AN EXCURSION AMONG ISLANDS OF THE SOUTH SEA.
AMONG THE FIJIANS,
The island at which Bougainville had been so agreeably entertained proved to be Otaheite, of the Society Group, first discovered by Quiros in 1607, but which Bougainville now took possession of in the name of France and called it La Nouvelle Cythere, and to the group he gave the appellation Bourbon Archipelago. Besides a pleasant visit, Bougainville had increased his fortune by the accession of Aotourou to the expedition whose assistance proved of inestimable value, since through him as interpreter the French were able to converse with the natives of many other islands which they afterwards visited. On the 16th of April, 1768, a memorable date in his life, Bougainville took his departure from Otaheite and proceeded on his voyage but he saw 110 other land until he came to one of the Fijis, at which he had a mind to stop, but could not at once find any safe harbor in which to put. He saw several houses along the shore, and presently a canoe put out towards his vessel, but could not be induced to approach closer than several hundred yards. After a while, however, several other boats advanced towards the ship, some of them being rowed and others sailing. But though they came to the ship's side, all inducements which Bougainville could offer were unavailing to induce them to come on board. Nearly all their canoes were provided with outriggers, and the men showed themselves to be consummate boatmen. They exchanged pieces of a very fine shell, yams and cocoa-nuts for some pieces of red cloth, but they betrayed no desire for earrings, knives, nails, nor for iron of any kind. They were all provided with weapons, consisting of lances and clubs, and their appearance was altogether so uninviting that the French had little disposition to trust themselves among any great number of such people.
DISCOVERY OF THE NAVIGATOR GROUP.
The expedition accordingly continued in a westwardly course, and on the following day, another sight of land was obtained, which proved to be a beautiful island, consisting of alternate mountains and valleys, clothed with the most luxuriant verdure and shaded by lofty cocoa-nut trees. Many boats put off from this island and sailed or rowed about the ship, notwithstanding the vessel was at that time running at a speed of seven knots an hour. But, as before, the natives could not be persuaded to either come on board or attach their boats to the side of the vessel. In a few days more Bougainville touched at other islands, such as Heemskirk, Prince William, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam; and finding hereabout so many islands, he gave to the group the name of the Archipelago of the Navigators. Everywhere he found the coast so treacherous, and the islands so numerous, that he was compelled to use the greatest precaution to prevent the destruction of his vessel. To the fears excited by the great number of reefs and breakers, which seemed to be on every side, was added the equally great distress of sickness, and especially scurvy, which attacked nearly all the crew, and so inflamed their mouths that they were scarcely able to swallow any kind of refreshment. But although the sick recovered slowly, the ships were steered with such care and good fortune that they escaped the dangers which threatened, and on the morning of the 22d, two islands were discovered, one of which received the name of Aurora, from the early hour in which it was first seen, while to the other was given the name of Whitsuntide Island. Directly afterwards, the heads of other islands made their appearance, and Bougainville presently discovered that he was again in the midst of another archipelago.
A WOMAN DISGUISED AS A MAN FOUND AMONG THE CREW.
Continuing the voyage, on the 23d other lands were discovered, which grew so numerous that the ships were forced to stop and send out boats to make soundings, for reefs were plentiful on every side. Bougainville, indeed, says that the number of islands now seen was so great that they could not be counted, while the currents set in so swiftly at many places that the ships were unable to stem them, and in many cases were carried almost to the shores, and were only checked by casting anchor. Several natives were observed, but none of them could be induced to approach the vessels in their boats, and when attempt was made to laud with the ships' boats, the islanders made a stout resistance, and they could only be repelled after the wounding of a great number. From these inhospitable shores and dangerous seas Bougainville at length contrived to escape, after giving to the group the name of the Archipelago of the great Cyclades. About this time a singular discovery was made on the ship Etoile. How it was brought about, however, the explorer neglects to mention: He states that suspicions were excited as to the sex of one of the crew of the Etoile, and examination readily proved that instead of a man, as her costume and manner represented, the suspect was a woman, and being now exposed, with a flood of tears she told her remarkable story in this wise: Born in Burgundy and left an orphan, the fortune which had been left her was absorbed in the fatal issue of a lawsuit; upon which she resolved to drop the habit of her sex, and for some time served as valet to a gentleman in Paris. Hearing of Bougainville's intended expedition around the world, she repaired to Rochefort, where, just before the ships embarked, she entered into the service of Mons. de Commercon, who had engaged to accompany Bougainville, with a view of increasing his botanical knowledge. She followed her master with extraordinary courage and resolution, through deep snows to the hoary tops of the mountains in the Strait of Magellan, carrying loads of herbs, plants, arms and provisions, with unwearied toil. While our voyagers were at Otaheite, the men of that island flocked around her, exclaiming: "this is a woman!" They would have treated her as such, but for the interference of an officer who rescued her from their hands. Bougainville observes that this is the first woman who ever circumnavigated the globe; and while she deserves the greatest honor for her courage, and for her chastity, which under all conditions was preserved, her name, which was Bare, continues to remain in obscurity.
A STARVING CREW.
Our navigators continued their voyage, meeting with a thousand obstacles from the treacherous channels through which they were forced to pass, and to their other troubles was added that of such a scarcity of provisions that they were at length reduced to the greatest extremity. The daily allowance of bread and salt meats was constantly reduced until the portions doled out were finally so small as to be insufficient to sustain life. There was yet on board a she-goat, brought from the Falkland Islands, that yielded a considerable quantity of milk; but Bougainville was compelled to sacrifice her to the demands of the crew, and the butcher, who had hitherto been her feeder, wept as he plunged the murderous knife into the breast of his favorite. A dog which had been brought from the Strait of Magellan, also fell a sacrifice to the dire demands of hunger.
On the 18th of June, nine or ten more islands were discovered, which number was largely increased by discoveries on the 20th, when Bougainville found himself again in the perplexities of treacherous reefs, foul ships, damaged rigging, crazy masts, and tempestuous weather, which so threatened the safety of his ships, that at last, when he reached a harbor, he called the point of land which enclosed it Cape Deliverance, and the bay into which he had sailed with safety, Gulf of the Louisiade. Directly after casting his anchors, several boat-loads of natives, some carrying two to three, and others upwards of twenty men each, came out towards the ships. He observed that the men were black, but had a reddish hair, colored by some powder, while they wore white ornaments on their foreheads and neck, and were armed with lances and bows. They kept up a continual shouting, and exhibited a warlike rather than peaceful disposition. These were people of the New Hebrides, who, since their discovery, have ever been noted for their hostile disposition. Bougainville was unable to open a traffic with them, and he was compelled to leave the coast without adding anything to his meagre store of provisions.
ATTACKED BY CANNIBALS.
Upon his departure, a number of Indian boats put out, which contained not less than 150 of the natives, all armed with shields, lances, and bows, and after rowing hastily towards the departing French ships, they began hideous outcries and an attack with bows and lances. The French were compelled to discharge their muskets, but the natives, covering themselves with their shields, continued the fight, until a second discharge terrified them and possibly wounded several, so that they retreated, some swimming to the shore. Two of the natives' boats (composing a catamaran) were captured, on the stern of one of which was the figure of a man's head with a long beard, the eyes being mother-of-pearl, the ears tortoise shell, and the lips painted a bright red. Besides weapons and utensils, there were found in their boats cocoa-nuts, and several fruits, and the jaw of a man, half broiled, the latter clearly indicating that the natives were cannibals.
Several days later, another island was discovered and a landing was made, but few provisions could be obtained except such fruits as were yielded by cocoa-nut and cabbage-trees. Fortunately, a small number of pigeons were shot, the flesh of which served as a great relish for the men, not a few of whom were suffering from scurvy besides extreme hunger. At this place the ships were beached for necessary repairs, which, having been completed, departure was again made, and on the 22d, the shores of another island were discovered, at which a successful attempt was made to obtain some kind of provisions. Several turtle doves were shot, and a grove of mango apples and a kind of prune tree was found from which a considerable quantity of palatable fruit was
A MISUNDERSTANDING WITH THE NATIVES.
In the beginning of August, when the ships were near the Islands of New Britain, several native boats, the crews of which were negroes with woolly heads covered with a white powder, came off to the ship, and invited the French to land, but they refused every inducement to come on board the vessels. They exhibited no fear, however, of their visitors, and after the first canoes had lain alongside the ships for a while, others put out from the bank, in one of which was a person who had the appearance of authority, carrying a red staff, knobbed at each end. As he approached the ship he held his hands over his head for a considerable time, but for what purpose the French were unable to tell, though it is probable that it was a means of signifying his desire to enter into amicable relations with his white visitors. The French obtained from these a few yams ; but upon manifesting their indisposition to land, the natives took offence and showed a disposition to attack; but they were driven off by the firing of a rocket, which frightened them greatly. Several days later, however, and while rounding the point of this same island, a number of native boats came out toward the Etoile, and when within a few yards, savagely attacked the vessel with a volley of stones and arrows, but fortunately did no damage, and they were easily repulsed by the firing of a volley over their heads.
It was now decided to steer a south-westerly course in order to avoid the islands, which had yielded nothing to the explorers, and on the 26th of August Bougainville passed the meridian, and on the 31st sighted the shore of Ceram. As this island and those abont it, such as Bonao, Kelang, and Manepo, had large settlements of the Dutch, Bougainville was at length able to obtain necessary refreshments for his crew, one-half of whom were at this time incapacitated from duty from insufficient food and the ravages of scurvy, which had reduced his men to an intolerable condition.
SNAKES AND CROCODILES.
At the town of Cajeli, on Ceram, Bougainville made a considerable stay, and recruited his company of sick by having them put on shore and carefully attended by slaves, which administrations served to speedily restore them to health. This time of waiting was agreeably spent by Bougainville, who was most hospitably entertained by the Dutch, who never tired of showing him the kindest attentions. The vegetable productions of the island consisted of pineapples, citrons, lemons, bitter oranges, shaddocks, bananas, and cocoa-nuts ; while animal life was represented by a great variety of birds, many of which were clothed in the most exquisitely beautiful plumage, and Bougainville also mentions "bats, and serpents of an enormous size, the latter of which are said to have a swallow capacious enough for the reception of a whole sheep. There is a snake too, which, posting itself on the trees, darts into the eye of the passenger who happens to look up, and the bite of this animal is certain death. Crocodiles of an astonishing size reside on the banks of the rivers, devouring such beasts as fall in their way; and men are only protected from their fury by carrying torches in their hands. These crocodiles, which roam for prey in the night, have been even known to seize people in their boats."
From Ceram, Bougainville sailed to the Celebes, and thence to Java, stopping, however, at several other islands on the way, but meeting with no incident of special importance, and on the 27th of September, he put into the port of Batavia. Although all his sick had recovered during his short stay at Ceram, the bloody-flux broke out among his crew directly after their departure therefrom, so that twenty-eight of his men were in imminent peril of their lives when they arrived at Batavia. These were at once carried on shore, that they might receive better attention, and awaiting their recovery he was thus compelled to remain for a considerable while at the Java capital, where, he was royally entertained by the Dutch of that place. At length, his crew having recovered, on the 16th of October, 1768, Bougainville took his departure from Batavia and continued on the way home. But on the 8th of November he arrived at the Isle of France, and finding his ship in a leaky condition, had it beached for overhauling and he was not able to leave that place in the Boudeuse until the 12th of December, at which time the Etoile had not yet completed her repairs, and was, therefore, left behind, so that they did not meet with her again until after their return to France, in March, 1769.
BOUGAINVILLE IN THE WAR FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE.
On his return to his country Bougainville was received with great public demonstration in honor of his successful accomplishment of a circumnavigation of the globe, and he was offered many positions of public trust, all of which, however, he refused in order to devote his time to the preparation of a history of his voyages, which he published in two volumes three years afterwards. After the completion of this history, he planned a voyage to the North Pole, and wrote a memoir on the subject, presenting two distinct routes, which he submitted to the Royal Society of London, of which he had been elected a member. But no action was taken, and in 1778, when the French took part in the American War of Independence, Bougainville was appointed to the command of a ship of the line, and distinguished himself in all the naval engagements between France and England. In the conflict in which de Grasse was defeated by Admiral Rodney, April 12th, 1782, the ship commanded by Bougainville, named The Augusta, suffered most severely. But through the resoluteness of her commander she kept her place in the line to the last extremity, and when all hope of retrieving the fortune of the day was abandoned, by a strategic and decisive movement, Bougainville succeeded in rescuing eight sail of his own immediate division, which he conducted in safety to St. Eustace. He did not appear again in active command of any vessel during the American War, but returning to France, he resumed his project of a voyage to the Arctic Seas. But with all his persistency, and several papers which he prepared and read before geographical bodies on the subject, he received no encouragement, and finally left the naval service in 1790. He then remained in retirement as a private citizen until 1795, when he was elected to the French Institute, and subsequently was made a member of the Board of Longitudes, and on the organization of the Senate, he was made a member of that body by Napoleon, who also ennobled him. He continued in the public service until his death, August 31st, 1811, having lived eighty-one years, nine months and two days.