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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Explanation of Chart

page 94

Explanation of Chart.

As the accompanying statistical chart of the Pacific Islands is the first of the kind attempted, I trust that every allowance will he made for inaccuracies. I have found it very difficult to obtain any reliable information; even the missionary accounts vary considerably.

Notice has been taken only of the principal groups, although scattered amongst them are numerous solitary islands of much value. For example—Savage Island, or Nive, population 5,000, discovered by Cook 1773; Wallis Island, population 3,000, the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oceania; Ocean Island, population 2,000; Pleasant Island, population 1,400, so named from its beauty; Gambier Island, population 1,500, under French protection; Easter Island, Fanning Island, and many others.

The names of the various groups are somewhat confusing; in many instances I have given those by which they are most popularly known. It is difficult to name correctly the two groups, generally called the Society Islands. Captain Wallis, I believe, named them the Georgian Islands, in honour of George III. Cook called them the Society Islands, in honour of the Royal Society. Ellis calls the Eastern Group (Tahiti) the Georgian Islands, and the Western Group, the Society Islands. I think that Tahiti should be called the Society Islands, as it was there that Cook made his observations.

With regard to the number of islands which each group is stated to contain, it is necessary to explain that most of them are mere rocks, or chains of islets upon one great reef, or numerous islands enclosed by one reef. There are very few large volcanic islands in any particular group. Fiji, for example, stated to contain 200, has only three or four large islands and six or seven small ones, whilst the remainder are mere spots, containing from two to a thousand acres each. The Island of Hogolue, commonly so called, in the Caroline Group, is an immense atoll, or coral reef, enclosing a vast lagoon, having a circumference of some 300 miles. Within the lagoon are four great islands, each from 20 to 25 miles in circumference, and more than 20 smaller uninhabited cays, covered with cocoa-nut and other trees.

The difference between the volcanic and coral islands it is important to distinguish, as the former are more suited for the growth of coffee, cotton, sugar, tobacco, etc., than the latter.

Exclusive of New Guinea, the area of the islands may be about 98,000 square miles, or five times as great as our West Indian possessions, excluding, of course, British Guiana. The gross area of any group is only an approximation, and cannot be relied on. By reducing kilometres into miles I have been enabled to arrive at some idea of the superficial area of the French possessions.

A further survey of the Pacific is sadly needed. Since the "Herald" and Common dore Wilkes expedition, but little has been added to the Admiralty charts. I am, I however, somewhat uncertain whether the Imperial Government has not lately directed a few necessary surveys to be undertaken.

The population of any group marked with an asterisk is purely conjectural. One writer supposes the New Hebrides, for instance, to contain 200,000 natives, another 60,000. I prefer to under-rate, rather than over-rate, the native population. The total of the numbers given in the chart amounts to 843,612, to which must be added the population of the Phœnix, Santa Cruz, New Ireland, New Britain, Louisade, and Admiralty groups, and also the inhabitants of the numerous solitary islands before referred to.

page 95

Exclusive of New Guinea, the population of which it is quite impossible to conjecture, there cannot be less than 1,200,000 natives in Polynesia.

The foreign residents are principally European. I do not consider that there are more than 20,000 whites in the Pacific, of which number probably 10,000 are in New Caledonia.

The total of the imports amounts to £557,829, and exports, £598,215. Add to these gums the imports and exports of the Tongan Archipelago, the only remaining group of any present commercial importance, also the goods sold by the trading schooners in exchange for island produce, and the grand total of imports and exports will not exceed £1.450,000 per annum. The supply of the French convict station at New Caledonia can hardly be included under a commercial heading. *

The following table supplies a few statistics concerning other tropical countries;—
Area in Square Miles. Population. Imports. Exports.
£ £
British possessions in the West Indies, 1871 19,988 1,089,818 5,186,086 5,804,093
British Guiana, 1871 70,000 193,491 1,897,183 2,748,720
Mauritius, 1871 708 316,042 1,807,382 3,053,054
Ceylon, 1872 24,454 2,405,287 5,169,524 3,163,153
Java. 1871 51,336 17,298,200 4,213,428 7,459,735
Phillipine Islands 65,100 4,319,269
In comparison with these figures, the result of my calculations and approximations may be given as follows:—
Area in Square Miles. Population. Imports. Exports.
£ £
Pacific Islands 98,000 1,200,000 700,000 750,000
New Guinea 260,000

It will therefore be seen that the Pacific Islands, possessing a superficial area of five times the extent of our possessions in the West Indies, and a greater population, do not at present consume one-eighth of the amount annually imported by those islands.

* In 1874 New Caledonia imported £503,263 and exported £35,598.

In 1871 the Phillipine Islands exported to Great Britain alone £1,391,254, and imported

It is important to note that, in speaking of the West Indies, I only refer to the Britian possessions.