Malekula, Eromanga, Efate

Malekula, known to the French as Mallicolo, the second largest island in the group, is about 46 by 23 miles in maximum length and breadth. It is formed largely of limestones that have been penetrated in some districts by lava. The surface is hilly, and there are several peaks, Mt. Penot, 2925 feet, being the highest. Vegetation, everywhere dense, in the southern and central parts consists mostly of thick forest, matted together by numerous lianas and creepers. Coral terraces in the north are thickly covered with cane grass. Malekula is still the most populous island in the New Hebrides, in spite of a considerable decline during the last century. European enterprises consist mainly of several French and British coconut plantations largely confined to the east coast, which has some good harbors, including Port Stanley and Port Sandwich.


Eromanga, known to the French as Erromango, is 35 by 25 miles in size and the largest of the southern islands of the New Hebrides. It is composed mainly of lavas and volcanic agglomerates with terraces of raised coral on the lowlands. The interior is mountainous. The island is fertile but underdeveloped, the absence of good harbors being a handicap. Furthermore, the natives were originally unfriendly to settlers, and labor is scarce because the island has been largely depopulated. Sandalwood, at one time the sole export, is still found in some districts.


The island of Efate, known to the French as Ile Vate, is of volcanic origin, but is almost completely encrusted with coral limestone. Rivers have cut through the limestone to penetrate the weak volcanic tufts and soft metamorphic rocks beneath. The eroded material has been deposited to form alluvial flats in their lower reaches. A sharpcrested mountain chain follows the northwest coast a few miles inland, its highest peak attaining 2203 feet. The southern part of the island is a plateau 200 to 300 feet high, intersected with coral ridges. The whole island is densely wooded except for a peninsula in the southwest, which for the most part is covered with grass. The majority of the European and Indo-Chinese people are in or near Vila, the administrative and commercial center of the New Hebrides. Nearly all the Tonkinese work on French plantations. Native New Hebrideans live in scattered coastal villages and on small islands off the coast. A supply base and airfield were established in Efate by the Allies during the Second World War.

Vila on Mele Bay, a protected harbor in southeast Efate, is the sole port of entry for the New Hebrides. Its population is about 1500, including several hundred non-natives.

The eastern chain of the New Hebrides north from Efate includes the Shepherd Islands, Epi, Ambrin, Raga (Pentecost), and Maewo. South of Efate are Tana and Aneityum. Raga or Pentecost is a long, narrow island, 39 by 7½ miles, fertile, and supports about 6000 natives and many white planters. The natives on the north end are Polynesians, those to the south Melanesians. Tana is mountainous, some 32 by 15 miles in size, is fertile and has a comfortable climate. The island supports 6500 natives and several plantations.

No comments: