National Geographic : 1921 Dec
VOL. XL, No. 6 WASHINGTON DECEMBER, 1921 G]EOGRAPH llP COPYRIGHT.1921BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,WASHINGTON.D. C. THE ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC* BY J. P. THOMSON, C. B. E., LL. D. HONORARY SECRETARY AND TREASURER, ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA W HAT memories of the past the place-names of the coral-girt islands of the South Pacific Ocean revive! They bring to the re flective mind the romantic side of life; they recall the daring exploits of adven turesome enterprise on the part of those early navigators whose romantic career has fired many a youthful breast with hopeful enthusiasm; they remind us of the illuminating pen sketches by Robert Louis Stevenson; they bring to our thoughts stories of thrilling achievements in the piratical operations of that one time buccaneer, Captain Bully Hayes. They bring us face to face with primi tive life in all its varied phases, ranging from the nomadic peregrinations of the native trader to the precarious existence of the beach-comber; from the reef harvesters to the tribal councilors, and from the wild head-hunters to the bush cannibals; from the excited warriors, in all their fantastic accouterments, to the primitive village maiden, bedecked in gar lands of wild flowers and habited in the simplest form of grass skirt; from the elaborate local native court (Bose Levu), at which the great district chieftains are represented, to the all-embracing pro vincial parliament of the people (Bose vaka Turanga), where the ruling person ages assemble. Among these islands have occurred some of the most wonderful manifesta *See Map of the Islands of the Pacific issued as a supplement with this number of THE GEOGRAPHIC. tions of the stupendous forces of nature ever witnessed by the eye of man, in the modification, alteration, and creation of land forms and in local disturbances of vast magnitude, through violent earth quakes or eruptive phenomena. Here. too, have occurred wide devastations and great destruction to property following the wake of periodical hurricanes along the equatorial belt. These facts and many others come crowding to the mind when speaking of Polynesia, the South Sea Islands or their synonyms. While there is certainly no place on earth more beautiful, more en chanting, or more seductive to the island dweller, there are few places where the forces of nature are more active, more varied, more constructive, or even more devastating. THE MARVEL OF THE CORAL REEF Take, for example, the coral reef phe nomenon by which islands are formed and connections established on a vast scale be tween widely separated areas, extending over thousands of miles of ocean. Also be it remembered that these immense sub marine and subaerial coral masses, on which the very existence and stability of most of the Polynesian islands seem to depend, are the product of one of those low forms of animal life that enter so largely into the economy of nature and make us feel that the combined efforts of men are comparatively feeble and in effective.