National Geographic : 1908 Aug
THE PACIFIC: THE LEAST KNOWN REGION mens of the art have been assembled for comparison. The translation of their. writing will perhaps unlock knowledge of immense value to many questions of the origin, migration, and history of the Pacific races. DID THE MOON COME OUT OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN Of not less importance will be an in vestigation affecting the origin of the Pacific Ocean bed itself-the greatest de pression on the globe. Many ingenious theories have been advanced on this sub ject, and among these the two following are interesting: The first hypothesis suggests that the Pacific area was formerly occupied by a land-mass which has subsided below sea level, probably by volcanic agency. The volcanic system extending round the Pa cific littoral of Asia and America lends considerable color to the theory, and would represent the edge of the sunken plain. At this point of fracture the sub jacent molten contents of the earth have found vent, and thus by dispersal have built up the coast mountain chains. If this be true, the present island groups of the Pacific would represent the summits of former mountain systems. Whatever the cause of the isolation of the present archipelagoes, evidences are not lacking that they have at some time been connected with other land-masses. The absence of mammals of any im portance, however, would suggest this period to be so remote that the severance occurred before the evolution of these creatures. The land mollusks, whose nearest affinities must be sought in geo logic fossils, also point to the islands as having been isolated in the remote past. The second geological theory of the Pacific which has claimed credence is that the land-mass which formerly occu pied its depression was, in the age before the solidification of the globe was too far advanced, whirled off by centrifugal force, and now composes our satellite, the moon. A comparison of the shores of west America and east Asia with other evidence suggests some truth to this re- markable theory, for the coast lines will be seen to bear the same relation to one another as that possessed by the inden tures of a legal document. Why do Pacific mammals, reptiles, and birds become more scarce as we progress across the ocean from east to west? What is the origin of the Hawaiian birds? How did the flightless birds of New Zealand originate, and what was the evolution of the gigantic wingless moa? Why is the nearest living rela tive to the extinct dodo found in Samoa? What is the import of the presence of the same species of a fresh-water fish in two rivers situated on opposite sides of the Pacific? Have the Australian mar supials a common origin with those of America, and does their presence con tribute to the theory of an intervening continent? These are a few of the many interesting questions whose solution would contribute much to the establish ment of truths of material importance to modern knowledge. The investigation of all the above questions, except perhaps those affecting such stable subjects as geology, must be undertaken in the immediate future if any satisfactory result is to be achieved. The total disappearance of the inhabit ants of some islands has created a gap which is now as impossible to bridge as that between our own civilization and the European Stone Age. In this way much that is necessary to a true under standing of the Pacific has forever dis appeared, and many perplexing prob lems can now never be solved. The work of the early navigators was suffi cient to the knowledge of the day in which it was conducted, but the signifi cance of habits, of custom, of rites, of legends, and of arts was ignored or wrongly interpreted, and an inexhaust ible store of priceless information re mained unheeded until it has been ef faced and has forever passed away. THE EXTRAORDINARY CIVILIZATION OF THE POLYNESIAN And here it may be said that the plane of culture which has disappeared before 55'