Since Raiatea Is Thirty
Miles In Circumference, And Tahaa Fifteen Miles, Some Idea May Be
Gained Of The Magnitude Of The Reef That Encloses Them.
them and the reef stretches from one to two miles of water, forming
a beautiful lagoon.
The huge Pacific seas, extending in unbroken
lines sometimes a mile or half as much again in length, hurl
themselves upon the reef, overtowering and falling upon it with
tremendous crashes, and yet the fragile coral structure withstands
the shock and protects the land. Outside lies destruction to the
mightiest ship afloat. Inside reigns the calm of untroubled water,
whereon a canoe like ours can sail with no more than a couple of
inches of free-board.
We flew over the water. And such water! - clear as the clearest
spring-water, and crystalline in its clearness, all intershot with a
maddening pageant of colours and rainbow ribbons more magnificently
gorgeous than any rainbow. Jade green alternated with turquoise,
peacock blue with emerald, while now the canoe skimmed over reddish
purple pools, and again over pools of dazzling, shimmering white
where pounded coral sand lay beneath and upon which oozed monstrous
sea-slugs. One moment we were above wonder-gardens of coral,
wherein coloured fishes disported, fluttering like marine
butterflies; the next moment we were dashing across the dark surface
of deep channels, out of which schools of flying fish lifted their
silvery flight; and a third moment we were above other gardens of
living coral, each more wonderful than the last.
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