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Rounding Cape Horn
Through drizzling fogs and vapors, and under damp, do...

Going To Sea A Hundred Years Ago
In the ordinary course of a commercial education, in ...

The Escape Of Symington
Captain Myron Symington was a long-legged Yankee. The...

Boats Model-boat Making Etcetera

Leaving the subject of ancient ships and navigation,...

Treats Of Ships In General

There is, perhaps, no contrivance in the wide world ...

The Landing On The Island
For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times h...

The Corvette _claymore_
The corvette, instead of sailing south, in the di...

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Voyage To The East Indies






Soon after embarking, and wearied by the exertions I had been obliged
to make for the last few days, I betook myself to my cabin and to
rest. When I again ascended to the deck, I looked towards the shore we
had left, but nothing was to be seen, but a long gray stripe that lay
like a dim cloud along the distant horizon. It was the last sight of
my native land, and gradually its faint purple outline faded until it
was lost in the foam-crested waves. On all sides of me was the wild
waste of waters; as far as the eye could reach, it rested upon moving
masses like fields of sea-green. Above us was the blue and vaulted
heavens that were now illumined with the burnished rays of an August
sun, that was even now dipping his broad disk into the waves that
formed the distant horizon.

All around was life and motion; ours had not been the only ship that
had taken advantage of a favorable wind to put out from Cuxhaven to
the open sea. Four or five other ships were sailing along side, and as
they spread their snowy sails, on which the bright rays of the summer
sun was playing, they skimmed like white-winged sea-mews over the dark
green waters.

And now one of the pilot boats that lie here at anchor, yet tossed
year in and year out by the restless waves, sending on board both, to
the homeward and outward bound a skilful guide, to steer the ship
through the perilous shoals and sand banks that lie on this coast,
approached, to take up the pilot that had steered us safely into the
open sea. He took charge of all our letters--from those written to
parent, friend, or lady love left behind, to the tender lines penned
by the least shipboy, taking a long farewell of the mother who
standing on the pier, waved her hand to her child whose home was
henceforward to be on the deep, until long after we sailed. The pilot
thrust them all into his great leathern bag, held out his sea-hardened
hand to bid each one farewell and gave us his sailor-like greeting:
"Farewell, and a lucky voyage to you." He jumped into the boat, four
lusty rowers sat on the benches, and it flew over the glancing waters
with the speed of a bird until it reached the one-sailed craft he
called his pilot ship. This was our final adieu to the homes we had
left, for with the departure of the pilot from on board, the last link
that unites the sailor to his native land is broken, and it is then
the traveller feels how really every rolling wave increases the
distance between him and the fireside joys he has left behind.

Light winds soon drove us into the English channel, where we saw the
chalk cliffs of Dover shimmering in the bright sunshine on one
side--the coast of France like a soft blue cloud dipping into the sea
on the other. We approached so near to the British shore, that we
could distinguish the buildings and light-houses plainly. Near to
Dover, and on a rocky precipice, stands an old fortress of the middle
ages, looking out threateningly with bristling canon on the town and
over the sea that breaks and murmurs at its rocky base.

As it became dark, numerous beacon lights blazed from the watch-towers,
some speedily vanishing, others twinkling and glancing like meteors that
beguile the wanderer from his way, but many with clear and steady
ray, shone brightly over the face of the deep and guided the sailor
on his adventurous course. The first were the so-called fire drakes,
covered partly by metallic plates which turn, and thus is caused the
appearing and vanishing of the light so speedily, the latter is the
steady beacon of the light-house, which distinguishable from all
others by its brilliancy and the color of its flame, enables the
seaman to direct his craft safely through the channel. Hundreds of
other lights were glancing everywhere, like the fire flies of the
tropics upon the face of night, those were the burning lanterns
carried at the prow of the steamboats, warning each other of
approaching too near, and giving the same intelligence to ships.

On the following morning we found ourselves in the neighbourhood of
the Isle of Wight, and vainly looked out for some compassionate fisher
boat, that for a flask of brandy or some salted fish, would carry our
last letters to some port, from whence they might be forwarded to our
homes. A few days later, and we lost sight of the English coast; and
with it the last land in Europe faded from our eyes. We found
ourselves on the open sea, and with lightly swelling sails, steering
for the Cape de Verd Islands. Of the many vessels which we hailed or
passed in the British channel, not one was to be seen; here every ship
held silently on her own monotonous way, without troubling herself
about the fate of another; and here instead of the life and bustle to
be met with on a coasting voyage, nothing was to be seen, but the dark
blue waves of the broad Atlantic and the bright resplendent sky.

To enjoy a sea-voyage one must have entirely overcome the severe
ordeal of sea-sickness, and then with the high health that generally
follows the departure of this disagreeable visitant, life on the ocean
is not without a beauty and variety of its own. In a fortnight one
becomes sufficiently versed in the laws of equilibrium to maintain his
place in his hammock from a sudden lurching of the ship in a squall or
night of tempest, or so skilfully to balance himself and his plate at
table, that neither shall be thrown to the right or left. By degrees,
too, one becomes accustomed to the slovenliness of the cabin servants,
and the dusky appearance of stained and soiled table cloths, and at
last even ceases to miss the newspapers and the absence of cream in
his coffee.

During the first part of our voyage we had most beautiful weather; the
deep blue sea upon which the foam-crested waves chased each other as
if at play, and the bright heavens where thin and transparent clouds
were floating like veils of gossamer, filled the heart with gladness
and disposed it to profitable musings. Light winds filled the sails
that swelled beautifully on their masts and drove the ship, that under
a cloud of white canvass looked like a stately queen, onward.
Sometimes she would lie motionless on the waves for a time, then urged
by the breeze she would glide forth like a capricious beauty, cutting
the water at the rate of more than four miles an hour. So gentle was
the motion, that in the cabin one could scarce hear the murmur of the
waves as the ship kissed them with her bowsprit, or raised a track of
foam as she divided them with her sharp keel or directing rudder.

It may seem strange, but it is nevertheless true, that on the land,
the Sabbath never speaks to man with such solemn voice as it does in
beautiful weather on the deep blue sea. Then it seems as if wind and
wave and sun and sky were all holding sacred festival, and Nature,
such as she appears on that wide and wonderful expanse, invited man,
the favored creature, to worship with her in her grand and sacred
temple. On week days, with the perpetual industry usual on board a
ship, the bustling of the sailors as they pursue their several
avocations, the call of the boatswain, the noise of the carpenters'
hammer that cannot be excluded from the cabin, contrasts vividly with
the calm brought by the solemn stillness of the Sabbath,--its
influence is visible on all. No tar-bucket is seen on deck, no
paint-pot stands in the way, the sailor intermits his weekly task of
mending the sails, and the ropes that are to be repaired are laid
aside. The deck is scoured white and smooth with sand; everything is
clean, even the cabin-boy and the table-cloth, two articles that on
weekdays seem to hold themselves privileged to be dirty.

The sailors indeed, that is only some of them, take advantage of the
time bestowed by the Sabbath, to mend their jackets and stockings, or
patch up old boots and shoes; others lie stretched out on the deck
with a book in their hands or a cigar in their mouths, murmuring
something to which the waves are the only listeners; others are down
in the forecastle looking over their chests and coffers, the sight of
their humble effects, or perhaps some cherished keepsake, recalling
thoughts of loved ones at home. But in whatever business engaged, the
influence of the Sabbath is seen on all, for there is no countenance
but speaks the calm and quiet content, which this blessed day, so
wisely ordered as a respite from toil and care, brings to all, whether
on land or sea.

We were out four weeks without having seen anything but sky and water,
when one day we saw the rugged crest of a high mountain rising above a
pile of thick gray clouds. It was the high hill of the island of St.
Anthony, the most westerly of the Cape de Verd group. Little by little
the low-lying clouds ascend like a drawn up curtain, and the whole
island lay spread out, a living panorama, to our view. But alas! we
passengers were not permitted to leave the ship, and as soon as we had
taken in provisions and water, the anchor was lifted and we held on
our way towards the south.

As in all lands lying in the warm latitudes, the works of nature are
found in greater and more vigorous beauty than beneath our colder and
melancholy skies, so also do the tropical seas present appearances
never seen in the northern waters. If a storm arises, the whole
creation seems to be dissolving. No words can be found adequate to
describe the scene, or in any measure to convey the frightful
experience the sailor has to undergo. But on the other hand, in clear
and calm weather, the tropical sea presents an aspect of gorgeousness
and grandeur, with which the loveliest natural scenery of a northern
climate cannot compare. Here the rising of the sun from his bed of
waves, presents a spectacle that fills the heart with reverence and
awe at the same time that it swells with rapture of the purest kind.
The thick clouds that rested like a veil of darkness upon the
illimitable surface of the sea, at the coming of the god of day,
disperse in their vapors. The twinkling stars grow paler as he
approaches, the dark gray color of the water changes to a cheerful
blue, and streaks of clear purple are seen in the east, increasing
each moment to a varied hue, and as the horizon brightens, darkness
flies far from the bosom of the waters. Suddenly rays of glorious
light break forth from heaven and pour their golden glory on the sea,
the sun rises in his glowing strength above the bank of purple clouds,
and as they disperse themselves over the azure firmament, various are
the shapes, whether beautiful or grotesque, that they assume. One can
imagine he sees towns, hills, castles with tall towers, ships, and a
thousand other objects in their flitting shapes, but yet scarcely
formed ere they lose their evanescent beauty both of form and color,
as the sun mounts above the horizon.

The animal kingdom of the tropical ocean is extraordinarily rich and
varied. The sea birds are distinguished by their size, and beauty of
plumage, and greatly surpass those that belong to the north. Thousands
of flying fish spring above the surface, in order to escape some
lurking enemy below, only to find their death on the deck of the ship,
but oftener to fall an easy prey to some rapacious bird. Nothing can
equal the gay colors of the Bonito and Dorado, a smaller kind of
ravenous fish peculiar to the Southern seas, and which are always
found in close pursuit of their neighbors, the flying fish. With what
enchantment does the astonished spectator fasten his gaze upon the
lightly moving waters. His eye penetrates the depths that lie far
below the crystal surface, and is lost in wonder at beholding the
myriads of living creatures with which the mighty ocean teems! Not a
moment but what presents some new and interesting subject for inquiry
or contemplation, thus breaking in pleasantly on the otherwise
monotonous current of sea life.

So the day passes over, full of interest, if man will only take the
trouble to secure it; and the sun that here regularly measures his
diurnal course in twelve hours, is declining to his setting. Again the
attendant clouds, that at times assume the appearance of burning
volcanoes, gather around him, as though to curtain him as he sinks to
rest, but as his glancing rays reflected on the smooth water are
refracted in gushing vapors, thousands of fireballs seemed to rise as
from a crater, and streams of burning lava to flow into the ocean. At
length the sun is hidden beneath the waves; for a few minutes the
western horizon is like a sea of glowing purple, and then night comes,
shrouding all in her darksome veil. But there is no gloom; thousands
of stars far brighter than those of northern lands glitter in the
firmament, and are mirrored in the chrystal waters; fiery meteors dart
through the heavens, and the whole surface of the ocean is covered
with luminous insects.

Pleasant as is life on shipboard, even in a slow voyage, when with
sufficient wind, which is mostly the case in this latitude, to
keep the vessel moving, bringing refreshing coolness to the
sailor, and spreading life and healthful motion over the sea; not
less uncomfortable is the condition of a vessel when becalmed, as is
not seldom the case for many weeks together. With heavy heart the
mariner sees the breeze that so lately rippled the waves, gradually
die away, and leave the bosom of the ocean calm as a slumbering lake.
The sails hang flapping from the yards, the sea is motionless,
presenting a dull expanse of water as far as the eye can reach, and
no zephyrs float through the atmosphere to give relief from the
burning rays of the sun. The ship lies like a log on the water,
the discontent and murmurs of the crew increase every day, and in vain
do they try to drive the tedium away by practising all sorts of
diversion. But the night brings some relief, not only in her calm
beauty, but cooling dews refresh the heated atmosphere, and the moon
and stars shine forth in unsurpassable glory in the cloudless
heavens.

On the first of October, we passed the equator. Neptune, as is his
custom with all ships, honored us with a visit. With the early
twilight, we heard a deep bass voice that seemed to rise up out of the
waves, hail the ship in true nautical style. The helmsman answered
through his speaking trumpet, to the usual questions of where we were
bound, and from whence we had sailed. Two of the ship boys were
listening with all their ears, and peering curiously but vainly over
the bulwarks in order to get a sight of old Neptune. At length the
voice from the bowsprit made itself more audible, and in the
following manner. "I see that there are a few on board that have never
before been in my territory, and must submit to the regulations I
demand, as it becomes them to do." As the last words were uttered a
gigantic figure, his head covered with a periwig of knotted sea-grass,
with a false nose, and his face painted in various colors, now
ascended the ship's side, and clambered on deck. He carried a speaking
trumpet of three feet long in his right hand, under his left arm was a
few thick books, and from the leg of his boot a huge wooden compass
protruded itself. A masculine woman in whose soot-begrimed lineaments
I, with some trouble, recognized those of our boatswain, personating
Amphitrite, followed the god of the sea, carrying a long lubberly boy
in her arms, wrapped up in an old sail. They were introduced to us by
Neptune as his wife and son. Having advanced to the after deck, where
the sailors were assembled, he opened one of his colossal books and
spread an old sea chart out upon the deck. "Hallo, helmsman," he
inquired, "what is your latitude and longitude?" The answer being
given, he grumbled something as he pulled his huge compass from his
boot, and having carefully measured his old chart, at last struck a
hole in it, as he exclaimed, "Here you are--all right--what course are
you steering?" "South, south-east!" "You must go four degrees to
westward--you will have a better wind," growled Neptune, and therewith
he doubled up the chart, and stuck the compass in his boot again. "I
must see after my new circumnavigators," he added in the same gruff
tone as he turned his eyes on the two before-mentioned boys and one
old sailor who, although he had followed the sea for twelve years, had
never, until now, crossed the equator; "we must make a nearer
acquaintance."

The name, birth, and age of each being inquired into, and duly
registered in one of the large books, each one after having his eyes
blindfolded, was led by the sailors to the forecastle and seated on a
plank, under which was placed a large tub of water. The next operation
was to shave them, and accordingly their faces were smeared over with
a horrible mixture of shoemaker's wax, train oil and soot, most
ungently laid on with a coarse painter's brush. Neptune then performed
the office of barber himself, taking a long piece of iron which had
once served as the hoop of a tun, he scraped their chins in the most
unmerciful manner.

No sooner was this operation ended, then they pulled away the props of
the plank on which the three tyros were seated, so that they fell over
head and ears in the tub of water below, and thus received what the
sailors call a "genuine Neptune's baptism." After all these ceremonies
he turned as if to go, but the young sea-god at this moment set up a
most fearful outcry--he bawled as loud and lustily as any mortal.
"Just listen," said Neptune; "now I cannot go back to my cave in
peace, but that cub will roar and bellow the whole night, so as to
disturb all the waves below,--nothing even quiets him but a stiff
glass of grog, for he likes that far better than sea water."

The captain understood the hint; he laughed and nodded to the steward.
Young Neptune continued his lamentation nearly a quarter of an hour; I
saw one of the cabin servants carrying a smoking bowl of punch to the
foredeck, and the joyful shouts and loud hurrah that attested how
welcome was its reception, reached us who were in the cabin below.

On the following day as the ship, driven by a light wind, moved lazily
through the waters, we observed two large sharks following in her
wake. The sailors were at great pains to take them, but greatly to the
vexation of themselves and the passengers who entered quite as eagerly
into this sport as themselves, the cunning fish disdained the bait and
swam slowly away. To my enquiries of why they had not seized upon the
meat thrown out as lure, sharks having always been represented as
voracious and greedy, one of the passengers answered,

"It all depends on whether or not they are hungry. In some soundings,
where fish abound, I have seen sharks by the hundred, which not only
refused the bait, but did not injure the men who went into the water
to bathe or accidentally fell overboard. Nevertheless, like yourself,
I wonder that these creatures did not bite, for the sharks of the
Atlantic are considered particularly greedy."

"I can tell ye," said the boatswain, who was standing close by, "why
they did not take hold of the bait. It is because we are just in the
track of the Brazilian slave ships; they throw many of the niggers
overboard, for many die, and there's no doubt but the creatures find
richer morsels than a bit of salt beef."

"Are there not several species of sharks?" I inquired of a passenger
who seemed well acquainted with natural history in all its variety.

"A great many," he answered, "and the largest and most rapacious is
the white shark, to which class those that have just left us belong.
He moves through the Atlantic as if it was his own realm, but is
seldom seen beyond the solstitial point, preferring the latitude
within the tropics; he is also found in the Mediterranean sea, and
also in the gulf of Lyons, where he is peculiarly savage. The blue
shark, seen in the English channel, is seldom dangerous; others,
larger but less harmless, infest the northern seas, and are often
pursued by the whalers merely for sport. Then there is the spotted or
tiger shark, not very large but exceedingly rapacious; the hammer
shark, which derives its name from the peculiar shape of its head, and
the ground shark, which is the most to be dreaded of any, since he
lies deep down in the water, and rising suddenly, seizes his prey
without any one suspecting his vicinity."

"Suppose a man is so unfortunate as to fall overboard, and a shark is
in the neighborhood," said I, "what can he do to save himself? Is
there no hope of escaping from his dreadful jaws?"

"The best means I have seen tried," he replied, "and with good effect
is, if a man is a good swimmer, to throw himself on his back, splash
the water with his feet, and shout with all his strength. The shark is
a great coward and easily frightened--noise will always drive him off.
When I was on a voyage to the West Indies, two or three years ago, I
had a Newfoundland dog with me, who was accustomed to spring into the
water from any height, and after anything. I was greatly attached to
the animal, and you may imagine my alarm as, one day we were lying
becalmed off the West India islands, I saw him jump down and with,
loud barkings, as if delighted with the sport, swim after a large
shark that was playing around the ship. I expected nothing else but to
see him devoured in an instant, but to my astonishment the monster
turned and swam vigorously, evidently frightened by the barking of the
dog who continued to follow him, until a boat was let down and himself
brought back by the sailors.

"A singular method," continued my learned fellow-passenger, "is
practised by the divers who collect pearls on the coast of Ceylon.
They often let themselves down an hundred feet in order to reach the
mud banks where the pearl oysters are to be found, and whilst they are
filling their baskets they must watch carefully on all sides lest a
shark fall upon them. If they see one near, they stir up the mud, and
then while the enemy is blinded by the turbid water they rise as
quickly as possible to the surface. Many escape in this manner, but
many also fall victims. Fair ladies as they adorn their persons with
these costly ornaments think little of the suffering by which they are
obtained,--the arduous adventurous life, or of the unfortunates who
are annually swallowed by those savages of the deep. When one
considers how often those poor Indians must dive to the bottom, to say
nothing of the loss of life, before a string of pearls can be
obtained, we may confidently assert that every necklace has been
purchased by at least the life of one human being."

Scudding now before a fresher wind, we steered towards the south and
soon found ourselves in a colder climate. The flying fish played
lively as ever around the ship, and one night so many fell on deck as
to furnish an excellent mess for breakfast. Black dolphins, the
greatest enemy of their flying neighbors, tumbled playfully about in
the rippling water, and at times encircled the ship in great numbers.
Their motion is swift and vigorous,--so much so that it is scarcely
possible to strike them with a harpoon.

On the 20th of October we reached the latitude of the Cape of Good
Hope. Flocks of sea birds fluttered around our masts, for this colder
region is the home of the beautiful sea dove, the great white
albatross and an innumerable multitude of smaller kinds, that on the
approach of stormy weather seem to rise, as by the stroke of a
magician's wand, from the sea. One of the few changes one meets with
on a voyage to Africa is angling for birds, for they are as easily
taken as the finny tribe, by baiting a fish-hook with a piece of fat
meat, and especially so in those rough seas, upon whose surface little
to nourish can be found, they seize greedily upon the hook, which
fastens itself readily in their crooked bills. All these sea birds are
clothed with a coat of feathers so thick and elastic that except in
one or two places they are invulnerable to a bullet.

The fable of the Flying Dutchman is well known--the Demon ship is
still supposed to traverse his unwearied but unprofitable course in
the neighborhood of the Cape. The weather is stormy almost throughout
the year, the skies ever dark and cloudy, but while other ships,
scarcely able to keep themselves steadily afloat, dare show but one or
two storm sails, the phantom ship is scudding before the gale under a
full press of canvass. Our captain assured us with an expression of
countenance which showed that he himself believed what he asserted,
that he had once seen the Dutchman under crowded sail in Table Bay
hardly two English miles distant; that he had altered his course in
order to come up with him, but all at once he vanished, and although
he steered a long time in the same direction, he found no trace of
him. The thing easily explains itself when one considers that the sky
is always dark and foggy, the sea rough and tempestuous, and not
seldom sudden storms of hail and snow prevent the voyager from seeing
a quarter of a mile before him; how easy then to lose sight of a
vessel in an instant.

Much more dangerous than the Flying Dutchman are the floating bodies
of ice, found also in these latitudes; and which often cause great
damage to ships, for owing to the thickness of the atmosphere they are
not seen, until they are driven against them. A few years ago an
English frigate in doubling the Cape, ran foul of an iceberg with such
force that she sprung a leak, and broke the rudder in splinters.
Luckily a puff of wind that streamed from a cleft in the ice and threw
back the sails, freed the ship from her perilous condition since
another stroke upon the iceberg would have dashed her to pieces.

There is no climate where gurnets are found in such numbers as in the
neighborhood of the Cape. In stormy or cloudy nights the sparkle of
these beautiful sea-fish is the brightest. The troubled waves as they
dash their foam-crested waters against the ship, glitter as though
thousands of brilliant stars were seen among them, and as the rushing
keel divides them in her course, the effect is indescribable, and
recalls to the mind of the spectator tales of fairies and sea-nymphs
that come up from their ocean caves to gaze with bright and curious
eyes on the daring mortals that invade their realm.

After doubling the Cape, we had sailed a whole week with a steady and
favorable wind towards the Isle of Bourbon, when on one clear day
whilst all were assembled on the deck, we were startled by a cannon
shot fired at no great distance, and came booming over the waters like
the voice of thunder. The captain was hastily summoned from his cabin,
but ere he made his appearance a second report broke upon the deep
stillness that succeeded the first. At the same moment a sailor on the
lookout called out from above, that he "saw a light over the bows of
the ship, but could not make out what it was." "Is it a ship,"
inquired the captain, as he began hastily to ascend the mainmast. "No,
sir!" was the answer, "the light is too large to come from a ship's
lantern, and it cannot be the Isle of Bourbon." "It must be a vessel
on fire," exclaimed the captain, as many cannon shots broke upon the
silent air, "Bourbon lies much farther to the north. Aloft there!
crowd on sail--in order to carry help to those unfortunates before it
is too late!"

Whilst the sailors were busy in executing the captain's orders, he
bade the gunners fire the cannon so that the crew of the burning ship
might know that help was near. In half an hour from the first alarm,
we could plainly discern the blazing vessel with the naked eye, and
soon after distinguished the whirling columns of flame as they
towered above the masts. The night, too, had come on, and the
impression made by the lurid light that shone far over the quiet
waters, and the booming sound of cannon that from time to time burst
on its stillness, was one too awful to be soon forgotten. "If we only
do not reach them too late!" cried one of the passengers who, like the
sailors, never even turned their eyes away from the burning spectacle.
"I hope the crew have taken to their boats before this," said the
captain, who with his nightglass to his eye was steadfastly regarding
the unfortunate ship.

The breeze springing up more freshly, we sailed with increased speed
towards the distressed vessel, the forepart of which was now one sheet
of flame; we saw the angry fiery element enveloping the foremast from
top to bottom as in a garment, now sweep over to the mainmast, the
sails of which were instantly on fire. How far the conflagration had
proceeded inside we could not ascertain; but we were very certain the
crew had left her and taken to the boats, for our continued cannon
shots were answered by muskets fired from the barge and jolly boat.

As we approached carefully so as to avoid danger to ourselves from the
collision with the burning ship, a wild cry arose from the foredeck of
the latter--piercing yet mournful, and while pained and astonished we
looked about to discover what it meant, a spectacle singular as
fearful met our eyes. The ship had a number of animals on board which
were being taken to England for a menagerie. In their haste to leave,
the crew had either forgotten to unloose them, or feared that by
liberating them, they might meet in their rage a worse enemy than even
the fire. In wild and unavailing efforts, they dashed furiously
against the iron bars that inclosed them, and their fearful cries
almost drowned the hissing and crackling sound of the flames. At
length they reached the mizzenmast, and the falling yards loosened a
plank or two of one of the cages--a noble lion with flowing mane and
glaring eyes burst forth and sprung overboard. At the same instant an
elephant had freed himself from the rope which fettered his hind legs.
Flourishing his long proboscis he rushed into the midst of the fire,
but soon driven back by the heat he retreated to a portion of the
foredeck which had not yet ignited, and his death-cry echoed loud and
mournfully over the dusky ocean.

The falling of the mainmast ended the sad catastrophe. The cages of
the other animals had taken fire, and their wild occupants bursting
through the half burned planks, showed their dark forms here and
there on the deck, and maddened with pain, shrieked aloud in agony
as they plunged into the sea. The elephant drew himself up as for a
last effort, and was about to spring overboard, as one bright,
blinding glare shot athwart our eyes, and the next moment, vessel,
animals, all had vanished as if by magic. The explosion that followed
instantly--the sparkling brands that were hurled in all directions,
explained that the flames had reached the magazine and thus blown up
the luckless ship.

By this time, we had come up close to the boats, when a strange sound
of snorting and moaning caused us to turn our eyes once more to the
spot where the ship disappeared. We saw the huge form of the lion
contending with the waves; attracted by the voices of men he was
making every effort to reach the jolly boat. With consternation, the
crew of the frail craft observed the advance of this dangerous
messmate, for if he laid but one of his paws upon the side, overladen
as she was already, she must inevitably sink by the increased weight.
The sailors plied their oars with renewed force--the little boat shot
over the waters like an arrow, and the poor animal was left far
behind. For a long time, panting and toiling, he continued the
pursuit, battling vigorously with wind and waves; but at last his
strokes grew weaker, his breathing shorter, and we saw him finally
yield quietly to the waves that settled over him even as they had
closed above the devoted ship.

The captain now called the sailors, who silent and motionless were
standing about, regarding the singular and impressive spectacle, to
their several duties. The sails were taken in, ropes were thrown to
the boats, and such a number of dark figures clambered up the deck
that we began to be uneasy, and rather doubtful of the character of
the rescued. We soon, however, became convinced that we had to do with
honorable people, and who, singular as they looked to us in their
oriental garb, took all possible pains to show their gratitude for our
timely succor. From the few Europeans on board, we learned that the
ship was from Sumatra bound to London; we therefore landed them on the
Isle of Bourbon whose port we entered two days after.

With the cold climate that we exchanged for a warmer as we again
approached the equator, we lost sight of the countless flocks of
sea-birds that so long had accompanied us. It is something remarkable
that they only inhabit the colder latitudes, for in a warmer climate
it is a rare thing to find them. Sometimes a few weary land-birds that
have strayed from their homeward way, skim over the ocean, or rest
upon the masts; how they maintain themselves on the wing cannot be
conjectured, but certain it is, they have been seen on the trackless
ocean, when no point of land was within hundreds of miles.

On the first day of December, a long range of blue hills rose on the
far horizon as if springing from the sea; we soon found it to be the
coast of Sumatra. Contrary winds kept us beating about and prevented
our entering the straits of Sunda, but we found ourselves surrounded
by a number of ships from all nations sharing a like fate, and waiting
with the same impatience for a favoring wind to blow them into Sunda
Roads or to their different destinations. At last the wished for
breeze sprung up, the sails swelled, and our gallant ship sailed
proudly through the straits. On all sides were seen chains of blue
hills and richly wooded islands rising out of the water; the long
coast of Java and Sumatra covered with vegetation and groups of
beautiful trees, and the thousand little green islets that studded the
straits like emeralds cast at random, presented a lively picture that
contrasted pleasantly with the late monotony we had endured. Huge
trunks of pistangs and tops of cocoanut trees, broken off by the wind
were driven about in all directions, and as they met us, awakened
almost as much apprehension as would a reef of rocks. We passed many
islands uninhabited, and with their impervious forests still remaining
in primitive wildness, clothed in the beauty of a perpetual verdure
unknown in northern regions, and soon came in sight of the white
houses of the island of Java, which surrounded with lofty trees and
blooming gardens, proclaimed themselves the dwellings of Europeans.
From many eminences the Dutch flag was seen floating, and as we sailed
along, a Java village looked out from among the tall cocoanut trees;
little barks shot out from the shore and steered towards our ship, and
one European boat manned with eight Javanese rowers, and bearing the
flag of Holland at her stern reached us first.

A police officer, corpulent and full of importance, now came on board
and handed the captain a sheet of paper on which he was desired to
inscribe the name and destination of the vessel, from what port she
had sailed, what burthen she carried, and other notices of the same
kind.

This finished, the Javanese barks rowed swiftly along side; these
small crafts are generally made of the trunk of a tree, neatly
hollowed out; they are filled with fruit, fowls, eggs, apes, parrots,
shells, and such like wares, with which the owner drives a profitable
trade with the ships. He sits on a little bench in the midst of his
merchandize with a short, broad oar in either hand; with this he
propels his fragile vessel; which is often not more than an inch or
two above the water's edge. After we had exchanged our pure Spanish
piastres, which is the coin they most prefer, for such things as we
needed, the traffic with the sailors commenced.

Such old jackets, woolen shirts, caps and whatever other articles of
clothing they could spare were bartered for eggs, cocoanuts, pine
apples and other eatables. This accounts for the singular garb of the
Javanese boatmen,--striped shirts, woolen caps and duck trowsers are
strangely mingled with portions of the oriental dress, and a sailor's
jacket with large brass buttons is considered quite ornamental. Next
to clothing they prefer knives, scissors and articles of iron ware. In
general the Javanese are pretty good judges of the value of these
articles, and mostly contrive to make a more profitable traffic from
their fruit and poultry than the European sailor with his stock of old
clothes. In the evening it is often the case at this time of year that
constant lightnings play round the horizon, illumining the picturesque
shores of Java and Sumatra. Impenetrable darkness shrouds both earth
and sea, and only by the light of the electric flash is the mariner
shown how to keep off land, and with shortened sail holds on his way.
On board of all vessels, on binnacle, masts and spars are hung lighted
lanterns in order to avoid collision with each other, for in the thick
darkness that envelopes all around, no object can be discerned at a
distance of three yards. In the meantime the wind pipes shrilly
through the shrouds, and lashes the waves into foam white as
snow-wreaths. After a few hours all again is still, no breeze disturbs
the ocean, the sails flap lazily against the mast, the waves subside
to a glassy smoothness, and the rain gradually ceases as the dawn
approaches. So pass the nights in this climate during the rainy
season.

In the morning we found ourselves surrounded with a great number of
vessels, the white sails of European ships covered the sea on all
sides, contrasting strongly with the small coasters made of plaited
hemp that darted gaily over the blue waves, and fishing boats of all
sorts and sizes were crossing our path or following in our wake. We
were seemingly enclosed in a nest of small islands, and it was a
mystery to conceive how it would be possible to find our way out of
such a labyrinth. Only by the high volcanic hills, with their crowns
of light smoke were we able to recognize the mainland of Java, whilst
the flowery coast of Sumatra faded gradually from our view, until at
length it was lost on the distant horizon. But the experienced eye of
our captain discerned clearly the way that lay before us; for many
years he had guided his ship in safety through these dangerous seas,
and attentive to his duty and his chart, he disentangled her from
among this knot of islands and we found ourselves once more in a free
offing. Soon the Roads of Batavia were in sight, where more than fifty
large ships and an incredible number of smaller ones were lying at
anchor. The French, Dutch, Austrian and English flags greeted our
arrival, one ship after another welcomed us to the roads with their
thundering cannon, which was regularly answered by the guard ship
constantly stationed here. At last our anchor was let down and fell
rattling into the deep. But, different from Sumatra and the coast of
Java we had left, nothing was to be seen at Batavia but a flat, low
beach overgrown with bushes, behind which appeared some groups of
green trees, and in the far distance rose a chain of blue hills from
the summits of which clouds of smoke were issuing, that told of the
many volcanic fires that are constantly burning in the Island of
Java.





Next: Home-sickness Of A Siberian

Previous: The Shipwreck



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