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The Hawaiian Archipelago

Isabella L. Bird

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ly self-sustaining, but contributes $1200 a year to foreign missions, and the latter, though very old and frail, the indefatigable head of an industrial school for native young men.  Their houses combine the trimness of New England, with the luxuriance of the tropics; they are cool retreats, embowered among breadfruit, tamarind, and bamboo, through whose graceful leafage the blue waters of the bay are visible.  Innumerable exotics are domesticated round these fair homesteads.  Two of “Father Lyman’s” sons are influential residents, one being the Lieutenant-Governor of the island.  Other sons of former missionaries are settled here in business, and there are a few strangers who have been attracted hither.  Dr. Wetmore, formerly of the mission, is a typical New Englander of the old orthodox school.  It is pleasant to see him brighten into almost youthful enthusiasm on the subject of Hawaiian ferns.  My host, a genial, social, intellige. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I was lucky enough to spend a week on Hawai'i recently and encountered several quotes from Isabella Bird, an English travel writer who spent 6 months on the Hawai'ian islands (Sandwich Islands to the Brits at the time) back in 1873. I had never heard of her before, but picked up the book in a sta...more

This has been quite interesting so far. Isabella Bird was headed to California from New Zealand in 1873, when the leaky steamboat she and her fellow passengers had boarded nearly sank. When they stopped at Hawaii, then an independent country, most of them disembarked. She had stopped over to help...more

Isabella Bird was an extraordinary woman and perhaps one of the best known British female solo travellers of the Victorian era. To explore and achieve all that she did during a time where it wasn't 'proper' for women to do such things, especially on their own, makes her experiences even more comp...more

This author was an amazing independent traveler for her times. One of my favorite parts is her description of the surfers! She has a few other books, one that I also read about her time in the Rocky Mtns, especially interesting to anyone who lives/ed on front range of Colorado. Grad school prof....more

110317: i surprised myself by so enjoying this series of descriptive letters home (with photos!), from a woman traveling for her health in 1872, from edinburgh to warmer climes. remarkable adventures, of its times, even now. if you can ignore her typical 'civilized', 'christian' prejudices, in ev...more

Works from the 19th century can be difficult to read due to dense, repetitive prose and the repulsive attitudes of the time. Bird is a woman of her period, yes, and her biases are pretty clear up front, but she is a complex, fascinating person who would be remarkable even in our time. This is a w...more

Recommended in Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamersfor Hawaii. The author, a single 40-something English woman, arrived in Hawaii in 1873 on a ship that barely made it from New Zealand. She was on her way to the US, but was way-laid by the beauty and friendliness of th...more

Isabella, Isabella, who would have thought? You beat us hands down - in your long skirts and in your early 40's - what an intrepid traveler you were! So enthusiastic, especially about volcanoes (letting the soles of your shoes melt like that, really! and your early morning worship at the altar of...more

This is a real insight into the Hawaiian Islands and what they were like before real modernisation, globalization and tourism hit them. It displays and describe the different customs and traditions with eloquence and without mockery (as many of the travels in this time period do). It shows the au...more

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