Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sandwich Island Girl 4

Geoff Cater Notes about the text accompanying
the Sandwich Island Girl image:

"A close reading [of numerous descriptions of surf riding in
the 1800's] indicates that the writers go to considerable effort to
convey to the reader the elementary characteristics of surf-riding.
They invariably include details that include the board, paddling-out,
wave selection, take-off, riding in various positions, wave sliding
angle and wipe-outs.
Detailed descriptions of the rider's attire are scarce (both the number
of descriptions and the attire).

"I can find none of these features in the article under discussion [i.e. the "Sandwich Island Girl" in the Police Gazette of 1888].
Furthermore, (though I am restricted here to Australian sources)
newspaper reports of the early 20th century have most of the features
found in the early literature.

"As a result of re-examining the early literature, I prepared several
online papers on some of the early reports of surf-riding that may (or
may not) make the above assessment clearer .
I include the titles, http and any pertinent comments..

"Lt. James King : (Two) Descriptions of Hawaiian Surf-riding, 1779.
Significantly, this report specifically notes the characteristics of
the template - probably 16'' wide near the nose and a 9'' tail.

"Charles Stewart : Surf-riding at Lahaina, Maui, 1824
Discussion : "while the waves are breaking on the reef apparently
twenty or thirty feet high."

"Rev. William Ellis : Surf-riding at Waimanu, circa 1820's
Recognition that surf-riding is best attempted at coastal locations
with a specific bottom contours that provide the most suitable wave

"Note that these two accounts have some similarities and the authors
were in contact.
Stewart's work includes an account in Chapter XI of "A Visit to Mr.
and Mrs. Ellis", Pages 232-233?
The Fifth Edition (Enlarged) of 1839 includes an "Introduction by the
Rev. William Ellis, from the London

"John Dean Caton : Surf-riding at Hilo, 1880.
Contains for Blake : the critical empirical data (by noting the
rider's motion relative to the compass points) that dramatically
illustrates that the rider is transversing the wave face.
Source, with difficulty, from Blake (1935).

"Thomas W. Knox : Surfing at Hilo.
Possibly first report of surfing for payment.
Compare and contrast with Caton's report also from Hilo, above.
This is not listed in De Vaga : 200YSL (2004).
I thought I sent the details to Daved, but I am not sure if it has
been added to the Waterlog.
Does this qualify as a find?

"I have started and uploaded ...
Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual, 1896.
This account has a lot of detail and, unlike Blake, I have more than
one problem with the text.
It requires further work (XXX).

"For anyone familiar with my webpage, navigate by ... - history - source documents - source documents menu
The source documents menu is chronological, so these entries appear
near the top."

-- Geoff Cater


  1. AnonymousJune 13, 2006

    We are all just blowing farts at the moon regarding the Sandwich Island Girl article. No one has any proof one way of the other as of yet. The research needs to be done in the local area this may have occured. Until then, it's all speculation.

  2. I am a local newspaper reporter/surfer who is looking into the mystery of the Sandwich Island Girl for a possible story.

    Geoff, I'm trying grasp your comments here about the descriptions of surfing from that era. Are you saying that the article doesn't seem to indicate that what the girl was doing was actually surfing? If so, I agree. I have read a lot of comments about this article, and the article itself, and the one thing that strikes me is that her actions do not seem to be surfing. The activity described in the article sounds more like someone just getting up on a plank or board and standing on it until she fell over. I used to do this on rubber rafts as a kid. the article makes no mention of catching a wave, or moving toward shore, or sliding across the face of the wave or anything like that.

    Brian Donohue
    The Star-Ledger of Newark

  3. I spent a full day this week poring over microfilm at the Asbury Park public library. I read every edition of both the Daily Journal and the Asbury Park Daily Press from July 1 to Aug. 18 of 1888 and there was no mention of the girl. If it happened, I doubt they would have missed it. These papers are full of every imaginable bit of gossip and snippets of beach and boardwalk life. There is a full story on a woman who went wading without a bathing suit on, many stories about police citing people form improper beach garb, etc. In fact, the police seemed so vigilant in stopping people from engaging in foolish behavior (like walking to the beach in your bathing suit instead of changing once you got to the beach) that I doubt the Sandwich Island girl would have gotten away with this for more than a few minutes.
    I suppose the papers could have missed it - especially if she was out there in the early morning. Reporters then and now tend to be late risers. Or perhaps, the Police Gazette simply made this up (I see later editions in the 1970's where they trumpet "Hitler is Alive" and other things).
    There were stories of a circus in town on Aug. 15 ("Frank A. Robbins' Gigantic and Sensationally realistic wild west hippodrome, caravan, circus, menagerie, museum, aviary and aqaurium" it was called!) perhaps she was a circus performer out for a morning swim? I'm at a loss.


Mahalo for your comment!