Honolulu Harbor (1836)

One of my favorite sources for old Royal Navy information is The United Service Journal. Some volumes are available for free through services like Google Books. However, there’s nothing quite like owning the actual thing.

I recently acquired another volume to add to my modest collection. Among the usual batch of interesting articles, there is one titled “Narrative of a Voyage from Valparaiso to the South Sea Islands in Her Majesty’s Ship Actaeon, Towards the End of the Year 1836.”

Actaeon arrived off O‘ahu on October 23rd. Here is the author’s (uncredited) description of Honolulu Harbor:

“We anchored in the outer roads in 15 fathoms, coral bottom, and a little after sunset. There is a long reef [that] runs along shore 18 or 20 miles, and opposite the town of Houalutire is a break in it of about a hundred yards, which is the passage for ships to the inner anchorage. There are never less than eighteen feet of water on the bar, but the most intricate part is after this is passed. A pilot came on board early in the morning, and we were towed in by the boats from all the whalers, about forty in number. We moored inside all the whalers, at not more than a stone’s-throw from the shore. There are always a number of ships here in the months of November, December, and January, when the whalers come in to refit, and replenish their provisions. The harbour-dues are heavy, and bring in a good revenue; but the harbour is gradually filling up. The bottom is muddy, and the shoals on either side of it extend out to the reef, so that the poor inhabitants, who subsist chiefly on shell-fish, such as oysters, mussels, &c., walk out on the shoals at low water to procure them. We should say the harbour is capable of containing sixty ships. It is well sheltered on all sides. The tides here are by no means regular.”


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