Australasia 1889: Samoan Crisis
In the late nineteenth century Britain, Germany, and the US competed for Samoa due to their investments in its plantations and its strategic value as a coaling station. In 1887 the Germans intervened in the islands to make their favored chief king, provoking a civil war. In response, the US sent three warships to Samoa, which faced off against three German warships in Apia harbor. The crisis was brought to an inglorious end when a cyclone hit and wrecked all six warships.
10 Jun 1886 Eruption of Mount Tarawera▲
Starting at around 2am in the morning and continuing for six hours, Mount Tarawera erupted in the North Island of New Zealand, burying ten Māori settlements and destroying the Pink and White Terraces—large silica formations which were New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions at the time. At least 120 people died in the eruption, almost all Māori.
Jan 1887–5 Dec 1889 Samoan Civil War▲
In 1887 German warships landed troops in Samoa in support of Chief Tamasese, who was proclaimed tafaifa (“king of Samoa”) and exiled the old king, Malietoa Laupepa. In September 1888 rebel Chief Mata’afa Iosefo defeated the Germans at Vailele, driving Tamasese and his German defenders onto the Mulinu’u peninsula in Apia and plundering German plantations. Despite demands from the outraged German consul for more troops, Germany itself bowed to US and British pressure and Malietoa was restored to power in December 1889.
5 Apr 1887–5 Mar 1888 Protectorate of Wallis and Futuna▲
In April 1887 the Queen of ‘Uvea signed a treaty with France, formally accepting a French protectorate over Wallis Island. In February 1888 the kings of Sigave and Alo on the islands of Futuna and Alofi followed suit. The islands were united into the Protectorate of the Wallis and Futuna Islands in March and subordinated to the governor of New Caledonia.
18 May–23 Sep 1887 Kaimiloa delegation▲
In May 1887 King Kalākaua of Hawaii sent the recently purchased HHMS Kaimiloa—the first and only ship of the Royal Hawaiian Navy—to Samoa to discuss a possible alliance as part of Kalākaua’s efforts to build a Polynesian confederation to counter European imperialism in the Pacific. The Kaimiloa delegation arrived in Samoa in June but talks with King Malietoa of Samoa were unsuccessful. The Kaimiloa was ordered to return home in August after a coup in Hawaii significantly reduced Kalākaua’s authority.
24 Oct 1887 Anglo-French Joint Naval Commission▲
In 1878 Britain and France had agreed to the neutrality of the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). Nine years later, in order to protect the less-than-one-hundred British and French citizens in the island chain, the two powers established the Anglo-French Joint Naval Commission. While the commission gave the colonists access to the law, it had limited civil authority and claimed no jurisdiction over native affairs.
11 Nov 1887–1896 Western Australian gold rushes▲
Despite a small gold rush in Kimberley in 1885, the real gold rush era in Western Australia began in November 1887 with the discovery of gold in the Yilgarn Hills area, north of Southern Cross. This “Yilgarn Gold Rush” was followed by the Murchison, Coolgardie, and Kalgoorlie rushes in the early 1890s. The huge influx of overseas prospectors pushed the population of Western Australia from 43,820 in 1887 to 160,495 ten years later.
5 Sep 1888–16 Mar 1889 Samoan Crisis▲
After the defeat of German forces in Samoa by Chief Mataafa, the German consul ordered SMS Adler to bombard several Samoan villages. In response, the United States dispatched three warships—USS Vandalia, USS Trenton, and USS Nipsic—to the islands while Britain sent in HMS Calliope to monitor the situation. The standoff which ensued, with the three US ships facing Adler, SMS Eber, and SMS Olga, ended when a cyclone struck Samoa and wrecked all six warships in harbor (Calliope managed to escape and survive).
2 Oct 1888 German Nauru Protectorate▲
On 1 October 1888 the German gunboat SMS Eber landed 36 men on Nauru and proceeded to march around the island, placing the twelve Nauruan chiefs—who had been waging internal war since 1878—under house arrest. The next day the chiefs were released, the German flag was raised, and Nauru was officially annexed to Germany. Under German orders, the chiefs surrendered all weapons and ammunition to the new authorities by the morning of 3 October, bringing the war to an end.
9 Aug 1889–Jun 1890 Independent Commune of Franceville▲
Fed up with the lack of a functional government, French settlers under the leadership of Ferdinand-Albert Chevillard declared the Independent Commune of Franceville in Port Vila in the New Hebrides, renaming Port Vila itself as Franceville. The move was not recognized by the French or British, who maintained the neutrality of the New Hebrides under a joint naval commission, and the commune was disbanded several months later.