Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Friendly or Tonga Islands

Friendly or Tonga Islands, amounting to 180 in number, of which about 30 are inhabited, are situated in the South Pacific (lat. 18 to 24 S., long. 173 to 176 W.). They were discovered by Tasman in 1643, visited by various explorers in the next century and a half, but named collectively by Cook. The natives are the most advanced of the Polynesian race. Formerly a dual sovereignty like that of Japan existed, but King George Tubou I. is now the sole monarch, and has established a constitutional government, the interests of British subjects being watched by the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. Physically, the group consists of submerged volcanic rocks, topped by coral formations of limestone, and covered with a deep rich mould that is highly productive. Peaks rise here and there to a height of 4,000 or 5,000 feet, and there are three active volcanoes, but the surface is generally level. Water is scarce and bad, and streams are rare. The vegetation is luxuriant, cocoa-nuts, sugar, cotton, coffee, copra, fruits, and vegetables being grown for exportation, and some varieties of timber, such as iron-wood, possess marketable value. Sheep and cattle do not thrive. Fishing supports a large number of the population. Tongatabu, the largest of the group, has an area of 128 square miles, and contains the capital, Nukualofa; Vavau, Eoa, Nomuka, Lefuka, Tofua, Late, and Kao come next in size. The climate, though enervating and damp, with considerable changes of temperature, is fairly wholesome; but leprosy, elephantiasis, and scrofula play havoc with the natives, and many lives are occasionally lost through earthquakes and hurricanes.