« ForrigeFortsæt »
CORA L LA N DS.
THE SAMOAN OR NAVIGATORS' ISLANDS.
Some six hundred and thirty miles to the northeast of Levuka is the Samoan or Navigators”. Group of islands, second only in importance to the Fiji Archipelago in the whole of Western Polynesia. Except by occasional war-ships, there is no steam communication between Levuka and Samoa, so one has to content one's self with the delightfully uncertain voyage of an ordinary sailing-vessel. It was my good fortune to avail myself of the Bhering, Captain Brown, and I have pleasant memories of my week's voyage in his company. Captain Brown is a representative English sailor in true courtesy and kindliness of heart, to which he adds a bonhomie peculiarly his own. Like all true Anglo-Polynesians, he had an inexhaustible stock of yarns, and many of these were recounted to very attentive listeners, as we lazily stretched ourselves under the awning aft to avoid a mid-day sun,
or, after a substantial dinner, watched the stars light up one by one the dark blue heavens above us.
Some two or three years ago, Captain Brown rejoiced in three permanent passengers: a wonderful dog, a disciplined cat, and a cockatoo which had a great deal to say for itself, especially when the word was given “'Bout ship. The hold of the Bhering, like most other vessels mainly employed in the copra trade, was infested with rats and mice, and thus afforded the dog and cat a splendid hunting-ground. But they never poached on each other's preserves. If puss went down in the morning, Mr. Jack would go down in the afternoon. Sometimes each animal would take a whole day to itself, but the two were never below at the same time. It was very curious to watch the ' bag' being carefully placed outside the skipper's state-room, with an air that seemed to say :
• There, that's my day's work ; don't you think I deserve my dinner ?'
On one occasion, however, pussy chased a huge brown rat up the open main-hatch, and the hunted vermin went for the shrouds, the cat following in a second. This was too much for poor Jack, who naturally thought a rigging chase was fair for both, go be made a desperate effort to follow his sporting companion, and succeeded only in falling heavily on the deck and getting a sound thump on the head from Captain Brown for making a fool of himself.
The Bhering landed her passengers at Apia, the capital of Samoa, which is situated on the north side of the island of Upolu ; but before speaking of that town, I will give a short description of the principal islands in the group.
The Navigators are situated between 169° 24' and 172° 50' west longitude, and between the parallels of 13° 30' and 14° 30' south latitude, the group being 265 miles long. There are ten inhabited islands, extending from Ta'u the easternmost, to Savaii the most western island : viz., Ta'u, Olosenga, Of’u, Aunuu, Tutuila, Nutele, Manono, Upolu, Apolima and Savaii. The native population may be estimated at about 34,000 to 35,000. In 1863 the native population was 35,097, and in 1874, 34,265. In 1839 Commander Wilkes visited and surveyed the group, and he states it contains 1650 square miles, divided as follows :
7 100 24 10
Of'u. Tarnot heard that the group has been surveyed sin Wilkes's time. Savaii is about fifty miles in lenoll, by twenty in breadth. It has never been so populbus or important as the other islands, and its inhabitants were the last to become Christians. It has a low shore with a gradually rising slope to the centre, where there are a few extinct craters to be seen. A lofty peak in the middle of the island is generally invisible through clouds. This is the highest land in the group, and according to Commander Wilkes, certainly exceeds 4000 feet. Mr. S. J. Whitmee states that he has ascended a peak in the centre of Savaii, which he measured with an aneroid, and found to be 4670 feet high. Water is comparatively scarce in some parts of Savaii, owing to the porous nature of the rock (vesicular lava) of which it is composed, but this applies only to a small portion, the greater part being the best watered of any of the islands. Near the shore, however, there are numerous springs of good fresh water. The coral reef is broken to the west and south. The soil, composed of decomposed volcanic rock and vegetable mould, is very fertile.
A curious ceremony occasionally takes place in Savaii in connection with the betrothal of
any Samoan lady of rank to a chief, the leading feature of which is that the virtue of the bride-elect is publicly placed beyond a doubt in the presence of the groom.
I need not add that this practice has been most zealously opposed by the missionaries, Catholic and Protestant, though the conservative Samoans, like my friend the Taviuni chief, will now and again break out for the ‘old paths.'
Ten miles to the eastward of Savaii is the island of Upolu. It is about forty miles long and thirteen broad. A main ridge extends from east to west, broken here and there into sharp peaks. Small ridges and gradual slopes run down to a low shore, which is encircled by a coral reef, interrupted at intervals by convenient entrances. At A pia the reef extends across a good-sized bay, which affords a harbour for ships of very large tonnage.
Olosenga is a very rocky island, about 1500 feet in height, and precipitous on every side. The principal village is situated on a strip of land in front of this precipice. It was two miles and a half from the eastern point of this island that the subaqueous eruption of 1866 took place, which is mentioned in an earlier chapter. Olosenga is two miles to the west of Upolu, and is encircled by a reef. One of the features of Olosenga is a mural precipice 1200 feet in height.
Manono is nearly triangular in shape, and less than five miles in circumference. It has a mountain a few hundred feet in height, from which a splendid panoramic view of Upolu and Savaii can be obtained. Its population may be set down at about a thousand. .
Tutuila is the easternmost and smallest of the three principal islands, with a length of seven miles and a width of five. The land is mountainous, forming here and there lofty peaks, the highest of whichMatafae—is 2327 feet above sea-level, and forms an admirable landmark for the excellent harbour of Pango-Pango. I will describe it in the words of Captain Wakeman, who was sent by Mr. W. H. Webb of New York (who at one time ran the San Francisco and Sydney mail boats) to report on its advantages as a coaling depot :
'At daylight I found myself in the most perfect land-locked harbour that exists in the Pacific Ocean. In approaching this harbour from the south, either by night or day, the mariner has unmistakable landmarks to conduct him into port—on the port-hand, : high-peaked conical mountain 2327 feet high ; and on the starboard-hand, a flat-topped mountain 1470 feet in height. These landmarks can never be mis