The Voyage of the Beagle HTML version

Tahiti And New Zealand
Pass through the Low Archipelago -- Tahiti -- Aspect -- Vegetation on the Mountains --
View of Eimeo -- Excursion into the Interior -- Profound Ravines -- Succession of
Waterfalls -- Number of wild useful Plants -- Temperance of the Inhabitants -- Their
moral state -- Parliament convened -- New Zealand -- Bay of Islands -- Hippahs --
Excursion to Waimate -- Missionary Establishment -- English Weeds now run wild --
Waiomio -- Funeral of a New Zealand Woman -- Sail for Australia.
OCTOBER 20th. -- The survey of the Galapagos Archipelago being concluded, we
steered towards Tahiti and commenced our long passage of 3200 miles. In the course of a
few days we sailed out of the gloomy and clouded ocean-district which extends during
the winter far from the coast of South America. We then enjoyed bright and clear
weather, while running pleasantly along at the rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before the
steady trade-wind. The temperature in this more central part of the Pacific is higher than
near the American shore. The thermometer in the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged
between 80 and 83 degs., which feels very pleasant; but with one degree or two higher,
the heat becomes oppressive. We passed through the Low or Dangerous Archipelago, and
saw several of those most curious rings of coral land, just rising above the water's edge,
which have been called Lagoon Islands. A long and brilliantly white beach is capped by a
margin of green vegetation; and the strip, looking either way, rapidly narrows away in the
distance, and sinks beneath the horizon From the mast-head a wide expanse of smooth
water can be seen within the ring. These low hollow coral islands bear no proportion to
the vast ocean out of which they abruptly rise; and it seems wonderful, that such weak
invaders are not overwhelmed, by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that great
sea, miscalled the Pacific.
November 15th. -- At daylight, Tahiti, an island which must for ever remain classical to
the voyager in the South Sea, was in view. At a distance the appearance was not
attractive. The luxuriant vegetation of the lower part could not yet be seen, and as the
clouds rolled past, the wildest and most precipitous peaks showed themselves towards the
centre of the island. As soon as we anchored in Matavai Bay, we were surrounded by
canoes. This was our Sunday, but the Monday of Tahiti: if the case had been reversed, we
should not have received a single visit; for the injunction not to launch a canoe on the
sabbath is rigidly obeyed. After dinner we landed to enjoy all the delights produced by
the first impressions of a new country, and that country the charming Tahiti. A crowd of
men, women, and children, was collected on the memorable Point Venus, ready to
receive us with laughing, merry faces. They marshalled us towards the house of Mr.
Wilson, the missionary of the district, who met us on the road, and gave us a very
friendly reception. After sitting a very short time in his house, we separated to walk
about, but returned there in the evening.
The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part more than a fringe of low alluvial
soil, accumulated round the base of the mountains, and protected from the waves of the
sea by a coral reef, which encircles the entire line of coast. Within the reef there is an