Building Babel: A Melanesian TL

Introduction and start
Building Babel: The Christianisation of the New Hebrides


Aboard the Camden, off Dillon’s Bay [Unpongkor/William’s Bay], Erromanga, the New Hebrides.

The Rev. John Williams was a man dedicated to the service of God. In the service of the London Missionary Society, He had brought Christianity to parts of Polynesia, in the Society Islands and Samoa. But now he searched for another place, where he could spread the word of God to those unfamiliar with Him. In his search, he found the islands of Western Polynesia [Melanesia], inhabited by the Papuan race, dark-skinned peoples who had so far not embraced the warmth of Christ.

And so, he found himself on the morning of the 20th of November, in the Year of Our Lord Eighteen Thirty-Nine, on the missionary ship Camden, in the southern New Hebrides. Buoyed by recent successes in establishing peaceful contacts with the inhabitants of Fatuna and a chief of Tanna who helped establish contact with the inhabitants of Port Resolution on Tanna, the ship had now sailed to the island of Erromanga. The previous night, William’s fears had disappeared, and been replaced with great confidence and joy about the success to be had in his mission.

But in his sleep, the feeling of elation had been tempered. For the magnitude and importance of his work, the scale of what needed to be done, had fell upon him. Williams believed that “the New Hebrides are key to evangelising the islands of New Caledonia, New Britain, New Guinea, and the other islands inhabited by the Papuan race.” To fail this mission would be failing not only the people at the Society, but also himself, God, and not to mention the natives of the island whose shores he stood off. By not helping them into Christendom would be failing to act his mission as guide to natives of the South Seas.

The Reverend now made a promise to himself and the Lord. He would begin his mission here, in the southern New Hebrides.

On the morning of the 20th of November, aware of the dangers that he faced, the Reverend John Williams went down in the whaling boat of the Camden, to try and establish contact with the natives of Dillon’s Bay. And thus started the path of Christianisation of the natives of the New Hebrides…

And so, the POD starts. In OTL, at this point, John Williams was surveying the New Hebrides, to find a suitable starting point for a new mission to be founded, in order to convert the inhabitants of the New Hebrides. Very little has changed from OTL so far, save Williams deciding to start his missionary work in *Tafea, the southern part of Vanuatu’s archipelago. Should he be successful, his work will not only jumpstart the process of Christianisation in Vanuatu, or the New Hebrides as it was called, by 9 years, but will also have interesting knock-on effects concerning the Kingdom of Hawaii, the sandalwood trade, and blackbirding for the Queensland sugar plantations.

I’m unsure if this timeline will generate any interest, but due to the scarcity of timelines on about Melanesia, and Oceania for that matter, I thought I’d give it a go. Any feedback, thoughts, ideas, or criticism would be greatly appreciated!
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Part 1: First Contact
Thank you all for the support, or as they say on Erromango, Kompalogi tama. Onwards to Part 1...

Part 1: First Contact

Excerpt from Erromango: A history by John Takie

After the tumultuous late 1820s and early 1830s, where heavy violence between sandalwood traders and Nam Nelocompne [people from Erromango], the first peaceful contact happened on the 20th of November 1839, when the Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society set foot at Unpongkor [Dillon’s Bay]. His arrival ushered in the era of Christianisation, and depending on who you ask, the beginning of the end for many Erromangans and their nompi itetwai (culture), or the end of the dark days of cannibalism, warfare, and heathenry…

From The Diary of Captain Robert C. Morgan 1798-1862

The day after we left the island of Tanna, we had proceeded to the island due north, which the natives call Erromanga. In the morn, Rev. Williams had the mind to establish contact with the natives upon the western coast. Sighting was made of a small canoe with three men in her. Upon this sighting, Mr. Williams gave instruction to lower the waling-boat to converse with the natives. Messrs Williams, Harris, Cunningham, and myself lowered down and rowed to them. Mr Williams spoke to them, but their language was different to that of the Windward Isles [The Society Islands, in which Raiatea, Williams’ first mission site, was located in]. The men seemed to be darker and smaller in stature to the natives of Tanna, with wild appearences and a shy temperment. Mr. Williams attempted to convince the natives to come aboard our ship with presents and speech, but to no avale. Despite this lack of success, Mr Williams was not disconscerted. I asked him of his plans, to which he gave the reply

“Captain, you know we like to take possession of the land, and if we can only leave good impressions in the minds of the natives, we can come again and leave teachers; we must be content to do a little; you know Babel was not built in a day.”

This seemed to have him in the mind to set down a ways up the coast, so we rowed further north. Some of the natives ran upon the rocks after us. At the head of Dillon’s Bay, we then came upon a pretty valley with the appearance of a river mouth, and several natives upon a beach. We made gestures to invite them towards us, but in response was gestured away. Beads were tossed upon the beach, and examined by the natives, and brought them cloeser to the boat. Then some fishing-hooks and beads, as well as a looking-glas was passed to them. The run of water at the head of the bay, was deemed by the chief [of the ship] to be drinkable. The return of the chief mate unmolested gave some hope to myself, but most especially to Mr Williams. The natives then gifted to us some cocoa-nuts, which Mr. Williams drank. I asked him of his thoughts upon the shyness of the natives, which he attributed to maltreatment by at the hands of foreigners in the past. Mr Williams then told me he was ready to go ashore, if only to establish our good nature in the minds of the natives. He, Mr. Harris, and a teacher went forwards and landed.


First meeting of the Reverend John Williams with the natives of Erromanga By George Baxter

An Oral Retelling of the arrival of Christianity to the island of Erromanga, told by George Meté to Henry Bourke, 1921

The Camden arrived only a few days after the construction of a nevsem [1], which was built to mark the death of the daughter of a natmonuk [2] by sandalwood traders. The nevsem was very important to village, and so the people on the beach warned the Reverend and his party to not come closer, telling him it was tabu[3]. This he understood, and decided to wait on the beach to try and talk with any man who would come close. He gave itmah [4] of hooks and beads, with some giving him coconuts back. After the men waited for some time, showing that they meant no harm. The people were very scared of the white man, because they killed many who stood in their way in their harvest of neiempen [5]. After that, some of the men who watched the Reverend sent for the natmonuk to come and see, and maybe get rid of the nehvo [6]. And so the natmonuk came…

[1]A nevsem (lit. to bring together) was a ceremony that was undertaken after the death of a chief, where form of tower which would be built after the death of an important person to commemorate the passing, with ceremonies being undertaken, and pigs and yams as well as coconut seedlings being given to show respect and symbolise new beginnings.
[2] A chief.
[3]Tabu, like the Polynesian tapu, means sacred or something that shouldn’t be done.
[5]Sandalwood, then the main reason that outsiders (i.e Europeans and Polynesians) visited Erromango
[6] A European (lit. white)

As always, any thoughts, ideas, criticism, or general feedback is greatly welcome.
Oh, that caught me off-guard, the polynesians raided Melanesia or was that other thing? And if yes, since when? I'm curious.
Yep, in the 1820s and 30s many of the sandalwood harvesters were Tongans and Rotumans, who were apparently incredibly violent. As well in about 1829, the Kingdom of Hawaii actually attempted to claim Erromango as part of the kingdom to secure the sandalwood resources, but out of a 300-strong crew, only 40 survived the disease and violence. It’s something I plan to explore further in this TL
Part 2: The Light Cometh
Part 2: The Light Cometh

Excerpt from The Diary of the Reverend John Williams,1796-1859

November 20th, Wednesday

As myself, Mr Harris, and the teacher waited on the beach, it became apparent, through one of the natives’ gesticulation, that danger would befall any man who decided to pass the line that they had hastily drawn in the sand. The only word intelligible of their tongue to myself was ‘tabu’, meaning sacred, which they repeated many times. How curious, for these Papuans to speak nothing similar to those of the island just to their south, save for this one!

We made moves to entice the men watching us, offering some bolts of cloth, beads, and other small articles, which managed to persuade one of the natives to give us the gift of some cocoa-nuts, which we gratefully accepted in the sweltering heat of the Sun.

The gifts appeared to cause some form of argument between the natives, with one running off towards what appeared to be some form of primitive tower, made to survey the land of enemies and foreigners, no doubt [1]. After the passage of some twenty-odd minutes of attempted enticement to no avail, we made the decision to begin to leave. But this was interrupted by the blowing of a conch-shell, the custom of many of the natives in the South Seas to signify the start of ceremony. Myself and Mr Harris then made the decision to remain, in case someone important decided to come out. After this, a large party of what looked to be a chief and warriors, lead by one of the natives who had left the beach earlier. Me and the teacher, John the Samoan, called out to them ‘tatou tati au’[2], or we come in peace. Conversation was had between the men at this, but seemed to elicit no change in their response to us. They called out ‘Maymay kik. armai neivoe’[1], which had no meaning in any tongue that I or my companions knew. Nevertheless we stood firm, offering trinkets of fishing-hooks, looking-glass, and cloth and showing our empty palms to show our peaceful intent. I deemed it prudent to not give a knife, as that may have caused aggression towards us.

We then inquired as to whom their king was, their ariki. We then told them we were men of Jesus Christ, that we meant them no harm. At the mention of the Good Lord’s name, they stirred. Their leader, who I assumed to be the chief of the nearby village, came towards us, repeating the word Jesu, which must have been the native’s approximation of Jesus. He then made the move to come towards us, and, in a most surprising move, spoke a few words of English. The chief said ‘Jesu namtog [prevent]' and 'Stop'. In my years of work in enlightening the heathens of the South Seas, never had we been invited by the leader of a village of natives to spread the faith before the matter had even been brought up. I thanked the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the light they had shone into the dark hearts of the Papuans. I then told the chief that the teacher that had accompanied myself and Mr. Harris, John, would stay with them and help. My promise to the Lord had been accepted and helped by the divine. The mission would truly start here, in the New Hebrides. Before long, all the heathens of these many isles will become good Christians and cast away their sinful ways. But before we could make the motions to leave, the man who had led the chief and his party towards us was told to come with us. This must have been to learn our language. With the gifts of more fishing hooks and cloth, we left, accompanied by the native. Leaving the beach to much jubilation, myself and Mr. Harris rowed back to the Camden.

[1] Actually a nevsem tower, built because of a ceremony to honour the daughter of a chief’s passing.

[2] He luckily didn’t say ‘tatate tatau’, which would mean ‘stamp on your testicles’. If this had been said, needless to say, the meeting would not have gone so well.

[3] ”Who are you? Good white men?”

Erromango: A history by John Takie, Chapter 2- The Story of Uven.

The first man to peacefully join the ship of an itugo [foreign] group, whose name is known to history by his Christian name of Edward, but had the actual name of Uven, or Oven as he was nicknamed by the crew of the Camden. He was in many ways an special to the history of Nelocompne. Not only did his decision to bring the chief of Waringi in Ralifatie [northern Erromango], Auyawi, to meet the mission lead by John Williams, bringing about a rare instant peaceful contact between Erromangans and foreigners, as well as marking the introduction of missionaries to both Erromango and the New Hebrides as a whole. His decision to board the Camden, knowing well the dangers that he may have faced, with the many stories of the murders of Erromangans by the Nehvo Natmah [white spirits], and yet still went aboard. The stories he told the men aboard the Camden had a great effect on them all, not least Williams himself…


Edward, native of Erromanga, begs for Captain Morgan to end the murders of his people (Library of Sydney, Pacific Collection. Author unknown)

Excerpt from The Diary of Captain Robert C. Morgan 1798-1862

November 20th

Through my spyglass I observed Messrs Williams and Harris, as well as the Samoan in their company, meet a large group of natives armed with clubs. My conscience was wracked between the duty as captain of the vessel to protect the men I must protect, and the instructions given to me by the Reverend before he departed to meet the natives of Dillon’s Bay. Ultimately, though the conversation between the groups seemed pained, no conflict arose. Amazingly- one of the natives followed Mr. Williams, and the two seemed to be in some sort of conversation. The Samoan has been left behind with the natives.

[written sometime later]

It has been reported to me that the native in company of Messrs Williams and Harris came of his own volition. The name given to me was Oven. Our very presence gave him much anguish, but he seemed greatly determined to remain. Through gesticulation, myself and the Reverend had introduced ourselves to him. Through his own manner of gesticulation, it was made apparent that the cause of his anguish was from the many sandalwood traders who visit Eromanga and the manner of brutality they obtained the goods. Oven gave us the name of sandalwood in his own tongue- nay empen [neiempen]. He seemed a noble savage, determined to rid his home of the violence that had wracked it since the arrival of the Cook and Dillon. The power of the cross seemed to him to be the way…


Sorry that this took so long, i've had some assignments to focus on. As always, thoughts, ideas, or criticism is always welcome.
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who had so far not been enlightened to the knowledge held by Christianity.
not to mention the unenlightened savages of the island whose shores he stood off.
Williams didn’t tend to think, or talk, about enlightenment. He would quite openly refer to non-Christian natives as heathens, and, as most missionaries in this place and era, genuinely committed to spreading the Gospel his writings don’t seem to reveal an underlining understanding of this work making the people more enlightened. That seems to be more of a simplification of our modern world ascribing such a bias to missionaries of the day.

It’s quite possible that Williams had a level of subconscious racism. Indeed, it is harder to prove someone didn’t have such than that they did. But it does not appear that “civilizing” or “enlightening” was his unstated objective. Rather it seems he genuinely felt called to share his faith with those who had not heard it.

you know Babel was not built in a day.
It’s a bit of an odd reference for a missionary of that day to make. The Tower of Babel was, and is, seen as a warning about putting faith in human works rather than trusting in God. Not really a reference he would use in a aspirational sense. It also refers to the confusion of languages causing a breakdown in cooperation, which is exactly the opposite of what Williams is going for here.
Williams didn’t tend to think, or talk, about enlightenment. He would quite openly refer to non-Christian natives as heathens, and, as most missionaries in this place and era, genuinely committed to spreading the Gospel his writings don’t seem to reveal an underlining understanding of this work making the people more enlightened. That seems to be more of a simplification of our modern world ascribing such a bias to missionaries of the day.

It’s quite possible that Williams had a level of subconscious racism. Indeed, it is harder to prove someone didn’t have such than that they did. But it does not appear that “civilizing” or “enlightening” was his unstated objective. Rather it seems he genuinely felt called to share his faith with those who had not heard it.

It’s a bit of an odd reference for a missionary of that day to make. The Tower of Babel was, and is, seen as a warning about putting faith in human works rather than trusting in God. Not really a reference he would use in a aspirational sense. It also refers to the confusion of languages causing a breakdown in cooperation, which is exactly the opposite of what Williams is going for here.
I will admit that my writing from Williams’ point of view is not the best. You are right about the unenlightened parts, he wasn’t that racist. The quote about Babel, though, is an actual quote of his, which was written down by Captain Morgan in the morning before Williams’ murder.
Thank you for this feedback, and please feel free to keep on giving me any feedback and criticisms.
The quote about Babel, though, is an actual quote of his, which was written down by Captain Morgan in the morning before Williams’ murder.
It does seem like a strange thing for a missionary to say, though - I'd imagine he was thinking of the language barrier between him and the Erromangans?

Great to see a Melanesian timeline here. This isn't a part of Melanesia I know much about, so I doubt I'll have much intelligent to say, but I'm looking forward to more.
Part 3: So long, Dillon's Bay
Part 3: Farewell, Dillon’s Bay

From Erromango: A history by John Takie (Chapter 2)

Uven’s journey was a strange one. He is thought to have been from the south of Erromango, from the village of Unorah (South River). His journeys aboard the Camden were remarkable due to the scope of his travels, from Erromango to Rotuma and Sydney, while not the longest travelled at the time, as well as his studies of English and the ways of the Bible, instructed by the Reverend John Williams. Though in this aspect, he was again not the first[1].

Excerpt from The Diary of the Reverend John Williams,1796-1859

November 21st Thursday

I was awoken by one of the crew, who had been sent due to Oven’s fears of being murdered by the crew, who I suppose looked all too similar to the crews that had been coming to this isle ever since the discovery of sandal-wood by the Irishman Dillon 13 years past. The unease of the natives in the presence of any European was understandable, but a great shame that the contact between honest men and the Papuans should be made difficult by the scoundrels who plunder the island and its populace for wealth.

Upon coming to the deck, Oven took notice of me and started speaking some words in his tongue while gesticulating at the many different crew members, who informed me that he had been doing the same all night. He repeated one word, entenur [tenur- unsafe] many times. Myself and Mr Harris were able to calm him by repeating the word good to him, which he in return taught to us as ara-mai. Seizing on the opportunity, we were able to teach him the words ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘boat’, and ‘peace’, which in his tongue were ara-mai pruv-rhum [aremai pruvrum][2], pware-ah [poicah or pwacah], kome-palogee [kompalogi], low [lou], and nen-baratah [nenparata]. We then taught him the names of utensils, as well as giving him some clothing to wear, which he refused. However, he taught us the name of clothing, neh-mah [nemah].

I then sent for some more gifts to give to the natives as thanks for caring for the Samoan teacher sent onshore to learn more about their lives. Oven also taught the names of the gifts. Cloth was neh-mah, a fish-hook was a kill-kill [kilkil], and a knife was a nau-itugo. Then set off in our rowing-boat for the shore, while we made it clear to Oven that we would then leave the island for a good while, which seemed to have little effect in making him desire to stay in his homeland, an admirable sense of bravery similar to the South Sea Islanders of Rarotonga and Raiatea, on a mission not dissimilar to that of John of Samoa who was learning the ways of the natives of Erromanga at the same time. At the mouth of the river, which Oven informed me was called the Ervah[3]. A native appeared to be fishing, but Oven called out to him to tell him to, I assumed, bring the chief and the Samoan teacher to meet us.

Pulling up the row-boat onto the bank, some form of horn blew in the distance. This was accompanied shortly thereafter by the arrival of a group of natives. As the group drew closer, it was made out that John the Samoan was in the group, appearing to be unharmed, but curiously without the chief from yesterday. I gave thanks to the natives in their language, and gave them some gifts of fishing hooks and cloth to give the group some measure of goodwill to us and to give memories of Europeans without bloodshed. Oven then began to inform the men of something, likely his plans to remain aboard the Camden. I attempted to move along the path towards the village, but was discouraged by Oven, saying such a move would be tapu. We then made our way back towards the river-mouth and to leave Erromanga for the time being. As we rowed back to the Camden, the Samoan teacher whom I had left ashore told his experience in the village, which he said was called Ompunyeloggy [Umponyelogi]. The natives were less than welcoming, but were discouraged from attacking him by the chief of the village, apparently a different man to he who had greeted us yesterday. Some form of gathering had been occurring for the past few days, it seemed, between different chiefs. John also mentioned that men of his complexion [i.e a Polynesian] were known to men from the eastern coast of Erromanga and were regarded with as much hostility and distrust as they would have with a European. I had heard of Tongans and Sandwich Islanders visiting Erromanga to harvest sandalwood, but what practices must they have done to be reviled in the same way as the Englishmen who ply these waters? Similar sins, one must imagine.

Aboard the Camden, we then made to set sail for Rotumah, where we would replenish our supplies, deposit some of the men aboard, and return to Erromanga to begin the mission to convert the Papuans. There was also reported to be a native of Erromanga who resided on Rotuma, but on the last visit was unable to be found. Hopefully success can be found on a second occasion, and his presence should provide much benefit to our mission in translation and as a reassurance to Oven.

Oven appeared to be saddened by his departure from his homeland, and fell into a state of melancholia. This ended with the enticement of some sugared tea and lessons from I to him and the reverse also served as a method of keeping his spirits high, and made great use of the tool that the Lord had provided myself for my mission. Oven was persuaded to put on some trousers, but not a shirt. I taught him the usage of some articles of civilisation, of which he took to, most especially the fork. Apparently some of the natives already make use of forks to eat the flesh of pigs. The sight of Oven spearing his supper with his fork and great vigour was of great amusment to Captain Morgan, who likened it to a man spear-fishing.

November 22nd Friday

On the matter of mission location, the village of Ompunyeloggy, at the head of Dillon’s Bay shall be first choice of establishement. The natives there have already met friendly Europeans and will find us with happiness. Oven too will serve as a great translator The secondary choice will be Port Resolution, the natives speak a tongue not too dissimilar to those to the east and contact with a chief who can be conversed with.

Oven’s lessons have progressed slightly in the matters of civilisation. While he still refuses to wear any clothing upon his torso, his understanding of the scriptures has advanced to understanding the presence of God and the Devil, I have come to the conclusion that Oven will be baptised under the name Edward on Rotumah. The pagan religion appears to know of the devils that plague mankind, but not of the Holy Father. His lessons in English and mine in his tongue, which he calls See-eh. A chief is called a nat-monuch [natmonuc], while Oven calls Jesus Yesu, the Holy Spirit nav-yat [navyat, spirit], and God is Novou. It was taught to Oven the name of our vessel, some of the more friendly crew, and Captain Morgan, as well as some objects of furniture and materials of use to the sailors, who were of great interst to him, likely because of their ability to move a vessel to a man who had only ever been in small dug-outs. Stories were told to me by Oven about his family and village, who were further to the south of Erromanga, not at Dillon’s Bay as I had first thought. The village was called Uhnorah. It then came upon myself that I had to inform Oven of the plans I had to establish a mission in order to bring civilisation to the Papuans of Erromanga. No great englightenment seemed to occur to him, but he thought it good so long that the mistreatment of his fellows on the account of perfumed wood were to end. Truly, I thought the same, and perhaps some manner of civilisation too can be brought to the brutes whose only method of communication is the stock of a musket.

[1]- This was because of the essential kidnapping of the 6- or 7-year-old (T)elau by Dr George Bennet in 1830, who then took her back with him to his home in Plymouth, where she died a few years later and was dissected by him.

[2]- Actually good morning. The vr is pronounced more like hr, but is not always very audible. Hello, or usually good day, is actually the same as goodbye, being poicah or pwacah, with aremai in front to say good day or good bye.

[3]- Ervah, or urva, means river. The river, which is nowadays called the Williams River, after the man who was murdered there in another timeline.

Any thoughts?
Part 4: One becomes two
Sorry this took so long. Comments welcome and appreciated.

Part 4: One becomes two

From Erromango: A history by John Takie (Chapter 2)

Uven’s storied voyage aboard the Camden across a large part of the Pacific, while a first in many ways, still was second to the journey of the siblings Elau and Asi. Taken from the eastern coast of Erromango in 1830 as young children by Dr George Bennet to study, they became the first Erromangans to travel aboard European ships to lands far from their home, to Rotumah and England. While Elau’s life ended at a young age due to the contraction of European disease, the first of many Erromangans, her brother’s life, while also ending early, accompanied great change to Nelocompne [Erromango], accompanying the establishment of the mission at Unpongkor…

Excerpt from The Diary of Captain Robert C. Morgan 1798-1862

November 21st – The mission aboard the Camden departed Dillon’s Bay off the western coast of Erromanga at midday, accompanied by a native of Erromanga by the name of Oven. The Reverend has requested to sail to Rotumah to release some of the native teachers in our company, and to search for a native of Erromanga said to live amongst one of the villages of Rotumah. I understand his plans are to begin his mission to the New Hebrides on Erromanga. At supper, the Papuan appeared versed in the use of a fork, but used the implement in a manner not dissimilar to a man hunting fish in a shallow brook. The practice caused great uproars of laughter among those dining.

November 22nd – The voyage progresses well. Clear skies accompany us and plentiful breezes blow. Rotumah should be 5 days or so away. Messrs Williams and Harris appear to be teaching the Papuan native brought aboard the ways of civilisation, while learning their tongue. His manner reminded myself of Bob, a Rotumah native aboard the Duke of York, inquisitive but also courageous. I hope him a happier end [1]. Perhaps he will become a great teacher of Papuans in the name of the Lord.

November 24th – Sabbath has come. Reverend Williams led a service, which included Oven. He appeared mystified by the whole service, but took part with apparent interest. I do believe he will be invaluable in the service of the Missionary Society. I inquired to the Reverend if he had taught Oven in matters of faith, to which I was informed that he had a grasp of the Trinity, and his pagan faith had great knowledge of the devil. The voyage has progressed well. A ship was spotted over the horizon, but no contact was established with the men aboard.

November 26th – We arrived to Rotumah, returning to the roughly constructed town, or rather the village, of Fusipaoa, where we had ancored in our last stay in Rotumah. No whalers were in port, though the crew of an American ship had recently departed. None of the crew or the native teachers were able to locate the fabled Erromangan who lived on the island. None of the natives seemed to want to inform us of their whereabouts, but the Reverend remained determined to seek the man out. Oven has now become a true Christian and is now known as Edward.

Excerpt from The Diary of the Reverend John Williams, 1796-1859

November 26th Tuesday

In the morn I had set out with Oven to baptise him and properly induct him into the church, to give him a new name to accompany, Edward being baptised in the small chapel that had been constructed by some New Zealanders and a native of Aitutaki. He however seemed to pronounce his d as a t, but nonetheless understood what the name meant.

We then determined to seek out the Erromangan said to inhabit Rotumah, and set out with some native teachers, Edward, and questioned the natives and the scatterings of white men who had fled the service of whaling-ships in the past. One of them, whom we had had interacted with in our last visit to Rotumah, had no knowledge as to the whereabouts of the man, but encouraged myself to inform the natives that one of his fellow islanders was in company of myself and searched for him. The chief Fusipaoa was also interested in our search for the Erromangan, and determined to assist us by discussing with the San, the principal chief of all Rotumah, and would travel the 4 or so miles to meet with him, and inform our party if the search would be permitted. The chief also promised to send a messenger to search for the man if some method of enticement was procured, to which we gifted some small iron knives and cloth, which seemed sufficient. With the blessing of the Lord, good news shall come upon us in the morrow.

November 27th Wednesday

Fusipaoa returned a few hours past dawn to inform us that the San gave permission, so long as we made no attempts to bring converts in Rotumah. This descision was made unhappily to his demands. I hope that the men who constructed the chapel succeed in their mission, though we cannot. The messenger sent out yesterday returned, bearing the message that the Erromangan we sought resided in a nearby village. With this, myself and some native teachers, as well as Edward, set out to meet this man. In a walk the distance of 5 or so miles, we arrived at the village that our messenger had guided us to. However to my surprise the man that greeted us was no man at all, but a youth of only 14 years. The family that adopted him told me that he had come off the ship of an Englishman 9 years past. He spoke in the Rotumahn tongue, which was similar enough to the language spoken by the natives of Rarotonga and Samoa to be understood by myself. His understanding of the language of Erromanga seemed limited, but some recognition could be seen as the words were spoken. His carers appeared loathe to part with him, but some gifts of iron tools and other trinkets in compensation for transferral to our care, while not putting an end to the anguish evident on their faces, allowed us to take him back to the Camden. While he was not a proper Christian like Edward now was, he will be invaluable in our service in allowing our words to be understood by the natives of Erromanga and bring our mission success.

We returned to the Camden, where Captain Morgan had replenished our stores in preparation for the establishment of the mission at Dillion’s Bay. Giving our thanks to the chief and the men who had assisted us in our search, we departed Rotumah to return to Erromanga to finally begin the conversion of the natives of the New Hebrides. The prospect appears daunting, but with the assistance of the Lord, Edward, the native teachers, and the newest addition to our group, we shall succeed.

[1] The Duke of York was shipwrecked off Queensland and the crew had to row their way nearly 500 kilometres to Brisbane. On their way, two crew, and Englishman and a Rotuman, were speared when they attempted to stop for some drinking water.
Can you recommend a good source for the history and culture of precolonial Vanuatu? I'm enjoying this thread and would like to say more but, as I mentioned above, I don't know the time and place well enough.