witnessed in Aug. 1905 the birth and subsequently the daily developments
of the volcano now known as "O Le Mauga Mu"...The "Navigators"
or Samoan Islands, lying in the Pacific Ocean in a Lat 13-14 degrees
S & Long 168-173 degrees W are, as is well known to you, a group
of volcanic origin-the group of Robert Louis Stevenson's fame...
the evening of Aug. 4th a most terrific explosion brought me to
the opening door of my native habitation, about eight miles as the
crow flies, from the now famous volcano...I was prepared to find
that the numerous earthquake shocks had at last culminated in a
grand 'finale' and that I should find on all sides havoc, destruction
and great fissures in the earth, in fine all those terrible scenes
with which those who have been fortunate-or unfortunate-enough to
witness a grand earthquake, are only too familiar.."
George Furlong, Methodist Missionary, Saleaula, Savai'i, Samoa
August 4th 1905, my great grandfather Reverend George Furlong, Methodist
Missionary in Western Samoa, experienced the full force of the volcanic
explosions on the island of Savai'i. In a manuscript, kept by my
father, his grandfather describes his experiences and refers to
forty seven of his own photographs, now lost, which chart the slow
destruction of the village of Salealua. The images explore the gradual
immersion of the church buildings and the homes of the people, including
three of his own. They are an illustration of his expeditions up
to the fiery crater where he witnesses, explosions, fireballs and
quest was twofold: to discover the cause and rate of locomotion
in preparation for the evacuation of his parishioners to a new life
on the island of Upolo and to measure the immediate danger to his
people and his own family of three small children.
1999, I was awarded a travelling fellowship from The Winston Churchill
Memorial Trust which enabled me to take a two month photographic
expedition to Independent Samoa. The fellowship allowed me to realise
my dreams and explore this microcosm of history through contemporary
photographic pracice. With support from a variety of organisations
I spent two months on fieldwork, retracing my great grandfathers
expedition and living within the relocated community of Saleaula.