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imperfect margins (for otherwise their disseverment would be scarcely possible), and which are exposed to strong currents, is far from being an improbable event; and the several stages, from close relation to entire isolation in the atolls of the Maldiva Archipelago, are readily explicable.

We might go even further, and assert as not improbable, that the first formation of the Maldiva Archipelago was due to a barrier-reef, of nearly the same dimensions with that of New Caledonia (Plate II., Figure 5), for if, in imagination, we complete the subsidence of that great island, we might anticipate from the present broken condition of the northern portion of the reef, and from the almost entire absence of reefs on the eastern coast, that the barrier-reef after repeated subsidences, would become during its upward growth separated into distinct portions; and these portions would tend to assume an atoll-like structure, from the coral growing with vigour round their entire circumferences, when freely exposed to an open sea. As we have some large islands partly submerged with barrier-reefs marking their former limits, such as New Caledonia, so our theory makes it probable that there should be other large islands wholly submerged; and these, we may now infer, would be surmounted, not by one enormous atoll, but by several large elongated ones, like the atolls in the Maldiva group; and these again, during long periods of subsidence, would sometimes become dissevered into smaller atolls. I may add, that both in the Marshall and Caroline Archipelagoes, there are atolls standing close together, which have an evident relationship in form: we may suppose, in such cases, either that two or more encircled islands originally stood close together, and afforded bases for two or more atolls, or that one atoll has been dissevered. From the position, as well as form, of three atolls in the Caroline Archipelago (the Namourrek and Elato group), which are placed in an irregular circle, I am strongly tempted to believe that they have originated by the process of disseverment. (The same remark is, perhaps, applicable to the islands of Ollap, Fanadik, and Tamatam in the Caroline Archipelago, of which charts are given in the atlas of Duperrey’s voyage: a line drawn through the linear reefs and lagoons of these three islands forms a semicircle. Consult also, the atlas of Lutke’s voyage; and for the Marshall group that of Kotzebue; for the Gilbert group consult the atlas of Duperrey’s voyage. Most of the points here referred to may, however, be seen in Krusenstern’s general Atlas of the Pacific.)


In the Marshall group, Musquillo atoll consists of two loops united in one point; and Menchikoff atoll is formed of three loops, two of which (as may be seen in Figure 3, Plate II.) are connected by a mere ribbon-shaped reef, and the three together are sixty miles in length. In the Gilbert group some of the atolls have narrow strips of reef, like spurs, projecting from them. There occur also in parts of the open sea, a few linear and straight reefs, standing by themselves; and likewise some few reefs in the form of crescents, with their extremities more or less curled inwards. Now, the upward growth of a barrier-reef which fronted only one side of an island, or one side of an elongated island with its extremities (of which cases exist), would produce after the complete subsidence of the land, mere strips or crescent or hook-formed reefs: if the island thus partially fronted became divided during subsidence into two or more islands, these islands would be united together by linear reefs; and from the further growth of the coral along their shores together with subsidence, reefs of various forms might ultimately be produced, either atolls united together by linear reefs, or atolls with spurs projecting from them. Some, however, of the more simple forms above specified, might, as we have seen, be equally well produced by the coral perishing during subsidence on part of the circumference of an atoll, whilst on the other parts it continued to grow up till it reached the surface.


I have already shown that the submerged condition of the Great Chagos Bank (Plate II., Figure 1, with its section Figure 2), and of some other banks in the Chagos group, may in all probability be attributed to the coral having perished before or during the movements of subsidence, to which this whole area by our theory has been subjected. The external rim or upper ledge (shaded in the chart), consists of dead coral-rock thinly covered with sand; it lies at an average depth of between five and eight fathoms, and perfectly resembles in form the annular reef of an atoll. The banks of the second level, the boundaries of which are marked by dotted lines in the chart, lie from about fifteen to twenty fathoms beneath the surface; they are several miles broad, and terminate in a very steep slope round the central expanse. This central expanse I have already described, as consisting of a level muddy flat between thirty and forty fathoms deep. The banks of the second level, might at first sight be thought analogous to the internal step-like ledge of coral-rock which borders the lagoons of some atolls, but their much greater width, and their being formed of sand, are points of essential difference. On the eastern side of the atoll some of the banks are linear and parallel, resembling islets in a great river, and pointed directly towards a great breach on the opposite side of the atoll; these are best seen in the large published chart. I inferred from this circumstance, that strong currents sometimes set directly across this vast bank; and I have since heard from Captain Moresby that this is the case. I observed, also, that the channels or breaches through the rim, were all of the same depth as the central lagoon-like space into which they lead; whereas the channels into the other atolls of the Chagos group, and as I believe into most other large atolls, are not nearly as deep as their lagoons: for instance at Peros Banhos, the channels are only of the same depth, namely between ten and twenty fathoms, as the bottom of the lagoon for a space about a mile and a half in width round its shores, whilst the central expanse of the lagoon is from thirty-five to forty fathoms deep. Now, if an atoll during a gradual subsidence once became entirely submerged, like the Great Chagos Bank, and therefore no longer exposed to the surf, very little sediment could be formed from it; and consequently the channels leading into the lagoon from not being filled up with drifted sand and coral detritus, would continue increasing in depth, as the whole sank down. In this case, we might expect that the currents of the open sea, instead of any longer sweeping round the submarine flanks, would flow directly through the breaches across the lagoon, removing in their course the finer sediment, and preventing its further accumulation. We should then have the submerged reef forming an external and upper rim of rock, and beneath this portion of the sandy bottom of the old lagoon, intersected by deep-water channels or breaches, and thus formed into separate marginal banks; and these would be cut off by steep slopes, overhanging the central space, worn down by the passage of the oceanic currents.

By these means, I have scarcely any doubt that the Great Chagos Bank has originated,–a structure which at first appeared to me far more anomalous than any I had met with. The process of formation is nearly the same with that, by which Mahlos Mahdoo had been trisected; but in the Chagos Bank the channels of the oceanic currents entering at several different quarters, have united in a central space.

This great atoll-formed bank appears to be in an early stage of disseverment; should the work of subsidence go on, from the submerged and dead condition of the whole reef, and the imperfection of the south-east quarter a mere wreck would probably be left. The Pitt’s Bank, situated not far southward, appears to be precisely in this state; it consists of a moderately level, oblong bank of sand, lying from 10 to 20 fathoms beneath the surface, with two sides protected by a narrow ledge of rock which is submerged between 5 and 8 fathoms. A little further south, at about the same distance as the southern rim of the Great Chagos Bank is from the northern rim, there are two other small banks with from 10 to 20 fathoms on them; and not far eastward soundings were struck on a sandy bottom, with between 110 and 145 fathoms. The northern portion with its ledge-like margin, closely resembles any one segment of the Great Chagos Bank, between two of the deep-water channels, and the scattered banks, southward appear to be the last wrecks of less perfect portions.

I have examined with care the charts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and have now brought before the reader all the examples, which I have met with, of reefs differing from the type of the class to which they belong; and I think it has been satisfactorily shown, that they are all included in our theory, modified by occasional accidents which might have been anticipated as probable. In this course we have seen, that in the lapse of ages encircling barrier-reefs are occasionally converted into atolls, the name of atoll being properly applicable, at the moment when the last pinnacle of encircled land sinks beneath the surface of the sea. We have, also, seen that large atolls during the progressive subsidence of the areas in which they stand, sometimes become dissevered into smaller ones; at other times, the reef-building polypifers having entirely perished, atolls are converted into atoll-formed banks of dead rock; and these again through further subsidence and the accumulation of sediment modified by the force of the oceanic currents, pass into level banks with scarcely any distinguishing character. Thus may the history of an atoll be followed from its first origin, through the occasional accidents of its existence, to its destruction and final obliteration.


The vast amount of subsidence, both horizontally or in area, and vertically or in depth, necessary to have submerged every mountain, even the highest, throughout the immense spaces of ocean interspersed with atolls, will probably strike most people as a formidable objection to my theory. But as continents, as large as the spaces supposed to have subsided, have been raised above the level of the sea,–as whole regions are now rising, for instance, in Scandinavia and South America,–and as no reason can be assigned, why subsidences should not have occurred in some parts of the earth’s crust on as great a scale both in extent and amount as those of elevation, objections of this nature strike me as of little force. The remarkable point is that movements to such an extent should have taken place within a period, during which the polypifers have continued adding matter on and above the same reefs. Another and less obvious objection to the theory will perhaps be advanced from the circumstance, of the lagoons within atolls and within barrier-reefs never having become in any one instance during prolonged subsidences of a greater depth than sixty fathoms, and seldom more than forty fathoms; but we already admit, if the theory be worth considering, that the rate of subsidence has not exceeded that of the upward growth of the coral on the exterior margin; we are, therefore, only further required to admit, that the subsidence has not exceeded in rate the filling up of the interior spaces by the growth of the corals living there, and by the accumulation of sediment. As this filling up must take place very slowly within barrier-reefs lying far from the land, and within atolls which are of large dimensions and which have open lagoons with very few reefs, we are led to conclude that the subsidence thus counter-balanced, must have been slow in an extraordinary degree; a conclusion which accords with our only means, namely, with what is known of the rate and manner of recent elevatory movements, of judging by analogy what is the probable rate of subsidence.

In this chapter it has, I think, been shown, that the theory of subsidence, which we were compelled to receive from the necessity of giving to the corals, in certain large areas, foundations at the requisite depth, explains both the normal structure and the less regular forms of those two great classes of reefs, which have justly excited the astonishment of all persons who have sailed through the Pacific and Indian Oceans. But further to test the truth of the theory, a crowd of questions will occur to the reader: Do the different kinds of reefs, which have been produced by the same kind of movement, generally lie within the same areas? What is their relation of form and position,–for instance, do adjoining groups of atolls, and the separate atolls in these groups, bear the same relation to each other which islands do in common archipelagoes? Have we reason to believe, that where there are fringing-reefs, there has not lately been subsidence; or, for it is almost our only way of ascertaining this point, are there frequently proofs of recent elevation? Can we by this means account for the presence of certain classes of reefs in some large areas, and their entire absence in others? Do the areas which have subsided, as indicated by the presence of atolls and barrier-reefs, and the areas which have remained stationary or have been upraised, as shown by fringing-reefs, bear any determinate relation to each other; and are the dimensions of these areas such as harmonise with the greatness of the subterranean changes, which, it must be supposed, have lately taken place beneath them? Is there any connection between the movements thus indicated, and recent volcanic action? All these questions ought to receive answers in accordance with the theory; and if this can be satisfactorily shown, not only is the theory confirmed, but as deductions, the answers are in themselves important. Under this latter point of view, these questions will be chiefly considered in the following chapter.

(I may take this opportunity of briefly considering the appearances, which would probably be presented by a vertical and deep section across a coral formation (referring chiefly to an atoll), formed by the upward growth of coral during successive subsidences. This is a subject worthy of attention, as a means of comparison with ancient coral-strata. The circumferential parts would consist of massive species, in a vertical position, with their interstices filled up with detritus; but this would be the part most subject to subsequent denudation and removal. It is useless to speculate how large a portion of the exterior annular reef would consist of upright coral, and how much of fragmentary rock, for this would depend on many contingencies,–such as on the rate of subsidence, occasionally allowing a fresh growth of coral to cover the whole surface, and on the breakers having force sufficient to throw fragments over this same space. The conglomerate which composes the base of the islets, would (if not removed by denudation together with the exterior reef on which it rests) be conspicuous from the size of the fragments,–the different degrees in which they have been rounded,–the presence of fragments of conglomerate torn up, rounded, and recemented,–and from the oblique stratification. The corals which lived in the lagoon-reefs at each successive level, would be preserved upright, and they would consist of many kinds, generally much branched. In this part, however, a very large proportion of the rock (and in some cases nearly all of it) would be formed of sedimentary matter, either in an excessively fine, or in a moderately coarse state, and with the particles almost blended together. The conglomerate which was formed of rounded pieces of the branched corals, on the shores of the lagoon, would differ from that formed on the islets and derived from the outer coast; yet both might have accumulated very near each other. I have seen a conglomerate limestone from Devonshire like a conglomerate now forming on the shores of the Maldiva atolls. The stratification taken as a whole, would be horizontal; but the conglomerate beds resting on the exterior reef, and the beds of sandstone on the shores of the lagoon (and no doubt on the external flanks) would probably be divided (as at Keeling atoll and at Mauritius) by numerous layers dipping at considerable angles in different directions. The calcareous sandstone and coral-rock would almost necessarily contain innumerable shells, echini, and the bones of fish, turtle, and perhaps of birds; possibly, also, the bones of small saurians, as these animals find their way to the islands far remote from any continent. The large shells of some species of Tridacna would be found vertically imbedded in the solid rock, in the position in which they lived. We might expect also to find a mixture of the remains of pelagic and littoral animals in the strata formed in the lagoon, for pumice and the seeds of plants are floated from distant countries into the lagoons of many atolls: on the outer coast of Keeling atoll, near the mouth of the lagoon, the case of a pelagic Pteropodous animal was brought up on the arming of the sounding lead. All the loose blocks of coral on Keeling atoll were burrowed by vermiform animals; and as every cavity, no doubt, ultimately becomes filled with spathose limestone, slabs of the rock taken from a considerable depth, would, if polished, probably exhibit the excavations of such burrowing animals. The conglomerate and fine-grained beds of coral-rock would be hard, sonorous, white and composed of nearly pure calcareous matter; in some few parts, judging from the specimens at Keeling atoll, they would probably contain a small quantity of iron. Floating pumice and scoriae, and occasionally stones transported in the root of trees (see my “Journal of Researches,” page 549) appear the only sources, through which foreign matter is brought to coral-formations standing in the open ocean. The area over which sediment is transported from coral-reefs must be considerable: Captain Moresby informs me that during the change of monsoons the sea is discoloured to a considerable distance off the Maldiva and Chagos atolls. The sediment of fringing and barrier coral-reefs must be mingled with the mud, which is brought down from the land, and is transported seaward through the breaches, which occur in front of almost every valley. If the atolls of the larger archipelagoes were upraised, the bed of the ocean being converted into land, they would form flat-topped mountains, varying in diameter from a few miles (the smallest atolls being worn away) to sixty miles; and from being horizontally stratified and of similar composition, they would, as Mr. Lyell has remarked, falsely appear as if they had originally been united into one vast continuous mass. Such great strata of coral-rock would rarely be associated with erupted volcanic matter, for this could only take place, as may be inferred from what follows in the next chapter, when the area, in which they were situated, commenced to rise, or at least ceased to subside. During the enormous period necessary to effect an elevation of the kind just alluded to, the surface would necessarily be denuded to a great thickness; hence it is highly improbable that any fringing-reef, or even any barrier-reef, at least of those encircling small islands, would be preserved. From this same cause, the strata which were formed within the lagoons of atolls and lagoon-channels of barrier-reefs, and which must consist in a large part of sedimentary matter, would more often be preserved to future ages, than the exterior solid reef, composed of massive corals in an upright position; although it is on this exterior part that the present existence and further growth of atolls and barrier-reefs entirely depend.




The principles, on which this map was coloured, are explained in the beginning of Chapter VI.; and the authorities for each particular spot are detailed in the Appendix to “Coral Reefs.” The names not printed in upper case in the Index refer to the Appendix.)

Description of the coloured map.–Proximity of atolls and barrier-reefs.– Relation in form and position of atolls with ordinary islands.–Direct evidence of subsidence difficult to be detected.–Proofs of recent elevation where fringing-reefs occur.–Oscillations of level.–Absence of active volcanoes in the areas of subsidence.–Immensity of the areas which have been elevated and have subsided.–Their relation to the present distribution of the land.–Areas of subsidence elongated, their intersection and alternation with those of elevation.–Amount and slow rate of the subsidence.–Recapitulation.

It will be convenient to give here a short account of the appended map (Plate III.) [Inasmuch as the coloured map would have proved too costly to be given in this series, the indications of colour have been replaced by numbers referring to the dotted groups of reefs, etc. The author’s original wording, however, is retained in full, as it will be easy to refer to the map by the numbers, and thus the flow of the narrative is undisturbed.]: a fuller one, with the data for colouring each spot, is reserved for the Appendix; and every place there referred to may be found in the Index. A larger chart would have been desirable; but, small as the adjoined one is, it is the result of many months’ labour. I have consulted, as far as I was able, every original voyage and map; and the colours were first laid down on charts on a larger scale. The same blue colour, with merely a difference in the depth of tint, is used for atolls or lagoon-islands, and barrier-reefs, for we have seen, that as far as the actual coral-formation is concerned, they have no distinguishing character. Fringing-reefs have been coloured red, for between them on the one hand, and barrier-reefs and atolls on the other, there is an important distinction with respect to the depth beneath the surface, at which we are compelled to believe their foundations lie. The two distinct colours, therefore, mark two great types of structure.

The DARK BLUE COLOUR [represented by (3) in our plate] represents atolls and submerged annular reefs, with deep water in their centres. I have coloured as atolls, a few low and small coral-islands, without lagoons; but this has been done only when it clearly appeared that they originally contained lagoons, since filled up with sediment: when there were not good grounds for this belief, they have been left uncoloured.

The PALE BLUE COLOUR [represented by (2)] represents barrier-reefs. The most obvious character of reefs of this class is the broad and deep-water moat within the reef: but this, like the lagoons of small atolls, is liable to become filled up with detritus and with reefs of delicately branched corals: when, therefore, a reef round the entire circumference of an island extends very far into a profoundly deep sea, so that it can hardly be confounded with a fringing-reef which must rest on a foundation of rock within a small depth, it has been coloured pale blue, although it does not include a deep-water moat: but this has only been done rarely, and each case is distinctly mentioned in the Appendix.

The RED COLOUR (4) represents reefs fringing the land quite closely where the sea is deep, and where the bottom is gently inclined extending to a moderate distance from it, but not having a deep-water moat or lagoon-like space parallel to the shore. It must be remembered that fringing-reefs are frequently BREACHED in front of rivers and valleys by deepish channels, where mud has been deposited. A space of thirty miles in width has been coloured round or in front of the reefs of each class, in order that the colours might be conspicuous on the appended map, which is reduced to so small a scale.

The VERMILLION SPOTS, and streaks (1) represent volcanoes now in action, or historically known to have been so. They are chiefly laid down from Von Buch’s work on the Canary Islands; and my reasons for making a few alterations are given in the note below.

(I have also made considerable use of the geological part of Berghaus’ “Physical Atlas.” Beginning at the eastern side of the Pacific, I have added to the number of the volcanoes in the southern part of the Cordillera, and have coloured Juan Fernandez according to observations collected during the voyage of the “Beagle” (“Geological Transactions,” volume v., page 601.) I have added a volcano to Albemarle Island, one of the Galapagos Archipelago (the author’s “Journal of Researches,” page 457). In the Sandwich group there are no active volcanoes, except at Hawaii; but the Rev. W. Ellis informs me, there are streams of lava apparently modern on Maui, having a very recent appearance, which can be traced to the craters whence they flowed. The same gentleman informs me, that there is no reason to believe that any active volcano exists in the Society Archipelago; nor are there any known in the Samoa or Navigator group, although some of the streams of lava and craters there appear recent. In the Friendly group, the Rev. J. Williams says (“Narrative of Missionary Enterprise,” page 29) that Toofoa and Proby Islands are active volcanoes. I infer from Hamilton’s “Voyage in the ‘Pandora'” (Page 95), that Proby Island is synonymous with Onouafou, but I have not ventured to colour it. There can be no doubt respecting Toofoa, and Captain Edwards (Von Buch, page 386) found the lava of recent eruption at Amargura still smoking. Berghaus marks four active volcanoes actually within the Friendly group; but I do not know on what authority: I may mention that Maurelle describes Latte as having a burnt-up appearance: I have marked only Toofoa and Amargura. South of the New Hebrides lies Matthews Rock, which is drawn and described as an active crater in the “Voyage of the ‘Astrolabe’.” Between it and the volcano on the eastern side of New Zealand, lies Brimstone Island, which from the high temperature of the water in the crater, may be ranked as active (Berghaus “Vorbemerk,” II Lief. S. 56). Malte Brun, volume xii., page 231, says that there is a volcano near port St. Vincent in New Caledonia. I believe this to be an error, arising from a smoke seen on the OPPOSITE coast by Cook (“Second Voyage,” volume ii., page 23) which smoke went out at night. The Mariana Islands, especially the northern ones, contain many craters (see Freycinet’s “Hydrog. Descript.”) which are not active. Von Buch, however, states (page 462) on the authority of La Peyrouse, that there are no less than seven volcanoes between these islands and Japan. Gemelli Creri (Churchill’s “Collect.” volume iv., page 458), says there are two active volcanoes in latitude 23 deg 30′, and in latitude 24 deg: but I have not coloured them. From the statements in Beechey’s “Voyage” (page 518, 4to edition) I have coloured one in the northern part of the Bonin group. M. S. Julien has clearly made out from Chinese manuscripts not very ancient (“Comptes Rendus,” 1840, page 832), that there are two active volcanoes on the eastern side of Formosa. In Torres Straits, on Cap Island (9 deg 48′ S., 142 deg 39′ E.) a volcano was seen burning with great violence in 1793 by Captain Bampton (see Introduction to Flinders’ “Voyage,” page 41). Mr. M’Clelland (Report of Committee for investigating Coal in India, page 39) has shown that the volcanic band passing through Barren Island must be extended northwards. It appears by an old chart, that Cheduba was once an active volcano (see also “Silliman’s North American Journal”, volume xxxviii., page 385). In Berghaus’ “Physical Atlas,” 1840, No. 7 of Geological Part, a volcano on the coast of Pondicherry is said to have burst forth in 1757. Ordinaire (“Hist. Nat. des Volcans,” page 218) says that there is one at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, but I have not coloured it, as he gives no particulars. A volcano in Amsterdam, or St. Paul’s, in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, has been seen (“Naut. Mag.” 1838, page 842) in action. Dr. J. Allan, of Forres, informs me in a letter, that when he was at Joanna, he saw at night flames apparently volcanic, issuing from the chief Comoro Island, and that the Arabs assured him that they were volcanic, adding that the volcano burned more during the wet season. I have marked this as a volcano, though with some hesitation, on account of the possibility of the flame arising from gaseous sources.)

The uncoloured coasts consist, first and chiefly, of those, where there are no coral-reefs, or such small portions as to be quite insignificant. Secondly, of those coasts where there are reefs, but where the sea is very shallow, for in this case the reefs generally lie far from the land, and become very irregular, in their forms: where they have not become irregular, they have been coloured. thirdly, if I had the means of ascertaining the fact, I should not colour a reef merely coating the edges of a submarine crater, or of a level submerged bank; for such superficial formations differ essentially, even when not in external appearance, from reefs whose foundations as well as superficies have been wholly formed by the growth of coral. Fourthly, in the Red Sea, and within some parts of the East Indian Archipelago (if the imperfect charts of the latter can be trusted), there are many scattered reefs, of small size, represented in the chart by mere dots, which rise out of deep water: these cannot be arranged under either of the three classes: in the Red Sea, however, some of these little reefs, from their position, seem once to have formed parts of a continuous barrier. There exist, also, scattered in the open ocean, some linear and irregularly formed strips of coral-reef, which, as shown in the last chapter, are probably allied in their origin to atolls; but as they do not belong to that class, they have not been coloured; they are very few in number and of insignificant dimensions. Lastly, some reefs are left uncoloured from the want of information respecting them, and some because they are of an intermediate structure between the barrier and fringing classes. The value of the map is lessened, in proportion to the number of reefs which I have been obliged to leave uncoloured, although, in a theoretical point of view, few of them present any great difficulty: but their number is not very great, as will be found by comparing the map with the statements in the Appendix. I have experienced more difficulty in colouring fringing-reefs than in colouring barrier-reefs, as the former, from their much less dimensions, have less attracted the attention of navigators. As I have had to seek my information from all kinds of sources, and often from indirect ones, I do not venture to hope that the map is free from many errors. Nevertheless, I trust it will give an approximately correct view of the general distribution of the coral-reefs over the whole world (with the exception of some fringing-reefs on the coast of Brazil, not included within the limits of the map), and of their arrangement into the three great classes, which, though necessarily very imperfect from the nature of the objects classified, have been adopted by most voyagers. I may further remark, that the dark blue colour represents land entirely composed of coral-rock; the pale blue, land with a wide and thick border of coral-rock; and the red, a mere narrow fringe of coral-rock.

Looking now at the map under the theoretical point of view indicated in the last chapter, the two blue tints signify that the foundations of the reefs thus coloured have subsided to a considerable amount, at a slower rate than that of the upward growth of the corals, and that probably in many cases they are still subsiding. The red signifies that the shores which support fringing-reefs have not subsided (at least to any considerable amount, for the effects of a subsidence on a small scale would in no case be distinguishable); but that they have remained nearly stationary since the period when they first became fringed by reefs; or that they are now rising or have been upraised, with new lines of reefs successively formed on them: these latter alternatives are obviously implied, as newly formed lines of shore, after elevations of the land, would be in the same state with respect to the growth of fringing-reefs, as stationary coasts. If during the prolonged subsidence of a shore, coral-reefs grew for the first time on it, or if an old barrier-reef were destroyed and submerged, and new reefs became attached to the land, these would necessarily at first belong to the fringing class, and, therefore, be coloured red, although the coast was sinking: but I have no reason to believe, that from this source of error, any coast has been coloured wrongly with respect to movement indicated. Well characterised atolls and encircling barrier-reefs, where several occur in a group, or a single barrier-reef if of large dimensions, leave scarcely any doubt on the mind respecting the movement by which they have been produced; and even a small amount of subsequent elevation is soon betrayed. The evidence from a single atoll or a single encircling barrier-reef, must be received with some caution, for the former may possibly be based upon a submerged crater or bank, and the latter on a submerged margin of sediment, or of worn-down rock. From these remarks we may with greater certainty infer that the spaces, especially the larger ones, tinted blue in the map, have subsided, than that the red spaces have remained stationary, or have been upraised.


Having made these preliminary remarks, I will consider first how far the grouping of the different kinds of coral-islands and reefs is corroborative of the truth of the theory. A glance at the map shows that the reefs, coloured blue and red, produced under widely different conditions, are not indiscriminately mixed together. Atolls and barrier-reefs, on the other hand, as may be seen by the two blue tints, generally lie near each other; and this would be the natural result of both having been produced during the subsidence of the areas in which they stand. Thus, the largest group of encircled islands is that of the Society Archipelago; and these islands are surrounded by atolls, and only separated by a narrow space from the large group of Low atolls. In the midst of the Caroline atolls, there are three fine encircled islands. The northern point of the barrier-reef of New Caledonia seems itself, as before remarked, to form a complete large atoll. The great Australian barrier is described as including both atolls and small encircled islands. Captain King (Sailing directions, appended to volume ii. of his “Surveying Voyage to Australia.”) mentions many atoll-formed and encircling coral-reefs, some of which lie within the barrier, and others may be said (for instance between latitude 16 deg and 13 deg) to form part of it. Flinders (“Voyage to Terra Australis,” volume ii. page 336.) has described an atoll-formed reef in latitude 10 deg, seven miles long and from one to three broad, resembling a boot in shape, with apparently very deep water within. Eight miles westward of this, and forming part of the barrier, lie the Murray Islands, which are high and are encircled. In the Corallian Sea, between the two great barriers of Australia and New Caledonia, there are many low islets and coral-reefs, some of which are annular, or horse-shoe shaped. Observing the smallness of the scale of the map, the parallels of latitude being nine hundred miles apart, we see that none of the large groups of reefs and islands supposed to have been produced by long-continued subsidence, lie near extensive lines of coast coloured red, which are supposed to have remained stationary since the growth of their reefs, or to have been upraised and new lines of reefs formed on them. Where the red and blue circles do occur near each other, I am able, in several instances, to show that there have been oscillations of level, subsidence having preceded the elevation of the red spots; and elevation having preceded the subsidence of the blue spots: and in this case the juxtaposition of reefs belonging to the two great types of structure is little surprising. We may, therefore, conclude that the proximity in the same areas of the two classes of reefs, which owe their origin to the subsidence of the earth’s crust, and their separation from those formed during its stationary or uprising condition, holds good to the full extent, which might have been anticipated by our theory.

As groups of atolls have originated in the upward growth, at each fresh sinking of the land, of those reefs which primarily fringed the shores of one great island, or of several smaller ones; so we might expect that these rings of coral-rock, like so many rude outline charts, will still retain some traces of the general form, or at least general range, of the land, round which they were first modelled. That this is the case with the atolls in the Southern Pacific as far as their range is concerned, seems highly probable, when we observe that the three principal groups are directed in north-west and south-east lines, and that nearly all the land in the S. Pacific ranges in this same direction; namely, N. Western Australia, New Caledonia, the northern half of New Zealand, the New Hebrides, Saloman, Navigator, Society, Marquesas, and Austral archipelagoes: in the Northern Pacific, the Caroline atolls abut against the north-west line of the Marshall atolls, much in the same manner as the east and west line of islands from Ceram to New Britain do on New Ireland: in the Indian Ocean the Laccadive and Maldiva atolls extend nearly parallel to the western and mountainous coast of India. In most respects, there is a perfect resemblance with ordinary islands in the grouping of atolls and in their form: thus the outline of all the larger groups is elongated; and the greater number of the individual atolls are elongated in the same direction with the group, in which they stand. The Chagos group is less elongated than is usual with other groups, and the individual atolls in it are likewise but little elongated; this is strikingly seen by comparing them with the neighbouring Maldiva atolls. In the Marshall and Maldiva archipelagoes, the atolls are ranged in two parallel lines, like the mountains in a great double mountain-chain. Some of the atolls, in the larger archipelagoes, stand so near to each other, and have such an evident relationship in form, that they compose little sub-groups: in the Caroline Archipelago, one such sub-group consists of Pouynipete, a lofty island encircled by a barrier-reef, and separated by a channel only four miles and a half wide from Andeema atoll, with a second atoll a little further off. In all these respects an examination of a series of charts will show how perfectly groups of atolls resemble groups of common islands.


With respect to subsidence, I have shown in the last chapter, that we cannot expect to obtain in countries inhabited only by semi-civilised races, demonstrative proofs of a movement, which invariably tends to conceal its own evidence. But on the coral-islands supposed to have been produced by subsidence, we have proofs of changes in their external appearance–of a round of decay and renovation–of the last vestiges of land on some–of its first commencement on others: we hear of storms desolating them to the astonishment of their inhabitants: we know by the great fissures with which some of them are traversed, and by the earthquakes felt under others, that subterranean disturbances of some kind are in progress. These facts, if not directly connected with subsidence, as I believe they are, at least show how difficult it would be to discover proofs of such movement by ordinary means. At Keeling atoll, however, I have described some appearances, which seem directly to show that subsidence did take place there during the late earthquakes. Vanikoro, according to Chevalier Dillon (See Captain Dillon’s “Voyage in search of La Peyrouse.” M. Cordier in his “Report on the Voyage of the ‘Astrolabe'” (page cxi., volume i.), speaking of Vanikoro, says the shores are surrounded by reefs of madrepore, “qu’on assure etre de formation tout-a-fait moderne.” I have in vain endeavoured to learn some further particulars about this remarkable passage. I may here add, that according to our theory, the island of Pouynipete (Plate I., Figure 7), in the Caroline Archipelago, being encircled by a barrier-reef, must have subsided. In the “New S. Wales Lit. Advert.” February 1835 (which I have seen through the favour of Dr. Lloghtsky), there is an account of this island (subsequently confirmed by Mr. Campbell), in which it is said, “At the N.E. end, at a place called Tamen, there are ruins of a town, NOW ONLY accessible by boats, the waves REACHING TO THE STEPS OF The HOUSES.” Judging from this passage, one would be tempted to conclude that the island must have subsided, since these houses were built. I may, also, here append a statement in Malte Brun (volume ix., page 775, given without any authority), that the sea gains in an extraordinary manner on the coast of Cochin China, which lies in front and near the subsiding coral-reefs in the China Sea: as the coast is granitic, and not alluvial, it is scarcely possible that the encroachment of the sea can be owing to the washing away of the land; and if so, it must be due to subsidence.), is often violently shaken by earthquakes, and there, the unusual depth of the channel between the shore and the reef,–the almost entire absence of islets on the reef,– its wall-like structure on the inner side, and the small quantity of low alluvial land at the foot of the mountains, all seem to show that this island has not remained long at its present level, with the lagoon-channel subjected to the accumulation of sediment, and the reef to the wear and tear of the breakers. At the Society Archipelago, on the other hand, where a slight tremor is only rarely felt, the shoaliness of the lagoon-channels round some of the islands, the number of islets formed on the reefs of others, and the broad belt of low land at the foot of the mountains, indicate that, although there must have been great subsidence to have produced the barrier-reefs, there has since elapsed a long stationary period.

(Mr. Couthouy states (“Remarks,” page 44) that at Tahiti and Eimeo the space between the reef and the shore has been nearly filled up by the extension of those coral-reefs, which within most barrier-reefs merely fringe the land. From this circumstance, he arrives at the same conclusion as I have done, that the Society Islands since their subsidence, have remained stationary during a long period; but he further believes that they have recently commenced rising, as well as the whole area of the Low Archipelago. He does not give any detailed proofs regarding the elevation of the Society Islands, but I shall refer to this subject in another part of this chapter. Before making some further comments, I may observe how satisfactory it is to me, to find Mr. Couthouy affirming, that “having personally examined a large number of coral-islands, and also residing eight months among the volcanic class, having shore and partially encircling reefs, I may be permitted to state that my own observations have impressed a conviction of the correctness of the theory of Mr. Darwin.”

This gentleman believes, that subsequently to the subsidence by which the atolls in the Low Archipelago were produced, the whole area has been elevated to the amount of a few feet; this would indeed be a remarkable fact; but as far as I am able to judge, the grounds of his conclusion are not sufficiently strong. He states that he found in almost every atoll which he visited, the shores of the lagoon raised from eighteen to thirty inches above the sea-level, and containing imbedded Tridacnae and corals standing as they grew; some of the corals were dead in their upper parts, but below a certain line they continued to flourish. In the lagoons, also, he frequently met with clusters of Madrepore, with their extremities standing from one inch to a foot above the surface of the water. Now, these appearances are exactly what I should have expected, without any subsequent elevation having taken place; and I think Mr. Couthouy has not borne in mind the indisputable fact, that corals, when constantly bathed by the surf, can exist at a higher level than in quite tranquil water, as in a lagoon. As long, therefore, as the waves continued at low water to break entirely over parts of the annular reef of an atoll, submerged to a small depth, the corals and shells attached on these parts might continue living at a level above the smooth surface of the lagoon, into which the waves rolled; but as soon as the outer edge of the reef grew up to its utmost possible height, or if the reef were very broad nearly to that height, the force of the breakers would be checked, and the corals and shells on the inner parts near the lagoon would occasionally be left dry, and thus be partially or wholly destroyed. Even in atolls, which have not lately subsided, if the outer margin of the reef continued to increase in breadth seaward (each fresh zone of corals rising to the same vertical height as at Keeling atoll), the line where the waves broke most heavily would advance outwards, and therefore the corals, which when living near the margin, were washed by the breaking waves during the whole of each tide, would cease being so, and would therefore be left on the backward part of the reef standing exposed and dead. The case of the madrepores in the lagoons with the tops of their branches exposed, seems to be an analogous fact, to the great fields of dead but upright corals in the lagoon of Keeling atoll; a condition of things which I have endeavoured to show, has resulted from the lagoon having become more and more enclosed and choked up with reefs, so that during high winds, the rising of the tide (as observed by the inhabitants) is checked, and the corals, which had formerly grown to the greatest possible height, are occasionally exposed, and thus are killed: and this is a condition of things, towards which almost every atoll in the intervals of its subsidence must be tending. Or if we look to the state of an atoll directly after a subsidence of some fathoms, the waves would roll heavily over the entire circumference of the reef, and the surface of the lagoon would, like the ocean, never be quite at rest, and therefore the corals in the lagoon, from being constantly laved by the rippling water, might extend their branches to a little greater height than they could, when the lagoon became enclosed and protected. Christmas atoll (2 deg N. latitude) which has a very shallow lagoon, and differs in several respects from most atolls, possibly may have been elevated recently; but its highest part appears (Couthouy, page 46) to be only ten feet above the sea-level. The facts of a second class, adduced by Mr. Couthouy, in support of the alleged recent elevation of the Low Archipelago, are not all (especially those referring to a shelf of rock) quite intelligible to me; he believes that certain enormous fragments of rock on the reef, must have been moved into their present position, when the reef was at a lower level; but here again the force of the breakers on any inner point of the reef being diminished by its outward growth without any change in its level, has not, I think, been borne in mind. We should, also, not overlook the occasional agency of waves caused by earthquakes and hurricanes. Mr. Couthouy further argues, that since these great fragments were deposited and fixed on the reef, they have been elevated; he infers this from the greatest amount of erosion not being near their bases, where they are unceasingly washed by the reflux of the tides, but at some height on their sides, near the line of high-water mark, as shown in an accompanying diagram. My former remark again applies here, with this further observation, that as the waves have to roll over a wide space of reef before they reach the fragments, their force must be greatly increased with the increasing depth of water as the tide rises, and therefore I should have expected that the chief line of present erosion would have coincided with the line of high-water mark; and if the reef had grown outwards, that there would have been lines of erosion at greater heights. The conclusion, to which I am finally led by the interesting observations of Mr. Couthouy is, that the atolls in the Low Archipelago have, like the Society Islands, remained at a stationary level for a long period: and this probably is the ordinary course of events, subsidence supervening after long intervals of rest.)

Turning now to the red colour; as on our map, the areas which have sunk slowly downwards to great depths are many and large, we might naturally have been led to conjecture, that with such great changes of level in progress, the coasts which have been fringed probably for ages (for we have no reason to believe that coral-reefs are of short duration), would not have remained all this time stationary, but would frequently have undergone movements of elevation. This supposition, we shall immediately see, holds good to a remarkable extent; and although a stationary condition of the land can hardly ever be open to proof, from the evidence being only negative, we are, in some degree, enabled to ascertain the correctness of the parts coloured red on the map, by the direct testimony of upraised organic remains of a modern date. Before going into the details on this head (printed in small type), I may mention, that when reading a memoir on coral formations by MM. Quoy and Gaimard (“Annales des Sciences Nat.” tom. vi., page 279, etc.) I was astonished to find, for I knew that they had crossed both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, that their descriptions were applicable only to reefs of the fringing class; but my astonishment ended satisfactorily, when I discovered that, by a strange chance, all the islands which these eminent naturalists had visited, though several in number, namely, the Mauritius, Timor, New Guinea, the Mariana, and Sandwich Archipelagoes, could be shown by their own statements to have been elevated within a recent geological era.

In the eastern half of the Pacific, the SANDWICH Islands are all fringed, and almost every naturalist who has visited them, has remarked on the abundance of elevated corals and shells, apparently identical with living species. The Rev. W. Ellis informs me, that he has noticed round several parts of Hawaii, beds of coral-detritus, about twenty feet above the level of the sea, and where the coast is low they extend far inland. Upraised coral-rock forms a considerable part of the borders of Oahu; and at Elizabeth Island (“Zoology of Captain Beechey’s Voyage,” page 176. See also MM. Quoy and Gaimard in “Annales de Scien. Nat.” tom. vi.) it composes three strata, each about ten feet thick. Nihau, which forms the northern, as Hawaii does the southern end of the group (350 miles in length), likewise seems to consist of coral and volcanic rocks. Mr. Couthouy (“Remarks on Coral Formations,” page 51.) has lately described with interesting details, several upraised beaches, ancient reefs with their surfaces perfectly preserved, and beds of recent shells and corals, at the islands of Maui, Morokai, Oahu, and Tauai (or Kauai) in this group. Mr. Pierce, an intelligent resident at Oahu, is convinced, from changes which have taken place within his memory, during the last sixteen years, “that the elevation is at present going forward at a very perceptible rate.” The natives at Kauai state that the land is there gaining rapidly on the sea, and Mr. Couthouy has no doubt, from the nature of the strata, that this has been effected by an elevation of the land.

In the southern part of the Low Archipelago, Elizabeth Island is described by Captain Beechey (Beechey’s “Voyage in the Pacific,” page 46, 4to edition.), as being quite flat, and about eighty feet in height; it is entirely composed of dead corals, forming a honeycombed, but compact rock. In cases like this, of an island having exactly the appearance, which the elevation of any one of the smaller surrounding atolls with a shallow lagoon would present, one is led to conclude (with little better reason, however, than the improbability of such small and low fabrics lasting, for an immense period, exposed to the many destroying agents of nature), that the elevation has taken place at an epoch not geologically remote. When merely the surface of an island of ordinary formation is strewed with marine bodies, and that continuously, or nearly so, from the beach to a certain height, and not above that height, it is exceedingly improbable that such organic remains, although they may not have been specially examined, should belong to any ancient period. It is necessary to bear these remarks in mind, in considering the evidence of the elevatory movements in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as it does not often rest on specific determinations, and therefore should be received with caution. Six of the COOK AND AUSTRAL Islands (S.W. of the Society group), are fringed; of these, five were described to me by the Rev. J. Williams, as formed of coral-rock, associated with some basalt in Mangaia), and the sixth as lofty and basaltic. Mangaia is nearly three hundred feet high, with a level summit; and according to Mr. S. Wilson (Couthouy’s “Remarks,” page 34.) it is an upraised reef; “and there are in the central hollow, formerly the bed of the lagoon, many scattered patches of coral-rock, some of them raised to a height of forty feet.” These knolls of coral-rock were evidently once separate reefs in the lagoon of an atoll. Mr. Martens, at Sydney, informed me that this island is surrounded by a terrace-like plain at about the height of a hundred feet, which probably marks a pause in its elevation. From these facts we may infer, perhaps, that the Cook and Austral Islands have been upheaved at a period probably not very remote.

SAVAGE Island (S.E. of the Friendly group), is about forty feet in height. Forster (“Observations made during Voyage round the World,” page 147.) describes the plants as already growing out of the dead, but still upright and spreading trees of coral; and the younger Forster (“Voyage,” volume ii., page 163.) believes that an ancient lagoon is now represented by a central plain; here we cannot doubt that the elevatory forces have recently acted. The same conclusion may be extended, though with somewhat less certainty, to the islands of the FRIENDLY GROUP, which have been well described in the second and third voyages of Cook. The surface of Tongatabou is low and level, but with some parts a hundred feet high; the whole consists of coral-rock, “which yet shows the cavities and irregularities worn into it by the action of the tides.” (Cook’s “Third Voyage” (4to edition), volume i., page 314.) On Eoua the same appearances were noticed at an elevation of between two hundred and three hundred feet. Vavao, also, at the opposite or northern end of the group, consists, according to the Rev. J. Williams, of coral-rock. Tongatabou, with its northern extensive reefs, resembles either an upraised atoll with one half originally imperfect, or one unequally elevated; and Anamouka, an atoll equally elevated. This latter island contains (Ibid., volume i., page 235.) in its centre a salt-water lake, about a mile-and-a-half in diameter, without any communication with the sea, and around it the land rises gradually like a bank; the highest part is only between twenty and thirty feet; but on this part, as well as on the rest of the land (which, as Cook observes, rises above the height of true lagoon-islands), coral-rock, like that on the beach, was found. In the NAVIGATOR ARCHIPELAGO, Mr. Couthouy (“Remarks on Coral-Formations,” page 50.) found on Manua many and very large fragments of coral at the height of eighty feet, “on a steep hill-side, rising half a mile inland from a low sandy plain abounding in marine remains.” The fragments were embedded in a mixture of decomposed lava and sand. It is not stated whether they were accompanied by shells, or whether the corals resembled recent species; as these remains were embedded they possibly may belong to a remote epoch; but I presume this was not the opinion of Mr. Couthouy. Earthquakes are very frequent in this archipelago.

Still proceeding westward we come to the NEW HEBRIDES; on these islands, Mr. G. Bennett (author of “Wanderings in New South Wales”), informs me he found much coral at a great altitude, which he considered of recent origin. Respecting SANTA CRUZ, and the SOLOMON ARCHIPELAGO, I have no information; but at New Ireland, which forms the northern point of the latter chain, both Labillardiere and Lesson have described large beds of an apparently very modern madreporitic rock, with the form of the corals little altered. The latter author (“Voyage de la ‘Coquille’,” Part. Zoolog.) states that this formation composes a newer line of coast, modelled round an ancient one. There only remains to be described in the Pacific, that curved line of fringed islands, of which the MARIANAS form the main part. Of these Guam, Rota, Tiniam, Saypan, and some islets farther north, are described by Quoy and Gaimard (Freycinet’s “Voyage autour du Monde.” See also the “Hydrographical Memoir,” page 215.), and Chamisso (Kotzebue’s “First Voyage.”), as chiefly composed of madreporitic limestone, which attains a considerable elevation, and is in several cases worn into successively rising cliffs: the two former naturalists seem to have compared the corals and shells with the existing ones, and state that they are of recent species. FAIS, which lies in the prolonged line of the Marianas, is the only island in this part of the sea which is fringed; it is ninety feet high, and consists entirely of madreporitic rock. (Lutke’s “Voyage,” volume ii., page 304.)

In the EAST INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO, many authors have recorded proofs of recent elevation. M. Lesson (Partie Zoolog., “Voyage de la ‘Coquille’.”) states, that near Port Dory, on the north coast of New Guinea, the shores are flanked, to the height of 150 feet, by madreporitic strata of modern date. He mentions similar formations at Waigiou, Amboina, Bourou, Ceram, Sonda, and Timor: at this latter place, MM. Quoy and Gaimard (“Ann. des Scien. Nat.” tom. vi., page 281.) have likewise described the primitive rocks, as coated to a considerable height with coral. Some small islets eastward of Timor are said in Kolff’s “Voyage,” (translated by Windsor Earl, chapters vi., vii.) to resemble small coral islets upraised some feet above the sea. Dr. Malcolmson informs me that Dr. Hardie found in JAVA an extensive formation, containing an abundance of shells, of which the greater part appear to be of existing species. Dr. Jack (“Geolog. Transact.” 2nd series, volume i., page 403. On the Peninsula of Malacca, in front of Pinang, 5 deg 30′ N., Dr. Ward collected some shells, which Dr. Malcolmson informs me, although not compared with existing species, had a recent appearance. Dr. Ward describes in this neighbourhood (“Trans. Asiat. Soc.” volume xviii., part ii., page 166) a single water-worn rock, with a conglomerate of sea-shells at its base, situated six miles inland, which, according to the traditions of the natives, was once surrounded by the sea. Captain Low has also described (Ibid., part i., page 131) mounds of shells lying two miles inland on this line of coast.) has described some upraised shells and corals, apparently recent, on Pulo Nias off SUMATRA; and Marsden relates in his history of this great island, that the names of many promontories, show that they were originally islands. On part of the west coast of BORNEO and at the SOOLOO Islands, the form of the land, the nature of the soil, and the water-washed rocks, present appearances (“Notices of the East Indian Arch.” Singapore, 1828, page 6, and Append., page 43.) (although it is doubtful whether such vague evidence is worthy of mention), of having recently been covered by the sea; and the inhabitants of the Sooloo Islands believe that this has been the case. Mr. Cuming, who has lately investigated, with so much success, the natural history of the PHILIPPINES, found near Cabagan, in Luzon, about fifty feet above the level of the R. Cagayan, and seventy miles from its mouth, a large bed of fossil shells: these, he informs me, are of the same species with those now existing on the shores of the neighbouring islands. From the accounts given us by Captain Basil Hall and Captain Beechey (Captain B. Hall, “Voyage to Loo Choo,” Append., pages xxi. and xxv. Captain Beechey’s “Voyage,” page 496.) of the lines of inland reefs, and walls of coral-rock worn into caves, above the present reach of the waves, at the LOO CHOO Islands, there can be little doubt that they have been upraised at no very remote period.

Dr. Davy describes the northern province of CEYLON (“Travels in Ceylon,” page 13. This madreporitic formation is mentioned by M. Cordier in his report to the Institute (May 4th, 1839), on the voyage of the “Chevrette”, as one of immense extent, and belonging to the latest tertiary period.) as being very low, and consisting of a limestone with shells and corals of very recent origin; he adds, that it does not admit of a doubt that the sea has retired from this district even within the memory of man. There is also some reason for believing that the western shores of India, north of Ceylon, have been upraised within the recent period. (Dr. Benza, in his “Journey through the N. Circars” (the “Madras Lit. and Scient. Journ.” volume v.) has described a formation with recent fresh-water and marine shells, occurring at the distance of three or four miles from the present shore. Dr. Benza, in conversation with me, attributed their position to a rise of the land. Dr. Malcolmson, however (and there cannot be a higher authority on the geology of India) informs me that he suspects that these beds may have been formed by the mere action of the waves and currents accumulating sediment. From analogy I should much incline to Dr. Benza’s opinion.) MAURITIUS has certainly been upraised within the recent period, as I have stated in the chapter on fringing-reefs. The northern extremity of MADAGASCAR is described by Captain Owen (Owen’s “Africa,” volume ii., page 37, for Madagascar; and for S. Africa, volume i., pages 412 and 426. Lieutenant Boteler’s narrative contains fuller particulars regarding the coral-rock, volume i., page 174, and volume ii., pages 41 and 54. See also Ruschenberger’s “Voyage round the World,” volume i., page 60.) as formed of madreporitic rock, as likewise are the shores and outlying islands along an immense space of EASTERN AFRICA, from a little north of the equator for nine hundred miles southward. Nothing can be more vague than the expression “madreporitic rock;” but at the same time it is, I think, scarcely possible to look at the chart of the linear islets, which rise to a greater height than can be accounted for by the growth of coral, in front of the coast, from the equator to 2 deg S., without feeling convinced that a line of fringing-reefs has been elevated at a period so recent, that no great changes have since taken place on the surface of this part of the globe. Some, also, of the higher islands of madreporitic rock on this coast, for instance Pemba, have very singular forms, which seem to show the combined effect of the growth of coral round submerged banks, and their subsequent upheaval. Dr. Allan informs me that he never observed any elevated organic remains on the SEYCHELLES, which come under our fringed class.

The nature of the formations round the shores of the RED SEA, as described by several authors, shows that the whole of this large area has been elevated within a very recent tertiary epoch. A part of this space in the appended map, is coloured blue, indicating the presence of barrier-reefs: on which circumstance I shall presently make some remarks. Ruppell (Ruppell, “Reise in Abyssinien,” Band i., s. 141.) states that the tertiary formation, of which he has examined the organic remains, forms a fringe along the shores with a uniform height of from thirty and forty feet from the mouth of the Gulf of Suez to about latitude 26 deg; but that south of 26 deg, the beds attain only the height of from twelve to fifteen feet. This, however, can hardly be quite accurate; although possibly there may be a decrease in the elevation of the shores in the middle parts of the Red Sea, for Dr. Malcolmson (as he informs me) collected from the cliffs of Camaran Island (latitude 15 deg 30′ S.) shells and corals, apparently recent, at a height between thirty and forty feet; and Mr. Salt (“Travels in Abyssinia”) describes a similar formation a little southward on the opposite shore at Amphila. Moreover, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez, although on the coast opposite to that on which Dr. Ruppell says that the modern beds attain a height of only thirty to forty feet, Mr. Burton (Lyell’s “Principles of Geology,” 5th edition, volume iv., page 25.) found a deposit replete with existing species of shells, at the height of 200 feet. In an admirable series of drawings by Captain Moresby, I could see how continuously the cliff-bounded low plains of this formation extended with a nearly equable height, both on the eastern and western shores. The southern coast of Arabia seems to have been subjected to the same elevatory movement, for Dr. Malcolmson found at Sahar low cliffs containing shells and corals, apparently of recent species.

The PERSIAN GULF abounds with coral-reefs; but as it is difficult to distinguish them from sand-banks in this shallow sea, I have coloured only some near the mouth; towards the head of the gulf Mr. Ainsworth (Ainsworth’s “Assyria and Babylon,” page 217.) says that the land is worn into terraces, and that the beds contain organic remains of existing forms. The WEST INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO of “fringed” islands, alone remains to be mentioned; evidence of an elevation within a late tertiary epoch of nearly the whole of this great area, may be found in the works of almost all the naturalists who have visited it. I will give some of the principal references in a note. (On Florida and the north shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Rogers’ “Report to Brit. Assoc.” volume iii., page 14.–On the shores of Mexico, Humboldt, “Polit. Essay on New Spain,” volume i., page 62. (I have also some corroborative facts with respect to the shores of Mexico.)–Honduras and the Antilles, Lyell’s “Principles,” 5th edition, volume iv., page 22.–Santa Cruz and Barbadoes, Prof. Hovey, “Silliman’s Journal”, volume xxxv., page 74.–St. Domingo, Courrojolles, “Journ de Phys.” tom. liv., page 106.–Bahamas, “United Service Journal”, No. lxxi., pages 218 and 224. Jamaica, De la Beche, “Geol. Man.” page 142.–Cuba, Taylor in “Lond. and Edin. Mag.” volume xi., page 17. Dr. Daubeny also, at a meeting of the Geolog. Soc., orally described some very modern beds lying on the N.W. parts of Cuba. I might have added many other less important references.)

It is very remarkable on reviewing these details, to observe in how many instances fringing-reefs round the shores, have coincided with the existence on the land of upraised organic remains, which seem, from evidence more or less satisfactory, to belong to a late tertiary period. It may, however, be objected, that similar proofs of elevation, perhaps, occur on the coasts coloured blue in our map: but this certainly is not the case with the few following and doubtful exceptions.

The entire area of the Red Sea appears to have been upraised within a modern period; nevertheless I have been compelled (though on unsatisfactory evidence, as given in the Appendix) to class the reefs in the middle part, as barrier-reefs; should, however, the statements prove accurate to the less height of the tertiary bed in this middle part, compared with the northern and southern districts, we might well suspect that it had subsided subsequently to the general elevation by which the whole area has been upraised. Several authors (Ellis, in his “Polynesian Researches,” was the first to call attention to these remains (volume i., page 38), and the tradition of the natives concerning them. See also Williams, “Nar. of Missionary Enterprise,” page 21; also Tyerman and G. Bennett, “Journal of Voyage,” volume i., page 213; also Mr. Couthouy’s “Remarks,” page 51; but this principal fact, namely, that there is a mass of upraised coral on the narrow peninsula of Tiarubu, is from hearsay evidence; also Mr. Stutchbury, “West of England Journal,” No. i., page 54. There is a passage in Von Zach, “Corres. Astronom.” volume x., page 266, inferring an uprising at Tahiti, from a footpath now used, which was formerly impassable; but I particularly inquired from several native chiefs, whether they knew of any change of this kind, and they were unanimous in giving me an answer in the negative.) have stated that they have observed shells and corals high up on the mountains of the Society Islands,–a group encircled by barrier-reefs, and, therefore, supposed to have subsided: at Tahiti Mr. Stutchbury found on the apex of one of the highest mountains, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above the level of the sea, “a distinct and regular stratum of semi-fossil coral.” At Tahiti, however, other naturalists, as well as myself, have searched in vain at a low level near the coast, for upraised shells or masses of coral-reef, where if present they could hardly have been overlooked. From this fact, I concluded that probably the organic remains strewed high up on the surface of the land, had originally been embedded in the volcanic strata, and had subsequently been washed out by the rain. I have since heard from the Rev. W. Ellis, that the remains which he met with, were (as he believes) interstratified with an argillaceous tuff; this likewise was the case with the shells observed by the Rev. D. Tyerman at Huaheine. These remains have not been specifically examined; they may, therefore, and especially the stratum observed by Mr. Stutchbury at an immense height, be contemporaneous with the first formation of the Society Islands, and be of any degree of antiquity; or they may have been deposited at some subsequent, but probably not very recent, period of elevation; for if the period had been recent, the entire surface of the coast land of these islands, where the reefs are so extensive, would have been coated with upraised coral, which certainly is not the case. Two of the Harvey, or Cook Islands, namely, Aitutaki and Manouai, are encircled by reefs, which extend so far from the land, that I have coloured them blue, although with much hesitation, as the space within the reef is shallow, and the outline of the land is not abrupt. These two islands consist of coral-rock; but I have no evidence of their recent elevation, besides, the improbability of Mangaia, a fringed island in the same group (but distant 170 miles), having retained its nearly perfect atoll-like structure, during any immense lapse of time after its upheaval. The Red Sea, therefore, is the only area in which we have clear proofs of the recent elevation of a district, which, by our theory (although the barrier-reefs are there not well characterised), has lately subsided. But we have no reason to be surprised at oscillation, of level of this kind having occasionally taken place. There can be scarcely any doubt that Savage, Aurora (Aurora Island is described by Mr. Couthouy (“Remarks,” page 58); it lies 120 miles north-east of Tahiti; it is not coloured in the appended map, because it does not appear to be fringed by living reefs. Mr. Couthouy describes its summit as “presenting a broad table-land which declines a few feet towards the centre, where we may suppose the lagoon to have been placed.” It is about two hundred feet in height, and consists of reef-rock and conglomerate, with existing species of coral embedded in it. The island has been elevated at two successive periods; the cliffs being marked halfway up with a horizontal water-worn line of deep excavations. Aurora Island seems closely to resemble in structure Elizabeth Island, at the southern end of the Low Archipelago.), and Mangaia Islands, and several of the islands in the Friendly group, existed originally as atolls, and these have undoubtedly since been upraised to some height above the level of the sea; so that by our theory, there has here, also, been an oscillation of level, –elevation having succeeded subsidence, instead of, as in the middle part of the Red Sea and at the Harvey Islands, subsidence having probably succeeded recent elevation.

It is an interesting fact, that Fais, which, from its composition, form, height, and situation at the western end of the Caroline Archipelago, one is strongly induced to believe existed before its upheaval as an atoll, lies exactly in the prolongation of the curved line of the Mariana group, which we know to be a line of recent elevation. I may add, that Elizabeth Island, in the southern part of the Low Archipelago, which seems to have had the same kind of origin as Fais, lies near Pitcairn Island, the only one in this part of the ocean which is high, and at the same time not surrounded by an encircling barrier-reef.


Before making some concluding remarks on the relations of the spaces coloured blue and red, it will be convenient to consider the position on our map of the volcanoes historically known to have been in action. It is impossible not to be struck, first with the absence of volcanoes in the great areas of subsidence tinted pale and dark blue,–namely, in the central parts of the Indian Ocean, in the China Sea, in the sea between the barriers of Australia and New Caledonia, in the Caroline, Marshall, Gilbert, and Low Archipelagoes; and, secondly, with the coincidence of the principal volcanic chains with the parts coloured red, which indicates the presence of fringing-reefs; and, as we have just seen, the presence in most cases of upraised organic remains of a modern date. I may here remark that the reefs were all coloured before the volcanoes were added to the map, or indeed before I knew of the existence of several of them.

The volcano in Torres Strait, at the northern point of Australia, is that which lies nearest to a large subsiding area, although situated 125 miles within the outer margin of the actual barrier-reef. The Great Comoro Island, which probably contains a volcano, is only twenty miles distant from the barrier-reef of Mohila; Ambil volcano, in the Philippines, is distant only a little more than sixty miles from the atoll-formed Appoo reef: and there are two other volcanoes in the map within ninety miles of circles coloured blue. These few cases, which thus offer partial exceptions to the rule, of volcanoes being placed remote from the areas of subsidence, lie either near single and isolated atolls, or near small groups of encircled islands; and these by our theory can have, in few instances, subsided to the same amount in depth or area, as groups of atolls. There is not one active volcano within several hundred miles of an archipelago, or even a small group of atolls. It is, therefore, a striking fact that in the Friendly Archipelago, which owes its origin to the elevation of a group of atolls, two volcanoes, and, perhaps, others are known to be in action: on the other hand, on several of the encircled islands in the Pacific, supposed by our theory to have subsided, there are old craters and streams of lava, which show the effects of past and ancient eruptions. In these cases, it would appear as if the volcanoes had come into action, and had become extinguished on the same spots, according as the elevating or subsiding movements prevailed.

There are some other coasts on the map, where volcanoes in a state of action concur with proofs of recent elevation, besides those coloured red from being fringed by coral-reefs. Thus I hope to show in a future volume, that nearly the whole line of the west coast of South America, which forms the greatest volcanic chain in the world, from near the equator for a space of between 2,000 and 3,000 miles southward, has undergone an upward movement during a late geological period. The islands on the north-western shores of the Pacific, which form the second greatest volcanic chain, are very imperfectly known; but Luzon, in the Philippines, and the Loo Choo Islands, have been recently elevated; and at Kamtschatka (At Sedanka, in latitude 58 deg N. (Von Buch’s “Descrip. des Isles Canaries,” page 455). In a forthcoming part, I shall give the evidence referred to with respect to the elevation of New Zealand.) there are extensive tertiary beds of modern date. Evidence of the same nature, but not very satisfactory, may be detected in Northern New Zealand where there are two volcanoes. The co-existence in other parts of the world of active volcanoes, with upraised beds of a modern tertiary origin, will occur to every geologist. (During the subterranean disturbances which took place in Chile, in 1835, I have shown (“Geolog. Trans.” 2nd Ser., vol. v., page 606) that at the same moment that a large district was upraised, volcanic matter burst forth at widely separated points, through both new and old vents.) Nevertheless, until it could be shown that volcanoes were inactive, or did not exist in subsiding areas, the conclusion that their distribution depended on the nature of the subterranean movements in progress, would have been hazardous. But now, viewing the appended map, it may, I think, be considered as almost established, that volcanoes are often (not necessarily always) present in those areas where the subterranean motive power has lately forced, or is now forcing outwards, the crust of the earth, but that they are invariably absent in those, where the surface has lately subsided or is still subsiding. (We may infer from this rule, that in any old deposit, which contains interstratified beds of erupted matter, there was at the period, and in the area of its formation, a TENDENCY to an upward movement in the earth’s surface, and certainly no movement of subsidence.)


The immense surfaces on the map, which, both by our theory and by the plain evidence of upraised marine remains, have undergone a change of level either downwards or upwards during a late period, is a most remarkable fact. The existence of continents shows that the areas have been immense which at some period have been upraised; in South America we may feel sure, and on the north-western shores of the Indian Ocean we may suspect, that this rising is either now actually in progress, or has taken place quite recently. By our theory, we may conclude that the areas are likewise immense which have lately subsided, or, judging from the earthquakes occasionally felt and from other appearances, are now subsiding. The smallness of the scale of our map should not be overlooked: each of the squares on it contains (not allowing for the curvature of the earth) 810,000 square miles. Look at the space of ocean from near the southern end of the Low Archipelago to the northern end of the Marshall Archipelago, a length of 4,500 miles, in which, as far as is known, every island, except Aurora which lies just without the Low Archipelago, is atoll-formed. The eastern and western boundaries of our map are continents, and they are rising areas: the central spaces of the great Indian and Pacific Oceans, are mostly subsiding; between them, north of Australia, lies the most broken land on the globe, and there the rising parts are surrounded and penetrated by areas of subsidence (I suspect that the Arru and Timor-laut Islands present an included small area of subsidence, like that of the China Sea, but I have not ventured to colour them from my imperfect information, as given in the Appendix.), so that the prevailing movements now in progress, seem to accord with the actual states of surface of the great divisions of the world.

The blue spaces on the map are nearly all elongated; but it does not necessarily follow from this (a caution, for which I am indebted to Mr. Lyell), that the areas of subsidence were likewise elongated; for the subsidence of a long, narrow space of the bed of the ocean, including in it a transverse chain of mountains, surmounted by atolls, would only be marked on the map by a transverse blue band. But where a chain of atolls and barrier-reefs lies in an elongated area, between spaces coloured red, which therefore have remained stationary or have been upraised, this must have resulted either from the area of subsidence having originally been elongated (owing to some tendency in the earth’s crust thus to subside), or from the subsiding area having originally been of an irregular figure, or as broad as long, and having since been narrowed by the elevation of neighbouring districts. Thus the areas, which subsided during the formation of the great north and south lines of atolls in the Indian Ocean,–of the east and west line of the Caroline atolls,–and of the north-west and south-east line of the barrier-reefs of New Caledonia and Louisiade, must have originally been elongated, or if not so, they must have since been made elongated by elevations, which we know to belong to a recent period.

I infer from Mr. Hopkins’ researches (“Researches in Physical Geology,” Transact. Cambridge Phil. Soc., volume vi, part i.), that for the formation of a long chain of mountains, with few lateral spurs, an area elongated in the same direction with the chain, must have been subjected to an elevatory movement. Mountain-chains, however, when already formed, although running in very different directions, it seems (For instance in S. America from latitude 34 deg, for very many degrees southward there are upraised beds containing recent species of shells, on both the Atlantic and Pacific side of the continent, and from the gradual ascent of the land, although with very unequal slopes, on both sides towards the Cordillera, I think it can hardly be doubted that the entire width has been upraised in mass within the recent period. In this case the two W.N.W. and E.S.E. mountain-lines, namely the Sierra Ventana and the S. Tapalguen, and the great north and south line of the Cordillera have been together raised. In the West Indies the N. and S. line of the Eastern Antilles, and the E. and W. line of Jamaica, appear both to have been upraised within the latest geological period.) may be raised together by a widely-acting force: so, perhaps, mountain-chains may subside together. Hence, we cannot tell, whether the Caroline and Marshall Archipelagoes, two groups of atolls running in different directions and meeting each other, have been formed by the subsidence of two areas, or of one large area, including two distinct lines of mountains. We have, however, in the southern prolongation of the Mariana Islands, probable evidence of a line of recent elevation having intersected one of recent subsidence. A view of the map will show that, generally, there is a tendency to alternation in the parallel areas undergoing opposite kinds of movement; as if the sinking of one area balanced the rising of another.

The existence in many parts of the world of high table-land, proves that large surfaces have been upraised in mass to considerable heights above the level of the ocean; although the highest points in almost every country consist of upturned strata, or erupted matter: and from the immense spaces scattered with atolls, which indicate that land originally existed there, although not one pinnacle now remains above the level of the sea, we may conclude that wide areas have subsided to an amount, sufficient to bury not only any formerly existing table-land, but even the heights formed by fractured strata, and erupted matter. The effects produced on the land by the later elevatory movements, namely, successively rising cliffs, lines of erosion, and beds of literal shells and pebbles, all requiring time for their production, prove that these movements have been very slow; we can, however, infer this with safety, only with respect to the few last hundred feet of rise. But with reference to the whole vast amount of subsidence, necessary to have produced the many atolls widely scattered over immense spaces, it has already been shown (and it is, perhaps, the most interesting conclusion in this volume), that the movements must either have been uniform and exceedingly slow, or have been effected by small steps, separated from each other by long intervals of time, during which the reef-constructing polypifers were able to bring up their solid frameworks to the surface. We have little means of judging whether many considerable oscillations of level have generally occurred during the elevation of large tracts; but we know, from clear geological evidence, that this has frequently taken place; and we have seen on our map, that some of the same islands have both subsided and been upraised. I conclude, however, that most of the large blue spaces, have subsided without many and great elevatory oscillations, because only a few upraised atolls have been observed: the supposition that such elevations have taken place, but that the upraised parts have been worn down by the surf, and thus have escaped observation, is overruled by the very considerable depth of the lagoons of all the larger atolls; for this could not have been the case, if they had suffered repeated elevations and abrasion. From the comparative observations made in these latter pages, we may finally conclude, that the subterranean changes which have caused some large areas to rise, and others to subside, have acted in a very similar manner.


In the three first chapters, the principal kinds of coral-reefs were described in detail, and they were found to differ little, as far as relates to the actual surface of the reef. An atoll differs from an encircling barrier-reef only in the absence of land within its central expanse; and a barrier-reef differs from a fringing-reef, in being placed at a much greater distance from the land with reference to the probable inclination of its submarine foundation, and in the presence of a deep-water lagoon-like space or moat within the reef. In the fourth chapter the growing powers of the reef-constructing polypifers were discussed; and it was shown, that they cannot flourish beneath a very limited depth. In accordance with this limit, there is no difficulty respecting the foundations on which fringing-reefs are based; whereas, with barrier-reefs and atolls, there is a great apparent difficulty on this head; in barrier-reefs from the improbability of the rock of the coast or of banks of sediment extending, in every instance, so far seaward within the required depth;–and in atolls, from the immensity of the spaces over which they are interspersed, and the apparent necessity for believing that they are all supported on mountain-summits, which although rising very near to the surface-level of the sea, in no one instance emerge above it. To escape this latter most improbable admission, which implies the existence of submarine chains of mountains of almost the same height, extending over areas of many thousand square miles, there is but one alternative; namely, the prolonged subsidence of the foundations, on which the atolls were primarily based, together with the upward growth of the reef-constructing corals. On this view every difficulty vanishes; fringing reefs are thus converted into barrier-reefs; and barrier-reefs, when encircling islands, are thus converted into atolls, the instant the last pinnacle of land sinks beneath the surface of the ocean.

Thus the ordinary forms and certain peculiarities in the structure of atolls and barrier-reefs can be explained;–namely, the wall-like structure on their inner sides, the basin or ring-like shape both of the marginal and central reefs in the Maldiva atolls–the union of some atolls as if by a ribbon–the apparent disseverment of others–and the occurrence, in atolls as well as in barrier-reefs, of portions of reef, and of the whole of some reefs, in a dead and submerged state, but retaining the outline of living reefs. Thus can be explained the existence of breaches through barrier-reefs in front of valleys, though separated from them by a wide space of deep water; thus, also, the ordinary outline of groups of atolls and the relative forms of the separate atolls one to another; thus can be explained the proximity of the two kinds of reefs formed during subsidence, and their separation from the spaces where fringing-reefs abound. On searching for other evidence of the movements supposed by our theory, we find marks of change in atolls and in barrier-reefs, and of subterranean disturbances under them; but from the nature of things, it is scarcely possible to detect any direct proofs of subsidence, although some appearances are strongly in favour of it. On the fringed coasts, however, the presence of upraised marine bodies of a recent epoch, plainly show, that these coasts, instead of having remained stationary, which is all that can be directly inferred from our theory, have generally been elevated.

Finally, when the two great types of structure, namely barrier-reefs and atolls on the one hand, and fringing-reefs on the other, were laid down in colours on our map, a magnificent and harmonious picture of the movements, which the crust of the earth has within a late period undergone, is presented to us. We there see vast areas rising, with volcanic matter every now and then bursting forth through the vents or fissures with which they are traversed. We see other wide spaces slowly sinking without any volcanic outburst, and we may feel sure, that this sinking must have been immense in amount as well as in area, thus to have buried over the broad face of the ocean every one of those mountains, above which atolls now stand like monuments, marking the place of their former existence. Reflecting how powerful an agent with respect to denudation, and consequently to the nature and thickness of the deposits in accumulation, the sea must ever be, when acting for prolonged periods on the land, during either its slow emergence or subsidence; reflecting, also, on the final effects of these movements in the interchange of land and ocean-water on the climate of the earth, and on the distribution of organic beings, I may be permitted to hope, that the conclusions derived from the study of coral-formations, originally attempted merely to explain their peculiar forms, may be thought worthy of the attention of geologists.



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 latter.


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 particulars.


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.


HAWAII; in the chart in Freycinet’s “Atlas,” small portions of the coast are fringed by reefs; and in the accompanying “Hydrog. Memoir,” reefs are mentioned in several places, and the coral is said to injure the cables. On one side of the islet of Kohaihai there is a bank of sand and coral with five feet water on it, running parallel to the shore, and leaving a channel of about fifteen feet deep within. 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.

BEVERIDGE Reef, 20 deg S., 167 deg W., is described in the “Naut. Mag.” (May 1833, page 442) as ten miles long in a N. and S. line, and eight wide; “in the inside of the reef there appears deep water;” there is a passage near the S.W. corner: this therefore seems to be a submerged atoll, and is coloured blue.

SAVAGE Island, 19 deg S., 170 deg W., has been described by Cook and Forster. The younger Forster (volume ii., page 163) says it is about forty feet high: he suspects that it contains a low plain, which formerly was the lagoon. The Rev. J. Williams informs me that the reef fringing its shores, resembles that round Mangaia; coloured red.


PYLSTAART Island. Judging from the chart in Freycinet’s “Atlas,” I should have supposed that it had been regularly fringed; but as nothing is said in the “Hydrog. Memoir” (or in the “Voyage” of Tasman, the discoverer) about coral-reefs, I have left it uncoloured.–TONGATABOU: In the “Atlas of the Voyage of the ‘Astrolabe’,” the whole south side of the island is represented as narrowly fringed by the same reef which forms an extensive platform on the northern side. The origin of this latter reef, which might have been mistaken for a barrier-reef, has already been attempted to be explained, when giving the proofs of the recent elevation of this island.– In Cook’s charts the little outlying island also of EOAIGEE, is represented as fringed; coloured red.–EOUA. I cannot make out from Captain Cook’s charts and descriptions, that this island has any reef, although the bottom of the neighbouring sea seems to be corally, and the island itself is formed of coral-rock. Forster, however, distinctly (“Observations,” page 14) classes it with high islands having reefs, but it certainly is not encircled by a barrier-reef and the younger Forster (“Voyage,” volume i., page 426) says, that “a bed of coral-rocks surrounded the coast towards the landing-place.” I have therefore classed it with the fringed islands and coloured it red. The several islands lying N.W. of Tongatabou, namely ANAMOUKA, KOMANGO, KOTOU, LEFOUGA, FOA, etc., are seen in Captain Cook’s chart to be fringed by reefs, in several of them are connected together. From the various statements in the first volume of Cook’s “Third Voyage,” and especially in the fourth and sixth chapters, it appears that these reefs are of coral-formation, and certainly do not belong to the barrier class; coloured red.–TOUFOA AND KAO, forming the western part of the group, according to Forster have no reefs; the former is an active volcano.–VAVAO. There is a chart of this singularly formed island, by Espinoza: according to Mr. Williams it consists of coral-rock: the Chevalier Dillon informs me that it is not fringed; not coloured. Nor are the islands of LATTE and AMARGURA, for I have not seen plans on a large scale of them, and do not know whether they are fringed.

NIOUHA, 16 deg S., 174 deg W., or KEPPEL Island of Wallis, or COCOS Island. From a view and chart of this island given in Wallis’s “Voyage” (4to edition) it is evidently encircled by a reef; coloured blue: it is however remarkable that BOSCAWEN Island, immediately adjoining, has no reef of any kind; uncoloured.

WALLIS Island, 13 deg S., 176 deg W., a chart and view of this island in Wallis’s “Voyage” (4to edition) shows that it is encircled. A view of it in the “Naut. Mag.” July 1833, page 376, shows the same fact; blue.

ALLOUFATOU, or HORN Island, ONOUAFU, or PROBY Island, and HUNTER Islands, lie between the Navigator and Fidji groups. I can find no distinct accounts of them.


The best chart of the numerous islands of this group, will be found in the “Atlas of the ‘Astrolabe’s’ Voyage.” From this, and from the description given in the “Hydrog. Memoir,” accompanying it, it appears that many of these islands are bold and mountainous, rising to the height of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. Most of the islands are surrounded by reefs, lying far from the land, and outside of which the ocean appears very deep. The “Astrolabe” sounded with ninety fathoms in several places about a mile from the reefs, and found no bottom. Although the depth within the reef is not laid down, it is evident from several expressions, that Captain D’Urville believes that ships could anchor within, if passages existed through the outer barriers. The Chevallier Dillon informs me that this is the case: hence I have coloured this group blue. In the S.E. part lies BATOA, or TURTLE Island of Cook (“Second Voyage,” volume ii., page 23, and chart, 4to edition) surrounded by a coral-reef, “which in some places extends two miles from the shore;” within the reef the water appears to be deep, and outside it is unfathomable; coloured pale blue. At the distance of a few miles, Captain Cook (Ibid., page 24) found a circular coral-reef, four or five leagues in circuit, with deep water within; “in short, the bank wants only a few little islets to make it exactly like one of the half-drowned isles so often mentioned,”–namely, atolls. South of Batoa, lies the high island of ONO, which appears in Bellinghausen’s “Atlas” to be encircled; as do some other small islands to the south; coloured pale blue; near Ono, there is an annular reef, quite similar to the one just described in the words of Captain Cook; coloured dark blue.

ROTOUMAH, 13 deg S., 179 deg E.–From the chart in Duperrey’s “Atlas,” I thought this island was encircled, and had coloured it blue, but the Chevallier Dillon assures me that the reef is only a shore or fringing one; red.

INDEPENDENCE Island, 10 deg S., 179 deg E., is described by Mr. G. Bennett, (“United Service Journal,” 1831, part ii., page 197) as a low island of coral-formation, it is small, and does not appear to contain a lagoon, although an opening through the reef is referred to. A lagoon probably once existed, and has since been filled up; left uncoloured.


OSCAR, PEYSTER, and ELLICE Islands are figured in Arrowsmith’s “Chart of the Pacific” (corrected to 1832) as atolls, and are said to be very low; blue.–NEDERLANDISCH Island. I am greatly indebted to the kindness of Admiral Krusenstern, for sending me the original documents concerning this island. From the plans given by Captains Eeg and Khremtshenko, and from the detailed account given by the former, it appears that it is a narrow coral-island, about two miles long, containing a small lagoon. The sea is very deep close to the shore, which is fronted by sharp coral-rocks. Captain Eeg compares the lagoon with that of other coral-islands; and he distinctly says, the land is “very low.” I have therefore coloured it blue. Admiral Krusenstern (“Memoir on the Pacific,” Append., 1835) states that its shores are eighty feet high; this probably arose from the height of the cocoa-nut trees, with which it is covered, being mistaken for land. –GRAN COCAL is said in Krusenstern’s “Memoir,” to be low, and to be surrounded by a reef; it is small, and therefore probably once contained a lagoon; uncoloured.–ST. AUGUSTIN. From a chart and view of it, given in the “Atlas of the ‘Coquille’s’ Voyage,” it appears to be a small atoll, with its lagoon partly filled up; coloured blue.


The chart of this group, given in the “Atlas of the ‘Coquille’s’ Voyage,” at once shows that it is composed of ten well characterised atolls. In D’Urville and Lottin’s chart, SYDENHAM is written with a capital letter, signifying that it is high; but this certainly is not the case, for it is a perfectly characterised atoll, and a sketch, showing how low it is, is given in the “‘Coquille’s’ Atlas.” Some narrow strip-like reefs project from the southern side of DRUMMOND atoll, and render it irregular. The southern island of the group is called CHASE (in some charts, ROTCHES); of this I can find no account, but Mr. F.D. Bennett discovered (“Geographical Journal”, volume vii., page 229), a low extensive island in nearly the same latitude, about three degrees westward of the longitude assigned to Rotches, but very probably it is the same island. Mr. Bennett informs me that the man at the masthead reported an appearance of lagoon-water in the centre; and, therefore, considering its position, I have coloured it blue. –PITT Island, at the extreme northern point of the group, is left uncoloured, as its exact position and nature is not known.–BYRON Island, which lies a little to the eastward, does not appear to have been visited since Commodore Byron’s voyage, and it was then seen only from a distance of eighteen miles; it is said to be low; uncoloured.

OCEAN, PLEASANT, and ATLANTIC Islands all lie considerably to the west of the Gilbert group: I have been unable to find any distinct account of them. Ocean Island is written with small letters in the French chart, but in Krusenstern’s “Memoir” it is said to be high.


We are well acquainted with this group from the excellent charts of the separate islands, made during the two voyages of Kotzebue: a reduced one of the whole group may be easily seen in Krusenstern’s “Atlas,” and in Kotzebue’s “Second Voyage.” The group consists (with the exception of two LITTLE islands which probably have had their lagoon filled up) of a double row of twenty-three large and well-characterised atolls, from the examination of which Chamisso has given us his well-known account of coral-formations. I include GASPAR RICO, or CORNWALLIS Island in this group, which is described by Chamisso (Kotzebue’s “First Voyage,” volume iii., page 179) “as a low sickle-formed group, with mould only on the windward side.” Gaspard Island is considered by some geographers as a distinct island lying N.E. of the group, but it is not entered in the chart by Krusenstern; left uncoloured. In the S.W. part of this group lies BARING Island, of which little is known (see Krusenstern’s “Appendix,” 1835, page 149). I have left it uncoloured; but BOSTON Island I have coloured blue, as it is described (Ibid.) as consisting of fourteen small islands, which, no doubt, enclose a lagoon, as represented in a chart in the “‘Coquille’s’ Atlas.”–Two islands, AUR KAWEN and GASPAR RICO, are written in the French chart with capital letters; but this is an error, for from the account given by Chamisso in Kotzebue’s “First Voyage,” they are certainly low. The nature, position, and even existence, of the shoals and small islands north of the Marshall group, are doubtful.


Any chart, on even a small scale, of these islands, will show that their shores are almost without reefs, presenting a remarkable contrast with those of New Caledonia on the one hand, and the Fidji group on the other. Nevertheless, I have been assured by Mr. G. Bennett, that coral grows vigorously on their shores; as indeed, will be further shown in some of the following notices. As, therefore, these islands are not encircled, and as coral grows vigorously on their shores, we might almost conclude, without further evidence, that they were fringed, and hence I have applied the red colour with rather greater freedom than in other instances.–MATTHEW’S ROCK, an active volcano, some way south of the group (of which a plan is given in the “Atlas of the ‘Astrolabe’s’ Voyage”) does not appear to have reefs of any kind about it.–ANNATOM, the southernmost of the Hebrides; from a rough woodcut given in the “United Service Journal” (1831, part iii., page 190), accompanying a paper by Mr. Bennett, it appears that the shore is fringed; coloured red.–TANNA. Forster, in his “Observations” (page 22), says Tanna has on its shores coral-rock and madrepores; and the younger Forster, in his account (volume ii., page 269) speaking of the harbour says, the whole S.E. side consists of coral-reefs, which are overflowed at high-water; part of the southern shore in Cook’s chart is represented as fringed; coloured red.–IMMER is described (“United Service Journal,” 1831, part iii., page 192) by Mr. Bennett as being of moderate elevation, with cliffs appearing like sandstone: coral grows in patches on its shore, but I have not coloured it; and I mention these facts, because Immer might have been thought from Forster’s classification (“Observations,” page 14), to have been a low island or even an atoll.– ERROMANGO Island; Cook (“Second Voyage,” volume ii., page 45, 4to edition) speaks of rocks everywhere LINING the coast, and the natives offered to haul his boat over the breakers to the sandy beach: Mr. Bennett, in a letter to the Editor of the “Singapore Chron.,” alludes to the REEFS on its shores. It may, I think, be safely inferred from these passages that the shore is fringed in parts by coral-reefs; coloured red.–SANDWICH Island. The east coast is said (Cook’s “Second Voyage,” volume ii., page 41) to be low, and to be guarded by a chain of breakers. In the accompanying chart it is seen to be fringed by a reef; coloured red.–MALLICOLLO. Forster speaks of the reef-bounded shore: the reef is about thirty yards wide, and so shallow that a boat cannot pass over it. Forster also (“Observations,” page 23) says, that the rocks of the sea-shore consist of madrepore. In the plan of Sandwich harbour, the headlands are represented as fringed; coloured red.–AURORA and PENTECOST Islands, according to Bougainville, apparently have no reefs; nor has the large island of S. ESPIRITU, nor BLIGH Island or BANKS’ Islands, which latter lie to the N.E. of the Hebrides. But in none of these cases, have I met with any detailed account of their shores, or seen plans on a large scale; and it will be evident, that a fringing-reef of only thirty or even a few hundred yards in width, is of so little importance to navigation, that it will seldom be noticed, excepting by chance; and hence I do not doubt that several of these islands, now left uncoloured, ought to be red.


VANIKORO (Figure 1, Plate I.) offers a striking example of a barrier-reef: it was first described by the Chevalier Dillon, in his voyage, and was surveyed in the “Astrolabe”; coloured pale blue.–TIKOPIA and FATAKA Islands appear, from the descriptions of Dillon and D’Urville, to have no reefs; ANOUDA is a low, flat island, surrounded by cliffs (“‘Astrolabe’ Hydrog.” and Krusenstern, “Mem.” volume ii., page 432); these are uncoloured. TOUPOUA (OTOOBOA of Dillon) is stated by Captain Tromelin (“Annales Marit.” 1829, page 289) to be almost entirely included in a reef, lying at the distance of two miles from the shore. There is a space of three miles without any reef, which, although indented with bays, offers no anchorage from the extreme depth of the water close to the shore: Captain Dillon also speaks of the reefs fronting this island; coloured blue.– SANTA-CRUZ. I have carefully examined the works of Carteret, D’Entrecasteaux, Wilson, and Tromelin, and I cannot discover any mention of reefs on its shores; left uncoloured.–TINAKORO is a constantly active volcano without reefs.–MENDANA ISLES (mentioned by Dillon under the name of MAMMEE, etc.); said by Krusenstern to be low, and intertwined with reefs. I do not believe they include a lagoon; I have left them uncoloured.–DUFF’S Islands compose a small group directed in a N.W. and S.E. band; they are described by Wilson (page 296, “Miss. Voy.” 4to edition), as formed by bold-peaked land, with the islands surrounded by coral-reefs, extending about half a mile from the shore; at a distance of a mile from the reefs he found only seven fathoms. As I have no reason for supposing there is deep water within these reefs, I have coloured them red. KENNEDY Island, N.E. of Duff’s. I have been unable to find any account of it.


The great barrier-reefs on the shores of this island have already been described (Figure 5, Plate II.). They have been visited by Labillardiere, Cook, and the northern point by D’Urville; this latter part so closely resembles an atoll that I have coloured it dark blue. The LOYALTY group is situated eastward of this island; from the chart and description given in the “Voyage of the ‘Astrolabe’,” they do not appear to have any reefs; north of this group, there are some extensive low reefs (called ASTROLABE and BEAUPRE,) which do not seem to be atoll-formed; these are left uncoloured.


The limits of this great reef, which has already been described, have been coloured from the charts of Flinders and King. In the northern parts, an atoll-formed reef, lying outside the barrier, has been described by Bligh, and is coloured dark blue. In the space between Australia and New Caledonia, called by Flinders the Corallian Sea, there are numerous reefs. Of these, some are represented in Krusenstern’s “Atlas” as having an atoll-like structure; namely, BAMPTON shoal, FREDERIC, VINE or Horse-shoe, and ALERT reefs; these have been coloured dark blue.


The dangerous reefs which front and surround the western, southern, and northern coasts of this so-called peninsula and archipelago, seem evidently to belong to the barrier class. The land is lofty, with a low fringe on the coast; the reefs are distant, and the sea outside them profoundly deep. Nearly all that is known of this group is derived from the labours of D’Entrecasteaux and Bougainville: the latter has represented one continuous reef ninety miles long, parallel to the shore, and in places as