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


10 March 1788: French exploration vessels, Astrolabe, Boussole, Commander Jean-Francois Galaup, Comte de la Perouse wrecked on Tucopia Island

French exploration vessel. Commander Jean-Francois Galaup, Comte de la Perouse, sailed from Botany Bay, NSW, on 10 March 1788, on the Astrolabe, in company with the vessel Boussole, with the intention of heading north, but disappeared.

Lost on Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands: Their fate was finally discovered thirty-nine years later when Captain Peter Dillon, commanding the vessel St. Patrick, noted relics from the French vessels at Tucopia Island, between new Hebrides and Santa Cruz group of the Solomons. He returned in 1827 in the vessel Research and discovered that the surviving crew had landed on Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands, where they were probably massacred. One group apparently managed to built a boat from parts of the wreckage, but they were never heard of again. It appears that the vessels had been anchored near each other and had both been driven ashore in a gale. A later expedition under Dumont dUrville in a vessel named Astrolab, visited the Santa Cruz Islands in 1828 and confirmed Dillon’s report. Perouse’s two vessels were located in 1962 by a New Zealander engineer and diver Reece Discombe, resident in Vanuatu. For his achievement he was awarded the National Order of Merit by President Charles de Gaulle.

Encyclopedia of Australian Shipwrecks

1800: wreck of Argo on Bukatatanoa Reef, near Lakeba brings Asian cholera to Fiji

In 1800 Bukatatanoa Reef, near Lakeba, was where the American schooner Argo ran aground. One crew member died, but the ship carried a deadlier cargo which was to infest the Fiji group under the name “Lila Balavu” a strain of Asian cholera.
The Argo was closely followed by the La Plumier which had picked up Oliver Slater, who had discovered and was the first man to market sandalwood from Bua.

1815: Oliver Slater, a survivor of the Argo wreck, dies

Oliver Slater, a survivor of the Argo wreck….after the busy days of the sandalwood trade were over, he drifted to Levuka; and in 1815, while taking part in a native raid on Makogai, he was killed.

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.

1937: Condition of Indian indentured labour in Fiji

Project Canterbury, 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 on the condition of Indian indenture labour.

Sugar milling centre at Labasas in 1937: Next day we arrived at the big sugar milling centre at Labasa (pronounced Lambasa), eight miles from the sea up the mangrove-bordered Labasa River. The cane fields take up a large area of flat land about the river banks, with picturesque hills in the near distance surrounding it. Two large knolls stand out near by; one is the Government hill, surmounted by the official residences and offices of the District Commissioner, Doctor, Constabulary, and Wireless Officer; the other is set apart as a sanctuary for the European staff (mostly Australian) of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and duly graded so that the manager occupies the crown and the common herd the foot. The church and vicarage occupy a position half-way up–symbolic, no doubt, of their democratic character”.

Large ship deaths; epedemics, shipwrecks: Apart from the European work the main field of the Church is among the Indian labour. For some years it has been the policy to employ mainly Indians of the coolie classes for labour in the cane fields and on plantation work. The first ship-loads from India were accompanied by serious unforeseen troubles, for:

•  one ship suffered severely through an epidemic which caused many deaths; and

•  while a further party of over six hundred on the Syria was shipwrecked on the reef near Naselai with great loss of life.

Some returned to India Many had brought their wives and families.
Others remained and have either continued as free labour, settled on small allotments, share-farmed for the C.S.R., or gone into business. It is not unusual to come unexpectedly on a “Bombay Tailor” with his sign up over a small humpy under the palms in some isolated part of the islands. Children who have been reared under these new conditions, away from the narrow streets and bazaars of big crowded Eastern cities, thrive beyond measure. The children are usually very attractive, though the girls seem to lose much of their charm very early in life”.

Drive for education: “Caste of course disappears as they leave India, but a new standard is arising as the young people are educated and grow up. There is no more attractive type than the old-fashioned Indian, content to work at his agricultural labours, dressed as his fathers dressed, using the unchanging methods of ploughing and sowing that his fathers used, apparently perfectly happy in his quiet old way. On the other hand a smattering of the “three R’s” is calculated in some instances to prove too much for the growing youth, and the wooden ploughs of the fathers must be turned into the steel pens of the clerks. The difficulty lies in the fact that Fiji is essentially an agricultural colony and can hardly [73/74] absorb an overplus of clerks. A dissatisfied community straining at emancipation must find its outlet”.

Culture and language: “Again, the Indian immigrant has, of necessity, brought with him his own particular religious outlook, be it Hindu, Moslem or otherwise, which he has a perfect right to maintain until he can find a better basis for his life and conduct. He has also brought his ideas of child marriage, which have to be modified according to the humanitarian outlook of the Government authorities. Many of his superstitions, in many cases his gambling instincts, in some cases his diseases, might be added.

Fiji-Indian dialect evolves: “India is a big country of many languages, and Indians from many scattered parts of their home country have also to face a language difficulty. A composite language seems to have evolved among them”.

Small missionary engagements: “All these aspects have to be taken into consideration in building up the work of Christian missions among Indians in Fiji. The work there began many years ago with some definite organisation, after Archdeacon Floyd returned to Fiji with a grant from S.P.G. in 1903, and was followed later by two missionaries to take the work in hand. It seemed to me at first to be small in scope. This seems to have been the experience of both the Roman Catholics and the Methodists in their own particular spheres of influence among them. The future lies mainly with the young people who attend the mission schools. No matter what the conditions of an Indian parent’s life and work, he is an ideal parent, sparing nothing for his children’s advancement and tremendously keen on education.”

Management of death, and exit of soul: “On arrival I found the Mission Sisters rather perturbed, in the absence of the priest-in-charge on furlough, by an incident that had occurred. An old Indian woman had been removed from hospital much against the doctor’s wishes and taken to her home. She was a Christian, but very ill and extremely helpless, and her friends had decided to try Indian magic to effect a cure, and an Indian magician had been called over to her. As soon as possible that day we crossed the hills and discovered a series of poor looking reed houses below a ploughed field.

Secret Puja Our appearance seemed to cause great activity, suggesting that something had to be removed or hidden. They voluntarily repudiated any suggestion of puja, and I decided to give the poor old soul the last Sacraments next morning. This I did, though one could hardly miss the atmosphere of mystery about much that occurred. The old lady died and was given Christian burial on the Sunday afternoon. The body was placed in a coffin and carried on a long bamboo pole some two hilly and muddy miles to the little chapel by a straggling, rather untidy crowd of all religious beliefs, and, after a short service, another mile to the cemetery.

Çall out the evil spirit:The type of puja varies, but the popular method seemed to be to hold the two halves of a cut lemon near the neck of a rooster as the bird was decapitated. The supposed result was that the spirit of the bird [75/76] entered the lemon, which was then suspended on thongs about the neck of the patient to call out the evil spirit, the cause of the sickness. This sort of difficulty both doctors and missionaries have to face”.

1808: wreck of Eliza introduces guns to Fiji; sandalwood trader carried firearms, 40,000 Spanish dollars and Charlie Savage,

1808: It was a June night when the American Brigantine, Eliza hit Mocea reef near Nairai.

The brig Eliza, out from Callao, in South America, was wrecked on a reef off Nairai Island in Lomaiviti in 1808. She was a sandalwood trader and carried firearms as well as 40,000 Spanish dollars, no doubt for trading purposes. She had picked up a castaway sailor, Charles Savage, at Nuku’alofa, in Tonga, who claimed to be a survivor of the ill-fated Port-au-Prince, of which Mariner tells.

Savage and others were taken to the east coast of Viti Levu, where Savage considerably aided the fortunes of the chiefs of Rewa and Bau. By 1828, Bau, led by its great chief, Ratu Naulivou, the Vunivalu of Bau, had thus attained to a paramount position in eastern Viti Levu and Lomaiviti. His headquarters was the small fortified island of Bau off the Rewa coast.

Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa, a younger brother, succeeded Naulivou on his death. Tanoa’s son, Ratu Sera, realising that a revolt on the island against his father must succeed, joined the rebels, biding his time. At [24/25] the appropriate moment he rose against the usurpers, turned the tables, burned down the rebels’ houses and restored his father. Ratu Sera was renamed Ca-ko-bau, meaning “Bau is destroyed”. He wielded more power than his father, eventually to succeed him at his death, in 1852. He was invested as Vunivalu of Bau in 1853.

A threat to Cakobau’s leadership in Fiji came from the Tongan chief, Ma’afu Ma’afuotu’itoga, a prince of the Tongan royal blood, who landed in Lau in 1848, and within a few years conquered the whole Lau Group, challenging Cakobau’s supremacy.

C. W. Whonsbon-Aston, Vicar of Levuka, Fiji, 1931-34. William Floyd, born in Ballycanew, in the parish of Gorey, Wexford Co., Ireland, on July 3rd, 1838, and ordained priest in Melbourne, Australia, in 1870, arrived in Levuka, Fiji, the then prospective turbulent capital of the yet-to-be-proclaimed King Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau), on November 15th, 1870. http://anglicanhistory.org/oceania/whonsbon-aston1970.html