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CHAPTER X.

F EEJEE GROUP.

1840.

The Feejee Group is situated between the latitudes of 15° 30' and 19° 30' S., and the longitudes of 177° E., and 178° W. It comprises one hundred and fifty-four islands, sixty-five of which are inhabited. The remaining eighty-nine are occasionally resorted to by the natives for the purpose of fishing, and taking biche de mar. There are also numerous reefs and shoals. The latter occupied much of our time and attention, and, with the numerous harbours, have been fully surveyed.

The shortness of the time we spent in the group may perhaps incline some to doubt the accuracy of our surveys. I am however well satisfied myself, that with the exception of the south side of Kantavu, every portion of the group has been as thoroughly examined as is necessary for any nautical purpose, or for those of general geography. The south side of Kantavu, according to the reports of the natives and white pilots, contains no harbours, affords no shelter for vessels, and moreover had been already examined by the French Expedition.

During our stay at Levuka, we obtained full sets of moon culminating stars for the longitude, placing it in 178° 52' 40-78" E.; and circummeridian observations of sun and stars, making its latitude 17° 40'46-79" S. For the other points whose positions were determined, I must refer to our tables. These were all carefully fixed by meridian distances from Levuka, in the island of Ovolau, which occupies nearly a central position in the group. Its position will be more clearly perceived and understood by reference to the map of these islands, which will be found in the atlas. At Ovolau, a regular series of observations for magnetic results were gone through. Some interesting magnetic

disturbances took place, which were observed with Gauss's needle, and will be found in the chapter on magnetism, where also are recorded the dip and variation at the different points.

For the manner in which the detail of the survey of this group was accomplished, I have to refer to the Hydrographical Memoir, where it will be fully explained and illustrated. Taking into account the methods employed, and the means placed at my disposal, it will, I trust, be apparent that the comparatively short time in which so great a quantity of work was performed, can be no reason why its results should not be

relied upon.

Besides the four vessels of the squadron, which were for a considerable part of the time under way, seventeen boats were actively engaged in the surveys. Even the amount of work performed will give but little idea how arduous the duties were. The boats were absent from the vessels from fifteen to twenty days at a time, during which the officers and men rarely landed, and were continually in danger from the treachery of the natives, who were ever upon the watch for an opportunity to cut them off. It gives me great pleasure to be able, with but few exceptions, to bear witness to the untiring zeal of those who were attached to the Expedition, and to the accuracy with which the work was performed; and in the cases where error or careless work was suspected, the doubtful parts were resurveyed, correcting any mistake which might have been committed in the first instance, and verifying the survey where it was accurate.

The opportunities of the naturalists were as great as could be afforded them consistently with their safety. It was considered desirable that the interior of the large islands should be reached; this was partly effected up the river Wai-levu, by Lieutenant Budd But journeys on foot into the interior were out of the question, and only those parts of the islands in the immediate proximity of the sea. shore could consequently be visited with safety. Many novelties have been obtained. For a more full description of the several branches of natural history and botany, I would refer the reader to the reports of the different naturalists.

The climate of the different sides of the islands may, as in all the large Polynesian islands, be distinguished as wet or dry, the weather side being subject to showers, while to leeward it is remarkably dry, and droughts are of long continuance. The difference in temperature is however small, and on comparing the meteorological journal kept on board the Peacock, on the west side of Vitilevu, with that kept at Levuka, I find that at the same hours they stand within two degrees of each other.

The appearance of the vegetation shows this difference of climate more strongly than the thermometer; for on the lee side, the islands have a barren and burnt appearance, while the weather sides exhibit a luxuriant tropical vegetation.

Our stay in this group was not long enough to enable us to speak of the vicissitudes of the seasons, yet we had time to observe a great change in the plants, whose flowers succeeded each other. It is by these that the natives are guided in their agricultural occupations. Thus the scarlet flowers of the Erythrina indica, mark the season of planting, and, according to some of the white residents, the natives encourage the growth of this plant near the towns, for the purpose of pointing out the proper time for this important operation in agriculture.

The mean temperature at Ovolau, during the six weeks that the observatory was established there, was 77.81°. The barometer stood at 30.126 in. The lowest temperature was 62° ; the highest 96o. The first occurred at 4 a. M. on the 23d, the last at 2 P. M. on the 25th June.

The only bad weather that was experienced in the Feejee Group, was from the 7th to the 11th July, during which time the wind blew constantly from the southeast, and was attended with a light rain.

The winds, from April to November, prevail from the east-northeast to southeast quarter, at times blowing a fresh trade-wind. From November to April northerly winds are often experienced, and in the months of February and March heavy gales are frequent. They usually begin at the northeast, and pass around to the north and northwest, from which quarters they blow with most violence; then hauling to the westward, they moderate. They generally last two or three days. A very heavy gale was experienced from 22d of February to the 25th, which may have been the same that was felt by us at New Zealand, on the 1st of March. If they were connected, it would make the vortex upwards of six hundred miles in diameter. The only data I was enabled to get, at all to be depended upon, was from Captain Eagleston, who was lying in his ship under Toba Peak, on the north shore of Vitilevu. The gale began from the northeast, with heavy rain, on the morning of the 22d. During the night, and morning of the 23d, it was more to the north, increasing with violent gusts. They let go a third anchor, and sent down the topmasts and lower yards. On the 24th, the gale was the same, attended with much rain and wind, hauling to the westward at midnight of the 25th. It became northwest in the morning, when it began to moderate, the wind hauling gradually to the southward, when it cleared off. The missionaries could give me no further information, than that the gale had lasted four days. This gale was not felt at Tonga, although they had strong winds

41

VOL. III.

there at that time. It is much to be regretted that the foreign missionary establishments should not be furnished with a few instruments to aid them in making observations upon the climate. I have found some of them without even a thermometer.

The tides throughout the group appear to be very irregular, until they are closely studied. The flood sets in opposite directions on the eastern and western sides of the group. Thus, on the south side of Vanua-levu, it flows from the east as far as Buia Point, where it is met by the flood coming from the west. It is high water at Ovulau at 6h 10m, on the full and change of the moon. At Muthuata 5" 30".. The manner in which the tide flows will be better understood by reference to the map of the group, on which it is exhibited.

From the observations of the Porpoise, and information obtained from the natives, there appears to be a continual current setting to the eastward, at the rate of about half a mile an hour. This current we ob served to exist both on the north and south sides of the island; and I air disposed to think it would be found to prevail for the most of the year.

The greatest rise and fall of the tide is six feet. The currents set strongly in and out of the passages, until the water rises above the level of the reefs, when it flows over in all directions, and its force is much decreased.

Earthquakes are not unfrequent : according to the white residents they generally occur in the month of February. Several shocks are often felt in a single night. The only place where there are any visible signs of volcanic heat, is Savu-savu; but several islands in the group exhibit signs of craters. One of these is at the west end of Kantavu. There are others at Nairai, Goro, and in the Ringgold Isles. The peaks, however, are usually basaltic cones or needles, some of which rise to the height of several thousand feet, and no running stream of lava has been seen occurring on any of these islands. It may consequently be inferred, that the date of the formation of these islands is more remote than that of the other groups of Polynesia. Volcanic conglomerate, tufa, and compact and scoriaceous basalts are found, of every texture and colour, and in all states of decomposition. When decomposed, they afford a rich soil, which, clothed with a luxuriant foliage, covers the islands to their very tops, clinging to every point where it is possible for a plant to take root. This rich vegetation gives a degree of beauty to the aspect of the whole group, that is scarcely surpassed in any part of the world.

In relation to the population of these islands, it was found difficult to obtain information that could be implicitly relied upon, and we had reason to suspect that the white residents rather overrated the number

of inhabitants. There is, however, one circumstance, which renders it more easy to obtain satisfactory information in relation to the amount of population in this group, than in almost any of the others, namely, the hostile feelings which exist between the different tribes. This renders it impossible for the inhabitants of another district to flock to that where ships are lying; and there is no chance of counting the same persons a second time, as we inferred it was probable had been the case elsewhere, particularly at Tahiti.

The number of natives at Levuka during our stay seldom varied more than could be accounted for by visits from the neighbouring towns. I adopted the plan of counting the inhabitants wherever I had an opportunity, in order to check the estimate given me by others. The following account of the numbers in the several districts, &c., I believe to be as correct as it is possible to arrive at.

The islands of Ovolau and Kantavu are the most thickly peopled. The whole group contains about 130,000 inhabitants, who are divided as follows:

Ambau
Viwa
Rewa
Verata
Naitasiri
South side, from Rewa to Ra
North shore from Verata to Narula
Interior
Mbua
Buia
Nandi
Savu-savu
Tocanova
Muthuata
Ovolau
Kantavu
Vuna
Rambe
Nairai
Goro
Ambatiki
Angau
Moala
Ono
Matuku
Totoia
Wakaia
Mokungai.
Asaua Group
Eastern Group

3,000 1,000 5,000 1,000 8,000 5,000 12,000 5,000 6,000 3,000 8,000 5,000 3,000 15,000

8,000 13,500 7,000 1,500 7,000 2,000

500 1,300 1,400

500 1,500 1,000 200

100 5,000 3,000

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