Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/107

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volcanic islands in the South Atlantic which is known as Tristan da Cunha. These bleak rocks lie two thousand miles west of the Cape of Good Hope and four thousand miles to the northeast of Cape Horn. They loom abruptly from a tempestuous ocean, which lashes the stark, black cliffs, and there are no harbors, only an occasional fringe of beach a few yards wide.

Tristan, the largest of the group, lifts a snow-clad peak almost eight thousand feet above the sea as a warning to mariners to steer wide of the cruel reefs. It has a small plateau where green things grow, and living streams and cascades of fresh water. The islands were discovered as early as 1506 by the Portuguese admiral, Tristan da Cunha, and in later years the Dutch navigators and the pioneers of the British East India Company hove to in passing, but it was not thought worth while to hoist a flag over the group.

It remained for a Yankee sailor, Jonathan Lambert of Salem, to choose Tristan da Cunha as his abiding-place and to issue a formal proclamation of his sovereignty to the other nations of the world. Said he, "I ground my right and claim on the sure and rational ground of absolute occupancy." This was undeniable, and the British Empire rests upon foundations no more convincing.