CHAPTER IV. Narrative of Captain Cook's second Voyage round the World.
The people of Tanna, are of the middle size, and for the most part slender. There are few tall or stout men among them. In general, they have good feature and agreeable countenances. Like all the tropical race, they are active and nimble; and seem to excel in the use of arms, but not to be fond of labour. With respect to the management of their weapons, Mr. Wales hath made an observation so honourable to Homer, that were I to omit it, I should not be forgiven by my classical readers. 'I must confess,' says Mr. Wales. 'I have often been led to think the feats which Homer represents his heroes as performing with their spears, a little too much of the marvellous to be admitted into an heroic poem; I mean when confined within the strait stays of Aristotle. Nay, even so great an advocate for him as Mr. Pope, acknowledges them to be surprising. But since I have seen what these people can do with their wooden spears, and them badly pointed, and not of a hard nature, I have not the least exception to any one passage in that great poet on this account. But if I see fewer exceptions, I can find infinitely more beauties in him; as he has. I think, scarcely an action, circumstance, or description of any kind whatever, relating to a spear, which I have not seen and recognized among these people; as their whirling motion, and whistling noise, as they fly; their quivering motion, as they stick in the ground when they fall; their meditating their aim, when they are going to throw; and their shaking them in their hand, as they go along.'
On the 20th of August, Captain Cook sailed from Tanna, and employed all the remainder of the month in a farther examination of the islands around him. He had now finished his survey of the whole Archipelago, and had gained a knowledge of it, infinitely superior to what had ever been attained before. The northern islands of this Archipelago were first discovered in 1606, by that eminent navigator Quiros, who considered them as part of the Southern continent, which, at that time, and till very lately, was supposed to exist. M. de Bougainville was the next person by whom they were visited, in 1768. This gentleman, however, besides landing in the Isle of Lepers, only made the discovery, that the country was not connected, but composed of islands, which he called the Great Cyclades. Captain Cook, besides ascertaining the situation and extent of these islands, added to them several new ones, which had hitherto been unknown, and explored the whole. He thought, therefore, that he had obtained a right to name them; and accordingly he bestowed upon them the appellation of the New Hebrides. His title to this honour will not be disputed in any part of Europe, and certainly not by so enlightened and liberal a people as the French nation.
The season of the year now rendered it necessary for our commander to return to the south, while he had yet some time to explore any land he might meet with between the New Hebrides and New Zealand; at which last place he intended to touch, that he might refresh his people, and renew his stock of wood and water for another southern course. With this view, he sailed on the 1st of September, and on the 4th land was discovered; in a harbour belonging to which the Resolution came to an anchor the next day. The design of Captain Cook was not only to visit the country, but to have an opportunity of observing an eclipse of the sun, which was soon to happen. An intercourse immediately commenced with the inhabitants, who, during the whole of the captain's stay, behaved in a very civil and friendly manner. In return, he was solicitous to render them every service in his power. To Teabooma the chief, he sent among other articles, a dog and a bitch, both young, but nearly full grown. It was some time before Teabooma could believe that the two animals were intended for him; but when he was convinced of it, he was lost in an excess of joy. Another, and still more valuable present, was that of a young boar and sow; which, on account of the absence of the chief when they were brought to land, were received with great hesitation and ceremony.
The last time that our commander went on shore at this place, he ordered an inscription to be cut on a large tree, setting forth the name of the ship, the date of the year, and other circumstances, which testified that the English were the first discoverers of the country. This he had before done, wherever such a ceremony seemed necessary. How the island was called by the natives, our voyagers could never learn: and therefore, Captain Cook gave it the name of New Caledonia. The inhabitants are strong, robust, active, and well made. With regard to the origin of the nation, the captain judged them to be a race between the people of Tanna and the Friendly Isles; or between those of Tanna and the New Zealanders; or all three. Their language is in some respects a mixture of them all. In their disposition they are courteous and obliging; and they are not in the least addicted to pilfering, which is more than can be asserted concerning any other nation in this sea.
The women of New Caledonia, and those likewise of Tanna, were found to be much chaster than the females of the more eastern islands. Our commander never heard that the least favour was obtained from them by any one of his company. Sometimes, indeed, the women would exercise a little coquetry, but they went no farther.
The botanists of the ship did not here complain for want of employment. They were diligent in their researches, and their labours were amply rewarded. Every day brought some new accession to botanical knowledge, or that of other branches of natural history.