The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Foreign Beachcombers 1800-1860

Many foreign sailors were wrecked, marooned or deserted from ships in Fiji in the early 1800s. Some settled among the Fijians, attaching themselves to chiefly households as mercenaries, carpenters and gunsmiths, and acting as intermediaries between the chiefs and trading ships.

The crews of merchantmen plying the Pacific were usually racially mixed and this was reflected in the beachcombers. Among those stranded in Fiji were Americans, Europeans, Bengali Lascars, Chinese, African-Americans, Native Americans, Manilla-men and various Polynesians, especially Tahitians, Hawaiians and Maori. Some were skilled woodcarvers and left their distinctive decorations on some Fijian war clubs.