Eleven days later, on April 2, 1768, the sailors on La Boudeuse spotted a dark green island rising out of the Pacific.
It took Bougainville and his crew four days to navigate through the reefs surrounding the island. Swarms of islanders canoed out from the island and surrounded the ship in an excited welcome.
Bougainville noted that many of the canoes were filled with beautiful women, and that it was hard “to keep 400 young French sailors, who had seen no women for six months,” at their posts.
The island, called Tahiti, seemed to Bougainville like a tropical paradise filled with happy people living in innocence. The Frenchmen stayed on the island for nine days, enjoying the scenery and hospitality, but also noticing that the Tahitians were expert pickpockets and stole things with glee.
Bougainville, his food stores dwindling, wanted to continue west. He claimed the island for France and continued on.