the voyage thither, a deep melancholy seized the mind of Christian; remorse, and dark forebodings of the future, haunted him incessantly; he shut himself up in his cabin, seldom appeared, and spoke but little.

      When the Bounty again cast anchor before Tahaiti, the natives crowded to the shore, rejoicing in the speedy return of their friends, but were much surprised at missing the captain and a great part of the crew. Christian persuaded them that Captain Bligh and the other men had made a settlement on Tabuai, of which

238 a second conspiracy.

island the captain had become king, but that he himself, and those who accompanied him, preferred returning to Tahaiti, where among their kind friends, they wished to pass the remainder of their days. These innocent people gave implicit credence to his story, and heartily rejoiced in the prospect of their friends' continued residence among them. Christian's private intention, however, was to establish a colony on some unknown and uninhabited island, since it was easy to forsee, that the criminals would be first sought in Tahaiti, whenever the tidings of their proceedings should reach the English government. Being dissatisfied with some of his companions, or unable to obtain their concurrence in his views, he concerted his project with eight only of the crew, and under the strictest injunctions of secrecy. Thus arose a second conspiracy among the accomplices in guilt.

      Christian and the parties to his new plot, found an opportunity of engaging the rest of the crew at a distance. , while they weighed anchor and stood out to sea, with eight Tahai-

pitcairn island. 239

tians and ten women, whom they had enticed to accompany them. After a search of some weeks in those seas, they accidentally lighted upon Pitcairn Island, discovered by Carteret in the year 1767. Its extent is inconsiderable, but they found it uninhabited, and the soil fruitful, although high and rocky. Christian and his companions examined it closely, and, charmed with its luxuriant vegetation, resolved here to conceal themselves for ever from the world, hoping by this means to escape the punishment they so well merited.

      All their endeavours to discover a harbour capable of admitting the Bounty, proving fruitless, they determined to place themselves under the lee of the island, save the cargo, and then destroy the ship, lest its appearance might betray them to vessels passing by.

      This resolution was carried into effect, the cargo was brought quickly ashore, and the ship burnt.

      At first the colony suffered from a scarcity of provisions, as the island produced neither breadfruit nor cocoa-trees; they, however, contented

240 death of christian.

themselves with a temporary subsistence on roots and fish, relying for the future improvement of their supplies on the trees destined for the West Indies, and other plants brought from Tahaiti; which had all been landed uninjured, and immediately planted. Time indeed was required before the bread-fruit and cocoa-trees would bear, but some sweet potatoes, yams, taro-roots, and others, yielded in the following year an ample harvest.

      Unanimity and concord appeared firmly established among the colonists, who, by common consent, elected Christian as their head. Pretty little huts, and diligently cultivated fields of taro, yam, and potatoes, soon adorned the wilderness. After the lapse of three years, Christian became the father of a son, whom he named Friday Fletcher October Christian; but the infant's birth made its father a widower. Strongly inclined to a second marriage, and all the women being already provided with husbands, he seduced a wife from one of the Tahaitians, who, incensed at this outrage, watched an opportunity when Christian was at work on his plantation, attacked, and murdered him.

retaliation and revenge. 241

Intelligence of this deed spreading quickly through the colony, produced instant retribution from the musket of an Englishman.

      Long inflamed by jealousy, at the decided preference shown by their females for the strangers, the passions of the Tahaitians were exasperated beyond endurance, by this act of retaliation; they made a sudden attack by night on the English, and murdered all, except one man named Adams, who, though severely wounded, contrived to escape into the forest, and elude the pursuit of the murderers. The women rendered desperate by the massacre of their lovers, and eager for revenge, found means to obtain it the very next night. They overpowered the Tahaitians in their sleep, and murdered them to a man!

      As soon as it was light in the morning, these blood-stained Megaeras sought for the corpses of their beloved Englishmen, and perceiving that Adams was missing, conjectured that he might be concealed and safe; although traces of blood were visible on the ground of his hut. They accordingly search-

242 captain falgier's visit.

ed the forest in every direction, and at last found him in a most miserable condition. They bound his wounds, carried him into a hut, and by their united care and the application of healing herbs, Adams, being young and vigorous, soon recovered his health. The affections of all the women now concentrated themselves in this one object. He became their common chief and husband, to whom they willingly promised obedience; and, according to his testimony, jealousy never embittered their lives.

      Till the year 1803, consequently during fourteen years, Adams remained with his progeny concealed from the world. In this year the English Captain Falgier, sailing from Canton to Chili, landed at Pitcairn's Island, where they with astonishment encountered a people speaking English, having the most intimate knowledge of European customs, and betraying their origin in their features and complexion. Adams himself explained to him the enigma. Falgier communicated the information he had received to the English Government, but represented the situation of the island so erroneously, that

to pitcairn island. 243

it passed for a new discovery, till the English frigate Breton, in the year 1814, on her voyage from the Marquesas to the coast of Chili, also touched at the Pitcairn Island, which from the account of its discoverer Carteret, they considered uninhabited. The crew were therefore much surprised at the sight of cultivated fields, and ornamental cottages; and also of men assembled on the shore making friendly signals and inviting them to land. Some were even seen skilfully guiding their little canoes through the surf, and approaching the frigate.

      The sailors were about to address them in the language of the South Sea Islands, when their surprise was not a little increased by hearing the name of the ship and her captain enquired for, in pure English. The Captain himself replied to these questions, and the conversation becoming interesting, invited his new acquaintances on board; they immediately complied, and even when the whole crew surrounded them and overwhelmed them with questions, betrayed no symptom of the timidity universal among the South Sea islanders.

244 population of the island.

      The young man who had first mounted the vessel, saluted the Captain with the greatest propriety, and enquired whether he had known in England a man of the name of William Bligh. This suddenly threw a light on the mystery of the Pitcairn islanders; and they were in return asked if there was a man on the island named Christian. The answer was "No, he has been long dead, but his son is in the boat which is coming alongside." This placed the origin of the colony beyond all doubt.

      The crew of the Breton were further informed, that the whole population of the island consisted of forty-eight persons – that the men were not allowed to marry before their twentieth year, and must only have one wife – that Adams had instructed them in the Christian religion – that their general language was English, but that they also understood the Tahaitian, and that they acknowledged the King of England as their sovereign. On being asked if they did not wish to go to England with the frigate, they answered "No: we are married and have children."

simplicity op manners. 245

      The sight of a ship of war and its crew, they said, was no novelty to them; and they mentioned Captain Falgier's visit to their island. A little black poodle dog which they suddenly caught sight of, put them all to flight. "That is certainly a dog," they exclaimed, as they retreated; "we have never seen one, but we know that it will bite." A little observation, however, convinced them of the animal's good-nature, and they were soon induced to play fearlessly with him. Being conducted into the cabin, they were there entertained with a breakfast, at which they behaved very modestly, and showed in their conversation much natural understanding. They said a grace before eating, and then partook with a good appetite of the provision set before them.

      With much difficulty the Captain effected a landing. A pleasant path winding among groves of cocoa and bread-fruit trees, led him to a very pretty, well situated little village, whose houses, though small, were convenient and beautifully clean.

      One of Adams's daughters, a young and very attractive looking girl, received the guests, and

246 pitcairn islanders.

conducted them to her father, a man of sixty, but still of very vigorous appearance.

      The conversation naturally fell on Christian's mutiny, in which Adams maintained he had taken no part, having been wholly unacquainted with the design till the moment of its execution. He spoke with abhorrence of the manner in which Captain Bligh and his officers and men had been treated.

      The Captain proposed to Adams to accompany him back to England; but the whole colony assembling round him, with tears in their eyes, besought him not to take their good father from them. The scene affected even the Englishmen.

      The Pitcairn islanders are of very pleasing exterior; they have black hair and beautiful teeth. The men are slender, and their height five feet ten inches and upwards. The dress of both sexes consists of a mantle like the Chilian pancho, and they wear hats made of reeds adorned with feathers. They still possess a great quantity of old clothes from the ship Bounty, but, with better taste than their maternal ancestors the Tahaitians, they never wear

adams's patriarchal character. 247

them. The island has a beautiful appearance, and is said to be extremely fruitful. Wild boars are found in the interior.

      Seven years after this visit of the Breton, the American merchant-ship Eagle, whose Captain I met in Chili, touched on Pitcairn Island. He found the population already increased to a hundred persons, and was delighted with the order and good government of the little colony. Adams reigned as a patriarch king amongst them, and, as sovereign arbitrator, settled all disputes, no one presuming to object to his decision. Every family possessed a portion of land; the fields were measured off from each other, industriously cultivated, and yielding abundant crops of yams and sweet potatoes. On Sundays, the whole population assembled at Adams's house, when he read the Bible to them, exhorted them to concord and good conduct, and took pains to confirm their virtuous dispositions.

      Every evening at sunset, when after the heat of the day the inhabitants of this delightful climate are revived by the refreshing coolness of the air, the young people formed a semi-

248 benefits of instruction.

circle round their beloved father, while he communicated to them some knowledge of the manners and history of his native country, its connections with other nations, and the arts, inventions, and customs of the European world. Adams's knowledge is probably not very extensive, but it has sufficed to enable him to train up his numerous family in habits and information which fit them for the easy acquisition of all the arts of civilization.

      His attentive auditory have accurately retained his instructions, and converse with wonderful facility on the characteristics and customs of different nations.

      Abusive words are strictly prohibited; and some of the islanders, perfectly astonished at hearing a sailor on board the American vessel which visited them swear at another, enquired of the Captain whether such expressions were permitted in his country.

      The Captain was enchanted with the conduct and character of this amiable people; and ascribed their virtues to the instructions and example of their patriarch. This good old man, however, expressed much anxiety con-

love of native land. 249

cerning the future. "I cannot," said he, "live much longer, – and who shall prosecute the work I have begun? My children are not yet so firmly established, but that they are liable to fall into error. They require the guidance of an intelligent virtuous man from some civilized nation."

      At Tahaiti, as already stated, I met with one of Adams's wives, who had arrived there a short time before in an European ship, and from her I learnt many of the particulars here related. She spoke tolerably good English, but with a foreign accent. This old woman had been induced, by that longing for our native home which acts so powerfully upon the human mind, to return to the land of her birth, where she intended to have closed her life, but she soon changed her mind. The Tahaitians, she assured me, were by no means so virtuous as the natives of the little Paradise to which she was now all impatience to return. She had a very high opinion of her Adams, and maintained that no man in the world was worthy of comparison with him. She still spoke with vehement indignation of the murder of the

250 fate of the mutineers.

English by her countrymen, and boasted of the vengeance she had taken.

      Adams, who was now very aged and feeble, had proposed to the Missionaries to send a Tahaitian as his successor; and fearing that the population of his island might exceed the means of subsistence which their quantity of arable land afforded, he was desirous of settling some of his families in Tahaiti.

      With his first wish the Missionaries will certainly comply as a means of extending their dominion over Pitcairn Island also. May Adams's paternal government never be exchanged for despotism, nor his practical lessons of piety be forgotten in empty forms of prayer.

      In the year 1791, the English frigate Pandora was sent, under the command of Captain Edwards, to the South Sea in pursuit of the mutineers against Bligh. Those who had remained in Tahaiti were found and carried back to England, where they were condemned to death according to the laws; the royal mercy was extended to a few only, the rest suffered the full penalty of their crime.


Otto von Kotzebue,
1787 - 1846

(This biography is taken from Wikipedia, last accessed on Dec. 12, 2016.)

      Otto von Kotzebue (December 30, 1787 – February 15, 1846) was a Baltic German navigator in Russian service

      The second son of writer and diplomat August von Kotzebue, he was born in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia), then part of the Russian Empire. After attending the Saint Petersburg school of cadets, he accompanied Adam Johann von Krusenstern on his voyage of 1803–1806. On promotion to lieutenant, Kotzebue was placed in command of an expedition, fitted out at the expense of the imperial chancellor, Count Nikolay Rumyantsev, in the brig Rurik. In this vessel, with only twenty-seven men, including the naturalists Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz and Adelbert von Chamisso, and the artist Louis Choris, Kotzebue set out on July 30, 1815 to find a passage across the Arctic Ocean and explore the less-known parts of Oceania

      Proceeding via Cape Horn, he discovered the Romanzov Islands, Rurik Islands and Krusenstern Islands (today Tikehau), then made for Kamchatka, and in the middle of July proceeded northward, coasting along the north-west coast of North America, and discovering and naming Kotzebue Sound or Gulf and Cape Krusenstern in the remote Chukchi Sea. Returning by the coast of Asia, he again sailed to the south, sojourned for three weeks at the Sandwich Islands, and on January 1, 1817 discovered New Year Island. After further cruising in the Pacific Ocean, he again proceeded north, but severe illness compelled him to return to Europe, and he reached the Neva River on August 3, 1818, bringing home a large collection of previously unknown plants and much new ethnological information.

      In 1823 Kotzebue, now a captain, was entrusted with the command of an expedition in two ships of war, the main object of which was to take reinforcements to Kamchatka. There was, however, a staff of scientists on board the Russian sailing sloop "Enterprise," who collected much valuable information and material in geography, ethnography and natural history. The expedition, proceeding by Cape Horn, visited the Radak and Society Islands, and reached Petropavlovsk in July 1824. Many positions along the coast were rectified, the Navigator islands visited, and several discoveries made. The expedition returned by the Marianas, Philippines, New Caledonia and the Hawaiian Islands, reaching Kronstadt on July 10, 1826.

      There are English translations of both Kotzebue's narratives: A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Bering’s Straits for the Purpose of exploring a North-East Passage, undertaken in the Years 1815–1818 (3 vols. 1821), and A New Voyage Round the World in the Years 1823–1826 (1830). He died in Reval (now Tallinn) in 1846 and was buried in the Kose churchyard approx. 30 km from Tallinn where his imposing monument now stands. In the last years of his life he lived at the Triigi Manor (Kau) near Kose. Kotzebue Sound and the city of Kotzebue, Alaska are named after him. Kotzebue Street in the Kalamaja area of northern Tallinn is named after him and after his father August von Kotzebue, who both lived on the street. The species Pachliopta kotzebuea was also named after him from Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, a Botanist and Math teacher aboard the Rurik.


Otto Von Kotzebue.
      A New Voyage Round the World in the Years 1823, 24, 25, and 26. By Otto Von Kotzebue, Post Captain in the Russian Imperial Navy. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830. pp.225-250.