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a ship from the Mauritius, wrecked here. These rats are considered by Mr. Waterhouse as identical with the English kind, but they are smaller, and more brightly coloured. There are no true land-birds ; for a snipe and a rail (Rallus Phillippensis), though living entirely in the dry herbage, belong to the order of Waders. Birds of this order are said to occur on several of the small low islands in the Pacific. At Ascension, where there is no land bird, a rail (Porphyrio simplex) was shot near the summit of the mountain, and it was evidently a solitary straggler. At Tristan d'Acunha, where, according to Carmichael, there are only two land birds, there is a coot. From these facts I believe that the waders, after the innumerable web-footed species, are generally the first colonists of small isolated islands. I may add, that whenever I noticed birds, not of oceanic species, very far out at sea, they always belonged to this order; and hence they would naturally become the earliest colonists of any reinote point of land.

Of reptiles I saw only one small lizard. Of insects I took pains to collect every kind. Exclusive of spiders, which were numerous, there were thirteen species. * Of these, one only was a beetle. A small ant swarmed by thousands under the loose dry blocks of coral, and was the only true insect which was abundant. Although the productions of the land are thus scanty, if we look to the waters of the surrounding sea, the number of organic beings is indeed infinite. Chamisso has described † the natural history of a lagoon-island in the Radack Archipelago ; and it is remarkable how closely its inhabitants, in number and kind, resemble those of Keeling Island. There is one lizard and two waders, namely, a snipe and curlew. Of plants there are nineteen species, including a fern ; and some of these are the same with those growing here, though on a spot so immensely remote, and in a different ocean.

The long strips of land, forming the linear islets, have been raised only to that height to which the surf can throw fragments of coral, and the wind heap up calcareous sand. The solid flat

* The thirteen species belong to the following orders:- In the Coleoptera, a minute Elater; Orthoptera, a Gryllus and a Blatta; Hemiptera, one speries; Homoptera, two; Neuroptera, a Chrysopa; Hymenoptera, two ants: Lepidoptera nocturna, á Diopæa, and a Pterophorus (?); Diptera, two species.

– Kotzebue's First Voyage, vol. iii., p. 222.

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of coral rock on the outside, by its breadth, breaks the first violence of the waves, which otherwise, in a day, would sweep away these islets and all their productions. The ocean and the land seen here struggling for mastery: although terra firma has obtained a footing, the denizens of the water think their claim at least equally good. In every part one meets hermit crabs of more than one species, * carrying on their backs the shells which they have stolen from the neighbouring beach. Overhead, numerous gannets, frigate-birds, and terns, rest on the trees; and the wood, from the many nests and from the smell of the atmosphere, might be called a sea-rookery. The gannets, sitting on their rude nests, gaze at one with a stupid yet angry air. The noddies, as their name expresses, are silly little creatures. But there is one charming bird : it is a small snow-white tern, which smoothly hovers at the distance of a few feet above one's head, its large black eye scanning, with quiet curiosity, your expression. Little imagination is required to fancy that so light and delicate a body must be tenanted by some wandering fairy spirit.

Sunday, April 3rd.–After service I accompanied Captain Fitz Roy to the settlement, situated at the distance of some miles, on the point of an islet thickly covered with tall cocoa-nut trees. Captain Ross and Mr. Liesk live in a large barn-like house open at both ends, and lined with mats made of woven bark. The houses of the Malays are arranged along the shore of the lagoon. The whole place had rather a desolate aspect, for there were no gardens to show the signs of care and cultivation. The natives belong to different islands in the East Indian archipelago, but all speak the same language: we saw the inhabitants of Borneo, Celebes, Java, and Sumatra. In colour they resemble the Tahitians, from whom they do not widely differ in features. Some of the women, however, show a good deal of the Chinese character. I liked both their general expressions and the sound of their voices. They appeared poor, and their houses were destitute of furniture; but it was evident, from the plumpness of the little children, that cocoa-nuts and turtle afford no bad sustenance.

* The large claws or pincers of some of these crabs are most beautifully adapted, when drawn back, to form an operculuin to the shell, nearly as perfect as the proper one originally belonging to the molluscous animal. I was assured, and as far as my observation went I found it so, that certain species of the hermit-crabs always use certain species of shells.

On this island the wells are situated, from which ships obtain water. At first sight it appears not a little remarkable that the fresh water should regularly ebb and flow with the tides ; and it has even been imagined, that sand has the power of filtering the salt from the sea-water. These ebbing wells are common on some of the low islands in the West Indies. The compressed sand, or porous coral rock, is permeated like a sponge with the salt water ; but the rain. which falls on the surface must sink to the level of the surrounding sea, and must accumulate there, displacing an eqnal bulk of the salt water. As the water in the lower part of the great sponge-like coral mass rises and falls with the tides, so will the water near the surface; and this will keep fresh, if the mass be sufficiently compact to prevent much mechanical admixture; but where the land consists of great loose blocks of coral with open interstices, if a well be dug, the water, as I have seen, is brackish.

After dinner we stayed to see a curious half superstitious scene acted by the Malay women. A large wooden spoon dressed in garments, and which had been carried to the grave of a dead man, they pretend becomes inspired at the full of the moon, and will dance and jump about. After the proper preparations, the spoon, held by two women, became convulsed, and danced in good time to the song of the surrounding children and women. It was a most foolish spectacle ; but Mr. Liesk maintained that many of the Malays believed in its spiritual movements. The dance did not commence till the moon had risen, and it was well worth remaining to behold her bright orb so quietly shining through the long arms of the cocoa-nut trees as they waved in the evening breeze. These scenes of the tropics are in themselves so delicious, that they almost equal those dearer ones at home, to which we are bound by each best feeling of the mind.

The next day I employed myself in examining the very interesting, yet simple structure and origin of these islands. The water being unusually smooth, I waded over the outer flat of dead rock as far as the living mounds of coral, on which the swell of the open sea breaks. In some of the gullies and hollows there were beautiful green and other coloured fishes, and the forms

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and tints of many of the zoophytes were admirable. It is excusable to grow enthusiastic over the infinite numbers of organic beings with which the sea of the tropics, so prodigal of life, teems; yet I must confess I think those naturalists who have described, in well-known words, the submarine grottoes decked with a thousand beauties, have indulged in rather exuberant language.

April 6th.-I accompanied Captain Fitz Roy to an island at the head of the lagoon : the channel was exceedingly intricate, winding through fields of delicately branched corals. We saw several turtle, and two boats were then employed in catching them. The water was so clear and shallow, that although at first a turtle quickly dives out of sight, yet in a canoe or boat under sail, the pursuers after no very long chase come up to it. A man standing ready in the bow, at this moment dashes through the water upon the turtle's back; then clinging with both hands by the shell of its neck, he is carried away till the animal becomes exhausted and is secuired. It was quite an interesting chase to see the two boats thus doubling about, and the men dashing head foremost into the water trying to seize their prey. Captain Moresby informs me that in the Chagos archipelago in this same ocean, the natives, by a horrible process, take the shell from the back of the living turtle. It is covered with burning charcoal, which causes the outer shell to curl upwards ; it is then forced off with a knife, and before it becomes cold flattened between boards. After this barbarous process the animal is suffered to regain its native element, where, after a certain time, a new shell is formed ; it is, however, too thin to be of any service, and the animal always appears languishing and sickly.”

When we arrived at the head of the lagoon, we crossed a narrow islet, and found a great surf breaking on the windward coast. I can hardly explain the reason, but there is to my mind much grandeur in the view of the outer shores of these lagoonislands. There is a simplicity in the barrier-like beach, the margin of green bushes and tall cocoa-nuts, the solid flat of dead coral-rock, strewed here and there with great loose fragments, and the line of furious breakers, all rounding away towards either hand. The ocean throwing its waters over the broad reef appears an invincible, all-powerful enemy; yet we see it resisted

and even conquered, by means which at first seem most weak and inefficient. It is not that the ocean spares the rock of coral ; the great fragments scattered over the reef, and heaped on the beach, whence the tall cocoa-nut springs, plainly bespeak the unrelenting power of the waves. Nor are any periods of repose granted. The long swell. caused by the gentle but steady action of the trade-wind, always blowing in one direction over a wide area, causes breakers, almost equalling in force those during a gale of wind in the temperate regions, and which never cease to rage.

It is impossible to behold these waves without feeling a conviction that an island, though built of the hardest rock, let it be porphyry, granite, or quartz, would ultimately yield and be demolished by such an irresistible power. Yet these low, insignificant coral-islets stand and are victorious : for here another power, as an antagonist, takes part in the contest. The organic forces separate the atoms of carbonate of lime, one by one, from the foaming breakers, and unite them into a symmetrical structure. Let the hurricane tear up its thousand huge fragments; yet what will that tell against the accumulated labour of myriads of architects at work night and day, month after month? Thus do we see the soft and gelatinous body of a polypus, through the agency of the vital laws, conquering the great mechanical power of the waves of an ocean which neither the art of man nor the inanimate works of nature could successfully resist.

We did not return on board till late in the evening, for we staid a long time in the lagoon, examining the fields of coral and the gigantic shells of the chama, into which, if a man were to put his hand, he would not, as long as the animal lived, be able to withdraw it. Near the head of the lagoon, I was much surprised to find a wide area, considerably more than a mile square, covered with a forest of delicately branching corals, which, though standing upright, were all dead and rotten. At first I was quite at a loss to understand the cause; afterwards it occurred to me that it was owing to the following rather curious combination of circumstances. It should, however, first be stated, that corals are not able to survive even a short exposure in the air to the sun's rays, so that their upward limit of growth is determined by that of lowest water at spring tides. It appears, from some old charts, that the long island to windward was formerly separated by wide

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