Tahiti according to Cook


This Island is called by the Natives Otaheite, and was first discovered
by Captain Wallis, in His Majesty's ship Dolphin, on June 19th, 1767, and
to the Credit of him and his Officers, the Longitude of Royal Bay was by
them settled to within half a degree of the Truth, and the whole figure
of the Island not ill described. It is situated between the Latitude of
17 degrees 29 minutes and 17 degrees 53 minutes South, and between the
Longitude of 149 degrees 10 minutes and 149 degrees 39 minutes West from
the Meridian of Greenwich.* (* These latitudes are exact. The modern
limits of longitude are 149 degrees 7 minutes to 149 degrees 36 minutes
30 seconds.) Point Venus, so called from the Observation being made
there, is the Northern extremity of the Island, and lies in the Longitude
of 149 degrees 30 minutes,* (* Now considered to be 149 degrees 29
minutes.) being the mean result of a Great number of Observations made
upon the Spot. The Shores of this Island are mostly guarded from the Sea
by reefs of coral rocks, and these form several excellent Bays and
Harbours, wherein are room and depth of Water sufficient for the largest

Royal Bay, called by the Natives Matavie,* (* Matavai.) in which we lay,
and the Dolphin before us, is not inferior to any on the Island, both in
Point of conveniency and Situation. It may easily be known by a
Prodigious high Mountain in the middle of the Island, which bears due
south from Point Venus, which is the Eastern point of the Bay. To sail
into it either keep the West point of the Reefs which lies before Point
Venus close on board, or give it a berth of near half a Mile in order to
avoid a small Shoal of Coral Rocks, whereon is but 2 1/2 fathoms of
water. The best Anchoring is on the Eastern side of the Bay in 16 or 14
fathoms of water, owsey bottom. The Shore of the bay is all a fine sandy
beach, behind which runs a river of Fresh Water, so that any Number of
Ships might Water here without discommoding one another. The only wood
for fuel upon the whole Island is fruit Trees, and these must be
purchased of the Natives, if you mean to keep on good Terms with them.
There are some Harbours to the Westward of this bay that have not been
mentioned, but as they lay Contiguous to it, and are to be found in the
plan, the description of them is unnecessary.

The land of this Island, except what is immediately bordering upon the
Sea coast, is of a very uneven Surface, and rises in ridges which run up
into the middle of the Island, and there form mountains, that are of a
height Sufficient to be seen at the distance of 20 leagues. Between the
foot of the ridges and the Sea is a border of low Land surrounding the
whole Island, except in a few places where the ridge rises directly from
the Sea. This low land is of Various Breadths, but nowhere exceeds a Mile
and a half. The Soil is rich and fertile, being for the most part well
stock'd with fruit Trees and small Plantations. and well water'd by a
number of small Rivulets of Excellent Water which come from the adjacent
hills. It is upon this low Land that the greatest part of the inhabitants
live, not in Towns or Vilages, but dispersed everywhere round the whole
Island; the Tops of most of the ridges and mountains are Barren and, as
it were, burnt up with the sun, yet many parts of some of them are not
without their produce, and many of the Valleys are fertile and inhabited.

[Produce of Tahiti.]


The produce of this Island is Bread Fruit, Cocoa Nuts, Bonanoes,
Plantains, a fruit like an Apple, sweet Potatoes, Yams, a Fruit known by
the name of Eag Melloa, and reck'ned most delicious; Sugar Cane which the
inhabitants eat raw; a root of the Salop kind, called by the inhabitants
Pea; the root also of a plant called Ether; and a fruit in a pod like a
Kidney bean, which when roasted eats like a Chestnut, and is called Ahee;
the fruit of a Tree which they call Wharra, something like a Pine Apple;
the fruit of a Tree called by them Nano; the roots of a Fern and the
roots of a plant called Thive. All these Articles the Earth almost
Spontaniously produces, or, at least, they are raised with very little
Labour. In the Article of food these people may almost be said to be
exempt from the Curse of our Forefathers, scarcely can it be said that
they Earn their bread with the sweat of their brow; benevolent Nature
hath not only Supply'd them with necessarys, but with abundance of
Superfluities. The Sea coast supplies them with vast Variety of most
Excellent fish, but these they get not without some Trouble and
Perseverance. Fish seems to be one of their greatest Luxuries, and they
Eat it either raw or Dressed and seem to relish it one way as well as the
other. Not only fish but almost everything that comes out of the Sea is
Eat and Esteem'd by these People; Shell Fish, Lobsters, Crabs, and even
sea insects, and what is commonly called blubbers of many kinds, conduce
to their support.

For tame Animals they have Hogs, Fowls, and Dogs, the latter of which we
learned to Eat from them, and few were there of us but what allow'd that
a South Sea dog was next to an English Lamb. One thing in their favour is
that they live intirely upon Vegetables; probably our Dogs would not Eat
half so well. Little can be said in favour of their Fowles, but their
pork is most Excellent, they have no beasts of Prey of any Sort, and Wild
Fowls are scarce and confin'd to a few Species. When any of the Chiefs
kill a Hog it seems to be almost equally divided among all his
Dependents, and as these are generally very numerous, it is but a little
that come to each person's share, so that their chief food is Vegetables,
and of these they eat a large quantity.

Cookery seems to have been but little studied here; they have only 2
Methods of applying Fire--broiling and Baking, as we called it; the
method this is done I have before described, and I am of Opinion that
Victuals dressed this way are more juicy and more equally done than by
any of our Methods, large Fish in particular, Bread Fruit, Bananoes.
Plantains Cooked this way eat like boil'd Potatoes, and was much used by
us by way of bread whenever we could get them. Of bread Fruit they make 2
or 3 dishes by beating it with a Stone Pestle till it makes a Paste,
mixing Water or Cocoa Nut Liquor, or both, with it, and adding ripe
Plantains, Bananoes, Sour Paste, etc.

This last is made from bread Fruit in the following manner. This fruit,
from what I can find, remains in Season only 8 or 9 months in the year,
and as it is the Chief support of the inhabitants a reserve of food must
be made for those months when they are without it. To do this the Fruit
is gathered when upon the point of ripening; after the rinde is scraped
off it is laid in heaps and coverd close with leaves, where it undergoes
a fermentation, and becomes soft and disagreeably sweet. The Core is then
taken out, and the rest of the fruit thrown into a Hole dug for that
purpose, the sides and bottom of which are neatly laid with grass. The
whole is covered with leaves and heavy stones laid upon them; here it
undergoes a second Fermentation and becomes sourish, in which condition
they say it will keep good 10 or 12 months. As they want to use it they
make it into balls, which they wrap up in leaves and bake in the same
manner as they do the Fruit from the Tree; it is then ready for eating
either hot or cold, and hath a sour and disagreeable taste. In this last
State it will keep good a Month or 6 Weeks; it is called by them Mahai,
and they seldom make a Meal without some of it, one way or another. To
this plain diet Salt Water is the universal sauce, hardly any one sets
down to a meal without a Cocoa Nut shell full of it standing by them,
into which they dip most of what they Eat, especially Fish, drinking at
Intervals large sops of it out of their Hands, so that a man may use half
a Pint at a Meal.

It is not common for any 2 to eat together, the better sort hardly ever;
and the women never upon any account eat with the Men, but always by
themselves. What can be the reason of so unusual a custom it is hard to
say; especially as they are a people, in every other instance, fond of
Society and much so of their Women. They were often Asked the reason, but
they never gave no other Answer, but that they did it because it was
right, and Express'd much dislike at the Custom of Men and Women Eating
together of the same Victuals. We have often used all the intreatys we
were Masters of to invite the Women to partake of our Victuals at our
Tables, but there never was an instance of one of them doing it publick,
but they would Often goe 5 or 6 together into the Servants apartments,
and there eat very heartily of whatever they could find, nor were they
the least disturbed if any of us came in while they were dining; and it
hath sometimes hapned that when a woman was alone in our company she
would eat with us, but always took care that her own people should not
know what she had don, so that whatever may be the reasons for this
custom, it certainly affects their outward manners more than their

[Natives of Tahiti.]


With respect to their persons the Men in general are tall, strong-limb'd,
and well shaped. One of the tallest we saw measured 6 feet 3 inches and a
half. The superior women are in every respect as large as Europeans, but
the inferior sort are in General small, owing possibly to their early
Amours, which they are more addicted to than their superiors. They are of
various Colours: those of the inferior sort, who are obliged to be much
exposed to the Sun and air, are of a very Dark brown; the superiors
again, who spend most of their Time in their Houses under Shelter, are
not browner than people who are born or reside longer in the West Indies;
nay, some of the Women are almost as fair as Europeans. Their hair is
almost universally black, thick, and Strong; this the Women wear short
Cropt Round their Ears. The Men, on the other hand, wear it different
ways: the better sort let it grow long, and sometimes tying it up on the
Top of their Heads, or letting it hang loose over their Shoulders; but
many of the inferiors, and such who, in the exercise of their
professions, fishing, etc., are obliged to be much upon or in the Water,
wear it cropt short like the women. They always pluck out a part of their
beards, and keep what remains neat and Clean. Both Sexes eradicate every
hair from under their Armpits, and look upon it as a mark of
uncleanliness in us that we do not do the Same.

They have all fine white Teeth, and for the most part short flat Noses
and thick lips; yet their features are agreeable, and their gaite
graceful, and their behavior to strangers and to each other is open,
affable, and Courteous, and, from all I could see, free from treachery,
only that they are thieves to a man, and would steal but everything that
came in their way, and that with such dexterity as would shame the most
noted Pickpocket in Europe. They are very cleanly people, both in their
persons and diet, always washing their hands and Mouth immediately before
and after their Meals, and wash or Bathe themselves in fresh Water 3
times a day, morning, Noon, and Night.

The only disagreeable thing about them is the Oil with which they anoint
their heads, Monoe, as they call it; this is made of Cocoanutt Oil, in
which some sweet Herbs or Flowers are infused. The Oil is generally very
rancid, which makes the wearer of it smell not very agreeable.* (* Other
voyagers have, on the contrary, described the odour of this sweetened oil
as agreeable.) Another custom they have that is disagreeable to
Europeans, which is eating lice, a pretty good stock of which they
generally carry about them. However, this custom is not universal; for I
seldom saw it done but among Children and Common People, and I am
perswaided that had they the means they would keep themselves as free
from lice as we do; but the want of Combs in a Hot climate makes this
hardly possible. There are some very fine men upon this Island whose
skins are whiter than any European's, but of a Dead Colour, like that of
the Nose of a White Horse; their Eyes, eyebrows, hair and beards are also
White. Their bodys were cover'd, more or less, with a kind of White down.
Their skins are spotted, some parts being much whiter than others. They
are short-sighted, with their eyes oftimes full of rheum, and always
look'd unwholesome, and have neither the Spirit nor the activity of the
other Natives. I did not see above 3 or 4 upon the whole Island, and
these were old men; so that I concluded that this difference of colour,
etc., was accidental, and did not run in families, for if it did they
must have been more Numerous. The inhabitants of this Island are Troubled
with a sort of Leprosy, or Scab all over their bodys. I have seen Men,
Women, and Children, but not many, who have had this distemper to that
degree as not to be able to walk. This distemper, I believe, runs in
familys, because I have seen both mother and Child have it.

Both sexes paint their Bodys, Tattow, as it is called in their Language.
This is done by inlaying the Colour of Black under their skins, in such a
manner as to be indelible. Some have ill-design'd figures of men, birds,
or dogs; the women generally have this figure Z simply on every joint of
their fingers and Toes; the men have it likewise, and both have other
differant figures, such as Circles, Crescents, etc., which they have on
their Arms and Legs; in short, they are so various in the application of
these figures that both the quantity and Situation of them seem to depend
intirely upon the humour of each individual, yet all agree in having
their buttocks covered with a Deep black. Over this Most have Arches
drawn one over another as high as their short ribs, which are near a
Quarter of an inch broad. These Arches seem to be their great pride, as
both men and Women show them with great pleasure.

Their method of Tattowing I shall now describe. The colour they use is
lamp black, prepar'd from the Smoak of a Kind of Oily nut, used by them
instead of Candles. The instrument for pricking it under the Skin is made
of very thin flatt pieces of bone or Shell, from a quarter of an inch to
an inch and a half broad, according to the purpose it is to be used for,
and about an inch and a half long. One end is cut into sharp teeth, and
the other fastened to a handle. The teeth are dipped into black Liquor,
and then drove, by quick, sharp blows struck upon the handle with a Stick
for that purpose, into the skin so deep that every stroke is followed
with a small quantity of Blood. The part so marked remains sore for some
days before it heals. As this is a painful operation, especially the
Tattowing their Buttocks, it is perform'd but once in their Life times;
it is never done until they are 12 or 14 years of Age.

[Clothing of Tahitians.]

Their Cloathing is either of Cloth or Matting of several different sorts;
the dress of both Men and Women are much the same, which is a Piece of
Cloth or Matting wrapp'd 2 or 3 times round their waist, and hangs down
below their Knees, both behind and before, like a Pettycoat; another
piece, or sometimes 2 or 3, about 2 yards or 2 1/2 yards long, with a
hole in the Middle, through which they put their heads. This hangs over
their Shoulders down behind and before, and is tied round their waist
with a long piece of thin Cloth, and being open at the sides gives free
liberty to their arms. This is the common dress of all ranks of people,
and there are few without such a one except the Children, who go quite
naked, the Boys until they are 6 or 7 years of Age, and the girls until 3
or 4. At these Ages they begin to cover what nature teaches them to hide.
Besides the dress I have mentioned some of the better sort, such as can
afford it, but more especially the Women, will one way or other wrap
round them several pieces of Cloth, each 8 or 10 Yards long and 2 or 3
broad, so much that I have often wondered how they could bear it in so
hot a climate. Again, on the other hand, many of the inferior sort during
the heat of the Day, go almost naked, the women wearing nothing but the
Petticoat aforementioned, and sometimes hardly that. The men wear a piece
of Cloth like a Sack, which goes between their thighs, and brought up
before and behind, and then wrapped round their waist. This every man
wears always without exception, and it is no uncommon thing to see many
of the better sort have nothing else on, as it is reckoned no shame for
any part of the body to be exposed to View, except those which all
mankind hide.

Both sexes sometimes shade their faces from the Sun with little Bonnets
made of Cocoa-Nut leaves. Some have them of fine Matting, but this is
less common. They sometimes wear Turbands, but their Chief Headdress is
what they call Tomou, which is human Hair plaited scarce thicker than
common thread. Of this I can safely affirm that I have seen pieces near a
mile in length worked upon one end without a Knott. These are made and
worn only by the women, 5 or 6 such pieces of which they will sometimes
wind round their Heads, the effect of which, if done with taste, is very
becoming. They have Earings by way of Ornament, but wear them only at one
Ear. These are made of Shells, Stones, Berries, red pease, and some small
pearls which they wear 3 tied together; but our Beads, Buttons, etc.,
very soon supply'd their places.

[Customs of Tahiti.]


After their meals in the Heat of the day they often Sleep, middle Aged
people especially, the better sort of whom seem to spend most of their
time in eating and Sleeping. Diversions they have but few, shooting with
the Bow and Wrestling are the Chief; the first of which is confin'd
almost wholy to the Chiefs; they shoot for distance only, kneeling upon
one knee and dropping the Bow the instant of the Arrows parting from it.
I have seen one of them shoot an Arrow 274 yards, yet he looked upon it
as no Great Shotte.

Musick is little known to them, yet they are very fond of it; they have
only 2 Instruments--the flute and the Drum. The former is made of hollow
Bamboo about 15 inches long, in which are 3 Holes; into one of them they
blow with one Nostril, stopping the other with the thumb of the left
hand, the other 2 Holes they stop and unstop with their fingers, and by
this means produce 4 Notes, of which they have made one Tune, which
serves them upon all Occasions, to which they sing a number of songs
generally consisting of 2 lines and generally in rhime. At any time of
the day when they are Lazy they amuse themselves by singing these
Couplets, but especially after dark when their candles are lighted, which
are made of the Kernels of a Nutt abounding much in oil; these are stuck
upon a Skewer of Wood one upon another, and give a very Tolerable light,
which they often keep burning an hour after dark, and if they have
strangers in the House much longer. Their drums are made of a hollow
block of wood covered with Shark's Skin, and instead of Drumsticks they
use their hands. Of these they make out 5 or 6 tunes and accompany the

The drums are Chiefly used at their Heivas, which are a set of Musicians,
2 or 3 Drums for instance, as many flutes and singers, which go about
from House to House and play, and are always received and rewarded by the
Master of the family, who gives them a Piece of Cloth or whatever he can
spare, for which they will stay 3 or 4 hours, during which time his house
will be crowded full, for the people are extravagantly fond of this
diversion. The Young Girls whenever they can collect 8 or 10 Together
dance a very indecent Dance, which they call Timorodee, singing most
indecent songs and using most indecent actions, in the practice of which
they are brought up from their earliest childhood; in doing this they
keep time to a great nicety. This exercise is generally left off as soon
as they arrive at Years of Maturity, for as soon as they have form'd a
connection with man they are expected to leave off dancing Timorodee.

One amusement or custom more I must mention, though I confess I do not
expect to be believed, it is founded upon a Custom so inhuman and
contrary to the Principles of human nature. It is this: that more than
one half of the better sort of the inhabitants have enter'd into a
resolution of injoying free liberty in Love, without being Troubled or
disturbed by its consequences. These mix and Cohabit together with the
utmost freedom, and the Chilldren who are so unfortunate as to be thus
begot are smother'd at the Moment of their Birth; many of these People
contract intimacies and live together as man and wife for years, in the
course of which the Children that are born are destroy'd. They are so far
from concealing it that they look upon it as a branch of freedom upon
which they Value themselves. They are called Arreoys, and have meetings
among themselves, where the men amuse themselves with Wrestling, etc.,
and the Women in dancing the indecent dance before-mentioned, in the
course of which they give full Liberty to their desires, but I believe
keep up to the appearance of decency. I never see one of these meetings;
Dr. Monkhouse saw part of one, enough to make him give Credit to what we
had been told.

Both sexes express the most indecent ideas in conversation without the
least emotion, and they delight in such conversation beyond any other.
Chastity, indeed, is but little valued, especially among the middle
people--if a Wife is found guilty of a breach of it her only punishment
is a beating from her husband. The Men will very readily offer the Young
Women to Strangers, even their own Daughters, and think it very strange
if you refuse them; but this is done merely for the sake of gain.

The Houses or dwellings of these People are admirably calculated for the
continual warmth of the Climate; they do not build them in Towns or
Villages, but seperate each from the other, and always in the Woods, and
are without walls, so that the air, cooled by the shade of the Trees, has
free access in whatever direction it hapens to blow. No country can boast
of more delightful walks than this; the whole Plains where the Natives
reside are covered with groves of Bread Fruit and Cocoa Nut Trees,
without underwood, and intersected in all directions by the Paths which
go from House to House, so that nothing can be more grateful in a Climate
where the sun hath so powerful an influence. They are generally built in
form of an Oblong square, the Roofs are supported by 3 Rows of Pillars or
posts, and neatly covered with Thatch made of Palm leaves. A middle-siz'd
house is about 24 feet by 12, extream heigth about 8 or 9, and heigth of
the Eves 3 1/2 or 4. The floors are cover'd some inches deep with Hay,
upon which, here and there, lay matts for the conveniency of sitting
down; few houses has more than one Stool, which is only used by the
Master of the family.

In their houses are no rooms or Partitions, but they all huddle and Sleep
together; yet in this they generally observe some order, the Married
people laying by themselves, and the unmarried each sex by themselves, at
some small distance from each other. Many of the Eares or Chiefs are more
private, having small movable houses in which they Sleep, man and Wife,
which, when they go by Water from place to place, are tied upon their
Canoes; these have walls made of Cocoa-Nut leaves, etc. I have said that
the houses are without walls, but this is only to be understood in
general, for many of them are walled with wickering, but not so close but
to admit a free circulation of Air. The matts which serve them to sit
upon in the daytime are also their beds in the night, and the Cloathes
they wear in the day serve for covering, a little wood Stool, block of
wood, or bundle of Cloth for a Pillow. Besides these common houses there
are others much larger, 200 feet long and upwards, 30 broad, and 20 in
heigth. There are generally 2 or 3 of these in every district, and seem'd
not only built for the accommodation of the principal people, but common
to all the inhabitants of that district, and raised and kept up by their
joint Labour; these are always without walls, and have generally a large
Area on one side neatly inclosed with low pallisades, etc.

[Tahitian Canoes.]

Their Canoes or Proes are built all of them very narrow, and some of the
largest are 60 or 70 feet long. These consist of several pieces; the
bottom is round and made of large logs hollow'd out to the thickness of
about 3 Inches, and may consist of 3 or 4 pieces; the sides are of Plank
of nearly the same thickness, and are built nearly perpendicular,
rounding in a little towards the Gunwale. The pieces on which they are
built are well fitted, and fastned or sewed together with strong platting
something in the same manner as old China, Wooden Bowls, etc., are
mended. The greatest breadth is at the after part, which is generally
about 18 or 20 Inches, and the fore part about 1/3 Narrower; the heigth
from the bottom to the Gunwale seldom exceeds 2 1/2 or 3 feet. They build
them with high curv'd Sterns which are generally ornamented with carved
work; the head or fore part curves little or nothing. The smaller Canoes
are built after the same plan, some out of one, 2, or more trees
according to their size or the use they are for. In order to prevent them
from oversetting when in the Water, all those that go single, both great
and Small, have what is called Outriggers, which are Pieces of Wood
fastened to the Gunwale and project out on one side about 6, 8, or 10
feet, according to the size of the Boat. At the end is fastened in a
Parrallel direction to the Canoe a long log of wood simply; or some have
it Shaped in the form of a small Boat, but this is not common; this lays
in the Water and Balances the Boat. Those that are for sailing have
Outriggers only on the other side abreast of the Mast; these serves to
fasten the Shrouds to, and are of use in Trimming the Boat when it blows
fresh; the sailing proes have some one and some 2 masts; the sails are of
Matting and are made narrow at the head and Square at the foot, something
like a Shoulder of Mutton Sail, such as are generally used in Man-of-War
Barges, etc.

I have mentioned above that the single Canoes have Outriggers, for those
that go double--that is 2 together, which is very common--have no need of
any; and it is done in this manner: 2 Canoes are placed in a parrallel
direction to each other, about 3 or 4 feet asunder, securing them
together by small Logs of Wood laid across and lashed to each of their
gunwales; thus the one boat supports the other, and are not in the least
danger of upsetting, and I believe it is in this manner that all their
large Proes are used, some of which will carry a great number of Men, by
means of a Platform made of Bamboo or other light wood and the whole
length of the Proes and considerably broader, but I never saw but one
fitted in this manner upon the whole Island. Upon the Forepart of all
these large double Proes was placed an Oblong Platform about ten or
twelve feet in length, and six or eight in Breadth, and supported about 4
feet above the Gunwale by stout Carved Pillars. The use of these
Platforms, as we were told, are for the Club Men to stand and fight upon
in time of Battle, for the large Canoes, from what I could learn, are
built most, if not wholly, for war, and their method of fighting is to
Graple one another and fight it out with Clubs, spears, and stones. I
never saw but one of these sort of Canoes in the water, the rest was all
hauled ashore and seemed to be going to decay, neither were there very
many of them upon the Island.* (* The war canoes of Tahiti exist no
longer. The others are still used, and merit all Cook's encomiums on
their sailing qualities.)

The Chiefs and better sort of People generally go from one part of the
island to another in small double Canoes which carry a little movable
House, this not only Skreens them from the Sun by day, but serves them to
Sleep in in the Night, and this way of Travelling is Extremely commodious
about such Islands as are inclosed by a reef as this is; for as these
Canoes draw but Little water they can always keep in the Reefs, and by
that means are never in danger.

They have some few other Canoes, Pahees as they call them, which differ
from those above discribed, but of these I saw but 6 upon the whole
Island, and was told they were not built here. The 2 largest was each 76
feet long, and when they had been in use had been fastned together. These
are built Sharp and Narrow at both Ends and broad in the Middle; the
bottom is likewise Sharp, inclining to a Wedge, yet Buldges out very much
and rounds in again very quick just below the Gunwale. They are built of
several pieces of thick plank and put together as the others are, only
these have timbers in the inside, which the others have not. They have
high Curved Sterns, the head also Curves a little, and both are
ornamented with the image of a man carved in wood, very little inferior
work of the like kind done by common Ship Carvers in England.

When one Considers the Tools these people have one cannot help but
admiring their workmanship; these are Adzes and small Hatchets made of a
hard Stone, Chizels and Gouges made of human bones, generally the bones
of the Forearm, but Spike Nails have pretty well supplyd the place of
these. With these ordinary Tools, that a European would expect to break
the first stroke, I have seen them work surprisingly fast. To plain or
polish their work they rub upon it, with a small stone, Coral Beat small
and Mixed with Water; this is done sometimes by scraping it with Shells,
with which alone they perform most of their Small wood work.

Their Proes or Canoes, large and Small, are row'd and Steer'd with
Paddles, and, notwithstanding the large ones appear to be very unweildy,
they manage them very dexterously, and I believe perform long and distant
Voyages in them, otherwise they could not have the knowledge of the
Islands in these Seas they seem to have. They wear for Shew or Ornament
at the Mast Head of most of their Sailing Canoes Pendants made of

Having described their fighting Canoes I shall next describe their Arms
with which they attack their Enemys, both by Sea and Land. These are
Clubs, Spears or Lances, Slings and Stones which they throw by hand. The
Clubs are made of a hard wood, and are about 8 or 9 feet long; the one
half is made flatish with 2 Edges, and the other half is round and not
thicker than to be easily grasped by the hand. The Lances are of various
lengths, some from 12, 20 or 30 feet, and are generally Arm'd at the
Small end with the Stings of Sting-rays, which makes them very dangerous
weapons. Altho' these people have Bows and Arrows--and those none of the
worst--we are told that they never use them in their wars, which
doubtless is very extraordinary and not easily accounted for. They have
very Curious breastplates, made of small wickers, pieces of Matting,
etc., and neatly Cover'd with Sharks' teeth, Pearl Oyster shells, birds'
feathers, and dogs' hair. Thus much for their Arms, etc.

[Tahitian Cloth.]

I shall now describe their way of making Cloth, which, in my opinion, is
the only Curious manufacture they have. All their Cloth is, I believe,
made from the Bark of Trees; the finest is made from a plant which they
Cultivate for no other purpose.* (* Broussonetia papyrifera. The
manufacture is common to all Polynesia, and the ordinary name for it in
the Pacific is Tapa. The Tahitians, however, called it Ahu.) Dr. Solander
thinks it is the same plant the bark of which the Chinese make paper of.
They let this plant grow till it is about 6 or 8 feet high, the Stem is
then about as thick as one's Thum or thicker; after this they cut it down
and lay it a Certain time in water. This makes the Bark strip off easy,
the outside of which is scraped off with a rough Shell. After this is
done it looks like long strips of ragged linnen; these they lay together,
by means of a fine paist made of some sort of a root, to the Breadth of a
yard more or less, and in length 6, 8 or 10 Yards or more according to
the use it is for. After it is thus put together it is beat out to its
proper breadth and fineness, upon a long square piece of wood, with
wooden beaters, the Cloth being keept wet all the time. The beaters are
made of hard wood with four square sides, are about 3 or 4 inches broad
and cut into grooves of different fineness; this makes the Cloth look at
first sight as if it was wove with thread, but I believe the principal
use of the Groves is to facilitate the beating it out, in the doing of
which they often beat holes in it, or one place thinner than another; but
this is easily repair'd by pasting on small bits, and this they do in
such a manner that the Cloth is not the least injured. The finest sort
when bleached is very white and comes nearest to fine Cotton. Thick
cloth, especially fine, is made by pasting two or more thickness's of
thin cloth, made for that Purpose, together. Coarse thick cloth and
ordinary thin cloth is made of the Bark of Bread fruit Trees, and I think
I have been told that it is sometimes made from the Bark of other trees.
The making of Cloth is wholy the work of the women, in which all ranks
are employ'd. Their common colours are red, brown and yellow, with which
they dye some pieces just as their fancy leads them. Besides Cloth they
make several different sorts of matting, both better and finer than any
we have in Europe; the stuff they make it on is the Produce of the Palm

This Island produceth 2 or 3 sorts of plants, of which they make the rope
they use in rigging their Canoes, etc.; the finest sort, such as fishing
lines, saine twine, etc., is made of the Bark of a Tree, and some from
the Kind of Silk grass. Their fishing lines and saines are in Point of
goodness preferable to any of ours. Their fishing Hooks are very
curiously made of Tortoise, Pearl Oyster Shells, etc. They have a sort of
Saine that is made of Coarse broad grass like flags; these are twisted
and tied together in a loose manner until the whole is as thick as a
large sack, and 60 or 80 fathoms long. This they haul in Shoal smooth
water; its own weight keeps it so close to the ground that hardly the
smallest fish can escape out.

I have before mentioned that the Island is divided into two districts or
kingdoms, which are frequently at war with each other, as hapned about 12
Months ago, and each of these are again divided into smaller districts,
Whennuas as they call them. Over each of the kingdoms is an Eare dehi, or
head, whom we call a King, and in the Whennuas are Eares, or Chiefs. The
King's power seems to be but very little; he may be reverenced as a
father, but he is neither fear'd nor respected as a monarch, and the same
may be said of the other Chiefs. However, they have a pre-eminence over
the rest of the People, who pay them a kind of a Voluntary Obedience.
Upon the whole, these people seem to enjoy liberty in its fullest
extent--every man seems to be the sole judge of his own actions and to
know no punishment but death, and this perhaps is never inflicted but
upon a public enemy. There are 3 ranks of Men and Women: first, the
Eares, or chiefs; second, the Manahoonas, or Middling sort; and lastly,
the Toutous, which comprehend all the lower-class, and are by far the
most numerous. These seem to live in some sort dependent on the Eares,
who, together with the Manahoonas, own most, if not all the land. This is
Hereditary in their families, and the moment the Heir is born he succeeds
the Father, both in title and Estate; at least to the name, for its most
likely that the latter must have the power during his Son or Daughter's

Note by Cook. Upon our arrival at Batavia, we were informed the two
French Ships, commanded by the Monsieurs Beaugainvile, touched at that
place in their way home from the South Seas two years ago. We were here
told many circumstances of these two Ships, all tending to prove that
they were the same ships that were at George's Island, which we judged
were Spaniards; being led into this mistake by the Spanish Iron, etc., we
saw among the natives, which is easy accounted for, for we are told that
while Beaugainvile in the Frigate was delivering up that part of Falkland
Islands possess'd by the French, to the Spaniards, the Store ship was
trading with the Spaniards in the River Plate, where it is very probable
she disposed of all her European goods, and purchased others to trade
with the Islands in the South Seas. To confirm these last circumstances
we were told that when they arrived at Batavia, the Frigate had on board
a great quantity of Spanish Dollars.

[Religion of Tahiti.]

Having given the best account I can of the manners and Customs of these
people, it will be expected that I should give some account of their
religion, which is a thing I have learned so little of that I hardly dare
to touch upon it, and should have passed it over in silence, was it not
my duty as well as inclination to insert in this Journal every and the
least knowledge I may obtain of a People, who for many Centuries have
been shut up from almost every other part of the world.

They believe that there is one Supreem God whom they call Tane; from him
sprung a number of inferior Deities, Eatuas as they call them--these they
think preside over them and intermeddle in their affairs. To these they
offer Oblations such as Hogs, Dogs, Fish, Fruit, etc., and invoke them on
some particular occasions, as in time of real or Apparent Danger, the
setting out of a long Voyage, sickness's, etc.; but the Ceremony made use
of on these occasions I know not. The Mories, which we at first thought
were burying places, are wholy built for Places of worship, and for the
Performing of religious ceremonies in.* (* Cook did not apparently learn
anything in this voyage of the human sacrifices offered in the Morais on
many occasions, such as before war; at the coronation of the king; etc.
The Tahitians were, however, never guilty of cannibalism.) The Viands are
laid upon altars erected 8, 12, or 12 Feet high, by stout Posts, and the
Table of the Altar on which the Viands lay, is generally made of Palm
leaves; they are not always in the Mories, but very often at some
Distance from them. Their Mories, as well as the Tombs of the Dead, they
seem to hold sacred, and the women never enter the former, whatever they
may do the latter. The Viands laid near the Tombs of the Dead are, from
what I can learn, not for the deceased, but as an Offering to the Eatua
made upon that Occasion who, if not, would distroy the body and not
except of the soul--for they believe of a future state of rewards and
punishments; but what their Ideas are of it I know not. We have seen in
some few places small Houses set apart on purpose for the Oblations
offer'd to the Eatua, which consists of small strips of Cloth, Viands,
etc. I am of Opinion they offer to the Eatua a Strip or small piece of
every piece of Cloth they make before they use it themselves, and it is
not unlikely but what they observe the same thing with respect to their
Victuals, but as there are but few of these houses this cannot be a
common Custom; it may only be observ'd by the Priests and such families
as are more religious than others.

Now I have mentioned Priests, there are men that Exercise that function,
of which Numbers Tupia is one. They seem to be in no great repute,
neither can they live wholy by their Profession, and this leads me to
think that these People are no bigots to their religion. The Priests on
some occasions do the Office of Physicians, and their prescriptions
consists in performing some religious ceremony before the sick person.
They likewise Crown the Eare dehi, or King, in the performing of which we
are told much form and Ceremony is used, after which every one is at
liberty to treat and play as many Tricks with the new King as he pleaseth
during the remainder of the day.

There is a ceremony which they perform at or after the Funerals of the
Dead which I had forgot to mention at the time; we hapned to see it
sometime before we left the Island. An old Woman, a relation of
Toobouratomita's, hapned to die and was interr'd in the Usual manner. For
several successive evenings after, one of her relations dressed himself
in a very odd dress, which I cannot tell how to describe or to convey a
better Idea of it than to suppose a man dress'd with plumes of feathers,
something in the same manner as those worn by Coaches, Hearses, Horses,
etc., at the Funerals in London. It was very neatly made up of black or
brown and white cloth, black and white feathers, and pearl Oyster Shells.
It cover'd the head, face, and body, as low as the Calf of the Legs or
lower, and not only looked grand but awful likewise. The man thus
equip'd, and attended by 2 or 3 more men and Women with their faces and
bodys besmear'd with soot, and a Club in their hands, would about sunset
take a Compass of near a mile running here and there, and wherever they
came the People would fly from them as tho' they had been so many
hobgoblins, not one daring to come in their way. I know not the reason
for their Performing this ceremony, which they call Heiva, a name they
give to most of their divertisements.

They compute time by the Moon, which they call Malama, reckoning 30 days
to each moon, 2 of which they say the moon is Mattee, that is, dead, and
this is at the time of the new moon, when she cannot be seen. The day
they divide into smaller Portions not less than 2 Hours. Their
computations is by units, tens, and scores, up to ten score, or 200, etc.
In counting they generally take hold on their fingers one by one,
Shifting from one hand to the other, until they come to the number they
want to express; but if it be a high number, instead of their fingers
they use pieces of Leaves, etc.

In conversation one with another they frequently join signs to their
words, in which they are so expressive that a stranger will very soon
comprehend their meaning by their actions.

Having now done with the People, I must once more return to the Island
before I quit it altogether, which, notwithstanding nature hath been so
very bountiful to it, yet it does not produce any one thing of intrinsick
value or that can be converted into an Article of Trade; so that the
value of the discovery consists wholy in the refreshments it will always
afford to shipping in their passage through those seas; and in this it
may be greatly improved by transporting hither horned cattle, etc.
Pumpkins have got quite a footing here, the seeds of which most probably
were brought here by the Spaniards.* (* Bougainville.) We sowed of the
seeds of Water and Musk Mellons, which grew up and throve very fast. We
also gave of these seeds and the seeds of Pine Apples to several of the
Natives, and it cannot be doubted but what they will thrive here, and
will be a great addition to the fruits they already have. Upon our first
arrival we sowed of all sorts of English garden seeds and grain, but not
a single thing came up except mustard sallad; but this I know was not
owing either to the Soil or Climate, but to the badness of the seeds,
which were spoil'd by the length of the Passage.

[Winds at Tahiti.]

Altho' this Island lies within the Tropick of Capricorn, yet the Heat is
not Troublesome, nor do the winds blow constantly from the East, but are
subject to variations, frequently blowing a fresh gale from the
South-West Quarter for two or three days together, but very seldom from
the North-West. Whenever these variable winds happen they are always
accompanied with a swell from the South-West or West-South-West, and the
same thing happens whenever it is calm and the Atmosphere at the same
time loaded with Clouds--sure indication that the winds are Variable or
Westerly out at Sea, for clear weather generally attends the settled

The meeting of Westerly winds within the general Limits of the Easterly
Trade is a little extraordinary, and has induced former Navigators, when
they met with them, to think that they were caused by the nearness of
some large Tracks of Land: but I rather think they were owing to another
Cause. It hath been found both by the Dolphin and us that the trade winds
in those parts of this Sea doth not extend further to the Southward than
20 degrees, and without which we generally meet with a wind from the
westward. Now, is it not reasonable to suppose that when these winds blow
strong they must encroach upon and drive back the Easterly winds as to
cause the variable winds and South-Westerly swells I have been speaking
of? It is well known that the Trade winds blow but faint for some
distance within their limits, and are therefore easily stopt by a wind
from the Contrary direction. It is likewise known that these limits are
subject to vary several degrees, not only at different seasons of the
Year, but at one and the same season. Another reason why I think that
these South-West winds are not caused by the nearness of any large Track
of land, is in their being always accompanied with a large swell from the
same Quarter, and we find a much greater surf beating upon the Shores of
the South-West sides of the Islands situated just within the Limits of
the Trade winds than upon any other part of them.

The tides are perhaps as inconsiderable in these Seas as in any part of
the world. A South or South by West moon makes high water in Royal Bay,
but the water does not rise upon a perpendicular above 10 or 12 inches,
except on some very Extraordinary occasions.

The variation of the Compass I found to be 4 degrees 46 minutes Easterly,
this being the mean result of a great number of Trials made by 4 of Dr.
Knight's needles belonging to the Azimuth Compasses, all of which I
judged to be good ones, and yet when applied to the Meridian line I found
them not only differ one from another sometimes a degree and a half; but
the same needle would differ from itself more or less, the difference
sometimes amounting to half a degree, both at the same time and on
differant days. This will in a great measure account for the seeming
errors that may, upon a nice examination, appear to have been made in
observing the Variation inserted in the Course of this Journal. This
variableness in Magnetick Needles I have many times and in many places
experienced both ashore and on board of Ships, and I do not remember of
ever finding two Needles that would agree exactly together at one and the
same time and place, but I have often found the same Needle agree with
itself for several Trials made immediately one after another.* (* These
discrepancies result from imperfections in the suspension and mounting of
the needles, and are only absent in instruments too delicate for ordinary
sea service.) However, all this is of no sort of consequence to
Navigation, as the Variation of the Compass can always be found to a
degree of accuracy more than sufficient for all nautical Purposes.

I have before hinted that these People have an Extensive knowledge of the
Islands situated in these Seas. Tupia, as well as several others, hath
given us an account of upwards of 70; but, as the account they have given
of their situation is so Vague and uncertain, I shall refer giving a list
of them until I have learnt from Tupia the Situation of each island with
a little more certainty. Four of these islands--viz., Huaheine, Ulietea,
Otaha, and Bolabola* (* These islands are now known as Huaheine, Raiatea,
Tahaa, and Borabora or Bolabola, and are under French sovereignty.)--we
were informed, lay only one or two days' sail to the Westward of George's
Island, and that we might there procure Hogs, Fowls, and other
refreshments, Articles that we have been very sparingly supply'd with at
this last Island, as the Ship's Company (what from the Constant hard duty
they have had at this place, and the two free use of Woman) were in a
worse state of health than they were on our first arrival, for by this
Time full half of them had got the Venerial disease, in which Situation I
thought they would be ill able to stand the Cold weather we might expect
to meet with to the Southward at this Season of the Year, and therefore
resolved to give them a little time to recover while we ran down to and
explored the Islands before-mentioned.

Tupia informs us that in the Months of November, December, and January
they have constant Westerly winds, with rain; also that the whole island
can muster 6780 Fighting Men, by which some judgment can be formed of the
number of inhabitants. Each district furnishes a certain number, which
the chief is obliged to bring into the field when summoned by the Eare
dehi, or King of the Island, either to make war or repell an invasion.*
(* This paragraph is added in Admiralty copy.)

[Historical Notes, Tahiti.]

Notes on Tahiti. The missionaries who came to Tahiti in 1797, in the
missionary ship Duff, and settled at Matavai, gathered many details of
the history and economy of the islands. It appears that the state of
society, though in many respects savage, had attained a certain pitch of
civilisation, especially with regard to government. There was generally a
head chief or king of the whole island, who governed after the feudal
manner by the sub-chiefs. The sovereignty was hereditary, with this
peculiarity, that the eldest son of the king became from his birth the
sovereign. The father governed henceforth as regent until the son was of
an age to take the reins in his own hands, when the father retired. This
was the idea; but, as may be imagined, it led to various complications
and difficulties, and wars between the different parts of the island and
the different chiefs were frequent.

When Wallis discovered the island, in June 1767, Amo was king, or
Arii-rahi (called by Cook Eare-dehi), Bereia (Cook's Obereia) being his
wife. The latter seems to have been a woman of much character, and to
have practically governed the island. The two were separated, inasmuch
that they had mutually contracted other alliances, but, according to the
custom of the country, without affecting their friendship.

On Wallis's appearance the warlike Tahitians at once attacked the
Dolphin, but were easily defeated, and the guns and small arms with which
they then for the first time made acquaintance had such an effect upon
them that they speedily made peace, and recognised the superiority of

The defeat had, however, a great effect on the prestige of Amo, whose
authority rapidly diminished. Tootaha, Amo's brother, and chief of the
district of Matavai, where the Dolphin anchored, was much enriched by her
visit, and became a greater man in the eyes of his compatriots.
Bougainville also touched at Tootaha's district; and although his two
ships only remained ten days, it was long enough to furnish this chief
with many more valuable and coveted articles.

In about December 1768, or six months before Cook's visit, war broke out
in the island, and Amo was totally defeated by the chief who governed the
eastern peninsula. Cook saw at Papara, on the south side of the main
island, the relics of this battle in the shape of many human bones.
Tootaha, who had joined in the war against his brother, became regent for
the son (Pomare) of another brother, Hapai, and was therefore the
principal man in the island when Cook appeared. Notwithstanding, when Amo
(whom Cook calls Oamo), came to visit the Europeans on 21st June,
bringing his young son, Temare, with him, the latter was carried on men's
shoulders, which was one of the ceremonial observances due to the Otou,
or young king, and the natives present recognised his royal character by
uncovering their shoulders.

Tupia (or Tupaia), who left the island with Cook, was the chief priest of
the island, and had been living with Bereia; but having shortly before
conspired to kill Tootaha, it is probable that he felt his life was
unsafe in the island.

Frequent wars raged in the island for many years after Cook's first
visit. Tootaha was killed in one of these, and when Cook again arrived,
in 1773, Pomare was king, though Cook only knew him by his title of Otou,
which he apparently still retained, though there was no regent.

In 1789 Captain Bligh called at Tahiti in the Bounty, to export young
bread-fruit trees to the West Indies. The delights of Tahiti probably had
their part in bringing about the well-known mutiny a few days after the
ship left; and on the return of the Bounty with her crew of mutineers,
sixteen of them remained on the island. These men took a leading part in
the continual dissensions in the island, until, in 1791, they were
carried off by the Pandora, sent with the object of capturing the

English missionaries came to Tahiti in 1797; but after twelve years'
residence, during which they made no progress, and were constantly in
danger from the frequent wars, they retreated to Sydney, in New South
Wales, leaving two only of their number in Huahine and Eimeo, two of the
Society Islands. Two years later, on the invitation of Pomare II, who
was, however, then expelled from Tahiti and living in Eimeo, some of them
returned, and Pomare became the first convert. Christianity rapidly
spread, and in 1815, Pomare having returned to Tahiti, he and his
Christian followers were attacked. The battle ended in the complete
victory of Pomare, and for the first time in the sanguinary history of
the island no butchery of the vanquished followed, nor any devastation of
the country. The principal idols were destroyed; and whether in
consequence of the surprise the natives felt at finding that no
retribution followed this sacrilege, or from gratitude at the clemency of
the victors, opposition to the new religion ceased, the whole island soon
became Christian, and the customs of the inhabitants were much changed.
In 1827 the British Government declined to accede to a request to throw
its protectorate over Tahiti.

In 1836 two French priests came to the island with the avowed intention
of proselytising. They were expelled; and after several visits of French
men-of-war, who came to obtain redress for this act, and an assurance of
free entrance for French subjects, the island was taken possession of by
a French squadron in 1843, and Queen Pomare, daughter of Pomare II, was
de facto deposed. The island has been ever since under the dominion of
France. Tahiti is now in a flourishing condition, and exports a
considerable quantity of cotton, cocoanuts, and vanilla.

The majority of the natives still profess the Protestant religion.

Papiete, a little westward of Matavai, is now the principal port and town
of the island, the harbour possessing some advantages over the latter.

The Tahitians are marvellously fond of singing and dancing, and still
retain their primitive and exceedingly free manners, and the custom of
decorating themselves with flowers.

The beauty of the island, with its neighbouring western group, is
probably unsurpassed, and, considering all the circumstances, it says
much for the discipline of the Endeavour that only two of her crew
attempted to remain in what seemed a Paradise.

Cook's efforts to make his men deal properly with the natives are well
illustrated by the following extract from Mr. Molineux's Log, of the 29th
April. The incident is not mentioned by Cook.

"Punished Hy. Jeffs, Seaman, with a dozen lashes for ill-behaviour on
shore. He had been rude to a man's wife yesterday, of which the Indian
complained, and Jeffs was confined immediately the Captain had the fact
plainly proved, and next morning the Captain invited the offended Parties
on board, who were ignorant of his intentions. All hands being called,
and the Prisoner brought aft, the Captain explained the nature of his
Crime in the most lively manner, and made a very Pathetick speech to the
Ship's Company during his punishment. The woman was in the greatest
agonies, and strongly interceded for him. The man's name was Tuburi and
his wife's name Tamide. I remember them both last Voyage. I should have
mentioned Tuburi being sorry to see Jeffs punished."

It is evident, from what Cook himself tells us (above), and from what is
now well known of the laxity of Tahitian morals, that this punishment
would seem excessive to the natives, and especially to the women, who
were accustomed themselves to bear whatever blame was bestowed.


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