Captains Portlock and Dixon
Tiffs voyage was undertaken for the purposes of commerce; principally, indeed, for the fur-trade, on the north-west coast of America, which had been strongly recommended by Captains Cook and King in their last voyage. Two vessels were fitted out for this purpose, the King George and Queen Charlotte, by a society of merchants and others, the former commanded by Nathaniel Portlock, the latter by George Dixon, both of whom had been with Captain Cook; the King George having sixty men, the Queen Charlotte thirty.
September 20th, 1785, they quitted St. Helens, and, proceeding to Guernsey, left it on the 25th. October 16th saw the Canary Islands, and 24th the Cape de Verde group, anchoring for a short time in Port Praya Bay, in St. Jago. Proceeding south, they anchored in Port Egmont, Falkland's Islands, January 5th, 1786, where, taking in water, they made sail for States Bay, in Terra del Fuego. Having made a good offing from Cape Horn, they had tolerable weather; and continuing their route without touching at any place, or meeting any thing worthy of notice, dropped anchor 26th May in Karakooa Bay, in Owhyhee, Sandwich Islands.
The natives crowded them very much, bartering a variety of articles; but were nevertheless extremely troublesome. It was the general opinion, that it would be impossible to water the vessels without a strong guard, which they could not well spare; while the people were probably jealous that these vessels had come to revenge the death of Captain Cook. Next day they stood out of the bay, lying-to three leagues off, to carry en trade for hogs, plantains, etc. etc., which proved so serviceable that the sick, of whom there were several, began rapidly to recover. June 1st anchored in a bay in Woahoo, another of the islands, and were received civilly by the inhabitants. They now stood for another of the islands, named Oneehow; and, on the 8th, anchored in Yam Bay, where supplies of fruit, vegetables, and pigs, were willingly afforded by the principal chief Abbenooe, who seemed strongly their friend, from recollecting Captain Portlock along with Cook. They took leave of him, with regret, on the 13th, standing for the coast of America.
July 19th made the entrance of Cook's River; and, while looking for good anchorage, were astonished by the report of a great gun; when, soon afterwards, a party of Russians came on board, attended by some Indians; but none understanding the language of either, no satisfactory information could be gained from them. Most of the natives had fled from their huts, alarmed perhaps by the Russians; several bears were seen, but none near enough to fire at. Two veins of kennel-coal were found, which burned very well, and the place was, therefore, called Coal Harbor. An elderly chief paying Captain Dixon a visit, informed him that they had a battle with the Russians, in which the latter were worsted, and added, that from the difference of dress, he knew they were of a different nation.
Quitting this place, they tried for some time to get into Prince William's Sound; but, by a series of unfavorable winds, failed in this pursuit. September 23d, they stood away for the Sandwich Islands to pass the winter, and return in the spring. November 14th saw the summit of the high mountain in Owhyhee covered with snow, and employed two or three following days in coasting it, the natives bringing off a variety of articles to barter for iron and trinkets. The first mate of the King George reporting, that a bay they intended to anchor in did not admit of good anchorage, this design was dropped. During the time they lay to, hogs, fowls, wild-geese, bread-fruit, plantains, and several other things were procured in considerable quantities; the natives dealing pretty fairly, but committing a variety of thefts, even before their faces, with a dexterity almost inimitable. For several days they continued lying to off the islands of Mowee and Morotoi, procuring refreshments and receiving visits till the 30th, when both ships bore away for King George's Bay, in Whoaboo, where they anchored in safety, after experiencing a variety of winds from all points of the compass.
Here they found every thing tabooed, or forbidden, so that it became necessary to court the king's favor; for which purpose a present was sent to him, and another to a priest, their acquaintance on the former occasion, who paid them a visit, handing up a fig and plantain, which in these islands are signs of friendship. This was soon followed by a visit from Taheeterre, the king, followed by all the chiefs, who took off the taboo. The priest was remarkable for drinking large quantities of the ava, or yava-juice, for which he had two men in constant attendance chewing the root, which, with their spittle, forms this singular and (to us) nauseous beverage. The yava is a root resembling liquorice in shape and color. None but the chiefs and priests have permission to use it, and these are never at the trouble of chewing it themselves; but, as above observed, employ servants; these begin with chewing a sufficient quantity, and when well masticated, it is put into a wooden bowl kept for the purpose, to which a small quantity of water is added; the whole is then strained through a cloth, and, like wine in Europe, it thus forms not merely the drink, but the delight of all parties, feasts, rejoicings, and, in short, every public assemblage of the leading people. Its effects, however, are very pernicious; it is partly intoxicating or rather stupifying; and, by its constant use, the old priest was exceedingly debilitated, and his body covered with a white scurf, resembling leprosy, which is a common symptom throughout the South Sea islands of its frequent use.