Raft of Gambier Islanders by Unknown

The group in the Pacific Ocean called the Gambier Islands are but thinly inhabited, but possess a good harbour. Captain Beechey, in his "Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Behring's Straits," tells us that several of the islands, especially the largest, have a fertile appearance. The Captain gives an interesting account of his interview with some of the natives, who approached the ship in rafts, carrying from sixteen to twenty men each, as represented in the Engraving.

Raft of Gambier Islanders.

"We were much pleased," says the Captain, "with the manner of lowering their matting sail, diverging on different courses, and working their paddles, in the use of which they had great power, and were well skilled, plying them together, or, to use a nautical phrase, 'keeping stroke.' They had no other weapons but long poles, and were quite naked, with the exception of a banana leaf cut into strips, and tied about their loins; and one or two persons wore white turbans." They timidly approached both the ship and the barge, but would upset any small boats within their reach; not, however, from any malicious intention, but from thoughtlessness and inquisitiveness. Captain Beechey approached them in the gig, and gave them several presents, for which they, in return, threw him some bundles of paste, tied up in large leaves, which was the common food of the natives. They tempted the Captain and his crew with cocoa-nuts and roots, and invited their approach by performing ludicrous dances; but, as soon as the visitors were within reach, all was confusion. A scuffle ensued, and on a gun being fired over their heads, all but four instantly plunged into the sea. The inhabitants of these islands are stated to be well-made, with upright and graceful figures. Tattooing seems to be very commonly practised, and some of the patterns are described as being very elegant.