1822 - Captain Arthur (Whaleman from New Bedford)
It is well known that an independent colony has been formed in Pitcairn's Island, in the Pacific Ocean, by the mutineers of the Bounty, commanded by Captain Bligh, and that the only population of the island consists of the mutineers and their descendants, by some Otaheitan females they had married. The following particulars respecting this interesting colony are from the private Journal of the American whale-ship Russell, Capt. Arthur, of New Bedford:
March 8, 1822. Lat. 24° 30’ S. Long. 129° 25' W.; light airs from S.E. steering S.W. by S. and S.S.W.; at midnight hove to; at daylight saw Pitcairn's Island, bearing S. by E. seven or eight leagues off; stood for it, and when we were within about three or four miles of the shore, were boarded by the most interesting crew of young men, that we had ever seen; at noon we lay a-back near the land. From all I had otherwise read and learned respecting the inhabitants of Pitcairn's Island, induced me to have the following notice posted up in the fore-part of our ship, before we had any communication with the Islanders:
"It is the impression of the Russell's owners, that the most part of her company were from respectable families, and it is desirable that their conduct towards the islanders should verify the opinion. As this island has been hitherto but little frequented, they will be less susceptible of fraud, than a more general intercourse with the world would justify. It is desired that every officer and man will abstain from all licentiousness in word or deed; but will treat them kindly, courteously, and with the strictest good faith. As profane swearing has become an unfashionable thing even on board a man of war, it is quite time it were laid aside by whalemen, particularly at this time. As these islanders have been taught to adore their Maker, and are not accustomed to hear His name blasphemed, they were shocked with horror when they heard some of the crew of an American ship swear, and said it was against the laws of their God, their country, and their conscience."
Ship Russell, March 9. - Pleasant weather; at two p. m. went on shore, accompanied by Captain Arey, in his boat; as the Islanders' boat wanted repairing, we took her on deck, and before the next morning had her done, to the grateful satisfaction of our new friends. The Islanders went on shore in one of our boats; Capt. Arey, taking five, and we the other five. Our landing was effected much easier under the skilful direction of our new pilots, than could otherwise have been done. Previous to leaving the ship, bread and butter was put on the table, and they were invited to eat: but they refused, alleging that it was their fast day; however, after some importunity, and inquiry whether l thought it would be any harm to them, and being assured in the negative, they partook, though slightly, and not till after they had implored a blessing. And after their repast was finished, a hymn and prayer were offered up with great devotional propriety.
On our landing, the Hill of Difficulty was to be ascended: a job I could not myself have performed in less than two or three hours; it was done in much less time with the assistance of a steady young man named Robert Young, who helped me almost every step. When we arrived at the top, we appeared to be at least 300 feet above the surface of the water; having gone up a zigzag path, the boat appeared almost directly under us. We were then met by the venerable Governor, John Adams, who was attended by most of the women and children of the Island, and were welcomed to their shores in the more artless, yet dignified manner. After resting a while, we were then invited to the village, about half a mile distant, through groves of cocoa-nut and other trees of a large growth, which made an excellent shade. Although we came to the village, which was situated on a gentle declivity with a sufficient distance between the houses for the drying and bleaching of their cloth, the beautiful prospect, regularity, and neatness of the houses, with the joyous and double welcome of its truly hospitable inhabitants, made the enchanting. Soon after our arrival a dinner was served up, consisting of two roast pigs, fowls, yams and plantains; but, as they declined partaking with us, on recount of its being their fast-day, we concluded to wait till near sundown, at which time they would be at liberty to join us; and when they thought it seasonable, we all sat down together, but not till the chief of our kind entertainers had asked a blessing in a very impressive manner. The return of thanks appeared not less impressive on the minds of the little community, who were like olive branches around the family table.
After spending the evening - if not the feast of reason, at least we had the flow of soul - beds were prepared for Captain Arey and myself; and J. Adams, having taken a bed in the same chamber, though it was not in his own house, we conversed till midnight. Early in the morning, our kind female friends were actively employed getting breakfast for us, which was ready by seven o'clock; consisting of fowls boiled with yams, which made an excellent soup, it was good, and we ate heartily. For our dinner we were treated with baked pigs and roasted goats, with a large quantity of yams, plantains, &c. Our people were equally well provided for. At three o'clock I returned to the shore, to go on board, receiving the same kind attention in descending the mountain which was paid when going up it. We got into our boats with feelings of gratitude, which I was unable to express, towards these good people, but not till they made me promise to rinne on shore again before we left the island.
10th. 11th.and 12th - Still lying off and on, a part of the crew on shore, relieving each other by turns. On the 12th I again went on shore, and was received and treated with every attention. Before noon I returned on board, after taking a more affectionate leave than I ever did anywhere except my home. I was accompanied on board by John Adams, Dolly Young, and Mary Ann Christian. Having received from them a supply of young cocoa-nuts and fowls, and made such presents as they wished for, and we could spare from the ship's stores, we gave them a part of a bolt of light duck, one axe, two hatchets, four boat knives, a bag of bread, a few bottles of wine, a roll of old canvass, a little grindstone, and a watch. Having now accomplished the business for which we came, our friends, after wishing us a good voyage and safe return home, went on shore. Capt. Arey not having finished watering, concluded to stay another day or two, and anxious for us to stay till he was ready, but I was unwilling to lose more time.
Before we leave Pitcairn’s Island, it will not be improper to make a few observations. The time and manner of its colonization are to most general readers known. John Adams and six Otaheitan women are all that is left of the Bounty. Forty-nine have been born on the island, two of whom are dead, which leave fifty-three persons on the island, now all in good health, without a single exception. There are about eleven active young men, who are ready and willing at all times to assist a ship's crew in procuring wood and water, or anything else the island affords. J. Adams assures us, and from what we ourselves saw we have no reason to disbelieve him, that the island was inhabited before themselves, but at what period it is difficult to conjecture. They found, after their arrival, many places where houses had stood, burying-places, and images representing a human figure, with other indubitable marks that they were not the first possessors of Pitcairn's Island. It is, however, certain, that the aborigines left it at no recent period, as the trees growing on the house-spots could not have arrived to their present size in less than 100 years, perhaps 500. The land is high, and may be seen twelve or fifteen leagues : its coast free of dangers; winds variable, which make it easy to lie off and on. The town is situated on the north side of the island, rather nearest the west end; the houses may be seen three or four leagues off by a ship coming from the north.
Vol. I, 1822