Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 1 November – 3 December 1917

Venus in Tahiti: 1 November – 3 December 1917

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 05, 2014

(Previous installment)

Thursday, Nov. 1st 1917

The Tiare Tapano, San Francois & the Mette, arrived but neither Elder Burton, who we were expecting from Papeete, nor the mail was on any of them. The St Francois had been equipped with a wireless apparatus since the last trip. Word was received that two large Norwegian vessels were at Papeete, but they were under suspect of being German vessels as they wouldn’t open their hatches for inspection. Many of the people at Papeete were expecting trouble & had fled to the districts around the island.

Fri. Nov. 2, 1917

The Hinano returned from taking the Hao & Hickueru people home, so we are busy preparing to leave.

Tues. Nov 6, 1917

Left Takume on the Hinano at 5: pm.

Thurs. Nov. 8, 1917

Arrived at Tikei an uninhabited island where we stopped to spend the day picnicing. We made three great underground ovens & baked bread in them which we rolled up & tied in leaves, and roasted wild birds on sticks over bonfires, while the native men went out hunting cocoanut crabs. These we either cooked on red hot rocks or boiled in large five gallon cans & feasted on them to our hearts content. We ate the birds whole only plucking the feathers off of them. It was nesting time, & the birds on the island were so thick that they were almost like a noisy cloud flying around above us. There is a small lake on the island which contains only one kind of fish. This fish seems to carry its eggs in its skin, for a person can take the skin of one of them & put it into water & in a few days there will be thousands of little fishes swimming about in the water.

Fri. Nov. 9, 1917

Arrived at Takaroa & decided to remain there for two days while the Hinano went to Takapoto to load on shell.

Bathed & washed out a few clothes. Ate our meals at Tukuas & slept up at Mapuhi’s house. Heia gave me a beautiful hei & a tifofae, or native patch quilt. Held a meeting at night at which Toae & Hanai were appointed to preside over the branch. Gov. Denis was at the island & he ordered Tita one of our young men to go to Tahiti to join the army.

Sat. Nov. 10, 1917

Left Takaroa about noon on a small 10 ton cutter. Arrived at Takapoto at dark just as the Hinano was leaving. They saw us coming and sent their gasoline boat over to get us. The sea was high & we were all drenched in being bundled from one boat to the other & up onto the ship. Mr & Mrs Alvin Christensen & child, Josephite missionaries were on board. We gave Mrs C & her child our mattress & made them comfortable for the night.

Sun. Nov. 11, 1917

Arrived at Ahae, a Josephite island & attended their meeting at night. Pres & Elder Burbidge were asked to give their thought on the subject discussed, which they did. It was a very poorly managed meeting. While the native man who was conducting, was standing talking to them, the congregation, several times commenced singing, interrupting him right in the middle of his sentence. Went back on board to sleep.

Mon. Nov 12, 1917

Remained on boat all day, while the ship was being loaded with copra.

Tues. Nov. 13, 1917

Sold t[w]o subs to the paper. Left Ahae in the late afternoon. Had a rough choppy sea.

Wed. Nov. 14, 1917

Arrived at Niau where we had one family of saints who treated us very kindly. The wife who is a granddaughter of the old Tahitian king, was very weak with consumption. They prepared nice meals for us & did all they could to make us comfortable.

Thurs. Nov. 15, 1917

We slept in a little thatched house and there were so many cockroaches, mosquitoes & fleas in the place that I couldn’t get to sleep at all. Pani scattered poison weeds around on the floor before we went to bed to kill the fleas, but there were still enough left alive to make things lively for us. I killed 11 on me as soon as it was daylight, (and it’s sure tricky to catch on e of the little fellows) and Pres. discovered that the roaches had eaten a bald spot on the top of his head, & a mosquito had gotten in his ear, while one of my eyes & my lips were swollen up with insect bites. The Josephites on the island were very cold to us. They are building their stone church on property that belongs to one of our people, the foundation of which was begun by our people 40 years ago, & are trying to get it into their own hands through the law.

Fri. Nov. 16, 1917

Left Niau towards evening. Mrs. C. remained by, Mr C. continued on to Tahiti. Papati’s little girl gave me a pretty flower hei she had been making for me all afternoon. As soon as we were out of lea of land the wind died down & we found ourselves in a dead calm.

Sat. Nov. 17, 1917

Glassy calm, stood still all day. Heat unbearable. Talked with Mr Levy who is a Jew, about the gathering of the Jews for several hours in which he seemed very much interested.

Sun. Nov. 18, 1917

Dead calm. Drifted back all day.

Mon. Nov. 19, 1917

Sighted Tahiti at daybreak. Fairly good breeze sprung up, but in the wrong direction for us. Tacked all day towards Tematia a small uninhabited island that has an extinct volcano on it.

Tues. Nov. 20, 1917

Still calm. Sent the small gasoline launch we had been towing to Papeete to bring us gasoline so that we could use the machine to get to our destination. About dark we noticed a small speck on the horizon & with the glasses found it to be a small row boat with several people in it rowing towards us. At first we thought it was someone in distress, & second thought that it might possibly be some Germans from off the “Lutece,” so we loaded all guns on board & started out to meet it as it was fast getting dark. When we were within calling distance, the people in the boat called out that there were no white people among them, so we knew that we were alright & soon had them all on board & gave them food & water. they had been rowing since early morning & one of the men had been lying in a stupor in the bottom of the boat since noon. They were caught in the calm & were without food & water & had started in their desperation to try to row to Tahiti, to get help for the rest of the people on the “Vahine Katapua,” the ship they were from.

Wed. Nov. 21, 1917

The launch returned with the gasoline & we soon filled our tank & were sailing full blast towards Papeete, after having been in sight of her for three whole days. Arriving in Papeete we found Elder Davis still there. He had left two wks before on the Paloona, who had met with an accident with her machine & was obliged to return to Tahiti for repairs.

Thurs. Nov. 22, 1917

Called to see Martha, Mrs. Stewart & Mrs. Falco, made avota ice cream & coconut cookies.

Fri. Nov. 23, 1917

Elder Davis left once more for America. Washed our clothes & baked.

Sat. Nov. 24, 1917

Cleaned house. Held priesthood meeting at 4: pm.

Sun. Nov. 25, 1917

Fasted & prayed in behalf of Elder Burbidge’s eyes. Held a short priesthood meeting after which the Elders administered to him. Elder Orton anointed & Pres. administering. Also held S.S. & Sacrament meeting.

Mon. Nov. 26, 1917

Wrote letters. Madame Falco called on me & brought me a beautiful bouquette of roses from her garden. Ran down to see Terai in the evening.

Wed. Nov. 28, 1917

Sorted & burned the volume of letters I have received the past three years. Kept only a few that were dearest to me. Pres and I called to see Mr & Madame Panare in the evening to buy a Tahitian bible but were unsuccessful.

Thurs. Nov. 29, 1917

Thanksgiving day. Elders Burbidge & Heslop prepared breakfast & surprised us with ham and eggs. Spent most of the day preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Had roast beef, gravy, dressing, creamed peas, beets, banana salad, cocoanut cake & aligator pear ice cream. This is especially a day of thanksgiving for Elders Burbidge’s eyes are entirely well since Sunday when we fasted in his behalf & the Elders administered to him, while up until then he has had to remain in the dark for nearly two months.

Fri. Nov. 30, 1917

Pres & I went shopping to buy things for Ruita, Rua & Elder Monk, who are on distant island. Burned three large baskets of letters that I have received the past three years, leaving only a few that were dearest to me. Ruita Estall came and took me for a drive as far out as Awe.

Sat. Dec. 1, 1917

Cleaned house & mended. Took Terai who had a terrible toothache, down to the dentist’s. Called to see Madame Falco on the way home. Held priesthood meeting at 5: pm, after which Pres & I called to see how Terai’s tooth was & also to see Tematae who was ill.

Sun. Dec 2, 1917

Fast Sunday. Tecopu one of our girls who has been very wild the past few years arose and bore her testimony & said that she wanted to turn from her old ways & lead a better life. We were all very happy about [it] for we have worked hard for years with her, & not until now has she really repented.

Mon. Dec 3, 1917

Elders Stephens & Heslop left by the Flora for Raiatea & Huahine. Washed. Went to the dentist with Terai. Called to see Hina from Hickueru, who had sprained her hand. Alone during evening so wrote to Margaret & mother.

(To be continued)



  1. Talk about bed bugs! And what’s “aligator pear ice cream”?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — January 5, 2014 @ 9:41 am

  2. Sorted & burned the volume of letters I have received the past three years.


    Okay, honestly, I understand that transporting them could have been a problem, but I am constantly dealing with missing family letters and documents, and it’s sad. For example, take Cyrus Wheelock’s 1844 diary. Evidently someone in the family thought it wasn’t worth preserving his account of Joseph Smith’s last days.

    Anyway, back to Venus’s diary. It’s not Voyage of the Beagle, but it is a wonderful account: the roasted birds, the bedbugs that Gary’s already mentioned, etc.

    Alligator pear is avocado. Probably not something you’re going to see on the menu of your local ice cream shop anytime soon, but it looks like people who have made it, like it.

    Comment by Amy T — January 5, 2014 @ 10:18 am

  3. I’d rather not talk about bed bugs, thank you very much! My landlord acted in time to spare my apartment from any infestation, but another apartment in my building was infested for months before the tenants told anybody and asked for help! That was too close a call for my comfort, believe you me.

    And I literally teared up when I read the line about burning the letters. It’s hard enough to get people to write a record of life, but to know that such records once existed and were deliberately destroyed is painful. Like you, Amy, I understand the logistical difficulties, but oh, it does still hurt.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 5, 2014 @ 10:34 am

  4. I did cry about the letters.

    Comment by Jeffery Johnson — January 5, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

  5. “It was a very poorly managed meeting.” Heh.

    “Sorted & burned the volume of letters…” Ouch. Reminds me of Richard Francis Burton’s wife Isabel burning many of his papers after his death.

    Comment by bfwebster — January 6, 2014 @ 11:25 am

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