A SECOND VOYAGE WITH HARTOG TO THE SOUTH
For three months after leaving the North Sea we sailed south, meeting with no land until we sighted a group of islands which Hartog believed to be the group that the Spaniard Cortes attempted to explore in 1519, when one of his ships was burned by the hostile natives, while he and his crew escaped with difficulty in the other vessel. These islands are mountainous, well wooded, and apparently fertile. In most places that we saw the trees were very thick, with spreading branches, in which we perceived houses to be built, which looked like the nests of some large bird. We approached the land with caution, for we knew from experience that the tides in the vicinity of the South Sea Islands are very irregular, and seem to be much affected by the prevailing winds and currents. There is only one tide in the twenty-four hours. The flood-tide sets to the north, and the ebb to the south. It therefore behoved us to choose a safe anchorage, which, after consultation, we finally decided upon, selecting a spot sheltered from the prevailing wind, in deep water, close to a beach and opposite to a stream.
Two boats were then lowered and manned, Hartog taking charge of one and I of the other. The natives, who had assembled in great numbers on the beach, did not appear so surprised at the sight of our vessel as might have been expected. As the boats drew near, some of them waded out to meet us, showing no fear, but rather an anxiety to welcome us. They were all entirely naked except for a strip of tapa cloth, which formed a tee-band around the middle and hung down behind like a tail. This was probably the reason for the reports given by the earlier navigators of the existence of tailed men in these regions.
Some of the natives wore feathers in their hair, and all had fish bones thrust through the cartilage of the nose, which gave them a ferocious aspect. Even young boys wore sticks in the same fashion. The women were attired in petticoats of white tapa cloth, which hung down in strips from a girdle round their waists.
Before trusting ourselves among these savages we gave them, as peace offerings, coloured beads and bright pieces of cloth. Our presents were well received, but immediately on becoming possessed of them the natives laid them at the feet of a young man who stood apart from the crowd, surrounded by several tall and fierce-looking savages. From this we concluded the young man to be the king of the country, though we wondered he should be so young, as the leadership amongst savages generally goes to the strongest.