Joseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) Reading.

A voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future online

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 14 of 17)
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nations will be pushed to the wall unless by some means
they be forced into industrious habits.

What a fine field for investigation is here opened to the
young medical student, for this great discover}', as I appre-
hend, is as likely to be made by the young inquirer, as by
the mature student ; for the latter is set in his ideas, while
the former is not handicapped by any pre-conceived
opinions. Let the younger men who are free from family
ties go to the warmer regions of the earth, and there study
this important subject until it is fully mastered.

Three days after leaving St. Thomas the Kisanga
entered the beautiful bay of St. Paul de Loanda in the
Portuguese Province of Angola, nine degrees south of the
equator. This bay is one of the most beautiful on the
entire African coast, and is completely sheltered from the
rollers which come in from the South Atlantic, but unfor-
tunately, it is filling up, and steamers the size of the
Kisanga must anchor three miles from the city ; the cargo
being transferred to and from the shore in lighters. The
bay has been formed by a sand-spit, which begins near the
fort and extends nearly parallel with the shore ; this sandy
key grows a little every year, so the bay is constantly

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extending along the coast, and the upper end is filling in.
The shore on the mainland is backed by a line of hills that
are covered with grass, for the dense forest region is now
left behind, and thick forest is only to be found along the
borders of the streams. The rain-fall here is not more than
one-fifth what it is at Eloby, and in the long, dry season,
from April to November, the country near the sea becomes
parched and dusty. In the interior there is a greater rain-
fall and, consequently, more forest and richer soil.

The Kisanga came to anchor at four o'clock on Tues-
day afternoon, and in about an hour the Portuguese officials
came off, and after examining the ship's papers, gave per-
mission for passengers to go ashore. With these officials
came Mr. Bannister, an English trader, who was well-
known to our friends, being like them, an old coaster. He
sat and talked for a long time, and then invited our friends
to come on shore and spend the evening ; but the}' pre-
ferred to come next day, so it was arranged that they
should come ashore early in the morning and spend
the day looking about the city. The evening was an exceed-
ingly beautiful one, but the air was cool, and sitting so
upon the deck, our friends found it necessary to put on their
heaviest clothing, and hot coffee tasted more than usually
good ; indeed, the cool breeze from the South Atlantic quite
chilled them through by and by, and they turned in nearly
two hours earlier than usual. During the night they were
awakened by dreadful groaning, as of a man in great
agony ; they had heard these sounds before, so they waited
quietly and it was not long before they heard the captain's
voice ordering the crew and deck passengers to splash on the
water and make all the disturbance they could to drive the
fish off ; for this horrid noise is made by a large fish, some-
thing like a sturgeon, that puts its head against the vessels
at anchor, and then makes this noise, which is heard dis-
tinctly all through the ship. The fish having been seared



away, the ship's company returned to their dreams and
were not again disturbed during the night.

By sunrise on Wednesday morning the four old
coasters were in the ship's gig and pulling away for the
custom-house landing, three miles distant. The sandy
reef which shelters the bay is covered with cocoa palms,
and the wealthier citizens of Loanda spend the summer
season here for the sake of the cool ocean breezes. On
arriving at the landing-place a few words of explanation
made all right with the customs officials, and our friends
were at liberty to go where they liked, while the boat
returned to the Kisanga.

The city of St. Paul de L,oanda was settled nearly four
hundred years ago. It grew rapidly and soon became of
considerable importance ; large and expensive buildings
were erected, a fort, governor's palace, bishop's palace,
cathedral, theatre, bank, stores, ware-houses, and a large
number of private dwellings. Then came the decadence
of Portuguese power, the city was made a penal colony, and
its prosperity departed. Within the past few years a
change has taken place for the better ; the activity in
African exploration and development has stirred the city into
new life ; more interest is taken in the valuable province,
of which this is the capital, and the home government is
trying to do at least something to develop its resources, and
colonists are coining out in small numbers to seek new
homes upon the virgin lands of the interior. The city
contains, perhaps, thirty thousand inhabitants ; the streets
are of good width and some of them are paved, and there is
a large public square, or plaza, where the people congregate
in the evening to hear the news and listen to the military
band, which discourses very creditable music.

The usual mode of getting about is the machela, a
kind of sedan chair, carried by two stout Portuguese. This
primitive conveyance allows the patient to sit upright,



provided he is not too tall, by extending his legs straight
out before him and holding on to both sides with his
hands, so that he may not be spilled out. It is a little
better than a hammock, for it is possible to hold up your
head and look around, but it is a relic of the dark ages, and
should be done away with. Street car lines would be
patronized, and would pay well ; they might be run by
electricity, on the storage principle, and the power to run
the dynamos could be furnished by the strong and constant
breezes from the sea.

Our friends walked through the streets, inspected the
shops, and visited the markets, but the thing that interested
"them most was the railway to the interior. We do not look
to Portugal to lead the way in the march of improvement,
but while wealthier nations have been talking, theorizing,
and holding congresses that accomplish nothing except on
paper, Portugal has gone ahead and built forty miles of
railway, and is working away on the second forty mile
section. It is a goodly sight to see the locomotive, carriages
and railway station, and the double line of glistening rails
converging to a point to the eastward, and our friends
lingered long about the station feasting their eyes upon
the welcome sight and wondering how soon iron bands
would span the continent and baggage be checked through
to Zanzibar.

Leaving our friends to enjoy themselves at the station,
let us take a momentary glance at the Province of Angola,
of which St. Paul de Loanda is the principal city. This
province extends from the mouth of the Congo to the
German settlement of Angina Pequina ; it reaches half
way across the continent and is one of the most desirable
regions upon the whole earth. Except upon the immediate
sea coast, it is well watered and fertile, and it is doubtful
if any considerable section of the United States is so highly
favored in both soil and climate. The Congo Free State



has absorbed most of the low, level land along the Congo
and its affluents, leaving to Angola the hill country, which
is as healthful as the uplands of Georgia and possesses a
far richer soil. Throughout this favored region almost
every product of the earth will grow ; palms and bananas
in the valleys, apples and wheat on the higher lands. It is
in many respects the counterpart of the Soudan, but the
climate is somewhat cooler.

The Portuguese colonies have not usually been con-
sidered desirable for Anglo-Saxon emigrants, but there can
be but little doubt that favorable arrangements could be
made with the home government, and if this were done,
Angola would present a far more inviting field for settle-
ment than Brazil or Argentine. These two latter countries
have governments and social institutions firmly established,
and these are by no means favorable to the foreign element
coming among them in the form of German, Scandinavian
and Irish immigrants ; but in Angola, which is as yet a new
country, immigrants could mould public opinion so as in a
good degree to conform to their tastes and religious ideas,
and would be far better off than to settle in the American
countries. Nor is Angola so far from the great centres of
population in Europe, for a vessel of the City of Paris type
can make the voyage from Plymouth to St. Paul quite
easily in eleven days ; this is so short a time that almost
every kind of produce except the more perishable vegetables
could be sent from Angola to London without difficult}-.

South of St. Paul de Loanda are the ports of Benguela
and Mosemmedes, both of which have a considerable trade
with the interior. One of the principal exports from these
towns is live cattle, which are now sent to Gaboon in con-
siderable numbers, and the trade is increasing even- year.
There are also valuable fisheries, for the current from the
South Atlantic brings cool water, and the fish are not only
abundant, but of excellent quality also. These fish are



dried and find a ready market in all the ports north of the
Congo ; the writer has purchased many large casks of
them to feed to his Km boys and other native people.

One of the popular industries of Angola at the present
time is coffee planting, and there are many estates along
the line of railway, and even farther in the interior. The
bean is a small one, quite distinct from the Liberian
variety, and many thousands of bags of this coffee are now
exported annually. As the price of coffee has greatly
advanced, and is likely to remain high for some years, the
business is a profitable one, and the planters are making
small fortunes for themselves. Another industry is the
collection of paper stock. This stock, or fibre, as it is
called, is the inner bark of the Baobab tree, and sells in
Liverpool for eleven pounds sterling a ton. The removal of
this fibre causes the tree no harm, for it proceeds to envelope
itself in another robe, which may in time be also removed.
One of these days some enterprising Yankee will build a
paper mill along the railway in the interior of Angola and
ship paper to Europe instead of the fibre.

Angola might grow thousands of tons of the best
quality of figs, and before many years they may become an
important source of revenue. The}' will grow almost
anywhere throughout the province, and the long dry season
will be most favorable for curing them. A very superior
article may be produced by drying them in some of the
patent evaporators made in America ; these evaporated figs
are far superior to the common sun-dried ones that come
from Syria. Oranges also of the finest quality here grow
to perfection, and as the season is the very opposite of the
Mediterranean countries, they would come into market
during the season of scarcity and bring good prices.

About eleven o'clock Mr. Schiff complained of feeling
hungry, so the quartette turned their steps toward Mr.
Bannister's house, and it was not long before they were



invited to sit down to a first-class breakfast. Mr. Schiff
inquired about .the railway, and was informed that it was
intended to run first to Ambaca, then to Kassanshe, and
eventually across the continent to the Portuguese posses-
sions on the Zambesi. Ambaca and Kassanshe are great
market towns, where the coffee, peanuts, rubber, gum
copal, beeswax, archilla weed and ivory are brought for
exchange for European manufactures. Hitherto these
products were carried on men's heads either to the coast or
to some point on the Coanza river, and from thence to
Loanda by river steamer, but when the railway was com-
pleted it would bring all this produce to the coast far
quicker and cheaper. Mr. Bannister also informed our
friends that there were valuable mines of copper and
malachite not far from the line of the road, and that large
fortunes would probably be made in working these mines ;
besides they would furnish much tonnage for the railway.
In the afternoon Mr. Bannister took his guests for a
short drive in the country. They found the ground rather
rockv, and as this was near the close of the dry season, it
appeared bare and barren. Mr. Bannister told them the
rains would soon change all this and cover the bare soil
with a rich coating of fine grass. A great many crows
were seen flying about, and these, instead of being a uniform
black, were half white, giving them a grotesque appear-
ance. Toward evening Captain Thompson came, and after
dinner they all went to the square to hear the band play.
The Portuguese ladies were out in full force, and were the
object of much attention from the bachelor part}'. Mr.
Schiff grew enthusiastic at the sight, and wished to make
love to the fair maidens, but was restrained by his more
conservative companions. It was indeed a pleasant sight,
emblematic of what will soon be seen in hundreds of towns
and cities in this fair land. After an hour spent on the
square the party returned to Mr. Bannister's, where they



sat talking and smoking until a late hour, when they went
once more across the lovely bay to their floating home.

The city of Loanda is destined to be one of the great
cities of the earth. There is nothing to prevent its becoming
the peer of Bombay or Calcutta. It has a much better
harbor than Calcutta, with a more valuable country behind
it than Bombay, and when railways shall have been built,
as they soon will be, all through the Congo Valley and to
the southeast toward the Zambesi, immigration will flow
in an ever-increasing tide, and the province of Angola will
become one of the great countries of the world.

The Kisanga steamed out of the beautiful bay of
Loanda at 4 a. m. Thursday, and at nine o'clock anchored
at Ambriz,- forty miles north of St. Paul. This is a small
Portuguese town near the banks of the Loge river, which
is navigable for canoes for a short distance in the interior.

By the decisions of the Berlin Conference the territorv
north of the Loge river, while it belongs to Portugal, is
included in what is called the Free Trade Zone, and no
duties here can be levied ; as Ambriz is on the borders of
this Zone, it will not possess much commercial importance.
There is a large iron pier extending through the breakers
to the calmer water, so that passengers may embark with-
out the certainty of a wetting. The character of the
country is just the same as it is about Loanda.

The Kisanga did not remain long at Ambriz, and after
lunch she steamed away to the northward, anchoring before
Kinsembo at 5 P. M. This is an English trading station,
and the gentlemen from the factories came off to get their
mail and hear the news. Captain Thompson invited them
to remain to dinner, which they did, and spent tin- evening
also. They informed our friends that the country was
healthy for Europeans, and that nearly all our home vege-
tables grew well, especially those of a semi-tropical nature,
such as melons, cucumbers, squashes, eggplants, tomatoes,



lima-beans and corn. They said that near the coast the soil
was somewhat sandy and dry, but that back in the interior
among the hills, the soil was fertile, and there was much
more rain. Hills several hundred feet in height were in
sight from the steamer, and the traders said that these hills
extended for a long distance to the eastward, and that very
rich copper mines were found there.

A long time ago a considerable amount of copper ore
was brought by the native people to the factories for sale.
This ore was nearly pure, and of course, very valuable.
By and by the traders began to inquire the location of
these mines, and seemed so bent upon investigating them
that the native chiefs became alarmed, and ordered the
mines closed and no more ore to be sold the factories, fear-
ing the white men would come out in force and take the
country from them for the sake of this " red metal." The
time has now passed by when the negro can keep this
favored land all to himself, and it would be good for the
country if mining companies would send out engineers
and miners to open up these rich copper mines, and smelt
it into metal upon the spot. It is very likely that if the
hills were carefully inspected, gold and silver, as well as
copper, would be found in abundance. These mines being
in the Free Trade Zone the Portuguese could interpose no
obstacle to the successful prosecution of mining enterprises.

But the hills of the interior are worth as much for
coffee estates as they are for the copper and malachite they
contain. The summits of these hills will be choice sites
for houses for industrious German, Scotch and Swedish
colonists, who may live here in peace and plenty, surrounded
with every luxury that earth can yield. The coming century
will witness these fertile lands, which can now be had for
the taking, selling in the open market for a hundred dollars
an acre. These lands have not been exhausted bv centuries



of cultivation, and are ready to yield rich harvests to those
who are willing to cultivate them.

Next morning the Kinsembo traders landed their
cargo, and at noon the Kisanga sailed to the northward,
keeping the shore-line in view, and at sundown anchored
off Ambrizette, another English trading station in the
Portuguese Free Trade Zone, and just south of the Ambri-
zette river. As the surf was high that evening, owing to
a strong sea breeze, the Ambrizette traders did not come
off, and our friends spent a quiet evening under the awning
on deck watching the lights on shore and talking of the
splendid future this fair Province has in store, and which
must soon be realized.

Said Mr. King : " I have been carefully examining
the map, and I am persuaded a railway from here up the
valley of the Ambrizette River, and thence across the
country to the Kuango, or White Water River, would be
an exceedingly profitable enterprise, especially if it could
obtain a land grant from the Portuguese government, as I
have no doubt it could. The Congo, as you know, is
unhealthy as far up as Stanley Pool, a fact well known to
the natives who have left the valley of the river during
this part of its course, and have removed to the healthy hill
country through which this line of railway would run.
The White Water River is navigable, and empties into the
Congo a long distance above Stanley Pool, so that goods
could be conveyed to all parts of the Congo System as
readily in this way as by the Congo itself, and with the
advantage of going through a healthy country all the way.
But what appears to me to be of even more importance, is
the fact that the entire length of the Hue would run
through a country admirably adapted for European colo-
nists. There are no engineering difficulties, the road would
be comparatively inexpensive, and there is nothing to
prevent its construction being entered upon at once. It

xii 177


would not be five years after its completion before the
country would begin to settle up rapidly, bringing its
lands into market, and it would have all it could do to take
the cargo and passengers up country and bring the pro-
duce down. The sale of its lands would almost or quite
pay for the construction and equipment, leaving the earn-
ings of the line to pay the running expenses and dividends
to the stockholders."

" How long would such a line need to be?" inquired
Mr. Sinclair.

"About three hundred miles," replied Mr. King,
" which is but little more than the length of the railway
now being built around the falls of the Congo."

"Does that road have any land grant? "asked Mr.

" It not only has no land grant," responded Mr. King,
" but it runs through a barren gorge among the hills, and
can hope to have only through traffic, while the road I
propose would soon have a local traffic sufficient to pay all
operating expenses, and as good a chance for through
traffic as the Congo Valley Line. Just think of the amount
of rice, sugar, tobacco, cotton, coffee, cacao, spices, yams,
sweet potatoes, oranges, limes and lemons that could be
raised within fifty miles on either side of this road, all of
which would need to be hauled to the coast for shipment,
to say nothing of the forest products. I tell you it would
not be long before this road would need to be double-

" I have no doubt," remarked Mr. Alexander, " that
all this you say is true, and far more. There can be no
doubt that this is a country rich in natural resources, and
I am amazed that it has not been settled before by white

" One great difficulty has been," observed Mr. Sinclair,
" that people at home have never looked upon Africa as a



possible home for the European. Their only knowledge
of the continent has come from travelers' tales, mostly of
the blood-and-thunder-dwarf -cannibal-rearguard variety, and
they do not know that it is the fairest land on which the sun
shines. There are just as depraved people in London as
there are in this land, and there is no crime committed here
that cannot be matched in that city."

" Yes," responded Air. King, " and the same may be
said of America. There are many large districts, some of
them in the older States, where life is far more insecure
than it is anywhere in this land. I have lived in Africa
the greater part of the past fifteen years, and I would rather
trust myself to its people, even in remote districts, than to
attempt to reside in Eastern Kentucky, within a compara-
tively short distance of the National Capital."

" In speaking of the tonnage of this new railway," said
Air. Alexander, " you have said nothing of minerals."

" That is true," replied Mr. King, " they will form an
important and profitable item of freight. There are many
rich copper mines in the hills, and one of them is no more
than six miles from the factories. If coal should be dis-
covered in the hills, it would make traffic enough for one
line just of itself. All the steamers that visit the South
Atlantic need coal, and would be obliged to come here and
get it, and this would surely grow to be a large business."

The conversation was not continued as late in the
evening as usual, for the sea-breeze made it most too cool
to sit on deck with comfort, and so the four friends (Mr.
King would not take any) had a nip of bitters, and retired
to their rooms for the night.

The next morning the Ambrizette traders came off for
their letters and the day was spent in landing Kru-boys
and cargo, and at sundown the Kisanga left her anchorage,
and steamed awav toward the northward.


Chapter IX


AT sunrise on Saturday morning the appearance of
the water indicated plainly the presence of some
great river, for not only did sprouts from the
mangrove, and leaves from the pandanus float
past the ship, but the deep blue of the ocean had changed
to a dirty brown, and the water was thick with the great
amount of alluvium it held in suspension. As soon as it
was light enough to make out the land clearly, the Kisanga
turned her prow to the eastward and began to stem the
current of the mighty Congo. The opening of the river
could now be distinctly seen ; on the star-board bow was
Shark's Point, and seven miles to the northward Banana
Point with the white factory buildings showing plainly
against the background of the deep green forest.

Unlike other African rivers, the Congo has no delta
but empties by one broad mouth into the sea, driving its
muddy current right through the clear ocean water to a
distance of many leagues. The Kisanga pushed her way
steadily forward, and rounding Banana Point, came to
anchor off the factories in Banana Creek. This creek is a
narrow, muddy channel, separating Banana Point from a
low island covered with mangroves. The factories were

1 80


large wooden buildings, closely grouped together, for the
point is narrow and there is no room to spare. There is
scarcely any shade, and no attempt to make the settlement
beautiful ; it is given up wholly to business, with the sea
on one side and the muddy creek and low mangrove island
on the other вАФ by no means an attractive spot. This then
is the port-of-entry, the commercial metropolis of the great
Congo Free State. Future explorations may discover

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 14 of 17)