Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.
Journal of the “Mascarin.”
Journal of the Voyage made in the King's Ship “Le Mascarin,” commanded by M. Marion, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, Fire-ship Captain, accompanied by the Transport or Cargo-ship (la Flute) “Le Marquis de Castries,”* commissioned to make a Voyage to the Island of Tahiti,† or Cythera, discovering the Austral Lands, thence proceeding to New Holland, to New Zealand, etc., etc. By M. Le St. Jean Roux, Lieutenant on the above-named Vessel “Le Mascarin.”
On the 25th March, at 8 o'clock in the morning, we sighted the land, which appeared to take the shape of an islet whereon two white patches could be distinguished. We sailed on to approach nearer, the wind being light. On the 26th we discovered that the land was the summit of a high mountain, which we named Mascarin Peak,‡ after the name of our ship.
On the 27th, at daybreak, we found ourselves sufficiently close to the land, and took frequent soundings. The depth was from 50 fathoms of water with a bottom of mud to 30 fathoms of water with a coral bottom. This last sounding was taken at a league and a half from a low-lying point. We then tacked. The coast appeared very beautiful to me; a good many shrubs could be seen. During the night we saw many fires, which left no doubt in our minds as to these lands being inhabited. We were then, however, obliged to stand off the land, as a furious wind began to blow from the north to the north-west, causing our vessels to labour heavily.
On the 29th we returned to make a closer inspection of Mascarin Peak. It is a very good neighbourhood to land at, especially as in fine weather the peak can be seen from a distance of 25 to 30 leagues. It can always be easily distinguished by its two white patches. This peak, so far as I am able to judge, is at the northern point of Murderers' Bay. Several rivers must have their rise in it. The coast which we passed along the 30th was low, sandy, and covered with small brushwood. We also crossed a bay whose entrance was obstructed by a line of breakers. I imagine it would not be prudent topage 353
approach it without taking the greatest precautions. Shortly after passing this bay we perceived an indented shore and a double range of mountains in the interior. The prospect was very fine, and the country most pleasant to look at. On the following day we sighted a large headland, and in a little cove further to the south we saw some men. We passed several nights hove to, in order to guard against the dangers which might have been encountered along an unknown coast.
From the big headland, going in a northerly direction, we found the coast much higher. At various intervals there are inlets which may be the mouths of rivers. The high headland to which I have made allusion lies in lat. 35° 30′. The Mascarin Peak, the first headland we sighted, is situated in 39° 30′ south. Its longitude east of Paris is 170° 10′. These bearings were arrived at by separate observations taken on board the two vessels and at Port Marion.
On the 3rd April we sighted Cape St. Marie* and its islets. At noon, being very close to the rocks, which are at the extremity of this cape, we tacked about. This reef must extend for a width of from 2 to 3 leagues; it is in the form of a plateau. A good bottom can be found all along this coast within 2 or 3 leagues from the land. The sounding is from 35 to 45 fathoms, with a sandy or muddy bottom. Further away in the offing there are from 60 to 140 fathoms, with a soft muddy bottom. We attempted to double the cape, but we could not succeed. The northerly and north-westerly winds became violent, and the sea very rough. The weather was very bad; so much so that we were upon the point of running foul of each other in the middle of the night. The noise of the wind and the sea prevented our hearing the shots fired by the guns of each ship, as much to keep us apart as to prevent any separation. This gale was even more violent than the previous one we had experienced. If we had had the misfortune to run foul of each other in such a sea we should have dashed each other to pieces.
When daylight came we expected to see the end of this bad weather, but, on the contrary, it got worse. Such heavy squalls came up that we were several times obliged to run it out under bare poles, or to heave-to. This tempest lasted until the 6th, at the close of the day. On the 7th the sky became clear, and the sea had gone down, but it was still blowing hard. On thepage 355
8th we sighted the Three Kings Islands. At first we could hardly believe it was the group, because there were only large rocks, whereas Tasman, the Dutch navigator, who discovered them in 1643,* gave quite another description of them. He said there were several islands, of which one, the largest, is 3 leagues in circumference. He stated that on this island there is a river which falls into the sea. By what follows it will be seen that this navigator has made some very erroneous statements. On the 10th we went in closer, and saw some fires on the land. Closer still we were able to perceive some natives. This appeared to me to be most extraordinary, in view of the apparent barrenness of the country. Presumably these men were inhabitants of the mainland, who had come to these rocks on a fishing expedition. Tasman is quite incorrect when he assures us that on one of these islands there is a river,† and that good anchorages can be found there. We hugged the shore of the large rock where we had seen the men, and found no bottom at 200 fathoms. If our vessels had quitted company we should have been greatly misled, for the meeting-place was at these islands. We sailed round the group several times, being compelled to do so by the contrary winds, and we could find no bottom half a league from the land. These islands are only 12 to 13 leagues from the mainland, and the New-Zealanders can reach them in their canoes when the sea is smooth.
On the 12th we left these islands behind, and sailed towards the mainland. We soon sighted Cape St. Marie. During the night we stood off the land on different tacks, and at daylight we sailed towards the east, and sighted a bay of very fine appearance.
On the 15th M. Marion despatched the ship's cutter into the cove which had appeared so beautiful, and which lies near a large headland, which we named Thumb Mountain on account of its shape. In this cove a little stream was found, the water of which however, was not very fresh. In the afternoon the cutter went up another cove further to the north, where there is a high cape, which we called Cape Eolus,‡ but no fresh water could be found there. A very handsome canoe, with some rather fine carvings was seen in this cove. M. Marion determinedpage 357
Accordingly, on the 16th, at daybreak, we set out for this place. It looked as if we were to have a strong breeze, but nevertheless it was half-past 8 in the morning before we anchored in 16 fathoms of water, with a fine sandy bottom. The tide had largely assisted us. The current, which was in our favour, ran strongly towards the south-west. This bay is none too safe, because the winds from the north-east blow towards the eastern point of the inlet, where there is a chain of islets and rocks extending into the offing. After we had anchored we sent an officer to the land to test the water of the river, and to see if further inland it was of better quality. Towards midday, the tide having turned, the current took the same direction as the wind. At 1 o'clock, the wind having considerably strengthened, and there being a heavy swell on, we noticed that the vessel was dragging her anchor. We put out a second anchor, paying the first cable out to the end. As we feared that the cutter would not be able to come alongside if it were further delayed, a signal was made for the boat to come off at once. At 4 o'clock it managed with great difficulty to reach the ship. The officer who was in charge of the cutter brought off some water from the river, but it was brackish, and good for nothing. Although it had been taken a little way up the river it was no better than that taken close to the shore, the reason being that at high tide the sea went up the river. The officer brought back many curios, of which I shall have reason to speak further on, and by which we could see that the natives of this country are most industrious.
During the afternoon, the wind growing stronger all the time, we made preparations for getting under weigh in case of need, and unshackled the cables ready for slipping (literally, “slipped the stoppers”) so that there would be no delay.
At 5 o'clock in the evening it was a decided gale, and several very heavy squalls passed over us. The sea became very rough, and the wind shifted from the north-east to the north, and drove us towards the eastern point of the bay, where there is a line of rocks. Our vessels laboured heavily, and at 3 in the morning, the tide having again, taken the same course as the wind, the two anchors which had been put out by the “Castries” dragged.* An attempt was made to put out a third anchor, but it had no effect. M. Marion signalled to them to get under sail, and at 4 o'clock this was done. The wind and the sea kept on getting worse.page 359
At length, on the 17th, at 8 o'clock in the morning, a heavy squall struck the ship with such force that for nearly four minutes the vessel heeled right over, and the sea foamed on board as if we had been on a reef. At half-past 8 the vessel dragged her anchor, whereupon M. Marion decided to set sail at once, so we paid the cables out, veering away on the stoppers. We then got under weigh with the two lower sails, the vessel being down to the gunwale in the sea through the force of the wind. The staunch qualities of our vessel saved us from the most dreadful peril, for we rounded the rocky point at the distance only of a musket-shot. At noon we sighted our comrade far away in the offing, and signalled to her to come up to the wind. At night we spoke her, her captain informing us that he had lost three anchors and three cables, but that the vessel had suffered no injury.
The same day M. Marion called together the officers to hold a council. He asked our advice as to whether we had better risk going to anchor in Anchor Bay* (for thus we named it), and seek to regain the five anchors and five cables which we had left there on the 17th of this month.
We were all agreed upon returning, seeing of what importance was such a quantity of anchors and cables. A boat was launched, and a written message sent to the captain of the “Castries,” who expressed in reply a contrary opinion, alleging that it would be running far too great a risk to thus imperil the ships. M. Marion, who had only consulted them out of politeness, being well aware what he ought to do, ordered the captain of the “Castries,” through the speaking-trumpet, to prepare to anchor, to follow his lead and to closely observe it.
These gentlemen [on the “Castries”] had made a great mistake. They had not been careful enough to buoy their anchors, so that it was very doubtful whether they would be able to find them, especially as the “Castries,” in dragging, must have gone a long way from the spot where the heaving of the anchors had been attempted. As for us, we felt quite certain that we should find our anchors, seeing that the buoys to which we had attached them were very strong.page 361
north than this Bay of Houses* [Baie des maisons]. M. Marion sent me there. I found on the beach some men who at first seemed alarmed, but who, however, approached me when they noticed the peaceful gestures I made. They made us a present of some excellent fish, and I, on my part, gave them a few trifles. There was amongst them an old man who invited me into his hut. The other natives showed him much respect. He watched me very closely, and appeared greatly surprised at everything he saw. He asked me no end of questions, of which I understood nothing. He ordered a canoe which had just come in from a fishing trip to come in to the shore, and then made signs to me to choose whatever fish I liked best. I then made him a second gift, with which he seemed highly delighted. As the ships were getting under weigh I went off to rejoin them.
At length, on the 26th, we let go an anchor in 14 fathoms of water, with a bottom of fine sand. The boats were launched forthwith. The sky was clear and the wind had gone down. Almost as soon as we had anchored we saw quite close to us the buoys of the anchors we had put out and lost. We hauled them in, and then despatched the two longboats and a third boat to dredge for the anchors lost by the “Castries.” The rest of the day was thus employed, the search being continued also all through the night and all the morning of the 27th. All this trouble was, however, in vain. Nothing was found, and this because, as I have already said, they had not taken the precaution to buoy their anchors. M. Marion sent the “Castries” two anchors from his ship to replace in part the loss the latter vessel had sustained.
While this work was being done, a boat was sent on shore, on the 27th, to see if the water was still brackish. It was found to be so, and worse even than before. In the afternoon several of our company went on shore for a walk. We found the landing very easy in fine weather, but the least wind raises a considerable break. I noticed that the river was very little above the level of the sea, and that as soon as the tide was high the sea entered its mouth. The source of this river cannot be very far inland. The plain which it waters is of a fertile appearance, and is divided by several small streams. It appeared to me to have been cultivated. Every ten paces or so there were little canals through which the water flowed. The herbage is so high as to give certain proof of the fertility of the soil. I saw but few shrubs whose names are known to us, but some of the plants are the same as ours. I noticed the gourd, the wild endive, the daisy, the reed, the water flag (or reed), a species of vacoua, and others. Of the latter, the natives make very fine nets andpage 363
Several of the huts or houses in this village had been burnt down, which caused us to suppose that the inhabitants had been driven away, and that it was not very long since they had evacuated this settlement, for we found several houses still standing in which they had stored their nets, of which some were quite new. These nets are meshed like ours. They are from 90 to 100 fathoms in length, and 5 to 6 in height. At the bottom is a case or basket in which are stones wherewith to sink the net, and which have the same effect as the lead with which our nets are furnished. All along the top, at intervals, are little pieces of a round and very light wood, which take the place of the corks which we employ as floats.
It was not only by these nets that we concluded the natives were industrious; we had other proofs than this. Amongst other things we noticed, their houses excited our admiration, so neatly were they constructed. They are built in the form of a long platform, and are of a height in proportion to the uses to which they are to be put. The walls are formed of stakes placed a little apart from each other, and strengthened by switches or small poles, which are crossed, and which interlace with them. There is an outer covering, consisting of a layer of moss thick enough to prevent the rain and wind from penetrating the walls, and this covering is supported by small lattice-work, very neatly constructed. Inside, the walls are hung with matting made of water-flags, over which, at intervals, are placed, as ornaments and supports of the roof, small pillars, or, to be more correct, planks of 2 in. to 3 in. in thickness, fairly well carved. In the centre of the house is a large carved pillar, which acts as a support for the ridge of the roofing, conjointly with two others at the two extremities. What astonished us most was the manner in which all the parts were mortised, and so strongly bound together, with cordage made out of the water-flags. On the centre was a hideous figure of a sort of demon. As we found similar figures in all the houses, and always in the same position, which appears to be consecrated to this monster, there is every reason to believe that it is the natives' divinity which is represented in this way.
The door of each house ran in grooves, and was so low that we had to bend down in some way in order to enter the building. Above the door were two small windows and some very close lattice-work. Right round each house ran a small ditch, which is used to drain away the water. The floors of these houses arepage 365
In front of each door were to be seen three stones, which form a kind of hearth where they make their fires. Another stone some little distance away was used by the natives to crush their red paint upon. I carried away a very finely carved post from one of these houses. It was made out of sassafras wood, and had a very pleasant fragrance.
It seemed to me most extraordinary that these people could do such good work without the tools such as are used by Europeans. Nowhere could we find, however, any trace of metals. We noticed trees cut into a triangular shape, as with us. In fact, everything went to prove that all the world over necessity makes men invent methods by which they can render life more easy, and that in this way those who lack what we consider to be most necessary supply the deficiency by new means, which, being perfected, make the various races appear more or less civilized in proportion to their abundance.
I am not aware whether any quadrupeds are to be found in this country, but we found in this village a skeleton of an ass of the same kind as ours, from which I suspect that they apparently do possess some species of cattle. We also found a piece of skin somewhat similar to that of the bear.* We came to the conclusion after what we had seen that if we did find a safe harbour it would be easy to procure provisions from these people.
M. Marion having signalled that he was about to set sail, we returned to the ship. Immediately we were on board again we got under weigh, with a rather strong wind varying from the north-west to the south. We set a course to clear Cape Eolus, which name we had given this promontory, on account of the severe gales we had encountered in its vicinity.
Towards the east of this cape we sighted a number of islets. The coast is well wooded, and rises perceptibly from the shore in the interior. To the south of these islets there appeared to be some deep inlets or bays.
On the 1st May we doubled a bold headland which we named Square Cape,† seeing that it presented that shape. Towards the west we saw a number of fires and some small inlets, which made us hopeful of finding what we had so long searched for.page 367
armed with blunderbusses and muskets, to explore this neighbourhood. The officer who was sent in charge was ordered to keep on the defensive. It was almost calm, so we were unable to approach as near to the shore as we wished.
The square-shaped cape appeared to us to form a peninsula easily recognizable by its height and by the two inlets on the east and west of it. We stood off and on in front of this latter inlet, when there suddenly appeared a canoe, which came out from the cape. This canoe contained eight men. It set off at once in the direction of our ship, and shortly afterwards we saw several others in the interior of the bay.
When the first canoe arrived within musket-shot of the ship it stopped. We immediately lay to, in order to induce the natives to approach. We hoisted the flag, but the people in the canoe showed signs of great fear. Nevertheless, they came a little closer. We then made signals of peace to them, and held up several articles for them to see. They then came up quite close, and we threw the objects into the canoe, to induce them to come on board. At length, after we had greatly pressed them to do so, one old man was brave enough to come on board. As soon as he was on the companion ladder the others made off with their canoe. This old man was of a venerable appearance. We showed him every sign of friendship, and made him some presents. He was dressed in a cloak, which was taken off, in order to dress him after our fashion. The man was trembling, and was so astonished that it was some time before he spoke a single word. When, however, he was dressed, and he saw that we were very friendly towards him, he asked several questions, after which he seemed desirous of speaking to his comrades. We took him to the stern gallery, whence he made signs to the crew of the canoe, letting them see what we had given him. They then came on board at once. We gave them presents also, and they then asked to go, and we allowed them to do so.
When they were back in their canoe they carefully concealed everything we had given them, and put on their own cloaks again, apparently so as not to be obliged to share the gifts of clothes with the men in the other canoes. In going away, they called out something to all the canoes they met. These latter now came alongside our ship at a very great rate. We gave a few trifles to some of the crews, for they now numbered quite two hundred and fifty men. We had taken the precaution to post some soldiers on the poop, in case our new acquaintances might take it into their heads to make some attack, and we had kept our arms hidden, so that they could not discover anything. As for them, they had no arms of any kind with them. They brought us a quantity of fish, which they gave us as well as somepage 369
These natives were so astonished at everything they saw that they stopped for some moments before each object. They saw some red paint and displayed the greatest delight at this sight, and much desired to have some. It was easy to see that this is their favourite colour; and, indeed, there were some amongst them who had their hair daubed therewith; but their was a dingy red, and that is why, no doubt, they appeared so desirous of having some of our paint, which is much brighter.
We could not help admiring the fine build and tall stature of these men. They lent themselves with compliance to our curiosity. We examined the various devices which were imprinted on their faces, thighs, and various parts of their bodies. They tried to make us understand by means of signs the way in which they made these marks. In their turn they regarded us with great care and considered the whiteness of our skins as something extraordinary, and forthwith a cry of surprise would escape them. They took great pleasure in looking under our clothes, to see if we were of the same colour underneath. They remained for a few minutes in ecstasy, and then treated us to a great many endearments, in which, however, we noticed a species of underlying ferocity. Frequently they could not refrain from applying their lips to our hands or our faces when we permitted them to do so. They pressed on the skin as if they wished to suck it. They were in no hurry to leave us, and so gave themselves up to their delight that they all began to dance after their own fashion. They made the most frightful grimaces, and jumped about, showing something of the savage. Nevertheless, all their gesticulations were made in regular time.
Amongst the canoes there was one which was very handsome. At each end it had a piece of wood standing upright, with very fine open-work carving, in the form of a palm, and ornamented with birds' feathers. I noticed one old man who had remained seated in the canoe was covered by a cloak which seemed to be very beautifully made. It was of a woven stuff, in which were interlaced long hairs of some animal, so artistically done that we took them for the skin of some wild beast. From a distance this cloak somewhat resembled our fur greatcoats. This man had a prouder and more distinguished appearance than the others, and the respect paid to him induced me to think he was one of their chiefs. I tried to persuade him to come on board, but he made some difficulty about it. As he seemed to greatly covet the scarlet cloak I was wearing, and made signs to me to give it him in exchange for the cloak he was wearing, I made him understand that if he would come on board I wouldpage 371
give him the coat. He came on board at once, and I kept my word. He then went all over the ship, which none of them had done up till then. Everything he saw seemed very curious to him; he could not understand the cleanliness of the guns.
As it was dinner-time, M. Marion had this man placed at the dinner-table, together with another chief. They ate of everything presented to them except the salt meat, which they rejected. As for the wine, they would not touch it; but they drank some water with pleasure. They were given some white wine, of which they drank a little, believing it was water, but having tasted it, they declined drinking it, making signs that they preferred the water. We asked them if they had any fresh water on shore, and they made us understand that they had, and in order to show us that there was plenty they made signs as if they were swimming. They found our bread and our provisions excellent.
In the chief's handsome canoe there were four young women, by no means pretty, and rather badly built. The chief made them come on board, but he sent them away when he saw that we took no great notice of them.
These islanders are generally of tall stature, well propertioned, of a very agreeable figure, with regular features, and seem very agile. They are of a very vigorous appearance. Some, who appeared to be the tallest amongst them, and whom we measured, were all over 6 ft. in height, and well proportioned. The ordinary height of these natives, so far as I can judge, is from 5 ft. to 5 ft. 6 in. They are all well built, and have fine eyes and aquiline noses. Their mouths are large, with fine teeth; the chin is well made; in a word, they are fine men.
In the evening, M. Marion wished to send them away, but the old chief, as well as his companions, suggested that they should stay on board, making signs to the effect that they would conduct us to the end of the bay. They were permitted to sleep on board, and sent away all their followers, who did not wish to leave them; but they made them all go away with the exception of two men who asked that they might remain with their chiefs. This we allowed them to do, and the remainder then all, went away, amidst great cries of delight.
As the winds were light and unfavourable for entering the bay we tacked about. Each time we ran a little way out into the offing the chiefs displayed signs of anxiety, and made signs that we should go further into the bay. They imagined it was as easy to manoeuvre a vessel as it is to direct one of their canoes. They could not understand how the wind could be unfavourable, and prevented the ship taking the direction that they would have desired. It was easy to see that they would have preferred being on shore, and that they feared we might take thempage 373
away. The care with which I endeavoured to understand what they wished to convey made me discover a great resemblance between their language and that of the Tahiti or Cythera,* and this renewed our regrets at the loss we had sustained in the poor native of that island who had died on board our vessel from the small-pox.†
At 1 o'clock in the morning our boats came back to the ship. M. Marion had sent our cutter and that of the “Castries” to take soundings at the further end of the bay. Our boat, which had sailed to the east of Square Cape, reported that there was in that direction a very deep bay‡, which was inhabited, that there was a village which appeared to contain a thousand or more huts; and that they had seen a large number of canoes, which indeed had surrounded them. One of these canoes was most beautifully carved. In it there, was eighty or a hundred of these savages. The officer who was in command of the boat, fearing being surprised, had fired a few shots, which seemed to frighten these people very much. The other boat had noticed at the farther end of the bay where we wished to enter all the appearances of a harbour, as to which they had not had time to make certain. At 4 in the morning the boats were again sent off to take soundings. At noon we set sail towards this inlet. The winds were light, but changeable. Our natives were very pleased to see us en route. Every now and then we took soundings; the depth was from 90 to 100 fathoms, with a bottom of sand and slime. At half-past 4 we perceived that our boats, which were coming out between the islands, were signalling that there was a good anchorage, that the people were friendly, and that water could be easily procured. As this was what we were looking for to meet our most urgent needs, we were highly satisfied, and kept on our course. Shortly after this the boat signalled to us to go to starboard to avoid a rock which they had seen. Immediately we had anchored we signalled to the “Castries” to come and anchor in line behind us. This latter ship had remained more than a league in the rear. We sent some boats to take soundings in front of her. The darkness which was now about to fall over us, compelled us to let go the anchor in 19 fathoms of water, with a fine sandy bottom. We were at the entrance of the harbour and at the extremity of the bay. The “Castries” could not come and anchor close to us, but anchored about a league behind us. On one side of us was a little village about a musket-shot away, situated on a hill which would be difficult to ascend. This village was fortified, palisaded, and surrounded by moats. Ahead of the vessel, about a musket-shotpage 375
Very early on the morning of the 5th more than a hundred canoes came round the vessel. Some had fish and others brought sweet potatoes. We traded with them; for an old nail they would give anything we asked for.
In these canoes there was a great number of women; almost all very ugly, short, and badly built. They seemed to be very glad to see us, but very soon they were the contrary, for they were not allowed to come on board. Also, only a very few of the men were permitted to come on board. The women and the youths were almost all daubed with red paint right up to their faces. There can be no doubt that red paint is their ornament, but it gives them a disgusting and hideous appearance. All the men of any importance amongst them are tatooed with various designs on the face and on the thighs. They make these designs with little tools made out of bones, which are very sharp. Into the cuts made by these on the skin they put the juice of some plant which we do not know. These marks can never be effaced. They wear their hair tied up on the top of their head. These people are of very nearly the same colour as the Malays.
In the afternoon I went with M. Marion to explore the harbour, which to us seemed immense. We considered it as safe as it is beautiful. M. Marion resolved to take the vessel inside with the first fine weather we got, for there were signs of strong winds. We named the harbour Port Marion.*
On the 6th we again went into the interior of the harbour in our boats. The captain of the “Castries” came in his cutter. M. Marion wished to go to the mainland. We had no sooner arrived than we witnessed a fight between the people of the country. At a little distance from the shore were camped two parties of natives, enemies to each other, and on the point of commencing a battle. A chief of one of the parties came up to one of our officers and took him by the hand and led him to the head of his party. This chief had come on board the vessel the previous evening. They advanced against their enemies at once, and in good order. These latter, who were astonished at the sight of the white men, and even more so at the two musket-shots which were fired in the air, took to flight, and abandoned the field of battle to their victors, who loudly expressed their joy, and who brought back the white man, whom they recognized as their liberator, to the place where we had remained to watch them. What surprised me most was the order in which they marched against their enemies. The chief appeared to give his orders with great coolness. They were all armed withpage 377
spears, darts (flèches), clubs, and a sort of sagaie* with a sharp saw-like edge. If a man be wounded by one of these weapons it is almost impossible to pull it out of the flesh, on account of these teeth or hooks, which are placed in opposite directions. It could only be withdrawn by cutting or tearing the flesh. This weapon is made out of very hard wood. They have also another weapon which they carry in their waist-belts, and which is a tomahawk. It is made out of stone of the nature of marble, and is shaped like a spatula. The edges of this weapon is very sharp. One of the chiefs explained to me that they use this weapon for breaking the head of an enemy, and that it was easy to smash open the skull with a single blow. The sagaie and the tomahawk are the most dangerous of their weapons. Everything we have seen of these people up to the present tends to prove that they are a fine, courageous, industrious, and very intelligent race, for they understand very well what we try to explain to them.
On the 8th, in the afternoon, the port cable was cut, apparently by some rocks or coral under the sand. We sent the longboat to lift the anchor. In the afternoon, the wind having moderated, the boats were sent out to take soundings in the western passage of Port Marion, which was found to be better and more practicable than that in front of which we were anchored, which is that of the east. It was decided to enter by the first named—the western passage—and preparations for this were made.
On the 9th and 10th, the wind being north by north-east, we got under weigh, and signalled to the “Castries” to follow close behind our vessel. At 6 o'clock we were permanently anchored in Port Marion; the “Castries” also.
On the 11th the sky was clear, and the natives seized the opportunity to come off in their canoes in great numbers. They exchanged their fish for nails or paltry pieces of iron. They again brought with them a number of women, who would have gratuitously granted their favours without these men appearing jealous. They paid no attention to their women; indeed, they offered them to us, and seemed hurt because we refused them. They explained to us that these were their daughters or their own wives. These men were never tired of admiring what they saw. They asked many questions, of which we understood nothing. We could see that they were greatly puzzled. Very often some of their chiefs slept on board, andpage 379
were highly pleased when we allowed them to do so. We were anchored in the neighbourhood of an island where was a stream of excellent water. We selected this island to land our sick men upon and to store everything that we had to take out of the ships to lighten them so as to repair the vessels and remedy all the damage done by the gales we had encountered since leaving the Cape of Good Hope. Seeing that it was one of the largest islands in the harbour, we named it Marion Island.
The natives had a few small huts near the stream which ran into the little creek of which we had taken possession. They abandoned them, for what reason I know not, for, in accordance with the orders of M. Marion, the natives were not in the least molested. On the contrary, we tried to inspire them with confidence by the various articles we gave them. We readily showed our trust in them by daily going into their fortified villages. On their part, they paid us visits in our new camp. These natives are great thieves. They tried to make off with everything they came across. We were obliged to place sentries to watch that they did not carry anything off. By this means we were able to check their little tricks. In the southern part of the island, near which we were anchored, there was a village of considerable size, and well fortified. It was situated on a point of land projecting into the sea, almost in the shape of a peninsula. We were given a hearty welcome in this village, the people of which showed us many kindnesses. I shall not give a description of this village here, as later on I shall have reason to speak of it at greater length. I need only say that the storehouses were full of all kinds of weapons.
I do not know what these natives thought of us when seeing us thus establish ourselves in their midst. I am persuaded that they firmly believed we were going to remain there always, for every day a large quantity of articles were taken ashore from the ships. We even made use of the small huts they had abandoned, where we placed some rigging. The curiosity exhibited by the people of Tacoury's village, which was situated on the mainland opposite the place where we anchored, was another proof of this belief of theirs, for they came to see us very often. This village is the largest we had seen up to then. It was situated at the extremity of a peninsula, and was only fortified on this side. It is true that its position, on the top of a hill, made it very difficult of access, besides which, its inhabitants were very numerous. We named it after its chief. He was a handsome man, of about forty years of age, and seemedpage 381
much shrewder and more daring than the other chiefs. He had a companion named Piquiore, who was the chief of a little village a little distance away from Tacoury's. We had little knowledge of this second village. This Tacoury, of whom I have just spoken, was regarded as one of the greatest chiefs of the district. Almost all the other chiefs paid homage to him, and were at the same time his enemies, often making war upon him. They wished to persuade us to do the same. This man often came to see us at our camp on Marion Island and on board our ships. It was easy to see that he took notice of everything he saw. His inquisitiveness and his boldness of manner made us distrustful of him at first, but M. Marion always believed in him. It will be seen by what follows that this man was trying to get to know everything he could about us in order that he might carry out his designs. On board the ships the crews worked at the necessary repairs. The sufferers from scurvy were landed, We had no other sick. Two officers of the guard were appointed, who were to be relieved by others; there were also fifteen soldiers on watch night and day, to see that the natives made off with nothing.
On the 16th and 17th we half-heeled the vessels, and M. Marion sent word to M. du Clesmeur, captain of the “Castries,” to get ready his longboat to accompany him the next day in a trip to the western part of the harbour.
Accordingly, on the 18th, at 3 o'clock in the morning, we set out in the two longboats. M. Marion ordered me to accompany him, with another officer. The object of the journey was to endeavour to find some suitable timber with which to make new masts for the “Castries.” At daybreak a strong wind sprang up, which, however, did not prove an obstacle to the course we were making. Towards a large point, which we called Currents Point, or Cape of Currents, we found a very heavy sea running. It was heavier still outside the flat rocks which lie at the end of the cape. The wind became violent, but as we had an excellent longboat we doubled the cape safely, but the captain of the “Castries” could not get round in his boat, and had to turn back. The wind and the sea were both increasing, which placed us in some danger, but the staunch qualities of our boat got us out of the difficulty. We sailed along the coast which bounds the western part of the harbour, which is immense. We noticed some fine coves which in themselves form so many fine harbours. We could not find any trees of sufficient size for the purpose for which we required the timber. At noon we landed in a beautiful cove, on the banks of which were situated two little villages. The natives came to meet us, and made us some presents of fish. We found some excellent oysters, andpage 383
had a good dinner. One of the chiefs who came to see us was in a superb canoe, made out of a single piece of timber. I took note of the proportions of this canoe: it was 67 ft. long and 6 ft. 4 in. in width. It was handsomely carved, and went at a fine speed. There were some ninety to a hundred men in this canoe.
These natives showed us many kindnesses. We searched in the forest (for suitable timber), but without success. The weather continued very rough, and we were obliged to tack about, being about 4 leagues or more from the ships. We got back on board at 9 in the evening. This trip was only useful in that it gave us an opportunity of making ourselves acquainted with the western part of the harbour, which is a very fine expanse of water, not, however, without danger in places. Work was continued on board the ships, principally on our vessel, which had suffered very severely in the forepart. The figurehead and the nightheads had been carried away. There was a considerable leak in this part of the ship; and this damage was repaired as well as possible. Several of the boats were also put into service to bring off wood and fresh water.
On the 20th we went to the eastern part of the harbour, where it had seemed to us there were some tall trees. The natives came down to meet us and took us into a ravine where they showed us some trees which were far from being of the size that we required. We made them understand that these trees were not high enough for our purpose, and one of them promised he would take us another day to another part of the forest where the trees were taller, making signs to us that it was in this direction that they got the timber for their fine canoes. From the hill upon which we were standing we could see with the greatest ease the whole extent of the harbour, which seemed to us to be immense, and which is certainly one of the finest harbours that can be found anywhere.
We returned on board, and made the native come with us who had promised to conduct us the next day to a place where there was some fine mast-timber. A storm, however, came on during the night, and it was not until the 22nd that we could make a start. This native took us to the large inlet in the south, where, after travelling inland for about a league or more, we found a forest where the trees were as fine as he had told us they would be. These trees were of a species of pine in shape and quality of wood, producing a resin or turpentine of a very strong odour. We found there was enough timber in one tree to mast a vessel of 74 guns, but these great masses of wood, which are so superb, are also very difficult to cut out. We rejoiced over the discovery we had made, and flattered ourselves we should find similarpage 385
timber nearer the shore. We returned to the ship well satisfied with our journey, and decided to go back on the first fine day; but the bad weather, which is very prevalent at this time of the year, prevented our returning to the forest until the 25th. Close to the beach we had erected four huts—one for the sentry guard, one for the workers, the third served as a store, and the fourth was for the officers.
While we were thus preparing for the work we had two adventures. The first was at Marion Island, where there were four slaves belonging to M. Marion—one a negro and the other three negresses. We had placed them on the island to wash the table-linen of the ship. I do not know what cause they had for discontent, or whether it was the love of liberty which induced them to desert in a country where it would seem they could find no means of living, but they left us in ignorance of their fate until one of our gentlemen, having gone to the island where the men were getting ballast, found one of the negresses, who begged him to take her back. She said that the negro had induced the two women to desert with him, and that, in consequence, they had embarked in a very small canoe which they had found. When they were half-way across to the land, the canoe having been on the point of swamping because it was too heavily laden, the negro had killed one of the women, in order, apparently, to lighten the canoe, and in the fear that he would treat her the same way she had jumped overboard to save herself, and very fortunately she had reached the island. This narrative made us fear that the negro would set the natives against us, especially as he was a very worthless fellow, and quite capable of making them think of plotting some mischievous project against us.
The second event took place on board our vessel one day, when a large number of natives had come off to the ship. One of these men, who was in the canoe, having seen through one of the port-holes of the gunroom a cutlass to which he took a fancy, took advantage of a moment when no one was looking to get into the gun-room and steal the weapon. He was seen with the cutlass as he was getting out of the port-hole, and M. Marion had him arrested simply to frighten him. Thereupon all the canoes made off, but shortly afterwards his countrymen came and begged that he should be pardoned, and at their request he was liberated.
On the 29th a commencement was made with the cutting of a spar for the bowsprit. Although the tree chosen was the most easily accessible, it was situated on the side of a precipice, from which it had to be taken out and prevented, when being felled, from slipping down the slope. The necessary precautionspage 387
were therefore taken to hold it back by strong ropes. Everything was placed in readiness to drag the tree out of the ravine, which was a difficult task to undertake. However, after many efforts, the men got it up to the top of the hill.
Whilst these difficulties were being surmounted the men had each morning and evening to walk a league by a path which was all the more troublesome in that it went over the hills and through swamps. In one of these swamps the men had to wade for a couple of hundred paces waist deep in water. It frequently happened that this swamp was frozen over in the night, and to this inconvenience was added another in the shape of hosts of gnats, whose bites were so penetrating that several of our men were unable to work for some days.
Whilst the mast was being trimmed to an octagonal shape the foremast was cut further forward in the forest, these occupations keeping two-thirds of our men busy. Strong gear had to be used afterwards to drag these great pieces of timber along such a hilly path, and unfortunately the weather was very wet, and consequently not suited to such an enterprise. Each day I went with M. Marion to different parts of the harbour, and these excursions afforded me and other members of the staff good opportunities for sport. This was all the more agreeable in that there was an abundance of game, especially quail. We all went on duty in turn, either at the mast-making camp or at the camp on Marion Island.
The Natives came very often to see the way in which we were dragging the masts out of the forest. One day they came in such numbers that one might have suspected them of having some evil design, but we had enough confidence in their friendship to acquit them of any such purpose. It even happened some times that they would pull on the tackle falls in order to help our men. We were continually on our guard to prevent them stealing. Whether it was from curiosity or from some other motive, I noticed one day that they were counting our numbers, but as they made no secret of this we saw nothing suspicious in their action. M. Marion was very fond of taking a walk in the afternoon. He also liked fishing, and often went to indulge in this sport in a cove which lies below Tacoury's village. This cove was out of sight of the vessels, and for this reason we persuaded him to always have with him a small detachment. He was therefore generally accompanied by two or three officers and some soldiers.
On the 4th June the masting-camp was visited by a Native chief with all his family. He gave us to understand that he had come from his own district to see us. He was a handsome man, with an air of great distinction. He asked us a numberpage 389
of questions, of which we understood nothing. He displayed the greatest delight with everything he saw, and we made him some presents, with which he appeared very pleased. His wife was not bad looking, although her face was painted with red, also her hair. Her head was ornamented with feathers the same as her husband's. This red paint and these feathers are the ordinary ornaments of the women, but are only worn by the men in time of war. This chief had a very numerous retinue; and several young girls, who appeared to belong to his followers, accompanied them. There were also other women, who carried the provisions. The men alone carried arms. After having satisfied their curiosity, they continued their journey towards Tacoury's village, where, so they gave us to understand, they were to remain some days. Rain was, apparently, no obstacle to their march. They keep themselves dry by means of cloaks made out of a sort of rushes. The water runs off these cloaks, and does not penetrate; they are only worn when it rains.
Although the bad weather continued, the masts were finished on the 6th. We made use, with success, of two trucks which had been constructed for the purpose, and which proved useful for moving these great pieces of wood in the steep places, where we were obliged to carve out a path. In spite of these difficulties, by employing a large number of men, we managed to push the two masts along together.
In the afternoon I went on a shooting expedition along the shore a little distance away from our camp. I witnessed there a removal or eviction which surprised me greatly, and which, so it appeared to me, could only have been done by virtue of the law that might is right. There were about twenty men who lived in eight or ten huts with their families. Upon the arrival of forty others who landed from a canoe, the first lot removed at once, and the newcomers took possession of their homes, hardly allowing them to take anything away with them, and treating them very harshly. The unfortunate Natives who were turned out went about half a league further away, where there were some abandoned huts. I continued my shooting along the beach, and found about a league away from the camp a superb canoe which was aground under some trees. This canoe was 70ft. in length, and was made all in one piece. I thought at first it had been abandoned.
In the evening, before leaving to return on board, I told those of our gentlemen who were on shore what I had seen. They seemed to me to be desirous of taking possession of the canoe, under the pretext that it was needed at the camp, but I advised them to try and purchase it, if they could make a bargain with the owners, as I represented to them that it would be verypage 391
wrong to make themselves masters of it in any other way, especially as, if we were to take their goods in this way, it would be giving the Natives the right to steal from us. I learnt that the next day these gentlemen, who belonged to the camp-guard, having been to see the canoe, came to the conclusion that it had been abandoned, and consequently they had it launched and brought to the camp. Some Natives who were there offered no opposition to this being done.
On the 7th I accompanied M. Marion to Tacoury's Cove, where we amused ourselves by gathering and eating some excellent oysters which were to be found in great quantities in this vicinity. It was this fact which induced M. Marion to go there so frequently, as to the pleasure of fishing he could add that of shooting, there being so many large birds, which allowed us to approach quite close to them.
On the 8th we profited by the fine weather, and got the masts a good long way down towards the shore. In the evening the gear was left on the spot as usual, and, as was done each evening, a tent was erected to serve as a guard-house for some soldiers and sailors whom we left to watch over the safety of the various effects which were gathered together in this tent, in front of which, as a rule, the guard kept a fire burning. Whilst the men were at supper several Natives who had remained in hiding took advantage of this moment to slip under the tent. When they came out they were noticed by our people, who fired a shot at them, and pursued them so closely that a second shot having been fired, they made the Natives drop a bag of biscuits which they were carrying off with a small strand of rope-yarn. As they had reached the forest, and remained hidden, our men were compelled to relinquish the pursuit. Upon their return to the camp they found the Natives had carried off a musket, some greatcoats, and a few other articles. Shortly afterwards the men perceived near the masts some other Natives whom they drove off, but they found only a portion of the gear. The small anchor to which the tackles had been attached had been taken away. The Natives retired a second time into the bush, where they made a great noise. As our men considered they were in a position of some danger they despatched two of their party to the main camp to carry the news of what had happened. The officer in command immediately sent off a detachment of twelve armed men and an officer to repulse any attack which might be made on the workers, and to prevent the Natives from the temptation of setting fire to the masts, but during the remainder of the night the savages were quiet.page 393
very far away; but it could not be found. A detachment was sent to secure two Natives, and detain them as prisoners. The party secured a chief and a young man, who were taken to the camp. This chief wore a very handsome cloak, and his head was ornamented with the feathers worn in time of war. Some one took it into his head to declare that this chief was in command of the party which had committed the theft. Without making any further inquiry, the officer in command had the chief bound to a stake, and sent the young man under a strong guard to the mast-camp, where they made him understand what they had been looking for. Thereupon the young man declared himself guilty, and showed our people how the thieves had uprooted the anchor. The chief, who was kept bound up, accused Tacoury and Piquiore of this robbery.
On the morning of the 9th M. Marion was informed of everything I have just recounted, and at first severely blamed the officer who had ordered the chief to be bound up, especially as he had given instructions that under no circumstances were these people to be ill-treated, only if it did happen that the Natives were clever enough to steal anything, he had ordered that an attempt should be made to make them restore the pilfered article, but without doing them any harm. These instructions were given to all who were in command, either at the camps, or at Marion Island, or in the boats. Our commander had given these orders, as he was convinced that if we did the Natives no harm they would never try to injure us. M. Marion immediately sent word that the chief and the young man should be set free, and that no harm should be done them, and stated at the same time that the sentries were the most to blame, as if they had maintained a more careful watch the Natives would not have been able to take anything. A new anchor was sent to the mast-camp, and the guard was reinforced.
As soon as it was afternoon I took a walk to the camp to go shooting. The officers informed me that they had set the chief at liberty, and had given him some presents before releasing him. As soon, however, as he was free he made off, and, in order to run more freely, had abandoned his cloak, which they had left at the place where he had dropped it, in the hope that he would come back for it; but he had not returned. As for the young man, he had escaped during the night.
I went off shooting along the edge of the forest, and, having noticed a lot of quail which ran into the woods, I tried to follow them up. After I had shot a couple I noticed that I had gone too far ahead into the forest, so that I could not make out where I was. What baffled me most was that the sky was overcast,page 395
and I could not see the sun, which increased my anxiety. At length, after having walked for about an hour without meeting any one, I found myself on a hill, whence I could see the sea below me. I had got within a couple of musket-shots from the beach when I noticed not far away, in a sort of gully, two Natives who were fighting. At first I thought they were merely amusing themselves with some sort of exercise, for very often I had amused myself with watching them throw their darts and spears at each other, which they would dodge with a wonderful agility, and in these games they seemed to get greatly excited. This was why I was so little surprised to see those two men fighting. At last I was so persuaded that they were not in earnest that I returned to the cover of the wood, so as not to interrupt them, and to hide myself from them, so as to enjoy the pleasure of seeing them. They displayed the greatest dexterity, and at the same time the most surprising agility. I had been watching them for about six minutes when all at once I saw each man throw away his weapons and draw his tomahawk from his belt. Immediately they rushed at each other with great fury, but missed each other. They then returned to the charge, whereupon I ran towards them; but it was too late, for in this one moment one of them had had his skull smashed in by a tomahawk stroke given him by his adversary, and had fallen dead on the spot. They were so excited that the victor only noticed me when I spoke to him. He was so astonished that he took flight at a great speed, and left me standing there by the side of his victim. I examined this unfortunate fellow, and saw that his head was cut down to nearly level with his eyes, as if by a single stroke of a cutlass. One-half of his skull hung down behind, and was still held by the skin, or at least it hung on by something. The brains had spurted out to a distance of three or four paces.
This catastrophe, which I had not in the least foreseen, convinced me that these savages fight duels with each other, and with much bravery. I walked along the beach to try and find my path, when twelve or fifteen Natives, whom I had seen on board the ship, presented themselves before me. I tried to explain to them what I had just witnessed, but they did not understand me. I then asked them to show me the way to the camp. They made me understand that I was a very long way from the camp, and six of them went along with me to conduct me there. On the way we passed through a little village, where I was offered some fish to eat, and found it very good. We kept on our way, and as my guides perceived that I was fatigued, they offered to carry me. I thanked them, and they proceeded to conduct me to within sight of the camp. As they made me understand that they were about to leave, I tried topage 397
induce them to come with me to the camp, promising to give them something. I could not persuade them to do so. As they persisted and I had nothing with me that would be acceptable except a handkerchief, I gave them this, and they then went away.
What I had seen during my expedition gave me cause for reflection, and only confirmed me in the opinion I had held for some time, that it was essential we should always be on our guard against these people, and that a race which appeared to us so courageous must also be extremely daring.
Each village of any importance has its own chief or its king, who exercises a complete and unquestioned authority over his subjects. These chiefs appear to me to be independent of each other. They declare war upon the slightest pretext, which wars are very bloody; they generally kill any prisoners they may capture. It seemed to me that they have a religion. First, I had noticed that each time these natives slept on board the ship they never failed to rise at a certain hour of the night, and commence to pray, muttering various words, amongst which they kept on repeating that of “Mathe” (mate), which signifies “to kill.” This prayer lasted for about half an hour, after which they lay down again. Secondly, they have in all their houses a large stake fixed in the middle, on which is carved a hideous figure resembling those which are said to represent the devil. Besides this, each chief and some others amongst them wear at their necks a green stone as broad as a hand, upon which is engraved this same figure. All these things make me believe that these people recognize and worship some sort of being. I have seen them give burial to two of their comrades who had just died. I have even seen the sick man before death, with his relatives around him, watching over him, but I have never noticed any superstitious rites being performed on such occasions. Some hours after the death of a man they bury the body without any ceremony. Wherever I have gone I have always noticed the industry of the people. They make their tools out of a very hard stone which resembles marble, and which is very black and very hard. Of this they make their hatchets and adzes. The first they use for cutting down trees, but it is only after a good deal of trouble that they succeed. In order to lessen the work which this operation entails, they hollow out the earth all round the tree which they wish to fell, and then set fire to it, taking care at the same time that the flames shall only burn the foot of the tree. When they have thus felled the tree they roughly hew it with their hatchets and smooth it down with their adzes. These stone tools cut fairly well. Their chise's are made out of a green stone similar to that upon which theypage 399
engrave the figure of their divinity; it is extremely hard. One end is made very sharp, and the stone is fastened into a wooden handle, it being fastened in such a way that it does not slip when it is used for striking anything. They use this stone for carving and for doing any fine work. All these tools are very well made. Shells are employed to engrave and pierce these stones, which are at least as hard as agates. Considerable time must have been spent in carving the figure of which I have spoken.
We never saw them make use of any kind of metal. Although we found traces of iron, it did not seem to be abundant. The country is of very fertile appearance. There are some fine plains in the interior, where the timber is of great beauty. There are many different kinds of timber, all strangers to our climate, and several kinds possess a very agreeable odour. In colour some are red and others yellow. Sweet potatoes alone are cultivated, but these are excellent. As the natives are extremely intelligent, we were able to make them understand that the plantations we had made on Marion Island, of wheat, maize, potatoes, and various kinds of nuts, might be very useful to them. All these plants had grown very well, although it was winter. The natives seemed highly pleased, and informed us that they would take care of our cultivations, but I do not know whether they have preserved all these plants, which would be all the more valuable to them seeing that they have only the sweet potato and fern-root. Of the latter they make great use, and this is how they prepare it. Having torn up the fern, they expose it to the heat of the sun on branches of trees, and as soon as it has faded in colour or dried, they place it in a fire, where they leave it for a little time. Then, having taken it out, they place it on a wide flat stone, and beat it with a kind of club until it becomes almost a paste. It is this paste that they chew, and, having extracted all the juice, they reject the skins or residuum. I have often tasted this paste, and always found the juice of the root very pleasant. A great deal of fish is also eaten. Fish is found in great abundance, and is of excellent quality.
The men are very robust and well built, and use no condiments or salt. They cook their sweet potatoes in the fire. As for the fish, they wrap it up in a big leaf, make a hole in the fire when it is bright and clear, and then put the fish inside. It cooks very well in this way and loses none of its flavour.
The most surprising fact with which I became acquainted was the small regard they have for their women. They are not in the least jealous of them. The women have to do all the work, the men only occupying themselves with warlike preparationspage 401
and exercises. They are continually engaged in these exercises, throwing darts and spears at each other. The women are always busy, either in making cloth, or cultivating the soil, or preparing food. Sometimes they even go fishing with very large nets, but, as a rule, the men do this work. These women appear to be completely subject to their husbands. I have never seen them eating with the men; on the contrary, they wait upon them whilst the latter are eating. Indeed, I have even seen them push their servility to such a point as to actually place the food in their husbands' mouths. This custom of the women waiting on the men must be a rule amongst these people, for the men remain seated, and chat away with their fellows, without paying any attention to the women who wait upon them. This almost made me think the women were regarded as slaves. I have been able to get no definite information on this point. Despite the contempt in which the women are held, the population is very numerous. It seemed to me that each man had several wives, and they informed me that such was the case. The consumption of so much fish, which is a very heating food, no doubt contributes very much to this end.
I am not aware whether venereal disease is common to this country, but these people are greatly plagued with it. Two days after our arrival several men amongst the crews were in the company of the native women, and the result made itself manifest the very next day. It must not be presumed, however, that the disease had been communicated to the women by our sailors, for our surgeons assured us that not a single member of either crew was suffering from this disease when we arrived. They had all been cured during the five months we had been at sea, besides which we had seen several native women upon whom this disease had left the most hideous traces. The men did not appear to suffer as much as the women. I do not know whether the natives are acquainted with any remedy for this disease, but they do not appear to attribute much importance to it.
Time after time I have asked them why they so often made war upon each other, but I have never been able to understand the explanations they gave me. As to the way in which they treat their prisoners, they gave me a very clear explanation. As soon as the prisoners are in their power they are killed. From the demonstration they gave us on several occasions, there can be no doubt that they are cannibals, and that they eat their enemies. Several of our officers are of my opinion that this is the case, but what completely confirmed what I say on this subject is the fact that one of the chiefs, who well understood what I asked him, told me that after they had killed their enemies, they put them in a fire, and having cooked the corpses,page 403
These natives are greatly given to embracing each other, but they display in these caresses a most noticeable ferocity. They are peculiarly fond of kissing each other, and this they do with great intensity. They were never weary of admiring our skins, especially their whiteness, but when we permitted them to place their lips, either upon our hands or our faces, they sucked the flesh with a surprising greediness. As almost every day they came amongst us they got quite accustomed to our ways. We showed them almost everything we had, and explained to them the use of everything. I remained at the masting camp until the 10th, when, in the evening, I returned on board the vessel. During the day there took place certain events of so peculiar a character as to merit being specially recorded.
In the morning we went as usual to work upon the masts, but hardly had we left the canoe when we saw a a number of armed natives appear at the summit of the neighbouring hill, which made us remain on guard. At first we believed we were about to be attacked, and we made preparations for a fight. The natives came up quite close to us, and then stopped for a while, without any further advance. We wished, however, to know what was their design, and I proposed to go up to them alone, without arms, apparently, and ask them what they wanted. As soon as they saw me advancing towards them four of them came right up in front of me. Two of them were chiefs with whom I was acquainted. The other two belonged to the party who had served me as guides the day before. When they came up to me they embraced me asking for peace; at least, that is what I assumed from their saying “Paye aremaye,” which means “Let us have peace.” I had concealed a sword under my coat, and I now took it out and cut off a bough or branch of a small tree. I then offered the one and the other to them. They understood perfectly well that I desired an explanation. They took the bough, again asking that there should be peace, after which they again embraced me. I had them brought to the tent, where they were given a few trifles, they having offered at the same time to supply us with some of their fish, as usual. They asked that the canoe taken a few days previously should be returned to them with the paddles, and it was given back to them. They promised to return the next day, and bring some more fish. I also made a present to my two guides of the previous evening.page 405
chiefs took care to prevent them surrounding us. I went up to one of these chiefs, who appeared to be in command of the party. He testified his amity, and as they saw I was not carrying any arms they threw their weapons on one side.
The only signs of leadership which these chiefs possess are some very handsome birds' feathers, worn on their heads and on their cloaks. Their weapons are very finely carved. The bunch of feathers worn on his head by a chief easily distinguishes him from his men, and gives him an air of dignity.
The chief and the young man who had been detained as prisoners had not returned to claim the cloaks they had left behind them, and we gave the garments to this party. Upon this an old chief took the cloaks, and asked if the owners had been killed. We told him that they had not been harmed, although we were convinced that he was quite aware of the truth. However, whether he really believed them dead or not, he put the cloaks in a heap, after which he chanted some words, then taking up a bough, he threw it with some animal excrement on the cloaks, repeating certain words. Two of the younger men then took up the cloaks, and carried them away to the village which lies on the other side of the river. May it not be inferred from this that these islanders have some religion, and that they recognize the existence of a god.
On my way to the ship I met M. Marion, who had been fishing in Tacoury's Creek, where he had found some very beautiful shells, which had been brought up out of the water by the net. I told him all that had happened to me during the two days that I had been absent. He said that everything the natives had done was only the result of tying up one of their chiefs, and this could be the only reason for their taking up arms, and that practically there could be nothing else which could have embittered them against us.
When we had got on board M. Marion asked me to go and take charge of the guard on Marion Island, as the officer who was in command there had been unwell for some days. I went to the island at 7 o'clock in the evening. So much confidence had been placed in the islanders that we were on this island without any defence. There were only four soldiers there who mounted guard; with these soldiers there was another officer, the surgeon-major, and myself—that is, in all, only seven persons in good health. The sick men could not be reckoned on, for as soon as they got well they were recalled to the ships. In theory, there were six blunderbusses at the camp, which were supposed to be mounted on wooden crotches, in the shape of a goosefoot, but no one had ever thought of making use of them, so thatpage 407
they had sunk into the sand. What I had recently witnessed on shore induced me to take every precaution, and I therefore had the blunderbusses cleaned and put into good order. I then had them all loaded and put at the entrance of our tent, where the sentry walked up and down, so that they would be ready in case of an alarm being given. For five or six nights the natives had been hovering round our tents, but our men were convinced that they had no other design than to steal whatever they could lay their hands upon.
In the evening, before lying down, I impressed upon the sentry the necessity for keeping a very strict watch, and if he saw any native about he was to wake me at once. At 11 o'clock in the evening he came to tell me that he had seen five or six natives near the tent. I went out, and sure enough I saw these men, who at once fled, and ascended the hill very rapidly. I came to the conclusion that they had come to spy and see whether we were keeping a good watch, and that their intentions were not merely confined to theft.
The next morning—that is, on the 11th of the month— M. Marion came for a walk on the island. I told him what had passed during the night. He replied that these people had no other design than to try and pilfer something, and that it was easy to prevent them doing so by keeping a strict watch at night. He said he had just received word from the masting camp that the natives had again appeared during the night, and that he had sent some soldiers to reinforce the guard at that place. I told him that he ought not to place so much confidence in these men as he did, and that I was convinced they had some evil design. He would not believe me, and kept on repeating that all we had to do was to treat them with kindness and they would never seek to do us the slightest harm.
On this subject he related an experience which he had had a few days previously. Two chiefs came to see him on board our vessel. He was in his boat at the time with several of our company, and, as usual, there were several soldiers present. The chiefs took him on shore, and persuaded him to ascend a hill in the neighbourhood of Tacoury's village. Upon the hill there were a great many people gathered, who made him sit down with the officers who were with him. He was embraced by many of the natives, and at last they placed a sort of crown on his head, and pointing to the country all around, made him understand that they recognized him as their king. They went through several ceremonies, and treated him with great respect, making him presents of fish and of a stone upon which was engraved the figure of their divinity. On his part he made them several gifts, and made signs of friendship, and they then conducted him back to the ship.page 409
After having given me this narrative M. Marion said to me, “How can you expect me to have a bad opinion of a people who show me so much friendship? As I only do good to them, assuredly they will do me no evil.” At length he left me, telling me I was quite right in keeping on my guard, especially as our most necessary articles were stored on the island; but he charged me to treat the people of the country with kindness. He also told me that he intended next day to go fishing in Tacoury's Cove, where he hoped to get some more shells.
During the afternoon the chief of the native village on Marion Island came to see me, accompanied by several other natives. They brought me some fish as a present, as is their custom when paying visits. They were very much astonished to see outside my tent the blunderbusses, which I had had put in good order the previous evening, and which were now all mounted on their carriages. As they had not seen this kind of arm before, the chief asked what they were, and how they were used. I explained the use of the weapons to them as well as I could, and made him better understand by taking eight or ten balls and loading a gun with them. He then understood quite well what I told him, and showed some alarm, making a sign to me that he considered them very dangerous. He went away shortly afterwards, but I noticed he was looking round and examining everything with much attention. He even asked me to let him go into the tent where the invalids were. Although I was beginning to be suspicious of all this inquisitiveness he was displaying, and the care with which he seemed to to be taking stock of everything, I took him into the hospital tent, watching him very closely. He again examined everything in the tent very carefully, and then left me. All this convinced me that this man had some design.
In the afternoon I went shooting with a volunteer, and as I wished to visit this chief's village, we went in this direction, proceeding to the village without any ostentation, and as if by accident. We were very well received. The chief asked me various questions as to the cleaning of our guns. He had seen me kill some birds, but he did not think a man could be killed in the same way. As there are a number of dogs in this country, he made signs to me to shoot one of them that happened to be passing by. I shot at it, and killed it, which completely bewildered the chief. He went and examined the dead animal with the greatest care, so that he could see where the dog had been hit, and then came back to examine the gun with the same minute attention. He then wanted to do what I had done, aiming at another dog, and blew upon the lock of the firearm,page 411
thinking that this was the right way to discharge the gun. I did not think it necessary to show him the right way to proceed. On the contrary, I was very glad he did not know in what way we made use of our weapons.*
During the night I was again awakened by the sentry, who told me that he had seen a dozen natives, who were approaching our tents. Going outside I saw them, but apparently they noticed us, for they made off as fast as they could.
The next day, the 12th of the month, the chief of this village came to see me early in the morning. I asked him why so many natives were coming round our camp every night. I made him understand that if any more of them came we would shoot them. He understood quite well what I said, and said, “Mona,” which signifies “Good.” He remained with me until noon, and exhibited the same curiosity which we had noticed on the previous evening, but I was less inclined to answer his questions. I learnt from this native that M. Marion had been for a walk in the same neighbourhood as he had told me the night before he had intended to do.
In the evening, before I retired to rest, I gave the sentry numbers of natives appear. orders to wake me up directly anything new happened, and to maintain a very close watch. At 1 o'clock in the morning he came to tell me that the Natives were coming down the hill in great numbers. I was much surprised to see about four hundred Natives at a very short distance from our tents, and that they were advancing very rapidly. I immediately had the blunderbusses got ready, and arranged them in a square, into which seven of us entered. This was all of us who were not sick. As it was a fine moonlight night, the Natives could see our arms, and immediately they ceased to advance, and lay down in the fern. They were not more than a pistol-shot away from us, and, it would have been easy enough, had we discharged our pieces, to have killed a good number; but seeing that they made no further advance, I did not wish to be the first to make attack, especially as M. Marion had particularly ordered me to do them no harm. I decided to let them be the first to begin a fight, but I resolved at the same time to make them pay very dearly if they dared to take this step. We remained for about half an hour facing each other, but eventually I saw them go away, keeping all the time as low down in the fern, men and arms, as was possible. When they had got a little further away they marched more deliberately, and went off slowly to the foot of the hill.page 413
but they made no further attempt. From all this it became evident that their intention was to surprise us and capture everything we had on the island. If these Natives had rushed upon us it would have been quite easy for them to conquer us by reason of their great numbers, especially as they had succeeded in coming so close up to the camp. I am certain it was only the fear of our blunderbusses that had made them retreat. Had these men been more daring they might have placed us in such a position that we could not have got away from their country, for the rudders of the ships were on the island, as well as our spare pieces, such as masts, yards, cordage, &c., also about sixty men suffering from scurvy, who were unable to walk.
I soon had good justification for the mistrust with which the curiosity of the chiefs had inspired me, and for the careful precautions I had taken to safeguard our position. As soon as day broke we saw the hills surrounding us covered with Natives, who were all armed. I noticed they were making menacing signs. Soon I saw a chief whom I knew, and who belonged to the mainland, advancing by himself, and unarmed. I went up to him with only a pair of pistols in my pockets, in case he made up his mind to attack me. When he came up to me I saw he was weeping, whilst he uttered the words: “Tacoury “mate Marion,” which signifies, “Tacoury has killed Marion.” At first I did not understand what he was saying, because I was certain that M. Marion was on board his ship. However the chief kept on repeating the same words several times, so that I now began to think that the chief wanted to tell me that it was Tacoury's intention to kill M. Marion. A moment afterwards he left me very suddenly, and upon this the Natives on the hill began shouting out to him, presumably warning him to retreat, and that there was a boat coming. Going down the hill, I saw the ship's longboat come ashore with several people in her. I went down to meet them on the beach. There was an officer in the boat, who told me that having seen from the ship that I was surrounded by the Natives he had been sent to my rescue. From this officer I learnt that M. Marion had gone on shore the day before at 2 o'clock in the afternoon with two chiefs who had come to seek him, and that he had not yet returned. M. Marion had said before he left that he was going fishing in Tacoury's Cove. The net had been put in his boat, but on this occasion he had expressed a desire that none of the soldiers should accompany him, as they were in his way in the boat. He had embarked with fifteen men, amongst whom were two officers, who had their guns with them, as also had M. Marion. As this was the first time that M. Marion had not come back on board to sleep, they had become very anxious. It was thought, however, thatpage 415
he had gone to stop the night at the masting camp. I immediately recalled what the chief had told me—namely, that Tacoury had killed M. Marion; and with the greatest sorrow I saw that this could only be too true. Thirty men disembarked from the longboat with their arms and ammunition, and the boat then went back to the ship. I then inspected the arms which had been sent me. About half-past 7 in the morning we saw the same officer arrive in a small boat, and he informed me of the disastrous event by which we had lost M. Marion and all his following the evening before. This is his account of the whole affair:—
“The captain of the “Castries” had sent his longboat before daylight to get some firewood in the cove where M. Marion was in the habit of going fishing. This longboat was manned by twelve men, including the captain of the ship and a volunteer. At 7 o'clock a man had been noticed swimming off from the mainland, and a boat had immediately been sent to pick him up. It was then discovered that the swimmer was one of the crew of the “Castries' “longboat, who had received a spearthrust in his side. When he got on board, this was the story he had to tell: When the longboat's company arrived at the landing-place in the cove which runs into Tacoury's village, they perceived some natives who were all armed, but who were in small numbers, and who called out to them, making signs that they were to land. The sailor named Raux, seeing that there was some good wood, steered for the place, notwithstanding the arguments of the master-at-arms, who feared the natives, and who declared they were armed. For a time, at first, it seemed, judging by the favourable reception given by the natives to our people, that the master-at-arms had been wrong in mistrusting them, the natives coming forward to take our men and carry them to the shore on their shoulders. As our men had no reason to suspect any plot on the part of the natives, they separated one from another for the purpose of cutting the firewood. One of the men, named Lequay, was in the company of the sailor who gave us this account, and working at the same tree, when suddenly a dozen natives surrounded them. A hideous yell being given, no doubt as a signal, a considerable number of the savages appeared, and forthwith attacked them. Lequay's comrade, feeling his side pierced by a spear, seized the weapon and pulled it out. He then struck down with his axe the native who had wounded him. Amidst frightful cries from the savages, he distinguished the voice of Lequay, who called to him for help, and having found him seized by several of the savages, tried to get him away by striking them with his axe. Fear having now gained the mastery, and as the struggle was so unequal, he had tried to get back to the longboat, which hepage 417
perceived filled with natives, who were murdering several of his comrades, who, having the same design as himself, had endeavoured to escape. Whereupon seeing the horrible grimaces of the savages, who were cutting our men into pieces with their own hatchets, and hearing their agonized and expiring voices, he sought safety in flight, not knowing very well which way to turn. As he was fleeing, he saw M. Marion's boat, which was aground at the head of the cove. Having crossed through a little wood and Tacoury's village, where a multitude of children by their cries had increased his fright and made him redouble his efforts to escape, he arrived at the beach, and flung himself into the sea, without hesitating, in the fear that some of the savages might come up and murder him.”
After this narrative there could be no doubt that M. Marion had suffered the same fate, and that the chief who two hours before had told me that “Tacoury had killed Marion” had only told the truth. I was overcome in succession with feelings of pity, horror, and revenge; but not being able to undertake anything for the moment, I could only let my thoughts dwell upon the horrible catastrophe which had just robbed us of a gentleman we had so many reasons to deplore, and the brave fellows who had shared his ill fortune. We soon felt the extent of the loss we had experienced, and how, indeed, it was irreparable. M. Marion was a gentleman such as could rarely be found for a mission such as that upon which we were engaged. With all the qualities of a first-rate seaman he combined the greatest gentleness of disposition and the utmost frankness. No one was better fitted than he to bring about a state of peace and harmony, and at the same time to maintain good discipline on his ship. Every mistake committed by those who succeeded him afforded us yet one more reason why we should do homage to his memory. After his death mistakes became as frequent as when he was alive they had been rare; one stupidity succeeded another.
There is every reason to presume that M. Marion was assassinated upon putting foot on the shore. These wretched natives must have taken advantage of the moment when he found himself without an escort or arms to murder him. It may reasonably be surmised that not one of those who accompanied him escaped the fury of these barbarians.
The officer who was in command on board sent me word that he was arming the longboat with fourteen blunderbusses, four swivel guns, and twenty men to send and give the news of this unhappy event to the flag captain, who was in command at the mast camp, so as to prepare him to take such action as he might deem desirable. Immediately the natives perceived that I hadpage 419
First of all I set to work to construct an entrenchment. In the centre of this entrenchment there was sufficient room to contain the sick and fifty combatants. At noon I saw ten to twelve canoes, which came off from the mainland, and which landed on our island, on the side of the villages. There must have been from three to four hundred men on board, who joined the others, so that at 1 o'clock there were about a thousand to twelve hundred natives surrounding us.
I had placed the six blunderbusses on the side upon which the natives would have to attack us, and thus formed a little battery. The natives began to shout insults at us, crying out that they had killed Marion, and would serve us the same way. So that we might understand what they said, they took their tomahawks, and showed us by signs how they had killed our commander. The latest arrivals had approached a little closer to us than the others, and amongst them I recognized the author of the massacre, who was at the head of the last comers; it was Tacoury himself. About half an hour later this scoundrel pre-tended to descend the hills. He called me several times by name, and signed to me to approach. I made similar signs to him, and he had the audacity to come within almost a musketshot with ten of his men. Seeing him walk into the trap, I went towards him with six soldiers, who were good shots, but I had not advanced twenty paces in his direction when he turned round and started to ascend the hill. As he was going away, I ordered the soldiers to at once fire a volley, telling them to aim at him in particular, without troubling about the others. I myself fired at him. He was hit by one of the seven shots fired, for we saw him fall, and those who were with him picked him up and carried him off, shouting loudly. We ran after them, but they ran as quickly as we did. We then fired a second volley, when several others went to their assistance. We then returned to our tents. There seemed to be a great turmoil among the islanders. I do not know whether this Tacoury received a mortal wound or not, but he never appeared afterwards. At the head of these natives were all the chiefs who had been in the habit of visiting us daily, and who had exhibited every sign of friendship towards us. These wretches had made us believe that they were all at war with each other; whether they were so or not they had certainly all combined in the hope of defeating us and taking possession of our ships, as will be seen from what follows.page 421
At 7 o'clock in the evening, the long boat, which had been sent to the masting camp, came back with all our men. The flag captain, having learnt what had happened to M. Marion, had decided that he ought to abandon the camp in order to afford help to the vessels, which had but few men left on board, and that there was reason to fear the natives would make an attack on them, seeing there was so many canoes which they had gathered together in a cove. M. Croizet, who, by the death of M. Marion, was now in command of the vessel, sent me, directly he got on board, some more soldiers and volunteers, whom he had taken back with him. I wrote to him saying that I considered it necessary to re-embark all the sick men, which would enable us to dispense with several of the tents, which greatly inconvenienced us, owing to lack of space. He was of my opinion in this matter, and I had all the sufferers from scurvy embarked in the longboat, also the tents. I contented myself with putting up one small tent to act as a shelter for our arms, in case of rain. I also sent word as to the signal I should employ in case the natives should attack us during the night. This signal was to ask for the longboat, with a well-armed crew, to bring us assistance if we found we were getting the worst of the fight. From the vessel they sent me word that a great many more canoes, full of natives, had landed on the island, but as we were well entrenched there was no need to be frightened of their numbers. One of the officers who had come from the mast camp was sent to remain with me, and he gave me the following account:—
“During the night of the 12th to the 13th we were surprised to see the natives advancing, all armed, close up to our camp. Only a few could be actually distinguished, but from the noise that we heard in the forest, we considered that they must be concealed there in great numbers. We fired a few gunshots, and nothing more was heard of them. A careful watch was kept all the night, and the natives did not dare to attempt any attack. At daybreak we saw the sides of the hills covered with armed natives, and a little later they came down in such great numbers that we debated whether we should go to the masts. These natives had nearly all a bundle of fish in their hands. We went to meet them, and they traded with us as usual. It was decided that we should go to work as usual, and, as I was on duty with M. Croizet, I left with the advance guard, marching in good order so as to accustom our men to keep together. Sufficient men were left at the camp to defend it in case of attack on the part of the natives.page 423
“The work of dragging out the masts went on. They had already been taken a good way out from the bush, and were within a third of a league from the camp. The natives came in fairly large numbers and watched us. Towards noon we were informed that they had tried to surround the camp and get inside. It had been found necessary to fire upon them to drive them back. There was about five or six hundred of them round the camp. An escort had to be provided for the men who brought the labourers their dinner. Our masts were by this time on a little hill, whence we could see the longboat arrive at the camp, and afterwards eight or ten men came up in the greatest haste. We ran to meet them, to know what was causing so much hurry, but we never expected to learn such deplorable news as that which they brought us. Having learnt all that had transpired, we held it no longer possible to continue the work we had commenced. It was decided that we should go to the assistance of the vessels, so we took down all our working-gear and carried it with us, and we abandoned the masts. Scarcely had we set about our journey when a host of natives rushed up to pillage all the useless articles we had left behind us. Arrived at the camp, we put all our belongings into the longboat and the cutter which we had, and the whole of us embarked, notwithstanding that we numbered more than a hundred persons. We determined that we should first go into the cove where M. Marion and his people had been murdered, on the report which had just been made to us by the officer commanding the longboat. He and his crew assured us that they had seen, when passing the mouth of Tacoury's cove, M. Marion's cutter and the longboat of the ‘Castries’ aground a little distance from each other, also that they had seen a number of natives who had made signs to them to approach, at the same time uttering threats. Our informants also alleged that several of these natives were wearing the garments worn by M. Marion the day he was killed, and by the other men of our crews who had suffered the same fate. They had passed quite close enough to the natives to recognize perfectly well the velvet waistcoat worn by M. Marion. A chief was now wearing it, and held in his hands the dead man's gun, which was silver-mounted, and which the savage held up so that it could be seen. Others of the savages imitated his example, exhibiting the uniforms of the two officers whom they had murdered with our commander.
“Hardly had we pushed off into the water when the natives, who had retreated to the tops of the neighbouring hills, rushed down to the camp to carry off what we had been obliged to leave behind us, and set fire to the camp. A few musket-shotspage 425
were fired at them. Passing in front of Tacoury's Cove we saw a large crowd of natives, but M. Croizet did not favour the project of going into the cove and carrying off our boats, declaring that the longboat was too crowded. Nevertheless, this was the right time to secure the boats, for what with our blunderbusses and our swivel guns we could have driven away the natives, and easily retaken such valuable possessions as our boats, which was the object which had taken us to this cove. However, it was impossible to persuade him to take this course. The natives had now the further insolence to exhibit to us the miserable remnants of their victims' clothes. On arriving on board, M. Croizet, who was now in command, ordered several cannon-shots to be fired at Tacoury's village, which were all the more useless in that the balls could hardly carry so far.” Such was the story told me by this gentleman.
As for me, I was kept busy on Marion Island in taking all the precautions necessary to place us in a proper condition to defend ourselves in case we were attacked during the night. I had sentries posted on all the sides where we could be attacked. There was a forge about 300 paces away from the tent, and this had also to be guarded. I sent a detachment of twelve men to entrench themselves at this point, where they could easily defend themselves, but we had very bad weather to contend with. It rained heavily all the night, so that we had to take every precaution to keep our arms dry. Each sentinel had a piece of sheepskin which he wrapped round the lock of his gun.
The little tent which I had had erected in our entrenchment was most useful. When the rain was very heavy we could retire to this tent. At length, at 11 o'clock in the evening, the savages made a pretence of attacking the forge, but it was too well defended. I at once sent a reinforcement, and the firing was very hot. A moment after the natives approached our entrenchment, the sentinel falling back on the side of the entrenchment. Immediately we saw the savages we opened fire, and at the same time I made the signal which had been agreed upon with M. Croizet in the event of any attack being made—namely a blunderbuss shot and a couple of rockets. After we had fired a few volleys from our muskets the natives retired, having only thrown a few darts and some of their long spears, a few of which fell within the entrenchment. Some of them attacked the forge for a time, but the fire was so brisk that they also took to flight. They had come very close to us, and we could see them carrying away some dead and some wounded. They rushed into the forest, which was quite close to the forge. The longboat arrived, but we did not now require any assistance, and we sent her backpage 427
to the ship. The natives made no further attack during the remainder of the night, but at daybreak I found their numbers had greatly increased. They made menacing signs, showing us M. Marion's clothes and his gun.
I proposed that we should go and attack them on the hill, and at noon I received orders to do so. I chose twenty-six men upon whom I could rely, six were volunteers, the remainder soldiers. I made each man take a musket, a pair of waist-pistols, and a cutlass, with forty rounds of ammunition, and at 1 o'clock I placed myself at the head of my little detachment, leaving the camp under the care of an officer and about thirty men, soldiers and sailors. As soon as the natives saw us ascending the hill they razed their camp and retired into their fortifications. When we got to the top of the hill we saw a large number of canoes which were on the beach at the foot of the hill near the village, and in them were embarking the women, the youths, and the children. There appeared to be a great commotion in the village. It is as well, before proceeding further, that I should describe the situation of this village.
It is situated on the extremity of a peninsula which projects into the sea, and is unapproachable on three sides by reason of the precipices which surround it. For its better defence it has three rows of palisades. There is also a raised platform all round, which is made of long pieces of wood stuck up on their ends with planks on the top, supported by small poles, strengthened by cross-beams. The natives mount this platform by means of ladders, and on this can fight with much in their favour against an enemy armed in the same way as themselves. To the left there was a little path or track, where one man could pass along at a time by holding on to the palisades with one hand, so as not to fall into the moat. This track was so contrived as to lead to the gateway, which would be about 2 ft. square, and which was the only means by which the village could be entered. This gateway was at the far end of the village; there was no other means of entrance, as the other three sides were washed by the sea. As I was well acquainted with this village, I made up my mind very promptly, and we continued our march. We were not more than a musket-shot away when we saw two chiefs come out. I thought at first that they were going to sue for peace, but, on the contrary, they hurled darts from lashes. These are very dangerous weapons.* They gave us time to draw near, and we then firedpage 429
several shots. One of the chiefs had his thigh broken and received another bullet-wound in the body. The other retreated very quietly into the village. As they saw our intention was to make ourselves masters of their village, and to pass along the path or track of which I have spoken, they made use of a trick which hampered us greatly: they threw water all along this path, so as to prevent us using it. The ground, which was already very muddy, favoured their design. Before setting out, I told our men that as soon as they had entered on the pathway they were to march as quickly as they could, and that they should take great care to carry on a running fire, aiming as well as they could, so as not to waste their shots, and that they were to dodge as smartly as possible the darts, spears, and other weapons which might be thrown at them. I told them we should not stop until we had reached the gateway, in front of which was a small space of ground, where two men could stand abreast. The detachment was composed of men all of whom I could rely upon, and who only breathed vengeance: thus I was quite easy on that score. So as not to give the enemy time for consideration, I marched off at once, followed by my twenty-six gallant fellows. Upon entering the track, we saw several natives, who ascended the raised platform of which I have spoken, but three or four of them who had got up having been shot the others were deterred from seeking to replace their comrades. The 300 paces which, roughly computed, we had to go to reach the gateway were soon traversed despite the spears that were hurled at us. What impeded us most was the water they had thrown on the track, but the palisade, which we took care to hold on by, saved us from slipping into the moat. We were lucky enough to reach the gateway without a single man being wounded, but we found it closed, and defended by two chiefs. Having found ourselves in front of the gateway, and there being only the palisades to separate us from the enemy, we commenced a very sharp fire. First the two chiefs were killed, but another chief immediately took their place. I noticed that the palisades were hampering us by stopping our bullets, so I told our men to pass the ends of their muskets through the first row of palisades so as not to waste any shots. We had one great advantage over the natives, for when they stood up to throw their spears, darts, and other weapons they were obliged to expose themselves to our fire, and no sooner had they got ready to hurl their weapons than we fired at them. It was only their great numbers that couldpage 431
give them any advantage over us. When I got close up to the gate I had a full view of the chiefs, who were greatly protected by a sort of shelter (abat-vent)*. Nevertheless, this did not prevent five of them from being killed. These men fought with much courage, and kept on encouraging their people. The fifth chief, who came right up to the gate, displayed even greater daring than the others. He rushed up with a long spear, and gave a fierce enough thrust at the sergeant who stood by my side. The weapon caught him just above the eye, and the blow very nearly knocked him over into the moat. The chief was killed on the spot and he was apparently the last of them, for no others came forward. I noticed that the natives were now offering scarcely any resistance, and that very few spears were being thrown. I tried to force open the gate, but could not manage it. The men by my side, however, smashed it into pieces with the butts of their muskets and large stones. We entered the enclosure forthwith, and found only a few natives, who kept on fighting to cover the embarkation of those of their people who had taken flight. They threw themselves into the rampart which was on the opposite side and we again fired at them. I received a spear thrust, which wounded me in the thigh, and at the same moment a soldier was also wounded in the side.† At the time my wound gave me no great pain, and we soon set off in pursuit of the fugitives, who we saw jumping into their canoes. Two large canoes had already been launched, full of natives, but those who were embarking did not escape us, for we poured several volleys into their midst. It was at this place that the most blood was shed, for there was nothing to prevent our men taking good aim, the natives at the foot of the rampart being either shot down or drowned. They had defended the entrance to the village for about forty minutes, and with great coolness, for no one could be heard speaking except the chiefs, who gave their orders, and who were always to be seen in the most dangerous places. But immediately the chiefs had been killed the natives displayed as much fear as they had previously exhibited courage so long as the chiefs were at their head, and they now took to flight.
Finding ourselves masters of the village, I had the storehouses and a few dwellinghouses such as those of the chiefs, searched, but we could find nothing. It is probable that they had had everything carried away by the canoes which had taken away the women before the fight. We could not.page 433
find a single vestige of our people, either in the store-houses or the dwellings. I am perfectly convinced that these people had no acquaintance with Europeans, and that they were consequently in complete ignorance of the effect and carriage of our firearms, seeing that they imagined they could ward off the bullets by the cloaks they wore.* They would come right in front of us with the greatest confidence, and as soon as they saw we were taking aim they would put up their cloaks, in the hope of warding off, by this feeble means, the blows we intended to give them. This might be well enough against arms such as their own, but it was far too weak an obstacle against our bullets. I noticed during the struggle an old woman, the only one remaining in the village, who displayed the greatest bravery. She carried different weapons in her arm and handed them to the men; she was killed at the commencement of the fight. I estimate that about four hundred and fifty men had remained to defend the fortress. Of this number, only two large canoesful escaped. There would be about two hundred of them who thus got away, the rest had either been killed or had been drowned, for they threw themselves into the sea to escape our fire; but as the wind was blowing very hard, and the sea was very high, they were unable to reach the other shore, which was half a league distant from the island. Our longboat, with a well-armed crew, had been despatched to be in readiness at the foot of the village, but the wind was so strong and the sea so rough that the boat could not reach its destination in spite of the efforts of her crew. If they had fulfilled their mission not one of the natives would have escaped. These natives must have learnt by this reverse that they could not rely upon their great numbers, nor upon their weapons, which were too weak to oppose to our firearms. I inspected the bodies of some of the chiefs who had been killed, and found that they had received as many as three or four musket-shots, all mortal wounds. It is certain that these men made a most desperate resistance, which we had never expected. Amongst the dead there were hardly any -youths; all were full-grown men. It would seem that only the men of virile age go to the wars, or are allowed to take part in the defence of their villages.
When the last of the chiefs was dead the natives made it evident that they only resist so long as they are well led. It would appear that they had thought it was the same with us, and that by killing M. Marion, whom they recognized as our chief, it would have been easy to vanquish us; nevertheless they ought to have seen that after M. Marion the officers werepage 435
chiefs also; and even they were in the habit of showing us as much respect as they showed M. Marion, whereas they took very little notice of the men of the crews. As up to the moment of the catastrophe they had been coming amongst us, they should have been able to make themselves acquainted with our customs.
After having searched the village several times I ordered it to be set on fire on the side whence the wind was blowing, and in less than an hour and a half everything was consumed. The rows of palisades, which were well away from the houses, escaped the fire; we intended to use the wood of which they were constructed as firewood for our vessels. The fighting-platform, which had also escaped the fire, was also demolished, and we took away some of the wood. After having had everything destroyed, I returned to the camp with my little company. I was lucky enough to have not lost a single man. My first anxiety had been that the weapons used by our enemies might have been poisoned. This fear had arisen from the fact that my thigh, where I had been wounded, had become very swollen, and that I felt great pain from it, but it only lasted for about twelve hours. It was the same with the sergeant who had been wounded and the soldier. We all got off with a fright, and I recognized with pleasure that these islanders do not use poison and do not know of such a thing, for my wound had no serious consequences, and in eight days I was quite well again. All that night and the next few nights we kept a strict watch, but nothing ever happened.
The next morning we worked away at breaking up the camp, and taking away everything of any value. An officer who was with me went two days after the fight with a little detachment to the village, to see if the natives had come back there at night. They could find no dead bodies in the neighbourhood; the natives had returned to bury all those who had died. It was noticed that in certain places the earth had recently been disturbed, and some of our soldiers having searched they found some corpses, which proves that these natives give burial to their dead.
As we believed it was impossible to go and drag out the masts which had been abandoned, and which it was believed were burnt, we decided to construct new masts on board the vessels, making them in several pieces. The foremast for the “Castries” was made on our vessel, that being the larger of the two ships, and the bowsprit on board the “Castries.” The foremast was made in nine pieces. As for the bowsprit, it was made from a topmast strongly fished.page 437
Some time was taken up in getting the necessary firewood and fresh water for the two ships. Both were to be found close at hand on Marion Island; the palisades of the village supplied the firewood, and the water we got from the stream.
On the 28th, our longboat having been to the island to take in fresh water (the camp having been broken up), the officer in command of the boat thought he saw—and the crew were of the same opinion—one of our boats near the mainland. He went with the longboat towards the west, which was the direction in which he thought he had seen the boat, but only found some canoes. He set about carrying away a very fine piece of timber which he saw in the woodyard at this place. The natives came forward to oppose him; they were few in number, and unarmed. He wished to capture one of them, so as to gain information as to the fate of our lost men, and two of the soldiers in the longboat captured one of the natives, but not having taken sufficient precautions against his escaping, the fellow managed to get free, and ran away. The soldiers fired at him, but missed him. As they found themselves not far away from the spot where M. Marion had been murdered, the officer in command decided to go and search for our boats in the cove where they had previously been seen. He found nothing, however, there, except a band of natives from Tacoury's village, who came towards them. Several of these men were wearing clothes which had belonged to our people, and one of them was seen to be carrying M. Marion's gun, which was easily recognizable, as I have already remarked, by its silver mounting, and which they displayed with ostentation; as well as the sword of one of the officers who had accompanied M. Marion; and other spoils of their unfortunate victims which they did not forget to show. A few shots were fired at them, and our people then returned on board without having seen anything save what I have mentioned.
On the 29th I set out in our longboat to cut down the palisades of the village on Marion Island which I had destroyed on the 14th. I posted sentries on the hill at a spot whence most of the surrounding country could be seen; the other soldiers remained at a short distance from the village, to protect the working party.page 439
seeing themselves discovered, rose up and took to flight. We were not far away from them, so we gave chase, and cut them off from the track by which they were trying to reach their canoes. We were quick enough to prevent about twenty-five of them from embarking. Some of these were killed on the shore, the others threw themselves into the sea, where they were either shot or drowned. Those who had time to regain the canoes were already well away from the land. They made off, and retreated to a small village situated on a small island a little distance from Marion Island. It seemed to me there were always a large number of natives in this village. They had evidently come to Marion Island to try and surprise us. We carried off two of the canoes.
On the 7th July it was decided, but far too late, to make a formal descent on Tacoury's village, to make, so it was given out, an attempt to discover what had become of M. Marion and those who had accompanied him; but as twenty-eight days had elapsed since the massacre of which we had so little reason to doubt, the search was useless—nothing could be found or, at least, very little. The natives, who kept a constant watch on our movements, seeing us making for the village, abandoned it, and retreated to the neighbouring hills, carrying off everything they possessed. It would appear that they had feared and foreseen our visit, because for some days past some of them had already gone into camp on the hills, indeed, we only met one old native, whom the soldiers killed. Some of the oars from our lost boats were seen. They were still bloodstained, and there was a piece of the stem of the “Castries” longboat. It is presumable that they broke up this boat as well as the cutter in order to get the iron from them. We marched right through the neighbourhood of this village, as well as exploring the shores of the cove where our people had been murdered, but nothing was gained by our search. In Tacoury's house was a man's head on the end of a stake stuck in the middle of the room. This head had been cooked, and traces of teeth-marks could be distinguished. In another house close by there was a thighbone which was still attached to a wooden spit. The flesh had been torn off in several pieces by teeth, there was still a little flesh adhering to the bone, which was cooked and dried up. There could not be the slightest doubt after this discovery that the natives are cannibals, nor, consequently, could there be any doubt as to the fate of M. Marion and his companions in misfortune.page 441
In any case, it is without doubt most regrettable and revolting, for the sake of humanity, that this expedition was not carried out earlier. It might have been expected that it would be useless, and that it was too late. Although we might not have had the happiness, so far as can be seen, to actually rescue M. Marion and those who accompanied him, at least it might have happened that we might have been able to pick up a few men who in the first moments of the massacre might have escaped, as did the sailor of whom I have spoken before. As this man said, he had seen two others who had already got free, and had reached the longboat, where the natives who caught them murdered them; had they been able to swim, they might perhaps have been able to escape as he did. It is by no means improbable that some had escaped, either from M. Marion's cutter or from the longboat, and had been able to conceal themselves in the bush, with the hope of being rescued, or of finding some means of getting back to the vessels. These men must have died from their wounds, or from hunger, or have been discovered by the savages, who would rob them of what little life they had left. This is all the more probable, seeing that the sailor who escaped declared he had beaten off eight armed natives, several of whom he had wounded with his axe.
Amongst those who were with M. Marion were some who had never been able to help being mistrustful of the natives, amongst others the master-at-arms of our vessel, who was a servant, and was covered with wounds from the last war. There is reason to believe that this man sold his life very dearly, as well as others who were victims of this disastrous catastrophe. It might well have happened that some of these unfortunate fellows had got away, and had succeeded in making their escape. In this uncertainty, would it not have been proper that we should have set to work, and with the greatest haste, to save them from a death so frightful as that which must have ended their days. I set all these arguments before M. Croizet, and told him there was nothing to be risked in going and capturing Tacoury's village the day after our expedition to the village on Marion Island; further, that those natives, after the check they had just received, would not have made the slightest resistance; and yet again, that this was the only means to help those whopage 443
had escaped. But he was not of my opinion, nor was the captain of the “Castries.” These gentlemen said it would be imprudent to take any further risks; and thus the space of time which had elapsed from the 12th June to the 7th July prevented our finding any of our men alive. The expedition we had just made was quite useless. We only burnt the village, and that of Piquiore, which was a little further away; that was the only good that came of it. The savages could again be seen exhibiting the garments of our men, which they held up at the end of long poles.
On the 8th July we again went to Tacoury's Cove, to carry off some canoes. The natives remained camped on the hills, whence they watched us, and proudly paraded the garments of the unhappy men whom they had murdered.
On the 11th July we were ready to leave. The “Castries” had been remasted, and on this same day we held a council to decide as to what route we should take on quitting this harbour, taking into consideration our position and our needs. We had found in M. Marion's papers not the slightest plan; his instructions were no longer available for our guidance, and as Boutaveri, the Tahitian native, whom we were to take back to his island, had died, the choice only remained of going to Chili or Manilla, for which latter place we were furnished with passports from the Court of Spain. Our losses in men, anchors, cables, rigging, and spars, and the bad health of our crews, of whom a large number were again down with scurvy, made it impossible for us to continue our explorations. All these drawbacks made us decide upon sailing for Manilla, passing by Rotterdam and Amsterdam Islands, whence we could follow the track of the galleons from Manilla, calling in at Puaham, the principal port of the Marianne Islands, to get provisions and a pilot used to the Straits of San Bernardino.
On the 12th July we sent a bottle to be buried on Marion Island, in which were enclosed the arms of France, and a formal statement of the taking possession of all this country, which we named Austral-France. This bottle is 4 ft. under the earth, at 57 paces from the edge of the sea, reckoning from high-water mark, and at ten paces from the little stream. This bottle was buried with all necessary precautions.
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