1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Samoa
SAMOA, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, about 150 m. N. of Tonga and nearly midway between the New Hebrides and Tahiti, 1600 m. from Auckland (New Zealand), 2410 from Sydney and 4200 from San Francisco. (For Map, see Pacific Ocean.) It consists of 14 islands forming a slightly curved chain from W. by N. to E. by S., between 13° 30' and 14° 30' S., 168° and 173° W. as follows: Savaii, Manono, Apolima, Upolu, Fanuatapu, Manua, Nuutele and Nuulua, belonging to Germany, and Tutuila, Anua, Ofu, Olosenga, Tau and Rose, belonging to the United States of America. The principal of these are Savaii (area, 660 sq. m., pop. 13,200), Upolu (340 sq. m., pop. 18,400), Tutuila (54 sq. m., pop. 3800), and the Manua group, which includes Tau with Ofu and Olosenga (25 sq. m., pop. 2000). Some of the smaller islands are also thickly populated, so that the total population is about 39,000, whites numbering about 500. With the exception of Rose Island, which is an uninhabited coral islet 70 m. E. of its nearest neighbour, and therefore scarcely belongs geographically to the group, all the islands are considerably elevated, with several extinct or quiescent craters rising from 2000 ft. in Upolu to 4000 (Mua) in Savaii. Although there are no active cones, Upolu has in comparatively recent times been subject to volcanic disturbances, and according to a local tradition, outbreaks must have occurred in the 17th or 18th century. In 1866 a submarine volcano near the islet of Olosenga was the scene of a violent commotion, discharging rocks and mud to a height of 2000 ft. Earthquakes are not uncommon and sometimes severe. Coral reefs protect the coasts in many parts; they are frequently interrupted, but the passages through them are often difficult of navigation. The whole group is abundantly watered, and the igneous soil is marvellously fertile. The scenery of the islands is extremely beautiful. Upolu is long and narrow; it has a backbone of mountains whose flanks are scored with lovely valleys, at the foot of which are flat cultivable tracts. Of its harbours Apia and Saluafata, both on the N. coast, are most important. Mount Vaea, which overlooks Apia and Vailima, the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, is his burial-place and bears a monument to his memory. Tutuila, the principal island belonging to the United States, resembles Upolu, and has on its S. side the harbour of Pago Pago or Pango Pango, the finest in the group.
Climate, Flora, Fauna. — The climate is moist and sometimes oppressively hot, though pleasant on the whole. A fine season extends from April to September; a wet season from October to March. The temperature is equable at Apia the mean annual temperature is 78° F., the warmest month being December (80°) and the coldest July (75°-76°). The prevalent winds, which temper the heat, are the S.E. trades, but W. winds supervene from January to March. The archipelago lies in the track of the fierce hurricanes which occur usually in this period. On the 16th of March 1889 the heavy tidal waves created havoc in the harbour of Apia. The American warship “Nipsic” was cast upon the beach, but was afterwards floated and saved. Two other United States warships, “Trenton” and “Vandalia,” were beaten to pieces on the coral reef; and the German warships “Olga” and “Eber” were wrecked with great loss of life. The British warship “Calliope” (Captain Pearson) was in the harbour, but succeeded in getting up steam and, standing out to sea, escaped destruction. In A Footnote to History R. L. Stevenson vividly describes the heroism of the captain and crew.
The Samoan forests are remarkable for the size and variety of their trees, and the luxuriance and beauty of tree-ferns, creepers and parasites. The coco-nut palm and bread-fruit are of peculiar value to the inhabitants; there are sixteen varieties of the one, and twenty of the other. Hand timber trees, of use in boat-building, &c., are especially characteristic of Savaii.
Of the extremely limited Samoan fauna, consisting mainly of an indigenous rat, four species of snakes and a few birds, the most interesting member is the Didunculus strigirostris, a ground pigeon of iridescent greenish-black and bright chestnut plumage, which forms a link between the extinct dodo and the living African Treroninae.
Natives. — The Samoans are pure Polynesians, and according to the traditions of many Polynesian peoples Savaii was the centre of dispersion of the race over the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to New Zealand. Apart from tradition, Samoan is the most archaic of all the Polynesian tongues, and still preserves the organic letter s, which becomes h or disappears in nearly all the other archipelagos. Thus the term Savaii itself, originally Savaiki, is supposed to have been carried by the Samoan wanderers over the ocean to Tahiti, New Zealand, the Marquesas and Sandwich groups, where it still survives in such variant forms as Havaii, Hawaiki, Havaiki and Hawaii. In any case, the Samoans are the most perfect type of Polynesians, of a light brown colour, splendid physique, and handsome regular features, with an average height of 5 ft. 10 in. Their mental and social standard is high among Pacific peoples; they are simple, honourable, generous and hospitable, but brave fighters. Their idolatry (polytheistic) was unaccompanied by human sacrifice. The dead were buried, and their spirits believed to travel to a world entered by a pool at the western extremity of Savaii. They have become mainly Protestants, Catholics or Mormons, but retain many superstitions connected with their native religion. The women and children are well treated. A youth is not regarded as eligible to marry till tattooed from the hips to the knees. The principal foods of the Samoans are vegetables, coco-nut, bread-fruit, fish and pork. They are famous as sailors and boat-builders. The Samoan language is soft and liquid in pronunciation, and has been called “the Italian of the Pacific.” It is difficult to learn thoroughly, owing to its many inflexions and accents, and its being largely a language of idioms. (See also Polynesia.)
Administration and Trade. — The German islands form a crown colony. There is an imperial governor, having under him a native high chief assisted by a native council; and there are both German and native judges and magistrates. The United States, on assuming sovereignty over Tutuila and the islands E. of it in 1900, with the written consent of the native chiefs, appointed a naval governor. Cultivation has been extended under European and American rule, and in 1904 the exports from the German islands had reached a value of £83,750, and those from the American islands of £4200. Copra and cocoa beans are the chief articles of export.
History. — It is generally considered that the Manua group was sighted by the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen in 1722, and named by him the Baaumann islands after the captain of one of his ships. Louis de Bougainville obtained a fuller acquaintance with the archipelago in 1768, and called them the Navigators' Islands (Îles des Navigateurs). This name is still used. La Pérouse was among the islands in 1787, and on Tutuila lost some of his crew in a conflict with some natives of Upolu visiting the island. Subsequent explorers were Captain Edwards of the “Pandora” in 1791, and Otto von Kotzebue in 1824. In 1830 the respected missionary John Williams paid his first visit to Samoa. Surveys of the archipelago were made by the American explorer Charles Wilkes. The islands, especially Upolu, now began to attract American and European (mostly German) capitalists, and the Hamburg firm of J. C. Godeffroy & Son developed the trade of the island. Meanwhile a series of petty civil wars greatly interfered with the prosperity of the native population, who grouped themselves into two opposing political parties. Americans and Europeans began to discuss the question of annexation, recognizing the importance of the geographical position of the islands. In 1877 the American consul hoisted his country's flag, but the action was repudiated by his government, which, however, in 1878 obtained Pago Pago as a coaling station and made a trading treaty with the natives. In 1879 Germany obtained the harbour of Saluafata. Great Britain followed suit, but under a political arrangement between the powers no single power was to appropriate the islands. But in 1887 and 1888 civil war prevailed on the question of the succession to the native kingship, the Germans supporting Tamasese, and the British and American residents supporting Malietoa. After the latter had been deported by the Germans, the British and American support was transferred to his successor, Mataafa. In the course of the fighting which ensued some fifty German sailors and marines were killed or wounded by the adherents of Mataafa. A conference between the three powers was thereupon held at Berlin, and a treaty was executed by those powers and by Samoa, on the 14th of June 1889, by virtue of which the independence and autonomy of the islands were guaranteed, Malietoa was restored as king, and the three powers constituted themselves practically a protectorate over Samoa, and provided a chief justice and a president of the municipality of Apia, to be appointed by them, to aid in carrying out the provisions of the treaty. The government was administered under this treaty, but with considerable friction, until the end of 1898, when, upon the death of Malietoa, two rival candidates for the throne again appeared, and the chief justice selected by the three powers decided against the claims of Mataafa, and in favour of a boy, Malietoa Tanu, a relative of the deceased Malietoa. Civil war immediately ensued, in which several American and British officers and sailors were killed by the natives, the Germans upholding the claims of Mataafa, and the British and Americans supporting the rival candidate. The three powers thereupon sent a commission to Samoa to investigate and adjust the difficulties. The situation, however, was found to be so complicated and embarrassing that, early in 1900, the so-called Berlin treaty was abrogated, Great Britain withdrew her claims to any portion of the islands and received compensation from Germany by concessions in other parts of the world, and the United States withdrew from all the islands W. of Tutuila. In 1902 the king of Sweden, as arbitrator under a convention signed at Washington in 1899, decided that Great Britain and the United States were liable for injuries due to action taken by their representatives during the military operations of 1899.
See Robert Louis Stevenson, A Footnote to History (London, 1892), and Vailima Letters (London, 1895); G. Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before (London, 1884); W. B. Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa (London, 1887); I. B. Stair, Old Samoa (London, 1897); Mary S. Boyd, Our Stolen Summer (London, 1900); L. P. Churchill, Samoa 'Uma (London, 1902); Journal des museums Godeffroy (Hamburg, 1871-1874); G. Kurze, Samoa, das Land, die Leute und die Mission (Berlin, 1899); O. Ehlers, Samoa, die Perle der Südsee (Berlin, 1900); F. Reinecke, Samoa (Berlin, 1901); A. Kramer, Die Samoa Inseln (Stuttgart, 1902 seq.); parliamentary papers, Correspondence respecting the Affairs of Samoa (London, 1899, &c.), and 1902 (Samoa, Cd. 1083) for the arbitration of the king of Sweden.