Francis Galton.

The Art of Travel Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries online

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the main cross-knees, as shown by the thin lines in fig. 3. It is then
fit for covering. Lift it up like a basket, and turn it topsy-turvy.

6. Kill two bulls, skin them, and in skinning be careful to make your
cuts in the skin down the rump to the hock of the animal, and down the
brisket in front of the fore-leg to the knee, so as to have your skins as
square as possible (fig. 4). Cut off the heads, and sew the skins
together at the nape of the necks; and, while reeking, cover the
wicker-work, turning them over it, the hairy side inwards, and fasten it
all round by means of skin-cords. Cut holes with a knife round the edges,
to pass the cords through, as you lash up to the top-rails of the boat.

7. Leave it 24 hours in the sun; cover the seam where the skins are sewn
together, with melted fat, and the boat is fit for use.

Bark Boats. - "From a pine, or other tree, take off with care the longest
possible entire portion of the bark; while fresh and flexible, spread it
flat as a long rectangular sheet; then turn it carefully up at the sides,
the smooth side outwards; sew the ends together, and caulk them well. A
few cross-sticks for thwarts complete this contrivance, which is made by
an American Indian in a few hours, and in which the rapid waters of the
Mackenzie are navigated for hundreds of miles. Ways of strengthening the
structure will readily suggest themselves. The native material for sewing
is the fibrous root of the pine." ("Handbook for Field Service,"
Lieut.-Col. Lefroy.)

[Figs I, II, III, and IV - sketches as described].

Birch-bark canoes. - Birch bark, as is well known, is used for building
canoes in North America, and the bark of many other trees would do for
covering the framework of a boat, in default of leather. But it is
useless to give a detailed account of birch canoes, as great skill and
neat execution are required both in making and in using them.

Boats of Sheet-tin, covered with Pitched Canvas. - These might be made at
any of the outposts of civilization. I am indebted to a correspondent,
whose name I regret exceedingly to be unable to insert, having
unfortunately mislaid it, for the following full description of his
shooting-punt. It will be obvious that his methods are applicable not
only to their professed object, but also to tin boats of any shape

"Form the bottom, fig. I., as follows: - Select the thickest sheets of tin
and solder them together by their narrowest sides, until as many lengths
are made as, when laid side by side, will be sufficient for the whole
length and breadth of the figure. The soldering should be by a joint of
this kind."

[Sketch of join].

"These lengths must then be soldered side by side by a similar joint, and
the whole sheet thus made, trimmed to the shape of fig. I., care being
taken that no two joints in the lengths should be exactly opposite each
other. Form two other sheets in a similar manner for the two sides, and
of the shape of fig. II. The dotted lines a b c d e f, fig. I., show the
portions of the tin round the edges, 1 inch wide, which must be turned up
at right angles with the bottom, and to which the sides are to be
soldered on the inside; they should have triangular pieces clipped out of
them, as shown in the fig., where the bends of the boat begin, to make
them take the curve required. The two extra pieces at the ends a d, e f,
2 inches wide, are for turning down over an iron rod, which is to pass
round the gunwale, to give stiffness to the boat; g h, fig. II., is a
breadth of 2 inches of extra tin, for the same purpose of turning down
over the iron rod.

"Each side is now to be soldered to the bottom piece, beginning with the
centre, and working in to each end.

"The soldering of the turned-up edges to the bottom, on the outside, may
then be done. Separate slips of tin 2 inches wide should then be bent up
longitudinally in halves, like angle-iron, and fitted along the joining
of the bottom and sides, on the inside, and soldered; these slips may
also be clipped on either side, when necessary, to make them take the

"The measure round the gunwale may now be taken within the edge of the
tin, and an iron rod 3/8 of an inch thick, to go round this gunwale, bent
to the form of the outline of fig. III., i b k c, which will now be that
of the boat, and the ends welded at their meeting. Sufficient iron rod
must be taken to form eyes at i and k to receive rings of 3 or 4 inches
diameter, through which a pole is to be passed, for carrying the boat,
and for their welding at the meeting of the ends.

"The iron-rod gunwale may now be put in, and the 2 inches width of tin,
allowed in excess on the sides and ends of the bottom, turned down
closely over the rod, all round and soldered on the inside. The side
elevation of the boat will now be as w x y, fig. IV. "The boat should be
proved as to being water-tight by filling it with water, any leak being
stopped by more solder.

"The outside must now be covered with pitched canvas, thus: -

"Turn it upside down, in a sheltered spot exposed to the sun, or warm it
by other means, and have a caldron of boiling pitch on a fire at hand,
also have sufficient canvas sewn together in breadths as will quite cover
the boat, bottom and sides; then, beginning across the middle of the
bottom, brush on a layer 3 or 4 inches wide of the boiling pitch, and
quickly press down the corresponding central portion of the canvas upon
it; work on thus, from the centre of the bottom to the ends, laying on a
breadth of pitch, and then pressing down and stretching a portion of
canvas over it; then turn down the canvas over each side, and pitch in
the same way, butting out the parts of the canvas that would overlap too
much at the bends, but leaving no tin uncovered; the boat may then be
righted, the excess of canvas cut off, and the edge laid down with pitch,
a little short of the gunwale.

"The bottom may then be pitched over the canvas for 6 inches up, and the
rest of the outside, with the inside, be painted with two or three coats.

"A flooring of thin planking for 3 1/2 feet of the central portion of the
boat must now be made as follows: - Make five planks, between 8 and 9
inches wide, to fit across the beam of the boat, and in each of the outer
planks, o o, p p, fig. III., fix uprights m n, 6 inches high, to support
a seat, mortised on the pair of uprights in each board; the ends of each
seat should be short of the breadth of the boat by an inch or so, so as
not to bear against the sides; then lay down two ribs of tough wood,
fitted to bear equally across the planking, on each side, as rs, r1 s1,
and screw each end of them down to the outer planks only.

"Wooden cleats can be fixed on each board at t t, each to receive the
butts of two guns, while their barrels lie in hollows formed in the
cushions of the seat opposite them, so that the rower can put down his
paddles and take up his gun instantly; steps for a mast can be also
contrived at the same points. The woodwork is to be also well painted; it
can be taken out with ease, as it is nowhere connected with the tin of
the boat. Care should be taken that no projections in this woodwork, such
as screw-heads, etc., should chafe the tin, and that it should be always
kept well painted.

"The boat, of which this is a description, drew 2 1/2 inches water with
one person in, with two guns and ammunition, etc.; it was furnished with
two short paddles, which were tied by a short length of string to the
sides, so as to be dropped without loss of time on taking up the gun to
fire; the boat turned with the greatest ease, by one backing and pulling
stroke of the two paddles, and was very stiff in the water.

"Iron rowlocks were fitted to it, on the outside at b, e, fig. I. (I do
not give the diagram by which the author illustrated his description; the
rowlocks were applied to the sides of the boat, and each rowlock was
secured to the side by three bolts.) The two upper bolts had claw-heads
to seize the iron-rod gunwale on the inside, and a piece of wood was
fitted on the inside, through which the three bolts passed, to give
substance for their hold, their nuts were on the outside. With these
rowlocks two oars of 7 feet long were used. The breadth between the horns
should be only just enough to admit the oars.

"This boat could be carried on the shoulders of two persons, when
suspended on a pole passed through the end rings, for a distance of
twelve or fifteen miles daily, with guns and ammunition stowed in it. It
could be fired from, standing, without risk, and be poled over marshy
ground barely covered with water, or dragged with ease by the person
seated in it, through high reeds, by grasping a handful on each side and
hauling on them. A rudder was unnecessary. It was in use for more than
three years, and with due care in getting in and out, on a rough shore,
and by keeping it well painted and pitched, it never leaked or became
impaired in any way."

Boats. - Of Wood. - English-made boats have been carried by explorers for
great distances on wheels, but seldom seem to have done much useful
service. They would travel easiest if slung and made fast in a strong
wooden crate or framework, to be fixed on the body of the carriage. A
white covering is necessary for a wooden boat, on account of the sun:
both boat and covering should be frequently examined. Mr. Richardson and
his party took a boat, divided in four quarters, on camel-back across the
Sahara, all the way from the Mediterranean to Lake Tchad. A portable
framework of metal tubes, to be covered with india-rubber sheeting on
arrival, was suggested to me by a very competent authority, the late Mr.
M'Gregor Laird.

Copper boats have been much recommended, because an accidental dent,
however severe it may be, can be beaten back again without doing injury
to the metal. One of the boats in Mr. Lynch's expedition down the Jordan
was made of copper.

Corrugated Iron makes excellent boats for travellers; they are stamped by
machinery: Burton took one of them to Zanzibar. They were widely
advertised some ten years ago, but they never came into general use, and
I do not know where they can now be procured.

Canoes. - The earlier exploits of the 'Rob Roy' canoe justly attracted
much attention, and numerous canoe voyages have subsequently been made.
The Canoe Club is now a considerable institution, many of whose members
make yearly improvements in the designs of their crafts. Although canoes
are delicately built and apparently fragile, experience has amply proved
that they can stand an extraordinary amount of hard usage in the hands of
careful travellers. As a general rule, it is by no means the heaviest and
most solid things that endure the best. If a lightly-made apparatus can
be secured from the risk of heavy things falling upon it, it will outlast
a heavy apparatus that shakes to pieces under the jar of its own weight.

A hole cut in the square sail enables the voyager to see ahead.

To carry on Horseback. - Mr. Macgregor, when in Syria, took two strong
poles, each 16 feet long, and about 3 inches thick at the larger end.
These were placed on the ground 2 feet apart, and across them, at 3 feet
from each end, he lashed two stout staves, about 4 feet long. Then a
"leading" horse was selected, that is, one used to lead caravans, and on
his back a large bag of straw was well girthed and flattened down. The
frame was firmly tied on this, and the canoe, wrapped in carpets, was
placed on the frame. This simple method was used for three months over
sand and snow, rock and jungle, mud and marsh - anywhere indeed that a
horse could go. The frame was elevated in front, so as to allow the
horse's head some room under the boat's keel. Two girth-straps kept the
canoe firmly in position above, and carpets were used as cushions under
its bilge. A boy led the horse, and a strong man was told off to hold
fast to the canoe in every difficulty. It will be seen, that in the event
of a fall, the corners of the framework would receive the shock, not the

Boating Gear. - Anchors may be made of wood weighted with stones. Fig. 1
shows the anchor used by Brazilian fishermen with their rude boat or
sailing-raft already described. Fig. 2 shows another sort of anchor that
is in common use in Norway.

Mast. - Where there is difficulty in "stepping" a mast, use a bar across
the thwarts and two poles, one lashed at either end of it, and coming
together to a point above. This triangle takes the place of shrouds fore
and aft. It is a very convenient rig for a boat with an outrigger: the
Sooloo pirates use it.

[Fig. 2 - sketch of anchor].

Outrigger Irons. - Mr. Gilby informs me that he has travelled with a pair
of light sculls and outrigger irons, which he was able to adapt to many
kinds of rude boats. He found them of much service in Egypt.

Keels are troublesome to make: lee-boards are effective substitutes, and
are easily added to a rude boat or punt when it is desired to rig her as
a sailing-craft.

Rudder. - A rude oar makes the most powerful, though not the most
convenient rudder. In the lakes of North Italy, where the winds are
steady, the heavy boats have a bar upon which the tiller of the rudder
rests: this bar is full of small notches; and the bottom of the tiller,
at the place where it rests on the bar, is furnished with a blunt
knife-edge; the tiller is not stiffly joined to the rudder, but admits of
a little play up and down. When the boatman finds that the boat steers
steadily, he simply drops the tiller, which forthwith falls into the
notch below it, where it is held tight until the steersman cares to take
the tiller into his hand again.

Buoys. - An excellent buoy to mark out a passage is simply a small pole
anchored by a rope at the end. It is very readily seen, and exposes so
little surface to the wind and water, that it is not easily washed away.
A pole of the thickness of a walking-stick is much used in Sweden. Such a
buoy costs only a rope, a stick, and a stone. A tuft of the
small-branches may be left on the top of the pole.

Log. - For a log use a conical canvas bag thus -

[Sketch of bag in two positions].

When the peg is drawn out by the usual jerk, the bag no longer presents
its mouth to the water, but is easily drawn in by the line attached to
its point.

Boat Building. - Caulking. - Almost anything that is fibrous does for
caulking the seams of a boat. The inner bark of trees is one of the
readiest materials.

Securing Planks. - In default of nails, it is possible to drill or to
burn holes in the planks and to sew them together with strips of hide,
woodbine, or string made from the inner bark of fibrous trees. Holes may
be drilled on precisely the same principle as that which I have described
in making fire by friction.

Lengthening Boats. - If you have an ordinary boat, and wish to make it of
greater burden, saw it in half and lengthen it. Comparatively coarse
carpentering is good enough for this purpose.

Boat Management. - Hauling boats on Shore. - To haul up a boat on a
barren shore, with but a few hands, lay out the anchor ahead of her to
make fast your purchase to; or back the body of a wagon underneath the
boat as she floats, and so draw her out upon wheels. A make-shift
framework, on small solid wheels, has been used and recommended.

Towing. - A good way of fastening a tow-rope to a boat that has no mast
is shown in the diagram, which, however, is very coarsely drawn. A curved
pole is lashed alongside one of the knees of the boat, and the tow-rope,
passing with a turn or two round its end, is carried on to the stern of
the boat. By taking a few turns, more or less, with the rope round the
stick, the line of action of the tow-rope on the boat's axis may be
properly adjusted. When all is right the boat ought to steer herself.

[Sketch of boat being towed].

When Caught by a Gale recollect that a boat will lie-to and live through
almost any weather, if you can make a bundle of a few spare spars, oars,
etc., and secure them to the boat's head, so as to float in front of and
across the bow. They will act very sensibly as a breakwater, and will
always keep the boat's head towards the wind. Kroomen rig out three oars
in a triangle, lash the boat's sail to it, throw overboard, after making
fast, and pay out as much line as they can muster. By making a canvas
half-deck to an open boat, you much increase its safety in broken water;
and if it be made to lace down the centre, it can be rolled up on the
gunwale, and be out of the way in fine weather.

In Floating down a Stream when the wind blows right against you (and on
rivers the wind nearly always blows right up or right down), a plan
generally employed is to cut large branches, to make them fast to the
front of the boat, weight them that they may sink low in the water, and
throw them overboard. The force of the stream acting on these branches
will more than counterbalance that of the wind upon the boat. For want of
branches, a kind of water-sail is sometimes made of canvas.

Steering in the Dark. - In dark nights, when on a river running through
pine forests, the mid stream canbe kept by occasionally striking the
water sharply with the blade of the oar, and listening to the echoes.
They should reach the ear simultaneously, or nearly so, from either bank.
On the same principle, vessels have been steered out of danger when
caught by a dense fog close to a rocky coast.

Awning. - The best is a wagon-roof awning, made simply of a couple of
parallel poles, into which the ends of the bent ribs of the roof are set,
without any other cross-pieces. This roof should be of two feet larger
span than the width of the boat, and should rest upon prolongations of
the thwarts, or else upon crooked knees of wood. One arm of each of the
knees is upright, and is made fast to the inside of the boat, while the
other is horizontal and projects outside it: it is on these horizontal
and projecting arms that the roof rests, and to which it is lashed. Such
an awning is airy, roomy, and does not interfere with rowing if the
rowlocks are fixed to the poles. It also makes an excellent cabin for
sleeping in at night.

Sail Tent. - A boat's sail is turned into a tent by erecting a
gable-shaped framework: the mast or other spar being the ridge-pole, and
a pair of crossed oars lashed together supporting it at either end; and
the whole is made stable by a couple of ropes and pegs. Then the sail is
thrown across the ridge-pole (not over the crossed loops of the oars, for
they would fret it), and is pegged out below. The natural fall of the
canvas bends to close the two ends, as with curtains.

[Sketch of tent].

Tree-snakes. - Where these abound, travellers on rivers with overhanging
branches should beware of keeping too near inshore, lest the rigging of
the boat should brush down the snakes.


Fords. - In fording a swift stream, carry heavy stones in your hand, for
you require weight to resist the force of the current: indeed, the deeper
you wade, the more weight you require; though you have so much the less
at command, on account of the water buoying you up.

Rivers cannot be forded if their depth exceeds 3 feet for men or 4 feet
for horses. Fords are easily discovered by typing a sounding-pole to the
stern of a boat rowing down the middle of the stream, and searching those
places where the pole touches the bottom. When no boat is to be had,
fords should be tried for where the river is broad rather than where it
is narrow, and especially at those places where there are bends in its
course. In these the line of shallow water does not run straight across,
but follows the direction of a line connecting a promontory on one side
to the nearest promontory on the other, as in the drawing; that is to
say, from A to B, or from B to C, and not right across from B to b, from
A to a, or from C to c. Along hollow curves, asa, b, c, the stream runs
deep, and usually beneath overhanging banks; whilst in front of
promontories, as at A, B, and C, the water is invariably shoal, unless it
be a jutting rock that makes the promontory. Therefore, by entering the
stream at one promontory, with the intention of leaving it at another,
you ensure that at all events the beginning and end of your course shall
be in shallow water, which you cannot do by attempting any other line of

[Sketch of river as described].

To Cross Boggy and Uncertain Ground. - Swamps. - When you wish to take a
wagon across a deep, miry, and reedy swamp, outspan and leg the cattle
feed. Then cut faggots of reeds and strew them thickly over the line of
intended passage. When plenty are laid down, drive the cattle backwards
and forwards, and they will trample them in. Repeat the process two or
three times, till the causeway is firm enough to bear the weight of the
wagon. Or, in default of reeds, cut long poles and several short
cross-bars, say of two fee long; join these as best you can, so as to
make a couple of ladder-shaped frames. Place these across the mud, one
under the intended track of each wheel. Faggots strewn between each round
of the ladder will make the causeway more sound. A succession of logs,
laid crosswise with faggots between them, will also do, but not so well.

Passing from Hand to Hand. - When many things have to be conveyed across
a piece of abominably bad road - as over sand-dunes, heavy shingle, mud
of two feet deep, a morass, a jagged mountain tract, or over
stepping-stones in the bed of a rushing torrent - it is a great waste of
labour to make laden men travel to and fro with loads on their backs. It
is a severe exertion to walk at all under these circumstances, letting
along the labour of also carrying a burden. The men should be stationed
in a line, each at a distance of six or seven feet from his neighbour,
and should pass the things from hand to hand, as they stand.

Plank Roads. - "Miry, boggy lines of road, along which people had been
seen for months crawling like flies across a plate of treacle, are
suddenly, and I may almost say magically, converted into a road as hard
and good as Regent Street by the following simple process, which is
usually adopted as soon as the feeble funds of the young colony can
purchase the blessing. A small gang of men, with spades and rammers,
quickly level one end of the earth road. As fast as they proceed, four or
five rows of strong beams or sleepers, which have been brought in the
light wagons of the country, are laid down longitudinally, four or five
feet asunder; and no sooner are they in position than from other wagons
stout planks, touching each other, are transversely laid upon them. From
a third series of wagons, a thin layer of sand or grit is thrown upon the
planks, which instantly assume the appearance of a more level McAdam road
than in practice can ever be obtained. Upon this new-born road the wagons
carrying the sleepers, planks, and sand, convey, with perfect ease, these
three descriptions of materials for its continuance. The work advances
literally about as fast as an old gouty gentleman can walk; and as soon
as it is completed, there can scarcely exist a more striking contrast
than between the two tenses of what it was and what it is. This 'plank
road,' as it is termed in America, usually lasts from eight to twelve
years; and as it is found quite unnecessary to spike the planks to the
sleepers, the arrangement admits of easy repair, which, however, is but
seldom required." (Sir Francis Head, in Times, Jan. 25.)

Snow. - Sir R. Dalyell tells me that it is the practice of muleteers in
the neighbourhood of Erzeroum, when their animals lose their way and
flounder in the deep snow, to spread a horse-cloth or other thick rug
from off their packs upon the snow in front of them. The animals step
upon it and extricate themselves easily. I have practised walking across
deep snow-drifts on this principle, with perfect success.

Weak Ice. - Water that is slightly frozen is made to bear a heavy wagon,
by cutting reeds, strewing them thickly on the ice, and pouring water
upon them; when the whole is frozen into a firm mass the process must be

Bridges. - Flying Bridges are well known: a long cord or chain of poles
is made fast to a rock or an anchor in the middle of a river. The other
end is attached to the ferry-boat which being so slewed as to receive the
force of the current obliquely, traverses the river from side to side.

Bridges of Felled Trees. - If you are at the side of a narrow but deep
and rapid river, on the banks of which trees grow long enough to reach
across, one or more may be felled, confining the trunk to its own bank,

Online LibraryFrancis GaltonThe Art of Travel Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries → online text (page 9 of 30)