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Taking all expenses into consideration, it may be said that the cost of raising shell amounts to between five and six pounds a ton. Some of the old fisheries, such as Takau, which in twelve months, in 1856-7, yielded 120 tons of shell by the labour of fifteen Tuamotans and their wives, are now abandoned. It is quite a mistake to suppose, however, they are valueless ; the best of the shell is in the deep water, and in the great coral caverns underneath the exhausted shelves. Properly led and kindly treated, the natives will attempt the greater depths, and this is a very important point to notice. Moreover the shallow water of lately worked fisheries is skirted by sandy bogs, and in the neighbourhood of these, as I have said, the fish will not live. Pearl-oysters are like sponges-certain conditions are necessary to their development. In some localities presenting apparently the same natural aspects they are not found at all.
I believe the magnificent necklace of pearls belonging to the Empress Eugénie, and lately sold by Mr. Edwin W. Streeter of Bond Street, came from the Tuamotus, and was obtained by the Messrs. Stewart of Tahiti.
A friend of mine says that in the lagoons, of the Fanning Group, a short description of which will be found in another place, there exists a species of large clam, called in the Pacific the paahua or tridachua. There are two kinds : one grows chiefly on the solid coral, and does not attain to so great a size as the other, which is found not only on the hard reef, but bound to loose rocks, or lodged upon the sandy bottom. This attains extraordinary proportions. It is in some cases, especially near the Equator, so large as to weigh several hundredweight. This is the kind of shell sometimes used in gardens for the basins of fountains. Some years ago, I was told on good authority, there was a trade in this kind of shell, and it was collected for shipment in the Samoan Group and elsewhere, for what purpose was not known; though I have heard it was for the making of what is called in India cowrie chunam, a mixture of pulverised shells and cement, which is used in that country for the coating of columns in the interior of houses, giving them an appearance as though made of ivory. The trade has died out, but Mr. Sterndale's report calls attention to the fact that these shells contain pearls of exceeding value. He says:
The first time which I remember to have noticed one of these gems as being of any possible value, was upon seeing one in the possession of a Raratongan, who had brought it from Fanning Island, and I purchased it for a lump of tobacco. It afterwards was sold to the surgeon of the ship for ten pounds. The surgeon gave it to his wife in Australia, after having refused the offer of twenty-five pounds made to him by a jeweller in Sydney. Its size was about that of a pea ; it was round upon one side, on the other slightly flattened. Its lustre was crystalline ; in the centre appeared a luminous point, from which radiated innumerable bright rays distinctly defined. On another occasion a pearl of this kind was shown me by a trader, who asked my opinion concerning its value. He had bought it from a savage of the Kingsmills for
four fathoms of cotton print. I told him to the best of my belief it could not be worth less than $1000, which I would have been very willing to have given him for it. It was not globular, but somewhat of the shape of a convex magnifying lens, perfectly symmetrical, and without a fault ; its diameter was considerably more than half an inch, and its thickness about two-thirds of the measure. It showed the same kind of luminous point in the centre as the one I have already described, with the same radiations. I do not know what became of it. In the larger paahua these pearls are found in the body of the fish (as they are in the true pearl-oyster ; they are very common, so much so that some places, such as the coral lagoons near the Equator, a man may collect a hundred or more out of a day's fishing ; but they are generally of irregular shapes, and perfectly opaque, like bone. Such as are well-formed and of sufficient lustre to be called
gems are rare ; but are nevertheless to be met with occasionally of so great a size as to induce the belief that if the search for them were systematically pursued, the fishers would stand a very good chance of making a fortune. I have never known anyonu to fish for these shells for the sake of their pearls ; but from those paahuas which we were in the habit of eating, I have seen some extracted of good shape quite opaque, and of the appearance of bone, and as large as an Enfield bullet. I have seen others again milky or semi-transparent, or like a dirty white opal, without any play of colours, but sometimes a little brilliancy at one end.'
There is another kind of shell in this latitude which
produces pearls of fine quality, but generally not of great size. The largest I have seen are about the size of a pea ; they are perfectly round and of golden colour, and very
lustrous. The shell is similar to that of the oyster; the underside is always firmly amalgamated with the rock, so as to form part of it, and cannot be broken off ; the upper valve is like a lid, with a very strong hinge. These shells are not found in clusters, but detached, which causes them to be somewhat
So much for the pearl-oyster and other kindred fish of the Pacific. I have alluded over and over again to the beachcombers' of Coral Land. The veteran 'beachcombers' are those who have devoted them. selves more or less to the pearl-fisheries. A firstclass specimen of this curious class of humanity was the late Eli Jennings, of Quiros Isle. They are hardy, healthy, powerful, and bronzed. They have the strength to lift a kedge-anchor, and to carry a load of perhaps 200 cocoa-nuts out of the forest in the heat of a noonday sun. They climb trees like apes, and can dive al ost as well as the natives with whom they live. They wear no shoes, but go at all times barefooted on beaches of sharp gravel and reefs of prickly coral. Some of these men have as many as twenty children with huge frames and gipsy countenances.
Their intellect is of a low order, and their morals very lax ; but it is quite possible they may improve as they multiply, and they are multiplying very rapidly. At any rate the development of Polynesia will have to deal sooner or later with these
men, and a powerful controlling influence of a high order
once established in the Pacific, they would either act as very useful pioneers (under rigid discipline) or be soon improved off the face of the earth. I confess I have little sympathy with many of these gentry, however romantic may be their histories or Crusoe-like their lives. The future of Polynesia, in a moral and commercial sense, seems to me to be a very important business problem with which sentiment has little or nothing to do.
* Pretty' writing, comparing beachcombers to lotus eaters, or dwelling as some people have done exclusively on the poetical side that does unquestionably attach to their existence, is, to my mind, beside the mark. The civilisation they introduce is usually of the square-gin and musket order, and they tend to destroy fine races of savages instead of assisting them to approach our level. There are, as I know, some noble exceptions, but I have a very shrewd opinion that the majority of these traders’ have views as to the deplorable results, from a “business' point of view, of the introduction of Christianity; and it was for some of these people that Sir Arthur Gordon was appointed Lord High Commissioner of Western Polynesia. If the Anglo-Saxon race is prepared to accept the responsibility that undoubtedly belongs to it in the Southern Seas, beachcombing, as beachcombing has been understood for years, will be a thing of the past. It was the mean whites' of the Southern States who ill-treated the negroes when they had the chance, and then stirred up the negroes to rebel against their masters. The beachcombers of the South Pacific are, taking them