If Omai’s information is to be depended upon, their naval engagements are not always conducted in this manner. He told me, that they sometimes begin with lashing the two vessels together, head to head, and then fight till all the warriors are killed, on one side or the other. But this close combat, I apprehend, is never practised, but when they are determined to conquer or die. Indeed, one or the other must happen; for all agree that they never give quarter, unless it be to reserve their prisoners for a more cruel death the next day.
The power and strength of these islands lie entirely in their navies. I never heard of a general engagement on land; and all their decisive battles are fought on the water. If the time and place of conflict are fixed upon by both parties, the preceding day and night are spent in diversions and feasting. Toward morning, they launch the canoes, put every thing in order, and, with the day, begin the battle; the fate of which generally decides the dispute. The vanquished save themselves by a precipitate flight; and such as reach the shore, fly with their friends to the mountains; for the victors, while their fury lasts, spare neither the aged, nor women, nor children. The next day, they assemble at the morai, to return thanks to the Eatooa for the victory, and to offer up the slain as sacrifices, and the prisoners also, if they have any. After this a treaty is set on foot; and the conquerors, for the most part, obtain their own terms; by which, particular districts of land, and sometimes whole islands, change their owners. Omai told us, that he was once taken a prisoner by the men of Bolabola, and carried to that island, where he and some others would have been put to death the next day, if they had not found means to escape in the night.