A Cruise In The Islands: Tonga, Samoa, Fiji
From Vavau the course of the steamer is still N.E. for a distance of 345 miles to the Samoa, or Navigator, Group, this last being the name given to the islands by their discoverer, Bougainville, from the fact that he found natives of the group expertly sailing their canoes far out at sea. The Samoa Group, whose larger axis runs east and west, lies between 169deg. 24min. and 172deg. 50min. west longitude, and between 13deg. 30min. and 14deg. 30min. south latitude. It consists of ten inhabited islands, of which the chief are:—Savaii, 700 square miles; Upolu, 560 square miles; Tutuila, 240 square miles; Manu'a, 100 square miles; Olosenga, 24 square miles; Of'u, 10 square miles; Manono, 9 square miles; and Apolima, 7 square miles. The three largest of the group, Savaii, Upolu, and Tutuila lie in a line west and east, Upolu being the centre island, separated from Savaii to the west by five miles of sea, and from Tutuila to the east by a stretch of forty miles. Savaii, the most westerly and the largest of the group, is a rhomboid-shaped island, measuring some forty miles from east to west, and fifteen across from north to south. The interior, consisting of three parallel ranges of wooded mountains, is comparatively unknown. The highest peak, in the middle of the island, is some 4000 feet high, and is generally capped with clouds. Savaii, like the other islands of the group, is fringed along a considerable part of the shore with coral reef; which, however, breaks off towards the south and west, where the coast presents a frowning, iron-bound front of black lava cliffs. There are few good landing places in Savaii; the best harbour being that of Matautu, on the north coast. The Natives, said to number one-third of the population of the whole group, live mostly on the page 14 flat land near the coast, where they cultivate the usual fruits and vegetables—coco-nuts, bananas, oranges, yams, dalo, and so on. Only one town exists in the interior, Palapala, some six miles from the sea. Those who can stay long enough in Samoa to visit by boat the various Native villages in Savaii, will be able to see Samoan life of a more primitive type than can be seen in Apia.
Upolu, though not the largest, is the most important island of the Samoan group. It is about forty miles from east to west, with an average breadth from north to south of ten miles. The Union Company's steamers, in making Apia from Tonga, pass round the eastern end of Upolu, and in leaving Upolu for Fiji, they round the western end, thus affording passengers an excellent opportunity of seeing the bold shores of the island, which present to the lover of bold scenery one prolonged shifting scene of exquisite beauty. In rounding the eastern end of Upolu, the steamer passes close to two lovely island-rocks, covered with vegetation of the most varied green. They are evidently the half-craters of small volcanoes, and in one of them the semicircular shape of the volcanic cup is still very perfect. The one island (200ft.) is named Nuutele, and the other (120ft.) Nuulua.
From the deck of the vessel, if the weather is clear and the steamer keeps pretty close to the land, one catches charming glimpses of the bold coast scenery as far west as Falifa, where the reefs commence and where the steamer has to stand out for a few miles before entering Apia harbour. On this part of the coast, in Fangaloa harbour, is the Native town of Lona, at the foot of a precipice 300 to 500 feet high, down the sides of which fall five of the finest waterfalls in the island. A further run of five miles brings the steamer to another beautiful harbour containing one of the most picturesque water-falls in the world, where the water descends sheer over the cliff into an arm of the sea. In clear weather it is possible for a steamer to go within 200 yards of the fall, which may be viewed from the deck of the vessel.
Visitors have been variously impressed with the har- page 15 bour of Apia, some finding it more beautiful than the Bay of Naples, others being less impressed by its beauty than by the power of the swell that heaves into it from the Pacific, by the restless snarling of its cruel reefs, and by the general insecurity of its anchorage.
The bay of Apia is shaped like a half-moon, having Mulinuu point for the western, and Matautu point for the eastern horn of the crescent. The distance of the chord from horn to horn is about two miles. Right and left from the respective horns of the crescent the reef stretches towards the middle point of the chord, stopping short however on each side in a sheer submarine wall of coral, and leaving in the middle, opposite the point where the Mulivai river enters the bay, a wedge-shaped space of water deep enough to harbour the largest vessels. In ordinary weather the bay gives as secure a harbourage as a mere roadstead can give: but in anything like hurricane weather the danger to all kinds of shipping is considerable.
Whatever may be thought or said about the beauty of Apia harbour, there can be only one opinion of the magnificent view of Upolu as seen from the deck of a steamer entering the bay. Round the crescent of the foreshore, from Matautu Point to Mulinuu, runs the one street of the town of Apia—a long line of nondescript buildings, mostly occupied by the business part of the white population. The most conspicuous building is perhaps the Tivoli Hotel; but the Roman Catholic Church, the old mission house, and the German Consulate are also noticeable. Behind the single street of European houses are the picturesque oval huts of the Natives, scattered amongst their plantations of coco-nut, banana, and breadfruit trees. These are built and shaped much like the Tongan houses, except that they are generally open at the sides, though in cold or wet weather they can be closed with mats. The floor also of a Samoan house is cleaner than that of a Tongan house, being formed of a thick layer of waterworn pebbles, on which the mats are spread. Immediately behind the flat space on which Apia is built the island begins to rise into the central range—not a lofty range compared with the page 16 mountain chains of other countries, but magnificently buttressed and ridged with spurs, and clothed to the crest with a dense vegetation. The gleam of a distant waterfall, the play of sun and shadow on the wooded slopes, and the procession of vapoury clouds that rise out of the valleys and curl about the crests of the range, give that sense of life and motion necessary to relieve the sombre grandeur of the wooded hills.
Upolu might fitly be called "The Island of Waterfalls," so numerous are the cascades and cataracts to be seen in various directions. Even in the immediate neighbourhood of Apia there are several waterfalls worth a visit. Within ten minutes' walk of the Tivoli Hotel is the pretty fall and pool of Malifa, which serves as a natural swimming-bath for the whole population. Three-quarters of a mile further up is the larger waterfall of Gangalupe; and a mile higher still, the beautiful cataract of Papaloloa, or the "Long Rock." There is also a waterfall worth visiting on the property of the London Missionary Society, near to the Papauta school. Just beyond it the visitor comes upon Vailima, the home of the late Robert Louis Stevenson. To visit these various waterfalls would provide ample amusement for one day.
Perhaps the lion of Samoa pur excellence is Papaseea, or the "Sliding Rock," which lies some six miles up in the bush behind the town. The proper way to visit Papaseea is to form a picnic party, including a few Natives to "shoot the fall." The example of the Natives is sure, however, to be followed by the more venturesome visitors, who, having once tasted the fearful joy of shooting like lightning down the inclined plane of the rock into the pool below, will find it difficult to tear themselves away from the fascinating sport. Apart, however, from the pleasure of this novel "toboggan," the ride to Papaseea is well repaid by the natural beauty of the scenery round the falls.
No visitor should leave Apia without seeing something of the German plantations; for nowhere probably in the world can the coco-nut palm he seen to such advantage as here. A forenoon may, for instance, be delightfully spent in a visit to the extensive Vailele Estate. On a fresh, breezy morning a drive through its shady and grassy palm-avenues is an experience not readily forgotten. In addition to the vast coco-nut groves, planted and carefully tended by the Germans, there are promising young plantations of cacao, and further up the hills extensive plantations of coffee. But besides these trees of economic value, there are other beautiful and remarkable trees to be seen in various positions along the road—the mango, with its dense head of foliage, the bread-fruit tree laden with its heavy, cone-like fruit, the native chestnut, the grotesque screw pine, the vi tree, and the papaw, or, as it is more frequently called, the mummy apple.
In driving over the Vailele plantation, now the embodiment of prosperous peace, you have some difficulty in believing that so deadly a struggle took place here only a few years ago. Yet you pass over the battlefield of Fangalii. The entrenchments of Mataafa in the neighbourhood are still well in evidence. The carriage-way runs within a few yards of the house where the sailor-lads of the Olga made their last stand. By rising in your trap and reaching out your hand, you may even thrust your finger into the holes made by Samoan bullets in the trunks of the coco-nut trees. The brave German lads who thus miserably perished because "someone had blundered" lie buried on the headland of Mulinuu, in a carefully kept enclosure, placed, by the irony of circumstances, under the eaves of the house where resides their old enemy, the now restored Malietoa.
More memorable even than the battle of Fangalii, and more costly in human life, was the scene that took place in the harbour of Apia on the sixteenth and seventeenth days of March, 1889, when of seven men-of-war then riding at anchor in the bay, six were destroyed by a hurricane. Of these warships, three were American—the Nipsic, the Vandalia, and the Trenton, this last carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Kimberley; three were German—the Adler, the Eber, and the Olga; one was British—the Calliope : commander, Captain Kane. About midnight on the fifteenth, the storm broke forth in its full fury. By the morning the Eber had dashed herself against the reef, and sunk in deep water; only four escaping alive out of her complement of eighty men. About eight o'clock in the morning, the Adler was lifted bodily on a wave, and flung keel up, on the Mulinuu reef. The Calliope still steamed to her moorings in the bay, in imminent danger of collision—on the one side with the Olga, on the other with the Vandalia. It was then that page 20 Captain Kane took bis fate in bis hands, and, clearing the German vessels, achieved the memorable feat of steaming his ship out of the bay in the teeth of the hurricane. The flagship Trenton, with fires extinguished, lay in the entrance—a helpless hulk, doomed to certain destruction, and presenting a dangerous obstacle to the safe exit of the English man-of-war. But this danger also Kane successfully negotiated; and, as the Calliope picked her passage between the Trenton and the reef, a ringing cheer, led by the American admiral himself, rose from the deck of the sinking ship. The Nipsic had run ashore early in the day, and had succeeded in beaching herself on the sand. Thinking to follow the example of the Nipsic, the Vandalia steered for the beach, but struck the reef and began to settle, her crew taking refuge in the rigging. Upon the Vandalia, thus helpless, drifted the equally helpless Trenton, and both vessels settled down together; whilst the Olga, disabled by collision with the Trenton, ran upon the beach at Matautu.
The Samoans behaved on this occasion with a noble courage. Led by their Chief, Seumanutafa, they were indefatigable in their efforts to save life, and this though many of those whose lives were in danger were their declared enemies. But though they succeeded in saving many lives, many lives were nevertheless lost; and the disastrous hurricane of 1889 is an incident of Samoan history not likely ever to be forgotten. The United States, in gratitude for the assistance lent by the Samoans, on this occasion, to American sailors, sent to Seumanutafa the gift of a handsome boat, besides watches, rings, and other presents for the Samoans who had assisted.
The visitor to Samoa may still see melancholy evidence of the hurricane of March, 1889, in the wreck of the Adler, which lies high upon the reef where the waves left her. Everything of value has been stripped from the old war-ship; but there her gaunt skeleton lies, and will lie as long as the rivets hold; and now the harbour lights of Apia shine through her ribs.
A pleasant walk may be taken along the shores of the bay to the village of Pango at its head, where various interesting features of Native life may be observed. At Pango, as elsewhere in the islands, various missions have been established; and, amongst others, two Mormon apostles have settled here, and gained a following of a few disciples.
The chief religious bodies in Samoa are the Roman Catholics and the London Missionary Society, each body having, besides its churches, excellent schools and colleges. The Marist Brothers have established a common school, and a college for boys; and there is a convent school, efficiently taught by nuns. The London Missionary Society has also its schools and colleges : a school for boys in Apia, a college for students at Malua, to the west of Mulinuu, and a Normal school situated some miles further west still, at Le Ulumoega. The Wesleyans are also represented by establishments at Apia, and at Matautu in Savaii. Besides these there is a high-school for girls at Papauta, close to Apia.
If the weather has been anything like kind, it is with regret that the visitor to Samoa will see the last green outline of its shores vanish from his sight. Some twenty-four hours after he has seen the last of Samoa his eyes will be refreshed with the sight of the island of Niou-foou—an outlier of the kingdom of Tonga. This island is the only habitat of the Malau (Megapudius Pritchardi), a bird remarkable for laying an egg large out of all proportion to its body. Niou-foou has also a reputation for the enormous size of its coco-nuts.
Eighteen hours' more sailing and the steamer comes in sight of the Lau islands, the most easterly of the Fiji group, and during the next sixteen hours she is steaming past islands of all shapes and sizes until she enters the harbour of Suva, the capital of Fiji.