Most of the larger islands of the eastern Solomons, such as Mala and San Cristoval, rise steeply from the sea to a sharp ridge and 1,300 to 1,600 metres (4 or 5 thousand feet), from which equally steeps run out into promontories. The interiors of these islands are heavily forested.

There are two well-marked seasons in the eastern Solomon: (i) the long period of south-east trade winds, and (ii) the shorter one of north-westerlies with calm spells and clear weather. For a period of seven months (June to December) blows the strong trade winds.

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The ocean currents, waves and tides during this season are strong as a result of which navigation is difficult, unpleasant and often dangerous.

From December to February is the period of calm weather when a smooth sea offers ideal conditions for oversea voyages. On the windward eastern sides of the islands the sea waves break the formations of fringing reef, and there is little or no beach. But on the western side of these islands are better developed sandy beaches.

The human settlements in these islands have been developed from the sea coasts up to about one thousand metres. The coastal settlements are built on the upper margins of the shores. The small villages or hamlets of Melanesians are called as Sa’a. These are occupied by small groups of real or nominal relatives.

The total population of a Sa’a is about 250. The houses are constructed without a plan and the site itself is not permanent. When the houses become dilapidated, or the cultivated land too remote, again, if a death or other misfortune occurs, a new nearby tract is closed to construct the houses.

Coconut, yam and taro are the staple foods of the Melanesians while breadfruit and sago are important in some areas. The coconut groves lie along the sandy belts immediately above the beach. They flourish on the light saline soil formed by the disintegration of old reefs.

The coconut trees bear fruits throughout the year. Taken green from the tree it provides about a pint of clear, refreshing fluid and a soft flesh; when ripe and picked off the ground the milk is thrown away, but the harder flesh is grated in large quantities for mixing in dishes of cooked yam and taro.

When other food like taro and yam is scarce; the coconut is often the staple food for several weeks. The cover and fibre enclosing the ripe nut are husked off and the nut splits in two by impaling it on a sharp stake set upright in the ground.

The yam is a large tuber and its plots are scattered over a considerable area. The yam has dark-brown skin and a white potato-like interior. Taro is a lily-like plant which grows throughout the year.

It is perishable and must be eaten when dug. The yellow, soft skinned yam with a prickly vine, known as hana, grows well in the damp but rich damp soil.

The yam requires well-drained soil and its fields are found on patches of natural terrace on the coastal slope. In Polynesia taro is irrigated everywhere from streams.

There is no manuring of yam and the roots soon exhaust the soil, while the growth of weeds rapidly chokes the ground. When the yams have been dug up, the plot is used for planting banana cuttings which form groves. In these groves, pawpaws, betel pepper and edible reed (awalosi) are also raised.

In addition to coconut and root crops, a large number of fruit trees provide supplementary food. Some of the trees which provide fruits are Malay-apple {Eugenia), Sue tree, nut-trees and breadfruit.

These fruits are eaten when abundant in the months of August and February, but these trees receive no attention and the new ones are rarely planted. Any surplus breadfruit is dried over a fire and stored in a wrapping of leaves.

They also obtain sago from the sago-palm, arecanut. The arecanut is chewed with lime and the leaves of the betel creepers. Betel nut with lime and arecanut is taken after every meal. ‘Betel-chewing’ is found in the subcontinent of India, Indonesia and Melanesia.

The canarium almond tree provides a store of dried nuts. The first fruits must be offered to the ghosts before the canarium harvest is gathered.

The uncleared lands belong to the community and thus have no individual owner. In fact, the land has no value unless cleared for the construction of house or for the development of fields.

The Melanesians engage themselves actively in fishing in the months of March and April. The lines, which are made of dried forest creepers, are often as long as a hundred fathoms long. They are weighted with stones, each set in a split-knot which is released when the fish bites.

Hooks are carved from the shells of turtles, pearl oysters and clams and the shapes vary with the fish sought. Special baits are prepared for fish. Netting of fish is also common among the Melanesians. The bointo fish which is a delicacy is caught in the months of March and April.

The only cooked meal of the day is prepared at sundown when the women return from the gardens. For the rest, the leavings of the evening meal, coconut, arecanut and roasted yam, are eaten by individuals at regular intervals.

Bowls, dishes and containers are all of wood, mostly of the light tapaa wood and cannot therefore be placed on fire. The food is boiled by dropping in red-hot stones that are lifted with bamboo tongs.

Men are skilled cooks, and for feasts, from which women are excluded, prepare all the food themselves.

The extended family known as kindered is the basic unit for economic and social affairs. Each kindered, for example, has its own accus­tomed land, which its members cultivate. A kindered consists of persons between whom genealogical relationship can be traced, whether through the father or the mother.

Polygamy is usual in Melanesia, but only prosperous marry more than two wives and many have only one. The chiefs at Saa often have many wives. Children in Melanesia are betrothed at a very early age.

All members of the boy’s kindered contribute to the marriage gifts to be given to the girl’s father, but they in return receive a share of pig provided by the girl’s kindered for feast. Installments of the marriage gifts of dog and porpoise teeth are handed over from time to time long before the actual mating.

Children are often adopted, sometimes by the childless. An adopted boy acquires the full status of son. Such children are paid for, and in former times child stealing for sale to chiefs in a distant village was frequent. Children were, however, also stolen to provide immediate or future victims for human sacrifices.

The Melanesian is a male-dominated society. The chief of the village is by inheritance. Village disputes are settled within the families concerned or by the pressure of public opinion.

The chiefs take no part and indeed are expressly excluded. They are regarded as the feast givers and controllers of certain ceremonies.

Every member of the chiefly families is in a sense a chief but the eldest son of the mainline succeeds to the position of his father as the principal chief unless he is incompetent or vicious, when he will be replaced, under the influence of public opinion, by another chief. The chief’s residence is larger, higher and more elabo­rately decorated.

The Melanesians use ‘shell money’. Payments and exchanges in many parts of Melanesia are still made with shell rings and strings of shell disc beads. For canoes, pigs, and food, for fees in the men’s clubs, fines to the chiefs and offerings to the ghosts are made in the farm of shell-beads.

The Melanesians make trading voyages in all directions. Each village has a number of places for exchange of goods. Overseas trading is in the hands of the chiefs, whose big boats lead the expeditions.

Taro, pigs and canarium almonds are carried in the canoes on these expeditions and exchanged for other products or for shell money.

The Melanesians believe in the supernatural power of spirits and the ghosts of the dead. These beliefs have a close bearing on the economic and social life of the people.

Though living in different islands the Melanasians interact with their neighbours frequently by boats. In fact, the wide stretches of sea that separate Melanesia from Asia and one island group from another have proved less serious barriers than the equatorial forests of the Amazon and. Congo basins.

The sea beaches of these islands are the great attractions for the tourists. The traditional way of life of the Melanasians is being increas­ingly influenced by the western world and the process of westernization is being accelerated in recent decades.

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