Samuel Wallis, discovered Tahiti and Wallis Island

Samuel Wallis served under Admiral Boscawen as his flag lieutenant. He was given the command of H.M.S. Dolphin in 1766 to explore the Pacific. He found the islands of Tahiti and Wallis island in 1767. His reports led to Captain Cook's later voyages.

Samuel Wallis born in 1728 at Lanteglos-by-Camelford parish. He was the son of minor gentry who owned lands near Lanteglos-by-Camelford.

He joined the navy as a midshipman, served during the war between England and France of 1744-1749. Shortly after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in October 1748, Wallis was promoted lieutenant. He was posted to the Anson, captained by Charles Holmes in January 1753. In April 1755 he was transferred to the Torbay, then the flagship of Vice-admiral Edward Boscawen.

Between 1756 and 1763, England and France were again at war. In February 1756, Wallis was posted to the warship Invincible,and promoted to captain in June 1756 through Boscawen's patronage and given command of a sloop. He was the assigned to a twenty gun frigate on the North American station in April 1757. After some eighteen months service in North American waters, Wallis was given command of the Prince of Orange, a sixty gun warship that in 1761 was re-deployed to the Channel fleet.

Wallis was to command the Prince of Orange until the Peace of Paris in 1763.

1766, he was recalled to active service to command the Dolphin. Samuel Wallis secret instructions were: ‘to discover and obtain a complete knowledge of the Land or Islands supposed to be situated in the Southern Hemisphere’. It was believed that another continent existed to the south of South America, and Wallis spent twenty months sailing round the world looking for it. He found the islands of Tahiti and Wallis instead.

Wallis sailed from Plymouth in August 1766 with the Swallow under the command of Philip Carteret, entering the Pacific through the Magellan Straits in April 1767. Shortly after that the two ships parted, with Wallis sailing northwest passing through the Tuamotou Archipelago to reach Mehetia and Tahiti. On 18 June 1767 the sailors saw a mountain covered with cloud and thought it was the Southern Continent, instead they had discovered the island of Tahiti. He called Tahiti " King George Island" in honour of the English king. After some skirmishing with the natives, including firing his canons at them, and destroying their canoes, the Tahitians sued for peace, bringing gifts of food and cloth and giving access to their young women. The Dolphin’s sick went ashore to recuperate.

Leaving the Society Islands, Wallis's went through the main island groups of the western Pacific before reaching Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands in August 1767. On 16th August 1767 he discovered the island of Uvea which was christened Wallis.

The Dolphin then sailed to Batavia (modern Jakarta), where many of his ship's crew died from dysentery. Leaving the Dutch colonial settlement, Wallis arrived back in England via the Cape of Good Hope in May 1768, in time to pass on navigational information to the Admiralty and Cook, then preparing to leave on his exploration voyage in the Endeavour.

Wallis retired on half-pay until being recalled to active service briefly in 1770 as there was the threat of war with Spain over the Falkland Islands. He was again called on to command a vessel briefly in 1780, before being awarded a sinecure as an extra naval commissioner two years later. He lost this post in the administrative reforms pushed through by Edmund Burke, which saw the abolition of many government sinecures. He got it back however in 1787. Wallis remained a naval commissioner until he died in London in January 1795.

Discovery of Tahiti by Captain Samuel Wallis


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