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The Hawaiian Archipelago: Six Months Among the Palm Groves, Coral Reefs, and Volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands. Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831–1904.
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page: 42
STEAMER KILAUEA, Jan. 29th.

I was turning homewards, enjoying the prospect of a quiet week in Honolulu, when Mr. and Mrs. Damon seized upon me, and told me that a lady friend of theirs, anxious for a companion, was going to the volcano on Hawaii, that she was a most expert and intelligent traveller, that the Kilauea would sail in two hours, that unless I went now I should have no future opportunity during my limited stay on the islands, that Mrs. Dexter was anxious for me to go, that they would more than fill my place in my absence, that this was a golden opportunity, that in short I must go, and they would drive me back to the hotel to pack! The volcano is still a myth to me, and I wanted to “read up” before going, and above all was grieved to leave my friend, but she had already made some needful preparations, her son with his feeble voice urged my going, the doctor said that there page: 43 was now no danger to be apprehended, and the Damons' kind urgency left me so little choice, that by five I was with them on the wharf, being introduced to my travelling companion, and to many of my fellow-passengers. Such an unexpected move is very bewildering, and it is too experimental, and too much of a leap in the dark to be enjoyable at present.

The wharf was one dense, well-compacted mass of natives taking leave of their friends with much effusiveness, and the steamer's encumbered deck was crowded with them, till there was hardly room to move; men, women, children, dogs, cats, mats, calabashes of poi, cocoanuts, bananas, dried fish, and every dusky individual of the throng was wreathed and garlanded with odorous and brilliant flowers. All were talking and laughing, and an immense amount of gesticulation seems to emphasize and supplement speech. We steamed through the reef in the brief red twilight, over the golden tropic sea, keeping on the leeward side of the islands. Before it was quite dark the sleeping arrangements were made, and the deck and skylights were covered with mats and mattresses on which 170 natives sat, slept, or smoked,—a motley, parti-coloured mass of humanity, in the midst of which I recognized Bishop Willis in the usual episcopal dress, lying on a mattress among the others, a prey to discomfort and weariness! What would his episcopal brethren at home think of such a hardship?

There is a yellow-skinned, soft-voiced, fascinating Goa or Malay steward on board, who with infinite goodwill attends to the comfort of everybody. I was surprised page: 44 when he asked me if I would like a mattress on the skylight, or a berth below, and in unhesitating ignorance replied severely, “Oh, below, of course, please,” thinking of a ladies' cabin, but when I went down to supper, my eyes were enlightened.

The Kilauea is a screw boat of 400 tons, most unprepossessing in appearance, slow, but sure, and capable of bearing an infinite amount of battering. It is jokingly said that her keel has rasped off the branch coral round all the islands. Though there are many inter-island schooners, she is the only sure mode of reaching the windward islands in less than a week; and though at present I am disposed to think rather slightingly of her, and to class her with the New Zealand coasting craft, yet the residents are very proud of her, and speak lovingly of her, and regard her as a blessed deliverance from the horrors of beating to windward. She has a shabby, obsolete look about her, like a second-rate coasting collier, or an old American tow-boat. She looks ill-found, too; I saw two essential pieces of tackle give way as they were hoisting the main sail.* She has a small saloon with a double tier of berths, besides transoms, which give accommodation on the level of the lower berth. There is a stern cabin, which is a prolongation of the saloon, and not in any way separated from it. There is no ladies' cabin; but sex, race, and colour are included in a promiscuous arrangement.


* Dear old craft! I would not change her now for the finest palace which floats on the Hudson, or the trimmest of the Hutchesons' beautiful West Highland fleet.

page: 45

Miss Karpe, my travelling companion, and two agreeable ladies, were already in their berths very sick, but I did not get into mine because a cockroach, looking as large as a mouse, occupied the pillow, and a companion not much smaller was roaming over the quilt without any definite purpose. I can't vouch for the accuracy of my observation, but it seemed to me that these tremendous creatures were dark red, with eyes like lobsters', and antennæ two inches long. They looked capable of carrying out the most dangerous and inscrutable designs. I called the Malay steward; he smiled mournfully, but spoke reassuringly, and pledged his word for their innocuousness, but I never can believe that they are not the enemies of man; and I lay down on the transom, not to sleep, however, for it seemed essential to keep watch on the proceedings of these formidable vermin.

The grotesqueness of the arrangements of the berths and their occupants grew on me during the night, and the climax was put upon it when a gentleman coming down in the early morning asked me if I knew that I was using the Governor of Maui's head for a footstool, this portly native “Excellency” being in profound slumber on the forward part of the transom. This diagram represents one side of the saloon and the “happy family” of English, Chinamen, Hawaiians, and Americans:—

     
Governor Lyman. Miss Karpe. Miss —.
Afong. Vacant. Miss —.
Governor Nahaolelua. Myself. An Hawaiian.

I noticed, too, that there were very few trunks and page: 46 portmanteaus, but that the after end of the saloon was heaped with Mexican saddles and saddlebags, which I learned too late were the essential gear of every traveller on Hawaii.

At five this morning we were at anchor in the roads of Lahaina, the chief village on the mountainous island of Maui. This place is very beautiful from the sea, for beyond the blue water and the foamy reef the eye rests gratefully on a picturesque collection of low, one-storied, thatched houses, many of frame, painted white; others of grass, but all with deep, cool verandahs, half hidden among palms, bananas, kukuis, breadfruit, and mangoes, dark groves against gentle slopes behind, covered with sugar-cane of a bright pea-green. It is but a narrow strip of land between the ocean and the red, flaring, almost inaccessible, Maui hills, which here rise abruptly to a height of 6,000 feet, pinnacled, chasmed, buttressed, and almost verdureless, except in a few deep clefts, green and cool with ferns and candlenut trees, and moist with falling water. Lahaina looked intensely tropical in the rose flush of the early morning, a dream of some bright southern isle, too surely to pass away. The sun blazed down on shore, ship, and sea, glorifying all things through the winter day. It was again ecstasy “to dream, and dream” under the awning, fanned by the light sea-breeze, with the murmur of an unknown musical tongue in one's ears, and the rich colouring and graceful grouping of a tropical race around one. We called at Maaleia, a neck of sandy, scorched, verdureless soil, and at Ulupalakua, or rather at the furnace seven times heated, page: 47 which is the landing of the plantation of that name, on whose breezy slopes cane refreshes the eye at a height of 2,000 feet above the sea. We anchored at both places, and with what seemed to me a needless amount of delay, discharged goods and natives, and natives, mats, and calabashes were embarked. In addition to the essential mat and calabash of poi, every native carried some pet, either dog or cat, which was caressed, sung to, and talked to with extreme tenderness; but there were hardly any children, and I noticed that where there were any, the men took charge of them. There were very few fine, manly dogs; the pets in greatest favour are obviously those odious weak-eyed, pink-nosed Maltese terriers.

The aspect of the sea was so completely lazy, that it was a fresh surprise as each indolent undulation touched the shore that it had latent vigour left to throw itself upwards into clouds of spray. We looked through limpid water into cool depths where. strange bright fish darted through the submarine chapparal, but the coolness was imaginary, for the water was at 80.°* The air above


* This temperature is, of course, in shallow water. The United States surveying vessel, Tuscarora, lately left San Diego, California, shaping a straight course for Honolulu, and found a nearly uniform temperature of from 33° to 34° Fahrenheit at all depths below 1100 fathoms. The following table gives a good idea of the temperature of ocean water in this region of the Pacific:—

                       
100 64° 7
200 48° 7
300 42° 4
400 40° 4
500 39° 4
600 38° 6
700 38° 3
800 37° 5
900 36° 6
1000 35° 6
1200 35° 4
3054 33° 2
The Tuscarora found the extraordinary depth of 3023 fathoms at a distance of only 43 miles from Molokai.

page: 48 the great black lava flood, which in prehistoric times had flowed into the sea, and had ever since declined the kindly draping offices of nature, vibrated in waves of heat. Even the imperishable cocoanut trees, whose tall, bare, curved trunks rose from the lava or the burnt red earth, were gaunt, tattered, and thirsty-looking, weary of crying for moisture to the pitiless skies. At last the ceaseless ripple of talk ceased, crew and passengers slept on the hot deck, and no sounds were heard but the drowsy flap of the awning, and the drowsier creak of the rudder, as the Kilauea swayed sleepily on the lazy undulations. The flag drooped and fainted with heat. The white sun blazed like a magnesium light on blue water, black lava, and fiery soil, roasting, blinding, scintillating, and flushed the red rocks of Maui into glory. It was a constant marvel that troops of mounted natives, male and female, could gallop on the scorching shore without being melted or shrivelled. It is all glorious, this fierce bright glow of the Tropic of Cancer, yet it was a relief to look up the great rolling featureless slopes above Ulupalakua to a forest belt of perennial green, watered, they say, by perpetual showers, and a little later to see a mountain summit uplifted into a region of endless winter, above a steady cloud-bank as white as snow. This mountain, page: 49 Haleakala, the House of the Sun, is the largest extinct volcano in the world, its terminal crater being nineteen miles in circumference at a height of more than 10,000 feet. It, and its spurs, slopes, and clusters of small craters form East Maui. West Maui is composed mainly of the lofty picturesque group of the Eeka mountains. A desert strip of land, not much above high water mark, unites the twain, which form an island forty-eight miles long and thirty broad, with an area of 620 square miles.

We left Maui in the afternoon, and spent the next six hours in crossing the channel between it and Hawaii, but the short tropic day did not allow us to see anything of the latter island but two snow-capped domes uplifted above the clouds. I have been reading Jarves' excellent book on the islands as industriously as possible, as well as trying to get information from my fellow-passengers regarding the region into which I have been so suddenly and unintentionally projected. I really know nothing about Hawaii, or the size and phenomena of the volcano to which we are bound, or the state of society or of the native race, or of the relations existing between it and the foreign population, or of the details of the constitution. This ignorance is most oppressive, and I see that it will not be easily enlightened, for among several intelligent gentlemen who have been conversing with me, no two seem agreed on any matter of fact.

From the hour of my landing I have observed the existence of two parties of pro and anti missionary leanings, with views on all island subjects in grotesque page: 50 antagonism. So far, the former have left the undoubted results of missionary effort here to speak for themselves; and I am almost disposed, from the pertinacious aggressiveness of the latter party, to think that it must be weak. I have already been seized upon (a gentleman would write “button-holed”) by several persons, who, in their anxiety to be first in imprinting their own views on the tabula rasa of a stranger's mind, have exercised an unseemly over-haste in giving the conversation an anti-missionary twist. They apparently desire to convey the impression that the New England teachers, finding a people rejoicing in the innocence and simplicity of Eden, taught them the knowledge of evil, turned them into a nation of hypocrites, and with a strange mingling of fanaticism and selfishness, afflicted them with many woes calculated to accelerate their extinction, clothing among others. The animus appears strong and bitter. There are two intelligent and highly educated ladies on board, daughters of missionaries, and the candid and cautious tone in which they speak on the same subject impresses me favourably. Mr. Damon introduced me to a very handsome half white gentleman, a lawyer of ability, and lately interpreter to the Legislature, Mr. Ragsdale, or, as he is usually called, “Bill Ragsdale,” a leading spirit among the natives. His conversation was eloquent and poetic, though rather stilted, and he has a good deal of French mannerism; but if he is a specimen of native patriotic feeling, I think that the extinction of Hawaiian nationality must be far off. I was amused with the attention that he paid to his dress under very adverse circumstances. He has appeared in page: 51 three different suits, with light kid gloves to match, all equally elegant, in two days. A Chinese gentleman, who is at the same time a wealthy merchant at Honolulu, and a successful planter on Hawaii, interests me, from the quiet keen intelligence of his face, and the courtesy and dignity of his manner. I hear that he possesses the respect of the whole community for his honour and integrity. It is quite unlike an ordinary miscellaneous herd of passengers. The tone is so cheerful, courteous, and friendly, and people speak without introductions, and help to make the tone pass pleasantly to each other.

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