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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.


Louis Becke, author of those charming and vivid South Sea stories, "By Reef and Palm," and who once resided upon Funafuti writes,* "sixty or seventy years ago, so the American whale-ship captains of those days said, there were 3,000 people in the thirty and odd islets. Then, for the next thirty years, unknown and terrible diseases, introduced by the white men, ravaged not Funafuti alone, but the whole group, and where there were once thousands only hundreds could be counted; and until about 1860 it looked as if the total extinction of the whole race was but a matter of another decade. But, fortunately, such was not the case. In 1870 the writer counted one hundred and sixty people; in 1882 they had increased to nearly two hundred."

At the time of our visit (May - August, 1896) the census amounted to two hundred and fifty or sixty. Woodford remarks upon a similar decrease in the Gilberts.

* Becke—loc. cit.

Woodford—loc. cit., p. 334. An exhaustive Report on the diminution of the native population of Fiji is, I understands in course of publication by Dr. Corney.