When the missionary John Williams sighted and landed on Aitutaki in 1821, he wrote about the men and some women being beautifully tattooed. He wrote that some men had their faces tattooed.
Captain Cook sighted Mangaia in April 1777 and only one native, by the name of Mouroa, came aboard the ship.
From Mangaia they later sailed to Atiu where Captain Cook, Lieutenant Gore and other officers wrote about the men and women of being tattooed with different motifs or patterns, as described by another person who wrote a letter on the subject to CINews.
Gore wrote: “they have black arses too!” Meaning their bottoms were tattooed, but he never wrote about face tattoo in Atiu.
From Atiu, Cook’s ship sailed to Takutea, Manuae. They missed Aitutaki just a few miles from Manuae, then sailed down to Aotearoa (New Zealand).
In 1778 Captain Cook sailed from Aotearoa back to the islands which he had already plotted on the map – Manuae first. Arriving at Manuae, they saw seven double canoes sitting half the body in the water and upon the sand.
One canoe came out to the ships and the sailors saw that all the men in the canoe were tattooed.
Through Omai the Raiatean, Cook asked, who they were.
“We are Atiuans and this is our island,” was the reply.
According to Gore, because they had been in Atiu before and had seen the natives there tattooed and the motifs being drawn and recorded down by the artists on the ship, these showed them, “Surely they are Atiuans!”
When the circumference of the Manuae lagoon was just about to be surveyed, “The Atiu warriors ashore grabbed their weapons, brandishing them. Using slings, the boat was bombarded by rocks and the survey work was cancelled!”
Captain Cook’s ships sailed to Takutea, Atiu, Mangaia and then to the Tahiti Islands.