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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

William Robert Broughton

William Robert Broughton

1795 to 1798

The British sloop Providence, after her return from the West Indies where she had delivered the breadfruit plants collected on Bligh's second voyage, was refitted and placed under the command of William R. Broughton for survey work in the north Pacific. The Providence sailed from Plymouth Sound on February 15 with a convoy. She reached Trinidad on April 22 and Rio de Janeiro on May 5. From Rio de Janeiro she sailed for Goughs Island in latitude 40° 19′ S. and longitude 9° 21′ W. and, passing along the south of Australia, reached Van Diemens Land on August 2. She sailed up the east coast of Australia, called at Port Jackson, and set her course for the north of New Zealand intending to call at Tahiti en route. On the way north, she passed "Ohetorea" (Rurutu) in the Australs on November 25. She anchored in Matavai Bay on November 29 and sailed from Tahiti on December 11, after friendly intercourse with the people. An island was sighted on December 16 on latitude 9° 57′ S. which Broughton named Carolina Island, after the daughter of one of the Lords of the Admiralty. The ship arrived off the Sandwich Islands on January 1, 1796, and anchored in Kealakekua Bay on January 8. After a fortnight, she went on to Maui and anchored off Lahaina. She then sailed by Molokai for Oahu and anchored in Waikiki Bay. King Kamehameha visited the ship clad in European garments but with a beautiful yellow feather cloak almost entirely enveloping him. (This was probably the yellow cloak of mamo feathers now in Bishop Museum.) Kamehameha presented Broughton with one of his "dresses" (feather cloaks). The Providence later entered the harbor of Fair Haven (Honolulu) which had been discovered by William Brown, commanded of the British merchant ship Butterworth, in 1794. After a visit to Kauai and Niihau, the ship sailed for Nootka Sound on February 22.

From the northwest coast of America, the Providence returned in July to Hawaii and anchored at Kealakekua Bay, where the watches were checked and the ship watered. The Hawaiians carried water in calabashes from hills four page 46or five miles distant, and they were paid 100 nails per hogshead, a price which Broughton found too expensive. Broughton visited Oahu and Kauai on friendly terms, but at Niihau, a watering party was attacked, apparently without provocation, and two marines were killed. Broughton, in reprisal, set fire to the native houses and destroyed sixteen canoes on the beach. He sailed west by south on July 31 to look for Bird Island, which he sighted the next day.

The rest of Broughton's voyage is of no interest insofar as Polynesia is concerned. However, he surveyed islands north and south of Japan; made friendly intercourse with the Ainu people (whose women had their upper lips tattooed); and providentially, bought a schooner in Macao to serve as a tender. The Providence was wrecked on a coral reef near "Typinsan" Island on May 17, 1797, but the crew was safely transferred to the schooner which stood by. The schooner sailed to Macao, where seventy-three men were allocated to various ships to return to England. Thirty-five officers and men were retained to man the schooner, which continued to survey islands off the China coast and finally sailed to England via the Strait of Malacca, Madras, and the Cape of Good Hope. Broughton arrived in February 1799.