|A History of the Settlement of the Spontoon Atoll
(and Spontoon Island Timeline)
The Spontoon Archipelago is formed by intesecting chains of volcanic
islands. Many of the volcanos become inactive hundreds of thousands (or
millions) of years ago, and erosion of the central volcanos and growth
fringing coral reefs form the standard low-lying coral atolls
surrounding a lagoon.
Other volcanos remained active until relatively more recent times,
forming the familiar islands with
mountainous reminants of dormant volcanos-- sharply eroded peaks,
ringed by coral reefs. There are no active
volcanos close to Spontoon Island in the islands of the Spontoon
The Spontoon Archepelago is noteable for the reefs and shallow
waters surrounding most of the islands. There are few safe anchorages
for deep-draft ships close to most islands, and few
steamship-accessable deep-water bays. The Spontoon Island Atoll has one
of the few deep water ports in the region.
Spontoon Island (like one or two others in its chain of
originally a huge volcano that had a catastrophic eruption (kind of
Krakatoa). A caldera was formed by the collapse and eruption of
top of the main volcano. The sea rushed in, forming the central lagoon.
Volcanic activity did continue, forming some landscape features, like
Lake (on Main Island) and some of the smaller islands in the atoll
lagoon. The volcanos eventually became
dormant hundreds of thousands of years ago, and are unlikely to be
in the future. There may be a few hot springs as reminants of volcanic
Plants and animals eventually migrated through the island
the course of millions of years, not unlike in the Real World Pacific
In this alternate history, the increased number of island chains might
allow the passage of more mammal species from the main continents.
The Spontoon Island archipelago is believed to be the furthest extent
Polynesian settlement in this area of the Pacific. Islands in the
to the west, north and east were settled from Asia and North America,
settled at all.
The Spontoon Islands may have been visited by sea-farers from Asia
and North America as early as 4000 years ago. Archeological
is uncertain. There were two waves of settlement and colonization by
and Polynesians. The first colonists, about 1500 years ago, while
sophisticated, had stone-age tools. (They are represented as amphibian
and reptile funny animals in this zine). The next wave, about 700 years
ago had more sophisticated tools including metalworking and more
sailboats. (They are represented as a mix of mammals and reptile funny
animals in this zine). Relations between the two groups are still
as 500 years ago there was some sort of natural (?) disaster that
Spontoon Island and some of the other islands in the archipelago.
At the time of the European exploration of the Pacific, starting about
300 years ago, Spontoon Island had been unoccupied for 200 or so years.
It was discovered, claimed and abandoned several times by several
powers, and by one or two Pacific Rim nations. Since there were no
to exploit, colonies tended to be unprofitable and failed.
Pirates liked the
area, but even they got bored with the lack of ship traffic for booty.
In 1859, the British set up a small naval base at Spontoon Island,
drove out the pirates from the islands in the immediate vicinity, and
for a trans-Pacific telegraph cable station. (In later years, ocean
did come through Spontoon Island, but they were a secondary, back-up,
In 1863 British colonists began importing families of plantation
workers, recruiting them for contract
labor. Polynesians, NorthAmerican Indians from British Columbia,
Kuo Han (New Chinese), Philipinos, and a large batch of Icelandic
fisherfolk families were recruited. Many of these plantation
workers were self-educated, or otherwise became aware of cultural and
political events in the
Pacific. Most of the British plantation owners and colonial officers
did not care to know this at the time.
1870 through 1880
British plantations for cash crops were scattered through the Spontoon
Island Archepelago, and colonists organized additional harvesting of
natural resources using the imported workers. Some
plantation housing was built for European overseers and owners, ranging
from medium sized houses to large and ostentatious mansions. Workers'
barracks gradually became more like communal longhouses or were
by huts and small garden plots. Workers brought families or start
families. At the beginning of this colonization, there was some
short-term success for the colony. However, unusual crop failures,
uncertanties of shipping and marketing, and other world political and
economic events lead to
a slow collapse of plantation agriculture. People thrive here, but
is no profit for the British investors and plantation owners.
Plantations are abandoned and British colonial export trade becomes
The local British patrol fleet is relocated out of the Spontoon
Archipelago, and the naval base is closed in 1882 during a budget cut.
Office retains an island Governor and his staff.
1890 through 1910
Most of the British and Europeans are gone by 1892, with European
and political crises speeding them away. With the exception of a few
hold-out colonist families, the plantation houses become vacant. By
1893 the Mansion
of the Island Governor is abandoned, with the staff moved to more
locations in the Empire. The British Colonial office does continue to
appoint token Consuls from the remaining colonist families. In London,
the Spontoon Island colonies are considered an isolated failure.
There is no money for, and no interest in returning the plantation
workers and their descendants to their original homelands. They are
left on the Spontoon Islands. Most of these families prefer to stay.
They have been starting to refer to themselves as Spontoon Island
English has become the language of communication and the native tongue
of the 3rd generation. These 'natives' have been forming villages over
the previous decade. They have become locally self-governing, are more
than 95% of the population, and have started their own trade networks
within the Archipelago and with other trading centers in the Pacific.
This is the time of the beginning
of intense political discussion between the various ethnic groups left
on the islands. The British colonial administration had been relatively
enlightened. The "natives" are aware of World politics and Pacific
politics. They expect that the British may come back, or that they may
be re-colonized by some other European or Pacific Rim nation. (It has
clear that there will be some sort of war for spheres of
among the small Pacific States.) The 'natives' form a basic government
and declare independence in 1895. This change of government is
successful and bloodless, for the most part. The former Governor's
House does burn down. There
are frantic attempts by the Spontoon Islanders to find protective
alliances, and set up workable
political and economic structures. There is some attempt at buying
and setting up basic civil defense. Raising cash is a major difficulty.
Even before the British presence, there have been trader's
stores set up on what was called "Accounting Island". (It is later
Island".) These stores have European or Chinese managers. An
is hammered out by the islanders. "Euros" cannot be kept out
but perhaps their influence can be moderated. The former
colonists and traders are to be restricted
to leased property on Accounting Island. (Non-"natives"
are "Euros"--which include a large number of Asians and
Some European settlers are "grandfathered" into leases or restricted
land-rights on the other Spontoon Islands. These include loveable
that stuck around and a "Euro" returnee or two who came back with a
attitude. (Or, for example, the Euro who came to run the first electric
generator and on his own gave classes in electricity to those
Some of these Euros are given Spontoon citizenship. Most of the former
plantations revert to the "Althing" (the Spontoon Island assembly) "for
failure to pay taxes." Co-operative plantations are started.
The fishing fleets (run by Coast Indian and Icelandic
slowly refitted & modernized. Outside canning operations are
contracted--they are on
barges and hulks at "Casino Island" or occasionally allowed to be
near the villages on the Main Island.
The brokerage trade in imported logs and lumber begins about 1895.
Lumber Schooners from the West Coast of North America bring logs
and cut lumber to floating booms in the main lagoon. The wood is
and re-distributed to the Spontoon Archipelago (and other customers in
the Polynesian island chains) by ships sailed by Spontoon
families and co-operatives..
A branch of the trans-Pacific telegraph cable passes through
Island in 1899. The royalties provide more cash for the Althing to
Abandoned European structures are appropriated, rebuilt and copied.
Some civic buildings are "ordered by mail", prefabricated and shipped
for assembly on the Spontoon Islands. There is the start of outside
contracted civil engineering. Wooden docks and piers are constructed by
the Althing. Abandoned sugar cane plantation narrow-gauge railways are
moved to the big Main Island and connected into a rickety route the
the island. Trails are improved to the point where bicyles are
The major resort hotels date from this time, most starting as converted
Many Spontoon Island cultural intitutions start at this time
(allowing that there are plenty of false-starts and mistakes made). The
agreements for the shared
mythological history (back-dated of course) were set up. The Spontoonie
language was constructed to re-inforce a cultural unity, and to provide
some cultural isolation for those who needed it. There are restrictions
on outside missionary activity. (In the Pacific, missionary activity
had become associated with cultural subversion and colonization by
major powers.) New missions and missionaries were restricted
to "Casino Island". The espionage and "special sacrifice" schools
started by 1899. (You are all
pledged to secrecy, you understand. Only a
few of the other nations even suspect.)
1910 through 1915
"Europeans" do come back to this region of the Pacific: Nosing-around,
sniffing out places for economic
colonies and outposts for the coming European wars. They are directed
the village on Casino Island--a place to keep outsiders isolated and
with each other. Lessons have been learned (from Hawaii, for example)
the Althing puts much thought into the legal and political
Co-op plantations do OK, fishing and canning thrives, lumber
becomes major business. A sawmill is set up at Eastern Island to
process imported logs.
The Gunboat Wars come to Spontoon Island in 1912. These were a
of shifting alliances and powderkeg wars among the small states of the
Pacific from 1905 through 1914. These clashes were sometimes nasty and
farces, and were encouraged by the larger world powers. By 1912, mutual
treaties (and an understanding that the large colonial powers may be
the real threats)
were starting to change how the small Pacific states looked at using
In 1912, naval battles occur in the Spontoon Archepelago, most
the cruiser battle with the "Pirate Fleet" at what becomes known as
Gunboat Island. Spontoon Island
is the site of two sharp, small naval engagements and a troop landing.
The civil defense is engaged, and one of the fights at Spontoon Island
becomes one of the first
demonstrations of naval air power. The incidents surrounding the
landings were very unpleasant and
only reluctantly talked about later. Only lucky breaks, a fortunate
and skilled diplomacy afterward, kept Spontoon Island as an
political entity. The political relationship with the Rain Island
(formerly Vancouver Island, B.C.) begins at this "Pirate Invasion" and
the Gunboat Island fight.
1915 through 1920
The Great European War. There were Pacific Ocean naval battles
and major shifts in Pacific states alliances and political outlooks.
major powers came to be more untrusted (if that were possible). Several
Pacific Ocean mega-alliances
are made, and there is some understanding among the Pacific states as
who are the major threats. Rain Island comes out of the Gunboat
with a respectable reputation, and some good alliances with other
Rim states. Its naval syndicates are well known as hired-out convoy
even working in the Atlantic.
The alliance with Rain Island is formalized. Spontoon
it an insurance policy in a hostile world of power politics--an
mostly benign, with the drawbacks accepted. The Rain Island Naval
officially leases naval and air bases on Moon Island and Eastern Island
in 1915. The airfield on Eastern Island is opened at this time. These
bases are carefully publicized, especially the blimp patrols. The
money for leases pays for public works on the islands, with Rain Island
contruction syndicates bidding for the civil engineering. Trade is
due to harbor improvements and the perception of Rain Island as a
1920 through 1925
The main features of the Rain Island Naval Syndicate base on Moon
are built up by 1921, as is the airstrip and permanant hangers on
Island. A road net is built on the islands, in some locations replacing
the narrow-gauge railway. Most of the large public buildings are built
at this time (the schools on Meeting Island, for example).
are put on the scheduled stops of some trans-Pacific
passenger and freight ships. The first commercial airplane flights
begin in 1922 for airmail. Zeppelin airships stop by (though Spontoon
is not on any major scheduled routes.) The Althing leases space to more
Euro warehouses and businesses on "Casino" and "Eastern" Islands, and
is a boom of frame houses built for the growing Euro population.
The first resorts start out as transient hotels and guest houses
by daring upper-class world travellers. Air races begin, with Spontoon
Island being a location or destination. Public dance competions begin,
at first only between dance schools and villages. Later, outsiders from
other islands and Europeans are invited to compete and do workshops.
1925 through 1930
Scheduled Zeppelin flights stop at Spontoon Island in this
competing commercial seaplane flights begin. Spontoon Island becomes a
link and hub for some of the secondary Pacific air routes. Superior
becomes world-famous. This leads to other airplane repair and
facilities coming to Spontoon Island. (It helps that the Rain Island
Syndicate leases space at the naval bases to start-up companies, and
an apprentice mechanics program is in place.) Spontoon Island becomes a
Pacific Ocean regional maintenance and repair base. Tour ships begin
stops at Spontoon Island. A resort hotel is built for middle-class
Island is featured in European and Asian silent movies as a tropical
setting, or in romantic stories from the Gunboat Wars. A few times,
is actual filming on the island!
1930 through 1935
The big Casino is built in 1930, and its Accounting Island location is
Island" to the disgust of many of the Euros living there. Working-class
tours from Rain Island, the United States and Japan start arriving by
A "worker's resort" is built on Casino Island by the Rain Island Union
of Credit Unions. ("Spontoon Island--as bad as Hawaii, but nicer!")
fishing becomes a tourist attraction. The fish canning industry is in a
slump, though the local fleet is active for local consumption.
becomes a growth industry, with most transactions and transfers taking
place on other islands in the archepelago or at sea on ships. Spontoon
does become a fashionable place for smugglers to spend money.
and distribution become popular start-up businesses. Salvage and
companies thrive. Casino Island is re-discovered by Hollywood as a
1935 through 1940
Casino Island is becoming built up and less "tropical suburban". The
boom and general prosperity continues. There is tourist and resort
on the other islands in the archipelago. Some magazine articles and
are done de-bunking Spontoon Island "tourist customs". A second
Great War seems to be looming. Spontoon Island becomes more of a center
of intrigue and espionage, though this is not evident to the tourists.
Smuggling takes on a political edge. There are rumors and tales of
"black ships" and "black
seaplanes" on sinister missions from secret bases in the Spontoon
Archipelago. But that is also happening in other parts of the Pacific.
2nd draft--October 1998--Ken Fletcher
(Minor edits & revisions April 2007)
This article & information
is released & granted to the public domain.
Originally published in Spontoon
Island Guidebook 2 in 1998.
With thanks to: David L.
Arneson, Richard Bartrop, Steve Gallacci,
Roy G. Pounds II,
Stu Shiffman, Taral Wayne, Ken Pick & others for
nudges and other help.