Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/525

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




JUNE, 1915



Part I

OF all the island groups in the outer Pacific none surpass the Fijis in their rare combination of beautiful scenery and interesting natives. The islands are upon the opposite side of the world from England, for the meridian of 180° passes through the centre of the group crossing the island of Taviuni. The islands lie from 15° 30' to 19° 30' south of the equator, and are thus south of the region of perpetual trade winds, but still well within the tropics, the center of the group being about 1,000 miles due north from New Zealand.

That dauntless old rover, Abel Jansen Tasman, discovered them in 1643 on his way from Tonga in the Heemskirk and Zeehaan and named them "Prince William's Islands" and "Heemskirk's Shoals." After this, they were all but forgotten until July 2, 1774, when Captain James Cook sighted the small island of Vatoa in the extreme southeastern end of the group. The natives fled into the forest upon the approach of his boat, and he contented himself by leaving a knife, some medals and nails in a conspicuous place. Finding many sea-turtles in the region, he named his land-fall "Turtle Island," and then departed from the Fijis never to return.

In May, 1789, Captain Bligh sailed through the group in the small open boat in which he made the voyage of 3,600 miles from Tonga to Timor, this feat being celebrated in Byrons's poem "The Island." He was pursued by two canoes from Waya Island, and dared not land nor hold any communication with the natives. Later in 1792, Bligh again sailed among the Fijis, this time while in command of the man-of-war Providence, and in 1796 Captain Wilson cruised among the islands upon his missionary voyage in the Duff. Thus gradually the group became known to Europeans; but remained uncharted until 1840, when the United States Exploring Expedition, under Wilkes, made a survey of the region. Indeed,