Marshall Islands History Sources No. 20
Brig Vision at Arno Atoll (1876)

by James Lyle Young

Brig Vision at Arno Atoll (1876)

Arno (or Arhno) Atoll is one of the largest Atolls in the Marshall Group being some 75 miles in circumference. It is of a very peculiar shape, which has caused it to be mistaken for two separate atolls and it has been so laid down as Daniel's Island and Pedder Island by the U.S. Ex[ploring] Ex[pedition] in 1842.

The South side of Arno lies about E. and W. and is tolerably straight with but few breaks in the continuity of the land. The E. sides of atoll has two or three breaks near the S.E. point and extends thence to the Northward for six or seven miles in an unbroken strip of land with much pandanus and very few cocoanuts, the land then turns abruptly to the Eastward and runs along some 10 miles parallel with the north side of atoll and distant from it about 1 mile, the two rows of islets forming a beautiful narrow lagoon.

The West side of atoll has less land than the others and there is a Lagoon at the N.W. point almost similar to that of the N.E. point, formed as at the latter place by a large number of little islets with connecting reefs.

The North side of atoll is the only part at which entrance can be gained to the vast lagoon inside. It is of remarkable shape forming a great bight to the Southward between the N.E. and N.W. points. In the deepest or most Southern part of this bight are situated all the passages, four in number, all within a stretch of 6 miles.

Taking them in order from the Westward they are as follows. From the N.W. point of atoll the chain of islets forming the north side of atoll extends about 8 miles to the S.E. when the most Western passage is reached.

This passage is immediately to the E. of an islet called "Toto" or "Dodo" and may be known by the fact that its Western side is composed of an islet inside of "Toto" and the reef that connects it with "Toto". Although not very easily distingushed if approached from Westward it is a very good passage being half mile wide in narrowest part with 15 to 20 fathoms of water. The course in is S.S.W.

The reef forming East side (S.E. side rather) of passage extends about 1 mile into Lagoon, while that forming W. (or N.W. side) extends 2 miles S.S.W. into Lagoon. This is the passage by which we entered on June 27.

2 and 3rd passages. About 4 miles further to the Eastward from the Western passages is an islet called "High Islet" from the fact that it has a number of large timber trees growing on its, which gives it the appearance of being higher than any other of the surrounding islets, (the difference is however slight).

About 2 1/2 miles from "Toto" passage and 1 1/2 miles to the Westward of "High" Islet there is a passage which appears to be sufficiently wide and deep to be available - immediately to the Westward of "High' islet there is found the 3rd passage from the Westward; this one is 200 yards in width, with 8 fathoms of water, course in South.

From "High" islet towards the N.E. and of atoll there are no islands on the reef for some 5 miles, there is a large passage - perhaps the widest and safest of all - about 2 miles East of "High" islet, said to have only 4 fathoms of water in it. By this last mentioned and H.M.S. "Sappho" entered and left lagoon on June 28th and 29th. There are but few shoals in the lagoon. The average depth of Lagoon is probably about 30 fathoms.

The population and people are similar to Majuro. The population is about 2000 ruled over by a Chief or King named Ujilong (at present residing on Majuro). There is no Hawaiian Missionary here and the people do not keep the Sabbath nor have most of them any pretence of religion. There is almost constant communication with Majuro.

The white residents are George Brown and Charles Douglas, the latter an Englishman trading for Capelle and Coy. As in most islands where there are but few whites, these two are deadly enemies, accusing each other of all kinds of rascality, although each of them seem to be quiet, respectable men.

Positions of Arno atoll, U.S. "Narrangansett" 1872. N.E. point of atoll.     Lat. 7 deg 09' N.    Long. 171 deg 56' 30" E. N.W. point of atoll.     7 deg 19' N.     Long. 171 deg 38' 38" E. S.E. point of atoll.     6 deg 54' N.     Long. 171 deg 44' 00" E. S.W. point of atoll.     7 deg 00' N.     Long. 171 deg 31' 00" E. Source: James Lyle Young, Private Journal, 6 January 1875 - 31 December 1877. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, Microfilm no 21. Entry for 17 June 1876.

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Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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