Monthly Archives: February 2004

Coral Reefs

Appendix. 1




In the beginning of the last chapter I stated the principles on which the
map is coloured. There only remains to be said, that it is an exact copy
of one by M. C. Gressier, published by the Depot General de la Marine, in
1835. The names have been altered into English, and the longitude has been
reduced to that of Greenwich. The colours were first laid down on accurate
charts, on a large scale. The data, on which the volcanoes historically
known to have been in action, have been marked with vermillion, were given
in a note to the last chapter. I will commence my description on the
eastern side of the map, and will describe each group of islands
consecutively, proceeding westward across the Pacific and Indian Oceans,
but ending with the West Indies.

The WESTERN SHORES OF AMERICA appear to be entirely without coral-reefs;
south of the equator the survey of the “Beagle”, and north of it, the
published charts show that this is the case. Even in the Bay of PANAMA,
where corals flourish, there are no true coral-reefs, as I have been
informed by Mr. Lloyd. There are no coral-reefs in the GALAPAGOS
Archipelago, as I know from personal inspection; and I believe there are
none on the COCOS, REVILLA-GIGEDO, and other neighbouring islands.
CLIPPERTON rock, 10 deg N., 109 deg W., has lately been surveyed by Captain
Belcher; in form it is like the crater of a volcano. From a drawing
appended to the MS. plan in the Admiralty, it evidently is not an atoll.
The eastern parts of the Pacific present an enormous area, without any
islands, except EASTER, and SALA, and GOMEZ Islands, which do not appear to
be surrounded by reefs.


This group consists of about eighty atolls: it will be quite superfluous
to refer to descriptions of each. In D’Urville and Lottin’s chart, one
island (WOLCHONSKY) is written with a capital letter, signifying, as
explained in a former chapter, that it is a high island; but this must be a
mistake, as the original chart by Bellinghausen shows that it is a true
atoll. Captain Beechey says of the thirty-two groups which he examined (of
the greater number of which I have seen beautiful MS. charts in the
Admiralty), that twenty-nine now contain lagoons, and he believes the other
three originally did. Bellinghausen (see an account of his Russian voyage,
in the “Biblioth. des Voyages,” 1834, page 443) says, that the seventeen
islands which he discovered resembled each other in structure, and he has
given charts on a large scale of all of them. Kotzebue has given plans of
several; Cook and Bligh mention others; a few were seen during the voyage
of the “Beagle”; and notices of other atolls are scattered through several
publications. The ACTAEON group in this archipelago has lately been
discovered (“Geographical Journal”, volume vii., page 454); it consists of
three small and low islets, one of which has a lagoon. Another lagoon-island
has been discovered (“Naut. Mag.” 1839, page 770), in 22 deg 4′ S.,
and 136 deg 20′ W. Towards the S.E. part of the group, there are some
islands of different formation: ELIZABETH Island is described by Beechey
(page 46, 4to edition) as fringed by reefs, at the distance of between two
and three hundred yards; coloured red. PITCAIRN Island, in the immediate
neighbourhood, according to the same authority, has no reefs of any kind,
although numerous pieces of coral are thrown up on the beach; the sea close
to its shore is very deep (see “Zool. of Beechey’s Voyage,” page 164); it
is left uncoloured. GAMBIER Islands (see Plate I., Figure 8), are
encircled by a barrier-reef; the greatest depth within is thirty-eight
fathoms; coloured pale blue. AURORA Island, which lies N.E. of Tahiti
close to the large space coloured dark blue in the map, has been already
described in a note (page 71), on the authority of Mr. Couthouy; it is an
upraised atoll, but as it does not appear to be fringed by living reefs, it
is left uncoloured.

The SOCIETY Archipelago is separated by a narrow space from the Low
Archipelago; and in their parallel direction they manifest some relation to
each other. I have already described the general character of the reefs of
these fine encircled islands. In the “Atlas of the ‘Coquille’s’ Voyage”
there is a good general chart of the group, and separate plans of some of
the islands. TAHITI, the largest island in the group, is almost
surrounded, as seen in Cook’s chart, by a reef from half a mile to a mile
and a half from the shore, with from ten to thirty fathoms within it. Some
considerable submerged reefs lying parallel to the shore, with a broad and
deep space within, have lately been discovered (“Naut. Mag.” 1836, page
264) on the N.E. coast of the island, where none are laid down by Cook. At
EIMEO the reef “which like a ring surrounds it, is in some places one or
two miles distant from the shore, in others united to the beach” (Ellis,
“Polynesian Researches,” volume i., page 18, 12mo edition). Cook found
deep water (twenty fathoms) in some of the harbours within the reef. Mr.
Couthouy, however, states (“Remarks,” page 45) that both at Tahiti and
Eimeo, the space between the barrier-reef and the shore, has been almost
filled up,–“a nearly continuous fringing-reef surrounding the island, and
varying from a few yards to rather more than a mile in width, the lagoons
merely forming canals between this and the sea-reef,” that is the
barrier-reef. TAPAMANOA is surrounded by a reef at a considerable distance
from the shore; from the island being small it is breached, as I am informed
by the Rev. W. Ellis, only by a narrow and crooked boat channel. This is the
lowest island in the group, its height probably not exceeding 500 feet. A
little way north of Tahiti, the low coral-islets of TETUROA are situated;
from the description of them given me by the Rev. J. Williams (the author
of the “Narrative of Missionary Enterprise”), I should have thought they
had formed a small atoll, and likewise from the description given by the
Rev. D. Tyerman and G. Bennett (“Journal of Voyage and Travels,” volume i.,
page 183), who say that ten low coral-islets “are comprehended within one
general reef, and separated from each other by interjacent lagoons;” but as
Mr. Stutchbury (“West of England Journal,” volume i., page 54) describes it
as consisting of a mere narrow ridge, I have left it uncoloured. MAITEA,
eastward of the group, is classed by Forster as a high encircled island;
but from the account given by the Rev. D. Tyerman and G. Bennett (volume
i., page 57) it appears to be an exceedingly abrupt cone, rising from the
sea without any reef; I have left it uncoloured. It would be superfluous
to describe the northern islands in this group, as they may be well seen in
the chart accompanying the 4to edition of Cook’s “Voyages,” and in the
“Atlas of the ‘Coquille’s’ Voyage.” MAURUA is the only one of the northern
islands, in which the water within the reef is not deep, being only four
and a half fathoms; but the great width of the reef, stretching three miles
and a half southward of the land (which is represented in the drawing in
the “Atlas of the ‘Coquille’s’ Voyage” as descending abruptly to the water)
shows, on the principle explained in the beginning of the last chapter,
that it belongs to the barrier class. I may here mention, from information
communicated to me by the Rev. W. Ellis, that on the N.E. side of HUAHEINE
there is a bank of sand, about a quarter of a mile wide, extending parallel
to the shore, and separated from it by an extensive and deep lagoon; this
bank of sand rests on coral-rock, and undoubtedly was originally a living
reef. North of Bolabola lies the atoll of TOUBAI (Motou-iti of the
“‘Coquille’s’ Atlas”) which is coloured dark blue; the other islands,
surrounded by barrier-reefs, are pale blue; three of them are represented
in Figures 3, 4, and 5, in Plate I. There are three low coral-groups lying
a little E. of the Society Archipelago, and almost forming part of it,
namely BELLINGHAUSEN, which is said by Kotzebue (“Second Voyage,” volume
ii., page 255), to be a lagoon-island; MOPEHA, which, from Cook’s
description (“Second Voyage,” book iii., chapter i.), no doubt is an atoll;
and the SCILLY Islands, which are said by Wallis (“Voyage,” chapter ix.) to
form a GROUP of LOW islets and shoals, and, therefore, probably, they
compose an atoll: the two former have been coloured blue, but not the

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These islands are entirely without reefs, as may be seen in Krusenstern’s
Atlas, making a remarkable contrast with the adjacent group of the Society
Islands. Mr. F.D. Bennett has given some account of this group, in the
seventh volume of the “Geographical Journal”. He informs me that all the
islands have the same general character, and that the water is very deep
close to their shores. He visited three of them, namely, DOMINICANA,
CHRISTIANA, and ROAPOA; their beaches are strewed with rounded masses of
coral, and although no regular reefs exist, yet the shore is in many places
lined by coral-rock, so that a boat grounds on this formation. Hence these
islands ought probably to come within the class of fringed islands and be
coloured red; but as I am determined to err on the cautious side, I have
left them uncoloured.


PALMERSTON Island is minutely described as an atoll by Captain Cook during
his voyage in 1774; coloured blue. AITUTAKI was partially surveyed by the
“Beagle” (see map accompanying “Voyages of ‘Adventure’ and ‘Beagle'”); the
land is hilly, sloping gently to the beach; the highest point is 360 feet;
on the southern side the reef projects five miles from the land: off this
point the “Beagle” found no bottom with 270 fathoms: the reef is
surmounted by many low coral-islets. Although within the reef the water is
exceedingly shallow, not being more than a few feet deep, as I am informed
by the Rev. J. Williams, nevertheless, from the great extension of this
reef into a profoundly deep ocean, this island probably belongs, on the
principle lately adverted to, to the barrier class, and I have coloured it
pale blue; although with much hesitation.–MANOUAI or HARVEY Island. The
highest point is about fifty feet: the Rev. J. Williams informs me that
the reef here, although it lies far from the shore, is less distant than at
Aitutaki, but the water within the reef is rather deeper: I have also
coloured this pale blue with many doubts.–Round MITIARO Island, as I am
informed by Mr. Williams, the reef is attached to the shore; coloured red.
–MAUKI or Maouti; the reef round this island (under the name of Parry
Island, in the “Voyage of H.M.S. ‘Blonde’,” page 209) is described as a
coral-flat, only fifty yards wide, and two feet under water. This
statement has been corroborated by Mr. Williams, who calls the reef
attached; coloured red.–AITU, or Wateeo; a moderately elevated hilly
island, like the others of this group. The reef is described in Cook’s
“Voyage,” as attached to the shore, and about one hundred yards wide;
coloured red.–FENOUA-ITI; Cook describes this island as very low, not more
than six or seven feet high (volume i., book ii., chapter iii, 1777); in
the chart published in the “‘Coquille’s’ Atlas,” a reef is engraved close
to the shore: this island is not mentioned in the list given by Mr.
Williams (page 16) in the “Narrative of Missionary Enterprise;” nature
doubtful. As it is so near Atiu, it has been unavoidably coloured red.–
RAROTONGA; Mr. Williams informs me that it is a lofty basaltic island with
an attached reef; coloured red.–There are three islands, ROUROUTI,
ROXBURGH, and HULL, of which I have not been able to obtain any account,
and have left them uncoloured. Hull Island, in the French chart, is
written with small letters as being low.–MANGAIA; height about three
hundred feet; “the surrounding reef joins the shore” (Williams,
“Narrative,” page 18); coloured red.–RIMETARA; Mr. Williams informs me
that the reef is rather close to the shore; but, from information given me
by Mr. Ellis, the reef does not appear to be quite so closely attached to
it as in the foregoing cases: the island is about three hundred feet high
(“Naut. Mag.” 1839, page 738); coloured red.–RURUTU; Mr. Williams and Mr.
Ellis inform me that this island has an attached reef; coloured red. It is
described by Cook under the name of Oheteroa: he says it is not
surrounded, like the neighbouring islands by a reef; he must have meant a
distant reef.–TOUBOUAI; in Cook’s chart (“Second Voyage,” volume ii., page
2) the reef is laid down in part one mile, and in part two miles from the
shore. Mr. Ellis (“Polynes. Res.” volume iii., page 381) says the low land
round the base of the island is very extensive; and this gentleman informs
me that the water within the reef appears deep; coloured blue.–RAIVAIVAI,
or Vivitao; Mr. Williams informs me that the reef is here distant: Mr.
Ellis, however, says that this is certainly not the case on one side of the
island; and he believes that the water within the reef is not deep; hence I
have left it uncoloured.–LANCASTER Reef, described in “Naut. Mag.” 1833
(page 693), as an extensive crescent-formed coral-reef. I have not
coloured it.–RAPA, or Oparree; from the accounts given of it by Ellis and
Vancouver, there does not appear to be any reef.–I. DE BASS is an
adjoining island, of which I cannot find any account.–KEMIN Island;
Krusenstern seems hardly to know its position, and gives no further


CAROLINE Island (10 deg S., 150 deg W.) is described by Mr. F.D. Bennett
(“Geographical Journal”, volume vii., page 225) as containing a fine
lagoon; coloured blue.–FLINT Island (11 deg S., 151 deg W.); Krusenstern
believes that it is the same with Peregrino, which is described by Quiros
(Burney’s “Chron. Hist.” volume ii., page 283) as “a cluster of small
islands connected by a reef, and forming a lagoon in the middle;” coloured
blue.–WOSTOCK is an island a little more than half a mile in diameter, and
apparently quite flat and low, and was discovered by Bellinghausen; it is
situated a little west of Caroline Island, but it is not placed on the
French charts; I have not coloured it, although I entertain little doubt
from the chart of Bellinghausen, that it originally contained a small
lagoon.–PENRHYN Island (9 deg S., 158 deg W.); a plan of it in the “Atlas
of the First Voyage” of Kotzebue, shows that it is an atoll; blue.–
SLARBUCK Island (5 deg S., 156 deg W.) is described in Byron’s “Voyage in
the ‘Blonde'” (page 206) as formed of a flat coral-rock, with no trees; the
height not given; not coloured.–MALDEN Island (4 deg S., 154 deg W.); in
the same voyage (page 205) this island is said to be of coral formation,
and no part above forty feet high; I have not ventured to colour it,
although, from being of coral-formation, it is probably fringed; in which
case it should be red.–JARVIS, or BUNKER Island (0 deg 20′ S., 160 deg W.)
is described by Mr. F.D. Bennett (“Geographical Journal”, volume vii., page
227) as a narrow, low strip of coral-formation; not coloured.–BROOK, is a
small low island between the two latter; the position, and perhaps even the
existence of it is doubtful; not coloured.–PESCADO and HUMPHREY Islands; I
can find out nothing about these islands, except that the latter appears to
be small and low; not coloured.–REARSON, or Grand Duke Alexander’s (10 S.,
161 deg W.); an atoll, of which a plan is given by Bellinghausen; blue.–
SOUVOROFF Islands (13 deg S., 163 deg W.); Admiral Krusenstern, in the most
obliging manner, obtained for me an account of these islands from Admiral
Lazareff, who discovered them. They consist of five very low islands of
coral-formation, two of which are connected by a reef, with deep water
close to it. They do not surround a lagoon, but are so placed that a line
drawn through them includes an oval space, part of which is shallow; these
islets, therefore, probably once (as is the case with some of the islands
in the Caroline Archipelago) formed a single atoll; but I have not coloured
them.–DANGER Island (10 deg S., 166 deg W.); described as low by Commodore
Byron, and more lately surveyed by Bellinghausen; it is a small atoll with
three islets on it; blue.–CLARENCE Island (9 deg S., 172 deg W.);
discovered in the “Pandora” (G. Hamilton’s “Voyage,” page 75): it is said,
“in running along the land, we saw several canoes crossing the LAGOONS;” as
this island is in the close vicinity of other low islands, and as it is
said, that the natives make reservoirs of water in old cocoa-nut trees
(which shows the nature of the land), I have no doubt it is an atoll, and
have coloured it blue. YORK Island (8 deg S., 172 deg W.) is described by
Commodore Byron (chapter x. of his “Voyage”) as an atoll; blue.–SYDNEY
Island (4 deg S., 172 deg W.) is about three miles in diameter, with its
interior occupied by a lagoon (Captain Tromelin, “Annal. Marit.” 1829, page
297); blue.–PHOENIX Island (4 deg S., 171 deg W.) is nearly circular, low,
sandy, not more than two miles in diameter, and very steep outside
(Tromelin, “Annal. Marit.” 1829, page 297); it may be inferred that this
island originally contained a lagoon, but I have not coloured it.–NEW
NANTUCKET (0 deg 15’ N., 174 deg W.). From the French chart it must be a
low island; I can find nothing more about it or about MARY Island; both
uncoloured.–GARDNER Island (5 deg S., 174 deg W.) from its position is
certainly the same as KEMIN Island described (Krusenstern, page 435, Appen.
to Mem., published 1827) as having a lagoon in its centre; blue.


CHRISTMAS Island (2 deg N., 157 deg W.). Captain Cook, in his “Third
Voyage” (Volume ii., chapter x.), has given a detailed account of this
atoll. The breadth of the islets on the reef is unusually great, and the
sea near it does not deepen so suddenly as is generally the case. It has
more lately been visited by Mr. F.D. Bennett (“Geographical Journal,”
volume vii., page 226); and he assures me that it is low and of
coral-formation: I particularly mention this, because it is engraved with a
capital letter, signifying a high island, in D’Urville and Lottin’s chart.
Mr. Couthouy, also, has given some account of it (“Remarks,” page 46) from
the Hawaiian “Spectator”; he believes it has lately undergone a small
elevation, but his evidence does not appear to me satisfactory; the deepest
part of the lagoon is said to be only ten feet; nevertheless, I have
coloured it blue.–FANNING Island (4 deg N., 158 deg W.) according to
Captain Tromelin (“Ann. Maritim.” 1829, page 283), is an atoll: his
account as observed by Krusenstern, differs from that given in Fanning’s
“Voyage” (page 224), which, however, is far from clear; coloured blue.–
WASHINGTON Island (4 deg N., 159 deg W.) is engraved as a low island in
D’Urville’s chart, but is described by Fanning (page 226) as having a much
greater elevation than Fanning Island, and hence I presume it is not an
atoll; not coloured.–PALMYRA Island (6 deg N., 162 deg W.) is an atoll
divided into two parts (Krusenstern’s “Mem. Suppl.” page 50, also Fanning’s
“Voyage,” page 233); blue.–SMYTH’S or Johnston’s Islands (17 deg N., 170
deg W.). Captain Smyth, R.N., has had the kindness to inform me that they
consist of two very low, small islands, with a dangerous reef off the east
end of them. Captain Smyth does not recollect whether these islets,
together with the reef, surrounded a lagoon; uncoloured.