Noumea is the capital, largest city, and most adequately equipped port in New Caledonia and in fact is the only port of entry in the colony. It is located on a superior harbor, land-locked and encircled by low hills and well sheltered by an offshore island. The city is second to Suva among the south Pacific island towns. It was founded in 1854, and its streets, laid out on a rectangular plan, are wide and lined with trees. The government buildings are of stone or concrete; the residences are mainly wooden structures. There are churches, barracks, hospitals, and many businesses, including the publishing of several journals and a daily newspaper. Industrial establishments include the nickel smelter and a sawmill. Steamship service is available to France via the Panama Canal, to several of the south Pacific islands, and by small craft to the coastal towns of New Caledonia. Air transportation is also available.
The Loyalty group consisting of three large islands and a number of reefs and islets, is arranged in a chain that parallels the length of New Caledonia about 70 miles to the northeast. The large islands are: Mare, 20 miles long; Lifu (Lifou) of irregular shape, 33 miles in greatest length and 28 miles in greatest width; and Uvea, which is an atoll. Mare and Lifu are of uplifted limestone formation. Uvea atoll is low and has its main island on the east side of the lagoon; the latter is 22 miles long with 3 miles at greatest width. The climate resembles that of New Caledonia, but because of the low altitude the rainfall is sometimes deficient. The bedrock is too pervious for surface drainage; water is secured from wells but is often brackish in quality. Trees include the coconut, pandanus, banyan, pines, and several types of hardwoods. The inhabitants are mainly Melanesian. The natives, expert fishermen, raise taro, yams, and a variety of vegetables. They live in dozens of little hamlets that are connected. Copra is the chief export.