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The Polynesian. (Honolulu (Oahu), Hawaii) 1840-1841, October 24, 1840, Image 1

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j. J. JAUVES, Editor.
Vol. '1. IVO. 911.
COM 1 tJ . I V. AT K I).
fu tin; Ivliiitr ol'lhe Pol) iioiun,
viiK, 1 enclose you a brief account of the
VVrcek of the. Whaler Independence, and
a nineteen days voyage in a whale-lwat,
poilonned hy myself and others, which
I have been requested to ninko public
tliroiijili your valuable ptiper. Pour years
have elapsed since the events transpired,
hut should you judge the nar. ative one
that would interest your readers, you are
at liberty to place it before them.
Yours respectfully,
Itoiiotulu, Sept. 22, 1840.
How do you brad? South by rust, sir.
Mr. (iibson, keep the .diip to tin; wiml,
and mil in ? at '2 o'clock. Thus said
Capt. Ilrayton, as ho left the deck at J)
o'clock on the evening of Dec. 18:$.").
The Independence had been at sea
twenty five months, and had nearly ac
complished the object of -her voyage; a
few days of successful fishing, and her
course would have been homeward; but
fate, and Starbuck Island had .other plans
in view for our amusement. At sunset
tlio island bore south east, distant about
I.") miles, the ship steering by the wind,
leaded south by east; at ) o'clock Capt. li.
judged the land to bear about east, 1 0 miles
distant, which would place the ship , out
of all danger, as the land was directly to
windward. Consequently he left the. ship
in charge of the watch on deck, and re
tired to bis berth, and unfortunately for
us the watch on deck retired to the' wind
lass and forehatches for the same Jaud
ahle purpose even the boy at the helm
in his somnific indulgence did not dream
nf danger. . Theship thus left her own
master, took it upon herself ' to obey to
tiic letter the last injunction of Capt. B.
' keep her to the wind."
The wind which by common consent is
allowed of all things to be most fickle and
changeable, hauled to 'the north which
brought the ship to head directly for the
island, and ten minutes before 1 1 o'clock,
sho struck the reef with such force as to
tp.'ir her bottom out, and her keel and
floor timbers came floating alongside. It
was but the work of a moment to lower
away the boats and pull out to seaward
ff the breakers which rose dashing against
tho rocks with frightful fury. The next
sea which came rolling in, unshipped the
rudder and burst -iri the-cabin windows.
Capt. . ami a boats crew including my
self remained on board to secure the in
struments and charts.
Imding that the ship was not likely to
?o to pieces immediately, we commenced
throwing overboard such articles as would
drift ashore. Bread, clothing, casks of
water, &c. At ten minutes before 1 2 fiiid
the surf rising fast and breaking over
her, we got out another boat and left her
w'th what few things we had saved, and
anchored at a distance from tlie ship. J
At daylight the surf had risen so as to
render it impossible to board the wreck
with the boats. Capt. B. and a boats
frew jumped overboard and swam to her,
after throwing overboard the pigs,
low Is, turkies and goats, and cutting aw ay
l'ie masts, swam back to the boats in safe
ty At 2 P. M. we effected a landing
without accident, but not without difficul
ty The island was surrounded by a co
1 reef, on which 'the surf broke with
peat violence, but by watching a good
Tporiunity we pulled in on the crest of
a heavy roller and ihe instant the boat
touched bottom all hands jumped out and
carried her ashore, before a succeeding
wave could overtake us, and in this man
ner we landed all our boats in safety.
On our arrival at the 'ship, one mile
from our landing, we found she had forced
her w ay about I J) feet into the reef, crush
ing the. coral. rocks so as to hold her fast
by the head, -which prevented her swing
ing round broadside to the shore. In
which case without doubt we should all
have perished, as the surf would have
swept her decks, ami she have gone to
pieces before any thing could have been
saved. And had we escaped the danger
of the surf, it would only .have been to
meet a fate more horrid still, of death
from hunger mid thirst on a barren shore,
without a boat; chart or compass to enable
us to leave the island. .
The ship's jib boom projected so far over
the rocks as to enable us to board her
from the shore; by which 'means we saved
many articles of Use, and sails for tents.
The goats and pigs and a few fowls reach
ed the shore in safety, also most of the
things cast overboard the night before.
After lraving erected our tents, we laid
our weary limbs on the . sand and slept
' After partaking of such a breakfast as
we were glad to get, wo formed two. par
ties. One to remain by the wreck and
save such articles as might wash 'ashore,
and the other to traverse the- island in
search of water. The island lies in Lat.
5 .39' south, and Long.: 155 56' west; it
is about fifteen miles in circumference,
and the highest point fifteen feet above
the level of the ocean, is of coraliifiiMfflMin
atioi destitute -of vegetation &cepti a
shrub of scrubby growth from one tothrce
feet high, which grows in patches" arid af
forded slielter . to immense numbers of
birds nests.
About sunset the discovery party arriv
ed, haying ascertained that no water
could. be obtained on the island. They
had digged in inaiiy places but found
nothing but salt water. They had in their
route picked up the remains of two pistols,
one musket, a bucket, and several case bot
tles, one of which had contained papers;
the cork had decayed and the paper had
become wet and adhered to the sides of the
bottle. Tlie musket had been destroyed
by rust, the thick portion only, of the bar
rel remaining and the brass trimmings ly
ing beside it, with the ramrod which had
rusted down' to about the size of a knit
ting pin. Two deck beams of a large
ship and a capstaih also were found par
tially covered with earth,' over which
shrdbbcry had grown.
The ship continued to break up by the
action of tho surf and to float ashore in
broken fragments; several casks of bread
and smalj stoics came ashore, also a few
casks of water, and one 'of the try pots
washed up on the beach. After the luxu
ry of a cold water tea, we called all hands
together for a consultation on the proprie
ty of leaving the island in the boats.
Twelve out of twenty-two of us decided
to take theJ)oats and steer for the Society
Islands. Bearing south easterly about 1 1
degrees distant.
The remaining 10 of our number chose
to take their chance on . the island, in
hopes some .vessel might pick them up
not wishing to rUk themselves in the
boats. Now our plans Mere laid, we set
abou.t putting them into execution as soon
as possible. We took the try pot which
would contain about three barrels and fit
ted a cover to it, suspending over it a largo
cask into which was inserted a pipe lead
ing from the . boiler. This served as a
condenser 'for the steam. The boiler was
then filled with sea water and a fire kin
dled With wood from the wreck. It has
been said, that a watched pot Jievcr boils;
but despite that saying, our pot did boil,
notwithstanding it was' watched with an
intensity of interest, by those w hose lives
might and probably would have depended
upon the success of the experiment. Joy
beamed in every countenance when in
about two hours our rude distillery sent
forth a small, but steady stream 'of line
fresh water. And it proved to be literally
a fountain of life to those whom we left
on the island. The goats and fouls re
maiued about the tents, but the hogs, be
came immediately wild) so that it was ne
cessary when we wished to kill one, to
lay in wait for them as they came down
to the shore in the night and dart the har
poon into them. The shore of the island
was lined with fish, and the interior with
a great variety of birds and eggs. A
few turtle also wandered up the beach
during the night, some of which never
wandered back again, having 'met with a
reverse not, only of fortune, but position.
Several casks of bread had washed up
the beach," so that we judged it safe for
those who wished to remain on the. island
to do so. -
Dec. 10, got tilings in readiness and
attempted to launch our boats for leaving
the island, but fl.e surf ran so high that
we were compelled to relinquish the' un
dertaking, after'having capsized our boat
and severely bruising the second mate
and myself among the rocks in the break
crs. ' The wind continued strong fromjho
north east, with a hcavv sea which dashed
against the rocks forming a complete wall
of foam and spray around the island, bid
ding defiance to any attempt ' which we
might make to pass their bounds. Making
a virtue of necessity, we hauled our, boat
up again and deciding to remain on. the is
land for the time being, we erected a flag
stair and set a signal after w hich we mus
tered all hands for council.
With the-loss of the ship Captain B.
lost the legal right of command over the
crew. . Thus we were thrown together a
little community without government,
which though small bid fair soon to be one
of the most independent Jittle colonies
imaginable. Foreseeing the difficulties
which might arise in a company of men
without law or restraint, we voted to form
a government., .Accordingly wo elect
ed a Governor, Lieut. Governor, Sher
iff, aiid four Constables, who were to
frame a code of laws and present them to
the community with the penalties attach
ed. This to some may seem ludicrous
but we found the advantage of it directive
Our statesmen and officers who were not
enticed into office for the sake of the
spoils, were no doubt of the very first
quality, but fortunately never had occa
sion to prove themselves such.
Dec. 21. The surf had so far gone
down as to encourage us to make another
attempt to launch the boats, which w e ef
fected without accident. Captain B. the
first mate and myself look each a boat and
three men, making twelve of us. When
ready for sea our sea stores and outfits
read thus; to each boat thirty gallons wit
ter,' sixty pounds bread, and one change
of sea clothes per man, which was as
much as the boats would carry with safe
ty if the word safety could be properly
applied to such an expedition.. We left
our comrades on the island supplied with
one boat, quadrants, charts, and com
pass, books, clothing, and. about, two
years supply of bread, which with 'the
natural resources of the island and distil
lery, we thought might make them 'com
fortable for at least two years.
At sunset we waved a parting adieu to
our comrades who were silting on the
beach, and spreading our little fails bid
adieu to Starbuck Island and its'' ten
ants. Thus wc cast ourselves loose upon
the mighty ocean and the mercy of heaven
with sensations which, to be realized, must
be felt.
Captain B. had a good chronometer
which made it desirable that wc should
keep company with him, and .we carried
lights during the night for that purpose.
We shaped our course for the Society Is
lands and run through the night with a
strong wind and rough sea, giving us to
understand that a voyage of necessity was
not necessarily a voyage of comfort. It
required one man to steer, one to bale wa
ter out of the boat as it washed over her
side, one to hold on to the main sheet in
case of a sudden squall, and the last to
look out for the other boats; so the only
w ay that we could relieve the watch was
to change our respective occupations in
the boats. This wc did foe two days and
nights, but nature would be trilled with
no longer. Judge of my surprise when
oh the third night I awoke and found my
self fast asleep, w hich was literally a fact.
I had, a consciousness of existence and
knew that I was positively asleep and also
knew- the danger of being asleep, but had
not power to shake off my drow siness. I
strove and strove again to conquer, till in
imagination. I was engaged in a deadly
combat with sorno huge monster whose
tcrrifing grow I broke the spell. I sprang up
in a fright at the risk I had run expecting
the severest censure from my comrades for
my imprudence, which I no doubt should
have received, but for the simple fact that
every . soul of them was fast asleep and
some of them imitating to perfection the
monstrous growl that frightened me into
existence. 1 of course denounced the
whole bunch of them as a set of sleepy
heads and spoke largely on the folly of
putting all our lives in jeopardy for the
sake of a nap. Our boat was her own
mistress for about three hours, and really
behaved like a lady, that is, she had her
own way, but the risk we had run was
At daylight wc found that wc had part
ed company with the mate's boat, and put
back a few miles in search of them fearing
they might have met with some accident;
dangers surrounded us on every side; run
ning at the iate of about six miles the
hour we were in danger of capsizing by
any sudden change of the the wind of
shipping a sea and foundering, of running
on to a whale, or against a floating piece of
wood-and more especially were we in dan
ger from the presumptuous but well meant
gambols of a shoal of Porpoises, which

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