“On the morning of the 4th of May, 1840, the Squadron left Tongataboo; (Tonga) and towards the evening of the following day we came in sight of TURTLE Island, which is small and unimportant, except as a guide to the navigator. We rested on our course for the night ; but by daylight we had drifted among the other outermost Feejee Islands. Those in sight were small and moderately high ; and according to our European pilot, were ” destitute of yams, although permanently inhabited.”</
On the 7th we reached OVOLAU, (Ovalau) a small island, that from its central position, and from its being the place of residence of some White men, has become a convenient rendezvous for vessels. The broken and mountainous land, in great part covered with woods, and situated in a moderately rainy climate, presented a varied and most inviting aspect ; and we felt that we were now in a part of the world, which, except to a few traders, was very little known.
8 May 1840: On the 8th we entered the reef, and dropped anchor before the village of Levuka ; and our first greeting was a shout of admiration from the shore, when the sailors suddenly ascended the rigging.
Chief rowed on a canoe platform: Canoes soon made their appearance, moving in different directions, and by a singular method of propulsion : a man standing in the centre of the canoe, held an upright oar, and as he threw his weight upon it from side to side, seemed actually to walk over the water, and at a surprising rate.
Pickering muses on mix of genes in Levuka: At length three or four canoes approached us, one bearing upon an elevated platform the chief of Levuka, who introduced himself to our acquaintance, with the accustomed present of yams.
Fijians – ‘big dark people with short necks and artistic fizzy hair’: Independently of the texture of the hair, the people differed strikingly from the Australians in their stoutness of limb, and in the entire absence of graceful forms. At first, indeed, we did not distinguish them from Negroes ; and this resemblance was even recognised by Negroes on board ; one of whom made use of the expression, ” people at home would hardly believe that these were natives.” But it was soon perceived, that a Negro in the midst of a party of Feejeeans, presented a marked distinction in colour. I obtained other evidence of the lightness of the Feejeean complexion ; for on scanning with a glass the crowd of natives on the shore, I had supposed one-half of them to be Polynesians ; whereas, upon landing, they proved to be all Feejeeaus.
There seems, indeed, to be much variation among individuals ; and on comparing the darkest Polynesians with the lightest Feejeeans, there will probably be found no essential difference in the shade of colour. I sometimes thought I perceived a purplish tinge in the Feejeean complexion, particularly when contrasted in the sunlight with green foliage ; and the epithet of ” purple men” might be given to this race, if that of “red men” be retained for the Malayan.
White-Fijian mix children described: The circumstance that first tended to show the diversity from the Negro, was the personal appearance of the children of resident Whites ; for they were evidently not ” mulattoes.” The hair of the Feejeean girls also contributed to remove the Negro aspect. The ashy colour, indeed, was extraneous ; but the hanging locks, although always somewhat crisped, proved that the erect mode of wearing the hair, and its woolly appearance in grown persons, were partly the work of art.
Fijians a unique races, with size smaller than Tongans: Inquiry being thus awakened, careful observation soon led to the conviction, that the Feejeeans belong to-a peculiar physical race. the frequent examples of unusual shortness of neck. The tallest Feejeean met with measured six feet six inches, and was tolerably well proportioned, though more slender than his companions. It was stated on good authority, that there were Feejeeans who exceeded in size any of the Tonga men; but so far as my own observation extended, the average stature was less”.
The Races Of Man; By Charles Pickering, M.D., Member Of The ,United States Exploring Expedition.