« ZurückWeiter »
OCEAN Lo RE
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
N 1513, three hundred and seventy-one years ago, Balboa was dragging the timbers of his ship across the Isthmus of Darien, from the Atlantic to the Pacific shore. Rebuilding his vessel there, he was the first, in our modern day, to sail on the great ocean waters. If gifted with supernatural vision, he would have seen the Pacific Ocean, spread out over an area of eighty million square miles, covering nearly all of the western hemisphere. Its mighty waves, laving the eastern shores of Asia on the one hand, and the western coasts of the two great American continents on the other. Reaching almost to the birth-places of the ice-bergs of either pole, embracing the heat of the Torrid Zones, it includes all the climates of the world in its vast limits. He would have seen, north
of the equator, the Kuro Shiwo, the Japanese Black Stream, sweeping in immense circles from left to right. South of the line, the Humboldt, or Peruvian Cold Current, circling from right to left. Both forming the highways over which it is thought the Asiatics voyaged to people our western world. In the depths of the great ocean—nearly three miles—almost beyond reach of the sounding-line, would be seen alike, the cradle and tomb of the island world of the Pacific. Thousands on thousands of islands would come into view, like great emeralds dotting the mighty sea; with the tempest, typhoon and hurricane pursuing their furious course over the broad expanse of waters, subdued long before the transit of the great sea is performed—walled in and held back by the placid seas surrounding them. So large, indeed, is the Pacific, greater in area than all other oceans combined, that the habitable portions of our globe, the land, would be lost in its
limits, and yet a sea larger in extent than the Atlantic be left.
The discovery, location and conquest of many islands of the Pacific Ocean comes to us, out of the dim past, surrounded by a halo of romance. The names of famous navigators rise up in the mind, recalled by history, as pioneers in the mighty progress of the new world.
The quaint accounts of Captains Cook and Wallis were taken up and confirmed by the old salts of Nantucket and New Bedford. Their stories of the wealth, beauty and fertility of the myriads of islands met with in their whaling voyages, has long excited the curiosity of the world. The singular fatality, too, that seems to have followed nearly all the fathers of navigation in the Pacific has but added interest in their voyages and discoveries. Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who took possession of the entire South Sea in the name of the Pope, fell under the headsman's axe. Magellan, the first to reach the Indies, by a western route, through the Straits that bear his name, died by the sword, in a petty religious quarrel with some island king. Alonzo de Saavedra, he who attempted the passage of the North Pacific, from Manilla to Mexico, the reputed discoverer of New Guinea, which he named Tierra de Oro, met a lowly fate on the equator. This same Saavedra, was probably the first to propose cutting a canal through the Isthmus of Darien, at Panama. In his proposition to the King of Spain on this subject, and in his memoirs, he goes into the enterprise in detail, and recommends the forcible employment of the inhabitants of that region, to accomplish his object. He states that “Providence had evidently placed them there, in order that they by their labors, might assist in the extension of the commerce of Christendom.” Captain Cook fell among the savages of the Sandwich Islands. Sir Humphrey Gilbert was lost in a storm at sea. The chains and anchors of the vessel of M. de la Perouse were found, but his ultimate fate has never been ascertained. Others, like William Dampier, Roggewein and Fernando Quiros, were destined to what many would consider a more melancholy ending. Dying in poverty, forgotten, unhonored and unsung, in their native land. Of Quiros, Cardinal Valenza says: “I have seen in a wine-shop of Seville, one Fernando Quiros, who had been an adventurer in the Indies and beyond, and who told me he had seen there people who did eat their wives and other relatives, in place of consigning them to the tombs, which did not so much surprise me, seeing that the same thing has been related by the ancients.”
It is only of very late years that we—I speak more particularly of the inhabitants of the Pacific Coast— have begun to reap commercial benefits, in a large way, from traffic with the islands of the South Sea. Growing rapidly as we are in wealth and population, the time has come when every effort should be made to encompass a large share of the trade. The wonderful impetus which is now being given to commercial enterprise on the western coast of North America, by the completion of three continental railways across our country, with still another under way, will go far to make San Francisco one of the greatest commercial cities on the globe. Fifty years ago the multitudinous islands of the Pacific were but little known. Their vast number, nearly 8,000—their area fully 4,600,000 square miles —populated by over 77,000,000 inhabitants, are yet almost as an unknown land to our people. If we compare the area, exports and imports of the Sandwich Islands (with the port of San Francisco alone) with the area of the Pacific Islands, whose exports and imports, are now about $700,000,000 per annum, the values would reach the vast sum of $7,790,ooo,000. Something over five times the average annual exports and imports of the United States for the last four years. Truly “there is a wonderful land: a land of fertility, of spices, of valuable fibres, of sago and