AMONGST THE ISLANDS.
SOME OF THE GROUPS OP THE SOUTH PACIFIC. SU~DA7 ISLAND, IK THE KERMADEC GROUP— TONGATABU AND VAVAU, IN THE ' TONGAN, • OR FRIENDLY, GROUP —OPOJiU, IN THE SAMOAN, OR NAVIGATOR'S, GROUP—TAHITI, IN THE SOCIETY GROUP—RAROTONGA, IN THE HARVEY, OR COOK GROUP. No. IV. " [FROM OUR TRAVELLING CORRESPONDENT.] USEFUL INFORMATION. The Tongan groups of islands form the dominions over which King George holds sway. These islands and islets are said to number one hundred and fifty, possibly more, some of which have a coral origin, some a volcanio. They constitute three geographical minor groups, named after the largest and most important island in eaoh. Thus the islands adjacent to Tongatabu, with Nukualofa, the executive capital, form group one; Haapai' and its circumjacent islands form group two ; and Vavau with its surroundings constitute the third. They are widely scattered. Vavau lies 180 miles to the north of Tongatabu, and Haapai about half that distance to the N.N.E. For the keeping up of intercoaatal com' munication the Government and chiefs have several schooners, weatherly craft, one purchased from the British Navy, the others Auckland built—another is now building on the North S!iore. Originally the power and prerogative of the King were absolute over all the ohiefs, and the power of these was as absolute over their dependents, the mass of the people. Hence it bore a close resemblance to the feudal system of mediaeval Europe Through the far-sightedness and persistent and philanthropic devotion of Mr. Baker this has been improved upon, after the model of modern representative, limited monarohy, with this difference, however, that the Upper and Lower Houses are combined in one Legislative Chamber, composed of hereditary chiefs, and elected popular representatives in equal numbers. At Nukualofa there are the Supreme Court buildings, in which the Chief Justioe gives forth his decisions upon the oases brought before him. Moreover, there is a higher Court of Appeal, that of the Privy Council, of whioh the King, the Governors of the three central islandsTongatabu, Vavau, and Haapai—with the Premier, the Chief Justice, and the heads of the Executive Departments, are members. The King, it is said, has a civil list of £1200 a year, more than enough to keep him in hie simple, patriarchal style of living. Everything seemed peaceable and orderly, and everyone moved about without fear, as if conscious of security. And yet the Tongans seem lean vivacious and less energetio in their habits than the Samoans and Rarotongans. The police regime is pretty severe. A fine young fellow for being "run in" was sentenced to twelve months' labour for the Government, which means that, for being once intoxicated, he had, as a penalty, to work without pay for one year. Capital punishment is inflicted only for murder and high treason. The national revenue has hitherto been raised by a poll tax of eight dollars, payable by each married male adult; iibe unmarried under fifty years are amerced in an extra dollar, with a view to induce the young fellows to marry and settle down. The population rather de» creases than increases, as is the case with all aboriginal peoples, as soon as the process of so-called civilisation comes over them. Somehow its drill of superfluities, luxuries, drinkings, and vices, dwindles them down year by year, until they become but the shadowy remnants of their former selves. In 1874 Mr. Sterndate estimated the population of the entire Tongan Group at 25,000, but last year, when the census was systematically and carefully taken, it oame out as only 22,000. The land area of these islands is probably under 10,000 square miles, but a large proportion is unoultivatable. "Land grabbing" is impracticable in the Tongan Isles. There are no freehold!* ; the land is nationalised, and, therefore not purchasable; it can be leased for periods up to 99 years, but not beyond ; each lease ia invalid unless registered. The exports are cotton, coffee, copra ; but trade just now is languid, and the maximum of plantation cultivation by foreign oapital will not exceed 1000 acres. Sheep will thrive only on the island of Eoa, where three firms pasture some 40,000. The annual exports and imports nearly balance eaoh other. Thp latter, however, exceed the former by some £10,000. The sum total of both may be £200,000. The exportation of oranges and bananas and other fruits and vegetables will continue limited — almost nil—until there ie direct steam communication with Auckland, when it could be conveyed to the Auokland market in five or six days, tho distance being under 1200 miles. AS it is, the s.s. Janet Nicoll is not available, as she calls first at the Tongan Group, and then pursues her way, first to Samoa, then to Tahiti, returning by Harotonga, occupying nearly five weeks in the round. .
Hitherto there has been Co Custom* duty, excepting for spirits, wines—port, sherry, and ohampagne-—and malts, and ammunition ; otherwise free trade has been the rale, but now a Customs tariff is in preparation, and all the annoyance of a Customhouse and its officers will soon bo in active operation. The oarrenoy here, as in the other islands, is Peruvian and Chilian dollars. In 1883 some 70,000d015, the equivalent at par of £14,000 sterling, were imported, principally by the German firms, of which JSO.OOOciols, equal to £10,000, were exported by English merchants to be exchanged or melted into silver ingots, at a loss of 2.'*» per cent, or very little less. Upon the £14.000 of dollars imported there would be a gain to the importers, but a loss to the receivers, of, say, one-fourth, and, if the whole were exported, there would be a loss to the possessor or exporter of onefourth. Hence the actual sterling value of the £14,000 in commercial transactions would be only £7000 that is, one-half. The loss is added to the value of the goods sold; hence the native consumers are fleeced to keep up a false and base currency, which, whilst adding to the gains of its unprincipled manipulators, operates against British commerce, and retards the development of legitimate trade. Once establish a sterling currency, facilities for trading would he vastly increased, and it would not be many years before British capital and British enterprise would have secured nine-tenths, if not the whole commerce of the Pacific Islands. If Auckland were constituted a free port, it would become the entrepot for this trade, and eventually, after the opening of the Panama Canal, the most thriving port in Australasia. But to promote so desirable an object the City Council and the Harbour Board must awaken up to their responsibilities in the near future, and set about preparing with a view Co invite the coming inflow of commercial aotivity, If they "dilly-dally" or procrastinate, they will simply miss the opportunity, but, if wise in their generation, they will push on with their harbour improvements in a spirit of far-seeing commercial sagacity, provide ample quay, shed, crane, and tramway accommodation upon the future wharves, with a line of warehouses between the end of the present harbour baßin and the railway station for free and bonded storage. ADIEU TO NUKUALOFA. By sundown of Monday, the 12th of July, all the cargo for Nukualofa had been discharged, including fourteen of the surviving sheep, which were sold at not less than thirty-five shillings apiece—a good profit, affording margin sufficient to liquidate the loss incurred for those which died en voyage, when it is remembered that their cost on board per head would not be more than fifteen shillings. The Janet Nicoll might have gone to sea the same evening, but it is unsafe to venture among the coral reefs in the dark. Thd more prudent course was, therefore, wisely adopted by deferring her departure until the morning. Everyone retired, early, and enjoyed a quiet night's rest. By,,sunrise on Tuesday, the 13th, all were astir, the supercargo , closed his acoounts with Mr. Baker, the mailbag was sent aboard, and immediately after breakfast the Janet was underweigh, with pilot aboard. Nukualofa was left with regret. Friends had been so kind, Mr. and Mrs, Baker so hospitable, the natives seemed so gentle and obliging, the climate bo genial, the sky so dear, no suffocating heat, scarcely a tormenting mosquito* that we fain would have prolonged our stay for some weeks, Before waving a final adieu to Tongatabu, we must record our extreme
' regret to find that Dr. Buokland, whose name was so eulogistically mentioned by the reporters of the Wairarapa's trips, was lying 'in a precarious : state, suffering from a disease usually incident to natives only. Mr. Baker was" in daily .attendance, seeing that every care and attention were bestowed upon him. Of course, under the circumstances, no one could are him. , NASCENT VOLCANIC ISLE. When the reefs s.nd sunken rocks had been safely passed, v the pilot left for the shore, and we stood on for the lately emerged voloanio isle. It took the Janet Niooll some hours to get abreast of it, as it is' at least forty miles from Tongatabu. However, when ranging along as near as prudence permitted, there it stood, a verit- ' able island, some two miles in length, at the crater end some 300 or 400 feet high, inolining down to the sea level at the other end. The crater is distinctly defined, and its wall (seaward having fallen in, a good view of the interior was obtained. So little is left of the crater on that side, and its edge being only a few feet above high water mark, should another portion fall in, an opening may be made for an* inrush of the ocean wave, the result of whioh it is impossible to forecast. Volumes of dense steAm ascended continually, whioh, borne along by the wind, rolled up the high, unbroken side of the orater, whilst all the way along to the lower end of the island, down to the margin of the sea, innumerable steam jets were seen escaping from its surface. What may be the aspect of the other side of the island oould not be discovered, as it would have taken the Janet too much out of her course, and occupied too muoh time, and might possibly have vitiated her insurances, had she steamed round it. The island, however, has been, is, and will be, an object of attraction to visitors and Voyagers in the South Pacific. The United States corvette Mohican, whioh left Tongatabu the day before our arrival, visited the island to lay down its exact latitude and longitude. A party of Tongans also had gone to it some time before the arrival of the Janet Niooll, and, landing on the other side, had ascended very nearly to the highest part of the ridge, and, in token of their having done so, declared upon their return that tfhey had fixed a stake in the ground. This stake was standing and visible to all on hoard the Janet Nicoll as, at half-speed, she passed along the island. At the 'date of its emergence, not more --than twelve months ago, n« voloanio phenomena 'were noticed at Tongatabu, but an unusual steam cloud was observed in that direction. Subsequently, while yet the volcano was in a state of energetio activity, sketches were made of its appearance, and 'photos likewise were taken : but we are not sure of the latter; several of the former we Baw, VAVAU : PRINCE LAIFONI: THE CAVE. We bade adieu to the nascent islet, and steamed away for Vavau. It seems that it is not Court etiquette for the heir apparent to dwell in the same place as the reigning sovereign, so the Crown Prince Laifoni, being the chief, or Governor, of the island of Vavau, has his residence there. Two sohooneri, flying the Tongan flag, built at 1 Auokland, had put ito sea for Vavau in the early morning, before the Janet Niooll, crowded with natives. ' King George was in the first, and Prince Laifoni had intended to ship in the second, but as these sohooners were to call at Hanpai en route to Vavau, he preferred going direct in the ,Janet Nicoll. He came on board with his mat and simple belongings, sat at table, and took his meals like any of the other passengers, made himself as agreeable as he could with his imperfect English, and at night spread his mat upon the floor of the chartroom, and slept as soundly as any of the rest. The following morning, soon after sunrise., we entered the picturesque harbour of Va vau, landlocked, banked on each side with precipitous hills, enshrouded with tropica), verdure, out of whioh towered the grace'i'ully-tnfted cocoanut palm. We steamed, np the harbour, entranced with its loveliness, passing knolls, and creeks, and inviting little coves, until the anchor was let go in front of a modest, Auckland-like, verandaJaed cottage, with several new boats in an adjacent shed, the residence of our fellow-voyager, Mr. G , now arrived safely at hits island home in the land of his adoption. He had paid a visit to Auokland to place b.is daughter at school, and bad shipped for bis stock in trade timber, boards, paints,, oils, kerosene, ship chandlery, suited to his business as a boatbuilder, not forgetting domestic creature comforts for his household. He had done well, and had saved money, and had arrived at that much coveted condition when a man oan realifie that he has mastered the situation, and ca face the future with equanimity. From ! the house came forth the wife and children, waving their handkerchiefs in token / of welcome, and presently his boat was / alongside to take him to their embrace. Ajjain the old, old story, " Home, sweet home 1" wheresoever, whensoever, howsoever, '"no place like home." Prince Laifoni took boat, and was rowed to his little native village, a mile further up, at the head of the harbour, there to receive a welcome from big kith and kin, and a loving embrace from his young wife. By the afternoon the n owb had spread far and wide that the Prince had returned; his faithful lieges flocked in from all the country round, and there was quite an ovation of welcome and congratulation, with much ceremonious speechifying. Some of the Janet Nicoll's ople were present, and were highly gratified, especially as the hospitable Prince evidence d his advance in civilisation by regaling _ those of them who were not abstainers with veritable champagne. IttNOTUS.
Permanent link to this item
AMONGST THE ISLANDS., New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7758, 2 October 1886, Supplement
AMONGST THE ISLANDS. New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIII, Issue 7758, 2 October 1886, Supplement
Using This Item
NZME is the copyright owner for the New Zealand Herald. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of NZME. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.
This newspaper was digitised in partnership with Auckland Libraries and NZME.