Wallis, Samuel, 1728-1795
Born in 1728 at Lanteglos-by-Camelford, he is not well known, but was an historically important seaman. He served under Admiral Boscawen as his flag lieutenant, and was given command of H.M.S. Dolphin in 1766 to explore the Pacific.
It was believed that another continent existed to the south of South America, and Wallis spent twenty months sailing round the world looking for signs of it. He found the islands of Tahiti and Easter island, and his reports led to Captain Cook's later voyages.
The Dolphin Mission:
In 1766 the British Admiralty took up the search for the Southern Continent officially, sending out Captain Samuel Wallis in the Dolphin, accompanied by Philip Carteret in the unseaworthy Swallow. On entering the Pacific, bad weather separated the two ships. Wallis’ secret instructions were: ‘to discover and obtain a complete knowledge of the Land or Islands supposed to be situated in the Southern Hemisphere’.
On 18 June 1767 the sailors saw a mountain covered with cloud and supposing it to be the Southern Continent, discovered instead the island of Tahiti.
The most extensive British account of the discovery is provided by George Robinson, master of the Dolphin, who wrote:
‘…The country hade the most Beautiful appearance its posabel to Imagin, from the shore side one two and three miles Back there is a fine Leavel country that appears to be all laid out in plantations, and the regular built Houses seems to be without number, all allong the Coast, they appeared lyke long Farmers Barns and seemd to be all very neatly thatched, with Great Numbers of Coca Nut Trees and several oyr trees that we could not know the name of all allong the shore – the Interior part of the country is very Mountainous but there is beautiful valeys between the Mountains – from the foot of the Mountains half way up the Country appears to be all fine pasture land, except a few places which seemd to be plowed or dug up for planting or sowing some sort of seed – from that to the very topes of the Mountains is all full of tall trees but what sort they are I know not but the whole was Green. This appears to be the most populoss country I ever saw, the whole shore side was lined with men, women and children all the way that we Saild allong.’
On 24 June 1767 as the Dolphin warped into Matavai Bay, the Tahitians came out in their canoes and pelted the vessel with stones. Wallis replied with cannons. The next day an armed party went ashore to plant the British pendant and take formal possession of the island, naming it King George the Third’s Island. Two days later two fleets of canoes converged on the Dolphin, while armed warriors made for the watering party on shore. Wallis ordered the crew to fire on the approaching canoes, which immediately withdrew, and then the guns were turned on shore. The warriors there fled to a hill overlooking the bay, which was already crowded with women and children. The Dolphin fired four devastating shots at the hill. Omai would later claim to have been one of the many casualties. That afternoon, after the ship’s carpenters had destroyed all the canoes they could find, the Tahitians sued for peace, bringing gifts of food and cloth and giving access to their young women. The Dolphin’s sick went ashore to recuperate, and the trading began.
(The natives of Otaheite attacking Captn. Wallis the first discoverer of that island)
On 16 August 1767 Uvea Island discovered by Capt. Samuel Wallis and named Wallis Island.