VOYAGES ROUND THE WORLD, AND POLAR EXPEDITIONS
On the 28th April, the Rurik was near the supposed site of Bauman's Islands, but not a sign of them could be seen, and it appeared probable that the group had in fact been one of those already visited.
As soon as he was safely out of the dangerous Pomautou archipelago Kotzebue steered towards the group of islands sighted in 1788 by Sever, who, without touching at them, gave them the name of Penrhyn. The Russian explorer determined the position of the central group of islets as S. lat. 9° 1' 35" and W. long. 157° 44' 32", characterizing them as very low, like those of the Pomautou group, but inhabited for all that.
At the sight of the vessel a considerable fleet of canoes put off from the shore, and the natives, palm branches in their hands, advanced with the rhythmic sound of the paddles serving as a kind of solemn and melancholy accompaniment to numerous singers. To guard against surprise, Kotzebue made all the canoes draw up on one side of the vessel, and bartering was done with a rope as the means of communication. The natives had nothing to trade with but bits of iron and fish-hooks made of mother-of-pearl. They were well made and martial-looking, but wore no clothes beyond a kind of apron.
At first only noisy and very lively, the natives soon became threatening. They thieved openly, and answered remonstrances with undisguised taunts. Brandishing their spears above their heads, they seemed to be urging each other on to an attack.
When Kotzebue felt that the moment had come to put an end to these hostile demonstrations, he had one gun fired. In the twinkling of an eye the canoes were empty, their terrified crews unpremeditatingly flinging themselves into the water with one accord. Presently the heads of the divers reappeared, and, a little calmed down by the warning received, the natives returned to their canoes and their bartering. Nails and pieces of iron were much sought after by these people, whom Kotzebue likens to the natives of Noukha-Hiva. They do not exactly tatoo themselves, but cover their bodies with large scars.
|"In the twinkling of an eye the canoes were empty."|
A curious fashion not before noticed amongst the islanders of Oceania prevails amongst them. Most of them wear the nails very long, and those of the chief men in the canoes extended three inches beyond the end of the finger.
Thirty-six boats, manned by 360 men, now surrounded the vessel, and Kotzebue, judging that with his feeble resources and the small crew of the Rurik any attempt to land would be imprudent, set sail again without being able to collect any more information on these wild and warlike islanders.
Continuing his voyage towards Kamtchatka, the navigator sighted on the 21st May two groups of islands connected by a chain of coral reefs. He named them Kutusoff and Suwaroff, determined their position, and made up his mind to come back and examine them again. The natives in fleet canoes approached the Rurik, but, in spite of the pressing invitation of the Russians, would not trust themselves on board. They gazed at the vessel in astonishment, talked to each other with a vivacity which showed their intelligence, and flung on deck the fruit of the pandanus-tree and cocoa-nuts.
Their lank black hair, with flowers fastened in it here and there, the ornaments hung round their necks, their clothing of "two curiously-woven coloured mats tied to the waist" and reaching below the knee, but above all their frank and friendly countenances, distinguished the natives of the Marshall archipelago from those of Penrhyn.
On the 19th June the Rurik put in at New Archangel, and for twenty-eight days her crew were occupied in repairing her.
On the 15th July Kotzebue set sail again, and five days later disembarked on Behring Island, the southern promontory of which he laid down in N. lat. 55° 17' 18" and W. long. 194° 6' 37".
The natives Kotzebue met with on this island, like those of the North American coast, wore clothes made of seal-skin and the intestines of the walrus. The lances used by them were pointed with the teeth of these amphibious animals. Their food consisted of the flesh of whales and seals, which they store in deep cellars dug in the earth. Their boats were made of leather, and they had sledges drawn by dogs.
Their mode of salutation is strange enough, they first rub each other's noses and then pass their hands over their own stomachs as if rejoicing over the swallowing of some tid-bit. Lastly, when they want to be very friendly indeed, they spit in their own palms and rub their friends' faces with the spittle.
The captain, still keeping his northerly course along the American coast, discovered Schichmareff Bay, Saritschiff Island, and lastly, an extensive gulf, the existence of which was not previously known. At the end of this gulf Kotzebue hoped to find a channel through which he could reach the Arctic Ocean, but he was disappointed. He gave his own name to the gulf, and that of Kruzenstern to the cape at the entrance.