Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Navigators' Islands

See also Samoan Islands on Wikipedia, the 11th edition, and the disclaimer.

NAVIGATORS' ISLANDS, or Samoa, a group in the southern Pacific, 420 miles north-east of the Fiji Islands, lying between 13° 30' and 14° 20' S. lat., and between 169° and 173° W. long. It numbers in all thirteen islands, but most of these are little more than barren rocks, and three only—Sawaii (Pola), Upolu (Oyalava), and Tutuila (Manna)—are large enough to be of any importance. Sawaii (700 square miles) is almost entirely occupied by lofty and barren mountains. It has no rivers or streams, the water filtering away through the porous soil; and there is but one harbour. Upolu (550 square miles) is also mountainous, but it is well-wooded and fertile, and possesses several considerable streams. Apia, the chief town, lies at the head of an oval bay on the north coast. Since 1879 it has been under a municipality directed by the consuls of Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Tutuila (55 square miles, 17 miles long and 5 broad) is almost cut in two by the harbour of Pago-pago (Pango-pango), one of the best in the South Pacific. In general character the island is like Upolu. The Samoans are physically a fine race of men, and those on Upolu are all nominally Christian; but they discover a great lack of industry and perseverance. Both Upolu and to some extent Tutuila have attracted a considerable number of American and European (mostly German) capitalists, and a large portion of the land has passed into the hands of foreign residents (who number about three hundred). The bulk of the foreign trade belongs to the successors of the famous Hamburg firm of J. C. Godeffroy & Son. Cotton, cocoa-nuts, and breadfruit are cultivated for export, and maize, sugar, coffee, &c., for local consumption. Copra or cobra (i.e., dried cocoa-nuts) is the most important article of trade. In 1881 the planters had about 1800 labourers from the Line Islands, New Britain, New Hebrides, &c., the Samoans being too independent to hire themselves out. A series of petty wars, continued with little intermission from 1868, has greatly interfered with the prosperity of the native population, whose numbers have decreased from 56,600 in 1840 to 35,000 in 1872 and 30,000 in 1880.

The Samoan group are possibly the Baumann's Islands of the Dutchman Roggeveen (1722); but it was Bougainville who made them definitely known and who called them Îles des Navigateurs, owing to the skill with which the natives managed their canoes. At Asu or Massacre Bay La Pérouse lost two of his assistants—De Lamanon and De Langle—and a boat's crew. Christianity was introduced by John Williams in 1830.

See Meade, New Zealand and the South Sea Islands (1870), which has views of Pango-Pango and Apia; Dr Forbes in Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc., 1877; Journal des Museums Godeffroy, Hamburg, 1871-74.