FIJI, FEETEE, or VIII ISLANDS, an archipelago of about 312 islands in the southern Pacific ocean, situated in lat. to 20° 30' 5., and long. 177° to 178° west. The group,. which has a total area of 8,034 sq.m., almost equal to that of Wales, was discovered in 1646 by the Dutch navigator Tasman. The largest of the group, Viti-levu, or Big Viti,. has an arei of 4,479 sq.m. ; Vanua-levu, of 2,486 sq.m.; and all the other islands together, of 1069 sq. miles. The islands are of volcanic origin, and although there are no longer any active volcanoes, yet hot springs, numerous earthquakes, and other signs testify that the subterranean forces are not quite extinct. They are all coral-girt; and to the approaching navigator appear clothed to their very summits with a dense and luxuriant vegetation. The surface is generally hilly, and the soil, owing to the abundant rain, is very productive. The windward sides of the islands are covered with thick forests,, while to the leeward we see a grassy country dotted .here and there with screw-pines.. The most important river is the Kailevu, in the island of Vanua-levu, navigable for 60 in. from its mouth ; the others are comparatively insignificant. The climate is extremely fine, and the country is said to be exceedingly healthy. The mean annual temperature is about 80° F., and the heat is tempered by the trade and other winds. Hurricanes, though rarely, do sometimes occur. In 1866, two severe storms burst over the entire group, doing great damage to the plantations.
The natural productions of Fiji or Viti are of the most varied description, and the vegetation is, on the whole, of a tropical nature. The mountain districts are well adapted to the growth of coffee; and though the coffee plantations were destroyed by the cyclone of 1866, the injury has been repaired, and the produce is again very consid erable. Of late years, the European settlers have seriously begun the cultivation of the sugar-cane, which grows wild on the islands; and tobacco is raised in sufficient quanti ties for the consumption of the inhabitants, who are great smokers. There are many
plants yielding oil and fat, of which the most important is the cocoa-nut palm. From 400 to 700 tons of the oil obtained from it are annually contributed to the missionaries by the natives. Of cotton, which was introduced into the islands some time ago, 650 cwt. were exported in 1864; 5,880 cwt. iu 1866; and in 1873 about 14,000 cwt.; but in the last year the quality was considerably inferior. The staple article of food is the yam, by the ripening season of which the natives regulate their calendar, and which frequently attains the length of 8 ft., with a weight of 100 pounds. In other articles of vegetable diet, and especially in edible fruits, Viti is remarkably rich. Among the lat ter may be instanced bananas, plantains, the bread-fruit, oranges, shaddocks, the guayava, and pine-apples. Timber of excellent quality abounds, suitable both for house and ship building. There are few animals in Viti; the live-stock of the natives consisting of the pig, the dog, and fowls. Sheep have been lately introduced, and promise to thrive fairly. Fish are numerous, both in the sea and rivers, and the trepang, or beche-de-mer fisheries, are carried on with vigor along the northern coast of Vanua-levu. Of the mineral resources of Viti we know little; copper and antimony are, however, said to exist.
The export trade of the islands has not been commensurate with their vast natural wealth. The value of exports in 1864 amounted to £19,800; in 1867, to £39,960; and in 1877, to £140,893; the imports for 1877 were £134,688 Cotton, cocoa-nut oil, tortoise shell, and wool are the chief exports; while the imports embrace Manchester goods, iron-niongery, cutlery, wine, beer, spirits, groceries, etc. There are excellent harbors, among which that of Levuka, the chief town, situated on Ovalau, lately provided with a light-house, is the most important.