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Such was the first official account received of this little colony
As some further particulars of a society so singular, in all respects, were highly desirable, Captain Pipon, on being applied to, had the kindness to draw up the following narrative, which has all the freshness and attraction of a first communication with a new people.
Captain Pipon takes a more extended view, in his private letter,* of the condition of this little society. He observes, that when they first saw the island, the latitude made by the Tagus was 24° 40' S. and longitude 130° 24' W., the ships being then distant from it five or six leagues; and as in none of the charts in their possession was any land laid down in or near this meridian, they were extremely puzzled to make out what island it could possibly be ; for Pitcairn's Island, being the only one known in the neighbourhood, was represented to be in longitude 133° 24' W.t' If this new discovery, as they supposed it to be, awakened their curiosity, it was still more excited when they ran in for the land the next morning, on perceiving a few huts, neatly built, amid plantations "laid out apparently with something like order and regularity; and these appearances confirmed them more than ever that it could not be Pitcairn's Island, because that was described by navigators to be uninhabited. Presently they observed a few natives coming down a steep descent, with their canoes on their shoulders; and in a few minutes perceived one of those little vessels darting through a heavy surf, and paddling off towards the ships ; but their astonishment was extreme when, on coming alongside, they were hailed in the English language with “ Won't you heave us a rope now ?"
* With which the editor, at his request, was favoured at the time.
† The only authority that then existed for laying down this island was that of Captain Carteret, who first saw it in 1707. “It is so high," he says, “ that we saw it at the distance of more than fifteen leagues, and it having been discovered by a young gentieman, son to Major Pitcairn of the marines, who was unfortunately lost in the Aurora, we called it Pitcairn's Island." He makes it in lat. 25° 2' S. and long. 1330 30' W., no less than three degrees out of its true longitude! Three minutes would now be thought a considerable error: such are the superior advantages conferred by lunar observations and improvements in chronometers.
Pitcairn's Island has been supposed to be the “Encarnacion" of Quiros, by whom it is stated to be in lat. 24° 30', and one thousand leagues from the coast of Peru; but as he describes it as “a low, sandy island, almost level with the sea, having a few trees on it,” we must look for “ Encarnacion" somewhere else; and Ducies Island, nearly in that lati. tude, very low, and within 60 of longitude from Pitcairn's Island, anowers precisely to it.
The first young man that sprung, with extraordinary alacrity, up the side, and stood before them on the deck, said, in reply to the question, “ Who are you?"—that his name was Thursday October Christian, son of the late Fletcher Christian, by an Otaheitan mother ; that he was the first born on the island, and that he was so called because he was brought into the world on a Thursday in October. Singularly strange as all this was to Sir Thomas Staines and Captain Pipon, this youth soon satisfied them that he was no other than the person he represented himself to be, and that he was fully acquainted with the whole history of the Bounty; and, in short, that the island before them was the retreat of the mutineers of that ship. Young Chris. tian was at this time about twenty-four years of age, a fine tall youth, full six feet high, with dark, almost black, hair, and a countenance open and extremely interesting. As he wore no clothes except a piece of cloth round his loins, and a straw hat, ornamented with black cock's feathers, his fine figure and well-shaped muscular limbs were displayed to great advantage, and attracted general admiration. His body was much tanned by exposure to the weather, and his countenance had a brownish cast, unmixed, however, with that tinge of red so common among the natives of the Pacific islands.
“ Added to a great share of good-humour, we were glad to trace," says Captain Pipon, “ in his
benevolent countenance, all the features of an honest English face.” He told them he was married to a woman much older than himself, one of those that accompanied his father from Otaheite. The ingenuous manner in which he answered all questions put to him, and his whole deportment, created a lively interest among the officers of the ship, who, while they admired, could not but regard him with feelings of tenderness and compassion; his manner, too, of speaking English was exceedingly pleasing, and correct both in grammar and pronunciation. His companion was a fine handsome youth of seventeen or eighteen years of age, of the name of George Young, son of Young the midshipman.
If the astonishment of the two captains was great on making, as they thought, this first and extraordinary discovery of a people who had been so long forgotten, and in hearing the offspring of these of fenders speaking their language correctly, their surprise and interest were still more highly excited when, on Sir Thomas Staines taking the two youths below, and setting before them something to eat, they both rose up, and one of them, placing his hands together in a posture of devotion, pronounced, distinctly and with emphasis, in a pleasing tone of voice, the words, “For what we are going to receive the Lord make us truly thankful.”
The youths were themselves greatly surprised at the sight of so many novel objects—the size of the ship of the guns, and every thing around them. Observing a cow, they were at first somewhat alarmed, and expressed a doubt whether it was a huge goat or a horned hog, these being the only two species of quadrupeds they had ever seen. A little dog amused them much. “ Oh! what a pretty little thing it is !” exclaimed Young, “I know it is a dog, for I have heard of such an animal.”
These young men informed the two captains of many singular events that had taken place among
the first settlers, but referred them for further par ticulars to an old man on shore, whose name, they said, was John Adams, the only surviving Englishman that came away in the Bounty, at which time he was called Alexander Smith,
This information induced the two captains to go on shore, desirous of learning correctly from this old man the fate, not only of Christian, but of the rest of his deluded accomplices, who had adhered to his fortunes. The landing they found to be difficult, and not wholly free from danger; but, with the assistance of their two able conductors, they passed the surf among many rocks, and reached the shore without any other inconvenience than'a complete wetting. Old Adams, having ascertained that the two officers alone had landed, and without arms, concluded they had no intention to take him prisoner, and ventured to come down to the beach, from whence he conducted them to his house. He was accompanied by his wife, a very old woman, and nearly blind. It seems they were both at first considerably alarmed; the sight of the king's uniform, after so many years, having no doubt brought fresh to the recollection of Adams the scene that occurred in the Bounty, in which he bore so conspicuous a part. Sir Thomas Staines, however, to set his mind at ease, assured him, that so far from having come to the island with any intention to take him away, they were not even aware that such a person as himself existed. Captain Pipon observes, “ that although in the eye of the law they could only consider him in the light of a criminal of the deepest die, yet that it would have been an act of the greatest cruelty and inhumanity to have taken him away from his little family, who in such a case would have been left to experience the greatest misery and distress, and ultimately, in all probability, would have perished of want.
Adams, however, pretended that he had no great
share in the mutiny: said that he was sick in bed when it broke out, and was afterward compelled to take a musket in his hand; and expressed his readiness to go in one of the ships to England, and seemed rather desirous to do so. On this being made known to the members of the little society, a scene of considerable distress was witnessed; his daughter, a fine young woman, threw her arms about his neck, entreating him not to think of leaving them and all his little children to perish. All the women burst into tears, and the young men stood motionless and absorbed in grief; but on their being assured that he should, on no account, be molested, “ It is impossible,” says Captain Pipon, “to describe the universal joy that these poor people manifested, and the gratitude they expressed for the kindness and consideration shown them.”
They now learned from Adams, that Fletcher Christian, on finding no good anchorage close to the island, and the Bounty being too weakly manned again to intrust themselves in her at sea, determined to run her into a small creek against the cliff, in order the more conveniently to get out of her such articles as might be of use or necessary for forming an establishment on the island, and to land the hogs, goats, and poultry which they had brought from Otaheite; and having accomplished this point, he ordered her to be set on fire, with the view, probably, of preventing any escape from the island, and also to remove an object that, if seen, might excite the curiosity of some passing vessel, and thus be the means of discovering his retreat. His plan succeeded, and, by Adams's account, every thing went
moothly for a short time; but it was clear enough that this misguided and ill-fated young man was never happy after the rash and criminal step he had taken; that he was always sullen and morose, and committed so many acts of wanton oppression as very soon incurred the hatred and detestation of