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In proceeding westward, we enter the regions of a barbarism almost entirely unmitigated by the elements of civilisation. Passing from the New Hebrides, the Louisiade presents itself; a group of islands probably discovered by Torres, after he had passed the strait which divides New Guinea from Australia, but named by Bougainville, who brought them into notice during his voyage in 1768. They are situated between lat. 8o and 12° S., and long. 150° and 155° E. As they have been little visited, our information respecting them is very imperfect. It is merely known that they are numerous, and occupy a space
of more than three hundred miles, stretching from northwest to south-east, the direction, as we have already stated, which is assumed by all the islands of the Southern Pacific. Being of volcanic origin, some of them rise to a considerable elevation; and from the appearances which meet the eye of the seaman as he skirts along their coasts, it is concluded that the soil must be fertile. The inhabitants, who belong to the race of the warlike Papuas, are regarded as cannibals; but as they manifest the utmost aversion to any intercourse with Europeans, their real character has not been ascertained. No missionary has yet ventured to touch their shores ; the spirit of commerce, which usually sets all danger at defiance, has not made itself acquainted with their capabilities or productions, and even the love of science, not less powerful than religious zeal or the thirst for gain, has achieved no triumph over the difficulties opposed to its progress by the brutal ferocity of such savage tribes.
The Solomon Islands, which were discovered by Mendana in his first voyage, 1567, form one of the most extensive of the numerous archipelagos in the Pacific. They are situated between lat. 5° and 11° S., and between long. 154° 35' and 162° 25' E. Though they have been visited by Carteret and other navigators, both English and French, it is presumed there are many which still remain unknown, while of those which are marked ing of the Missionary Society, usually called the London Missionary Society (Lond. 1841), p. 5.
in our charts, nothing more has been revealed to the European geographer than could be seen from the deck of a ship at the distance of several leagues. Even their position was very inaccurately determined by the original discoverer, whose conjectures as to their longitude from Peru had no better foundation than the reckoning of his pilot. The most northern is Winchelsea, sometimes called Anson; and the southern extremity is marked by the one named Rennell. The largest are Guadalcanor, San Christoval, and Santa Isabella, exceeding seventy miles in length; while next to these may be ranked Bougainville's Island and Choiseul, each of which has been estimated at more than sixty. The central parts of the whole are rugged, and frequently very lofty; Mount Lammor, in Guadalcanor, has even been compared in altitude to the Peak of Teneriffe. The hills are generally covered with fruitful trees, and the valleys, which have been described as fertile, are said to be generally well cultivated. Bananas, yams, sugar-cane, and ginger, grow luxuriantly. The bread-fruit, cocoa-palms, cabbage-tree, almonds, Indian kale, and cloves, are found in abund
The inhabitants, though negroes, are supposed to have made some progress in civilisation ; but their character is stained with the imputation of cannibalism.*
Owing to the vague description of Mendana's discovery communicated to the Spanish government, subsequent navigators knew not where to search for the Solomon Islands. Even he himself could not retrace his steps ; nor was it till the 7th October, in the year 1769, that Surville obtained a view of the archipelago; his ship, according to the logbook, being in lat. 6° 57' S., and long. 152° 28' east of Paris. Proceeding along the coast in a south
Spanish Discoveries before 1595, in Dalrymple’s Historical Collection, vol. i. p. 45. Pingre's Mem., abridged from Figueroa. Dalrymple, vol. i. p. 44. Herrera's Descripcion de las Indias, sub. init. "See also an Extract from a Memoir concerning the Existence and Situation of Solomon's Islands.” By M. Buachi, in Fleurieu's “ Discoveries of the French in 1768 and 1769, to the South-east of New Guinea,” p. 309. English translation (Lond. 1791).,
eastern direction, he found a harbour formed by an assemblage of islands, where he anchored, and named it Port Praslin. From the time of his first approaching the coast till he finally arrived in this haven, he saw a number of small islands, which, though they appeared to be continued land, he afterwards discovered to be separate, and about three leagues from what he considered a continent. He bestowed upon them the title of “ Islands of the Arsacidæ,” a name which, being founded on an historical mistake, they did not long retain. From their perfidious and bloody disposition, he meant to compare them to the Assassins of Upper Asia, but being misled by a similarity of sound, he applied to these savages the designation of a royal race long famous in the East.*
The following year, Bougainville found a passage, by the north of Solomon's Archipelago, through a strait which still bears his name; and, in 1783, Mr Shortland visited the south-western coast of the group, when, mistaking the outline of the islands for one continued country, he assigned to the imaginary continent the name of New Georgia. D’Entrecasteaux has thrown considerable light on the geography of the whole. Having examined with care the southern shores of Christoval and Guadalcanor, he verified the points seen by the Englishman, and determined with greater accuracy the position of the isles discovered by Surville.
Proceeding towards the north-west, we perceive the island of New Britain, which might, without any violation of principle, be considered as belonging to the Solomon cluster. It is situated between latitude 5o and 7° S., and long. 148° and 153° E. So late as the year 1700, it was held to be a part of New Guinea ; but immediately afterwards, Dampier discovered the strait which separates the two islands. It is divided from New Ireland by St George's Channel, and presents, on the southern side, a coast of a peculiar figure, which is said to measure more than three hundred and fifty miles. The surface, which
* Fleurieu's Discoveries of the French, p. 99-101.
has been estimated at twenty-four thousand square miles, is diversified by very lofty mountains, from the highest of which smoke was observed to ascend by Carteret the celebrated navigator. It was the same officerwho made known the narrow sea which separates this island from New Ireland; for, prior to his time, the two were pronounced to be but one, and both united to Papua. Dampier, who noticed the inlet to St George's Channel, considered that it was nothing more than a bay, and proceeded on his voyage. New Ireland exhibits the same geological features as the neighbouring members of this great archipelago, having a mountainous structure, though the most elevated summits appeared to be covered with wood. The same description may be applied to New Hanover, which is situated still more westward, and is about thirty miles in length. In all these islands the lower tracts are fertile, and produce the usual fruits, plants, and spiceries peculiar to that region of the Pacific. The inhabitants, who are thought to be very numerous, belong without doubt to the race of Australian negroes, bearing a strong resemblance to the savage tribes of New Guinea. They are described as stout and well made, of a very dark colour, and quite unencumbered with clothes. Being remarkable for their courage, they delight in war-acting upon the maxim not yet altogether exploded in the more civilized islands of the Society and Georgian class, that it is more honourable to die in the field than to end their days in pining sickness or loathsome disease.
Connected with these islands in language and character rather than in position is New Caledonia, which stands within the parallels of 18° and 23° S., and between long. 163° and 168o E. It extends more than four hundred miles in length, but is very narrow, being nowhere more than sixty miles in width. The discovery of it is due to Captain Cook, who examined its coast in his voyage towards the South Pole, in the year 1774. He found the inhabitants friendly and good-natured, though their treatment of subsequent adventurers does not con
firm their claim to this favourable distinction. They are in all respects nearly related to the Papuans; display the same aspect and physical qualities, are stoutly made, have dark curly hair, with very black skins, and are moreover denounced by the French seamen who approached their shore as fierce cannibals. Their affinity to the people of New Guinea is still farther established by their language, which, while it differs from that of the nearest group, proves itself to be a dialect of the rude speech used by the natives of the island just named, as well as by those of New Britain and New Ireland.
We purposely avoid details relative to hordes of barbarians who present not, either in their pursuits or institutions, any token of improvement, and who are distinguished from the wild beasts with which they dispute the occupation of their mountains only by their more ingenious methods of destruction. The same remark may be extended to the whole range of the Admiralty and Caroline Islands, if we exclude from the latter the Pelew cluster, which have been long celebrated in this country for the gentleness of their inhabitants. The narrative of Captain Wilson, who was wrecked there in 1783, has engaged in their favour the sympathy and affection of every English reader. His wants were supplied with the most generous kindness; and the king, animated by the desire to improve his subjects in the knowledge of European arts, sent his son, the Prince Lee Boo, to Britain, under the charge of his guest, who introduced the youth to the society of London. It is something singular that such of our countrymen as have since frequented those shores have returned with a very different character of the Pelew Islanders ; representing them as displaying all the bad qualities incident to savage life. A similar impression had been received by Cantova and the Spanish missionaries who became acquainted with them about the beginning of last century. Even Wilson acknowledges to have witnessed the inhuman massacre of a number of prisoners who had been taken in battle ; an occurrence which leaves no doubt with regard to the