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Crossing the Pacific

The Honolulu was a very small schooner, 34 tons, about half as big again as the Raiatea that Chanel had called a ‘nasty little schooner’. Shortly before leaving[1] Maigret was able to make the final payment and the ship was officially re-registered as the Reine de Paix.

They sailed on 27 January 1839. Becalmed for many days they took forty-seven days to get within sight of the mountain tops of Mangareva.[2] On 18 March they landed on Akena Island to discover that Mgr. Rouchouze had not waited for the Reine de Paix. He had found another ship and was gone with his missionaries to explore the Marquesas Islands. They were expected back any day, but when they had not turned up at the end of the month, the Marists decided to wait no longer.

The absence of Rouchouze and the stay on Mangareva forced them to reconsider their situation. Maigret admitted that bishop Rouchouze was not all that happy with the Reine de Paix, not only because the purchase meant a big bite out of the mission budget, but also because of the worries and the recurring expenses involved in keeping a ship.[3] The Marists still had to get across the Pacific and they knew that their bishop had to visit Wallis and Futuna. Maigret and Baty came to a sensible agreement. They would each pay half of the purchasing price of 4,000 piastres, and the two missions would own it together. Each bishop had the use of it for six months of the year. If the bishops disagreed they could come back on the arrangement and sell it.[4]

The Reine de Paix left on 2 April and took eleven days to reach Tahiti.[5] The Protestants there continued to do everything in their power to turn the people against the Catholics and, as Baty tells it (from hearsay of course), they used a magic lantern to show slides of the Pope, assisted by Catholic priests, cooking Protestant ministers in a large cooking pot. If the story is true, the Tahitians were not impressed. The Marists were free to walk around anywhere and, while curiously observed and followed, they could contact any people they wanted. In fact, they were invited into some homes.

Moerenhout, French consul as from August 1838, [6] again proved to be an excellent host and did everything he could to help the Marists along. He showed them an article in a local paper in which captain Stocks, who had sailed the Raiatea with the first group to Wallis, Futuna and New Zealand, described the hazardous shoals at the Hokianga river mouth. Moerenhout also handed the Marists letters from Pompallier in which he wrote that the next group of missionaries, were they to come that way, should go not to Hokianga, but to the Bay of Islands and notify him by overland courier.[7] On 17 April 1839, they sailed from Tahiti.

Visiting Wallis

Now they had very favourable weather indeed and in just over two weeks, on 2 May, the Reine de Paix reached Wallis. After rumours in Tahiti that Bataillon and Luzy were being harassed, they were overjoyed at finding them safe and in good health. The parcels of letters were the first mail in nearly two and a half years and there were large cases with clothing that could be used as gifts or exchange.[8] Together they walked all over the island, and both Pierre Bataillon and Joseph Luzy were full of stories on whatever there was to be seen.[9] The visit was a terrific boost for the morale of the two isolated missionaries. Wallisian people may at times have wondered if Bataillon and Luzy were all that different from the beachcombers that were well-known and often notorious characters on all Polynesian islands.[10] The arrival of this large group of missionaries, and on a ship of their own, undid much of the damage caused by the fact that Bishop Pompallier, having promised to return within six months, had not appeared after eighteen.

Although the Lavelua, king of Wallis, liked the missionaries personally, he and many Wallisians wanted to have nothing to do with their lotu. He was under a lot of pressure to expel them. For a month or more he had prevented Bataillon from meeting with his little band of catechumens. Bataillon used the presence of the new missionaries and their ship to come out into the open – for the first time - with his purpose of converting Wallis. He taunted the King to say openly he wanted the missionaries to leave. After a lot of pushing the Lavelua reluctantly agreed to come on board the Reine de Paix where he was wined and dined (only to be surprised later on that his ancestral gods had not struck him down for it). Sunday 5 May the band of missionaries sang a High Mass to the accompaniment of a little organ they had brought along. It attracted a lot of people. The Lavelua himself stayed cautiously away.

When the Lavelua understood the ship would go to Futuna, he humbly asked them as a favour to return to Wallis after their visit and bring back some fifteen Wallisians who had sailed in their own craft to Futuna. It gave Bataillon the idea of visiting Chanel and Nizier. He left Brother Joseph alone on Wallis, promising to be back in about ten days. They had a fine north-easterly wind and did the forty leagues (+ 220 km) in thirty hours. The chiefly Tuugahala,[11] who had been a supporter of Bataillon, had received instruction in the Faith and had put his little island of Nukuatea at Bataillon’s disposal as a safe haven for catechumens, went along to serve as a pilot, accompanied by seven other Wallisians.[12]


  1. On 25 January Baty still calls it the Honolulu.
  2. The Raiatea had done it in thirty-three days.
  3. That is how he wrote to Bonamie, his superior in Paris, cf. Wiltgen, op. cit. p. 212.
  4. Pompallier makes it 10.000 francs. Sounds better. Cf. LRO, doc. 33 [5].
  5. Against a good five days of the Raiatea.
  6. After his dismissal as American consul, Moerenhout was promptly appointed consul of France, cf. Jore, op. cit. II, pp. 233ff. Cf. above, p. 59, n. 99.
  7. Baty to Colin, from Tahiti, 15.04.38, APM 1404/20033.
  8. LRO, doc. 40 [2].
  9. Both of them had been writing extensively on Wallis, its people and its customs, resp. LRO, doc. 19 & doc. 28. Bataillon had begun his document in May 1838, and added a few pages in May 1839 on Futuna before handing it to the missionaries on their way to New Zealand, LRO, doc. 28 [26 - 31].
  10. LRO, doc. 28 [26]. Estimates are that in the 1840`s and 1850`s there may have been as many as 2,000 so-called beach-combers scattered all over Polynesia and Micronesia. A few were French, but most were English or Americans, some were escaped convicts from Australia, others deserted sailors or adventurers. The easy-going Polynesians usually tolerated them on their islands and used them for their skills. If any landed on the Melanesian islands, they had no chance of surviving. It took another half century before the tough Melanesians tolerated them on their islands. Cf. Howe, op. cit., pp. 102 –108.
  11. Neither Bataillon nor Chanel are consistent in their spelling of this or other names.
  12. LRO, doc. 32 [1] & doc. 38 [3].

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