Project Canterbury

Manuscript letter of Mr. John Palmer to his sister Harriet Palmer, May 2 to August 7, 1863.

Church of Melanesia Archives, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Item 23.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

[1] Schooner "Southern Cross"
Travel commencing May 2nd to Aug. 7th

My dear Harriet,

You will, I have no doubt, like to hear all about our voyage & doings amongst these islands of Melanesia, of whose existence you have perhaps up to this time been scarcely aware - at all events you can have no certain knowledge about them since so little is known even by those best acquainted with them, & so I hope that this letter which I intend to be a long one will interest you. Pray do not complain of its length since it must contain 6 months of letters or thereabouts. I suppose it must be something of a journal although I do not like writing journals so shall most likely follow my own inclination & give you our doings more in the form of a letter.

Well to begin - you know the severe illness that we had amongst our poor boys, six of whom died of dysentery - this made us wish to get away this year as soon as possible to get them amongst their own islands where they might have their accustomed climate, & food as soon as possible, fearing a relapse, so on Saturday May 2nd we all went on board from Kohimarama and dropped quietly up the harbour to Judges bay - here the European portion of the party landed & accompanied the Primate & our own bishop, together with several kind friends who interest themselves much in the mission, to the little chapel of St. Stephen where we had a short service conducted by the Primate, & were by him commended to God's care & keeping during our voyage. After the service we soon said our good byes & went on board, sailing away with a splendid wind from the south, which carried us pretty well clear of NZ & then left us, after which we had calms & head winds several days so that it was 11 days before we made Norfolk Island. But I am going too fast ahead - you will like to know perhaps who our party were. 1st Bishop Patteson, Revd. Messrs. Pritt & Kerr, Revd. Codrington who is on his way to England but whom the Bishop invited to take this voyage with us to see the islands, & perhaps he may be able to make things clearer when he gets home, that the Oxford people (for that is where he is going to) know what is taking place in these poor heathen lands - by the way I hope you may see him, when he gets to Oxford he has promised me to call on Father - next come Messrs. Atkin and Palmer, 4 young fellows from Norfolk Island & 46 Melanesians. Our vessel the new "Southern Cross" just out from England is a capital vessel for our purpose - she sails well and is very comfortable & nicely fitted up for our purpose. Well on Wednesday morning 19th about 7 am we found ourselves on the north side of Norfolk island where we intended landing as the wind blew too hard to allow us to land on the south side where the town is. I was quite glad to get a run ashore for a day or two. We walked over to the town & took all the people by surprise. As soon as we reached the hill overlooking the town we were seen by a lot of children and the news spread like wildfire - we could see people down below us running about in a great state of excitement spreading the news of our arrival. The Bishop led the way to the house of the clergyman Mr. Nobbs, one of whose sons was with us, who welcomed us in a most hospitable manner. We had a short stroll about the town 'till breakfast was ready. Many of the dishes were quite new to me - bananas cooked in different ways which are very good. A kind of yorkshire pudding made of indian corn. Sweet potatoes cooked somewhat in the same way. These accompanied with a good dish of bacon & eggs furnished a most sumptuous breakfast, to which we all did ample justice. After breakfast the Bishop went to see some of the people, whilst Mr. Nobbs undertook to shew us the places of interest. The thing that of course strikes one most with regard to the town is the size of the buildings & the substantial look they have. This is accounted for by the fact that they were all built by convict labour - and therefore I suppose without regard to expense. Now very large buildings are fast falling into ruins because they are too large for ordinary use, & there is no purpose to which they can be turned by a population which now only number 300. We had an inspection of the prison - such horrible places - gloomy to a degree. I was glad to get away from them. Then we went to the churchyard, where almost every grave has a tomb stone, and very many very strange inscriptions - several of them in memory of men who were executed for mutiny &c and almost all concluding with either a text of scripture or lines from hymns. After dinner we had a walk to a place called "long ridge" here even a few houses in most delightful situations - we entered one or two & were regaled with bananas & water melons, which last grow to a size I have never before seen. This was a most beautiful walk through a long avenue of beautiful pines, most graceful & elegant trees, peculiar I believe to this island. I think I saw one growing in Kew gardens but am not quite sure. We ended our walk at a pale called orange grove [dell, I think crossed out]. It was a small grove thickly overgrown with oranges, lemons, & guavas beautiful as you may imagine. I can scarcely conceive a more beautiful island than this to live in - it is exceedingly fertile, producing sufficient food with scarce any labour, with a magnificent climate, perhaps a little too warm in the summer, seeming like a beautiful park, with sufficient uncleared land to give it a wild forest appearance and its pines giving a peculiar character to the scenery, not to be described. I was very much delighted with my visit here. Next day was Ascension day and we had service morning & afternoon - a great proportion of [1/2] the people attending. In the evening a good party assembled in a large room to sing. The conductor was one of themselves who has a taste for music. They all sing together, hymns, & other pieces in parts without any accompanyment, & themselves seemed to enjoy it as thoroughly as we did. There was something so nice and simple about it without any stiffness or formality - it put one more in mind of a family sitting down to sing together - we all enjoyed it much. Next morning Mr. Tilly (our captain) came ashore and I had another walk with him and had dinner with John Adams the grandson of the Mutineer. Immediately after dinner we heard that the Bishop was starting for the beach, so we hastened down and found the good people all assembled to see us off. They made us this year a fine present of salt beef besides a quantity of water melons, plantains, & sugar cane which were quite a treat for our boys on board. I was altogether very much delighted with my visit. The people seem a simple, kind hearted, hospitable set of people capable with good management of being led to a high state of civilization - there is I mean a good moral tone about them which might be much increased, & which worked upon in a judicious way might make them - as they have already been called an "exemplary race", but the truth is a great deal of nonsense has been written about them, which has done them no good - and I hope no permanent harm. We left them with many wishes on their part for our safety. We started from N.I. with a fine breeze which bore us along at the rate of about 200 miles daily. Sunday evening 17th May sighted Walpole island a bleak bare rock and give Durand's reef a wide berth, on Monday sighted Tana & during the night passed Eromanga, the Island where Williams & last year Mr. & Mrs. Gordon were killed; had we neared it in day time we should have called to see how they are getting on now. Tuesday, the wind hauled round to the N.E. dull misty & muggy, ran along Fate a low island covered to the beach with vegetation. Evening, sailing slow past Shepherd isles, too misty to see much of them. Thursday, sailed past Ambrym & Pentecost - these were but visible from the misty state of the atmosphere. I was very sorry, for this, as I wished much to see the Ambrym volcano, which is described as presenting a most grand appearance when active. Friday morning Mota well in sight - hoped to land soon after breakfast but the wind failed so that it was not till the afternoon that the Bishop, Mr. Pritt & the Mota boys & women landed. Stood off and on for the night - in the evening most of us jumped overboard for a swim which was very pleasant. Next morning began early to land our baggage & etc. & had finished by midday. You will like to know what Mota is like. In shape it must be almost circular with a high hill, perhaps 2 thousand feet above the sea, in the centre, a small plain surrounds it, at the base, in some parts broader than in others. The hill itself is oblong with two high points - in size, it take one about 3 or 4 hours to walk round, this is to say to follow the native roads which of course do not lead round the island, but from place to place round the hill. Now for scenery, please don't think I can give you a description of a tropical island, the more I think of a description of such a place the more I am convinced of its impossibility. The amount of vegetation is something surprising - from the sea the island looks like one beautiful bed of rolling greens of all shades and shapes, from the beautiful light green of the feathery looking cocoa nut, to the most rich dark green of some of the large forest trees. We only know of one landing place on the island: that is to say where a boat can land, on account of the rough coral that surrounds it. The natives have little bits of canoes most roughly & rudely made, which look too small to hold even a child, much less a full grown man - however they ventured out to us in swarms, each canoe has an outrigger, merely made of a small log of wood about the length of the canoe, attached to it by small straight sticks, tied with a creeper. It was very laughable sometimes to see a canoe with perhaps two fellows in it, bringing its gunwale within 3 inches of the water, capsize. They made no fuss about it but managed somehow to turn it over & then push & pull it rather sharply though the water which partially empts it, which they finish either with bailing the rest out with their hands, or with a coconut shell, then they manage most cleverly to get in again. This scene was repeated many times during the day. Our decks were crowded with naked brown bodies who made an endless row, so much so that it was nearly impossible to hear oneself speak, and as for working the vessel, that was quite out of the question, until they were made to keep to one side of the deck.

As we neared the shore the scene was very beautiful, such rich colours, every imaginable shade of green, and underneath along a cluster of noisy brown bodies, made quite a bright chocolate colour by contrast with the dark green foliage. The landing is as I before said and great care has to be taken that a boat is not smashed on the sharp pointed coral. From the landing we had to ascend a rather steep hill, along a narrow track through what you would call a wood, when we came to a clearer place and a house evidently European. I say evidently on account of their being a door made of sawn wood and a few other indications that the place was not altogether Native. The house is about 18 feet by 10 broad, a good height, and well raised from the ground, & floored, a good broad verandah runs around three sides of the house, which sides are open, as that there may be as much air as possible - the back of the house is made of a kind of wickerwork of split bamboos made stronger by [2/3] an inner lining of bamboos placed upright & tied together. This is our one house for every purpose of living, eating & sleeping - about 20 yards at the back of the house is another boarded house which the married people are to possess - besides this, there is a long low building of native manufacture, which is in reality only a well pitched roof raised at the sides perhaps a foot from the ground. This has hitherto been used for a school room. One more edifice completes the cluster. The natives term it a quea and, as an Irishman would say, a "quare" thing it is - a kind of loft on long legs. The under part is used as a kitchen, the upper a store house for yams. Our roofs are native, made of "nota" which is I think the leaf of the sago palm, strong on a reed about 4 feet long - the leaves are narrow, & the strip of nota is about 1 foot broad, these are laid one over another and tied with a native grass to bamboo rafters, it makes a capital roof if well made, and from the inside very pretty. They sometimes make it so close that it is impenetrable by arrows, which are their usual weapons here. After lunch we set to work to clear the place, as it was much overgrown with shrubs & long grass, and successfully cut down a large breadfruit tree overhanging the house, which stood where we wished to add a lean to, at the back of our house. I was very glad when I saw it come down in the right direction, for I feared that our house might have been smashed with it. It is very hot working here - the ordinary temperature is I think between 80 & 90 and often of course considerably higher but the heat I do not much mind. You would I have no doubt be surprised to see your worthy brother in Mota costume but one soon learns to adapt ones clothes to the climate as well as one can, and in a place where clothes are almost universally dispensed with you may be sure one does not care to encumber oneself with anything unnecessary. It certainly does seem strange at first to be surrounded by a heap of brown naked bodies, not always remarkably sweet, but it is astonishing how soon one becomes used to the thing, & takes it as a matter of course. One of our first real pieces of business after getting to our house was to find a pig, & kill it, for of course all this kind of thing we have to look after, and a capital dinner we had in the cool of the evening off master piggy with the aid of bread fruit & yams. These last are res incognita to you, but how am I to tell you what they are like. The bread fruit tree grows to a good size like a forest tree with large leaves, and when young does not look unlike a fig tree. The fruit is almost round and of various sizes, from that of a good sized football downwards. The outside is covered with a rough green skin. These are either boiled or baked in the fire. One does not at first take to these things well but afterwards they become more agreeable. I cannot tell you what the breadfruit is like in taste for I know nothing like it. Yams are a long large root sometimes weighing 50 or 60 lbs each, coarser than a potato with not much taste, & therefore supply well the sweat of the farmer. Tomago is another root not so large as the yam but very good. Taro too is abundant and good. Then there are cocoa nuts to any extent and go far to supply the want of water - when young they have a thick green skin without any inner shell but full of nice water. In another stage the shell is formed & a thin layer of firm substance inside the nut being filled with water. Then comes the ordinary English stage of cocoa nuts which you know well. Then another when all the centre is filed up with a spongy kind of substance, by no means disagreeable, this is when the nut has begun to sprout - so that you see there are any number of varieties of food in the cocoa nut itself and all on the tree at the same time, for it is never without fruit, young ones always forming, and old ones always being taken off. Besides these good things there are other nut trees of different kinds - one very good kind of almond rather oily but eatable, several kinds of bananas, some of which are very good. The soil appears to be very fertile & to require but little cultivation & indeed of itself produces nearly enough food for the support of the inhabitants. They also possess a few pigs which I suppose to be indigenous - they are small but well shaped. There is also a native fowl something like the game fowl but smaller. Another relish to their yams is found in the pigeon of which there are several kinds - one a very pretty little thing, very small for a pigeon but beautifully coloured, more like a parrot, with a pretty patch of magenta coloured feathers on the top of its head. The most curious article of food, according to our tastes, is the bat. This creature is not much like your English specimen, but is a huge creature. The head looks more like that of a dog in miniature, with wings that would measure I should think quite 2 feet from tip to tip. They come in great flocks from Vanua lava & the neighbouring islands to this island of Mota during the season the Breadfruit is ripe, & gorge themselves with this dainty. In the day time they hang, according to the description given by the natives, in clusters on the Banyan trees, but what surprises me most in these creatures was that they had no objection to a flight by daylight, and as for eyes there is no doubt they are there, so that the common expression "as blind as a bat" will not hold good in this part of the world. I was not tempted to taste this delicacy, but if I am at any time I will give you my experience as to its excellency or otherwise. I think I have now come to the end of my list in regard to the edibles, there are certainly several other things considered so but hardly worth mentioning some of which we certainly should hardly care about. By the bye I have forgotten one thing. There are quantities of the most beautiful delightful little fish I ever saw, of all the colours imaginable, one especially a beautiful bright blue, nothing could be prettier. A collection of these would quite outshine the ordinary gold & silver fish to be seen in glass globes. They are to be found in the holes of the coral when the tide recedes. The boys catch them with the minutest hooks possible, which latter therefore are in great request here, and form one of our chief rewards for attendance at school, a distribution of fish hooks causing any amount of excitement & pleasure. 

[4] Our party to remain ashore here were Mr. Pritt, self, & 4 Norfolk Islanders, and our plans were to remain between 3 & 4 months on the island, the schooner looking in on us occasionally as she could make it convenient. The necessity of this is caused by ones liability to catch fever & ague, when a change on board ship might be the saving of ones life. On Sunday after landing we had service in the morning with Holy Communion, the Bishop being present. After lunch the Bishop, Mr. P. & self took a walk through several of the villages. These are really very pretty. The houses are built so that the ends where the doors are abutt on a shared space of ground which they keep well swept & free from all rubbish, a tree generally stands in the middle, and the whole presents such a nice neat appearance, so different from a dirty Maori kainga. I was much struck with it. Our arrival at the several villages caused great excitement - the children jumping up and down clapping their hands and shouting, and the whole population coming of out of their houses and surrounding us chattering away at a great rate which of course was utterly unintelligible to me. The farther we went away from our part of the island the more excitement we seemed to cause, which is accounted for by the fact that they see comparatively little of us. You can hardly imagine that in a small island like this containing perhaps about 2000 people, and about 20 miles in circumference, many people have never gone out of their own territory. They are cut up into [five crossed out] six tribes, each tribe containing several villages. These tribes are usually very jealous of each other, and often used to be quarrelling and fighting, which they are by no means disinclined to do even now. The usual causes of a quarrel are either pigs or women, which some person not caring much for the rights of meum & tuum appropriates.

On Monday we commenced enlarging our house by adding a large lean to, which is to form our school room, and by taking away the back of the original house will enlarge the whole much and make it much more airy & healthy - as I was the carpenter it took me some ten days before it was all finished, floored, tables & forms put together &c. On Tuesday afternoon the Bishop left to visit the Banks's islands, intending to be away about a fortnight. There was a native feast at a village near us in the morning - people from the other villages came and danced and sang, keeping time to be beating of a drum, made by hollowing a tree. It is a capital drum - sounds as well as an English one. Another kind of drum they have is always in the centre of the court in front of their houses. It is a hole dug in the ground & covered with a board, which also sounds well. Their singing is not much to be admired - it seemed on this occasion to be performed by women & was more like chanting only dreadfully through the nose. We were about a week getting straight before we commenced school. Our plan is to have a kind of boarding school, for the time we are here, for the boys of the other tribes whom we invite to come. We pick out a likely looking fellow & try to get him to come and live with us - if he does well & is a promising boy we hope to take him to N.Z. for the winter - if not he returns home again. Then any of the people of the tribe amongst whom we live are invited to come to the daily school both old & young. We teach them to read and write. The latter of which they are very fond of, being a kind of bait to draw them to the first. Then there is at the end, some very simple scripture instruction, questions in and out of them. It is of course very difficult to get our ideas of God & of the Xtian religion into their minds when of course they have no word as yet to express many of those ideas - for instance in this particular island we cannot find that they have any word for a soul, and as you may imagine it takes some time in a half learnt language to explain anything of the kind. It is, & must be very slow work, & the great danger is in going on too fast, and leaving the foundation of the teaching but half understood, which of course will render it perhaps worse than useless. Besides this school at home, where each of us had a class, we divided the island into districts. Each of us took one of the other tribes and held village schools 3 or 4 times a week. These were rather hard to get in order as so many people came round one, and rather made a disturbance than otherwise, but then it was novel, & the novelty soon began to wear off and more teaching took place. When a little fellow could distinguish his vowels & know them, we gave him a small fish hook which highly delighted them. I took the tribe on the opposite side of the island so that I usually walked one way and came home the other making a circuit of the hill 4 times a week. We commenced, by having morning school at home immediately after breakfast, after which we started for our villages - but this we found inconvenient, as the children by that time were usually away somewhere, besides it being the hot part of the day, so we afterwards made a change, starting for one village immediately after breakfast, and having a long afternoon school instead of a morning & evening one at home - and this plan we found better. Our attendance at the school numbered about 250 exclusive of our own school at Alomaki.

In the mean time the Bishop returned from his visit to the Banks' islands & brought with him 16 boys to stay at Mota with us. He stayed one day with us & then started to visit the New Hebrides hoping to visit us in about a fortnight, & then go on to the Solomon Islands. It is very pleasant in calling in in this way as any sick ones can be removed. We had as you may suppose plenty to do, and the time passed pleasantly enough. We get up at daybreak and send the boys to the beach to wash. Mr. Pritt & I take week and week about to superintend the cooking. Immediately after breakfast, we start for one school accompanied by one of our lads who helps to interpret, as some of us know very little Mota as yet. On other days we set to work at anything that is to be done about the house or place. At 12 we have lunch & then supposed to have 2 hours rest, which never took place by some chance or another, then till 4 1/2 if I had nothing else to do I usually got a boy to teach me some Mota. At that hour we had school till 6. which was our [4/5] dinner hour. We used to look a jolly party, between 30 & 40 of us sitting at 3 tables, with the house well lighted, & a pleasant hum of voices to enliven us. After dinner we had a short lesson in Mota with Mr. Pritt, and about 9 spread our mats on the floor and slept well till morning. Mr. P and I one day after morning school took a walk up the hill. It was rather hot work but we were well repaid by a beautiful view, being a clear bright day we saw most distinctly the neighbouring isles, lying almost underneath us. Whilst on the hill I underwent a curious ceremony, customary to all who visit for the first time a certain large stone. A creeper growing on it was selected and partly tied round my finger. I then drew the finger out and the knot was pulled tight. Then a leaf was laid on a heap of loose stones near, on which I put my hand, when taking it away a stone was placed there instead. Already the heap was large showing that many had had their fingers tied. As far as I could make out it had something to do with one living long or otherwise. The farther end of the hill to that at which we ascended, is very precipitous and we had a most beautiful view over a broad [plain crossed out] flat [covered crossed out] dotted with cocoa nut trees and villages with there and there a cultivation peeping out from under the trees. It was a very pretty view. I made quite a discovery whilst walking on the top of this hill. Picking up a green, seed looking, pod I found it contained a nutmeg. There were not by any means ripe or I should have gathered some to see if there were good or no.

We were just getting into working order, everything going on well & ourselves in great hopes of making some progress amongst the natives this year when all was checked by illness. We paid little attention to it at first. People complained of sore throat & cough with head ache &c & we supposed it to be nothing more than a little influenza, but I am sorry to say it turned out to be a very serious illness. A few days of which entirely prostrated their strength & carried them off. Mr. Pritt and I with our very slight knowledge of physic did all that we could to relieve them but in only a few cases, did any good. What we did do the Bishop who is a better doctor approved of, the fact was that the poor people wanted good nourishing food & that we had not to give them - their vegetable diet was not enough to keep up their strength, & there was no animal food for them. A tin or two of preserved soup that we had went a very small way. It was a dreadful time, sickness all around us and no means of staying it. On some days the tangi (crying) for the dead seldom ceased, & dreadful it was, such horrible howling & wailing, which was commenced by the women as soon as death took place. Then again it took place at the burial. I cannot describe to you how depressing this tangi was to our spirits, itself almost enough to make us ill. Upon talking about it to Mr Pritt one day I found that he as well as myself had had the sound ringing in his ears every time he woke during the night. Our own party did not escape. Fisher, & Edmund two of the Norfolk Islanders, had an attack, which kept them in bed some few days, indeed until we left the island. One of our Mota boys was as ill as he could well be, & others less so. My journal runs like this for a few days just as I jotted it down. Saturday June 20. Heavy rain during night & toward morning, did not go to Gatava, Fisher complained of weakness, & lassitude. Sickness as bad as ever, several persons have died. Fisher afterwards delirious. Palasa (a native) worse. Bat unwell. Wolig gone to Maligo on account of the death of his sister in Lav. Heard that 4 persons have died at Maligo today. [Monday 22 crossed out] Sunday 21st. Edmund unwell. Fisher still ill & sick. Went out after prayers to see sick people, some better, others worse. Vivisan people have a report that the Tasmate people are on the look out to shoot them for causing the illness. Maligo people sent sum (money) to Megaulaus that he might take away the sickness which he is supposed to have caused - this he wisely refused to accept. Mr. Pritt afterwards went to Tasmate & found that some fellow had been out, and pulling up some plants in the Vivisan plantations. On the whole they seem inclined to be reasonable but every one now goes about with his bow & bundle of poisoned arrows. Monday 22. Wet - no going out. Sickness on the increase. Fisher & Edmund feverish & ill. Made a little soup for some of the worst cases. Mr. Pritt about all day to visit the people. Mantap (an old woman very friendly to us) died. She seems to have been a woman of some consequence, as great lamentations were made over her. Tuesday 23rd. Wet again & therefore did not go to Gatava. Physicing left off entirely, believing that strengthening food is the thing that is necessary, without which physic may do more harm than good. Tangis going on all round us. Fisher & Edmund better. Bat very weak but eats fairly. We hear of 21 persons who have died as yet many more are seriously ill. Wednesday 24th. At daybreak there was a shout of "Paka lava" which signified that our vessel was in sight, and glad indeed we were to welcome the Bishop ashore again, safe, & well. Was sorry to hear that Mr. Tilly was laid up with rheumatic gout. Sickness seems to be at its height. We heard of 10 persons who died during the night. Bat & N. Islanders better but very weak. Bishop & Mr. Pritt walked together round the island & found much sickness everywhere - he fears more of our boys being ill & inclines to take us away at once. Next morning we heard that 10 more had died. The vessel came over from Port Patteson in the morning & the Bishop made up his mind to take us away. This at the time I was very much averse to as we were getting on so well and I did not like giving up the work just when begun, however I have no doubt now of its wisdom and on Saturday we found ourselves on Board, bound for the Solomon Is.

[6] On Thursday 2nd July came in sight of the northern part of Bauro (St Cristoval). This group as you know is called the Solomon Islands & contains several very large Isles, besides lesser ones. We have about 13 or 14 boys to drop at several different places. The first island we made for was Ulaya [Ulawa] (I of Contraraietie) island to the N. E. of Bauro. This we reached on the afternoon of the 3rd and ran close along shore for some distance. The water alongside these coral Islands is usually so deep that you may venture almost close to the shore. The island was as usual covered with vegetation, but more large trees than I saw at Mota, and of a better kind; numbers of feathery she[ll] rocks along the shore, which is rough jagged coral, frequently covered with a carpet of beautiful convolvulus, & here & there trees of the palm kind shot up with think straight trunks & pretty heads. Here I first saw the Beetle nut palm - it has a very small straight stem, & like the NZ Nikau in miniature. These people all spoil any good looks they may have by chewing this nut, as it turns their teeth completely black. The operation is performed this; they first chew a bit of the nut then they put a leaf, I think of a kind of pepper into their mouth & munch away, then a small quantity of lime is inserted into the same orifice and all masticated, apparently with the greatest relish. This mixture makes the whole inside of their mouths of a bright red colour, so that you would suppose they had been painted, and the teeth become perfectly black. The lime is carried about in boxes of Bamboo sometimes very prettily ornamented, and a small stick something like a knitting needle is inserted. When they want to use the lime which is beautifully powdered, they wet the end of this stick & insert it in the lime, some of which of course adheres to the stick. This is sucked off & the whole process is gone through again. When we drew near the place where two of the party were to be landed numerous canoes came to meet us, and here I first saw the Solomon islander at home. He is a fine looking fellow, not tall seldom more than 5 ft - 6 in or 7 in but broad chested & strong limbed, very dark, nearly approaching to black. They are not nearly so noisy as the Banks' islanders although evidently excited at our arrival. They are a very ingenious set of people, very fond of ornament & of doing whatever they do most thoroughly, excessively fond of carving and adorning everything they use. Their canoes are most perfect specimens of art, built, not hollowed out as you would suppose. They are made of thin boards, how cut I cannot tell, joined together with a hard cement, made I believe from the nut of a tree, which fills up the crevices & stops the water from coming in. The form is very pretty with a beautiful curve at stem & stern like the Italian gondola. They are very light & made of any size. Their paddles are small, but sufficient to make the canoe fly along at a great pace. In single canoes they sit in the centre & manage it most skilfully. The ornamental part is beautifully done, either shell or mother of pearl inlaid with carvings of birds, fish, dogs &c. They brought off quantities of spears for barter, prettily & lightly made, not such horrible looking things as some of the New Hebrides ones, but still not inviting. They brought off also lots of cocoa nuts, very fine ones far larger than any I had before seen & of better flavour. Two of our party were put ashore here and in the evening we stood across for a small island called [Ulaua crossed out] Iuga [Ugi] where there is an anchorage and watering place. We found ourselves well up with the land at daybreak and sailed slowly into a beautiful bay, with deep blue water almost close to the shore, which was lined with tall cocoa nuts, a few huts here and there peeping out underneath. We drew in very close to the shore and anchored in 36 fathoms - soon our decks were crowded with naked black bodies all anxious to barter - our current coins are beads, fish hooks, hatchets, calico &c - bottles are sometimes in great demand. Here quantities of tortoise shell was offered for sale and a few small turtles. We soon lowered our boats and commenced watering whilst a large party of us set to work washing clothes in a running stream of beautiful water. Here we saw a number of women engaged in rubbing down the shells from which they make the large rings that adorn their arms & legs. They choose a large piece of stone suitable for the purpose, and grind away in a most persevering manner. Whilst here, a large canoe came from the island of Bauro - it contained between 30 & 40 men all highly ornamented, & looking very picturesque. They wore combs in the heads, from the ends of which hung a mass of grass looking stuff, dyed a bright red which made a very handsome head dress, especially when the comb was nicely ornamented - one which was covered very prettily with this grass platting I tried to purchase but was unsuccessful. Then every part of their persons are ornamented. One large ring is inserted in the nose & hangs down over the upper lip - they also wear a horn which is thrust through the centre of the nose in the thick fleshy part, besides this, some four or five more prettily ornamented bones, pieces of wood, or tortoise shell, are thrust through the nose - then sometimes the lower rim of the nose is inlaid with round pieces of shell or mother of pearl - round the forehead just over the eye they wear a circlet of white shells, round the neck is sometimes a collar of rings made from shells, sometimes a high collar made of large teeth, looking a most uncomfortable kind of ornament something like a Queen Bea's collar. Another ornament was a huge flat shell, beautifully pearly inside hung under the chin, & cut in a crescent form so as to make room for the chin to move about. Then about the arms & legs were any numbers of rings and prettily worked bracelets, armlets, & leglets if I may so term them. They are made of small rings each made out of a shell and worked in patterns. I hope to let you see some of these curiosities, & judge of the state of art in these wild parts of the world. Whilst we were anchored here we heard a great shouting on shore & found that there was some fighting going on. A party from a neighbouring people had suddenly attacked their neighbours, to revenge themselves for the death of one of their party. They succeeded in burning a large house and then a long range warfare commenced with spears. I do not think any more damage was done, although they fought till sundown. Here we dropped one of our party, who about sundown brought us a pig as a present. We anchored for the night and were not in any way disturbed. At 5 am we weighted anchor and stood across for the large island of Bauro to a place called Wango a large village said to be healthy & possibly at some future day a station for a missionary.

[7] We started at daybreak on Sunday morning for Bauro and a few canoes pulled over with us a distance of about 6 miles - by the time we were about half way over we were accompanied by a whole fleet, and a beautiful sight it was on a bright hot day with a nice steady breeze & the sea all alive with graceful looking canoes filled with dark naked men, paddling way with great zest, & covered with all kinds of ornaments. The noise of this shouting & chatter added considerably to the livelyness of the scene. All our party except myself landed here, it was merely a friendly visit and to see the place, which was reported to be large & healthy. All were much pleased with the place and it seems to afford every advantage for a station at some future time. Having staid here some short time we coasted along to a place some few miles to the north still in Bauro where we landed two of our party a man & his wife. Here I first landed to have a look at one of their boat houses, which I suspect are used for other purposes. This one was not so good as others that were seen - it was very long and well built, a kind of long shed, open at both ends. You enter by stepping over a few logs, and over head was a bunch of skulls, I believe of enemies who had been killed & in all probability eaten, for most of these people are cannibals. The roof of this building was beautifully painted, and a board running along the sides at the top of the uprights was covered with drawings of men in all kinds of employments very much like the old Egyptian figures, some were fighting, some feasting, some preparing food &c &c - besides this the upright posts rested on carved figures of men &c and there were carvings of birds & fishes in other parts of the building. They are certainly a very ingenious set of people & know the theory of colours far better than most educated people do for they never seem to make any mistake by putting wrong colours together but know well how to bring out each colour to its best advantage. The people here were very friendly and upon leaving, our friends presented us with a large pig & a quantify of yams, and we promised to be back, if possible, in about 10 days hoping to be able to take our friend back again. We then made a course for the south of Malanta & before breakfast landed 4 of our scholars and were disappointed that a wife had been found for one of them whom we wished much should return to NZ - however as he himself seemed inclined to stay we immediately returned on board & made sail for Bellona, from which place we had one queer maori looking fellow quite different from the Solomon islanders. Light yellow skin, & straight black hair - a thorough Maori. On our way there we had calm weather rolling much & therefore very unpleasant. Next morning we caught 3 sharks which afforded some little excitement, and the following morning found us in sight of Rennel & Bellona Is. both inhabited by people of same race. We made for Bellona a coral island most uniformly constructed, rough & precipitous, with clear blue water right to the rocks. The people here are badly off for food having no pigs or fowls, few yams or cocoa nuts - however they know how to make nets so that they get fish. We sent our friend ashore with a cock & hen & a couple of pigs so that if they have sense enough not to eat them they may prove a great benefit to them. The Bishop went ashore and walked some distance inland to the villages. It was a bad landing place amongst rough coral so we kept the boat afloat - presently two or three men came running along the beach towards us & shouting. One held an axe in his hand towards us as a sign of welcome, he came & stood on the rocks and shouted to us in a kind of maori calling us ashore to hongi (rub noses) however as we had no intention of landing we made signs that he should swim to us which after a time he did. We found him a noisy inquisitive kind of fellow, finely tatooed all over his body - he wore a piece of cloth or tapa made from a bark of a tree round his loins, & brought his axe made of a large shell exactly like the old maori ones in his hand. He asked us if this was our sacred canoe, and poked about examining everything, asked all our names & then rubbed noses with each one of us. We made signs that the Bishop was gone inland and pointed to the place where the pigs were left close to a steep path that led up the hill inland - presently two fellows started towards the path but were soon brought to at sight of the pigs. They stopped all at once and drew back in a most frightened way and crept sideways in a half circle [away from crossed out] round the pigs looking most intently at them - it was evident they never had seen such a strange animal before and it afforded us no small amusement to see their frightened attitude. Presently the Bishop came back accompanied by some 50 people. He distributed a quantity of fish hooks, a most welcome present. I should imagine, and afterwards waded off accompanied by one new made acquaintance who in the mean time had gone ashore to share the spoil. They came off together & our friend left his axe in the boat as a parting present. A singular question was asked by these people of the Bishop, viz Who is the God of your land? The population is not supposed to be more than two or 3 hundred perhaps not so many. Their language although much lake Maori has some foreign words & sounds hardly pronounceable indeed I thought the lad we had with us had an impediment in his speech till I found his countrymen all spoke in the same queer way.   

Having got on board again we made for the southern part of Marau (Guadalcanar) and found ourselves next morning close to the land. This was a most beautiful place such a number of pretty little islands, some very small, only a few acres each, but covered with vegetation. We here went inside a reef where there was a good passage although when crossing we could see the rocks below beautifully clear, & came into a large sound amongst a number of Islands and the mainland. Here two lads were put ashore and we had to tell of the death of one of the party who died at Kohimarama, the only Solomon islander that died. We were surrounded with canoes and had our decks covered with people all anxious to barter for beads, fish hooks & hatchets. We staid here about two hours and then [7/8] ran along the coast with fair wind at a rattling pace hoping to reach Florida & land one boy before night, and this we succeeded in doing. Florida in my opinion is by far the most beautiful Island I have seen. All the other islands are so entirely covered with a mass of foliage that the form can scarcely be seen, that is to say you can make hardly any distinction of hill or valley. Here there is a good deal of clear open ground covered with some short kind of vegetation perhaps fern, but from the sea you would imagine it was beautiful pasturage. Then the clumps of trees form a beautiful variety making the whole island a most romantic looking place. We had to leave one boy here, and pulled in shore landing on a fine sandy beach. No natives were visible & we all jumped out and rummaged about the beach near the boat - presently there was a cry that the population were coming and we immediately got into the boat leaving the Bishop on the beach who walked on to the party who were running towards us. When they met one of the men I suppose the head man, brandishing a huge spear made a lively speech, which of course was utterly unintelligible but was evidently friendly. They soon came round us and examined everything most curiously even to one's hat ribbon. They were all around and with larger spears than any I had seen before - besides which this is the lowest southern part of the S. Islands were a shield for defence is used. It is made of wicker work and padded at the back with bark &c. I suppose it is quite sufficient to ward off a spear or arrow. 

The people were very anxious that we should go ashore and sleep, but this we were hardly prepared to do, so wishing them goodbye we returned on board & steered for Isabel. Morning found us well up with the land and before noon we were anchored in a quiet little harbour. Soon the people made their appearance - quite a different race of men to the Solomon Islanders we had seen before. They are not so strongly made or powerful, of lighter colour and more Malay cast of features, on the whole, good looking fellows. They have a curious custom of washing their hair with coral lime, which takes out the colour & leaves it a yellowish white. Many of them have quite straight hair. Their ornaments are much the same as those of the other islands. Each man carried on his arm a small net bag in which he carried his supply of bettle nut, his box of lime, money & other treasures. These fellows are great hands at smoking, growing their own tobacco, & pipes were in great demand. They also approved highly of bright red beads, or pieces of print. I made several small purchases with a view of sending them you. Their canoes were made somewhat different in shape to the others we had seen, only one end was turned up the other cut off somewhat square, and they have a foolish practice of paddling them the wrong way, or stern formost, <<, as far as our eyes could judge, what they considered the stem ought by right to have been the stern & vice versa. The paddles were shaped differently too being a kind of heart shaped blade with a handle, made of a light coloured wood very like satin wood.

I was very sorry not to have been quite well this day as I might have had a walk inland with the bishop who went to one of their villages. These are built inland on the high hills which are steep & rugged. They say that they live there for safety, that men from other islands of a different race to them, have come and attacked them whilst living near the shore so they have retired to these high locations. The most curious things here are large houses built in tress. There seems to be one belonging to each village. Mr. Kerr went up into one by a long ladder made of bark rope - it was stuck on the top of a large Banyan tree whose top was cut off for the purpose, & this house rested on the branches - it was about 30 feet long by 18 or 20 wide. Possibly they are meant as places of refuge from their enemies, especially as a considerable number of stones were stowed away in this house, which would help I suppose to keep them at a distance. This is the most northern part of these islands we have as yet penetrated, & where our last scholar had to be dropped. He did not wish to return this time but we got 4 others to come instead. And next morning about noon we took our departure homeward bound, having only to call at Bauro to see if our old scholar intended to return. We reached his place in four days but found that family reasons kept him so after making a few presents to the people and purchasing a boat load of cocoa nuts we returned on board and fairly felt ourselves on our way to N.Z. Our course lay to the west of New Caledonia and after running some way to the south we got a good westerly breeze which carried us safely to NZ. just one month from our leaving San Isabel. Our original plan for this voyage was entirely frustrated by the sickness at Mota, since we stayed but one month instead of 3, & the islands were not visited as they otherwise would have been. Our party this year consists almost entirely of Banks's Islanders 33 out of 37. We are back in NZ much earlier than usual & therefore is much colder weather but we hope with care that no ill will arise from it.

We landed at Kohimarama August 7th having been away 14 weeks. The voyage was not a good one, owing to bad weather - we had none of the usual SE trades, but instead, a series of squalls & calms. In fine weather we had school with our boys, so that they might not lose more time than could be helped but this was not always regular, the weather sometimes putting it out of the question entirely. Besides this some of our time was taken up in cutting out & making some warm clothing for the cold weather, and as another source of both amusement & usefulness we got them to commence a large net for fishing at Kohimarama. They are expert netters so we got on with it well & it afforded them some pleasant occupation.

Paso - [Finished in Mota]

Project Canterbury