EXPEDITION TO THE RIVER NIGER
DURING THE YEARS 1841-2.
HISTORY OF THE EXPEDITION.
Journal of the voyage to the Nun branch of the Niger. State of health on entering the river.
The morning after leaving Plymouth, the land was no longer visible, the day was fine, and the sky unclouded; and throughout the voyage to Madeira the weather was remarkably beautiful. The crews were arranged in regular watches: they were in excellent health and spirits, and looked cheerfully forward to the scene of their labours. Fencing, and other wholesome exercises, were permitted in the evening. The ventilation was performed every day, both by the plenum and the vacuum impulse*, chiefly for the sake of experiment. When in the latitude of Oporto, the action of the former was suspended for some time, and then put on, with the valves fitted for exhaustion, leaving the gunwale tubes open, and drawing out from all parts of the ship, including the cabins and holds. The temperature on deck throughout the day was 63° Fahr. During the suspension of the action of the ventilating apparatus the thermometer rose in the captain’s cabin 2°, in the gun-room 3°, in the lower deck 2-5°, and nearly the same in the engine-room and midshipmen’s berth. On reconnecting the fanners with the engines, and leaving the adjustment as before (exhaustion) the thermometer fell to its former standard. It was thus evident that we possessed a means at command by which a uniform supply of fresh air was afforded to the five sections of the ship. On the 19th, the sea and sky seemed to rival each other in cerulean hue, the ship was under sails only, the steam having been "down" since the previous day; the thermometer at mid-day was 67°; temperature of the sea 63°; and there were 6° of difference betwixt the dry and wet bulbs of Mason’s hygrometer. At night the luminous appearance of the sea was splendid. The outline of the island of Madeira was indistinctly seen on the evening of the 20th of May, and next morning we were close in with the shore in the neighbourhood of Funchal, where the land is high, consisting of ranges of volcanic cones. During our stay at Madeira the ships were completed with coals, and the ships’ companies were supplied with fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit.
On the evening of the 25th May, the steam was up, and we left Funchal about eight o’clock. Next morning a thick haze bounded the horizon all round, which was not dissipated until mid-day. The temperature of the air was gradually increasing, as also that of the sea; an immense number of birds were flying about the ship.
The high land of Teneriffe was in sight on the morning of the 27th May, with the peak towering over all. The ship was under sail only, but the north-east trade blew strong all day, and at five in the afternoon we were close to the south-east side of the island, which is here rugged and irregular in form. Masses of pumice-stone were seen here and there on the angular projections; and running up through the bold precipices were dykes of basalt in the lava. At seven we came to anchor about half a mile from the mole of Santa Cruz; the Wilberforce having preceded us by a quarter of an hour.
At Santa Cruz we were detained "coaling" about twenty-four hours, during which the English consul and various parties visited the ship. We were informed that a cavern had of late been discovered, about two days’ journey from Santa Cruz, containing several mummefied bodies of the Guanchios, the brave aboriginal tenants of the islands, who for fifty years obstinately resisted the Spaniards.
At 10 p.m., on the 28th, the steam was up, and both ships weighed; at 11, we were slipping through the water with a light breeze. About three miles to the southward we had a beautiful moonlight view of the town which, from this position seemed completely surrounded by mountains, the dark sombre bases of which looked as if dotted with stars; an appearance produced by the lights in the fishermen’s boats along the shore.
On the 30th and 31st, part of the ship’s company were employed clearing the holds of the lower deck, and midshipmen’s berth. Among my suggestions to the commander of the expedition, for the establishment of "Rules for the Vessels of the Niger Expedition," this very necessary measure is thus alluded to: "When the hold of each compartment has been completely cleared, the bottom seen thoroughly and properly dried, it may then be restowed, in such a manner that any of its contents may be instantly removed in the event of disease breaking out, for which a local cause is suspected. In drying the holds the process, will be much aided by throwing the whole force of the plenum impulse upon one compartment at a time."
On the 31st, at noon, the latitude was 24° north, longtitude 20° 10 west, maximum of thermometer during the day 76° Fahr., minimum 68° Fahr. In the evening crossed the tropic of Cancer. The trade-breeze blew strong on the 3d of June, and the atmosphere was foggy, the hygrometer at 9 a.m. indicated a difference of 7° between the dew point and temperature of the air. In the forenoon the heights of the island of Saint Antonio, in the Cape de Verds, were seen indistinctly through the haze; about one it cleared away, and we saw St. Vincent, right-a-head; about two, rounded the northern point of the bay, where were waiting our arrival, H.M.S. Soudan, and the Harriott transport, the latter loaded with stores for the expedition.
At Porto Grande, island of St. Vincent. Porto Grande, said to be the finest harbour of the Cape de Verds, is situated on the north-west side of St. Vincent. Its form is nearly circular, containing an area of about sixteen square miles. Near the outer limit of the bay there is a pyramidical rock, called "Bird Island." Nova Mendillo is the name given to the wretched town, which consists of about fifty rude huts, lying at the entrance of a valley, which may be said to intersect the northern part of the island, from Porto Grande to the sea on the opposite side. We found the governor, Leon John Bands, a very obliging and rather intelligent man; he is an officer in the Portuguese service, under the immediate command of the Governor-general of the Cape de Verds, who usually resides at St. Jago. The population of St. Vincent is about 590, enjoying excellent health, and, according to the governor’s account, there are some remarkable instances of longevity among them. During the previous year the deaths were a woman about a hundred years old, and three young children. The inhabitants are chiefly Portuguese Creoles, and Negroes, with an intermixture of the two, who seem to drag out a miserable existence. Their principal employments are fishing, burning shells for lime, and collecting the "lichen orchella," a dye of some value, which is sent to Lisbon. A small quantity of cotton is grown on the island. In the interior some goats are seen among the rocks; they afford but little milk, are lean and ill conditioned, their means of subsistence being very scanty. The whole island presents a nearly uniform, arid, and desolate aspect. Dr. Vogel, the botanist of the expedition, after great perseverance, found from twenty-five to thirty species of plants among the mountains. The north-east trade constantly blows over the island, and often with great violence. This circumstance, added to the long absence of rain during the year, is fatal to the cultivation of a soil, which, in some of the valleys, is, in other respects, favorable to it.
The rainy season sets in about the middle of July, and ends about the same time in October. The governor informed me that vegetation sprung up rapidly in many of the valleys, but that it was arrested immediately upon the cessation of the rains.
Salt is found on the rocks, and sometimes at a considerable height above the sea, produced by the evaporation of the spray thrown up by the waves. It is gathered by the natives.
Water is by no means abundant, and the quality is indifferent. It drips down the sides of the rocks and is received into what accidental cavities may be formed. On the north-east side of the town there are two wells, which, while we were there, contained but little water. But it is to be observed that this was towards the end of the dry season.
Live stock is to be obtained; consisting of goats and fowls. Beef and vegetables are readily sent from the adjoining island, Saint Antonio.
About forty-five children were vaccinated at St. Vincent; thirty in the town by Mr. Marshall, acting-surgeon of the Soudan, and fifteen in the country by myself.
The island may be said to resemble an irregular rhomboid. Its longest diameter extends from north-east to south-west. It contains three principal mountain ranges, and is intersected by two great valleys; the one running from north-west to east-north-east, and the other from east to west. Dr. Stanger found the altitude of the highest mountain to be 2465 feet by accurate barometric measurement.
The formation of the island is chiefly of the older lavas, traversed in all directions by basaltic dykes. The summits of the mountain are nearly all capped with basalt.
Round the bases of the volcanic cones, at the south-east extremity of the island, the lava is in many places upheaved, as if by a force insufficient to effect complete disruption of the surface, but is raised here and there, forming caverns underneath with small external apertures. In one of these a human skeleton was found, which, from the shape of the skull we concluded to be African. From the north-east to the south-east point there are eight craters, all of comparatively recent origin.
Shells are found in a thin bed of limestone at the south side of the bay. The limestone bed is upraised by a hill of tufa, which is cut through by basalt. At some distance from the hill, on the sea shore, the bed lies horizontally six feet above the level of the sea, and gradually rises, in the direction of the "Fort Hill," to the height of forty feet on every side.
At Porto Grande, arrangements were made for some of the future operations of the squadron; many of the stores were removed from the Harriott transport to the ships of the Expedition. The holds of the vessels were cleared, the bottoms swept thoroughly and dried.
It would be beneficial to the cruisers on the west coast, were they to call at Porto Grande, which offers every safety and convenience for this purpose, on their way out, and have their holds cleared and cleansed. It is well known to most officers, that from the hurried manner in which ships often leave England, a quantity of shavings, pitch, and other filth, is not unfrequently left in the holds. This, from want of opportunity, may not be got rid of for twelve or eighteen months, and is thus left to pass through the various grades of decomposition in the bottom of the vessel. Moral impressions are intimately connected with the maintenance of health, as well as with the production of disease; a conviction that the ship herself is "sweet," that there is nothing in her to generate disease, will, I am persuaded, go far to fortify men against the evils of the coast climate.
One man belonging the Soudan was invalided for ulcer at this place. A melancholy accident happened in the Wilberforce. I had been on board the Wilberforce for some time in the morning making some experiments on ventilation with Dr. Pritchett. Some alterations that we resolved upon making, in the arrangement of the valves, were pointed out to a man named Morley. He was young, healthy, and remarkably intelligent. I had just returned on board the Albert when my attention was called, by a movement on deck, to the Wilberforce. Morley and another man had just fallen from a stage alongside; Morley at once sunk, and the other man was with difficulty dragged on board. All attempts to raise the body of poor Morley were unsuccessful, until James Haughton, seaman, heroically dived to the bottom, (a depth of seven fathoms,) and hooking on the body to a grapnel brought it up.
The usual means for resuscitation, including electricity, were employed in vain. The body had been in the water about twenty minutes.
The following are extracts from the general orders which were issued at St. Vincent, by Captain Trotter, "for the information and guidance of the commanders and other officers of the Expedition."
1st. The Admiralty having spared no expense in providing the vessels of the Expedition with an expensive ventilating apparatus, it becomes the duty of all to make themselves acquainted with the system, as fully explained in Dr. Reid’s paper, and to use their utmost endeavours to carry the plan fully into operation, in order to make it as extensively useful as possible for the health and comfort of the crews.
2d. The principal arrangement is to be placed under the charge of the surgeon of each vessel, who is to follow the rules and suggestions contained in Dr. Reid’s valuable paper, and is to apply to the commander to appoint a competent individual to instruct, under his directions, a sufficient number of persons for the management of the various valves and slides of the ventilating tubes. These should be numbered to ensure an effective and easy adjustment. Odd numbers on the starboard, and even numbers on the port side, beginning from aft, is the plan adopted in the Albert. The persons having charge of the different sections of the vessel should be fully instructed to report any apparent increase or diminution in the ventilation of the compartments under their charge.
3d. The ventilation should be practised frequently, even when its beneficial effect is not required, and as many persons as possible should be encouraged to learn the principle upon which it acts, by putting into operation the various movements.
4th. The powers of the fanners ought to be tested: 1. In producing a circulation of air introduced into the vessel, directly from the external atmosphere. 2. In propelling the heated air of the engine-room into the hold and various compartments, as first practised in the Wilberforce. 3. As connected with the medicator or purificator. 4. In connexion with the tubular heating apparatus attached to the purificator, or simply connected with the external tube leading to the fanner.
5th. The commanders are to direct the surgeons to send reports to them in writing from time to time, showing the results of the trials of the ventilation, and these reports are to be carefully preserved.
6th. 1. Dr. Reid’s general rule, No. 2, is not only to be strictly attended to every day, but one hold is also to be examined daily by the surgeon, (excepting on Sunday,) and the state of the air reported to the commander, in order that every compartment may come under particular inspection during the week.
7th. 1. To avoid as much as possible any unnecessary exposure to the night air, the white men are all to sleep below, when on the coast or up the river, and are on no account to be permitted to lie about the upper deck. 2. The Kroomen alone are to sleep on deck, to whom every facility should be given to protect them from the rain. It might be advisable, when practicable, to fit up a canoe or boat, moored alongside, or astern of the ship, for the accommodation of the Kroomen, when the vessels are at anchor, and much crowded on deck. 3. As few white men as the performance of the duty will admit of, are to remain on deck during the night, particularly when rain or much dew is falling. Those who are obliged to be on deck on duty, will be supplied, when in unhealthy localities, with respirators, and a fire is then to be kept all night in the cook-house for their benefit.
8th. As the hottest hours of the day are comprehended between eleven and three o’clock, the white men should be exposed to the sun as little as possible during that period.
9th. 1. Exposure on shore in Africa to the morning and evening dews, and the night air having proved even more prejudicial to health than the intense action of the sun’s rays, no white person belonging to the expedition, after arrival on the coast, is to be on shore between sunset, and an hour after sunrise, unless with my permission, or that of the senior officer present, who is not to grant it, unless when duties are unattainable at other times, and care must be taken by the respective commanding officers that the unavoidable exposure of white men on shore at night be reduced to the least possible amount. 2. The above precautions are considered necessary on the coast generally, but more especially in the Delta of the Niger, where the exciting causes of disease are to be regarded as acting with increased energy, and all possible means are to be used for obviating their injurious effects. It is to be hoped the climate above the Delta will be found to be such as will admit of this restriction being modified.
10th. Boats or canoes going alongside their own or other vessels, are to be directed to take the shady side, in order to avoid, as much as possible, the exposure of the boats and crews to the rays of the sun.
11th. Dress. The commanders may give permission to the officers of the ships under their command to wear uniform jackets, and white hats or caps on shore or on board.
12th. Dress. 1. Duck frocks and trousers are to be worn by the white men during the day in fine weather, with flannel next to the skin. Each man must also be provided with two broad flannel waist-belts, so that he may be enabled to have a dry one continually round his body. 2. The men’s hats are to be of white straw, with a packing, or defence of some sort, under the crown, to prevent the injurious action of the sun’s rays upon the head. The white men are not allowed to go aloft without the officer of the watch seeing that they have attended to this necessary regulation.
13th. The crews are to be mustered before sunset, when the white men are to be clothed in their blanket dresses for the night, in addition to flannel clothing underneath.
14th. In cases of any of the men getting wet, the officer under whose charge they have been employed is particularly charged to muster and report them in dry clothing, before they are allowed to go below. If the weather is not suitable for the clothes being hung in the rigging, a place on deck must be pointed out where they may be deposited.
15th. As all surfaces giving out moisture by evaporation are injurious to health, open vessels of of water, wet clothing, officer’s towels, &c., should never be allowed to remain below, nor the crew permitted to wash themselves on the lower deck.
16th. While the steam-vessels of the expedition are at an anchor on the coast of Africa, and in the Niger, and more especially in the Delta, and other unhealthy places, a cup of warm coffee is to be given in the morning to each European, whenever the surgeon thinks it advisable, and also to such of the black men as the surgeon may think require it; to make which, one third of an ounce of coffee and one third of an ounce of sugar are to be issued as an extra allowance.
17th. And as it is most desirable to encourage temperate habits on board the steam-vessels of the expedition, more especially with a view to the preservation of health, it is my direction that such individuals as do not take up spirits, be supplied daily with the established allowance of lemon-juice and sugar, except when their allowance of grog shall be stopped for punishment.
18th. The Kroomen are allowed only two-thirds proportion of spirits, which is always to be mixed with at least three waters, but as an encouragement to them also, not to take up their allowance, they are to be paid for any such savings, at the rate of six shillings per gallon; thus making their savings at two thirds allowance of all spirits, calculated at this rate, equal to full allowance, at four shillings per gallon. This order is not to apply to savings payable to the sick mess.
19th. It is my direction that the issues of the following species of provisions on salt-meat days be regulated from the time of arrival on the coast of Africa by the following scale, observing that cranberries and pickled cabbage (which are to be considered as an extra allowance) are to be issued only in proportion to the salt meat actually taken up, and that the pickles are not to be served with pork, unless when salt meat shall have been issued the day before.
|Days.||Salt Beef||Salt Pork||Flour, &c.||Peas||Pickled Cabbage||Cranberries||Sugar for cranberries||Coffee||Sugar|
|1. Salt Meat day.||¾||.||¾||.||1||2||¾||⅓||⅓|
20th. Preserved meats are to be issued to the companies of Her Majesty’s steam-vessels of the Niger expedition on Sundays and Thursdays whenever the crews shall have been two days previously on salt meat, or if more palatable to the crew, it may be divided into halves, and served in four days of the week, mixed with salt meat, without interfering with the scale in the last order regulating the issues of pickles and cranberries.
21st. Wine and quinine may be given to the men occasionally in lieu of wine and bark, and its issue may be extended to the whole crew when thought desirable by the surgeon.
22d. Unless absolutely necessary, the hammocks are not to be piped up in Africa until sunrise, which in the Niger is always about six o’clock, and when recommended by the surgeon a cup of coffee is to be given to every man before going on deck. The hammocks are to be left unlashed for a quarter of an hour, and then lashed up and taken on deck, and the duties of the ship proceeded with.
23d. As ill consequences often arise from persons taking large draughts of cold water when thirsty, a small measure is always to be kept at the filterer or tank, and used by the ship’s company, and no other is to be used by the men for this purpose.
24th. The water of the Niger having been proved to contain much animal and vegetable matter ought not to be used for drinking until boiled, and a little lime added to it to purify it.
25th. As it is extremely desirable to ascertain what constitutions seem best adapted to the climate of Africa, the surgeons of the respective ships are to be desired, as a measure preparatory to future observations, to note, according to the annexed form, the previous history, age, temperament, &c., of each individual on board.
|Trade or occupation||How long at sea||How long abroad, and in what climate||What diseases he has already suffered from||If any disease in the family to which he belongs||Vaccinated||Re-vaccinated||Married or unmarried||Temperament||General appearance||Height|
|Merchant service||Men of war||Ft.||In.|
June 16th. Sailed in the evening from Porto Grande, with a strong north-east trade-wind, the Albert rolling heavily all night. Next day at two p.m. we were under the lee of the island of Fogo*, near the town, which is built on a precipitous bank of lava. At five we were quite close to the land, which still preserved the same character as that near the town, when a cloud of a dirty brownish colour was seen at some distance ahead of the ship. The temperature of the atmosphere was at once sensibly increased, and in a few minutes it became oppressively hot. We were, in short, in a cloud of dust which had been projected from an active volcano on the island. The average heat as indicated by a series of thermometers in various parts of the ship’s deck was as follows:
|Temperature.||Dry Bulb.||Wet Bulb.|
|Second ditto, three minutes afterwards||96.0||96.5||66.5|
|Third ditto, 4 minutes after second observation||96||96.0||66.0|
Temperature at the bottom (five fathoms deep) 78° Fahr. When in the cloud, solutions of sulphate of copper, nitrate of silver, and nitrate of baryta were exposed in flat plates. Distinct white pellicles were formed upon the surface of the barytic solution, but on the other plates no change was observed.*. Every one being on deck, the barometer was not watched, but the state of the sky two hours before drew attention to the sympiesometer when the readings were, at 2h. 30m. p.m. 29.86in.; at 2h. 50, 29.80in.; at 3h., 29.78in.; at 3h. 20, 29.74in.
At seven, p.m. we were clear of the island, when the thermometer stood at 76° Fahr. wet bulb, 70°. It blew hard all night, and the next day was hazy throughout. A very heavy squall was experienced during the night of the 19th. During the storm, the thermometer fell to 55° Fahr. and the weather on the succeeding day was extremely disagreeable, with very heavy rains.
At ten in the morning of the 22d June, soundings were obtained at the depth of 55 fathoms. The temperature of the sea, 17 fathoms deep, was 83° Fahr.; at the surface, 83°5 Fahr. At one p.m. bottom was found at 68 fathoms. At seven p.m. shoaling to 33 fathoms, the temperature at the bottom, as shown by a register-thermometer, and by a sounding tube for bringing up water at great depths, containing a common thermometer, was 82°, surface 82°5.
During the 23d, the water from various depths was tested, with the view of ascertaining the presence of sulphuretted hydrogen, but no evidence of the existence of that gas was afforded; it was rather squally in the evening, and heavy clouds bounded the horizon. The next morning was fine. At day-break, the summits of the undulating mountain range of Sierra Leone, were indistinctly apparent through the haze. As the sun rose, we were gradually approaching the "beautifully diversified" Sierra Leone. Rounding the Cape, the villages Wilberforce, Aberdeen, and Murray were passed in succession, and each seemed to vie with the other in beauty and variety of feature, and in luxuriancy of vegetation. In a short time we were off Freetown, the capital. To the voyager who has been for weeks traversing the wilderness of the ocean, the scene here is of the most pleasing and captivating kind. The spacious river, with its numerous creeks and islets; the town more immediately surrounded by richly-cultivated patches, the streets running upwards in regular lines, crossed by others at right angles; the fine white-looking buildings connected with the government offices; the military hospital and barracks higher up: the whole inclosed, as it were, behind, by a semicircle of mountains clothed in perpetual verdure, forms a portrait in nature, that contrasts strongly with the low, unvaried, dark, and uncheerful looking shore of Bullom on the opposite side.
The death of Sir John Jeremie, the governor, was the first news we heard from the black pilot. He died on the 23d of April, on the 21st day from being taken ill. His disease was fever, contracted while at Port Lokko, in the Timneh country.
June 26th. The greater part of this day I was occupied with Captain Trotter examining volunteers for the expedition. Mr. Schön was also present, and acted as interpreter. It was a most interesting and unusual sight. There seemed assembled all languages, all shades of the dark race, marked and tatooed after the mode of their various countries. Among the sable candidates to join the expedition, that day, were Kroomen, Fishmen, and Timneh-men, many of whom were selected for the duties of the ship. As interpreters, there were chosen people of the following nations: Ibu, Kakanda, Haussa, Yaruba, Bornou, Laruba, Eggarra, and Filatah.
June 28th. Sierra Leone was visited by a tornado of unusual duration, and attended with more than ordinarily fearful effects. A few minutes before eight p.m., a black ring encircled the horizon, and the whole arch of heaven seemed enveloped in gloom. A few drops of rain fell, vivid flashes of forked lightning followed, the thunder pealed over our heads, the wind blew with violence, and the rain then poured in torrents. What made most impression upon me, during this fearful war of the elements, was the frequent transition from pitchy darkness to broad glaring light. At one moment nothing in nature was visible, and in another the whole atmosphere would be suddenly illumined by lightning, so as to make objects on the streets ashore distinctly perceptible. The commissariat house was damaged in three places. Solid masses of wood that formed the angular supports of the building were shivered, one of them throughout a length of six feet, the boards that had been nailed to it were torn and destroyed. The attracting points seemed to have been the iron fastenings of the water spouts, which descend from the roof at each corner of the building. In a small village behind the barrack hill an Akou man and his wife were killed. During the tornado they had been engaged in worshipping the thunder, with the usual accompaniment of beating "tom-toms," halloing, and other noises. The hut was struck with lightning, burnt, and with it the votaries of the fearful element. Accompanied by Dr. Stanger, I visited the place next day, and the sight that presented itself was at once humiliating and appalling. The track of the lightning was apparent across the little inclosure surrounding the hut. The hut was levelled with the ground. Near it lay the dismal remnants of mortality, partly reduced to cinder. All of the muscular substance which had not been consumed by fire was like dry shrivelled fibre. The viscera protruded, were covered with flies, and in the last stage of decomposition. The bones of the head were white, as if they had been bleached for years, those of the legs were partly calcined.
The rainy season was at its height, but the place was comparatively "quite healthy." I saw a few cases of fever with my friend Mr. Fergusson, staff-surgeon. They were all captains or mates of merchant ships in the river, and were mostly convalescent. There were very few patients in the military hospital, and there was not a man sick in the squadron while we were at Sierra Leone.
At Kissey town, about four miles to the westward of Freetown, there are two hospitals for liberated Africans. Mr. Clarke, the assistant-surgeon, was kind enough to show Dr. Stanger and myself round the wards. The patients, male and female, seemed to labour chiefly under yaws, lepra, and syphilis. One portion of the establishment was set apart for mental diseases.
The rocks of Sierra Leone are of highly ferruginous sandstone and hypersthene, which latter has been described as granite. The hill on which the barracks are built consists of hypersthene, as pointed out by Dr. Stanger, who also by a barometric measurement ascertained its height to be 393 feet above the level of the sea. Magnetic iron ore is found: it is abundant on each side of the road, on the hill near to Kissey town; the soil there is also highly ferruginous, and the water courses are black with iron, in the state of powder.
The Amelia, a brigantine, condemned for having been employed in the slave trade, had been purchased for the service of the expedition some months previous to our arrival. She was in a very foul state below. On removing the limber boards, a quantity of filth was found underneath. Kroomen were for some days employed in baling out the dirty water from the hold, and in scrubbing and washing her bottom. The hatches were closely shut for about twelve hours, while chlorine was being largely disengaged below from the chloride of lime, by means of sulphuric acid.
Lieut. Harston, 2d of the Albert, was placed in the command of the Amelia, with Mr. Fairholme as mate. The house for the model farm, and various agricultural implements and provisions, were put on board of her. The ship’s company consisted almost wholly of blacks; and the greater part of the model-farm mechanics and labourers (all blacks) embarked in her.
On the 1st July the Amelia weighed, and shortly afterwards anchored off Cape Point, the Wilberforce and Soudan left the next morning, as did also the Albert, in a few hours afterwards. In the afternoon the squadron was making all speed for Cape Mesurado.
July 3d. In the afternoon met H.M.S. Ferret, with the commander and many of her crew laid up with fever. Mr. Mottley, the assistant-surgeon, had died the day before.
On the night of the 3d July a melancholy accident occurred. Samuel Johnson, a fine active young seaman, fell from the fore-yardarm to the deck, while furling the sail. When taken below he was in a state of total insensibility, the pupils were dilated, and could not be excited to contraction. There was copious bleeding from the nose, the breathing was stertorous, and the feet were cold. The pulse was small and indistinct. No fracture of the cranium was detected. The olecranon of the right ulna was broken off. He died in an hour and a half, with all the symptoms of compression of the brain.
On the morning of the 5th July we anchored near Cape Mesurado, about a mile from the bar of the river.
Dr. Stanger and I, after getting thoroughly wet in crossing the bar, landed at Monrovia about twelve o’clock, where we were kindly received by Governor Buchanan, and Dr. Day, the medical officer of the establishment. The latter was suffering from intermittent fever, but he introduced me to a gentleman of colour, who conducted us through the settlement. Fourteen children were vaccinated, and Dr. Day was good enough to say he would look after them.
The colony of Liberia, of which Monrovia is the capital, originated in the American Civilization Society, which was founded at Washington in 1816. The objects of the philanthropic individuals composing the society were to afford the free people of colour in the States, by this time amounting to about two hundred thousand, fair scope for the exercise of their industry and talents, in the prosecution of agricultural and commercial pursuits. Cape Mesurado, on the peninsula of which Monrovia stands, was not occupied until 1822. The town is built within two miles of the Cape, (which is about eighty feet above the level of the sea,) at the mouth of the river Mesurado, where it is joined by the Stockton branch of the Saint Paul’s. It contains eight hundred inhabitants. The exuberance of vegetation is such, that the citizens are required by law to have a general weeding of the streets once in three weeks. There are three places of worship, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, and the other Wesleyan: there are also two public schools. Two newspapers are published here: the Liberia Herald is edited monthly by Dr. Day, and Africa’s Luminary once a fortnight by Dr. Goheen.
Remittent and intermittent fevers are endemic here. I must not omit to mention, that we met with a missionary at the governor’s who was proceeding from Cape Palmas to Sierra Leone for the benefit of his health!
The exports are palm oil, camwood, and ivory. Coffee is also being extensively cultivated.
The peninsula of the cape is about thirty-six miles long, and from one and a half to three miles in breadth. The rocks are of highly ferruginous sandstone, (similar to that of Sierra Leone,) which appears to have been cut through by greenstone. At the landing-place near the town, the rock is weathered to a great depth, and presents a curiously grooved appearance, evidently the result of aqueous action.
It rained almost incessantly while we were at Monrovia, so that we were not induced to go on shore more than once, although we did not leave until the evening of July 6th, having previously engaged a cotton planter for the model farm to be established at the confluence of the Niger and Tchadda [present name: Benué river].
Viewed from the sea, this place presents a densely-wooded plain; the back ground is nearly of the same character. The termination of the river is exceedingly beautiful, being upwards of half a mile broad, and dotted with richly-clad islets. The mangrove flourishes on the banks, sending downwards its manifold shoots, which form a thicket of lattice-work between the river and the shore. The inhabitants of Sinoe are Bluebarra people, who are said to have migrated from a tribe in the interior, Fishmen, and a few Kroomen. There is also an American settlement called Greenwell, situated on a tongue of land, running betwixt the river and the sea, occupied by colonists from Mississippi, who emigrated thither about five years since.
According to information which Mr. Lewis, one of the settlers, has obtained from an old and very intelligent native, who has been further up the river than any other person at Sinoe, it would appear that about eighteen or twenty miles from the mouth there is a "fall;" that the river is navigable for a long way in the interior; and that in its course it traverses rich districts, which are peopled by powerful tribes. The villages on each side of the river have, according to the same authority, been inhabited by the Bluebarra people and Fishmen, who have intermarried, for the last sixty years.
The huts are of a quadrangular form, the roofs tapering to a point, on which there are fishes carved in wood, and other articles of "Gree Gree" worship. The walls of the hut are made of bamboo, neatly interlaced with palm leaves, of which the roof is entirely composed; the floor, which is also formed of bamboo, is raised three feet from the ground; and above this the hut is usually divided into compartments. They are all more or less furnished: in some there is a fair assortment of European dishes, looking-glasses, &c., but all are provided with a fireplace, and mats, earthen pots and calabashes, with the trunk of a tree hollowed out for grinding corn. The women are generally seen lolling at the door and other apertures of the hut, with their faces besmeared with a yellowish powder, which gives them a most unseemly look. A piece of cotton cloth passing round the loins and reaching to the knee, completes their dress; and the neck and the middle are occasionally ornamented with strings of beads.
The Fishmen and Kroomen are tattooed alike. A broad blueish line passes from the roots of the hair over the forehead, terminating at the tip of the nose. Sometimes there is a circle with a star in the centre at the outer angle of each eye, in place of this there are occasionally a few crescentic lines, concave, and having a dart pointed towards the eye. The body is covered with all sorts of figures, comprehending human heads, fish, ships, arrows, tobacco pipes, &c. An ivory wristlet, and a leopard’s tooth, or a piece of fish skin, are especial articles of "Gree Gree." Their general form and physiognomy are the same, but the Kroomen say no, and the Fishmen point to a swelling on the inside of the outer ankle, as a "true Fishman mark." This assumed mark of distinction is not invariably present, but I have certainly observed it in a great number of Fishmen. It consists of a protrusion of the tendons of the extensor muscle of the toes, through a rupture of the sheath, which is induced by the continued strain exerted upon it, from the attitude of the Fishman in his canoe, where he rests nearly altogether on the upper part of the foot, bent under the ankle.
The Kroomen and Fishmen speak the same language, and originally belonged to the same tribe: yet they not unfrequently make war against each other. On our first arrival at Sinoe there was a rumour of "war palaver," owing, as a Fishman admitted to me, to one of his countrymen having stolen a Krooman’s wife. Tom Bull, our head Krooman, would not trust himself on shore at Sinoe, until fully assured by his friends that the "palaver" was over.
The Kroomen and Fishmen, according to their means, have an indefinite number of wives: both of them worship the devil. "God," they say, "does nothing but good:* he can do no evil. The devil can do evil only, and is therefore to be feared." On this account they propitiate the devil by votive offerings of various kinds. Such is also the worship of the Sherbro, and several other tribes on the west coast. The Kroo doctors are believed to be inspired: they give drink to the sick, but their principal mode of cure is by the influence of "Fetishes."
The American settlers describe Sinoe as healthy, with the exception of occasional visitations of fever, which occur during February, March, and April (in the dry season). The vapours from the mangrove swamps can only be wafted to the village by a south-east wind, which fortunately seldom takes place.
The native population is about five hundred, and that of the colonists seventy-two.
Rocks, &c. On the south-east side of the Sinoe river there is a hill of gneiss, through which veins of granite cut. On the north side the land is low; and the rocks are also of gneiss. A short way up the river there is a hilly mass of gneiss cut through by greenstone.
July 15th. Having obtained a good supply of firewood the Albert weighed at nine in the morning. In the course of the day we passed part of the Kroo country, which seems to be less wooded than other parts of the coast; the land is however higher: we observed one tree of remarkable height. A long scattered line of lights was seen in the evening on the shore.
Next morning we were off Cape Palmas; at noon in shoal-water; the temperature of the sea was 75°.5 Fahr.; of the air 82° Fahr.: the day previous, the thermometer in the air was also 82°; and in the water of the sea, 81° Fahr., showing the difference of 5°.5 in the temperature of deep and shallow water; The weather was beautiful, and the current favorable, during the passage to Cape Coast Castle, where we arrived on the morning of the 19th of July, having been for the latter twenty-four hours under sail only.
Cape Coast Castle. At this place the Ashanti princes, John Ansah and William Quantamissah, took up their abode with the governor, Mr. M‘Lean, until the King of Ashanti should be informed of their arrival, and enabled to make the necessary arrangements for their journey to Kumasi, the capital of the kingdom. The town of Cape Coast is built on an acclivity, and is said to contain upwards of five thousand inhabitants. The houses, with the exception of those belonging to the merchants, are constructed of mud: some of the better sort are two stories high. The streets are cut up by deep water-courses, formed by the rivulets rushing down from the high land behind, during the rainy season. To the eastward, in the direction of Annamaboo, the land is undulating and hilly. There is also high land to the westward of the town, but there also is a greater extent of flat ground, which is in many places overflooded during the rains. While we were there the road, at a distance of two miles from the town, was almost impassable.
At the distance of nine miles there is an estate, which for some years has been in the hands of Mr. Swanzey, a merchant at Cape Coast. During the Ashanti war in 1823, this place, which is named Napoleon, was completely destroyed. Part of the ground was afterwards converted into a garden by Governor White, and now there are about one hundred acres under cultivation: the soil is gravelly, with good loam. The coffee-trees, of which there are four thousand, promise well. There are also oranges, plantains, bananas, limes, citrons, vines, cassada, Barbadoes cherry, soursop, sweet-apple, custard-apple, pine-apple, figs, bread-fruit, nut, and other fruits. About eight acres are occupied by corn alone.
The weather was in general fine during the day, but there were heavy fogs in the mornings and evenings. The rains were gradually abating. The Governor, with his usual kindness, allowed me to copy twelve months of the meteorological record, kept at the castle.
The rains commence in April, and are particularly heavy, accompanied with tornadoes in May and June. About the end of July the rains begin to subside, and the weather becomes hazy, until about the end of October when the dry season sets in.
The climate here proved extremely fatal to the white troops, who were for some years employed in the garrison.
The rock, upon which the Castle is built, and upon which the sea constantly dashes, is granite; graphic granite, the felspar of a beautifully opalescent character, is found in the streets. Gold is brought from the interior, generally in a minute granular form: it is occasionally washed out from the mud of the small rivulets in the streets.
In the Cape Coast government are included the settlements of Dixcove, nearly sixty miles to the westward, and those of Annamaboo and Accra, the one ten miles and the other about sixty miles to the eastward of the Castle: but the influence of Governor M'Lean, among the natives extends far beyond those limits. Tribes, a long way in the interior, voluntarily pay deference to his authority, and come to him to reconcile discords, which would otherwise terminate in an appeal to the war-club. While we were at Cape Coast two Akim chiefs arrived at the Castle to have a palaver settled. The one was accused by the other of having killed some of his people, merely to avenge a supposed invasion of territory. Each chief was attended by his sword-bearer, his cane-bearer, and tail-bearer, and about two hundred other followers of various ages. Aggry, the old caboceer of Cape Coast, was also present: he had endeavoured to act as mediator, but in vain. Each chief stated his case, through an interpreter, to the governor. Perfect silence was maintained all the while, by both parties, who patiently awaited the governor’s judgment. The old men, in whom the fire of youth was in a measure extinguished, looked reserved and stern; but the keen black eyes of the younger warriors were rivetted upon the governor, as if their lives depended upon the issue. The governor’s decision, by which both parties were punished, and bound to keep peace, was received without a murmur. They then withdrew, with loud plaudits, and beating of drums, each party bearing their chief in a kind of palanquin, placed on their shoulders.
Governor M'Lean has established in the Castle an observatory, a printing-office, and a school, where upwards of one hundred and fifty negro children are daily taught reading, writing, and arithmetic.*
Hie jacet sepultum,
omne quod mortale fuit
Letitiae Elizabethae M'Lean,
Quam egregia ornatam indole, Musis
unice amatam, Omniumque amores
secum trahentem: in ipso aetatis flore,
mors immatura rapuit.
Die Octobris xv, mdcccxxxviii. AEtatis xxxvi mo.
Quod spectas viator marmor vanum heu doloris monumentum
Conjux moerens erexit.
On the 24th of July, Thomas Kemp, a private marine, who had been for some time complaining of phthisical symptoms, was invalided.
Some Kroomen were here added to the expedition, and an intelligent native, named Brown, who had been up the Niger with Lander. The Wilberforce arrived on the 26th July. There were several cases of fever on board, of which disorder they had lost one man of colour, entered in England; one man had also died of apoplexy: the cases occurred almost entirely among the blacks, who had been a good deal exposed during rough weather, while wooding and watering at Grand Bassa.
July 30th. Sailed in the evening, in company with the Soudan, and the following day anchored at Accra.
The country round Accra is an extensive plain, which is nearly clear of bush: it cannot be said to be much cultivated; but it produces abundance of excellent yams, Indian corn, ground-nuts; pineapples and other fruits are also yielded in considerable quantities. On the flat ground betwixt English and Danish Accra, the most remarkable features are the ant-hills, which are seen in great numbers: they are of an irregular pyramidal form, varying in height from four to twelve feet. The whole plain is dry and sandy, with a thin layer of vegetable soil.
Half a mile to the westward of the English fort there is a salt lake, about a mile in extent, running inland from within a short distance of the sea.
Accra, in common with the rest of the Gold Coast, has been said to enjoy a comparative degree of immunity from fever and other diseases, so inimical to Europeans on other stations of the west coast of Africa. But in the Statistical Report of Major Tulloch we find that "so fatal did the station prove, that in 1827 it became necessary to withdraw the troops, and leave it in possession of one of the resident merchants, with local military rank, who now hires a few natives for its defence."
The rocks near the town consist of beds of sandstone, lying horizontally. In the higher land in the interior, Dr. Stanger found granite and quartz rocks.
On the 4th of August we left Accra, and on the 10th all the vessels, including the Amelia schooner, and Harriott transport, were anchored within five miles of the mouth of the Nun branch of the Niger. The weather was rainy, and there was a heavy swell of sea, causing the ships to roll much, and thereby retarding the transference of the various stores from the transport to the steam-vessels.
At this period there were none on the sick lists of the Albert, Soudan, and Amelia; and the cases of fever on board the Wilberforce, contracted when wooding and watering at Grand Bassa, were all, with one exception, convalescent.
The following is a list of officers, seamen, and marines, of men of colour, of various nations, who joined the expedition in England; and of Kroomen and liberated African boys entered on the Coast, who were on board H.M.S. Albert, Wilberforce, Soudan, and Amelia, on their entrance into the Nun branch of the river Niger.
|H. M. Ships.||Officers, including Civilians and Engineers.||Number of white Seamen.||Number of Marines and Sappers.||Total Number of Whites.||Men of colour entered in England.||Kroomen and liberated Africans entered on the Coast.||Blacks for Model Farm.||Total Blacks.||Grand Total.|
|Total of each class||53||63||29||145||25||110||23||158||303|
Albert. Two officers, two seamen, and two marines were discharged into the Amelia, one marine was invalided at Cape Coast, and one seaman was killed by a fall; two seamen were entered on the Coast.
Wilberforce. One officer was discharged into the Amelia, two seamen were discharged on the Coast, and one was drowned at St. Vincent; two coloured men died on the Coast, one from fever, and the other from apoplexy.
Soudan. Had one seaman invalided at St. Vincent, one coloured man drowned, and one seaman was discharged.