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27 April - 3 May 1769

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James Cook
Joseph Banks




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Otaheite (continued)

On the 27th, we saw a very odd ceremony performed; Tiropoa, one of Tubora Tumaida’s wives, after weeping, and expressing some emotions of sorrow, took a shark’s tooth from under her cloaths, and struck it against her head several times, which produced a copious discharge of blood; then, lamenting most bitterly, she articulated some words in a mournful tone, and covered the blood with some pieces of cloth; and, having bled about a pint, she gathered up as much of it as she could, threw it into the sea, and then assumed a chearful countenance, as if nothing had happened. This, it seems, is a ceremony generally performed by widows after the decease of their husbands.

This morning a woman, a fat, bouncing, good-looking dame, whom we found the queen, having a great quantity of their cloth of all colours, made us a visit, and a present.

Tootahau, the king of the island, whom we called Hercules, too, and all his family, came and brought us presents, which we kindly accepted.

On the 30th, the weather being fair, we made a tour in the country, which was very pleasant, and met with several rare plants, which afforded much agreeable amusement to our botanical gentlemen.

On the 2d of May, we missed the astronomical quadrant, it having been brought on shore the day before, in order to make observation of the transit of Venus: several men were immediately dispatched into the country to search for it; and they were informed, by some of the natives, that it had been carried through the woods to the eastward. The captain, Mr. Banks, and Mr. Green, with some other of our men, Tubora Tumaida, and a few of the natives, all armed, set out in pursuit of it. Tootahau, the king, and several canoes, were detained till they returned. While they were on this expedition, I walked out to the east, in the evening, and was almost stunned with the noise of the grasshoppers, with which this island abounds. At length I came to a large open place, on the side of which I saw a long house; and in the area many of the natives assembled, having brought with them large baskets of bread-fruit: some of them were employed in dividing them, and others carried away whole baskets full; so that it had the appearance of a market of bread-fruit. Near to this opening, there was another long house, where, it seems, they coloured their cloth, of which I bought a few pieces, and returned to the fort. About eight o’clock in the evening, the party, that went out in quest of the quadrant, came back, having happily obtained it by the assistance of Tubora Tumaida. Some of the natives had taken it to pieces, and divided it amongst them, but had done it no material damage. It was stolen by a man named Moroameah, ser-vant to Titaboreah, one of their chiefs. They also found a pistol, which one of the natives had stolen some time before. Tootahau wept while the party was absent, and was much alarmed on the occasion, apprehending that he should be killed if the quadrant could not be found; and had sent for two hogs to appease us. Oboreah, the queen, fled from us; nor would any of the natives come to market. When Tubora Tumaida, and his party, who accompanied Mr. Banks, returned, and saw Tootahau confined, they set up the most doleful lamentation imaginable; but they were soon pacified by the assurances made them that we designed them no injury.

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© Derived from the London 1773 edition printed for Stanfield Parkinson, page 21, 2004
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