Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/84

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
80
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

COLLECTING ON A CORAL REEF
By Professor VERNON L. KELLOGG

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

ONCE every three weeks a 6,000-ton steamer leaves San Francisco for Sydney. You sail with it six days from gray and cold water to warm and blue, and touch at Honolulu. They let you off for tiffin with poi "cocktails" in a hotel hanging over the sliding surf on wondrous Waikiki. You make the swift drive up the showery Nuuanu Valley past the tombs of the Kamehamehas and the flower gardens of the lei sellers, to the Pali, where you look over the ridge of the island and see the ocean on the other shore. Then you come back and re-embark. Six days more—due south these days and the water all blue and the days all warm and the equator crossed on the fourth day—and you whistle hoarsely in front of a lone mountain towering out of the tropic ocean. Then, as you have knocked, you move slowly in at the open door of a great water-filled bowl, which is simply the yawning crater of a dead volcano that makes all there is of Tutuila, a microscopic island appanage of these imperial United States.

The sides of this bowl, which are the inner faces of the crater, lift swiftly for two thousand feet above the water, and are all clothed and made soft by the velvet-seeming tropic bush that clings to every climbing yard. Around the water's edge runs a narrow strip of gleaming coral sand, and here are the toadstool native house and the white government buildings of the port village, Pago-Pago. Here too are the dense, dark-green heads of bread-fruit trees and the gently curving, lazily swaying, slender trunks of cocoanut palms holding up their heavy feather-duster tops. And along this beach stroll the loafing, chattering, friendly Samoans with their naked shoulders shining with fresh anointment of odorous cocoanut oil and loins encircled with the gaudiest of lava-lava. For this is steamer day, and there are unsophisticated, globetrotting, amateur antiquarians to be sold ancient war clubs to,—clubs hastily whittled out and dented and smoke-blackened since our hoarse whistle sounded before the crater's gate.

But for our coral-reef collecting we are going to the larger German island, Upolu, with its harbor town Apia, made memorable by the great hurricane of '95 which turned warring factions of English, German and American sailors on warships and Samoan braves on shore into common savers of one another's lives. The children of nature showed their God-head in that terrible day and night, and the republican presi-