What Charles Darwin Saw in Tahiti

Diana Preston in Literary Hub:

The first Europeans to reach Tahiti were the crew of HMS Dolphin, commanded by Samuel Wallis, in June 1767. When the Dolphin approached the island and, like the Beagle, anchored in Matavai Bay, some Tahitians had thought the ship was “a floating island.” Others had recalled a prophecy that, as a result of the chopping down of a sacred tree, newcomers of an unknown kind would arrive and that “this land would be taken by them. The old order will be destroyed and sacred birds of the land and the sea will come and lament what the lopped tree has to dictate. [The newcomers] are coming upon a canoe without an outrigger.”

After some initial friction, Wallis’s crew and the Tahitians became so close that both were sad to see the Dolphin leave, not least on the sailors’ part because of the friendliness of the people, their willingness to trade, the fertility of their island, and most of all because of the ties between some of the crew and Tahitian women who had uninhibitedly made love to them.

More here.