Trouble Erupts

One version of what happened next was that George Clark, one of the Roman's boatsteerers, had a half brother that was being held captive on Ohitahoo (Vaitahu) by the natives. Although the Captain had been warned of the natives' violent nature, he had at some point agreed to help smuggle the brother to safety. Another account said that Jernegan had promised the crew shore leave, but was now reluctant to follow through given Captain Tripp's advice.

Captain Jernegan wanted no trouble with the natives or his crew. He was distressed to learn that his agreement to help George Clark's brother was being discussed amongst the crew and he had second thoughts about the offer. Some of the other men had gone ashore and returned under the influence of alcohol. So, when Clark approached the Captain telling him that he and his friends wanted to go ashore to a dance, the request was denied. Clark's angry response was to incite the rest of the crew.

In her memoirs, Helen wrote, "The day we were going to sail, the sailors went on shore, and when they returned to the ship they had been drinking and refused to obey the orders given by the mate."

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Martha's Vineyard Museum J. Ross Browne