« ZurückWeiter »
coral, set up near the family dwelling, and surrounded by circles of smaller ones. These stones are, annointed with oil and worshiped with prayer and offerings, and are also used for purposes of divining, in which, and in various omens, there is a general belief. In the Marshall group, in place of these stones, certain palm-trees are similarly enclosed. The spirits, also, are believed to inhabit the forms of certain birds or fishes, which are tabu, as food to the family; but they will help to catch these for others. All this closely recalls the Aauwari, or the ancestral images of New Guinea.
FILORA AND FAUNA.
The flora of the Gilbert and Marshall groups is of the usual oceanic character, with close Indo-Malay affinities. It is much poorer than that of the Carolines, with their Mollucca and Philippine elements, and this again is surpassed by that of the Ladrones. In the Gilberts, the scattered woods of the cocoanut and pandanus have little undergrowth, while the South Marshalls being within the belt of constant precipitation, have a dense growth of low trees and shrubs, with here and there a tropical luxuriance unusual in atolls.
The pandanus grows wild and profusely, and is of exceptional importance, being the chief staple food, so that the cocoanut, which however flourishes chiefly in the Gilberts, is used mainly to produce oil for exportation. The bread-fruit grows chiefly in the South Marshalls. The taro arum cordifolium and others is cultivated laboriously, deep trenches being etables grow on soil imported for the purpose. Marine plants are rare.
cut in the solid rock for its cultivation. Various veg
The fauna, like the flora, becomes poorer eastward, birds being more numerous on the high islands than on the atolls, where the few are chiefly aquatic. On Bonabe, or Ponape, out of twenty-nine species eleven are sea-birds, and of the remaining eighteen, eleven are peculiar to the islands. From the Pelew Islands fifty-six species are recorded (twelve peculiar), and from the neighboring Makenzie group twenty (six peculiar). Yet curiously no species is recorded to those two groups, and peculiar to them. The common fowl is found everywhere, wild or tame, and in some places is kept for its feathers only. The rat and paunopes are the only indigenous land mammals. The Indian crocodile is found as far west as the Pelews. There are five or six species of lizards, including a gecka and absophereos. Insects are. numerous, but of few kinds. Scorpions and centipedes are common, but are said to be harmless.
The houses of the Gilberts and Marshalls (much less elaborate than those in the Carolines) consist merely of a thatched roof, resting on posts, or blocks of coral, about three feet high, with floors at that level, which are reached from an opening in the center. On these the principal people sleep, also serving as a store-house, inaccessible to rats, which infest all the islands.
(Findlay's N. Pacific; Hale's Eth. and Phi. of Wilke's U. S. Ex. Exped.; Menicke's Die Inseln des Stellen Oceans; Proc. Zool. Soc., 1872, 1877, Ency. Brit., vol. 16.)
The Islands of Micronesia lie along the Equator and a little west of the meridian on which the world's
day begins. The Micronesian Christians have finished the Sabbath worship, and fallen asleep under the shelter of their thatched cottages beneath the cocoanut trees, before Christians in America have begun the services of the day. Micronesia is a subdivision of Polynesia, the generic name for the myriad islands scattered over the broad Pacific Ocean. It is composed of four groups— the Gilbert or Kingsmill Islands, which lie on both sides of the Equator and a little beyond the 18oth meridian ; the Marshall or Mulgrave Islands, subdivided into the Radac or Ralack Chains; and the Caroline and Ladrone Islands. The three former groups only are missionary ground, as the Ladrone Islands are a Spanish penal colony, and the native race is extinct. The Islands of Micronesia are in the great coral belt; the Gilbert and Marshall groups being exclusively of coral formation, and lie in the Caroline archipelago, which stretches over the sea a distance of two thousand miles from east to west. Many of the atolls or coral islands enclose lagoons from ten to fifteen miles broad, and from twenty to thirty miles long. The climate of Micronesia is a never-ending summer, never as hot as the hottest summer days of America, and never cold enough to cause chilliness. The greatest range of the thermometer experienced during a residence of several years on Ponape, one of the Caroline group, was thirteen degrees—from 74 deg. to 87 deg. in the shade. On some of the islands the rainfall is excessive; on others, but moderate. The Islands of Polynesia are inhabited by two races of people—brown and black. The brown are sound on the Sandwich Islands, the Marquesas, the Society and the Samoan groups, the Hervey and New Zealand. To this race belong the inhabitants of Micronesia. The Melanesians—found on the Fiji Islands, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, the Loyalty and Solomon groups, New Britain and New Guinea—are akin to the African, having the woolly hair and physiognomy of the negro races. They are lower down in the scale of civilization than their brown neighbors, being, as a rule, cannibals—fierce, warlike, treacherous and intractable. It was among these people that John Williams, Bishop Pattison, the Gordons and other missionaries lost their lives. But, degraded as they are, the entire history of Christian missions can show no greater transformation than has taken place in the Fiji Islands, as the result of English Wesleyan missions. The islands inhabited by the black Polynesians enter like a wedge among those inhabited by the brown race, the apex being the Fiji Islands. The accepted theory, until recently, was that the brown Polynesians belong to the Malay race. Later investigations by Judge Fornander, of the Hawaiian Islands, and certain German scholars, render it probable that they may be a branch of the Caucasian race. It is thought that by means of their languages, traditions and mythologies, the Polynesians can be traced back from their present abode, step by step, through the island groups of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to the Indian Peninsula, and onward to the centre table-lands of Asia, whence the Caucasian races, in the beginning of history, emigrated westward and southward. In those groups in which the different islands are near enough to allow of communication, even though comparatively infrequent, there is usually a common language; where widely separated, different languages have been developed. Most of the various dialects abound in vowel sounds,