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MALDEN ISLAND, Issue 15679, 18 December 1914
GREAT GUANO DEPOSITS. TROUBLE WITH NATIVES. [Special to the Star.] BLUFF, December 18. The barque Irene, which arrived at the Bluff from Maiden Island this week, brought. news of th« inhabitants in that far-off isle, and of the exceptional conditions which have prevailed there during the past 12 months, accentuated by the wreck .of the barque Triton, which left the whole ia'and at semi-starvation point —a condition of things wh'ch ultimately resulted io serious trouble with Iho kanakas employed there. Mr P. M'Sweeney, chonrst at the inland during the past 12 months, returnfd by the barque, and was interviewed by your reporter upon arrival. Mr M'Sweeney gave an interesting narrative of his experiences, and left it plainly nnders'ood that he has no intention of returning. —Plentiful Rains.— Mr M'Sweeney said that ho had been chemist and analyst on the island for e, full year, and had taken every opportunity of thoroughly acquainting himself with tho possibilrtiefl and requirements of ocean island in dry weather, but after rain it quickly wears a green appearance, as the grass comes rwav and lasts for a few weeks The island is p?ar-shaped, and tho highest point is only 30ft above sea-level. Fortunately, the past year was a wet one, and the underground tanks were always more or less " full ; consequently, although tho provisions frequently ran out, there was always a plentiful supply of fresh water. The population consisted of 6 Europeans and 93 nitive-% of whom 53 came from Niuo and 30 from Aitutaki. Both fhese recruiting 'centres IHorur to Now Zealand, whereas Maiden Island is an Avstrninn possession, leased by Messrs Gric. Sumner, and Co., of Melbourne, aincc 1864. —U-ilimited Guano.— Mr M'Sweeney's experiments and testa showed that there is still an abundance of guano of a 60 per cent, quality, although the ?ieat<er quantity is about 40 per cent. Often, however, after removing a 3ft layer of 40 per cent, guano a stratum of a high-.-r grade is reached—ccmetimes as high as 70 per o»nt.—for about 2ft. After that th- 5 coral is reached. Mr M'Sweeney said that in places pockets of guano of a very high grade (80 per cent.) have been stnick, but th.-y are rare. As for the statement that the island is about worked out, bo could give that an emphatic denial. Fully one third of the island has never been work d. and fotne tests that he had mr.de on that area declared a 65 per cent, jesnlfc. As for the part tanped by the tramway, there is an abundance of cO per .-ent. quality both at Frankfton and Buiw.od. Hi's tests showed that the guano contained phosphate calcium, carbonate calcium, sulphate calcium, and abrut if per cent, of organic matter containing traces of aluminium and iron. —Natives on Strike.— The natives receive £3 a month and ration*, the engagement being for nin« month*, aad th"y receive 10s a month demurrage (without work) after that term has expired. At present the Niuo Islanders are out on strike again-t the terms. They are f-atisiied enoui'h with the £3 a month fo- work, b.vi arc rijht \'p against the demurrage cl.vee. find claim £5 a month at thp expiry of th.> n'ne months. La-st month the h.irnue called at Xnve for i.ibor. but the captain would not agree to the £5 a m< nib demurvaco. and as the natfvs would nor, budsc from their tcr-ns the Oheron.had to *->il without_ any labor at all. How she will load is a mystery. The Nine Islanders consider themselves New Zerdr"d"re now. and have become very independent. —Stores Short.— The owners were supposed to have a three months' supply of emenrency stores on the island, hut for some reason or other these supplies have not been kept up. For instance, the Triton, which was wrecked on her way to Maiden Island. war. due on December 25, and the island stores nad petered out by that time, and all hands were eking out only a bare existence. As tho manager wrote in the log, the bill of fare for tho whites was not even "equal to a third-class restaurant at any time," and consequently when everyone was put on to half rations things were anyhow. They shot a few "tinribbed" goats arid caught some blaclcfidi. with which they struggled along until the s.s. Strathallan ealled"on February 9 with provisions. They had the fish on week days and the goat ilesh on Sundays, when they had time to tackle it, because it was very tough, and there waa very little of it " Of tho goats shot not a single one produced a decent chop. The Strathallan brought x )rov i s i° ns which lasted them some time. —Natives Insistent.— Later on in the year stores again ran out, and half rations bad acrain to be resorted to, much to the disgust of the l whites and to tiie indignation of tho natives, who showed marked resentment. The full rations of each native under normal conditions were lib of rice and lib of bread daily and of meat and 2oz of tea per week, it was not much for big healthy natives working hard all day, but half of it meant next to starvation. They came to the manager in a body and told him in a threatening manner" that unless the jood was increased thev would break open the. bread store and take the food. ,They said that hall rations were worse than cruel—it was starvation
—Rifios Out.— The manager had to take a high hand, and threatened to shoot the first' person who touched the bread store. That did not seem to trouble them, and they departed stating that they would carry out their intention. Next day (Sunday) the whites held a full-dress parade, with rifles, and spent a few hours demonstrating their shooting ability by 'smashing bottles on the fence. The regularity with which the bottles were knocked over rather overawed tho natives, who wore well aware- that rifles, ammunition, and handcuffs wero more plentiful than provisions. The attack of 93 natives on tho six whites did not eventuate, and both settlements struggled on for several weeks on the simplest and scantiest rations, until a barque arrived and relieved the tensity of the situation. —Other Shortages.— In addition to the shortage of provisions, the operations on the island have also been much hampered by a shortage of rails for tho tramway and a shortage of guano bags. A request was recently made by the manager for four miles of rails, to open up another paddock, and so facilitate operations, but all ho got back was a dozen rails, and tho extension has not yet got under way, and means increased labor for the men and a smaller output per diem. The engine which draws the hopper trucks is out of use on account of the mechanic having thrown up the job, and there is no one loft to run the motor. This means that only one trip (by native haulago) from the head of tho lino to the jetty can bo made per diem, instoad of two, the daily output i>eing reduced from 35 tons a day to 18 tons. In easterly weather, however, a 30ft sail can be rigged up, and that will run the trucku down the jetty, and not entail so much extra labor on" the part of the ctalf. The shortage of guano bags is also a factor in causing a decreased output. The guano has to be bagjed and .sent out to the ships in the roadstead in a surf boat. It takes two bales of bags to load a ship, the fctrength of the guano eating up the bags in next to no time. .Tho sailmaker recently made a canvas cover for the lighter, but owing to the ehortigo of bags he had to take it off the craft and cut it up for bags. —Another Buoy Wanted.—
Mr M'Sweeney said that, years ago there used to be two mooring buoys at Maiden Island, but one disappeared, and the lessees had not replaced it. A second buoy was absolutely necessary, because frequently a barque arrived before her predecessor had finished loading, and that meant that the new arrival had to .'imply no out to eca again and stay there for a month or so till the buoy was Vacant. I'll is entailed a lot of worry to ship captains, and aUo a lot of expense, becaus • the lessees would not commence their contract until tho vessel concerned was tied np. Delay in loading the first vessel n.cunt serious Joss to tile next boat. Masters considered a second buoy imperative lor safety. Quite apart fioiu loss by de muriage, if a veissel were delayed after her (Gnu-act time of 30 days the "owners were able to claim £lO a day demurrage, but before tying up there was no recompense whatever. —Condition. Mr MSweeney said, in conclusion, that the barque OU-ro.i had arrived a month before the Irene left, and had to put to sea again. The Fram is due shortly also. The Überon may get iici loading carried out short-handed, but tho remaining kanakas will probably return with her, and the Fram, which "will load 40 per cent, guano for Tasmania, uiii probnb/y not be able to load at all. " Tliiius are." Mr M'Sweeney concluded. " nut very bright at the pre-'O'it I.'iihj in the; labor'que.--t?on at Maiden. Island. The natives have to be kept in their place, to,, a.s I know to my cost. 1 was kicked down twice, and one of the men was lined £5 f<..r it. T hey do not like lines. They would sooner take punishment any day. ' Mr M/Sueinev returns to Melbourne by the e.s. Wiinmera next week.
MALDEN ISLAND, Issue 15679, 18 December 1914
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