The face of the country, except that part of it which borders upon the sea, is very uneven; it rises in ridges that run up into the middle of the island, and there form mountains, which may be seen at the distance of sixty miles: Between the foot of these ridges and the sea, is a border of low land, surrounding the whole island, except in a few places where the ridges rise directly from the sea: The border of low land is in different parts of different breadths, but no where more than a mile and a half. The soil, except upon the very tops of the ridges, is extremely rich and fertile, watered by a great number of rivulets of excellent water, and covered with fruit-trees of various kinds, some of which are of a stately growth and thick foliage, so as to form, one continued wood; and even the tops of the ridges, though in general they are bare, and burnt up by the sun, are, in some parts, not without their produce.
The low land that lies between the foot of the ridges and the sea, and some of the vallies, are the only parts of the island that are inhabited, and here it is populous; the houses do not form villages or towns, but are ranged along the whole border at the distance of about fifty yards from each other, with little plantations of plantains, the tree which furnishes them with cloth. The whole island, according to Tupia’s account, who certainly knew, could furnish six thousand seven hundred and eighty fighting men, from which the number of inhabitants may easily, be computed.
[Footnote 1: It is questionable if the whole existing population of the island amount to the number now mentioned. Such has been the decrease of its interesting but licentious inhabitants since the time of Cook, to which, it is melancholy to be obliged to say, their intercourse with Europeans has most rapidly contributed. The reader is referred, for some information on this point, to the account of Turnbull’s voyage, published in 1805. A few particulars as to the appearance of Otaheite, on the authority of subsequent accounts, may be given with satisfaction to the reader. The island, which consists of two peninsulas connected by a low neck or isthmus covered with trees and shrubs but quite uninhabited, presents a mountainous aspect, rising high in the centre, with narrow valleys of romantic but luxuriantly pleasing scenery, and well watered, studding its verdant surface. The lofty and clustering hills of which the greater part of the island is formed, and which, however steep of ascent, or abrupt in termination, are clothed to the very summit with trees of very various colours and sizes, are encircled with a rich border of low land, the proper seat of the inhabitants, who seem to realize, in its fertility and beauty, all that human imagination can conceive requisite for animal enjoyment. The soil of this border, and of the valleys, is a blackish mould; that of the hills is different, changing as you ascend them into variously coloured earth and marl. The beds of