Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/86

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
82
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the tropic bush sloping upward and broken here and there by the towering even lines of the great cocoanut plantations. Still higher rose the volcanic ridge and peaks that make the roof of the island. The nearer of these forest-covered peaks, lying immediately behind Apia, is Mount Vaea, Stevenson's mountain. On a shoulder of this dark green mountain is Stevenson's grave, with its low, flat tomb like those of the Samoan chieftains. And under this grave-crowned shoulder, lying beautifully in a little open space amid tall trees, is Vailima, the house of the five streams. There are no longer five streams there, but only two, which come trickling down the long hill slopes to pour their slender threads of fresh water into Apia harbor.

A bustling German customs house officer clambered aboard and we went through the formalities of civilized travel. They were less irritating than usual, and soon we were free to choose among the eager naked-backed boatmen that clamored in the water about us like sea gulls quarreling over ship's refuse. Waiula, old grizzle-haired, strongfaced, sinewy-armed Waiula, claimed us by virtue of his special insistence and our natural deference to age. We rowed in past the great rusted hulk of the German warship Adler, lying beached on the reefs, conspicuous and reminder of the awful hurricane, and made our way, sleepy-eyed, exhausted and despondent to a two-story frame building on the beach, conspicuously labeled "Tivoli Hotel." Here we sat, silent and helpless, until coffee could be made. With coffee and breakfast and a morning nap, the world was new again and we turned our eager attention to the problem before us, that of getting acquainted with the life of the coral reefs.

The islands of the Pacific are of two types; either all made of coral, or mostly made of volcano with fringing coral reef. Indeed the "all coral" islands are only so on top, for they are simply volcanoes whose summits do not project above the water's surface, but do come near enough it to support a persistent coral growth. This builds up on its volcanic support an atoll or islet rising a few yards above the ocean level. The more striking and beautiful islands are volcanic peaks which lift their great masses for four or five, seven or eight, even for thirteen or fourteen, thousand feet above the water. Most of these volcanoes are dead, but some are alive, as Mauna Loa on Hawaii and the recently reopened and still flaming volcano on Savaii of the Samoan group. But practically every volcano island has its coral reefs, either fringing or barrier or both. Like a ring of Saturn the flat-topped band encircles the volcano's waist at the ocean surface, and in the shallow waters and innumerable pools on the reef the naturalist finds a rich collecting ground. We paid close attention to the tides, and every day the ebb would find us working on the half-exposed reef, prying into crevices, breaking up dead coral masses, wading the green water, and ever scrap-