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

Royal Navy1841 Niger expeditionBookChapter VII ◄► Chapter IX



The Expedition enters the Nun branch of the Niger - Death of Bach, the instrument-maker from fever - Physical characters of the mouth of the river - Curious effect of the rising tide - Chemical examination of the waters - Geology - Shells - Bodies of females exposed on the sea-beach - Surprise of the natives at our interest in them - Woods on the right bank - Beautiful birds - The black swallow - Rhyncops, or scissor-bill -Dangers of seining - Saw-fish sharks - The village of Akassa - Dwellings of the natives - Their customs - Diseases of the natives - The Chief, Enemery - 'Boy's' traffic with Abòh - 'Jack Fire' - The Reverend J. Müller's prayer - Pass through Louis Creek - Magnificent scenery - Monkeys in their native woods - Village of Paraboli - Alligator as a Ju-ju, or Fetiche - Alarm of the natives - Stillness of the Niger at night - Insect music - Natives - Rum preferred to Coffee - Village of Kiambli - White man said to live at Tchebhy - Rude Ju-ju idol - Ingyama - Inhabitants terrified by the 'Devil ship' - Lofty trees - New channel - Ogulbah - Scenery - Otua - Communication with the natives - Curious fashions in arranging the hair.

Friday, August 13.- The time had now arrived for the commencement of the arduous undertaking, to which our thoughts had been so long directed. H.M. steam-vessels 'Albert' and 'Soudan' having completed their preparations, weighed at daylight, and - under the pilotage of Lieutenant Levinge, who had previously examined it - steamed over the bar in safety, though with a considerable surf, as the time of high water was not favourable.

Crossing the bar of the Niger

15th.- The 'Wilberforce' having more goods and furniture to take for the Model Farm, was not ready till this morning. We weighed at daylight. By crossing the bar at three-quarters flood, we had it very smooth, and the last of the tide aided us to the anchorage.

It was a moment of deep and breathless expectation; both as being a passage of considerable difficulty; and as being the first absolute step in that path, so full of novelty and exciting interest, but which all knew must be fraught with danger; yet their zeal did not suffer such anticipations to darken their prospect, and the accomplishment of the entrance of the River Niger was announced by three cheers from the whole crew.

Our course over the dangerous bar may be interesting to future navigators. From the anchorage, we steered N.E. till the east point of the river - known by a large leafless tree, like a gallows - comes midway between Point Tilana and another point further up the river, and bearing N. by E. half E., then being in four and a half fathoms, the channel was open on a N. by E. course. The least sounding we had was fifteen feet. We anchored near the 'Albert ' three-fourths of a mile inside Cape Nun, in four and a half fathoms.

On communicating with the senior officer, we were informed of the death of Bach, the instrument-maker, who died from effects of fever, not however referrible to the climate. He was a very useful and obliging person, and was a great loss. His remains were interred the following evening on the right bank by lanthorn light, and, as many of the coloured men were present, it formed a solemn but interesting scene.

The rudder tails of all the vessels had been lost by constant friction and corrosion on the passage out, it was therefore necessary to lay them on the sandy beach in order to repair these defects.

This was found to be very difficult, in the case of the 'Wilberforce,' owing to a heavy swell which set in, and rendered two or three attempts abortive. We took advantage of this opportunity to scrub off the grass and barnacles which had adhered to the bottom.

The 'Soudan' having run up the estuary immediately on entering, to examine Louis Creek, which was believed to be the only access to the main branch of the Niger, unfortunately got aground and remained there all night.

A boat, sent also to try the soundings all round Alburkah Island, found nine feet to be the least water in Louis Creek, while on the west side of the island, where the channel appeared to be very wide, in some places it was only one or two feet. Nothing in fact, can be more deceiving than the outlets of the mighty Niger. While broad and imposing branches are seen in various directions, the only navigable channel hitherto discovered, is so narrow, that our vessels could not turn in it. Yet the embouchure which we had entered would appear to justify the most extravagant anticipations that could be formed of the river. This is, however, a mere reservoir, of which nature has provided no less than twenty along a coast of more than one hundred and fifty miles in extent; - the Delta, in fact, formed by the deposit brought down by the floods. The small rise and fall of the sea in this part - hardly six feet - appears to require such reservoirs to collect the prodigious volume of water which is deposited on so large a surface of Africa - and of which the river is the drainage - in order to discharge it at several points into the universal receptacle.

The Rio Nun, from its size, has the appearance of an estuary, being more than a mile and a half wide and five miles in length; the other outlets resemble this. The water is deep in every part of it. The rise and fall at spring-tides is 5 ft. 6 in., and at neaps 4 ft. 8 in. The ebb-tide sets out with a velocity of three miles and three-quarters or four miles in the middle of the river. At low water the current was,

near the banks, 0.3 of a mile.
at a quarter breadth, 0.36 "
in the middle, 0.6 ".

This was at the period of our visit. When the freshes come down, it is of course much stronger, but in the dry season less rapid.

We have reason to believe that the resistance offered by the strong current of the river to the advance of the sea-water at flood, is sometimes overcome by the latter in a tremendous rolling surf, or "bore," as during our stay we had two opportunities of witnessing this in a partial degree, about half a mile above where the vessels lay.

At half-flow of the tide, a tumultuous line was discernible near the right bank, extending across one-third of the river, and slanting somewhat upwards. When within one hundred yards of the bank, it came on in the form of an immense breaker, diffusing itself in the sluggish water of the neighbouring lagoon, to which direction it was probably diverted by the more powerful central current. It had a very singular appearance, all the other parts of the river being as smooth as glass. One of our whale-boats was almost swamped by it, although having merely encountered the least violent division of it.

The water of the river is of a loamy colour and is sweet to the taste. Mr. Roscher tested it chemically with the nitrate of silver, and other reagents, in order to detect sulphuretted hydrogen, and did not find it to be in the least discoloured by them. After having been exposed two days to the atmosphere, it was quite clear, but then began to smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, which he discovered by the above-mentioned agency. After having been kept a greater length of time the odour ceased, the taste was good, and there was no indication of this gas.

The water at low tide was nearly pure, but with a slightly saline taste, and we only found in it a small quantity of the muriate of magnesia, combined with calcareous matter. The sediment obtained from one pint and a half of the river-water, weighed forty-one grains when dry, and was at first blue - like the clay in the bed of the river - with a film of red colour. On being disturbed, the whole became reddish; the first weighed thirty-five grains, the last only six, and consisted chiefly of oxide of iron. By a rough analysis it was found to contain oxide of iron, carbonate of iron, oxide of manganese, with a large portion of vegetable matter.

We took in water for the ship's consumption alongside and filtered it, after treating it with a solution of chloride of lime.

The temperature of the fresh-water was lower than that of the sea: on leaving the anchorage outside the bar, we found it gradually decrease as we got within the river; but we had not sufficient time and opportunity to be able to determine, by frequent and simultaneous observations, the relative difference, which was indeed variable, being of course modified by change of weather and other circumstances.

The opposite sides of the river appear, according to Mr. Roscher, to be of different formation. Cape Nun, the termination of the right bank, has a long spit of sand running into the sea about one mile and a half. "This shore is generally swampy, formed by a deposit of mud, brought down by the river, the outside of which presents a sandy appearance; and is intersected by innumerable channels of water, of a brackish and putrid taste. Where dry spots are found, they are cultivated by the natives from the other side. The sand continues till the sea meets the fresh-water stream. A deposit of lamellar mica, and fine vegetable matter, the last of which is brought down by the river, and washed out by the sea; but the quantity is so small, that it would take centuries to form a stratum of any importance. The bed of the river is covered with a blue clay, rich in vegetable matter, and coloured by oxide of iron, similar to the clay observed in the bed of the sea outside the bar. Whenever the clay was broken by the rapidity of the current, the pieces were immediately carried off by the moving water; and it often happened that the spring tides washed them ashore, in the shape of cylinders. These being left behind by the retreating ocean, formed one of the peculiar characters of the right bank of the river.

The clay of the river-deposit is of a ferruginous character, with oxide of iron, oxide of manganese, carbonate of iron, supercarburetted iron, and the precipitation of substances chemically dissolved."

The following shells were found on the shore: - Donax, Solen, Lima, Conus, and Mactra.

In the swampy parts of the right bank, the mangrove, Rhyzophora, abounds, with its peculiar fructification. There are two species of this tree, one growing very low, and having a white wood; the other is a rather high tree, with a fine red wood, which burns well as fuel. The bark is very astringent. The numerous arching roots of this tree are favourable for the deposition of sand and mud.

In the woods on this bank, which were visited for the purpose of procuring specimens, the water was upwards of two feet deep in most parts, and the air close and confined. The greater portion of the underwood was Rhyzophora, or mangrove. The stillness of this solitary region was occasionally broken by the Halcyon Senegalensis, or grey-headed king-hunter, which in its rich blue and cinereous grey plumage, flitted from tree to tree, almost the sole occupant of the place. Near the outskirts, we met one of the most interesting species of Macrodypterix, the pennant-winged night-jar, with its long filiform feather attached to each wing.

On returning to the boat, a new and beautiful species of swallow, the Hirundo nigrita, since figured in Mitchell's superb work on the genera of birds, was discovered performing its rapid evolutions over a placid pool of water, into which it dipped the ends of its long and graceful wings, as it picked up the tiny insects for an evening's repast. Along the beach at low water, many pretty wading birds were seen, and some captured. The Sterna melanoptera, or black-winged tern; the Sterna Senegalensis, or Senegal tern; the Glareola megapoda and Cinerea; the great footed and rufous necked pranticoles, as also the Hiaticula Heywoodii, or Nun River plover; while large numbers of a black and white species of scissor-bill, Rhyncops Orientalis of Rüppel, moved about in a rapid and irregular manner. They did not seem to be procuring their food from the water, generally flying some feet above it; but while on the ground they were actively engaged searching with their extraordinarily shaped beaks, both mandibles of which are thin, compressed and very sharp, the lower one being much the longest, and fitting into a sort of groove in the upper.

Several times, when the Krumen could be spared, the seine was used in one of the neighbouring lagoons, and abundance of fish procured; but most of them had an earthy taste, probably from the condition of the water. On one occasion, while so employed, some of the party were obliged to swim across with the ends of the hauling lines, not aware of the occupants of the place, among whom, on concluding the draught, several saw-fish sharks, Pristis squalus, were captured. Although these are less dangerous than many of the family, they can inflict a severe and painful wound with their many-toothed and elongated snout.

While taking a walk along the shore, to the right of the river, we met several natives, who had been sent over from Akassa, to observe our movements. They all, more or less, spoke Spanish, no doubt acquired from their communication with the Spanish and Portuguese slave vessels, which formerly frequented this river. All of them were athletic and well-built, but with apish and unprepossessing features; the face marked with perpendicular lines over the cheek-bones. They wore strings of blue beads round the loins, with a very limited portion of chequered blue and white cotton cloth, which required all their ingenuity to cover effectually any part of the person.

We were not a little shocked on seeing the body of a female, evidently not long deceased, lying exposed near high-water mark, where it had probably been left by the retreating tide. The natives when spoken to about it, laughed, and seemed to wonder why we could be interested in such matters; and gave us to understand that it was very likely to be one of the people sacrificed at some place up the river, and brought down by the current. One, if not more, were passed at other spots not far distant, which strengthened the supposition, that some great Fetiche tragedy had lately been enacted. We could not help thinking that the people up the river, having received intimation of our arrival, had thus been propitiating their idols to grant exclusive benefits to them, or destruction to us.

The left bank of the river consists of sand, intermingled with clay of a dirty yellow colour-less intersected by channels - in which abundance of fresh and salt-water shells are found.

This bank was firm, two feet above the high-water mark, and consequently capable of cultivation. The plantations were chiefly of plantains. Trees were found here more than one hundred feet high, while palms of sixty or eighty feet in height expanded their majestic leaves.

On this bank there is a small irregularly built village, Akassa, containing about two hundred inhabitants. The men are well-made and active, and occupy themselves in fishing and the culture of small plantations of cassada, Indian-corn, and bananas. Tobacco, and spirituous liquors, of which they are excessively fond, are procured in exchange for palm-oil from the traders which occasionally touch here; but when the slave trade was more actively followed at this branch of the Niger, they obtained those luxuries from the slavers, for assisting them in shipping off the human cargoes, and for keeping watch along the coast for the cruizers. The huts are quadrangular, small, but clean dwellings, built of bamboo, and roofed with palm-leaves; they are mostly of two compartments, communicating with each other. The bed-places are flat narrow boards, raised about eighteen inches on four stones. Fires are always kept in the huts during the rainy season, and when unemployed, the family usually congregate round the smoking embers. The chief of this village is tributary to another at no great distance from Akassa. They admitted that human sacrifices do take place at certain Fetiche rites - the victims are slaves.

The dead are buried in their huts; if a male, and possessed of any articles of dress or household furniture, these are placed for a short time on the grave.

When some of the officers landed, the people ran away in affright, but soon returned, on finding they were English, and not Spaniards or Portuguese, which showed that the former slave-dealing visitants were not over-scrupulous even with their agents, but occasionally made free with them to fill up their numbers.

They speak the Brass, or Orù dialect: the men wore daggers and knives in their girdles. The women were much tattoed, particularly over the face.

Yaws, an affection of the skin, as also leprosy, prevailed to a great extent, such as were afflicted with these diseases were besmeared with red clay. Dr. McWilliam vaccinated four persons at this village, and several others at another large one, and explained the object to the chief of the place, who was much pleased that a white man should take so much trouble.

Emmery, the Chief of Akassa, visited the ships; he was dressed in a drummer's coat, a plain black hat, rather the worse for wear, and a loose fold of blue cotton handkerchief round his lower extremities. He seemed a quiet, well-disposed man.

While at the mouth of the Nun, a son and a nephew of 'Boy,' King of Brass Town, arrived on a visit to Captain Trotter, bringing with them three sheep as a "dash," or present. 'Boy,' sent as an excuse for not coming in person to see the Captain, that he was engaged making Ju-ju, but hoped the vessels would remain three days, as he was anxious to have a "palaver."

The young princes said, that when the Brass people heard of the arrival of the English ships, they were all very much pleased, and danced for joy.

King Boy is a very important personage here. The sovereignty of both sides of the Nun is in his hands, and to use the words of his embassy, "King Boy pass all black man;" which, after all, was an empty boast, as he is tributary to Obi Ossaï, of Abòh.

They said, King Boy, and his brother, King Will, had a good deal of palm-oil at Brass, "and they would rather sell the oil than slaves." The King of Brass has eighteen large canoes, with forty men in each, which he sends to Abòh for palm-oil, yams, fowls, bullocks, goats, sheep, rice and black beans, in exchange for which, he gives rum, cowries, cloths, shirts, hats, caps, knives, looking-glasses, snuff-boxes, hooks and lines, scissors, muskets, powder and ball, tumblers, wine-glasses, &c.

They would not allow that human sacrifices take place at Brass, saying that bullocks and goats were used instead, at their great Ju-ju feasts; and these, with a profusion of fowls and yams, are liberally bestowed to all present on such occasions.

King William's son is called 'Jack Fire.' He is a pilot for Ibu, and showed as a proof of his high origin, the royal mark, which consists of three deep scarifications at the external angle of each eye. King Boy has one hundred and forty wives, and King William forty-five.

Jack Fire said at this season, with the water high and current strong, he would be nine days going to Abòh in one of their large canoes; but about Christmas, when the water was low, he could accomplish it in five days.

The Reverend T. Müller, the estimable chaplain to the Expedition, having composed a prayer suitable to the service on which we were now employed, it was by order of the senior officer offered up on board the respective vessels, and being so characteristic of the pious author, and his earnest desires for its fulfilment, we gladly subjoin it: -

"O Lord! our God the Father of all men, and in Jesus Christ our Father, we, thy unworthy servants, come before Thee this morning with a new song in our mouths, with prayer and thanksgiving to our God. Hitherto Thou hast not only helpen us; but, as a father pitieth his children, and as a shepherd feedeth and guideth his flock, so hast Thou been unto us, a merciful Father, a good Shepherd, and an ever-present help in the time of need. Thy goodness and mercy have been new toward us every morning; blessed and praised by Thy holy name! We feel assured, Almighty Father, that it were in vain to hope for success in our present undertaking, without asking counsel of the Lord, to whom belongeth wisdom and understanding; and who, though He is sovereign in His testimonials, and giveth more than either we have desired or deserved, will still be inquired of for these things. As we are now entering upon the field of our labours, which we trust is a labour of love and faith, be pleased, we beseech Thee, O Lord! to bless and direct both us, Thy servants, and the work which Thou hast put in our hands, and afford us Thy protection!

"Our help is in Thee, O God! who hast made heaven and earth. Undertake Thou for us, and bless Thou the work of our hands. Give success to our endeavours to introduce civilization and Christianity into this benighted country. Thou hast promised, 'Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God,' make us, we pray Thee, instrumental in fulfilling this Thy promise.

"We trust, O God! that the Expedition in which we are engaged is the work of Thy own hands, and the thought of Thy own heart; we would, therefore, plead Thy protection and guidance with a peculiar confidence. Thou hast promised to be with Thy people, even unto the ends of the world, and to be a refuge to all who put their trust in Thee.

"Behold, we Thy unworthy servants do put our whole trust and confidence in Thy mercy. Be pleased, we beseech Thee, O Lord! to defend us with Thy Almighty Power as with a shield. Thou hast promised, in Thy word - 'When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not over-flow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy one of Israel, thy Saviour.' Be pleased, we beseech Thee, O Lord! to fulfil all Thy gracious promises in us for the time to come, as Thou hast done hitherto. Continue, in mercy toward us, to be our hiding-place and covert from the tempest, and a comfortable shade in a dry and weary land; for if Thou art with us, who can be against us? Let no evil befal us, nor any plague come nigh our ships. Preserve our going out and our coming in, from henceforth and for evermore. And since it is Thy holy will, that all Thy children should go through much tribulation into the Kingdom of Heaven, be pleased, O Lord! to bless and sanctify all our afflictions to Thy honour and glory. Give grace, wisdom, and judgment to thy servant, in whose hands Thou hast put the chief command and direction of this Expedition, and to those who are associated with him, and appointed to negociate conventions with the African Chiefs. Grant, we beseech Thee, that each and all of us may be a light and a salt to the people of this benighted country, that they may see our good works, and praise Thee our Heavenly Father. O! Thou that rulest over all the kingdoms of the Heathen, and turnest the hearts of Kings whithersoever Thou wilt, dispose and turn Thou the hearts of the Chiefs of this country, that they may love the things which make for them, temporal and eternal peace; that the time may be hastened, when they may, according to Thy promises, beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations no longer lift up the sword against nations, neither harm men any more! And Thou, O Lord! our God! who hast promised to hear the petitions of them who ask in Thy Son's name, we humbly beseech Thee mercifully to incline Thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and supplications to Thee, and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to Thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of Thy glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen."

August 20.- Having completed all our preparations, we got under way at 6 A.M. followed by the 'Soudan.' The 'Albert' having commenced the ascent of the river on the preceding evening.

We had intended to begin our "track survey" immediately on starting, but the operations were suspended by heavy showers of rain, that even gave us some difficulty in ascertaining the entrance of Louis Creek, which we consequently approached with too much caution; and not having sufficient speed to contend against the unexpected strength and eddies of the ebb-tide, we fell across the channel, which was not much broader than the length of the vessel, from forty to fifty yards, having mangrove trees on either side, with soundings from eleven to twenty-three feet.

After vainly striving to get the vessel's head up the stream, we were obliged to come out of the creek to make another start "reculer pour mieux sauter." In this we were successful, and we proceeded up the river followed by the 'Soudan'.

Having passed through the narrow channel named Louis Creek {So named after Lander 's pilot, who strenuously asserted this to be the best channel to find the "big water," in opposition to the advice of his treacherous master, King Boy, who, wished us to take another branch, in the hope that the vessels might be lost, when he proposed to enrich himself by the spoil. For his faithful service to us, poor Louis was afterwards put to death by King Boy}, it expands to a wide sheet of water, with many islets and several broad and more promising channels on the right and left, than the one we had just come through. They are, however, all nearly dry at low water; while Louis Creek, with the "young" flood, had depth enough for our little 'Amelia,' drawing ten feet.

Nothing at this part was to be seen indicative of anything like terra-firma. The visible boundaries of the river in all these branches being an endless confusion of the arching roots of the mangrove, Rhyzophora, the only occupant of this swamp. At low water, their roots are covered by slimy and stinking mud, with decayed vegetable matter; to which may, not unreasonably, be attributed the deadly character of the locality.

This is, indeed, the only bewildering part of the river; as, when once entered, there is no difficulty in following the right channel. The stream will always shew the course; since by keeping the vessel's head to the current, or to the ebb in a tide-way, it must lead to the main trunk of the river; so that no channel pursued upwards, can lead in a wrong direction, and though perhaps it may not have the deepest water, it will generally be found to bisect the Delta.

The main branch of the river, which we call the Nun, lies directly opposite to Louis Creek, and is the one declared to be the best by that poor fellow. There is a long shoal stretching nearly across, from the point on the left bank, making it necessary at first to keep the opposite shore close on-board.

Having passed this, we arrived at where the 'Albert' had anchored last night; and after proceeding a little farther, Lieutenant Levinge, Commander of H.M.S. 'Buzzard ' - who piloted the 'Albert' over the bar, and had accompanied the vessels thus far up the river - now took his departure; his boat's crew saluting each of the vessels as they passed upwards with three hearty cheers, which were responded to with that buoyancy of hopeful feeling we all entertained.

Lieutenant Levinge had in his charge the letters for England, all doubtless full of bright prospects never to be realized; and, alas! in too many cases, the last out-pourings of affection kind friends were ever to receive.

The Nun branch, soon after leaving Louis Creek, was scarcely one hundred and twenty yards wide, but on advancing, we passed several divergents, and the width and depth increased proportionably, as well as the strength of the current, a necessary consequence of the volume of water being confined to one channel instead of spreading over and inundating the mangrove swamps.

The banks began gradually to assume the appearance of firmer land; at first, without any vestiges of the operations of man; but soon, some small cultivated patches were seen; bearing plantains, a few fishing-stakes and a small fishing-hut, &c.

A native, in a very tiny canoe, made his appearance for a moment, and then hid himself in one of the numerous little creeks which intersect these swamps.

The universal stillness of the scene was very imposing; unbroken as it was by any sound, save the dashing of our own paddle-wheels, and the clear musical cry of the leadsman, which aided the effect, falling on the ear in measured cadence. The large and umbrageous trees, with their festoons of Orchideae, and purple and white Convolvuli hanging from the branches, formed a combination of forest scenery, so striking, novel, and interesting, as enabled us to forget that the much-talked-of Delta of the Niger had been fairly entered upon. Several monkeys were noticed hopping about with their wonted agility, which, as far as we could make out, seemed to be the Mona or Cercopithecus mona: the little gambollers sprung from tree to tree as if intent on trying rate of speed with us. The graceful swallow, Hirundo nigrita, was frequently recognized in its varied flight, by the black general plumage, and the little band of white across the tail.

During the day, the water and air were tested with carbonate of lead, nitrate of silver, muriate of gold, &c., but no trace of any of the looked-for sulphuretted hydrogen could be discovered.

The reeds gave place more frequently to patches of cultivation, in the midst of which were small granaries, raised from the ground on poles, to secure the stored productions of the soil from the overflowing of the river, as well as other more cunning depredators, as the proprietor lives in a distant village. At 1 P.M. we had reached Sunday Island - twenty miles from the sea. This is also the highest point to which the sea-tide reaches in the dry season, clearly indicated by the gradual but rapid disappearance of the mangrove trees, with their sombre foliage and numerous arching roots, and the Pandanus; though during the period of the floods the effect ceases very much lower down, accounting for the admission of a varied vegetation among trees which delight in the brackish water. It is indeed the transition state, and shews the onward march of the Delta by the reciprocation of cause and effect in the deposition of soil and vegetation.

The first palm-trees cannot be exceeded in the grace of their immense arching leaves, springing as it were from a stool, having but a very short stem. The natives use the long and tough branches for the same purposes to which the bamboo is applied, and they extract, the best palm-wine from their base. Ferns, the Ficus, Mimosae, and various shrubs and bushes of small growth increased as we advanced above Sunday Island: and the ranks, which previously were swampy, become somewhat firm; and the eye - wearied by the melancholy and monotonous hue of the mangrove - is delighted to witness the rapidly increasing vegetation, which soon assumes all the dignity of the tropical forest.

Lower part of the Nun branch

A few fishing-stakes and some small patches of plantains give, the earliest indications of approach to the habitations of man. The first villages are composed of a very few mud huts, of a square or oblong form, with thatched roofs and gable ends.

During the afternoon, some of the 'Albert's' officers landed at a little village on the right bank, called Paraboli, where they met an lbu pilot, whom they had seen at the mouth of the Nun. Captain Trotter wished to have engaged his services, but he set such an extravagant price on them, that the offer was declined. At this place, a rude resemblance of an alligator, cut in wood, was noticed in a Ju-ju house, and, in a small enclosure attached to the building, a carved figure of a child. The natives were soon divested of their fears, though, at first, the female portion especially, evinced considerable alarm, and ran off into the bush as the vessels approached; they had dark circles tattoed over several parts of the body, mostly on the breast.

At 7 P.M. we anchored in the middle of the stream, having made a distance of about thirty-three miles from the embouchure.

The river had here attained a breadth of more than three hundred and fifty yards, with a depth in the middle of thirty feet. The shores, sometimes of sand with a loamy coloured clay, rising two or three feet in firm land above the level of the water, shewed that the Nun was here confined within a decided channel. A populous village was abreast of us on the right bank; the huts very rude in construction. The inhabitants at first made their appearance armed with muskets and cutlasses, and though they soon laid these aside and shewed signs of gratification at our visit, they could not be prevailed on to communicate with us.

Darkness soon enshrouded all objects, and was the more intense from the close vicinity of the lofty forests by which we were surrounded. This, our first night in the Niger, was peculiarly suited to invite to meditation those who, while they reflected on the serious difficulties we should have to encounter, had a firm reliance on the power and goodness of Him whose fostering care is traceable in the wildest solitude.

The darkness was indeed perfect; - save the twinkling of the stars in the narrow portion of the heavens enclosed by the dark line of wood, and the more fitful flashes of the fire-fly: - while the solemnity of silence was scarcely broken, though innumerable insects kept up their not unpleasing chorus throughout the night. Most of us had been accustomed to the music which is poured forth in the tropics after sunset, but those to whom it was a novelty, were astonished at the volume of tone in this evening concert of Nature's own harmony.

20th.- 3 A.M. Th 79° Wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 75°
  9 A.M. " 81° " 76°
  3 P.M. " 84° " 76°
  9 P.M. " 80° " 75°

August, 21, 6 A.M.- A fine morning; weighed, and soon afterwards entered a divergent on the left bank, to examine it, by order of Captain Trotter. This is the channel which carries off a large part of the waters of the Niger to the embouchure called the Rio Bento, or St. John's River, the next to the eastward of the Rio Nun. We went down a little way till we had opened a fine reach, about one mile in length and one hundred and twenty yards wide. The water was deep - fifteen to twenty fleet - close to each bank.

Some canoes came towards us; - the largest had several muskets. The headman, after a great deal of hesitation, ventured on board and was offered some coffee; as we had adopted the practice of giving a cup of that fine tonic at daylight to all hands. He, however, refused it, never having seen any beverage looking so black and uninviting, and intimated that a glass of rum would be better understood. A small present was given him in lieu of rum, and he went away very much pleased.

We returned to the main stream, and passed a village on the right bank, called "Kiambli," containing only nine huts. The inhabitants there told the interpreter that, two days' passage up the creek opposite to them, there were two very populous towns, "Ichebby" and "Nebby," and that a white man lived at one of them, probably some unfortunate Albino, of which, cases now and then are met with in Africa. The Ju-ju at this place was merely two portions of plantain-stem, crossed. The population was about fifty. The chief sent off two fowls and some plantains as a "dash."

On coming up with the 'Albert,' Captain Trotter hailed Commander W. Allen to lead; - the 'Soudan' having been sent to examine the Benìn branch - erroneously so named - where they took the opportunity of ascertaining the longitude.

The Nun branch at this point, had attained a breadth of eight hundred yards. The so-called Benìn branch is five hundred yards wide, the banks partially cultivated with sugar-cane, plantains, &c.

Dr. Stanger here obtained some clay, containing Mica, and stated at once his conviction that granite would be found further up, which proved to be the case.

The villages, as we proceeded, became more frequent, larger and with more cultivation, while the oil-palm was everywhere seen; the cocoa-nut tree was only near the villages, a proof they are not indigenous, according to Dr. Vogel.

Soon after mid-day, passed a pretty village on the left bank, called Ingyama, where a few natives were seen peeping round the corners of their huts, in fright and astonishment at the "Devil-ship." The scenery was fine on all sides, everywhere might be seen the magnificent Bombax, or cotton tree; here and there a tree covered with a sort of scarlet flower, while the graceful palm, and clumps not unlike bamboo, aided the effect.

Captain Trotter made the signal for the 'Wilberforce' to examine a converging branch on the right bank, which we pursued in the expectation of its speedily leading us again into the main stream; but soon its winding reaches evidently led us far away to the westward. We had, therefore, discovered a new and important channel, which - believing himself ordered to explore - Commander W. Allen decided on following, in the full conviction that, as we were stemming the current, it must lead us sooner or later, into the main river, according to what has been previously said at page 177. This branch, called by the natives O'guborìh, trending in a N.W. direction, was about four hundred yards wide, and twenty-five feet deep. A heavy squall obliged us to anchor for a short time. We named the island, round which we were navigating, after H.M.S.V. 'Wilberforce.' The scenery was even more beautiful than that we had left, though the vegetation was very similar. The trees grow close to the water, and are covered with parasites, in great variety, hanging in graceful festoons, some of them bearing flowers and fruit. The cultivated parts shewed bananas, sugar-cane, cassada, maize, cocoa-palms, and yams.

In the afternoon, a village was passed on the right bank - Otua - containing about five hundred inhabitants. The huts appeared to be made entirely of clay. The people could be seen moving out of their huts with a celerity quite unusual for negroes. They were evidently suspicious of our intentions towards them; and with the exception of one "headman," - who came on board with fear and trembling, yet pretending all the time to be much at his ease - none of the many vociferous invitations repeated by our "Brass" interpreter were attended to. We noticed a species of Elephantiasis in two individuals who came the nearest to the ship.

The men in the canoes were fine robust fellows. They, as well as most of the natives who visited us this day, had a line or mark down the forehead, reaching to the bridge of the nose.

The hair-dressers of the village were, apparently, allowed more latitude for their exuberant taste than in politer circles. The wool of some was twisted into a number of small bunches, which certainly did not much improve their looks. Others had their crowns curiously cut in a variety of compartments, like a chess-board, or a French parterre, or made up into numerous little tails, ornamented with beads, standing erect as if to emulate the "fretful porcupine." The natives of this branch speak the Orù, or Brass language.

The shore on entering the O'guborih branch was at first very low; it afterwards became more elevated, but was not seen higher than about four feet above the present level of the river. Some marks on the stems of trees made it appear that the floods are sometimes even much higher than at the period of our visit.

21st.- 3 A.M. Th 78½° Wet bulb Mason's Hygr. 74°
  9 A.M. " 82½° " 76°
  3 P.M. " 83° " 76°
  9 P.M. " 79° " 76°

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