I shall now give some farther account of these islands; for, although I have been pretty minute in relating the daily transactions, some things, which are rather interesting, have been omitted.
Soon after our arrival at Otaheite, we were informed that a ship about the size of the Resolution, had been in at Owhaiurua harbour, near the S.E. end of the island, where she remained about three weeks; and had been gone about three months before we arrived. We were told that four of the natives were gone away with her, whose names were Debedebea, Paoodou, Tanadooee, and Opahiah. At this time, we conjectured this was a French ship, but, on our arrival at the Cape of Good Hope, we learnt she was a Spaniard, which had been sent out from America. The Otaheiteans complained of a disease communicated to them by the people in this ship, which they said affected the head, throat, and stomach, and at length killed them. They seemed to dread it much, and were continually enquiring if we had it. This ship they distinguished by the name of Pahai no Pep-pe (ship of Peppe), and called the disease Apa no Pep-pe, just as they call the venereal disease Apa no Pretane (English disease), though they, to a man, say it was brought to the isle by M. de Bougainville; but I have already observed that they thought M. de Bougainville came from Pretane, as well as every other ship which has touched at the isle.
Were it not for this assertion of the natives, and none of Captain Wallis’s people being affected with the venereal disease, either while they were at Otaheite, or after they left it, I should have concluded that long before these islanders were visited by Europeans, this or some disease which is near akin to it, had existed amongst them. For I have heard them speak of people dying of a disorder which we interpreted to be the pox before that period. But, be this as it will, it is now far less common amongst them, than it was in the year 1769, when I first visited these isles. They say they can cure it, and so it fully appears, for, notwithstanding most of my people had made pretty free with the women, very few of them were afterwards affected with the disorder; and those who were, had it in so slight a manner, that it is easily removed. But among the natives, whenever it turns to a pox, they tell us it is incurable. Some of our people pretend to have seen some of them who had this last disorder in a high degree, but the surgeon, who made it his business to enquire, could never satisfy himself in this point. These people are, and were, before Europeans visited them, very subject to scrophulous diseases, so that a seaman might easily mistake one disorder for another.