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Leaving these straits, they sailed to the eastward till they had passed the land named Company's Island, when they steered for the coast of Kamtschatka, and anchored in the harbour of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the 6th of September.
It is worthy of notice that not any of the people whom they met, after they left China, shewed the least inclination to hosti. lity: nor was there an appearance of a wish to decline intercourse, except in a few instances, occasioned by the apprehensions which the first sight of so unusual a spectacle as the two ships would naturally produce. What leads us to this remark is an observation occurring in that part of the narration, which gives an account of the ships being near the coast of Tartary.
During 75 days since our sailing from Manilla, we had, in fact, run along the coasts of Quelpaert island, Corea, and Japan, but these countries, which are inhabited by people who are inhospitable to strangers, did not allow us to think of put. ting in there.' Yet, from what M. de la Pérouse says in another place, it may be supposed that his belief of the difficulties and dangers with which Europeans are threatened on the coast of Japan, from the disposition of the natives, was not very firm, The passage is as follows: 1. Our voyage from Manilla as far as Quelpaert Island, upon the south coast of Corea, was new only to ourselves ; for the Dutch a long time ago carried on commerce with Japan, and every year sent one or two vessels to Nangasaki ; but I am ignorant whether they directed their course by the channel of Formosa, or passed to the castward of that island. I have been assured that the captains, before their departure from Batavia, made oath to keep the particular of their voyage sècret, and to permit nobody to take a copy of the manuscript charts which were sent them. Would such a precaution india rate, that other Europeans would be received at Japan, and might there carry on commerce in competition with them?
He afterward adds; we think the moment is arrived in which all the veils which cover particular navigations are about to be raised.' This suspicion of mystery must probably have affected his opinion of the veracity of the accounts which have appeared. Certain it is, that the belief of an unchangeable determination in the Japanese to resist all intercourse with Eu. ropeans has prevented any attempt at communication. In 1779, the Resolution and Discovery, then under the command of Captain Gore, sailed along the eastern coast of Japan, and were deterred by the very same ideas from seeking a port, or even approaching the shore near enough to have any communication with the inhabitants.
At Kamtschatka, the business of the twoships was to refit, and, after so many fatigués, to prepare for new expéditions: While they remained here, an excursion was undertaken to visit the
volcano near the bay of Avatscha, by Messrs. Bernizet, Mongés, and Receveur ; who, with great labour, reached the lower edge of the crater. All the substances, of which the mountain is composed, are lavas more or less porous, and almost in a state of pumice stone,' According to calculations from the weight and temperature of the air, the elevation to which they ascended was 1500 toises. The treatment of the French navigators by the Rassians, at St. Peter and St. Paul, was not inferior to the hospitality with which Captain Cook was received, by Major Behm, then governor of the province: Here M. de la Pérouse had the satisfaction of receiving packets from France: by which he was informed of his having been promoted to the rank of Commodore, Chef d'Escadre, which event, as soon as it came to the knowlege of Dir. Kastoff the governor, was celebrated by a discharge of all the artillery in the place.
The Kamtschadales appeared to M. de la Pérouse to be the same race of people with those which he had seen in the bay of Castries on the coast of Tartary. “Their mildness and their probity are the same, and their persons are very little different.' The governor invited the officers of the ships to a ball, at which were present several Kamtschadale females; and one of their dances is described, not much to the advantage of the women.
« Their fatigue is such during this exercise, that they are covered with perspiration, and lie stretched out upon the floor, without the power of rising. The abundant exhalations that emanate from their bodies perfume the whole apartment with a smell of oil and fish, to which European noses are too little accustomed to find out its fragrance. As the dances of all these nations haye ever been imitative, and in fact: nothing but a sort of pantomime, I asked what two of the women, who had just taken such violent exercise, had, meant to express. I was told that they had represented a bear-hunt. The woman who rolled on the ground acted the animal; and the other, who kept turning round her, the hunter ; but if the bears could speak, and were to see such a pantomime, they would certainly complain of being so aukwardly imitated.
The Russians continue it should seem, leisurely enough, to prosecute discoveries in the northern seas. An English man, Mr. Billings, who had sailed with Captain Cook, and has been several years in the service of the Russian navy, was at this time at Okhotsk, building two vessels for the purpose of navigating these seas.
The Kurile islands are distinguished among the Russians by numbers instead of their former names. They now call them No. 1, No. 2, &c. as high as twenty-one, which last termi. nates the pretensions of Russia.' Of these twenty-one, four
only only are inhabited, the ist, 2d, 13th, and 14th. The others are merely occasionally visited, in order to hunt foxes and otters. The population of the four inhabited islands is reco koned at fourteen hundred persons.
Russia has not yet made any permanent establishment eastward of Kamtschatka : each vessel forms a temporary one in the port where it winters, and when it sails, either destroys or gives it up to some other vessel belonging to the nation. The governor of Okhotsk strictly enjoins the captains of these cutters to make all the islanders they visit acknowldge the authority of Russia, and he embarks on board each vessel a sort of custom-house officer commissioned to impose and levy a duty for the crown. I was told, that a missionary was to set off from Okhotsk without delay, in order to preach the Christian religion to the people that have been subjugated, and thus to make them some sort of compensation by spiritual gifts for the tribute they exact by right of superior power.'
Twenty five vessels, the crews amounting to about a thou: sand men, had been sent during this year, in quest of furs, to the eastward of Kamtschatka. . When these vessels come back, they sometimes put in at the bay of Ařatscha, but always return ultimately to Okhotsk, the usual residence of their owners, and of the merchants who go to trade directly with the Chinese upon the frontiers of the two empires.'
From St. Peter and St. Paul, the Commodore sent M. de Lesseps to France, with copies of his journals, &c. Mr. Kastoff, the Russian governor, received M. de Lesseps as his aidde-camp till he should arrive at Okhotsk, whence he undertook to furnish him with the means of proceeding to Petersburg.
On the 30th of September, the ships sailed from Kamtschatka, and steered to the S. E. in search of land laid down in the chart in 37° 30' N. and 165° E. longitude. They observed flights of ducks, and small land birds, which are certain indica-' tions that land is not far distant; yet they saw none. (The French editor is of opinion that the land in question might be, found a degree more to the south.) They crossed the Equinoctial line without meeting any land, till the 6th of December, when they got sight of the most easterly island of those named, by Bougainville Navigators Islands. In running past this island, they saw a considerable groupe of Indians sitting in a circle un-: der cocoa-nut trees, and appearing quietly to enjoy the sight afforded them by the frigates. Some canoes afterward put off from. a smaller island, and joined eleven others from the easternmost. island. They approached the ships at first with great fear and, caution, and without arms: nevertheless, when they at length ventured to exchange a few cocoa nuts, they did not like to: part with them before they had received the price, and frequently paddled away without fulfilling their part of the agree
ment. The first or eastern island is described as high and steep, and covered with large trees; having also severat spots of cultivated ground, and houses built half way down. the declivity; yet, on the whole, the island did not appear fertile.
By the 8th of this month, (December,) the ships were near the island of Maouna, and on the next moruing were surrounded by • innumerable canoes,' laden with hogs, cocoa-nuts, and other fruit. It is remarkable that, both at the former island and at this, the natives disregarded axes and iron, and preferred glass beads. to whatever else was offered to them. Water was seen 'falling in cascades from the tops of the mountains to the bottom of: the villages.'
On the afternoon of the oth, the ships found anchorage, a. mile from the land, in 30 fathoms depth. On the same evena ing, M. de Langle, (captain of the Astrolabe,) with some; other officers, went on shore ; and after an hour's stay, having been received in the most friendly manner, they returned on board. Early in the next morning, 200 canoes, full of differ-, ent kinds of provisions, came off to the ships ; and the people would receive nothing but beads : every thing else being re. fused with disdain. Above five hundred hogs were thus pro. cured, besides a great number of fowls and pigeons. The boats also went on shere, and were employed in filling water, which was performed with very little disturbance. While this service was executing, M. de la Pérouse relates, 'I thought I might venture to the distance of two hundred yards to visit a charming village, situated in the midst of a wood, or rather of an orchard, all the trees of which were loaded with fruit. The houses were placed upon the circumference of a circle, of about a hundred and fifty toises in diameter, the interior forming a vast open space, covered with the most beautiful verdure, and shaded by trees, which kept the air delightfully cool. Women, children, and old men, accompanied me, and invited me into their houses. They spread the finest and freshest mats upon a floor formed of little chosen pebbles, and raised about two feet above the ground, in order i to guard against the humidity. I went into the handsomest of these : huts, which probably belonged to a chief; and great was my surprise, to see a large cabinet of lattice-work, as well executed as any. of those in the environs of Paris. The best architect could not have given a more elegant curve to the extremities of the ellipsis that terminated the building ; while a row of pillars at five feet distance from each other formed a complete colonnade round the whole. The pillars were made of trunks of trees very neatly wrought, and be." tween them were fine mats laid over one another with great art, like' the scales of a fish, and drawing up and down with cords, like our Venetian blinds. The rest of the house was covered with leaves of i. the cocoa-pal.n.'-.
« The inhabitants of these islands were so rich, and had so feve wants, that they disdained our instruments of iron and our cloth, and asked only for beads. Abounding in real blessings, they were desirous of obtaining superfluities alone.
• They had sold at our market more than two hundred woodpigeons, which would only eat out of the hand; and a number of the most beautiful turtle doves and parroquets, equally tame. What cold imagination could separate the idea of happiness from so enchanting a place ? These islanders, said we a hundred times over, are, with qut doubt, the happiest beings on earth. Surrounded by their wives and children, they pass their peaceful days in innocence and repose."
This visit passed without any dispute that could lead to disagreeable consequences, though the natives began to shew great confidence in their large stature and personal strength.
Their height of above 5 feet 10 inches, and their muscular limbs of colossal' proportion, gave them an idea of their own superiority, which rendered us by no means formidable in their eyes,' - About noon, the boats all returned from the shore; and in the afternoon the ships got under sail, their place of anchorage having been much exposed and rendered unquiet by the swell of the sea. It appears to have been M. de la Pérouse's intention not to have remained longer at Maouna: but M. de Langle had discovered a landing place which he thought an excellent harbour for the boats, and he prevailed on the Commodore to remain off the island for the purpose of getting more fresh water on board, the next day; and thus was a second scene of disaster preparing for the unfortunate navigators! To a chief who visited the ship, M. de la Pérouse made a number of presents: but, says he, ' wishing at the same time to inspire him with a high opinion of our power, I ordered several experiments on the use of our weapons to be inade in his presence. But their effect impressed him so little, that he seemed to think them only fit for the destruction of birds.' • When the natives compared their bodily strength to ours, they laughed at our threats, and made a jest of our sentinels; though the presence of the chief above mentioned rendered them less insolent.
The ships stood off and on during the whole night; and in the next forenoon, four boats (the barge and long boat of each ship) under the command of M. de Langle,—the whole party, including officers, amounting to sixty-one persons,- set off from the slips. On arriving near the shore, the landing-place appeared very different from what it had been deemed the day before, the tide having fallen several feet. M. de Langle, greatly surprised, was about to quit the creek, and to repair to the place at which, on the preceding day, the boats had watered; but the air of tranquillity and good humour of the 5.