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A VOLCANO FACTORY.

(By JAMES COWAN.)

(Written for the " Star.")

SUVA, July 10. _ ; ■ An earthquake and tidal -wave occurred in : Ihe Samoa Group. They were the soveTest ( t>n record. Tho Friendly Group experienced y .an earthquake. At Hapai thero were three ~ fcurVwn feet high. No material dam's mge was done. Keppol Island suffered most, if any native houses were destroyed and a ; concrete -wharf carried away. There were no fatalities. The shock was not felt at . £■' Niua-foou. f —Cable message. ■h . 5 i For four days of glorious sunshine, the days becoming more brilliant and j< >.rdent as we approached tho tropics, the ■ a measureless easily-heaving expanse H W deeply luminous blue, wo had been steaming Samoa-wards from Auckland, : .when the dark mass of Pylstaart Isljind, -- I softened with coconut palms, the ;ii (southern outlier of the Friendly Is- >' aands, climbed up from the ocean on .our starboard bow. That island, as were to discover, stood sentry at the f: : entrance' to a curious region of vof- ||' tfanio unrest, a sea alive with steamSying lava fires mado lighthouses in tho || I daxk for the cautiously steering navig.i----6 i tor, 1 lie very colour of the ocean |r t changed as we entered the fire-troubled, ' earthquake shaken Tongan seas. Out I 1 of the splendid deep of the Pacific when . we had left the Kermadecs astern the 'lc-ng swell that came rolling down in 'powerful folds before the steady E.S.E. ! trade wind seemed to carry a quality i' of abysmal depth as well as of limitless . space. A look at the chart spread ' ' : cut oh the table in the skipper's roo/u '• —.'under the bridge confirmed this feeliag that amazing watery deeps lay beneath "'the little vessel's keel- _ We were '' ''' sailing over a vast dip in the ocean 'f'J-floor, one into which two peaks like our - V Aorangi might be set _ono on the other 'find leave scarcely a tip to show above - '.the waves; and over to our east was - 'xmother even greater chasm in ine tirowned world's bed, the " Penguin ; trough," with soundings of up to 5155 fathoms, or nearly six miles 1 Further ■;jiorth was the "Tonga Deep," almost is tremendous an ocean-bottom valleyThese depths, before which the mind is almost appalled, were sounded by Penguin many years ago, on a . surveying cruise from New Zealand to -i-cthe Tonga Archipelago. Here, if anywhere, there were the colour and the -Vi life of the real salt, salt sea. _ The "i-high and spacious blue above, with its ." grandly marching battalions of snowy -V'Trade clouds: the good, strongly pouring wind that ktjpt every stay and a;''shroud and halliard singing like teleJgraph wires on h breezy hilltop; tho -.'"■■' rollers that cam© shouldering along in S"' great '.wsurelv mounds, their crests lucked off in little dashes of spray; the •i Albatross that kept pace with the ship with scarcely a flap of its steady pinions: the flying-fish that fluttered up in frightened flashes in terror of their enemy the albacore. their little fin- • '"wings spread laterally to _ the wind, 7>'Sometimes taking mad little flights - Across our bows, after just teaching the N •* f.Vwater as if to wet "their wings and ' 'gather impetus for another astonishing .' ' parabolic, leap—the sight recalled the nld Maori saying about the luckless '.{ wight who happened to meet a war- - "a flying-fish cut off by tho ."jbows of the canoe"—tho shark that • ficame nosing along for the galley-scraps: j"nll these pertained to the proper Deep ; \Sea. .Our smal] steamer was steadied f -ail her rolling gait by the setting of the a stout " leg-o'-mutton " ' , c : sail that gave the ship a more buoyant ; soaring feel and that with a jib set .-[too helped to lift her bows and ease 1 her sea-thumping. Tho trysail drew a team of bullocks, as a North Auckland coast sailor would say; tho - fOld Man, "square-rigged" sailor that • lie was, reared in the noble old Yankee r '-clippers, lamented that he hadn't '-'-yards on the foremast and square canvas to stretch on them, but even the • i/little sa il wo did set gave the craft a more sailorly feel. | A roomy run of ocean this. Not ■ ' a,Sail did we sight that voyage north- • eastward but a big American threeJ masted schooner as we closed with the -•• "Tonga Islands. She crossed our bows 1 a mile and a half or so; her tall fore-ijnd-aft sails were dark with the wet- ' ling they had gotten in a tropic squall, ■-from the heart, of which she first came into the sweep of our gla-sses. Her 1 -deck was piled high with lumber: a "y.'._Puget Stfund pine.rcarrier running Sydney-wards. In a few minutes she 7 pjWas out of sight in another little ■■ -j squall, sailing perhaps two feet to our ' one, though w e had a screw to kick us along. Then tho lively little squalls whirled awav to leeward, and tho :..ocean sparkled_ again in a thousand "*; : points of dazzling blue fire; and ovor -■'. i:'ur mastheads we saw a pair of " Amokura," the beautiful bo's'n-bird or :!_tropic bird, their slender scarlet tailfloating straight out astern as cr they, like the wandering albatross, kept pace with the white ship ,-upon which* their brilliant beady eyes /"- looked down. J;J.'. IN THE TONGA SEA. And then a. few hours' steady plugging N.N.E. took us into the shallow seas where steaming islands are born f.nd others disappear, the marine laboratory for volcanoes, the place where •arthquakes aro made that make their menacing power felt a thousand miles away. This is the very homo and Workshop of the Polynesian Pluto, Kuaimoko. The soundings are subjsch to frequent changes, and tho charts need correction by periodical hydro-s-graphic survey. The sailor who has & pass through this unreliable zone v;5-'botween the Tongas and the Fi.jis does ii: not feel at until he has left the g/rscarred and fire-fused cliffs of tho vol-bi-.can-io islets 'well behind him: it is a 12, place of reefs nnd rocks and varying cur„fifients. And there is always the chamo that a sudden eruption, either of an ~; > '!.bove-water crater or of some sul>J ; mari'ne oven of Ruaimoko's, may make .'. things uncomfortable for the ship. it is not many vessels over make too close acquaintance T'.Vjyith these reefs and shoals. Occasiona timber-schoouer from the Pacific 2 * l Slope or a South Sea trading schooner having passed through a great floating bed of pumice, the uphearings "-' y r)"f some convulsion in tho sea-bed, in latitude of the Tongas; and now s '*o'nd again there are earthquakes, wirr. sequelae of far-spreading earthquake OTOvaves—commonly, but erroneously, as bain the cable message that heads this particle, .termed " tidal waves —carryrisk to the low-lying islands of the vi,-groups for a radius of many hundreds 'r'-.Cjf miles. On our first night in tho West Tonga a succession of brisk little squalls tearing down on us, with showers tropic heaviness. AVell on toward

. ■» as tho moon came brilliantly t'.cfoiit from tho clouds and traced a glitpathway 011 the sen already -■jghla'ze with phosphorescent fire, we saw two miles on our starboard quar-fci-per the foam of tho breakers on what remained of tho celebrated Falcon Isy^hmd.' North and south the ragged une of surf ran, with horns and indents here and there; a, reminder of the fearful fangs of tho reef, the haunt of the

WHERE THE EHQWES ABE MADE

man-eating shark, waiting there for any incautious sailorman. Falcon reef was just awash, we reckoned; tho rearly drowned ruin of a short-lived volcanic island with ' a strange history.

Falcon Island, or Kehekehe-Fefine — " The Lady' Kehekeho as the King of Tonga named' it when it pushed its steaming head above the waters, is roughly 1500 mile.; from New Zealand, and it lis—or was—one of the many volcanic islandsJn the direct "line of weakness" between tho Ngauruhoe-Rotorua-Whakaari zone and the volcanos of Savaii and Hawaii. Until some thirty-three years ago it did not exist. Then one day the crew of a small trading schooner from Nukualofa, lying becalmed in the shallow sea west of the main islands of tho Friendlies, beheld a wonderful and terrifying spectacle- The atmosphere grew sulphurous and unbearably hot; the skv darkened. and with heavings and boilings of the ocean a huge steaming mass burst from the surface of the waters. When the eruption ceased an island, dripping from tho deep and exhaling clouds of steam, lay there whero the deep had rolled. One of Ruaimoko's unlovely children blinking in the light of day. That was the birth of a spot which became known as Falcon Island after one of the first vessels that visited it.

In 1889, H.M.S. Egeria, a barquerigged steam vessel of the old .Navy type in these seas, was dispatched from Auckland on a cruise of survey and annexation in the South Seas, and her commander landed on Falcon Island and took possession of it for tho British Government. A flagstaff was erected on a cliff 150 feet above the sea. and the No Man's Land was now a portion of British soil. Even then, it was reported, small coconut palms had mado their appearance on the baby island. A year later a vessel visited the place and found nothing but. a low-lying reef against which the sea incessantly. The high cliff and the Egoria's flagstaff had disappeared. From that 'time on for two years a variety of conflicting descriptions of the island came from the puzzled captains of Island trading vessels, some reporting cliffs and others mere reefs and shoals.

In 1892 the French warship Duchaffault visited Falcon Shoal and found that it had grown into an island 27fti high, with a growth of green bushes and ferns. Tho captain of the cruiser hoisted the French flag, apparently ignorant, of tho fact that the green corner was already British territory. Then, in 1894 or 1895, after the Auckland three-masted schooner Ysabelj Captain Ross, had reported that "Falcon Island now has the appearance of a low streak or reef, and is dangerous to navigation, as it cannot be seen on a dark night,," the Government of Tonga had its turn at annexation. A schooner was dispatched to tho place and, finding that it was stall there, took possession of the freak island in the name of King George of Tonga. Some coconut trees were planted and a hut wa-s built on the southern end of 'the islet, which was described as a mass of rocks, shells and curious red clay—in fact, a bit of the "ultimate slimo" uncouthly thrust up into daylight. The highest part of the island was now found to be fifty feet above the sea, and the land had steep, bold sides, going down into deep water. Tho brown monarch of Tonga gave it a name, to wit, " Kehekehe-Fefine," a feminine appellation apparently considered in keeping with the variable character of this slice of Ruaimoko's ground. This clearly settled tho island for a while; it sank under the weight of its repeated flag-hoistings and christenings, and the waters closed over it.q head. But it reappeared a few years later, and it was in its fifteenth or sixteenth year of alternate comings and goings when I watched its breakers curling white that tropic moonlight night. For some years afterwards it was marked on such charts as were revised as a large and dangerous reef, until a little less than four years ago the captain of the German cruiser Cormoran—which only recently was blown up by tho crew at Guam, to forestall the Americans - reported on arrival at Sydney from Samoa, that it. had vanished altogether. And yet I am not altogether satisfied that Kehe-kehe-Feline has gone for good. It, may even be that the great earthquakes now reported from the islands have once more loosened the erratic lady's moorings and set her bobbing her troublesome head, all smoking and bubbling above the Tonga Seas.

LETE'S SMOKING PEAK

On the cruise, the day after passing .what, was left of Falcon Island, we had a close view of two of the principal active volcanoes in the Tongas. The morning showed us a, lofty island on ouft starboard hand, three or four mijes away. It went swelling up from a widespread circular base, where the rollers smashed themselves into foam against the lava reefs, up for perhaps twelve or fifteen hundred feet into as perfect a cone as Mount Egmont--more perfect indeed, for we could detect, no break in tho symmetrical evenness of its contour. It was, of course, but an F-gmqnt in miniature; it swept up like Rangitoto, and if those, who know that, dark old dead volcano of lava and pohutakawa, bushes at Auckland's liartour gateway can picture to themselves the summit produced until it forms hi: absolute pinnacle, with just, a curl of yellowish vapour issuing from a hidden crater ao the very top, they will have a fairly accurate impression of Lete. At our distance we could not make out the details of vegetation, but wc> could see that from ocean to summit, the island densely clothed in a garment of trees and foliage, and we wondered whether it were inhabited, and if so. what manner of life was led by the lonely community that peopled its palm-studded shores. THR ISLAND OF " BITTER "WATER-S."

Lete, sleeping there in its fairy liaza of smoky blue, only tho faiixti wisp of steam from its peak to toll of its lierv heart, was a place inviting exploration. But I cannot say tha,t any of us expressed any burning desire to lower away and land on tho next island we passed. , This was Fa.nua-.Lai, or Ainagura; it lay 011 our port hand, and wo passed within five miles or so of its storm-rent cliffs. Fanua-J.<ai, meaning Big Island" (in Maori " Wheuuaraiii") is its Tongan name; tho alias comes from a.n old Spanish navigator who, on landing there to replenish his water casks, found that its waters werenit tor and unclrinkable. Indeed, regarding the repellant spot from tho deck of our ship, we could hardly conceive of any good thing coming out of F.anua-Lai. It rose, .1 should say, six hundred feet above the pale, blue and comparatively shallow sea that spread soft arms about its unsightly precipices. Everywhere* it was scarred" and blackened by the volcanic fires; it looked as if whole cliffsides had blown of? or blown up, and it was pitted with steam craters, from which jets of vapour were rising. So far as we could discover, with our glasses, tho heajt of the island wa« occupied by a vast crater; from the eastern side of its central depression a largo column of steam was ascending, blown off to leeward by tho strong trade before it

reached a great height. It was as barren a spot—barren not alone with the bare.iess of ?i wilderness, but blasted by the unresting forces of the underworld—as ever I had set eyes on; u savage desert of a place, mado more savage by its hint, of fearful life and by its contrast with the soft-tinted waters that swept around its cragiry lava butt. Amagura's history is consistently a troubled one. It is said that ifc was inhabited until seventy years ago, when it was devastated by a groat eruption, dust from which fell at Vavau, to t'no south, and on ships hundreds of miles Mvay. We could imagine that such a convulsion- would bo fruitful of such horrors as those that a few years ago reduced Ambrym Island, in the New Hebrides, to a desolation of lava flows and volcanic ash, scalding the terrified

natives even as they swam to their canoes, and making the solid earth to dance, as an Ambrym Kanaka described it.

To For', which has been called the lighthouse of the Tonga Seas, we did not sight closely; we had already passed it in the night, west of Han/pai. Descriptions by those, who have landed on it show it to be a mere shell, rising into a. mountain of 2000 feci, with a fresh-water lake in its heart, and a

crater which ejects rivers of glowing melted basalt—a true lava volcano.

NFUA-FOOU

An even more curious place lay off below the horizon on the port hand as we steamed out of the Tonga Seas towards Samoa Aiua-toou, the island of fearfully jnsrged lava cliffs, where, the natives'scarcely dare, launch canoes, so heavy is the surf, but swim out. boldly tishinsr, for hours at a, time, taking hut a piece of timber to which to fasten their catch. If any people deserve to be described as living between the devil and the deep sea, it is these isolated inlanders of Niun-foou. There are about 1200 native?, of Tongan breed, and two or three white traders, who buy copra from the islanders. An amateur photograph sent me by one of the whites shows a tremendous smother -n surf along the iron cliffs of Angaba, on the weather side* of the island. Here a few years ago tho whole island threatened either to go up in flames or to sink to tho sea bottom. In October, 1912. there was a. terrific outburst- from fully tinny points of eruption, extending for move than four miles, between the shoro and the lake which occupies the. ancient central crater. Ninn-foou, according to the old traders, was previously in eruption in IRPO, simultaneously with or just after tho memorable bursting out of our Tarawera.

These are. some of the queer places of lava, rock and soft waving palms ill at break the warm, blue seas up Tonga, way, and that_jyve us some index to the even more amazing spots which make the sea-floor a region of boil and bubble and earthquake. It was with something like relief that we left the last of the smoking places of the Friendly archipelago astern and felt the full heave of tho grand cobalt-tinted ocean under us again, the trade wind drumming in our pails. The chart showed us here, well clear of the Tongas. 2600 fathoms of water beneath our keel. But not long now were we before we sighted another and greater island, a misty blue whaleback, rising, as the chart told, into a summit. 4000 feet, above the sea. That- summit. held itself aloof from us in an impervious blanket of sun-dyed mist a s we approached it.

Alert? all (hp. lino of the reef the clamorous

surges ran. And the clouds we.ro, piled on tho top of ih« island mountain-high. A mountain'- throned on mountain. ft was the high land of Savaii, the largest of the Samoa group. And even there, somewhere under that gorgeous blanketing of sunset, cumulus, we, remembered there was the greatest of all Ruaimoko's volcanic forges in midPacific, the lava flow of the Mountain of Fire, equalled only by the wonderful burning lake of Kilaiira, (wo thousand miles away across the Equator.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS19170714.2.6

Bibliographic details

A VOLCANO FACTORY., Star, Issue 12059, 14 July 1917

Word Count
3,134

A VOLCANO FACTORY. Star, Issue 12059, 14 July 1917

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