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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/499

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477
LIFE IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS.

islands whence King Solomon got his gold, might be induced to colonize them. There are seven principal islands and numerous smaller ones. The total land area of the group I estimate at fifteen thousand square miles, or considerably more than twice the area of Wales. They present evidences of recent volcanic activity. The island of Savo was an active volcano at the time the Spaniards discovered the group in 1567. There is an active volcano near the center of the island of Bougainville; hot springs and sulphur are found at Savo, Simbo, and Vella Lavella, while Kulambangara is an extinct volcano. During my residence of six weeks at Alu I experienced frequent shocks of earthquake, but of no great violence. The mountains of Bougainville rise to a height of 10,000 feet, and those of the other large islands to from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, except on Guadalcanar, where they reach an elevation of 8,000 feet. I made three attempts to reach the interior of this island, but was prevented by the hostility of the mountain tribes and the timidity of my guides. The highest point which I attained on Guadalcanar was 1,140 feet. Tin and copper have been found in small quantities on the island of San Cristoval, while I myself discovered copper on the island of Guadalcanar, and from the northwest end of the island of Malayta I obtained a mineral from the natives which proves to be iron pyrites. The people told me they used it for staining their teeth. The coast natives buy it from the bushmen in bamboos, at the fair that takes place on the coast every two or three days. The islands are for the most part clothed from the coast to the mountain-tops with the densest tropical forest, in which the immense ficus-trees, of several species, are often conspicuous objects, their trunks covered with creepers and ferns; the undergrowth consisting of small palms of many species, among which and over the trees the immensely long rattans or climbing canes twine in and out in inextricable confusion. In the neighborhood of native villages the beach will be found fringed with cocoanut palms, but my observation tends to prove that the cocoanut rarely grows unless planted. I know, however, that this is opposed to the opinions of some.

[Mr. Woodford made two or three visits to the Solomon Islands, by means of the schooners engaged in recruiting boys to work upon the plantations at Fiji, and returning them to their homes at the expiration of their terms of service; and by trading-vessels from Sydney. It is not necessary to follow the author in the details of his journeying from place to place, and of bargainings with the natives. We present the more striking incidents of life in this region.]

From the trading station at Rubiana, which is the center of the head-hunting district, our first visit was to a small island occupied by another trader. This island he is allowed to occupy on suffer-