Marshall Islands History Sources No. 23
Brig Vision at Namorik Atoll (1876)

by James Lyle Young

(by Dirk H.R. Spennemann)

Accounts of the first impressions of visitors are always revealing, both as to the attitude of the visitor and as to the people visited. The diaries and logbooks of many traders and whalers contain very detailed entries the first time a new location is visited, only to become very laconic on the next occasion. The diary of the trader James Lyle Young is no different in that regard.

Brig Vision at Namorik Atoll (1876)
(by James Lyle Young)

Namorik atoll or Baring Island, is one of the smallest for its size, and probably the most fertile and productive of the Marshall Group. It is about 4 miles in length by 2 in length of an oval shape. It is of compact form, there being only two islets and one of them is comparatively small. The land forming the E. S. and part of the W. sides of atoll is an unbroken belt of about 400 yards in width on an average, the remaining part of the W. side and the whole of the Northside of atoll are bare reefs with a few rocks awash at high water, with the exception of the N. W. point of atoll on which is an islet named "Murmur", having on it some heavy straight timber, of some kind of hard wood and some cocoanuts. The lagoon which appears to be from 10 to 20 fathoms in depth is studded with numerous patches. There is no passage into the lagoon for even a boat or canoe, except at high water and at this time of year (July), the tides have but a small rise and fall, say 3 feet, so the white man resident here informs me.

There is no anchorage at the island, and the only available landing is on the West side of island near the S. W. point of atoll, at this place if the tide is low one has to land on the edge of the reef and walk some 600 yards over reef to the beach, but at high water a boat can go in.

The island is densely covered with cocoanuts, pandanus breadfruit etc., bananas are plentiful, pigs and fowls may be obtained in numbers. In the lagoon there is obtained some pearl-shell (black edged variety).

The population is about 400, all under missionary influence more or less, many read, and write, most of them also wear foreign clothing.

The chief Loiak owns most of the land here, but there are also pieces of land owned by some other Marshall Island Chiefs. There is at present only one white man living here, his name is Jumpfer (he is generally know as "Jim") a seaman trading for Capelle and Co.

H.M.S. "Sappho" called here a few days ago on her way from Jaluit to Ebon.

The cocoanut trees are very productive, they are first at present under a "table", and consequently but little copra is being made.

The currents run strongly to the Eastward in the vicinity of this island and there are dangerous eddies round the shores particularly on the South side, it is therefore not safe to approach too closely in light weather except on the West, or lee side, between the S.W. and N.W. points of atoll, a vessel may be safely, even in very light Easterly weather as there is there no current, except one stretches two far to the Northward or Southward and thus gets into the sweep of the current setting East one, or one and a half knots per hour. In Westerly weather it would be impossible to land. The reefs extend off but a very short distance, off the S.W. and N.W. points it runs off perhaps half a mile.

Namorik is placed by some authorities in latitude 5-35 North Longitude 168-18 East and by others in 5-35 North and 168-23 East.

Source: James Lyle Young, Private Journal, 6 January 1875 - 31 December 1877. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, Microfilm no 21. Entry for 17 July 1876.

[History Sources ToC]

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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