The Barque Comet

Sandwich Island Notes

° Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) ° The Hawaiian Archipelago (Isabella Bird) ° Captain Cook in Hawaii ° Joaquin Miller ° Missionaries ° Mark Twain

May 13, 1868, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Regular Dispatch Line
To Sail About Friday, May 15

The A1 Barque COMET
W. A. ABBOTT . . . Master

Having superior passenger accommodations, is now receiving freight at Mission-street Wharf, and will sail as above.

The GRAND VOLCANO OF MAUNA LOA is now in action, and should sufficient inducement offer, the vessel will touch at Hilo, the nearest point to this wonderful Volcanic Eruption. For the accommodation of passengers desirous of visiting this and other points of interest on the Islands, the COMET will remain in Honolulu sufficient time to enable passengers to reach that place and return without delay.

If desired, Excursion Tickets will be issued, good for the trip and return.

For further particulars, apply to

204 and 206 California Street

May 16, 1868, Marin Journal, Marin County, California, U.S.A.


By the brig Comet, which arrived in San Francisco on the 6th instant, we have dates from Honolulu to April 15th giving full accounts of the great eruption of Mauna Loa, on the Island of Hawaii, and the entraordinary phenomena accompanying the volcanic disturbance.


The eruption was preluded by numerous sharp and severe shocks of earthquake, which were felt on the islands with more or less distinctness, but were more destructive on the Island of Hawaii. On the 28th of March the shocks began, and continued with more or less severity until the final catastrophe, which occurred on the 2d of April. The earth opened in various directions; the sea rose in extraordinary waves, and the islands rocked like shrubs in a breeze. On the afternoon of the 2d the earthquakes above alluded to took place, destroying a number of native villages, and resulting in the death of over one hundred persons, according to estimates by correspondents of the Advertiser. The shocks increased in intensity, and during the afternoon and night were almost incessant, the severest being about 4 o'clock P. M. when the greatest damage was done by the earthquake and tidal wave, which latter swept away, in one instance, nearly a whole village. This wave is reported to have been ten or twelve feet abeve the usual high water mark, and the receding of the wave was about eighteen feet below low water mark. The sea rose and fell eight times during the afternoon and evening.

The whole island of Hawaii was enveloped in smoke, the gloom of which wts lighted up by the stream of burning lava flowing down the side of the mountain. The greatest consternation prevailed, especially in the Kaui district, nearest the mountain, where the loss of life was eighty in all, some being drowned by the tidal wave and some killed by the earthquakes. At Kiolakaa the hill was decapitated, the summit being taken off and thrown a thousand feet over the adjoining groves, landing in the valley below without breaking the mass of earth. At Keiwa a thousand animals, sheep, horses, goats, etc, were destroyed by the poisonous gases which exhaled from the earth; and a land slide took place burying thirty-three natives. On Kahuku, back of the church, a hole sixty feet in diameter and of unknown depth appeared, and similar cavities appear on the island. Up to the 8th of April, 1,500 shocks had occured during the past ten days.


H. M. Whitney, editor of the Advertiser, in a letter from Kealakekua, Hawaii, Apiil 13th, gives an account of what he saw, from which we make the following extracts:

On ascending the ridge just west of and opposite the Mamalu Pali of Kahuku, and which was separated from us by a valley ibout one-eighth of a mile wide, the whole scene opened before us in one grand panorama. The valley itself was floored over with a pavement of fresh pahoehoe lava, from ten to twenty feet deep, which appears to have bsen the first thrown out, and came from a crater ahout ten miles up the mountain, which burst out Tuesday morning, April 7th, This crater and stream had ceased flowing, and the lava was rapidly cooling, so that we ventured to stand on it, though at the risk of burning our boots and being chocked by the sulphurous gases.

On Tuesday afternoon, at 5 o'clock, a new crater, several miles lower down, and about two miles directly back of Captain Brown's residence, burst out with a heavy roar and a frightful crash. The lava stream commenced flowing rapidly down the beautiful plateau, towards and around the firm-house, and the inmates had barely time to escape with what clothes they had on, before the houses were all surrounded and enclosed with streams ot fiery as lava varying from five to fifty feet in depth. Fortunately all the inmates escaped safely to Waiohinu; but how narrow the escape was, and how rapid the stream flowed, may be infered from the fact that the path by which they escaped was covered with lava within ten minutes after they passed over it.

The new crater, when visited by Mr. Swain, was at least one and a half miles in extent, nearly circular, but constantly enlarging its area, by engulphing the sides. While the above gentleman was looking at it, a tract of at least five acres in extent tumbled in and was swallowed up like food for the devouring element. The enlargement is going on mainly on the lower side, towards the farm houses, and it is thought that its diameter is already about two miles. Four huge jets or fountains were continually being thrown up out of this great crater, ever varying in size and height, sometimes apparently all joining together and making one continuous spouting a mile and a half long. From the lower side of the crater a stream of liquid, rolling, boiling lava poured out and ran down the plateau, then down the side of the pali (following the track of the government road,) then along the foot of the pali or precipice five miles to the sea.

This was the scene that opened before us as we ascended the ridge on Friday. At the left were these four grand fountains playing with terrific fury, throwing blood-red lava and huge stones, some as large as a house, to a height varying constantly from 500 to a 1,000 feet. The grandeur of this scene no imagination can picture — no one who has not seen it can realize.

Then there was the rapid, rolling stream, rushing and tumbling like a swollen river, down the hill, over the precipice and down the valley to the sea, surging and roaring like a cataract, with a fury perfectly indescribable. This river of fire varied from 500 to 1,200 or 1,500 feet in width, and when it is known that the descent was 2,000 feet in five miles, the statement that it ran ot the rate of ten miles an hour will not be doubted.

We waited till night, when the scene was a hundred fold more grand and vivid — the crimson red of the lava doubly bright; and the lurid glare of the red smoke clouds that overhung the whole, the roaring of the rushing stream, the noise of the tumbling rocks thrown out of the crater, and flashes of electric lightning — altogether made it surpassingly grand, and showed that man is nothing as compared with his Creator.

This ever-varying, ever-changing pyrotechnic display we watched for hours — some of us all night. I took a sketch on the spot, which I send you, and only wish it could be inserted in ths paper as sent. It can only give a faint idea of this grand scene.

Finding it impossible to get over to Waiohinu, either by going up the mountain or by sea, we returned to this place on Saturday, and hope to go on soon by steamer. — From the Kau side the scene is even more beautiful than what we had, as there visitors can get up very near the crater, and also directly over the lava stream. Another advantage of the Kau side is that the visitor is not exposed to the strong sulphurous gases and smoke.

May 18, 1868
Captain W. A. Abbott
To Honolulu

(J.C. Merrill & Co.)

May 18, 1868, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Denny, the artist, and Dr. Beck, of the Anatomical Museum, left by the bark Comet this morning for Honolulu, to witness the eruption of Mauna Loa and take views, etc., and will spend some weeks there.

July 26, 1868, Daly Alta California, San Francisco, California


(From A Lady Correspondent of the Alta)

The Voyage Out — Pains and Pleasures — Becalmed — In Hilo Bay — Glimpses of Hawaii — First Impressions — A Hawaiian Sunday — The Kanaka Dialect — Native Tricks and Manners.

Pacific Ocean, Barque Comet, May 1868.
All at Sea.

Editors Alta: Let all those who will sing joyously and eagerly for "a life on the ocean wave and a home on the rolling deep," but as for me, " give me liberty or death," as the school boy said, on land. And if sea voyages long and sea voyages short, dull and pleasant, quick and tedious, safe and dangerous, had not been served up to the public in every imaginable shape through your columns, an account of our thirteen days' sail from San Francisco to Hilo would probably be much more interesting.

Map of the Hawaiian Islands.

For the first two hours out—speaking within limits—the passengers clustered on deck, watched the receding shores, according to the time-honored programme for all outward bound passengers, and were most emphatically social. Then came a pause—a dreary blank—a retirement to private life upon a shelf—a diet of rice water and chicken broth—a passing through the various stages of despair, beginning with being afraid that we should die, and ending with being afraid that we shouldn't, and finally a gradual and unsteady emergence upon deck, which culminated in taking triumphant possession of our seat at table, a full week alter the day of sailing.

After that came conversation again, and a resort to books and cards, to pass away the laggard hours. Long discussions on matters of Church and State, until the various nations and kingdoms of the earth are all comfortably disposed of and consigned to positions of comparative peace and prosperity. Animated comparisons between Dickens and Thackeray, Longfellow and Whittier and other authors, French, English and American; frequent exchanges of "Nicholas Nickleby" for "David Copperfield," "Martin Chuzzlewit" for " Mr. Pickwick," and a general circulation of Christmas Stories and "American Notes." In fact, Dickens seemed to reign supreme in the little reading club formed by our twenty or thirty passengers. When argument stagnated, quotations rose above par, and thus the days wore on.

Saturday, the 23d of May. the Doldrums seized and held us fast in their sleepy embrace; or to speak a little more scientifically, we floated into the Calms of Cancer in latitude 17 degrees 12', longitude 140 degrees 13'. Old Aeolus went careening off to the north and left us to our own devices and meditations. Now it was that the big Ocean, taking pity upon as for our delay, robed herself in all her quiet beauty and put on her sweetest smile to charm away, if possible, our impatience and weariness. Becalmed on the Pacific. Stretching around us to the far. far horizon, an almost unbroken mirror of deeply, darkly, beautifully blue waves — our ship the only object to break this vast expanse. The birds float lazily along on the water beside us, and everything conspired to induce long, delicious day-dreams, that followed each other through the brain in such a dreamy languor that we almost lost our old eagerness for a speedy journey.

When night came down around us and shut out the blue below and the blue above, we roused from our trance, and realizing more keenly our slow progress, we bemoaned the lack of the "Trades " and launched forth into a sea of inquiries such as, "Captain, how many miles today? What's the latitude and longitude? How many knots an hour? Shall we get out of these calms soon?" and a hundred more, just as foolish and of just as little avail. After dinner a promenade on deck, with the tiniest crescent of a new moon peeping at us from her throne of clouds,and giving promise of future brilliancy, and the first day of calms ended. The others were like unto it.

The Wind God made us his toy, and flirted with us like the veriest coquette. Now a nice little breeze that raised both hopes and spirits, and then an utterly dead calm, wherein we glided away again to dreamland. One of the passengers started at this time some games of "grab," (not the grab-games we wont of in the city) which made everybody grow suddenly and foolishly hilarious. Such little things will one seize on shipboard to repel the encroachments of the almost inevitable ennui. After three days of this quiet, creeping life, a good, strong breeze took us up on his wings and set us all to talking about the probabilities of getting in on Saturday. Now we bestir ourselves again.

Among the passengers are a couple of luxurious epicures. who devote themselves at times to the manufacture of ice, and kindly furnish our dainty palates with refreshing draughts of ice water; but one day, even that was exceeded by the manufacture of ice cream! Think of that — away down in the tropics, with only a wild waste of waters around us, and we luxuriating in such an article! That's the way to travel.

On Our Last Night at Sea

A comfortable breeze filled our sails, in answer to our ardent desires, and we withdrew to our "shelves" with the "sound of many waters" in our ears, it is true, but in our fancies were cheerful pictures of verdant hills brightening in the morning sun; gay flowers nodding to us cordial welcome to their island home, and the rank tropical foliage bursting in all its graceful luxuriance on our weary, wave-bound vision. And yet we cannot wholly escape from the awful fascination of these mighty waters. How rapidly, amid all this infinity of space does Thought soar upward and outward — how she flings off the heavy shackles that Earth's valleys and hills throw around her, and revels in this untrammeled liberty! How the possibilities of life — noble aims — high attainments — glorious results — some crowding into view and commanding our attention! How this grand, eternal restlessness, that stretches over far and near and around us, fills us with shame at our earthy, inert lives, and with inspiration to be and to do!

"Alas! for hopes that spring but to die" —

Saturday morning, when we woke to a realizing sense of the fact that we were again becalmed, we concluded with Hood that a "nice little ocean which we could put in a pan" would be a vast improvement on the present state of affairs. Old Mauna Kea, too, as if laughing our impatience to scorn, lifted her snow-crowned summit in the distance, and bade us take note of the distance yet between us. However, there was nothing to do but again to possess our souls with all patience and bide our time. Land was really in sight, and we hailed with joy the appearance of the Stars and Stripes and the Hawaiian flag, as preparations were made to run them up to the mast-head. A small coterie of the passengers held one more discussion on national affairs, in which all public matters were again peacefully disposed of for the last time, an the rest of us looked, and lounged, and wondered "how soon!" Time and tide waiting for none, finally drew us with gradual approach toward Hilo Bay.

At 4 p.m., we were boarded by a native pilot who came out in a canoe, and now we began to get excited. Conversation broke out again like a volcanic eruption, and until we got within the bay, questions, surmises and exclamations filled the hour.

At Anchor

Hilo is a Hawaiian word, meaning " like a new moon," which describes at once the shape of the bay, though words fail to describe its beauties. A missionary, travelling over these islands, a few years ago, thus speaks of this place: "In a clear day, the entrance into the harbor of Hilo reveals one of the magnificent scenes of the world, having Mauna Loa in front, sometimes with banks of snow along its crest, and Mauna Kea on the right, towards the west, looking down upon one of the greenest landscapes that over rose from the seashore."

"It seemed an emerald set by Heaven
On the ocean's dazzling brow —
And where it glowed long ages past,
It glows as greenly now."

And so we looked and drank our fill of the quiet loveliness that smiled back to us a cordial invitation to pursue the acquaintance. Not wholly tropical in its luxuriance, the foliage was yet so rich and varied, so new and strange, as to throw over all that bewildering, mazy charm which rank torrid verdure always inspires. Then the low, thatched huts of the natives, nestling close within the hillsides or under the flaunting banana trees, the occasional gleam of a civilized white house, the shading of the different greens of mango, tamarind, papaia, guava, cocoanut and banana trees, the background of the cloud-capped mountains and the foreground of the curving line of this lovely bay, altogether produced a picturesque effect hard to be surpassed. It is well that first impressions are powerful, else our account of this Hawaiian village, tinged with the memories of after days, might be far more sombre and repulsive.

Landed at Last.

The ceremony of landing is much improved from the custom of a few years ago, when all travellers were carried through the surf on the backs of natives. There is now what is called by compliment, I suppose, a wharf, and as it answered the purpose I will not deny the name. Custom House formulas detained us awhile, but 6 o'clock found us actually walking up a road, lined on both sides with banana trees. Of course, we acted like other children, and wouldn't go on till we tasted the fruit.

Captain Spencer received and entertained us most hospitably, and we felt that our sightseeing on the Sandwich Islands had fairly commenced. At Hilo rain is unusually abundant, falling, I should judge, from what I saw and heard, 365 or 366 days in the year. Still, let me do it the justice to say that between the showers (and we had only light ones during our stay) the place seemed like a dream of delight. Indeed, some of the residents insist that Hilo is the original Garden of Eden — transplanted I suppose. Certainly, I will testify, that the serpent wasn't left behind.

The first day's experience of the place results in the conclusion that its productions are umbrellas, roaches, red ants and lava rooks. But you are a little premature in that, for after leaving you make an addition to the list, and place at its head a species of animal called-by way of a joke I am sure-horse. If It wasn't a joke it was a fearful delusion, for the poor beasts that were kindly furnished us were made in the likeness of nothing in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. We were afterwards told that there were real, .truly horses in Hilo. Ah, if fate had only made them ours! But of this, more anon.

It is really surprising how soon one gets accustomed to a diet of ants, or rather to a plentiful spicing of every dish with them. Indeed, you soon get to that state of mind that yon feel as if something was wrong when you don t take up half a dozen with every spoonful of sugar, and have as many more promenading around the rim of your plate. But that is a mere trifle, not worth speaking of; an inevitable accompaniment with the umbrellas and roaches — of a journey through these islands of the sea.

Sunday and the Natives.

The day alter our arrival being Sunday we had a most excellent opportunity of seeing the natives out in full force; for that day is observed by them with a strict attendance at church, and a refraining from the labor worthy of the Puritans themselves.

Kaneena, Chief of the Sandwich Islands.

King of the Sandwich Islands.

The women are rather comely, but too much given to embonpoint, owing principally to their diet of poi, and their inactive lives. Most of the men are especially distinguishable for the scantiness of their apparel, which scantiness is even a very superfluity of excess when compared with their fashions before the missionaries commenced their goodly work, forty-eight years ago.

The women's dress now consists of a long robe, hanging loose from a yoke, called a holoku. They wear straw hats, very gaudily trimmed, and around their necks a necklace of bright red and yellow flowers, or berries, and they go barefoot!

Queen Emma. 1836-1885. Sandwich Islands.

Queen Emma, Sandwich Islands.

The material for their best, or Sunday dresses, is , in many cases, rich silk or satin, fine alpaca or cambric. In addition to these, the more wealthy ladies sport fine lace shawls and bare feet! Consistency, thou art a jewel!

On our way to church every native we met gave us their word of greeting — the musical "Aloha!" and many of the most delighted ones rushed frantically forward to clasp our hands.

In the church there were about five hundred men, women and children, and they made, on the whole, with their brilliant and varied costumes, rather a fantastic appearance. Just for the sake of contrast with San Francisco fashions, read these few items that I "made a note on" while there:

One very small child wore a hat trimmed with a purple and black ribbon, a blue feather, two pink roses, three flowers 9name unknown), blue, white and yellow, two white daisies and a tuft of green grass — and the child was very small.

One old man was glorious in a red and yellow bandana, knotted close around his neck, and a hat adorned with a bright scarlet ribbon — a " sweet" bow in front, and long "streamers" behind!

One native woman, the wife of a white, rejoiced in a tall black silk hat, trimmed with black velvet and steel buckles!

Perhaps I shall be excused for noticing those things when it is known that the services are conducted by a native preacher, of course in the Hawaiian language — my knowledge of which consisted of two words, viz. pilikia, trouble; and make-make, want. The preacher's sermon resembled, in one respect, that of his whiter brethren — namely, its wearisome length; otherwise, it was to me a smoothly flowing stream of vowels and liquids, into which p's and k's were often flung to make tiny and frequent ripples. The text was from II Corinthians, twelfth chapter, ninth verse. Notwithstanding the harshness of their voices in conversation, the singing was really excellent, most of the tones being pure, clear and pleasant. The language itself is quite musical, every word ending with a vowel. The first line of the hymn they sung was: "Hoomaikai nui ia Jesu;" meaning, Great praise to Jesus. And our familiar doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," is thus rendered in Hawaiian:

"Hoonani! ka makua mau,
Ka Keiki me ka Uhane no,
Ke Akua mau—Hoomaikai pu.
Kokeia ao, kokela ao."

This will give a faint idea of the words and the preponderance of vowels. There is no verb — to be — but the system of pronouns is far more perfect and explicit than those of other languages.

Their Tricks and Their Manners

The missionary work, though carried on with unwonted fervor for two score years and a half, has not been able to eradicate heathenism from their customs and their hearts. The dead, in many cases, are still left unburied — sometimes, even, in the very hut where the family lives. Their simple cooking is still performed by the very primitive method of heating stones in a hole in the ground. Their huts are dark, stifling places, unlighted, except through the narrow doorways, and the one apartment composing them contains their all of earthly possessions. We passed through two. In one we saw only mats, used to sleep upon; in the other was a long boat, a few clothes, a dish or two. a stew-pan and two or three calabashes to hold their favorite poi. I wondered if they ever heard that man wants but little here below!

They never sit; the position always taken by them when they wish to rest is that of squatting. If they wish to take a good look at you, even, down they drop upon their heels, giving you an unaccountable desire to push them over, so they may fairly touch something. Their eyes and hair are jet-black, and they anoint the latter with cocoanut-oil, which, growing rapidly rancid, makes distance lend enchantment to the olfactory, if not to the sight.

Their kindliness of heart is also shown in their performing for each others' heads the same kindly office which the luzzaroni of Naples practice. Does not a fellow-feeling make us wondrous kind? They live chiefly on raw fish and the roots of the arum esculentum, commonly called taro. When prepared for eating, this is their poi, or staple dish. The taro is baked, pounded, made into a paste with water and allowed to ferment. It is then eaten with the fingers — one or two, according to its consistency — with a peculiar turn and flourish of the arm, and an explosive smack of the lips after, which completes your disgust.

In all Hilo, we were told, there is but one woman, a half-breed, Chinese and native -- who ever thought of planting anything. She has a wooden house, and a very pretty garden planted and cultivated by herself alone. The native men who work upon the sugar plantations in this vicinity receive $8 per month and find themselves, and with these good wages even laborers are in great demand.

After learning all essential particulars about the place and its inhabitants (and here we wish to acknowledge kindly courtesies received from the families of the Minister and Doctor), we turned our attention to preparations for our journey to the Volcano and around the Island. Hence our next notes will be taken, umbrella in hand, and seated upon our gallant steeds.

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