1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cook Islands

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COOK or Hervey ISLANDS, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, lying mainly between 155° and 160° E., and about 20° S.; a dependency of the British colony of New Zealand. It comprises nine partly volcanic, partly coralline, islands, the more important of which are Rarotonga, hilly, fertile and well watered, with several cones 300 to 400 ft. high, above which towers the majestic Rarotonga volcano (2920 ft.), the culminating point of the archipelago; Mangaia (Mangia); Aitutaki, with luxuriant cocoa-nut palm groves; Atui (Vatui); Mitiero; Mauki; Fenuaiti; and the two Hervey Islets, which give an alternative name to the group. The total land area is 111 sq. m. Owing to its healthy, equable climate, the archipelago is well suited for European settlement; but the dangerous fringing coral reefs render it difficult of access, and it suffers also from the absence of good harbours. The natives, who are of Polynesian stock and speech, have legends of their emigration from Samoa. They say their ancestors found black people on the islands, and the strongly Melanesian type which is found, especially on Mangaia, supports the statement. The Cook Islanders were formerly man-hunters and cannibals, but they now are nearly all Protestants, wear European dress and live in stone houses. The total population is about 6200. Since 1890 the islands have enjoyed a general legislature and an executive council of which the Arikis (“kings” and “queens”) are members. But all enactments are subject to the approval of the British resident at Rarotonga, and a British protectorate, proclaimed in 1888, was followed by the annexation of the whole archipelago by the governor of New Zealand, by proclamation of June 10th, 1901. The archipelago was discovered by Captain Cook in 1777, and in 1823 became the scene of the remarkable missionary labours of John Williams, of the London Missionary Society. The chief products of the group are cocoanuts, fruits, coffee and copra. Lime-juice and hats are made.