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a number rise, like long curved or circular banks of sand, broken coral, and shells, two or three feet above the water, clothed with grass, or adorned with cocoa-nut and palm trees. They generally form a curved line, sometimes bent like a horseshoe; the bank of soil or rock is seldom more than half a mile or a mile across, yet it is often clothed with the richest verdure. Within this enclosure is a space, sometimes of great extent. In the island of Hao, the Bow Island of Captain Cook, it is said, ships may sail many miles after entering the lagoon. The narrow strip of coral and sand enclosing the basin is sixty or seventy miles in length, although exceedingly narrow. Their lagoons are either studded with smaller reefs, or form a bay of great depth. The stillness of the surface of the bright blue water, within the lagoon, the border of white coral and sand by which it is surrounded, the dark foliage of the lofty trees by which it is sheltered, often reflected from the surface of the water, impart to the interior of these low islands an aspect of singular beauty and solitude, such as is but seldom presented by the more bold and romantic scenery of the higher lands. These islands have received different names: by some they have been called the Labyrinth, by others the Pearl Islands, on account of the pearls obtained among them. The natives of Tahiti designate the islands and their inhabitants Paumotus, but by navigators they are usually denominated the Dangerous Archipelago.
The islands vary in extent, but are usually small; most of them, however, are inhabited, and in some the population is numerous. Their inhabitants are tall and robust, dark coloured, and
amongst the most rude and savage tribes of the eastern Pacific. Their food principally consists of fish and cocoa-nuts, as there is but little land capable of cultivation. Their means of subsistence are often scanty, and always precarious. They are exceedingly ferocious, and addicted to war, which they prosecute with cruelty, and are said generally to feast on the slain a captive child has been fed with the flesh of her own parent. The trees on the island are but small, yet the natives formerly built better vessels than any other nation in the eastern part of the ocean, and they are more daring and successful navigators than the more favoured and civilized tribes which they occasionally visit. Their canoes were dignified by the Tahitians with the name of pahi, a term applied only to their own war-canoes, and the vessels of foreigners, and they are still superior to any in this part of the Pacific, excepting those recently constructed at Tahiti in the European
The miseries of war had, in the early part of the reign of Pomare II., king of Tahiti, driven many of the inhabitants of these islands to the Georgian group for security. They were protected and hospitably entertained by Pomare; and when his own subjects renounced idolatry, they also cast away the gods they had brought with them, and were instructed by the Missionaries. In 1817 great numbers returned to their native islands, accompanied by Moorea, one of their countrymen, who was a pious man, and had been taught to read. On reaching Anaa, or Chain Island, his birth-place, he began to instruct the people with such success, under the Divine blessing, that, with the exception of the inhabit
ants of one district, the population agreed to renounce heathenism.
Moorea was subsequently charged with having deceived his countrymen in the accounts he had given of the change at Tahiti, and was obliged to leave the island, as his life was threatened. The idolaters, convinced afterwards that they had accused him falsely, burnt their idols, and demolished their temples. About four hundred of them then sailed to Tahiti, for books and instruction. They obtained a supply of books, and became the pupils of Mr. Crook, who had the satisfaction of admitting several of them to fellowship with the Christians under his care. Early in 1822, Moorea and Teraa were publicly designated, by the members of the church in Wilkes' Harbour, as Christian teachers, and sailed for Anaa. Shortly afterwards, a canoe from this island, which is situated in 17. S. lat. 145. W. long. arrived at Tahiti. These dauntless sailors, who, in order to procure books, had traversed, in their rudely built vessels, a distance of three hundred miles, brought the pleasing tidings, that the inhabitants of Anaa were willing to receive Christianity, were building a place of worship in every district, that war, cannibalism, and other atrocities of idolatry, had ceased. Two other teachers, Manao and Mareuu, were afterwards sent to these islands.
Anaa, when visited by Mr. Crook, in January, 1825, presented a scene of ruin and desolation, occasioned by a violent tempest, which had been accompanied by an impetuous inundation of the sea. Hundreds of large trees, torn up by the roots, lay strewn in wild confusion on the shore: a number of dwellings, and fourteen places of worship, were levelled to the ground. The calamity had been as sudden as it was severe: the
falling of the trees, and the rising of the sea over those entangled among their trunks, and the ruins of their houses, had occasioned the loss of many lives. Besides the distress caused by the above afflictive visitation, he received the unpleasant tidings of the defection of two of the native teachers; but was gratified to learn, that Manao and Mareuu were stedfast, and that the inhabitants of ten other islands, among those so thickly spread over the ocean, between Tahiti and the Marquesas, had received native teachers. The influence of Christianity had been salutary, in softening the barbarous character of the natives of Anaa, yet their savage dispositions were occasionally manifested. Desirous to extend the knowledge of the new religion, they sent two native teachers to Amanu. The inhabitants of this island attacked the strangers, wounded one of the teachers, killed both their wives, and obliged the survivor and his friends to seek their safety in flight. The wife of one of the teachers was the daughter of the chief of Anaa. The report of her murder so enraged many of the inhabitants, that, forgetting the principles of forbearance inculcated by the gospel, and so nobly exhibited by their countrymen on another occasion, they fitted out a fleet, sailed to Amanu, and punished with death a number of the inhabitants.
Captain Beechey, who recently visited this archipelago, has furnished an interesting account of the appearance, extent, and structure of many of these islands, with an affecting description of the state of the inhabitants; and although he must have been misled in the report he received of the Chain Islanders being cannibals, notwithstanding their having embraced Christianity, his account of the native teachers, whom he met with, shews the
favourable impression their deportment left upon his mind. Speaking of his intercourse with the people on an island in 19. 40. S. lat. and 140. 29. W. long., which he has designated Byam Martin Island, he observes, "We soon discovered that our little colony were Christians: they took an early opportunity of convincing us of this, and that they had both Testaments and hymn-books printed in the Otaheitan language, &c. Some of the girls repeated hymns, and the greater part evinced a respect for the sacred books, which reflects much credit upon the Missionaries under whose care, we could no longer doubt, they had at one time been."*
The frigate afterwards visited Bow Island; and having spoke of the state of the inhabitants, the tyranny and brutality of the men, and the debasement and misery of the females, Captain Beechey, mentioning the presence of the Dart, an English vessel, states, "The supercargo of the Dart had hired a party of the natives of Chain Island to dive for shells among these was a native Missionary, a very well-behaved man, who used every effort to convert his new acquaintances to Christianity. He persevered amidst much silent ridicule, and at length succeeded in persuading the greater part of the islanders to conform to the ceremonies of
Christian worship. It was interesting to contemplate a body of savages abandoning their superstitions, silently and reverently kneeling upon the sandy shore, and joining in the morning and evening prayers to the Almighty."+
* Beechey's Voyage, vol. i. p. 164. + Ibid. vol. i. p. 178.