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.

The taboo was again put on without any explanation being given, though several canoes nevertheless came off, but without any women, as had been formerly the case. Afterwards it was understood that one of them had been detected in the King George eating pork, which being a heinous offense, she was taken as soon as she came on shore, and offered a sacrifice to the gods: human sacrifices, it appears, are here, as in most parts of the South Sea islands, frequently presented, and it is unquestionably the most inhuman and barbarous custom among them.

December 19th weighed, and two days afterwards anchored between Attoui and Wyema, where, after paying and receiving some visits, their former friend Abbenooe came on board with two canoes loaded with provisions, and remained for two or three days, seemingly very well pleased with his new abode. The king also made his appearance; he was stout and well made, about forty-five years of age, and possessed of more understanding and good nature than any of his subjects. January 5th caught a shark in the King George, thirteen and a half feet long, eight and a half broad, and six feet in the liver; forty-eight young ones in her, about eight inches each in length; two whole turtles of sixty pounds each; several small pigs, and a quantity of bones; so that the numbers and the voracity of this fish may be conceived. From this time to the 10th they were employed in purchasing wood, water, provisions, curiosities, and everything else they wanted; and now, quitting the anchorage, proceeded to Yam Bay, in Oneehow, where, after making a few excursions, they departed once more for Wymoa Bay, Attoui.

On the 8d March weighed, and made sail for the coast of America, and en the 24th April saw Montager Island, coming to anchor in the harbor, where there is sufficient shelter from the prevailing winds. The weather continued very variable, several unsuccessful attempts being made to get into Prince William's Sound, and only a single straggling inhabitant being seen now and then, so that there was no opportunity to trade.

Captain Dixon now made an excursion in his boats up the Sound, and receiving some hints from the natives of a vessel being there, continued his search for several days, and at length got on board a vessel called the Nootka, from Bengal, commanded by Mr. Meares, which had wintered in Snug-corner Cove. The scurvy had made dreadful havoc among them, nearly all the officers and many of the crew having died of this frightful disorder, so that at length the Captain was the only person on board able to walk the deck. Along with his first mate he soon afterwards visited the ships, met with a hearty reception, and received such assistance as he wanted and as the others could afford. From him they learned that few or no furs could be obtained here; that several vessels from India had been already on this coast for the purposes of trade; and that two or three were expected next month in the same pursuit, which immediately determined our voyagers to separate and push for different parts of the coast, in order to be before their expected rivals; the Queen Charlotte to proceed to King George's Sound, and Messrs. Hayward and Hill to Cook's River in the King George's long-boat, the latter to remain where she was for the present.

On the 13th May several canoes visited them, in one of which was a chief of great consequence, named Sheenaawa, whose party, like most others, were determined thieves, exerting their ingenuity and tricks for this purpose in an extraordinary degree. They danced, sung, laughed, and diverted the attention of the seamen in every possible way, while slyly their hands were seizing every thing on the decks, so that literally they were smiling in their faces and robbing them at the same time. In the meantime the Queen Charlotte and the long-boat sailed, while the King George shifted to Hinchinbroke Cove. Some of the boats were sent out to trade, which were tolerably successful; but they also suffered from continual thefts, which were sometimes accompanied by menaces, if they attempted to resist the plunderers.

June 9th the Nootka left her former anchorage, where she had been frozen in, and came close to the King George, when the crew of the latter were partly employed in rendering her assistance. Two days after wards the long-boat returned from Cook's River with a very good cargo, and was again sent off with orders to return by the 20th of July. On the 19th the Nootka sailed. Next day the surgeon took the invalids on shore for an excursion, who, by the use of spruce-beer, which they now brewed in abundance, were rapidly recovering. In the evening observed two Indian boats and several canoes, in which were about twenty-five natives, who came alongside next morning. Their chief, named Taatucktelling flake, was paralytic on one side, had a long beard, and seemed about sixty years of age; his country was called Cheeneecock, situated towards the south-west part of the Sound. July 11th hauled the seine frequently, when not less than two thousand salmon were caught at each haul; and so great were their numbers, that ships prepared for the purpose might have obtained any quantity they wished. The long-boat returned on the 21st, though without so much success as formerly. On the 26th sailed from this place. The natives in general are short in stature, with flat faces and noses, ill-formed legs, but good teeth and eyes they wear their hair, which is black and straight, very long, but cut it short on the death of a relation, this seeming their only method of mourning. They are attentive to their women, but jealous of them. Their thieving habits seem fixed, the most dexterous being most in esteem, and receiving the greatest applause for the exertion of his talents; he is also distinguished by a fantastical dress, which, while it excites the notice of the spectators, gives the owner additional opportunities of exerting his fingers at them expense.

By the 3d of August had made little progress, from the shifting of the wind. On the 8th, two large boats visited them, with twenty-five men women, and children on, board, who, very different from their other visitors, seemed very honest, and who were invited to dinner in the cabin, when they relished the English cookery so well, that the dishes were quickly obliged to be replenished. These departed in the evening well pleased with their entertainment, promising to return with the means of trading with their new friends.

On the 11th a new tribe visited them from the eastward, with about the same number of persons as the last; four days after the long-boat returned, having had pretty good success, notwithstanding some acts of hostility which they had been compelled to retaliate upon the Indians. Another party, from the north-west, were extremely addicted to thieving, nothing could escape them; and, when detected, were very impudent, and often threatened those they robbed. The men were of the size of Europeans, of a fierce and savage aspect, using daggers and long spears, easily provoked and ready to indulge their anger.

August 22d weighed and made sail from this coast, having done as much as it seemed likely they could do in the way of trade. September 28th made Owhyhee, the principal of the Sandwich group, when several canoes came off, with whom a brisk trade for hogs and other refreshments was carried on. At Attoui they found the Nootka and Queen Charlotte had been there and left letters for the King George. After procuring what necessaries they wanted, Captain Portlock directed his course for China with his cargo of furs; on the 4th November saw Saypan and Tinian, two of the Ladrone Islands; and on the 21st anchored in Macao Roads, where Captain Dixon was found, whose transactions shall now be noticed.

After separating, the Queen Charlotte coasted it for some time, till, seeing an appearance of an inlet, a boat was despatched which found an excellent harbor, where she soon after anchored. Several canoes came off, from whom some skins were procured, but by no means so many as they had at first reason to expect. The number of inhabitants was about seventy; the harbor, which is good, was named Port Mulgrave, and is situated in 59 degrees 32 minutes north latitude; 140 degrees west longitude. The language of these people is quite different from that of Prince William's Sound, or Cook's River, being extremely uncouth and difficult to pronounce. The mode in which they dispose of their dead is remarkable; the head is separated from the body, and both are wrapped in furs, the former being put into a box, the latter into an oblong chest, which are afterwards preserved and disposed of in a fanciful way.

June 4th quitted this place, and kept beating to the southward; a harbor was perceived at a distance, which, upon examination by the boats, was found to extend to a considerable distance, with a number of coves here and there, very well calculated for anchorage; it was named Norfolk Sound. The people were at first civil and well-behaved; but soon became troublesome and thievish, like almost all their brethren on this coast. Trade here was not very brisk. July 1st saw an island, and were soon surrounded by Indians, who, after gratifying their curiosity in examining the vessel, began to trade, and soon parted with all their skins. Several fresh tribes visited them almost daily, who, delighted with European articles of barter, were content to leave their furs behind in exchange. The residence of one was strongly fortified, resembling a nippah or fortified place, in New Zealand; and, from some circumstances which transpired, Dixon was tempted also to believe they were also like the New Zealanders, cannibals. Proceeding to the eastward, eleven canoes came alongside on the 24th with one hundred and eighty persons; but curiosity was the prevailing motive, as they had nothing to sell; and, five days after, no less than two hundred men, women, and children, in eighteen canoes, came off to indulge their curiosity; a number that, on this coast, is rarely found in one community. Their chief had the most savage aspect of any yet seen, his whole appearance sufficiently marking him as the leader of a tribe of cannibals. His stature was above the common size, his body spare and thin, and, though seemingly lank and emaciated, his step was bold and firm, his limbs strong and muscular; his eyes, which were large and goggling, seemed ready to start from their sockets; his forehead deeply wrinkled, as well by age as an habitual frown, which, joined to a long visage, hollow cheeks, high cheek-bones, and natural ferocity of temper, rendered him a most formidable figure.

August 8th, made sail for the Sandwich Islands. September 2d made Owhyhee, and, after procuring refreshments, stood on for Whahoo, being visited the next day by Abbenooe and the king, by whose commands they received abundant supplies of wood, water, and provisions, of which they were in extreme want, several of the crew being nearly dead with the scurvy. Attoui was their next destination, where the chiefs inquired particularly after their friend Po-pote (Captain Portlocke) and were desirous of contributing all in their power to the assistance of the ship, every one supplying the Captain with a liberality as unbounded as it was unexpected, but which did not go unrewarded; saws, hatchets, nails, and other iron instruments being given to the men, and buttons, beads, and a variety of ornaments to the women.

September 18th made sail for China, and anchored in Macao Roads the 9th November, where being joined as already noticed, by the King George, their meeting was extremely agreeable. Captain Portlock was very much surprised in Canton with his old friend Tiaana, from the Sandwich Islands, who was no less pleased at seeing him, embracing the Captain in the most cordial and affectionate manner.

During his stay, Tiaana was introduced to every place worthy of notice; he was usually dressed in a cloak and fine feather cap, and, to show that he was a person of consequence, carried a spear in his hand. Afterwards, at the persuasion of Mr. Ross, he wore a light satin waistcoat and a pair of trousers. He frequently attended places of public worship, behaving with the greatest decorum, and joining the congregation in the ceremonies of kneeling or standing, as if he had been all his life regularly accustomed to them. Some of the customs of the Chinese displeased him exceedingly, and, during the voyage, was nearly throwing the pilot overboard for some real or imaginary offense; he was, however, of a kind disposition, displaying frequent instances of humanity as well as generosity. Being once at an entertainment, given by one of the Captains at Macao, his compassion was strongly excited after dinner by seeing a number of poor people, in Sampans, crowding round the vessel and asking alms; he solicited his lust's permission to give them some food, remarking it was a great shame to let poor people want victuals, and that in his country there were no beg gars. In compliance with his importunities, the broken meat was collected under his care, and he distributed it in the most equal and impartial manner. Tiaana was six feet two inches high, exceedingly well-made, but inclined to corpulency; he had a pleasing animated countenance, fine eyes, and otherwise expressive as well as agreeable features. He was universally liked, and, previous to his departure for Attoui, the gentlemen at Canton furnished him with bulls, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, etc. etc., besides all kinds of seeds which could be useful in his island, with directions how to rear and propagate them. The best skins of their cargoes were disposed of to the East India Company for fifty thousand dollars, while the inferior ones were sold to the Chinese, both vessels receiving in return cargoes of tea. February 6th, 1788, weighed and made sail down the river, quitting Macao finally a day or two afterwards, On the 20th saw the island of Pulo Sapata, four leagues distant; and, 25th, the islands of Aramba; three days afterwards Mr. Lander, surgeon of the Queen Charlotte, died, having been ill for some time, and attended by his brother surgeon, Mr. Hoggan, of the King George. On the 30th of March the ships agreed to separate, and make the best of their way to St. Helena, where the King George arrived the 18th June, and the Queen Charlotte on the 18th. The former at length reached England, without any occurrence worthy of remark, on the 22d August; and the latter the 17th September. Nor was the voyage unfortunate; for though no great gain was made, yet nothing was lost, which, in a new commercial speculation, is not an uncommon occurrence.