National Geographic : 1905 May
OUR SMALLEST POSSESSION-GUAM BY WILLIAM E. SAFFORD Mr Safford was formerly a lieutenantin the U. S. Navy, and his cruises took him to many of the islands of the Pacific, where he made many notes and collections. He so felt the want of a handy volume describing the luxuriant tropicalplants, a large number of which are very useful, that when he later joined the botanical staff of the Department of Agriculture he resolved to write a book on the subject. This book, a volume of /20 pages, profusely illustrated, and with an introduction by Mr Frederick V. Coville, Curatorof Botany, hasjust been published by the U. S. National Museum under the title " The Useful Plantsof the Island of Guam." In it the authordescribes the principalplants used for food, fiber, oil, starch, sugar, andforage in our tropical islands, and he further includes much interestinginformation about the people of Guam and their descendants. The following article is based on this report: UAM is considerably larger than Tutuila, the most important of the Samoan Islands owned by the United States, though its chief port, San Luis de Apra, cannot be com pared with Pango-Pango, our naval sta tion in the South Pacific, and perhaps the finest harbor in the world. The advantage of Guam as a station for re pairs and supplies is evident, forming, as it does, a stopping place for vessels between Hawaii and the Philippines. Its strategic importance has been greatly enhanced since it has been made the landing place of the trans-Pacific cable, and the completion of the Panama Canal will make it still more valuable to our government. The extreme length of the island from north-northeast to south-southwest is 29 statute miles. Its width is from 7 to 9 miles, narrowing at the middle to a neck only 4 miles across. On the north west coast of this neck is situated Agana, the capital, a city of over 6,000 inhab itants. The entire population of the island, according to the census of 9gor, was 9,676. THE COMING OF MAGELLAN The Island of Guam was discovered on March 6, 1521, by Magellan, after a passage of three months and twenty days from the strait which bears his name. An account of the privations and suffering of his crew, many of whom died on the way across the hitherto un explored ocean, is graphically given by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's historian. He describes how the expedition arrived at Guam with the crews suffering from scurvy and in a starving condition, hav ing been compelled on the passage to eat rats and even the leather from off the standing rigging to keep soul and body together. In comparison with Magel lan's feat of crossing the vast Pacific, the first voyage of Columbus from the Canary Islands to the West Indies seems insignificant. The natives of Guam came to meet the Spaniards in strange "flying praos" (canoes pro vided with outriggers and triangular sails of mats). The Spaniards had dropped anchor, furled their sails, and were about to land, when it was dis covered that a small boat which rode astern of the flagship was missing. Suspecting the natives of having stolen it, Magellan himself went ashore at the head of a landing party of 40 armed men, burned 40 or 50 houses and many boats, and killed seven or eight natives, male and female. He then returned to his ship with the missing boat and im mediately set sail, continuing his course to the westward. The natives did not fare much better at the hands of later visitors. Mission aries came in 1668.