A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 661 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17.

The same superiority that is observable in the persons of the Erees, through all the other islands, is found also here.  Those whom we saw were, without exception, perfectly well formed; whereas the lower sort, besides their general inferiority, are subject to all the variety of make and figure that is seen in the populace of other countries.  Instances of deformity are more frequent here than in any of the other islands.  Whilst we were cruising off Owhyhee, two dwarfs came on board, one an old man, four feet two inches high, but exactly proportioned, and the other a woman, nearly of the same height.  We afterward saw three natives who were hump-backed, and a young man born without hands or feet.  Squinting is also very common amongst them; and a man who, they said, had been born blind, was brought to us to be cured.  Besides these particular imperfections, they are, in general, very subject to boils and ulcers, which we attributed to the great quantity of salt they eat with their flesh and fish.  The Erees are very free from these complaints, but many of them suffer still more dreadful effects from the immoderate use of the ava.  Those who were the most affected by it, had their bodies covered with a white scurf, their eyes red and inflamed, their limbs emaciated, the whole frame trembling and paralytic, accompanied with a disability to raise the head.  Though this drug does not appear universally to shorten life, as was evident from the cases of Terreeoboo, Kaoo, and some other chiefs, who were very old men, yet it invariably brings on an early and decrepid old age.  It is fortunate that the use of it is made one of the peculiar privileges of the chiefs.  The young son of Terreeoboo, who was about twelve years old, used to boast of his being admitted to drink ava, and shewed us, with great triumph, a small spot in his side that was growing scaly.

There is something very singular in the history of this pernicious drug.  When Captain Cook first visited the Society Islands, it was very little known among them.  On his second voyage, he found the use of it very prevalent at Ulietea, but it had still gained very little ground at Otaheite.  When we were last there, the dreadful havoc it had made was beyond belief, insomuch, that the captain scarce knew many of his old acquaintances.  At the Friendly Islands, it is also constantly drunk by the chiefs, but so much diluted with water, that it does not appear to produce any bad effects.  At Atooi, also, it is used with great moderation, and the chiefs are, in consequence, a much finer set of men there than in any of the neighbouring islands.  We remarked, that, by discontinuing the use of this root, the noxious effects of it soon wore off.  Our good friends, Kaireekeea and old Kaoo, were persuaded by us to refrain from it, and they recovered amazingly during the short time we afterward remained in the island.

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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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