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the dark shades of the native forests. In all cases, indeed, intellectual as well as physical, Providence bestows upon man only the raw material, leaving the improvement, whether for use or decoration, to his own industry and taste. Without culture the richest soil and the highest mental endowment are equally unprofitable; the one produces poisonous plants to deform the landscape and cover it with the shadow of death; the other gives power to the worst passions, disgraces the intercourse of life, and exposes the dearest interests of society to the most frightful hazards.
Polynesia, according to our acceptation of the term, comprehends the several groups which lie within fifty degrees on either side of the prime meridian, and between the fiftieth parallel of south, and the thirtieth of north latitude ; embracing an extent of ocean equal to about 7000 miles in the one direction, and nearly 5600 miles in the other. The principal clusters are the Ladrone Islands; the Caroline ; the Pelew; the Solomon ; New Hebrides ; the Fijee; the Sandwich ; the Marquesas; the Low, Coral, or Dangerous Islands ; the Society and Georgian group; the Navigators' Islands; the Friendly Islands; the Austral Isles; and New Zealand. In addition to these there are many detached islets or fragments of land which will demand our notice, such as Pitcairn's, Easter, Chatham, Fanning's, and others not less important in the history of South Sea discovery.
Viewed on a large scale, the various insular groups which may be traced between the eastern borders of the old continents and the western shores of the new, include a much wider range than those now mentioned, more especially if we take in the great Indian Archipelago, the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, and Java. But these vast tracts do not fall within the limits of our plan, which likewise rejects New Holland and its dependencies, now commonly known under the designation of Australia. With reference to the colour of the native inhabitants, the latter portion is by some French authors denominated Melanesia or the Black Islands, including, besides
the principal one just mentioned, the settlement of Van Diemen's Land, New Guinea, New Ireland, New Hanover, the Solomon Islands, the Louisiade Archipelago, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and part of the Fijees. But we do not consider the complexion of the aborigines a sufficient ground of distinction in a work the object of which is not to give the physical history of mankind, nor to support any particular theory as to the natural causes of those varieties in colour and conformation which mark the usual scientific distributions of the hu
In relating the more prominent events that attended the
progress of discovery, as well as those which have more recently given an interest to the introduction of religious knowledge and civilisation, we assume a wider principle as the basis of our narrative ; restricting it only to such limits as convenience has suggested as suitable to the extent of a single volume. The other portions of Oceanica, that vast space, namely, which stretches from the sea of China to California, and from the isles of Japan to those of South Orkney, may hereafter invite the attention of our readers in a different form.
The name Polynesia was first applied to this interesting portion of the globe by the learned President de Brosses, in his History of Navigation, though two centuries earlier the same term had been used by certain authors with relation to the Moluccas, the Philippines, and some smaller groups situated still farther to the eastward. In several recent publications, the great islands of the Indian Archipelago are called the Hither Polynesia, while the more numerous clusters which extend into the bosom of the southern Pacific are described as the Farther Polynesia.
Before entering on the details of discovery and settlement, it may prove not less entertaining than instructive to give an outline of the physical characters and geographical distribution of the several islands which constitute that portion of Oceanica, more especially as connected with the two principal causes to which they are supposed to owe their present form ; namely, the action of volcanoes, and the working of the small insect usually denominated the coral polypus.
Nature has unquestionably given to that section of the earth a prominent and very characteristic physiognomy, diversified by numerous inequalities on the surface, and distinguished by lofty mountains, the direction of which, from north to south, indicates a striking polarity in their structure. These chains, at the same time, generally present, about the middle of their course, a decided bend from west to east. The best marked
them is that formed by the Ladrone, the Caroline, and the Mulgrave group, and are probably associated, by means of those called St Augustin and some other links, with the archipelago of the Navigators, or that of the Friendly Islands. Even among the Carolines, where the Polynesian series turns due east, the particular masses lie north and south. Another great chain makes its appearance in Luçon, the largest of the Philippines, which passes through the island of Palawan into that of Borneo. The direction of that well-known branch is from north-west to south-east, and bounds on one side the basin of the Chinese Sea. In New South Wales the long line of the Blue Mountains extends to Van Diemen's Land, terminating in immense masses of basalt at South Cape. The fourth great chain takes its commencement at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in its progress gives rise to Sumatra, Java, Timor, and others of less magnitude. It runs in the form of a bow from north-west to southeast, then due east; but it probably passes by Cape Diemen, where it can have no other direction than from north to south.
All the smaller archipelagos of Polynesia, too, lie north and south, of which New Caledonia and the New Hebrides form very distinct examples. The group
of the Solomon Islands, bending from the south-east to the north-west, is continued in New Ireland and New Hanover. It often happens that the subordinate chains are individually tern nated by a larger island than the others of which they are composed. For instance, Otaheite, Owhyhee, and Tierra del Espiritu Santo, are found at the extremity of a series, most of which present very contracted limits.
These analogies, if carefully noted, might, it is imagined, have facilitated the progress of discovery, and in particular have contributed to make each archipelago more easily recognised. By attentively marking the direction of a chain, navigators might have rendered themselves almost certain of discovering new islands; and even now they ought to employ the guidance of a principle which would, in some measure, obviate the hazard occasioned by those immense reefs so common in the Southern Pacific, which, in all probability, follow the direction of chains at the bottom of the ocean. These huge projections make a part of the exterior skeleton of the earth, and radiate like lines from a common centre, or more probably like ribs from the vertebral column of the human figure. At all events, there is a perceptible uniformity in the operation of the law to which these phenomena must be attributed ; and when the physical cause is once ascertained, there cannot be any doubt that much practical benefit would result from anticipating its effects, even in cases where there is no other light to direct the judgment.
Among the thousands of islands which shoot up in the South Sea, some rise to a considerable elevation, and generally present a conical form. Many of them are basaltic, often containing in their centres wide tunnels or cavities, and, at other times, round lakes which might be taken for ancient craters. Although the occurrence of volcanic substances has not, on satisfactory evidence, been every where ascertained, there has already been discovered a greater number of volcanoes than in any other part of the world. In the annals of early navigation these are sometimes mentioned as the most splendid appearances in nature ; while, on other occasions, they are described with a feeling of unmingled horror. On one place near New Guinea, the flames and smoke rise calmly over a fruitful country; but on the northern verge of the Marians, dreadful torrents of black lava darken the shore.
All the low islands seem to have for their base a reef of coral rocks generally disposed in a circular form. The middle space is commonly occupied by a sheet of water, on the margin of which the sand is mixed with pieces of broken coral and other marine productions. These facts have been employed by speculative writers with the view of proving that all the islets must have originated in the labours of the diminutive insect already noticed, and been afterwards enlarged and raised above the surface of the ocean by the accumulation of light substances drifted to them by the action of the
It is, however, very remarkable, that among the islands so constituted, some are almost level with the sea, while others are elevated several hundred feet; though on the summits of these last are found masses of coral perforated in the same manner with those found at the water's edge. Now, as the animalcules which raise these submarine habitations cannot live above the face of the deep, it is manifest either that the Pacific has sunk to a lower level, or that the several islands have been raised by an expansive force acting from below. There can be no doubt that the latter agent ought to be assigned as the true cause of the phenomenon.
It is still a question whether the polypes originate the stoney bodies they inhabit, or whether they find them prepared for their occupation by the hand of nature. Forster, whose experience gives some weight to his opinions on this subject, was inclined to believe that the little creatures actually form the matter which composes the coral masses, and consequently that, by their means, new islands are in a constant process of formation. The great Captain Cook, after a careful investigation of facts, had arrived at the same conclusion. Dalrymple, on the other hand, thinks that these rocks take their rise at the bottom of the sea, from which they are detached by currents or tempests, and thrown on the sandbanks. This, no doubt, may take place in some localities ; but the principle most assuredly cannot apply to those reefs which rise like walls in the midst
Around New Holland, for example, the
of the ocean.