A Description of the Island, and its Produce, Situation, and Inhabitants; their Manners and Customs; Conjectures concerning their Government, Religion, and other Subjects; with a more particular Account of the gigantic Statues.
I shall now give some farther account of this island, which is undoubtedly the same that Admiral Roggewein touched at in April 1722; although the description given of it by the authors of that voyage does by no means agree with it now. It may also be the same that was seen by Captain Davis in 1686; for, when seen from the east, it answers very well to Wafer’s description, as I have before observed. In short, if this is not the land, his discovery cannot lie far from the coast of America, as this latitude has been well explored from the meridian of 80 deg. to 110 deg.. Captain Carteret carried it much farther; but his track seems to have been a little too far south. Had I found fresh water, I intended spending some days in looking for the low sandy isle Davis fell in with, which would have determined the point. But as I did not find water, and had a long run to make before I was assured of getting any, and being in want of refreshments, I declined the search; as a small delay might have been attended with bad consequences to the crew, many of them beginning to be more or less affected with the scurvy.
No nation need contend for the honour of the discovery of this island, as there can be few places which afford less convenience for shipping than it does. Here is no safe anchorage, no wood for fuel, nor any fresh water worth taking on board. Nature has been exceedingly sparing of her favours to this spot. As every thing must be raised by dint of labour, it cannot be supposed that the inhabitants plant much more than is sufficient for themselves; and as they are but few in number, they cannot have much to spare to supply the wants of visitant strangers. The produce is sweet potatoes, yams, tara or eddy root, plantains, and sugar-canes, all pretty good, the potatoes especially, which are the best of the kind I ever tasted. Gourds they have also, but so very few, that a cocoa-nut shell was the most valuable thing we could give them. They have a few tame fowls, such as cocks and hens, small but well tasted. They have also rats, which it seems they eat; for I saw a man with some dead ones in his hand, and he seemed unwilling to part with them, giving me to understand they were for food. Of land-birds there were hardly any, and sea-birds but few; these were men-of-war, tropic, and egg-birds, noddies, tern, &c. The coast seemed not to abound with fish, at least we could catch none with hook and line, and it was but very little we saw among the natives.