Surveying in the South Pacific

Frederick Dack (1871-1947) was a seaman of the Royal Navy, who was based at the Australian Station in 1890 when he joined the flagship HMS Orlando at Sydney and visited New Zealand, before going on to serve on the survey vessel HMS Dart, completing survey work in the South Pacific.

Figure 1: H.M.S. “Dart” in Farm Cove, Sydney Harbour. Government House and Botanical Gardens at back.Figure 1: H.M.S. “Dart” in Farm Cove, Sydney Harbour. Government House and Botanical Gardens at back (1)

The Alexander Turnbull Library recently acquired Frederick Dack’s South Pacific journal (MSX-9428), featuring a diary account for the period 1 January 1890 to 3 January 1891. The diary is written on 207 pages, and the volume doubles as a photograph album, commencing backwards from the endpapers, featuring 139 photographs taken by Henry Boyle Townshend Somerville (1863-1936) who was a hydrographic surveyor and navigator on the HMS Dart at the time.

The journal and photographs, created by two separate individuals, form a single documentary heritage item offering a unique perspective and rare insight of considerable informational value on the places and peoples encountered in the line of duty and during periods of leisure. Both the narrative record, written in a regular hand by a literate young man, and the photographs taken by someone who took advantage of every opportunity to capture images of what he encountered, provide a broad array of insights presented in a refreshingly matter-of-fact and unpretentious manner.

Naval career

Frederick Dack was born 24 May 1871 in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England. He was described as a labourer when he joined the Royal Navy (Official Number 140761), and completed his training on the school ship HMS Impregnable from 12 April 1887 with the rating of Boy 2nd Class, and the training ship HMS Lion from 17 April 1887, before being promoted to Boy 1st Class on 28 March 1888. He then travelled to Sydney on the RMSS Iberia of the Orient Line (2) and joined the flagship of the Australian Station HMS Orlando to continue his naval career, progressing through the ranks as summarised on the first page of the journal:

  • 7 March 1889 – joined the HMS Orlando at Sydney Harbour as Boy 1st Class
  • 24 May 1889 – Ordinary Seaman
  • 10 November 1889 – Trained Man
  • 24 March 1890 – Able Seaman
  • 8 May 1890 – joined the surveying vessel HMS Dart at Sydney Harbour

After the period covered by the journal, records of the Admiralty held at The National Archives (3) show that Dack continued on the screw schooner HMS Dart until 3 April 1892, before serving on three further vessels:

  • 4 April – 30 September 1892 – HMS Pembroke
  • 1 October 1892 – 8 May 1893 – HMS Hotspur
  • 9 May 1893 – 24 January 1895 – HMS Mersey

He left the Royal Navy by purchase in 1895, and died 22 February 1947 in Yarmouth, England.

Journal account

When the journal begins, Dack is an 18-year-old seaman, and the period described falls into two fairly contrasting sections. The first, on the flagship HMS Orlando, brings him into close proximity with dignitaries, and all the associated sophistication and glamour – including sojourns in Sydney and Melbourne, followed by a grand cruise around New Zealand. The second part of the account, on the survey vessel HMS Dart, is all about adventure and exploration of the unknown in the South Pacific, closing with the return to Sydney.

Dack describes everyday life on board the survey vessel and excursions on shore, including descriptions of both duty and leisure activities. It is interesting that he uses his diary to record the titles of books he is reading – ranging from Dumas to Shakespeare. He was obviously a voracious reader. He writes letters home when the opportunity arises and notes mail received. He attends church on a very regular basis, including services held in churches on the islands. In his leisure time he paints, including on shells, and does tattooing on fellow sailors. He carries a pistol when on shore and uses it to shoot birds, but has to borrow other firearms from officers when he wants to go hunting. Dack also goes fishing on a regular basis and records when he has his photograph taken. While stationed in Australia he is a very regular theatre goer and records the names of various theatres and productions he sees, giving brief critical reviews.

Australia and New Zealand

The beginning of the diary account describes the time in Sydney from 1-6 January 1890, making reference to other ships in port and various recreational excursions. Following the departure from Sydney on 6 January, Stewart Island was sighted on 11 January, and soon after the ship entered Milford Sound. The cruise around New Zealand continued, with visits to Port Chalmers, Akaroa, Lyttelton Harbour, and arrived in Wellington Harbour on 21 January, where a regatta and grand ball were part of the entertainment. The voyage then continued north with a visit to the hot springs on White Island, arriving in Auckland Harbour on 26 January, where preparations were made for participation in the Auckland Anniversary Regatta.

Figure 2: H.M.S. “Dart” in dock at Auckland, N.Z.Figure 2: H.M.S. “Dart” in dock at Auckland, N.Z.

Dack describes his encounters with Māori women and relates how he showed them the tattoos of “figures of a Norseman on both his legs”. Once the festivities in Auckland were concluded, the Māori individuals he had met departed on 4 February, returning to Kawau Island, Waiheke Island and Whangarei. The ship Orlando then departed on 18 February and visited Port Russell in the Bay of Islands before heading across the Tasman Sea, arriving in Hobart, Tasmania, on 25 February. After some three weeks in Tasmania, which included a ball at Government House, the ship departed on 13 March and passing through the Bass Strait arrived in Melbourne on 15 March.

Figure 3: British Admiralty Chart, South Pacific: New Hebrides Islands: Malo Island to Efate Island, incorporating the results of the survey of the HMS Dart from the year 1890 to 1893 (Alexander Turnbull Library, MapColl926aj1895-3338)Figure 3: British Admiralty Chart, South Pacific: New Hebrides Islands: Malo Island to Efate Island, incorporating the results of the survey of the HMS Dart from the year 1890 to 1893 (Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: MapColl926aj1895-3338)

Figure 4: Detail showing title from Figure 3 aboveFigure 4: Detail showing title from Figure 3 above

South Pacific Survey

After returning to Sydney, Dack left the HMS Orlando on 8 May to join the HMS Dart, which departed from Australia for the survey of New Caledonia and Vanuatu on 23 May. After sailing across the South Pacific they initially anchored at Nouméa Harbour in New Caledonia on 2 June 1890.

Figure 5: Flying Foresail set – ship taken from aft with Capt at compassFigure 5: Flying Foresail set – ship taken from aft with Capt at compass

While the diary entries for days of routine service tend to be very succinct, using abbreviations and short sentences in note form, the narrative style changes completely when the writer reflects on the more interesting excursions and encounters with new places and cultures.

Figure 6: Heaving in 3.085 fathoms. Between New Caledonia & New HebridesFigure 6: Heaving in 3.085 fathoms. Between New Caledonia & New Hebrides

Shortly after arriving in New Caledonia the survey work commenced and the following forms part of the entry for 5 June 1890:

5th June. […] Landed with Capt[ain] & officers & instruments to go sight taking and went away from the town altogether, cleaned a square place for them ashore & placed the instruments. Saw the convicts working about 200 y[ar]ds away from us, some of them in chains. Plenty of warders around on the lookout, some of them mounted. I could feel for some of the poor fellows, but some of them looked bad enough for anything. It is a common thing to see ½ dozen chained together & drawing a cart about the town in charge of a warder. But the worst of the characters go off to the prison every night, which is on another small island. They are brought backwards & forwards in large boats in charge of these Kanakas (Black men employed as warders), who do not forget to show their authority as a rule. I think that is one of the hardest things against the Frenchman, to be bossed over by a black, there is very often a strike out, it being not an uncommon thing at all to see the flag hoisted ashore, which means another execution. They have a splendid band amongst them, being composed of all good conduct men, who play ashore every evening & afternoon in the square; it is well worth listening too. I’ve heard it said that it is the best band that side of the line, which is saying a great deal. There are a lot of ticket of leave men, who are allowed to marry & live in the place, but in a part allowed for them, but they are under a lot of restriction, if they go in a public house at all they must call for a drink & go at once, they are not allowed to stand about or hold any conversation with anyone else, I was having a bit of yarn with one, when the poor fellow looked frightened, of course I didn’t know at the time, but the barman told me after he was gone, he said that he was frightened that he should tell of it. There are some very clever workers amongst them, especially in the carving of shells, particularly of nautilus & pearl oyster shells, many of them in the prison doing it simply for head. The warders making all the money out [of] it, as they supply the shells & after they are done, sell them at the shops ashore, at their own price. I saw one large pair of oyster shells, carved, one “Crucifixion” & one of the “Ascension”, they were priced @ 100 francs, but they were well worth it. Capt[ain] sung out for me, to take the instruments away, & went aboard to dinner.

Apart from selected ports and anchorages in New Caledonia, the hydrographic and geographic survey focused primarily on an area within what was known as the New Hebrides Islands – now Vanuatu.

Figure 7: Deep sea sounding – line running outFigure 7: Deep sea sounding – line running out

This extract from the journal entry for 19 June provides an insight into the practicalities of chain surveying work along a shoreline, including what Dack refers to as coastlining:

June 19th. […] Called away the boats, took the 1st Lieutenant & the navigator in oars & pulled over to a small bay & started coastlining & putting up flags. Splendid weather all forenoon, all hands had tiffin together @ 12 o’cl[ock] an hours spell. Boat got under way again & left me & Ellis & the navigator ashore with the chain for land measuring, as we had to measure the base which was the small bay we landed in. It was rather a funny job, as we had to make a straight line with the chains & by doing so we were measuring under water half our time. The chain, which is 100 f[ee]t long & is used with 10 iron pegs, one man being at each end of the chain which is filled with a triangle, the first 100 f[ee]t is stretched out, & the foremost man puts a peg in, he then walks ahead until the man at the other end arrives at this peg, he then places his triangle over it & calls “Haul taut & peg” when taut, the foremost man then puts another peg in his end & so on till the 10 are used, when we came to the water pegging the navigator had to stand close to the peg so we could find it when we came up, it is measured both backward & forwards so as to correct the measurement. So by the time we had finished we were rather wet, as it came on a nasty drizzling rain, so we made a job of it & had a bathe, boat came back for us after they had finished, had a nice pull to the ship & hoisted. We were 1st boat back. Cleaned a couple of fish for supper & then laid down for the night on deck.

The survey then continued at Mele Island, on 20 June:

June 20th. […] Pulled over to M[e]le Isl[an]d landed with the Capt. with Theodolite, whole[?] down for him. Plenty of natives came round to the boat, we had to keep an eye on them, as one of them tried to get away with a watch. They seemed to be a different race altogether on this Isl[an]d to the others, being a finer lot of men, especially, & different mode of wearing the hair. We could not manage to do any trade at all; it was as much as we could do to get a coconut to drink. Put up 2 flags, me & Capt[ain] & then got back to the boat, all the natives following us on to the beach, they lent us a hand to launch the boat & waved us goodbye & we started for the ship.

On 25 June the ship arrived in Havannah Harbour, which was to be the main base for the survey in Vanuatu over the next six months. There were regular excursions to some of the smaller islands in the group, including Nguna Island (or Two Hills Island) on 26 June, and from there to Mau Island on 2 July, returning to Havannah Harbour on 5 July.

Figure 8: Men of the Mission HouseFigure 8: Men of the Mission House

In another account Dack records the story of the discovery of an important freshwater source at the Faleva or Siviri Cave near Siviri Village on Efate Island, by the indigenous people, based on close observations of nature. (4) The photographs in this album also include images of what is known as Fels Cave on Lelepa Island, which forms part of Chief Roi Mata’s Domain, the first locality in Vanuatu to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

July 10th. […] Anchored the boat in a small bay & waded ashore. Had our tiffin outside of a large cave with a nice spring of freshwater in it, & was told by an old native, how it was first discovered through 2 or 3 birds. The island itself having been put under some magic spell by one of their gods, so there was a great drought, & a number of them perished for the want of water, but it so happened that the old chief taking his usual walk day after day had noticed several birds flying in & out of a bush & wondered what the cause was, determined to find out, climbed up & pulling the bush aside discovered the cleft in the rock & could hear the water trickling & going back to the village for help soon enlarged the opening, so they got to the longed for water at last. The cave ever since being almost worshipped only the old chiefs being allowed to enter. The doctor having taken the photo of the entrance & some of the people, with me in a group of 4 of the women.

Back at Havannah Harbour, Bastille Day commemorations took place, before the ship travelled to Port Sandwich and Mau Island, finally landing on what Dack refers to as East Point, Efate Island, and visiting Mataafa Village in Frere Bay.

At this point of the narrative Dack describes an incident where he is very thirsty and inadvertently drinks water swarming with insects, which later leads to his almost fatal case of dysentery:

July 24th. […] Our party in charge of the navigator, […] landed at East Pt. Efate Isl[an]d & had to pick up the other parties on the 3rd day at a small village called Mataafa in Frere Bay where we should find the St[ea]m Cutter & gig waiting. Put up a large black & white flag as near the Pt as we could & then started to march into the bush, which was very thick in some places, had to get our knives & cut our way through, kept tramping till 12 o’clock & then sat down & had tiffin, had a spell for an hour & then started again, pretty warm work, saw a couple of wild pigs & a very large lizard which ran up a tree, which were all very thick overhead. So as soon as the sun had set it was dark, but we had picked out a suitable place to camp before it was too late, which was under a large breadfruit tree, where we had found water by the number of birds flying in & out, made a large fire & climbed up the tree to get some water to make the coffee with, being rather thirsty had a good drink, filled the billy up & lowered it down to the others & they found it was alive with insects, so they did not drink any until after it was boiled & a good job for them they had noticed it. Spread out our waterproof sheet & laid the things for dinner, which consisted of a pot mess of preserved meat with peas & rice in it & a few yams & biscuit. After we had eaten enough we cleared things away & then started looking out for sleeping berths. Hung my grass hammock up between two trees & then lent the others a hand to cut leaves for their bed, they had picked a good place out between the roots of the tree which are 3 or 4 ft out of the ground in some places, it looks as if the earth & [sic] sunk & left them projecting. Being the climber I mounted a coconut tree by one of the native methods, which is done by lashing the ankles together with some of the creeper, which is found anywhere, leaving a drift of 2 ft more or less, so that the ankles are not close, so in climbing you have one foot each side of the tree, thus bringing the weight on the lashing & your arms alternately either up or down. It is not a pleasant task by any means as it is done barefooted. But having got up alright & nearly stripped the tree of leaves as well as nuts, I started on the journey down which was much easier. Having laid the leaves across from one root to the other, thus making a nice little hut but rather low, & covering the ground with other leaves, they made a good bed, but having seen several large centipedes, I thought I was a lot better off in my hammock. We then collected enough firewood for the night, served out our lot of grog each & all sat round the fire spinning yarns, until the Navigator thought it was time to turn in. He told us we should be up at daybreak, breakfast first & then off again. Leaving our other 2 days provisions & all unnecessary gear behind as we should make the same place at night, & have dinner there again. So we all retired, everyone taking their boots off as there is nothing more tiring, than sleeping with them on. I put mine in the head of my hammock for a pillow & tried to get a nap. But there was so many different noises, it put me in the mind of being in the parrot house at the Zoo, but heard from a distance. What with bats & flying foxes, frogs croaking & a large kind of cricket, which are nicknamed Australian Canaries. There was very little sleep at first, but eventually I dosed off. I don’t know how long I had been sleeping, but I was awake by something touching me under my hammock & found it to be an old wild boar, as I caught sight of it by the light of the fire, as I had slung my hammock at some distance from the fire, I was frightened to fire at it, as I thought it would wake the others up & frighten them, thinking we were attacked by the natives, so it sniffed around the fire a bit & then trolled off & joined some more, which I could hear rooting in the bush. Dropped off to sleep again & did not wake till Jerry came & woke me up. Smith had been badly bitten by mosquitos during the night, made the fire up & got breakfast under way, cold meat, tin of salmon, pickles & biscuit. Cleared away & put all our things together, that were to be left & covered them up with leaves. We had taken enough calico for 3 flags, with spunyarn & rounding for guys, & started off about 6 o’clock, taking no cooking gear, only a small billy.

Figure 9: Page from Frederick Dack’s journal with diary entry for 24 July 1890Figure 9: Page from Frederick Dack’s journal with diary entry for 24 July 1890

The next day they encounter indigenous people who have apparently not had previous contact with Europeans:

July 25th. We had been tramping for 3 hours or more, when we noticed that we were on a beaten track, so looked out for natives or a village, which we soon sighted so we had to stop, as one of the natives sighting us gave a yell which was answered by the others & then dogs started barking so there was plenty of noise for a little while, when things had quieted down a bit & the navigator had made them understand by signs that we were friendly & wanted a guide, the women & children came round & began feeling & pinching us all over & singing to themselves all the time, as they had never seen any white men before, so after we had made friends all round by giving them tobacco, pipes & matches, & had a good drink of coconut milk & a few ripe bananas each we started again, we had been going about 2 hours when our guide gave a yell which was answered & we found we were near another village, w[h]ere we went through the same process of making friends, but could not persuade our guide to go any further with us, as the tribes were not friendly, so we got another one here, & started off again. We had to cross a small river, which we waded across carrying the instruments on our heads, as the water came up to our armpits. We were soon on to another village, which was near the beach, & being dinner time had a spell & a bit of dinner of biscuit & bananas & cooked yams, which the natives gave us for tobacco. Took another fresh guide who piloted us on to the beach, after putting up a flag, which we tied on to a large tree, & the Navigator taking a few sights, we marched along on the reef as we had to put another flag up further on. It was a very rough journey, the reef being a coral one & very irregular. So there was plenty of jumping. Until we came to a large creek, which we had to swim over. It was a very pretty place. The water being quite clear, the bottom could be seen quite plain, it was a proper sea garden, as all the young coral could be seen growing & being of different colours & forms & swarmed with fish of all shapes & colours. But very small, some of them looked as if they had been handpainted, on being startled they all swam to coral of their own respective colours, so they could scarcely be seen again until things were quiet. After looking at them for a little while, we started again & after crossing a couple more smaller creeks which we waded through, we at last got to the most easterly P[oin]t where we put up the flag on the reef, as far out as we could. The water being then up to our knees at half tide, we had to use a small tree for a flagstaff, which we cut down in the bush, it was rather a heavy job, as the flag & guys had to be put on before we got it up, & a suitable hole found in the reef which we were lucky enough to find, after 3 or 4 tries we managed to get it up alright & tied the guys to some of the projecting pieces of coral, which finished our job, so we had to take to the bush in a fresh place, & after tramping for some time we struck on to a village which turned out to be the 2nd one we went to before, so our guide left us, & after having paid him with tobacco & a pipe & 6d the navigator said we would have a spell & then make a good start home. Before leaving we bought a foul & a few eggs, & then started for the place where we had left our other stores. I suppose we had been tramping about a couple of hours & found that we were on strange ground & being nearly dark, our navigator decided to camp, as we had no idea where we had got to because we could not see any of our marks on the trees, so we were lost for a time. So all hands set to & got a fire alight the first thing & then emptied all our water bottles into the billy, it was then only half full so we had to make the best of it, by first of all cooking the eggs in it (10), & then made tea with it afterwards, so we all enjoyed our suppers & then laid down with a log for a pillow & our feet to the fire. We were all disturbed several times in the night by the wild pigs tramping & rooting about & swarms of mosquitos.
July 26th. All hands awoke at daybreak, up at once & started off once more for our provisions as we had no breakfast until we got them. Kept a good lookout for any of our marks & soon found out some, as we found that we were only just off the track. After walking about an hour we found the place & all the things alright, covered up just as we left them, so all hands started about the breakfast to get it ready. Me & Smith said we’d kill the fowl, so I held it on the stump of a tree while he chopped the head off. It must have been on the point of chuckling for after the head was off, the neck part of it clucked 3 times, which surprised all of us, as no one had ever heard of such a thing before. But it didn’t affect our appetites at all, when we had it boiled with rice for breakfast & a bit of biscuit with it. We then had our orders to pack everything up, as we were going to meet the Steam Cutter & Gig at Mataafa with the other parties, so we could all join the ship together.

Figure 10: Detail from Admiralty chart showing Nguna Island and Mau Island, north of EfateFigure 10: Detail from Admiralty chart showing Nguna Island and Mau Island, north of Efate

Following the visit to Undine Bay the survey moved on to Nguna Island on 28 July and then back to Frere Bay on 30 July, when Dack almost succumbs to dysentery. He is seriously ill by the time they reach Vila on 1 August, and as he writes “Found out afterwards that I had been given up by the doctor but remember nothing.” From Vila they returned to Havannah Harbour on 15 August for four days before heading off to New Caledonia once more, sighting Loyalty Islands in passing and reaching Nouméa on 21 August.

Figure 11: Weighing and packing coffee at Fila, Efate IslandFigure 11: Weighing and packing coffee at Fila, Efate Island

There are only relatively few references to photographs and photography in the journal, but on 26 August he writes “Went ashore after dinner & had 3 photos taken.” And the entry two days later says “Had a photo given me of a coffee plantation in Vila by the steward.”

Figure 12: Doctor snapping at NamukaFigure 12: Doctor snapping at Namuka

Figure 13: Women of Mai Isl[an]d and houseFigure 13: Women of Mai Isl[an]d and house

Figure14Figure 14: Young girls of Namuki under a banana leaf

Departing from Nouméa on 3 September they arrived two days later at Havannah Harbour, and on 8 September journeyed from Havannah Harbour to Vila Harbour. On 15 September Iririki Island was visited and by 19 September the surveying of Vila Harbour was complete. The next day, back at Havannah Harbour, Dack records “Had a look at the new chart with our last fortnights work on it.” (5)

Figure 15 & 16: Graves of murdered traders at Port SandwichFigure 15 & 16: Graves of murdered traders at Port Sandwich

On 1 October he notes “Small steamer arrived […] with mail & news from H.M.S. Royalist who had gone round to some of the other islands to punish the natives for murdering a trader. Shot some of the ringleaders & set fire to the village & chopped up their canoes.”

This scale of retribution for the death of a single trader highlights the attitude of the Royal Navy towards indigenous peoples in 1890.

Figure 17: Trading station at Port SandwichFigure 17: Trading station at Port Sandwich

For the next two weeks the survey made the following ports of call: Vila Harbour on 3 October, Nguna Island on 6 October, Undine Bay on 8 October – and back to Havannah Harbour on 11 October. On 15 October they returned to Frere Bay, where he recounts an interesting excursion to a village and meeting with the chief:

Oct 17th. Got up about 6 o’clock, went to the beach & had a nice bathe, & a walk round the bush before breakfast, went away in the gig afterwards, with another hand to put up a flag on a spot pointed out to us by the officer. Found it a very awkward job, but done it alright, but coming back, we got capsized in the boat & thrown up on to the reef, but luckily nothing was hurt, so we watched our chance for the next big roller & got her off again alright, & just back in time for dinner, preserved meat, yams & peas. Me & A.B. Pine borrowed the Doctor’s gun during the dinner hour & had a walk through the bush, shot at one pigeon & winged, but couldn’t find it in the long grass. The Doctor shot several in the afternoon which we plucked & had in a pot mess for supper. Ship anchored off the bay about 5 o’c[lock] took the doctor off to see his patients, a nice long pull. After we had supper we had our usual tot of grog & sat yarning. Dick Elby coxswain of whaler had to dry the Lieut[enant’s] trousers & socks which he had got wet in the boat, so we cut a few sticks & stuck them in the ground close to the fire & hung them on & then carried on with our yarning under the tree at the other fire, until someone proposed to drink tomorrow’s rum, all being agreeable, round goes the tot again, then the next day’s was proposed & served the same until it all went & all hands were lively. Then Mick Pine or Mad-o as he was called said “Let’s go to the village & see if we can buy any fowls”, but no one agreeable only me & Elby so off we started, while the other hands turned in, took a few biscuits with us & a stick or two of tobacco, it was then about 10 o’clock & the nearest village 3 miles off, & pitch dark night, we got off the track once, but walked back a little way till we were on it again, & found we were getting near the village by the dogs we could hear barking. Got near them & landed one or two with a stick & got to the gate in the palisade, took some of the sticks out of it, until we could step over, & then made straight for the chiefs hut. Found him standing at the door & wondering what was the matter, all of us marched up & shook hands with him, each one giving him something, one a pipe which he soon stuck in his mouth, one some tobacco & the other biscuits, so while he had his hands full we were alright. He then asked us into his hut but couldn’t see much as it was full of smoke, but found there was a bench made of sticks & matting about 3 f[ee]t from the ground & 3 of his wives on it all jabbering together. We then asked him if he could sell us any fowls, by making signs to him & a few words, but couldn’t get any that night but made him promise to bring some down to our camp tomorrow. So we then bade him goodbye & left him. Got back alright & laid down with the others, none of the officers knowing about it.
Oct 18th. All hands up at 6 o’clock, went over to the fire & found out that our officer’s clothes had met with an accident, as I could only find one leg of his trousers & 1 sock, went back & told Elby when he pulled a long face & said there would be a row when he wanted his clothes. Went & had a bathe & started to get the breakfast ready, found that the ship & [sic] left early this morning. The doctor woke up first & then shook the Lieutenant up. Who at once sung out for Elby to bring his clothes, we were all laughing amongst ourselves & pretended not to hear him, until he said Elby fetch my socks, so away he goes & fetch the one & said he couldn’t find the other it must have fell in the fire. So he then got his breakfast ready as he was in his pyjamas & didn’t want his trousers yet, & didn’t say much about the sock. After breakfast he sung out again for Elby but he was as deaf as ever until he couldn’t keep it any longer, so he took the remains of his trousers & told him of the accident. He swore & carried on at first, but soon calmed down. Elby reckoned it was us three that knocked them down last night as we passed them. Told off to go with Lieut[enant] taking sights, took two stations, had to wade across a large creek up to our necks, took all our clothes off & left them on the bank, had nothing on only a hat & boots, as we hadn’t far to go just to take a few sights, came back again & put our clothes & went back to dinner. The old chief & several more natives came down to see us & brought a fowl & some coconuts. Had a look at their bow & arrows & had several shots with them, persuaded the old chief to shoot & found that all his went out of sight. Had a walk round in the afternoon, as there was some of the others away with the officer. Me & Pine left to get supper ready, plucked the fowl & ½ dozen pigeons, & put them all in the stew pot, & roasted some yams & sweet potatoes. Had a good supper & a song or two & then laid down under tree, had a shower of rain during the night but slept well.

At the conclusion of the entry for the following day, Dack describes how he would write up his diary at night: “Went over to the fire after the others had laid down, & writing up my diary by the firelight, put a few more logs on & then laid down with the others & slept.”

Figure 18: My friend DednipFigure 18: My friend Dednip

On 20 October the day was spent at Mau Island where indigenous people are described as wearing war paint, and the following day they departed, stopping at South Bay on 22 October and arriving back at Havannah Harbour the next day. The 27 October involved survey work at Mai or Three Hills Island [now Emae], and the ship then arrived in Undine Bay. The next day Dack records that a “Boats crew of natives brought a missionary & his wife & 2 children aboard for us to take to a smaller island”, and on 1 November notes “Lowered the gig & took the Capt[ain] & officers ashore to see the native ceremony of making a new chief”.

Figure 19: “Native church at Nguna”Figure 19: “Native church at Nguna”

Dack records his outing on 2 November including a visit to a local church and hearing the missionary give a sermon:

Went ashore in the afternoon & walked up to the village, went to the native church & heard the missionary preach, found the natives were very clean & neatly dressed & well conducted & nearly all could speak a little English. Took about ½ an hour to shake hands all round after the church was over. Women & children & everyone eager to make friends. Got aboard at 6 o’c[lock]. Hoisted the boat & had tea. Turned out the locker & put all my clothes square, & then turned in.

Figure 20: Detail from Admiralty chart showing Ewose and Tongariki Island, Shepherd IslandsFigure 20: Detail from Admiralty chart showing Ewose and Tongariki Island, Shepherd Islands

Smaller islands in the Shepherd Group of Vanuatu were then surveyed, including Awosi [Ewose] Island on 3 November, and two smaller islands where apparently a first encounter with European people is recorded, before going to Tongariki where they stayed in a vacant missionary house:

Nov 4th. […] St[ea]m Cutter & gig left the ship at 9 o’cl[ock] to survey the smaller islands of the Sheppard group. Got to the 1st one but could not land with our boat. Got in as close as we could & beckoned some of the natives on the beach to come off in their canoe. Told to get ready for the shore & to get a large flag ready to take with me. Got in the canoe with navigator & 3 niggers who paddled us ashore. Heavy surf running, landed on the beach upside down & wet through. Stopped just long enough in the village to get a guide to show us the way to the tip of the Isl[an]d, all the women & children ran away as soon as they see us, as we were the first white men on the Island. Found some of the boys were up in the trees looking down at us. Got up to the top alright & found the tallest tree & both of us climbed up. The officer taking sights & me writing down, & then tied the flag on with spunyarn & cleared away a few of the branches, so the flag stood out clear. Hurried down again & paid our guide with a few sticks of tobacco, & went off in their canoe. Steamed down to another small island, landed with navigator in gig, found no inhabitants, climbed to the top & hoisted flag & took a few sights, coming down rather rough nothing but bush, lost a pair of the ships opera glasses, had them torn of my back coming down, rolled down & couldn’t find them, got aboard again alright & steamed away for the larger island of Tongariki. Got there about 8 at night, anchored the St[ea]m Cutter & put all our things in the gig & went ashore, plenty of natives on the beach, found some of them could speak English well, as they had been in the Queensland labour trade. Made a good fire on the beach & had our supper. Found out that there was an empty missionary’s house on the island so the officer said we would pack up & shift there. Some of the natives lit torches & were willing to help us in any way, made a regular procession going up the narrow path & found we had an hours walk all up hill, lightened my load a bit going up by giving the native half of it to carry. Got to the house alright & found it a decent place with two rooms & galvanised iron roof, 1 bed & mattress & a table. Navigator took the bed & gave us the mattress & we were soon down & asleep, after taking our boots & gaiters off.
Nov 5th. Woke up at 6 o’clock & had breakfast all together. Left one hand behind to cook the dinner & the remainder started with officer to climb to the top of the mountain. Took 3 of the natives with us to help us. Got to the top at 1 o’clock & had tiffin first & then started to clear away some of the trees, as we had brought 4 large axes with us. Told off to sew the 2 flags together to make one big one, & lashed it to a thin pole to be lashed up in the tallest tree. Too thick to take sights, very misty. Cleared away about half an acre of bush & then come down a lot quicker than we went up, slipping & sliding all the way. Got down by 7 o’clock, had a wash & a good tea, & sat over the fire in an old hut in the dark with one of the old natives. Watched him pick up the entrails of a fowl we had thrown away, & just warmed them on the fire & eat them. Cleared out after that & went & turned in. Raining a little at night.
Nov 6th. Got up at 6 o’clock, had a wash & breakfast. Fresh wind blowing. Sent all our things down and to the beach. Had our photos taken by the officer & some of the natives as well. Measured the missionaries land & house & then went on to the beach & put up a beacon. Shook hands all round with the natives & got aboard the St[eam] Cutter & got under way for another small island, put up a flag & took sights, had tiffin in the boat & then got under way for the ship. Very heavy sea running, towing astern in the gig all the time, carried the painter away & got nearly swamped, but kept her head on to the sea. Got aboard by 6 o’clock, & heard the news that the 2nd whaler was lost & 200 £ worth of instruments through trying to land in a heavy surf. All the crew got ashore alright, one hand nearly drowned. [Note the lost vessel and equipment was later recovered by the indigenous people and returned]

On 7 November Port Sandwich Harbour on Mallicolo Island [now Malakula Island] was visited, before going on to Epi Island on 13 November and back to base on 18 November at Havannah Harbour. Surveying was completed at Three Hills Island on 21 November and Two Hills Island on 24 November, and they returned to Havannah again the following day. On 27 November Eromango Island was visited before the ship sailed for Tanna Island the next day, where they spent 28 November climbing the active volcano and observing the indigenous people, who are described as a “fiercer class of men”, before their departure in the evening:

Nov 28th. […] Dropped anchor at Tanna Isl[an]d abreast of missionary’s house, found plenty of ashes came aboard the ship from a large active volcano on the island. Took the Capt. ashore to mission house in the gig & 1st whalers landed the 5 natives a little further along the beach, did not like the look of the Tanna men at all, as they were a much fiercer class, & different looking altogether to the other islanders, having different custom & wearing different dresses as well. Capt. had the word passed along, that anyone wishing to see the volcano, were to clean in a serge suit & get already to land, so we could all keep together going to the top. Landed aboard half past 10 o’c[lock] & took a native guide to show us the way. Had a good stiff climb up to our knees in ashes nearly all the way, it was like climbing up a sand hill part of the way, until we got near the top. Capt. advised everyone to keep to windward, so as to keep clear of the fumes of the sulphur, found that the mouth of the crater was a very large one, got near the edge & looked down, & saw that there was 7 different fires, or boilings, it was just like looking at boiling treacle. 2 of the men overcome by the fumes for a little while, owing to the wind shifting, but were soon alright again. Found it much easier work coming down rather too quick in some places. Got aboard about 5 o’clock, brought a piece of rock off the top, with me.

On 30 November they arrived at Nouméa and departed again on 2 December bound for Sydney, where they arrived on 9 December, anchoring at Farm Cove, Sydney Harbour.

Figure 21: Church of St. Louis at NoumeaFigure 21: Church of St. Louis at Noumea

Back in Sydney Dack made the most of the culture and entertainment on offer with almost daily visits to theatres and other attractions. The Sydney theatres he visited, some repeatedly, were the Criterion Theatre (10, 29 and 30 December), Her Majesty’s Theatre (13 and 24 December), Alhambra Music Hall (14, 16, 18 and 22 December 1890, and 1 January 1891), and Theatre Royal (17 and 20 December). He also visited the Zoological Gardens, Garden Island and the Royal Navy Depot and on 20 December a sailing regatta was held in Sydney Harbour. The final diary entry, for 3 January 1891, ends abruptly mid-sentence.

Photograph album

It is interesting to note that of the 139 photographs included in the journal, 69 of those where the locality can be positively identified based on caption information are from Vanuatu. It may be assumed that Dack received copies of the photographs from Somerville, and he introduces them with this explanatory note:

These photographs were taken by our navigator Lieutenant Boyle Somerville during surveying operations in the South Pacific. The earlier photos show the result of missionary work in Epi, Efate Islands & the Shepherd Group, Tongoa & Tongariki & the smaller islands of Mai, Nguna, Mau & Makura. The natives, a pleasant people & clothed, tend the church & are very helpful to visitors. Further North at Malekula Isl[an]d the natives are a different type, treacherous, bloodthirsty & cannibals. A French Mission has been established at Port Sandwich but it is seldom used, a few of the younger children tend the school but they still run naked. The bushmen still make raids upon the coastal villages & their custom of burying their old people alive was still carried on, while we worked upon the coast. A shipmate & I were detailed for tidewatching purposes & lived for 3 months in a small tent close to our tidepole.

The album also includes images of locations visited by Somerville, most likely on the HMS Dart, but not during the period described by Dack in the journal. These include a number of photographs from Samoa and Norfolk Island for example.

The Samoan images document Apia Harbour before and after the cyclone of 1889, including a portrait of the wrecked German naval vessel SMS Adler, although the original caption incorrectly identifies this as the HMS Cordelia.

Figure 22: HMS Cordelia [= SMS Adler]Figure 22: HMS Cordelia [= SMS Adler]

The photographs from Norfolk Island show scenes of historic convict settlement ruins at Kingston with unidentified naval personnel in uniform:

Figure 23: Inside the condemned cell (note thickness of walls)Figure 23: Inside the condemned cell (note thickness of walls)

Somerville went on to publish some of his observations in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (6) and was later shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army following his retirement as Vice-Admiral of the Royal Navy. Today the Pitt Rivers Museum holds material donated by Somerville from the 1890 survey expedition. (7)


As an historical object this journal and photograph album is a rare and unique treasure potentially offering evidence and considerable informational and research value to a broad range of disciplines. Some of the outstanding features being the unique combination of journal and separate photograph album both contained in the same volume, the relatively high standard of literacy demonstrated by a youthful naval seaman, the matter of fact narrative descriptions providing an account of observations unencumbered by academic training or philosophical prejudice so prevalent among writings of Europeans completing field work among indigenous peoples in the nineteenth century.

The journal exposes the realities of life in the Royal Navy from the perspective of a relatively junior rating, describes the practicalities of surveying methods employed on land and at sea in the creation of Admiralty charts, captures something of the atmosphere and inter-human relationships in the juxtaposed settings of late colonial New Zealand and Australia on the one hand, and the seemingly still untouched places in the South Pacific on the other, while ultimately preserving, in conjunction with the unique series of photographic prints, a record of peoples and places which have undergone such extensive change over the past 125 years, since the time when this journal was created. (8)

Appendix 1: Captions of the 139 photographic prints mounted in the volume

  1. H.M.S. “Dart” in Farm Cove Sydney Harbour. Government House and Botanical Gardens at back [Sydney, New South Wales]
  2. Navigator with Demon his dog napping [HMS Dart]
  3. Sunday afternoon Navigator and Doctor [HMS Dart]
  4. H.M.S. “Dart” in dock at Auckland, N.Z. [Auckland, New Zealand]
  5. Flying foresail set ship taken from aft with Capt at compass [HMS Dart]
  6. Stowing boom mainsail an all hands job [HMS Dart]
  7. The boom manned and a 1000 yards of canvas being neatly stowed [HMS Dart]
  8. Deep sea sounding, line running out [HMS Dart]
  9. Heaving in 3,085 fathoms. Between New Caledonia & New Hebrides [HMS Dart]
  10. Another sounding, line running out [HMS Dart]
  11. Stowing topsail and to’ gallant sail [HMS Dart]
  12. Tinupa Mata Chief of Tongoa Shepherd Group [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  13. Mission House at Tongoa [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  14. Chiefs of the Shepherd Group who came on board to see the Big White Queen to place themselves under British protection [Shepherd Islands, Vanuatu]
  15. Men of the Mission House [location unknown]
  16. Billy Boy of Tongoa [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  17. Our guide native of Tongoa [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  18. Trader’s house at Tongoa (Mr Micholson) [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  19. Boys at play, Tongoa [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  20. Doctor with natives in bush. Boys climbing tree fern. [location unknown]
  21. Entrance to bush track [location unknown]
  22. Bush track [location unknown]
  23. Days shooting. Engineer and paymaster [location unknown]
  24. Natives of Epi Isl[an]d [Epi Island, Vanuatu]
  25. Track at Tongoa Shepherd Group [Tongoa Island, Vanuatu]
  26. 18 foot shark. Jaws out. [location unknown]
  27. 2nd Whaler’s crew at Tongariki Isl[an]d [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  28. Old chief at Tongariki [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  29. Women of Tongariki [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  30. Eggs for sale women of Tongariki [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  31. Tongariki chief with spear [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  32. Tongariki house and natives [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  33. Tongariki natives [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  34. Shooting fish [location unknown]
  35. 1st Whaler [location unknown]
  36. Dinner hour ashore [location unknown]
  37. 2nd Whaler [location unknown]
  38. Landing party at Tongariki [Tongariki Island, Vanuatu]
  39. 1st Whaler landing at Meli Bay, Efate Isl[an]d [Efate Island, Vanuatu]
  40. 1st Lieutenant and engineer at cave, Efate [Fels Cave, Lelepa Island, Vanuatu]
  41. Canoe at Sasaki Village [Emae Island, Vanuatu]
  42. Another view of cave [Fels Cave, Lelepa Island, Vanuatu]
  43. Pandanus tree, lower portion [location unknown]
  44. Women of Mai Isl[an]d and house [Emae Island, Vanuatu]
  45. Pandanus tree, upper portion [location unknown]
  46. Doctor snapping at Namuka [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  47. Trader’s house at Fila [Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu]
  48. Steam Cutter’s crew [location unknown]
  49. Trader’s women [location unknown]
  50. Beaching gig at Fila [Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu]
  51. Officers at Namuka [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  52. At Namuka Village [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  53. Group of Women [location unknown]
  54. Women of Namuka [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  55. Old Chief [location unknown]
  56. Namuka sisters [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  57. [Young girls of Namuki under a banana leaf][Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  58. Young girls of Namuki under a banana leaf [Namuka Island, Vanuatu]
  59. Bush scenes at Port Sandwich, with [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  60. Captain and French Missionary [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  61. Bush scene at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  62. Women with Picanins on Coral Reef [location unknown]
  63. Old wreck in Port Sandwich The whitewash patch at bow is one of our angle marks [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  64. Quay at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  65. Mouth of Erskine River from inside Port Sandwich [Riviere d’Erskine, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  66. Our skiff at Erskine River [Riviere d’Erskine, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  67. Source of small stream at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  68. Erskine River [Riviere d’Erskine, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  69. More views of Erskine River [Riviere d’Erskine, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  70. [More views of Erskine River] [Riviere d’Erskine, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  71. Pere Doncere Missionary at Port Sandwich and Mission House [Victor Doucere (1857-1939), Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  72. [Mission House] Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  73. My friend Dednip [location unknown]
  74. Three muskateers of Malekula and women after trading at Tidewatcher’s tent [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  75. The small coral pier was built by me to enable us to take our readings at night [location unknown]
  76. Ship visitors [HMS Dart]
  77. Canoe of Malekula [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  78. More visitors [HMS Dart]
  79. Washing day on beach at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  80. Ship visitors Malekulan natives at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  81. Idols collected from Malekula Isl[an]d (Human skulls & hair[)][Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  82. [Bush man fellows][location unknown]
  83. Men belong bush [location unknown]
  84. Ready for the dance [location unknown]
  85. Fighting men about to start [location unknown]
  86. A Malekula native [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  87. Warriors dancing at Sasaki [Emae Island, Vanuatu]
  88. Native of Pobolin Epi Isl[an]d [Epi Island, Vanuatu]
  89. Dancing at Lambanui [location unknown]
  90. Medicine hut at Lopevi [Lopevi Island, Vanuatu]
  91. Yam garden at Tanbu, Port Stanley [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  92. Boys beating tum-tums [location unknown]
  93. Stone altars at Uripiv [Uripiv Island, Vanuatu]
  94. “Young Tan with Chief’s feathers & Vet on beach at Alfs house [location unknown]
  95. Chief’s son from Lambanui [location unknown]
  96. Port Stanley youngster standing between roots of a tree [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  97. Graves of murdered traders at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  98. [Graves of murdered traders at Port Sandwich][{Howard Walker}][Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  99. Trading station at Port Sandwich [Port Sandwich, Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  100. Mother and son at Malekula [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  101. Bringing in the nuts [location unknown]
  102. Mr Trot’s boys making copra [location unknown]
  103. Native of Pobolin, Epi Isl[an]d [Epi Island, Vanuatu]
  104. Roasting breadfruit at Pankuma [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  105. Api Harbour before the Great Hurricane of ’89 [Apia, Samoa]
  106. Api Harbour after hurricane [Apia, Samoa]
  107. Natives of Samoa [Samoa]
  108. Ladies of Samoa [Samoa]
  109. Lady of Tongoa, Friendly Islands [Tonga]
  110. Young Maori Lady from Waikeke N[or]th Isl[an]d, N.Z. [Waiheke Island | New Zealand]
  111. Maori Chief’s wife [New Zealand]
  112. Tatooed Maoris with jade club and charms [New Zealand]
  113. Solomon Islander [Solomon Islands]
  114. Tanna ladies [Tanna Island, Vanuatu]
  115. Native of Tanna [Tanna Island, Vanuatu]
  116. Tanna ladies [Tanna Island, Vanuatu]
  117. Young lady of New Guinea [New Guinea]
  118. New Guinea canoe [New Guinea]
  119. Hawaiian ladies [Hawaii]
  120. Fijian lady [Fiji]
  121. Ladies of Ellice Isl[an]ds [Tuvalu]
  122. Aboriginal lady of Australia [Australia]
  123. Church of St. Louis at Noumea [Nouméa, Grand Terre, New Caledonia]
  124. Desserted Tum-Tums at Nguna Isl[an]d [Nguna Island, Vanuatu]
  125. Native church at Nguna [Nguna Island, Vanuatu]
  126. Saltwater coconut [location unknown]
  127. Fishing on reef at Pangkuma [Malakula Island, Vanuatu]
  128. Tatooed leg of lady of Papete (half-caste) [Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia]
  129. H.M.S. “Cordelia” [S.M.S. Adler, Apia Harbour, Samoa]
  130. [Wa?]ters racing. Mt Wellington at back Hobart Harbour [Hobart, Tasmania]
  131. H.M.S. “Penguin”’s cutter, the winner. “Dart”’s gig ahead, Coxswain – your humble [Hobart, Tasmania]
  132. The white man’s apple (nickname) [location unknown]
  133. Ruin of Old Prison at Norfolk Island [Kingston, Norfolk Island]
  134. Descendants of mutineers of H.M.S. “Bounty” inside prison gate [Kingston, Norfolk Island]
  135. Ruined cells and corridor [Kingston, Norfolk Island]
  136. Inside the condemned cell (note thickness of walls) [Kingston, Norfolk Island]
  137. Bishop Patteson Memorial Church [St Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island]
  138. Interior [St Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island]
  139. Weighing and packing coffee at Fila, Efate Island [Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu]


1. Caption titles for photographs are transcribed from the original journal album. This item is in the process of being digitised by the Alexander Turnbull Library. ^

2. For details of the vessel and voyage from London to Australia, see “Shipping Reports: The R.M.S.S. Iberia, The Argus, 11 November 1889, page 8; 10 February 2016. <> ^

3. For Frederick Dack’s naval service record, see Admiralty: Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, National Archives, reference ADM 188/196/140761; 10 February 2016. <> ^

4. A variant of this ‘discovery’ myth is documented in Samantha G. Sherkin, ‘Forever United: Identity-construction across the rural-urban divide’. Thesis, University of Adelaide, 1999, pp. 297-299. ^

5. The results of the survey were incorporated in a chart published by the Admiralty in 1894: South Pacific, New Hebrides Islands: Malo Island to Efate Island. From Surveys by Lieut. & Comm. G. C. Frederick, assisted by Lieuts. H. J. Gedge, E. A. Day & H. B. T. Somerville. HM Surveying Ship ‘Dart’ 1890-91. (London: Admiralty, 1895) [Published 1 October 1894; Large Corrections October 1895]. See Alexander Turnbull Library, MapColl926aj1895-3338. ^

6. See for example Somerville’s “Notes on some Islands of the New Hebrides”, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1894, 3; where he published as series of photographs from the 1890-1891 survey. ^

7. See for example a photograph of a dugout outrigger canoe on shore outside huts and two Royal Navy sailors, Malakula, Vanuatu, (Pitt Rivers Museum, Reference 1998.159.23.2). ^

8. The author would like to thank Jay Buzenberg for friendly editorial advice, Eve Haddow of the Australian National University in Canberra for sharing her knowledge of Vanuatu and identifying people and places in the journal, and to acknowledge the support and input of colleagues from the Alexander Turnbull Library, especially Dolores Hoy, Seán McMahon, Nicola Frean, Claire Viskovic, and Mark Bagnall. ^

By Sascha Nolden

Sascha is a Research Librarian in the Arrangement & Description team at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Post a Comment

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Chris Ballard April 3rd at 4:03PM

That's a fantastic read - thanks for this, Sascha. I hope the images will be digitised soon, especially those from Tongoa and Tongariki (12-33), where I plan to work with communities on local histories. If there are digital versions of Fels Cave (40, 42) I'd be interested to see them, as the myth about the discovery of potable water in the cave sounds more like the smaller cave at Siviri, facing Nguna and Emau (Fels is completely dry). Very happy to discuss this further.

Sascha Nolden April 7th at 3:49PM

Thank you for your comments, Chris, and for sharing your expertise on these localities. The disambiguation between Fels Cave featured in the photographs and Siviri Cave described in the narrative text is now reflected in the revised text above. Additional feedback is always welcome.

Colin Adams August 14th at 11:37AM

Hi Sascha, I've just noticed this write-up. In the sometime near maybe future, I'll put together my research on the Royal Navy survey ship HMSS Penguin that plied our coasts early 1900's. Lots of trivia and data to hand to collate and publish.

Matarulap November 8th at 2:02PM

Hi there, very interesting read indeed. How can one have access to more historic photos from the Shepherds? Do have any from Makura (Makira)?