William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition
William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition

Royal Navy1841 Niger expeditionBookChapter I ◄► Chapter III



The 'Wilberforce' leaves Fernando Po - Visits Prince's Island - Madame Ferreira - Island of St. Thomas - A Yankee skipper - llha das Rollas - Souffleurs - Variety of pigeons - Wild boars - Negro residents - Their superstitions - Watering place, St. Thomas - Monkey plum-tree - Annobone - Governor Tom Joe, his prerogatives - A noisy market afloat - Singular religious procession - Poverty of the inhabitants - Appearance of the town - Guinea-fowlshooting - Visit to the Mountain lake - Gothic arch of palm trees - Scarcity of fuel - Flying fish - Ascension - Its desolate look - Magnetic observations - Proceedings at that island - Arrival of Her Majesty's brig 'Buzzard' - Melancholy information respecting the 'Albert' - Reported murder of Mr. Carr, and attack on the settlers at the Model Farm.

H.M.S.V. 'Wilberforce', October 9th, at 8 P.M., put to sea from Fernando Po in a very miserable plight, truly "more like a wreck than a man-of-war." We had hastily taken on board one hundred tons of coals,- being much more than we could stow in the bunkers. Owing to our anxiety to get away, there was not time to trim the ship, and she consequently steered so badly that until this was remedied, it was quite impossible to keep a proper course. We had no officers except Commander Wm. Allen, and one engineer lent from the 'Pluto,' assisted by one of the remaining stokers, who was fortunately able to work the engine; and there were only two seamen and a very few marines or idlers, able to do duty. We were, therefore, fortunate in having to navigate a sea where bad weather is scarcely known. The ' Pluto' was in company with us. Mr. Commissioner Cook kindly kept watch greater part of the first night.

We had a contrary wind in our voyage towards Prince's Island, which was our first stage, but the weather was fine.

October 12th.- The high land of Prince's Island was seen at daylight. In running along the coast we were much struck with the beauty and singularity of the bold peaks, clothed with wood to the very summit. Among these the "Parrot's Bill" is the most remarkable, shooting up like a gigantic crystal from the dense forest. We anchored in West Bay, surrounded by beautiful scenery. 'Pluto' had arrived before us.

The greater part of the invalids have already felt the benefit of change of air, nevertheless another death was added to our list to-day, - Serjeant Cuthbertson, of the Royal Marines, - who appeared to be recovering, suddenly relapsed, and expired in the evening. He was au excellent man, and left a widow and several children to deplore his loss.

We arranged with Madame Ferreira for a supply of firewood, which she keeps ready cut for the cruisers on the coast, at the rate of one hundred billets for a dollar.

This lady, of Portuguese parents, was the widow of the late governor, who was previously judge. With the laudable intention of introducing improvements in the cultivation and management of her estates, on her return to Prince's from a visit to Europe, she brought with her a numerous suite of white persons and their families, among whom fever soon however, made fearful ravages. Two remarkably handsome Spanish boys, like the finest conceptions of Murillo, had, since their arrival, lost their father, mother, a brother and a sister. The European gardener, his wife and three daughters, as well as the young daughter of M. Fretus, Madame Ferreira's factotum, were lying ill with the fever. The latter we saw lying on a couch,- a most interesting and picturesque object.

This enterprising lady seemed most anxious to carry into effect numerous plans for the benefit of the island, and had commenced by erecting mills for sugar, oil, and for sawing timber. Abundance of seeds brought from Spain flourished among the rocks in the garden around her house, mingled with beautiful indigenous flowers. All her property in West Bay she was desirous of selling to the English Government, alleging the persecutions of the Governor of the island, who had involved her in many lawsuits on charges - whether just or unjust we could not ascertain - of being engaged in the slave trade. However this may be, the English officers belonging to the squadron have ever been received by her with great hospitality and kindness.

The climate is unhealthy even for the natives, except in December, January, and February, when it is comparatively dry; though at West Bay it is said there is no day throughout the year without rain. Heavy mists sweeping round the lofty peaks give additional grandeur, and make them sometimes appear as if overhanging the bay. After curling and playing about the ravines of the mountains, these mists suddenly descend, and deluge the shores.

We had two new cases of fever here, though slight, as have been all those which have occurred since we left the Niger.

14th.- Having taken on board as much wood as we could stow - about two thousand billets - and water, we sailed in the evening in company with H.M. steam vessel 'Pluto.' None of our officers were as yet sufficiently recovered to do duty. We were in such a state that there are few parts of the globe where we could have ventured to put to sea. But although no bad weather was to be apprehended, we had to encounter a fresh head wind; so that we made but slow progress against it.

15th.- Very fine weather; - a delighful contrast to the heavy damp atmosphere of Prince's, which may truly be called the "watery gem of the ocean." The sick which had hitherto been all on deck under awnings were now of necessity put below, as the breeze being against us, the latter held so much wind, that until they were furled, we made but little progress. As we drew near the Island of St. Thomas, the wind altered from south-west to the eastward of south, with smooth water. After dusk the numerous lights in the fisherman's canoes had a very brilliant effect. We anchored at 8h. 30m. P.M. in four fathoms, at the north end of the Island St. Thomas, in Man-of-War Bay, where the 'Pluto' had arrived long before us.

Huts at Man-of-War Bay, Island St Thomas

The shore of the bay is lined with a dense forest, principally of cocoa-nut trees and palms, from which the natives obtain oil. The first range of hills have all the appearance of volcanic origin, being truncated cones with hollows near the summits, like craters: they are bare of wood, except in these depressions and the ravines descending from them. The sides at the other parts are covered with dry grass. In the back ground is the lofty mountain Santa Anna de Chaves, 7,000 feet high. Its highest point is a remarkable cone, with a smaller one on either hand.

We found a pretty little river, but its bar could only be crossed by boats at high water; and as the bay is very shallow, vessels lie at a considerable distance, which makes watering here a tedious operation.

Wood was not to be obtained, except from a great way inland; which was not worth the detention. We saw two or three little villages, of poor-looking huts, but the inhabitants were handsome contented-looking negroes. They had apparently plenty of live stock, and fruit in abundance. The oranges, however, though they looked fine, were generally bitter.

A very superior-looking man of colour, named Emanuele, said that the greater part of the coffee on the island was cultivated by free labour. Half of the produce goes to the proprietor and half to the cultivator. His father had five slaves, but when he came to the inheritance there only remained one, whom he sold, to prevent his loss by running away; and has since found free labour to be the best. This information was given almost unasked.

A schooner which at first had been thought to be a slaver, came to the anchorage, and proved to be an American. The master came on board to have his chronometer rated, which he confessed he did not understand. He was a very amusing person, giving the history of his life in the genuine "Sam Slick" style. On the whole he spoke in flattering terms of England, saying, "the States can stand up against the world, all but the Britishers, who were a'most too strong for them; and that was the truth, as nigh as he could speak it."

19th.- We sailed this morning from Man-of-War Bay in company with the 'Pluto.'

Several of the sick were now convalescent, and some of the officers able to do a little duty.

Nothing could be more beautiful than our little voyage close along the eastern shore of St. Thomas's Island. The town of Santa Anna de Chaves at a distance had a pretty appearance. The shores to the southward of this afforded every variety of scenery, waterfalls, hills, craggy precipices, pasturage, and rich woods. The little rocky island of Santa Anna is composed of basaltic columns, almost vertical; and a corresponding formation is seen on the adjacent shore of the larger island. Anchored in the afternoon near the Ilhas das Rollas to cut wood. Though we were close in shore, and protected from the prevalent winds, the heavy swell, which nothing could keep off, caused the vessel to roll about exceedingly.

October 21st.- Very heavy rain both yesterday and to-day suspended all operations, and has produced some new cases of slight fever. Waddington, the best man in the ship, who though in constant exertion and exposure, had escaped while in the river, had a decided attack; but the others were all doing well. Under these circumstances, as the engineers would be able to go to their duty soon, and having two extra men who were able to work the engine, it was considered advisable to detain the 'Pluto' no longer from her cruising-ground. Lieutenant Blount was therefore directed by Commander W. Allen to resume his station, Lieutenant Fishbourne, and Mr. Bowden, the secretary to the commissioners, being both quite restored to health, were sent to rejoin the 'Albert' by the 'Pluto,' as should they succeed falling in with their ship on coming down the river, Captain Trotter would find their services very opportune.

The 'Pluto' sailed at four P.M., and when passing round our bows, gave us three cheers, which our crew could only feebly respond to. A set of observations on dip and intensity were obtained, which were the more important as Commander Allen observed on the same spot at the end of 1833. There are also other reasons for this being an interesting locality for magnetic observations.

This lovely little island, about a mile square, is composed of basalt or lava. The west end shows it most distinctly in high cavernous cliffs, fringed with festoons of pendant plants. The surf dashes high, and over them, and is sent bellowing back from the caverns in spray of ever changeful forms. There are also on this side some "souffleurs" or blowers, caused by the formation of long passages in the dislocated and loosened lava, through which the sea is forced when the weather is tempestuous, and the rollers strong - making an exit at little holes eighty or ninety feet from the entrance, in high showery jets, on which the sunbeams produce the most brilliant and varied colours. The prevailing (S.W.) direction of the wind at this part very much influences the vegetation. Instead of the graceful cocoa-nut, which lines the northern shore, and strews its milky fruit in such abundance, the Pandanus appears the predominant tree a little way back; while the surface of the immediate cliff is covered with low vegetation of brilliant green, which looks like a gentleman's trimly kept lawn. Boatswain birds in great numbers were wheeling about among the spray. There are two little hills on the island: one from a distance rises like the truncated cone of an extinct volcano, the crater occupied by beautiful trees, near which we shot a great number of wild pigeons, among them were the large Columba triponigera, the head and breast plumbaceous, wings and throat vinaceous, with numerous triangular white spots, from which it receives its name; the Turtur chalcospilus, or rufous winged turtle dove; the Turtur semitorquatus, or half collared dove; the prettily marked Treon crassirostris, or thick-billed pigeon, since figured by Mr. Frazer; the large grey-headed bush shrike, Malaconotus olivaceus, in its grey, yellow, and olive plumage; the orange-breasted bush shrike, Malaconotus chrysogaster; the walking drongo, Melasoma edaloides, in sober black; but the most important are the wild poultry, which are now beginning to abound, and have already somewhat changed in appearance and cry. The natives state that they are the produce of some stock which escaped from a vessel wrecked on the island many years ago. Those we saw were extremely wild, and flew from tree to tree, uttering a cry quite different to that of the domestic fowl. In the long reedy grass which skirts the western shore, wild pigs are found, one of which we shot with the assistance of a Negro. It was a fine boar, in excellent condition, and had long twisted tusks, capable of inflicting a severe wound, which the natives said occasionally happened in hunting them. These animals were stated to have come on the island in the same way and time as the fowls, but the mode of subsistence has likewise very much changed their characteristics.

The northern shore has several little sandy bays, where shells of great beauty and variety are thrown up; unfortunately for our collections they were all dead and therefore useless, but proved that there must be an abundance in the vicinity.

This picturesque island is not a good wooding place, as the hard-wood trees are few, and at some distance from the beach; besides which, there is no water; even the few natives who settle here during the fishing season, cannot find enough for their wants in the small quantity of rain which is left in the rocky cavities, but have to substitute the milky juice of the green cocoa-nut, or palm wine,- so plentiful and easily procured. They come over from St. Thomas's Island, and make a precarious subsistence by catching turtle and fish; the latter are salted and dried in the sun. One sort of rock cod, of a fine red colour, is well favoured, and very abundant. Although brought up in the Roman Catholic religion, the negroes we saw were as full of faith in grigris or charms, as their less educated brethren on the mainland. In several places we noticed little rude objects of clay or wood fastened to sticks, near which were placed small calabashes of palm wine, and bits of fish or yam; and in passing one in a very secluded spot in the woods, the native who accompanied us, put his finger to his mouth in token of silence, and drew us slowly to one side, pointing reverentially to it as an object of religious interest.

Watering place at St Thomas's

On the 23rd we weighed, and stood over to a beautiful inlet in St. Thomas', just opposite to Rollas, which had been previously examined in a boat. Hero we purposed watering. This little gulf is surrounded on three sides by steep and richly-covered hills; and although the Ilha das Rollas lying across the entrance protects it from southerly winds, it cannot arrest the swell which rolls on to the very bottom of the gulf, and lashes with ceaseless fury the rocks all around it. There are three streams at the head of the inlet, one of which seemed to be large, as there was an uninterrupted view some distance up it; though as the whole shore was lined by surf, we did not attempt to land nor to enter with the boat. In a little recess in the rocks, overshadowed by cocoa-nuts and a great variety of other trees, a beautiful little rill was perceived tumbling over the rocks, where there is fortunately less surf, and boats can easily fill their casks by leading a hose from the shore. This place is marked by a rock covered with bright green vegetation. The view from it is one of the most beautiful we have seen. The inlet is perfectly land-locked and would hold a navy.

"Sly nooks and solitary bays,
And coves wherein when peering strays
The dwindled ship, her sails drop dead
In sudden calm and darkness shed.
From red cliffs sulphur-stained with lichens hoar,
Whose many-cornered fronts above her frowning roar."

This part of the island is well wooded, but does not present much dense underwood. One of the trees, apparently a spondia, was covered with a yellow oblong fruit, having an acid and somewhat resinous flavour; the natives said it was the monkey's plum-tree; and as if to confirm the statement, some of these active little people made their appearance in the branches, but not near enough to be shot. They were of a dark brown colour, with a good deal of white about the upper part of the face. Although they allowed the unarmed natives to approach somewhat close, they kept playing with us at hide-and-seek, until we left them in despair. Wild pigeons an doves are so abundant, that in the evening, at which time they move about to procure food, we brought them down as fast as we could load and fire; and not only were they fine in plumage, but useful for the sick, some of whom were convalescing and quite ready for a little additional fresh food. Having obtained sufficient water and fuel for present use, we made the circuit of the island, to try the strength of the engineers, before returning to our former anchorage, to spend a quiet Sunday; but the rollers would not suffer us to be quite at rest. Heavy torrents of rain made us anxious to get away, especially as this did not prove to be so good a halting-place for the sick to recover as had been anticipated. Though most of our new cases were of a slight nature, one had taken a turn for the worse, and was in great danger.

October 25th.- Took the vessel over again to the inlet to complete the water. We filled the tanks very easily in the afternoon, by leading a hose from the little stream to the boats, as the unceasing swell rendered it difficult for the men to carry the baricoes backwards and forwards, and it was necessary for the safety of the boat to have her lying at a little distance. The 'Wilberforce' was anchored very close to the rocks in five fathoms, the trips were therefore made quickly, notwithstanding the torrents of rain which fell. This however, did not suspend the exertions of the Krumen, who work cheerfully in either sun or rain. As the neighbouring beach at Rollas is covered with broken shells in great variety, we tried whether anything could be brought up from the bottom by means of the trawl; but after seeking in every direction, we only succeeded in bringing up one shell, - a murex, and some pieces of coral, which the iron dredge broke off the bottom, dragging with them also bits of tufa, the habitations of small mollusca.

October 26th.- Cloudy morning, weighed at day-light, and stood back to Rollas, where, as it is probable the 'Albert' will touch here, a letter was left for Captain Trotter, advising him of our proceedings, and pointing out where wood and water were to be obtained. To ensure its delivery, and as a return for his civility, we gave the head man of the little fishing establishment a trifling present. The settlement only contained four persons, who have about equal pretensions to the title of lawful chief, but they cordially united in thanking us for this unexpected piece of generosity.

Took our departure from the little isle of Rollas, where we had spent a week very pleasantly and profitably. Although there were some relapses, and even new cases, there was a decided improvement in the general state of our sick. The superiority of the climate south of the Equator, was very apparent as we advanced; some have even said that the sick feel the benefit immediately on crossing the Line. This appears paradoxical, but from whatever cause, the improvement was palpable with us. The wind being strong against us, we made but slow progress.

October 27th.- Saw the land of Annobone at daylight, but did not reach the anchorage till the afternoon, as in addition to the obstacle of a head wind, the wood we had procured at Rollas was so wet, that it was with difficulty the steam could be kept up.

On nearing the island we observed the town in a state of great commotion; a few canoes cautiously pushed off from the beach, and ne man, who called himself the Governor's mate, ventured on board, to ascertain if we were English or Spaniards. He was very anxious to possess himself of the Captain's name, and that of the vessel - as they speak a little English - and caught the sounds with great facility, but converted 'Wilberforce' into William-first, having been familiar with the name of His late Majesty; and these simple islanders pride themselves in owning no allegiance, but a voluntary one to the British Sovereign.

The Governor's Mate having satisfied himself, waved his hat towards the shore, to signify that all was right, when in a few minutes crowds of men, women, and children, wore seen rushing to the beach, numerous canoes were pushed off from three points, and in a very few more we were surrounded by about sixty, containing from one to four men each, laden with goats, pigs, fowls, bananas, plantains, cassada, sweet potatoes, pines, tamarinds, but very few yams. The Governor himself came off; clad - as were most of the natives, fortunate enough to possess them - in portions of European dress. He was distinguished from the commonalty by a flowing scarlet robe.

We were absolutely stunned by vociferations from nearly two hundred human throats, in addition to the bleating, squeaking, and cackling, of the more numerous specimens of inferior grades in the scale of creation. This ultra-Babel strepito seemed to bid defiance to any moderately civilized ear in attempting to distinguish the one from the other.

The only thing that could be surmised was, that the humans were calling our attention to the admirable qualities of pork and mutton in their quadruped companions, while the latter were disclaiming any ambition for such flattering distinction. A more disinterested motive, however, actuated our congeners, and when something like silence was obtained by Governor Tom Joe,- who constituted himself the "mouth" of his 200 countryman,- and seemed desirous of concentrating the combined power of their lungs in his own throat;- we found that solicitude for our safety had excited this clamour; for Governor Tom Joe, advancing close to the Captain's ear, screamed out at the top of his voice, "Cappen, Cappen, no put anchor, plenty lock (rocks), break ship, break ship." He expressed the utmost astonishment and horror at our having anchored in so little as four fathoms, not being aware of our draft of water.

The Governor was not slow in hinting that a dash or present, as a substitute for port dues, would be acceptable, and even necessary; he showed evidently by his demands, that he has been spoiled by former visitors. An officer's old coat was given him, and more promised if he would assist in getting us wood, of which he said there was "plenty store," although the arid appearance of the neighbourhood of the town did not hold out such hopes. The mountain, it is true, was clothed with wood, but the labour of getting it would be too much for our people, and the natives could hardly be induced to make so great an exertion.

October 28th.- We landed in the morning to pitch the tent for magnetic observations. As there are two principal streams of lava terminating on the beach, an intermediate spot was chosen, where the sand appeared to be in the greatest mass. Search was also made for the wood that the Governor said was plentiful; it was soon found that his "plenty store" consisted in the "ribs and trucks" of a small Spanish vessel that had been wrecked here, and from what we could understand, must have been a slaver, which made the good people so solicitous to prevent our too near approach. We might have exclaimed of Neptune, as the owls did of the caliph and the ruined villages, as it seems we shall be able to draw an ample supply from her timbers, though all of fir and somewhat sodden by being below high-water mark. The wreck occurred during the reign of the late Governor Job, who was present to lay claim to remuneration as lord of the manor. But it was evident that the Governor de facto would have the "lion's share."

The native venders had an excellent mode of regulating precedence among themselves. The first comer begged for the end of a long and strong rope from the ship: this he passed through a hole in the bow of his canoe, and then handed it to the next, and so on, to any number, limited only by the length and strength of the rope. They were thus obliged to keep their places without quarrelling, except with the unfortunates who had not arrived in time to get a berth, and who were hovering about, trying to thrust the bow of their canoes in any opening, to participate in the market. As usual, however, in all well-regulated communities, those who were in, contrived to keep all others, out.

The clamour and hubbub of this multitude was quite distracting; shouting out in all directions, "Anno Bon man - he good man - he no rogue man - dash (give) him coat, he sell you cocoa-nut." "All'n, All'n, see here fish! look! goat, pig," &c., not thinking the title of captain a necessary adjunct. They grew more vehemently noisy as the prospect of making a good harvest of rags became more gloomy; our men not being possessed of many disposable old clothes; and it was also contrary to the discipline of a vessel of war to sell them. An easy method was adopted, which soon relieved us from the intolerable nuisance of a market alongside, and enabled us to procure a good supply at a reasonable price. One of the petty officers was sent on shore with a quantity of goods which the purser had in charge for such occasions of barter, and by this means the ship's company were victualled with fresh provisions, vegetables, and fruit, at a cost of little more than ll. per diem, and a great deal was procured for sea-stock.

Attempts were made to draw the seine, but without success, though the beach is good and fish abundant. This was, however, the less important, as the natives brought off considerable quantities; and, with a few odds and ends of finery, sufficient was obtained each day for the convalescents, of flying-fish, rock-cod, and the delicious king-fish. An enormous fish, shaped like a ray, was seen near the ship, but it was gone before the harpoon could be used.

October 30th.- Fine cool morning. We took advantage of it after breakfast to go along the eastern coast in a boat in search of a watering-place. Two beautiful valleys were passed which must have their little streams, though concealed by a bed of large shingles thrown up by the sea; but the surf was too great to allow us to land and examine them. This side of the island is singularly picturesque. The rocks in bold forms, and finely tinted with lichens, &c., were seen intersected by many basaltic dykes in various directions. A large cavern under an extraordinary peak is the favourite resort of myriads of beautiful sea-birds, with dark plumage and a snowy crown. They build their nests against the rock.

It was fortunate we had been able to reach so good a place, where we might loiter for the recovery of health. It was indeed absolutely necessary for all,- and especially the engineers,- to regain their strength before we started on a long voyage to Ascension. It was hoped that all our serious cases had terminated favourably, but one poor young man, William Allford, who had many relapses, after lingering several days, died this morning; the others, however, required but rest, and a little prudence in the use of their returning strength and appetite. Although we made considerable advance in getting the ship in order, we were obliged to use much caution, as several men, even with gentle work and slight exertion, had become ill again, though it was principally ague, to which all who had the remittent fever were subject.

Sunday, October 31st.- While we were at divine service an American barque stood in towards the roads, but took no further notice of us than to show her colours. A few of the convalescent were allowed to go on shore for a little exercise; but some of them proved unworthy of the indulgence by staying all night, at the imminent risk of relapse, as they got drunk upon palm wine; which, though a very whole-some beverage when fresh, is pernicious when it has begun to ferment. With all the care that could be taken, it was impossible to prevent the natives from bringing it under the bows at night for sale.

We witnessed part of a funeral ceremony for a woman who had died the evening before; though being engaged with magnetic observations we lost the beginning. All the people were found assembled in a semi-circle at the front of a house, singing, or rather screeching, most hideously. A man in the middle poised a cross at least twenty feet high, which was rather a difficult performance, for, being as thin as a lath, it required the greatest dexterity to prevent it from bending, which would have inevitably caused it to fall. He was surrounded by a circle of old women, selected, one would imagine, for their extreme ugliness, with long cloths over their heads, fastened under the chin, and hanging down their backs. Over these they wore large wreaths of green leaves, and they waved branches in their hands as they shuffled about, to the sound of drums and their own discordant voices. Nevertheless, they looked very picturesque, and if it had not been for the cross,- which was apparently the object of their adoration,- the ceremony might have been taken for the remains of some Pagan rites established by Hanno the Carthaginian, if he ever touched here, whereof his Periplus leaves no record: it bore, however, evident marks of being a mixture of Fetichism with Christianity. When the singers had come to the end of their dismal strophes the cross-bearer let fall the symbol of our faith into the hands of several men standing ready to receive it. The wreaths and garlands were all collected, and deposited in the church. The drummers, five in number, then led the procession to the defunct's house, which every person made it a duty to visit. We complied with the custom by accompanying the Governor, Tom Joe. The house was in very neat order, but not much lumbered with furniture, either useful or useless. A woman stood inside to receive the visitors. This was the only religious ceremony we witnessed, though it could be seen from the vessel that they had vespers regularly, at which they carried torches. The Padre begged very hard for candles for the service of the altar. The church is about one hundred feet long. In a sort of Lady Chapel, or sacristy, at the end, behind the high altar, the priest keeps his books and vestments, which are neither voluminous nor costly. In addition to the high altar, on which were some decayed wooden candlesticks, formerly gilded, and a rude figure of the Virgin, there is a small altar on each side. The edifice is built of wood and shingle, with the natural earth for a pavement, and differs but little, except in size, from the dwelling-houses. A building of more pretension formerly stood in its vicinity, which was built by white men for the residence of the priests. The only vestiges now remaining are two squared stone door-posts, which are still erect, and would lead to the supposition that they formed the adit to a respectable dwelling, of which, indeed, the foundations may be traced. Our informant, the present primate, took a mournful pleasure in describing the former splendour and extent of the high priest's cook-house, hen-house, and piggery. The period of this prosperity was, however, so remote that an old man told us it was before his father's time. Tradition said that a white priest, with a long white beard, had stayed with the islanders about four moons. He then went to Lisbon, and after a long interval another came, who, like his predecessor, remained but four moons. Since then the poor people have been constantly looking in vain for spiritual guides. They are left to a native Padre, who cannot be supposed to be well acquainted with the truths of Christianity, even as left by the short tuition of their first pastors; it is not surprising therefore, that these simple people have not preserved the religion, thus imperfectly taught them, free from the usages of their pagan ancestors.

The church is dedicated to the Virgin, and there are many chapels in different parts of the island consecrated to saints. Through the main street is a line of crosses. The fairest field is here open to the Protestant missionary, who would find, instead of the hatred and contempt which is widely spread by Mahomedans in Africa, a predisposition at least, and a veneration for the principal dogmas of his own belief. A judicious teacher would have no difficulty in leading the half Christianized natives to the more simple worship of the Protestant faith; while he might prove his desire of befriending them by attending to their temporal wants, and introducing improvements on customs, to which they are wedded by long use, instead of endeavouring to bring about sudden revolutions in their method of seeing and doing things. For instance - a very great blessing might be conferred on the inhabitants of the town, by shewing them how, with a very little trouble, they might procure abundance of water all the year round, instead of having to send for it to the lake, which is situated about 800 feet above them, and to which the road is so steep, that this most necessary article in domestic economy is only brought down in small quantities by children, who take as many cocoa-nuts full of it as they can carry in a basket on the head.

The government appears to be an oligarchy, vested - as far as we could learn, from the very imperfect English which is spoken - in five persons, who, by turns, "take a spell," as they call it, in the berth of Governor. The tenure of office is not for life,- nor for any term of years,- nor at the will or pleasure of any despot, whether regal or the sovereign people,- it is not in fact, regulated on any known cycle or principle, usually adopted in other communities. But it is perhaps the most fluctuating and uncertain method that could be devised, though founded on the recurrence of an event which all most anxiously looked for, - namely, the arrival of ships. To record these would be a compendium of their history, chronology, physical and moral phenomena,- the end and object of all their prayers and religious aspirations.

They think that the greatest good that God can confer on them, is to send ships, from which alone they can hope for all their supplies, having nothing within themselves except the natural productions of the island - the live stock,- which, like themselves, increase and multiply by the general law of nature, without any care being taken to improve such resources. This total dependence on the liberality of ships they do not fail to put before you in the strongest terms in the catalogue of their wants. Thus the chief magistrate holds office during the period of the arrival of ten ships. He is attended by his mate, his boatswain, and his steward, who all participate in the advantages accruing from such events, and they hold their situations on the same terms as their patron. But whether they have any other privilege or jurisdiction, it was impossible to learn with certainty. The ex-Governor is called Job, that is, "finished," according to their explanation. The Governor Job of our epoch lost his office in consequence of the wreck of a ship. But whether that was his tenth arrival, or whether it was looked upon as an untoward event, or more likely as being equivalent to several arrivals, we could not learn. It is however very difficult to obtain any information, as they speak English perhaps more imperfectly than any who have equal intercourse; and though they appear to use the Portuguese language with more fluency, it is most likely a patois mixed up of Portuguese and the language or languages of their ancestors, as they were doubtless slaves of various nations placed here by the Portuguese. We could not learn that more than one dialect was spoken in the island; all the answers obtained referred to the same object - namely, their poverty, which was an explanation for everything, and a reason for not satisfying our curiosity on any other subject. They always reverted to the palpable truism, "Annobon poor fellow, no have shirt, no have trouwsa."

The town is straggling, formed in irregular streets or lanes of detached huts, without gardens or enclosures of any kind. The principal one, however, is tolerably straight, and leads through the town to the church, having crosses planted at intervals. Judging from the number of men who came alongside in the canoes, and who comprised probably two-thirds of the males, it may contain about three thousand inhabitants. There are also villages at Santa Cruz, in the valleys of St. John and St. Peter, and at the other parts of the island; these are but few, small, and perhaps only occasional residences, as we understood that nearly all the inhabitants of the island have houses at the metropolis, to which they resort on the arrival of a ship, so that we saw the majority of the population of the island assembled to reap the benefit of our arrival. Our friend, Governor "Tom Joe," claims superiority over all. They admitted that slave-vessels had often touched there for supply of fresh provisions, and that their visits were very lucrative; but latterly, some of their countrymen had been forcibly carried off while trading alongside, and they now feared to have any communication with wretches, who respect no law human or divine, where their vile interests are concerned. As a means of protecting themselves against any future attempt, the natives were anxious to purchase fire-arms, as well as powder and shot. The few who possess muskets are very fond of shooting guinea-fowl, of which they procure great numbers; taking care to watch for them late in the evening at early dawn, when they are congregated in flocks on the trees, and when one shot will perhaps secure three or more birds.

To an English sportsman, guinea-fowl shooting is full of amusement; the only drawback is the heat of the climate; but even at Annobon we enjoyed it very much. As soon as the sun has fairly risen above the horizon, the birds, which had previously been perching in the woods, come out into the long grass to enjoy the subdued heat, and obtain insects. They are generally in coveys of from six to twelve, and until the afternoon, lie very close, so that it is often possible to get within a tolerable distance of them. On first rising, they get up with a whirr, louder that that of black-cock, so startling as almost to unnerve the sportsman in taking aim; but if successful, how pleased is he to see one, perhaps two or three of these noble birds fall, the gray and spotted feathers floating lightly in the air. The plumage is richer, and the birds themselves larger, than the domesticated guinea-fowl; and certainly the flavour of those we shot at Annobon far exceeded all English game. Several of our invalids who were so weak, that they could scarce touch food, declared that the very odour of the roast guinea-fowl acted as a tonic, and restored the appetite.

November 4th.- We made up a party and landed at daylight for the purpose of having a little excursion to the lake on the summit of the island. The path was at first tolerably good. Several chapels were passed, in one of which we took shelter from a shower finding it most conveniently open; indeed it seemed to be more used as a half-way house than as a place of worship. A large party of natives who were going to fetch palm-wine from the mountain, or water from the lake, also took advantage of it, but more probably from a desire to see us, and obtain some little gift than from fear of the rain.

Towards the upper part of the hill, we passed several enclosures of cassada, cotton, sugar-cane, &c., neatly fenced off. After rather more than an hour's walk, we arrived at the beautiful little circular lake, situated about 737 feet above the level of the sea, according to Commander Allen's measurement with the mountain barometer, which was, however, but an approximation. This has evidently been the crater of an extinct volcano. It is surrounded on all sides by a high ridge, except where it declines towards the north, marking the point of exit of the streams of lava which flowed towards the sea during the activity of the ancient volcano, and where now the water which has occupied its place overflows in the rainy season. The lake was now at its lowest, so that no water passed over, and the inhabitants of the town, who have no other supply, were obliged to send up for it every morning. We saw a picturesque group of boys and girls, filling their cocoa-nuts, enjoying the luxury of a long draught, and washing themselves at the same time. We preferred going a few yards further off to slake our thirst in the cool water. A bold peak of trachyte, "Pico massa fina," rises on the opposite side to 600 feet above the lake, and 1337 above the sea, as we afterwards ascertained by going up the ridge till the peak was brought on with the horizontal line, as we did not attempt its steep and dangerous ascent. It has three crosses erected on the summit.

The walk round the lake is highly romantic and picturesque. A steep path brought us to the ridge on the south-east side, which commands an almost boundless horizon from north-west to south-east, a beautiful view over the lake on one hand, and on the other we looked down on the vale of St. John and its little bay, where the 'Wilberforce' had just arrived to complete her water. While we looked down on her we could not see the men on the decks, and nothing that could form a standard by which any person not acquainted with her dimensions could form an estimate of them, so much was our little ship reduced by distance and the density of the medium through which she was seen slowly, almost imperceptibly, slipping over the blue surface of the element on which she floated to her anchorage.

The boundary of sky and water was hardly distinguishable; many clouds far below us appeared to be floating on the water. On the other side rose the highest mountainous ridges of the island, more than a thousand feet above us, covered with beautiful wood. We tried to reach the loftiest part of the ridge surrounding the lake, to the great dismay of Governor "Tom Joe," who declared that nobody could pass that way; it was very narrow, and steep on both sides. We saw some wild pigeons in the woods, but they would not come near enough to be shot.

After a good breakfast under the shade of a huge fantastic rock we descended to the vale of St. John, over ground which is capable of cultivation, being naturally clear for a considerable extent, and with apparently good soil. The natives have a few plantations of cassada lower down. We saw farm-houses scattered about, and a neat little white-washed chapel.

At our last resting place, in the lower part of the valley, we enjoyed a deliciously cool rill, under the shade of palm-trees; the arching and intersecting ribs of which formed a more exact representation of the gothic arch than any of the types that have been imagined by architects to be the original of that graceful style. Nothing could be more perfect than what we then had before us. Vistas in all directions might be compared to the long aisle or nave of a cathedral; and though the willow or other trees in the cold climates, where this style of architecture predominates, may really have given the first idea of it, the regular course of the stout rib in the immense leaves of the palm-tree forms by various intersections arches of the most perfect symmetry.

Palm trees - a type of gothic architecture

There is a little stream in the bottom of the valley which perhaps would give sufficient power for saw-mills. We however could not make it available for supplying us with water, as the surf was too great for the boats to approach near enough.

We returned to the 'Wilberforce' in the afternoon, very much delighted with our little excursion over the mountain; and although we had the full power of the sun in descending the valley, the heat was not oppressive.

[illustration: Funeral Ceremony, Annabon]

November 5th.- The vessel was moved to the next bay, called St. Peter's, where the boats were able to lie close to the beach, and by leading a hose from the little rivulet, the water was easily pumped into the barricoes without landing them.

This bay is subject to frequent and variable puffs of wind, and as the anchorage is close to the shore, great care should be taken not to "foul the anchor;" being very "steep-to" a vessel would be on the rocks before another could be dropped. The cliffs, bold and beautiful, are intersected by numerous basaltic veins. The valley is richly wooded, and appears to be much more diversified than even that of St. John's, which we so much admired. The mountains on the south side rise perpendicularly from the sea in a pyramidal form.

Having completed our water, we sailed in the afternoon for the Island of Ascension, after eight days passed most agreeably at this interesting little island, which will always be a bright spot in our recollection; as, although we had lost one man here, - the last,- who was originally of a very weakly constitution,- and had suffered several relapses,- yet all the others rapidly recovered their health and spirits. The weather, with the exception of a little rain, was uninterruptedly fine, and the temperature not only agreeable, but every one seemed to feel a consciousness that exposure to the sun would not be so injurious as we had hitherto found it to be. We coasted along this bright isle, opening a succession of little valleys, with fine outlines of steep mountains, richly clothed with wood. One especially, presenting a perpendicular face to the sea, was of very singular and beautiful form; being pyramidal, with tapering pinnacles of rock rising erect from the slopes on either side, like those of Milan Cathedral, while every ledge and crevice gave nourishment to a rich luxuriance of parasitical and other foliage, and the precipitous surfaces were tinged with every variety of colour. Little villages appeared nestled in fertile spots, but these were few, and sometimes only guessed at by the gracefully curling smoke; the greater part of the population of the island being then at the capital.

Four rocky islets, south of the island, are the resort of numerous sea-birds. After passing these, we gave our last farewell to Annobone. {This "bright isle" was discovered in 1743 by the Portuguese, and named from the new year. It is the smallest and outermost of those elevated by the line of volcanic action in a direction south-westerly from the Camaroon Mountain, and rises abruptly from a deep sea to about three thousand feet}. The breeze was fresh from south-west, with some rain. We steered head to wind, in order to get sufficient southing to enable us, when we should fall in with the trade-winds, to fetch the Island of Ascension. This is of the utmost importance at all times, but especially to a vessel constructed like ours, which could only make a passage under sail, with a very favourable wind; since, from the want of a keel fore and aft, she made leeway on every point. The fuel could not be expected,- without strict economy,- to last such a distance, more than 1200 miles, and the danger of missing the island, which has occurred to vessels of better sailing qualities, was therefore much increased with us. In such case the only thing would be to run for Pernambuco, on the coast of South America.

The wood we had obtained from the wreck was hardly worth the room it took upon deck, as it lasted in fact, but one day, and we had to commence on our coals, of which we had eighty-four tons,- about enough for ten days.

The weather was beautiful on this agreeable little voyage, with refreshing breezes; and the nights were remarkably clear, so that the stars rose and set with great distinctness, being visible till almost touching the apparent horizon.

Those who had not been in southern latitudes before, were gratified by the sight of the Magellan clouds.

On the '7th November, we passed Dr. Brewster's "Warm Meridian," but the temperature was unexpectedly cool. The thermometer was seldom higher than °, and sometimes during the night it felt even cold; at least to us who had been long subject to the heat of Africa, a temperature of 75°, was rather lower than agreeable.

November 14th.- About twenty meteors only were seen during the past night, though this was about the time when they are expected to be most numerous; they were observed generally at an elevation of about 70° towards the west, and shooting in that direction.

A series of magnetic observations were carried on daily at the same place,- the skylight of the cabin; and though from the vessel being of iron, they will be subject to very great errors; still it was considered, that if an approximation to the truth can be obtained by eliminating these, the experiments will be interesting, none having been previously made in this region.

We were constantly deceived by supposed indications of the trade-wind, which did not come to our aid except partially, till we were very near the termination of the voyage. The current also did but little for us.

As we proceeded, the reverberating noise of our paddle-wheels disturbed from their element large shoals of the flying fish, or Hirondelle de Mer of the French,- one of the most interesting and beautiful of the inhabitants of the deep, met with in the warm latitudes. The symmetry of its body - the long and widely-expansive pectoral fins - the bright polished-looking operculum, and fine blue and silver tints, make its examination a pleasing pastime to the naturalist, when, as often happens, it is allured by the light to fly on board. Notwithstanding their longer and more frequent contact with air than any other fish, they survive the shortest period when kept out of water. About fifteen yards is a usual distance at each emersion from the sea, but they sometimes accomplish as many as forty yards, if the crest of some intermediate wave offers a new starting place. The smaller ones generally move in shoals, while the large fish and those of greatest tenacity out of the briny element, are often solitary. The flavour of these latter is good.

Wednesday, November 17th.- The distant view of Ascension gives rise to pleasurable emotions, which unfortunately are not confirmed by a nearer approach. Perhaps the weary voyager has been looking during weeks or months for "some green spot to rest upon," and hails anything in the shape of terrâ firmâ, but the nearer he comes to the land of promise, the less he finds to draw forth his admiration or reward his hopes. All the lower part is cinder,- brown scoriaceous cinder,- with scarce a blade of grass, or other sign of struggling vegetation. True, afar off, one little spot is adorned with verdure, and called par excellence "the green mountain;" but nowhere else can the eye fix on a pleasing, promising, feature; being without a trace of that luxuriance of nature which is inseparably connected in the mind with intertropical scenery. It presents one wide arid waste, which would seem to threaten to dry up all human feeling. It is not surprising, therefore, that some of our fair country-women should have shed tears on landing, and seeing the inhospitable nature of the place in which they were to pass some years of their life. It is however surprising, but no less true, that they shed more tears at leaving the island, where they had passed many happy, instead of weary days, owing to the truly paternal government of the late excellent and much lamented Captain Bate, R.M., aided by their own amiable and cheerful dispositions; so true it is that the milk of human kindness can deck even a desert with a smiling aspect. Many will look back with pleasurable and grateful feelings to that period,- long before the time of our present visit,- with which no such agreeable recollections can be associated.

Wednesday, November 17th.- We anchored in the roads of Ascension, and lost no time in commencing our refitting, in order to be ready by the first day of January to return to the coast, according to the orders of Captain Trotter.

Fortunately all the officers and men had now recovered their health; thanks to the pure breeze of the southern ocean, and especially under God's mercy, to the beautiful Isle of Annobone, truly a bright spot "to memory dear."

Our first care was to clean the ship thoroughly, and particularly the holds. The powder in the magazine was found to be so damp, that it was necessary to land it to be dried at the block-house. A part of the ventilating apparatus called the purificator,- a large iron tank,- having proved to be totally inefficient for the purpose intended by the talented contriver, and being also exceedingly cumbersome,- occupying a large and inconvenient portion of the deck,- it was landed to answer the purpose of a water-tank, and in that capacity will no doubt be found very useful on the island where water can only be had by such economy. As no boat would hold this large machine, the apertures were stopped, and it was floated on shore, and seen on its passage from the top of the mountain, it looked like a floating omnibus.

In condemning so integral a portion of the costly ventilating apparatus, it may appear paradoxical to say that the theory was good, but that we found it in the 'Wilberforce' to be of no perceivable benefit in supplying improved air to the people. To carry out the principle to its full extent, all apertures except those of the 'purificator' - about eighteen inches in diameter - ought to have been closed, so as to suffer no air to approach the many lungs which were gasping for it, except what had passed through the medicating substances. There can be no doubt that if a sufficient quantity could have been transmitted by these means it might have been deprived of much of its noxious nature; but the wind-sails which were intended to bring the air from the elevation of the mast-heads were never even inflated by the force of the fanners. This method, called the plenum impulse, was found in the 'Wilberforce' to have merely the effect of compressing the stagnant and deteriorated air into all the remote extremities and corners of the ship; but the reverse process,- the vacuum which was always used in the Niger after the failure of the other was ascertained, - performed at least the good office of extracting it; by which means a slight circulation was kept up of such fresh air as could be procured.

In such a climate active ventilation is of the highest importance; in order therefore to improve it as much as possible, and to remedy the peculiarity of construction in our vessels where the free passage of air was cut off by the water-tight compartments, Captain W. Allen decided on making openings through these, whereby a constant current was obtained, from the lower deck - occupied by the ship's company - through the midshipmen's berth to the engine-room, to the manifest advantage and relief of all, especially the stokers; great care was however taken that these apertures should be at such an elevation as not to interfere with the advantages proposed in having those partitions, namely, to secure the ship against the dangers of striking on a rock. We had also as an auxiliary to the ventilator an apparatus for the purpose of heating and drying the air to be transmitted. This was found to be much more easily and simply effected, by taking off a part of the covers of the fanners, which then diffused from the engine-room very dry air, and of high temperature. Some other alterations and improvements gave us a clear deck fore and aft.

At Annobone it had been intimated that the men, having suffered so much from the fever of the Niger, would generally apply, on our arrival at Ascension, to be invalided; as, being then in some degree still under the influence of it, they dreaded a return to the river.

No notice was taken of this at the time; but when an opportunity offered of getting volunteers from merchant-ships on the passage home, a few obnoxious characters were taken at their word, and exchanged, much to their discomfiture, as they had then recovered, and wished to stay. The remaining men were confirmed in their attachment to the ship, by getting rid of the black sheep.

On the 7th December, the day after the departure of H.M. brig 'Wanderer,' Captain the Hon. Joseph Denman, a melancholy event occurred that cast a gloom over the little society in the island, very much deranged our operations, and put us to much inconvenience, which would have been obviated had it taken place during the stay of Captain Denman, who was senior officer on this part of the station. As the commandant of the island, Captain Bennett, R.M. was reading to his wife in the evening, he suddenly, without uttering a sound, fell from his chair, dead before he reached the floor! He was much regretted.

So many repairs and alterations were required to be done that it was impossible to get the 'Wilberforce' ready by the 1st of January, 1842, according to Captain Trotter's direction. We should have been prepared to sail for the coast of Africa by the 7th of that month; but it was fortunate we were detained, for on the 5th, H.M. Brig 'Buzzard' arrived with the melancholy intelligence that the 'Albert' had returned to Fernando Po, with all her crew dangerously ill with fever. They had been immediately landed at the hospital, where Commander Bird Allen, with several officers and men had fallen a sacrifice to their zeal in braving to the utmost the climate of the fatal river. In fact, the vessel and her crew were only saved from great risk of destruction by the timely meeting of Mr. Beecroft, in the 'Ethiope,' who brought them safely to Fernando Po. She bad been conducted as far as the point where her deliverer was met, by the almost superhuman exertion of Doctors McWilliam and Stanger; but it was not possible that their unaided strength could have lasted much longer. Captain Trotter was reported to be in such danger, that the medical men had thought it necessary he should immediately return to England, as the only means of saving his life, and that officer deeming it also of importance that one of the commissioners should lay before Her Majesty's Government a statement of the condition of the vessels and survivors of the Expedition, had taken his passage in a small schooner which was fortunately about to sail for England.

In addition to these disasters, it was rumoured that Mr. Carr, the superintendent of the model farm, had been murdered by the natives at the mouth of the Niger, while he was in the act of proceeding up the river, for the purpose of taking charge of his establishment, having been obliged by severe illness to come away in the 'Albert,' when she descended the river. Lastly, it was said that the settlers, whom we had left at the confluence of the Chadda and the Niger, on the land purchased for them from the Attàh of lddah, had been attacked by the natives. Nevertheless, as the officer, whom Captain Trotter had put in the temporary command of the 'Albert' during his absence, had not made any official communication to Captain Allen on the subject, he could not decide on any step to be taken until his arrival, which was most anxiously looked for.

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