FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
All the houses, whether inland or on the coast, are built on piles. Many of these dwellings are erected in places extremely difficult of access. They are made by thrusting stakes into the earth, to which transverse beams are fastened with ropes made of fibre, and on these a flooring is laid of palm-leaves, trimmed and strongly intertwined one with another. These leaves, made to lap over in an artistic fashion, are also used for the roof of the house, which has only one door. Should the dwellings be built over the water, communication is carried on between them and the shore by means of a kind of bridge resting upon trestles, the movable flooring of which can be quickly taken up. Every house is also surrounded by a kind of balcony furnished with a balustrade.
The travellers could not obtain any information as to the friendly disposition of these natives. Whether the whole tribe consists of large communities united under one chief or several, whether each community obeys only its own proper head, whether the population is numerous or not, are all points which could not be ascertained. The name by which they call themselves is Alfourous. They appeared to talk in several distinct dialects, which differ remarkably from Papuan or Malay.
The inhabitants of this group seem to be a very industrious race. They manufacture all sorts of fishing apparatus very cleverly; they are expert in finding their way through the forests; they know how to prepare the pith of the sago-plant, and to make ovens for the cooking of the sago; they can turn pottery ware, weave mats, carpets, baskets, and can also carve idols and figures. In the harbour of Boni on the coast of Waigiou, MM. Quoy and Gaimard noticed a statue moulded in white clay, under a sort of canopy close to a tomb. It represented a man standing upright, of the natural height, with his hands raised towards heaven. The head was of wood, with the cheeks and eyes inlaid with small pieces of white shell.
On the 6th of January, 1819, having taken in supplies at Rawak, the Uranie proceeded on her voyage, and soon came in sight of the Ayou islands, mere sand-banks surrounded by breakers, of which few geographical details had been known up to that time. There was much to be done in the way of accurate survey, but unfortunately the hydrographers were sorely hindered in their work by the fever which they and some forty of the crew had contracted at Rawak. Sailing on, the Anchoret Islands came in sight on the 12th of February, and on the day following the Amirantes, but the Uranie did not attempt to make for the land. Shortly after passing the Amirantes, the corvette sighted St. Bartholomew, which the inhabitants call Poulousouk. It belongs to the Caroline archipelago. A busy trade, always attended with much uproar, was soon set on foot with the indigenous people, who resisted all persuasion to come on board, conducting all their transactions, nevertheless, with admirable good faith, in no instance showing any dishonest tendencies. One after another Poulouhat, Alet, Tamatam, Allap, Tanadik, all islands belonging to this archipelago, passed before the admiring gaze of the French navigators. At length, on the 17th of March, 1819, just eighteen months from the time of quitting France, Freycinet got sight of the Marianne Islands, and cast anchor in the roads of Umata on the coast of Guam. Just as the officers of the expedition were ready to go on shore, the governor of the island, D. Medinilla y Pineda, accompanied by his lieutenant, Major D. Luis de Torrès, came on board to bid them welcome. These gentlemen showed a polite anxiety to learn what the explorers stood in need of, and engaged that all their wants should be supplied with the least possible delay.
No time was lost in looking for a place suited for conversion into a temporary hospital, and one being found, the sick on board, to the number of twenty, were removed to it for treatment the very next day.
A dinner to the staff of the expedition was given by the governor, and all the officers assembled in his house at the appointed hour. They found a table covered with light cakes and fruits, in the midst of which were two bowls of hot punch. Some surprise escaped the guests, in private remarks to one another, at this singular kind of banquet. Could it be a fast-day? Why did no one sit down? But as there was no interpreter to clear up these points, and as it would have been unbecoming to ask for an explanation, they kept their difficulties for solution among themselves, and paid attention to the good things before them. Soon a fresh surprise came; the table was cleared and covered with various sorts of prepared dishes—in short, a substantial and sumptuous dinner was served. The collation which had been taken at the commencement, called in the language of the country "Refresco," had been intended only to whet the appetites of the guests for what was to follow.