group and the Samoan Islands. In other places the mountain tops probably have been carved off or flattened below the surface by the powerful ocean waves, providing suitable grounds for coral polyps and algae to develop and patiently build the coral islands and atolls as they appear now, in hundreds, spread over the Pacific Ocean. Emerging permanently from the ocean surface the coral dies. Sand, shells and debris are piled up by the waves, forming a strip of dry land, which consequently is almost always higher on the windward side. Sometimes, as on Christmas Island, windblown
sand hills are found. Unless raised by volcanic activity, atolls are always low islands less than 25 feet high, very often encircling a more or less shallow lagoon. The main entrance to this lagoon is usually on the leeward side and Christmas Island is no exception to this rule. The presence of the great number of landlocked lakes suggests the possibility that this island in former times had a much bigger lagoon including all the lakes, leaving only a narrow strip of dry land.
The lagoon might have been silted up in former times by the intricate system of currents which seems to exist around the island and which has shipwrecked so many vessels in recent history, while storms, tidal waves and the general raising of the land from beneath have probably also contributed to the present situation.
In the reef waters and in those lagoons connected with the sea by large channels, spiny lobsters, crabs and shellfish, especially the clam, abound and for the more enterprising fisherman there are eels, mullet, parrot fishes, sea bass, snapper and sharks; the turtles, of course, are amphibians and they come on shore to lay their eggs. Other more permanently
land based animals include rats, lizards and hermit crabs. There are a few species of insects, mostly associated with plants, but the biggest pest are the flies which thrive on any rotting vegetation. Most of the birds seen in the region are sea-birds, with some migrant waders, for instance gannets, petrels, terns, frigate birds, red-tailed tropic birds, golden plovers, bristle-thighed curlews and wandering tattlers, the only land birds in the narrow sense of the word being confined to species of parakeet, duck and reed warbler.
Christmas Island was discovered on Christmas Eve, 1777, by Captain James Cook (then a Lieutenant, RN.) in the ships Resolution and Discovery. An account of the discovery, in which was included a somewhat inaccurate map of the island, was recorded by Cook:
I777 December Wednes. 24. On the 24th, about half an hour after daybreak, land was discovered bearing North-East by East, half East. Upon a nearer approach, it was found to be one of those low islands so common in this ocean; that is, a narrow bank
of land enclosing the sea within.
Thursday 25. At day-break, the next morning, I sent two boats, one from each ship, to search more accurately for a landing place; and, at the same time, two others, to fish at a grappling near the shore.
Sunday 28. On the 28th, I landed, in company with Mr. Bayly, on the island which lies between the two channels into the lagoon, to prepare the telescopes for observing the approaching eclipse of the sun; which was one great inducement to my anchoring here. . .
Tuesday 30. On the morning of the 30th, the day when the eclipse was to