A visit to Fiji in 1832

nautical_diary 300x200On the 15th May 1831 the barque Peru from Salem, Massachussetts arrived in the Fiji Islands to look for beche-de-mer, turtle shell, and other trade goods. The Captain, John H. Eagleston, wrote a log which is now in the Essex Institute Library in Salem.

Much of the log contains details of little interest to a historian. The entries for most days begin with a description of the weather and the strength and direction of the breeze. The process and results of the collection, preparation and loading of cargo are also described in detail.

Occasionally, though, Captain Eagleston described local events. Here’s one:

November 1832, Friday 2nd Lowered boat & went on shore, found people all well but nothing to do, no fish coming in. The officer informed me that when the natives returned from the fight they brought up one man & one old woman which they had taken & killed. The next day after they returned the woman was cut up & cooked alongside of the trade house. The man was cooked at the kings house. They kept them 3 days probably to make them tender for eating they cut them up with bamboo sticks. I saw some of their bones scattered round the Beche de mer house.

The log has been microfilmed as part of the collection of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies of the Australian National University in Canberra. The microfilms are available at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, which is where I have been investigating them.

I have been slowly transcribing this log over the last few weeks, and when it’s done I’ll start on another one.