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lagoon. There is a fair anchorage in several places, and great pools of fresh water exist in caverns on the coast. The inhabitants number about 3000, all of whom are professed Christians, and dress in European fashion. The soil is good, but not nearly so fertile as in other parts of the Pacific. Fungus is plentiful, and cocoa-nuts have been introduced into the island from Samoa. The trade is almost entirely in the hands of Messrs. Godeffroy.
Some 500 miles eastward of Nieue is Palmerston Island, the first discovered in the South Pacific, being the San Pablo of Magalhaens.
It has no harbour, but there is a good anchorage in a bight on the western side of the island. The land lies
very low, in the form of a coral ring, upon which there are nine or ten islets from one to three miles long, enclosing a lagoon about eight miles in diameter. Though many valuable plants grew wild there, little attention has been paid to the group, and a few years ago there were no permanent inhabitants. Whether Palmerston has moved' since then I do not know. Damana timber is very plentiful there, and so is a wood called Nangiia, generally found in the Pacific on desert shores, or on the brink of lagoons where its roots are bathed by the tide. Its characteristics are great weight, intense hardness, and closeness of grain. Mr. Sterndale considers that it would be very valuable as a substitute for boxwood for engravers. I think I have met with Nangiia under another name. Certain samples sent home to England by me from the Pacific had every appearance of making a first-class boxwood ;' but I regret to say they somehow miscarried en route, and I have not since heard of them. The logs of Nangiia found at Palmerston were about eighteen inches in diameter. A few turtle-fishers and bêche-de-mer curers were the only inhabitants of Palmerston Island for years, and these were merely sojourners for a time.
Some detached islands, comparatively unknown, lying in the direction of the Marquesas Group, are replete with commercial interest. One of the most remarkable is 500 miles due east of the Navigators', and is known as Suwarrow. This is a coral atoll of a triangular form, fifty miles in circumference, the reef having an average width of half a mile across the narrowest place, though divided by two rocks 200 yards apart into three channels five fathoms deep at the lowest tides, with a level bottom and no concealed dangers. Inside is a secure anchorage of all depths, from three to thirty fathoms, offering accommodation for all the ships in the Pacific to ride in safety in all weathers, with room to beat out a fair wind half-way round the compass, in or out.
Suwarrow was uninhabited when I was in the Pacific, and unclaimed by any nation. It is quite out of the track of hurricanes, which have never been known to extend so far eastward in this direction of the Pacific. There are nine or ten islets in the reef, two of them about a mile and a half in length, and are covered with tall timber. Upon the one next to the entrance into the lagoon are a great many cocoa-nut trees, and about forty acres of rich soil not encumbered by forest. There is no fresh water on the surface, but undoubtedly this would be obtained by digging. The
place would support, at any rate, about 100 Polynesians, and if properly superintended and supplied with boats, seeds of vegetables, and other requisites, would repay any organisation of mercantile men who would introduce native labour, even at double the average rate of wages, inasmuch as bêche-de-mer is found here of good quality, and in sufficient quantity to furnish a good annual cargo. The shoal water of the lagoon also abounds in pearl shell of the largest size and finest lustre. The harbour could be utilised as a depot for the collection of various cargoes, which could be obtained from the surrounding isles ; and it would thus become a very valuable property, if worked by a business-like corporation, based perhaps on the lines of Messrs. Godeffroy.
PEARL FISHING AND
THERE can be no doubt that if the innumerable low coral islands scattered all over the face of the South Sea, and only occasionally visited by chance traders, were in the Eastern Hemisphere instead of the Pacific, they would long ago have had their great intrinsic value turned to profitable account by the commercial races of the world. One has only to reflect on the endless disputes between the great Powers interested in the coral banks of Messina, the amber dredginggrounds of the Baltic Coast, or the cod-fisheries of Newfoundland, and then to consider the unheeded wealth of Polynesia, to gauge the indifference with which the world regards it even now.
No exploring parties are required, the exploration has been accomplished over and over again. The question is, who in the future shall benefit by it? In this regard I do not intend to refer to the countless products I have mentioned in speaking of Fiji, Samoa, or Tonga. I deal only with pearl, shell, and bêche-de-mer, as I have had exceptional opportunities of ascertaining the condition and mode of conducting these important industries.
All Australian colonists have heard of the extraordinary profits made some years ago by men like Captain Cadell and other pearl-fishers on the coast of North Australia. The same shell exists in vast quantities in various localities of the South Pacific under more favourable conditions, inasmuch as the divers are obtainable on the spot or in the neighbourhood, with the additional advantage that the food they require is produced spontaneously on the scene of their labours. For many years past, in the Pacific, men accustomed to the shell trade have been in the habit of collecting shell and disposing of it to such vessels as might chance to visit them, at prices ranging from £12 to £20 per ton, and considered themselves well paid, whereas the prices obtained in the London market have varied from £80 to £150, or even more.
It has been said that the South Sea shell is inferior to that obtained in the coasts of North Australia, Manilla, or Ceylon. This, however, is not really the case; but it is quite true that years ago Tahitian, the name by which South Sea shell is usually known, became greatly depreciated in the European market, in consequence of the merchants of that place having foolishly persisted in cleaning the shell before shipment. To accomplish this object the more readily, the traders used to throw them out on the sandy beach of the island where they were obtained, and let them lie for a day or two in the hot sun; the effect of which was that all the rough edges, knots, and coral