One of the few portraits we have of Tobias Furneaux, intrepid sailor gout attacks carried to 46 years only.


TRAVEL BOOK, October 18, 2019 – Hearts, heads, lungs, and a little further human entrails disputed by stray dogs… The sweet dreams of the philosophers, during the eighteenth century, were very different from the reality. The “good savage” did not exist and if Captain Cook had the experience of cannibalism with Maoris, he has never been confronted to it with the same horror as Tobias Furneaux, master of a ship accompanying the great English explorer.

Tobias Furneaux, only master on board of the HMS Adventure had a terrible tragedy during his journey. Furneaux accompanied James Cook (on HMS Resolution) on his second journey in the vast Pacific in search of the famous southern continent. Cook and Furneaux were on this occasion the first sailors to go under the Antarctic Circle.




At that time, traveling was not easy. The two ships, Resolution and Adventure had left Plymouth on July 13, 1772 and on January 1773, they crossed the Antarctic Circle before the fog does them part. The two captains had agreed to a meeting in New Zealand where, indeed, they would find themselves together before sailing to Tahiti and Tonga. However, on October 22, 1773, the storm broke again; as agreed, Tobias Furneaux sailed to New Zealand where James Cook had given his appointment at Queen Charlotte Sound in case of loss of contact. After having waited for Furneaux for several days, in vain, Cook had decided to leave on November 26, four days before the arrival of The Adventure. Tobias Furneaux found a message from Cook buried in the beach and decided after that missed opportunity, not to lose any more time and to return to England via Cape Horn. Furneaux reached Plymouth on July 14, 1774.




The trip could have been colorful and rich in anecdotes (especially as Furneaux brought with him Omaï, the first Polynesian to have been around the world) unfortunately, during his stop-over in Queen Charlotte Sound, Furneaux had a happy un- initiative, which ended in a terrible tragedy.

He himself told this dark episode of the trip:
“On 17 December, having repaired the ship fills up with water, completed the supply of wood and all primed to go to sea, I sent the largest cutter and its crew, with Mr. Rowe, stern officer to pick up comes- patible of plants, with orders to be back in the evening, because I was planning to set sail the next morning. But the boat did not return in the evening or the next morning, I was in great anxiety to his place; and I put the boat into the sea and sent it to her research with the second lieutenant, Mr. Burney, its crew and ten soldiers.
The orders I gave to Mr. Burney were: first good look into the bay from the east, and then continue up the handle of the Grass, where Mr. Row was sent, and if there he learned nothing new about the cutter, to push further into the channel and go along the west coast. As Mr. Row had left the ship an hour before the appointed time, I was strongly convinced that he had been driven by his curiosity in the bay of the east, where someone from our ship was still gone; or some accident had happened to his boat, or by negligence of the boat guard, he had been led to drift, or it was broken on the rocks.
It was almost an unanimous opinion, and in this assumption, I sent the carpenter to the boat with a few sheets of tin. I had not the slightest suspicion that our men could be attacked by the natives, our boats have often penetrated further and less well armed. How deceived was I, because when Mr. Burney came back at night, he brought back the horrific scene that cannot be better described than by his own words as follows:
-“On the 18th we left the ship and quickly bypassed Long Island and reached Long Point. On my way, I inspected all the port side handles as we advanced, putting all my attention to go around with my telescope, I had carried for that purpose. “




“At one hour and a half, we accosted on a beach on the left going up the bay from the east, to cook some food, having nothing else than just raw meat. While the meat was cooking, I saw a native on the opposite bank, which ran along the shore toward the bottom of the bay. Our meat is ready, we returned to the boat and in no time we reached the end of the strike where we saw a village. As we approached, some natives went down on the rocks and waved us away; but seeing that we were not leaving, they changed their tone.

We found there six large boats from the strike, the double majority, and many natives, though not as much as we might have expected from the number of houses and the dimensions of the boats. Leaving the boat in the custody of the crew, I went ashore with the Marines (the corporal and five men) and I dug a number of houses, but found nothing that could arouse my suspicions.”

Burney sees that, all around him, things were suspicious. He meets some Maoris, performed modest exchanges, and moved on. He inspected another village, where Maoris are friendly but seem timorous. And in any case, quite ignorant of the fate of the cutter searched; at least this is what they said. Really, everything was strange and the atmosphere was heavy. Burney continued his research because he felt that he was on a track.




“An hour after having left this place, we saw a small strike clasping the handle of Grass, a large double canoe that had just hauled in which there were two men and a dog. These men have abandoned their boat as soon as they saw us and ran into the woods. It was a sign that we would finally find here what we were looking for. We went down and started searching the boat, we found the wild cutter debris and some shoes, one of which was found to belong to Mr. Woodhouse, a bow of our officers.

One of my men at the same time, brought me a piece of meat that he thought was a piece of the salted meat that has been carried by the crew of the cutter. On examination and after sniffing, I realized that it was fresh meat. Mr. Fannin (the master), who was with me, assumed it was some dog meat, and I believed him too, because I was still doubting that we would ever have to deal with cannibals. But we soon have been convinced of the contrary by the most compelling and horrific evidence. There were on the strike many baskets (about twenty), closed and secured. Some were full of roasted flesh, and others with fern roots. Continuing our research, we found other shoes, and one hand that has been recognized to be Thomas Hill’s hand, one of our men, for it was marked TH with an instrument that Tahitians used to tattoo. I went with the men a little further in the woods but I saw nothing more.”  He continued his exploration by boat and landed again a little later, after seeing the natives on heights.

“There were two boots of celery, which had been collected for the load on the cutter. A rom- stinks train had been planted right in the ground, and natives had tied their boats there, proof that we were at the place where the attack occurred. Then I made some researches to see if the knife was there. It was not the boat we met, but such a striking spectacle of carnage and barbarity we can never think of; because the heads, hearts, lungs of many of our men were laying on the beach and some dogs were devouring their guts. “




Have they all been killed? Burney had a doubt because, continuing his journey, “arriving between rounds islands south of the East Bay, we seemed to hear a call; we deposited our oars to listen, but we heard nothing; we called several times, but in vain; the poor wretches were just too far from the reach of human voices; and indeed there is some consolation to think that, in all probability, each of these men have been killed on the spot.”
And the report to name the ten victims,“Mr. Rowe, Mr. Woodhouse, Francis Murphey, quartermaster, William Facey, Thomas Hill, Michael Bell and Edward Jones, men’s forecastle, John Cavenaugh and Thomas Milton, supervisors from the back, and James Sevilley, valet captain, ten in total…

Most of them were the best among our sailors, and were the most vigorous and healthiest men we had on the ship. The men of Mr. Burney Special Rapporteur carried aboard both hands; one was that of Mr. Rowe; the other was that of Thomas Hill, and the head was that of servant of captain. These remains, with others that are joined, were tied in a hammock and thrown into the sea with ballast and weight balls heavy enough to make them fall to the bottom. We found no weapons or clothes, except trousers, a blouse and six mismatched shoes. “

Cook had discovered a huge disappointment: the Maoris were cannibals. Furneaux, made a much more direct and brutal experience.
It was far from the atmosphere of Tahiti and the Friendly Islands (Tonga)…




Considering the age Tobias Furneaux had when he died, forty-six years, and only if we look at his career in the British Royal, we can only regret that fate came shorten a life of rare intensity. Furneaux was born near Plymouth, in Swilly, on August 21 1735. On September 19, 1781, he had his last breath in London, became disabled because of severe gout that led to a fatal kidney failure. Today we still do not know the precise causes of gout, but a hereditary land and poor diet seem to favor the evolution of the condition that led Furneaux to completely cease operations in 1780 as the gouty arthritis was getting worse.




Furneaux had come a long way since, at twelve or thirteen years, he joined the Marlborough as a midshipman. Wallis, indeed, in 1766, had made him his second Lieutenant on HMS Dolphin, when he made his voyage of discovery of Tahiti in the Pacific; an odyssey that lasted from August 1766 to May 1768, after which Furneaux only received praises for its conduct in all circumstances.

He had some very human qualities towards the crew, which was not so common at that time when sailors like Bligh captains or Edwards were known for their brutality.

Tobias Furneaux was therefore just over thirty when he was among the first Europeans to set foot on the Tahitian ground.

During his trips on the Dolphin, Furneaux often assured the command of the ship, as Samuel Wallis and his first lieutenant, William Clarke, were sometimes ill at the same time.

In June 1768, Tobias went to rest in his village Swilly before finding two affectations AF in 1770 (second in HMS Torbay, again under the orders of Wallis). Given his record, Furneaux was promoted to command the HMS Adventure and invited to join the expedition in the Pacific (his second voyage aboard the HMS Resolution). Cook and Furneaux left England on July 13, 1772, and rushed into the Indian Ocean after passing the Cape Good Hope to win the glacial waters of the Antarctic.
It was there that on February 8, 1773, the two ships were separated because of the fog. After a stop in Tasmania, Furneaux met Cook again and they managed to reach Tahiti. Always in search of the elusive southern continent, Cook and Furneaux got separated again in 1773, near New Zealand. After a stopover in Tolaga Bay, Furneaux went to Queen Charlotte Sound that Cook had just left a few days earlier.




After the atrocious massacre of ten of his crewmen, Furneaux ceased his search and James Cook returned directly to England. In the fifties thundering, the Adventure traced his way to Cape Horn, and then went to Cape Town, South Africa. The Adventure was thus probably the first ship to perform western world tour and it is Furneaux himself that was the first sailor to have sailed around the world twice in both ways; east-west with Wallis, west-east with Cook.

The Adventure arrived at the port of Spinhead on July 12, 1774, one year before the return of Cook. Furneaux had demonstrated that he was an excellent sailor even though he had not had so much luck.
In 1775 he was promoted captain of HMS Syren, a large frigate engaged in the War of Independence of the United States. But on November 6, 1777 the Syren has been detained. Released in 1778, Furneaux briefly joined HMS Isis as a volunteer, but his health was deteriorating. So, he returned to Swilly sick, single and almost impotent to Swilly and died at forty-six years in September 1781. The United Kingdom Navy had just lost one of its most promising captains.