A MONSTER WAVE
A monster wave and its consequences—The boat lost and found—Peterkin's terrible
accident—Supplies of food for a voyage in the boat—We visit Penguin Island, and are
amazed beyond measure—Account of the penguins.
 ONE day, not long after our little boat was finished, we were sitting on the rocks at Spouting
Cliff, and talking of an excursion which we intended to make to Penguin Island the next day.
"You see," said Peterkin, "it might be all very well for a stupid fellow like me to remain here and
leave the penguins alone, but it would be quite inconsistent with your characters as philosophers to
remain any longer in ignorance of the habits and customs of these birds; so the sooner we go the
"Very true," said I; "there is nothing I desire so much as to have a closer inspection of them."
"And I think," said Jack, "that you had better remain at home, Peterkin, to take care of the cat;
for I'm sure the hogs will be at it in your absence, out of revenge for your killing their
great-grandmother so recklessly."
"Stay at home!" cried Peterkin. "My dear fellow, you would certainly lose your way, or get upset, if
I were not there to take care of you."
"Ah, true," said Jack gravely; "that did not occur to me; no doubt you must go. Our boat does
 a good deal of ballast; and all that you say, Peterkin, carries so much weight with it, that we
won't need stones if you go."
Now, while my companions were talking, a notable event occurred, which, as it is not generally
known, I shall be particular in recording here.
While we were talking, as I have said, we noticed a dark line, like a low cloud or fog-bank, on the
seaward horizon. The day was a fine one, though cloudy, and a gentle breeze was blowing, but the sea
was not rougher or the breaker on the reef higher than usual. At first we thought that this looked
like a thunder-cloud, and as we had had a good deal of broken weather of late, accompanied by
occasional peals of thunder, we supposed that a storm must be approaching. Gradually, however, this
line seemed to draw nearer without spreading up over the sky, as would certainly have been the case
if it had been a storm-cloud. Still nearer it came, and soon we saw that it was moving swiftly
towards the island; but there was no sound till it reached the islands out at sea. As it passed
these islands, we observed, with no little anxiety, that a cloud of white foam encircled them, and
burst in spray into the air; it was accompanied by a loud roar. This led us to conjecture that the
approaching object was an enormous wave of the sea; but we had no idea how large it was till it came
near to ourselves. When it approached the outer reef, however, we were awe-struck with its unusual
magnitude; and we sprang to our feet, and clambered hastily up to the highest point of the
precipice, under an indefinable feeling of fear.
I have said before that the reef opposite Spouting Cliff was very near to the shore, while just in
front of the bower, it was at a considerable distance out to sea.
 Owing to this formation, the wave reached the reef at the latter point before it struck at the foot
of Spouting Cliff. The instant it touched the reef we became aware, for the first time, of its awful
magnitude. It burst completely over the reef at all points, with a roar that seemed louder to me
than thunder; and this roar continued for some seconds, while the wave rolled gradually along
towards the cliff on which we stood. As its crest reared before us, we felt that we were in great
danger, and turned to flee; but we were too late. With a crash that seemed to shake the solid rock
the gigantic billow fell, and instantly the spouting-holes sent up a gush of water-spouts with such
force that they shrieked on issuing from their narrow vents. It seemed to us as if the earth had
been blown up with water. We were stunned and confused by the shock, and so drenched and blinded
with spray, that we knew not for a few moments whither to flee for shelter. At length we all three
gained an eminence beyond the reach of the water; but what a scene of devastation met our gaze as we
looked along the shore! This enormous wave not only burst over the reef, but continued its way
across the lagoon, and fell on the sandy beach of the island with such force that it passed
completely over it and dashed into the woods, levelling the smaller trees and bushes in its headlong
On seeing this, Jack said he feared our bower must have been swept away, and that the boat, which
was on the beach, must have been utterly destroyed. Our hearts sank within us as we thought of this,
and we hastened round through the woods towards our home. On reaching it we found, to our great
relief of mind, that the force of the wave had been expended just before reaching the bower; but the
entrance to it was
 almost blocked up by the torn-up bushes and tangled heaps of seaweed. Having satisfied ourselves as
to the bower, we hurried to the spot where the boat had been left; but no boat was there. The spot
on which it had stood was vacant, and no sign of it could we see on looking around us.
"It may have been washed up into the woods," said Jack, hurrying up the beach as he spoke. Still no
boat was to be seen, and we were about to give ourselves over to despair, when Peterkin called to
Jack and said—
"Jack, my friend, you were once so exceedingly sagacious and wise as to make me acquainted with the
fact that cocoa-nuts grow upon trees; will you now be so good as to inform me what sort of fruit
that is growing on the top of yonder bush? for I confess to being ignorant, or, at least, doubtful
on the point."
We looked towards the bush indicated, and there, to our surprise, beheld our little boat snugly
nestled among the leaves. We were very much overjoyed at this, for we would have suffered any loss
rather than the loss of our boat. We found that the wave had actually borne the boat on its crest
from the beach into the woods, and there launched it into the heart of this bush; which was
extremely fortunate, for had it been tossed against a rock or a tree, it would have been dashed to
pieces, whereas it had not received the smallest injury. It was no easy matter, however, to get it
out of the bush and down to the sea again. This cost us two days of hard labour to accomplish.
We had also much ado to clear away the rubbish from before the bower, and spent nearly a week in
constant labour ere we got the neighbourhood to look as clean and orderly as before; for the
 and seaweed that lay on the beach formed a more dreadfully confused-looking mass than one who had
not seen the place after the inundation could conceive.
Before leaving the subject, I may mention, for the sake of those who interest themselves in the
curious natural phenomena of our world, that this gigantic wave occurs regularly on some of the
islands of the Pacific once, and sometimes twice, in the year. I heard this stated by the
missionaries during my career in those seas. They could not tell me whether it visited all of the
islands, but I was certainly assured that it occurred periodically in some of them.
After we had got our home put to rights, and cleared of the debris of the inundation, we
again turned our thoughts to paying the penguins a visit. The boat was therefore overhauled and a
few repairs done. Then we prepared a supply of provisions, for we intended to be absent at least a
night or two, perhaps longer. This took us some time to do, for while Jack was busy with the boat,
Peterkin was sent into the woods to spear a hog or two, and had to search long, sometimes, ere he
found them. Peterkin was usually sent on this errand when we wanted a pork chop (which was not
seldom), because he was so active and could run so wonderfully fast that he found no difficulty in
overtaking the hogs; but, being dreadfully reckless, he almost invariably tumbled over stumps and
stones in the course of his wild chase, and seldom returned home without having knocked the skin off
his shins. Once, indeed, a more serious accident happened to him. He had been out all the morning
alone, and did not return at the usual time to dinner. We wondered at this, for Peterkin was always
very punctual at the dinner-hour. As supper-time drew near, we began to be anxious about him, and
 at length sallied forth to search the woods. For a long time we sought in vain, but a little before
dark we came upon the tracks of the hogs, which we followed up until we came to the brow of a rather
steep bank or precipice. Looking over this, we beheld Peterkin lying in a state of insensibility at
the foot, with his cheek resting on the snout of a little pig, which was pinned to the earth by the
spear. We were dreadfully alarmed, but hastened to bathe his forehead with water, and had soon the
satisfaction of seeing him revive. After we had carried him home, he related to us how the thing had
"You must know," said he, "I walked about all the forenoon, till I was as tired as an old donkey,
without seeing a single grunter—not so much as a track of one; but as I was determined not to
return empty-handed, I resolved to go without my dinner, and—"
"What!" exclaimed Jack, "did you really resolve to do that?"
"Now, Jack, hold your tongue," returned Peterkin. "I say that I resolved to forego my dinner and to
push to the head of the small valley, where I felt pretty sure of discovering the hogs. I soon found
that I was on the right scent, for I had scarcely walked half a mile in the direction of the small
plum tree we found there the other day, when a squeak fell on my ear. 'Ho, ho,' said I, 'there you
go, my boys;' and I hurried up the glen. I soon started them, and, singling out a fat pig, ran tilt
at him, In a few seconds I was up with him, and stuck my spear right through his dumpy body. Just as
I did so, I saw that we were on the edge of a precipice, whether high or low I knew not; but I had
been running at such a pace that I could not stop, so the pig and I gave a howl in concert and went
plunging over together. I
 remembered nothing more after that, till I came to my senses and found you bathing my temples, and
Ralph wringing his hands over me."
But although Peterkin was often unfortunate in the way of getting tumbles, he was successful on the
present occasion in hunting, and returned before evening with three very nice little hogs. I also
was successful in my visit to the mud-flats, where I killed several ducks. So that, when we launched
and loaded our boat at sunrise the following morning, we found our store of provisions to be more
than sufficient. Part had been cooked the night before, and on taking note of the different items,
we found the account to stand thus:—
10 Bread-fruits (two baked, eight unbaked). 20 Yams (six roasted, the rest raw). 6 Taro roots. 50
Fine large plums. 6 Cocoa-nuts, ripe. 6 Ditto, green (for drinking). 4 Large ducks and two small
ones (raw). 3 Cold roast pigs, with stuffing.
I may here remark that the stuffing had been devised by Peterkin specially for the occasion. He kept
the manner of its compounding a profound secret, so I cannot tell what it was; but I can say, with
much confidence, that we found it to be atrociously bad, and, after the first tasting, scraped it
carefully out and threw it overboard. We calculated that this supply would last us for several days;
but we afterwards found that it was much more than we required, especially in regard to the
cocoa-nuts, of which we found large supplies wherever we went. However, as Peterkin remarked, it was
better to have too much than too little, as we knew not to what straits we might be put during our
 It was a very calm, sunny morning when we launched forth and rowed over the lagoon towards the
outlet in the reef, and passed between the two green islets that guarded the entrance. We
experienced some difficulty and no little danger in passing the surf of the breaker, and shipped a
good deal of water in the attempt; but, once past the billow, we found ourselves floating placidly
on the long oily swell that rose and fell slowly as it rolled over the wide ocean.
Penguin Island lay on the other side of our own island at about a mile beyond the outer reef, and we
calculated that it must be at least twenty miles distant by the way we should have to go. We might,
indeed, have shortened the way by coasting round our island inside of the lagoon, and going out at
the passage in the reef nearly opposite to Penguin Island; but we preferred to go by the open
sea—first, because it was more adventurous, and, secondly, because we should have the pleasure
of again feeling the motion of the deep, which we all loved very much, not being liable to
"I wish we had a breeze," said Jack.
"So do I," cried Peterkin, resting on his oar and wiping his heated brow; "pulling is hard work. Oh
dear, if we could only catch a hundred or two of these gulls, tie them to the boat with long
strings, and make them fly as we want them, how capital it would be!"
"Or bore a hole through a shark's tail, and reeve a rope through it, eh?" remarked Jack. "But I say,
it seems that my wish is going to be granted, for here comes a breeze. Ship your oar, Peterkin. Up
with the mast, Ralph; I'll see to the sail. Mind your helm; look out for squalls!"
This last speech was caused by the sudden appearance of a dark-blue line on the horizon, which, in
 short space of time, swept down on us, lashing up the sea in white foam as it went. We presented the
stern of the boat to its first violence, and in a few seconds it moderated into a steady breeze, to
which we spread our sail and flew merrily over the waves. Although the breeze died away soon
afterwards, it had been so stiff while it lasted that we were carried over the greater part of our
way before it fell calm again; so that, when the flapping of the sail against the mast told us that
it was time to resume the oars, we were not much more than a mile from Penguin Island.
"There go the soldiers!" cried Peterkin, as we came in sight of it; "how spruce their white trousers
look this morning! I wonder if they will receive us kindly. D'you think they are hospitable, Jack?"
"Don't talk, Peterkin, but pull away, and you shall see shortly."
As we drew near to the island we were much amused by the manoeuvres and appearance of these strange
birds. They seemed to be of different species, for some had crests on their heads while others had
none, and while some were about the size of a goose, others appeared nearly as large as a swan. We
also saw a huge albatross soaring above the heads of the penguins. It was followed and surrounded by
numerous flocks of sea-gulls. Having approached to within a few yards of the island, which was a low
rock, with no other vegetation on it than a few bushes, we lay on our oars and gazed at the birds
with surprise and pleasure, they returning our gaze with interest. We now saw that their
soldier-like appearance was owing to the stiff, erect manner in which they sat on their short
legs—"bolt-upright," as Peterkin expressed it. They had black heads, long sharp beaks, white
breasts, and bluish backs.
 Their wings were so short that they looked more like the fins of a fish, and, indeed, we soon saw
that they used them for the purpose of swimming under water. There were no quills on these wings,
but a sort of scaly feathers, which also thickly covered their bodies. Their legs were short, and
placed so far back that the birds, while on land, were obliged to stand quite upright in order to
keep their balance; but in the water they floated like other waterfowl. At first we were so stunned
with the clamour which they and other sea-birds kept up around us, that we knew not which way to
look—for they covered the rocks in thousands; but, as we continued to gaze, we observed
several quadrupeds (as we thought) walking in the midst of the penguins.
"Pull in a bit," cried Peterkin, "and let's see what these are. They must be fond of noisy company,
to consort with such creatures."
To our surprise, we found that these were no other than penguins which had gone down on all fours,
and were crawling among the bushes on their feet and wings, just like quadrupeds. Suddenly one big
old bird, that had been sitting on a point very near to us, gazing in mute astonishment, became
alarmed, and, scuttling down the rocks, plumped or fell, rather than ran, into the sea. It dived in
a moment, and, a few seconds afterwards, came out of the water far ahead, with such a spring, and
such a dive back into the sea again, that we could scarcely believe it was not a fish that had
leaped in sport.
WE GAZED AT THE BIRDS WITH SURPRISE AND PLEASURE, THEY
RETURNING OUR GAZE WITH INTEREST.
"That beats everything," said Peterkin, rubbing his nose, and screwing up his face with an
expression of exasperated amazement. "I've heard of a thing being neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but
I never did expect to live to see a brute that was all three together—at onceó
 in one! But look there!" he continued—pointing with a look of resignation to the
shore—"look there! there's no end to it. What has that brute got under its tail?"
We turned to look in the direction pointed out, and there saw a penguin walking slowly and very
sedately along the shore with an egg under its tail. There were several others, we observed,
burdened in the same way; and we found afterwards that these were a species of penguin that always
carried their eggs so. Indeed, they had a most convenient cavity for the purpose, just between the
tail and the legs. We were very much impressed with the regularity and order of this colony. The
island seemed to be apportioned out into squares, of which each penguin possessed one, and sat in
stiff solemnity in the middle of it, or took a slow march up and down the spaces between. Some were
hatching their eggs, but others were feeding their young ones in a manner that caused us to laugh
not a little. The mother stood on a mound or raised rock, while the young one stood patiently below
her on the ground. Suddenly the mother raised her head and uttered a series of the most discordant
"She's going to choke," cried Peterkin.
But this was not the case, although, I confess, she looked like it. In a few seconds she put down
her head and opened her mouth, into which the young one thrust its beak and seemed to suck something
from her throat. Then the cackling was renewed, the sucking continued, and so the operation of
feeding was carried on till the young one was satisfied; but what she fed her little one with we
could not tell.
"Now, just look yonder!" said Peterkin in an excited tone; "if that isn't the most abominable piece
mater-  nal piece deception I ever saw! That rascally old lady penguin has just pitched her young one into the
sea, and there's another about to follow her example."
This indeed seemed to be the case, for on the top of a steep rock close to the edge of the sea we
observed an old penguin endeavouring to entice her young one into the water; but the young one
seemed very unwilling to go, and, notwithstanding the enticements of its mother, moved very slowly
towards her. At last she went gently behind the young bird and pushed it a little towards the water,
but with great tenderness, as much as to say, "Don't be afraid, darling; I won't hurt you, my pet!"
but no sooner did she get it to the edge of the rock, where it stood looking pensively down at the
sea, than she gave it a sudden and violent push, sending it headlong down the slope into the water,
where its mother left it to scramble ashore as it best could. We observed many of them employed in
doing this, and we came to the conclusion that this is the way in which old penguins teach their
children to swim.
Scarcely had we finished making our remarks on this, when we were startled by about a dozen of the
old birds hopping in the most clumsy and ludicrous manner towards the sea. The beach here was a
sloping rock, and when they came to it some of them succeeded in hopping down in safety, but others
lost their balance, and rolled and scrambled down the slope in the most helpless manner. The instant
they reached the water, however, they seemed to be in their proper element. They dived and bounded
out of it and into it again with the utmost agility; and so, diving and bounding and
sputtering—for they could not fly—they went rapidly out to sea.
On seeing this, Peterkin turned with a grave face to us and said: "It's my opinion that these birds
 stark, staring mad, and that this is an enchanted island. I therefore propose that we should either
put about ship and fly in terror from the spot, or land valorously on the island, and sell our lives
as dearly as we can."
"I vote for landing; so pull in, lads," said Jack, giving a stroke with his oar that made the boat
spin. In a few seconds we ran the boat into a little creek, where we made her fast to a projecting
piece of coral, and running up the beach, entered the ranks of the penguins armed with our cudgels
and our spear. We were greatly surprised to find that, instead of attacking us or showing signs of
fear at our approach, these curious birds did not move from their places until we laid hands on
them, and merely turned their eyes on us in solemn, stupid wonder as we passed. There was one old
penguin, however, that began to walk slowly towards the sea, and Peterkin took it into his head that
he would try to interrupt its progress, so he ran between it and the sea and brandished his cudgel
in its face. But this proved to be a resolute old bird. It would not retreat; nay, more, it would
not cease to advance, but battled with Peterkin bravely and drove him before it until it reached the
sea. Had Peterkin used his club he could easily have felled it, no doubt; but as he had no wish to
do so cruel an act merely out of sport, he let the bird escape.
We spent fully three hours on this island in watching the habit of these curious birds, but when we
finally left them, we all three concluded, after much consultation, that they were the most
wonderful creatures we had ever seen; and further, we thought it probable that they were the most
wonderful creatures in the world!