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TUVALU HISTORY
The Davis Diaries

         

In 1892, Captain Davis of the Royal Australian Navy visited the Islands of Tuvalu and made a record of his observations in the Diaries of Captain Davis of the H.M.S. Royalist.

The Ellice Islands were declared a Protectorate by Captain Gibson R.N. of H.M.S. Curacao between 9th and 16th October of the same year;

The visit of Captain Davis was one of the last acts of what has been termed 'British Imperialism'. Davis did more than bring 'The Flag'. He settled disputes amongst traders of various nationalities then operating in the Ellice Group and between traders and islanders. He met and talked with all manner of people. What he saw and heard he recorded, and his observations are detailed and shrewd. This website should provide an invaluable source of material for anyone engaged in a study of Tuvaluan history.

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H.M.S. Royalist

DISEASES, CLIMATE, ETC. OF
THE ELLICE ISLANDS (TUVALU)

A native disease known as Tennemanu or Rot affects a considerable number of people. Seen principally on the legs or upper extremities. One man examined by me had suffered from it for ten years. Commences as a crop of large pustules or small boils pale looking and tense, these ulcerate and discharged a thin semi-purulent fluid. After a time when crop after crop of pustules has come and gone, the sub-coetaneous tissue becomes indurated and thickened causing swelling of the limb the skin of which feels firm and discovered with white superficial cicatrices due to the healing of the pustules above alluded to. Has a tendency towards recovering. Te Kautani - this disease the natives say last about one year and affects only children. Has a very characteristic appearance, masses of piled up warty looking eruptions affecting all parts of the body. There is no inflammation ulceration or swelling of the surrounding skin. After a time, these masses separate and leave a red weeping surface. Causes a good deal of irritation and makes children fretful. A Mr. M. Kleis, trader in these islands says that he has cured many cases of both the above formed disease by small doses of Calomel. He says that in four days the eruption can be quite removed from a child by this remedy.     

Elephantiasis of the legs and scrotun is not uncommon in the group. In some cases of  this disease, the native operate by cutting a diamond shaped out of the scrotun. Afterwards, bringing the cut edges together. A shark's tooth set in a wooden handle is used as a knife. The climate of the Ellice Islands is much less agreeable than that of the Gilberts. There is a much larger rainfall and the air is damp, and sky often overcast. The natives are not well provided with clothes or small necessaries as trading vessels seldom visit these islands. They being small and having little copra  for export. The water supply is universally bad in the Ellice Islands being brackish and otherwise impure. The traders drank only rainwater; the natives as yet however had not the means or do not take the trouble to collect rainwater.

(Signed) Geo. D. Twigg
Staff Surgn. R.N.

NUKULAILAI (now called Nukulaelae)  - visited 3 August 1892

Name of Chief & his religion - Malaki King Protestant - 3 Kaupuli - Lapanna King Protestant - elected on 3 August 1892 by wish of people, in my presence, with Malaki, Maika & Hosea as Kaupuli.
Name & religion of Missionary - does he trade?
Isiah, Samoan, London Mission, Protestant - No.
Name of whites - nationality. For whom trading. None.
Number of native population - religion - 95 Protestant.
Increase or decrease - cause decreasing not known.
Marriage laws. Girls at l6 men not until 20 years of age.
Labour. None.
Production - Copra, Taro, Popoi, a few bananas, a little sugar cane, Fowls.
Exports annually. About 10 tons copra.
Weapons & ammunition None.
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886.
Communication with other islands etc.
Schooner from Fiji about every four months.
Landing. Fair in canoes.
Anchorage. Good in (sic) Fungawa in 10 fms. Reported good all along the SW coast.
Laws and customs. Money fines or make sinnet in lieu.
 
Remarks:
People poor but appear healthy, only one case of elephantiasis, and a few of ringworm. Some hardwood
trees reported on Motuloa Island called "Kanava" used for canoe building has the appearance of Pume, natives say some trees are 18 feet in circumference.
Lutello, a native of Tonga, formerly a missionary in Pelew Islands, has been causing a great deal of trouble here - much quarrelling has ensued. When New York Island was given up by Weber & Co., the lease having expired, Lutelle wanted the people to make the town there and live there, and lately has annoyed the Missionary to go. He wished to wait for the Missionary ship to decide. Lutello refused and took the roof off the Church and Missionary's house, and removed all windows and doors, he deposed the King and made Malaki King. For the welfare of the island I directed that Lutello should quit the islands - either voluntarily, or I should try him as a British subject for his behaviour - he elected the former, and I granted him, his 2 sons and 2 small daughters, a passage to Fiji, on their way to Tonga. Two of his sons, married to women of Nukulailai, remain on the island. I ascertained that Lutello had previously to deposing Petaia deposed Lapanna, when the people had elected king; also that Manatu a native of Niutao, Panappa of Nukulailai, and Petaia of Samoan descent were among the troublesome ones on the island. I caused all the inhabitants to assemble and told them I regretted to see the present state of affairs on their island, and I should try and remedy it. Lutello would at once leave the Island, so in future he could influence no one. I told Manatu he had better return to Niutao by the first opportunity, and warned him and Panappa and Petaia as to their future behaviour. Neither of these three would be allowed to serve as Kaupuli. I then called on them all to elect a king of their own choice which they did, unanimously electing Lepanna; Malaki who is Lepanna's nephew, Maika and Hosea, were elected Kaupuli (Kapule). I said when the missionary ship John Williams arrived, the white Missionary would confer with the King and Kaupuli as to whether the church should be moved or not; in the meantime I asked them to put a temporary roof on the church, and repair the floor of the building, so that it could be used for service. This they willingly promised to do. They appeared very satisfied at the steps I took in the matter, particularly at the removal of Lutelle, who, they asserted, had caused all the trouble in the island.
I left a note with the Missionary, for the "Missionary in charge of the Ellice Group", telling him what I had done in the matter. The King and all the inhabitants asked to have Queen Victoria's Flag hoisted on the Island.
FUNAFUTI - visited - 2nd August 1892
 
Name of Chief or King. His religion Eria King. Protestant - 10 Kaupuli and Police.
Name and religion of Missionary and does he trade?
Waina. Samoan London Mission. Protestant. No.
Ioani. Native teacher.
Name of whites. Nationality. For whom trading.
John Brine. English. Henderson and Macfarlane.
Number of native Population. Religion 23l Protestants.
Increase or Decrease. Cause. Increasing.
Marriage Laws. Girls marry about 15 or 16.
Labour. None.
Production. Copra, Taro, Puraka, Bananas, sugar cane, bread fruit, fowls and ducks.
        Exports annually. About 25 to 30 tons of copra yearly.
Weapons and ammunition. One or two guns.
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886.
Communication with other Islands. Henderson and Macfarlane's about four or three monthly.
Landing. Very good in lagoon.
Anchorage. Very good in lagoon. Off church in eight fathoms.
Laws and customs. Money fines, adultery, stealing, illicit connection $10, or make value in Sinnet. Fines for adultery enforced years after the occurrence, even after the death of one party.
 
Remarks. Natives poor, but seem very happy and contented. Remained here two days; after small arm men and marines had drilled on shore, native gave dances and songs and made presents, and were very thankful for tobacco, etc., the steamer being over two months overdue, the tobacco had run out. Landed Tentababari here, the King arranging to have him looked after. Some natives of Nukulailai, asking for passage to their island, I embarked them, also Charles Bernard a native of Kingston, Jamaica, with his wife and children for the same place. Large numbers of natives of both sexes visited the ship. They will not soon forget the Royalist visit. The King said, they all wanted British protection.
 

NUKUFETAU - visited 30th June 1892
Name of chief or King. His religion. Uta, King, Protestant, One judge, ten Kaupuli and police.
Name and religion of missionary. Does he trade. Lolando Samoan London Mission Protestant No.
Name of whites. Nationality for whom trading.
ALFRED RESTIEAUX English Doing nothing.
EMILE FENISOT German
Number of native population. Religion 270 Protestant.
Increase or decrease. Cause. Normal.
Marriage Laws. Girls marry at l6 or 17.
Labour None.
Productions. Copra, taro, babai, pandanus, a little sugar cane, a few bananas, a few fowls.
Export annually. About twenty tons copra.
Weapons and ammunition. None.
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886.
Communication with other islands. Steamer Archer every three or four months. Occasionally a Samoan schooner.
Landing. Good in canoes.
Anchorage. Reported good anchorage outside lagoon opposite village. Also inside lagoon, off the village.
Laws and customs. Money fines, adultery stealing, $5 or 300 nuts.
 
Remarks. Natives appear poor and half starved. The King in appearance was no better than anyone else on the island. The village is large and not well kept. The Missionary appears tired of his work, and, I was told very very prone to take offence, and neglected his work, leaving it to anyone to perform. This may be exaggerated but I think a change might benefit the island. I here met Zachia, referred to under "Oaitupu" and told him that he had nothing whatever to do in governing Oaitupu. In future he was not to interfere with the King or Kaipuli, if he persisted he probably would be punished, and I told him that the next man of war visiting Oaitupu would enquire as to his behaviour during my absence. The King asked me to hoist the English flag on the Island.
 

NUI - Visited 29 July 1892
 
Name of King. His religion. Taloka. King. Protestant. 10 Kaupuli 20 Police.
Name of religion of Missionary. Does he trade?
Kirisome. Samoan, London Mission. Protestant. No.
Name of white. Nationality. For whom trading.
Martin Kleis, Dane. Henderson and Macfarlane.
Number of native population. Religion. 387 Protestant.
Increase or Decrease. Cause. Increasing.
Marriage Laws. Girls at 15 or 16 years of age.
Labour. None.
Productions. Copra, taro, papoi, pandanus, a few bananas, fowls and ducks, a very little sugar cane and bread fruit.
Exports annually. About 100 tons of copra - in a good year -
Weapons and ammunition. None -Since heard Tukaike has one or two-
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886.
Communication with other islands & c. Henderson and Macfarlane's steamers every 4 or 5 months.
Landing. Indifferent in canoes. None for boats. A long reef to wade over, several dangerous blow holes in it.
Anchorage. None recommended.
Laws and Customs. Money fines. Adultery, stealing &c. $5 or work.
 
Remarks. Natives appear poor, and not very clean. A good deal of elephantiasis and Tekeutani amongst the children. The King appears to be a very weak man, and entirely under the influence of a native Tuikaike, formerly a Mission teacher at Onotoa, dismissed by the Society for adultery. On his return to Nui, being rich, he coerced the King to taboo trade. He is related to the Missionary by marriage. He obtained goods from the trader, and refused to pay his debt of $50. Many natives wish to sell fowls to the ship at their own prices, but said Tukaike had fixed a certain price, and any one selling under that price was fined by the King. I made Tukaike ;pay his debt, turned him out of the Kaupuli, never to return to it again- advocated free trade to the King and Kaupuli, pointing out to him the taboo only made men deceitful to him. He, then and there, freed from Tukaiko, raised the taboo, and promised to be guided no more by the man. I warned Tukaike as to his future behaviour, and that the next man of war would inquire into his conduct in my absence. The King requested me to ask Queen Victoria to hoist her Flag on the Island.
 

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NUITO (now called Niutao)  - Visited 28 July 1892
 
Name of King or Chief and his religion. Vandunga King, Judge and 10 Kaipuli, Protestant.
Name and religion of Missionary. Jeremia. Samoan. London Mission Protestant. Does not trade.
Name of whites, nationality. For whom trading.
Jon Buckland. English, Henderson & Macfarlane.
Number of native population. Religion. 615. All Protestants.
Increase or Decrease. Cause. Interesting.
Marriage Laws. Girls marry about 16.
Labour. None.
Production. Copra, Taro, Papai, Pandanus.
Exports annually. About 50 tons copra -in good season-
Weapons and ammunition. None.
Last visited by a man of war. H.M.S. Emerald 1881.
Communication with other islands &c. Henderson & Macfarlane's steamers, occasionally.
Landing. Fair in canoes.
Anchorage. None.
Laws and Customs. Adultery and Fornication, make 5 fathoms of road, either crimes, small fines, mostly road work.
 
Remarks. Natives do not appear quite so clean as on other Islands. Elephantiasis and a little ringworm here. Church and Missionary's house well built and clean. Met King and all important men of Island in Maniaba. They wished Queen Victoria to take them under her protection. Answered various questions concerning trade. Advocated Free trade. A few fowls, eggs and pigs procured here. The judge appears to be a very good man, talks English a little. With the King's permission I landed Tentonanibiea a native of Tarawa, to remain on the Island until a British man-of-war took him away. A native of Maiana in trader's employ, took him into his house. Before leaving the King asked me if I would try and have his island placed under British protection. Jeremia, the Missionary is very well spoken of. I gave passages to a number of Oaitupu people, who were anxious to get to their Island; also some for Nukufetau, for which they were very grateful.

 

NANOMANA (now called Nanumaga) - visited 27 July 1892

Name of King or Chief. His religion. Neko Protestant 15 Kaupuli.
Name and religion of Missionary. Does he trade. Luke. Samoan. London Mission. Protestant.
Name of whites. Nationality. For whom trading. None.
Number of native population. Religion. 373 Protestant.
Increase of Decrease. Cause. Increasing.
Marriage laws. Girls marry at 16 or 17.
Labour. None.
Production. Copra, Taro, Pandanus, Fowls.
Exports annually. 15 to 20 tons copra -in a fair year-
Weapons and ammunition. None.
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda, 1886.
Communication with other Islands &c., a vessel occasionally.
Landing. Indifferent, in canoes.
Anchorage. None.
Laws and customs. Money fines, very light ones.
 

Remarks. People clean and particularly glad to see the ship. Several cases of elephantiasis and Tennemanu. Fowls plentiful. No vessel having called for 7 or 8 months, tobacco much in demand. More so than money. Large numbers visited ship. The King and Council requested me to ask Queen Victoria to hoist the British Flag on their Island. The Missionary appears to be a very good man.

NANOMEA (now called Nanumea) - visited 27 July 1892-
Name of Chief or King. His religion. Vaitoro. Protestant. Judge and 18 Kaupuli and Police.
Name and Religion of Missionary. Does he trade? Amos. Samoan. London Mission. No.
Name of whites. Nationality For when trading.
Edmund A. Duffy. English. Henderson & Macfarlane.
Number of Native Population. Their religion. 690 Protestant.
Increase or Decrease. Cause. Increasing.
Marriage laws. Girls marry at about 17.
Labour. 1 man in steamer Archer.
Productions. Copra, Pandanus, Taro, Fowls & eggs.
Exports annually. 30 to 40 tons copra.
Weapons & Ammunition. None.
Last visited by a man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886. A German '89.
Communication with other Islands.
Steamers Archer and Balmain about 5 monthly.
Landing. Indifferent, in canoes.
Anchorage. None.
Laws & Customs. All money fines. Adultery $2, or make quantity of native rope. A woman divorced cannot marry again until the main is married. Very little immorality on Island.
 
Remarks. Natives very clean, light coloured. Some quite Samoan in appearance. A little elephantiasis here. Fowls plentiful, 6d each. Eggs and pigs. In Lochen Island is a fresh water lagoon about 1/2 mile in width by 3/4 mile long, with a few fish in it. Numbers of natives, including women and girls, visited the ship. The King, Judge and Kaupuli after a meeting asked me to get a British Flag hoisted. I said I would ask the Queen. Some slight trouble here as to prices of copra, fowls &c. I advocated Free trading, natives and Traders their own prices. After discussing the matter, the King agreed to this. Those who would take Traders prices for copra, could do so. Those who wanted more might try and get it from vessels calling.

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OAITUPO (now called Vaitupu) - Visited 19 May and 30 July 1892
 
Name of Chief. His religion. Tuputa Protestant. 20 Kaupuli and Police.
Name and Religion of Missionary. Does he trade? Iero. Samoan. London Mission. Protestant. No.
Name of whites. Nationality. For when trading. Henry Nitz. German. Own account.
Number of natives. Religion. 456. Protestant.
Increase of Decrease. Cause. Increasing.
Marriage laws. Women marry at 17 or 18.
Labour. None.
Productions. Copra, Taro, Puraka, Pandanus, Fowls.
Exports annually. Copra about 50 tons.
Weapons and ammunition. None.
Last visited by man of war. H.M.S. Miranda 1886.
Communication with other Islands etc. About every 4 months, steamer "Archer" to other Islands and Sydney.
Landing. Fairly good in canoes, 2 or 3 passages through reef off village, south end.
Anchorage. Fair 7 to 12 fms. S.W. OF Island.
Laws & Customs. Money fines. In default clean roads &c.
 

Remarks. Natives not over clean. Water in wells very brackish. Want of sufficient vegetables causes a sort of scurvy. Several cases of elephantiasis. Chilian $ mostly used up. English Coinage used. Two lagoons on the Island. A few pigeons to be shot. People very thankful to get their friends back again from Niutao. Complaints made here about Zachia a native, formerly a Mission teacher at Tamana, Gilbert Group, who since his return to the Island had told the King he was no good, and that he wanted to be King &c. He left the same morning I arrived with some natives for Nukufetau. Mr. Nitz having verified those statements, I informed the King to pay no attention to Zachia, and if he interfered again, to punish him. I also said I would see him at Nukufetau and warn him as to his future behaviour, which the next man of war would enquire about. The King said that all the people were anxious that Queen Victoria's flag should be hoisted on the island.

NURAKITA or Sophia Island (now called Niulakita) -visited 4 August 1892.

Stopped off Island, August 4th 1892. Too much sea on to effect a landing in ship's boats. No canoe put off. Several natives appeared on the beach, and hoisted up an American ensign. After waiting some time off Island, I proceeded on our course.

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 3rd December 2012)