A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 794 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13.
which grew in the countries I have mentioned, the bread-fruit excepted, raised also both the maize and the maniock in great abundance; and they had acquired the skill of watering their lands from distant rivers, in time of drought.  It may likewise be observed, that although the Otaheitans possess the shrub which produces cotton, they neither improve it by culture, nor have the knowledge of converting its wool into cloth, but content themselves with a far meaner production as a substitute.  Our islanders had not only the skill of making excellent cloth from their cotton, but they practised also the arts of dying it, with a variety of colours, some of them of the utmost brilliancy and beauty.  In the science of shipbuilding (if the construction of such vessels as either people used may be distinguished with that appellation) the superiority is on the side of the Otaheitans; yet the piraguas of the West Indians were fully sufficient for the navigation they were employed in, and indeed were by no means contemptible sea-boats.”—­“On the other hand, our islanders far surpassed the people of Otaheite, in the elegance and variety of their domestic utensils and furniture; their earthen-ware, curiously woven beds, and implements of husbandry.”  For the particulars of the comparison here entered into, the reader who is interested will have recourse to the work itself, in which, besides, he will find several circumstances related of another people, the Charaibes, which much resemble what he has now read in the account of the Otaheitans.  This note is already too large to admit of their being specified in any satisfactory manner, and it was thought improper to be continually calling off the attention of the reader, from the text, to smaller notes at the individual instances.—­E.]


Of the Division of Time in Otaheile; Numeration, Computation of Distance, Language, Diseases, Disposal of the Dead, Religion, War, Weapons, and Government; with some general Observations for the Use of future Navigators.

We were not able to acquire a perfect idea of their method of dividing time; but observed, that in speaking of it, either past or to come, they never used any term but Malama, which signifies Moon.  Of these moons they count thirteen, and then begin again; which is a demonstration that they have a notion of the solar year:  But how they compute their months, so that thirteen of them shall be commensurate with the year, we could not discover; for they say that each month has twenty-nine days, including one in which the moon is not visible.  They have names for them separately, and have frequently told us the fruits that would be in season, and the weather that would prevail, in each of them; and they have indeed a name for them collectively, though they use it only when they speak of the mysteries of their religion.

Every day is subdivided into twelve parts, each of two hours, of which six belong to the day, and six to the night.  At these divisions they guess pretty nearly by the height of the sun while he is above the horizon; but there are few of them that can guess at them, when he is below it, by the stars.[23]

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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 13 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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