The Santa Cruz Islands

The Santa Cruz group, about 240 miles east of the southern Solomons, was discovered in 1595 by Mendaña. Most of the islands are small and of volcanic origin. The largest island, Ndeni, known locally as Santa Cruz, is 25 by 14 miles, and roughly rectangular in shape. On the north, east, and south densely wooded hills rise from the sea to a maximum elevation of 1800 feet. Numerous bays indent the steep and rugged coast along which the population is concentrated in coastal villages. The government station for the Santa Cruz District is at Peu, one of the better anchorages on the island of Vanikoro. The total population of the Santa Cruz group is about 5000. Some copra is exported.


The New Hebrides, including the Banks and Torres islands, are northeast of New Caledonia and southeast of the Solomons. Much of the land, generally mountainous, is covered by dense tropical forest. A few of the islands, like some of the Solomons, contain active volcanoes. The New Hebrides proper have an area of about 5700 square miles and comprise 12 major islands, 18 lesser islands, and between 30 and 40 small islands and islets distributed around their coasts. They are dispersed in the form of a Y, of which the southern islands form the tail. Among the principal islands are Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Eromanga, and Efate.

The New Hebrides were discovered in 1606 by De Quiros, then forgotten until they were explored in 1768 by Bougainville. The islands were charted by Cook in 1774. During the nineteenth century the natives suffered through contacts with whalers, sandalwood traders, pirates, and "blackbirders" who recruited labor for plantations. In 1887 Great Britain and France signed an agreement for a dual government in the islands, and in 1906 a formal condominium was established. The administrative structure of the New Hebrides is unique in the Pacific because of the complex division of powers between the Anglo-French condominium administration and the separate British and French administration. In general, the national administrations have jurisdiction over their respective nationals, and the condominium over natives and where the interests of British and French do not coincide.

The New Hebrides generally have fertile soil developed from volcanic materials, and the abundant rainfall and warm temperatures favor the growth of dense forests and of planted crops. The economy of the islands is based primarily upon agriculture. Coconuts, cacao, cotton, coffee, and maize are among the exports. Sandalwood is still gathered in small volume from the forests, and shell from the coastal waters. Cattle do well where grass is available, and sheep are raised for wool and meat on Eromanga Island. The natives raise starchy roots, bananas, and vegetables for themselves and keep pigs and chickens for food. The islands are capable of large expansion in plantation crops if labor, capital, and markets all become favorable. Formerly, sulphur deposits on the island of Vanua Lava were worked commercially. It is commonly believed that these islands, like neighboring New Caledonia and Fije, contain valuable mineral deposits, but so far no significant discoveries have been made, and no organized prospecting has been carried out.

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