D’Urville attempted to leave Tonga a day early to foil the likely desertion of a number of his crew. All was going to plan: d’Urville farewelled the many canoes gathered around the boat, settled his debts to Chief Tahofa and sent a small boat to shore to pick up a crew member. On reaching the beach however, the boat was seized and its crew kidnapped. They were hopelessly outnumbered and there was little d’Urville could initially do. This sense of helplessness is conveyed in plate 87 which records the event from the deck of the boat. The calm of the water is contrasted with the violent physical movements of the bodies that edge the shore in the middle distance.
Over the following week d’Urville negotiated with the Tongan chiefs, discovering that Tahofa bore primary responsibility having conspired with the would-be deserters. D’Urville sought to create dissent amongst the chiefs. He ordered his crew to set fire to huts, with the message that as soon as the prisoners were released the conflict would cease. As shown in plate 91 this was done under heavy guard, no doubt for fear of reprisals. With the crew members still not returned d’Urville threatened to bombard the sacred burial site of Maufanga, which he proceeded to do rather unsuccessfully as the Tongans had built huge sand fortifications. Throughout this time, a number of envoys were received including Vadodai, who had befriended one of the crew. He was sympathetic to the Frenchmen’s cause and upset by the actions of Tahofa and his followers. He explained that the chiefs were attempting to return the prisoners and asked for more time. Not long after his visit, the crew were returned with the exception of two whose original intent had been to desert.
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