WE are again under the shadow of the American flag, and about to land upon American soil. We left Samoa one week ago, and are now far north of the Equator in the harbor of Honolulu at the crossroads of the northern Pacific Ocean. We saw something of the value of such a location while we were in Tutuila. It is more apparent here in the rich and fertile Hawaiian Islands, which are not only a coaling station, but also a center of commerce and trade. You may have noticed that country towns spring up wherever several roads come together; that cities rise at the crossing of rail-roads and the junction of such roads with rivers, and at good harbors where the sea routes and land routes meet. It is the same at the crossroads of the sea, and countries become valuable when they lie at such places. This is especially so with the Hawaiian Islands at the crossroads of the northern Pacific.
For the past week we have been traveling on the direct road from Australia and New Zealand to the United States, and, if we kept straight on, another week would land us in San Francisco. The ship on our right has just come from that port, and the one going out, with a long stream of black smoke following it, is a Canadian Pacific boat on its way from Sydney to Vancouver in British Columbia.
See that transport over there with the American flag at its stern and the hundreds of soldiers hanging over the rail waving their hats and handkerchiefs at us. That vessel left California eight days ago. It came here last night and will start out to-morrow for the Philippine Islands, calling perhaps at Guam on the way. The Japanese steamer beside it, with the rising sun on its flag, is from Yokohama bound for San Francisco with a cargo of rice, porcelain, and rugs, and there are other steamers here from Hongkong and Shanghai laden with silk and tea on their way to America. The Hawaiian Islands are also on one of the direct routes from Asia to the Isthmus of Panama, and now that our canal is completed, there is a steady stream of ship flowing through here from Asia to Europe and the eastern parts of our hemisphere.
The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most valuable possessions in the Pacific Ocean. They are not large islands. Their area all together is not so great as that of New Jersey, although they are scattered from east to west over the ocean for hundreds of miles. The inhabited islands are closer together, but from one end of them to the other is about as far as from Washington to Boston.
The islands of the far west are mere dots on the sea, some of which have never been visited, while others are valuable only for their deposits of fertilizer. Upon some of them guano is found, thousands of sea birds roosting there every night. One of these, named Midway Island, is important as a landing place for the American telegraphic cable, which connects San Francisco with the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, and the Philippines.
The inhabited islands are eight in number, situated at the eastern end of the group just about as far from San Francisco as Chicago is east of that city, and farther from any Australian and Asiatic port than New York is distant from London.
Hawaii (ha-wire) is the largest of the inhabited islands; it is not quite so large as Connecticut, and next in size is Maui (mou’e), which is not one fifth so large. After that comes Oahu (o-a’hoo), in the chief harbor of which we now are, and still farther west is the rich garden island of Kauai (kou-a’e), which is twenty-two miles wide and twenty-five miles long. Southwest of Oahu is Molokai (mo-to-ki’), where the lepers live, and not far from it is Kahoolawe (ka-ho-o-la’va), the smallest of the cultivated islands, so small that we could walk around its coast in less than a day.
All these islands are volcanic ; they are made up of high mountains seamed with valleys and gorges, some of which are more than a thousand feet deep. Between the mountains lie rolling plains, and at the feet of some narrow plains slope out to the sea. The best of the cultivated lands are in the plains and valleys, and on the lower slopes of the mountains. The mountains are often barren and ragged, some of them are smoking volcanoes, and others dead craters long since burned out.
It was Gaetano, a Spanish navigator, who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. This was in 1542, but they were not brought prominently before the world until Captain Cook visited them in 1778. When Captain Cook first came, the natives regarded him as almost a god, but a year later a misunderstanding arose. There was a quarrel between the whites and the natives, and Captain Cook was killed on the island of Hawaii, where we may see his monument. Cook named the group the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich, one of his patrons. This name has since been changed to the Hawaiian Islands.
At the time of Captain Cook’s discovery the country was populated by many brown-skinned people much like those we saw in Tutuila, although they had perhaps a higher degree of civilization. They were then divided into several tribes, each having its own little territory, but, in 1800, Kamehameha (ka-ma’ha-ma’ha), a chief of the island of Hawaii having conquered the other chiefs, proclaimed himself king and founded the dynasty which ruled the group almost to the time (1898) when the islands were annexed by the United States.
In recent years the natives have been steadily decreasing in number, and there are not one tenth so many now as at the time Captain Cook landed. They were long ago converted to Christianity. They have always welcomed strangers to their shores, so that there are now five or six times as many foreigners, or the descendants of foreigners, on the islands as of natives themselves. The foreigners are mostly people from the United States and Europe and their children, and a large number of Chinese and Japanese who were brought in to work on the sugar plantations. All the people, however, are now American citizens, and we are among friends the moment we land.
What a beautiful city is Honolulu! It is called the Paradise of the Pacific, and it seems a paradise to us as we walk up the wide streets and stroll by gardens filled with tropical plants and hedged with beautiful flowers, under the shade of royal palms and cocoanut trees. We seem to be in a great botanical garden, interspersed here and there with fine houses, lawns as velvety as those of Washington, and beautiful walks and drives.
Honolulu has good business buildings, and the government structures, some of which were once the palaces of native rulers, are surrounded by parks. There are electric cars running through the streets ; the town is lighted by electricity, and its stores, with their plate-glass windows, remind us of home. There is a well-equipped gymnasium, a public bicycle track, and schools as good as our own.
The city is beautifully situated on a silvery bay at the foot of a little volcano five hundred feet high, up which we drive for the view. This volcano is known as the Punch Bowl, from the shape of its crater, We stand on the rim of the crater and see the Pacific Ocean rolling up whitecaps far out from the shore. Right under us is Honolulu, its white houses showing out of the green ; and beyond it, reached by a beach drive shaded with algeroba trees and cocoanut palms, is the suburb, Waikiki, where the people go to bathe. Farther back in the country are patches of vivid green, the rice and banana plantations, and near them greater expanses of a paler green, marking the sugar estates, for which the islands are noted.
Leaving the Punch Bowl, we go down again to the city and stroll about the streets, now and then stopping at the stores. The people we meet have come here from many parts of the world. There are whites from all the states of our Union and from almost every country of Europe, yellows from China and Japan, and mahogany browns from the Pacific islands. The men wear Panama hats and white linen suits without vests. Many have bright silk sashes about their waists, and some have silk sashes wound around their hats. Now and then we see a native woman in a loose gown which falls from her neck to her feet, and sometimes native men with garlands of flowers around their necks or their hats.
We spend some time in the Chinese quarter buying tea, candied ginger, and other things of the almond-eyed merchants. We visit the places where most of the Japanese live, laughing at the yellow-skinned babies, some of whom are carried about on the backs of their brothers and sisters, just as they are in Japan. Everywhere we go we see men, women, and children as dark as the Samoans ; some of them are native Hawaiians, and others are the descendants of natives who have married white men or women. The native Hawaiians are as intelligent as we are. Many of them are rich, and many belong to’ the learned professions and do business the same as the whites.