The White Headhunter: The Story of a 19th-Century Sailor Who Survived a South Seas Heart of Darkness

By Nigel Randell

In 1876, sailor Jack Renton used to be rescued from the Pacific island domestic of the headhunting Malaitans, after spending 8 years of their captivity. His best-selling memoir of ways he went from the slave in their leader, Kabou, to his so much depended on warrior and adviser is still the single authenticated account of a Westerner’s “heart of darkness” trip. yet his sensational tale seems to have glossed over the main occasions of his transformation. Renton's tale begun with being shanghaied in San Francisco, escaping from the send in an open whaleboat, and drifting for 2 thousand miles around the Pacific sooner than washing up on Malaita. via next generations, the Malaitans’ oral historical past has handed down special tales proposing a special model. Documentary filmmaker Nigel Randell spent seven years speaking to the Malaitans to piece jointly this various account. The White Headhunter tells the tale of a guy who not just followed their customs yet did his top to organize a humans he had grown to like for the onslaught of Western civilization. He lives on within the Malaitans’ reminiscence, his hut and guns preserved as a shrine nonetheless visited through the islanders today.

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It'll have damaged the bishop’s middle to have needed to withstand the truth that, within the technique of bringing the observe to those benighted humans, he used to be killing them of their hundreds of thousands. No, greater to ascribe the lack of 80 consistent with cent of the inhabitants of 1 specific village to cannibalism and firearms – any substitute clarification was once unthinkable. Patterson’s successor, Bishop Wilson, was once involved sufficient to refer to the prime Victorian doctor, Sir Patrick Mason. in keeping with one in every of Wilson’s missionaries, William Durrad, ‘the health practitioner pooh-poohed the seriousness of the actual fact and acknowledged that the article occurs around the world and that the natives easily need to get inured to the hot stipulations.

For plenty of days all people within the village sat quietly and mourned for Renton. not anyone labored or fished, they ate pigs and taro and everybody was once quiet and sorrowful. different chiefs got here, additionally males from alongside the coast and from inland and so they sat with Kabou. He acknowledged it was once as though his first-born son had died. All those that visited him pledged that they wouldn't wash or reduce their hair until eventually he did. eventually, after 3 weeks, Kabou led a procession of villagers into the bush the place Jack Renton used to scrub – it has regularly been often called ‘Renton’s Pool’.

His workforce saved excellent time, the paddles emerging and falling rhythmically to a chant that used to be sung in a excessive minor key. within the bow sat the stroke-maker, retaining a stroke of approximately thirty to the minute yet now and again making a song out the outlet word of a chant in a reduce octave and speedier pace. This fast spurt could proceed for a couple of minutes prior to shedding again into standard time. They travelled north for 2 hours, guided by means of the white ribbon of breakers that surged over the lagoon’s coral sea wall.

At this element not anything used to be recognized approximately its heritage past the truth that it got here from the Solomon Islands. a few years later, on a trip to the museum, the now retired financial institution supervisor Spence famous the collar and supplied the curator with the identify of the unique proprietor and the island from which it got here. Having handled the problem of provenance, Dr Gunn then recorded his personal impressions. The collar as now displayed should have shaped a amazing ornament for a dusky Malaitan warrior without garments to hide it.

Kwaisulia took ownership of the island, garrisoned it and put in as leader his eldest son, Jack, named after Jack Renton and born when he used to be dwelling on Sulufou. This act was once an entire holiday with Melanesian culture. Land used to be sacred; it may now not ‘belong’ to the other workforce. A humans might be defeated in conflict yet their chiefs remained the people’s leaders whether they have been now subservient to the victor. Kwaisulia’s construction of vassal states used to be a brand new departure – and extremely ecu. As recruiters searched for common and warranted assets of labour it used to be inevitable that the legislation of provide and insist could throw up monopolies.

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