Herbert Tichborne.

Rambles in Polynesia online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryHerbert TichborneRambles in Polynesia → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


-



FROM AMONG THEBGDKS OF



IRENE **d EDMUND

ANDREWS




EAMBLES IN POLYNESIA



RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA



BY



'SUNDOWNER'

AUTHOR OF 'ABOVE THE CLOUDS IN ECUADOB,' 'ON THE WALLABY IN MAOBILAND '

"FROM KOSCIUHKO TO CHIMBORAZO,' 'WILD LIFE IN THE PACIFIC,'

' SNAKES,' ' NOQU TALANOA ' ETC. ETC.



LONDON
EUEOPEAN MAIL, LIMITED

IMPERIAL BUILDINGS, LUDGATE CIRCUS, E.C.
1897

Price Four Shillings



PBEFACE



IN his enchanting poem ' The Island,' Lord
Byron gave a romantic rendition of the famous
adventure of the Bounty mutineers, writing with
strange accuracy about those fair Pacific lands

Where all partake the earth without dispute,
And bread itself is gathered as a fruit.

Captain Bligh's expedition to the Pacific was
undertaken, curiously enough, with the object of
transplanting the hospitable bread-fruit-tree.

It was Byron's poem which first drew the
close attention of the people of these islands to
the archipelagoes of Polynesia, and there has
been a mild stream of emigration to that part of
the world ever since.

It is practically impossible to compute the
white population of the Southern Pacific groups.
Wastrel lordlets and runaway men-of-war's men



Vlil RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

alike find shelter and homes in those Elysian
atolls and islets where are

The kava feast, the yam, the coco's root,
Which bears at once the cup, and milk, and fruit ;
The bread- tree, which, without the ploughshare yields
The unreap'd harvest of unfurrow'd fields,
And bakes its unadulterated loaves
Without a furnace in unpurchased groves,
And flings off famine from its fertile breast,
A priceless market for the gathering guest.

There is an air of happiness about everything
in the South Pacific. The palm-trees rustle
friendly greetings to the stranger ; the birds and
animals of the groves and jungles stand their
ground as a stranger approaches, confident that
no harm is coming to them. The islanders
themselves are cordial, affectionate and lovable,
honest as the sun, and innocent as doves.
Those who have spent any time in the Pacific
Islands grieve at leaving them. Those who have
left them are always longing to return.

In the years to come, when the vast fertile
territories of Australia, Tasmania, and New
Zealand will be carrying scores of millions of
people, Fiji and Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti, Eara-
tonga and the Tokalaus will be the Bermudas
of the Southern Seas. The salubrious, congenial



PREFACE IX

climate of the islands, their picturesque scenery,
and their noble and interesting people, will
render them favourite resorts of the holiday-
seeker from the Australian and New Zealand
cities. Already, indeed, the tourist tide has 'set
in to the islands, and there is no doubt that this
will largely and rapidly develop.

Nor are these Antipodean archipelagoes draw-
ing their admiring visitors from the Southern
Colonies alone. Canadians, Americans, Euro-
peans, travellers from Japan, China, India, and
the East generally, and from Africa, are all find-
ing their way to the South Pacific, which is
obviously destined to become the best frequented
and most popular holiday resort in the world.

Those who know the Polynesian islands well
believe in their great future ; those who know
the Polynesian islanders love them.

SUNDOWNEE.

LONDON :
September, 1897.



CONTENTS



PAGE

POLYNESIA AND THE POLYNESIANS 1

NA KAI VITI 9

SEA-SERPENTS AND BOMB-FISH 14

FIJIAN JUSTICE 19

A MARE ISLAND CHIEFTAIN 27

TUI DREKETI AND MAAFU 37

A PAGE FROM THE HISTORY OF CAKAUDROVE .... 47

ABORIGINAL JURISPRUDENCE 57

NA KAI SOLOMONI 67

STRANGE PEOPLES AND MONARCHS 75

SHARK GUP 85

POLYNESIAN PRECOCITY 94

A DUSK? QUEEN .103

PACIFIC POISONS 112

BABY-LIFE IN POLYNESIA .118

THE VAGARIES OF LIFE IN YAP .127

GUILLOTINING UNDER DIFFICULTIES 134

DARBY AND JOAN ON VANUA LEVU 141

REEF JUMPING 146

AN ADVENTURE AMONG SHARKS .152

ABOUT SAMOA .160

TONGA AND THE TONGANS 167

SPORT IN THE ISLANDS 178

THE TOKALAU ISLANDERS 187

MAKUNl's LOVE AFFAIR 195

TATTOOING IN TAHITI 199

LAKO-MAI ...... 2 3



EAMBLES IN POLYNESIA



POLYNESIA AND THE POLYNESIANS

IT has been my privilege to see a goodly portion
of the world, from the crags and fjords of the
Scandinavian Peninsula to their counterparts
in Southern Maoriland, from the strangely
weird mountain fastness of Tierra del Fuego to
the soft fairylands of Nippon; but of all the
regions that have come before me always
barring out the little brown hills of my native
place, the meanest of which I would not swop
for all the gold in Ophir give me the islands of
the Polynesian circle. If my own place should
be sunk away in some strange seismic accident,
and I may not be laid to rest with my own folk
under the old gum trees on the Kolarendabri,
give me in mercy some six feet by two patch to
rest in under a coconut tree in a South Pacific



2 KAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

paradise any one will do where an occasional
nut may thump down upon me, and the pretty
bronzed children of the southern sun may sprawl
and gambol above me. Even gaunt and accursed
New Caledonia, with its hard-faced mountains
and gloomy valleys, has its fascinations, as have
the wild volcanic-stained New Hebrides. What
are the glories of Vesuvius to those of Ambrym,
with its strange terrors, and the simmering seas
around it ? Where is the grandeur of your
Scotch or English, Welsh or Irish mountains,
when you confront the sublime magnificence of
those of the Solomons, of Viti and Vanua Levu,
of Samoa and Tahiti ?

Then to loll about on the deck of a canoe
along the fringes of islands where the ripe
bananas and the rich flowers scrape on the
sinnet rigging, to dream away the hours among
the laughing, gentle people of those heaven-
dressed spots in the Pacific seas, these sweet
zephyr-lands under the Southern Cross, where
is there softer rest or more complete repose in
all the earth ? For such things, and many
others that cluster in a grateful memory, I love
the Polynesias and their peoples.



POLYNESIA AND THE POLYNESIANS

As birds, butterflies, and other forms of
supreme life take their colour and character
from the countries on which they find their
being, so do the Pacific islanders have their
personal characters intoned in consonance with
the sweetness and picturesqueness of their
physical surroundings. The Kai-Colo of the
highlands of Viti-Levu has a masculine, strenu-
ous bearing that harmonises with the strident,
majestic air of his natal mountains ; the Tahi-
tian has a gentle, forceful habit born of the
poetical yet stubborn headlands of his island
home. The Samoan, the Tongan, the Kanaka,
the Tokalau, all bear the natural impress of their
native heath; and all the races, from Choiseul
to the Paumotous, from Apamama to Tongatabu,
to their glory be it written, love their countries
with a curious fanaticism and patriotism that
strike the stranger, whoever he may be.

For a connected or reliable history of the
Polynesian races we must look in vain. Even
the intelligent Maori of New Zealand knows not
whence his ancestors came. In the case of the
Maori, however, with characteristic tenacity he
has preserved a rough sort of account of his race



4 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

from the landing of the famous canoes in Maori-
land, supposedly some seven hundred years
ago. The Maori adventurers who voyaged in
their canoes down the Pacific till they came
across New Zealand, and settled there to drive
the aboriginal Moriori into the sea, hailed from
Hawaiki, according to popular tradition ; but the
most erudite inquirer cannot say whether
Hawaiki stands for Tonga or Fiji, for Tahiti
or for distant Hawaii. There is a remarkable
affinity between the languages of the Maori and
the Tokalau, but physical or other resemblance
between the two races there is none, and the
ethnological student is puzzled in regard to this
as well as other points. No one can form any
idea as to where the Fijians came from, although
they are an intelligent and superior race in most
ways. In connection with the Fijians, however,
it is an interesting fact that they themselves
apparently came down upon a superior indi-
genous people, for there are many traces,
especially on the north of Vanua Levu, of
ancient stone-walled towns of much more
elaborate style and character than anything
attempted by Fijians, of recent generations at all



POLYNESIA AND THE POLYNESIANS 5

events. In a relative way, these strange ruins
are to Fiji what Zimbabw^ is to Mashonaland,
and Anuradhapura to Northern Ceylon.

In Ponape, Easter Island, and other places
in the Pacific, there are many similar traces of
superior, ancient races, and in some cases ruins
of towns, monuments, and kindred relics have
been found under the sea, bearing out the theory
believed in by many, especially American,
students, that the various groups in the Pacific
are but the mountain-tops, so to say, of a great
continent, which in times gone by occupied what
we know now as the Pacific region.

Be all these matters as they may, the present
denizens of the Polynesian archipelagoes know
nothing, and doubtless care less, about where they
sprang from. Probably, if you asked them, they
would, like the artless Topsy in ' Uncle Tom's
Cabin,' say that they ' 'spected they grow'd.'
And there is but little hope of solving the
mystery, so that it must be allowed to rest.

But there they all are in their pristine
simplicity, without vice, temper, or wayward-
ness. No women of any colour or kind are
more beautiful or tender-hearted than theirs, no



6 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

men on earth more modest or brave. Chris-
tianity has done much to improve and develop
their mental faculties, but the incursion of the
white man, generally speaking, has done them
a certain amount of harm.

The Polynesian races, in their contact with
the European invader, must inevitably suffer
from the fact that none of them possess in any
degree that robustness of intellect and character
which, for instance, marks the Maori. In the
first years of our immigration to New Zealand
the Maori rather liked the idea. He could sell
our traders human heads, native weapons, and
what not, and buy guns, powder, cloth, knives,
and other things. By degrees, as the pakehct,
began to settle down in the country, the Maori
grew uneasy, and eventually made up his mind
that the trespasser must be driven into the sea.
And how near we were, more than once, of being
so driven ! If the Maori tribes had remained true
to each other and to the cause which their leaders
took the field for, where would the paJceha have
been ? With all the great aid of the Maori
chiefs and tribes who turned traitor to their own
cause, we were compelled to wade through long



POLYNESIA AND THE POLYNESIANS 7

and bloody wars, losing thousands of lives and
millions of money to save ourselves from being
sent the way of the Moriori by these brave,
patriotic people.

Beaten, but not degraded, the irrepressible
Maori, having nothing for it but to give in,
turned round and began to wear our trousers,
our boots and frock-coats, even our awful nail-
keg hats. Then he took to keeping public-
houses and stores, practising law, and going into
Parliament. Now he is one of us and will
remain so to the end, taking no more harm from
our contact with him than any of our own
people.

For long years yet, and possibly for ever, the
Polynesian islander will wear his sulu or lava-
lava, as the case may be. Now and again when
an odd Solomon islander or other progressive
spirit dons a pair of pants, his mates laugh him
back into his natural nakedness, and when he
does as sometimes when he becomes a mission
teacher put on a European suit, he looks as
clumsy as King Khama in store clothes. A
Maori chief will wear a frock-coat and silk hat
with as true and jaunty a swing as an army man.



8 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

Let us hope that the Polynesian may keep
steadily on in his own old-fashioned way. His
dress and general habit become him. Let him
learn such good from us as we can bring in his
way, and may Heaven preserve him from our
vices. The Polynesian men and women are
great, big, lively babies, all mirth and innocence :
a curse be on the head of the thoughtless or
vicious European aggressor who does anything
to stifle that simple mirth or pollute that sacred
innocence.



NA KAI VITI

THE equanimity of temperament of the ordinary
Fijian is remarkable, and at times forms a
pleasing study. I had a big cook-boy once on
Kandavu who stood six feet four inches in
his bare feet, and who was only about twenty
years of age. To a new chum he would be a
savage-looking customer, with his wild hair and
ferocious cast of countenance. But Uiliami
was amiability personified, and few things ruffled
him, if we except the cat who reared a litter of
kittens in his bed once, and made him sleep for
some weeks in one of the common bures down
the compound (he was too tender-hearted to
throw pussy and her family out of window) and
our collie dog. The latter free and easy rascal
had the bad habit, so Uiliami solemnly reported
to us almost every day, of biting one or other
of the best home pigs on the hind-leg, and all
without any provocation. Then, when biting
the nether-legs of porkers grew monotonous,

c



10 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

Spot had the evil tendency to have a go at
Uiliami's hind-leg as well, and so became too
personal for tolerance, from the point of view
of Uiliami. Nevertheless, among this curious
trio there were bonds of affection, and they all
loved each other in a three-cornered kind of
way. When the kittens grew up a little,
Uiliami would often beg off for an hour after
dinner to go and read Tioni Puniani to his
mother down at the far end of the compound.
We learned presently that instead of trying to
drive the drift of the immortal allegory of the
Pilgrim's Progress, as rendered in rough Fijian,
into the maternal mind, Uiliami had a knack of
carrying the kittens their mother following
anxiously down to a quiet corner of the tobacco-
drying shed, where he took out his hour of grace
watching the little chaps gambol about on the
mats, himself helping on the sport with sinnet-
balls, rope-ends, and such. With the dog the
same sort of thing developed. We had an old
three-quarter blind horse on the place, that
Uiliami used to ride when he wanted, by way of
giving the poor old pensioner a little exercise.
Old Boko was handy in many ways, because



NA KAI VITI 11

Uiliami could string bunches of bananas, yams,
or any other freight across his withers, and bring
loads of things home in comfort. The dog and
the horse had a great affection for each other,
the dog being specially attached to his equine
friend on account of the latter's blindness. So
when Uiliami got aboard Boko and made a start,
it soon became the regular habit of the collie to
lead the way along the sinuous pathways so
peculiar to Fiji at any rate, peculiarly so ta
Kandavu. If the ground showed signs of be-
coming slippery or dangerous, the dog apprised
Boko and his rider, and accidents were averted.
So there was a general friendliness all round.
But evil days fell upon us. The young cats
took to the bush one by one, and poor old Boko
caught the horse-sickness, and though we did all
that was humanly possible in the circumstances,
he crossed over into the Elysian paddocks one
night without a neigh. He seemed to know as
well as a human might that the collie was
affectionately licking his shins, and that poor
Uiliami was raining warm tears on his fine old
neck as he stood there gamely at the end, with
the shadow of death closing about him.

c 2



12 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

I have been coming through all this round-
about stuff to tell you about the equable tem-
perament of the average Fijian, my cook-boy
Uiliami being an ordinary specimen. Six feet-
four high, and savage-looking, I said. He was
humourful and irrepressible, and one evening,
when I was turning in home from a pig-shoot,
I happened to stumble suddenly upon Uiliami
among the bananas, hammering the life out of a
little twelve-year-old Fijian. (I learned subse-
quently that the youngster had, with a sharp-
shooting catapult, landed a half-ounce lump of
rock, at thirty yards range, on Uiliami's sensitive
back, while the latter was stooping over one of
his cooking-pots in the home compound.) You
have to be sharp in such cases, to teach the
proper lesson, and so when I got close I reached
out, giving Uiliami due notice, of course, and
brought him a stiffish bang in the eye. He
returned to his cooking-pots without a word,
while the young rascal who caused all the
trouble picked up his catapult, wiped his eye,
and sloped through the bananas homewards.
Afterwards at dinner Uiliami waited upon us as
usual, as if nothing had happened, although his



NA KAT VITI 13

eye had grown meanwhile into a wonderful
picture. After dinner we had the medicine-
chest out and fixed the bruise up comfortably ;
but there was never a word of complaint from
Uiliami, who, as far as our relations were con-
cerned, went along as if absolutely nothing in
the world had happened. But he took the lesson
well to heart, and never attempted to beat
anyone smaller than himself after that.



14 RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA



SEA-SERPENTS AND BOMB-FISH

IN face of the apocryphal character of the
general run of sea-serpent stories it requires
some hardihood to asseverate that the sea-
serpent really does exist, and may often be seen
in Pacific waters. Some years ago I caught
one with a line while fishing for schnapper off
Barrenjoey, between Sydney and Newcastle, on
the east coast of Australia; and I have often
seen them, some over thirty feet long, in Bass's
Straits, and off the famous long beach on the
east side of the Middle Island of New Zealand,
between Dunedin and Port Lyttelton. The one
that took my hook at Barrenjoey measured
sixteen feet nine inches from his ugly snout to
his tail-end, and proved himself a very tough
customer to manage when we were getting him
into the boat. I do not think that the sea-
serpent is very savage by nature ; but he has a
ferocious head, which reminds you somewhat of



SEA-SERPENTS AND BOMB-FISH 15

the facial expression of a bulldog. He has an
uncouth mouth and face generally, but a kindly
eye, and this one at Barrenjoey gave a pathetic,
appealing look all round among us when he saw,
near the end of the struggle, that our aboriginal,
Kombo-Kombo, was about to finish him off with
the axe. He had made a good fight of it, and
altogether died like a Mahomedan.

When the sea-serpent is spinning along
through the water at top speed and he can
give a porpoise points at covering the water
it would be very easy to imagine, seeing the
peculiar long streak he leaves in his wake, that
he was fifty or a hundred feet long. In Brisbane
once I met a trading skipper from Thursday
Island who had passed a serpent on the voyage
down, which he described as being over two
hundred feet long. In cross-examination, how-
ever, the skipper admitted that he had been

drinking Queensland rum just before. So we

f

knocked a hundred and eighty feet off the
serpent right away, and left the skipper with a
twenty-foot reptile, which was probably about
the size of it.

There are many of these sea-snakes among



16 KAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

the various Pacific archipelagoes, and they are
to be met with commonly at low tide on the
coral reefs in the Fiji and other groups. These
as a rule, however, do not run so large as the
specimens encountered on the Australian and
New Zealand coasts, and further to the north,
about the Hawaiian Islands and along the Can-
adian Pacific slope. But the smaller serpents
of the Central Pacific are savage to a degree,
and have a much stronger disposition to show
fight than their lazier fellow-serpents on land.
Those in Fiji are to a degree amphibious, and
I remember once, in the Yasawas, a fiery little
tiger-marked sea-serpent he was only about
eight feet long chasing a fox-terrier that barked
at him on the reef about a quarter of a mile
inland. At that point one of our Solomon
Island boatmen got him a smack across the small
of the back with a long bamboo, and he promptly
transferred his attentions from the canine run-
away to the Kai-Solomoni. The latter dropped
the bamboo and bolted for dear life, never once
looking back till he got safely aboard the whale-
boat.

The womenfolk in the Pacific Islands have



SEA-SERPENTS AND BOMB-FISH 17

an instinctive horror of these reptiles of the
coral reefs. The men have no such serious fear,
but it cannot be said that they hanker after the
company of these slimy creatures.

Have you ever heard of the bursting fish of
Fiji ? Most people decline to believe in the
existence of this curious specimen of sea life, and
I must confess to having been sceptical till I saw
the fish for myself, and saw him burst, too. We
were going slow on one occasion between Goro
and Gau, when, with some extra long lines
which we had, we went in for some very deep-
sea fishing, going much below the level of the
saqa, and other well-known edible fish, as we
had an idea we should like to hook one of the
bursting tribe, our Fijian sailors assuring us
that there were plenty in that neighbourhood.
Sure enough, after a little, one of the down-
under fellows took my bait, and we hauled him
up, slowly, of course, as I had so much line out
that there was a danger of it snapping. The
burster is shaped something after the fashion
of the box-fish, only much rougher generally.
We hauled him aboard, but he had not lain six
seconds on the deck before he went bang, prac-



IS RAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

ideally as if lie had been a bomb. The noise of
the explosion was a curious one, and it affected
the ears in a strange way. One of the fish's
eyes hit our Tongan skipper on the jaw, and set
him off talkJTig "English in the emphatic and
peculiar way which characterised that intrepid
and linguistically accomplished sailor. A ridge
of the fin hit me hard on the knee ; while there
was hardly a soul on board who did not come in
for some part of the curious bursting, flying fish.
When I go fishing for bursters again in Fiji
I shall try and have a new chum with me, so
that when I get a bite I can hand him the line
to do the hauling in while I go below for a spell.



FIJIAN JUSTICE

As the traveller passes through the Straits of
Somo-Somo, between Taviuni, the 'Garden of
Fiji,' and the large island of Vanua Leva, there
are many historic spots on either coast to which
his native guide will draw his attention. There
is scarcely a page in the records of Old Fiji
which does not contain some reference to the
thousand-and-one battles by land and sea which
disturbed the now peaceful and pleasant-looking
Straits in the old fighting days.

Not the least celebrated spot in this pictur-
esque neighbourhood is the old town of Wai-kava,
which stands at the head of a little bay on the
Yanua Levu coast, almost facing the great sugar
plantations of Taviuni. Eatu Josepha Lala,
the talented young roko (governor) of the large
native province of Cakaudrove, and the last
living representative of the famous old dynasty
of Tui-Cakau, has an old fourteen-pounder lying



20 EAMBLES IN POLYNESIA

in his garden at Somo-Somo which was once
used by his ancestors in the bombardment of the
Wai-kava stronghold. But, as in other countries
where the progress of civilisation has converted
the swords into ploughshares, the old hotbed of
ferocity and cannibalism around Wai-kava is
now a thing of the past, and the spear of war
has been converted into an uvi-Jcau, or yam-
digger.

Wai-kava now possesses its schools, its mis-
sion station, and also that necessary evil, a
police-court, with its attendant ovisas and court
functionaries. It fell to my lot to hold court
in Wai-kava upon one occasion. I arrived in
the town one Sunday afternoon, and was pleased
to learn from the young Fijian who officiated as
clerk of petty sessions that the calendar for the
following day was a very limited one. There was
only one case, in fact a charge of assault and
battery, preferred against a plantation overseer
in the neighbourhood by a young native who
had been working on the place.

In the house of the village chief we found
all the parties assembled, deeply engaged in the
pastime of imbibing yaqona, or native grog.



FIJIAN JUSTICE 21

Without prejudice to the case which was to come
before me the following morning, I joined in the
general conversation respecting the personal


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryHerbert TichborneRambles in Polynesia → online text (page 1 of 13)