The conduct and aspect of these islanders occasioned my naming it Savage Island. It is situated in the latitude 19 deg. 1’ S. longitude 169 deg. 37’ W. It is about eleven leagues in circuit; of a round form, and good height; and hath deep waters close to its shores. All the sea-coast, and as far inland as we could see, is wholly covered with trees, shrubs, &c.; amongst which were some cocoa-nut trees; but what the interior parts may produce we know not. To judge of the whole garment by the skirts, it cannot produce much; for so much as we saw of it consisted wholly of coral rocks, all over-run with woods and bushes. Not a bit of soil was to be seen; the rocks alone supplying the trees with humidity. If these coral rocks were first formed in the sea by animals, how came they thrown up to such an height? Has this island been raised by an earthquake? Or has the sea receded from it? Some philosophers have attempted to account for the formation of low isles, such as are in the sea; but I do not know that any thing has been said of high islands, or such as I have been speaking of. In this island, not only the loose rocks which cover the surface, but the cliffs which bound the shores, are of coral stone, which the continual beating of the sea has formed into a variety of curious caverns, some of them very large: The roof or rock over them being supported by pillars, which the foaming waves have formed into a multitude of shapes, and made more curious than the caverns themselves. In one we saw light was admitted through a hole at the top; in another place, we observed that the whole roof of one of these caverns had sunk in, and formed a kind of valley above, which lay considerably below the circumjacent rocks.
I can say but little of the inhabitants, who, I believe, are not numerous. They seemed to be stout well-made men, were naked except round the waists, and some of them had their faces, breasts, and thighs painted black. The canoes were precisely like those of Amsterdam; with the addition of a little rising like a gunwale on each side of the open part; and had some carving about them, which shewed that these people are full as ingenious. Both these islanders and their canoes agree very well with the description M. de Bougainville has given of those he saw off the Isle of Navigators, which lies nearly under the same meridian.
After leaving Savage Island, we continued to steer W.S.W. with a fine easterly trade-wind, till the 24th in the evening, when, judging ourselves not far from Rotterdam, we brought-to, and spent the night plying under the top-sails. At daybreak next morning, we bore away west; and soon after, saw a string of islands extending from S.S.W. by the west to N.N.W. The wind being at N.E., we hauled to N.W., with a view of discovering more distinctly the isles in that quarter; but, presently after, we discovered a reef of rocks a-head, extending on each bow farther than we could see. As we could not weather them, it