▲ Koreans visiting a British warship. Image courtesy The Graphic, Oct. 30, 1886 (Robert Neff collection)
Despite the rough sea, the Korean officials were quickly conveyed aboard the lorcha and treated to refreshments. Most of the Koreans seemed unaccustomed to being aboard a ship in rough seas and, as James MacDonald explained it, “soon began to feel the horrors of seasickness.” The august Gen. Lee, arrogant and loud on shore, was especially vulnerable to the motions of the waves and was soon “lying on the deck with his head on the side, his servant nursing him, as he emitted the most doleful sounds, and with misery lugubriously depicted on his countenance.”
Louis Charles Nicholas Maximillian de Montigny, the French consul at Shanghai, asked the Koreans several times for assistance but they seemed to have only one purpose in visiting the ship: to hasten the foreigners’ departure from their island. Frustrated and exhausted, Montigny demanded a Korean pilot be temporarily assigned to the lorcha as a guide but the Koreans refused, claiming that to do so would result in the loss of their heads. Montigny then made it clear to them that until a pilot was obtained, he was resolved to enjoy the pleasure of his Korean guests aboard the ship.
According to MacDonald: “The state of things perhaps hastened their acceding to our demand for a pilot, when they found we would not otherwise permit their boat to approach the gangway; and finding they had determined people to deal with, they consulted together, and ended by proposing to give us two pilots from the crew of the boat. In the end they transferred four of them [including a secretary], after which our visitors took their departure.”
Following the departure of the Koreans, the lorcha raised anchor and set sail. The wind, actually a brisk breeze, blew them quickly along and the sullen mood of the expedition transformed into one of exuberance and appreciation for the island’s spectacular scenery. Even the Korean pilots seemed to enjoy the fine sail; dividing their attention between the strange European food and the familiar landmarks that were quickly passed.
That evening the lorcha anchored off the coast and the Korean secretary, “a pleasant and intelligent man” was shown a rough nautical chart of the region but he was able to provide only a little useful information. Like his compatriots, the secretary had a fondness for Western liquor.
“They quaffed off the fiery spirit like water, one and all, and would have actually I believe finished a bottle each man, but as we did not wish to find our pilots ‘dead drunk’ in the morning, or the secretary unable to give any account of himself, we restricted the alliance.”
The following morning the Westerners went ashore to negotiate with the islanders for supplies. Their approach wasn’t always welcomed.
“As we passed by the nearest village the men would run and point to us to go the other way, but finding we invariably acted just contrary to such directions, they let us alone, and contented themselves with shouting to their women to retire, as the barbarians were at hand.”
MacDonald noted that the Korean women, like women throughout the world, were not devoid of “intelligent curiosity” and “we saw many heads peeping at us over the dikes.” The Westerners were not impressed. The women were described as exceedingly dirty and MacDonald opined that “no muse can sing or say much about their charm.”
The Westerners offered to trade pieces of cotton and other goods for the badly needed supplies but the villagers merely viewed them with a “show of indifference.”
Fortunately for the expedition, the pilots had spread the word to the villagers that the ship possessed excellent whiskey and “when half a dozen bottles of the famous Foreign Spirit were presented, their satisfaction knew no bounds.”
The trade was soon completed and the supplies loaded aboard the ship but the Westerners were less than satisfied.
“Sly rogues! They hardly deserved such good liquor. When our livestock came off we found the two bullocks and 30 fowls were all old veterans of the masculine gender; and although our 200 eggs were correct in number, a large portion of them were beyond eating, while many pigeon’s eggs had been put in to make up the account.”
Montigny felt that it would be wrong to force the “whisky drinking pilots” and secretary to travel away from Jeju Island so he released them. Once the supplies were loaded and the Koreans set ashore, the lorcha slowly sailed away from Jeju in search of the Narwal’s shipwrecked crew.
Next issue: The fifth and final installment - the rescue of the crew.
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