Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/109

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY



FEBRUARY, 1915



A HISTORY OF TAHITI
By Dr. ALFRED GOLDSBOROUGH MAYER
CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON

LYING far to the southward of the paths of trade and exploration. Tahiti remained unknown until in 1767 Wallis saw its splendid peaks in the course of his voyage around the world in the English frigate Dolphin. It is true that Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, a Portuguese captain in the service of Spain, was credited with having discovered Tahiti on February 10, 1606, but the narrative of his voyage convinces one that the low-lying atoll upon which he landed, vainly seeking water, was probably Anaa, or possibly some other island of the Paumotos, for, like his predecessors, he sought the full favors of the tropic breeze and was borne to the northward of the most beautiful island groups of the Pacific.[1]

Even to-day, sad as she lies while her native race is dying, Tahiti epitomizes the charm of Polynesia. The missionary Ellis gives us a vivid picture of his impressions as in 1817 he gazed for the first time

upon the varied picturesque and beautiful scenery of this most enchanting island.[2] We had beheld successively as we sailed along its shore, all the diversity of hill and valley, broken or stupendous mountains and rocky precipices, clothed with every variety of verdure, from the moss of the jutting promontories on the shore, to the deep and rich foliage of the breadfruit tree, the Oriental luxuriance of the tropical pandanus, or the waving plumes of the lofty and graceful cocoanut grove. The scene was enlivened by the waterfall on the mountain's side, the cataract which chafed along its rocky bed in the recesses of the ravine, or the stream that slowly wound its way through the fertile and cultivated valleys, the whole surrounded by the white-crested waters of the Pacific, rolling their

  1. See "The Voyages of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros," 1595 to 1606, translated and edited by Sir Clements Markham, Hakluyt Society Publications, London, 1904.
  2. See, "The Voyages of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros" 1595 to 1606, translated and edited by Sir Clements Markham, London, 1904. Hakluyt Society Publications.