The language was difficult for our interpreter to understand, but it seemed that there was a problem with theĀ  saplings taken by Van Der Hewe, which were the source for the mokeyfruit plants in the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew and the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. The monkeyfruit trees were apparently sacred to the people of the isle, and in the act of taking his samples Van Der Hewe had attacked them and killed over a dozen for a population of two hundred fifty or less.

As a result, the islanders’ culture had become radically xenophobic in the ensuing fifty-odd years. The entrance to their lagoon was rocky and narrow, with only the Sturgeon‘s longboat small enough to make the trip; that, combined with the high cliffs around the island’s perimeter, served to create a natural fortress. The islanders were willing to parley from shouting distance, and we could observe their comings and goings on the lagoon by spyglass, but any closer risked a hail of arrows and rock.

We endeavoured to earn their trust by leaving small gifts that the ship maintained for trade with savages. Colored cloth, glass beads, and other trinkets were put ashore on a sandbar, and we observed from afar as they were examined. Blue items appeared to deeply excite them, while red was spurned. The second lieutenant tried putting ashore a salted pork carcass obtained from the Sandwich Islands, but the islanders reacted to this with horror and could later be observed burying the meat with pomp and ritual some distance inland.

Had I known of the coming vulcanism, I would have had the men’s very uniforms cut up to furnish blue for the islanders. But sadly, I instead ordered the ship to make sail, to return to a friendly port to collect more goods for trade.