The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.
During our visit in the "winter" of this latitude, the thermometer never fell below 75°; when it approached this minimum the natives seemed to feel the cold, as their bare skins puckered into "gooseflesh." A native who had visited Auckland, New Zealand, amused me with a description of how in that, to him, distant and frigid clime, he saw his breath appear one cold morning "like smoke," and how he felt alarmed that he were stricken by some dire malady. The highest temperature we noticed was about 92°, sometimes for days together the thermometer would oscillate within a few degrees of 80°, the latter being the temperature of the surface of the lagoon. The readings of the wet and dry bulb were seldom far apart in that humid atmosphere.
A week hardly ever passed without rain, and it sometimes poured hard all day.
The wind rarely shifted out of the east. Our hut upon the lee side of the islet had its sides open to the weather, yet it seldom blew enough there to extinguish a match. Only twice do I recollect a gust from the westward strong enough to scatter loose papers on the table.
The zodiacal light was sometimes seen distinctly.
Hurricanes seldom occur, but a few have impressed their memory upon residents. I have already stated my belief that the Mangrove Swamp is a scar upon the islet resulting from one of these conflicts of the elements. "The group," says Becke, "suffers but seldom from droughts or hurricanes, although the terrible drought experienced in the near-to Gilbert Group in 1892, which has not yet broken up, has also affected the Ellices, and at the present time Nanomea and Nanomaga present a parched up appearance. A heavy blow in 1890 also did terrible havoc among the coconuts, which had not the strength to bear up against the drought."* Describing the Gilbert Islands, Woodford† remarks: "I suspect that it is not till the cyclone in its course reaches a latitude of about 12° to 18° from the equator, that the level of the water accompanying it attains a height sufficient to do serious damage. Were it not so, the Ellice Group, of similar formation, which lies much further to the southward, would he rendered uninhabitable. A wave of the height of eighteen feet would be sufficient to sweep away the whole of the population of the Gilbert and Ellice Groups."
* Becke—loc. cit.
† Woodford—loc. cit.