1886: Sailing instruction for navigation from Suva to Levuka harbour

“The route from Suva to Levuka is, of course by sea, the distance some 55 miles, and the time oocupied by one of the inter- colonial steamers generally about five hours.
Leaving Suva wharf at daylight the reef protecting the the coast line of Viti Levu is followed round, until a dangerous point, known as Nasilai, is reached.
Nasilai a danger spot for wrecks: On this spot several vessels have come to grief, notably the coolie ship Syria, when some 50 lives were lost, the schooner Conflict, and others, but a beacon has now been erected, from which at night a light is exhibited.
After passing Nasilai a course is steered direct for Ovalau, which now becomes visible, surrounded by the picturesque islands of Loma Viti, or tho central group, amongst which are Moturiki, Naucica, Gau, Batiki, Nairai, Wakaya, and Mokongai.
The entrance to the sea reef opposite Levuka is soon reached.
Steamer arrives at noon: The steamer berthed is alongside the Queen’s Wharf before noon.
Levuka harbour in 1886: The harbour of Levuka is not land locked, unlike that of Suva; in fact, It has more the appearance of an open roadstead, being only protected from the weather on one side, i.e., the westward, by the island itself.
Protected harbour: A well-defined sea route of coral runs north and south, however, at about a mile from the shore, and forms an excellent defence against the swell of the Paciflc, and vessels ride, at anchor in all weathers, with perfect safety, except during the most violent hurricanes, which are happily of rare occurrence, there having been none attended with disastrous consequences for many years.
Two ways into the reef: There are two entrances through the reef, one opposite, and one to the northward of, the town, either of which are easy of access, the former being also marked by beacons, as at Suva. The Queen’s Wharf, at the southern end of the town, is a creditable structure, and affords sufficient accommodation for those who requirements of the port. At the opposite end of the town where the Custom house is at present most inconveniently situated, there is another wharf, which was originally in be Government wharf, but, as in – most ‘ Government jobs, ‘ a bungle was made, and when the wharf was nearly completed it was discovered that there was a coral patch at the end of ie, which would prevent any but vessels of very little draught coming alongside. It was, therefore, abandoned for the present structure”.
The Mercury Supplement, (Hobart, Tasmania)  Saturday 13 February, 1886.  This item appears written by a Levuka resident in early 1886, or late 1885.  It encourages tourism to Levuka, as a rest from an overheated Australia.  Author uses the name “Tasmanian”. Possibly Frederick Langham   Perhaps ship-owner and trader with a long term trading relationship with Levuka and Suva, for at least five years – since 1880.

1819: Peter Dillon now owner and master of the ships in which he sailed

On 22 September 1814 Dillon married Mary, daughter of Patrick Moore, an emancipist businessman and farmer. Marriage and the birth of three children cut him off for some years from the adventurous life of the islands. For two years he was employed in the coastal trade. In June 1816 he moved to Calcutta, from which port he made a number of voyages to the Australian colonies.
George Bayly, Sea-Life Sixty Years Ago (Lond, 1885); J. W. Davidson, ‘Peter Dillon and the South Seas’, History Today, vol 6, no 5, May 1956, pp 307-17. Author: J. W. Davidson Print Publication Details: J. W. Davidson, ‘Dillon, Peter (1788 – 1847)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, Melbourne University Press, 1966, pp 306-308

1826: Peter Dillon was sailing in command of his own ship, the St Patrick, from Valparaiso to Pondicherry, when he sighted Tucopia.

‘Thirteen years later ( after 1813) Peter Dillon was sailing in command of his own ship, the St Patrick, from Valparaiso to Pondicherry, when he sighted Tucopia.( Tikopia in the Santa Cruz group) Curiosity prompted him to stop to enquire whether his old friend Martin Bushart was still alive.
Greetings-canoes contain old mates: ‘He hove to, and shortly after two canoes put off from the land, bringing Bushart and the Lascar, both in excellent health. Now, Dillon observed that the Lascar sold an old silver sword guard to one of the ST. PATRICK’S crew in return for a few fish hooks. This made him inquisitive. He asked the Prussian where it came from’.
La Perouse wreck revealed on Vanikoro: ‘Bushart informed him that when he first arrived at the island he saw in possession of the natives, not only this sword guard, but also several chain plates, iron bolts, axes, the handle of a silver fork, some knives, tea cups, beads, bottles, a silver spoon bearing a crest and monogram, and a sword. He asked where these articles were obtained, and the natives told him that they got them from the Mannicolo (or Vanikoro) cluster of islands, two days’ canoe voyage from Tucopia, in the Santa Cruz group’.
‘initials of Perouse’: “Upon examining the sword minutely” wrote Dillon, “I discovered, or thought I discovered, the initials of Perouse stamped on it, which excited my suspicion and made me more exact in my inquiries. I then, by means of Bushart and the Lascar, questioned some of the islanders respecting the way in which their neighbours procured the silver and iron articles’.
Locals report two large ships: ‘They told me that the natives of Mannicolo stated that many years ago two large ships arrived at their islands; one anchored at the island of Whanoo, and the other at the island of Paiou, a little distance from each other. Some time after they anchored, and before they had any communication with the natives, a heavy gale arose and both vessels were driven ashore. The ship that was anchored off Whanoo grounded upon the rocks’.
First ship La Perouse landing crew killed : “The natives came in crowds to the seaside, armed with clubs, spears, and bows and arrows, and shot some arrows into the ship, and the crew in return fired the guns and some musketry on them and killed several. The vessel, continuing to beat violently against the rocks, shortly afterwards went to pieces. Some of the crew took to their boats, and were driven on shore, where they were to a man murdered on landing by the infuriated natives. Others threw themselves into the sea; but if they reached the shore it was only to share the fate of their wretched comrades, so that not a single soul escaped out of this vessel.’
Second ship crew held up beads, axes, and toys: ‘The ship wrecked on Paiou, according to the natives’ story, was driven on a sandy beach. Some arrows were fired into her, but the crew did not fire. They were restrained, and held up beads, axes, and toys, making a demonstration of friendliness.
Chief visits second ship: As soon as the wind abated, an old chief came aboard the wrecked ship, where he was received in friendly fashion, and, going ashore, pacified his people’.
Crew carry stores aboard: ‘The crew of the vessel, compelled to abandon her, carried the greater part of their stores ashore, where they built a small boat from the remains of the wreck. As soon as this craft was ready to sail, as many as could conveniently be taken embarked and sailed away. They were never heard of again. The remainder of the crew remained on the island until they died’.
Laperous Scott, Ernest, 1868-1939 Publisher Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1912 ; Printer W.C. Penfold. http://www.fullbooks.com/Laperouse.html

1870: Captain Robbie, and the fish god, the Dakuwaqa

“When I came to Fiji the famed fish-god, the Dakuwaqa, was very much a reality. The Government ship, the Lady Escott, reached Levuka with signs of an encounter with the great fish, while the late Captain Robbie, a well known, tall, and very erect Scot – even to his nineties, – told of the sleepy afternoon as his cutter was sailing from his tea estate at Wainunu, under a very light wind, with most of the crew dozing. A great fish, which he described as near 60 feet in length, brown-spotted and mottled on its back, with the head of a shark and the tail of a whale, came up under his ship, almost capsizing it. The crew, instantly awake and concerned, followed the ancient pattern, pouring a strong libation of kava into the sea, which, it would seem, was just the right idea for placating fish-gods; the monster slowly submerged, the breeze gradually gathered the cutter away, its keel dragging along the monster’s back, making the skin pale”.

Ref: unknown. TBA

July 1861: gold rush starts in Otago, South Island of New Zealand

In July 1861, while Bully Hayes was on his voyage to Java, gold was discovered in the mountains and valleys of Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. A rush was in full swing when Captain Hayes returned to Sydney after the sale of the Launceston barque. With cash from his share of the profits, Hayes decided to become a theatrical entrepreneur and to take a troupe of variety artists from Sydney to entertain the diggers on the Otago goldfields. the troupe, known as the Buckingham Variety Company, had, as its leading lady, Rosa Buckingham, a young soprano. Rosa had four brothers in the troupe; they, with their mother, a widow, were well known as “the Buckingham family” of entertainers. Bully also engaged a pair of comedians, Mr and Mrs Glogski, and three male vaudeville performers. As manager, bully booked passages for the artists in a coal barque, the Cincinnati, 445 tons, Captain Ryde. She sailed from Sydney on 6th July 1862, bound for Newcastle to load a cargo of coal, thence to Otago, New Zealand. The accommodation in the collier was far from comfortable. Bully had only been able to get berths in her because passengers who had previously booked had refused to accept the berths offered.
The History of William (Bully) Hayes, Part 2.

1931-34: sightings of the fish-god, the Dakuwaqa

When I came to Fiji the famed fish-god, the Dakuwaqa, was very much a reality. Continue reading

1937: Samoam Fiji dance and music on Naivukulani, Fiji

The taralala is an innovation. I was told that it originated in a simple little kindergarten dance in a mission school and spread, ere long, with great rapidity throughout the Group. There is now an endeavour to suppress it. In itself it is perfectly harmless, but the aftermath is not always without harm. In a large bure we were given an opportunity of seeing it. Continue reading

1937 visit to the Island of islands of Ngau, Mbatiki, villages of Yavo, Saweieke, Fiji

In Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937 recorded a visit to – in an undated year to the Island of island of Mbatiki, and villages of Yavo, Saweieke, Fiji . Continue reading

Island of Munia,1937: C. W. Whonsbon-Aston visits an old Harrovian with his wife and daughters on island of Munia

Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston, London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937. reported a sea-journey from Levuka to Munia to an British resident on Munia. “Later in the day I was borne over the waters of the huge lagoon within the reef to the island of Munia, where dwells an old Harrovian with his wife and daughters. Here I found that the Koroibo–named after the “gods of the winds”–which was to have taken me further, was up on the beach waiting for timbers, and I became marooned, a modern Robinson Crusoe, under the most ideal circumstances.

Description of Munia: The usual Robinsonian requisites were to hand–a beautiful heavily wooded island surrounded with coral reefs full [80/81] of marine life and colour, the big hulk of a yacht (the fastest in these seas) up on the beach, a daily walk around the coast to a far hilltop to look for a sail. The Tui Matefele left a few days later, but I still hoped that I might get along further. At length the same boat returned, but in a leaking condition, needing to be beached again. Later, after I had returned to Levuka, she heeled over in a sudden strong breeze, her deck cargo aft went overboard and she simply nose-dived into the deep blue ocean from whence there is no return.

Turtle soup for lunch: During my stay some natives from the neighbouring island of Susui came along with a request to catch turtles on the shore reef. In a short time they had captured seven, which were tethered back downwards in the shade on the beach. We had turtle soup and turtle steaks, which are very palatable. Fish was plentiful and fish soup was served in small coconut shells, while a novelty was land crab boiled until the flesh could be broken easily, then baked, with herbs, in their own back shells–very rich. On a nearby island are the huge coconut crabs with tremendously strong nippers that husk the coconuts.

Pandanus leaves for mat making: At one stage we were joined by some native women who were preparing the pandanus leaves for mat making;

• The leaves cut green have their prickly edges and spine removed and are placed in bunches in boiling water for a time, then withdrawn and hung to drain;

• Later they are spread out in the hot sun to dry and are then ready to be split into strips as required, using shells as knives;

• For black strips to be interwoven into a mat, some of the pandanus is taken and buried in the mangrove mud for a time to secure a fast dye.

Copra cutting: Each day the bell for the labour to rise rang out at 4 a.m., and men were on their way to work at five o’clock. Each man had his task in copra cutting for the day. This was not a particularly heavy one, for most men were able to do considerably more than their task if they thought fit, and received the extra reward. The bell rang to cease at 9.30, when breakfast of substantial proportions was the order of the day at the plantation homestead; lunch was at one o’clock and dinner at 6.30, just before which the fading daylight gave better reception for the wireless.

Radio and wireless connections: Wireless is a great boon to the people of the Pacific, especially in isolated islands such as this. As the darker hours give the best reception and Fiji is in the centre of the Pacific with such a huge expanse of sea from America to Australia, it is possible to hear most of the world’s wireless stations in their particular working hours. Near to six o’clock we would get Los Angeles, where the “Richfield Oil Reporter” used to serve up an extraordinarily good epitome of world’s news. Curiously enough he was speaking, according to his time, late the previous evening. We would then pass on to New Zealand, though Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York, Mexico City and Japan were screaming to talk to us. Then Australia came, two hours behind us, and so on.

Temple of Koroibo, “god of the winds”: The island gave plenty of variety. One day we climbed to the summit of its central hill, through the tracks in the dense tropical bush, climbing over the wide, deep trenches that marked the scene of bloodthirsty warfare not many years before. Tropical fruits grew wild along the tracks, as they do in many parts of the islands, and at one stage a quick, bright flash of brilliant red revealed a bush fowl in flight scared by our movements. At the top of the hill are the remnants of the old-time village, hidden there from its enemies at a vantage point from which the movements of rival canoes could be espied. On the peak were the last remains of the Devil temple of Koroibo, “god of the winds”; unfortunately old age and scientists had despoiled it. From the heights we were able to get an excellent view of others of the nearer islands of the group.

‘mystic isle of Mborutu’: As we stood on the beach one day, a particularly clear day when the sea was pale blue and the islands in the distance gave the impression that they were just suspended in the air, I was reminded by my host of the expression used by one of my boys when speaking of the Lau Group: “Away out there it is said by the natives that on the clearest of clear days it is just possible to see the ‘mystic isle of Mborutu’ to which the spirits of the Fijians and Tongans are said to go.” The only island I could see at that time, with my very material gaze, was Katafaga, interesting as being the last island visited by von Luckner before reaching the island of his fate, Wakaya.

I was getting anxious, as the weeks seemed to go by and no boat was available to get back to my centre. After a daily searching of the sea we were, at last, rewarded by the sight of a sail which passed by outside the Tongan reef, some miles from us, and turned in to go to Vanua Mbalavu. We despatched a message by boat and found that it was a very small cutter named the Ana which had been away turtle fishing. She had originally been much smaller, but had been cut in half and lengthened, with a hold built forward and a heavy oil engine placed in the cabin portion. The engine having proved useless had been discarded.

Thus away we came over the often ruffled Koro Sea, this time kinder to us; slowly, ever so slowly, with the tropical heat striking up on us from the water. We crept into Levuka just after midnight.

C. W. Whonsbon-Aston’s 1937 sea journey, to visit to Maafu at Loma Loma

By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston in Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia in London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937 reported on a visit to Maafu, as he was about to end his term in Levuka.

Stars of the Southern Cross overhead: Long hot tropical days, in a turtle boat, aided by a miserable breeze, sliding lazily over the waves, quietly dipping and rolling along; nights when one lay on the hatching and watched, between slight snatches of sleep, the stars above, with the welcome Southern Cross, which saved one the trouble of craning round to see if the helmsman had fallen asleep. No awning to protect one from the strong sun’s rays, no convenience of any sort–thus I returned from my visit to the isles to the windward, where my parish stretched almost half-way to Tonga. That trip was a great experience.

Ships that pass in the nightThere is a touch of romance in lying back on the deck of a small boat away out in the Pacific to hear a distant “chug, chug, chug,” and then to see in the half light of the early morning a huge white figure appear from the gloom, pass over your bows with but little illumination beyond the navigation lights, as swiftly to disappear, its “chug, chug,” apparently divorced from the silent wraith–a Matson liner passing in the night. . . .

Historic last trip on the steamer: But all this was on the way back to Levuka. The Exploring Isles or the Lau Archipelago is not an easy place to get to, but the getting back is a greater gamble. My plans were simple: merely to go by the steamer, which was making its last trip under the scheduled arrangements and was not to be replaced, calling at such places as the boat would touch at, then to go further afield in a private yacht and by that means return to Levuka: but l’homme propose et Dieu dispose.

Arrival at the pretty lagoon at the island of Mango: A jovial company kept us all on deck after we left Levuka that evening, though the path we traversed was a particularly “rocky” one. Next morning, around ten o’clock, found us in the pretty lagoon at the island of Mango. The sun shone brilliantly and there was not a ripple on the sheltered waters. I was among the first to be put ashore, in the process of which the ship’s boat passed over beautiful patches of live coral trees with all their myriad richly coloured fish darting about below us.

Visit to a planter on Mango: Later we visited the planter and his wife and son at their home away inland on the edge of a pretty crater. We spent the whole day at Mango and in the early morning were once more on our way out of the lagoon into the still heaving waters until, at about 8.30 a.m., we entered the Tongan Passage in the long reef and bore down on Loma Loma, the main centre, on the big, long island of Vanua Mbalava.

Dear old Loma Loma: Dear old sleepy Pacific island Loma Loma had awakened from its accustomed lethargy to greet us. It was a scene of great activity: the two small stores (one included the post office) were opened, men, women and children shouted, and the village dogs, fowls and pigs added their quota of joy at this new diversion. Three-quarters of an hour later the smoke of the vessel was barely to be seen on the horizon, the ship’s carpenter returned to the caulking of the Tui Matefele on the beach, the stores were closed, the livestock once more asleep, the human participants in the welcome had effaced themselves and I was sitting in a house in Maafu’s old compound enjoying the hospitality of the District Commissioner and Roko.

Remarkable figure of Fijian history: Maafu was a really remarkable figure of Fijian history. A Tongan prince of goodly lineage, he had settled on Lau in the early days as the base for his military operations against Cakabau. But for the intervention of the British Consul in those wild days, it is not improbable that he would have been in a premier position in the overlordship of Fiji. He was one of the signatories of the Deed of Cession in 1874. The Lauan people are very charming folk, inclining probably more towards Tonga in their fairness of skin and their culture”.