On this Day (December 6) – Murder on the High Seas

“Bloody Story of the Mutiny on the Nineroahiti.”

“Trial of the Fiends Who Seized a Vessel in the South Pacific.”

London, Dec. 5, 1893 — A dispatch to the Standard from Paris, referring to the trial of tbe Pacific piracy case at Brest, gives the following details of the mutiny on the Nineroahiti: On the night the Roriques seized the schooner Joseph, Rorique had the watch from 8 o’clock till midnight. He was joined by his brother, and the murderous work at once begun. The native captain, Cara, was stretched upon the deck asleep, and was shot and thrown overboard. The report of the pistol and the splash of the body of the captain as it was thrown into the sea aroused supercargo Gibson and the cook Mirey. Roriques called to Gibson to come on deck, and he was also shot and thrown overboard. A little later Mirey was summoned to come up and obeyed, trembling with fear, begging for bis life and promising the brothers that be would keep the secret if his life was spared.

On the second day after the murder Alexandre Rorique ordered Mirey to give each of the five Kanakas forming the crew a glass of rum, but only two of them would touch the liquor and they died on the same day. The remaining three fearing an attempt at poisoning refused to partake of food for several days until at last they became so terrified by the threats of Roriques that they jumped overboard and were drowned. On the arrival of tbe vessel at Ponapi the Rorique brothers and Mirey, under changed names, went to a tavern for dinner, where Mirey, during the temporary absence of the murderers, begged the innkeeper to conduct him to the Governor. Before this could be done the brothers returned and ordered Mirey aboard the vessel. He refused to obey and on their attempting to force him the guard was called and Mirey denounced the Roriques as murderers. All three were arrested and after Mirey’s confession had been heard they were all turned over to the French authorities.

 

niuroahiti

The schooner Niuroahiti was a small vessel of this type, measuring 50 tons

 

The Call of the South (By Louis Becke)

John Milne, 1908 – Oceania – 320 pages

The story of the Roriques, and the tragedy of the Niuroahiti, which was the name of the vessel they seized, is one of the many grisly episodes with which the history of the South Seas is so prolific. Briefly it is as follows :—

About the end of 1891 the two brothers arrived at Papeite, the capital of Tahiti, from the Paumotu Group, where, it was subsequently learned, they had been put on shore by the captain of an island trader, who strongly suspected them of plotting with the crew to murder him and seize the ship. Nothing of this incident, however, was known at Tahiti among the white residents with whom they soon ingratiated themselves; they were exceedingly agreeable-mannered men, and the elder brother, who was a remarkably handsome man of about thirty-five, was an excellent linguist, speaking German, French, Italian, English, Dutch, Spanish and Zulu fluently. Although they had with them no property beyond firearms, their bonhomie and the generally accepted belief that they were men of means, made them the recipients of much hospitality and kindness. Eventually the younger man was given a position as a trader on one of the pearl-shell lagoon islands in the Paumotu Group, while the other took the berth of mate in the schooner Niuroahiti, a smart little native-built vessel owned by a Tahitian prince. The schooner was under the command of a half-caste, and her complement consisted, besides the captain, of Mr. William Gibson, the supercargo, Rorique the first mate, a second mate, four Society Island natives, and the cook, a Frenchman named Hippolyte Miret. The Niuroahiti traded between Tahiti and the Paumotus, and when she sailed on her last voyage she was bound to the Island of Kaukura, where the younger Rorique was stationed as trader. She never returned, but it was ascertained that she had called at Kaukura, and then left again with the second brother Rorique as passenger.

Long, long months passed, and the Australian relatives and friends of young Gibson, a cheery, adventurous young fellow, began to think, with the owner of the Niuroahiti, that she had met a fate common enough in the South Sea trade—turned turtle in a squall, and gone to the bottom with all hands.

About this time I was on a trading cruise in the Caroline Islands, and one day we spoke a Fiji schooner. I went on board for a chat with the skipper, and told him of the Niuroahiti affair, of which I had heard a month before.

“By Jove,” he exclaimed, ” I met a schooner exactly like her about ten days ago. She was going to the W.N.W.—Ponape way—and showed French colours. I bore up to speak her, but she evidently didn’t want it, hoisted her squaresail and stood away.”

From this I was sure that the vessel was the Niuroahiti, and therefore sent a letter to the Spanish governor at Ponape, relating the affair. It reached him just in time.

The Niuroahiti was then lying in Jakoits harbour in Ponape, and was to sail on the following day for Macao. She was promptly seized, and the brothers Rorique put in irons, and taken on board the Spanish cruiser Le Gaspi for conveyance to Manila. Hippolyte Miret, the cook, confessed to the Spanish authorities that the brothers Rorique had shot dead in their sleep the captain, Mr. Gibson, the second mate, and the four native sailors.

The trial was a long one, but the evidence was most damning and convincing, although the brothers passionately declared that Miret’s story was a pure invention. Sentence of death was passed, but was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life, and the Roriques are now in chains in Cayenne.

 

*Noteworthy

1790 – The U.S. Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia.
1865 – 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery
1877 – First recording made of the human voice – Thomas Edison reciting “Mary had a little lamb”
1884 – The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., is completed.
1917 – Finland declares independence from Russia.
1947 – The Everglades National Park in Florida is dedicated.

 

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