Polynesia; A popular description of the physical features, inhabitants, natural history, and productions of the islands of the Pacific. With an account of their discovery, and the progress of civilisation and christianity amongst them.
Chapter XXI. — The Ladrones, or Marian Islands; the Bonin Islands, and the Volcano Islands
The Ladrones, or Marian Islands;
the Bonin Islands, and the Volcano Islands.
The Ladrones were first discovered by Magellan in 1521, who gave them this name in consequence of the thievish propensities of the natives. The subsequent appellation of the Marian Islands was bestowed upon them by the Spaniards, in honour of Mary Ann of Austria, the queen of Philip IV., in whose reign they were first settled by that nation. The expedition of Loyosa touched at the Ladrones in 1526, and was received in the most friendly manner by the natives, who at that time existed in great numbers on all the islands, although they have since been nearly depopulated by the Spaniards; and a mixed population, descended from colonists from Mexico and the Philippines, has supplanted the original race. In 1565 the Ladrones were again visited by Lopez de Legaspe, when, notwithstanding his anxiety to prevent quarrels, skirmishes took place with the inhabitants, and one of his seamen having strolled away into the woods, he was found murdered. In retaliation, the Spaniards landed in force, set fire to their houses and canoes, wounded several of the natives, and hung upon the spot three disabled prisoners. In 1588 Cavendish sailed along the coast of Guam, from which numbers of canoes came off with fruit and vegetables. In 1600, Oliver van Noort, and, in 1625, the fleet under Prince Maurice of Nassau, refreshed at Guam, page 406and were supplied by several hundred canoes with immense quantities of cocoa-nuts, yams, bananas, fowls, and fish, for which the natives gladly received bits of old iron in exchange.
In the year 1668 the Spanish established a mission on Guam, consisting of six fathers, with several lay assistants, most of whom were natives of the Philippine Islands, speaking the Tagul language, which was also understood by the Ladrone Islanders. From thence the mission spread to the other islands of the group, being everywhere received with marks of great kindness by both chiefs and people. But it happened that an infant died shortly after being baptized, whereupon these simple people imagined that its death had been occasioned by the ceremony; which idea gained ground amongst them from the eagerness displayed by the Jesuits to get hold of the infants for the purpose of baptizing them. The consequence was, that several of the fathers fell victims to their zeal; and in retaliation, the Spanish soldiers, with which the government of Spain had taken care to strengthen the mission, fell upon the natives, killing great numbers of them, whilst the remainder submitted awhile to their yoke. P. Servitores, the leader of the mission, was put to death by a native chief, to whom he had been a great benefactor, because he insisted on baptizing his child. From this period frequent revolts and massacres took place, and the most shocking cruelties were perpetrated upon these unfortunate islanders by the Spanish authorities—so much so, that in 1681, the island of Guam, which had previously page 407counted 40,000 inhabitants, became so thoroughly depopulated, that it was found necessary to import labourers from the northern islands to cultivate the soil.
In 1686 Dampier touched at Guam. In the narrative of his voyage round the world, he gives an account of this island, and its aboriginal inhabitants, which latter he stated not to exceed 100 in number. He informs us that they made use of very elegant and swift canoes, with outriggers, called "flying proas," that sailed almost in the wind's eye, and attained a speed of twenty miles an hour.
Captain Woodes Rogers, with the "Duke" and the "Duchess" privateers, fitted out from Bristol in the year 1708 to cruise in the South Seas, visited Guam. He says that on coming in sight of that island "they were viewed by the natives in different proas, who passed by them with prodigious celerity, but would not be induced to come on board." Himself and his officers were treated with great hospitality by the Spanish governor, who "entertained them with at least sixty different dishes, and when they took their leave they were saluted by a volley of small arms. In return they presented the governor with two negro boys, dressed in liveries, twenty yards of scarlet serge, and six pieces of cambric, with which he seemed extremely pleased."
He describes the island of Guam as "full of hills, dales, and streams of good water; it produces the bread-fruit, the cocoa-nut, and other fruits natural to the soil and climate, besides oranges, lemons, citrons, musk, and water-melons, which were origi-page 408nally brought thither by the Spaniards. The indigo plant grows wild in such abundance that, were they industrious, they might make great quantities of that valuable article of commerce, but, being so remote and out of the way of trade, they made no use of it. They have plenty of cattle, and the hogs here make the best pork in the world, from their being fed almost entirely on cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit; and, were not the Spaniards extremely slothful, they might have most of the delicacies, and even superfluities of life, of their own growth."
Of the natives he says, "they are tall, strong and of a dark olive colour; they all go naked, except the wearing of a cloth in front, and the women a little petticoat. The men are dexterous at slinging, and make use of pieces of clay of an oval form, which they burn till it is as hard as marble; they are excellent marksmen, for the Spaniards say they seldom miss hitting any object, and throw with such force as to kill a man at a considerable distance."
In 1742, a little more than half a century after the visit of Dampier, Commodore George Lord Anson anchored at Tinian, which he found deserted, although cattle in thousands, besides hogs and fowls, were running about wild. Tropical fruits of all kinds were met with in abundance amongst the large trees and underwood with which this beautiful and once densely-populated island was overgrown. Of Tinian, Walter, the biographer of Anson's voyage, says, "Its length is about twelve miles, and its breadth about half as much. The soil is every-page 409where dry and healthy. The land rises by easy slopes from the very beach, where we watered, to the middle of the island; though the general course of its ascent is interrupted by gentle descents and valleys, beautifully diversified with large lawns, which are covered with a very fine trefoil, intermixed with a variety of flowers, and are skirted by woods of tall and well-spread trees, most of them celebrated for their aspect or their fruit." Of the wild cattle he says, "It is not uncommon to see herds of some thousands feeding together in a large meadow. They are all of them milk-white, except their ears, which are generally black."
Scattered over various parts of the island of Tinian are a great number of remarkable ruins, the work of some race long extinct. They usually consist of two rows of square, pyramidal pillars, each pillar being about six feet from the next, and the distance between the two rows about twelve feet. The pillars themselves are some five feet square at the base, and about thirteen feet high; and on the top of each is a semi-globe, with the flat part upwards. These spacious structures were composed of sand and stone cemented together, and plastered over; and were probably dedicated to religious purposes. Although there are no rivers in Tinian, the water of the wells and springs everywhere to be met with near the surface is described as excellent; and in the middle of the island are several considerable lagoons of fresh water. The great drawback to this fertile and beautiful island appears to be the want of a good harbour, and the page 410insecurity of the roadstead for shipping at certain seasons of the year.
Lieut. Kotzebue visited Guam (or Guahan, as he calls it) in 1817. He says, on approaching it, "We looked in vain for a canoe or a man on the shore; and it seemed almost as though we were off an uninhabited island. The sight of this lovely country deeply affected me. Formerly, these fertile valleys were the abode of a nation who passed their days in tranquil happiness; now, only the beautiful palmgroves remained to overshadow their graves; while a death-like silence everywhere prevailed." Soon, however, a person appeared from the Spanish governor, and piloted the ship into the harbour; and after this Kotzebue proceeded to the town of St. Ygnacio de Agaña, situated upon a beautiful plain near the seashore, in the midst of fine palm groves. It had a church, a convent, and two fortresses. The town contained about 200 houses, some of which were built of coral limestone, and others of bamboo. There were about 1500 inhabitants, consisting of a mixed race of Spaniards, Mexicans, and Philippine Islanders; the original Ladrone stock being all but extinct.
The Ladrone Islands are all of them of volcanic origin, irregular and picturesque in outline, and clothed with luxuriant vegetation. The straits intervening between them are full of shoals and currents, and they possess but few good harbours. The heat of the climate is somewhat moderated by the trade winds, that blow pretty regularly throughout the year.
Sugar, rice, Indian corn, tobacco, cotton, and page 411indigo, are cultivated by the people of Guam. Wild hogs grow to a large size; and cattle, horses, asses, mules and llamas have been introduced by the Spaniards from South America and the Philippines.
The other islands generally to the north of Guam are uninhabited, and overrun with wild cattle, hogs, and goats, which afford supplies to the American vessels trading to the Sandwich Islands and the north-west coast of America. It is said that Americans and Sandwich Islanders have been allowed to settle themselves of late years on the island of Agrigan, on condition of their acknowledging their allegiance to Spain, and that the island was being peopled with natives kidnapped from other parts of Polynesia.
Northwards from the Ladrones, and about midway between them and the coasts of Japan, lie the Bonin, or Arzobispo Archipelago; these scattered islands extend from 25° to 30° north latitude, being the most northerly of all the Pacific Islands. These islands are supposed to have been discovered by the Spaniards; but at what precise period is not known. They are upwards of fifty in number, and are divided into three groups. The northernmost, or Parry's group, comprises a number of small islands and pointed rocks, the navigation amongst which is extremely dangerous. In the middle, or Peel's group, there are three islands of moderate size; Peel's Island, the largest, being fourteen and a half miles long. It has a good harbour on the west coast, called Lloyd's Harbour, which is surrounded by high hills, and is supposed to be the crater of an page 412extinct volcano. The islands lying further to the south, are named Baily's group. All these islands are of volcanic origin, and are surrounded by deep water. There is no native population; but Japanese junks occasionally visit the Bonin Islands, and some Japanese have established themselves on the northern islands. On some of the others there are British subjects located for the purpose it is said, of carrying on a contraband trade with the empire of Japan, which lies to the north-west. The Bonin Islands are frequently touched at by vessels engaged in the Pacific whale fishery, where they obtain supplies of water, and also an abundance of turtle.
A little to the south of the Bonin Islands are several scattered islands, generally known as the Volcano Islands. They are uninhabited, and appear to be the seat of intense volcanic action. Sulphur Island and the island of Saint Augustine are the two largest of the group.
In these seas is situated the famous pyramidal rock called "Lot's Wife." An ocean neither broken nor interrupted for an immense space in all directions here dashes with sublime violence on the solid mass, which rises almost perpendicularly to a height of 350 feet. On the south-eastern side of the rock is a deep cavern, where the waves resound with a prodigious noise.page break