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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

The South Sea Islands

The South Sea Islands.

Before leaving the Far East I made a voyage to some of the islands which are scattered over the Pacific Ocean, or Great South Sea, as it was called by our early navigators; and I was courteously offered a free passage to Tahiti in a fine clipper schooner belonging to a cotton growing Company on that island. The mighty ocean between Asia and America was first seen by the Spaniards from the heights of the Isthmus of Darien, and they made discoveries of many islands which they did not make known to the rest of the world; but the Dutch navigator, Tasman, and our own illustrious navigator, Captain Cook, the most painstaking and accurate of explorers, gave such attractive descriptions of their formation, scenery, productions, and native inhabitants that they were at first regarded as romances rather than a sober account gained by knowledge and experience. Some of those Islands are nearly level with the water, mere coral reefs, on which cocoanut trees flourish; others are mountainous and of volcanic origin. Amongst others I visited Samoa, where Robert Louis Stevenson lived and died, and Rarotonga, lately taken under the British flag; but most of my time was spent at Tahiti, the largest island of the "Society page 44 Group," where I enjoyed the hospitality of the manager of a cotton plantation and of the resident missionary of the London Missionary Society, which was the first to begin the good work amongst the natives in the year 1797. I was also kindly entertained by the native Queen Pomare and by the French Governor of the Protectorate of Oceané, who residesat Tahiti. Almost all the native inhabitants of these enchanting islands in the eastern part of the Pacific have become converts to Christianity through the noble efforts and arduous labours of the London, Wesleyan, and, later on, French Roman Catholic Missions. In the western part of the Pacific, New Guinea and other large islands are peopled by a fiercer race of negro-like natives, and their cause has been taken up by missions from Nova Scotia, the Scottish Presbyterian Missionary Society, and lastly by Bishop Selwyn, of New Zealand, and his amiable, martyred coadjutor, Bishop Paterson, who was killed by the natives at Santa Cruz, one of the Solomon Islands. I became deeply impressed by the wonderful results of these self-sacrificing efforts of all these missions on the character of the natives, and I retain a vivid and most pleasing recollection of the natural beauty of these islands, as well as of the hospitality and kindness that I met with from their true friends, the good and zealous Christian missionaries of all denominations.