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South Pacific

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Gambier Islands

French Polynesia is a collection of 118 islands covering a vast area of the southeastern Pacific Ocean and divided into five scattered archipelagos: Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Gambier Islands, and the Tubuai Islands.

The capital is Papeete, Tahiti (Society Islands). The larger islands are volcanic with fertile soil and dense vegetation. The more numerous coral islands are low lying.

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Attack of the Natives of Gambier Islands
Richard B. Beechey

The climate is tropical. Missionaries arrived in Tahiti at the end of the 18th century, and in the 1840s France began establishing protectorates.

January 18, 1845, Colonial Gazette, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom

The statement that the Wallis and Gambier Islands were taken under the protectorate of France is confirmed by the following letter from M.Dudoit, French Consul at the Sandwich Islands, dated July 12, 1844, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: "I have the honour to inform you that official despatches authorise my announcing that the Government of his Most Christian Majesty has just granted, in principle, the protection demanded by Lavelau, King of the Wallis Islands, and Pileto, King of the Island of Fontana; and, moreover, that, in consequence of a convention between the commander of the frigate La Charte and the King of the Gambier Islands, the protectorate of France is equally established in this last archipelago, subject to the approbation of this Majesty the King of the French."

In 1880, France annexed the islands and they became part of its colony of Oceania.

Also included are American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn (famous for the Mutiny on the British ship HMS Bounty), Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Tahiti and French Polynesia.

The Gambier Islands is a part of French Polynesia. They comprise a cluster of four islands known as Mangareva and many uninhabited atolls. The Mangareva cluster is within a barrier reef having a circumference of c.40 mi (60 km). The islands have copra and coffee plantations and pearl fisheries. Many of the uninhabited atolls are privately owned and are worked for copra.

Mangareva is the seat of Rikitea, the capital. "Discovered" in 1797 by the British (who named the group), the Gambier Islands were annexed by France in 1881.

January 13, 1894, The Colonies and India

The Polynesian Society

The Journal of the Polynesian Society is doing good work. The last issue has an interesting article on "Asiatic Gods in the Pacific," by Mr. E. Tregear, which is full of interest. We quote the following: After the first triad of the Chaldeans (Anu, Ea, and Bel) had passed away, a second triad took place viz., Sin, Shamas, and Raman, as Moon, Sun, and the Power of the Atmosphere. Of Sin and Shamas we have already spoken, but of Raman we give notice that his sign is generally the lightning, or triple-forked thunder-bolt; he is the "lord of the flaming sword." Whether he is connected in pre-historic thought with the Indian Rama (Moon-Rama) or not, it is possible that the Polynesian word rama a torch (and as a compound, "light") may be connected with this.

In the Gambier Islands rama means to illuminate, and marama is a common Oceanic word for moon, while in Tahiti maramarama means light. Raman was also called Vul or Pur, and the Polynesian word pura or pida to shine, to glow, would seem to have kindred with the words for fire; in Fijian vula is the moon and vulavida (purapura) white.

Marion Sentinel, July 23, 1903, Marion, Iowa, USA

Rumor That France Intends to Transfer
Its Possessions to American Republic.

London, July 20. A dispatch from Wellington, N. Z. calls attention to a rumor emanating from the French colony at Papeete, Island of Tahiti, which is current in New Zealand that France intends to transfer its possessions in the eastern Pacific to the United States. The Paris correspondent of the Daily Mail says nothing is known of the rumor at the French war and colonial offices. The French possessions in the eastern Pacific consist of the Society islands, the most important of which are Tahiti and Moorea; the Tuametu islands, where the recent disastrous tidal wave occurred; the Leeward islands, comprising Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine and Berabora; the Tubual and Raivavae groups, the island cf Rapa, the Gambler islands; Rurutu and Rimatara islands, and the Marquesas islands. Their total area 13 about 1,520 square miles and their population about 29,000.

Eiaha Ohipa or Tahitians in a Room, 1896 Paul Gauguin

Tahitians in a Room. Paul Gauguin.

Paul Gauguin styled himself and his art as "savage."

Although he began his artistic career with the Impressionists in Paris, during the late 1880s he fled farther and farther from urban civilization in search of an edenic paradise where he could create pure, "primitive" art. Yet his self-imposed exile to the South Seas was not so much an escape from Paris as a bid to become the new leader of the Parisian avant-garde. Gauguin cultivated and inhabited a dual image of himself as, on the one hand, a wolfish wild man and on the other, a sensitive martyr for art. His notoriety helped to promote his astonishing work, which freed color from mimetic representation and distorted form for expressive purposes. Gauguin pioneered the Symbolist art movement in France and set the stage for Fauvism and Expressionism.

Descended on his mother's side from Peruvian nobility, he spent his early childhood in Lima. He would later misrepresent his ancestry to portray himself as an Incan savage. Gauguin's nomadic life continued when he joined the merchant marines and visited ports as far flung as India and the Black Sea. By 1873, he was married and settled in Paris as a stockbroker, thanks to his guardian Gustave Arosa, a wealthy Spanish financier in Paris. Through Arosa, Gauguin developed an amateur interest in art. He met Camille Pissarro at Arosa's home and by 1879 became an unofficial pupil as well as patron of the artist. Pissarro soon invited the ambitious Gauguin to exhibit with the Impressionists.

After the stock market crashed in 1882, Gauguin became a full-time artist. He painted Impressionist landscapes, still lifes, and interiors heavily influenced not only by Pissarro but also by Paul C zanne, whom he had met through Pissarro. Gauguin's pictures showed a preoccupation with dreams, mystery, and evocative symbols that revealed his own artistic inclinations.

The colonial pavilions at the 1889 Exposition Universelle had planted a seed in the artist's mind: to move to an exotic, preindustrial locale and escape his money troubles. He eventually set sail for Tahiti in 1891. His first major Tahitian canvas was Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary).

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
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W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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