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William Loney RN - Background

Home-Loney-Background-Niger expedition-Book Chapter X * Chapter XII

A NARRATIVE
OF THE
EXPEDITION TO THE RIVER NIGER
.

VOLUME I, CHAPTER XI.


Physical characteristics of the Ibus - Religious superstitions - Idols numerous - Horrible practice on the birth of twins - Large earthen idol - Tshuku or the Great Spirit - Absurd stories of the priests - Abòh Creek - Beautiful birds - Native dwellings - Ezzeh Obi Osaï's mud palace - The Harem - Human sacrifices - Insalubrity of Abòh - Ornithology - Rare animals shot by accident - Plants - Domestic slavery - Obi Osaï's second visit to the 'Albert' - Obi Osaï kneels down with the white men to worship their God - His sudden fear - The "arrisi" or idol called for - The presents - Obi's anxiety to establish trade with England - Departure from Abòh - Ogou ladies - Proceed up the river - Body of a female floating in the stream - Ali Here, the Ibu pilot - Beauty of the country - "Osochaï" - Abòh trade-canoes - Okòh - Splendid sunset - Fishing-huts - Appearance of the hills - Anno - Abain-him or the "meeting of the waters" - Adda-Mugu or Abela - Sufferings of the former Expedition at this place - Circular huts first met with - The Edòh examined - Uliain village - King William's Mountain - Anchor off Iddah.


The natives of Abòh are comparatively tall for West Africans; well-made and muscular, but the hands and feet are large. The most prevalent colour of skin is yellowish or brownish-black The features are truly negro, the nose expanded, lips rather thick, and without that pleasing outline observed in some negroes. The forehead is broad and less retreating than in their more intelligent neighbours the Eggarahs, but the maxillary bones are more prognathous or protruding, and the facial angle consequently less favourable.

The national mark is triangular, tattoed on each temple in the males, while the softer sex have various starlike distinctions on the breast and abdomen. The women are large, and inclined to "embonpoint," the effect probably of the fattening process they go through to arrive at the Ibu standard of female beauty. The countenance of these people is at once expressive of good nature and restless inquisitiveness.

The religious superstitions of Abòh are as various and degrading as at any place we visited, and the Fetiches, or idols, as numerous; every hut having one or more, as well as amulets, or charms, suspended from sticks in the quadrangular courts. Many of the idols had pots of water and food placed near them.

The accompanying sketch is taken from a Ju-ju, presented to Doctor McWilliam by one of Obi's sons.

Illustration
An Ibu idol

It is carved in hard brown wood, and represents the upper half of a human figure, emerging from a sort of basin; the arms are stretched by the side, and between them something like a trumpet. The features, though characteristic of the negro, are exaggerated.

One of their most horrible and extraordinary superstitions is that connected with the birth of twins; an occurrence looked upon as the greatest affliction that can happen to an Ibu woman. The little victims are no sooner born than one or both are taken away, placed in the neighbouring thicket in earthen pots or baskets, and left there to become the food of hyenas or other wild beasts. The unfortunate mother is separated for ever from her conjugal alliance; she is obliged to pass a long period of repentance and purification, in a rude hut some distance from the town; and if she outlives all these trials, mental and physical, and returns once more to society, she is regarded as an especial object of Fetiche wrath, and no woman will knowingly sit in her company, or hold communion with her. No wonder that it is so much dreaded by all Ibu women; to whom it is impossible to offer a greater insult, or one which rouses their angry feelings more, than to say the word "Abo-wadakri;" or by holding up two fingers, signify that they have had twins.

Another equally absurd, and scarcely less cruel superstition, is the sacrifice of such children as unfortunately cut the teeth first in the upper jaw. They believe it to indicate a wicked disposition, one hateful to the gods or Fetiches, and therefore a proper subject for immolation on the altars of their abominable worship.

At a little distance from Obi's dwelling, and rather to the right, we came unexpectedly on a large earthen idol, placed in a thicket surrounded by high trees; this we believe to be the image to which most of their sacrifices are offered. Some persons who were near when we moved towards the direction of this sacred spot, made earnest signs for us not to approach, exclaiming, "Tshuku - Tshuku," and just as we had obtained a look of the figure, one of the Ju-ju men, or priests, came up in a menacing manner, and would not allow us to remain, or further to examine the neighbourhood. He appeared to be very much exasperated, and disposed to punish our temerity, which probably was only escaped by the presence of a good double-barrelled "Nock." This jealous care of the idol, and the exclamation " Tshuku - Tshuku" would lead to the supposition that it is the visible representation of a mysterious being or deity, whom they consult as an oracle under the same name. His votaries believe him to exist far off in the bush; that he has the power of speaking and understanding all languages; is cognizant of every thing that takes place in the world, and that he can punish evil doers. The priest whilst holding communion with Tshuku, is surrounded miraculously with water, and will perish instantaneously if he attempts to deceive. As all these absurd stories originate with the Ju-ju men, whose object is to mislead their too credulous dupes, we may regard it as a better organized delusion, which is got up at certain seasons, and turned to good account by the actors.

[illustration: The Abòh creek leading to King Obi's Palace]

The creek off which the Expedition had anchored is low and swampy on its left bank, covered with long grass or reeds, among which the numerous trading-canoes were moored. The right bank is magnificently wooded with large forest trees; and the rich variety of drooping Orchidaceous parasites, mingled with numberless flowers of brilliant colour, make it very picturesque and interesting. Some beautiful king-hunters or halcyons were moving about in the neighbouring bushes, as also the pretty rufous-bellied fly-catcher (Muscipeta rufiventer) and the Vidua erythrorynchus, or red-billed Whydah bird, in its black and white plumage, the two very long and narrow tail feathers distinguishing it from all its little companions.

The capital of Obi's dominions called Abòh, is situated at the upper end of this creek, on the right bank; numerous little creeklets lead to the dwellings of the principal men, surrounded by the huts of their dependents, and here their canoes are laid up. There is no regularity observed in the position of the huts, except that they are built on either side of these creeklets, and about twenty to thirty yards apart, having a few palms or banana-trees; which afford the much-required shelter from the scorching rays of the mid-day sun.

Each family has one or more canoes wherewith to communicate with the other parts of the town during the rainy season. Some are so very small that it is surprising how they contrive to make use of them. They have, in fact, no room for the legs, which are extended right and left over the gunwale, and serve to keep the balance.

The people were apparently well pleased to see us, and everywhere invited us into their little houses, where palm-wine, or some trifling refreshment in the way of fruit, was offered. The huts are of a square form, mostly double, placed at right-angles, neatly built of mud, and roofed with a compact matting of dried palm-leaves, and a sort of reed or juncus, which grows in the marshes near the river; the floor is raised a foot and a half. The entrance is square, and serves for the three-fold purpose of door, window and chimney, when they have a fire inside. The thatch or roof overhangs, and is supported by little pillars, which, as well as the exterior of the house, is curiously streaked with red and yellow clay, in some cases tastefully arranged. Those of the richer persons, as judges, headmen and Fetishe priests, are larger and have many compartments, with a quadrangular court, where most of the household and cooking operations are carried on, amid the usual noise and laughter of African damsels, by whom they are conducted. {On the roofs of many of these dwellings we saw the fulvous vultures or griffons, perched in a half-stupified state, probably the result of repletion with their disgusting food, the offal and carrion of the place. These birds are encouraged on account of their usefulness as scavengers. There is much difference between the young and old birds.}

King Obi Osaï's residence is the largest in the town, and placed at some distance to the right of the spot where we landed, on rather higher ground than the others. It is an irregular building, but within presents a quadrangle or court, into which each compartment opens. With so large a harem, composed of upwards of one hundred wives of all ages, from twelve to fifty, it was not to be wondered at that there was here an unusual amount of loquacity. Many sparkling eyes were peeping at us from within, where an animated discussion was heard, and it did not require any knowledge of the Ibu dialect to assure us that the white men were subjects of their conversation or amusement.

{The number of wives depends very much on the rank and wealth of the parties. Dr. McWilliam was enabled to procure the following statistics on the subject:

Name and Rank. Age. Wives. Children.
Living. Dead. Living. Dead.
Ajeh, King's brother 40 80 40 uncertain uncertain
Amorama, judge and King's mouth 40 4 2 2 6
Ozama, headman 35 4 2 2 6
Omeniho, head 32 3 2 3 6
Amehah, headman 28 4 1 3 6
Magoy, bugler 34 2 1 6 3
Ambili, headman 35 3 2 3 11
Ogron, headman 30 3 1 2 2
Obi Osaï, King 44 110 uncertain uncertain uncertain

But among the many we questioned, three seemed to be the most frequent number.}

The older wives came out unreservedly and shook hands, though laughing immoderately, and looking as if half ashamed to submit to this European salutation, which we were not sorry to substitute for the more royal one of kissing hands - unctuous with palm-oil. All the favorite wives had armlets and anklets of ivory, large and weighty. The principal dame had these ornaments of such an unwieldy size, that it obliged her to move the lower extremities in a manner, neither easy nor graceful.

All the little toys and trinkets we took with us were gladly accepted; but amid so many eager claimants, it was difficult to divide our small stock satisfactorily; however, it was managed so that they all seemed pleased, especially the chief wife, who had a kaleidescope given to her, the bright and varying colours of which so much delighted her that she presented in return a white fowl, which we were told was an uncommon mark of favour.

The strong and peculiar odour arising from the congregation of so many dark-skinned "houris" in this confined place, obliged us to retreat to the outside, where the atmosphere, if not much cooler, was certainly more agreeable. Adjoining Obi Osaï's house was a rather high enclosure, between the palings of which were several pairs of eyes turned towards us with anxiety and curiosity. On mounting up one of the posts to obtain a better view, they all rushed, more like wild animals than human beings, into small dens, the rattling of their chains at once pointing out that they were newly-captured slaves. After we left the spot one of the King's headmen went into them, and from the screams which followed, we judged it probable they were receiving punishment for drawing the attention of the white strangers to their unhappy condition.

In another part of the town, the officers entered into a small court-yard, round which were several huts; in one of these they saw a boy with a ring round his neck, to which a chain was attached and fastened to the hut; it was sufficiently long to allow him to come outside. Two headless goats were lying near this hut, which they were informed Obi had just offered in sacrifice. It is to be hoped that the poor boy was not reserved for a similar purpose. There is too much reason to believe, however, that human sacrifices are here practised in the most horrible manner: sometimes the poor creatures are dreadfully mutilated, and left to linger until death terminates their sufferings, on which they are thrown into the river, but it could not be ascertained that the number was great; they are mostly slaves, or persons convicted of great offences.

The appearance of Abòh during the rainy season is at once sufficient to account for its unhealthiness at other periods of the year. By the testimony of all parties, it was declared to be very sickly at most times, but especially on the exposure of the muddy deposits on the subsidence of the periodical floods. We are less astonished at the prevalence of fevers, often fatal even to the natives themselves, than that anything human can exist in such a pestiferous locality, and the fulness of the creeks warned us that the most deadly season was rapidly approaching.

In the thickets surrounding Abòh, we saw many rare and fine specimens of African ornithology. The red-billed hornbill (Buceros erythrorynchus), with its hoarse grating call; the little rufous-necked weavers, with their pensile and curiously interwoven nests suspended in great numbers from every palm or cocoa-tree. The Symplectes chrysomus, or yellow-bodied weaver; the African golden oriole (Oriolus auratus), in its rich yellow and black plumage; the pennant-winged nightjar, with its long filamentous streamer in each wing; together with several of those beautiful little creatures the Cinnyridae, or sun-birds, of these the white-bodied (or Anthreptes leucosoma), the Cin. chalybea, or red-collared sun-bird, in its prevailing rich green and gold, and double collar of blue and crimson, but the most rare and singular one was the Nectarinia Adelberti Eboensis, or Eboe sun-bird, since figured in Sir William Jardine's work on the Nectarinidae - two specimens of which were shot. The general plumage is rich dark brown approaching to black in some places, a patch of emerald green - metallic lustre - on the crown of the head, extending downwards and backwards in two narrow lines below the chin; breast a dirty cream colour. While procuring specimens, a curious circumstance took place. A large grey-headed Senegal king-hunter, perched on a banana-tree, was fired at and killed; in its fall it was accompanied by a number of small bats, which happening to be congregated in a fold of the broad and drooping leaf, were thus accidentally destroyed. They were of a new and interesting species, since described by Mr. Gray as the Kerivoula poensis.

The vegetation here offered a more extensive Flora than that presented at the mouth of the river, viz: Palmae, Bombaceae, Mimosae, Rubiaceae, Sapodaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Gramineae, Leguminosae, as also Sterculia, Ficus, Malvinia, Ceratophyllum, Sarcocephalus, and abundance of Pistia, floating all over the water.

The people cultivate rice, Indian corn, cassava, bananas, oranges, cocos, ground-nuts, yams abundantly and of good quality, Pappaws, Guinea-peppers, &c., There is reason to hope the trade in palm-oil, ivory, &c., has increased very much; we saw many large canoes from Bonny, Benìn, and Brass, laden with puncheons of the former, confirming what we heard on the coast, that a great portion of the oil procured in the bights is brought from the interior.

The people live apparently to a good age, for many were observed to be more than seventy years old. The number of domestic slaves is very large, in some towns being almost equal to the free inhabitants: they are well treated, and many of them become free. Those at Abòh are liberated when they build proper dwellings, but they continue to pay a tax of forty yams each season, and a small tithe of their goats, fowls, &c. By thus incorporating them with the free people, many are induced to "sit down" quietly who would otherwise try and escape. There was a strong case in point with Ali Here, who was formerly, in 1832, as on the present occasion, lent by Obi as pilot. He was a young Haussa slave belonging to Obi, and was taken to Fernando Po in the 'Alburkah,' where he might have obtained his freedom, but he preferred returning to his master. On a similar offer being now made to him, he said he was married, and although he knew he was a slave, he had commenced a little trading on his own account, was quite satisfied with his lot, and did not wish to leave his country.

28th.- Agreeably to his promise, Obi Osaï went on board the 'Albert' this morning, where he was received by Captain Trotter and the Commissioners, with whom he breakfasted. His dress was not so gay as on his visit of yesterday, being merely a cotton jacket and trousers, much in want of a laundress, a red cap on his head, and some strings of coral, and teeth of wild beasts round his neck, wrists and ankles. He entered frankly into the views previously explained to him, and assented unhesitatingly to all required from him. It was, however, necessary that the Treaty, which had been drawn up on the basis of the draft furnished by Lord John Russell, with the addition of some articles relating especially to the free navigation of the river, should be again read and explained to Obi and the chief Ju-ju man, much to their annoyance; and as all this occupied a long while, apparently to very little purpose, he completely turned against ourselves the charge we made against the black people - of not knowing the value of time. In agreeing to the additional article, binding the Chief and his people to the discontinuance of the horrid custom of sacrificing human beings, Obi very reasonably inquired what should be done with those who might deserve death as punishment for the commission of great crimes.

The important Treaty [text in footnote] having been at length sufficiently explained, was signed by the Commissioners on the part of Her Majesty, properly witnessed; and by Obi, witnessed by his eldest son and two brothers. Captain Trotter then requested the Rev. Theodore Müller, Chaplain to the Commissioners, to ask a blessing of Almighty God on this successful commencement of our labours. The nature of the ceremony we were about to perform having been explained to Obi, with an intimation that he might remain or retire, he signified his wish to join us, and imitated our example in kneeling to the Christian's God - to him an unknown and inappreciable Being.

In that solemn moment, when the stillness was unbroken, save by the reverential voice of the clergyman, and all were devoutly engaged, Obi became violently agitated. On the conclusion of the ceremony he started up, and uttering a sudden fearful exclamation, called aloud for his Ju-ju man to bring his protecting "Arrisi," or idol, being evidently under the impression that we had performed some incantation to his prejudice, the adverse tendencies of which, it would be necessary to counteract by a sacrifice on his part. He stood trembling with fear and agitation; the perspiration streamed down his face and neck, showing how great was the agony of mind he endured. The priest had heard the cry of his sovereign, and rushing into the cabin with the idol - a piece of blackened wood, enveloped in cloth - which the King placed between his feet, was about to offer the customary libation of palm-wine, &c., when Captain Trotter, also much disconcerted at the idea of a heathen ceremony being performed in our presence, and in opposition to the rites of our holy religion, interrupted him, and called for Captain Bird Allen, who had just left the cabin. It was an interval of breathless anxiety, the King became every moment more alarmed, and desirous to continue his sacrifice, till it was explained to him that we had asked the Great God, who was Father of us all, to bestow his blessing alike on the black people and on us. This immediately pacified him, he desisted from the operations, and his good humour as quickly returned. The remainder of the visit was spent very much to his gratification, in pouring down his own throat the palm-wine intended for Ju-ju, - as well as that of good Spanish growth, which was placed before him - and afterwards in visiting every part of the vessel. On another occasion, his prejudices and anger were nearly excited by an officer, who, with more zeal than discretion, seeing a native on his knees before the King, was about to drive him away; saying, "He could not suffer kneeling on a Christian quarter-deck to any but to the King of Kings." The interference was very fortunately prevented, as "Simon Jonas" said it would have made Obi "mad" to have been deprived of the accustomed homage of his subjects.

The principal part of the ceremony, according to the estimation of our guest, was now commenced; namely; the long and impatiently-looked-for exhibition and distribution of the promised presents. These consisted of sundry articles of gay wearing apparel, cloth, woollen and Manchester cottons, handsome fowling-pieces and pistols, with many other things, useful and ornamental.

Among those which particularly attracted Obi's attention were, a handsome gilt sword, some scarlet, and other fine clothes, a musical snuff-box, and a splendid cap of the established royal form of Ibu, but of more costly materials than had hitherto been seen among the regalia. It was of silk velvet, of conical shape, something like - if one might be allowed to compare great things with small - what we commonly call a foolscap, but decorated, from the rim of gold lace, with many rows of coral beads to the apex, which was surmounted by a handsome gold tassel.

A press for oil was included among the articles intended to be useful: but although great pains were taken to make all understand its purposes, by placing a wetted towel under the power of the screw, it is doubtful whether they will not consider their own manipulations with the feet to be better than our foreign conceits.

The effects of a galvanic battery excited as much surprise as terror. Few of the headmen could be prevailed on to try the experiment, and those who did touch the wires, dropped them in great trepidation after receiving a shock. Obi, however, shewed the magnanimity of a hero. He firmly grasped the conductors, and held them for a minute, although the muscles of his shoulder were evidently in strong electric excitation. He would not shew signs of fear before his people, in whose minds this proof of courage, no doubt, greatly exalted him.

On receiving the presents, Obi was much pleased, but said he would rather have had plenty of goods to "make trade." He repeatedly expressed to Captain Trotter his wish and expectation, that many ships should be sent with merchandise, to exchange for the productions of his country.

  3 A.M. Th 79° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 76°
  9 A.M. " 76° " 74°
  3 P.M. " 80° " 75°
  9 P.M. " 75° " 72°

28th.- Our grand object having thus been happily accomplished, a salute was fired from the vessels, which were dressed in flags. We took leave of our royal and sable friend, and sailed in the afternoon at three o'clock.

The river is here much wider, and the banks shewed a greater diversity of character, being somewhat undulating. The gaily decorated steamers, moving about on the unruled water, with here and there a canoe filled with anxious spectators, had a very pleasing effect. Indeed, all were in good spirits, and looking forward to the successful continuance of a mission commenced under such favourable auspices.

Abòh was soon out of sight. The 'Soudan' had been previously dispatched to examine the Bonny branch; a divergent on the left bank, from a part of the river, called in the former chart, Lander's Lake; which although very wide, does not warrant such an appellation; but when the brothers Lander passed through it in their canoe, there was a dense fog, which made them suppose the banks to be more distant than they were. In this part, are two islands, abreast of one another, in the middle of the lake. The 'Soudan' having taken the channel to the eastward, to examine the Bonny branch; the 'Albert' followed that by the right bank; and the 'Wilberforce' passed between the islands. Above this the river is in one undivided stream of majestic width, nearly a mile. We continued till eleven o'clock, as the night was fine, and then anchored in the middle of the stream.

  3 A.M. Th. 78° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 74°
  9 A.M. " 77° " 74°,5
  3 P.M. " 79° " 75°
  9 P.M. " 77,°5 " 75°

29th, Being the Sabbath, we remained at anchor all day; and the usual divine service was performed. We had a visit from three native damsels, who came off in a small canoe from a village on the left bank, called Ogù. They appeared to be much delighted with all they saw, and still more so at a small present that each of them received. Nearly opposite to this was another town, Okbaï, with which we had no communication.

  3 A.M. Th. 78°,5 wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 75°
  9 A.M. " 78° " 74°
  3 P.M. " 77° " 74°
  9 P.M. " 75° " 73°

30th.- Weighed at daylight, and took the schooner in tow. Rainy weather, with a slight tornado.

We passed a swampy island of considerable length, without any signs of cultivation; it was apparently covered with long grass and reeds. The body of a female was seen floating, which had evidently been some time in the water. The back looked as if it had been exposed to fire; the viscera protruded; and as it rolled over with the current, presented a sad spectacle, which we could not help connecting, in imagination, with some dreadful sacrifice to the Fetiche.

At a large village, called "Assàmareh," on the left bank, containing about three hundred inhabitants, we stopped for a short time, to land Ali Here, who had accompanied us thus far as pilot, by order of King Obi. He carried with him our last letters, to be sent down the river by the Brass trading-canoes. They, however, never reached beyond Abòh, where we found them on our return. Camwood is said to be very abundant all about this neighbourhood, and much of that sold at Abòh comes from the forests of Assàmareh.

The boat-song of the chief of this village sounded very sweetly across the water.

Illustration

In this vicinity we passed a divergent branch on the left bank, which does not again return to the river; and, therefore, belongs to the Delta, which we considered to terminate near this part, about one hundred and fifty miles from the sea; as, although we saw many insignificant creeks, apparently running off, we met with no real divergent after this. A large branch, on the right bank - about eight hundred yards wide, with a strong current - had all the appearance of being one; but on descending a short distance, until it had diminished to about two hundred yards, we found that the water escaped by various small creeks, and the principal joins the main river again at Owra Ucha. Another confirmation of having passed the Delta, was the appearance of rising land to the north-east about one hundred feet high A little higher up, similar elevations were also seen over the right bank; Both had the appearance of a long line of gentle hills, running away diagonally from a point about twelve miles above this, and taking a direction respectively to the south-east and south-west.

The river was here exceedingly beautiful. The shores richly clothed with verdure, and many noble trees: - the Bombax, with its enormous trunk and rich festoons of creepers and Orchideae, being very prominent. The amount of cultivation in yams, plantains, &c., proved the country to be populous, although the villages were but partially seen; being generally built in a thicket, which served as protection.

Some officers landed from the 'Albert' at a village called Osochaï. It was but small, containing only twenty-seven huts, most of them being quadrangular, with projecting eaves; here the Governor sat in state, in front of his hut, the verandah of which was supported by seven rude pillars. He evidently considered himself to be very regal on his mud seat, covered with mats. Before him were several articles of Fetiche, and over his head, on the thatch, were skulls of oxen, of a monkey and a leopard. The object of the visit to this grave personage, was to purchase bullocks; but his dignity would not be compromised by yielding to our impatience, and so he was left.

We fell in with the Ibu traders returning from the Eggarah market. There were about sixty canoes of all sizes, each containing, from two or three, to seventy persons. Obi's son came alongside in one distinguished by a red flag, edged with yellow. He said he had made a good market, having purchased a large quantity of ivory. There were a number of boys and some girls in the canoe, but whether slaves or no, could not be determined; though we hardly doubted it, as the King had acknowledged that his son was away at the market, for the purpose of making such purchases.

  3 A.M. Th 78° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 75°
  9 A.M. " 78° " 75°
  3 P.M. " 83°,5 " 77°
  9 P.M. " 77°,5 " 75°

31st.- Morning cloudy. The river is here very wide, with many large islands, where several alligators were seen from the 'Albert.' We kept along the right bank, in order to be able to define its line more clearly, and we ascertained there cannot be any diverging branches to the west. We could form no conjecture as to the left bank, owing to the distance across, as well as the many intervening islands. At 7 A.M. it appeared like a large lake. Soon afterwards, having been tempted by the appearance of a fine channel away from the right bank, we got on the wrong side of a sand-bank, and ran into a complete cul-de-sac, where the river became gradually narrower and more shallow, till at last we had only four feet under the bows, and no room to turn. This delayed us considerably, and the schooner which we were towing, having run into the bush, hooked in the trees with her anchor, and had some difficulty in getting clear. We were obliged to drop some distance down the stream, and then go across to the opposite shore, which we ought to have kept close aboard. Passed Okòh, situated on the right bank, which is the dwelling of a chief, who is brother to the King of Abòh. The land rose about four feet above the water, and consisted of clay, covered with mould. The huts were a little way back, with extensive plantations round them. A large island, about two miles in length, lies opposite a channel, in which we lost sight of the 'Albert' and 'Soudan.' The river here is about eighteen hundred yards wide.

Gentle hills were seen over both sides, rising probably to the height of two hundred and fifty feet. Those to the eastward, over the left bank, were very beautiful, clothed with grass, much cultivation, fine clumps of wood and tall trees, scattered here and there. They have many towns; one especially, called Onechàh, lies between four hills, and though claimed by Obi, is said to be always in rebellion against him. At Akra-atàn, the last village belonging to that chief on the left bank, and which is probably inhabited by the same tribe as Onechàh, Obi took sanguinary vengeance some years ago for the murder of one of his relatives.

These hills decline towards the south-east. A little rivulet, about seventy yards wide, descending from them, was passed very close. The water in it appeared to be stagnant, owing probably to the cessation of supply from the hills: or, at all events, its current was overcome by the superior volume of the Niger. The shores of this little stream were well wooded, and had a beautiful aspect. The left bank, near its mouth, was seen in the low season of 1832, and then appeared to be formed of rock.

In this part of the river, were many Pistia floating separately, but higher up towards the confluence, we met them in large quantities {These were seen in vast numbers in the Chadda, when beginning to rise, in 1833; but few were in the Niger above the confluence}This plant appears to have been displaced by rising waters from its tranquil domicile, as is frequently the case with others; for we saw several small floating islands of grass and other plants, clumps of rolled-up herbage, and stems of large trees lying horizontally, with their roots and branches partly emerging from the water - in the distance, exactly like canoes. The water is very muddy, of clay colour, the shores low, covered with brushwood, intermixed with so many creepers, as to form, sometimes for a great distance, a vegetable wall. This was particularly remarkable on the left side of the still water just alluded to; behind it rose a few hillocks, with much cultivation (Sorghum vulgare), amongst which single trees of a moderate height, were interspersed.

All the country to the eastward of the Niger at this part is called Ibo, or Ibu, but is independent of Obi. Our interpreter, Simon Jonas, was a native of this district. He said that each town has its own separate chief. The principal place of worship is called Anno; and is much larger than Abòh. The houses are high. The general trade is in slaves from the interior. The town is situated on the banks of the River Immo, which, above, flows through a rocky country; the water is clear, and very rapid. Canoes can communicate with the River Immo at Anno, by means of connecting creeks from Abòh, by way of n'Doki. This river is probably the old Calebar, or Cross, explored by Beecroft in 1841. At the nearest point on that river, about seventy miles due east from the Niger at Onechàh, there is a town called by that experienced navigator Acoono-coono; above which the river actually passes through a rocky country. The clearness of its waters would appear to indicate its passage through a lake higher up. Above Anno, Simon Jonas called it Abaïn-him, "the meeting of the waters." His account was confirmed by another native of that country.

Abreast of the Onechàh River was an island or sand-bank, then overflowed, where the market called Oniàh, or Kiri, before alluded to, is held. Near it, at Assaba, the natives of Benìn come to trade by land. They have no canoes. The Eggarah people bring the produce of the interior. Those from Abòh bring European goods, when they have them, or salt. The "Dryland" people from the hills behind Adda-mugu, or Damoogoo, or Abela, bring horses.

The sunset this evening was singularly beautiful. The effulgence of the glowing tints in the sky, reflected in the broad and unruled expanse of the Niger, with the rich and varied foliage on its banks, gradually fading in the distant hills of Onechàh, were such as even Turner could not have done justice to in his most gorgeous or extravagant exercise of imagination. The fine weather and the beauty of the scenery, seemed to have a cheering effect on the spirits of all hands, especially as we had passed the dreaded Delta without a single case of fever on board. Indeed, the voyage hitherto had been one of uninterrupted enjoyment.

We anchored in the middle of the stream soon after sunset. Temperature of the air 81°,2; of river-water 82°,4. The electricity of the atmosphere discharging itself all round us.

  3 A.M. Th 78° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 75°
  9 A.M. " 80° " 75°
  3 P.M. " 83° " 76°
  9 P.M. " 78° " 76°

Wednesday, September 1st.- The air this morning was delightfully refreshing, being less charged with humidity than in the lower parts of the river. On landing for a short time, an Orchidea, four feet high, was found rooted in the earth. A great part of the jungle on the right shore consisted of fig-trees, with long branches covered with fructification shooting out from the red wood and white bark, visible at a great distance. The ants were here dreadfully troublesome to the explorers. A very sweet powerful odour was perceived, like that of a Tetracera, gathered below Abòh; though no flowers could be seen in the vicinity, some were afterwards perceived at a distance with the telescope.

The character of the Niger had changed, as well as the appearance of the banks. Its course was nearly straight, instead of the numerous, and sometimes rapid windings of the reaches lower down.

There are many islands, which prevent the possibility of ascertaining the width of the river, as the true banks are seldom seen; but in the breaks between these it sometimes seems to be a mile and a half wide. The water is deep, especially near the right shore. On the left bank were many small huts raised on poles, from which the natives drop their fishing lines into the water.

At this part of the river the sickness fell on the crews of the vessels of the former Expedition, as it were, at one blow. In a few days, all, with the exception of Lander and Allen, were seized with fever, and the whole attendance on the sick depended on these two; the latter not having been taken ill until some were convalescent, and Lander, having been well-seasoned, escaped. Hitherto our crews had continued in perfect health; but they were aware that nine of the victims of 1832 were buried on the right bank, a little higher up.

Illustration
Abokko

We stopped a short time off Adda-mugu, or Abela, the chief town belonging to our old friend, Abokko, who was so kind to Lander, on both occasions when he visited him. The first was when the brothers landed at his town in their adventurous voyage down the river in a canoe. They were then in a destitute condition, and received much disinterested hospitality from the old chief. On the second, Lander had an opportunity of rewarding him handsomely. We regretted to find on inquiry, that this magnificent old man had been dead some years. His family is however still in great power. One of his sons, Okien, succeeded him in the government of the town and territory of Adda-mugu; another, Edina, is the Nufia, or "Captain of the Port;" while his brother, Anieh Abokko, is the Annajah, or Governor of Addakudda, and all the district in the neighbourhood of the confluence, subject to the Attàh of Iddah.

The huts at Adda-mugu were, for the first time of the peculiar form which prevails in the interior, namely, circular, with high conical, thatched roofs. All below the town are square or oblong. The principal part of the town lies at a little distance from the banks, so that but few could be seen.

Illustration
Adda-Muggu

This place was formerly thought to be on the left bank of the river; but the 'Soudan' having entered a channel about twelve miles lower down, rejoined the main trunk above the town; thus proving its insular position; and the Niger was found to be much wider here than had been imagined, possibly five or six miles, where the island is the broadest.

After leaving this, the water close to the-right bank is deep. A small stream, called Edòh, is here marked on Allen's chart as a tributary. It was, however, believed by Mr. M'Queen to be a diverging branch, communicating with the sea in the Bight of Benìn. In order to clear up this doubt, the 'Wilberforce,' having only the schooner in company, which was in tow, entered the river, with the view of exploring it a short distance.

The current was found to be setting so strongly into the main river, that we had difficulty in stemming it; and, by indifferent steerage, the vessel was carried on the bank, remaining some time entangled among the bushes, from which we brought abundance of ants. In the meanwhile, the perversity of the eddy forced the 'Amelia' upon the other side of the point of confluence of the streams, so that she was obliged to cast off the tow-rope, and anchor, while we, after several failures, extricated the 'Wilberforce.' Having satisfied ourselves that the Edòh is a tributary, and taken the 'Amelia' once more in tow, the unusual spectacle of two bright lights, like signals, approaching us, excited much surprise and various conjectures. The 'Albert,' however, soon made her appearance, having also gone up the creek, for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of it, which we were not aware of, having been separated since yesterday morning. It was fortunate for both vessels, that she did not come down ten. minutes sooner, as the night being very dark, we might have come in unpleasant contact. Captain Trotter was still up the river in the 'Soudan,' with the intention of exploring it fully.

After passing two small islands and a narrow creek on the right bank, he came at the distance of five miles to a bifurcation; one branch trending north-east, the other north-west. Pursuing the latter, with a depth from five to six fathoms, ten or eleven miles further, it became muddy and stagnant, and so narrow, that there was difficulty in turning the vessel, on account of overhanging branches of the trees, which they were obliged to cut away. They then returned to the main river, having proved, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that this cannot be a branch of the Niger, falling into the Bight of Benìn. Much cultivation on the banks and highland was seen to the westward.

We all anchored together in five fathoms, abreast of this little tributary, in the middle of the river, which is here about seven hundred yards wide. Some of the people from Uliam, a village on the left bank, opposite the Edòh, came on board, with a "dash" of fruit and vegetables. They wore neatly made tobes.

1st.- 3 A.M. Th 77° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 74°
  9 A.M. " 78° " 75°
  3 P.M. " 76° " 73°
  9 P.M. " 77° " 75°

2nd.- Weighed at 5.50. The river appeared an interminable reach, in a direction due north, with long islands succeeding one another in the middle; the current two-and-a-half knots. We saw over the right bank a fine range of hills, the height of which appeared to be about five hundred feet.

At noon, in latitude 6° 51' 6" N., the breadth of the Niger was found by micrometer angle to be one thousand three hundred and seventy-seven yards. At 3 P.M., the 'Wilberforce' crossed over between two of the long islands, and took the channel to the eastward, while the 'Albert' continued in the western. We found ours to be a fine branch, four hundred and fifty yards wide, and thirty feet deep. The intervening island was so broad, that we could not see the 'Albert.' Both banks were populous, and well cultivated. Fishing, however, seemed to be one of the principal occupations of the natives; for facilitating which they grow about the huts a genus of Leguminoae (the Tephrosia toxicaria). The Krumen said the same plant is used for this purpose in their country. The leaves are dried and powdered, and then sprinkled on the water. The fishes devour it with great avidity, when they become stupified, and lie motionless on the surface; the fishermen then take them up by hand.

Towards evening we saw, in the distance up the river, the mountains named King William's range, and, nearer, a fine dome-like peak, nanied Mount Purday; soon afterwards, the cliffs of Iddah, formerly called Attàh, made their appearance. At 7 P.M. we anchored between the landing-place of Iddah and a long low island, which Lander had purchased from the King, and named English Island, on which he had intended to establish a factory.

2nd.- 3 A.M. Th 77° wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 74°,5
  9 A.M. " 78° " 75°
  3 P.M. " 82° " 78°
  9 P.M. " 77° " 74°,5

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