Various places in the South Pacific: 1927. 6¼” x 8½”. Leather over flexible card with two-hole punched leaves, lacking original rivets and later string tied at the lower hole. 86 pages with 216 black and white photographs inserted into corner mounts + a hand-drawn line map; approximately 30 photos were commercially produced. Nearly all photos are captioned with narrative descriptions on album pages, the album as a whole containing approximately 4000 words; many with brief captions in the negative or on photo versos as well. Album very good with moderate wear; photos generally very good or better; occasional smudging of captions resulting in the loss of some words but rarely impacting overall understanding of any particular description.
This is a photo album filled with well composed and heavily captioned photographs which document numerous locales in the South Pacific and their local populaces. It was compiled by a member of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy while touring the South Pacific on the HMS Veronica.
The album begins with several photos of the Panama Canal and then jumps to Auckland. Shots of New Zealand are peppered throughout and include birdseye views of Auckland, Dunedin, and Port Lyttleton. There are also town or street views of Milford Sound, Westport, and Russell. Next was a stop in American Samoa where the compiler and his mates went swimming at Pago Pago and stopped at Tolaga Bay, as well as Tokamaru Bay which was “our first stop on the 1927 NZ cruise. We were very hospitably treated here and were beaten at cricket. It is a very small place depending entirely on a small sheep fleecing works.”
At least 55 photos show indigenous people and/or their living conditions. In Apia, Samoa, one photo shows the “Funa-Futi” or the native Samoan police force. Next to an image of Samoan huts, the compiler recorded:
“Samoan native huts are in a class of their own and are built so that they are free to all, in accordance with the Samoan's genuine communism. They should be a happy people, with no struggle to live. Their food grows wild all about them and almost falls into their laps. They have no housing problem and no worry about clothes.”
The compiler took a shot of local men in outriggers in Nuie commenting, “Nuie, or Savage island, is midway between Samoa and Rarotonga. We stayed here long enough to instruct them as to the best way to blast some rocks to make a boat channel. The islanders are very expert in the use of their canoes.” A few more images around Nuie show locals in canoes, one captioned, “native canoes at Nuie, the natives bartering for 'baccy' and soap in return for their cocoanut fiber hats and hula dresses.”
In Fiji, there's an action shot of men performing the “meke” (war dance) as well as Fijian women offering beads for sale or barter. The compiler included a couple of photos related to sugar cultivation, including one showing a man leading a small train of newly cut sugar cane:
“Two views of the sugar industry at Lautoka, Fiji Island. It is the only industry, although run on a very large scale. The mills being the second most important of their kind in the world. Some thousands of Hindus are employed grouping the cane, and in transporting, crushing, and shipping the product. Quite a number of whites, British, N.Z. And Australians are employed here in overseers' and other supervising jobs.”
At “Ocean Island” (Banaba, an island in the Kiribati) we see the compiler posing with a family of natives as well as a shot of their village. Elsewhere in Kiribati, at Tarawa, there's a three shot series showing native men who were prisoners loading coal for the Veronica, as well as relaxing with the ship's men. At Butaritari there's a photo of a large welcoming crowd on the beach as well as one showing native peoples at a large meeting house. The compiler also included two photos of natives at Kuria in the Gilbert islands, showing a group at a hut, as well as men running a canoe into the ocean. We also see natives in Rotuma, along with their living conditions, while in Penrhyn, he took a few photos of “pearling luggers” and shared that the atoll was “once the headquarters of a thriving pearl diving industry. While we were here, a roaring trade was done by bartering old clothes for seed pearls.” In Fakaofo, he took a few shots of locals including men in canoes as well as a great group shot of five men who boarded the Veronica to barter with them.
In addition to the focus on indigenous people, the compiler also highlighted industries, governments and activities. For example, there are several photos taken in and around Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga. One image shows a series of buildings with thatched roofs with a caption, “the scenery in the Tonga ground is very attractive. This is a village just outside Nuku'alofa. Nuku'alofa is the capital of the Tongas and contains the parliament buildings and the residence of the native queen and her consort.”
In Tahiti, at Papeete, we see views of the shoreline, as well as Zane Grey's yacht, “Fisherman.” Our compiler shared, “Tahiti is one of the society group and is a French colony with its geographical position and natural advantages, it ought to be an important and flourishing port as it would be in British or U.S. Hands.” He also took a photo of a “traveler's palm”: “a curious fan-shaped tree growing in the islands. These palms contain fresh water and have been valuable to those in need, hence the name.” On a page with two lovely views of Mo'orea,
“two views of one of the few South Sea islands that are really something like those described by novelists. Moorea actually is a 'Gem of the Pacific,' with its wonderful climate, sheltered lagoon, silver shaded beach, gorgeous scenery, profusion of all kinds of tropical fruits, childlike and pleasant natives. It is no wonder that a few wealthy people have set up there, and bought most of the land so as not to be disturbed by fortune hunters.”
Other great shots include a “group of Native Chiefs” in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, the native cricket team in Nuku'alofa, and one of a native man with a pushcart selling ice cream and peanuts in Suva, Fiji. The compiler included many shoreline views throughout including Humphrey Island (Manihiki), Niuafo'ou, Kuria, Penrhyn and Fakaofo.
A phenomenal narrative and photographic record of the varied peoples, cultures, industries of the South Pacific in the late 1920s. Very good. Item #7551