Sea People Tidbit: Tasman at Tongatapu

From The Journal of Abel Janszoon Tasman, ed. Andrew Sharp (London: Oxford University Press, 1968).

This beautiful thing is a page from the ship's log of the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman—imagine if all our journals looked like this!

Tasman is here describing the island of Tongatapu, in the southern reaches of the Tongan archipelago. He was not the first European to reach what is now the Kingdom of Tonga; the Dutch explorers Schouten and Le Maire had passed through the northern edge of the archipelago in 1616. But he was the first outsider to describe Tongatapu.

Tasman said that the people he met there were friendly and eager to trade. They came out to the ships in large numbers, and much of his account is given over to detailing the specific terms. A hen, for example, was equal in worth to a nail or a chain of beads. A small pig could be exchanged for a fathom of dungaree; ten to twelve coconuts for three to four nails (or a double medium nail); two pigs for a knife with a silver band plus eight or nine nails. And a pile of yams, coconuts, and a length of bark cloth was the rough equivalent of a pair of trousers, a small mirror, and some beads.