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A Cruise In The Islands: Tonga, Samoa, Fiji


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The idea of a cruise among the South Sea Islands appeals strongly to the imagination of most people. Visions pass before us of palm trees, coco-nut groves, tropical fruits, coral reefs, primitive modes of life, picturesque natives, and as we contemplate the possibility of seeing all these in reality, the prospect grows strangely fascinating. The islands of the Pacific are so numerous that they have been called the "Milky Way of the Ocean," and until late years the only means of visiting them were those afforded by schooners and other small vessels trading there, sometimes for good, and sometimes for evil purposes. Now the numerous services of the Union Steam Ship Company afford opportunities of visiting the most interesting of the groups all the year round, and with as much comfort and at almost as little expense as an ordinary intercolonial trip. The cruise described in the following pages is one of the Company's regular services, and it can be varied or extended by making use of other of the Company's steamers that touch at different points of the route described. In Fiji one of the Company's steamers is exclusively employed travelling between various islands of the group.

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There are two seasons in the South Sea Islands—the hot and rainy season lasting from October to May, and the dry season from May to October. The climate of the Islands is healthy and pleasant, and the heat much less than in many other tropical countries. The dry season is the best time to visit the Islands, and the months of June, July, and August are the best of the six. In nearly all the ports visited by the steamers there are good wharves, so that passengers are saved the discomfort of landing in boats or canoes. There is also fair hotel accommodation for a limited number of visitors, and in the principal ports horses can be hired for inland journeys, while comfortable arrangements can be made for visiting by boat places on the coast.

In regard to the kind of dress most suitable for wear in the Islands, it is important that all garments should be of light and cool material, and that those worn next the skin should be to some extent absorbent. The changes of temperature in the Islands are not so frequent and trying as those experienced in colder latitudes, but nevertheless it is wise to wear next the skin a thin silk or woollen singlet. The regulation wear for men is white drill. A cummerbund of silk or woollen material is substituted for the waistcoat of temperate climates, and is thought to be a necessary protection to the loins against changes of temperature. Those, however, who move about much from place to place, and who have to get through much walking or riding, will find the flannel shirt and flannel suit the most healthful, comfortable, and con- page v venient form of dress. It is important that the headgear should be light and cool, and that it should serve effectually to protect the head against the danger of sunstroke. The best form of hat is perhaps the light unlined cork helmet; the straw hat is also much used. The most comfortable shoes are those of white canvas with leather soles. Reefing shoes ought to have gutta percha soles to secure the wearer against slipping.

Collectors who desire to collect plants in the Islands will find some difficulty in drying their specimens and in protecting them from the mould and mildew that are so readily generated in a warm and moist climate. Dipping the specimens in a solution of corrosive sublimate and alcohol will be found an effective protection.

There are certain peculiarities of Samoan and Fijian spelling which, in this little book, it has been thought well to avoid, for the comfort of those unfamiliar with the orthography of the Islands. The Samoan and Fijian "g" has the phonetic value of our "ng"; the Fijian "b" is "mb"; "c" is "th"; and "d" is "nd." Thus, Pago-Pago is pronounced "Pango-Pango," and is here so written; Mago is "Mango"; Bau is "Mbau"; Cakobau is "Thakombau"; Kadavu is "Kandavu," and so on.

Tonga is a kingdom, of which the present king is George II. Great Britain, Germany, and the United States are represented by Consuls. Gold page vi and silver coins of these three countries are legal tender.

Samoa is also a kingdom, the present ruler being Malietoa Luapepa. Great Britain, Germany, and the United States are represented by Consuls. American coinage is the standard of exchange. United States, English, and German coins are exclusively in use.

Fiji is a British Crown Colony, the affairs of which are administered by a Governor and Executive Council. The present Governor is Sir John Bates Thurston, K.C.M.G. The coinage is that of the United Kingdom.

Visitors to the Islands will do well to remember that the sale or gift of alcoholic liquors to natives is strictly prohibited, and the offence punishable by a heavy fine or by imprisonment. A present of cigars or cigarettes is a sure road to a native's favour, and there is no law against making such a gift.

The illustrations are taken from photographs. Where possible the obligation to the artist is acknowledged.

Dunedin, May 31st, 1895.