13th December 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
The whole group of islands called Feejee, or Fidji, by Europeans, but of which the native name is, I believe, Navihi—is of very dangerous navigation: not only on account of coral reefs, scarcely hidden by a few feet of water, but because the natives are ferocious and treacherous cannibals. My informant said, that the master of his schooner (who was long detained a prisoner among them, his life being spared in hopes of obtaining a large ransom), was an unwilling participator in a cannibal feast on some prisoners of war, taken in an attack on a neighbouring island. That they have an idea of the superiority of white men may be inferred from a message sent previous to this battle, saying, "We shall kill and eat you all—we have seven white men to fight for us!" Although many unfortunate seamen have fallen victims to the thoroughly savage Feejee Islanders, a few whites have not only escaped death, but have established themselves in some authority among the natives. A man known by the name of Charles, was more respected than almost any of their own chieftains, on account of his extraordinary valour: and so highly was he considered by all of them, that he was allowed to have a hundred wives.

No small vessel ought to venture near any of the Feejee islands without being armed, and prepared to act defensively. Boarding nettings, if she has them, should be triced up; and no professions, or appearance of friendship, ought ever to put strangers off their guard. In case of an unavoidable rupture, a chief, the highest in rank that can be secured, should, if possible, be made prisoner—by force if fair means fail; and he should be made to understand that his life depended upon the conduct of his countrymen. Of course no right-minded man would act otherwise than to avoid or prevent any hostilities with ignorant savages, so long as he could do so without risking the lives of his own countrymen; but he must remember that, in hand to hand fighting, a band of fierce savages, armed with a variety of weapons, are more than a match for seamen unused, perhaps, to muskets, and equally awkward with pistols or swords: however brave and determined they may be, if dispersed, as usually happens, they are sure to be by far the greatest sufferers. I here allude to those savages who are really warriors. At some islands, and other places, they are comparatively timid, though seldom less treacherous.

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