Coral Reefs

Page 89

I have coloured this island red, but it is very much less perfectly fringed than others of the group.--MAUI; in Freycinet's chart of the anchorage of Raheina, two or three miles of coast are seen to be fringed; and in the "Hydrog. Memoir," "banks of coral along shore" are spoken of. Mr. F.D. Bennett informs me that the reefs, on an average, extend about a quarter of a mile from the beach; the land is not very steep, and outside the reefs the sea does not become deep very suddenly; coloured red.--MOROTOI, I presume, is fringed: Freycinet speaks of the breakers extending along the shore at a little distance from it. From the chart, I believe it is fringed; coloured red.--OAHU; Freycinet, in his "Hydrog. Memoir," mentions some of the reefs. Mr. F.D. Bennett informs me that the shore is skirted for forty or fifty miles in length. There is even a harbour for ships formed by the reefs, but it is at the mouth of a valley; red.--ATOOI, in La Peyrouse's charts, is represented as fringed by a reef, in the same manner as Oahu and Morotoi; and this, as I have been informed by Mr. Ellis, on part at least of the shore, is of coral-formation: the reef does not leave a deep channel within; red.--ONEEHOW; Mr. Ellis believes that this island is also fringed by a coral-reef: considering its close proximity to the other islands, I have ventured to colour it red. I have in vain consulted the works of Cook, Vancouver, La Peyrouse, and Lisiansky, for any satisfactory account of the small islands and reefs, which lie scattered in a N.W. line prolonged from the Sandwich group, and hence have left them uncoloured, with one exception; for I am indebted to Mr. F.D. Bennett for informing me of an atoll-formed reef, in latitude 28 deg 22', longitude 178 deg 30' W., on which the "Gledstanes" was wrecked in 1837. It is apparently of large size, and extends in a N.W. and S.E. line: very few islets have been formed on it. The lagoon seems to be shallow; at least, the deepest part which was surveyed was only three fathoms. Mr. Couthouy ("Remarks," page 38) describes this island under the name of OCEAN island. Considerable doubts should be entertained regarding the nature of a reef of this kind, with a very shallow lagoon, and standing far from any other atoll, on account of the possibility of a crater or flat bank of rock lying at the proper depth beneath the surface of the water, thus affording a foundation for a ring-formed coral-reef. I have, however, thought myself compelled, from its large size and symmetrical outline, to colour it blue.


Kotzebue, in his "Second Voyage," contrasts the structure of these islands with many others in the Pacific, in not being furnished with harbours for ships, formed by distant coral-reefs. The Rev. J. Williams, however, informs me, that coral-reefs do occur in irregular patches on the shores of these islands; but that they do not form a continuous band, as round Mangaia, and other such perfect cases of fringed islands. From the charts accompanying La Peyrouse's "Voyage," it appears that the north shore of SAVAII, MAOUNA, OROSENGA, and MANUA, are fringed by reefs. La Peyrouse, speaking of Maouna (page 126), says that the coral-reef surrounding its shores, almost touches the beach; and is breached in front of the little coves and streams, forming passages for canoes, and probably even for boats. Further on (page 159), he extends the same observation to all the islands which he visited. Mr. Williams in his "Narrative," speaks of a reef going round a small island attached to OYOLAVA, and returning again to it: all these islands have been coloured red.--A chart of ROSE Island, at the extreme west end of the group, is given by Freycinet, from which I should have thought that it had been an atoll; but according to Mr. Couthouy ("Remarks," page 43), it consists of a reef, only a league in circuit, surmounted by a very few low islets; the lagoon is very shallow, and is strewed with numerous large boulders of volcanic rock. This island, therefore, probably consists of a bank of rock, a few feet submerged, with the outer margin of its upper surface fringed with reefs; hence it cannot be properly classed with atolls, in which the foundations are always supposed to lie at a depth, greater than that at which the reef-constructing polypifers can live; not coloured.

Charles Darwin

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