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Journal of Residence in the New Hebrides, S.W. Pacific Ocean

Journal of Residence in the New Hebrides, S.W. Pacific Ocean
Author: Bice C.
Title: Journal of Residence in the New Hebrides, S.W. Pacific Ocean
Release Date: 2018-10-09
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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I have been induced to publish the following Journals at the request ofsome friends who have perused them, and think they will proveinteresting to others. The Journal of the Rev. A. Brittain arrived toolate for insertion in the ‘Island Voyage’ for this year, and I have beenrequested by the Rev. William Selwyn, the Secretary of the MelanesianMission, to print it with my own. I do this with the greater pleasure,because his report will not only supply me with a good excuse forrushing into print, but will furnish others with a more full andcomplete account of the work of the Melanesian Mission in the NewHebrides.

The three islands herein spoken of are the Northernmost of theabove-mentioned group—the New Hebrides—and form the Southern boundaryof the Melanesian Mission work in the islands of the South-west PacificOcean.

Araga (or Pentecost) and Maewo (or Aurora) are long and mountainousislands running almost North and South, about forty miles each inlength, and separated by a narrow channel three miles wide. Opa (orLeper’s Island) runs at right angles to these, a broad, massive, grandlooking country, resembling in appearance a huge whale, the hump ofwhich rises to a height of over 4000 feet.

Araga and Opa are thickly populated, but Maewo has a scattered andsparse population. Opa is about sixteen miles from Araga, but a channelof only five miles in width separates it from Maewo.

The languages and dispositions of these neighbouring lands are much morevaried and dissimilar than would naturally be inferred from their closepropinquity. And the majority of the{vi} people, too, seem to prefer aninland situation, all which serve to make the work of the Missionary themore arduous and difficult. On these islands every outward prospect ispleasing, and the inhabitants themselves not so far gone in vileness asto be incapable of improvement, as I hope the following pages will show.The work of the Melanesian Mission has been established in these islandsa good many years now, with more or less success, and schools are inactive operation as follows:—

At Araga—Wonor, on the Southern face of the island, and Lamoru andQatvenua on the North.

At Maewo—Tanrig, Tasmouri, Tasmate, Mandurvat, Naruru, and Uta. Allthese stations are on the North of the island.

At Opa—Tavolavola, Lobaha, Walurigi, the most flourishing of which isthat first mentioned.

With these few preliminary remarks and explanations I leave thefollowing simple pages to tell their own story.


N.B.—The vowels in the Melanesian languages are pronounced as inItalian: a = ah, e = a, i = e.

The letter written n̈ = ng in singer; d = nd, b = mb.


J O U R N A L.


Friday, 9th July.—The weather seaward looked very threatening as westood on the Pier at the Settlement in readiness to embark. All theMelanesians, boys and girls, to the number of about 50 had already goneoff to the ship which lay tossing and tumbling at her anchorage as ifanxious to be let free. A considerable number of Norfolk Island friendswere on the Pier, in addition to most of the Members of the Mission, tobid us Farewell and wish us God speed. Many thoughtful little mementos,too, found their way into our hands from our warm-hearted and wellwishing friends. The process of shaking hands took some time inexecution, but one could not but feel the absence of many who wereunavoidably absent on the occasion. My own little ones were the last tobid me good-bye, and poor little Walter (my youngest son) was verytearful. Shortly after, we were all in the boat, and “let go” was calledout. The landing was very smooth, and we got out with very littledifficulty. Besides the Captain, Mr. Turnbull and myself were the onlypassengers. It was close upon 5 o’clock p.m. when we got on board, andsome of the passengers had already begun to feel the motion of theocean. After things were put into some order and the shore boatdismissed with Captain Bates and the Norfolk Island crew, the command to“heave away” was given, and then I saw for the first time the steamwinch at work. Before many minutes the anchor was in its place in thebows of the ship, and the long process of raising the anchor in olddays, performed by manual labour, reduced to a minimum. We slipped{2}quietly down the leeside of the island, and had ample time to get intosome amount of order and readiness for a very dirty, rough night.Opposite the Mission, the boys ashore had lit a large bonfire, and wecould hear their shouts, borne seaward by the raging gale. As nightclosed in the sky became very dark and lowering, and we knew full wellwhat we were to expect. We had dinner while still under the lee of theisland, but before the meal was finished, we were knocking about in theheavy head gale. Of course any where but at Norfolk Island, where thereis no certain shelter, it would be approaching madness to put to seawith such a crowd of people in a small ship on a night like this, buthere there is no help for it. Perhaps had we not got away as we did, wemight have been detained another week, from the uncertainty of windchanges and the insecurity of the anchorages. All night it blew veryheavily, with a nasty head sea. Of course, the wind being very strongand dead ahead, we made little or no progress, and were in fact hove to.Most of the passengers spent a very unpleasant night, and the poorlittle children, of whom we had four on board, suffered like the others.The poor boys in the schoolroom had a disagreeable time, owing to thelarge amount of cargo on board, in addition to their own luggage. TheSouthern Cross, however, is a magnificent sea boat, although slightlylively, and being at sea was, to me at least, the worst of the evils weexperienced that first night. Mr. Turnbull is a good sailor, and he andI were alone in the saloon. Poor old Manekalea I invited also to sleepthere, on account of his blindness, and I asked Silas Kema to sleepthere and look after him. Poor fellow, his sight seems quite gone, buthe is wonderfully patient and resigned. I think now he begins to feelthat there is no hope of his ever seeing again, and he begins to try andhelp himself and get about alone a great deal more than before. The lossof so young, active, and intelligent a Teacher must be much felt in thedistrict of Ysabel, formerly under his charge.

Saturday, 10th.—The wind had abated little, if any, this morning, andthe vessel was making little or no headway. It rained a good dealthroughout the day, and that allayed both wind and sea by evening. Veryfew of the boys appeared on deck, and I myself was quite hors decombat. Mr. Turnbull kindly offered to read prayers in English for mein the Evening, and I managed the Mota with a few who were able toattend. These first days on board ship are very trying, one feels quiteout of it altogether, and the sea legs are somewhat long in returning{3}when one has been ashore for any length of time. Towards evening theweather moderated a little, but there was very little life about theship. These unhappy days when one is the victim of mal de mer leave avery unsatisfactory impression behind them, and if any recollection isleft, it is always painful. I was not actually seasick myself, but Ifelt uncomfortable enough for a time, and did not care for ship’s fare.

Sunday, 11th.—The weather more moderate. I conducted Morning Prayerboth in English and Mota, and generally our passengers were getting overtheir indisposition. It was not a very profitable day however to me, forI could not settle to anything: our Service hours on Sunday, at sea, areEnglish Mattins at 9 o’clock a.m. and Evensong at 7 p.m. Mota 11 a.m.and 7.30 p.m. Our daily hours for meals are 8 a.m. breakfast, 12 noonlunch, 5 p.m. dinner. On Sunday this is slightly changed, and we dine at1, and tea at 5 p.m. At anchor, too, the English Morning Service ispostponed to 10 a.m., and all the sailors are enabled to attend. Usuallyonly one watch can be present while the vessel is at sea. This year wehave a crew composed entirely of Englishmen. We have generally hadpreviously a strong admixture of foreigners. The steward, indeed, is aGerman, but he has been with us so many voyages, speaks and readsEnglish so well, that one quite forgets his nationality. The crew are avery nice, quiet, well-behaved set of men, and all look so respectable.I believe the Captain has many applications for billets on board theSouthern Cross, she being a popular vessel now-a-days, besides, a tripin her is a paying affair, for I am told that sometimes the men realizefrom £10 to £30 and £40 by the sale of curios alone. The great collectoron board now is John Brown the boatswain, and he has accumulated quite amuseum, which he meditates taking to England for sale next year. Brownis an old Island Trader, and knows all the specialities of the trade andwhat will captivate the native taste. Penny whistles and half-pennylooking glasses, I believe, are the line this trip. There is very keencompetition too on board when the curio fields are reached, chiefly atSanta Cruz and some of the Solomon Islands. Sunday passed away somewhatprofitlessly, and evening once more closed over a day past and gone. Idid not give the sailors a Sermon, but reserved my efforts for theMelanesians, many of whom were able to attend. I naturally chose thesubject of the Gospel as the basis of my remarks, viz: the recovery ofthe lost sheep and the piece of money, which{4} I applied to the conditionof the heathen to whom we were going, and our duty as seekers of thosewho were still wandering upon the mountains and upon every high hill,with none caring for them or seeking them out. We had some singing afterthe service, and the termination of the day at least was pleasant, and Ihope profitable. One’s thoughts naturally wandered away back to NorfolkIsland, and one thought of the quiet peaceful Sunday evenings there, andthe love of those we had left. The vessel was much more at her ease thisevening, and we could undress and rest in bed with more comfort.

It was a great pleasure to me from this time forward, to see the boysdropping into the cabin one by one to say their prayers, unbidden butnone the less welcome.

Monday, 12th July.—This morning the wind has moderated veryconsiderably, and the sea is going down. The vessel moving along muchmore gently and easily, sometimes towards our destination. Life on boardis almost utterly devoid of interest or excitement. There is little ornothing stirring, and out of our element we feel restless and not fitfor much. We begin now however, to fall into ship-shape ways, and thingsbegin to look a little straighter than they did. The boys are dividedinto sets of cooks, and have to take their turn in order to cook andkeep the schoolroom clean. The Melanesians have three meals a day, andthey are supposed to look after their own food, the cook givingdirections as to what he wants doing. After the misery and prostrationof mal de mer have passed off, the boys get very lively, and do noteasily again succumb.

In the evening we had music. Brown the boatswain has a most ingeniousinstrument called, I think, the “Cabinetto,” which plays almost anytune; a piece of perforated paper is turned over a sort of key-board,like a mouth organ, by means of a handle, and the closed notes are keptsilent, while the open ones speak according to

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