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Polynesian Researches


page 55


Voyage of part of the Missionaries to Kairua—Welcome from the governor of Hawaii—A breakfast scene—. Description of an extensive cavern—Curious natural phenomenon, occasioned by the sea—Situation and appearance of Kairua—Excursion to the plantations—Christian zeal of a chief—Ruins of a heiau—Notice of Captain Cook—Account of Mouna Huararai—Volcanic phenomena.

Taumuarii, the friendly king of Tauai, having generously offered the Missionaries, chosen to make the tour of Hawaii, a passage in one of his vessels bound from Oahu to Kairua; Messrs. Thurston, Bishop, and Goodrich repaired on board in the afternoon of June 24, 1823. They were accompanied by Mr. Harwood, an ingenious mechanic, whom curiosity, and a desire to assist them, had induced to join their party. The indisposition of Mrs. Ellis prevented my proceeding in the same vessel, but I hoped to follow in a few days.

At 4 p. m. the brig was under way, standing to the s. e. Having cleared the bar, and the reefs at the entrance of the harbour, the tradewind blowing fresh from the n. e. they were soon out of sight of Honoruru. They passed the islands of Morokai, Ranai, and the principal part of Maui, during the night, and at daybreak on the 25th were off Tahaurawe, a small island on the south side of Maui. The Haaheo Hawaii, (Pride of Hawaii,) another native vessel, formerly the page 56 Cleopatra's barge, soon after hove in sight; she did not, however, come up with them, but tacked and stood for Lahaina. In the evening, the wind, usually fresh in the channel between Maui and Hawaii, blew so strong, that they were obliged to lay-to for about three hours; when it abated, and allowed them to proceed.

On the 26th, at 4 p. m. the vessel came to anchor in Kairua bay. The Missionaries soon after went on shore, grateful for the speedy and comfortable passage with which they had been favoured, having been only forty-nine hours from Oahu, which is about 150 miles to the leeward of Kairua. They were heartily welcomed by the governor, Kuakini, usually called by the foreigners John Adams, from his having adopted the name of a former president of the United States of America. They took tea with him; and after expressing their gratitude to God, in the native language, with the governor and his family, retired to rest, in an apartment kindly furnished for them in his own house.

The next morning their baggage was removed from the vessel, and deposited in a small comfortable house, formerly belonging to Tamehameha, but which the governor directed them to occupy so long as they should remain at Kairua. He also politely invited them to his table, during their stay; in consequence of which, without forgetting their character, they sat down to their morning repast. Their breakfast-room presented a singular scene. They were seated around a small table with the governor and one or two of his friends, who, in addition to the coffee, fish, vegetables, &c. with which it was furnished, had a large wooden bowl of poë, a sort of thin paste page 57 made of baked taro, beat up and diluted with water, placed by the side of their plates, from which they frequently took very hearty draughts. Two favourite lap-dogs sat on the same sofa with the governor, one on his right hand and the other on his left, and occasionally received a bit from his hand, or the fragments of the plate from which he had eaten. A number of his punahele, favourite chiefs, and some occasional visitors, sat in circles on the floor, around large dishes of raw fish, baked hog, or dog, or goat, from which each helped himself without ceremony, while a huge calabash of poë passed rapidly round among them. They became exceedingly loquacious and cheerful during their meal; and several, who had been silent before, now laughed aloud, and joined with spirit in the mirth of their companions. Neat wooden dishes of water were handed to the governor and his friends, both before and after eating, in which they washed their hands. Uncivilized nations are seldom distinguished by habits of cleanliness; but this practice, we believe, is an ancient custom, generally observed by the chiefs, and all the higher orders of the people, throughout the islands.

Kairua, though healthy and populous, is destitute of fresh water, except what is found in pools, or small streams, in the mountains, four or five miles from the shore. An article so essential to the maintenance of a Missionary station, it was desirable to procure, if possible, nearer at hand. page 58 As soon, therefore, as breakfast was ended, the party walked through the district in a south-east direction, to examine the ground, with a view to discover the most eligible place for digging a well.

∗The late king Tamehameha used frequently to beg a cask of water from the captains of vessels touching a Kairua; and it is one of the most acceptable presents a captain going to this station could make, either to the chiefs or Missionaries.

The whole face of the country marked decisively its volcanic origin; and in the course of their excursion they entered several hollows in the lava, formed by its having cooled and hardened on the surface, while, in a liquid state underneath, it had continued to flow towards the sea, leaving a crust in the shape of a tunnel, or arched vault, of varied thickness and extent. Before they returned, they also explored a celebrated cavern in the vicinity, called Raniakea. After entering it by a small aperture, they passed on in a direction nearly parallel with the surface—sometimes along a spacious arched way, not less than twenty-five feet high and twenty wide; at other times, by a passage so narrow, that they could with difficulty press through, till they had proceeded about 1200 feet. Here their progress was arrested by a pool of water, wide, deep, and as salt as that found in the hollows of the lava within a few yards of the sea: this latter circumstance in a great degree damped their hopes of finding fresh water by digging through the lava. More than thirty natives, most of them carrying torches, accompanied them in their descent; and on arriving at the water, simultaneously plunged in, extending their torches with one hand, and swimming about with the other. The partially illuminated heads of the natives, splashing about in this subterranean lake; the reflection of the torch-light on its agitated surface; the frowning sides and lofty arch of the black vault, hung with lava, that had cooled in every imaginable shape; the deep gloom of the page 59 cavern beyond the water; the hollow sound of their footsteps; and the varied reverberations of their voices, produced a singular effect; and it would have required but little aid from fancy to have imagined a resemblance between this scene and the fabled Stygian lake of the poets. The mouth of the cave is about half a mile from the sea, and the perpendicular depth to the water probably not less than fifty or sixty feet. The pool is occasionally visited by the natives for the purpose of bathing, as its water is cool and refreshing. From its ebbing and flowing with the tide, it has probably a direct communication with the sea.

In the afternoon, Messrs. Thurston and Bishop explored the northern boundary of the bay, on the eastern side of which Kairua is situated. It runs three or four miles into the sea, is composed entirely of lava, and was formed by an eruption from one of the large craters on the top of Mouna Huararai, (Mount Huararai,) which, about twenty-three years ago, inundated several villages, destroyed a number of plantations and extensive fish-ponds, filled up a deep bay twenty miles in length, and formed the present coast.

An Englishman, who has resided thirty-eight years in the islands, and who witnessed the above eruption, has frequently told us he was astonished at the irresistible impetuosity of the torrent. Stone walls, trees, and houses, all gave way before it; even large masses or rocks of hard ancient lava, when surrounded by the fiery stream, soon split into small fragments, and, falling into the burning mass, appeared to melt again, as borne by it down the mountain's side.

Offerings were presented, and many hogs page 60 thrown alive into the stream, to appease the anger of the gods, by whom they supposed it was directed, and to stay its devastating course. All seemed unavailing, until one day the king, Tamehameha, went, attended by a large retinue of chiefs and priests, and, as the most valuable offering he could make, cut off part of his own hair, which was always considered sacred, and threw it into the torrent. A day or two after, the lava ceased to flow. The gods, it was thought, were satisfied; and the king increased his influence over the minds of the people, who, from this circumstance, attributed their escape from threatened destruction to his supposed interest with the deities of the volcanoes.

In several places they observed that the sea rushes with violence twenty or thirty yards along the cavities beneath the lava, and then, forcing its waters through the apertures in the surface, forms a number of beautiful jets d'eau, which falling again on the rocks, roll rapidly back to the ocean.

They enjoyed a fine view of the town and adjacent country. The houses, which are neat, are generally erected on the sea-shore, shaded with cocoa-nut and kou-trees, which greatly enliven the scene. The environs were cultivated to a considerable extent; small gardens were seen among the barren rocks on which the houses are built, wherever soil could be found sufficient to nourish the sweet potato, the water-melon, or even a few plants of tobacco, and in may places these seemed to be growing literally in the fragments of lava collected in small heaps around their roots.

The next morning, Messrs. Thurston, Goodrich, page 61 and Harwood visited the high and cultivated parts of the district. After travelling over the lava for about a mile, the hollows in the rocks began to be filled with a light brown soil; and, about half a mile further, the surface was entirely covered with a rich mould, formed by decayed vegetable matter and decomposed lava. Here they enjoyed the agreeable shade of bread-fruit and ohia trees: the latter is a deciduous plant, a variety of eugenia, resembling the eugenia ma laccensis, bearing a beautifully red pulpy fruit, of the size and consistence of an apple, juicy but rather insipid. The trees are elegant in form, and grow to the height of twenty or thirty feet; the leaf is oblong and pointed, and the flowers are attached to the branches by a short stem. The fruit, which is abundant, is generally ripe, either on different places in the same island, or on different islands, during all the summer months. The path now lay through a beautiful part of the country, quite a garden, compared with that through which they had passed on first leaving the shore. It was generally divided into small fields, about fifteen rods square, fenced with low stone walls, built with fragments of lava gathered from the surface of the enclosures. These fields were planted with bananas, sweet potatoes, mountain taro, paper mulberry plants, melons, and sugar-cane, which flourished luxuriantly in every direction. Having travelled about three or four miles through this delightful region, and passed several valuable pools of fresh water, they arrived at the thick woods, which extend several miles up the sides of the lofty mountain that rises immediately behind Kairua. Among the various plants and trees that now presented themselves, they page 62 were much pleased with a species of tree ferns, whose stipes were about five feet long, and the stem about fourteen feet high, and one foot in diameter. A smart shower of rain (a frequent occurrence in the mountains, arrested their further progress, and obliged them to return to their lodgings, where they arrived about five in the afternoon, gratified, though fatigued, by their excursion.

Mr. Bishop called on Thomas Hopu, the native teacher, who has for some time resided at Kairua, and was pleased to find him patient under the inconveniences to which his situation necessarily subjects him, and anxious to promote the best interests of his countrymen.

29th. The Sabbath morning dawned upon the Missionaries at Kairua under circumstances unusually animating, and they prepared to spend this holy day in extending, as widely as possible, their labours among the people around them. Mr. Thurston preached in the native language twice at the governor's house, to attentive audiences. Mr. Bishop and Thomas Hopu proceeded early in the morning to Kaavaroa, a village about fourteen miles distant, on the north side of Kearake'kua, (Karakakooa,) where they arrived at 11 a. m. Kamakau, chief of the place, received them with expressions of gladness, led them to his house, and provided refreshments; after which, they walked together to a ranai, (house of cocoa-nut leaves,) which he had some time before erected for the public worship of Jehovah. Here they found about a hundred of his people waiting their arrival. Mr. Bishop, with the aid of Thomas, preached to them from John iii. 16. and endeavoured in the most familiar page 63 manner to set before them the great love of God in sending his Son to die for sinners, and the necessity of forsaking sin, and believing on him, in order to eternal life. Towards the latter part of the discourse, the preacher was interrupted by Kamakau, who, anxious that his people might receive the greatest possible benefit by the word spoken, began earnestly to exhort them to listen and regard, telling them, their salvation depended on their attention to what they heard. After the service was concluded, he again addressed them, affectionately recommending them to consider these things.

Kamakau wished them to meet with the people again; but as the day was far spent, they thought it best to return. He then told them, that, after their departure, he should assemble his people, and repeat to them what the Missionary had said. He asked many questions on religious subjects, several respecting the heavenly state; and appeared interested in the answers that were given, especially when informed that heaven was a holy place, into which nothing sinful could enter.

As they went from his house to the beach, they passed by a large idol, that Kamakau had formerly worshipped, lying prostrate and mutilated on the rocks, and washed by the waves of the sea as they rolled on the shore. It was a huge log of wood, rudely carved, presenting a hideous form, well adapted to infuse terror into an ignorant and superstitious mind. On his being asked why he had worshipped that log of wood? he answered—because he was afraid he would injure his cocoanuts. But were you not afraid to destroy it? “No; I found he did me neither good nor harm. I thought he was no god, and threw him away.” page 64 Bidding him farewell, they stepped into their canoe, and returned to Kairua, where they arrived in the evening, encouraged by the incidents of the day.

Kamakau is a chief of considerable rank and influence in Hawaii, though not immediately connected with any of the reigning family. He is cousin to Naihe, the friend and companion of Tamehameha, and the principal national orator of the Sandwich Islands. His person, like that of the chiefs in general, is noble and engaging. He is about six feet high, stout, well-proportioned, and more intelligent and enterprising than the people around him. For some time past he has established family worship in his house, and the observance of the Sabbath throughout his district; having erected a place for the public worship of the true God, in which, every Lord's day, he assembles his people for the purpose of exhortation and prayer, which he conducts himself. He is able to read, writes an easy and legible hand, has a general knowledge of the first principles of Christianity, and, what is infinitely better, appears to feel their power on his heart, and to evince their influence by the purity and uprightness of his general conduct. His attainments are surprising, manifesting a degree of industry and perseverance rarely displayed under similar circumstances. His sources of information have been very limited. An occasional residence of a few weeks at Honoruru, one or two visits of the Missionaries and of some of the native teachers to his house, and letters from Naihe, are the chief advantages he has enjoyed. He appears, indeed, a modern Cornelius, and is a striking manifestation of the sovereignty of that grace, of which we trust he has been made page 65 a partaker; and we rejoice in the pleasing hope that He who has “begun a good work, will perform it until the day of Christ.”

In the forenoon of the first of July, two posts of observation were fixed, and a base line of 200 feet was measured, in order to ascertain the height of Mouna Huararai; but the summit being covered with clouds, the Missionaries were obliged to defer their observation. In the afternoon, after an accurate investigation of the places adjacent, in which they thought fresh water might be found by digging, they chose a valley, about half a mile from the residence of the governor, and near the entrance of Raniakea, as the spot where they were most likely to meet with success.

The 4th of July being the anniversary of the American independence, guns were fired at the fort, the colours hoisted, and a hospitable entertainment was given at the governor's table. The Missionaries employed the greater part of the day at the well, which early in the morning they had commenced.

In the evening, while at tea, considerable attention was attracted by a slender man, with a downcast look, in conversation with the governor. It afterwards appeared, that this was a stranger, from Maui, who wished to be thought a prophet, affirming that he was inspired by a shark, that enabled him to tell future events. The governor said, many of the people believed in him, and from them he obtained a living.

The next day being the Sabbath, Mr. Bishop preached twice at the governor's house, Thomas Hopu acting as interpreter. The congregation consisted principally of Kuakini's attendants and domestics, the greater part of the population conceiving page 66 themselves under no obligation to hear preaching, as they do not know how to read; pretending, that ignorance exempts them from all obligation to attend religious exercises.

Leaving Kairua early, in a canoe with four men, provided by the governor, Messrs. Thurston and Goodrich reached Kaavaroa about nine o'clock in the morning. Kamakau was waiting for them, and seemed to rejoice at their arrival. After taking some refreshment, they repaired in company to the ranai, for public worship. On reaching it, they found about one hundred of the people already there. Before the service commenced, the chief arose, directed them to remain quiet, and pay the greatest attention to the word of life, which they were about to hear.

Shortly after the conclusion of the service, the Missionaries passed over Kearake'kua bay in a canoe, landed on the opposite side, and walked along the shore about a mile, to Karama. Here, in a large house, they collected about three hundred people; to whom Mr. Thurston preached, and was pleased with the interest they manifested. Some, who stood near the speaker, repeated the whole discourse, sentence by sentence, in a voice too low to create disturbance, yet loud enough to be distinctly heard. There were seven or eight American and English seamen present, who requested that they might be addressed in their own language. Mr. Goodrich accordingly preached to them from Rev. iii. 20.

Returning from Karama to the southern side of Kearake'kua bay, where they had left their canoe, they passed the ruins of an old heiau, the morai mentioned in Captain Cook's voyage, where the observatory was erected. The remaining walls page 67 were one hundred feet long and fifteen high, and the space within was strewed with animal and human bones, the relics of the sacrifices once offered there—a scene truly affecting to a Christian mind.

Leaving this melancholy spot, they returned in their canoe to Kaavaroa: and when the people had assembled in the ranai, Mr. Thurston preached to them from Psalm cxviii. 24. This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.

About sun-set Mr. Goodrich ascended a neighbouring height, and visited the spot where the body of the unfortunate Captain Cook was cut to pieces, and the flesh, after being separated from the bones, was burnt. It is a small enclosure, about fifteen feet square, surrounded by a wall five feet high; within is a kind of hearth, raised about eighteen inches from the ground, and encircled by a curb of rude stones. Here the fire was kindled on the above occasion; and the place is still strewed with charcoal. The natives mention the interment of another foreigner on this spot, but could not tell to what country he belonged, or the name of the vessel in which he was brought.

Kamakau and his people had interested the visitors so much, that they determined to spend the night at his house. After supper, the members of the family, with the domestics and one or two strangers, met for evening worship: a hymn was sung in the native language, and Kamakau himself engaged in prayer with great fervour and propriety. He prayed particularly for the king, chiefs, and people of Hawaii, and the neighbouring islands; and for the Missionaries, who had brought the good word of salvation to them. The brethren were surprised to hear him use so much page 68 evangelical language in prayer. During the conversation of the evening, he expressed a desire, which has since been gratified, that a Missionary might reside in his neighbourhood, that he and his people might be instructed in the word of God; might learn to read and write, and become acquainted with what the Missionaries were teaching at the stations where they dwelt. He is about fifty years of age, and regretted exceedingly, as many others have also done, that he was so far advanced in life before the Missionaries arrived at the islands. The Sabbath passed away pleasantly, and, it is hoped, profitably, both to the interesting inhabitants of the place, and their guests; and the latter retired to rest, animated and encouraged by what they had that day witnessed. Early next morning they set out for Kairua, where they arrived about nine o'clock in the forenoon.

Hard and closely embedded lava rendered the sinking of the well difficult; and, unable to proceed for want of proper instruments with which to drill the rocks, the greater part of this day was spent in ascertaining the population of Kairua. Numbering the houses for one mile along the coast, they found them to be 529; and allowing an average of five persons to each house, the inhabitants in Kairua will amount to 2645 persons. This certainly does not exceed the actual population, as few of the houses are small, and many of them large, containing two or three families each.

The varied and strongly marked volcanic surface of the higher parts of the mountain called Mouna Huararai, in the immediate neighbourhood of Kairua; the traditional accounts given by the natives, of the eruptions, which, from craters on its summit, had in different ages deluged the page 69 low land along the coast; the thick woods that skirt its base, and the numerous feathered tribes inhabiting them—rendered it an interesting object, and induced the travellers to commence its ascent. About eight o'clock in the morning of the ninth, they left Kairua, accompanied by three men, whom they had engaged to conduct them to the summit. Having travelled about twelve miles in a northerly direction, they arrived at the last house on the western side of the mountain. Here their guides wished to remain for the night; and, on being urged to proceed, as it was not more than three o'clock in the afternoon, declared they did not know the way, and had never been beyond the spot where they then were. Notwithstanding this disappointment, it was determined to proceed. Leaving the path, the party began to ascend in a south-east direction, and travelled about six miles over a rough and difficult road, sometimes across streams of hard lava, full of fissures and chasms, at other times through thick and closely interwoven brushwood and fern.

Arriving at a convenient place, and finding themselves fatigued, drenched also with the showers, and the wet grass through which they had walked, they proposed to pitch their tent for the night. A temporary hut was erected with branches of the neighbouring trees, and covered with the leaves of the tall ferns that grew around them. At one end of it they lighted a large fire, and, after the rains had abated, dried their clothes, partook of the refreshments they had brought with them, and, having commended themselves to the kind protection of their heavenly Guardian, spread fern leaves and grass upon the lava, and lay down to repose. The thermometer, page 70 which is usually about 84° on the shore, stood at 60° in the hut where they slept.

The singing of the birds in the surrounding woods ushering in the early dawn, and the cool temperature of the pure mountain air, excited a variety of pleasing sensations in the minds of all the party, when they awoke in the morning, after a comfortable night's rest. The thermometer, when placed outside of the hut, stood at 46°. Having united in their morning sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, and taken a light breakfast, they resumed their laborious journey. The road, lying through thick underwood and fern, was wet and fatiguing for about two miles, when they arrived at an ancient stream of lava, about twenty rods wide, running in a direction nearly west. Ascending the hardened surface of this stream of lava, over deep chasms, or large volcanic stones embedded in it, for a distance of three or four miles, they reached the top of one of the ridges on the western side of the mountain.

As they travelled along, they met with tufts of strawberries, and clusters of raspberry bushes, loaded with fruit, which, as they were both hungry and thirsty, were acceptable. The strawberries had rather an insipid taste; the raspberries were white and large, frequently an inch in diameter, but not so sweet or well-flavoured as those cultivated in Europe and America.

Between nine and ten in the forenoon they arrived at a large extinguished crater, about a mile in circumference, and apparently four hundred feet deep, probably the same that was visited by some of Vancouver's people, in 1792. The sides sloped regularly, and at the bottom was a small mound, with an aperture in its centre. By the page 71 side of this large crater, divided from it by a narrow ridge of volcanic rocks, was another, fifty-six feet in circumference, from which volumes of sulphureous smoke and vapour continually ascended. No bottom could be seen; and on throwing stones into it, they were heard to strike against its sides for eight seconds, but not to reach the bottom. There were two other apertures near this, nine feet in diameter, and apparently about two hundred feet deep. As the party walked along the giddy verge of the large crater, they could distinguish the course of two principal streams, that had issued from it in the great eruption, about the year 1800. One had taken a direction nearly north-east; the other had flowed to the north-west, in a broad irresistible torrent, for a distance of twelve or fifteen miles, to the sea, where, driving back the waters, it had extended the boundaries of the island. They attempted to descend this crater, but the steepness of its sides prevented their examining it so fully as they desired.

After spending some time there, they walked along the ridge between three and four miles, and examined sixteen different craters, similar in construction to the first they had met with, though generally of smaller dimensions. The whole ridge, along which they walked, appeared little else than a continued line of craters, which, in different ages, had deluged the valleys below with floods of lava, or showers of cinders. Some of these craters appeared to have reposed for ages, as trees of considerable size were growing on their sides, and many of them were embedded in earth, and clothed with verdure. In the vicinity of the craters they found a number of small bushes, bearing red berries in crowded clusters, which, in size and page 72 shape, much resembled whortleberries; though insipid, they were juicy, and supplied the place of fresh water, a comfort they had been destitute of since the preceding evening.

They continued ascending till three p. m. when, having suffered much from thirst, and finding they should not be able to reach the highest peak before dark, the sky also being overcast, and the rain beginning to fall, they judged it best to return to Kairua, without having reached the summit of Mouna Huararai; particularly as they were somewhat scattered, and found a difficulty in pursuing the most direct way, on account of the thick fog which surrounded the mountain.

On their return, they found the aid of their pocket compass necessary to enable them to regain the path by which they had ascended in the morning. After travelling some time, they beheld with gladness the sun breaking through the fog in which they had been so long enveloped, and, looking over the clouds that rolled at their feet, saw it gradually sink behind the western wave of the extended ocean. The appearance of the sky at the setting of the sun, in a tropical climate, is usually beautiful and splendid—it was so this evening—and from their great elevation, the party viewed with delight the magnificent yet transient glories of the closing day. They travelled about three miles further, when, being wet with the fog, and weary with travelling, they erected a hut on the lava, and encamped for the night. They succeeded in making a good fire, dried their clothes, and then partook of their refreshment. It consisted of a small quantity of hard taro paste, called by the natives ai paa. A little water would have been agreeable, but of this they were destitute. page 73 Having gathered some fern leaves, they strewed them on the lava, and laid down to repose.

On the morning of the 11th, the party still felt unwilling to return without reaching the top of the mountain, and hesitated before they began again to descend; but having been a day and two nights without water, and seeing no prospect of procuring any in that elevated region, they directed their steps to Kairua.

Two of the party, in searching for a more direct road to Kairua, discovered an excellent spring of water. They soon communicated the agreeable intelligence to their companions, who hastened to the spot, quenched their thirst with copious draughts, filled their canteens, and kept on their way to the town.

Owing to the roughness of the paths, and the circuitous route by which they travelled, they did not arrive at Kairua until after sunset, much fatigued, and almost barefoot, their shoes having been destroyed by the sharp projections in the lava.

After uniting with the governor and his family in praise to God, they repaired to their lodgings, somewhat disappointed, yet well repaid for the toil of their journey.