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Two Years with the Natives in the Western Pacific

199 pages
Library of Alexandria
Late in the sixteenth century the Spaniards made several voyages in search of a continent in the southern part of the great Pacific Ocean. Alvara Mendana de Neyra, starting in 1568 from the west coast of South America and following about the sixth degree southern latitude, found the Solomon Islands, which he took for parts of the desired continent. In 1595 he undertook another voyage, keeping a more southerly course, and discovered the Queen Charlotte Islands; the largest of these, Nitendi, he called Santa Cruz, and gave the fitting name of Graciosa Bay to the lovely cove in which he anchored. He tried to found a colony here, but failed. Mendana died in Santa Cruz, and his lieutenant, Pedro Vernandez de Quiros, led the expedition home. In Europe, Quiros succeeded in interesting the Spanish king, Philip III., in the idea of another voyage, so that in 1603 he was able to set sail from Spain with three ships. Again he reached the Santa Cruz Islands, and sailing southward from there he landed in 1606 on a larger island, which he took for the desired Australian continent and called Tierra Australis del Espiritu Santo; the large bay he named San Iago and San Felipe, and his anchorage Vera Cruz. He stayed here some months and founded the city of New Jerusalem at the mouth of the river Jordan in the curve of the bay. Quiros claims to have made a few sailing trips thence, southward along the east coast of the island; if he had pushed on far enough these cruises might easily have convinced him of the island-nature of the country. Perhaps he was aware of the truth; certainly the lovely descriptions he gave King Philip of the beauties of the new territory are so exaggerated that one may be pardoned for thinking him quite capable of dignifying an island by the name of continent. The inevitable quarrels with the natives, and diseases and mutinies among his crew, forced him to abandon the colony and return home. His lieutenant, Luis Vaez de Torres, separated from him, discovered and passed the Torres Straits, a feat of excellent seamanship. Quiros returned to America. His high-flown descriptions of his discovery did not help him much, for the king simply ignored him, and his reports were buried in the archives. Quiros died in poverty and bitterness, and the only traces of his travels are the names Espiritu Santo, Bay San Iago and San Felipe, and Jordan, in use to this day. No more explorers came to the islands till 1767, when a Frenchman, Carteret, touched at Santa Cruz, and 1768, when Bougainville landed in the northern New Hebrides, leaving his name to the treacherous channel between Malekula and Santo. WOMEN FROM THE REEF ISLANDS IN CARLISLE BAY, NITENDI