Laura's Letter to Granma

Towards the end of the 5 month cruise, the Roman neared the Sandwich Islands once again. Laura wrote an informative letter to her maternal grandmother in Edgartown dated March 9, 1870. It gives highlights of their five months at sea, like visiting the Queen's palace in the town of Ohitahoo (Vaitahu) on the island of Christiana (Tahuata) in the Marquesas group. Laura was impressed by the feast they were given that included ten different kinds of tropical fruits.

The Roman also made a stop at Nukuhiva where Laura reported that her mother Helen was the first white woman ever to visit the island. One story goes that "the natives swarmed about her, touching her hands and feet and bringing her presents by the boatload." On Nukuhiva the Jernegans met the Governor, the queen and the Sisters of Charity Catholic Missionaries.

The native men wore no clothing and were tattooed all over. Laura's mother was very curious about the cannibal stories originating in the area, so she asked to be shown one. When an old man was pointed out to her as one, he admitted that he was indeed an eater of human flesh. Helen's response was, "He didn't look so fearful, either."

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New Bedford Whaling Museum Benjamin Russell