Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/36

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Introductory.

Ureparapara, is a remarkable example of the type of Amsterdam or St. Paul's Island in the Indian Ocean; the sea enters the ancient crater, on the ridge of which, rising to nearly 2000 feet, is a steaming vent. Star Island, Meralava, is a massive cone rising so steeply to a height of 3000 feet, that it surprises strangers that it should be inhabited. From below the cone appears to terminate in a cup with a broken lip, but Bishop Selwyn and Mr. Palmer, who reached the top in 1881, found a more recent crater, which no doubt was active when Quiros discovered the island: there is now no recollection of activity[1]. In the New Hebrides, volcanic action has not yet exhausted itself on Lepers' Island; it is probable that besides the very conspicuous volcanos of Ambrym, Lopevi, and Yazur on Tanna, there are many solfataras and fumaroles as yet unnoticed in this group.

All these volcanic islands, whether still in active operation, or still fuming with latent fires, or long ago extinct, have dead and living coral round their base. The greater number of the islands lie in a ruined mass, in contrast to the cones of Lopevi and Tinakula; in some the volcanic form is hidden or

    pool sluggishly bubbling and steaming, is the Old Woman; another briskly active is the Stranger's Wonder; another, the New Vuro, though evidently not very recent, is very active and noisy. In the largest pool, some twenty feet across, two jets of steam raise the water to the height of a couple of feet, and after rain very much higher. When I was there in 1875 a new vent had been lately opened by an earthquake.

  1. Some years ago a native lad from Mota told me that he with a companion had mounted to this crater. They found at the top a bare stretch of stones, and within the crater a lake of black water, covered with a thick black cloud; a heavy darkness filled the place, a huge bird soared round their heads, awe and horror fell upon them, and they turned and fled. It is easy to talk lightly about native superstitions. Mr. Palmer thus describes the crater. 'We could see nothing at first, as a cloud was over, but presently it lifted, and we saw a large deep crater with splendid precipitous sides, in some places fully three hundred feet high. There is a small pool of water at the bottom, and rather on one side a second perfectly round crater, which we also determined to look into. We descended through trees and mosses; I was much interested in finding the tutu of New Zealand (coriaria sarmentosa), which I have never seen anywhere else in these islands; the second crater goes down to a point, where the trees and ferns are of better growth.'