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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/710

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

shocks of a severe earthquake attended by a tidal wave; after which no earthquakes occurred till April, 1884.

Every island belonging to the group is covered, down to the water's edge, with dense tropical jungle, with gigantic creepers winding from one tree to another so as to form a close network. These forests contain choice kinds of timber, the inducements offered by which have provoked the establishment of the present German colony. The southwest monsoon, which blows during our winter months, brings abundant rains; and the occasional showers of April, with the heavy dews of June, July, and August, keep the ground moist and afford ample nourishment to vegetation. In October and November, the hottest months, vegetation suffers from drought. The rain percolates through the soil quickly to the coral. The traveler will, therefore, meet with only a few pieces of marshy soil on the islands; but he is astonished at the luxuriant, growth of vegetation, at the gigantic and stately trees spreading their roots to seek a firm hold around the coral, out of whose porous texture their fibers obtain nourishment; and no place on the group is entirely barren and destitute of vegetation.

The supply of fresh water is very unevenly distributed, and there are many villages where none is obtainable, and the inhabitants have to go a long distance for it. Generally, the freshwater wells are situated close by the sea. All the fresh drinking water contains lime in large quantities, the characteristic effects of which are neutralized by the liberal use of. acid fruits. It is evident that the sea, infiltrating gradually through the pores of the coral, becomes purified and separated from all its saline ingredients on its way to the wells; and those places where fresh water is not obtainable are of quartz formation.

The islands are divided into districts, each comprising a number of villages with their surrounding land. Each district has its principal chief, or rajah, and these have in the villages under-chiefs of various ranks. All these offices are hereditary, descending to the eldest sons of the respective families. If there is no successor, a new chief is elected by the natives of the district, A chief receives no payment, but after having been acknowledged and established in office by the Resident of Amboyna, he is presented with a silver mounting for his walking-stick, on which is engraved the Dutch coat of arms. After he has held his office for twenty-five years with faultless conduct and loyalty, the silver mounting on the walking-stick is replaced by a golden one. If a chief has rendered an extraordinarily praiseworthy service to his government, he is presented with a fanciful, richly ornamented umbrella, which his servant carries before him, when he walks abroad, to prevent the sun from tanning his face.