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REMARKS ON THE WESTERN COAST OF AFRICA,
By Commander P. H. Dyke, R.N. Little Fish Bay. Is a large and spacious bay, four or five miles broad at the entrance; the best anchorage (so I was informed by the officers of the Portuguese schooner-of-war Conselho) is in a small cove or bay close to the S.W. of the town, where I anchored in 41 fathoms. There is a long dangerous spit running out to the westward, and when the rollers set in they are extremely heavy, and ought to be kept at a considerable distance. The watering-place, as well as the water, is but indifferent, at nearly 2 miles distance; so, under any circumstances, I do not consider it a desirable place for a cruizer to go. I arrived there on the evening of the 20th of May, and on the following morning sent a boat sounding round the harbour. The water is very deep all across the entrance, close to both points, as well as from the town to Cape Guspa (north entrance of the bay) there being no bottom with the hand lead; but along the southern shore, “the head of the bay,” the water is very shoal, and irregular soundings. It was my intention to have ascer. tained the correct longitude; but, in consequence of the governor of the place, on the morning after my arrival, having represented to me that a revolt had taken place against the constituted authorities, at the same time claiming my assistance, I, agreeably to his request, received on board all the persons concerned in the revolt, and proceeded to St. Paul's de Loanda with them immediately.
The longitude of Capes St. Mary and St. Martha, are both laid down a degree out, which, I suppose, is merely a mistake in the print;
NO. 4.-VOL. XVII.
neither of which places have I been able to take the correct longitude of, but by that given in the book of directions, it would place them 63 or 64 miles inland.
Elephant Bay.—“ Friars Rocks,” in lat. 13° 14' S. and long. 12° 33' E., is by far the best and finest bay all along the coast, with capital anchorage. I always anchored in 7 fathoms, about 3 cables' lengths from the high land, close up in the corner. The water is perfectly smooth, and the wind always blows off the high land; I took the opportunity of careening the vessel, and putting some sheets of copper on the bottom well under water. The only drawback to the place is the want of water, not a drop of which can be got even by the settlers for their own consumption, they are obliged to send to Camena Bay for it, a distance of six miles.
Fish of all sorts are in great abundance, I frequently caught with one haul of the seine more than sufficient for the whole of the crew. During the time I was there, I established a regular signal post on the hill, from which I could see at least 45 miles on a clear day; and should recommend others to adopt a similar plan, should they be going to remain any time there. In the neighbourhood of Elephant Bay the land is very mountainous, with flat table land; at the southern entrance of the bay there are four rocks, called the “Friars' Rocks," with deep water close to them. In coming from the northward, the land, about six or seven miles from the bay, appears quite white, like chalk, and may be seen for & considerable distance. There is not the slightest danger in approaching the land anywhere along the coast in that neighbourhood, as there is deep water close to the land all along.
There is a rise and fall all along the south coast, of about five feet. The westerly winds generally prevail. The current, from what I have observed, never sets to the southward, occasionally to the eastward, but principally to the N.N.W. I was set one evening, when between Capes St. Mary and Martha, at the rate of 1 miles an hour to the eastward.
Camena Bay.-In lat. 13° 12' S. and long. 12° 39' E. is a large bay, about six miles to the north of Elephant Bay; but ships going to anchor there should be extremely cautious in not having too much way on the vessel, as you do not get soundings uptil close in, and then from 15 fathoms rapidly to 3 fathoms, at about half-a-mile distant from the beach.
The first time I went there I got far too close in, and was obliged to warp further out, so ever since then I have invariably sent a boat in and anchored her in 8 fathoms, so brought the vessel to anchor close to the boat; but on one occasion, even then, although I dropped my anchor close to the boat, and only veered to 20 fathoms, I had only 4 fathoms under the stern,
I found nearly in the centre of the bay, close down to the beach, merely the bed of a large river, but by digging holes in the gravel the water flowed in rapidly; I dug three each time, about six or seven feet long and three deep, and, although I kept filling casks and breakers during the whole day, the water did not appear to diminish in the least, and I must say, I think the water was as good as any I ever tasted. The best time for watering is the morning before the sea breeze sets in, which is very irregular as to time; but after that there is often a nasty surf on the beach which hinders the watering
In a couple of days I got on board this vessel thirty-two tons. The country all around abounds with lions, zebras, and deer, which came down and drank at the places we dug, after our departure in the evening.
The Rosella (scarlet dye) trade appears to be the only one, with the exception of that of slaves; and from what I could see, I strongly suspect there is a good deal of the latter carried on. I frequently saw small parties of ten or twelve brought into the place, guarded by a few men armed with muskets. The land to the northward is steep, and quite white, apparently chalky soil, and terminates in a high bluff which forms the northern entrance of the bay. The white cliff may be seen at a great distance, and after having once been seen, can never be mistaken.
Luash Bay.-In lat. 13° 0' S. and 12° 46' E., is a good anchorage, but in general there is a deal of surf on the beach. What I consider the best anchorage is in 7 fathoms, with the bridge bearing S.b.W. W. half a mile. The anchorage further in, under the lee of the bridge, appears occasionally to be good, with beautiful-smooth water; but when the rollers set in (which is, I am given to understand, at the full and change of the moon), I think, from what I have seen, that even this vessel would almost touch the bottom, therefore do not consider it a safe anchorage for men-of-war. There are plenty of good bullocks to be got, but no water; and slaving is carried on to a great extent.
Point Salinas.-In lat. 12° 53' S. and long. 12° 43' E., is a very low sandy point, running out about four miles from the high land; you ought to be very cautious in approaching it after dark, as you can never see it owing to the dark high land at the back. There is a palm tree standing on the extreme point, which much resembles a sail, and is frequently reported as such. The water to the northward of the point is very deep, even close to, but on the south side, just the contrary, and the soundings very irregular, so it ought invariably to be given a wide berth, when to the southward of it. I consider this the only dangerous place along the coast to the southward. To the northward of the point, at a distance of about five or six miles, there is a settlement formed, where a great quantity of salt is made and exported, principally to St. Paul de Loanda and Benguela
Benguela.-Flag-staff at the Fort in lat. 12° 33' 51" S., and long. 13° 9' E., is a good anchorage, and I dare say was once a fine place, but is now in a miserable condition, with bad water; and when on shore it puts me in mind of a deserted place, or as if the plague or some other violent disease had swept off two-thirds of the inhabitants.
I anchored in 84 fathoms, with the Bonnet, bearing W.b.N. I N., and the cathedral S.E. The Bonnet is a most remarkable piece of land on the south entrance of the bay, and resembles a crown, with a vessel at the top; it can easily be seen at the distance of fifteen or sixteen miles. The soundings are very regular all over the bay, with about 5 fathoms close in, so by keeping the lead going, there can be no danger. Water is not only scarce, but very bad; but any quantity of good bullocks can be procured at a moderate price; poultry, as well as sheep, are both scarce and dear; the former of which are sold at half a dollar a-piece.
Lobito.-In lat. 12° 20' S., and long. 13° 20' E., is a beautiful harbour about three miles long, and one broad, with 10 fathoms all the way up, close to the western shore.
In rounding Lobito Point, you may go within a few yards of it, as the beach is quite steep, with 10 fathoms water.
In working up to the anchorage, you ought not to stand over on the eastern shore into less than 8 fathoms, as it then begins to shoal very suddenly. It is a good place to cut wood, but you must first obtain permission of the governor of Benguela, who is a remarkably civil and obliging person.
Bullocks and poultry are likewise to be obtained, and very good, the latter five or six for a dollar. Oysters are in great abundance on both sides of the river, at the head of the harbour, from the shells of which an immense quantity of lime is made, and I believe is principally exported to Benguela and St. Paul de Loanda. No water is to be got in the neighbourhood, otherwise it would be a famous place to heave a vessel down, or clear her out. In coming from the southward you will see a rather large white building on the hill, which is the fort at Catumbela, and close to the northward of it there is a large niche in the land, which is very conspicuous, and is about seven miles to the southward of Lobito Point.
In coming from the northward or westward, you will see three white marks in the land joined together, which appear precisely like the arches of a bridge, they are close to the north side of the entrance of the harbour.
The Portuguese Government were anxious a few years since to form a settlement there, instead of Benguela, in consequence of its being so very unhealthy, but were obliged to abandon the idea, after building some few houses, owing to not being able to find any water, and in addition to which it is also very unhealthy.
There is about six feet rise and fall of tide, the head of the harbour at low water is perfectly dry, and the smell is by no means agreeable, particularly of an evening when the tide is out. There are an immense number of fish in the harbour, sharks amongst the rest, so one ought to be careful allowing any person to bathe. I have seen five or six at once near the ship, and have had several in the seine, which have always broken through.
Anha.-In lat. 12° 14' S., and long. 13° 26' 14" E., is a large village to the northward of Lobito, and apparently from what I could see from the ship, far more luxuriantly situated than any other place along the coast.
There is a large river running down through the village, which adds much to its appearance, but in consequence of the heavy surf which invariably sets on the beach, it is impossible for man-of-war boats to land and procure water, even under the most favourable circumstances.
Quicombo.-In lat. 11° 20' S., and long. 13° 36' E., is a capital place for watering, close over the beach near the village is a large sheet of water with a running stream, which comes from the mountains, where you fill your casks, and parbuckle them into the boat. I have been given to understand that, for about a couple of days after the full and change of the moon, the rollers set in so very heavy that it is impossible to communicate with the shore, much less procure water, therefore, you ought to be careful, and not anchor nearer to the beach than one and a-half miles, should you be going to stay over that time. I saw the French brig-of-war, Messager, go in to what is called the inner anchorage, but was obliged to shift her berth out again immediately, in consequence of her rolling so heavily. It is about eight miles to the southward of Nova Redonda; there is a reef that extends about one mile, (and which constantly breaks) running out from the southern point of the bay, which is very bluff, and quite red, it being the only place near here where the land is red, so it cannot be mistaken. Close at the back of the village there is a large zigzag road, communicating with the interior, which is the most conspicuous mark of all.
The bearings I took when anchored were:-Road on the back of the town S.S.E. E.; southern point, S.S.W.; north point, N.E. E.; in 64 fathoms, a good berth, but if anything, rather far out.
There are a great number of bullocks to be got at fifteen dollars a-piece, but as we had no necessary money on board, and the Portuguese not liking to take Government bills, we could not procure any.
Nova Redonda.-In lat. 11°12' S., and long. 13° 44'40"E. Although I never anchored here, we got good sights for the chronometer; the water is shoal at a distance of about eight miles to the westward.
We got about 8 fathoms at the distance above mentioned.
Morro Point.-In lat. S. and long. 13° 33' E. Close to the northward of this point there is a beautiful large bay, with 9 or 10 fathoms of water all over it. I did not anchor here, but run all along the bay, close inshore, and from its appearance, should say it afforded good anchorage.
Cape San Bras.-In lat. 10° 1' 30" S. and long. 13° 11' E. I anchored, with the cape bearing S.E three-quarters of a mile. I found a very long rolling swell. I took the master sounding with me, and found 6 and 7 fathoms water within a quarter of a mile of the cape, and 44 fathoms within half a cables' length of it, with the same depth all round the bay near the beach. I discovered a spit of sand running out at the head of the bay, about a quarter of a mile in length, with deep water close to it on either side; inside the spit there is a beautiful snug little harbour, about a quarter of a mile long and three cables' length broad, with 2 and 3 fathoms water nearly the whole way up. The harbour is full of fish; the only afternoon I was there, I hauled the seine, and caught a great quantity of Cape salmon, flat-fish, lardines, soles, nine sharks, and ten sword-fish. I did not see any Portuguese settlers there, but a few blacks from the country, who seemed inclined to be very friendly and anxious to trade.