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Nautical Rambles.—The Dermudat.—No. VI.
(Concluded from page 169.)
The Bermudas are certainly a singular group, whether we consider them with reference to the ocean in which they are placed, or compare them with others therein. The Azores, the Madeiras, the Canaries, and the Cape Verdes, to the eastward, are, very different in their physical features, their geological structure, and in their hydrography. From Newfoundland and its marginal isles, Sable island and the islands of the St. Lawrence, they are more remote in their resemblance in every point of view. To the Bahamas they seem to be nearer allied ; but, there are •till some shades of difference, principally with reference to the vegetable productions; and although they lie 510 miles from the northern tropic their climate differs little from that of the West Indies. There is nothing remarkable in this, the diminution of heat being extremely gradual as we advance on the ocean from the tropic northward; and the norths which blow in the Caribbean sea, cause a fall of the temperature there equal, perhaps, or nearly so, to the winter standard of Bermuda. South and south-west winds I have known to prevail the greater part of the autumn and winter at the latter, when northerly gales occur in the former. Neither are we to feel surprise at the dissimilarity of the general or annual temperature which exists between these islands and the opposite continental shore of America, from which they are distant about 630 miles. The intervention of the heated waters of the Florida stream probably assists in mitigating the rigour of the northerly and north-western breezes in their passage across the ocean during the seasons of cold.
Altogether the Bermudas, though of small extent, are, not only interesting to the stranger, but, unquestionably, of great importance to the mother country. Their natural security from evasion is a feature that has, independent of their particular situation, claimed the especial attention of the authorities at home; and which being well known to all nations, may be deemed a protection equal to that which formidable forts would afford to a more accessible place, against the assaults of an enterprising foe.
I have spoken often, and rather freely perhaps, of the dearth of food in these islands, arising principally from a partiality among the landed proprietors for the growth of cedars.* Wood, it is true, is requisite for fuel, there being no coal; but, why not cultivate all the best portions of the land, and leave the worst parts only for the darling tree. I have understood that all the large timber has long since been consumed in the construction of ships; the returns, therefore, must be un^ profitably slow to the owners of the soil, who, there is scarcely a doubt, would reap more benefit, and bestow comfort on their fellow-men by growing vegetables and fruit (oranges), and in raising stock. What the price of cedar may be at the present time I do not know; but, thirty
* On the north front of St. George i9le, aback of the barrack, and near St. Catherine head, we observed very tall trees in groves; we do not know exactly of what species they are, bat believe them to be the Plane—P. Occidtntalis.
ENLARGED SERIES. —NO. 4 VOL. FOR 1841. IK
years ago the largest tree in the islands was not worth more than 221. or 231. currency: and it was said that there was not another equal to it throughout the whole cluster.
If the islanders are so wedded to this particular sort of wood in the construction of their vessels, they may procure it on the continent, in Virginia, Carolina, Georgia, and Flinda; and a similar wood, the hastard cedar, with the same aromatic scent, the tree of which, is of very large dimensions, and grows in Jamaica and the other islands.
At the island of Abaco, Bahamas, and probably in some of the other islands, there is an excellent species of fir-tree fit for ship-building, and probably might be imported into the Bermudas at a cheap rate, as the duties of the home market are so high as to be prohibitory,—the run would be a short one, only three or four days. The wood is resinous and durable, and I think it requires no argument to insist upon the truth that timber of a warm climate is the best adapted to the construction of vessels to be employed in such climate.* It is surprising what the industry of man will accomplish with land which in a state of nature is sterile, and apparently worthless. I have seen many instance! of this; but I need only to allude to Ascension to be convinced that where there is any soil by artificial means, it may be made productive. I can perceive no formidable impediments to this being effected in the Bermudas, if the land-owners there were so disposed, and none that may not be obviated in the rearing of stock. It is true, that from the position of the islands they are subject occasionally to the devastating effects of the progressive hurricane; but almost all countries, whether inter or extra tropical are at all times exposed to some particular vicissitudes of weather, or other continued drought, excessive inundations, severe and protracted cold, &c.
The land of the islands is no where sufficiently high to afford shelter to one spot more than another, under the infliction of a circular storm; on account of the veering of the wind there is no remedy for this, and unless the crops can be so regulated as lo be gathered in before the season of these storms arrive, the vegetable productions must suffer: precautions, however, may be taken to prevent destruction among the stock by erecting suitable cover for them in cases of need. At present the greatest misfortunes to be apprehended from such terrible visitations is the destruction of the boats of the fishers, and the suspension of their ordinary and indispenable occupation. We believe few or no lives are lost from the effects of these storms, as the dwellings are substantially formed of stone, and therefore afford safe retreats and shelter without apprehension of their falling or being blown away, as is the case with the wooden structures of the West India islands; and the boats generally keeping within the harrier reefs, have no difficulty in retreating upon the signs of approaching bad weather. That the boats are destroyed during the transit of hurricanes, can only be regarded as occurring from a want of that due precaution which it is imperative on the inhabitants themselves to have exercised. Were suitable boat-houses erected this w<<uld not happen, and as every individual more or less,
* Would it not he worth while for the government of this country to cast an eye towards Abaco, and its fir-trees. The schooners and small steamers might perhapi be profitably built there by artificers sent out.
is dependant on the fisher's avocation for his daily food, if he neglects to provide the means for the security of the vessels employed for that purpose, be deserves the consequences. Au appeal to the sympathies of the public can never be made with good effect, where the distressed party are by their own negligence, indolence, or indifference, suffering privation. The poor instruments who minister by their labours to the general good, are not to be blamed, and must obtain the pity of every feeling heart, but that will not remedy the evil;—to remedy that effectually, the richer natives should subscribe (and it would be to their own advantage as well as credit to do so,) and have proper boathouses built along the line of coasts above the reach of the surf. It is not improbable but that the government would afford its aid in some way or other, to effect so humane and desirable an object.
I do not know whether the islands are often visited by the progressive hurricanes, but presume that a register has been kept of their times of occurrence; I should be much gratified to see such a list, (if there be one,) recorded in the pages of the Nautical Magazine. In the absence of such information, I am inclined to believe that the occurrence of these storms is not very frequent at the islands; the meteors in their advance to the northward, passing generally to the westward of their meridian, and, perhaps, some few to the eastward. The loss of property chiefly, it is said, among the least wealthy, which took place during the hurricane of last year, amounted to the large sum of £60,000!
In speaking of the habitual indolence of the natives, I would not be understood as using the term as one of reproach, for they are no more to be charged with the characteristic as a fault, than the Frenchman would be for his gaiety or loquacity, and the Hollander for his phlegm, or any oilier people for a peculiar mode of life, or habits induced by a climatal influence, &c. The whites are the descendents of one of the most energetic races of men in the world, and there is not a doubt but that the elements of enterprise and vigour are a part of their nature, dormant because not exercised. Indeed, the fact is not to be disguised, that those who have little to do in a warm climate, will naturally become prone to a listlessness of body, and a corresponding inertness of mind, and which, unless aroused, will grow into a habit, I should be sorry to follow the example of the poet, who perhaps, to heighten the effect of the compliment, h« seemed desirous of paying to the lasses of Bermuda, treated their papas to a very sorry one,—certainly unmerited, and coming with a very bad grace from him who had "blarnied" about their hospitality. In truth, I opine, that the most humble of the Mudians is at least, (to speak commercially,) "100 per cent" higher in the scale of civilization, and genuine Christianity, than the "Bog-trotters or Mullingars," of that "gem of the first-water," which takes off the rough edge of the Atlantic billows from Britain,
The natives of the Bermudas are generally a quiet, inoffensive, and amiable race of people; most of them appear to he of a serious and religious turn of mind, and their morality we have never heard questioned. From the observations which I was enabled to make, I Would say that the blacks are superior to their sable brethren of the West Indies, and I remarked that their speech had considerably lew of the Creolian patois, than that of the negroes of the Carribbean sea islands. I do not recollect to have seen a Mulatto, or any other shade of those which are termed coloured people; but I was shown a little Albino girl, (of a dead white colour,) whose parents were black.
Often, and often have I wandered in imagination over the scenes ■which I have so imperfectly attempted to describe, with almost as lively a degree of pleasure as I experienced in the reality,—So attractive with all their sameness are the little " fairy isles,"—sequestered in the midst of a pathless ocean,—delightful in climate, and beautifully verdant to behold; in fact they are a little paradise of the earth, to be envied by those who are the lovers of peace. The possessors I honour for their unassuming and moral character, and if good wishes can avail them aught, they have mine for their prosperity and undiminished happiness.
On the navigation around the islands we need not dwell long, it has been described in works of reference. In winter the winds are stormy, in the other seasons, calms and whirlwinds, lightning and thunder, squalls from all points at intervals, with very heavy showers of rain, and water-spouts are prevalent; hut there is also much fine weather. The currents are proverbial for their fickleness, yet they are often found setting very strongly to the west and to the south-west.
Of dangers in the vicinity, there are none well established beyond the barrier reefs; one or two shoals lie to the south-westward, but with sufficient depth of water over them, I believe, for ships to pass without risk of striking; they should however, be sounded over occasionally, as the coral zoophite is at work upon them, and therefore their vertical increase may be expected.
The reported Vigia called the "False Bermuda," 300 miles easterly of the isles, if it ever existed, was probably a volcanic production, the rocks having since submerged. Many years ago we heard it confidently asserted that a Jamaica ship had been lost upon them. There seems to be a great deal of scepticism in these matters among many seamen, but although I am not unwilling to believe that dangers are sometimes reported which do not exist, yet I am satisfied that because a reported rock or shoal, is no longer to be found, such cannot be a conclusive reason that it never had existence. In the case we are speaking of, it is possible for a vessel navigated alone by account, to strike on some of the rocks at the extreme of the barrier reefs of Bermuda, out of sight of the land, and the master to report that he had struck on a danger two or three hundred miles from those islands; this is more likely to occur in a voyage to America than in one homeward.
Both to the northward and to the southward of these islands, sand banks above water have been reported, but no second persons have ever seen them,—those who could fabricate such accounts must be either fools, drunkards, or madmen.
In the latest returns published,* we find the following particulars. The islands collectively contain about 14,000 acres, of which only 462 are cultivated, so that there are 13,338 acres covered with trees, in grass and unproductive.
* Martin'* Co!onie».
In 1832, there were 4,181 white inhabitants, and 4,895 blacks,— total population 9.081. Of horned cattle there were 1,528 head,—sheep 228, and goats 199.
In 1826, the births were 299,—the deaths 219. Increase in the year 80.
Arrow-root made 18,174 lbs. Colonial revenue 10,000/. per annum.
Max. heat 84° Fah,, in June, min. 59° in February; winds northwest 4, north-east 3, south-east 2, S.S.E 1, east 1, south-west 1,—but this is for one year only. A register for at least twenty-five years is required, and I hope one has been kept at (he dock-yard.
There are 1,500 convicts employed at the dockyard.
Excursion To The Lake or Nicaragua Up The River San Juan.— By Mr. George Lawrance, Assistant-Surveyor of II.M.S. Thunder, Com. E. Barnett, in March, 1840.
(Continued from p. 188.)
Tuesday 1 tth.—At daylight we roused the llamas, who were looking very stupid after their debauch, launched the canoe, and paddled to the Isletas; a group of islands lying off Grenada, which appear to have been thrown up by some violent eruption, as indicated by the immense detached blocks, rent and huddled together in the wildest disorder. But whatever may have been their origin they now present a most beautiful picturesque appearance, ornamented with many graceful trees growing in the interstices of the rocks, and overrun in all directions with luxuriant vegetation.
The high hill of Grenada towering over these islelets, by which we were land-locked on every side,produced a striking effect. We landed to breakfast on one of the most inviting of them, where we saw, as on most of the others, a solitary resident. We then threaded our way through this labyrinth of islands, and steered for the south end of Zapatero with a moderate, but short unpleasant sea; and sounded as we vent, in six and nine fathoms.
At noon we stopped, being prevented proceeding to Nicaragua by the wind, which was blowing fresh, and dead against us; but at five P.m. the wind having moderated, we again embarked, and steered close under the western shore of Zapatero, where it is high and thickly wooded. This island is not inhabited, but in the season it is visited by the people of Grenada for the convenience of fishing. Its western hill is bare and barren having reeently been cleared away by an accidental fire; its geological tspect resembles that of the Isletas.
At sunset we passed between this island, which is distant from the main about a mile, and entirely composed of stratified rock, dipping at an inclination of 15° to 20° from the horizon, thickly overgrown, and at present visited by a few fishermen. A plain seems to extend across the isthmus from the south side of the Grenada mountains as far as the eye can reach, and the island of Zapatero, forms with the main, an excellent harbour.
Wednesday \%th.—At five A.m. we launched, and steered alongshore