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French Polynesia

° Tongatabu
°King George° Whale Ships ° William Mariner °Shirley Waldemar Baker


Tonga (the Kingdom of Tonga; Tonga means "south"), is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands of which 36 islands are inhabited. The total surface area is about 750 square kilometers (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilo metres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. It has a population 103,000 people of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.

The Tongan people first encountered Europeans in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht made a short visit to trade.

Tonga became known as the Friendly Islands because of the reception of Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773. However, according to writer William Mariner in An Account of the Natives of the Tonga IslandsTonga Islands., the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during an annual festival, but could not agree on a plan.

Oceania and Malaysia. Rand McNally & Co. 1892.

Oceania and Malaysia. Rand McNally Map. 1892.

Divided among five archipelagoes: the volcanic Society Islands, also called the islands under the wind (in the west) and the wind islands (in the east), with the well known island of Tahiti, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands, and the coral Tubuai Islands (Austral Islands). Also included are American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn (famous for the Mutiny on the British ship HMS Bounty), Samoa,Tonga and Tuvalu.

Since the Tongan language was not written down until the 19th century, the early history of Tonga (which means "south") is based on oral tradition, as was Tahiti for generations.

According to tradition, in the mid-19th century, upon the death of the then Tu'i Tonga, those powers were conferred upon the nineteenth Tu'i Kanokupolu, Taufa'ahu Tupou, founder of the present dynasty.

European chronicles report that the island of Niuatoputapu was discovered by the Dutch navigators Jan Schouten and Jacob le Maire in 1616. In 1643, Abel Tasman discovered Tongatapu, and from then until 1767, when Samuel Wallis anchored at Niuatoputapu, there was no contact with the outside world.

Early Mapping of the Pacific Ocean. Thomas Suarez, Author.

Capt. James Cook visited the Tongatapu and Ha'apai groups in 1773 and again in 1777, and called Lifuka in the Ha'apai group the "friendly island" because of the gentle nature of its people, hence the archipelago received its nickname, the Friendly Islands.

It was in the waters of the Ha'apai group that the famous mutiny on the British ship Bounty occurred in 1789.

The first Wesleyan missionaries who were then spreading "the Word" throughout the South Pacific landed in Tonga in 1826.

Dumont Durville at Tonga.

The first half of the 19th century was a period of civil conflict in Tonga, as three lines of kings all sought dominance. They were finally checked during the reign of Taufa'ahu Tupou, who in 1831 took the name George. By conquest, George Tupou I (r.1845 - 93) gathered all power in his own hands and united the islands; he abolished the feudal system of land tenure and became a constitutional monarch in 1875.

French Admiral Dumont Durville sailed to Tonga on the Astrolabe in search of remains of La Perouse. He is received by the island's rulers.

By the middle of the 1800s, most Tongans had become Christians, the great majority being Wesleyans; the king himself was strongly influenced by the missionaries.

In 1845, the young warrior Tāufaʻāhau united Tonga into a kingdom. He held the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy; formally adopted the western royal style; emancipated the "serfs"; enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press; and limited the power of the chiefs.

In the latter part of the century, there were religious and civil conflicts between the Wesleyan Mission Church and the newly established Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.

April 1, 1876, London Colonies


Pacific Islands: NO IV. The Tongans, or Friendly Islanders.

PASSING across the South Pacific Ocean from Tahiti for nearly a thousand miles in a westerly direction, we reach the Friendly Islands, so named by Captain Cook from the agreeable reception accorded by the inhabitants to himself and his officers and crow on their first landing there. These islands form three separate groups, the southernmost of which is known as the Tongataboo Islands, Tonga, the largest of them being about twenty miles long by twelve wide. The central group is called Haabai, and the most northerly one Vavau.

The Fiji Islands, inhabited by the dark skinned Papuan race, lie within two hundred miles in a north-west direction from Tonga, and the windward islands of the Fiji group are constantly visited by the enterprising and courageous Tongans in their great canoes, who appear to have long exercised a powerful influence over their less intelligent neighbors. Indeed, the Tongans have been not inaptly styled the Anglo-Saxons of the Pacific. Finding their own group too small for their occupation, they established Colonies in Fiji, and have made frequent attempts to possess themselves of the whole group. To escape from the exactions of the Tongans was said to have been one of the reasons that induced King Thakabau and the chiefs of Fiji to offer the sovereignty of their islands to the British crown. As the Friendly Islands furnish no huge timber for canoe building, the Tongans have, had recourse to the inexhaustible forests of Fiji, where plenty of trees suitable for that purpose are obtainable. As the result of this communication between the two groups, a mingling of the Polynesian with the Papuan race has taken place, and a large influx of the lighter blood of Tonga is perceptible in several of the windward islands of Fiji, especially in Kadavu, where most of the inhabitants are now a mixed race.

Captain Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition estimated the total population of the Friendly Islands at the time of his visit at 18,500; but it is generally supposed that the abandonment of polygamy consequent upon their embracing Christianity, has tended of late to increase the population, and the missionaries now number the population at not far short of 50,000. The Tongans are a wonderfully fine-looking race of people of the true Polynesian type, light colored, tall, and strongly built; and the women as well as the men are equally remarkable for their personal beauty. They tattoo the body from the hips to tho knees in a manner precisely similar to that, adopted by the Samoans.

Woman of Tonga.

The ordinary dress of both sexes is the graceful "gnatoo," which is a piece of tappa cloth made from the bark of the paper mulberry, and measuring about, eight feet by five or six. This covering is worn in several ways, but is generally fastened round the waist in several folds, the remaining portion forming a robe that descends to the ankles. They are continually bathing, oiling, and dressing themselves; and the females delight in adorning their heads with wreaths of fresh and fragrant flowers. The oil they use is made from the cocoa-nut, and is scented either with sandal-wood or the leaves of some sweet smelling plant. Necklaces formed of flowers, shells or other ornamental objects, are worn by both men and women; but the most valued kind are those carved out of the ivory of the teeth of the sperm whale, so cut as to resemble in miniature the tooth itself. These are of various sizes, varying from one to four inches in length, and strung together by a cord passing through a hole bored at their thick ends. Those teeth are only worn by the chiefs and persons of distinction, a common man not daring to have one in his possession. Rings and armlets of tortoise-shell or mother-of-pearl are also worn on festive occasions; and at such times the women paint the upper portion of their bodies with turmeric, which gives them a golden yellow appearance.

Their largest canoes are all built in Fiji, and are some of them upwards of 100 feet in length. These are termed double canoes by Europeans, although the second or attached body is merely an outrigger, composed of a tree hollowed out for the sake of buoyancy, like the canoe itself. Even the hull of the main canoe is seldom occupied by the crew, with the exception of one man, who, when at sea, is constantly employed in baling, the seams of the planks being only lashed together with cocoanut cord or "sinnet." Beams are laid across between the two hulls, as it were, on which is built a house with a shelving roof to hold stores and provisions. Over this, again, rises a platform surrounded by a railing, which forms the deck or principal place of resort. These unwieldy and fragile vessels are navigated in the face of the prevailing trade-winds for distances of from 200 to 300 miles; instances having been known of their even visiting the Samoas or Navigator's Islands, which lie to the north of Tonga. The mat sails of these canoes are of the usual triangular form; and the stem and stern being alike, these vessels are never tucked. A number of Tongan artificers are constantly employed amongst the windward Fijian Islands in building these large canoes, some of which occupy several years in their construction.

The houses of the Tongans are designed with much taste, and are of an oblong form with elliptical ends, about fifty feet long by twenty broad. The roof, which is twenty or thirty feet high in the middle, is thatched with tho leaf of the sugar cane, and the poles are tied together with cord made of cocoanut fibre. There is an open space all round for a distance of about five feet from the ground, which provides ample ventilation in hot weather, but mats suspended from the lower part of the roof may be let down when required. The floor is raised two or three feet from the surrounding level, and paved with small, pebbles, over which are laid sot mats for sitting or reclining; whilst a fire is generally kept burning in the centre.

The ancient burial places of the Tongan chiefs were built of coral limestone, forming oblong square platforms several feet high, and surrounded by a wall, the interior being paved with colored corals and pebbles, whilst a temple occupied the centre. The approach to these sepulchres consisted of several rows of stone steps; and their environs were girt about with groves of dark and shady trees.

Cannibalism seems never to have been popular in Tonga as it was in Fiji. When first visited by Captain Cook it was scarcely known amongst them. Mariner, an Englishman who lived for some years amongst the Tongans, tells us that they were taught to eat human flesh by the Fijians. Generally speaking, cannibalism only found favour amongst a few young warriors, who were anxious to imitate the Fijians in their fierce and warlike spirit; and the term "man-eater" was applied as an epithet of opprobrium and contempt. Reverence to the gods, the chiefs, and the aged people, formed a part of their moral duties when in a state of heathenism. Their women were always treated with respect, and held as important a place in the social scale as the men. Nobility always descended by the female line, and some of the highest offices connected with the dignity of the "tui-tonga" have been held by aunts and sisters of the King. This "tui-tonga " is a sort of sacred and mysterious personage, who is considered as one highly favoured by the gods, and holding intercourse with them. The office is hereditary, descending to female as well as male descendants. So high is the rank of " tui-tonga" that it takes the precedence of the King himself on all public occasions. Prior to the general introduction of Christianity into the Friendly Islands, slavery was a domestic institution, but it has been abolished.

Oceania, 1895.
William Henry Jackson, Photographer

Fijian Canoes. Oceania. 1895.

In the mythology of Tonga there were four principal deities namely, Maui, who first drew the islands out of the sea with a hook and line; Hikuleo, who lives in Bulotu, or the place of departed spirits, which he governs. To prevent his destroying all the inhabitants, he is kept in check by two of his brothers; a strong cord is fastened about him, one end of which is held by Maui under the earth, the other by Tangaloa, the third deity, who resides in the sky, and sends forth tho thunder and lightning. The fourth is the Hea-moana-uli-uli, who governs the sea, and is worshipped under the form of a sea-serpent. Whilst the Fijians extended the doctrine of immortality, not only to all mankind, but to the animal and vegetable kingdom generally, the Tongans limited it to their chiefs and persons of rank. The souls of inferior people and slaves were not supposed to have a conscious existence hereafter. The preparation of the gnatoo, or tappa-cloth, from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree, occupies much of the time of the Tongan women. The bark, after being soaked in water, is beaten out by means of wooden mallets, which are grooved longitudinally. All persons who visit Tonga speak of the singular noise of tappa-boating, arising from the native villages, especially when the air is calm and still. In their wrestling and boxing matches the Tongans display great dexterity and power; and in these, as in all their other games and athletic exercises they exhibit the utmost good temper and forbearance. Their dances are accompanied by songs and music from various instruments, amongst which is a nose-flute, not unlike that formerly used by the New Zealanders.

Tongatapu (Longhouse).
Desaut Danvin Rienzi. 1836

Sixty or seventy years ago the Tongans were a terror to captains visiting the South Seas; they either openly attacked foreign vessels, and murdered their crews; or, on being admitted on their decks under pretence of barter, would suddenly turn upon the unsuspecting seamen and kill them with clubs or capstan-bars, as was the case with several ships during the early part of the present century.

So far back as 1707 the first attempt to introduce Christianity into the Friendly Islands was made by the London Missionary Society, when Captain Wilson, of the ship Duff, landed ten mechanics at Tongatabu in the capacity of missionaries. Their labours, however, proved unsuccessful, and several of them were murdered, the others being obliged to take refuge amongst the rocks and fastnesses of the islands. Eventually, in 1800, the remnant of them managed to effect their escape on board an English ship that touched there for water and fruit.

Early mapping of the Pacific.

In 1822 the Wesleyan missionaries commenced their labours amongst the Tongans, and at the present time, under the protection and care of King George, the mission has flourished throughout the three groups of the Friendly Islands to such an extent that the Tongans may now fairly be looked upon as a Christianized people. The present King is George Tobou, usually known as "King George of Tonga." He is a fine, intelligent man, of commanding height, and a gentle expression of countenance, with a solemn and dignified manner in all ho says and does. He is not only a professing Christian and a great supporter of the missions, but he is a preacher himself. Some years ago he paid a visit to Sydney, together with several of his chiefs, for the purpose of making himself better acquainted with the arts and social condition of the Europeans, from whom his people had already derived so many advantages in their progress towards civilization. As King George is now well advanced in years, and wars of succession having invariably taken place after the decease of former kings, it is feared by some persons that such disturbances may again occur on the death of the present amiable monarch. Should such a misfortune happen it will do much to injure the progress both of Christianity and trade amongst these interesting and energetic islanders. When the British flag was hoisted last year in Fiji, might it not have been a wise policy to have extended the protectorship, at all events, of Great Britain over the adjoining archipelago of Tonga.

June 23, 1888, American Settler, London, United Kingdom


. . . The consternation of Spain when Germany threatened to take possession of the Carol in es to the west of the Marshall group, will be remembered. These and the Marianna Islands and the Pollees Spain has long claimed, hut she has done nothing to develop them. These form the bulk of Micronesia, where Spain may be considered supreme; France has the lion's share in Polynesia, if we exclude Hawaii; England rules in Australasia; while Melanesia is divided among the three great Powers, Germany so far having the largest stake. Of the islands which remain unattached, besides the New Hebrides, the most important are the Tonga and Samoan groups, to the east and northeast of Fiji, and the El lice and the Gilbert groups between Fiji and the Marshall Islands. There can be no doubt that, in spite of existing agreements Germany has her eye on the two former groups, both of them very desirable for their commercial and strategical importance, as well as on account of the character of the natives. The annexation of Tonga by Germany would certainly not be relished either by the Fijians or the Australians. Yet there can be no doubt that the famous Hamburg house of Godeffroy and their successors have had intimate relations with both' groups for many years, as indeed they have had over nearly the whole of the Pacific. The little Ellice group, with their pleasant inhabitants, ethnologically should go with Samoa, and if so Germany might wish to appropriate the Gilbert group, and form one continuous protectorate from the Marshall Islands south-east. At the same time it should be noted that Germany has distinctly recognized English interests in both these groups. Among the Gilbert Islands are two which on German maps are marked American . . .

Shirley Waldemar Baker

Tonga.Tonga.In 1852 Shirley Waldemar Baker (1836-1903), arrived in Melbourne as a stowaway in the Statesman and later worked as a farm hand, miner and apothecary's assistant on the Victorian goldfields. An association formed with the Wesleyan community in Castleman led to his appointment as teacher in the Wesleyan school at Old Post Office Hill in 1855 and to his courtship of Elizabeth Powell, whom he married in 1859. In that year he offered himself as a Wesleyan missionary and in 1860 was ordained and sent to Tonga.

Baker quickly won the esteem and confidence of George Tupou, founder of the Tongan Kingdom. In a dispute between the senior missionaries and Tupou in 1862, Baker became the King's adviser, and played a large part in framing a code of laws which Tupou promulgated in June 1862 and which included the "Emancipation Edict," freeing Tongans from compulsory service to their chiefs. However, Baker had not won the esteem of his brother missionaries, and their opposition, together with the ill health of his wife, led to his return to Sydney in 1866.

English and Tongan Vocbulary. Shirley Waldemar Baker.

Baker returned to Tonga in 1880, was immediately installed by Tupou as his premier and resigned from the Wesleyan ministry. Under his administration Tongan finances were reorganized, land laws were revised and a National system of education was set up in competition with the Wesleyan system. A dispute developed with the Wesleyans and in 1885 Baker established the Free Church, Wesleyan in doctrine but free from Australian control. The King ordered all Tongans to join the new church; those who refused were beaten by their chiefs and despoiled of their possessions. In 1887 an unsuccessful attempt was made on Baker's life; renewed persecutions by the Wesleyans followed and six Tongans were executed for complicity in the plot. The disturbances led to increasing British intervention in Tonga and in 1890 Baker was deported by the high commissioner, Sir John Thurston, for being "prejudicial to the peace and good order of the Western Pacific."

William Mariner (1791-1852)

An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific OceanTonga Islands.

Natives of the Tonga Islands.

William Mariner (1791–1853) was an Englishman who lived in the Tonga Islands from 29 November 1806 to 8 November 1810. He wrote an account of his experiences, Tonga Islands, that is now considered to be one of the major sources of information on pre-Christian Tonga.

William Mariner was a teenage ship's clerk aboard the British privateer Port au Prince. The ship anchored off the Tongan island of Lifebuoy, in the Ha'apai island group, and was seized by the Ha'apai chief Fino ʻUlukālala on 1 December 1806. Most of the crew were killed in the takeover of the ship, but Fīnau spared Mariner and several colleagues. Fīnau assumed responsibility for Mariner, taking him under his protection.

Mariner lived in Tonga for four years, predominantly in the northern island group of Vavaʻu. On his return to England he dictated a detailed account of his time in the Tonga Islands, a description of Tongan society and culture at the time, and a grammar and dictionary of the Tongan language. The resulting publication remains one of the most valuable historical documents of pre-Christian life in the Pacific Islands.

January 31, 1891, Saturday, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser.

Recollections of a Trip to Tonga-tabu
By J. G. M.

Ancient Tonga.

Our next expedition was to Mua, the ancient capital of Tonga, about 12 miles from Nukualofa, Upon the margin of the large tidal lagoon already mentioned. An early start was necessary, as our day included a visit to the limestone caves, as well as the graves of the Tui Tonga. Half-past 6, therefore, saw two buggies at the door, and we were soon driving through the cool morning air, so cool, indeed, that an overcoat was not to be despised.

The first place of interest through which we passed was Bea, a pretty village about three and a half miles from Nukualofa, rendered historic by the death of Captain Croker, of H.M.S. Favourite, who in 1840 landed some guns and joined forces with King George, the present ruler, in an attack, upon the place. The Lea people, it would seem, were the last to hold out against the Christian religion, and objected so strongly to this method of introduction that the attack was repulsed with considerable loss. Some small rusty guns are still to be seen lying about the village, but whether they ever took part in the siege operations, as is commonly reported, deponent faveth not.

Five or six miles further, the road passes through an estate formed in the early days by an English settler, who has left proof of his industry in two magnificent hedges of lemon trees extending for half a mile or more on either side of the road. It may here be remarked that the frequent use of lemon hedges adds much to the picturesque aspect of many Tongan villages.

Having arrived at Mua, a town of considerable size, we were all most hospitably entertained at breakfast at the Wesleyan Mission-house by the native missionaries, and then about two miles further to the seacoast at back of the island. Two insignificant-looking holes, so small that a stranger would pass them by as unworthy of notice, form the entrances to the caves. Entering one of these, we slid or crept down a small deep pas-sage, and found ourselves in a fair-sized cave, or succession of caves, through which we groped our way over very uneven ground by the light of torches carried by four or five native guides.

By and bye we came to a resting-place in a very large and beautiful chamber, in which were several masses of stalagmite upon which our torch. bearers distributed themselves. The effect was most striking when to the lurid light of the flaming torches was added the flare of some blue lights, with which we were, fortunately, provided. A weird, strange scene it was, the motionless figures of the guides standing out in bold relief like statues cast in bronze. We all felt lost in admiration, when suddenly the almost awful silence was broken by the sweet voice of one of our party singing a hymn in the Tongan language. Instantly our guides joined in the song, and the lofty cavern resounded with notes of praise to the Great Architect, who is no w acknowledged in these lonely isles of the Pacific to be Creator and Giver of all good things. The windings of the cave extend for a great distance beyond the limit we attained ; but the atmosphere, now laden with the smoke of our blue-lights, became so stifling that we were glad to return to purer air.

Taking a somewhat different route back, we stayed for a time to admire a huge chamber supported over head by two massive pillars of stone. The floor of this chamber was filled by a deep dark pool, whose calm surface reflected like a mirror the sides of these rugged pillars. Our guides added greatly to the picturesque effect by leaping into the water, their torches held high over head, thus lighting up the inmost recesses of the cave. Inexorable Time now warned us to linger no longer, so, bidding farewell to Dame Nature's playground, we returned to outer air, where some delicious oranges, brought from the well-laden trees at Mua, revived our flagging energies.

Returning to the Mission station, we were again entertained with genuine Tongan hospitality, a sucking-pig baked upon hot stones (by the way, anyone who has once tasted this dish will never appreciate any other method of cooking it), a pair of boiled fowls, some excellent yams, and to each guest a young cocoanut brimful of cool milk— fare fit for a king.

Tui Tonga Tombs.

Invigorated and rested, we now turned our attention and steps to to the graves of the Tui Tonga, or sacred chiefs. This office, which would appear to have been somewhat similar to that of the Mikado in Japan before the great revolution in that country brought that sacred dignitary to a lower level, was abolished in Tonga during the first decade of the present century; but the old tombs, of which several scores are to be found at the present day, are still held in great reverence by the people; so much so, indeed, that any attempt to investigate or tamper with them would be not unattended with danger. A quarter of an hour's walk from the Mission-house brought one of these tombs into view; but, it being difficult to approach, we went a little further and came upon another, so hidden, however, in dense jungle that it was a matter of impossibility to get a fair idea of its dimensions. Some of the Tui Tonga tombs are composed of four and even five tiers, built pyramid fashion; but this particular one, which may be taken as an average specimen, had but three tiers each, retained by a well-built wall. The lowest tier covers a square with base roughly estimated at 80 to 100 yards ; the second tier is reduced in area by about a yard all round, and the third in like manner, leaving upon the top a wide flat space, below the centre of which, probably, would be found the bones of the sacred being for whom the tomb was built. All dates are lost in tradition, but the girth of the great trees which grow upon the top, forcing their gnarled roots between and over the great stones which define each tier, point to its antiquity. These stones carefully cut and regularly laid, are of very considerable size, from 6ft. to 9ft long and 2ft. to 4ft. thick, apparently taken from old beds of coral formation. The whole process of quarrying and building points to considerable mechanical ingenuity on the part of the builders. This part of the country has many similar tombs, hidden away in the almost impenetrable jungle, all sacred and all mysterious, for none can say to whom they belong or in what long-past age they were built. But any visions of the past conjured up by our surroundings had to make way for the realities of the present; to wit, the fast lengthening shadows and the prospect of a 12-mile drive. So turning our backs upon this time-stained memorial of old Tonga-tabu, we made our way home wards, reaching Nukualofa soon after dark, tired, but well pleased with our day.

Another expedition was to the Blowhole at Oma, a comfortable afternoon's ride or drive of seven or eight miles through pretty, well-shaded lanes. Oma was evidently a town of considerable importance in the old fighting days, if one can judge by the remains of a large moat which formerly encircled it. In these less warlike times, the most striking objects in a Tongan village are usually two churches, often side by side — one a new-looking fairly preserved building, the other generally falling into decay from disuse. At first a stranger is apt to think the newer building has been built because the other is worn out churches; but the reduplication is so constant that he looks for some other solution. This, unfortunately, is found in the bitter struggle so long carried on between the Wesleyan and the Free or State Church. Each village has adherents to both. Without commenting upon this unhappy state of affairs, let us hurry from Oma to the seashore, about half a mile further on.

A rock bound coast extends for miles on either hand, with the heavy ceaseless swell of the Pacific breaking upon it. A high shelf of coral rock, studded at intervals of two or three hundred yards with circular holes from 1 to 3 ft. in diameter, runs the whole length of the shore. As each roller strikes upon it, the effect is most remarkable and extremely beautiful. Near at hand great columns of spray rise with a roar and geyser-like velocity 30 or 40 ft. into the air, while far as the eye can reach are seen similar columns diminishing in size, till in the distance they appear like tiny jets of steam. With Oma we finished our excursion in the neighbourhood of Nukualofa.

The Union Company's steamer Wainui, from Auckland, calling regularly every four weeks, was due the 1st September, and with customary punctuality appeared off the harbour at noon on that day. By 5 o'clock p.-m. we had transferred ourselves and baggage on board, and before dark, with Tonga-tabu, a thin blue line upon the southern horizon, we were steaming for Lifuka, the capital town of Hapai. Our stay in the dominions of his Majesty King George, of Tonga, was now practically over, the rest being but a passing glimpse of other ports in the group touched at by the steamer. These glimpses, however, were not devoid of interest, and may be jotted down among our pleasurable recollections.

Steaming on all night through the intricate navigation of the Hapai-an Archipelago, we passed shortly before dawn the small island of Tofoa, whose volcano, now in eruption, shed a red glare upon the sky over head. About 6.30 the anchor was let go opposite Lifuka, a small straggling place partially hidden by cocoa nut palms, with which the whole island of Hapai is bountifully supplied. There is nothing picturesque about the place, so we found halfan hour's run ashore ample, and were not sorry to get on board the steamer again for breakfast, with that abominably virtuous feeling: engendered by getting up a little bit earlier than usual, or better still, earlier than the rest of our fellow-passengers.

King George of Tonga

August 12, 1935, The North Western Courier, Narrabr, NSW

King George of Tonga.

King George Tubou I., of Tonga was the greatest of all the kings In the history of the South Sea Islands. Like his other brown cousins, King George was a great warrior. The missionaries said of him: "His great natural powers were enhanced by his athletic training. During one of his attacks he left his followers and wandered Inland from their landing place. Suddenly he found himself armed only with a Fijian throwing club, faced with five assailants, who had laid in ambush for him. His followers were too far off for his voice to reach them. He knew against the long long spears his throwing club could avail him little. He turned and ran before them, keeping just out of reach of their weapons, leading them inland towards a place to jagged limestone rocks. Little distressed himself until he knew by their laborious breathing his pursuers had began to fall off, he turned and met the leading man and struck him down seizing the spear that dropped out of his hand. He fell upon the second and third, who were gasping for breath. The others fled.

His converson to Christianity, is history.

He had long been sceptical about the gods of his ancestors. His mind was ripe to imbibe new ideas when the missionaries landed at Tonga. George accepted the New 'Tabou' as they called religion, and soon burned all the idols and heathen temples of the Island. He ascended the throne in 1848 and ruled the kingdom wisely and firmly until his death in 1893.

In 1852 Captain Bellard, in a French ship of war called at Tonga on the subject of a complaint made against the natives of a French whaler. George went on the boat, and after a five hours conference settled all misunderstandings. When the captain left he sent the following message: 'Tell the king I have seen and conversed with many chiefs of the South Sea, but I never knew one so wise as he."

One remarkable feature was his forgiving nature. In 1855 he visited Fiji with a fleet of 30 war canoes, captured the fort' and was in possession in three hours. His title the "Grand old man of the Pacific"' was deservedly earned after suppressing the rebellion. He set up a government, drew up a constitution, and signed a proclamation freeing his people from slavery. The one ambition of his life was to promote and elevate the life and morals of his subjects to a high standard. He built a college, named after him, and installed schools in every village. George died in 1893. There was sorrow, and great lamentations. Queen Salote Tubou is a grand daughter of George, who is loved by her people. Tonga is the only state in the world that has no national debt.

We busily endeavoured to implant a spirit of envy in their breasts by a glowing account of all we had seer ashore, but with qualified success; but had, however, the satisfaction of knowing our energy had not been spent in vain, for had we not seen the world's oldest reigning monarch in the person of the great King George of Tonga himself. A dark-skinned, grizzly bearded old gentleman, dressed in ordinary native costume, was pointed out as the occupier of this proud position. Squatted, bare-headed, and cross legged upon the ground, surrounded by some dozen or so of his courtiers or attendants, it must be confessed his Majesty did not look the picture of royal dignity.

Soon after breakfast the anchor was up, and an hour's steaming brought the ship to a picturesque little island called Nugu-bule, a whaling station, where some hours were spent taking in casks of oil. A whaleboat, manned by a stout Tongan crew, made several trips between the shore and the ship, towing off each time some 20 or 30 casks, which, one by one. were cast off from the tow-rope and hoisted over the ship's side. This was a slow process, but we were under way again about 4 o'clock, and six hours later were steaming through the entrance to Vavau harbour, which may be justly classed among the most beautiful in the world.

Passing islet after islet, each clothed to the water's edge with dense tropical foliage, we threaded our way for miles by the light of a brilliant moon, finally mooring alongside the pier, in the pretty land-locked bay upon which the town is built. Though* now midnight, we lingered i long to enjoy the calm beauty of the scene, feeling loth to exchange the cool, fresh air on deck for the somewhat tropical temperature of a cabin. Next morning, however, found us all alert to make the most of our day, some wandering inland amongst the orange trees, to return laden with great boughs covered with golden fruit. Others, less energetic, brought out the ubiquitous camera, with the hope of carrying away more lasting impressions.

Sailing the Vavau Group.

The harbour of Vavau has not only the charm of its natural beauty, but also an air of romance, thrown by a touch of Byron's magic wand, for here

They rested on their paddles and uprose
Neuha, and, pointing to the approaching foes,
Cried, Torquil, follow me, and fearless follow!
Then plunged at once into the ocean's hollow.

Whatever inclination we might have had to follow her example, an expedition to Neuha's Cave would have encroached too much upon our time, but we saw another sea cave well worth a visit and certainly much more accessible. Concealed with the abrupt face of a small island about three miles from the town, it can be easily entered by a fair-sized boat. The interior presents a very beautiful appearance, owing to the extraordinary tint, perhaps best described as 'electric blue,' upon the sides and roof. The depth and clearness of the water, which also took a rich blue shade from its surroundings, was also most remarkable. With the memory of this mer. maids' grotto still fresh in our minds we bade fare well to Vavau and sped away northwards, for Samoa; anchoring two days later in the now historic harbour of Apia, which upon one of the most tragic pages in the annals of maritime disaster will be for ever associated with the story of the Trenton, the Vandalia, the Eber, the Adler, and the Calliope. How strangely the varying moods of the ever-reckless sea came home to us that clear calm morning, when but a ripple broke the surface of the water! Can the wavelets which now scarce disturb a grain of sand upon the beach change those rustling murmurs into thunder, and come rushing madly on, billow upon billow, all at racing speed. Can those great ships, cast wrecked and dismantled upon the shore, have once been the sport of this same laughing, glittering, beautiful sea. For answer, look upon that massive frame of iron and steel, hurled high upon the reef torn and twisted and racked — the plaything of a giant who, like a wayward child r has thrown his toy beyond hi6 reach. That was once a stout ship of-war — grand proof of man's genius and power. Or look again upon those two sunken hulks. Both once proudly bore the honoured flag of a great nation, one the broad pendant of an admiral ; now they lie side by side water-logged and useless; children of one mother, they died together, locked helpless in the deadly embrace of drowning sisters. And still deeper beneath its calm surface lies another victim of this smiling sea, once a gallant ship, but now and forever a tomb.

But the sea still smiles on.

Whaleships at Tonga

October 18, 1892, The Telegraph, Brisbane, Queensland

Whaling at Tonga.

The brothers Cook (George and Albert), late of the Bay of Islands, are now located at the island. of Valetos, Tongatabu, busily engaged whaling (says the Auckland Weekly News) . At latest advices the season's catch was nine whales. Unfortunately, one of the largest captured sunk whilst being kedged up to the island, and was devoured by the sharks that, swarm around the locality. One of the brothers had a unique experience some short time ago. Whilst waiting for the boats to come up to the prize, hundreds of sharks attacked the whale, and for over three hours Albert Cook and his boat's crew had all their time fully occupied in keeping the depredators off with boat hoods; as it was, the voracious brutes got about a ton of blubber.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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