Imagini ale paginilor



be better for the world if the system were entirely abolished.

The view of St. Vincent, backed by a bold and stern mountain mass, on which scarcely a trace of vegetation is visible from a distance, was for some time sufficiently interesting; but as the day wore on, and the sun beat down more fiercely, life on board became less agreeable. To keep out the penetrating coal dust all the ports were closed, and, with the thermometer at 90°, the air below was stifling, and the passengers generally preferred to remain on deck, and breathe the hot air mixed with the coal dust that arose from the

open bunkers. I offered two of the boatmen who hung about the ship three milreis if they would land on inhabited part of the bay, which I pointed out to them, and collect for me every plant they found growing, and I was well pleased when, after two or three hours, they returned with a respectable bundle of green foliage. Under the vigilant eyes of the officers of health the specimens were hauled up to the deck, while the three dollars were thrown into the

It is remarkable that coin is nowhere supposed to convey contagion.

When I came to examine it, I found to my disgust that the bouquet included only the leaves of two species, with no trace of flower or fruit.

One was most probably Nicotiana glauca, introduced from tropical America; the other a leguminous shrub, possibly a Cassia, but quite uncertain.

The rest of the passengers spent most of the day in bargaining with the hucksters who flocked round



the ship. Ornaments made from palm leaves, sweetmeats of very suspicious appearance, photographs, and tobacco in various forms, were the chief articles of traffic, and the main object seemed to be to prolong the chaffering and bargaining over each article so as to kill as much time as possible. More attractive in appearance were the tropical fruits, of which those suitable to a dry climate grow here in perfection. In spite of persevering efforts, I have never developed much appreciation of the banana as an article of diet, but I thought those obtained here much the best that I have anywhere eaten.

General satisfaction was felt when, the work of coaling being finished, the ship was again in motion, with her head set towards Europe. On returning to the channel between the islands, and still more when we had got well out to sea, we encountered a rather strong breeze right ahead, which with varying force continued for the next four days. This was, of course, the regular trade wind of the North Atlantic, and had the agreeable effect of lowering the temperature, which at once fell to 78°. Along with the trade wind, the sea-current apparently travels in the same direction. It is certain that the temperature of the water was here much lower. Before reaching St. Vincent we found it between 80° and 81° Fahr., while after leaving the islands it had fallen to 74o. This temperature remained nearly constant for three days, but on the evening of the 9th, in about 27° north latitude, we abruptly encountered another current of still cooler water, in which the thermometer fell to 69o.

The force of the wind never, I think, exceeded

what seamen describe as a fresh breeze, but it sufficed to cause at times considerable disturbance of the surface; and on the afternoon of the 6th we shipped some heavy seas, so that it was found expedient to slacken speed for a time.

I have alluded in a former page to the ordinary observation that in the track of the trade winds the breeze usually falls off about sunset. It is more difficult to account for the opposite phenomenon, which we experienced on three successive evenings from the 7th to the oth of August, when the force of the wind increased in a marked degree after nightfall.

I was also struck by the fact that the temperature of the air throughout the voyage from St. Vincent to the mouth of the Tagus seemed to be unaffected either by the varying force of the wind or by the fall in surface-temperature of the sea, to which I have above referred. On board ship in clear weather it is very difficult to ascertain the true shade-temperature when the sun is much above the horizon, but the observations made at sunrise and after nightfall from the evening of the 5th to the morning of the 11th varied very slightly, the utmost range being from 77'5° to 73°

Some points in the Canary Islands are often visible in the voyage from Brazil to Europe, especially the lofty peak of Palma; but we passed this part of the course at night, and nothing was seen. As we drew near to Europe, the wind, through keeping the sam direction, gradually fell off to a gentle breeze, and the surface of the water became glassy smooth, heaving gently in long undulations. The relative effect of



smooth or rough water on the speed of steamers is remarkable, and was shown by the fact that during the twenty-four hours ending at noon on the 11th of August the Tagus accomplished a run of 295 knots, while three days before, with only a gentle breeze but rougher water, the run to noon was only 240 knots.

Early in the afternoon of the 11th, the Rock of Lisbon at the mouth of the Tagus was distinctly visible, and we slowly entered the river and cast anchor at the quarantine station below Belem. Our captain, after the experience of St. Vincent, did not expect to obtain pratique at Lisbon, and with more or less grumbling the passengers had made up their minds to remain on board, when, after a long deliberation, the unexpected news, “admitted to pratique," was rapidly spread through the ship, and we moved up to the anchorage opposite the picturesque old tower of Belem, which the true mariner must always regard as one of his holy places. It marks the spot wherefrom Vasco de Gama and his companions, after a night spent in prayer in the adjoining chapel, embarked on their memorable voyage, and here, after years of anxious uncertainty, King Manuel greeted the survivors on their return to their country. The sun

was sinking when such passengers as wished to see something of Lisbon took the opportunity for going ashore, while others, like myself, preferred to remain on board. Hoping to receive letters at the post-office, I landed early next morning, and found a tramcar to carry me to the centre of the town. Early hours are not in much honour at Lisbon. I found the post-office closed, and, after several vain

efforts, was informed that letters could not be delivered until ten o'clock, the precise hour fixed for our departure from the anchorage at Belem.

The voyage from Lisbon along the coasts of Portugal and Galicia is usually enjoyed, even by fair-weather sailors. The case is often otherwise with the Bay of Biscay, but on this occasion there was nothing of which the most fastidious could complain. I have sometimes doubted whether injustice has not been done to that much-abused bay, which, in truth, is not rightly so called by those bound from the north to the coast of Portugal. It is simply a part of the Atlantic Ocean, adjoining the coast of Europe between latitudes 43° 46' and 48° 28'. I have not been able to ascertain that the wind blows harder, or that the sea runs higher there than elsewhere in the same latitudes, and am inclined to rank the prejudice against that particular tract of sea-water among vulgar errors.

The adventurer who has attempted to open up a trade with some distant region is accustomed, as he returns home, to count up the profits of his expedition; and in somewhat the same spirit the man who pursues natural knowledge can scarcely fail to take stock of the results of a journey. It is his happy privilege to reckon up none but gains, and those of a kind that bring abiding satisfaction. He

He may feel some regret that outer circumstance or his own shortcoming have allowed opportunities to escape, and lessened the store that he has been able to accumulate; but as for the positive drawbacks, which seemed but trivial at the time, they absolutely disappear in the recollection of his experiences. Thinking of these

« ÎnapoiContinuați »