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Behold the threaden sails,
Breasting the lofty surge.
EST by north from Pitcairn, and almost due south from the Paumotus, lie the Austral Isles. The group, fifteen or twenty in number, are between latitudes 22 deg. and 28 deg. south, and 143 deg. to 153 deg. west longitude. The islands are small, and of but little commercial value at present. Rumbia, Tubuaia, Vantaia, Rumbaia, Bapai, Nelson and Oparo are the largest and best known of the
Another island cluster, the Gambier, due south from the Paumotus, are rapidly growing in commercial importance. The products, similar to those of the Austral Isles, are altogether of the tropical kind; the soil rich and
productive, well suited for the cultivation of coffee, cotton, sugar and spices. It is not my purpose to describe island groups located like the Austral and Gambier, in more than a general way. Lying, as they do, on the outside of the present valuable portion of the island world, their value is in the future.
Prof. Dana in speaking of this group says “that they consist of ten islands, ranging in a line 250 miles long trending N. 62 deg. W. Commencing from the north west they are as follows: Tubuai, Maurua, Borabora, Tahaa, Raitea, Hauhine, Tapuaemanu, Eimeo, Tetuaroa, Tahiti. To this number Osnaburgh or Metia, may properly be added, as it lies in the same range, about one hundred miles to the westward of Tahiti. With the exception of Tubuai and Tetuaroa, they are all basaltic or high islands. The area of the whole does not exceed twenty-five miles square, or 600 miles, and of these about one-half, or three hundred square miles, belong to the single island of Tahiti.
“These basaltic islands are characterized by high mountains, deep precipitous gorges, and that rich livery of green with which the mild airs of a perpetual summer clothe the tropical islands of the Pacific. Coral reefs in some instances border their shores, forming a circle around, dotted with verdant islets.
“The broken character of the surface is most striking on Eimeo, yet all the islands afford scenes of grandeur unsurpassed in the Pacific. In the distant view, Eimeo seems to be a mass of mountain towers, crags and peaks, rising abruptly to great elevations,
and in one lofty summit, resembling a rudely shaped cone, there is a hole opening through, a few hundred feet from the top. On Tahiti, still loftier summits, with crowns and crests and jagged ridges constitute the surface. The eye follows up one precipitious slope to plunge at once one or two thousand feet to the bottom of another. “The islands to the north-westward are described as exceeding Tahiti in their bold features, and in the indentations of their shores, which form deep bays, penetrating far among the mountains; they are for their size, the most remarkable in the Pacific. There is great luxuriance of verdure over the Society Islands, and good soil. But owing to the mountainous character of the lands, and especially the remarkably steep declivities, but little of the surface, comparatively, can be brought under cultivation. Yet there are many fine valleys, besides the level areas along the shores which might be tilled to great advantage. The sugar cane and many tropical fruits are already grown in abundance, and to these the coffee plant and other productions of the East Indies might be added.”
Having cargo for Tahiti, it was our good fortune to remain several days, and of course time for a partial inspection of what has been so much written about. The entrance to the main harbor of Tahiti is rather difficult to navigate, and requires the assistance of some ancient weather-beaten mariner who knows every foot of the channel from boyhood. They are to be found among the natives, who, for a proper consideration, will place your vessel at safe anchorage in the inner harbor. The trade of these islands with the outside world is considerable, the exports reaching a value of nearly one million of dollars annually, with imports of as much more. Coffee, cotton and sugar-cane, as well as all other tropical plants, do well in the group. giving not only employment to the natives, but many who are brought from other islands and China. The people are intelligent and kindly disposed, and the stranger may revel in all the delights of a tropical climate without let or hindrance. Missionary schools are to be met with on nearly all of the isles, and the strict observance of laws, as customary in our own country, is enforced by the Government. Tahiti, although of wonderful fertility, and better known to the world, has many rivals in extent and rich soil; notably the islands of Raitea and Huahine—both of the Society group— where can be found beautiful valleys, with an abundance of water and a luxuriant vegetation of nearly all the tropical fruits, which clothe the valleys, hills and mountain sides to their very tops. Much could be written of Tahiti that would prove interesting to the lovers of curious traditions, and a great deal might be said of Captain Cook and his voyage to this island— sent by the English Government to take observations of the transit of Venus. The shade of the tamarind tree planted by Cook may be enjoyed, and relics from the observatory built by himself and companions can be carried away in quantities to suit. But space will not permit many details in a subject so vast as the Islands of the Pacific.
TONGA, OR FRIENDLY ISLANDS.
To the south and west of the Society group lie the Tonga or Friendly islands, nearly one hundred in number, and, like nearly all isles in this region, are formed on the coral reefs. The archipelago is divided into several groups—Tongatabu, Namuka, Hapai and Katoo being the largest and best known. The islands are very low, the highest ground seldom rising above an altitude of 100 feet. The products are similar to those already described; the natives are peaceable and friendly, nearly all of them professing Christianity. The number in the group I have placed at one hundred; some authorities state as high as one hundred and fifty; with a total landed area of but Iooo square miles. They were discovered by Tasman in 1643, and visited by Captain Cook many years afterward, who gave them the name they bear to-day. Of the inhabitants, it is said that they “are intellectually, perhaps, the most advanced of the Polynesian race, and exercise an influence over distant neighbors, especially in Fiji, quite out of proportion to their numbers, which do not exceed twenty or twenty-five thousand. Their conquests have extended as far as Niue, or Savage Island, 200 miles to the east, and to various other islands to the north. In Cook's time, Ponlaho, the principal chief, considered Samoa to be within his dominions. This pre-eminence may, perhaps, be due to an early infusion of Fijian blood. Pritchard (Polynesian Reminiscences) observed such crosses to be always more vigorous than the pure races in these islands, and this influence seems also traceable in the Tongan dialect, and appears to have been partially transmitted thence to the Samoan. Various customs, traditions and names of places point to a former relation with Fiji, but Fijian influence in Tonga is insignificant, compared with that of Tonga in Fiji. Their prior conversion to Christianity gave the