Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/371

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337
OCEAN GARLANDS.

dark storm-clouds revealing the edge of their silvery lining, and a luminous prismatic halo playing all round the sun. Then the cloud—masses dispersed; dainty pink cloudlets floated on a sky which graduated from a pale-lemon hue to the colour of a thrush's egg, so that the whole colouring suggested broken rainbow lights, changing incessantly for half an hour.

Tetiaroa is a cluster of five low coral-isles, arranged in a circle, connected by coral-reef, thus almost forming an atoll. The isles are quite flat, nowhere rising more than four feet above the water. By nature barren, they have been artificially rendered fertile by the constant importation of vegetable mould from Tahiti; so now each isle is a dense grove of cocoa-palms, whose roots are washed by the salt spray.

Tetiaroa is to Papeete as Brighton is to London, a favourite bathing-place, where the Tahitians betake themselves to recruit their languid energies by a course of strong brine, though Tahiti appears to me too healthy to require any sanatorium. It is, however, worthy of note, that statistics go to prove that, as a rule, all the low coral-formations are healthy, whereas the inhabitants of high volcanic isles are frequently subject to fever and ague.

Though an imperfect atoll, this cluster was specially interesting to me, as a type of the eighty isles which form the Paumotus. Judging from this sample, I am satisfied that there is little to be seen from the deck of a ship. Could we ascend in a balloon, we should look down on a lagoon of shallow, very bright-green water, encircled by five palm-clad isles, connected by bands of rainbow-tinted reef,—say a garland of green roses and tri-colour ribbon. Could our balloon float above the Paumotu group, eighty such garlands would be seen scattered on the deep-blue ocean, each encircled by an outer belt of submarine prismatic colour, edged with white breakers, marking where lies the barrier-reef.

At Tetiaroa, the only opening in the reef is so narrow as barely to admit a canoe. We had, however, fully intended to land, but the surf was so rough that we had to give up the idea, much to my regret, especially as the day was devoted to heavy gun practice, which of course involves ear-splitting noise and smoke. However,