Tupa’ia, a navigator and priest from Raiatea, assisted Captain James Cook on his first voyage to the South Pacific (1769–71). The drawing shows a traditional longhouse in Tahiti situated on a beach fertile with different types of trees and plants (pandanus, breadfruit, banana, coconut and taro can all be identified).
In the foreground three canoes are being navigated by local men. The double-sailed vessel on the left is a sailing canoe and the other two boats are used for war. The bow and stern of each war canoe is decorated with a wooden ‘tiki’ sculpture (a carved image of a god or ancestor). Warriors armed with spears stand on platforms raised from the sterns of both vessels ready for battle.