On some parts of the land were a few low trees. Mr Anderson gave me an account also of two small shrubs, and, of two or three small plants, all which we had seen on Palmerston’s Island and Otakootaia. There was also a species of sida or Indian mallow, a sort of purslain, and another small plant, that seemed, from its leaves, a mesembryanthemum, with two species of grass. But each of these vegetable productions was in so small a quantity, and grew with so much languor, that one is almost surprised that the species do not become extinct.
Under the low trees above-mentioned, sat infinite numbers of a new species of tern, or egg-bird. These are black above and white below, with a white arch on the forehead, and are rather larger than the common noddy. Most of them had lately hatched their young, which lay under old ones upon the bare ground. The rest had eggs, of which they only lay one, larger than that of a pigeon, bluish and speckled with black. There were also a good many common boobies, a sort that are almost like a gannet, and a sooty or chocolate-coloured one, with a white belly. To this list we must add men-of-war birds, tropic-birds, curlews, sand-pipers, a small land-bird like a hedge-sparrow, land-crabs, small lizards, and rats.
As we kept our Christmas here, I called this discovery Christmas Island. I judge it to be about fifteen or twenty leagues in circumference. It seemed to be of a semicircular form, or like the moon in the last quarter, the two horns being the N. and S. points, which bear from each other nearly N. by E., and S. by W., four or five leagues distant. This west side, or the little isle at the entrance into the lagoon, upon which we observed the eclipse, lies in the latitude of 1 deg. 59’ N., and in the longitude of 202 deg. 30’ E., determined by a considerable number of lunar observations, which differed only 7’ from the time-keeper, it being so much less. The variation of the compass was 6 deg. 22-1/2’ E., and the dip of the north end of the needle 11 deg. 54’.
Christmas Island, like most others in this ocean, is bounded by a reef of coral-rocks, which extends but a little way from the shore. Farther out than this reef, on the west side, is a bank of fine sand, extending a mile into the sea. On this bank is good anchorage, in any depth between eighteen and thirty fathoms. In less than the first-mentioned depth, the reef would be too near; and, in more than the last, the edge of the bank would not be at a sufficient distance. During the time we lay here, the wind blew constantly a fresh gale at E., or E. by S., except one or two days. We had, always, a great swell from the northward, which broke upon the reef in a prodigious surf. We had found this swell before we came to the island, and it continued for some days after we left it.