Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf Friedrich.

From the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) online

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Their long seclusion in their island home, together
with an intimate contact with Nature, have developed
among the Bubis certain characteristics which are in
many respects of a high moral order. A strong love
for their country, loyal public spirit at all events in
their villages, independence and a constant adherence
to their ancient manners and customs are in marked
contrast to the characteristics of many of the trading
tribes of the mainland. These qualities explain how
the Bubis have been able to resist the influence
of European civilisation. Their requirements are
extraordinarily few. In Baumann's time they wore
practically no clothes, and in remote villages this is
the case even at the present time. On the other hand
they many of them wear plaited hats of an immense
size that serve the purpose of umbrellas. Their houses
are very simple, and their furniture is of the most
primitive description. They possess no iron implements
other than those introduced by Europeans.

Tattooing is unknown among the Bubis, but both
men and women display peculiar scars, which they
regard as adornments, wide incisions across their
cheeks from ear to nose. The women wear wide bands
round their upper arms, also strings of pierced shell

210 and 211. Bubi of San Carlos.

212. Annobon from the north.

213. iVillage of Pale with mission.

214. Village of Pale.


We were particularly struck by these incisions and
bracelets (illus. 210, 211,) never having seen anything
like them in all our travels. In spite of their low
order of civilisation, they are industrious husbandmen ;
their koko (Colocasid) fields are carefully tilled and
fenced in. They also cultivate excellent yams (Dios-
corea) and bananas ; cassada (manioc) is unknown to
them as it was to the negroes of the mainland up to
the discovery of America.

Their morals are of a very high order. Allen writes
about them in 1841 as follows : " It is impossible to
speak too highly of the character of these peculiar
people. They are generous and hospitable towards
strangers, in their own simple fashion ; they are kindly
disposed to one another in their everyday life, and
are always willing to assist one another both in sickness
and in health. They are brave, but show a conciliatory
spirit, and an unwillingness to shed blood, even that of
their enemies. They are not cruel in battle, and their
religious ceremonies are not stained with human blood.
Murder is unknown among them, and one of their
chiefs earned for himself the nickname of ' the
executioner ' because he cut down one of his sub-
jects whom he caught in the act of stealing from
the boat belonging to a man-of-war. This shows, too,
how averse they are to theft." Bigamy is, however,

From this account, which is confirmed by Baumann,
it is evident that the Bubis are a congenial people,
whose so-called aversion towards European culture is
more pleasing than the veneer of civilisation assumed
by many another negro tribe. Of recent years they
have certainly discarded some of their exclusiveness,
whilst retaining a strong sense of independence which


renders them unwilling to work on the plantations
in the service of Europeans.

This is regrettable since it is the dearth of labourers
that prevents Fernando Po from making the most
of its natural resources. It is very difficult to induce
labourers from the mainland to undertake work in
Fernando Po, and for this state of affairs Europeans
have themselves chiefly to blame. Croo-boys have
repeatedly been engaged on the Liberian coast to work
in Lagos or the Cameroons, and have then been con-
veyed to Fernando Po. When they have finished
their work they have been paid in cheap wares instead
of in money, so that it is not surprising if they decline
to be entrapped a second time. It is even more difficult
to secure the services of the natives in other parts of
the mainland, for example in Spanish Guinea, so that
the labour question, always a difficult problem in
Africa, is disastrous to the prosperity of Fernando Po.

Nevertheless, the land is so fertile that we must not
give up all hopes of an improvement in the situation.
At the same time the climatic conditions are most
favourable for tropical plantations as well as being
comparatively healthy, the prairies of Moka are admir-
ably adapted for the rearing of cattle and for the culti-
vation of European vegetables, the harbours are
excellent, in fact there are present all the conditions
necessary for assuring a brilliant future to this beautiful

I will conclude with the words of the explorer
Baumann, and express the hope that this pearl of the
Gulf of Guinea, aptly named Formosa by its discoverer,
may at length awake from its thousand years' slumber,
and enjoy the prosperity it deserves.



ON the 2nd of September Schultze and I took ship
from Santa Isabella and landed at Annobon, the
smallest and most remote of the four Guinea Islands.
It was so-called (the good year, i.e. the new year)
because it was discovered on New Year's Day 1471
by loao de Santarem, a Portuguese seaman, just as
Fernando Po was discovered by the Portuguese Captain
Fernao do Poo.

The Spanish Government steamer " Annobon " visits
the island every alternate month, forming the only
connecting link with the outer world ; I cannot say,
however, that she inspires one with any great confidence.
She is old, small and dirty, and should long ago have
earned a place on the scrap-heap. The provisions were
plentiful and good, though better adapted to Spanish
than German palates. Excepting for the dinner table,
the whole of this restricted and inconvenient little
vessel was full of dirt, so that our voyage was not
an unmixed blessing. And so very, very slow !

The first day we steamed from the capital to San
Carlos, in order to take up a few passengers. Towards
nightfall we set off again, and in the afternoon of the
second day we passed Prince's Isle. On the third day
we passed St Thomas and enjoyed " one of the most
picturesque coast views in the world." The peaks
were indeed thickly wrapped in clouds during our



passage, but we were filled with astonishment at the
sight of the ever-varying and rare mountain shapes,
precipitous cones, and apparently inaccessible needles
of rock, such as are seldom found in volcanic regions.

On the morning of the 5th of September Annobon
at length rose out of the sea like some proud island
citadel. We were anxiously wondering whether our
hopes and expectations would be realised. We swept
the island eagerly with our telescopes, which revealed
a little rocky island, with steep cliffs and rugged
precipices, behind which rise wooded mountains, whose
highest peaks are concealed by a mass of low-lying
clouds. In the foreground is the Pico do Fogo, a land-
mark of Annobon owing to its curious truncated cone
shape. (Illus. 212.)

The great, white Mission building is visible from a
considerable distance. On a closer acquaintance the
shore displays a stretch of sand inclosed by a hedge
of palm trees, and the grey houses of Pale. (Illus.
213-216.) As we approach we observe how parched
and barren is the flat country facing north, as well as
the lower mountain slopes. We have fled from the
rainy season in Fernando Po, and behold here it is

At last we are at anchor some way from the shore,
and making as much fuss as though we were a 6000-ton
vessel at the very least. And yet the beautiful blue-
green water is so clear that every pebble, every shell
can be distinguished at the bottom.

The Delegado, a bilious-looking Spanish non-com-
missioned officer, comes on board, accompanied by
the genial and rotund Pater Ferrando, the Superior
of the Mission, whilst the laughing and screaming
natives press round the steamer in their little canoes.


We land in the large Mission boat, and set foot in
Annobon with our expectations already considerably

We soon made up our minds not to remain in the
lower part of the island, for the dry season was evidently
at its height, and the dust and drought were intolerable.
So we decided to make the famous Crater Lake our
headquarters, 900 feet above the sea level, at the foot
of the Pico do Fogo. With the help of the Delegado
we soon secured the services of a number of natives,
chiefly women, and the very same afternoon all our
baggage was carried up. We climbed the winding
path, at first amid oil palms, inclosed by low lava walls,
then through small cassada fields hedged in by Jatropha
Cur cos Lin., then through barren prairies plentifully
sprinkled with fragments of lava, and finally through a
dry, sparse wood of oil-palms of which the undergrowth
is composed of all kinds of bushes, including wild oranges,
laden with fruit. At last the climber's view embraces
the still, crater lake, a perfect jewel of picturesque
beauty. (Illus. 217.) We pitched our tents on its
northern shore, beneath the oil palms, not far from
the point where, during the rainy season, the lake
discharges its surplus water over the edge of the crater.

The North of the island is formed by the volcano
whose crater supplies the bed of the lake. Towards
the South the crater wall is highest and best preserved ;
it falls in terraces of about eight hundred feet, and,
though fairly steep, it is covered with trees. (Illus. 218.)

East and west the side of the crater is lower, until
on the North it forms merely a broad, rounded wall,
where at its lowest point the lake pours away its super-
fluous water during the rainy season. Towards the
North-East an independent rock rises from the edge of


the crater : the Pico do Fogo (illus. 219) an irregularly
three-sided, truncated cone, composed of a light grey
stone, which is not to my knowledge found elsewhere
in the island, and is quite different to the regularly
stratified material thrown up by the volcano, of which
the greater part of the island is composed.

On the right side of illustration 212 another small
island is missing, which is separated from the main
island by a deep channel. Seen from the North, it
presents a flat, rounded appearance, and has conse-
quently been named Tortuga (tortoise). This island
was originally formed by the peak of a volcano, and
on its South the stratified inner wall of the crater can
clearly be seen, the strata being undermined to an
unusual extent by the weather. (Illus. 221.) The
most surprising thing about it is that, as far as we
know, the stone of which it is composed is altogether
wanting on the main island, being volcanic material
of a deep red colour, which recalls a very dark

The lake was just now at its lowest level, and its
waters troubled. The floor of the crater round the
lake and its lower slopes were wooded with oil palms.
Amongst them grew numerous wild orange trees, bearing
a rich display of golden fruit, which was not, however,
so pleasant to eat as it appeared. The flesh was juicy,
but exceedingly bitter, and nothing but the terrible
thirst induced by the long and fatiguing climb up the
barren slopes would have induced us to welcome these
fruits as a refreshment.

Above the belt of oil palms is a wood, composed
principally of two trees : a beautiful, evergreen oil
tree (Oka Welwitschii) whose large, dark willow-like
leaves were in marked contrast to the leafless stems of

215. House of the government officials in Pale.

216. Mission: Pico do Fogo in background.













a deciduous Anacardacia clothed only with bearded
lichen ; the first leaf buds appear in October before
the foliage. This mingling of evergreen and deciduous
trees lends a peculiar character to the forest, but the
blossom of both these trees is scanty. There are
few bushes in the underwood ; some scattered ferns
grow between the boulders, mostly as epiphytes, but
there is scarcely any herbaceous undergrowth. During
the rainy season everything probably has a fresher
appearance, but I doubt whether even then the collector
would find much to reward his pains. Mine was
certainly but a sorry share.

The fauna was even more scanty. The only mam-
malia that we encountered were wild, black hogs, rats,
and vampire bats, and the only birds were a pretty,
brick-red fly-catcher, a grey-green hooded bird
(Zosterops), and a small owl ; there were, of course, no
water birds. The doves and crested guinea fowls
were probably derived from domesticated ancestors.
Schultze, to his great regret, found no butterflies.

I have not yet thoroughly studied my botanical
specimens, but I can say at any rate that plant life
is but scantily represented on the island of Annobon,
and that what there is of it is composed of the most
heterogenous elements of African vegetation, mingled
together in the most surprising manner. This may
readily be explained on the supposition that the flora
is entirely exogenous, having been brought over from
the mainland by means of ships, currents of air, or
birds. Endemic varieties are either entirely absent,
or else they are nearly related to the species found
on the mainland and in St Thomas. In this respect,
therefore, Annobon differs markedly from Saint Helena,
which possessed a very characteristic flora of its own,


at all events until it was destroyed, principally by the

As there was so little botanising to be done we had
all the more time to devote to a study of the structure
of the island, and Schultze was able to make numerous
measurements, and to survey the roads in every direc-
tion with a view to the construction of the first map ever
projected of Annobon. All our expeditions were con-
ducted under the greatest difficulties. Considering
the small size of the island, which is only four and a
half miles long and one and a half miles wide, we had
supposed that the task of exploring it in every direction
would be an easy one. We were greatly mistaken. The
precipitous slopes loaded with boulders and rubble
necessitated the most laborious climbing, and an
excursion, for example, to the village of Santa Cruz
on the west coast, which was not more than two and a
half miles as the crow flies from our camp beside the
Crater Lake, took us a whole day. Even a walk round
the lake is not perfectly simple, although there is a
native footpath. At intervals, as for example at the
foot of the Pico do Fogo, the pedestrian encounters
a chaos of rubble, which must be laboriously scrambled
through. A spot on the eastern shore awakens sad
memories, for it was the camping ground of the explorer
Boyd Alexander, who was murdered later in Wadai.

The ascent of the Pico do Fogo was particularly
fatiguing and unpleasant. The most accessible side
is from the edge of the crater to the East of the lake.
i.e. behind the right face of the mountain (illus. 217) ;
and for people who are not absolutely devoid of giddiness
this is in fact the only possible route. Between the
boulders and rubble the slope is covered only with
grass and a few gnarled and scattered bushes. The


weather has broken up the stone into loose blocks, the
grass clumps afford no safe hold, and whilst climbing
one has an ever-present and most disagreeable feeling
of insecurity. On the way down I became so dizzy
that but for the assistance of my trusty Ekomeno I
should scarcely have reached home in safety.

This ascent had important results, since from the
summit of the little pyramid we enjoyed a complete
panorama, and Schultze was able to make various

In books the height of the Pico do Fogo is usually
given as 3280 feet. This however is not correct, for
Schultze measured it and found it to be only 1475
feet above the sea level, and 590 feet above the level
of the Crater Lake.

From the summit of the Pico do Fogo we saw behind
the high southern edge of the crater a wooded range
of mountains which seemed to be the loftiest in the
island. A native finally consented to guide us thither ;
at first he was not very willing, alleging that it would
be very cold up there.

We made our way along the western edge of the crater,
and soon reached the flat depression between the
Quioveo and the North Crater. On the other side of
this saddle-shaped depression is the valley of the Rio
San Juan, which flows in an easterly direction. Up
here, in a region which is often enveloped in mist and
rain when the sun is shining lower down, the industrious
inhabitants of Pale, that is to say the women, cultivate
bananas. Oil palms, too, are more luxuriant here
than on the plain, or in the basin of the Crater Lake.
Cocoa plantations have been attempted, but as might
have been anticipated, without success. Cocoa requires
a much warmer and more equable climate, combined


with plenty of moisture in the form of copious showers,
but not direct contact with the clouds.

At a level of about 1600 feet begins the fog region
of Annobon. Every day dense masses of cloud are
driven up from the sea by the prevailing south-
westerly winds, and congregate round the highest
peaks ; Santa Mina, Quioveo, and the southern edge
of the North Crater. The temperature is moderate
and the atmosphere is charged with moisture, thus
favouring the growth of all tree ferns, mosses, lichens,
hymenophylls, and some varieties of begonia.

We proceeded through this wooded foggy region
along a precipitous path to the summit, which is
set like an old ruined castle upon the broader ridge.
Here the old, gnarled, weather-beaten trees are so
overgrown with epiphytes that they present a distorted
appearance. (Illus. 220.) I have never seen any
epiphytes so well developed as on the summits of
Quioveo and Santa Mina.

After having several times made the circuit of the
crater from our camp beside the lake, having ascended
the Fogo once, and the Quioveo several times, and
after making an excursion to the village of Santa
Cruz, we removed our camp to the shelter of a hedge
of koko palms on the shore, not far from the Mission.
We had hoped that after spending a fortnight on the
island we should be picked up by the Spanish steamer
which goes from Fernando Po to Prince's Isle on the
18th of September. The Deputy Governor, Julio
Pantoga, had not been able to make any definite promise,
but we had begged Herr Krull to lay our request before
the Governor on his return from Spanish Guinea, and
we were counting on his acceding to our wish. The
21st of September passed, however, with no sign of a

218. Crater lake with the high southern edge of the crater.

219. Pico do Fogo on the Crater lake.

220. Tree with parasites on the summit of Quioveo.

221. Island of Tortuga, stratified and strongly eroded crater-edge.


steamer's smoke on the horizon. So we had to possess
our souls in patience for another fortnight.

At first we were bitterly disappointed, but later on
we realised that it was really for the best, as otherwise
our investigations would have been incomplete, and
we should probably have missed the most beautiful
part of the island. We turned our steps towards the
South and South-East, in the direction of Santa

We reached our destination easily and comfortably
in the little native canoes, whereas, if we had gone
by land, it would have been a most fatiguing expedition.
These canoes are tiny in comparison with the huge
hollowed trees employed on the Congo and its tributaries,
for the forest of Annobon comprises comparatively
small trees, even the Bombax being a dwarf compared
with its immense representative in the Cameroons or
in Fernando Po. The Annobon natives are, however,
so skilful in the manipulation of their small craft that
they inspire complete confidence. We skimmed over
the clear, deep water beside the precipitous walls of a
picturesque grotto to which adhered the nests of lively,
black sea-swallows, far above human reach. (Illus. 229.)

We turned a low headland, through which the surf
had worn away a rocky entrance, and landed on the
San Pedro beach. (Illus. 224.) The situation of this
village is very different from that of Pale in the North.
There the houses stand in long, even rows on the plain
behind a broad stretch of sand ; here the village is
built at the entrance of a narrow gorge, shut in by
steep, wooded slopes, surmounted by perpendicular
precipices, and in the foreground there are no sand-
banks but a beach covered with volcanic debris,
rounded by the surf. Only small, light boats, such


as the natives use, could land here without sustaining
damage. The space being very limited, the thatched,
wooden houses are crowded irregularly on the rising
ground, and the intervening passages are narrow,
twisted, and dirty. The numerous black hogs that
wander about between the houses do not add to the
general cleanliness. A great many of these useful
animals are reared both here and in Santa Cruz on the
west coast, but are rarely seen in the capital Pale.

From San Pedro we had no great difficulty in climbing
Santa Mina, the loftiest and most beautiful mountain
in the island. We followed a steep path immediately
behind the village through a sparse wood of oil palms,
which are used for the preparation of palm wine. There
were also numerous wild orange trees, whose fruit was
as sour as that of the trees growing on the North

Higher up, the banana plantations betokened the
foggy region. In one place we saw traces of wild hogs,
and on a subsequent ascent we met some natives carrying
a young boar which they had hunted with dogs and
killed with an axe. The animal closely resembled
his brethren in the village of San Pedro. The epiphytic
vegetation that we saw at the summit defies all descrip-
tion, and far surpassed that of the Quioveo. We were
much surprised at the appearance of the tree-ferns
growing at the summit of Santa Mina. Their feeble
and crooked stems bore scanty and distorted fronds,
blown to one side by the continuous south-westerly
winds. It is strange that they should be entirely
wanting on the Quioveo, for the seeds must be borne
thither by the wind from Santa Mina, and yet there
was not a single example to be seen.

Fresh masses of cloud were continually driven up

222. Summit of Santa Mina.

223. Lava cliffs.


from the South, and the view was seldom clear for a

I got no further than San Pedro and Santa Mina,
but Schultze went further afield, sometimes by boat,
and sometimes by land, the village of San Antonio
being his southernmost point. It was unfortunately
impossible to make a circuit of the island by boat,
since the sea was too heavy off the south-west and
west coasts. But there was plenty to do on the North,
for here, at a short distance from our camp, the lava
cliffs offered a rich field for collecting and observing
marine animals and seaweeds. When the lava stream
from the North Crater rushed headlong into the sea,
its boiling masses were suddenly cooled by the water,
and cracked into splinters, forming a labyrinth of
headlands, islands, and cliffs, whose black masses
stand out clearly against the white foam of the surf.

A light line is drawn round the black cliffs and shores
of Annobon ; this is due to the growth of a peculiar
calcareous sea-weed or Corallinacea, which at low
tide is just washed by the waves, and at high tide
just reaches out of the water. It is related to the red
sea-weed growing on the shores of the North Sea,
although they have nothing in common as regards
their external appearance, the Annobon sea-weed
rather resembling the animal coral. It has a hard,
stony structure, part of which forms a crust over the
rock, and part displays a leafy structure ; it often
collects in large clumps composed of numerous inter-
twining ramifications. (Illus. 228.) The colour varies
from a dull reddish yellow, or a dirty greyish yellow,
to a delicate pink or deep purple. Where it is exposed
to the sun the colour is pale and bleached, and it is


strongest and purest in the crusty deposits to be seen
in shady grottos and channels through which the
water washes.

We had more than enough time for wandering along
the beach, and studying marine life. On the 5th of
October we gazed eagerly out to sea, hoping to catch
sight of the smoke of the Spanish steamer that was to
fetch us away. But we looked in vain. We learned

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Online LibraryDuke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf FriedrichFrom the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 20)