of natives camp in temporary leaf-thatched huts among the
cocoanut-palms on the beach, those from the different islands
congregating in isolated settlements. As many as five thousand persons
are sometimes brought together in this way.
volcanic-formed Gambier Islands, with high peaks reaching, in one
instance, an altitude of over 1200 feet, present a striking contrast to
the Tuamotu atolls. This group consists of five large and several small
islands, surrounded by a coral reef of an irregular triangular figure.
The 1100 inhabitants of the Gambier Islands derive a large percentage
of their support from the pearl fishery. The patches of pearl-oysters
are located between the islands and the barrier reefs. They are
numerous about the island of Mangareva, which is well surrounded by
them on the north, east, and southeast. Oysters from the reef of
Tearae, which extends from the eastern point of Mangare\a to the small
island of Aukena, a distance of two miles, are especially rich in
pearls. On this reef, where the water is from one to four fathoms in
depth, the mollusks are small, rarely exceeding five or six inches at
maturity, but the shell is very thick and coral covered ; these yield
many pearls. In greater depths, the oysters attain a larger size, but
they yield few pearls.
first white man to attempt the exploitation of the pearl resources of
the Tuamotus appears to have been Mörenhout. In a voyage to the
Oceanic Islands in 1827, he learned of the great wealth of pearl shell,
and applied to Queen Pomaré at Tahiti for permission to employ the
natives in the fishery. With an eye to business, she required a fee of
$5000 for herself before granting the desired authority.1 Considering
this excessive, Mörenhout attempted to deal with the natives without
permission of the dusky queen, but under these adverse conditions he
found the trade unsatisfactory and soon abandoned it.
1830, and the years immediately succeeding, desultory pearling voyages
were made from Valparaiso, Chile, and these were followed by
expeditions from America and elsewhere. An interesting account of the
trade at that time is contained in Lucatt's "Rovings in the Pacific
from 1837 to 1849," published in London in 1851.
Mormon influx in 1846 resulted in a further development of the pearl
fishery; and Grouard, the local leader of that denomination, is
credited with making a fortune in the business.
the beginning of the industry up to 1880, when control of the islands
passed to the French government, it is estimated that about 15,000 tons
of pearl-oysters were secured. The extent of the fishery during the few
years preceding 1880 made such drains upon the pro-
1 "Voyage aux Iles du Grand Océan," Paris, 1838 ; also "Le Correspondant," March 10, 1906.