Captain Henry Byam Martin, R.N. (1804-1865)
Captain Henry Byam Martin, R.N. (1804-1865)

Honolulu from the outer anchorage, August 1846

Captain Henry Byam Martin, R.N. (1804-1865)
Honolulu from the outer anchorage, August 1846
inscribed and dated 'Honolulu, from the outer / anchorage. August 1846' (lower right)
watercolour with scratching out on paper
6 5/8 x 16 ¾in. (16.8 x 42.5cm.)

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Helena Ingham

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Lot Essay

Byam Martin was in command of the 50-gun ship Grampus which arrived in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on 13 August 1836. He described the present scene in his journal entry for the 15 August 1846: 'I am delighted with the view from the anchorage. The volcanic formation of the island of Woahoo is particularly striking in the hills round and behind Honolulu. They remind me a little of the coast of Sicily near Mt. Etna; their outline is sharp and peaked & the colours at a certain hour of the day beautiful. I am agreeably impressed for I was not prepared for pretty scenery. ... All day I was occupied in reading the Admiral's letter books - I dined with him and afterward landed to attend Madame Dudoit's party, where I saw some of the ladies of Honolulu. ...In a wretched hole called the Commercial Hotel I stretched my weary limbs on a bed. Sleep knew not. I was devoured by flies, fleas - bugs - mosquitoes - ants - earwigs & cockroaches. ... Honolulu is, as I have before said, a scattered rambling village. The houses (or rather the huts) are sufficiently primitive; being wooden frames - lighter or stouter according to the size & thatched from the ground upward, with a door at the gable end and sometimes a window at the side. Those of the chiefs are generally somewhat larger and with a number of smaller ones, are usually enclosed by a wide brick wall. The look like a group of haystacks. ... The canoes of Oahoo are wretched things - merely trees hollowed out generally from 20 to 30 feet in length & capable of holding from 2 to 8 persons - they seldom exceed 1½ foot in breadth & to give them stability 2 spars are rigged out on one side, with a third across. They are frequently upset but the people are almost amphibious & care little for such accidents.'

Byam Martin was briefed at Hawaii by Admiral Sir George Seymour on his ultimate destination, the Society Islands (Tahiti), and sailed to Tahiti at the end of the month to observe the French and their newly declared Protectorate ('He gives me a difficult and uncompromising task to execute, and if I go to work in the temper which he exhibits toward M. Bruat and the French authorities - a quarrel is inevitable.')

Byam Martin's journal is in the British Museum, and the Polynesian portion was published, illustrated with watercolours by the author, by the Peabody Museum of Salem (Peabody Essex Museum), Salem, Massachusetts, in 1981 (The Polynesian Journal of Captain Henry Byam Martin, R.N. In command of H.M.S. Grampus - 50 guns at Hawaii and on station in Tahiti and the Society Islands August 1846 to August 1847).

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