Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/313

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
281
CIRCUITOUS OCEAN-CURRENTS.

every one of which is peopled by comparatively fair-skinned races, with hair which by nature is straight and black, although in many of the isles, as in Samoa, custom requires that it should be dyed or bleached, cut short and stiffened, so as to produce the effect of a wig. I am not sure if the spiral curls of the yellow-haired Tongans and Fijians are artificially produced, because I have never seen one individual of either race whose hair had not been dyed with coral-lime; but I know that a Samoan girl who refrains from "improving" nature, finds herself possessed of fine black tresses, as silky and as beautiful as those of any Italian maiden.

To the west of our line lies Melanesia, comprising the Marshall Isles, the Carolines, Solomon Isles, New Guinea, New Britain, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and Australia. These, almost without exception, are peopled by dark-skinned races, repulsive in their ugliness, and with hair more or less woolly.

All these lie between Eastern Polynesia and the Malay country, and there seems no reason whatever to account for those hardy little warriors passing by so many fertile isles, in search of the unknown region to the east. Surely it is more probable that, having first overrun Formosa, and then peopled Japan, they thence sailed to the Sandwich Isles, and so gradually made their way to the south. We know that in old days their vessels were very much better than those now commonly used by them; and the voyage from Japan to Hawaii, and thence to Tahiti, would have been by no means impossible, especially as the existing strong ocean-currents would naturally tend to draw any ship by this course.

It is said that even a log of wood fairly launched on the Malay coast, would naturally drift by this circuitous water-way till it returned westward to the shores of New Guinea. A glance at a map of ocean-currents will, I think, make this plain to you.

I know that this theory is contrary to that generally entertained; but as the natives of Tahiti have always maintained that their ancestors came from Hawaii (to which they retain the strongest links of family affection, the principal families of the two groups being united to one another by ties of blood), I cannot understand