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 2 of 17)
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into bearing they require little care or cultivation beyond
the cutting and carrying away the fruit, and if there was
enough suitable land to make a plantation of them they
ought to pay well. They come into bearing in from ten
to twelve years after planting. The appearance of a palm
tree is sometimes a disappointment to new-comers from the
North, for when seen close by it is somewhat coarse and
rough, but if beheld at a little distance, so that some of the
details are lost in the general outline, it is one of the most
graceful and striking objects in the vegetable kingdom.
When those who have spent some years in the tropics
return to their Northern home, the graceful palm, waving
its feathen- arms in the brilliant sunlight, is constantly in
their minds, and its enchanting beauty is continually
alluring them to return.

Considerable maize is grown in the Canaries, which is
surprising when we take into account the fact that much
more valuable crops can be grown on the same land. An
acre of bananas will yield fruit worth more than twenty
times the value of the grain grown on the same piece of
ground ; and oranges, figs, grapes and onions would yield
from five to ten times as much. True, these crops,
especially the bananas and onions, might need some extra
fertilization, but it would without doubt be better to buy
the guano and nitrates needed, and raise the more profit-
able crop. Corn is doubtless needed for feeding purposes
and it might be that none is brought to the islands for


sale, and so the people are compelled to grow it or go
without. No doubt a market might be found here for
American food products and even manufactured goods ;
the chief difficulty would be that the wine and fruits which
are all the islanders can give in exchange, may be had more
cheaply from our own California and Florida, so that the
commerce between the Canaries and the United States will
never amount to much.

Even as a winter resort there is but little to attract
Americans except the old-fashioned Spanish civilization,
and enough of this can be found in the by-ways of Mexico
without the inconvenience and hardships of a long ocean
voyage at a stormy season of the year. All that there is
pleasant in the climate may be found in Southern Cali-
fornia, and these islands are not likely to be visited by
Americans except by an occasional tourist out of mere
curiosity. At the present time the management of the
African Lines are trying to call attention to Las Palmas as
a sanitarium for all who find the winters of Great Britain
too severe or tedious, and no doubt it is far more agreeable
than London ; but there are a multitude of places along
the shores of the Mediterranean that have almost as mild
a climate and are far more accessible, for it must ever re-
main true that any person who can endure the voyage to
and from the Canaries in the class of steamers provided by
the African companies could get comfortably through an
English winter with reasonable care.

As the carriages ascended the mountain side the sun's
rays began to be felt, but the pure fresh air from the ocean
tempered the heat and made the ride most enjoyable. The
steeper hillsides were bare of vegetation except a few
coarse shrubs, but the gentler slopes had been terraced and
planted with various crops. The top of the mountain is a
broad table-land, with a good soil, and everywhere care-
fully cultivated ; the prospect is far more pleasing than it

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is near the sea-shore and little villages or clusters of
houses thickly dot the landscape. Many of these houses
are chiseled from the rock, or more strictly in the rock,
veritable cave dwellings, and in this dry climate are no
doubt cool and comfortable.

One of the industries of the island is the cutting of
drip-stones to be exported to various countries, more
especially to Western Africa. These drip-stones are shaped
like a deep bowl, with a large square top, and hold two or
three pail-fulls of water each. They are chiseled from
blocks of lava, and are used everywhere on the African
coast to filter water. For this purpose they are admirably
adopted, and it is doubtful if any of the host of patent
filters are equal to them. The sides of these huge bowls
are three or four inches in thickness, and the water slowly
percolates through these solid stone sides, leaving every
particle of sediment behind. Once a week they need to be
rubbed well on the inside with a scrubbing brush, and
thoroughly washed out, which is an easy thing to do be-
cause of the large open top ; by this means it is possible to
have perfectly pure water. If there is fear of the water
containing animal poison, or the germs of typhoid fever,
cholera, dysentery or other diseases, the bowl may be filled
with bone charcoal which will purify the water even better
than if it was boiled.

It is quite surprising that here on the high table-land,
apparently upon the top ridge of the island, there should
be a bright little mountain stream, darting merrily along
by the roadside, its clear waters flashing in the brilliant
sunlight. It is a useful little stream, too, for a channel has
been cut for it in the solid rock, and here standing up to
their knees in the rushing water our friends saw the wives
and daughters of the mountaineers busily washing their
own clothes and those of the town people. Jolly, merry
groups they were, laughing and talking as they soaped the



clothes and pounded them upon the rocks. Mr. Schiff
was especially interested ; he was always fond of the ladies,
with little regard to their nationality, for as he truly said
he was himself " a cosmopolitan," and the sight of the
merry washerwomen caused him to grow quite enthusiastic.

This method of clothes-washing is universally prac-
ticed, not only here, but also on the Coast. In Africa,
where rocks are seldom found, an empty box or a piece of
plank is used instead. Standing near the margin of the
stream or pond, the garment after being dipped in the
water is thoroughly soaped and then pounded with con-
siderable force upon the top of the box or plank ; the soap-
ing and pounding is continued until the linen is clean,
when it is dipped a few times in the water to free it from
soap, and it is then spread over a bush to rest itself and dry
out. The idea of rubbing the clothes to loosen the dirt
does not seem to commend itself to the people on the
eastern shore of the Atlantic, or else they have not thought
of it. It must be admitted that this mode of washing does
not injure the fabric any more than our way.

Some of the wealthier citizens of Las Palmas have
built country homes on these breezy heights, to which they
retreat during the hot months, but the}' find it lonesome
and so are inclined to remain in the town as long as they
can. Our party alighted at a little country inn situated in
a small village on the table-land, but the}' found the enter-
tainment poor ; and so while their horses were resting they
walked about and smoked the cigars they had brought
with them. It was nearly 3 p. m. when they reached
the Hotel Royal, and they were well prepared to do justice
to the dinner that was waiting for them. After dinner
they sat for an hour in the garden sipping their coffee and
smoking, while they discussed the islands and their social
and industrial development.



Mr. Sinclair was of the opinion that the city might
grow some, especially if the number of tourists should con-
siderably increase, but that the country districts might be
expected to remain practically the same. Mr. Alexander
saw little hope that manufactories could be established, for
there was little raw material and no fuel on the island.
Mr. Schiff, for his part, thought the islands might as well
remain as they were. Mr. King thought a narrow-gauge
railroad oyer the moutain might be advantageous, and if
" observation cars " were put on the line it would be a
great attraction to winter visitors, who usually have plenty
of money and could afford to ride every day. Captain
Thompson thought the question of fuel a serious one ; in
his opinion the prosperity of the island lay in its making
every effort to secure the steamer trade, by making the port
charges light and furnishing every kind of fresh provisions
in ample quantity and at moderate prices, and presenting
every inducement to passengers to land and enjoy them-
selves for a day ashore.

" On an average," said he, " one steamer a day passes
here going each way ; if these could ail be induced to call
it would be two steamers a day throughout the vear. Five
hundred dollars would be a small amount for each steamer
to spend, besides the coal bill ; counting out Sunday that
would be six hundred and twenty-six steamers a year, and
three hundred and thirteen thousand dollars, which would
be enough to make these frugal islanders rich."

As no one seemed ready to profit by their advice, the
little group took a walk up and down the business street,
called at the office of the agent, and then walked down to
the landing where the " Kisanga's " steam launch was
waiting for them, and by 5 i». M. they were on board the
ship. Half an hour later all the bills for supplies had been
receipted for, the passengers counted to see if they were all
on board, and with the decks cluttered up with heaps of



coal, baskets of cabbage, carrots, turnips, lettuce, oranges,
bananas, coops of chickens and ducks, a couple of small
oxen and various odds and ends, the order was given to
" heave anchor," and just as the setting sun kissed the
western ocean the " Kisanga " passed the light-house and
turned her prow to the southward along the eastern coast
of the island.

The next morning there was nothing in sight but sea
and sky and the ship's company settled themselves down
to a sea-faring life. A double canvass awning was put up
over the quarter-deck, and smaller awnings over the fore-
castle, bridge and engineers' quarters. When the w T atch
changes at 4 p. m. the hose is brought out and the
decks washed down, which not only keeps them sweet and
clean but in a measure preserves them from the effects of
the sun, for south of the Canaries no waves will be high
enough to wash over the sides. As no one can sleep
through all the racket of washing-down and holy-stoning
the decks, it is the custom of experienced travelers to gird
themselves with a towel and come forth at this early hour
and let the sailors turn the hose on them. The water is
pretty cool, but it is refreshing, and after a good rub-down
with a coarse towel, and a "wee glass of bitters," your
tropical African voyager is ready for his pipe and a walk
up and down the deck until breakfast-time.

It is customary not only on ship-board but in all the
factories on the Coast to wear in the morning only a pair
of pajamas and a singlet, and to be fully dressed during the
afternoon and evenings only. This neglige custom no
doubt originated when such a thing as a white lady's
visiting the Coast was quite unthought of ; now that they
are occasionally passengers on the steamers, the men feel
that their liberty is sadly curtailed, but even with one or
two ladies on board your typical " old coaster " will walk
about the deck in his pajamas and singlet, not the least




abashed. This manner of dressing, rude as it may seem,
is well suited to the climate. At the factories most of the
work is done in the morning ; the afternoons are given up
to writing, visiting and other light employments, and the
cool sea breeze makes a greater quantity of clothing

While the " Kisanga " is steaming along the western
shore of the Sahara Desert, let us take a look at the great
continent we are about to visit. Even- one has a general
idea that it is a vast expanse of territory made up mostly
of deserts and wild niggers, and Mr. Stanley has added
the impression that it is a Dark continent, by which term
many get the impression that, like the world of woe, it
must be always night there. Africa contains one-fifth of all
the land on the planet, and this land lies wholly within the
warm or temperate zones. Large portions of Asia and
America are frozen solid the greater portion of the year,
are quite worthless and always will be ; but every square
foot of Africa is warmed by an unclouded sun, and may be
made to nourish every sort of vegetation upon which
animal life depends. So far from its being a Dark Conti-
nent in any physical sense of the word, it is, throughout
its entire extent, bathed in the most brilliant sunshine ever
seen in this fair world of ours. To intelligent spirits,
speeding through space in their journeys from world to
world of the vast universe of which we are a part, it must
appear as a great Kohinoor flashing back the light of that
mighty sun which holds the solar system in its grasp ; or,
perchance, as the revolution of the globe brings it into
shadow, it may look like a vast emerald as the rays of the
declining sun fall aslant its forests and jungles. Africa is
the richest and most highly favored continent of earth, and
is destined to become a mighty factor in every problem
which affects our race. As an inheritance is withheld from
a son until he be of sufficient age to rightly manage and



care for it ; so Africa has been kept from the nations until
the>" could rightly appreciate so great a gift, and wisely use
so vast and valuable a possession. The signs of the times
indicate that God is ready to give it to those who are
willing to go up and possess it, and the next few years
will witness the greatest land speculations ever known
in the history of our earth. As soon as men once
realize that a vast and fertile continent is to be had for the
taking, there will be a rush of emigration thither un-
paralleled in the history of mankind. The nations of
Europe are already setting their hands upon the prize, and
individual and corporate effort will follow closely behind
them. This great continent is soon to be opened up
throughout its length and breadth to the commerce of the
world, and those who come first will receive the choicest
share and get possession of the most paying routes.

In looking at the continent as a whole we see that it
has three sides, or great stretches of coast-line, and is
everywhere bounded by navigable waters. The first of
these is from the Strait of Gibraltar to Cape Guardafui,
and may be called the North Coast. This great line of
coast, bordering as it does the Mediterranean and Red Seas,
and adjacent to the oldest civilizations and empires of the
earth, may be looked upon as practically the south of
Europe. It is even now valuable, and will become
increasingly so, but it is too far away from the great
heart of the continent to serve as a base for tapping the
riches of the interior. This entire strip of coast-line is
backed by deserts, much of which is fertile and will be
made to produce abundantly when in the future irrigation
works are built and artesian wells are sunk.

The second great side of the continent extends from
Cape Guardafui to the Cape of Good Hope and is known
as the East Coast. The country along this entire coast-
line of over three thousand miles is extremely valuable,



having a rich soil, abundance of moisture, numerous rivers,
and but a few hundred miles inland, magnificent fresh water
lakes. Already the southern end of this district is well
settled with white colonists and possesses a modern civil-
ization of a high order. This coast is too far from the
great Soudan to serve as a base for developing that region,
and its very geographical position brings it nearer to the
southern coast of Asia than to the great nations of the

The principal development of this enormous continent
must take place from the West Coast. This vast section
of coast-line extends for seven thousand miles along the
Atlantic Ocean from the Cape of Good Hope to the Strait
of Gibraltar, and is as long as the other two sides put to-
gether. This great side of Africa is open and free both to
the commerce of Europe and the two Americas. It
possesses two of the greatest rivers of the world, and such
is its peculiar shape that it will give easy and ready access
to the whole of the vast interior. Here then is a base of
operations for those vast industrial enterprises that are to
bring a continent beneath our sway and create homes for
hundreds of millions of our race in the years to come.
Here is a theatre where bold and far-reaching minds may
display their powers either to benefit their fellow-men or
build up enormous fortunes for themselves. A few sug-
gestions as to what may be done will appear as we proceed
with our narrative.

The evening of the second da}' after leaving Las
Palmas, Captain Thompson and his friends were sitting
under the awning near the door of his chart-room enjoying
their pipes. The "Kisanga" was heading for Cape Blanco
and the conversation turned upon the scheme for flooding
the south-western portion of the Sahara. This idea is not
the product of - some disordered brain as many ignorantlv
assert, it is only restoring things to their original condition.



When Rome and Carthage were in the height of their
power this portion of the Sahara was an inland sea with a
fertile coast-line, and connected with the ocean by a narrow
strait much as the Mediterranean is to-day. This narrow
strait was closed with sand thrown up by the surf and the
project is to take away this sand and let the water flow in
again. This will not flood the entire desert, but only a
small portion of it.

" What special advantages may we expect to derive
from this inflow of the ocean?' 1 inquired Mr. Sinclair.

" Quite a number," replied Mr. King. "In the first
place it would give us communications with the extreme
northern portion of Senegambia, and from the south-eastern
shore of this inland sea a railway could be built at small
expense right through the whole length of the Soudan ; or
a net-work of railways to the Kong mountains on the south,
and the Nile on the east, could be made to extend to every
important point in the interior of North Central Africa.
Then the influence of this large body of water would be
felt in the climate of that whole region. You know as
well as I can tell you that Senegambia is one of the hottest
countries in the world, and that her climate comes on the
wings of the trade-winds from the north-east ; place this
great bod}' of water in the south-western portion of the
Desert and her climate would at once be modified ; it would
be both cooler and more moist ; this is all Senegambia
needs to make it one of the most desirable countries in the
world to live in."

" Many claim that this project if successfully carried
out would make the climate of the Mediterranean coast
much colder," observed Mr. Alexander.

" On the contrary," replied Mr. King, " it would make
it warmer. I was in the Mediterranean last winter and I
never suffered so much with the cold in my life. The


Mediterranean countries will yet be obliged to flood the
Sahara in sheer self-defense."

" How do you make that out?" inquired Mr. Schiff.

" You are well aware," continued Mr. King, " that
heated air rises, and cold air comes in to take its place.
You also know that the prevailing winds bring us our
weather. In my own land along the Atlantic sea-board, a
south-west wind indicates warm weather ; a north-west
wind cold weather, an easterly wind rain ; these winds
bring us weather characteristic of the regions from which
they come. Now when the heated air rises from the
Sahara, what kind of wind is it likely to create ? "

" A north wind," promptly replied Captain Thompson.

"Just so ; and a north wind is a cold one, and brings
cold weather with it. If the air from the heated sand
plains could be induced to blow towards Europe it would
be greatly appreciated, but instead of that the northeast
trades make it sweep over Senegambia where there is heat
enough already."

" Why don't the air rush in from Egypt and the Sou-
dan to fill the vacuum you speak of?" queried Mr. Schiff.

" Because," answered Mr. King, " the air from the
north is colder and heavier ; the air in the countries you
name, while not hot, is warm, and also rising ; but the air
over the north of Europe is cold, and as it sweeps across
the Alps and Appennines it becomes colder still, and makes
the dreaded 'northers' of the Mediterranean countries."

" I admit your argument is a good one so far as
these countries are concerned," replied Mr. Sinclair, "but
if this cold air is not permitted to escape from the centre
and north of Europe, will not these countries become much
colder than they are at present? "

" On the contrary, they will become warmer. When
this cold air starts on its southern journey, air still further
north takes its place, so that the whole of Europe and the


north of Africa gets its climate from the north ; this I
hold to be undesirable. "

" If Europe is to receive its climate from the south,"
inquired Mr. Alexander, "will it not be burned up in
Summer? "

"Not at all," replied Mr. King, "the sun is then
north, and his power is exerted from that direction ; then
the cool breezes from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
will be welcomed by all, just as these same breezes are
agreeable in winter for their warmth when the sun exerts
his power from the south."

Mr. Schiff thought they were wandering from the
subject and he wanted to know if Captain Thompson
thought the Sahara scheme would pay.

" That depends upon what you mean by ' pay,' '
answered the Captain. " I think the benefits it would
confer upon mankind would be greater than those which
came from building the Suez Canal ; but I do not think
the enterprise could be made to pay a dividend in cash,
unless the company be given all the land it can reclaim
upon the borders of the new sea, and also the exclusive
right to all the carrying trade in and out, and the building
of all railroads from its borders into adjacent countries.
This is too much for any company to do, and it would be
far better to have a harbor built and the canal dug by some
stable government, and leave the rest to individual enter-
prise ; or, several governments might combine and do the
work through an international commission. Nor is it
necessary that everything in the world should be made to
' pay ' in the commercial sense of that word. The British
navy pays no dividend, yet we would not wish to be with-
out it ; your great bridge, Mr. King, between Brooklyn
and New York does not pay, and yet I hear that you are
thinking of building another ; so flooding the Sahara
might not pay the government that did the work, any


more than other public improvements do, but it would
open up vast possibilities of trade and development in
Northern Central Africa, and it would ameliorate the
climate of many countries. It would in my judgment be of
far more benefit to the world than cutting a canal across
the isthmus of Panama."

" That unfortunate effort," said Mr. Alexander, " was
accompanied by great loss of life ; do you think the same
result would follow if this plan was carried out ?'

" I cannot see why there should be the needless sacrifice
of a single human life," responded the Captain, " this
desert coast is as healthy as an)' part of the world, and
digging through the sand is not likely to develop malaria
as was the case in the alluvial soils of the isthmus."

" Where would the workmen get their provisions
from ? " inquired Mr. Sinclair.

" Vast quantities of plantains, yams and other vege-
tables could be brought from the Senegal, two days
steaming from here," replied the Captain, "while flour and
tinned goods could come from America ; fresh meat might
be brought direct from Argentina in refrigerator ships,
and the Canary Islands would be glad to supply the salads
and fruits."

Mr. King then spoke of the Senegal river and its
value as a highway of commerce.

" This will be a valuable river," said he, "for devel-
oping the commerce of this district, as steamboats such as
we have upon our own Western rivers can ascend for

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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 2 of 17)