Sir John Barrow.

The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences online

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tobacco, which the chief had asked from some of the seamen, and
imitating them, as he thought, he had rolled it about in his mouth,
grinding it to powder with his teeth, and ultimately swallowing it.
During the examination of the leaf he looked up at Mr. Banks with the
most piteous countenance, and intimated that he had but a very short
time to live. A copious draught of cocoa-nut milk, however, set all to
rights, and the chief and his attendants were at once restored to that
flow of cheerfulness and good-humour, which is the characteristic of
these single-minded people.

There is, however, one plant from the root of which they extract a juice
of an intoxicating quality, called _Ava_, but Cook's party saw nothing
of its effects, probably owing to their considering drunkenness as a
disgrace. This vice of drinking ava is said to be peculiar almost to the
chiefs, who vie with each other in drinking the greatest number of
draughts, each draught being about a pint. They keep this intoxicating
juice with great care from the women.

As eating is one of the most important concerns of life, here as well as
elsewhere, Captain Cook's description of a meal made by one of the
chiefs of the island cannot be considered as uninteresting, and is here
given in his own words.

'He sits down under the shade of the next tree, or on the shady side of
his house, and a large quantity of leaves, either of the bread-fruit or
bananas, are neatly spread before him upon the ground as a table-cloth;
a basket is then set by him that contains his provision, which, if fish
or flesh, is ready dressed, and wrapped up in leaves, and two cocoa-nut
shells, one full of salt water and one of fresh. His attendants, which
are not few, seat themselves round him, and when all is ready, he begins
by washing his hands and his mouth thoroughly with the fresh water, and
this he repeats almost continually throughout the whole meal. He then
takes part of his provision out of the basket, which generally consists
of a small fish or two, two or three bread-fruits, fourteen or fifteen
ripe bananas, or six or seven apples. He first takes half a bread-fruit,
peels off the rind, and takes out the core with his nails; of this he
puts as much into his mouth as it can hold, and while he chews it, takes
the fish out of the leaves and breaks one of them into the salt water,
placing the other, and what remains of the bread-fruit, upon the leaves
that have been spread before him. When this is done, he takes up a small
piece of the fish that has been broken into the salt-water, with all the
fingers of one hand, and sucks it into his mouth, so as to get with it
as much of the salt-water as possible. In the same manner he takes the
rest by different morsels, and between each, at least very frequently,
takes a small sup of the salt-water, either out of the cocoa-nut shell,
or the palm of his hand. In the meantime one of his attendants has
prepared a young cocoa-nut, by peeling off the outer rind with his
teeth, an operation which to an European appears very surprising; but it
depends so much upon sleight, that many of us were able to do it before
we left the island, and some that could scarcely crack a filbert. The
master when he chooses to drink takes the cocoa-nut thus prepared, and
boring a hole through the shell with his fingers, or breaking it with a
stone, he sucks out the liquor. When he has eaten his bread-fruit and
fish, he begins with his plantains, one of which makes but a mouthful,
though it be as big as a black-pudding; if instead of plantains he has
apples, he never tastes them till they have been pared; to do this a
shell is picked up from the ground, where they are always in plenty, and
tossed to him by an attendant. He immediately begins to cut or scrape
off the rind, but so awkwardly that great part of the fruit is wasted.
If, instead of fish, he has flesh, he must have some succedaneum for a
knife to divide it; and for this purpose a piece of bamboo is tossed to
him, of which he makes the necessary implement by splitting it
transversely with his nail. While all this has been doing, some of his
attendants have been employed in beating bread-fruit with a stone pestle
upon a block of wood; by being beaten in this manner, and sprinkled from
time to time with water, it is reduced to the consistence of a soft
paste, and is then put into a vessel somewhat like a butcher's tray, and
either made up alone, or mixed with banana or _mahie_, according to the
taste of the master, by pouring water upon it by degrees and squeezing
it often through the hand. Under this operation it acquires the
consistence of a thick custard, and a large cocoa-nut shell full of it
being set before him, he sips it as we should do a jelly if we had no
spoon to take it from the glass. The meal is then finished by again
washing his hands and his mouth. After which the cocoa-nut shells are
cleaned, and everything that is left is replaced in the basket.'

Captain Cook adds, 'the quantity of food which these people eat at a
meal is prodigious. I have seen one man devour two or three fishes as
big as a perch; three bread-fruits, each bigger than two fists; fourteen
or fifteen plantains or bananas, each of them six or seven inches long,
and four or five round; and near a quart of the pounded bread-fruit,
which is as substantial as the thickest unbaked custard. This is so
extraordinary that I scarcely expect to be believed; and I would not
have related it upon my own single testimony, but Mr. Banks, Dr.
Solander, and most of the other gentlemen have had ocular demonstration
of its truth, and know that I mention them on the occasion.'

The women, who, on other occasions, always mix in the amusements of the
men, who are particularly fond of their society, are wholly excluded
from their meals; nor could the latter be prevailed on to partake of
anything when dining in company on board ship; they said it was not
right: even brothers and sisters have each their separate baskets, and
their provisions are separately prepared; but the English officers and
men, when visiting the young ones at their own houses, frequently ate
out of the same basket and drank out of the same cup, to the horror and
dismay of the older ladies, who were always offended at this liberty;
and if by chance any of the victuals were touched, or even the basket
that contained them, they would throw them away.

In this fine climate houses are almost unnecessary. The minimum range of
the thermometer is about 63°, the maximum 85°, giving an average of 74°.
Their sheds or houses consist generally of a thatched roof raised on
posts, the eaves reaching to within three or four feet of the ground;
the floor is covered with soft hay, over which are laid mats, so that
the whole is one cushion, on which they sit by day and sleep by night.
They eat in the open air, under the shade of the nearest tree. In each
district there is a house erected for general use, much larger than
common, some of them exceeding two hundred feet in length, thirty broad,
and twenty high. The dwelling-houses all stand in the woody belt which
surrounds the island, between the feet of the central mountains and the
sea, each having a very small piece of ground cleared, just enough to
keep the dropping of the trees from the thatch. An Otaheitan wood
consists chiefly of groves of bread-fruit and cocoa-nuts, without
underwood, and intersected in all directions by the paths that lead from
one house to another. 'Nothing,' says Cook, 'can be more grateful than
this shade, in so warm a climate, nor anything more beautiful than these

With all the activity they are capable of displaying, and the
sprightliness of their disposition, they are fond of indulging in ease
and indolence. The trees that produce their food are mostly of
spontaneous growth - the bread-fruit, cocoa-nut, bananas of thirteen
sorts, besides plantains; a fruit not unlike an apple, which, when ripe,
is very pleasant; sweet potatoes, yams, and a species of _arum_; the
pandanus, the jambu and the sugar-cane; a variety of plants whose roots
are esculent - these, with many others, are produced with so little
culture, that, as Cook observes, they seem to be exempted from the first
general curse that 'man should eat his bread in the sweat of his brow.'
Then for clothing they have the bark of three different trees, the paper
mulberry, the bread-fruit tree, and a tree which resembles the wild
fig-tree of the West Indies; of these the mulberry only requires to be

In preparing the cloth they display a very considerable degree of
ingenuity. Red and yellow are the two colours most in use for dyeing
their cloth; the red is stated to be exceedingly brilliant and
beautiful, approaching nearest to our full scarlet; it is produced by
the mixture of the juices of two vegetables, neither of which separately
has the least tendency to that hue: one is the _Cordia Sebestina_, the
other a species of _Ficus_; of the former the leaves, of the latter the
fruits yield the juices. The yellow dye is extracted from the bark of
the root of the _Morinda citrifolia_, by scraping and infusing it in

Their matting is exceedingly beautiful, particularly that which is made
from the bark of the _Hibiscus tiliaceus_, and of a species of
_Pandanus_. Others are made of rushes and grass with amazing facility
and dispatch. In the same manner their basket and wicker work are most
ingeniously made; the former in patterns of a thousand different kinds.
Their nets and fishing-lines are strong and neatly made, so are their
fish-hooks of pearl-shell; and their clubs are admirable specimens of

A people so lively, sprightly, and good-humoured as the Otaheitans are,
must necessarily have their amusements. They are fond of music, such as
is derived from a rude flute and a drum; of dancing, wrestling, shooting
with the bow, and throwing the lance. They exhibit frequent trials of
skill and strength in wrestling; and Cook says it is scarcely possible
for those who are acquainted with the athletic sports of very remote
antiquity, not to remark a rude resemblance of them in a wrestling-match
(which he describes) among the natives of a little island in the midst
of the Pacific Ocean.

But these simple-minded people have their vices, and great ones too.
Chastity is almost unknown among a certain description of women: there
is a detestable society called _Arreoy_, composed, it would seem, of a
particular class, who are supposed to be the chief warriors of the
island. In this society the men and women live in common; and on the
birth of a child it is immediately smothered, that its bringing up may
not interfere with the brutal pleasures of either father or mother.
Another savage practice is that of immolating human beings at the
_Morais_, which serve as temples as well as sepulchres, and yet, by the
report of the missionaries, they entertain a due sense and reverential
awe of the Deity. 'With regard to their worship,' Captain Cook does the
Otaheitans but justice in saying, 'they reproach many who bear the name
of Christians. You see no instances of an Otaheitan drawing near the
Eatooa with carelessness and inattention; he is all devotion; he
approaches the place of worship with reverential awe; uncovers when he
treads on sacred ground; and prays with a fervour that would do honour
to a better profession. He firmly credits the traditions of his
ancestors. None dares dispute the existence of the Deity.' Thieving may
also be reckoned as one of their vices; this, however, is common to all
uncivilized nations, and, it may be added, civilized too. But to judge
them fairly in this respect, we should compare their situation with that
of a more civilized people. A native of Otaheite goes on board a ship
and finds himself in the midst of iron bolts, nails, knives, scattered
about, and is tempted to carry off a few of them. If we could suppose a
ship from El Dorado to arrive in the Thames, and that the custom-house
officers, on boarding her, found themselves in the midst of bolts,
hatchets, chisels, all of solid gold, scattered about the deck, one need
scarcely say what would be likely to happen. If the former found the
temptation irresistible to supply himself with what was essentially
useful - the latter would be as little able to resist that which would
contribute to the indulgence of his avarice or the gratification of his
pleasures, or of both.

Such was the state of this beautiful island and its interesting and
fascinating natives at the time when Captain Wallis first discovered and
Lieutenant Cook shortly afterwards visited it. What they now are, as
described by Captain Beechey, it is lamentable to reflect. All their
usual and innocent amusements have been denounced by the missionaries,
and, in lieu of them, these poor people have been driven to seek for
resources in habits of indolence and apathy: that simplicity of
character, which atoned for many of their faults, has been converted
into cunning and hypocrisy; and drunkenness, poverty, and disease have
thinned the island of its former population to a frightful degree. By a
survey of the first missionaries, and a census of the inhabitants, taken
in 1797, the population was estimated at 16,050 souls; Captain
Waldegrave, in 1830, states it, on the authority of a census also taken
by the missionaries, to amount only to 5000 - and there is but too much
reason to ascribe this diminution to praying, psalm-singing, and

The island of Otaheite is in shape two circles united by a low and
narrow isthmus. The larger circle is named Otaheite Mooé, and is about
thirty miles in diameter; the lesser, named Tiaraboo, about ten miles in
diameter. A belt of low land, terminating in numerous valleys, ascending
by gentle slopes to the central mountain, which is about seven thousand
feet high, surrounds the larger circle, and the same is the case with
the smaller circle on a proportionate scale. Down these valleys flow
streams and rivulets of clear water, and the most luxuriant and verdant
foliage fills their sides and the hilly ridges that separate them, among
which were once scattered the smiling cottages and little plantations of
the natives. All these are now destroyed, and the remnant of the
population has crept down to the flats and swampy ground on the sea
shore, completely subservient to the seven establishments of
missionaries, who have taken from them what little trade they used to
carry on, to possess themselves of it; who have their warehouses, act as
agents, and monopolize all the cattle on the island - but, in return,
they have given them a new religion and a _parliament (risum teneatis?)_
and reduced them to a state of complete pauperism - and all, as they say,
and probably have so persuaded themselves, for the honour of God, and
the salvation of their souls! How much is such a change brought about by
such conduct to be deprecated! how lamentable is it to reflect, that an
island on which Nature has lavished so many of her bounteous gifts, with
which neither Cyprus nor Cythera, nor the fanciful island of Calypso,
can compete in splendid and luxuriant beauties, should be doomed to such
a fate, - in an enlightened age, and by a people that call themselves



- The happy shores without a law,

* * * * *

Where all partake the earth without dispute,
And bread itself is gather'd as a fruit;
Where none contest the fields, the woods, the streams: -
The goldless age, where gold disturbs no dreams,
Inhabits or inhabited the shore,
Till Europe taught them better than before,
Bestow'd her customs, and amended theirs,
But left her vices also to their heirs. BYRON.

In the year 1787, being seventeen years after Cook's return from his
first voyage, the merchants and planters resident in London, and
interested in the West India possessions, having represented to his
Majesty, that the introduction of the bread-fruit tree into the islands
of those seas, to constitute an article of food, would be of very
essential benefit to the inhabitants, the king was graciously pleased to
comply with their request; and a vessel was accordingly purchased, and
fitted at Deptford with the necessary fixtures and preparations, for
carrying into effect the benevolent object of the voyage. The
arrangements for disposing the plants were undertaken, and completed in
a most ingenious and effective manner, by Sir Joseph Banks, who
superintended the whole equipment of the ship with the greatest
attention and assiduity till she was in all respects ready for sea. He
named the ship the _Bounty_, and recommended Lieutenant Bligh, who had
been with Captain Cook, to command her. Her burden was about two hundred
and fifteen tons; and her establishment consisted of one lieutenant, who
was commanding officer, one master, three warrant officers, one surgeon,
two master's mates, two midshipmen, and thirty-four petty officers and
seamen, making in all forty-four; to which were added two skilful and
careful men, recommended by Sir Joseph Banks, to have the management of
the plants intended to be carried to the West Indies, and others to be
brought home for his Majesty's garden at Kew: one was David Nelson, who
had served in a similar situation in Captain Cook's last voyage; the
other William Brown, as an assistant to him.

The object of all the former voyages to the South Seas, undertaken by
command of his Majesty George III, was the increase of knowledge by new
discoveries, and the advancement of science, more particularly of
natural history and geography: the intention of the present voyage was
to derive some practical benefit from the distant discoveries that had
already been made; and no object was deemed more likely to realise the
expectation of benefit than the bread-fruit, which afforded to the
natives of Otaheite so very considerable a portion of their food, and
which it was hoped it might also do for the black population of the West
India Islands. The bread-fruit plant was no new discovery of either
Wallis or Cook. So early as the year 1688, that excellent old navigator,
Dampier, thus describes it: - 'The bread-fruit, as we call it, grows on a
large tree, as big and high as our largest apple-trees; it hath a
spreading head, full of branches and dark leaves. The fruit grows on the
boughs like apples; it is as big as a penny-loaf, when wheat is at five
shillings the bushel; it is of a round shape, and hath a thick tough
rind; when the fruit is ripe it is yellow and soft, and the taste is
sweet and pleasant. The natives of Guam use it for bread. They gather
it, when full grown, while it is green and hard; then they bake it in an
oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black, but they scrape off
the outside black crust, and there remains a tender thin crust; and the
inside is soft, tender, and white, like the crumb of a penny-loaf. There
is neither seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure substance
like bread. It must be eaten new; for if it is kept above twenty-four
hours, it grows harsh and choaky; but it is very pleasant before it is
too stale. This fruit lasts in season eight months in the year, during
which the natives eat no other sort of food of bread kind. I did never
see of this fruit anywhere but here. The natives told us that there is
plenty of this fruit growing on the rest of the Ladrone Islands; and I
did never hear of it anywhere else.'

Lord Anson corroborates this account of the bread-fruit, and says that,
while at Tinian, it was constantly eaten by his officers and ship's
company during their two months' stay, instead of bread; and so
universally preferred, that no ship's bread was expended in that whole
interval. The only essential difference between Dampier's and Cook's
description is, where the latter says, which is true, that this fruit
has a _core_, and that the eatable part lies between the skin and the
core. Cook says also that its taste is insipid, with a slight sweetness,
somewhat resembling that of the crumb of wheaten bread mixed with a
Jerusalem artichoke. From such a description, it is not surprising that
the West India planters should have felt desirous of introducing it into
those islands; and accordingly the introduction of it was subsequently
accomplished, notwithstanding the failure of the present voyage; it has
not, however, been found to answer the expectation that had reasonably
been entertained. The climate, as to latitude, ought to be the same, or
nearly so, as that of Otaheite, but there would appear to be some
difference in the situation or nature of the soil, that prevents it from
thriving in the West India Islands. At Otaheite and on several of the
Pacific Islands,

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 -

is to the natives of those islands a most invaluable gift, but it has
not been found to yield similar benefits to the West India Islands.

On the 23rd December, 1787, the _Bounty_ sailed from Spithead, and on
the 26th it blew a severe storm of wind from the eastward, which
continued to the 29th, in the course of which the ship suffered greatly.
One sea broke away the spare-yards and spars out of the starboard
main-chains. Another heavy sea broke into the ship and stove all the
boats. Several casks of beer that had been lashed upon deck, were broke
loose and washed overboard; and it was not without great difficulty and
risk that they were able to secure the boats from being washed away
entirely. Besides other mischief done to them in this storm, a large
quantity of bread was damaged and rendered useless, for the sea had
stove in the stern and filled the cabin with water.

This made it desirable to touch at Teneriffe to put the ship to rights,
where they arrived on the 5th January, 1788, and having refitted and
refreshed, they sailed again on the 10th.

'I now,' says Bligh, 'divided the people into three watches, and gave
the charge of the third watch to Mr. Fletcher Christian, one of the
mates. I have always considered this a desirable regulation when
circumstances will admit of it, and I am persuaded that unbroken rest
not only contributes much towards the health of the ship's company, but
enables them more readily to exert themselves in cases of sudden

Wishing to proceed to Otaheite without stopping, and the late storm
having diminished their supply of provisions, it was deemed expedient to
put all hands on an allowance of two-thirds of bread. It was also
decided that water for drinking should be passed through filtering
stones that had been procured at Teneriffe. 'I now,' says Bligh, 'made
the ship's company acquainted with the object of the voyage, and gave
assurances of the certainty of promotion to every one whose endeavours
should merit it.' Nothing, indeed, seemed to be neglected on the part of
the commander to make his officers and men comfortable and happy. He was
himself a thorough-bred sailor, and availed himself of every possible
means of preserving the health of his crew. Continued rain and a close
atmosphere had covered everything in the ship with mildew. She was
therefore aired below with fires, and frequently sprinkled with vinegar,
and every interval of dry weather was taken advantage of to open all the
hatchways, and clean the ship, and to have all the people's wet things
washed and dried. With these precautions to secure health, they passed
the hazy and sultry atmosphere of the low latitudes without a single

On Sunday, the 2nd of March, Lieutenant Bligh observes, 'after seeing
that every person was clean, Divine service was performed, according to
my usual custom. On this day I gave to Mr. Fletcher Christian, whom I
had before desired to take charge of the third watch, a written order
to act as lieutenant.'

Having reached as far as the latitude of 36 degrees south, on the 9th
March, 'the change of temperature,' he observes, 'began now to be
sensibly felt, there being a variation in the thermometer, since
yesterday, of eight degrees. That the people might not suffer by their
own negligence, I gave orders for their light tropical clothing to be
put by, and made them dress in a manner more suited to a cold climate. I
had provided for this before I left England, by giving directions for

Online LibrarySir John BarrowThe Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences → online text (page 3 of 24)