James Holman.

A Voyage Round the World, Volume I Including Travels in Africa, Asia, Australasia, America, etc., etc., from 1827 to 1832 online

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captured slave-vessel, that had been bought up by the agents, to be sent
to some part of the Brazils, from whence there would be no difficulty in
my ultimately reaching Rio de Janeiro.

Captain Owen had a Portuguese Abbe, Signor Begaro, and some of his
officers, to dine with him to-day.

_Tuesday, 17_. - As it was Captain Owen's intention to visit Ascension
before he went to Sierra Leone, we parted company with the Emprendadora,
desiring Lieutenant Robinson to make the best of his way to the latter
place; she accordingly sailed this morning at daylight, passing round to
leeward of the island, while we followed soon after, with the intention
of working to windward.

_Wednesday, 18_. - We had a fine fresh breeze, veering between S. and
S.W., and kept our course to the westward. Lat. 1°. 0'. N. On getting
into the open sea, we found the weather much colder than it was at
Fernando Po, notwithstanding we were 3°. nearer the equinoctial line,
than at the former place, while the thermometer for the last twenty-four
hours, has only ranged from 74°. to 78°. F. Indeed, it is very commonly
remarked, that the poor slaves brought from the Bights of Benin and
Biafra, for the Brazils, suffer dreadfully from the cold, when they get
into the open sea, and approach the line.

_Thursday, 19_. - There was a fine southerly breeze to-day, and we
crossed the equinoctial line this forenoon, without observing the usual
custom of shaving, having gone through that ceremony on passing the
tropic, before we arrived at Sierra Leone, not expecting, at that time,
the Eden would have occasion to cross the equinoctial line. Latitude, at
noon, 0° 6'. S. steering W. by S. with the wind south. There have been
numberless flying-fish, with a few bonetas and dolphins sporting round
the ship at times, to-day; men-of-war are not very successful in taking
these fish, but in a low, dull sailing merchant-vessel, it is otherwise,
particularly if she is not coppered, and has been sometime in a warm
climate. I consider the dolphin and flying-fish to be exceedingly
palatable food, but the boneta is strongly flavoured, and very close
grained, approaching to the solidity of animal flesh.

_Sunday, 21_. - Latitude, at noon, 28°. 19'. S. Still a fresh trade-wind,
but as we advanced from the Bight of Biafra into the Southern Atlantic
Ocean, increasing our distance, at the same time, from the continent of
Africa, we found the wind gradually drawing from the westward of south,
to the eastward of south, until it arrived at that point (S.E.), which
is the prevailing trade-wind of the Southern Atlantic, from the
equinoctial line to about the 28th degree of south latitude, varying a
few degrees from these extremes, according to the season of the year.
Being now in the regular trade-wind, I shall not think it necessary to
trouble my readers with any farther remarks on the common routine of the
duties of a ship, until we come within sight of Ascension,

Whose rocky shores to the glad sailor's eye
Reflect the gleams of morning.

Having run for this little island in the middle of the ocean, during the
night, we saw it immediately on the break of day, of _Wednesday, 25th_,
within a mile of the computed distance, viz. three or four leagues. At
eight, we anchored in N.W. Bay, in eleven fathoms water, about half a
mile from the landing-place, when the Governor, Lieut.-Colonel Nichols,
came on board; and after breakfast. Captain Owen and myself accompanied
him on shore, in the gig. We landed with facility, there being very
little surf, and some marines ready to run the boat upon the beach the
moment she touched the ground. The officers of the establishment were
prepared to receive us, and we were introduced to them individually. We
first visited the mess-room, which, with some apartments attached to it
for the officers' quarters, is one of three buildings that are distinct
from the general establishment, called Regent Square. The second
building is a store-house, containing provisions for the African
squadron, as well as the persons employed on the island; and the third,
a house that was built for the Governor, but which Colonel Nichols
allows Lieutenant Stanwell to reside in, he being a married man, with a
family of five children. One part of Regent Square is composed of the
barracks for the marines, and the other for the liberated Africans that
are employed on the island. All these buildings are of stone, which is
the cheapest material that can be procured. The coral that is found on
the beach, makes excellent lime, and enhances the utility of the
quarries. It is fortunate that the island contains these resources, as
it is entirely destitute of brick and timber. There was a tank of
considerable size in progress, not far from the establishment; close to
the landing-place there was a large pond of salt water for keeping the
turtle which are taken during the season, for supplies to the shipping,
&c.; there were about eighty turtles in it, at the time of our arrival.

Colonel Nichols, Captain Owen, and myself, dined with. Mr. and Mrs.
Stanwell, where, among other things, we had a large loin of wether goat,
which, in my opinion, was equal to the finest mutton; indeed, had it
been called mutton, I should not have known the difference, it was so
fat and highly flavoured. There are about six hundred goats on the
island, who are allowed to wander in herds, browsing on the sides of the
hills, and feeding on whatever herbage they can procure in the valleys.
In this way, no doubt, they pick up many aromatic herbs,[41] which give
a peculiarly fine flavour to the meat; but the flesh of goats, is not
the only description of fresh provisions on the island. Those who reside
here, are much better provided, in this particular, than people in
England imagine, for there is a moderate supply of cattle and sheep, for
general consumption, while most individuals have their own private stock
of domestic poultry. Turkeys arid fowls thrive well here; but geese and
ducks, very indifferently, from the want of fresh streams and pools, so
necessary to their nature, in consequence of which they lay their eggs,
but do not produce young. They have also a few goats, and abundance of
guinea fowls,[42] in a wild state, which, in flavour, greatly surpass
those that have been domesticated; and some of the domestic poultry of
the gallinaceous tribe, that have returned to their aboriginal state.
These three species of Ascension game, with the hunting of wild cats,
occasionally afford no little amusement to the officers of the
establishment. A number of cats were originally introduced; in their
tame state, to destroy the rats, which, at one period, overran the
island; but, after routing the rats, the cats, like the Saxons of old,
finding themselves masters of the soil, became greater usurpers than the
foes whom they had been called in to vanquish. These treacherous
animals, and most unworthy allies, discovering that they could sustain
themselves in freedom, without the aid of the biped population, fled
into the least inhabited parts of the island, where they lived most
royally upon young guinea fowl, and other wild poultry; regaling
themselves occasionally upon eggs, or such other dainties as fell in the
way of their most destructive claws. So numerous had this band of
quadruped freebooters become, at the time of our visit, that the
inhabitants had been compelled to call in the assistance of a number of
dogs,[43] for the purpose of putting them to flight; and the gentlemen
sportsmen of the island declare, that a battle between these belligerent
powers and natural enemies presents a scene of unusual excitement and
interest to the lovers of animal gladiatorship.

The sale of spirits is prohibited on the island, but each man may
purchase one pint of brown stout per diem. Butter, cheese, and other
little comforts, were to be procured from a stock that had been sent out
by dealers in England; having, it is said, ten per cent. profit on their
exportation, and two per cent. to the corporal who took charge of its
disposal. It had no freightage to pay, as the owners were allowed the
privilege of sending it out in a transport, which annually brings stores
to the island; and, I was informed, that the British Government allowed
the Governor to exchange turtle with any vessel for such necessaries, or
temperate luxuries, that may be required by the establishment.

The turtle season here, is considered to be the interval between
Christmas and Midsummer-day, during which time parties are stationed
almost every night on each of the beaches,[44] where the turtle are
known to land, for the purpose of depositing their eggs; upon these
occasions, they turn as many as are likely to be required for the use of
the establishment, until the following season, and also for the shipping
that may call for them; these are kept in the pond, to be taken out at
pleasure: two pounds of turtle is allowed as a substitute for one pound
of ordinary meat.[45] The Wide-awakes, or Kitty-wakes,[46] as sailors
call them, are also very numerous, both on the rocks and plains, in the
laying and breeding season: and, consequently, an immense number of eggs
are deposited, which are much used by the persons on the island.

We returned on board for the night, to avoid putting the officers to an
inconvenience for our accommodation.

_Thursday, 26_. - We went on shore to breakfast, landing in a smaller
boat to-day than yesterday, namely, a four-oared gig instead of a larger
one with six, and yet we landed with more ease. About eleven o'clock, I
accompanied Colonel Nichols and Captain Owen on horseback to visit the
Colonel's residence on Green Mountain, distant about six miles from
Regent Square. The roads have been made with a great deal of labour
under the direction of the Colonel, and considering circumstances, there
is no little credit due to that officer for his indefatigable exertions,
and perseverance in accomplishing what would, to ordinary minds, have
appeared impracticable. When about four miles from Regent Square we
arrived at Dampier's Spring, a stream of water that might pass through
an ordinary sized goose quill, and if allowed to spread over the surface
of the ground in some climates, would evaporate as quickly as it flowed,
but here, conducted into a cask, it affords no inconsiderable portion of
the supply at Regent's Square. It is sent down in barrels on the backs
of asses, or mules, and served out by measure, according to the quantity
procured. There were a few habitations near this spring, cut out of the
solid rock, for the residence of soldiers who were stationed here, with
their wives and families. From Dampier's Spring we continued to ascend
about two miles further, when we arrived at the Colonel's dwelling
(which consisted merely of a ground floor), from whence all sterility
ceases, the space between it and the top of the mountain being covered
with a fine rich mould, partly cultivated with sweet potatoes, and
partly covered with wild herbage, amongst which the Cape gooseberry is
very abundant; this is an agreeable subacid fruit, pleasant to eat when
ripe, and useful in a green state for tarts, &c.

Before dinner I took an opportunity of walking to the top of the hill,
which is the highest on the island, being 800 feet above the Colonel's
house, and 2,849 feet above the level of the sea.

After dinner Lieutenant Badgeley, Dr. Burn, and Lieutenant Carrington of
the Marines, left us to return by way of Regent Square, to the Eden.
These three gentlemen have all, since that time, paid the debt of nature
on board that ship. I accompanied Mr. Butter round the side of the
Mountain to the Black Rock, beneath which stretched a wide and deep
valley. In this walk we passed various spots set apart for the
cultivation of vegetables, to which the soil is exceedingly favourable,
while the deposition of night dews, with light showers, and a genial
climate, all combine to render vegetation here peculiarly luxuriant, so
that the inhabitants are not only enabled to reserve an ample supply for
themselves, but to spare a small quantity for most of the ships that
call at the island. Colonel Nichols informed us that he had 1000 lbs.
weight of vegetables, principally the sweet potatoe, ready to dispose of
at this period. We had at dinner green peas, and French beans, besides
the more common vegetables, likewise turnip-radishes with our cheese. In
fact all European vegetables may be, and most of them are, produced
here. The greatest range of the thermometer on the mountain in the
winter months, which are August, September, October, and November, is
from 58° to 70°, and in the summer from 70° to 82°, consequently the
greatest range of the whole year is only 24° being from 58° to 82° F.
The sweet potatoe, (of which there are a great many and very large[47])
was first brought here from Africa; the best method of cultivating them
is found to be from shoots.

The following are the names and number of domestic animals now on the
island, which is about 30 miles in circumference.

70 head of oxen.
60 sheep. (principally from Africa.)
600 goats.
8 horses.
4 mules.
27 asses.

There are likewise the dogs lately imported, and a few rabbits from the
Cape of Good Hope, which have been turned loose in the valleys to breed;
it is feared, however, that the cats will destroy the young rabbits, if
they do not the old ones. Two red-legged partridges have also been
brought from the Cape, and there are a few pigeons, likewise the English
linnet in a wild state.

_Friday, 27_. - Fine morning with a few refreshing showers. Thermometer
at 6 A.M. 70°. F. Soon after breakfast we left the Colonel's house to
return to Regent's Square, but we walked nearly a mile before we mounted
our horses. The officers of the Establishment invited all Captain Owen's
party, and their Colonel, to dine with them to-day at their mess, which
consists of Lieutenants Evans and Barns, R.M. Mr. Mitchell, Surgeon, and
Mr. Trescot, Agent-victualler to the African squadron.


The population of the island at that time was 192 souls,[48] all
Europeans, except 40 liberated Africans, and they were then deficient of
10: the Government having allowed the number of 50 to assist in carrying
on the required improvements and other employments, which consists of
road-making, erecting buildings, gardening, conveying water, &c. &c. The
officers of the Establishment, superintend the working parties, however,
these only work four days in the week, Wednesday and Saturday being
allowed them for fishing,[49] cleaning their clothes, and other private
purposes, while the Sunday is of course kept holy. Their working hours
are from daylight until eight o'clock, when they are allowed
three-quarters of an hour for breakfast; after which they return to
labour till eleven, they then rest until three o'clock; from which time
they work until sunset. This arrangement, which throws open to repose
the hottest portion of the day, is highly to be approved of in a warm

At 7 o'clock we took leave of the Colonel and his officers, to return
on board the Eden. When we got under weigh, and made sail out of
Ascension-roads, for Sierra Leone, steering N.N.E.

In the year 1801, when I belonged to H.M.S. Cambrian, (the Honourable
Captain Legge,) on our return voyage from St. Helena, we passed so near
this island, that we sent a 24-pound shot among the hills, and saw it
scatter the dust around the spot where it fell, but we did not send a
boat on shore, for we knew it was then uninhabited, and our Commander
was not disposed to lose his time in turning turtle, while he might be
more gallantly employed chasing the enemy. We merely fired as a signal
to any one that might have been left on the island by accident, for on
the preceding year H.M.S. Endymion took on board the crew of a brig that
had been wrecked on the island: and the celebrated navigator, Dampier,
was also cast away here in the Roebuck, of 12 guns, on his return voyage
from New Holland. Little could I have imagined at the time of my first
visit, that I should ever have landed here, under my present peculiar
circumstances, or that after so many years I should find so much to
interest me in a place that presented nothing to my recollection but
utter desolation. The alteration in the island was indeed curious, and I
am happy to learn, that the improvements still proceed with at least
equal energy, and proportionate success. Since my last visit, I am told
that, the inhabitants have greatly increased their facilities of
obtaining, and preserving supplies of fresh water, an achievement which
must necessarily add much to their daily comfort.

_Saturday, 28_. - Nothing material occurred on this or the following day,
for we glided along pleasantly with a fresh trade-wind, varying only a
couple of points from S.E. to E.S.E. until the morning of

_Monday, 30_. - When the wind got much lighter and we were afraid of
losing the trade altogether, for although at this season of the year it
prevails much further from the Southern towards the Northern Hemisphere,
yet we can seldom hope to carry it beyond the equinoctial line, where we
expect to get into what is very characteristically called "the
variables": at one season of the year, these winds are very light and
changeable, with frequent calms and occasional thunderstorms and
waterspouts: at another season of the year, the weather is dark, gloomy,
squally with occasional calms and much rain, until we advance to 12° or
14° N. latitude, where we usually fall in with the N.E. trade wind,
however, ships are sometimes fortunate enough on leaving the Southern
Hemisphere for the Northern, particularly in the months of May, June,
and July, to carry the S.E. trade to the northward of the line, even
until they fall in with the N.E. trade.

Between three and four this afternoon, we crossed the equinoctial line,
at which time I took an affidavit before Captain Owen for my half-pay. I
was induced to do this from the novelty of the circumstance, as well as
a preparatory measure in case I should have an opportunity of forwarding
a letter to England. Lat. at noon, for the last three days, 5°.
39'. - 2°. 25'. and 0°. 13'. S.

_Tuesday, July, 1_. - There was a great change in the weather to-day. The
wind was more unsettled, the clouds were heavy, and there was a general
haze around the horizon. These were clear indications of our approaching
the coast of Africa in the rainy season; there had also been a heavy dew
last night, which aggravated these gloomy appearances. At sunset, we saw
a vessel a few miles a-head of us, which we came up with in about an
hour, she proved to be a Dutch galliot, from the island of Mayo, bound
to Rio de Janeiro, with half a cargo of salt.

Immediately on receiving this intelligence, I requested the boarding
officer to engage a passage for me to the Brazils, which being
accomplished, I took leave of my kind and respected friend Captain Owen,
after having been his guest for nearly twelve months; during which time
I had experienced an unvarying series of unequalled attentions, a
consideration for my interest and pursuits highly flattering, and had
derived, from his conversation and society, an acquisition of truly
valuable information; for which I desire to acknowledge myself deeply
and gratefully his debtor.

- - - - -
[39] There are a good many runaway slaves living at the south end of the
island, quite independent of all the Portuguese authorities.

[40] It should be explained, that these vessels are permitted to trade
for slaves to the southward of the line; but are liable to capture, if
found to the northward of the line with slaves on board. However, they
frequently expose themselves to the risk, in a desperate spirit of

[41] Wild parsley is very abundant in the valleys, besides chickweed,
thistles, wild mint, and other herbs.

[42] The guinea fowl feed principally on crickets and chickweed.

[43] Bull terriers.

[44] It is observed, a short time previous to the turtle season, that
the sand rises on shore, near the beach, considerably higher than at
other times.

[45] The turtle, generally, weigh about 400 lbs.; and, sometimes, as
much as 700 lbs.

[46] A small species of gull.

[47] Some have grown so large as to weigh 5 or 6 pounds.

[48] About 50 of this number live at Dampier's Spring.

[49] They have boats belonging to the Establishment, which are on these
days provided with hooks and lines, and sent off those parts of the
island where there is known to be good fishing ground.


Dutch Galliot - An Agreeable Companion - Strange Associates - Melancholy
Account of St. Jago - Beauty in Tears - Manner of obtaining Salt, and
Water at Mayo - Pleasures of a Galliot in a heavy Sea - Dutch
Miscalculation - Distances - An Oblation to Neptune and Amphitrite (new
style) - Melange, Devotion and _Gourmanderie_ - Curious Flying-fish -
Weather - Whales - Cape Pigeons - Anchor off Rio Janeiro - Distant
Scenery - Custom-house Duties - Hotel du Nord - Rua Dircito - Confusion
thrice confounded - Fruit Girls, not fair, but coquettish - Music
unmusical, or Porterage, with an Obligato Accompaniment - Landing-places -
An Evening Walk - A bad Cold - Job's Comforter - Shoals of Visitors -
Captain Lyon's Visit, and Invitation to the Author - Naval Friends -
Packet for England - English Tailors - Departure for Gongo Soco - The
Party - Thoughts on Self-Denial - Uncomfortable Quarters - Changes of
Atmosphere - Freedom by Halves; or _left_-handed Charity - Serra Santa
Anna - Valley of Botaes - The Ferreirinho, or little Blacksmith - Dangerous
Ascent of the Alto de Serra - Pest, an Universal Disease - An English
Settler - Rio Paraheiba - Valencia - Curiosity of the People - Unceremonious
Inquisitors - Comforts of a Beard - Castor-Oil for burning - Rio Prëta -
Passports - Entrance to the Mine Country - Examination of Baggage -
Attention without Politeness - The Green-eyed Monster, "An old Man
would be wooing"

At eight o'clock, I found myself and baggage on board the Dutchman,
under all sail, for Rio de Janeiro. I had the good fortune to meet with
a countryman, in a fellow voyager, who proved to be excellent society,
and who, consequently, became my principal companion, for although the
captain and his mates were good sailors, and honest men, they were
unskilled in the polite usages of society, and as the best linguist
amongst them had but a small share of broken English, much conversation
with them was out of the question.

Mr. Fearon (my fellow passenger), having left England, some time since,
for Sierra Leone, the vessel in which he sailed, had called at St. Jago,
where they found the Consul General for the Cape de Verds, lying
dangerously ill with the fever. Mr. Fearon was solicited to remain and
perform the duties of that office; and a few days after, had the
melancholy task of attending the Consul to his grave, and very shortly
after, of laying the widow by her husband's side. These melancholy
duties being performed, he took upon himself the office of Vice Consul,
until a reply to his report of the Consul's death could be received from
the British Government; but, in the meanwhile, he was himself taken so
ill with the endemic fever, and found it so impossible to regain health
at St. Jago, that it was deemed necessary to send him to the island of
Mayo for change of air; where he attained convalescence, but still
continued much debilitated when we met on board the galliot. The
Consul's sister at St. Jago, a most accomplished and attractive young
lady, and whose acquaintance I had had the pleasure of making there at
her brother's house, had also been, I learned, taken ill at the same
time; I had, however, the gratification of meeting her afterwards at the
Brazils, as a married lady, both happy and healthful, after she had
surmounted a variety of difficult adventures, and many severe trials of
fortitude, and presence of mind.

One of my first inquiries, was respecting the manner of preparing the
salt at Mayo, for exportation. I learned, that during the summer a
portion of low-land, near the sea, was inundated, between which and the
sea, the communication being subsequently cut off, the water rapidly
exhaled, leaving the salt in chrystals on the surface of the earth;
these, in due time, were collected in heaps; but as, of course, the
longer they remain, the more concentrated the chrystals become, it is
necessary to observe considerable caution in loading vessels, to select
that portion which has been the longest exposed to evaporation.

Online LibraryJames HolmanA Voyage Round the World, Volume I Including Travels in Africa, Asia, Australasia, America, etc., etc., from 1827 to 1832 → online text (page 27 of 29)