National Geographic : 1949 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine read the Nordhoff and Hall Bounty trilogy, they were prepared to pass themselves off as a "Christian," "Young," or other islander. Tongue in cheek, Hazard (Buff) Campbell submitted to an interview by a London re porter covering the voyage. Describing him self as "Robert Christian," he recounted Pit cairn's hardships heart-rendingly. "I want to move to the United States," said "Christian." "Don't," advised the reporter. "Your life on Pitcairn is far better." Other Yankee men, peddling curios, gave convincing sales talks. No argument was needed, however, by the fruit vendors. At sight of the pineapples, melons, mangoes, and bananas, the fruit starved Englishmen opened purses, stuffed arms and shirt fronts with purchases, and retired to cabins for a feast. We hated to leave the kindly Pitcairn people, but our schedule allowed no delay. Yankee was impatiently riding the swells, safely distant from the rocks. Pitcairn good byes are always sad. Wreck Mars Farewell Together, islanders and sailors streamed down to the log-ramp landing in Bounty Bay (page 22). Farewell gifts, including fruit and 30 loaves of bread, were heaped in a longboat. Most appreciated present of all was fresh laundry. Though the bay was heaving savagely, Pit cairn's best oarsmen-14 oars to a boat calmly slid a longboat down the ramp. Five of our crew jumped in, others waiting for the next trip. Andrew Young, an islander, took the steer ing oar, conned the angry surf, and gave the command. Fourteen oars strained. Breaker after breaker passed by harmlessly. Then a Niagara gathered height and, just as the boat came in, broke crashingly. Oars flew into the air; a man dived over the side. Keel broken, the boat wallowed close to rocks. Seeing their men in danger, Pitcairn women wailed in chorus. Without regard for their best dresses they plunged into the surf, grabbed the boat's stern line, and pulled the men to safety. Assured that no one had been injured, the women then salvaged drenched laundry and wave-tossed watermelons. Rescues accom plished, they stayed in to enjoy the swim. Some, floating on their backs, munched to matoes. With laundry freshly ironed, but some cameras ruined, we got away the next day. The longboat men, shooting a milder surf, deposited us on Yankee. Rowing away, they gravely sang "In the Sweet Bye and Bye." Tears clouded some eyes. "Look, Girls! Men!" Rapa Pursues Them With each cruise Yankee makes it a point to tour some new island. This time we chose Rapa, of which we had heard alluring tales. One morning we sailed into the island's magnificent crater harbor. Rapa's jagged, volcanic skyline awed every hand (pages 36 and 37). Only natives and a solitary Frenchman met us in the little seaside settlement, but they were happy to have unexpected company, accustomed as they were to only one ship a year. Rapa maidens, all but swooning with joy, looked on Yankee's men as heaven-sent cargo. So many of their own men had obtained jobs in Tahiti that the feminine population out numbered the masculine six to one. A gang of giggling girls boldly pounced on a blushing New Englander and all but kid naped him. His guffawing comrades, far from rescuing him, took pictures of his embarrass ment. In olden days, when the population num bered thousands, Rapa men fought for women. Rival clans staked off territories and, to pro tect lands and women, erected seven mountain top forts. Some of us climbed Rapa's steep crater walls to inspect the old citadels. Puffing and gasping on reaching the summits, we decided no Rapa war was worth the effort. Appetites whetted by the hike, we feasted on delicious raspberries, which grew wild all over the island. Introduced by a Frenchman a number of years ago, they have become a prickly nuisance to the natives. On our departure the islanders traded 30 quarts of selected berries for nine bars of soap. Each party was convinced it had the better of the bargain. Raivavae Feasts and Garlands Us In a few days we raised the island of Raivavae. As we entered the treacherous, beaconless harbor, the skipper employed a skill he often practiced with the wartime Navy.* Climbing the foremast, he kept a lookout for submerged coral heads lest they slit Yankee's belly (page 13). Murky water required additional precau tions. A lead-line crew took soundings from * See "Adventures with the Survey Navy," by Irving Johnson, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1947.