GEOLOGICAL or earthquake map of the Pacific shows that the ocean is bordered by ranges of volcanic mountains on the American side, and by a long chain of volcanic islands, such as the Aleutian, Japanese, and Formosa islands along the coast of Asia. It is also clear that between America and Asia connected islands built up by volcanic action follow what appear to be cracks in the floor of the Pacific.
It is interesting to note the fact that all along the western coast of North and South America there is only a comparatively narrow strip of
land between the mountain ranges and the sea, and that from the edge of this narrow seacoast there is a rapid descent in the ocean bed until it becomes one of the most profound oceanic depressions on the globe. The depth of the floor of the ocean is greater than the enormous elevation of the mountain ranges along its edge. "The Challenger" surveyors give the average depth of the Pacific Ocean as about 2,400 fathoms, while between the Caroline and Ladrone groups of islands lies a valley whose ooze-carpeted floor can be reached only by a sounding line about 25,000 feet long, and near Japan about 30,000 feet of line is needed to reach the bottom of one of the deepest pits on the globe.
The German survey ship "Planet" has made the deepest sounding thus far taken. About forty sea miles off the north coast of Mindanao, the largest and most southerly of the important islands of the Philippines, the "Planet" found a depth of 32,078 feet. In other words, the Pacific Ocean where the sounding was taken has a depth of 6.07 miles, exceeding by 482 feet the greatest depth hitherto known.
In 1901 the United States survey ship "Nero," while studying out a route for a cable line to the Philippines, made a sounding some distance to the southeast of the island of Guam of 31,596 feet, which beat the world's record for sea depth
up to that time. This is a depth of 5.98 miles, and is known as the" Nero" deep. The surpassing sea depth now discovered may appropriately be named the "Planet" deep.
Out of these awful ocean depths have come the chains and groups of islands which form Polynesia. It seems absolutely necessary to recognize the cracks in the floor of the ocean through which the vast floods of lava were forced for the upbuilding of these islands. Even the coral polyps had to have the edge of a crater to work on while building the innumerable coral reefs of the Pacific.
No one knows what mighty conflicts were fought between the two eternal enemies, fire and water; nor does anyone know how long they fought while these islands were being built into mountains, but there must have been ages when the skies were filled with rolling masses of clouds of steam sent up through boiling, turbulent waters with awful explosions of escaping gases before the dry land appeared on the face of the deep. It has been the modern story of creation. There were boiling seas and skies always covered with vast masses of steam clouds, then ages of mountain building at the hands of chaotic fire-rock, and the subsequent ages of the disintegration of lava, forming soil for the coming of plant and animal life.
The building of these islands has been a most stupendous task, and the chains of islands resulting from the tremendous volcanic energy still exhibit immense activity. The volcanic outbreaks and earthquakes of the Japanese islands from Nippon to Formosa are so frequent as to afford an excellent field for study. The New Zealand islands have a volcanic region around Roturua which is visited by numbers of tourists every year.
Islands appear and disappear in the Western Pacific. None of the islands have so good a tradition of these turbulent times as the Hawaiian group, and they have only a statement made by William Ellis in his book, "A Tour through Hawaii," published in 1826. He says that while on this tour around the island Hawaii, he stopped with John Young, who is now stated to have been an American sailor and a close friend of the great king Kamehameha I. "Mr. Young said that among many traditionary accounts of the origin of the island, one was that in former times, when there was nothing but sea, an immense bird settled on the water and laid an egg which soon bursting produced the island Hawaii."
It must be remembered that the Hawaiians also have the pulling up of the islands with a fishhook by the demi-god Maui, who fished up many islands in Polynesia.
It has been nearly a hundred years since Ellis made the brief reference to the production of an island by the explosion of the egg, and now it is impossible to secure any enlargement of the legend. The story stands as an ancient memory of volcanic activity so mighty and so extensive as to produce islands in the time of human experience.