Before they were discovered by Captain Folger, two ships had been seen from the Island, one of which landed a boat on the west side, and took off some cocoanuts, but before any of the natives could have any communication with them, the vessel sailed. (At this time Adams was the only survivor of the Bounty's crew.)
In September of the year 1808, Captain Mayhew Folger, in the ship Topaz, of Boston, on a sealing voyage, touched at Pitcairn's Island, and seeing some smooth rocks on which he thought it likely there might be seal, lowered his boat, and on nearing the shore was surprised to see smoke, as he thought it uninhabited, but he was the more surprised to see a canoe, the natives in which hailed him in English, and asked him whence he came, &c. They informed him of Adams and the Bounty, and wished him to land, which he declined. One of the men offered to go on shore if the Capt. would come near the rocks with the boat, so that he might be able to swim off to it, if he was attacked. The Capt. wrote a message on a board with chalk, but it got defaced in swimming with it on shore. The man went on shore and had some conversation with Adams. Having on a long beard, Adams asked him why he did not shave, and without waiting for a reply, sent one of the young natives to get his razors, &c.; which being brought, the man underwent the operation with fear and trembling. Adams asked him why he was so frightened; he being alarmed answered, "because I am an Englishman and fear I shall be impressed." He then went quickly to the boat. The Capt. then came on shore, and remained the greater part of the day. After giving Adams an account of the many naval battles, he gave a cheer, shouting "Old England forever."
In the year 1814, H.M.'s ships Briton and Tagus, on their passage from the Marquesas to Valparaiso, fell in with Pitcairn's Island in the night, and "hove to" till daylight.
In the morning canoes were seen coming from the shore, and Sir T. Staines was much surprised to hear the natives hail him in English, saying "won't you give us a rope?"
After coming on board he soon discovered they were the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty. As Sir Thomas did not like to have his decks lumbered with canoes, he ordered some of them to remain along side or astern or the ship, to take care of them. The natives all wishing to remain on board, they proposed drawing lots; the lot fell to Arthur Quintal; he refused to go, saying it was not fair, because he had drawn the shortest! If he had drawn the long one he said he ought to go; that was the way he said they drew lots on shore. This caused much laughter, but Arthur had to take care of the canoes, much against his will.
Thursday October Christian, the first born on the island, and John Young*, being on board, were invited below to take some food, and the officers were surprised to hear them ask a blessing before taking their food. They informed the officers that John Adams had taught them a form of prayer and also to read.
* [There was no John Young on the island at the time. There were four Youngs (males) on the island, Edward, 17, George, 17, Robert, 16, and William, 15. Apart from John Adams, the only others named John at the time were Joseph John Christian, 9, and John Quintal, 2.]
The Captains came on shore, but Adams knowing the ships to be men of war, secreted himself not far from the landing place, while his daughter went to see if the boats were armed; finding they were not, she returned and informed her father, who came out and received the Captains.
After remaining on shore some hours, they asked Adams if he would not like to return to England; he replied "he should if the women were willing." Adams asked them, and they answered "not unless they went with him." Saying, "as we came here together let us remain and die together."
The Captain having given them some muskets, powder and other articles, departed.
A few days before the arrival of the two ships, a young man named Matthew Quintal, who was subject to fits, fell overboard from the canoe and was drowned, his body not being found. The women told the young men to see if he was not on board of the vesels of war. I shall here inform the reader that John Adams was the proper name of the patriarch, not Alexander Smith, as I have read letters from his brother in England, who was a waterman in London, named Jonathan Adams.
A few years after this the American ship Sultan, Capt. Reynolds, touched at the Island, and exchanged iron bars, &c. for some copper bolts of the Bounty, and sent on shore some bibles. A Tahitian woman named Jenney, left the Island in this ship and returned to Tahiti. I may here remark, that when the Bounty left Tahiti, some of the females were taken against their will, and after their arrival at Pitcairn's Island, they wished to return home. For this purpose the white men constructed a raft to satisfy their desire to return. They appointed one of the females captain, and directed them how to steer, &c. The raft was launched and upset, and their visionary voyage ended. The next ship that arrived was the Hercules, of Calcutta. She brought a large supply of useful articles, book, &c. from Calcutta and England.
Before proceeding further with my narration, I shall introduce myself to the reader, and as the events of a sailor's life may be interesting to many, I shall briefly relate some of the most remarkable events that happened to me during my pilgrimage on the ocean. And first, while a youth on board H.M.'s ship Penelope, bound to Quebec, I was wrecked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It occurred on Sunday evening, the last of April, about the year 1815, at half past eight in the evening. The ship struck the rocks about half a mile from the shore; some thought she had struck an ice berg, having seen some a short time before, and being once embedded in a field of ice, but we soon found we were on a bed of rocks. When we first struck, we had a fine breeze with topgallant sails set, but the wind soon increased, and she beat heavily upon the rocks. We got out an anchor and tried to heave her off, but in vain. The masts were then cut away, and we commenced getting up provisions, hoping to take them on shore at daylight. The guns were thrown over board, and for a long time she did not make much water, but before daylight the tables, chairs, &c. were washing about in the gun-room. Many of the crew found their way to the ward-room, where they got wine, made a fire and mulled it. At break of day the pinnace was brought under the quarter, and many got into her; among others were two women, one the gunner's wife, and the other the wife of the Captain's cook. Te Capt. also went in the boat. I then jumped in and stowed myself in the bottom of the boat, and she was pulled for the shore; as she got among the breakers she was stove, but all in her reached the shore. The life boat and gig also got on shore. The scene at this time was distressing; the shore was covered with snow, and no habitations of man near; those on board crying for help, and a raging sea before us. After great difficulty and danger, the gig succeeded in getting off to the ship, but in returning on shore was stove. Those on shore collected materials which floated on shore from the wreck, and erected tents out of the sails, &c. Oatmeal, pork and spirits drifted on shore and were secured. Several persons tried to swim on shore, some succeeded, but others when they got among the breakers, sank to rise no more. As the evening again approached it was heart rending to see and hear those on the wreck imploring for help, and we unable to afford them the least, our boat being all stove and a heavy surf rolling in on shore. About midnight the ship gave a tremendous crack and separated into three pieces. Two or three individuals came on sore on the masts, a few on the life buoys, &c. and the rest perished. Having kindled fires, we cooked oatmeal cakes, and began repairing our boats. The wind abating and the sea going down, one of the boats was sent to a piece of the wreck on which were found one or two bodies, and some useful articles which were brought on shore. Many bodies were washed on shore and buried in the snow, and out of a crew of one hundred and twenty, about forty-two were lost. A few days after the wreck a fishing boat manned by Canadians was descried coming towards us. They landed and informed us how far we were from inhabitants, and remained with us until our boats were ready, when they conducted us on our way. As the boats were passing the wreck, a voice was heard, and going to the fore part of the ship we found the captain of the hold very badly frost-bitten. It appeared that he had gone into the hold after the ship had struck, and remained there until she parted. The Canadians conducted us to a place where were one or two houses, which took us a day in pulling and sailing to reach; on our arrival the people (Canadians) treated us humanely, and gave us a good meal of fish and potatoes. After another day's pulling and sailing we arrived at a small village called Douglastown, where we remained some days, and then proceeded across the ice about seven miles, to Gaspe Bay, at which place were two transport ships frozen into the ice; we went on board of them, and when the ice broke, proceeded to Quebec. We there went on board H.M.'s ship Leander, and after a pleasant passage, arrived safe in Portsmouth.
[The story of the wreck of the Penelope is told here.]