No. 617.
Mr. Merrill to Mr. Bayard.

No. 179.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the British ship Caroline, under command of Sir William Wiseman, left Honolulu on the 8th ultimo with sealed orders, and returned to this port yesterday.

During the cruise the three islands known as Fanning, Christmas, and Penrhyn, situated southerly from this place about 1,000, 1,200, and 1,800 miles, respectively, were formally taken possession of by Captain Wiseman on behalf of the Government of Great Britain.

The British commissioner here stated to me that the trade of these islands is regarded as insignificant, but that they are valuable as coaling stations, and possibly may be useful for telegraphic purposes in the event a cable is laid between Vancouver and New Zealand.

I have, etc.,

Geo. W. Merrill.