Norfolk Island - Encyclopedia

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NORFOLK ISLAND, an island in the Pacific Ocean, about Soo m. E. of the nearest point of New South Wales, in 29° S., 167° 56' E. It stands on a submarine tableland extending about 18 m. to the N. and 25 m. to the S., and has itself an area of 8528 acres or 13.3 sq. m. The islets of Nepean and Philip lie near it. Its high cliff-bound coast is difficult of access. With a general elevation of 400 ft. above the sea the island rises in the N.W. to 1050 ft. in the double summit of Mount Pitt. The soil, of decomposed basalt, is wonderfully fertile. The rich undulating pasture-land with clumps of trees and copses resembles a park. Oranges, lemons, grapes, passion fruit, figs, pine-apples, guavas and other fruits grow abundantly; while potatoes, onions, maize and arrowroot can be cultivated. The Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria excelsa) is a magnificent tree, with a height sometimes exceeding 200 ft. and a girth of 30. A small species of palm is known as the Norfolk Island cabbage. Treeferns are abundant. The flora is most closely associated with that of New Zealand, and the avifauna indicates the same connexion rather than one with Australia, as those birds which belong to Australian genera are apparently immigrants, while those which occur on the island in common with New Zealand would be incapable of such distant migration. The climate is healthy, the thermometer rarely sinking below 65° F. The island is a station of the British Pacific cable. It was discovered in 1774 by Captain Cook, and was taken by Philip King of the "Stirling" and twenty-four convicts from New South Wales. This settlement was abandoned in 1805, but in 1826 the island was made a penal settlement from New South Wales. In 1856, 194 Pitcairn islanders took the place of the convicts. Forty of them soon returned to Pitcairn Island, and the remainder deteriorated owing to intermarriage. The administration of justice by an elected magistrate was unsatisfactory. Crime was rarely punished, and debts were not recoverable. A remedy was attempted in 1896 by an improvement in the government. The island was brought under the immediate administration of New South Wales; a chief magistrate, appointed by the governor of New South Wales, took the place of the elected magistrate, and an elected council of twelve elders superseded the general gathering of the adult population. In 1867 a Melanesian mission station was established at St Barnabas, and in 1882 a church was erected to the memory of Bishop Patteson, with windows designed by Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris.

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