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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The White Headhunter

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I am going to tell you about a remarkable man who led an extraordinary life,

in this video which has been sponsored by Audible, but more of that later. His name was John Renton

well, that was his official name actually almost everyone called him Jack Renton and he later became known as

The White Headhunter

Now Jack was born in the Orkneys

What's that? You don't know where the Orkneys are. Ah fair enough. Why should you ? Well, the Orkneys are small

Windswept islands surrounded by the cold seas north of Britain and well Jack didn't want to spend his entire life there

He wanted to go out get out there and and and have adventures and see the world

Well, he certainly had adventures

So he went to Liverpool and signed on to become the crewman of a Windjammer and he went to Hong Kong and he went to

San Francisco and he got drugged by his landlord

He woke up with two other shanghaied men

Aboard a Boston registered ship bound for McKean island. Now McKean island is in the middle of flipping nowhere.

It's in the Pacific about 5000 miles into the Pacific and it's tiny I tell you about half a mile wide and

Why would anyone want to go to this uninhabited little speck in the middle of nowhere?

Well, from the sea it looks like a normal island -

fairly lush. it's surrounded by vegetation - but you only have to walk about 50 yards inland and you come across a weird

lifeless moonscape of poo. That's right !

Guano - you see if you are this small island in the middle of flipping nowhere

then you're going to be very popular with birds who quite like to have a rest every now and again and

So what does a bird do? Well they poo, and after many centuries of birds landing there and pooing everywhere,

tens of feet of guano had built up and this was actually quite valuable stuff. It was fertilizer.

Some people will tell you that it was used for its saltpetre in the manufacture of gunpowder. These people are wrong. They're actually much

more efficient ways of getting saltpetre

No, it was just used for fertilizer

But it was really good. It must have been really good fertilizer, much better than than pig or cow dung

Which you might think would be perfectly adequate, but it was worthwhile

Sending ships way out into the middle of nowhere to load up with

cargos of this horrible poo.

It was particularly good in

Enriching the soils of places that had the rather weak soils

Where you're trying to colonize - places the middle of nowhere where the soils aren't terrific

desert islands and so forth and enrich them with guano and and maybe you can get economy running.

Well ! Guano was in demand and so there were ships that went out to places like McKean Island and

That was the work now to do they went to the island. They landed, they loaded up the ship with guano,

holding their noses presumably a lot of the time and

then the bosun of the ship approached Renton and his two shanghaied colleagues and said,

"I don't think this ship is seaworthy.

Seriously, I don't think this this is going to get to where it's bound if we get hit by a serious storm or anything like that,

I can see this ship going down

It's in terrible condition and I can't persuade the captain of this. So I

don't want to die in a big

diluting puddle of poo in the middle of the Pacific, so

I reckon the four of us could

probably crew a small boat. Why don't we load up one of the ships small boats and just get out of here

What do you say ?" For Renton and his two shanghaied colleagues this of course was more than just avoiding the disaster of a potentially

unseaworthy ship but it was also a way of escape, so they were all for it. Now the officers would patrol deck

so it was quite obvious that these officers knew that people might try to desert and

they reckoned they had about a two-minute gap to load loads of stuff onto one of the boats and

get out of there and this they then did. They didn't have a huge amount of stuff loaded on the boat

But never mind, they could just get out of there quickly. That was the main thing and

for the first three days,

they had a good breeze and they put a lot of distance between themselves and the ship that they were deserting.

Unfortunately, they were then becalmed and so they then had to row

their supplies ran out rather quickly

unfortunately and

They started well losing weight and getting weaker. The bones started showing through on the rib cages

now after drifting for about 17 days

they were so starved that talk turned to cannibalism and

There was a democratic meeting held now

You know democracy is that you? Yes! Democracy is five wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch

So there were three

Americans and

Renton who was definitely the plumpest

So I think you can guess how that vote went and it seems that it was just about when they were

Going in for the kill to kill him that Oh

Timely a tiger shark was sighted but how to get the tiger shark to come closer to the boat ?

It was up to Renton again

He sat on the side of the boat and dangled his feet in the water temptingly

Little small fish came over and nibbled his toes, but he wasn't interested

He wanted the tiger shark which eventually came in and yes

they were able to bash it with oars and clubbed it and stabbed it with everything they had and they managed to subdue and

Finally kill the tiger shark so feel they had some that's some food

They could cut a load of steaks of it and get cooking that some cooking gear aboard the boat and this was fine at first

Whew what a relief got some food in this not terribly nice. But hey, it's it's food

They didn't actually get to eat most of the shark. Most of the shark was eaten by other sharks

They had to lash it to the outside of the boat. And well other sharks came along and they had most of it but

They are also able to cut off cut out a lot of steaks off it and dry them in the Sun for use later. Oh

That would have worked where the work had it then not rained and these dried steaks got wet and then they rotted

But then they were all they had to eat so they had the rotten shark steaks and they were horribly

Horribly, sick throwing up all over the shop and they drifted for

35 days now there were moments of hope and there were terrifying moments for instance

they were hit by a storm that raged all through the night and they only had the

phosphorescence on the waves to steer by so they could keep themselves bow on to the wave and avoid being swamped and

That of course you imagined took a huge amount of energy out of them

And so they were exhausted after that would see clouds on the horizon think yes

Yes land that's head toward those clouds because if you've got a cloudless sky over a smooth

seascape if you see a cloud that's a reasonable indicator of land because the the moisture holding water over the

The warm sea is forced when it comes over the land a bit high and then it condenses

in fact, perhaps forms a cloud and that's an indicator but no, sometimes it's just a cloud and

Their hopes were dashed again and again

but after 35 days, they sighted land yes act or land they could see land it was just over there, but unfortunately

Renton was the only one who was strong enough to row the others all they could do was lie there and hope

Presumably shouting the occasional bit of encouragement to Renton like "Row harder!"

So he rowed towards the island

but then darkness fell before he got there and it seems that their hopes had been dashed but then in the early

Glimmer of dawn they're able to see that they hadn't drifted too far. And yes, they were still within sight of that land and Renton rowed.

He rowed towards that land

as hard as he possibly could but it was surrounded by reefs with crashing waves and even when he found gaps through

The reefs they were strong offshore currents which were pushing him out and though he tried to row against the currents

They started defeating him, but he gritted his teeth. And remember that he was British and rowed for all he was worth and


Failed to land. He was pushed back out to sea by the offshore currents and darkness fell again

The next day he was extremely weak, but they were still within sight of land and in sight of what's this?


There were there are thousands and thousands of islands in the Pacific but there were three in this period that were given a very

Wide berth by sailors, they were known about you. Don't go there because there are cannibals and headhunters and they'll just kill you

But that's just three out of thousands

This island was one of those three. War canoes came out

Towards them they were too weak to do anything much

The war canoes came round up to them the natives with black teeth Spears and clubs

lept aboard and just ignore the men and started looting see what they had first and

Then they towed the boat and its contents all the way to the land dragged it up onto the shore

dumped the men onto the beach and

I'm guessing to the disappointment of Renton and his colleagues

smashed up the boat

So Renton seeing them smash up the boat was and I'm putting thoughts into his mind here

But I'm just imagining it thinking something along the lines of. Oh great. I'm not going to escape now

Why did the natives smash up the boat?

Because the boat was held together with nails and nails were made out of iron which was a miracle

Material and this was their way of getting hold of some iron. Wow, it's held together with with nails guys

Smash smash smash great we've got some nails

Oh sorry did you want that boat? Bit late now

Now the emaciated man was so emaciated that people shrank from them in horror who was something

No, quite rather right about these guys. It seems that they were thinking

but there were curiosities and people did feed the little tip bits and and just tried to see how they would behave and

One man who was particularly nice to them and fed them more than most started in a private moment signaling to them

Something like that

I can't imagine that maybe the thumbs up

It's not Universal probably isn't but he was trying to signal that if you stay here those people

Will kill you whereas if you come with me in my canoe, maybe you'll live

Renton thought that that was preferable to waiting around and seeing what would happen there

So he got into the man's canoe and was paddled away

Leaving the Americans

behind and he was taken to a

coastal village not very far away and

He was introduced to his new life

he have actually been bought he was now a slave of the big man, who'd bought them from the people who -

salvaged him from the boat and

This was to be his life

For well, he didn't know how long and neither will you! Until I latter tell you

It was a sort of a feudal society

There were these big men as they were called sort of bit like chieftains, but it wasn't such an official hereditary title like that

They were just powerful men who threw general success in their lives and

a strong network of obligations got a lot of people supporting them and

This big man. Kibou had a prize. He had Renton here the white man and all the skills and

mystique and kudos that goes with that

A good talented slave can be a very valuable thing and an exotic slave

was the talk of the village, forest, bush whatever.

I was gonna say talk of the town, but it wasn't really a town. There were off the coast lots of small artificial

Islands and these were inhabited by the dispossessed: slaves, runaways people who are escaping from feuds and so forth

and the minimum size was

3 huts: 1 for the man, 1 for his family and one for his fishing kit which gives you some idea of

the order of precedence and importance in this society

The biggest dwellings were

the biggest some

built-up areas if you like we're about

200 people within a stockade but quite often it was just three huts on the little island. Anyway, that was where he was and

It was a feudal society it was slave owning and you had these obligations and they also went on raids

Against the the bush people of the interior as well as rival villages along the coast

It was quite a different world, he was brought into he was rather shy they were largely naked most of the time and

He didn't like to take his his clothes off particularly on his trousers

And in fact, they didn't get him to take his trousers off until they gave him his own pool to bathe in

But he made himself

Reasonably popular one of the things that he did a lot was play with the kids then I imagine that's always a a good way

To ingratiate yourself with a new society play with the kids and he taught them football

Would you believe? and in about six months he learnt the language

Although I imagine that if you learn the language largely through talking to kids maybe you then sound like a

Child when you speak which may be and into the charm

Anyway, it seems that you won people over he ended up becoming the cook to about five local quite powerful men

He didn't like being a cook though. He wanted to be something

Bigger better and more useful than that

Why were these islands quite so hostile

Well, one of the reasons was things that happened 200 years ago the first people to get there in the 1500 about the 1560s were

The Spanish and the Spanish were there to get gold! Because they'd heard rumors supposedly

They were told by other Islanders who were perhaps on I'm trying to get rid of them

Oh, yeah, there there's lots of gold in islands that are that way. Could you please go now?

so they named them the Solomon Islands because of King Solomon King Solomon's Mines right because there's gold there so they believed


But the idea was lodged in their heads and so Spanish sent out expeditions that were largely composed of soldiers

They were gonna go out there

Conquer an area, mine gold and get rich and bat aside anyone who tried to stop them. They introduced disease

One of the reasons that sailors spread disease quite so effectively is that they were not exactly

the elites of their society people who volunteer to go on these

god-awful voyages and these horrendous cramped

uncomfortable and just

Just the ships of the period. We're just not pleasant places to be in and you'd be in there with no women for

many many months years even

and you're quite likely to die out there and there's no sun block, you know, so you could get terrible sunburn so

They weren't exactly the elite to their societies. They were quite often the diseased dregs of society and

So they became associated with death

they killed people too to get the gold which wasn't there and they introduced disease and they had guns and so we're

where the Spanish went went also death and then

Considered but when the Spanish went back to Spain

That their grasp of longitude was so bad that were on their maps that these islands were were replaced

2,000 miles out

That's a massive navigation error by the 1790s the British were turning up because by that stage they had the Harrison watch

Now the Harrison watch was essentially a very accurate watch and it it it solved the the problem of longitude

There was a price offered this is because big story on its own actually

But essentially a lot of people were saying we should do it

Well observe a observe asians of the sun or the planets and so forth

But trying to do that from the deck of a moving ship is very difficult in any way

Accurate watches turned out to be the solution to the longitude problem

And so a british ship came along

but that didn't go entirely well because

well, the british ship got attacked by war canoes because they all remember the spanish and the british ship had lots of cannons on and

So the british ship defended itself boom and you can imagine that's no great way to ingratiate yourself either and so they weren't tremendously in favor

and then for the next thirty years it was whalers coming along and they again, whalers they're not the nicest

Best people to encounter in the world peep, the sort of people who who end up on whaling ships are not the elite

Educated well-meaning classes generally there again. They're the dregs of society who end up on the

Whaling ships so

That largely explains the degree of hostility to the white man now

This feudal society. It would their black tit by the way the black teeth

The natives had black teeth because they went to an awful lot of

Effort to get black teeth, it wasn't that their their teeth had rotted because they didn't look after him


He actually mixed up a paste and put it on the teeth

And then he had to they have to have their mouths propped open

There's stuff to dry on their teeth, but like three or four days

To stain the teeth black. I have no reason to believe that renton stained his teeth black so he would've been an exception

It was a place with that guard owls that were they were trained to hoot if enemies were sighted


They had animism. They were particularly into spirits the nanu then your nanu was a spirit

Oh, I didn't say when the men were brought ashore in the first place. They slept for a full day and a full night and

One possible explanation that enters my head is something else I learned about these people

which is that they they believe that you should never shake someone awake because

The Nano your spirit your soul if you like that's in you it leaves your body

When you're asleep because that's what dreams are

So if someone were to shake you awake

They'd wake your body when your spirit was away and the two would be separated and that would be a disaster

So instead what you do is you speak the person's name and if they don't stir

You just leave them

But if they do stir that's because the nanu heard its name and returned to the body and then you wake up safely

But of course the natives wouldn't have known these renton or his colleagues names so they just left them there perhaps that's the reason

Or maybe it was just laziness anyway

So there's Renton and he's trying to make himself useful

in this in this strange world and and get used to

All the customs and there are an awful lot of custom. There is a correct way of doing absolutely

everything how do you hold a spear in the

Of a superior and inferior family member someone who lent you that spear and so forth. There's a particular way of doing absolutely everything

In some ways though. It was quite a free society

They believed that there was a God and that the God created the world and the God created

The etiquette the rituals the way of doing everything and that thank God then

satback goes in job was done

He didn't need people to serve him well worship

He didn't need worshipers because he's a God and

didn't want to serve Him because that's what dead people do the spirits of the dead serve the God that the ring don't I mean

We don't do any where is he? We can't see him anywhere. There's nothing. No, he we're not serving him

So we're free to do whatever we like really

They were very friendly these people

However, they were very friendly because they lived in the world with a constant fear of

savage retribution

Whenever they lost hairs

Or they cliped their nails or they excreted they would be very careful

To gather up everything and make sure that nobody else got hold of it they in every house

There was an incinerator for burning nail clippings and hair and poo and just everything like poo apparently was was particularly

Important you don't want someone to get hold of a bit of you not particularly a poo because what they could do to curse you

Was take a bit of you to one of their ancestral heads

Speak your name and get the ancestral head to curse you and then something bad would happen to you and everything bad that

happened to anyone

Absolutely regardless was somebody's fault if someone had if a coconut landed on someone's head

Somebody was responsible and someone will get blamed


It seems that their believes the natives beliefs in these things were so powerful that

if someone had been

Named in a ceremony as guilty for some reason or something they would

Just collapse with shame and perhaps not eat and starve and with her way to death

Rented himself wrote a memoir and in the memoir. He's a bit contradictory

sometimes he says that I've don't it is just loaded were suspicious and superstitious nonsense, but he also

recorded having seen

Lights leave a dead body and go into one of the huts and then he heard screams coming from that house

So why did he believe the star war didn t difficult to say but why would you want?

To be a headhunter. Why would you want these ancestral heads? Well,

Because the head was the seat of Mana. It's a fairly common oceanic word. Which means

that the power if you like of your of your soul of your life essence or whatever and it resided in the head and if

You could kill people and take their heads

Then you could give your chieftain that that head and achieved in loads of heads would have all the manor of all those defeated

Enemies and would become so much more powerful as a result

People started confiding in Renton

He seemed to be the go-to man when if you had something to admit to why did they confide in Renton?

Because he had no ancestral head

He was safe to confide in because he couldn't curse you. He had no power. He had no Mana

He had no heads you see so it was safe to tell him stuff

So that was another way perhaps that he made himself popular. He was the he was the guy to tell your secrets to

And he couldn't he couldn't tell anything else because well you didn't speak the languages of the other islands. He only speaks ours so

Renton made himself pretty useful and

he noticed that

We noted a number of things

He noticed for instance that there were

some really quite good mortise and tenon joints and dovetail joints and drilled holes with pegs in in the

Carpentry in their houses where he lived but in other villages there there it was just lashed together with with ropes

Why was that then eventually he found out?

40 years before him another white man

Had been shipwrecked there and had ended up becoming a slave like Renton in this same village and he had great

Carpentry skills and that explained all this carpentry

He had revolutionised carpentry in the region and made quite a name for himself and so much so that other villages thought

Well, actually he's quite like this guy because he seems pretty ace

And another village made a better offer come to us and we won't treat you like a slave

We'll give you better food and you won't be slave. It'll be great. Come to us think he got a better offer

So he thought great. I got a better offer. I'm I'm making my way in the world. Okay fair enough

The trouble was that that led to a huge amount of loss of face for the village, but they came up with a solution

They ambushed him and killed him. There you go. So they didn't lose face. They didn't

Have the carpenter anymore, but nobody else did either so that was fair

I'm learning this you can imagine that Renton was a little concerned. Ah, so I

Can't even escape

Through you know through making my way in the world in the normal way

I can't I can't turn there's no sort of social advancement Here. I am I'm more stuck than even I previously thought

Now they were

Raiders these people they would go on on raids in

war canoes typically are holding about 40 men and

The preparations for these were pretty we're pretty nasty. One of the things they do is sacrifice

someone and put them in an uncorked canoe and wait for the

body to to ooze

Various oozing and they these would drip out of the canoe and be caught in a train that they would then make

arrowheads which were designed specifically to break off in a wound and they would dip these in the the ooze

Which would then be this was biological warfare? You can get tetanus and all sorts of nasties off that

And this was part of their preparation for going

To war now. He helped that his rent and helped in the making of one of the canoes. It took him two months

He didn't actually know what the canoe was for

But he was pretty alarmed when it came to inaugurate the the launching of this canoe

There was a big feast


Nothing too alarming so far and then everyone gathered and a man dressed in sort of fish costume

Appeared and everyone showed fear and it didn't look like it was mocking the ritual fear. This look like

actual fear of this guy

they shrank battey back in terror, but they also watched fascinated as he walked around the press of people and then he eventually

Picked out a slave girl who was then immediately set upon and killed by the crowd

She was the sacrifice for this war canoe and Renton

It is reasonable to imagine thought okay, right. These people are just nuts. I've got to get out of here, but how

They won't allow me to go

But he saw an opportunity because there was a big feast that night

For the the ceremony of the launching of the crew of the canoe and at that time you thought right

like if I if I steal a little fishing canoe I can put some stuff aboard it and paddle away to

Somewhere else. There must be a trading station

There must be a trading station because a while ago I was on a logging expedition and someone put a steel axe into my hand

Where the hell did that come from? They must have some trading connection with other islands

There must be a trading post somewhere that trades indirectly with this place if I can find that

Trading post it can't be very far away then. Maybe I'll be able to

Wait there until the ship comes along and I don't know I'll work at that when I get there

But I need to get to that sort of place

so we thought right what do I put? So he put a club and six Spears and some food and

Didn't have much time. He packed his little canoe and set off into the darkness

now he knew

Roughly where to go to get this trading post

But he also knew that he would have to get past an enemy rival village

An enemy rival village, how is he going to do this? Well, he was gonna have to paddle very very hard

You'd have to get all the way past it at night. You might think well, then we just go out to sea

well, you don't want to go out straight out to sea because

You have no idea where you are. Once this is at night. Don't forget

You'll just get lost

That's not gonna work besides. There's a reef that's almost impenetrable that goes around the main island

There's a channel only about 100 yards wide. He's gonna have to stick to that

No, he's just gonna have to paddle and get past that rival

Village and then maybe find a break in the reef and then break out in daylight

To the other island where there is all going. Well this trading post

So he paddled all night, but when the light came up

He found that he was short of his target ahead of him still was the enemy village. How was he gonna get past?

Well, you thought maybe I just brought it out. I mean I've got long hair now

I'm very tanned from a distance I could pass for a native

I'm just a bloke in a canoe

Maybe if I just you know, just paddle saunter by they're just going about their normal activities in the morning

They wouldn't have any particular reason to be looking out for me

I think I could probably get away with it and it's my best chance of my carving or anything else to do and I can't

go back, I can't go back because they kill people for just even changing jobs, but the idea of

Leaving the village without permission when I'm a slave

And I just stolen someone's boat and all this kit. No, there's no they will definitely kill me if I go back

So there's only forward now

okay, so

he tries to do he tries to


It seems to be going well at first but then he loses his nerve but he sees a mangrove mangrove swamp

Did I hide in there?

Maybe no one saw me

I can wait in there and then

Maybe I could wait all day and strike out tomorrow and give it another go right so I'll do that, but no he heard

The blast of a war conch and war canoes being launched that was quick

He thought and he soon heard voices shouting into the mangrove swamp come out or we'll come in and kill you


He came out and

they dragged him out of his little canoe and they took him to the beach and they threw him down onto the beach and they

Clubbed him

Somewhere later

He awoke to find himself lying on the beach very

Thoroughly tied up at the feet of a lot of natives who were very heavily armed who were talking about

Killing him

This was not a good moment, but it's a great moment to break for like the message of

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I notice which caught my eyes mutiny on the bounty at Paradise in Chains actually

sir paradise in changes the main can come title mutiny on the bounty and the founding of


Now you've probably heard of mutiny on the bounty and you've probably heard a lot of rubbish that isn't true

They keep making films about it that historically very inaccurate

they'll always tell you that Fletcher Christian was just such a hero and Captain Bligh was nothing but a but a

puffed up villain there was in fact a Fletcher Christian if

Historical evidence is to be used instead

It was a bit of a git actually and Captain Bligh was a very long serving

Successful sea captain who couldn't possibly have had the very long

And successful career that he had and earned the respect of so many people that he did if he'd been just a puffed up villain

Anyway, so you could listen to that book and learn far more about new the bounty bounty and all that goes with it

and the founding of Australia

Which will also be a little bit more relevant

When you listen to the some of the stuff that I got to say in the moment

So there you go now back to the story now there it there's a man

lying on the beach


Well, this is it. Then I just I'm wondering exactly what method they're going to have of killing me

But then he heard that they were

Also discussing an alternative to killing him which was ransoming him and he heard more canoes turned up. Oh, maybe I'm

Valuable enough that they're gonna try to sell me to somebody else. Maybe there was a parley happening in canoes offshore and

You know

There was just a little glimmer of hope maybe

someone else will come along and take me away from all this because otherwise I'm certainly dead aren't I well he was grabbed and

unceremoniously dumped at the feet of

Kapu yes

the big man

From the village who owned him already

Yeah, the man he was trying to escape from he's dumped at his feet and kibou does not look happy

He is loaded onto a canoe and

Paddled away in the silence

It's a long paddle back to the village

the silence was

terrible and yet

punctuated by

Giggles did he just hear a giggle then? No, that wasn't a giggle more silence

That was definitely a giggle that time

But this went unexplained. They took him all the way back to the village and he thought huh, right? Well, I can't escape now

so again, I'm just gonna be killed by different people and

He was put on his feet in front of

everyone who was smiling and laughing and cheering and waving and so forth and

Kapoor looked rather well have anything happy and

He was freed of his bonds and kibou then made a speech saying that

They had built this war canoe to go on a raid against that other village

which of course was why the village was on high-alert because it's a bit of a dead giveaways and if you

Do a massive ceremony saying we're about to go raiding and you're the next bit anyway

So that's one of the reasons Renton was was spotted so quickly

and I've just been told that they

Thought that he just found out yesterday

Yesterday he found out that the three white men that were left back at that other village all died

We of course, we're going to toughen him up toughen him up by by sending him on a RAID with us

He was going to come in our canoe, but that wasn't enough for our Jack Renton

Oh, no

No on learning that his three colleagues had been killed he set off for vengeance on his own


He took six Spears and a club and he canoed straight to their village

Even the night before we were going to raid it. He had to get there first. This man is a hero

Close shave! Yeah close shave!

so he was now welcomed back into the bosom of

of the village he was still a slave but now he was a hero slave with people patting you on the back and

Showing him just so much more respect


what a guy he was going to take vengeance for three people all on his own that gets an entire village for

This man Renton is clearly someone to be reckoned with maybe he'd make a good head hunter

Kibou had decided that he had no intention of paying the ransom that he had promised to pay for

For Renton instead. He was going to raid that village because you know what that village is said to him. Take this hothead back

They'd said and and teach him how to fight. Okay?

Let's teach him how to fight now

Renton was not terribly skilled, but he was big and muscular and so it was thought that he'd make a good Spearman

Essentially they had two troop types spearmen and archers

the artists incidentally had no fletchings on their arrows which I find really odd because you'd think that's a really easy thing to event and

You have to you know, one person would have to workout fletchings

You think that the the idea if you stick fletchings on your arrows?

would spread like wildfire really quickly and then everyone would have fletchings on their arrows, but no

Even though it was their prime missile with but they had no fletchings on their hours

so their arrows weren't really very accurate and I saw a documentary a few years ago about very similar tribesmen from Vanuatu and

They had no fletchings on their arrows today

They had no fletchings on their arrow and they were taken to an archery club in Britain and show if you stick fletchings on the arrow

They go straight and they saw this and oh, yeah, they go straight

I mean you'd think that but anyway, they had no fletchings on their arrows

the spearmen were armed with a few Spears a club and a four foot rectangular shield in the left hand and

To those those are the two troop types and they practiced they rehearsed for battle they had

Cork tipped spears and cork tip arrows and so forth for for mock battles

but these were this was battle practice which struck Renton there's a little bit odd because he'd never actually

Known him all the stories. He'd heard he'd never actually heard of a pitched battle

It raids were almost always orchestrated so that the attackers would attack in overwhelming numbers or it would be an ambush or something

There were reports by other anthropologists in these same islands of seeing


sleeping villages being attacked by vast numbers of troops who were just go in and clubbed all the men and steal all the women well,

anyway, they trained for battle and

He was put into a canoe given three bodyguards to make absolutely sure that he lived because they couldn't they couldn't

live with the loss of face if their

Starman went down in this raid that was being put on for his benefit and in vengeance

But for his friends because this guy's one of us now

So if he's one of us those guys, they're sort of one of us. So we owe in vengeance for them

The group avenges the individual let's do this

So off they went

Three war canoes of 40 men

Lots of men paddling and one steersman in each one when they got there six novices were left behind to guard the canoes

that's presumably two per canoe a twenty men were given the the task of stealing the enemy's canoes thus cutting off their retreat and the


Killing an in they went and Renton was with with the the killing group

The accounts of this raid say that one man held 20 of theirs at bay just with an aggressive

Glare, which actually I find perfectly believable

I can believe that that that that would work. It didn't work with very long

Someone sneaked up behind him and that was the end of him

But for a while he held 20 back just by looking at them in a come on then

"I know something you don't!" sort of way

the raid was very successful and

They got their loot and they went they went back home having shown that lot given them a lesson. These were not wars of conquest

These were Wars of vengeance generally

There was a constant low-level war of

feuds and counter feuds going on and

These would drag on for ages until the amount of killing was about equal on the two sides

And then that was when Wars tended to to fizzle out


The raid was successful and so now hooray he's he's he's the hero of the hour



Letter arrived a letter arrived for Renton it had taken many months to get to him nobody in the area

Read or even really understood what writing was or even most of them believed in in writing

Renton would tell stories about his his life in the bigger wider world and almost nobody believed him

With one exception he had a chaperone

Called quest Sula and the chaperone did sort of believe him

Although not completely because the chaperone interestingly thought "Okay. If this is all true then, how do you make iron?"

He couldn't understand

Why don't you tell us how you make iron because the world they were from was a world in which absolutely everything

That was made

people knew how to make if you had a bow people knew how to make bows spears people knew how to make suppose Spears huts

people knew how to make huts and

so if he was from the world of iron

He would know how to make iron because people know how to make everything

don't they the concept of there being things in the world that you didn't know how to make

But you just accepted that somehow somebody else made them and then you bought them off the was alien

They also had some strange ideas about about the white man. For instance. Why is he trading?

Why did he come here in these ships and trade? Well, the explanation is quite simple. He has no land of his own

so he's forced to roam the Seas in these boats and to trade for stuff all the time because he has no left if you

Had land you'd live on the land surely wouldn't you you'd do that, and then you'd be happy doing that

Wouldn't you? these white men are different


qui, sulla learned a little bit of English and

became very firm friends with Renton and they were very similar in a lot of ways similar height and build and similar intelligence and and

Humor and so forth they became very firm friends and a certain amount of trust was built up with with qui. Sulla



Sandalwood logging was coming to an end. That was one of the big trades in the area

They were sandalwood ships, but the area was now largely logged out of sandalwood

So there are these ships then that needed something else to do and they started recruiting

Why were they recruiting because Australia had demand for laborers?

during the American Civil War

the price of cotton shot through the roof

I think you can understand why and so it became very lucrative to grow cotton in places like Australia and the Cotton's reasonably easy to

grow, but sugar cane which is another thing they had to go to growing is much more difficult and very

labor-intensive and they just couldn't get the workers the white men in in Australia just wouldn't work for those sort of low wages and

nasty conditions and long contracts, but maybe they could get

Recruits from places like the Solomon islands. So recruitment ships ex-sandalwood ships were sent out to recruit

They were called recruitment ships and a lot of them did indeed

recruit what some of them did though was something that became known as black birding it was

recruiting and that you were getting

Workers aboard your ship but it wasn't voluntary. It was done by force or by trickery and

The process of black birding went on for long enough that something like

4,000 Solomon Islanders were black birdied but over a five-year period between about

1865 and 1870

Nobody knows exactly what the total numbers of people black birded are but reasonably large

And I don't want you to think by the way that "Oh people were different then it was it was accepted behavior"

No, no, it wasn't these people were scoundrels and it was known that they were scoundrels

There were all sorts of regulations and inspectors

Put in place to make sure that they didn't flout the regulations. There was a system in place

There were laws. You were not supposed to do this and when some of the sea captains

Floated those laws and that horror stories about that some of the things that they did

Became known the general the British public were absolutely baying for these sea captain's blood. It was an outrage

So don't don't try to excuse this with oh, you know people were different back then

No, no some of these guys some of these black burgers were absolute out-and-out villains for instance

There was a Henry Ross Lewin

One of the things he liked to do was pretend to be a bishop and he would invite people

Onto his ship because he knew that missionaries were quite respected and then sail off with them. Yeah

that was one of his favorite tactics so and though and

regulations like how many people you could put on a ship and how much space each passenger had to have

These regulations were set down in law and there are inspectors, but he just floated the regulations

Um worse though was another captain called James Murray. He was a doctor. Dr

James Murray who was known for other things drugging his patients for his own nefarious ends

And then he was an absolute

Maniac this guy he would for instance set out

trade goods on the deck of his ship and

People would canoe out from from their islands to have a look at the goods and then he would put to hold some goods out

Over the edge of his ship and then let them drop and it'd be full of pig iron

Which would then smash through the canoe capsizing it

And perhaps killing a few people lost this was happening and then he would "Oh no!

Oh what a terrible accident" rescued the people out of the water and then sail off with them

But this guy's a maniac

I mean some of the accounts said that he would occasionally just kill some of the passengers on board for the hell it

and you

Can't put it down to a racism because he was he was being horrendous with everybody he would for instance

He advertised at one point he advertised for pioneers to go on colonize

an island in the Pacific and he got a load of people on his ship and then after getting off

Out to sea, he said Oh, what were actually doing is recruiting

Sorry, we're what we're not pi what he would just trick anyone into doing what he wanted on one voyage he put some passengers

Aboard a ship because it lent an air of respectability

Legitimacy to to what he was doing. I'm a passenger carrier. Oh, yes. Yes you I've stroll about deck will serve your tea and

Having sailed away these passengers were no longer used to him

And so he abandoned them on an island when another ship came by later

It was found that all the men had been killed by the natives

the guy was an absolute maniac the ship the voyage that actually put

It was the beginning of the end for this was the voyage of a ship called the Perry

The Perry set off from Fiji with lots of people aboard including lots of these black birded

Workers who really did not want to be there

And they rebelled and they took over the ship now on the previous occasion

When a lot of natives were taken over the ship. They just killed everyone

But then they had no one who could sail the ship and so that didn't end well for them, but these were slightly cleverer

They killed everyone

Apart from one vigie and a sailor who then threw himself overboard

So the result was the same the people most of the people being killed had no idea why they were being killed

They didn't know anything about the circumstances of these natives

They'd seen plenty of natives aboard ships before and have never been the problem before so they just thought there were more

Native workers going back and forth between their their various native islands

But no these guys had been black birdied and they wanted out

Then what happened aboard the Perry is a stuff of absolute nightmares

It was a very long.they derivative for I think 35 days about 1,800 miles

And they were from lots of different islands. They spoke different

languages and

Some of the other daily divided the monks group took tribal lines and some of these tribes are quite well armed and others weren't

which you can imagine was not so good for the ones that weren't terribly well armed and

They started running out of food after a while and cannibalism became rife, but you weren't supposed to eat members of your own tribe

So if you had weapons you could then eat members of another tribe

But if you didn't have weapons you could then have to break a taboo, which is a another oceanic word

And eat one of your own which you didn't want it. It was horrendous and

then came across

HMS basilisk. No, there's a hell of a name HMS basilisk. It's called a great name for ship I think and

they were

rescued and taken aboard but no one spoke their language and they were they were treated as well as they could be treated their they

Were fed and so forth, but no one could talk to them didn't really know what the hell was going on

but they could see from looking at the ship that something utterly horrendous had happened and


Took them back to Fiji which seemed a reasonable thing to do

Except when these black brilliant men saw that they were back where they started back on Fiji. They thought okay, right

So, you know, we've killed all these people we've escaped when we must be they're gonna kill us so they ran for it

An interpreter was sought and found

The men were tracked down


Given huge amounts of compensation they were completely bewildered

They thought they're all gonna be killed and then suddenly the white man starts handing them loads and loads of stuff including

Really good stuff, like axes of steel axe was just about the most prized thing

In Renton's village a steel axe Wow steel axe was 20 times more efficient than a stone axe

It took to chop down a big tree

We're renton was took four days with a stone axe

How steel axe and then they were giving them rifles not just in an old-fashioned muskets

they were giving them schneider rifles who the Carroll why are they giving us all this stuff and you eventually

it was explained to them that the guy who Blackbird did them was a criminal and

You know the white men the white men do have laws

anyway, so when the voice the parry became well known there there was another big public outcry a big crackdown and did some of the

Things which turned out to be maybe not misguided. It's too big a topic really to deal with in this video there the australian started

The selling of guns to natives and they also tried later banning headhunting. I

Anyway, black birding eventually came to an end. Thank goodness

But it's relevant. Why was one hell of a digression. It was relevant to this

Video because it's in this time that black birding is happening now

After another successful raid

Kubu is worried because the enemy is starting to get hold of rifles

The standard contract by the way, was you you work for three years in australia

and then you go home with good compensation including very often a rifle and you thought right we need some rifles because if they

Tried to get vengeance for what? We've just done they're likely to take vengeance using rifles

So we be the get some rifles quick. So I

can use my influence to get permission to cull porpoises and with a

porpoise skull get loads of porpoise teeth and then we'll be able to trade those for rifles. Yeah. This is my plan

Let's do it. So they

put stones into

bamboo sticks and

the surface of the water and drove a load of porpoises into the shallows and then sang to them and really nice to them and

led them to

The shore where the women were waiting there with hidden knives behind their backs, and then the deed was done

So they had lots of porpoise teeth and they took an expedition out to this extraordinary place. That was a

manageable journey away

We're very very fat chieftain who looked must have looked quite a character

he wore a an English stovepipe hat and a

German naval jacket and

Nothing else and he lived in these you could call them treehouses

But they were more like forts really. They were over a hundred feet high up

In the trees, and they had really thick floors that were musket-proof

So they were there were treehouse come

Fortresses if you like and eventually they got up into one of these houses and they were able to talk to him

But there were problems

You see this guy was now doing really well trading with the white man and porpoise teeth? He had no use for porpoise teeth

The white man's not interested in porpoise teeth. He wants stuff that he can use to trade with the white man. And

His currency was people and when he clapped eyes on Renton

Chu he thought wow this Renton guy is going to be worth a mint

renton found that this

Chieftain this fat stovepipe hat wearing chieftain

Spoke English and he started conversing with him in English and striking a deal, but he'll come back in a week

Arrange for a ship in a week's time. I'll come back. I'll get on the ship. You'll get loads of compensation

It'll be a sweet deal. Can we do this?


quite Sula

overheard and knew enough English that he understood that some deal was being struck and that

Renton was trying to escape and he tipped off kibou

So Renton realized I'm gonna have to get out really really quick

I can't hang about. Kabo's not gonna give me permission

He wrote a message on a plank of wood, which somehow he was able to get to some

British naval crew that said I've been stranded here for five years

He'd actually been stranded there for seven and a half years which shows that you know, Hey time flies when you're head hunting

But I suppose you know, he was it's a tropical area of the world, you know, he was used to seasons

So anyway, he was two and a half years out how long he'd been there

and a meeting for the next day was set up but

He couldn't get away from Kabu Kabu

Wouldn't let him go and wouldn't let him go alone. And no one would go with him. Not even quite sulla

And there was a tense moment with the ship there

He's trying to strike a deal with the the chieftain trying to strike a deal with his owner trying to strike a deal

He saw an opportunity at one moment

He just got close enough to the ship and he just left onto the side of the Borden's

Of the other ship and scrambled up the side and was onto the deck into the welcoming arms of Royal Navy personnel

He had it seemed

finally escaped

the next day kibou met him and

Did not recognize him he'd had his hair cut. He was wearing clothes

He stood differently and he was speaking in English with the they're Englishmen. He just seemed to be one of them

Who was this man? Kibou didn't recognize him

He went off to Australia

and it was able to sell his story to the newspapers and he got a job as a

Recruiter you might not think he would he would go into that line of work

But he did and he was actually a very good recruiter who who changed the way recruiting was done. He said for instance

No, no, you've got to compensate the chieftain state that yes

They're sending out all their worst guys because they want to lose there any of their guys

They said you know what don't want lose their best guys

You've got to give the chieftains really good compensation. Then they're gonna be happy to deal with you see in

Our culture we think if you're interviewing someone for a job, you're just you're just dealing with that person

You don't have you don't have to deal with that person's chief or mother or whatever you're dealing with that person

But it's different in these islands

He said, okay

You've got to do things differently people start doing things his way and it all started working a bit better but interestingly

He never went back to recruit on his own Island

Why is this well?

We don't know but it's reasonable to speculate that

He was ashamed of some of the things that you might have done on that island. You see his account

Doesn't tally brilliantly with the oral history account

which is quite a good oral history account and

the oral history account says he went on at least six raids and killed quite a few people and had a wife and

It's reasonable to imagine that he didn't want the civilized world finding out about those aspects of his story

And that is perhaps why he avoided going back to his his own?

his own Island

Oral history. For instance. I should explain another lie aggression. Here it comes or this was actually far more efficient than you might imagine

You may think that there's Chinese whispers happening all the time

This story just gets bandied about and people tell this story over and over again elaborating

It's simplifying it making it more convenient getting it to fit with other stories and so forth. That's not how they did it

they took oral history far more seriously than that

A Grandparent would tell a grandchild

skipping a generation

Therefore you have a smaller number of iterations. Well half the number of iterations doing it that way

They would pick the most intelligent grand child and in a ceremony they would tell that

grandchild the definitive version of the story and they would do it in the presence of the skull of the person being talked about or

Some other ancestor who also knew the story

So it was very important to get things right in front of the skull because the spirits would be listening

And then that grandchild would be the sole owner of that story and would have the official version

that was just just one copy removed from the from the actual happening and

Though that

That owner of the story might tell loads of other people

Whenever the official version is sought they would go back to that owner of the story


The records that were good enough to create to recreate entire

Genealogical records going back a few generations quite a few generations

Anyway that the two don't quite match up the oral history and and Renton's account

anyway, Renton became quite successful in year enough passage money to get passage back to

To Britain and there he was celebrated. He didn't have to look for work for a year, but he was actually quite shy and publicity

He avoided publicity a lot and didn't like hated public speaking didn't want to do that

He did go back to the Orkneys. His own family did not recognize him

He was cited doing something very strange when he would go for a swim. Which off the Orkneys is brave

He would lie down on the surface of the water and crawl along top of it in this very strange manner

You see something they get wrong in a lot of movies. Is that a lot of swimming strokes that we think are?

Just like standard normal are actually quite recent at least recent in the world of the white man

The first crawl as far as I know that was ever witnessed in Britain was in

1844 in London some American Indians were doing knock crawl quite as we know it today the kick was different and so forth but a

splashy version of that sort of thing

And though it was quite fast

It wasn't taken up and this business where you put your head under the water. They come up with a head

For a few strokes and come up again. That's a modern thing as well

You look at film of even Olympic contenders from from the early days of the Olympics and that's the day Oscar swam head up

Anyway, so renton it seems was the first

White man in the in in in britain or europe ever to swim the crawl

but his crawl didn't catch on instead another man called Frank Wickham who was a very similar man to Renton and he was also

Shipwrecked in the Solem islands about 20 years after Renton and he also became quite a success. He married a local woman

He had a son called Alec and he traded

got a rich enough through trading that he was able to send Alec to boarding school in Australia and

Alec went out there and boy could that kids swim he represented Australia in swimming

He held the record that stood until World War one

He also had the high diving record and till he broke his neck, but it wasn't fatal

but at the end of his high diving I also

Introduced skin-diving to Australia and it was his crawl relatedly called the Australian crawl that actually caught on

But Renton was there first

Dancing dancing. No swimming that the crawl and

Anyway, so I wrapped this story up because I did the digressions are really mounting up now, aren't they? So Renton has

Still have itchy feet and he went back. He went back to the Pacific and he became a recruiter again

Obviously, he wasn't content with life back in the Orkneys quite a bit colder for one thing


One day

He was in a boat that was men to be covering another boat

The standard process was you sent one boat in to do the deal whilst another boat

Hung back a bit with a load of guys with guns in it to make sure that everything's going to go off safely

but the the the

Natives were signalling to his boat to gone go over and join them and

Renton was looking at these natives and seeing how they were signalling to each other and seeing how

He could see that Vati that guy's in charge not that guy who's doing the talking and he could understand some of the words

Being said and he said no don't don't go over there spoiling for a fight. They're trying to that

They're just the devices what they want to fight? Seriously. They're just about to kick off don't go over there

And Renton was told not to be such an old woman and the vote went over there

It was an ambush a fight ensued some people got away, but Renton didn't Renton was killed

When news of Renton's death reached the village where kibou lived

There was tremendous mourning

There was great wailing

300 pigs were sacrificed in his honor and for three days straight they told tales of

the white gente when the white headhunter Jack Renton and

There was a relic we House built for him that acted as a shrine to his memory

You can't see it today because it burnt down in

1963 so there you go. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the extraordinary tale of Jack Renton

The Description of The White Headhunter