Unfriendly Natives

Over the course of a voyage whalemen could find themselves on distant and sometimes exotic shores for a variety of reasons. They may have stopped intentionally for provisions or they may have been forced ashore by stormy seas or even, in some cases, because of damage to the ship by an angry whale. In many places the sailors were treated fairly by the native people but not always. The natives of some South Seas islands were unfriendly to outsiders or had been so poorly treated by sailors in the past that whalemen would run into trouble when stopping for supplies. There are accounts of ships being attacked and destroyed and whalemen killed.

The Charles W. Morgan drifted towards the island of Sydenham in 1851. The locals were known to have captured more than one ship in the past, killing the crews or holding them for ransom until the next ship came along to trade tobacco or other goods for their release. With five hundred natives in canoes racing toward the helpless vessel, the end looked near for the Charles W. Morgan. Luckily, with a little help from the wind and the advantage of a few muskets and harpoons, they managed to escape danger that day.

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Library of Congress