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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

The Alfred Agate Collection: The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

1840

Peacock arrived on 1 May and the scientists assigned to it, including Agate, returned to their assigned berthing. Three days later the squadron left for the Fiji Islands. On arriving at Ovalu Island they were met by David Whippy, a Nantucket sailor who had settled there. Whippy proved himself useful, acting as interpreter and advisor on local customs. An important piece of advice he offered was to never completely trust the Fijians. Both Whippy and the local missionaries told stories of treachery and murder among the island's cannibal population. In response, Wilkes issued orders for extra care when in contact with the islanders. Landing parties could only leave the ships when absolutely necessary and officers should be armed.

Fiji Man
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-BG

 

 

 

Wild Feejee Man
Alfred T. Agate
Woodcut
98-89-AP

 

 


One of Wilkes' first acts in the Fijis was to send a summons to a local great chief, Tanoa. In local custom, compliance would be an acknowledgement of Wilkes' dominance, and Whippy, the local chiefs, and settlers wondered what the response would be. On 12 May King Tanoa arrived from his home on Ambau Island and took up residence in the mbure, or council house. Eager for trade, he gladly signed an agreement for the future safety of United States ships in Fiji. In spite of the treaty, Wilkes was not entirely convinced they would be safe. In setting up his observatory at Levuka, Ovalu, he assigned Marines to it for protection, and on Whippy's advice he hired spies in the king's retinue to keep him informed of any contemplated mischief.

Mbure House
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-CL

 

 

Mbure House
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-HF (back)

 

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island
Alfred T. Agate
Watercolor
98-89-CV (back)

 

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-CZ

 

 

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island
Alfred T. Agate
Oil on board
98-89-HB (back)

 

 

Tanoa, King of Ambau Island
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-DC

 

 

 

 

Tanoa, King of Ambau Island
Alfred T. Agate
Watercolor
98-89-GA

 

 

 

 

Observatory Peak, Fiji
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-FU

 

 

 

 

Observatory Peak Fiji
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-AG

 

 

 

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27 March 2004