This account was, as I sharpened my pencil, intended to concern Her Majesty’s Fijian Ship Latui, The Hawk. But there seems to be some writer-resistance, so now it appears the topic is to be Mbengga (or Beqa if you prefer) lagoon.  As I write, though, Mbengga Lagoon is in any case largely a function of HMFS Latui, so perhaps all is not lost.

Mbengga Lagoon, then, is big – a broad oval area surrounded by deep water on all sides and lying a few miles off the south-eastern corner of Viti Levu, the principal island of the Fiji archipelago.  Its longest dimension is some fifteen miles in an ENE-WSW direction, with Mbengga Island sitting solidly in the eastern end, brooding on its greater past.

The jagged silhouette of the island unhappily no longer even looks like a volcano, although here and there are circular bays and hollows which could be the remains of satellite craters.  Dark rocks, patches of straggly forest merging into scrub and grassy slopes, scattered villages mostly protected by sea walls and consisting of groups of smart oblong bures roofed in red and while – signals of an affluence based on fire-walking for the benefit of tourists, not here but on the mainland.

From every flattish coastal strip untidy plantations of subsistence-farmed coconuts climb onto the steep ground behind.  Humans have a symbiotic relation with coconut trees – they plant them, and in due course are rewarded casually with some of the nuts.  Probably in the South Pacific neither party could in the past have managed without the other.  Once the first trees have been established, however, can the colony hold the ground indefinitely despite the jungaly scrub doing its best to strangle its babies?  I do not know.

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