A rare dove, a lovely flower, a unique cactus, and a rodent that naturalists knew about and wanted to find again, are the four latest wonders of the world of science to turn up after their mysterious disappearance for well over a hundred years. The bird in question is the Marquesas dove, a rather small species that was originally discovered by Captain Adam von Krusentern while making a three years' voyage through the Pacific in 1803. He had gone in search, hoping to find the North East assage through the Bering Straits, an area that had lured so many hardy mariners around the world.
A naturalist had accompanied the expedition, and while the Russian naval officer compiled his maps of the voyage, a plate was prepared of the new dove that had been named "The Kokuh" and this appeared in the atlas published by Krusenstern some years later. Curiously enough, though the island of Nukahiva was the one most frequently visited by traders and explorers of that region, the dove was not seen there again and apparently was extirpated.
Another Russian explorer, Comdr. Urey Lisiansky, had also paid a short visit to Nukahiva Island and was obligated by naval etiquette to call upon Captain Krusenstern. When, an island was later named for Lisiansky in one of the northern Hawaiian groups, he rather ironically designated a large rock, "Krusenstern". Meanwhile the Marquesas dove slipped back into the South Sea mists as far as science was concerned, though a French naturalist, Vieillut, named it the 'Columba rubescous' in his Dictionary of Science that came out in 1818.
The interesting old atlas written by Krusenstern became extremely rare, even in Russia, and so it was not until a century later that a noted ornithologist of England, Dr. Ernst Hartert, commented in looking at the plate of the "Kokuh" that if the colors were as painted, the pigeon was a species unknown to science. But the mystery was solved when an expedition was sent down to the Pacific Islands by the American Museum of Natural History a few years ago.
Apparently the bird had died out on the island visited by the Russians, but it was found to he quite common on a smaller island less frequently called at by passing vessels, and through a private collector of rare birds out in California, a number of Marquesas doves were finally placed on exhibition in the Zoological Park at Washington. D.C.