Paul B. Laxton
Assistant Lands Commissioner for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony in the years following World War II.
"The island is covered, except where cleared for coconut, with the giant buka tree (pisonia grandis) and these, vast for a coral atoll with their eighty, sometimes ninety feet of height, are visible from the sea for fifteen miles or more. ... on Gardner Island the great buka trees were everywhere dominant and there were only a few hundred coconuts. ... The girls were Nei (or Miss) Temoua, Nei Terenga, and Nei Teukinnang. My wife had chosen them from Sydney Island en route for Nikumaroro. ... Miss Terenga stood five feet two inches, with an impish, jolly smile; she became a first-class nursemaid, and our two-year-old son observed a schedule of clockwork regularity and spotless cleanliness under her care. He was also thoroughly spoilt. Miss Teukinnang was commonly called Miss Morning, to our early confusion. She is the daughter of the Island Magistrate of Sydney Island. She was very fat and a very good laundress. The girls’ wages were a mere gesture; they deigned to accept also their food and clothing. We gave them a schedule of duties to guide them, and thereafter really had little say, or at any rate little effective say in the running of the household. ..."
"The buka forest grows tallest on Nuziran, and the entry to this forest from blinding sun always brought home, with sense of shock, this eerie feeling. Under foot the soil is dark brown, damp and silent with leaves. The great grey-brown fluted trunks of fifty feet high buka trees stand pillared, excluding undergrowth. Through it all a complete silence hard to break: and white fairy terns flutter, rising in scores about and above as one walks gingerly, careful of coconut crabs. After moments the strangeness of the silence is realised as due to the absence of even the sound of the roaring ocean surf, elsewhere omnipresent. ...
"We had merely to establish a road, set-off from it the area to be reserved for babai pits, and subdivide this according to the requirements of the people. While working on this area we drove a twelve-foot road through the thick buka jungle, bringing down several sixty-foot giants, linking with a survey crosstrack that came out to the ocean beach opposite the wreck of the Norwich City. This established cross-bearings for future check, should it be needed. "
Source: "Nikumaroro" by Laxton, June/September 1951 issue of The Journal of the Polynesian Society, reprinted with permission by TIGHAR.
The photo below almost certainly shows Mrs. Laxton and her son, John, and one of the three girls mentioned in the excerpt from Laxton's article on Nikumaroro:
|"Clearing operations on Nutirans forest" (caption on back of photo).|
| Source: WPHC Archives. Phoenix Islands District, G.&E.I.C.:- Annual Reports|
on. 1946-1949. WPHC 9/11 F10/18/2 Appendix X photo 10.