Search for the lands discovered by the French—Kerguelen Islands—Stay at Van Diemen's Land—Queen Charlotte's Strait—Palmerston Island—Grand rejoicings in the Tonga Islands.

At this date the idea which had sent so many explorers to Greenland was in full force. The question of the existence of a northern passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, by way of the Asiatic or American coasts, was eagerly discussed: and should such a passage exist, was it practicable for ships? The attempt had quite lately been made, to discover this outlet in Hudson or Baffin Bays, and it was now determined to seek it in the Pacific.

The task was an arduous one. The Lords of the Admiralty felt that it was essential to send out a navigator who had experience of the dangers of the Polar Seas, and one who had shown presence of mind in the face of danger; one moreover, whose talents, experience, and scientific knowledge might be of use in the powerful equipment then in course of preparation.

In Captain Cook alone were all the requisite qualities to be found. The command was offered to him, and although he might have passed the remainder of his days in peace at his post in the Greenwich Observatory, in the full enjoyment of the honour and glory he had gained by his two voyages round the world, he did not hesitate for a moment.

Two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, were placed under his command. The latter was under the orders of Captain Clerke; and the equipment of both was similar to that of the last expedition.

The instructions given to the commander of the expedition, enjoined his reaching the Cape of Good Hope, and steering south in search of the islands recently discovered by the French, in 48 degrees of latitude, towards the meridian of the island of Mauritius. He was then to touch at New Zealand, if he thought well, to take in refreshments at the Society Islands, and to land the Tahitan Mai there; then to proceed to New Albion, to avoid landing in any of the Spanish possessions in America, and from thence to make his way by the Arctic Ocean to Hudson and Baffin Bays. In other words he was to look in an easterly direction for the north-west passage. This once effected, after a stay at Kamschatka, he was to make another attempt to reach England by the route he might judge most productive of good results for geography and navigation.

The two vessels did not start together. The Resolution set sail from Plymouth on the 12th of July, 1776, and was rejoined at the Cape by the Discovery on the 10th of the following November, she having left England only on the 1st of August.

The two ships were detained at the Cape until the 30th of November, by the repairs needed by the Discovery. Much damaged by tempest, she required calking. The captain profited by this long delay, to buy live stock, which he intended to land at Tahiti and New Zealand, and also to stock his vessels with the necessary stores for a two-years' voyage.

After steering southwards for twelve days, two islands were discovered in 46° 53' south latitude, and 37° 46' east longitude. The strait which separates them was crossed, and it was found that their steep sterile coasts were uninhabited. They had been discovered with four others, from nine to twelve degrees further east, by the French Captains Marion-Dufresne and Crozet, in 1772.

On the 24th of December, Cook found the islands which M. de Kerguelen had surveyed in his two voyages of 1772, 1773.

Kerguelen Islands
Kerguelen Islands.

We will not here relate the observations made by Cook upon this group. As they agree in every particular with those of M. de Kerguelen, we can reserve them until we relate the adventures of that navigator, and content ourselves with remarking that Cook surveyed the coasts carefully, and left them on the 31st of December. The vessels were enveloped in a thick fog, which accompanied them for more than 300 leagues.

Anchor was cast in Adventure Bay, in Van Diemen's Land, on the 26th of January. It was the same spot at which Captain Furneaux had touched four years earlier. The English were visited by a few natives, who received the presents offered to them, without showing any satisfaction.

The narrative says,—

"They were of ordinary height, but rather slightly built. Their skin was black and their hair of the same colour, and as woolly as that of the negroes of New Guinea, but they had not the thick lips or flat noses of African negroes. There was nothing disagreeable in their features, and their eyes struck us as beautiful, so did their teeth, but they were very dirty. Most of them anointed their hair and beards with a yellow ointment, and some even rubbed their faces with the same stuff."

Concise as this account is, it is not the less valuable. The race of Tasmanians is extinct, the last of them died a few years ago.

Cook weighed anchor on the 30th of January, and took up his station at his usual point in Queen Charlotte's Strait. The vessels were soon surrounded by pirogues, but not a single native ventured to go on board, they were so fully persuaded that the English had come to avenge their murdered comrades. Once convinced that the English had no such intention, they banished their mistrust and reserve. The captain soon found out by Mai's interpretation (he understanding the Zealand tongue) the right cause of this terrible catastrophe.

It appeared that the English had been seated on the grass, taking their evening meal when the natives committed several thefts. One of them was caught and struck by a sailor. At his cry, his companions rushed upon the sailors of the Adventure, who killed two of them, but unfortunately succumbed to numbers. Several of the Zealanders pointed out to Cook the chief who had directed the carnage, and urged Cook to kill him. But to the great surprise of the natives and the stupefaction of Mai, the captain refused.

Mai remarked, "In England they kill a man who assassinates another; this fellow killed ten, and you take no revenge!"

Before he left, Cook landed pigs and goats, hoping that these animals might at length become acclimatized to New Zealand.

Mai had a wish to take a New Zealander to Tahiti. Two offered to go, and Cook agreed to receive them, warning them at the same time that they would never see their native land again. But no sooner had the vessels lost sight of the shores of New Zealand than they began to weep. Sea-sickness added to their distress. But as they recovered from it their sadness disappeared, and they soon attached themselves to their new friends.

An island named Mangea was discovered on the 29th of March. At Mai's representations the inhabitants decided to come on board. Small, but vigorous and well-proportioned, they wore their hair knotted upon the top of the head. They wore long beards, and were tatooed in all parts of their bodies. Cook could not carry out his earnest wish to land, as the people were too hostile.

A new island, similar to the last, was discovered four leagues further on. The natives appeared more friendly than those of Mangea, and Cook profited by this fact, and landed a detachment under Lieutenant Gore, with Mai as interpreter. Anderson, the naturalist, an officer named Barnes, and Mai landed alone and unarmed, running the risk of being maltreated.

They were received with solemnity, and conducted through a crowd of men, with clubs on their shoulders, to the presence of three chiefs, whose ears were adorned with red feathers. They soon perceived a score of women, who danced in a grave and serious fashion, paying no attention to their arrival.

The officers were separated from each other, and observing that the natives hastened to empty their pockets, they began to entertain fears for their safety, when Mai reappeared. They were detained all day, and forced several times to take their clothes off, and allow the natives to examine the colour of their skin; but night arrived at last, without the occurrence of any disagreeable incident. The visitors regained their sloop, and cocoa-nuts, bananas, and other provisions were brought to them.

The English may have owed their safety to the description Mai had given of the power of their weapons, and the experiment he made before them of setting fire to a cartridge.

Mai had recognized three of his fellow-countrymen in the crowd on the beach.

These Tahitans had started in a pirogue to reach Ulitea Island, and had been driven out of their course by contrary winds. As they expected a short voyage, they had not provided themselves with food. Famine and fatigue had reduced their number to four men, all of them half dead, when the pirogue capsized. The unfortunate wretches managed to seize the side of their boat and support themselves in the water until they were picked up by the inhabitants of this island, Wateroo. It was now twelve years since fate threw them upon this shore, more than two hundred leagues from their native island. They had contracted family ties and friendly alliances with these people, whose manners and language were not unlike their own. They refused to return to Tahiti.

Cook says, "We may find in this incident a better explanation of the way in which detached portions of the globe, and particularly the islands of the Pacific, have been peopled, than in any theories; especially in regard to those which are far from any other continent, and at a great distance from each other."

Wateroo Island is situated in 20° 1' south latitude, and 201° 45' east longitude.

The two vessels afterwards reached a neighbouring island called Wenooa, upon which M. Gore landed to get fodder. Although the ruins of houses and tents were seen, it was uninhabited.

On the 5th of April, Cook arrived in sight of Harvey Island, which he had discovered during his second voyage in 1773. At that time it appeared to him deserted. He was, therefore, astonished to see several pirogues leave the shore and approach the ships. But the natives could not find courage to go on board.

Their fierce appearance and noisy offers did not promise well for their friendly intentions.

Their language was still more like that of Tahiti, than that of the last islands they had visited.

Lieutenant King was sent in search of good anchorage, but could not succeed in finding a suitable harbour. The natives, armed with spears and clubs, appeared disposed to resent any attempt at landing.

Cook, in his great need of wood and water, determined to reach the Friendly Islands. He was sure of finding refreshments for his men and forage for his beasts there. The season was too far advanced, and the distance between these latitudes and the pole too great to allow of anything being attempted in the southern hemisphere.

The wind obliged him to relinquish his idea of reaching Middlebourgh or Eoa, as he had at first intended. He therefore, directed his course towards Palmerston Island, where he arrived on the 14th of April, and where he found birds in abundance, scurvy grass, and cocoa-nuts. This island was merely a collection of nine or ten islets, very slightly raised, appearing almost like the points of reefs, belonging to one coral bank.

The English reached Komango Island on the 28th of April, and the natives brought them quantities of cocoa-nuts, bananas, and other stores.

They then proceeded to Annamooka, which is also part of the Tonga, or Friendly archipelago.

On the 6th of May, a chief of Tonga Tabou, named Finaou, visited Cook. He called himself king of all the Friendly Islands.

"I received," says Cook, "a present from this great personage of two fish, which were brought to me by one of his servants. I paid him a visit after dinner. He came to meet me as soon as he saw me land. He appeared some thirty years of age, tall and of slender form, and I have met no countenance in these islands so European in 'type.'"

When all the provisions of this island were exhausted, Cook visited a group of islets called Hapaee, where his reception was friendly, owing to the orders given by Finaou, and where he procured pigs, water, fruits, and roots. Some of the native warriors exhibited their skill in various singular combats, with clubs and boxing.

"What most surprised us," says the narrative, "was to see two great women enter the lists, and attack each other with their fists, without the least ceremony, and with as much skill as the men. Their fight lasted about half a minute, when one of them declared herself beaten. The victorious heroine received as much applause from the assembled multitude as is usually accorded to a man who has overcome his rival by his skill and address."

There was no cessation of the fêtes and games. A dance was executed to the sound of two drums, or rather of two hollow trunks, by a hundred and five performers, supported by a vocal choir. Cook reciprocated these demonstrations by putting his soldiers through their artillery exercises, and letting off fireworks, which produced indescribable astonishment in the minds of the natives.

Not wishing to be out-done in the attempt at display, the natives gave a concert, and then a dance, executed by twenty women crowned with China roses. This magnificent ballet was followed by another performance by fifteen men. But we shall never end, if we attempt to give an account of the wonders of this enthusiastic reception. It justly gained for the Tonga archipelago the name of Friendly Islands.

On the 23rd, Finaou, who had represented himself as king of the entire archipelago, came to inform Cook of his departure for the neighbouring island of Vavaoo. He had excellent reasons for this, as he had just heard of the arrival of the real sovereign, named Futtafaih or Poulaho.

Cook at first refused to recognize the new-comer in this character, but he soon had irrefutable proof that the title of king belonged to him.

Poulaho was extremely stout, which with his short height made him look like a barrel. If rank is proportioned to size in these islands, he was without exception thegreatest chief the English had met with. Intelligent, grave, and dignified, he examined the vessel and everything that was new to him in detail, put judicious questions, and inquired into the motives of the arrival of these vessels. His followers objected to his descending below decks, saying it was "tabu" and that it was not allowed for any one to walk over his head. Cook, however, promised through the interpreter Mai that no one should be allowed to walk over his cabin, and so Poulaho dined with the captain. He ate little and drank still less, and invited Cook to land with him. The marks of respect lavished upon Poulaho by all the natives, convinced Cook that he had been entertaining the real sovereign of the archipelago.

On the 29th of May, Cook set sail on his return to Annamooka, thence to Tonga Tabou, where a feast or "keiva," more magnificent than any he had seen, was given in his honour.

"In the evening," he said, "we had the spectacle of a 'bomai,' that is to say, the dances of the night were performed in front of Finaou's house. We saw twelve dances during the time. They were executed by women, and in the midst of them we noticed the arrival of a number of men, who formed a ring within that of the dancing women. Twenty-four men, who executed a third, made a movement with the hands, which was greatly applauded, and which we had not previously seen. The orchestra was renewed once. Finaou appeared upon the scene at the head of fifty dancers, most magnificently apparelled. His garment consisted of cloth and a large piece of gauze, and round his neck small figures were suspended."

Fête in Cook's honour at Tonga
Fête in Cook's honour at Tonga.

Cook, after a stay of three months, thought it well to leave these enchanting islands, he distributed a share of the cattle he had bought at the Cape, and explained, through Mai, the way to feed them, and their utility. Before leaving, he visited a cemetery or "Fiatooka," belonging to the king, composed of three good-sized houses, placed on the edge of a sort of hill. The planks of these buildings, and the artificial hills which supported them, were covered with pretty movable pebbles, and flat stones, placed erect, surrounded the whole.

"One thing which we had not previously seen, was that the buildings were open on one side, and within there were two wooden busts, roughly carved, one at the entrance, and the other a little within. The natives followed us to the door, but dared not pass the threshold. We asked them the meaning of the busts: they assured us that they did not represent any divinity, but were intended to recall two chiefs who were buried in the 'Fiatooka.'"

Leaving Tonga Tabou on the 10th of July, Cook repaired to the small of Eoa, where his old friend Tai-One received him cordially. The captain learned from him that the property of the various islands in the archipelago belonged to the chiefs of Tonga Tabou, which was known as the land of the chiefs. Thus Poulaho had a hundred and fifty islands under his rule. The most important are Vavao and Hamao. As for the Viti Islands, which are comprised in this number, they were inhabited by a warlike race, very superior in intelligence to those of the Friendly Islands.

We can only refer to some of the many and interesting particulars collected by the captain and the naturalist Anderson, which relate to the gentleness and docility of the natives.

Cook could do nothing but praise the welcome accorded to him, each time he stayed in the archipelago. But then he did not guess the project entertained by Finaou, and the other chiefs, of assassinating him during the nocturnal feast of Hapaee, and of seizing his vessels.

The navigators who succeeded him were not lavish in their praises, and if we did not know his sincerity, we should be tempted to think that the illustrious mariner gave the name of Friendly Islands to this group satirically.

The inhabitants of Tonga Island always mourned the death of a relation, by hitting themselves on their cheeks, and by tearing them with whale's teeth, a custom which explains the many tumours and cicatrices they have on the face. If their friends are dangerously ill, they sacrifice one or two joints of their little finger, to propitiate the divinity, and Cook did not meet with one native in ten who was not mutilated.

The expression "tabu," he says, "which plays so great a part in the language of this people, has a very wide significance. When they are not allowed to touch anything they say it is tabu. They also told us that if the king enters a house belonging to one of his subjects, the house becomes 'tabu,' and the owner of it may not live in it any longer."

Cook fancied he had made out their religion. Their principal god was Kallafoutonga, and in his anger, he destroys plantations and scatters illness and death. The religious ideas of all the islands are not alike, but the immortality of the soul is unanimously admitted. Although they do not offer fruit or other productions of the earth to their divinity, they sacrifice human victims.

Cook lost sight of the Tonga Islands on the 17th of July, and the expedition arrived in sight of an island called Tabouai by the inhabitants, upon the 8th of August, after a series of tempestuous winds which caused serious damage to the Discovery. All the eloquence of the English failed to bring the natives on board. Nothing would induce them to leave their boats, and they contented themselves with inviting the strangers to visit them. But as time pressed, and Cook had no need of provisions, he passed the island without stopping, although it appeared to him fertile, and the natives assured him that it abounded in pigs and fowls. Strong, tall, and active, the natives had a hardy and savage appearance. They spoke the Tahitan language, which made intercourse with them easy.

Some days later, the verdant summits of Tahiti appeared on the horizon, and the two vessels were not slow in stopping opposite the peninsula of Tairabon, where the welcome Mai received from his compatriots was as indifferent as possible. His brother-in-law, chief Outi, would scarcely consent to recognize him, but when Mai showed him the treasures he brought back, amongst them all the famous red feathers, which had been so successful in Cook's last voyage, Oati changed his demeanour, treated Mai affably, and proposed to change names with him.

Mai was overcome by these demonstrations of tenderness, and, but for Cook's interference, would have been robbed of all his treasures.

The ships were well supplied with red feathers. Therefore fruits, pigs, and fowls appeared in great abundance during the stay in port. Cook, however, soon proceeded to Matavai Bay, where King Otoo left his residence at Pané, to pay his old friend a visit. Mai was disdainfully received by his friends there also, and although he threw himself at the king's feet, when he presented him with a tuft of red feathers, and three pieces of gold cloth, he was scarcely noticed. But as at Taqabou, the treatment changed suddenly upon the discovery of Mai's fortune, but he being only happy in the company of vagabonds, who laughed at him good-naturedly, even while they robbed him, was unable to acquire the influence over Otoo, and the principle chiefs, which was necessary to the development of civilization.

Cook had long heard that human sacrifices were common in Tahiti, but he had always refused to believe it. A solemn ceremonial which he saw at Atahour, no longer allowed him to doubt the existence of the practice. In order to gain the favourable assistance of the Atoua or Godon in an expedition against the island of Eimèo, a man of the lowest social rank was killed by blows with clubs in the king's presence. As an offering the hair and one eye of the victim was placed before the king; last signs of the cannibalism which formerly existed in this archipelago. At the end of this barbarous ceremony, which was a blot in the memoirs of so peaceable a people, a king-fisher alighted in the foliage. "It is Atoua!" cried Otoo, delighted at the happy augury.

Human sacrifice at Tahiti
Human sacrifice at Tahiti.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

Next day the ceremony was to be continued by a holocaust of pigs. The priests, like the Roman augurs, sought to read the history of the expedition in the dying struggles of the victims.

Cook, who had silently assisted at the ceremony, could not conceal the horror with which it inspired him. Mai interpreted for him, eloquently and forcibly. Towha could scarcely contain his anger.

"If the king had killed a man in England," said Mai, "as he has done the unhappy and innocent victim he has offered to his gods, it would have been impossible to save him from hanging, a punishment reserved for murderers and assassins." Mai's severe reflection was a little out of place, Cook should have remembered that manners vary with countries. It is absurd to attempt to apply to Tahiti, as punishment for that which is their custom, a punishment reserved in London for what is considered a crime. "Every man's house is his castle," says a popular proverb, which European nations have too often forgotten. Under the pretext of civilization, they have often shed more blood than would have flowed if they had not interfered.

Before he left Tahiti, Cook bestowed all the animals he had had so much difficulty in bringing from Europe upon Otoo. They were geese, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep, horses, and cattle. Otoo was at a loss to express his gratitude to the "Areeke no Pretonne," (King of Britain) especially when he found that the English could not take a large pirogue on board which he had constructed as an offering for his friend the King of England, it being too large.

The Resolution and the Discovery left Tahiti on the 30th of September, and anchored at Eimeo.

In this place their stay was marked by a painful incident. Frequent thefts had occurred for several days, when a goat was stolen. To make an example, Cook burnt five or six cabins, and set fire to a large number of pirogues, threatening the king with his anger if the animal were not immediately produced. As soon as he had obtained satisfaction the captain started for Huaheine with Mai who was to settle on that island.

A sufficiently large space of land was ceded by the chiefs of the Ouare settlement in return for such presents. Upon this Cook had a house built, and planted a garden, where he planted European cabbages. Mai was left with two houses, two goats, and fowls. At the same time he was presented with a present of a coat of mail, of a complete set of armour, powder, balls, and guns. A portable organ, an electrical machine, fireworks, and domestic and agricultural implements completed the collection of useful and ornamental presents intended to give the Tahitans an idea of European civilization. Mai had a sister married at Huaheine, but her husband occupied too humble a position for him to attempt to despoil him. Cook then solemnly declared that the native was his friend, and that in a short time he should return to ascertain how he had been treated, and that he should severely punish those who had acted badly to him.

His threats were likely to be effective, as a few days earlier, some robbers, caught in the act by the English, had had their heads shaved and their ears cut. A little later at Raiatea, in order to force the natives to send back some deserters, Cook had carried off the entire family of the chief Oreo on one rope.

The moderation exhibited by the captain in his first voyage, constantly diminished; every day he became more severe and exacting. This change in his conduct was fatal to him.

The two Zealanders who had asked to accompany Mai were landed with him. The elder readily consented to live at Huaheine, but the younger conceived such an affection for the English, that it was necessary to use force, as it were, to land him, amid the most touching demonstrations of affection. At the last moment as anchor was weighed Cook bid farewell to Mai, whose expression and tears testified to his comprehension of all he was to lose.

Although Cook left satisfied with having loaded the young Tahitan who had trusted himself to him with benefits, he was also full of anxious fears as to his future. He knew his light and inconstant character, and he left him weapons with some regret, fearing that he might make a bad use of them. The King of Huaheine gave Mai his daughter in marriage and changed his name to Paori, by which he was afterwards known. Mai profited by his high station to show his cruelty and inhumanity. Always armed, he began to try his skill with pistol and gun upon his fellow-countrymen. His memory therefore is hated in Huaheine, and the memory of his crimes was for a long time associated with that of the English.

Cook visited Raiatea before leaving the island. He found his friend Oreé deprived of supreme authority. Then he went to Bolabole on the 8th of December, and bought of the King Pouni an anchor, which Bougainville had lost in the roadstead.

During his long sojourns in the different islands of the Society archipelago, Cook completed his geographical, hydrographical, and ethnological investigations, as well as his studies of natural history.

In this difficult task he was seconded by Anderson, and by his entire staff, who invariably showed the greatest zeal in their efforts for the advancement of science.

Tree, from beneath which Cook observed the transit of Venus
Tree, from beneath which Cook observed the transit of Venus.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

On the 24th of December Cook discovered another low island. It was uninhabited and the crew obtained abundance of turtle there. It was named Christmas Island, in honour of the solemn anniversary of the morrow.

Although seventeen months had passed since he left England, Cook considered his voyage as only begun. Indeed he had not as yet been able to put the part of his instructions relating to the exploration of the Southern Atlantic and the search for a north passage, into execution.

Captain Cook's chart of Otaheite