Foreign Ships in Micronesia

A Compendium of Ship Contacts with the Caroline and Marshall Islands


Francis X. Hezel, S.J.
[Edited to include only contacts with the Southwest Islands]

Published in Cooperation with the Trust Territory Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service.

Saipan, Mariana Is.
August 1979

Map of Palau District

1522 Spanish ship TRINIDAD of Magellan's fleet, commanded by Gomez de Espinosa, on its attempt to recross the Pacific. May 6: Sighted two small islands in 5° N which they named "San Juan" -- almost certainly Sonsorol. [Sharp 1960: 9-101]
1579 English ship GOLDEN HIND, commanded by Francis Drake, en route to the Moluccas. Sept 30: Came upon islands at 8' N. Several canoes came out to the ship and trading was carried on. When the islanders began to steal things, a skirmish broke out and 20 natives were killed These islands -seemingly Palau -- were named "Islands of Thieves." [Lessa 1975a: 54-8,250-5]
1710 British privateer DUKE OF BRISTOL, Capt Woodes Rogers, en route from Guam to Ternate. Apr 10: Sighted a low island at 21 54'N that was probably Tobi. [Rogers 1928: 273; Sharp 1960: 93-4]
blank.gif (37 bytes) Spanish patache SANTISSIMA TRINIDAD of Manila, Francisco Padilla, on a voyage to search for the Palaos. Nov 30: Found Sonsorol which they named "San Andreas." Natives traded peacefully and invited Spanish ashore for a feast. Two priests and several soldiers were landed on the next day, but the ship was driven off by the currents and was unable to make the island again to take them off, despite repeated attempts. Dec 11: Sighted Palau and lay off for two days. Several canoes came off with armed natives who came aboard to trade. When some began to pry pieces of iron from off the ship, all were ordered off. They hurled spears from their canoes. More canoes came out the next day, but Padilla did not go ashore as they requested. Good descriptive accounts of the people. [Barras de Aragon 1949: 1076-89; Krämer 1917: 1, 36-67; Eilers 1936: 1, 1-14]
1712 Spanish patache SANTO DOMINGO, Bernardo de Egui, left Guam to search for Sonsorol and rescue the two priests left there. Feb 15: Sighted Palau. A dozen canoes came out, but only one caught up with the ship. Two natives came out on deck while the rest threw food and shell belts up to the ship. The two natives were seized and bound, but one escaped a short time after. Left Palau on Feb 17. Feb 19: Sighted Sonsorol, but could find no sign of life. The next day the ship was carried away by strong currents and soon after returned to Manila. [Barras de Aragon 1949 1089-93: Krämer 1917: 1, 88-100]
1761 English merchantmen CARNARVON, Capt Norton Hutchinson,  WARWICK, Capt James Dewar, and PRINCESS AUGUSTA, Capt Thomas Baddison, on return from Canton. In Sept sighted island at 4° 34'N, 130° 23'E -- Pulo Anna. CARNARVON also sighted Merir. [Stevens 1808: 636-6]
1763 British merchantman GOVERNOUR sighted Pulo Anna. [Stevens 1808. 636; Robertson 1791: 104]
1767 HMS SWALLOW, Capt Philip Cartaret, on exploring expedition of Wallis, discovered islands to southwest of Palau on passage from New Guinea to Manila. Sept 8: Sighted a "very dangerous shoul" -- Helen's Reef. Saw island that was named "Hummock" -- Tobi. Oct 12: Sighted island that was called "Bird island" -- Pulo Anna. Oct 13: Sighted two tiny islands and called them "Current Islands" or later "St Andrew Is" -- Sonsorol. [Wallis 1965: 1, 200-3; Eilers 1936: 1, 19-20]
1769 British indiaman PONSBORNE, Capt John Payne, en route to China. In Feb sighted Pulo Anna and Merir. [Stevens 1808: 635-6]
1773 Spanish ship NUESTRA SENORA DE CONSOLACION, piloted by Felipe Tompson, may have sighted Helen's Reef. An old map shows the track of Tompson's ship with a reef drawn in near the position of Helen's Reef. [Sharp 1960: 127-8]
1781 British merchantman LORD NORTH, Capt William Hambly, on return trip to Canton, was driven off course by winds and current. In Jan sighted Tobi and named it "Lord North's Is" (Purdy gives as date of discovery 14 July 1728!). [Stevens 1808: 639; Purdy 1814: 15]
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1784 British indiaman LONDON, Capt Easterbrook, on passage to China, sighted Sonsorol. [Robertson 1791: 105]
1785 British indiaman TRUE BRITON, Capt Henry Farrer, on passage to Canton, sighted Pulo Anna. [Stevens 1808: 635]
1786 British merchantman NOOTKA, Capt William Douglas, on voyage to the northwest coast of America, sighted Tobi. [Stevens 1808: 639]
1787 British indiaman WARREN HASTINGS, Capt J.P. Larkins, en route to Canton. Dec 23: Sighted Pulo Anna and Merir at 4° 42'N, 131° 10'E and 4° 20'N, 131° 35'E. [East India Co 1761-1828: Log of Warren Hastings]
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1788 British ship IPHIGENIA NUBIANA, Capt William Douglas, of Meares' exploring expedition to northwest coast of America. Mar 9: Put in at Tobi where natives came aboard to trade. People were astonished at sight of iron hatchets and discharge of firearms. Left after two days, naming the island "Johnstone," Apr 3: Arrived at Palau with intention of taking on wood, fresh food & coconuts. Natives came out to trade, but offered little food in return for ironware given them. Captain cleared the deck and sailed on the next day. [Meares 1790: 291-9]
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1789 British indiaman DUKE OF MONTROSE, Capt Joseph Dorin, on a passage to China with companion ships. Jan 1: Sighted Tobi which they named "Neville Island." Canoes came out but could not catch the ship. [Stevens 1808: 639; Eilers 1936: 11, 4]
blank.gif (37 bytes) British merchantman ASIA, Capt John Foulkes, on return trip from China in company with DUKE OF MONTROSE and RAYMOND. June 4: Sighted Merir. People came off in canoes to beg provisions. They were "seemingly very poor and brought nothing with them but fishing lines & hooks." [Stevens 1808: 636-7]
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1792 Spanish sloops OTRO VIDA & DESCUBIERTA, under Alessandro Malaspina, sailed past Merir on Dec 24. [Eilers 1936: I, 301]
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1794 British storeship BRITANNIA of London, Capt William Raven, sighted Sonsorol on Jan 9. Several canoes came off. Natives wore only "girdles of woven cloth." [Murray 1796]
blank.gif (37 bytes) British ship HELEN, Capt George Seton, sighted Tobi on April 5. Saw lights on it -- sign of habitation. Also saw a reef which they named "Helen's Reef." [Stevens 1808: 600, 620]
blank.gif (37 bytes) British indiaman CARNATIC, Capt James Jackson, en route to China, sighted Pulo Anna on Dec 25. [Stevens 1808: 635-7]
blank.gif (37 bytes) British indiamen DUKE OF BUCCLEUGH, Capt Wall, with BODDAM & MACARTNEY on their passage to China, sighted Pulo Anna & Merir. [Stevens 1808: 635-7]
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1796 British storeship BRITANNIA of London, Capt William Raven. Mar 23: Saw a low island at 4° 57'N, 133° 29'E -- perhaps Pulo Anna, [Murray 1796]
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1797 British indiaman THAMES, Capt Robert Williams, in company with CARNATIC, sighted Pulo Anna on Aug 3. [Stevens 1808: 634]
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British merchantman CERES, Capt T. Hedley, on passage from Port Jackson to China, sighted Sonsorol on Nov 21. [Journal of Ceres, Naval Records Group No 45, Washington, US National Archives]
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1801 British indiaman NEPTUNE, in company with HMS BELLIQUEUX & indiamen BOMBAY CASTLE, COUTTS, DORSETSHIRE & EXETER. Jan 21: Touched at Merir. Canoe with four tattooed natives came out to trade,  but the natives could not be persuaded to come on deck. [Stevens 1808: 638]
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1804 Ship ASIA of Providence, Capt Nathaniel Pearce, on a trading voyage to Canton. Nov 17: Sighted Merir. Nov 19: Sighted Palau. [Pearce 1805]
blank.gif (37 bytes) Swedish ship WASA, Capt Hanson, on its passage to China, sighted Helen's Reef. [Stevens 1808: 600]
1805 British Indiaman ASIA sighted Sonsorol. [Purdy 1814: 151]
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1810 Ship MARTHA was lost on a shoal "lying northward and eastward of the Island of Gillolo in lat 3° N, 131° 45'E"-- probably Helen's Reef. [Ward 1967: 111, 197]
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1827 Whaleship HARVEST of Nantucket, Capt Richard Macy, sighted Sonsorol, [Reynolds 1828: 20]
1828 American ship GLOBE, Capt Thomas Dixey, on a trading voyage to Canton, made the island of Merir on Feb 11. [Harrold 1828]
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1832 Whaleship MENTOR of NB, Capt Edward Barnard, was wrecked on reef off Palau on May 21. 11 of the 22 crew members survived and lived in Babeldaop for five months. On Oct 27, the captain and eight of the crew left Palau in a makeshift vessel and drifted to Tobi where they were captured, beaten & enslaved. Three survived this mistreatment and lived in Tobi for two years until they were picked up by BRITANNIACapt Barnard and  one other were rescued two months after their arrival on Tobi by SABINA.  Three others who had been left at Palau as hostages were later picked up by the USS VINCENNES.   Extensive description of the natives of Tobi and Palau found in Holden's writings. (Holden 1836; Lyman 1902; Ward 1967: V, 406-44]
1833 Spanish merchant ship SABINA, Capt Soames, bound for Macao. Visited Tobi on Feb 3. Picked up Capt Barnard & Bartlett Rollins, survivors of the shipwrecked MENTOR. Presented iron hoop to their captors as a reward for their release. [Ward 1967: V, 420]
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1834 British bark BRITANNIA, Capt Henry Short, bound for Canton. Touched at Tobi on Nov 27. Took Horace Holden & Benjamin Nute off the island after two years there. [Holden 1836: 113-7]
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1835 Ship MONSOON of Boston, Capt Thomas Remmonds, on a trading voyage to Batavia. Mar 4: Passed near Merir. Five canoes came alongside and traded coconuts, fishing lines & sashes. Islanders were given bread & clothing in return. [Remmonds 1835]
1836 US naval sloop VINCENNES, Cmdr John H. Aulick, on a mission to pick up stranded American seamen. Nov 26: Touched at Palau. While at anchor at Koror, trading was carried on. Many interesting comments on Palauan people, their history & culture. Dec 9: Arrived at Tobi. Bartered with natives for iron. Sent an armed party of 80 men ashore to search for survivors of the MENTOR, but found only one Palauan chief, who was taken aboard. The ship returned to Palau, and an expedition was sent out against the people of Ngerchelang, forcing them to surrender two Americans they held prisoner. Left Palau on Dec 20 to continue its voyage. [Browning 1836: 209-306; Paullin 1971: 69-71]
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1849 Trading bark ELEANOR of Hobart, Capt Edward Woodin, put in at Sonsorol on Nov 30 to land a native who had been picked up while drifting in a canoe. [Woodin 1849]
1851 USS SARATOGA, Cmdr W.S. Walker, on a cruise to the East Indies. Mar 25: Passed by Pulo Anna, "Several native boats in sight, one of which came alongside." Mar 26: Sailed near Sonsorol. "Passed through a large fleet of canoes." [Walker 1851]
1852 Bark ARCO IRIS, Capt George Coffin, lay off Merir on Feb 9. Three canoes came out, natives trading coconuts and woven mats for iron. They were also given bread & "porpoise blubber" which they devoured on the spot. [Coffin 1853: 151-2]
blank.gif (37 bytes) Trading bark ELEANOR, Capt Edward Woodin, on a beche-de-mer cruise. Apr 14: Put in at Palau to take on water. Apr 23: Touched at Sonsorol for two days. Landed there two natives who had been picked up by another ship and taken to Hongkong. May 7: Returned to Palau to collect beche-de-mer. Two crew members deserted. The ship left for China on Sept 2. [Woodin 1852]
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1854 Whaleship MARTHA of Fairhaven, Capt Meader, lay off Palau on Jan 28 for a day, before passing Tobi on Feb 2. On Mar 12, the ship stood off Merir for a day and was visited by a canoe. [Meader 1857]
blank.gif (37 bytes) Whaleship YOUNG HECTOR of NB, Capt Peter G. Smith, stood in for Tobi on Mar 25. Eight canoes came alongside and traded. [Smith 1857]
blank.gif (37 bytes) Ship SYREN, Capt Charles H. Allen, on a trading voyage from SF to Calcutta, sighted Pulo Anna on May 23. Sighted Sonsorol & Merir on the following day. [Allen 1855]
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1855 CHRYSOLITE, Capt A. McClellan, sighted Angaur on Apr 6. It is unclear whether the ship actually put in here or not, but Capt McClellan mentions that he"had a note from Capt Eastway who had been in the island 16 months" after his vessel sank in a hurricane. On July 14, the CHRYSOLITE  sighted Merir. [Nautical Magazine, XXV (Jan 1856), 50]
1856 Whaleship PERUVIAN of Nantucket, Capt Edward B. Hussey, touched at Sonsorol on Mar 24 and "traded with natives who came off in canoes for coconuts, lines, etc." [Hussey 1856]
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1857 Whaleship NORMAN of Nantucket, Capt Charles C. Ray, at Pulo Anna on Mar 22. Canoes came alongside with a few coconuts. [Ray 1860]
1858 Ship LADY RAGLAN was wrecked on Helen's Reef about July. It was found there three months later by Cordelia Beran, [Annales Hydrographiques, XV I I I (18601, 293-4]
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blank.gif (37 bytes) Bark CORDELIA BERAN, Capt M.J. Pederson, lay off Helen's Reef on Oct 4. It had left Singapore to salvage the wreck of Lady Raglan, lost three months before on Helen's Reef. Cordelia remained until Nov 11, taking a cargo of tea off the wreck. [Annales Hydroqraphiques, XV I I I (1860) 293-4]
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1863 Ship N. B. PALMER, Capt Charles P. Low, on a trading voyage to China Feb 5: Ship was becalmed off Sonsorol and 15-20 canoes came out with 150 natives who traded yams and fruit. Islanders were given tobacco, as they requested, and articles of clothing. [Low 1905: 163-4]
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c1865 Whaling bark JAVA II of NB, Capt Nathan S. Smith, lay off Tobi.  "Nothing of account to be got." [Smith 1867]
1866 German steamship VESTA owned by Godeffroy Co, Capt Alfred Tetens, returning from Europe. In Jan visited Sonsorol where Tetens was entertained by the natives for a day or two. Proceeded on to Palau for beche-de-mer, but found an insufficient quantity there. Took on several crew members in Koror and sailed for Yap. The Vesta returned late in the same year for a day or two. Tetens found the natives fearful that a warship would come to avenge Cheyne's death. [Tetens 1958: 58-62, 74-5; Stevens 1867]
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blank.gif (37 bytes) Ship SOOLOO of Boston, Capt Charles Beadle, passed by Merir on Mar 5. Three canoes came out and traded coconuts for tobacco. [Beadle 1867]
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1868 Whaling bark ORLANDO of NB, Capt James M. Clark, visited Tobi on Mar 15. Several canoes came off to trade. Sailed for Ponape four days later. [Clark 1870]
1869 Whaling bark JAVA I I of NB, Capt Charles H.S. Kempton. Apr 20: Lay off Tobi. "Got ten of the natives and a few coconuts." Sept 10: Again in at Tobi. Discharged the natives that were signed on in Apr. Two of the ship's officers went ashore and bought mats with pieces of tobacco. [Kempton 1872]
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1882 German bark KARL, Capt E. Kräft, passed Tobi on Dec 13. Three canoes came off the islands, seized the rudder chain and were towed for a while until the crew cut the lines. The natives discharged muskets at the ship, but without damage. [Eilers 1936: I I, 24-5; Kräft 1885]

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1885 Brig SWAN owned by O'Keefe, Capt Henderson, left Yap for the outer islands of Palau. Jan 16: Reached Sonsorol. Jan 17 & 18: Stood off Merir to pick up visiting Yapese to carry them home. John Kubary was aboard. [Kubary 1889: 1, 79]