Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/113
A HISTORY OF TAHITI
guava, tree-ferns, and clambering pandanus, and shadowed by precipices towering 3,000 feet above the calm secluded waters. From afar the rivulets dash down until torn by the ragged walls they fade mostly into mist and cloud-like descend in silence to the region of the lake. Although only one third of a mile wide, the natives believed this little lake to be bottomless until our plumb line came to rest at a depth of 80 feet. There is, however, no visible outlet although huge eels glide among the water-weeds, and the mystery becomes cleared away when one goes down into Vaihiria valley where at the foot of a wall of broken rocks a cool clear stream rushes impetuously into the sunlight. In fact the little lake has been formed by a land-slide which has dammed the valley the upper part of which it now occupies.
In every feature Tahiti shows the wear of rain and weather, but still the green summit of Orohena towers 7,300 feet above the level of the sea, and 22,000 feet above the floor of the surrounding ocean. Yet the rains have accomplished much, and the almost constant landslides show they are effecting more in their persistent work of levelling the grand peaks: and now 150 valleys wind downward from the highlands to the sea.
One is never away from the murmur of rippling water, as the mountain streams splash among moss-covered boulders that have rolled from their ancient lodgment in the cañon sides. As Bougainville wrote, these Tahitian valleys are images of Paradise upon earth. The brooks glide through arches formed by the interlacing leaves of wild banana, the "Fei" of Tahiti, while great caladiums flourish in the ever-moistened soil, and the perfume of vanilla pervades the air. Banyans form
Eimeo from Tahiti.