Vasco de Gamma
circumnavigates the Cape of Good Hope
and opens a new
era in maritime discovery. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French
and English navigators take to sea to discover new and faraway lands.
In May, Philip II of Spain
sends his war ship "San
under command of Ynigo Ortiz de Retes with Gaspar Rico as first pilot to sail from
Tidor to "New Spain." His orders are to sail the
calmer waters to the south and not to use the west monsoons. The
journey is delayed by weather and the San Juan
sights an unknown country which Ortiz de Retes names "Nueva
Guinea." After following the coastline he makes route north
and "discovers" Wuvulu and Aua islands on August 19,
1545. Ortiz de Retes names Wuvulu
"Islas de Hombres
" because of the light complexion of their
inhabitants. It will take more than two centuries for the next
European to sight Wuvulu Island.
Following the English South Sea expedition of Captain Byron in
1764-65, the English Government sends out an expedition under Captain
Wallis who commands two ships, the frigate Dolphin
, a thirty years old, slow-sailing and poorly
fitted sloop under the command of Lt. Philip Carteret
who had served
under Byron in a previous expedition. After passing through the
straights of Magellan on April 11, 1767, the Dolphin
sight of the Swallow
but the courageous Lt. Carteret decides to
continue the voyage alone. Carteret makes a number of sightings
in the (Bismarck Archipelago
) and on
September 19, 1767 two small islands come in view, the first one,
), is seen only from the
masthead and the second one is passed during the night when a number
of islanders are seen along the shore with torches. He names
this island Maty Island (Wuvulu
Mathew Maty of the Royal Society in London. The three voyages of
Captain Cook have not yet begun.
By French King Louis XV
's command, Louis Antoine de Bougainville
, sails from St. Malo in December, 1766 with two ships, "La
He will "rediscover" a number of islands previously sighted
by Carteret and will make the first sightings of Iles des Anachorettes
) and the Chequer Islands (Ninigo
Captain Maurelle aboard the Spanish war ship
discovers the Hermit
Comte de la Pérouse
leaves France in 1785 to resolve disputed
French/English claims on the far away lands. He arrives in
Australia in September 1787 and sets out for the second part of his
voyage to the north but nothing more is heard from him after
1788. By order of French King Louis XVI
, two more ships "La
Recherche" and "l'Espérance", under the
command of Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni, Chevalier
, are sent to look for him.
D'Entrecasteaux sights the Anchorite (Kaniet
) Islands on July 18, 1793 and then calls
at the Hermit
Islands to question the
islanders on the fate of La Pérouse. D'Entrecasteaux
dies soon thereafter, on July 21, from scurvy
On May 25, after sighting Wuvulu Island, Austin Forrest, Captain of
the E.I.C.'s Marine Service reports: "The men were
tall and well made, wearing their hair platted and raised above the
head. They had no appearance of Malays, or of Caffrees; and
excepting their colour, which was of light copper, they had the
features of the natives of Europe; they were entirely naked.
Captain Abraham Bristow aboard the "Sir Andrews
"Tiger Island" because of the ferociousness
Russian explorer, naturalist and ethnographer Nikolai Nikolajewitsch
(1846-1888) visits the Western Islands
Captain A.F.V. Andersen aboard the "Welcome"
and makes a good description of
its inhabitants. He brings a trader, named Schielkoff, on a
mission for the German firm Hernsheim & Co. of Matupi.
Schielkoff is to stay and live on the island, establish a trade
station and buy copra. A few months later, the Wuvulu islanders
burn down the station and spear Schielkoff to death.
The Steamer "Ysabel"
calls at Wuvulu
islands in May of that year and makes an unsuccesful attempt to
recruit workers for the German New Guinea Company. The German
botanist Kärnbach who is of the ship party collects a number of
spears and other ethonographic objects which eventually end up
at the Ethnologisches
, Berlin-Dahlem (Museum
of Ethnology, formerly the Völkerkundemuseum
Berlin and Berliner Museum für Völkerkunde).
On August 14, the German ship S.M.S. "Möwe"
calls at Wuvulu
and draws one of the
first map of the island.
The German New Guinea Company purchases 4 ha. of land on Matty (Wuvulu
) and establishes the first trading
station. The trader stationed on the island is killed shortly
thereafter (it is assumed that he "courted" his fate).
The German New Guinea Company site is transferred to the German
trading company Hernsheim & Co.
In the summer, a new attempt to establish a trading station on Wuvulu
fails when the islanders discourage
retpeated landing attempts by a white trader.
Danish anthropologist Richard Parkinson, author of Dreissig Jähre in der Südsee
(Thirty Years in the South Seas), visits Wuvulu
Swedish Consul Heinrich Rudolf Wahlen who owns the Hermit Islands
builds a very large and beautiful mansion (photo
) atop Maron Island in the center of the lagoon. That house was reputed to have been the first house with electricity in Papua New Guinea. It was burned down and demolished in the 1960’s.
The Danish trader Edvard Christian Antonius
settles on Wuvulu
after a few short stays on the
island. Ørtoft, works first for the New Guinea Company,
then for the firm of the Swedish Consul Heinrich Rudolf Wahlen, H.R.
Wahlen Co. of Gunantambu in Rabaul. Ørtoft changes his
name to William Peder Leonard and is eventually made "King
Faiu" by the islanders. William Leonard has three children
by Wuvulu women, Dorothea, Margrete and Karl. He builds a large
Plantation House, at Malona Bay on the south side of Wuvulu, from
materials shipped from Shanghai. The Plantation House, then the
oldest building in the islands was dismantled in the late 1980's
and its original timber used by the islanders.
The German firm Hernsheim & Co. sells its holdings to H.R.
Wahlen. The rest of the island is purchased in 1906 by the
German Government who cedes 817 ha. to H.R. Wahlen in 1907 and retains
547 ha. as three native reserves, with 147 ha. for Onne and 150 ha.
for Auna on the west coast and 250 ha. for Ruvurae on the east
coast. H.R. Wahlen develops two adjoining copra plantations,
Agita and Tumuvali, planting 83,000 coconut palms in addition to the
existing 36,000 native plants. Eventually, the plantation grows
to 175,000 coconut palms. In May 1912, the German Government
cedes the 250 ha. of Ruvurae to H.R. Wahlen.
The Swedish Count Birger Mörner visits Wuvulu
in July and stays with William P. Leonard
until October at the large plantation house. Mörner will
subsequently write Arafis Tropiska År
Tropical Years of Arafis) (Stockholm 1914.
P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag) about the
The Custodian of Expropriated Property sells the property for
£60,000 to L.F. Howard who is acting as dummy for the trading
firm W.R. Carpenter & Co.
The Allied Air Forces propose the establishment of land-based fighters on Wuvulu Island. The plan is given up as little was known about terrain conditions on Wuvulu, the island was much closer to Japanese bases than to Allied, and its seizure would disclose the direction of the main attack. Furthermore, the Wuvulu operation would absorb ground forces, amphibious shipping, and engineering equipment sorely needed for the Hollandia campaign.