Western Ships Calling in the Ryukyu Islands
Late 18th Century to Mid-19th Century


Ships of Commodore Perry's Squadron, Naha Harbor, 1853

Western Voyages with Stops in Okinawa 1547-1855.

In this list I will outline the various voyages I am aware of where Western ships stopped in Okinawa through completion of Perry Expedition to Japan in 1854/5. I do not represent this listing to be complete. It provides instances which I have noted from references I have reviewed. Additional information is most welcome.

  • ca 1547. The Portuguese explorer Fernao Mendez Pinto was ship wrecked off the Luchus on a voyage to Japan.
  • 1614, Dec 27 ~ 1615, May 22. Sea Adventurer, under the command of famous Captain William Adams, called in Naha for repairs. This was a British ship. It was enroute from the British factory at Hirado, Japan to Siam when it was damaged in a storm. The ship did not depart Naha until May 22, 1615. The ships cargo was off-loaded for repairs and the records of the English East India Company indicate goods were sold and Okinawa was considered possible market for the company. As a result of this visit, Will Adams introduced the Okinawan sweat potato into Japan.
  • ca 1624. Fr. Juan de Los Angeles Rueda, enroute from the Philippines to Japan, was forced by a storm to land in the Yaeyama. While on Yaeyama Fr. Rueda converted a Okinawan (Ishigaki Eisho) to the Christian faith.
  • 1797. HMS Providence - British, shipwrecked (off-Miyako). Clifford Also reported in a letter to Dr. Bettelheim from the Regent of Loochoo. The date given was 1896? and the ship was not named however. Bettelheim
  • 1816, Sep 15 ~ Nov 9. HMS Alceste and the Lyra - British Navy under Captain Sir Murray Maxwell. After delivering Lord Amherst's Embassy to China the ships engaged in survey cruises which stopped in Korea an Okinawa. During the extended 40 day stay on Okinawa the British were very favorably impressed with the Island. A Lieutenant, Herbert John Clifford, founded the Loochoo Naval Mission Society in England in 1843. This society dispatched Bernard Bettelheim to Okinawa as a medical missionary. Bettelheim arrived in 1846 and departed with a ship of the Perry Expedition squadron in 1854.
  • 1822, Oct 20 ~ Nov 4. Tuscan - British merchant ship/whaler. Francis Stavers, Master.
  • 1827. Blossom - British Ship under the Command of Captain F. W. Beechey
  • 1831. Unnamed British ship, proposed to enter into trade by declined. Reported to Bishop Smith in 1850 by Loochooan authorities. Bettelheim
  • 1832. Unnamed ship, Gutzlaff, a German missionary visited Okinawa. Noted in the Eighth Report of the LooChoo Mission.
  • 1837, 11 Jul~14 Jul. Morrison - merchant ship, Captain D Ingersoll. A private voyage beginning in Macau to return shipwrecked sailors to Japan with the hope of establishing trade relations as a result. During this visit, Peter Parker inoculated Okinawans with the smallpox vaccine. He also left behind a book, in Chinese, on the smallpox vaccination process. While the Chinese had developed a smallpox vaccination, it appears to be much less effective than the one used by Parker and described in the book he left behind. Williams. S. Wells Williams was aboard the Morrison. In his letters he stated "We remained in the harbor (Napakiang/Naha) three days, during which time we had a much pleasant intercourse with the inhabitants, going on shore daily, and receiving visits from the officers on board ship." (Williams Letters, at pages 94). To see his account of the visit, click here.
  • 1837, ca 14 Jul. H.B.M. Ship Raleigh. S. Wells Williams reports this ship rendezvousings with the Morrison at Naha and delievering Mr. Gutzlaff. To see this report, click here (at page 95).
  • 1837-39. Ships from England, America and France came proposing trade but declined. Reported to Bishop Smith in 1850 by Loochooan authorities. Bettelheim
  • 1839, Mar. Mariner - type and country unknown but probably a British Naval ship, reported by Bettelheim in his diary. Bettelheim
  • 1840. Indian Oak - British (Navy Transport?) ship, shipwrecked off Okinawa. Clifford Also reported in a letter to Dr. Bettelheim from the Regent of Loochoo. The date given was 1840 and the ship was not named however. Bettelheim called the ship "Her Majesty's transport the Indian Oak." Bettelheim
  • 1843, Dec ~ 1844 Feb. Samarang - British Ship, surveying voyage, Sir Edward Belcher. Visited the Meia-so-shima group. Pa-Tchung-san (composed of 10 different islands), Koo-kie-san and Ty-pin-san (composed of 5 different islands) were the island visited. Spent 21 days on the island of Miyako Islands. Belcher concluded that these islands served as a "penal settlement" for Great Loo-Choo. (Belcher, Vol 1, pages 73 - 97) Also visited the island of Kumi (Y-nah-koo).
  • 1844, Apr 28 ~ May 6. Alcmene - French Naval Corvette, commanded by Captain Duplan and dispatched by Rear-Admiral Cecille who was in China. Mission was to bring Msg. Theodore Augustine Forcade to Okinawa. He was accompanied by Augustin Ko, a Chinese Catholic. Forcade's primary goal was to establish a foothold in Okinawa for expansion of French and Catholic Church interest into Japan. He was charged with learning the Japanese language to serve French interests. Forcade remained on Okinawa until September of 1846. Bollinger
  • 1845, Jun 19 ~ Jun 21. Samarang - British Ship, surveying voyage, Sir Edward Belcher. Loo-Choo visit. Anchored in Napa Kiang. Visited by a French priest who had been on the island for approximately 16 months. The priest asked them to intercede with Loo-choo authorities and to give better treatment. Loo-Chooans, on the other hand, asked that the British "carry him off." Neither request was acted upon by Belcher. Permission was granted by the Loo-Chooan authorities for future surveys of the group on there return. (Belcher, Vol 1, pages 320 - 322)
  • 1845, Aug 18 ~ Aug 22. Samarang - British Ship, surveying voyage, Sir Edward Belcher. Retuned to Okinawa after visiting Japan. The French priest assists in a land survey of Okinawa. Belcher concluded that the Loo-Chooans were under control of Japan. (Belcher, Vol 2, pages 51 - 70)
  • 1846, Apr 30 ~ ca May 4. Starling, a British merchant/trading schooner, under Captain McCheyne brought Bettelheim to Okinawa. Disembarking on Okinawa were Dr. Bernard Jean Bettelheim, his wife, Elizabeth M., their infant daughter, Rose (born 1844), infant son, Bernard James (born Nov, 1845) and a Miss Jane, a tutor - "infant schoolmistress" and Liu Yu-Kan a Cantonese to serve as a translator. The Starling was diverted, at a very high price, from it's regular route of Hong Kong to Formosa just to deliver the Bettelheim party.

    For information on the Bettelheim's and their eight+ year stay on Okinawa, click here.

    While on Okinawa, a second daughter was born on December 8, 1848. She was named Lucy Fanny Loochoo and carries the distinction of being the first European to be born on Okinawa. Bettelheim's wife and children left Okinawa in Feb of 1854 on an American Navy Ship, the Supply. Dr. Bettelheim left on July 16, 1854 aboard another ship of Perry's squadron, the Powhatan). Bollinger

  • 1846, May 1 ~ Jul 18. Sabine, French Corvette under Capt. Guerin. Brought M. Leturdu, to serve with Msg Forcade. Leturdu was later joined by Adnet on Sep 15, 1846 (some reports say June and that probably is correct). Adnet died on Okinawa on Jul 1, 1848. Leturdu left Okinawa on Aug 27, 1848. Bollinger
  • 1846, Jun 4 ~ Jul 18. Victorieuse, French Corvette. Bollinger
  • 1846, Jun 5 ~ Jul 18. Cleopatre, French Frigate, with Adm. Cecille. Bollinger
  • 1846, Jul 9. Pacifique, French Ship, under de Sevan. Shipwrecked off Okinawa but not badly damages. Bollinger
  • 1846, Aug. Unnamed French Naval ship with Adm. Cecille.
  • 1846, Oct. Unnamed ships, British Navy, Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Cochran, China Sea Squadron. During this visit Admiral Cochran declined to allow Bettelheim to visit and advised the Ryukyuan authorities he was not British. While the French were supporting there missionaries, it appeared to the Okinawa authorities the English were not.
  • 1848, Aug 26 ~ Aug 27. Bayonnaise, French corvette under Capt Jurien de la Graviere. Purpose of the call was to remove Msg. Leturdu from Okinawa. Bollinger
  • 1849, Feb 10. Elizabeth and Henry, English ship (bark) under Captain Clark with a crew of 21, was ship wrecked off Kume-jima on February 10, 1849. Halloran Also reported in a letter to Dr. Bettelheim from the Regent of Loochoo. The date given was 1849 and the ship was not named. Bettelheim
  • 1849, Feb 12. Unnamed, American whaler, delivers Captain Clark and one crew member to Okinawa. Ryukyuan author ties refused to assist so the American whaler returned to the ship and removed all but 6 crew member and took the 15 to Hong Kong. Ryukyuan authorities did require that Kumi-jima resident watch after the crew remaining aboard the disabled ship.
  • 1849, Mar 2. HMS Mariner, British Navy, under command of Captain Matheson dispatched from Hong Kong to Okinawa to retrieve the sailors remaining on the Elizabeth and Henry and the cargo arrived at Kumi-jima. Halloran
  • 1849, Mar 7. HMS Mariner, British Navy, arrived in Naha and the Captain visited with Bettelheim. The Captain refused government request to remove Bettelheim.
  • 1849, Apr 10 ~ 13. US Sloop of War Preble commanded by Commander James Glynn. Stops in Okinawa in route to Japan to retrieve ship wrecked American sailors. Preble
  • 1849, May 22 ~ 27. Nancy Dawson, British Yacht under Captain Shedden, stopped in Okinawa on a round the world cruise.
  • 1849, Dec 20. HMS Pilot, British Navy under Captain Lyons. Reported by Bettelheim. Captain Lyons carried a letter from the British Foreign Office thanking the Ryukyuan authorities for assistance in the matter of the Elizabeth and Henry, supporting Bettelheim's presence on Okinawa and requesting better treatment and proposing the opening of trade to include sending British merchants to settle in Okinawa for that purpose. Bettelheim
  • 1850, Aug 2 ~ 8. Merlin, American ship. The ship had stopped in Okinawa to have a sick passenger treated by Bettelheim.
  • 1850, Oct 3 ~ 10. HMS Steam Sloop Reynard commanded by Captain Cracroft, British mission to Okinawa carrying Bishop Smith to demonstrate official English support of missionary Bettelheim. Bettelheim
  • 1851, Aug 16. Rose (formally Polidoro), undetermined origin, perhaps German, Hungarian or Rumanian, merchant ship under Captain Andresen carrying cargo to California. The ship was damaged in a typhoon and stopped at Naha for repairs. Essentially the Okinawan authorities offered the Captain a substantial bounty if he would remove the Bettelheims. Reported by Bettelheim. This was declined. Bettelheim
  • 1852, Feb. HMS Sphinx, British Navy. Captain Shadwell, another official mission to show English support of missionary Bettelheim. Sphinx
  • 1853, May 26. Mississippi, Susquehanna, and the Supply which were later joined by the Saratoga and the Supply. Perry's Squadron began assembling in Naha
  • 1854, Jan 20 ~ Feb 8. Supply, a part of Perry's squadron was in Okinawa and when she departed on Feb 8, Mrs. Bettelheim and the children left with her.
  • 1854, Feb 14 ~ Feb 20. Robina, a "British collie ship bound for California," delivered G.H. Moreton, his wife and young son to Okinawa. Moreton was Bettelheim's replacement. Bettelheim Diary
  • 1854, Feb 12 ~22. Pallada, Russian Frigate under command of Admiral E.V. Putyatin called in Okinawa.
  • 1855, Jul 17. Powhattan, a ship of Perry's squadron departed Okinawa with Bettelheim.
  • 1855, Feb 26. Lion, French merchant ship under Captain Bonnet. Delivers French missionaries Girard, Furet and Mermet to Okinawa. Furet and Mermet were removed by the French in Oct, 1856. Bollinger
  • 1855. Admiral Guerin concludes a Treaty with the Loo Choo kingdom which apparently was never ratified by the French government. Bollinger
  • 1855, May 6~7. Sybille, French naval ship under Captain Simonet de Maisonnevue. Arrived to remove Furet from Okinawa. Bollinger
  • 1855, ca Aug. Virginie and Sybille, French frigates visit Naha. Bollinger



Belcher, Sir Edward:
Narrative of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Samarang, During the Years 1843-1846; Employed Surveying the Islands of the Eastern Archipelago; Accompanied by a Brief Vocabulary of the Principal Languages. Published under the Authority of the Lordsí Commissioners of the Admiralty by Captain Sir Edward Belcher, Commander of the Expedition. With Notes on the Natural History of the Islands by Arthur Adams, Assistant-Surgeon, 2 volumes, Reeve, Benham and Reeve, London, 1848, 24.5 x 15 cm., 8vo (tall), Volume 1 - 358 pp / Volume 2 - 574 pp + appendix, a total of 30 plates with steel engravings, color and tinted lithographs and 5 maps/charts (three folding), both volumes have frontispiece. Full plate illustrations include a total 10 tinted and part colored lithographic plates and 20 engraved plates. This is the account of a British surveying voyage around the southern tip of Africa to the Indian Ocean and off Southern Asia. The account details the events of voyage and includes cultural, linguistic (with a brief vocabulary of the principal languages) and zoological details. Originally sent to survey the coast of China, the voyage was expanded to include the coasts of the Philippine Islands, Borneo and Formosa. The Samarang survey also included land surveys of Miyako and Yaeyama Islands during the voyage.

Bettelheim, Bernard John (personal diary)
Schwartz, William Leonard (editor):
Commodore Perry at Okinawa, From an Unpublished Diary of a British Missionary, Richmond, MacMillan Co, an article published in The American Historical Review, Vol 51, No 2, January, 1946, pages 262-76 (15 pp). This article contains an unpublished diary of Bernard John Bettelheim, a British missionary [Loochoo Naval Mission] on Okinawa at the time of Perry's visit. The author of the Review article provides comments to the "extant fragments" of the Bettelheim diary. Reverend Bettelheim served as a consultant to the American squadron, particularly in matters pertaining to obtaining provisions. Commodore Perry visited in the Bettelheim residence at least once and Reverend Bettelheim was aboard the squadron vessels on several occasions. The bell that Commodore Perry was presented was from the Buddhist temple (now Shinto shrine) in Nami-no-ue where Bettelheim and his family resided. Reverend Bettelheim departed Okinawa with the American Squadron in July of 1854. He sent his family home several months earlier. The short article is an interesting account of how the Americans interacted with their hosts through Bettelheim. Apparently the Lew Chewan authorities were very pleased that the Reverend departed with Perry and it is interesting that the Reverend did not give his version of that story in his short but informative diary. For more information on Bettelheim, click here. The bound volume (51, October 1945-July 1946) also contains an article (No 1, October 1945, pages 1-34) titled From Jimmu Tenno to Perry: Sea Power in Early Japanese History. This article discusses Japanese sea power through 1905 with a brief mention of the impact of Commodore Perry's squadron.

Smith, George:
Lewchew and the Lewchewans; Being a Narrative of a Visit to Lewchew or Loo Choo, in October, 1850, London, Hatchard, 1853, 12mo (4 1/2 x 7  in - 11.6 x 17.7 cm), black and white engraved frontispiece showing the "Residence of Dr. Bettelheim, Loo Choo," 95 pp. George Smith, D.D. was the Lord Bishop of Victoria (Hong Kong). Probably the most comprehensive English language account relating to Okinawa published prior to the narrative of American Expedition to Japan headed by Commodore Perry which arrived in Okinawa more than two years after Smith's visit. This book is Bishop Smith's account of his efforts, supported by the British Government, to obtain better treatment of Dr. Bernard Bettelheim. Bettelheim, a medical missionary, had been sent to Okinawa in 1846 by the British Loochoo Missionary Society. His presence on Okinawa was unwelcome by the authorities and his activities were constantly limited and hindered. Both Bettelheim and the Okinawan authorities complained about his situation but an impasse had developed. Neither side appeared to be willing to give in. Bishop Smith's visit was intended to show the Okinawans that the full authority and power of the English government supported Bettelheim's continued and unrestricted presence on Okinawa. Bishop Smith's account of his visit, which spanned the period from Oct 3 - Oct 10, 1853, provides exceptional insight into the conditions under which Bettelheim conducted his medical mission. It is an important account of Okinawa as it stood positioned at the leading edge of the relentless push by the Western powers to force Japan to open to outside trade and contacts. In addition to describing Dr. Bettelheim's mission, Bishop Smith provides insight into the geography, culture and political structure he found. This book is often found bound with the Seventh Report of the Loochoo Mission Society which was published the same year.


Loochoo Mission Society:
The Seventh Report of the Loochoo Mission Society for 1851-2, London, published by the Society, 1853, 12mo (4 1/2 x 7  in - 11.6 x 17.7 cm), 32 pp plus an appendix of 61 pp in very small print. The appendix is preceded by a black and white frontispiece engraving titled "Loochooan Priest and Gentleman and carries a separate title page which reads: Loochoo Mission: Extracts from the Journal of the Society's Missionary, Dr. Bettelheim, 1850-1852. The Society report examines the state of the society and appeals for continued support of the ongoing mission and work of Dr. Bettelheim in Okinawa. The appendix contains exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, extracts from Bettelheim's journal while on Okinawa. Bettelheim's journal is a remarkable account of his day to day work on Okinawa and his daily struggles with the authorities to carry on his religious and medical missions. While the journal is, as one would expect, certainly biased to his version of the situation, he also documents the points and objections made by the Okinawan authorities in there opposition to his continued and clearly unwanted presence on the Island. This report, with the appendix, is often found bound with Bishop Smith's narrative of his visit to Okinawa in 1850 in support of Dr. Bettelheim.

Bollinger, Edward E.:
On the Threshold of the Closed Empire: Mid-19th Century Missions in Okinawa, Pasadena, William Carey Library, 1991, 249 pp, 8vo, pictorial wraps. An account of 19th century missionaries in Okinawa with particular emphasis on the Catholic missions of the mid-1850's. Contains portions of the journal of Mgr. Theodore Augustine Forcade, who maintained a Catholic mission on Okinawa from mid-1844 to late 1846. Also contains an extensive chapter (40+ pp) on the Protestant missionary, Dr. Bernard J. Bettelheim.

Clifford, Herbert John
Loochoo Naval Mission (LNM):
The Claims of Loochoo on British Liberality, London, 1850, 5th edition. This book was basically an appeal for the establishment of the Loochoo Mission Society by Herbert John Clifford. Clifford, then a British Navy Lieutenant, visited Okinawa during the 40 day stay of the Alceste and Lyra in Okinawa during September and October of 1816. In this appeal, he outlined the friendly acts by the people of the Loochoo islands towards British. These included the rescue of seamen from HMS Providence (off-Miyako) in 1797 and shelter and assistance, which included building a ship for departure for China, provided shipwrecked seamen from the Indian Oak in 1840. Clifford believed that the British owed the Loochoo people a debt which could best be repaid by sending the Gospel to them through a British missionary effort. The book addresses the selection of ?Dr. Bernard Jean Bettelheim to serve as the first missionary for the Loochoo Naval Mission who actually arrived in Okinawa in April of 1846.

Halloran, Alfred Laurence:
Woe Yang Jin: Eight Months' Journal Kept on Board H.M. Sloops of War During Visits to Loochoo, Japan and Pootoo, London, 1856. This book contains an account of the rescue of shipwrecked British sailors. The Elizabeth and Henry was ship wrecked off Kume-jima on February 10, 1849. The British officials in China dispatched the HMS Mariner to retrieve the sailors and it arrived in Okinawa on March 2. The book recounts the unsuccessful efforts by Okinawan authorities to have Dr. Bettelheim taken from Okinawa with the sailors.

US Government:
Cruise of the U.S. Sloop-of-War Preble, Commander James Glynn, to Napa and Nagasaki, U.S. Senate Documents: 32nd Congress, 1st Session (1851-2), Volume IX, Executive Documents, No 59, Series 620, starting at page 44. Voyage of the Preble to Nagasaki to pick up shipwrecked American sailors. Contains an account of a three day stop in Naha in April of 1849 where Ryukyuan authorities unsuccessfully petitioned Commander Glynn to remove the Bettelheims from Okinawa.

Visit of the Sphinx to Ryukyu in Feb. 1852 published in the Chinese Repository, number 368, March 4, 1852. Another British mission to demonstrate official British support for, and secure better treatment of, the British missionary, Bernard Bettelheim. This is an account of that mission.

Williams, S. Wells:
A Narrative of a Voyage of the Ship Morrison, Captain D Ingersoll, to Lewchew and Japan in the Months of July and August, 1837, Mission Press, 1839, extracted from the Chinese Repository, 1837-38 (issues 5, 8 & 9), 66 pp. The journal/account by Williams of the mission of the Morrison to Japan.

Williams, Frederick Wells (his son):
The Life and Letters of S. Wells Williams, G.P. Putnam's Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, New York and London, 1889, 8vo, blue cloth with gilt lettering on the spine, printed on laid paper, 490 pp. The book contains several references to Okinawa (page 94 - Voyage of the Morrison in 1837 and pages 187, 192, 207, 213 and 227 - relating to Williams participation in the Perry Expedition to Japan, 1853-4)

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