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Title: The Sea: Its Stirring Story of Adventure, Peril, & Heroism. Volume 1

Author: Frederick Whymper

Release Date: April 1, 2012 [Ebook #39341]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Illustration: British crosses and medals
see Key

[larger version]

BRITISH CROSSES AND MEDALS.—(Coloured Frontispiece.)

1. Medal of Elizabeth. (Defeat of the Armada, 1588.)
2. Crimea Medal and Naval           Clasp for Azoff (1854-6). 5. Naval Medal of Commonwealth (1650). 3. China Medal with Two Naval Clasps (1857-58).
4. Naval War Medal Ribbon (1793, 1840). 6. Conspicuous Gallantry Ribbon (1854, 1874).
7. Naval Medal of Commonwealth (Blake’s Victories over the Dutch) (1653). 8. Naval Medal of Charles II. 9. Naval Medal of Commonwealth (Blake’s Victories over the Dutch) (1653).
10. Collar of the Order of the Bath.
11. Good Conduct and Long-service Medal. 12. Baltic Medal (1854).
13. Victoria Cross with Naval Ribbon. 15. Albert Medal (Sea).
14. Badge of the Knights of the Bath (Military and Naval Division).

Illustration: Illustrated title page

The Sea

Its Stirring Story of Adventure, Peril, & Heroism.


Cassell Petter & Galpin:



Our Wooden Walls—The Victory—Siege of Toulon—Battle of St. Vincent—Nelson’s Bridge—Trafalgar’s Glorious Day—The Day for such Battles gone—Iron v. Wood—Lessons of the Crimean War—Moral Effect of the Presence of our Fleets—Bombardment of Sebastopol—Red-hot Shot and Gibraltar—The Ironclad Movement—The Warrior—Experiences with Ironclads—The Merrimac in Hampton Roads—A Speedily-decided Action—The Cumberland sunk and Congress burned—The First Monitor—Engagement with the Merrimac—Notes on Recent Actions—The Shah and Huascar—An Ironclad tackled by a Merchantman 4
Naval Life in Peace Times—A Grand Exploring Voyage—The Cruise of the Challenger—Its Work—Deep-sea Soundings—Five Miles down—Apparatus employed—Ocean Treasures—A Gigantic Sea-monster—Tristan d’Acunha—A Discovery Interesting to the Discovered—The Two Crusoes—The Inaccessible Island—Solitary Life—The Sea-cart—Swimming Pigs—Rescued at Last—The Real Crusoe Island to Let—Down South—The Land of Desolation—Kerguelen—The Sealers’ Dreary Life—In the Antarctic—Among the Icebergs 28
The Great Lexicographer on Sailors—The Dangers of the Sea—How Boys become Sailors—Young Amyas Leigh—The Genuine Jack Tar—Training-Ships versus the old Guard-Ships—“Sea-goers and Waisters”—The Training Undergone—Routine on Board—Never-ending Work—Ship like a Lady’s Watch—Watches and “Bells”—Old Grogram and Grog—The Sailor’s Sheet Anchor—Shadows in the Seaman’s Life—The Naval Cat—Testimony and Opinion of a Medical Officer—An Example—Boy Flogging in the Navy—Shakespeare and Herbert on Sailors and the Sea 42
The Loss of the Captain—Six Hundred Souls swept into Eternity without a Warning—The Mansion and the Cottage alike Sufferers—Causes of the Disaster—Horrors of the Scene—Noble Captain Burgoyne—Narratives of Survivors—An almost Incredible Feat—Loss of the Royal George—A Great Disaster caused by a Trifle—Nine Hundred Lost—A Child saved by a Sheep—The Portholes Upright—An Involuntary Bath of Tar—Rafts of Corpses—The Vessel Blown up in 1839-40—The Loss of the Vanguard—Half a Million sunk in Fifty Minutes—Admirable Discipline on Board—All Saved—The Court Martial 54
The Value of Discipline—The Loss of the Kent—Fire on Board—The Ship Waterlogged—Death in Two Forms—A Sail in Sight—Transference of Six Hundred Passengers to a Small Brig—Splendid Discipline of the Soldiers—Imperturbable Coolness of the Captain—Loss of the Birkenhead—Literally broken in Two—Noble Conduct of the Military—A Contrary Example—Wreck of the Medusa—Run on a Sand-bank—Panic on Board—Raft constructed—Insubordination and Selfishness—One Hundred and Fifty Souls abandoned—Drunkenness and Mutiny on the [pg iv]Raft—Riots and Murders—Reduced to Thirty Persons—The Stronger Part massacre the Others—Fifteen Left—Rescued at Last—Another Contrast—Wreck of the Alceste—Admirable Conduct of the Crew—The Ironclad Movement—The Battle of the Guns 67
The Mediterranean—White, Blue, Green, and Purple Waters—Gibraltar—Its History—Its First Inhabitants the Monkeys—The Moors—The Great Siege preceded by Thirteen Others—The Voyage of Sigurd to the Holy Land—The Third Siege—Starvation—The Fourth Siege—Red-hot Balls used before ordinary Cannon-balls—The Great Plague—Gibraltar finally in Christian Hands—A Naval Action between the Dutch and Spaniards—How England won the Rock—An Unrewarded Hero—Spain’s Attempts to regain it—The Great Siege—The Rock itself and its Surroundings—The Straits—Ceuta, Gibraltar’s Rival—The Saltness of the Mediterranean—“Going aloft”—On to Malta 87
Calypso’s Isle—A Convict Paradise—Malta, the “Flower of the World”—The Knights of St. John—Rise of the Order—The Crescent and the Cross—The Siege of Rhodes—L’Isle Adam in London—The Great Siege of Malta—Horrible Episodes—Malta in French and English Hands—St. Paul’s Cave—The Catacombs—Modern Incidents—The Shipwreck of St. Paul—Gales in the Mediterranean—Experiences of Nelson and Collingwood—Squalls in the Bay of San Francisco—A Man Overboard—Special Winds of the Mediterranean—The Suez Canal and M. de Lesseps—His Diplomatic Career—Saïd Pacha as a Boy—As a Viceroy—The Plan settled—Financial Troubles—Construction of the Canal—The Inauguration Fête—Suez—Passage of the Children of Israel through the Red Sea 98
The Red Sea and its Name—Its Ports—On to the India Station—Bombay: Island, City, Presidency—Calcutta—Ceylon, a Paradise—The China Station—Hong Kong—Macao—Canton—Capture of Commissioner Yeh—The Sea of Soup—Shanghai—“Jack” Ashore there—Luxuries in Market—Drawbacks: Earthquakes and Sand Showers—Chinese Explanations of Earthquakes—The Roving Life of the Sailor—Compensating Advantages—Japan and its People—The Englishmen of the Pacific—Yokohama—Peculiarities of the Japanese—Off to the North 117
The Port of Peter and Paul—Wonderful Colouring of Kamchatka Hills—Grand Volcanoes—The Fight at Petropaulovski—A Contrast—An International Pic-nic—A Double Wedding—Bering’s Voyages—Kamchatka worthy of Further Exploration—Plover Bay—Tchuktchi Natives—Whaling—A Terrible Gale—A Novel “Smoke-stack”—Southward again—The Liverpool of the East—Singapore, a Paradise—New Harbour—Wharves and Shipping—Cruelties of the Coolie Trade—Junks and Prahus—The Kling-gharry Drivers—The Durian and its Devotees—Australia—Its Discovery—Botany Bay and the Convicts—The First Gold—Port Jackson—Beauty of Sydney—Port Philip and Melbourne 131
Across the Pacific—Approach to the Golden Gate—The Bay of San Francisco—The City—First Dinner Ashore—Cheap Luxury—San Francisco by Night—The Land of Gold, Grain, and Grapes—Incidents of the Early Days—Expensive Papers—A Lucky Sailor—Chances for English Girls—The Baby at the Play—A capital Port for Seamen—Hospitality of Californians—Victoria, Vancouver Island—The Naval Station at Esquimalt—A Delightful Place—Advice to Intending Emigrants—British Columbian Indians—Their Fine Canoes—Experiences of the Writer—The Island on [pg v]Fire—The Chinook Jargon—Indian “Pigeon-English”—North to Alaska—The Purchase of Russian America by the United States—Results—Life at Sitka—Grand Volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands—The Great Yukon River—American Trading Posts round Bering Sea 156
The Dreaded Horn—The Land of Fire—Basil Hall’s Phenomenon—A Missing Volcano—The South American Station—Falkland Islands—A Free Port and Naval Station—Penguins, Peat, and Kelp—Sea Trees—The West India Station—Trinidad—Columbus’s First View of it—Fatal Gold—Charles Kingsley’s Enthusiasm—The Port of Spain—A Happy-go-lucky People—Negro Life—Letters from a Cottage Ornée—Tropical Vegetation—Animal Life—Jamaica—Kingston Harbour—Sugar Cultivation—The Queen of the Antilles—Its Paseo—Beauty of the Archipelago—A Dutch Settlement in the Heart of a Volcano—Among the Islands—The Souffrière—Historical Reminiscences—Bermuda: Colony, Fortress, and Prison—Home of Ariel and Caliban—The Whitest Place in the World—Bermuda Convicts—New York Harbour—The City—First Impressions—Its Fine Position—Splendid Harbour—Forest of Masts—The Ferry-boats, Hotels, and Bars—Offenbach’s Impressions—Broadway, Fulton Market, and Central Park—New York in Winter—Frozen Ships—The Great Brooklyn Bridge—Halifax and its Beauties—Importance of the Station—Bedford Basin—The Early Settlers—The Blue Noses—Adieu to America 175
Its Extent—Ascension—Turtle at a Discount—Sierra Leone—An Unhealthy Station—The Cape of Good Hope—Cape Town—Visit of the Sailor Prince—Grand Festivities—Enthusiasm of the Natives—Loyal Demonstrations—An African “Derby”—Grand Dock Inaugurated—Elephant Hunting—The Parting Ball—The Life of a Boer—Circular Farms—The Diamond Discoveries—A £12,000 Gem—A Sailor First President of the Fields—Precarious Nature of the Search—Natal—Inducements held out to Settlers—St. Helena and Napoleon—Discourteous Treatment of a Fallen Foe—The Home of the Caged Lion 202
Conditions of Life on Ship-board—A Model Ward-room—An Admiral’s Cabin—Captains and Captains—The Sailor and his Superior Officers—A Contrast—A Commander of the Old School—Jack Larmour—Lord Cochrane’s Experiences—His Chest curtailed—The Stinking Ship—The First Command—Shaving under Difficulties—The Speedy and her Prizes—The Doctor—On Board a Gun-boat—Cabin and Dispensary—Cockroaches and Centipedes—Other Horrors—The Naval Chaplain—His Duties—Stories of an Amateur—The Engineer—His Increasing Importance—Popularity of the Navy—Nelson always a Model Commander—The Idol of his Colleagues, Officers, and Men—Taking the Men into his Confidence—The Action between the Bellona and Courageux—Captain Falknor’s Speech to the Crew—An Obsolete Custom—Crossing the Line—Neptune’s Visit to the Quarter-deck—The Navy of To-day—Its Backbone—Progressive Increase in the Size of Vessels—Naval Volunteers—A Noble Movement—Excellent Results—The Naval Reserve 214
Bligh’s Bread-fruit Expedition—Voyage of the Bounty—Otaheite—The Happy Islanders—First Appearance of a Mutinous Spirit—The Cutter stolen and recovered—The Bounty sails with 1,000 Trees—The Mutiny—Bligh overpowered and bound—Abandoned with Eighteen Others—Their Resources—Attacked by Natives—A Boat Voyage of 3,618 Miles—Violent Gales—Miserable Condition of the Boat’s Crew—Bread by the Ounce—Rum by the Tea-spoonful—Noddies and Boobies—“Who shall have this?”—Off the Barrier Reef—A Haven of Rest—Oyster and Palm-top Stews—Another Thousand Miles of Ocean—Arrival at Coupang—Hospitality of the Residents—Ghastly Looks of the Party—Death of Five of the Number—The Pandora dispatched to catch the Mutineers—Fourteen in Irons—Pandora’s Box—The Wreck—Great Loss of Life—Sentences of the Court Martial—The Last of the Mutineers—Pitcairn Island—A Model Settlement—Another Example: The Greatest Mutiny of History—40,000 Disaffected Men at One Point—Causes—Legitimate Action of the Men at First—Apathy of Government—Serious Organisation—The Spithead Fleet ordered to Sea—Refusal of the Crews—[pg vi]Concessions made, and the First Mutiny quelled—Second Outbreak—Lord Howe’s Tact—The Great Mutiny of the Nore—Richard Parker—A Vile Character but Man of Talent—Wins the Men to his Side—Officers flogged and ducked—Gallant Duncan’s Address—Accessions to the Mutineers—Parker practically Lord High Admiral—His Extravagant Behaviour—Alarm in London—The Movement dies out by Degrees—Parker’s Cause lost—His Execution—Mutinies at Other Stations—Prompt Action of Lords St. Vincent and Macartney 235
The First Attempts to Float—Hollowed Logs and Rafts—The Ark and its Dimensions—Skin Floats and Basket-boats—Maritime Commerce of Antiquity—Phœnician Enterprise—Did they round the Cape?—The Ships of Tyre—Carthage—Hanno’s Voyage to the West Coast of Africa—Egyptian Galleys—The Great Ships of the Ptolemies—Hiero’s Floating Palace—The Romans—Their Repugnance to Seafaring Pursuits—Sea Battles with the Carthaginians—Cicero’s Opinions on Commerce—Constantinople and its Commerce—Venice—Britain—The First Invasion under Julius Cæsar—Benefits accruing—The Danish Pirates—The London of the Period—The Father of the British Navy—Alfred and his Victories—Canute’s Fleet—The Norman Invasion—The Crusades—Richard Cœur de Lion’s Fleet—The Cinque Ports and their Privileges—Foundation of a Maritime Code—Letters of Marque—Opening of the Coal Trade—Chaucer’s Description of the Sailors of his Time—A Glorious Period—The Victories at Harfleur—Henry V.’s Fleet of 1,500 Vessels—The Channel Marauders—The King-Maker Pirate—Sir Andrew Wood’s Victory—Action with Scotch Pirates—The Great Michael and the Great Harry—Queen Elizabeth’s Astuteness—The Nation never so well provided—“The Most Fortunate and Invincible Armada”—Its Size and Strength—Elizabeth’s Appeal to the Country—A Noble Response—Effingham’s Appointment—The Armada’s First Disaster—Refitted, and resails from Corunna—Chased in the Rear—A Series of Contretemps—English Volunteer Ships in Numbers—The Fire-ships at Calais—The Final Action—Flight of the Armada—Fate of Shipwrecked Spanish in Ireland—Total Loss to Spain—Rejoicings and Thanksgivings in England 258
Noble Adventurers—The Earl of Cumberland as a Pirate—Rich Prizes—Action with the Madre de Dios—Capture of the Great Carrack—A Cargo worth £150,000—Burning of the Cinco Chagas—But Fifteen saved out of Eleven Hundred Souls—The Scourge of Malice—Establishment of the Slave Trade—Sir John Hawkins’ Ventures—High-handed Proceedings—The Spaniards forced to purchase—A Fleet of Slavers—Hawkins sanctioned by “Good Queen Bess”—Joins in a Negro War—A Disastrous Voyage—Sir Francis Drake—His First Loss—The Treasure at Nombre de Dios—Drake’s First Sight of the Pacific—Tons of Silver captured—John Oxenham’s Voyage—The First Englishman on the Pacific—His Disasters and Death—Drake’s Voyage Round the World—Blood-letting at the Equator—Arrival at Port Julian—Trouble with the Natives—Execution of a Mutineer—Passage of the Straits of Magellan—Vessels separated in a Gale—Loss of the Marigold—Tragic Fate of Eight Men—Drake driven to Cape Horn—Proceedings at Valparaiso—Prizes taken—Capture of the Great Treasure Ship—Drake’s Resolve to change his Course Home—Vessel refitted at Nicaragua—Stay in the Bay of San Francisco—The Natives worship the English—Grand Reception at Ternate—Drake’s Ship nearly wrecked—Return to England—Honours accorded Drake—His Character and Influence—Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Disasters and Death—Raleigh’s Virginia Settlements 291

[pg vii]


British Crosses & Medals
Examining a “Haul” on Board the Challenger Frontispiece.
The Victory at Portsmouth 5
Rocks near Cape St. Vincent 9
The Victory at Close Quarters with the Redoubtable 12
The Siege of Gibraltar 17
The Original Merrimac 21
Engagement between the Merrimac and Monitor 25
The Peruvian Ironclad Huascar attacked by two Chilian Ironclads
The Peruvian Ironclad Huascar
Objects of Interest brought Home by the Challenger 32
The Challenger in Antarctic Ice 33
The “Accumulator” 35
The Challenger at Juan Fernandez 36
The Challenger made fast to St. Paul’s Rocks (South Atlantic)
The Naturalist’s Room on Board the Challenger 37
Dredging Implements used by the Challenger 38
The Chichester Training-ship 45
Instruction on Board a Man-of-war 49
The Captain in the Bay of Biscay 56
The Wreck of the Royal George 61
The Loss of the Vanguard To face page 63
The Loss of the Kent 64
H.M.S. Vanguard at Sea
The Vanguard as she appeared at Low Water 65
Falmouth Harbour 72
The Loss of the Birkenhead 73
The Raft of the Medusa 76
On the Raft of the Medusa—a Sail in sight 81
Section of a First-class Man-of-war 84
The Warrior 85
The Rock of Gibraltar from the Mainland To face page 87
Gibraltar: the Neutral Ground 89
Moorish Tower at Gibraltar 93
Malta 96
The Defence of Malta by the Knights of St. John against the Turks in 1565 100
Catacombs at Citta Vecchia, Malta 101
M. Lesseps 105
Bird’s-eye View of Suez Canal 109
Map of the Suez Canal 111
Opening of the Suez Canal (Procession of Ships) To face page 113
The Suez Canal: Dredges at Work 113
Catching Pelicans on Lake Menzaleh 116
Jiddah, from the Sea 117
Cyclone at Calcutta 120
Macao 124
Vessels in the Port of Shanghai 125
Yokohama 128
The Fusiyama Mountain 129
A Tea Mart in Japan 133
Petropaulovski and the Avatcha Mountain 137
Whalers at Work 140
Our “Patent Smoke-stack” 141
View in the Straits of Malacca 145
Junks in a Chinese Harbour 148
Island in the Straits of Malacca To face page 149
Chinese Junk at Singapore 149
Singapore, looking Seawards 152
Looking down on Singapore 153
A Timber Wharf at San Francisco 156
The Bay of San Francisco 160
The British Camp: San Juan 165
The Port of Valparaiso 173
Cape Horn 176
The Landing of Columbus at Trinidad 177
View in Jamaica 180
Kingston Harbour, Jamaica 181
Havana 184
The Centaur at the Diamond Rock, Martinique To face page 187
Bermuda, from Gibbs Hills 188
The North Rock, Bermuda 189
The Bermuda Floating Dock 192
Voyage of the Bermuda 193
Map of New York Harbour 195
Brooklyn Bridge 196
Ferry Boat, New York Harbour 197
The Island of Ascension 200
Tristan D’Acunha 201
Sierra Leone 204
Cape Town 205
The Galatea passing Knysna Heads 209
St. Helena 213
On Deck a Man-of-war, Eighteenth Century To face page 214
Between Decks of a Man-of-war, Eighteenth Century 217
Naval Officers and Seamen, Eighteenth Century 221
Engine Room of H.M.S. Warrior 225
Fight between the Courageux and the Bellona 229
The Great Harry and Great Eastern in contrast 233
The Crew of H.M.S. Bounty landing at Otaheite 236
The Mutineers seizing Captain Bligh 237
Bligh cast adrift 240
Map of the Islands of the Pacific 245
H.M.S. Briton at Pitcairn Island 248
Pitcairn Island
The Mutiny at Portsmouth To face page 251
Admiral Duncan addressing his Crew 253
Lord St. Vincent 257
Fleet of Roman Galleys 261
Approach of the Danish Fleet 265
Ships of William the Conqueror 268
Crusaders and Saracens 269
Duel between French and English Ships 272
Reverse of the Seal of Sandwich 274
Sir Andrew Wood’s Victory 277
Old Deptford Dockyard 280
The Defeat of Sir A. Barton To face page 280
The First Shot against the Armada 285
The Fire-ships attacking the Armada 288
Drake’s First View of the Pacific To face page 289
Queen Elizabeth on her way to St. Paul’s 289
The Earl of Cumberland and the Madre de Dios 293
On the Coast of Cornwall 297
Sir John Hawkins 300
Hawkins at St. Juan de Ulloa 301
Oxenham embarking on the Pacific 304
Sir F. Drake 309
Drake’s Arrival at Ternate 312
The Death of Sir Humphrey Gilbert 317

[pg 1]


One can hardly gaze upon the great ocean without feelings akin to awe and reverence. Whether viewed from some promontory where the eye seeks in vain another resting-place, or when sailing over the deep, one looks around on the unbounded expanse of waters, the sea must always give rise to ideas of infinite space and indefinable mystery hardly paralleled by anything of the earth itself. Beneficent in its calmer aspect, when the silvery moon lights up the ripples and the good ship scuds along before a favouring breeze; terrible in its might, when its merciless breakers dash upon some rock-girt coast, carrying the gallant bark to destruction, or when, rising mountains high, the spars quiver and snap before the tempest’s power, it is always grand, sublime, irresistible. The great highway of commerce and source of boundless supplies, it is, notwithstanding its terrors, infinitely more man’s friend than his enemy. In how great a variety of aspects may it not be viewed!

The poets have seen in it a “type of the Infinite,” [pg 2]and one of the greatest1 has taken us back to those early days of earth’s history when God said—

“ ‘Let there be firmament
Amid the waters, and let it divide
The waters from the waters.’ ...
So He the world
Built on circumfluous waters calm, in wide
Crystalline ocean.”

“Water,” said the great Greek lyric poet,2 “is the chief of all.” The ocean covers nearly three-fourths of the surface of our globe. Earth is its mere offspring. The continents and islands have been and still are being elaborated from its depths. All in all, it has not, however, been treated fairly at the hands of the poets, too many of whom could only see it in its sterner lights. Young speaks of it as merely a

“Dreadful and tumultuous home
Of dangers, at eternal war with man,
Wide opening and loud roaring still for more,”

ignoring the blessings and benefits it has bestowed so freely, forgetting that man is daily becoming more and more its master, and that his own country in particular has most successfully conquered the seemingly unconquerable. Byron, again, says:—

“Roll on, thou dark and deep blue ocean—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deeds.”

And though this is but the exaggerated and not strictly accurate language of poetry, we may, with Pollok, fairly address the great sea as “strongest of creation’s sons.” The first impressions produced on most animals—not excluding altogether man—by the aspect of the ocean, are of terror in greater or lesser degree. Livingstone tells us that he had intended to bring to England from Africa a friendly native, a man courageous as the lion he had often braved. He had never voyaged upon nor even beheld the sea, and on board the ship which would have safely borne him to a friendly shore he became delirious and insane. Though assured of safety and carefully watched, he escaped one day, and blindly threw himself headlong into the waves. The sea terrified him, and yet held and drew him, fascinated as under a spell. “Even at ebb-tide,” says Michelet,3 “when, placid and weary, the wave crawls softly on the sand, the horse does not recover his courage. He trembles, and frequently refuses to pass the languishing ripple. The dog barks and recoils, and, according to his manner, insults the billows which he fears.... We are told by a traveller that the dogs of Kamtschatka, though accustomed to the spectacle, are not the less terrified and irritated by it. In numerous troops, they howl through the protracted night against the howling waves, and endeavour to outvie in fury the Ocean of the North.”

[pg 3]

The civilised man’s fear is founded, it must be admitted, on a reasonable knowledge of the ocean, so much his friend and yet so often his foe. Man is not independent of his fellow-man in distant countries, nor is it desirable that he should be. No land produces all the necessaries, and the luxuries which have begun to be considered necessaries, sufficient for itself. Transportation by land is often impracticable, or too costly, and the ocean thus becomes the great highway of nations. Vessel after vessel, fleet after fleet, arrive safely and speedily. But as there is danger for man lurking everywhere on land, so also is there on the sea. The world’s wreck-chart for one year must, as we shall see hereafter, be something appalling. That for the British Empire alone in one year has often exceeded 1,000 vessels, great and small! Averaging three years, we find that there was an annual loss during that period of 1,095 vessels and 1,952 lives.4 Nor are the ravages of ocean confined to the engulfment of vessels, from rotten “coffin-ships” to splendid ironclads. The coasts often bear witness of her fury.

The history of the sea virtually comprises the history of adventure, conquest, and commerce, in all times, and might almost be said to be that of the world itself. We cannot think of it without remembering the great voyagers and sea-captains, the brave naval commanders, the pirates, rovers, and buccaneers of bygone days. Great sea-fights and notable shipwrecks recur to our memory—the progress of naval supremacy, and the means by which millions of people and countless millions of wealth have been transferred from one part of the earth to another. We cannot help thinking, too, of “Poor Jack” and life before the mast, whether on the finest vessel of the Royal Navy, or in the worst form of trading ship. We recall the famous ships themselves, and their careers. We remember, too, the “toilers of the sea”—the fishermen, whalers, pearl-divers, and coral-gatherers; the noble men of the lighthouse, lifeboat, and coastguard services. The horrors of the sea—its storms, hurricanes, whirlpools, waterspouts, impetuous and treacherous currents—rise vividly before our mental vision. Then there are the inhabitants of the sea to be considered—from the tiniest germ of life to the great leviathan, or even the doubtful sea-serpent. And even the lowest depths of ocean, with their mountains, valleys, plains, and luxurious marine vegetation, are full of interest; while at the same time we irresistibly think of the submerged treasure-ships of days gone by, and the submarine cables of to-day. Such are among the subjects we propose to lay before our readers. The Sea, as one great topic, must comprise descriptions of life on, around, and in the ocean—the perils, mysteries, phenomena, and poetry of the great deep. The subject is too vast for superfluous detail: it would require as many volumes as a grand encyclopædia to do it justice; whilst a formal and chronological history would weary the reader. At all events, the present writer purposes to occasionally gossip and digress, and to arrange facts in groups, not always following the strict sequence of events. The voyage of to-day may recall that of long ago: the discovery made long ago may be traced, by successive leaps, as it were, to its results in the present epoch. We can hardly be wrong in believing that this grand subject has an especial interest for the English reader everywhere; for the spirit of enterprise, enthusiasm, and daring which has carried our flag to the uttermost parts of the earth, and has made the proud words “Britannia rules the waves” no idle vaunt, is shared by a very large [pg 4]proportion of her sons and daughters, at home and abroad. Britain’s part in the exploration and settlement of the whole world has been so pre-eminent that there can be no wonder if, among the English-speaking races everywhere, a peculiar fascination attaches to the sea and all concerning it. Countless thousands of books have been devoted to the land, not a tithe of the number to the ocean. Yet the subject is one of almost boundless interest, and has a special importance at the present time, when so much intelligent attention and humane effort is being put forth to ameliorate the condition of our seafarers.



Our Wooden Walls—The Victory—Siege of Toulon—Battle of St. Vincent—Nelson’s Bridge—Trafalgar’s glorious Day—The Day for such Battles gone—Iron v. Wood—Lessons of the Crimean War—Moral Effect of the Presence of our Fleets—Bombardment of Sebastopol—Red-hot Shot and Gibraltar—The Ironclad Movement—The Warrior—Experiences with Ironclads—The Merrimac in Hampton Roads—A speedily decided Action—The Cumberland sunk and Congress burned—The first Monitor—Engagement with the Merrimac—Notes on recent Actions—The Shah and Huascar—An Ironclad tackled by a Merchantman.


If the reader should at any time find himself a visitor to the first naval port of Great Britain—which he need not be told is Portsmouth—he will find, lying placidly in the noble harbour, which is large enough to accommodate a whole fleet, a vessel of modern-antique appearance, and evidently very carefully preserved. Should he happen to be there on October 21st, he would find the ship gaily decorated with wreaths of evergreen and flags, her appearance attracting to her side an unusual number of visitors in small boats from the shore. Nor will he be surprised at this when he learns that it is none other than the famous Victory, that carried Nelson’s flag on the sad but glorious day of Trafalgar, and went bravely through so many a storm of war and weather. Very little of the oft-shattered hulk of the original vessel remains, it is true—she has been so often renewed and patched and painted; yet the lines and form of the old three-decker remain to show us what the flag-ship of Hood, and Jervis, and Nelson was in general appearance. She towers grandly out of the water, making the few sailors and loiterers on deck look like marionettes—mere miniature men; and as our wherry approaches the entrance-port, we admire the really graceful lines of the planks, diminishing in perspective. The triple battery of formidable guns, peeping from under the stout old ports which overshadowed them, the enormous cables and spare anchors, and the immensely thick masts, heavy shrouds and rigging, which she had in old times, must have given an impression of solidity in this good old “heart of oak” which is wanting even in [pg 5]the strongest-built iron vessel. Many a brave tar has lost his life on her, but yet she is no coffin-ship. On board, one notes the scrupulous order, the absolute perfection of cleanliness and trimness; the large guns and carriages alternating with the mess-tables of the crew. And we should not think much of the man who could stand emotionless and unmoved over the spots—still pointed out on the upper deck and cockpit below—where Nelson fell and Nelson died, on that memorable 21st, off Trafalgar Bay. He had embarked, only five weeks before, from the present resting-place of his brave old ship, when enthusiastic crowds had pressed forward to bless and take one last look at England’s preserver. “I had their hurrahs before,” said the poor shattered hero; “now I have their hearts!” And when, three months later, his body was brought home, the sailors divided the leaden coffin into fragments, as relics of “Saint Nelson,” as his gunner had termed him.


The Victory was one of the largest ships of war of her day and generation. She was rated for 100 guns, but really carried 102, and was classed first-rate with such ships as the Royal Sovereign and Britannia, both of 100, carrying only two in excess of the “brave old Téméraire—made still more famous by Turner’s great picture—and the Dreadnought, which [pg 6]but a few years back was such a familiar feature of the reach of the Thames in front of Greenwich. She was of 2,164 tons burden, and, having been launched in 1765, is now a good 112 years of age. Her complement was 841 men. From the first she deserved her name, and seemed destined to be associated with little else than success and triumph. Nelson frequently complains in his journals of the unseaworthiness of many of his vessels; but this, his last flag-ship, was a veritable “heart of oak,” and endured all the tests that the warfare of the elements or of man could bring against her.

The good ship of which we have spoken more particularly is now enjoying a well-earned repose, after passing nearly unscathed through the very thick of battles inscribed on the most brilliant page of our national history. Her part was in reality a very prominent one; and a glance at a few of the engagements at which she was present may serve to show us what she and other ships like her were made of, and what they were able to effect in naval warfare. The Victory had been built nearly thirty years when, in 1793, she first came prominently to the front, at the occupation and subsequent siege of Toulon, as the flag-ship of Lord Hood, then in command of a large fleet destined for the Mediterranean.

France was at that moment in a very revolutionary condition, but in Toulon there was a strong feeling of loyalty for the Bourbons and monarchical institutions. In the harbour a large French fleet was assembled—some seventeen vessels of the line, besides many other smaller craft—while several large ships of war were refitting and building; the whole under the command of the Comte de Trogoff, an ardent Royalist. On the appearance of the British fleet in the offing, two commissioners came out to the flag-ship, the Victory, to treat for the conditional surrender of the port and shipping. The Government had not miscalculated the disaffection existing, and the negotiations being completely successful, 1,700 of our soldiers, sailors, and marines were landed, and shortly afterwards, when a Spanish fleet appeared, an English governor and a Spanish commandant were appointed, while Louis XVII. was proclaimed king. But it is needless to say that the French Republic strongly objected to all this, and soon assembled a force numbering 45,000 men for the recapture of Toulon. The English and their Royalist allies numbered under 13,000, and it became evident that the city must be evacuated, although not until it should be half destroyed. The important service of destroying the ships and magazines had been mainly entrusted to Captain Sir Sidney Smith, who performed his difficult task with wonderful precision and order, and without the loss of one man. Shots and shells were plunged into the very arsenal, and trains were laid up to the magazines and storehouses; a fire-ship was towed into the basin, and in a few hours gave out flames and shot, accompanied by terrible explosions. The Spanish admiral had undertaken the destruction of the shipping in the basin, and to scuttle two powder-vessels, but his men, in their flurry, managed to ignite one of them in place of sinking it, and the explosion which occurred can be better imagined than described. The explosion shook the Union gunboat to pieces, killing the commander and three of the crew; and a second boat was blown into the air, but her crew were miraculously saved. Having completed the destruction of the arsenal, Sir Sidney proceeded towards the basin in front of the town, across which a boom had been laid, where he and his men were received with such volleys of musketry that they turned their attention in another direction. In the inner road were lying two large 74-gun [pg 7]ships—the Héros and Thémistocle—filled with French prisoners. Although the latter were greatly superior to the attacking force, they were so terrified that they agreed to be removed and landed in a place of safety, after which the ships were destroyed by fire. Having done all that man could do, they were preparing to return, when the second powder-vessel, which should only have been scuttled by the Spaniards, exploded. Wonderful to relate, although the little Swallow, Sir Sidney’s tender, and three boats were in the midst of the falling timbers, and nearly swamped by the waves produced, they escaped in safety. Nowadays torpedoes would settle the business of blowing up vessels of the kind in a much safer and surer manner. The evacuation was effected without loss, nearly 15,000 Toulonese refugees—men, women, and children—being taken on board for removal to England. Fifteen French ships of war were taken off as prizes, while the magazines, storehouses, and shipping were destroyed by fire. The total number of vessels taken or burned by the British was eighteen of the line, nine frigates, and eleven corvettes, and would have been much greater but for the blundering or treachery of the Spaniards, and the pusillanimous flight of the Neapolitans. Thus the Victory was the silent witness of an almost bloodless success, so far as our forces were concerned, in spite of the noise and smoke and flame by which it was accompanied. A little later, she was engaged in the siege of Bastia, Corsica, which was taken by a naval force numbering about one-fourth of their opponents; and again at Calvi, where Nelson lost an eye and helped to gain the day. In the spring of 1795 she was again in the Mediterranean, and for once was engaged in what has been described as a “miserable action,” although the action, or want thereof, was all on the part of a vice-admiral who, as Nelson said, “took things too coolly.” Twenty-three British line-of-battle ships, whilst engaging, off the Hyères Isles, only seventeen French, with the certainty of triumphant results, if not, indeed, of the complete annihilation of the enemy, were signalled by Admiral Hotham to discontinue the fight. The disgust of the commanders in general and Nelson in particular can well be understood. The only prize taken, the Alcide, blew up, with the loss of half her crew, as if in very disgust at having surrendered, and we can well believe that even the inanimate timbers of the Victory and her consorts groaned as they were drawn off from the scene of action. The fight off the Hyères must be inscribed in black, but happily the next to be recorded might well be written with letters of gold in the annals of our country, although its glory was soon afterwards partially eclipsed by others still greater.

When Sir John Jervis hoisted his flag on board the Victory it marked an epoch not merely in our career of conquest, but also in the history of the navy as a navy. Jervis, though then over sixty years of age, was hale and hearty, and if sometimes stern and severe as a disciplinarian, should long be remembered as one who honestly and constantly strove to raise the character of the service to its highest condition of efficiency, and he was brave as a lion. As the Spanish fleet loomed through the morning fog, off Cape St. Vincent, it was found that Cordova’s force consisted of twenty-nine large men-of-war, exclusive of a dozen 34-gun frigates, seventy transports, and other vessels. Jervis was walking the quarter-deck as the successive reports were brought to him. “There are eighteen sail of the line, Sir John.” “Very well, sir.” “There are twenty sail, Sir John.” “Very well, sir.” “There are twenty-seven sail of the line, Sir John; nearly double our own.” “Enough, sir, no more of [pg 8]that, sir; if there are fifty I’ll go through them.” “That’s right, Sir John,” said Halliwell, his flag-captain, “and a jolly good licking we’ll give them.”

The grand fleet of Spain included six ships of 112 guns each, and the flag-ship Santissima Trinidada, a four-decker, carrying 130. There were, besides, twenty-two vessels of eighty and seventy-four guns. To this large force Jervis could only oppose fifteen vessels of the line, only two of which carried 100 guns, three of ninety-eight guns, one of ninety, and the remainder, with one exception, seventy-four each. Owing to gross mismanagement on the part of the Spaniards, their vessels were scattered about in all directions, and six5 of them were separated wholly from the main body, neither could they rejoin it. The English vessels advanced in two lines, compactly and steadily, and as they neared the Spaniards, were signalled from the Victory to tack in succession. Nelson, on the Captain, was in the rear of the line, and he perceived that the Spaniards were bearing up before the wind, either with the intention of trying to join their separated ships, or perhaps to avoid an engagement altogether. By disobeying the admiral’s signal, he managed to run clear athwart the bows of the Spanish ships, and was soon engaged with the great Santissima Trinidada, four other of the larger vessels, and two smaller ones. Trowbridge, in the Culloden, immediately came to the support, and for nearly an hour the unequal contest continued, till the Blenheim passed between them and the enemy, and gave them a little respite, pouring in her fire upon the Spaniards. One of the Spanish seventy-fours struck, and Nelson thought that the Salvador, of 112 guns, struck also. “Collingwood,” wrote Nelson, “disdaining the parade of taking possession of beaten enemies, most gallantly pushed up, with every sail set, to save his old friend and messmate, who was, to appearance, in a critical situation,” for the Captain was being peppered by five vessels of the enemy’s fleet, and shortly afterwards was rendered absolutely incapable—not a sail, shroud, or rope left, with a topmast and the steering-wheel shot away. As Dr. Bennett sings6

“Ringed round by five three-deckers, she had fought through all the fight,
And now, a log upon the waves, she lay—a glorious sight—
All crippled, but still full of fight, for still her broadsides roared,
Still death and wounds, fear and defeat, into the Don she poured.”

Two of Nelson’s antagonists were now nearly hors de combat, one of them, the San Nicolas, in trying to escape from Collingwood’s fire, having got foul of the San Josef. Nelson resolved in an instant to board and capture both—an unparalleled feat, which, however, was accomplished, although

“To get at the San Josef, it seemed beyond a hope;
Out then our admiral spoke, and well his words our blood could stir—
‘In, boarders, to their seventy-four! We’ll make a bridge of her.’ ”

The “bridge” was soon taken; but a steady fire of musketry was poured upon them from the San Josef. Nelson directed his people to fire into the stern, and sending for more boarders, led the way up the main-chains, exclaiming, “Westminster Abbey or victory!” In a few moments the officers and crew surrendered; and on the quarter-deck of a Spanish first-rate he received the swords of the vanquished, which he handed to William Fearney, [pg 9]one of his bargemen, who tucked them, with the greatest sang-froid, in a perfect sheaf under his arm. The Victory came up at the moment, and saluted the conquerors with hearty cheers.

It will be hardly necessary here to point out the altered circumstances of naval warfare at the present day. A wooden vessel of the old type, with large and numerous portholes, and affording other opportunities for entering or climbing the sides, is a very different affair to the modern smooth-walled iron vessel, on which a fly would hardly get a foothold, with few openings or weak points, and where the grappling-iron would be useless. Apart from this, with heavy guns carrying with great accuracy, and the facilities afforded by steam, we shall seldom hear, in the future, of a fight at close quarters; skilful manœuvring, impossible with a sailing vessel, will doubtless be more in vogue.


Meantime, the Victory had not been idle. In conjunction with two of the fleet, she had succeeded in silencing the Salvador del Mundi, a first-rate of 112 guns. When, after the fight, Nelson went on board the Victory, Sir John Jervis took him to his arms, and insisted that he should keep the sword taken from the Spanish rear-admiral. When it was hinted, during some private conversation, that Nelson’s move was unauthorised, [pg 10]Jervis had to admit the fact, but promised to forgive any such breach of orders, accompanied with the same measure of success.

The battle had now lasted from noon, and at five p.m. four Spanish line-of-battle vessels had lowered their colours. Even the great Santissima Trinidada might then have become a prize but for the return of the vessels which had been cut off from the fleet in the morning, and which alone saved her. Her colours had been shot away, and she had hoisted English colours in token of submission, when the other ships came up, and Cordova reconsidered his step. Jervis did not think that his fleet was quite equal to a fresh conflict; and the Spaniards showed no desire to renew the fight. They had lost on the four prizes, alone, 261 killed, and 342 wounded, and in all, probably, nearly double the above. The British loss was seventy-three killed, and 227 wounded.

Of Trafalgar and of Nelson, both day and man so intimately associated with our good ship, what can yet be said or sung that has gone unsaid, unsung?—how when he left Portsmouth the crowds pressed forward to obtain one last look at their hero—England’s greatest hero—and “knelt down before him, and blessed him as he passed;”7 that beautiful prayer, indited in his cabin, “May the great God whom I worship grant to my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory, and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it, and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature of the British fleet,” or the now historical signal which flew from the mizen top-gallant mast of that noble old ship, and which has become one of the grand mottoes of our tongue, are facts as familiar to every reader as household words.

The part directly played by the Victory herself in the battle of Trafalgar was second to none. From the very first she received a raking fire from all sides, which must have been indeed severe, when we find the words extorted from Nelson, “This is too warm work to last long,” addressed to Captain Hardy. At that moment fifty of his men were lying dead or wounded, while the Victory’s mizen-mast and wheel were shot away, and her sails hanging in ribbons. To the terrible cannonading of the enemy, Nelson had not yet returned a shot. He had determined to be in the very thick of the fight, and was reserving his fire. Now it was that Captain Hardy represented to Nelson the impracticability of passing through the enemy’s line without running on board one of their ships; he was coolly told to take his choice. The Victory was accordingly turned on board the Redoubtable, the commander of which, Captain Lucas, in a resolute endeavour to block the passage, himself ran his bowsprit into the figurehead of the Bucentaure, and the two vessels became locked together. Not many minutes later, Captain Harvey, of the Téméraire, seeing the position of the Victory with her two assailants, fell on board the Redoubtable, on the other side, so that these four ships formed as compact a tier as though moored together. The Victory fired her middle and lower deck guns into the Redoubtable, which returned the fire from her main-deck, employing also musketry and brass pieces of larger size with most destructive effects from the tops.

Redoubtable they called her—a curse upon her name!
’Twas from her tops the bullet that killed our hero came.
[pg 11]

Within a few minutes of Lord Nelson’s fall, several officers and about forty men were either killed or wounded from this source. But a few minutes afterwards the Redoubtable fell on board the Téméraire, the French ship’s bowsprit passing over the British ship. Now came one of the warmest episodes of the fight. The crew of the Téméraire lashed their vessel to their assailants’ ship, and poured in a raking fire. But the French captain, having discovered that—owing, perhaps, to the sympathy exhibited for the dying hero on board the Victory, and her excessive losses in men—her quarter-deck was quite deserted, now ordered an attempt at boarding the latter. This cost our flag-ship the lives of Captain Adair and eighteen men, but at the same moment the Téméraire opened fire on the Redoubtable with such effect that Captain Lucas and 200 men were themselves placed hors de combat.

In the contest we have been relating, the coolness of the Victory’s men was signally evinced. “When the guns on the lower deck were run out, their muzzles came in contact with the sides of the Redoubtable, and now was seen an astounding spectacle. Knowing that there was danger of the French ship taking fire, the fireman of each gun on board the British ship stood ready with a bucketful of water to dash into the hole made by the shot of his gun—thus beautifully illustrating Nelson’s prayer, ‘that the British might be distinguished by humanity in victory.’ Less considerate than her antagonist, the Redoubtable threw hand-grenades from her tops, which, falling on board herself, set fire to her, ... and the flame communicated with the foresail of the Téméraire, and caught some ropes and canvas on the booms of the Victory, risking the destruction of all; but by immense exertions the fire was subdued in the British ships, whose crews lent their assistance to extinguish the flames on board the Redoubtable, by throwing buckets of water upon her chains and forecastle.”8

Setting aside, for the purpose of clearness, the episode of the taking of the Fougueux, which got foul of the Téméraire and speedily surrendered, we find, five minutes later, the main and mizen masts of the Redoubtable falling—the former in such a way across the Téméraire that it formed a bridge, over which the boarding-party passed and took quiet possession. Captain Lucas had so stoutly defended his flag, that, out of a crew of 643, only 123 were in a condition to continue the fight; 522 were lying killed or wounded. The Bucentaure soon met her fate, after being defended with nearly equal bravery. The French admiral, Villeneuve, who was on board, said bitterly, just before surrendering, Le Bucentaure a rempli sa tâche; la mienne n’est pas encore achevée.”

Let the reader remember that the above are but a few episodes of the most complete and glorious victory ever obtained in naval warfare. Without the loss of one single vessel to the conqueror, more than half the ships of the enemy were captured or destroyed, while the remainder escaped into harbour to rot in utter uselessness. Twenty-one vessels were lost for ever to France and Spain. It is to be hoped and believed that no such contest will ever again be needed; but should it be needed, it will have to be fought by very different means. The instance of four great ships locked together, dealing death and destruction to each other, has never been paralleled. Imagine that [pg 13]seething, fighting, dying mass of humanity, with all the horrible concomitants of deafening noise and blinding smoke and flashing fire! It is not likely ever to occur in modern warfare. The commanders of steam-vessels of all classes will be more likely to fight at out-manœuvring and shelling each other than to come to close quarters, which would generally mean blowing up together. It would be interesting to consider how Nelson would have acted with, and opposed to, steam-frigates and ironclads. He would, no doubt, have been as courageous and far-seeing and rapid in action as ever, but hardly as reckless, or even daring.

“And still, though seventy years, boys,
Have gone, who, without pride,
Names his name—tells his fame
Who at Trafalgar died?”

May we always have a Nelson in the hour of national need!

The day for such battles as this is over; there may be others as gloriously fought, but never again by the same means. Ships, armaments, and modes of attack and defence are, and will be, increasingly different. Those who have read Nelson’s private letters and journals will remember how he gloried in the appreciation of his subordinate officers just before Trafalgar’s happy and yet fatal day, when he had explained to them his intention to attack the enemy with what was practically a wedge-formed fleet. He was determined to break their line, and, Nelson-like, he did. But that which he facetiously christened the “Nelson touch” would itself nowadays be broken up in a few minutes and thrown into utter confusion by any powerfully-armed vessel hovering about under steam. Or if the wedge of wooden vessels were allowed to form, as they approached the apex, a couple of ironclads would take them in hand coolly, one by one, and send them to the bottom, while their guns might as well shoot peas at the ironclads as the shot of former days.

Taking the Victory as a fair type of the best war-ships of her day (a day when there was not that painful uncertainty with regard to naval construction and armament existing now, in spite of our vaunted progress), we still know that in the presence of a powerful steam-frigate with heavy guns, or an 11,000-ton ironclad, she would be literally nowhere. She was one of the last specimens, and a very perfect specimen, too, of the wooden age. This is the age of iron and steam. One of the largest vessels of her day, she is now excelled by hundreds employed in ordinary commerce. The Royal Navy to-day possesses frigates nearly three times her tonnage, while we have ironclads of five times the same. The monster Great Eastern, which has proved a monstrous mistake, is 22,500 tons.

But size is by no means the only consideration in constructing vessels of war, and, indeed, there are good reasons to believe that, in the end, vessels of moderate dimensions will be preferred for most purposes of actual warfare. Of the advantages of steam-power there can, of course, be only one opinion; but as regards iron versus oak, there are many points which may be urged in favour of either, with a preponderance in favour of the former. A strong iron ship, strange as it may appear, is not more than half the weight of a wooden vessel of the same size and class. It will, to the unthinking, seem absurd to say that an iron ship is more buoyant than one of oak, but the fact is that the proportion of actual weight in iron and wooden vessels of ordinary construction is about six to twenty. The iron [pg 14]ship, therefore, stands high out of the water, and to sink it to the same line will require a greater weight on board. From this fact, and the actual thinness of its walls, its carrying capacity and stowage are so much the greater. This, which is a great point in vessels destined for commerce, would be equally important in war. But these remarks do not apply to the modern armoured vessel. We have ironclads with plates eighteen inches and upwards in thickness. What is the consequence? Their actual weight, with that of the necessary engines and monster guns employed, is so great that a vast deal of room on board has to be unemployed. Day by day we hear of fresh experiments in gunnery, which keep pace with the increased strength of the vessels. The invulnerable of to-day is the vulnerable of to-morrow, and there are many leading authorities who believe in a return to a smaller and weaker class of vessel—provided, however, with all the appliances for great speed and offensive warfare at a distance. Nelson’s preference for small, easily-worked frigates over the great ships of the line is well known, and were he alive to-day we can well believe that he would prefer a medium-sized vessel of strong construction, to steam with great speed, and carrying heavy, but, perhaps, not the heaviest guns, to one of those modern unwieldy masses of iron, which have had, so far, a most disastrous history. The former might, so to speak, act while the latter was making up her mind. Even a Nelson might hesitate to risk a vessel representing six or seven hundred thousand pounds of the nation’s money, in anything short of an assured success. We have, however, yet to learn the full value and power of our ironclad fleet. Of its cost there is not a doubt. Some time ago our leading newspaper estimated the expense of construction and maintenance of our existing ironclads at £18,000,000. Mr. Reed states that they have cost the country a million sterling per annum since the first organisation of the fleet. Warfare will soon become a luxury only for the richest nations, and, regarding it in this light, perhaps the very men who are racking their powers of invention to discover terrible engines of war are the greatest peacemakers, after all. They may succeed in making it an impossibility.

“Hereafter, naval powers prepared with the necessary fleet will be able to transport the base of operations to any point on the enemy’s coast, turn the strongest positions, and baffle the best-arranged combinations. Thanks to steam, the sea has become a means of communication more certain and more simple than the land; and fleets will be able to act the part of movable bases of operations, rendering them very formidable to powers which, possessing coasts, will not have any navy sufficiently powerful to cause their being respected.”9 So far as navy to navy is concerned, this is undoubtedly true; yet there is another side to the question. A fort is sometimes able to inflict far greater damage upon its naval assailants than the latter can inflict upon it. A single shot may send a ship to the bottom, whilst the fire from the ship during action is more or less inaccurate. At Sebastopol, a whole French fleet, firing at ranges of 1,600 to 1,800 yards, failed to make any great impression on a fort close to the water’s edge; while a wretched earthen battery, mounting only five guns, inflicted terrible losses and injury on four powerful English men-of-war, actually disabling two of them, without itself losing one man or having a gun dismounted; while, as has been often calculated, the cost of a single sloop of war with its equipment will construct a fine fort which will last almost for [pg 15]ever, while that of two or three line-of-battle ships would raise a considerable fortress. Whilst the monster ironclad with heavy guns would deal out death and destruction when surrounded by an enemy’s fleet of lighter iron vessels or wooden ones as strong as was the Victory, she would herself run great risk in approaching closely-fortified harbours and coasts, where a single shot from a gun heavy enough to pierce her armour might sink her. Her safety would consist in firing at long ranges and in steaming backwards and forwards.

The lessons of the Crimean war, as regards the navy, were few, but of the gravest importance, and they have led to results of which we cannot yet determine the end. The war opened by a Russian attack on a Turkish squadron at Sinope, November 20th, 1853.10 That determined the fact that a whole fleet might be annihilated in an hour or so by the use of large shells. No more necessity for grappling and close quarters; the iron age was full in view, and wooden walls had outlived their usefulness, and must perish.

But the lesson had to be again impressed, and that upon a large English and French fleet. Yet, in fairness to our navy, it must be remembered that the Russians had spent every attention to rendering Sebastopol nearly impregnable on the sea-side, while a distinguished writer,11 who was present throughout the siege, assures us that until the preceding spring they had been quite indifferent in regard to the strength of the fortifications on the land-side. And the presence of the allied fleets was the undeniable cause of one Russian fleet being sunk in the harbour of Sebastopol, while another dared not venture out, season after season, from behind stone fortresses in the shallow waters of Cronstadt.12 A great naval authority thinks that, while England was, at the time, almost totally deficient in the class of vessels essential to attacking the fleets and fortifications of Russia, the fact that the former never dared “to accept the challenge of any British squadron, however small, is one the record of which we certainly may read without shame.” But of that period it would be more pleasant to write exultingly than apologetically.

When the Allies had decided to commence the bombardment of Sebastopol, on October 17th, 1854, it was understood that the fleet should co-operate, and that the attack should be made by the line-of-battle ships in a semicircle. They were ready at one p.m. to commence [pg 16]the bombardment. Lyons brought the Agamemnon, followed by half a dozen other vessels, to within 700 yards of Fort Constantine, the others staying at the safer distances of 1,800 to 2,200 yards. The whole fleet opened with a tremendous roar of artillery, to which the Russians replied almost as heavily. Fort Constantine was several times silenced, and greatly damaged; but, on the other hand, the Russians managed to kill forty-seven and wound 234 men in the English fleet, and a slightly smaller number in the French. They had an unpleasant knack of firing red-hot shot in profusion, and of hitting the vessels even at the distance at which they lay. Several were set on fire, and two for a time had to retire from the action. These were practical shots at our wooden walls. This naval attack has been characterised as “even a greater failure than that by land”—meaning, of course, the first attack.

Here we may for a moment be allowed to digress and remind the reader of the important part played by red-hot shot at that greatest of all great sieges—Gibraltar. As each accession to the enemy’s force arrived, General Elliott calmly built more furnaces and more grates for heating his most effective means of defence. Just as one of their wooden batteries was on the point of completion, he gave it what was termed at the time a dose of “cayenne pepper;” in other words, with red-hot shot and shells he set it on fire. When the ordnance portable furnaces for heating shot proved insufficient to supply the demands of the artillery, he ordered large bonfires to be kindled, on which the cannon-balls were thrown; and these supplies were termed by the soldiers “hot potatoes” for the enemy. But the great triumph of red-hot shot was on that memorable 13th of September, 1782, when forty-six sail of the line, and a countless fleet of gun and mortar boats attacked the fortress. With all these appliances of warfare, the great confidence of the enemy—or rather, combined enemies—was in their floating batteries, planned by D’Arcon, an eminent French engineer, and which had cost a good half million sterling. They were supposed to be impervious to shells or red-hot shot. After persistently firing at the fleet, Elliott started the admiral’s ship and one of the batteries commanded by the Prince of Nassau. This was but the commencement of the end. The unwieldy leviathans could not be shifted from their moorings, and they lay helpless and immovable, and yet dangerous to their neighbours; for they were filled with the instruments of destruction. Early the next morning eight of these vaunted batteries “indicated the efficacy of the red-hot defence. The light produced by the flames was nearly equal to noonday, and greatly exposed the enemy to observation, enabling the artillery to be pointed upon them with the utmost precision. The rock and neighbouring objects are stated to have been highly illuminated by the constant flashes of cannon and the flames of the burning ships, forming a mingled scene of sublimity and terror.”13 “An indistinct clamour, with lamentable cries and groans, arose from all quarters.”14

When 400 pieces of artillery were playing on the rock at the same moment, Elliott returned the compliment with a shower of red-hot balls, bombs, and carcases, that filled the air, with little or no intermission. The Count d’Artois had hastened from Paris to [pg 18]witness a capitulation. He arrived in time to see the total destruction of the floating batteries and a large part of the combined fleet. Attempting a somewhat feeble joke, he wrote to France:—La batterie la plus effective était ma batterie de cuisine.” Elliott’s cooking-apparatus and “roasted balls” beat it all to nothing. Red-hot shot has been entirely superseded in “civilised” warfare by shells. It was usually handled much in the same way that ordinary shot and shell is to-day. Each ball was carried by two men, having between them a strong iron frame, with a ring in the middle to hold it. There were two heavy wads, one dry and the other slightly damped, between the powder and ball. At the siege of Gibraltar, however, matters were managed in a much more rough-and-ready style. The shot was heated at furnaces and wheeled off to the guns in wheelbarrows lined with sand.


The partial failure of the navy to co-operate successfully with the land-forces, so far as bombardment was concerned, during the Crimean war, has had much to do with the adoption of the costly ironclad floating fortresses, armed with enormously powerful guns, of the present day. The earliest form, indeed, was adopted during the above war, but not used to any great extent or advantage. The late Emperor of the French15 saw that the coming necessity or necessary evil would be some form of strongly-armoured and protected floating battery that could cope with fortresses ashore, and this was the germ of the ironclad movement. The first batteries of this kind, used successfully at Kinburn, were otherwise unseaworthy and unmanageable, and were little more than heavily-plated and more or less covered barges.

The two earliest European ironclads were La Gloire in France and the Warrior in England—the latter launched in 1860. Neither of these vessels presented any great departure from the established types of build in large ships of war. The Warrior is an undeniably fine, handsome-looking frigate, masted and rigged as usual, but she and her sister-ship, the Black Prince, are about the only ironclads to which these remarks apply—every form and variety of construction having been adopted since. As regarded size, she was considerably larger than the largest frigate or ship of the line of our navy, although greatly exceeded by many ironclads subsequently built. She is 380 feet in length, and her displacement of more than 9,100 tons was 3,000 tons greater than that of the largest of the wooden men-of-war she was superseding. The Warrior is still among the fastest of the iron-armoured fleet. Considered as an ironclad, however, she is a weak example. Her armour, which protects only three-fifths of her sides, is but four and a half inches thick, with eighteen inches of (wood) backing, and five-eighths of an inch of what is technically called “skin-plating,” for protection inside. The remote possibility of a red-hot shot or shell falling inside has to be considered. Her bow and stern, rudder-head and steering-gear, would, of course, be the vulnerable points.

From this small beginning—one armoured vessel—our ironclad fleet has grown with [pg 19]the greatest rapidity, till it now numbers over sixty of all denominations of vessels. The late Emperor of the French gave a great impetus to the movement; and other foreign nations speedily following in his wake, it clearly behoved England to be able to cope with them on their own ground, should occasion demand. Then there was the “scare” of invasion which took some hold of the public mind, and was exaggerated by certain portions of the press, at one period, till it assumed serious proportions. Leading journals complained that by the time the Admiralty would have one or two ironclads in commission, the French would have ten or twelve. Thus urged, the Government of the day must be excused if they made some doubtful experiments and costly failures.

But apart from the lessons of the Crimea, and the activity and rivalry of foreign powers, attention was seriously drawn to the ironclad question by the events of the day. It was easy to guess and theorise concerning this new feature in warfare, but early in 1862 practical proof was afforded of its power. The naval engagement which took place in Hampton Roads, near the outset of the great American civil war, was the first time in which an ironclad ship was brought into collision with wooden vessels, and also the first time in which two distinct varieties of the species were brought into collision with each other.

The Southerners had, when the strife commenced, seized and partially burned the Merrimac, a steam-frigate belonging to the United States navy, then lying at the Norfolk Navy-yard. The hulk was regarded as nearly worthless,16 until, looking about for ways and means to annoy their opponents, they hit on the idea of armouring her, in the best manner attainable at the moment; and for awhile at least, this condemned wreck, resuscitated, patched up, and covered with iron plates,17 became the terror of the enemy. She was provided with an iron prow or ram capable of inflicting a severe blow under water. Her hull, cut down to within three feet of the water-line, was covered by a bomb-proof, sloping-roofed house, which extended over the screw and rudder. This was built of oak and pine, covered with iron; the latter being four and a half inches thick, and the former aggregating twenty inches in thickness. While the hull was generally iron-plated, the bow and stern were covered with steel. There were no masts—nothing seen above but the “smoke-stack” (funnel), pilot-house, and flagstaff. She carried eight powerful guns, most of them eleven-inch. “As she came ploughing through the water,” wrote one eyewitness of her movements, “she looked like a huge half-submerged crocodile.” The Southerners re-christened her the Virginia, but her older name has clung to her. The smaller vessels with her contributed little to the issue of the fight, but those opposed to her were of no inconsiderable size. The Congress, Cumberland, [pg 20]Minnesota, and Roanoake were frigates carrying an aggregate of over 150 guns and nearly 2,000 men. They, however, were wooden vessels; and although, in two cases in particular, defended with persistent heroism, had no chance against the ironclad, hastily as she had been prepared. There is little doubt that the officers of the two former vessels, in particular, knew something of the nature of the “forlorn hope” in which they were about to engage, when she hove in sight on that memorable 8th of March, 1862. It is said that the sailors, however, derided her till she was close upon them—so close that their laughter and remarks were heard on board. “That Southern Bugaboo,” “that old Secesh curiosity,” were among the milder titles applied to her.


The engagement was fought in the Hampton Roads, which is virtually an outlet of the James River, Virginia. The latter, like the Thames, has considerable breadth and many shallows near its mouth. The Merrimac left Norfolk Navy-yard (which holds to the James River somewhat the position that Sheerness does to the Thames) hurriedly on the morning of the 8th, and steamed steadily towards the enemy’s fleet, accompanied by some smaller vessels of war and a few tug-boats.

“Meanwhile, the shapeless iron mass
Came moving o’er the wave,
As gloomy as a passing hearse,
As silent as the grave.”

The morning was still and calm as that of a Sabbath-day. That the Merrimac was not expected was evidenced by the boats at the booms, and the sailors’ clothes still hanging in the rigging of the enemy’s vessels. “Did they see the long, dark hull? Had they made it out? Was it ignorance, apathy, or composure that made them so indifferent? or were they provided with torpedoes, which could sink even the Merrimac in a minute?” were questions mooted on the Southern side by those watching on board the boats and from the shore.

As soon, however, as she was plainly discerned, the crews of the Cumberland, Congress, and other vessels were beat to quarters, and preparations made for the fight. “The engagement,” wrote the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, “commenced at half-past three p.m., and at four p.m. Captain Buchanan had sunk the Cumberland, captured and burned the Congress, disabled and driven the Minnesota ashore, and defeated the St. Lawrence and Roanoake, which sought shelter under the guns of Fortress Monroe. Two of the enemy’s small steamers were blown up, and the two transport steamers were captured.” This, as will be seen, must, as regards time, be taken cum grano salis, but in its main points is correct.

The Merrimac commenced the action by discharging a broadside at the Congress, one shell from which killed or disabled a number of men at the guns, and then kept on towards the Cumberland, which she approached with full steam on, striking her on the port side near the bow, her stem knocking two of the ports into one, and her ram striking the vessel under the water-line. Almost instantaneously a large shell was discharged from her forward gun, which raked the gun-deck of the doomed ship, and killed ten men. Five minutes later the ship began to sink by the head, a large hole having been made [pg 21]by the point of the ram, through which the water rushed in. As the Merrimac rounded and rapidly came up again, she once more raked the Cumberland, killing or wounding sixteen more men. Meantime the latter was endeavouring to defend herself, and poured broadside after broadside into the Merrimac; but the balls, as one of the survivors tells us, bounced “upon her mailed sides like india-rubber, apparently making not the least impression except to cut off her flagstaff, and thus bring down the Confederate colours. None of her crew ventured at that time on her outside to replace them, and she fought thenceforward with only her pennant flying.”18 Shortly after this, the Merrimac again attacked the unfortunate ship, advancing with her greatest speed, her ram making another hole below the water-line. The Cumberland began to fill rapidly. The scene on board is hardly to be described in words. It was one of horrible desperation and fruitless heroism. The decks were slippery with human gore; shreds of human flesh, and portions of the body, arms, legs, and headless trunks were scattered everywhere. Below, the cockpit was filled with wounded, whom it would be impossible to succour, for the ship was sinking fast. Meantime the men stuck to their posts, powder was still served out, and the firing kept up steadily, several of the crew lingering so long in the after shell-room, [pg 22]in their eagerness to pass up shell, that they were drowned there. The water had now reached the main gun-deck, and it became evident that the contest was nearly over. Still the men lingered, anxious for one last shot, when their guns were nearly under water.

“Shall we give them a broadside, my boys, as she goes?
Shall we send yet another to tell,
In iron-tongued words, to Columbia’s foes,
How bravely her sons say ‘Farewell?’ ”

The word was passed for each man to save himself. Even then, one man, an active little fellow, named Matthew Tenney, whose courage had been conspicuous during the action, determined to fire once more, the next gun to his own being then under water, the vessel going down by the head. He succeeded, but at the cost of his life, for immediately afterwards, attempting to scramble out of the port-hole, the water suddenly rushed in with such force that he was washed back and drowned. Scores of poor fellows were unable to reach the upper deck, and were carried down with the vessel. The Cumberland sank in water up to the cross-trees, and went down with her flag still flying from the peak.19 The whole number lost was not less than 120 souls. Her top-masts, with the pennant flying far above the water, long marked the locality of one of the bravest and most desperate defences ever made

“By men who knew that all else was wrong
But to die when a sailor ought.”

The Cumberland being utterly demolished, the Merrimac turned her attention to the Congress. The Southerners showed their chivalric instincts at this juncture by not firing on the boats, or on a small steamer, which were engaged in picking up the survivors of the Cumberland’s crew. The officers of the Congress, seeing the fate of the Cumberland, determined that the Merrimac should not, at least, sink their vessel. They therefore got all sail on the ship, and attempted to run ashore. The Merrimac was soon close on them, and delivered a broadside, which was terribly destructive, a shell killing, at one of the guns, every man engaged except one. Backing, and then returning several times, she delivered broadside after broadside at less than 100 yards’ distance. The Congress replied manfully and obstinately, but with little effect. One shot is supposed to have entered one of the ironclad’s port-holes, and dismounted a gun, as there was no further firing from that port, and a few splinters of iron were struck off her sloping mailed roof, but this was all. The guns of the Merrimac appeared to have been specially trained on the after-magazine of the Congress, and shot after shot entered that part of the ship. Thus, slowly drifting down with the current, and again steaming up, the Merrimac continued for an hour to fire into her opponent. Several times the Congress was on fire, but the flames were kept under. At length the ship was on fire in so many places, and the flames gathering with such force, that it was hopeless and suicidal to keep up the defence any longer. [pg 23]The national flag was sadly and sorrowfully hauled down, and a white flag hoisted at the peak. The Merrimac did not for a few minutes see this token of surrender, and continued to fire. At last, however, it was discerned through the clouds of smoke, and the broadsides ceased. A tug that had followed the Merrimac out of Norfolk then came alongside the Congress, and ordered the officers on board. This they refused, hoping that, from the nearness of the shore, they would be able to escape. Some of the men, to the number, it is believed, of about forty, thought the tug was one of the Northern (Federal) vessels, and rushed on board, and were, of course, soon carried off as prisoners. By the time that all the able men were off ashore and elsewhere, it was seven o’clock in the evening, and the Congress was a bright sheet of flame fore and aft, her guns, which were loaded and trained, going off as the fire reached them. A shell from one struck a sloop at some distance, and blew her up. At midnight the fire reached her magazines, containing five tons of gunpowder, and, with a terrific explosion, her charred remains blew up. Thus had the Merrimac sunk one and burned a second of the largest of the vessels of the enemy.

Having settled the fate of these two ships, the Merrimac had, about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, started to tackle the Minnesota. Here, as was afterwards proved, the commander of the former had the intention of capturing the latter as a prize, and had no wish to destroy her. He, therefore, stood off about a mile distant, and with the Yorktown and Jamestown, threw shot and shell at the frigate, doing it considerable damage, and killing six men. One shell entered near her waist, passed through the chief engineer’s room, knocking two rooms into one, and wounded several men; a shot passed through the main-mast. At nightfall the Merrimac, satisfied with her afternoon’s work of death and destruction, steamed in under Sewall’s Point. “The day,” said the Baltimore American, “thus closed most dismally for our side, and with the most gloomy apprehensions of what would occur the next day. The Minnesota was at the mercy of the Merrimac, and there appeared no reason why the iron monster might not clear the Roads of our fleet, destroy all the stores and warehouses on the beach, drive our troops into the fortress, and command Hampton Roads against any number of wooden vessels the Government might send there. Saturday was a terribly dismal night at Fortress Monroe.”

But about nine o’clock that evening Ericsson’s battery, the Monitor,20 arrived in Hampton Roads, and hope revived in the breasts of the despondent Northerners. She was not a very formidable-looking craft, for, lying low on the water, with a plain structure amidships, a small pilot-house forward, and a diminutive funnel aft, she might have been taken for a raft. It was only on board that her real strength might be discovered. She carried armour about five inches thick over a large part of her, and had practically two hulls, the lower of which had sides inclining at an angle of 51° from the vertical line. It was considered that no shot could hurt this lower hull, on account of the angle at which it must strike it. The revolving turret, an iron cylinder, nine feet high, and twenty feet in diameter, eight or nine inches thick everywhere, and about the portholes eleven inches, was moved round by steam-power. When the two heavy Dahlgren guns were [pg 24]run in for loading, a kind of pendulum port fell over the holes in the turret. The propeller, rudder, and even anchor, were all hidden.

This was a war of surprises and sudden changes. It is doubtful if the Southerners knew what to make of the strange-looking battery which steamed towards them next morning, or whether they despised it. The Merrimac and the Monitor kept on approaching each other, the former waiting until she would choose her distance, and the latter apparently not knowing what to make of her queer-looking antagonist. The first shot from the Monitor was fired when about one hundred yards distant from the Merrimac, and this distance was subsequently reduced to fifty yards; and at no time during the furious cannonading that ensued were the vessels more than two hundred yards apart. The scene was in plain view from Fortress Monroe, and in the main facts all the spectators agree. At first the fight was very furious, and the guns of the Monitor were fired rapidly. The latter carried only two guns, to its opponent’s eight, and received two or three shots for every one she gave. Finding that she was much more formidable than she looked, the Merrimac attempted to run her down; but her superior speed and quicker handling enabled her to dodge and turn rapidly. “Once the Merrimac struck her near midships, but only to prove that the battery could not be run down nor shot down. She spun round like a top; and as she got her bearing again, sent one of her formidable missiles into her huge opponent.

“The officers of the Monitor at this time had gained such confidence in the impregnability of their battery that they no longer fired at random nor hastily. The fight then assumed its most interesting aspect. The Monitor went round the Merrimac repeatedly, probing her sides, seeking for weak points, and reserving her fire with coolness, until she had the right spot and the right range, and made her experiments accordingly. In this way the Merrimac received three shots.... Neither of these three shots rebounded at all, but appeared to cut their way clear through iron and wood into the ship.”21 Soon after receiving the third shot, the Merrimac made off at full speed, and the contest was not renewed. Thus ended this particular episode of the American war.


Lieutenant Worden was in the pilot-house of the Monitor when the Merrimac directed a whole broadside at her, and was, besides being thrown down and stunned by the concussion, temporarily blinded by the minute fragments of shells and powder driven through the eye-holes—only an inch each in diameter—made through the iron to enable them to keep a look-out. He was carried away, but, on recovering consciousness, his first thoughts reverted to the action. “Have I saved the Minnesota?” said he, eagerly. “Yes; and whipped the Merrimac!” was the answer. “Then,” replied he, “I don’t care what becomes of me.” The concussion in the turret is described as something terrible; and several of the men, though not otherwise hurt, were rendered insensible for the time. Each side claimed that they had seriously damaged the other, but there seems to have been no foundation for these assertions in facts.

But although this, the original Monitor, was efficient, if not omnipotent, in the calm [pg 026]waters at the mouth of the James River, she was, as might be expected with her flat, barge-like bottom, a bad sea-boat, and was afterwards lost. Her ports had to be closed and caulked, being only five feet above the water, and she was therefore unable to work her guns at sea. Her constructor had neglected Sir Walter Raleigh’s advice to Prince Henry touching the model of a ship, “that her ports be so laid, as that she may carry out her guns all weathers.” She plunged heavily—completely submerging her pilot-house at times, the sea washing over and into her turret. The heavy shocks and jars of the armour, as it came down upon the waves, made her leaky, and she went to the bottom in spite of pumps capable of throwing 2,000 gallons a minute, which were in good order and working incessantly.


Since the conclusion of the American war, the ironclad question has assumed serious aspects, and many facts could be cited to show that they have not by any means always confirmed the first impressions of their strength and invulnerability. Two recent cases will be fresh in the memories of our readers. The first is the recent engagement off Peru between the Peruvian ironclad turret-ship Huascar and the British unarmoured men-of-war Shah and Amethyst. With the political aspect of the affair we have nothing, of course, to do, in our present work. It was really a question between the guns quite as much as between the vessels. The Huascar is only a moderately-strong armoured vessel, her plates being the same thickness as those of the earliest English ironclad, the Warrior, and her armament is two 300-pounders in her turret, and three shell-guns. On the other hand, the Shah, the principal one of the two British vessels, is only a large iron vessel sheathed in wood, and not armoured at all; but she carries, besides smaller guns, a formidable armament in the shape of two 12-ton and sixteen 6½-ton guns. An eyewitness of the engagement states22 that, after three hours’ firing, at a distance of from 400 to 3,000 yards, the only damage inflicted by the opposing vessels was a hole in the Huascar’s side, made by a shell, the bursting of which killed one man. “One 9-in. shot (from a 12-ton gun) also penetrated three inches into the turret without effecting any material damage. There were nearly 100 dents of various depths in the plates, but none of sufficient depth to materially injure them. The upper works—boats, and everything destructible by shell—were, of course, destroyed. Her colours were also shot down.” According to theory, the Shah’s two larger guns should have penetrated the Huascar’s sides when fired at upwards of 3,000 yards’ distance. The facts are very different, doubtless because the shots struck the armour obliquely, at any angles but right ones. The Huascar was admirably handled and manœuvred, but her gunnery was so indifferent that none of the shots even struck the Shah, except to cut away a couple of ropes, and the latter kept up so hot a fire of shells that the crew of the former were completely demoralised, and the officers had to train and fire the guns. She eventually escaped to Iquique, under cover of a pitchy-dark night. The same correspondent admits, however, that the Shah, although a magnificent vessel, is not fitted for the South American station, since Peru has three ironclads, Chili two, and Brazil and the River Plate Republics several, against which no ordinary English man-of-war could cope, were the former properly handled.

[pg 27]

The recent story of the saucy Russian merchantman,23 which not merely dared the Turkish ironclad, but fought her for five hours, and inflicted quite as much damage as she received, will also be remembered, although it may be taken just for what it is worth. One Captain Baranoff, of the Imperial Russian Navy, had, in an article published in the Golos, of St. Petersburg, recommended his Government to abandon ironclads, avoid naval battles, and confine operations at sea to the letting loose of a number of cruisers against the enemy’s merchantmen. Where a naval engagement was inevitable, he “preferred fighting with small craft, making up by agility and speed what they lacked in cuirass, and if the worst came to the worst, easily replaced by other specimens of the same type.” The article created much notice; and at the beginning of the present war, the author was given to understand by the Russian Admiralty that he should have an opportunity of proving his theories by deeds. The Vesta, an ordinary iron steamer of light build, was selected; she had been employed previously in no more warlike functions than the conveyance of corn and tallow from Russia to foreign ports. She was equipped immediately with a few 6-in. mortars, her decks being strengthened to receive them, but no other changes were made. On the morning of the 23rd of July, cruising in the Black Sea, Captain Baranoff encountered the Turkish ironclad Assari Tefvik, a formidable vessel armoured with twelve inches of iron, and carrying 12-ton guns, and nothing daunted by the disproportion in size and strength, immediately engaged her. Both vessels were skilfully manœuvred, the ironclad moving about with extraordinary alertness and speed. She was only hit three times with large balls; the second went through her deck, “kindling a fire which was quickly extinguished;” the third was believed to have injured the turret. Meantime, the Vesta was herself badly injured, a grenade hitting her close to the powder-magazine, which would have soon blown up but for the rapid measures taken by her commander. Her rudder was struck and partially disabled, but still she was not sunk, as she should have been, according to all theoretical considerations. She eventually steamed back again to Sebastopol—after two other vessels had come to the ironclad’s assistance—covered with glory, having for five hours worried, and somewhat injured, a giant vessel to which, in proportion, she was but a weak and miserable dwarf.

It will be obvious that from neither of the above cases can any positive inferences be safely drawn. In the former case, the weaker vessel had the stronger guns, and so matters were partially balanced; in the second example, the ironclad ought to have easily sunk the merchantman by means of her heavy guns, even from a great distance—but she didn’t. The ironclad question will engage our attention again, as it will, we fear, that of the nation, for a very long time to come.

[pg 28]


Men of Peace.

Naval Life in Peace Times—A Grand Exploring Voyage—The Cruise of the Challenger—Its Work—Deep-sea Soundings—Five Miles Down—Apparatus Employed—Ocean Treasures—A Gigantic Sea-monster—Tristan d’Acunha—A Discovery Interesting to the Discovered—The Two Crusoes—The Inaccessible Island—Solitary Life—The Sea-cart—Swimming Pigs—Rescued at Last—The Real Crusoe Island to Let—Down South—The Land of Desolation—Kerguelen—The Sealers’ Dreary Life—In the Antarctic—Among the Icebergs.

No form of life presents greater contrasts than that of the sailor. Storm and calm alternate; to-day in the thick of the fight—battling man or the elements—to-morrow we find him tranquilly pursuing some peaceful scheme of discovery or exploration, or calmly cruising from one station to another, protecting by moral influence alone the interests of his country. His deeds may be none the less heroic because his conquests are peaceful, and because Neptune rather than Mars is challenged to cede his treasures. Anson, Cook, and Vancouver, Parry, Franklin, M’Clintock, and M’Clure, among a host of others, stand worthily by the side of our fighting sailors, because made of the same stuff. Let us also, then, for a time, leave behind the smoke and din, the glories and horrors of war, and cool our fevered imaginations by descending, in spirit at least, to the depths of the great sea. The records of the famous voyage of the Challenger24 will afford a capital opportunity of contrasting the deeds of the men of peace with those of men of war.

We may commence by saying that no such voyage has in truth ever been undertaken before.25 Nearly 70,000 miles of the earth’s watery surface were traversed, and the Atlantic and Pacific crossed and recrossed several times. It was a veritable voyage en zigzag. Apart from ordinary soundings innumerable, 374 deep-sea soundings, when the progress of the vessel had to be stopped, and which occupied an hour or two apiece, were made, and at least two-thirds as many successful dredgings and trawlings. The greatest depth of ocean reached was 4,575 fathoms (27,450 feet), or over five miles. This was in the Pacific, about 1,400 miles S.E. of Japan. We all know that this ocean derives its name from its generally calmer weather and less tempestuous seas; and the researches of the officers of the Challenger, and of the United States vessel Tuscarora, show that the bottom slopes to its greatest depths very evenly and gradually, little broken by submarine mountain ranges, except off volcanic islands and coasts like those of the Hawaiian (Sandwich) Islands. Off the latter there are mountains in the sea ranging to as high as 12,000 feet. The general evenness of the bottom helps to account for the long, sweeping waves of the Pacific, so distinguishable from the short, [pg 29]cut-up, and “choppy” waves of the Atlantic. In the Atlantic, on the voyage of the Challenger from Teneriffe to St. Thomas, a pretty level bottom off the African coast gradually deepened till it reached 3,125 fathoms (over three and a half miles), at about one-third of the way across to the West Indies. If the Alps, Mont Blanc and all, were submerged at this spot, there would still be more than half a mile of water above them! Five hundred miles further west there is a comparatively shallow part—two miles or so deep—which afterwards deepens to three miles, and continues at the same depth nearly as far as the West Indies.


A few words as to the work laid out for the Challenger, and how she did it. She is a 2,000-ton corvette, of moderate steam-power, and was put into commission, with a reduced complement of officers and men, Captain (now Sir) George S. Nares, later the commander of the Arctic expedition, having complete charge and control. Her work was to include soundings, thermometric and magnetic observations, dredgings and chemical examinations of sea-water, the surveying of unsurveyed harbours and coasts, and the resurveying, where practicable, of partially surveyed coasts. The (civil) scientific corps, under the charge of Professor Wyville Thomson, comprised three naturalists, a chemist and physicist, and a photographer. The naturalists had their special rooms, the chemist his laboratory, the photographer his “dark-room,” and the surveyors their chart-room, to make room for which all the guns were removed except two. On the upper deck was another analysing-room, “devoted to mud, fish, birds, and vertebrates generally;” a donkey-engine for hauling in the sounding, dredging, and other lines, and a broad bridge amidships, from which the officer for the day gave the necessary orders for the performance of the many duties connected with their scientific labours. Thousands of fathoms of rope of all sizes, for dredging and sounding; tons of sounding-weights, from half to a whole hundredweight apiece; dozens of thermometers for deep-sea temperatures, and gallons of methylated spirits for preserving the specimens obtained, were carried on board.


Steam-power is always very essential to deep-sea sounding. No trustworthy results can be obtained from a ship under sail; a perpendicular sounding is the one thing required, and, of course, with steam the vessel can be kept head to the wind, regulating her speed so that she remains nearly stationary. The sounding apparatus used needs some little description. A block was fixed to the main-yard, from which depended the “accumulator,” consisting of strong india-rubber bands, each three-fourths of an inch in diameter and three feet long, which ran through circular discs of wood at either end. These are capable of stretching seventeen feet, and their object is to prevent sudden strain on the lead-line from the inevitable jerks and motion of the vessel. The sounding-rod used for great depths is, with its weights,27 so arranged that on touching bottom a spring releases a wire sling, and the weights slip off and are left there. These rods were only employed when the depths were considered to be over 1,500 fathoms; for less depths a long, conical lead weight was used, with a “butterfly valve,” or trap, at its basis for securing specimens from the ocean bed. There are several kinds of “slip” water-bottles for securing samples of sea-water (and marine objects of small size floating in it) at great depths. One of the most ingenious is a brass tube, two and a half feet in length, fitted with easily-working stop-cocks at each end, connected by means of a rod, on [pg 30]which is a movable float. As the bottle descends the stop-cocks must remain open, but as it is hauled up again the flat float receives the opposing pressure of the water above it, and, acting by means of the connecting-rod, shuts both cocks simultaneously, thus inclosing a specimen of the water at that particular depth. Self-registering thermometers were employed, sometimes attached at intervals of 100 fathoms to the sounding-line, so as to test the temperatures at various depths. For dredging, bags or nets from three to five feet in depth, and nine to fifteen inches in width, attached to iron frames, were employed, whilst at the bottom of the bags a number of “swabs,” similar to those used in cleaning decks, were attached, so as to sweep along the bottom, and bring up small specimens of animal life—coral, sponges, &c. These swabs were, however, always termed “hempen tangles”—so much does science dignify every object it touches! The dredges were afterwards set aside for the ordinary beam-trawls used in shallow water around our own coasts. Their open meshes allowed the mud and sand to filter through easily, and their adoption was a source of satisfaction to some of the officers who looked with horror on the state of their usually immaculate decks, when the dredges were emptied of their contents.

Not so very long ago, our knowledge of anything beneath the ocean’s surface was extremely indefinite; for even of the coasts and shallows we knew little, marine zoology and botany being the last, and not the earliest, branches of natural history investigated by men of science. It was asserted that the specific gravity of water at great depths would cause the heaviest weights to remain suspended in mid-sea, and that animal existence was impossible at the bottom. When, some sixteen years ago, a few star-fish were brought up by a line from a depth of 1,200 fathoms, it was seriously considered that they had attached themselves at some midway point, and not at the bottom. In 1868-9-70, the Royal Society borrowed from the Admiralty two of Her Majesty’s vessels, the Lightning and Porcupine; and in one of the latter’s trips, considerably to the south and west of Ireland, she sounded to a depth of 2,400 fathoms,28 and was very successful in many dredging operations. As a result, it was then suggested that a vessel should be specially fitted out for a more important ocean voyage round the world, to occupy three or more years, and the cruise of the Challenger was then determined upon.

The story of that cruise is utterly unsensational; it is one simply of calm and unremitting scientific work, almost unaccompanied by peril. To some the treasures acquired will seem valueless. Among the earliest gains, obtained near Cape St. Vincent, with a common trawl, was a beautiful specimen of the Euplectella, “glass-rope sponge,” or “Venus’s flower-basket,” alive. This object of beauty and interest, sometimes seen in working naturalists’ and conchologists’ windows in London, had always previously been obtained from the seas [pg 31]of the Philippine Islands and Japan, to which it was thought to be confined, and its discovery so much nearer home was hailed with delight. It has a most graceful form, consisting of a slightly curved conical tube, eight or ten inches in height, contracted beneath to a blunt point. The walls are of light tracery, resembling opaque spun glass, covered with a lace-work of delicate pattern. The lower end is surrounded by an upturned fringe of lustrous fibres, and the wider end is closed by a lid of open network. These beautiful objects of nature make most charming ornaments for a drawing-room, but have to be kept under a glass case, as they are somewhat frail. In their native element they lie buried in the mud. They were afterwards found to be “the most characteristic inhabitants of the great depths all over the world.” Early in the voyage, no lack of living things were brought up—strange-looking fish, with their eyes blown nearly out of their heads by the expansion of the air in their air-bladders, whilst entangled among the meshes were many star-fish and delicate zoophytes, shining with a vivid phosphorescent light. A rare specimen of the clustered sea-polyp, twelve gigantic polyps, each with eight long fringed arms, terminating in a close cluster on a stalk or stem three feet high, was obtained. “Two specimens of this fine species were brought from the coast of Greenland early in the last century; somehow these were lost, and for a century the animal was never seen.” Two were brought home by one of the Swedish Arctic expeditions, and these are the only specimens ever obtained. One of the lions of the expedition was not “a rare sea-fowl,” but a transparent lobster, while a new crustacean, perfectly blind, which feels its way with most beautifully delicate claws, was one of the greatest curiosities obtained. Of these wonders, and of some geological points determined, more anon. But they did not even sight the sea-serpent, much less attempt to catch it. Jules Verne’s twenty miles of inexhaustible pearl-meadows were evidently missed, nor did they even catch a glimpse of his gigantic oyster, with the pearl as big as a cocoa-nut, and worth 10,000,000 francs. They could not, with Captain Nemo, dive to the bottom and land amid submarine forests, where tigers and cobras have their counterparts in enormous sharks and vicious cephalopods. Victor Hugo’s “devil-fish” did not attack a single sailor, nor did, indeed, any formidable cuttle-fish take even a passing peep at the Challenger, much less attempt to stop its progress. Does the reader remember the story recited both by Figuier and Moquin Tandon,29 concerning one of these gigantic sea-monsters, which should have a strong basis of truth in it, as it was laid before the French Académie des Sciences by a lieutenant of their navy and a French consul?

Fig. 1.—Shell of Globigerina (highly magnified). Fig. 2.—Ophioglypha bullata (six times the size in nature). Fig. 3.—Euplectella Suberea (popularly “Venus’s Flower-basket”). Fig. 4.—Deidamia leptodactyla (a Blind Lobster).
(From The Voyage of the Challenger, by permission of Messrs. Macmillan & Co.)

The steam-corvette Alecton, when between Teneriffe and Madeira, fell in with a gigantic cuttle-fish, fifty feet long in the body, without counting its eight formidable arms covered with suckers. The head was of enormous size, out of all proportion to the body, and had eyes as large as plates. The other extremity terminated in two fleshy lobes or fins of great size. The estimated weight of the whole creature was 4,000 lbs., and the flesh was soft, glutinous, and of a reddish-brick colour. “The commandant, wishing, in the interests of science, to secure the monster, actually engaged it in battle. Numerous shots were aimed at it, but the balls traversed its flaccid and glutinous mass without causing it any vital injury. But after one of these attacks, the waves were [pg 32]observed to be covered with foam and blood, and—singular thing—a strong odour of musk was inhaled by the spectators.... The musket-shots not having produced the desired results, harpoons were employed, but they took no hold on the soft, impalpable flesh of the marine monster. When it escaped from the harpoon, it dived under the ship and came up again at the other side. They succeeded, at last, in getting the harpoon to bite, and in passing a bowling-hitch round the posterior part of the animal. But when they attempted to hoist it out of the water, the rope penetrated deeply into the flesh, and separated it into two parts, the head, with the arms and tentacles, dropping into the sea and making off, while the fins and posterior parts were brought on board; they weighed about forty pounds. The crew were eager to pursue, and would have launched a boat, but the commander refused, fearing that the animal might capsize it. The object was not, in his opinion, one in which he could risk the lives of his crew.” M. Moquin Tandon, commenting on M. Berthelot’s recital, considers “that this colossal mollusc was sick and exhausted at the time by some recent struggle with some other monster of the deep, which would account for its having quitted its native rocks in the depths of the ocean. Otherwise it would have been more active in its movements, or it would have [pg 33]obscured the waves with the inky liquid which all the cephalopods have at command. Judging from its size, it would carry at least a barrel of this black liquid.”

The Challenger afterwards visited Juan Fernandez, the real Robinson Crusoe island where Alexander Selkirk passed his enforced residence of four years. Thanks to Defoe, he lived to find himself so famous, that he could hardly have grudged the time spent in his solitary sojourn with his dumb companions and man Friday. Alas! the romance which enveloped Juan Fernandez has somewhat dimmed. For a brief time it was a Chilian penal colony, and after sundry vicissitudes, was a few years ago leased to a merchant, who kept cattle to sell to whalers and passing ships, and also went seal-hunting on a neighbouring islet. He was “monarch of all he surveyed”—lord of an island over a dozen miles long and five or six broad, with cattle, and herds of wild goats, and capital fishing all round—all for two hundred a year! Fancy this, ye sportsmen, who pay as much or more for the privileges of a barren moor! Yet the merchant was not satisfied with his venture, and, at the time of the Challenger’s visit, was on the point of abandoning it: by this time it is probably to let. Excepting the cattle dotted about the foot of the hills and a civilised house or two, the appearance of the island must be precisely the same now as when the piratical buccaneers of olden time made it their rendezvous and haunt wherefrom to dash out and harry the Spaniards; the same to-day as when Alexander Selkirk lived in it as its involuntary monarch; the same to-day as when Commodore Anson arrived with his scurvy-stricken “crazy ship, a great scarcity of water, and a crew so universally diseased that there were not above ten foremast-men in a watch capable of doing duty,” and recruited them with fresh meat, vegetables, and wild fruits.


“The scenery,” writes Lord George Campbell, “is grand: gloomy and wild enough on the dull, stormy day on which we arrived, clouds driving past and enveloping the highest ridge of the mountain, a dark-coloured sea pelting against the steep cliffs and shores, and [pg 34]clouds of sea-birds swaying in great flocks to and fro over the water; but cheerful and beautiful on the bright sunny morning which followed—so beautiful that I thought, ‘This beats Tahiti!’ ” The anchorage of the Challenger was in Cumberland Bay, a deep-water inlet from which rises a semi-circle of high land, with two bold headlands, “sweeping brokenly up thence to the highest ridge—a square-shaped, craggy, precipitous mass of rock, with trees clinging to its sides to near the summit. The spurs of these hills are covered with coarse grass or moss.... Down the beds of the small ravines run burns, overgrown by dock-leaves of enormous size, and the banks are clothed with a rich vegetation of dark-leaved myrtle, bignonia, and winter-bark, tree-shrubs, with tall grass, ferns, and flowering plants. And as you lie there, humming-birds come darting and thrumming within reach of your stick, flitting from flower to flower, which dot blue and white the foliage of bignonias and myrtles. And on the steep grassy slopes above the sea-cliffs herds of wild goats are seen quietly browsing—quietly, that is, till they scent you, when they are off—as wild as chamois.” This is indeed a description of a rugged paradise!

Near the ship they found splendid, but laborious, cod-fishing; laborious on account of sharks playing with the bait, and treating the stoutest lines as though made of single gut; also on account of the forty-fathom depth these cod-fish lived in. Cray-fish and conger-eels were hauled up in lobster-pots by dozens, while round the ship’s sides flashed shoals of cavalli, fish that are caught by a hook with a piece of worsted tied roughly on, swished over the surface, giving splendid play with a rod. “And on shore, too, there was something to be seen and done. There was Selkirk’s ‘look-out’ to clamber up the hill-side to—the spot where tradition says he watched day after day for a passing sail, and from whence he could look down on both sides of his island home, over the wooded slopes, down to the cliff-fringed shore, on to the deserted ocean’s expanse.”

The Challenger, in its cruise of over three years, naturally visited many oft-described ports and settlements with which we shall have nought to do. After a visit to Kerguelen’s Land—“the Land of Desolation,” as Captain Cook called it—in the Southern Indian Ocean, for the purpose of selecting a spot for the erection of an observatory, from whence the transit of Venus should be later observed, they proceeded to Heard Island, the position of which required determining with more accuracy. They anchored, in the evening, in a bay of this most gloomy and utterly desolate place, where they found half-a-dozen wretched sealers living in two miserable huts near the beach, which were sunk into the ground for warmth and protection against the fierce winds. Their work is to kill and boil down sea-elephants. One of the men had been there for two years, and was going to stay another. They are left on the island every year by the schooners, which go sealing or whaling elsewhere. Some forty men were on the island, unable to communicate with each other by land, as the interior is entirely covered with glacier, like Greenland. They have barrels of salt pork, beef, and a small store of coals, and little else, and are wretchedly paid. “Books,” says Lord Campbell, “tell us that these sea-elephants grow to the length of twenty-four feet; but the sealers did not confirm this at all. One of us tried hard to make the Scotch mate say he had seen one eighteen feet long; but ‘waull, he couldn’t say.’ Sixteen feet? ‘Waull, he couldn’t say.’ Fourteen feet? ‘Waull, yes, yes—something more like that;’ but thirteen feet would seem a fair average size.... One of our fellows bought a [pg 35]clever little clay model of two men killing a sea-elephant, giving for it—he being an extravagant man—one pound and a bottle of rum. This pound was instantly offered to the servants outside in exchange for another bottle.”

Crossing the Antarctic Circle, they were soon among the icebergs, keeping a sharp look-out for Termination Land, which has been marked on charts as a good stretch of coast seen by Wilkes, of the American expedition, thirty years before. To make a long story short, Captain Nares, after a careful search, un-discovered this discovery, finding no traces of the land. It was probably a long stretch of ice, or possibly a mirage, which phenomenon has deceived many a sailor before. John Ross once thought that he had discovered some grand mountains in the Arctic regions, which he named after the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Croker. Next year Parry sailed over the site of the supposed range; and the “Croker” Mountains became a standing joke against Ross.


Icebergs of enormous size were encountered; several of three miles in length and two hundred feet or more in height were seen one day, all close together. But bergs of this calibre were exceptional; they were, however, very often over half a mile in length. “There are few people now alive,” says the author we have recently quoted, “who have seen such superb Antarctic iceberg scenery as we have. We are steaming towards the supposed position of land, only some thirty miles distant, over a glass-like sea, unruffled by a breath of wind; past great masses of ice, grouped so close together in some cases as to form an unbroken wall of cliff several miles in length. Then, as we pass within a few hundred yards, the chain breaks up into two or three separate bergs, and one sees—and beautifully from the mast-head—the blue sea and distant horizon between perpendicular walls of glistening alabaster white, against which the long swell dashes, rearing up in great blue-green heaps, falling back in a torrent of rainbow-flashing spray, or goes roaring into the azure caverns, followed immediately by a thundering thud, as the compressed air within buffets it back again in a torrent of seething white foam.” Neither words adequately describe the beauty of many of the icebergs seen. One had three high arched caverns penetrating far to its interior; another had a large tunnel through which they could see the horizon. The delicate colouring of these bergs is most lovely—sweeps of azure blue and pale sea-green with dazzling white; glittering, sparkling crystal merging into depths of indigo blue; stalactite icicles hanging from the walls and roofs of cavernous openings. The reader will imagine the beauty of the scene at sunrise and sunset, when as many as eighty or ninety bergs were sometimes in sight. The sea was intensely green from the presence of minute algæ, through belts of which the vessel passed, while the sun, sinking in a golden blaze, tipped and lighted up the ice and snow, making them sparkle as with [pg 37]brightest gems. A large number of tabular icebergs, with quantities of snow on their level tops, were met. They amused themselves by firing a 9-pounder Armstrong at one, which brought the ice down with a rattling crash, the face of the berg cracking, splitting, and splashing down with a roar, making the water below white with foam and powdered ice. These icebergs were all stratified, at more or less regular distances, with blue lines, which before they capsized or canted from displacement of their centres of gravity, were always horizontal. During a gale, the Challenger came into collision with a berg, and lost her jibboom, “dolphin-striker,” and other head-gear. An iceberg in a fog or gale of wind is not a desirable obstruction to meet at sea.


The observations made for deep-sea temperatures gave some remarkable results. Here, among the icebergs, a band or stratum of water was found, at a depth of eighty to 200 fathoms, colder than the water either above or below it. Take one day as an example: on the 19th of February the surface temperature of the sea-water was 32°; at 100 fathoms it was 29·2°; while at 300 fathoms it had risen to 33°. In the Atlantic, on the eastern side about the tropics, the bottom temperature was found to be very uniform at 35·2°, while it might be broiling hot on the surface. Further south, on the west side of the Atlantic below the equator, the bottom was found to be very nearly three degrees cooler. It is believed that the cold current enters the Atlantic from the Antarctic, and does not rise to within 1,700 fathoms of the surface. These, and many kindred points, belong more properly to another section of this work, to be hereafter discussed.


The Challenger had crossed, and sounded, and dredged the broad Atlantic from Madeira to the West Indies—finding their deepest water off the Virgin Islands; thence to Halifax, Nova Scotia; recrossed it to the Azores, Canary, and Cape de Verde Islands; recrossed it once more in a great zig-zag from the African coast, through the equatorial regions to Bahia, Brazil; and thence, if the expression may be used, by a great angular [pg 38]sweep through the Southern Ocean to Tristan d’Acunha en route to the Cape, where they made an interesting discovery, one that, unlike their other findings, was most interesting to the discovered also. It was that of two modern Robinson Crusoes, who had been living by themselves a couple of years on a desolate rocky island, the name of which, “Inaccessible,” rightly describes its character and position in mid ocean. Juan Fernandez, the locale of Defoe’s immortal story, is nothing to it now-a-days, and is constantly visited. On arrival at the island of Tristan d’Acunha, itself a miserable settlement of about a dozen cottages, the people, mostly from the Cape and St. Helena, some of them mulattoes, informed the officers of the Challenger that two Germans, brothers, had some time before settled, for the purpose of catching seals, on a small island about thirty miles off, and that, not having been over there or seen any signs of them for a long time, they feared that they had perished. It turned out afterwards that the Tristan d’Acunha people had not taken any trouble in the matter, looking on them as interlopers on their fishing-grounds. They had promised to send them some animals—a bull, cow, and heifer—but, although they had stock and fowls of all kinds, had left them to their fate. But first as to this [pg 39]little-known Tristan d’Acunha, of which Lord George Campbell30 furnishes the following account:—“It is a circular-shaped island, some nine miles in diameter, a peak rising in the centre 8,300 feet high—a fine sight, snow-covered as it is two-thirds of the way down. In the time of Napoleon a guard of our marines was sent there from the Cape; but the connection between Nap’s being caged at St. Helena and a guard of marines occupying this island is not very obvious, is it? Any way, that was the commencement of a settlement which has continued with varying numbers to this day, the marines having long ago been withdrawn, and now eighty-six people—men, women, and children—live here.... A precipitous wall of cliff, rising abruptly from the sea, encircles the island, excepting where the settlement is, and there the cliff recedes and leaves a long grass slope of considerable extent, covered with grey boulders. The cottages, in number about a dozen, look very Scotch from the ship, with their white walls, straw roofs, and stone dykes around them. Sheep, cattle, pigs, geese, ducks, and fowls they have in plenty, also potatoes and other vegetables, all of which they sell to whalers, who give them flour or money in exchange. The appearance of the place makes one shudder; it looks so thoroughly as though it were always blowing there—which, indeed, it is, heavy storms continually sweeping over, killing their cattle right and left before they have time to drive them under shelter. They say that they have lost 100 head of cattle lately by these storms, which kill the animals, particularly the calves, from sheer fatigue.” The men of the place often go whaling or sealing cruises with the ships that touch there.

Fig. 1, Sounding machines. Fig. 2, Slip water-bottles. Fig. 3, Deep-sea thermometer. Fig. 4, The dredge. Fig. 5, Cup sounding lead.

The Challenger steamed slowly over to Inaccessible Island during the night, and anchored next morning off its northern side, where rose a magnificent wall of black cliff, splashed green with moss and ferns, rising sheer 1,300 feet above the sea. Between two headlands a strip of stony beach, with a small hut on it, could be seen. This was the residence of our two Crusoes.

Their story, told when the first exuberance of joy at the prospect of being taken off the island had passed away, was as follows:—One of the brothers had been cast away on Tristan d’Acunha some years before, in consequence of the burning of his ship. There he and his companions of the crew had been kindly treated by the settlers, and told that at one of the neighbouring islands 1,700 seals had been captured in one season. Telling this to a brother when he at last reached home in the Fatherland, the two of them, fired with the ambition of acquiring money quickly, determined to exile themselves for a while to the islands. By taking passage on an outward-bound steamer from Southampton, and later transferring themselves to a whaler, they reached their destination in safety on the 27th of November, 1871. They had purchased an old whale-boat—mast, sails, and oars complete—and landed with a fair supply of flour, biscuit, coffee, tea, sugar, salt, and tobacco, sufficient for present needs. They had blankets and some covers, which were easily filled with bird’s feathers—a German could hardly forget his national luxury, his feather-bed. They had provided themselves with a wheelbarrow, sundry tools, pot and kettles; a short Enfield rifle, and an old fowling-piece, and a very limited supply [pg 40]of powder, bullets, and shot. They had also sensibly provided themselves with some seeds, so that, all in all, they started life on the island under favourable circumstances.

The west side of the island, on which they landed, consisted of a beach some three miles in length, with a bank of earth, covered with the strong long tussock grass, rising to the cliff, which it was just possible to scale. The walls of rock by which the island is bounded afforded few opportunities for reaching the comparatively level plateau at the top. Without the aid of the grass it was impossible, and in one place, which had to be climbed constantly, it took them an hour and a half of hard labour, holding on with hands and feet, and even teeth, to reach the summit. Meantime, they had found on the north side a suitable place for building their hut, near a waterfall that fell from the side of the mountain, and close to a wood, from which they could obtain all the firewood they required. Their humble dwelling was partly constructed of spars from the vessel that had brought them to the island, and was thatched with grass. About this time (December) the seals were landing in the coast, it being the pupping season, and they killed nineteen. In hunting them their whale-boat, which was too heavy for two men to handle, was seriously damaged in landing through the surf; but yet, with constant bailing, could be kept afloat. A little later they cut it in halves, and constructed from the best parts a smaller boat, which was christened the Sea Cart. During the summer rains their house became so leaky that they pulled it down, and shifted their quarters to another spot. At the beginning of April the tussock grass, by which they had ascended the cliff, caught fire, and their means of reaching game, in the shape of wild pigs and goats, was cut off. Winter (about our summer-time, as in Australia, &c.) was approaching, and it became imperative to think of laying in provisions. By means of the Sea Cart they went round to the west side, and succeeded in killing two goats and a pig, the latter of which furnished a bucket of fat for frying potatoes. The wild boars there were found to be almost uneatable; but the sows were good eating. The goats’ flesh was said to be very delicate. An English ship passed them far out at sea, and they lighted a fire to attract attention, but in vain; while the surf was running too high, and their Cart too shaky to attempt to reach it.

Hitherto they had experienced no greater hardships than they had expected, and were prepared for. But in June [mid-winter] their boat was, during a storm, washed off the beach, and broken up. This was to them a terrible disaster; their old supplies were exhausted, and they were practically cut off from not merely the world in general, but even the rest of the island. They got weaker and weaker, and by August were little better than two skeletons.

The sea was too tempestuous, and the distance too great for them to attempt to swim round (as they afterwards did) to another part of the island. But succour was at hand; they were saved by the penguins, a very clumsy form of relief. The female birds came ashore in August to lay their eggs in the nests already prepared by their lords and masters, the male birds, who had landed some two or three weeks previously. Our good Germans had divided their last potato, and were in a very weak and despondent condition when the pleasant fact stared them in the face that they might now fatten on eggs ad libitum. Their new diet soon put fresh heart and courage in them, and when, [pg 41]early in September, a French bark sent a boat ashore, they determined still to remain on the island. They arranged with the captain for the sale of their seal-skins, and bartered a quantity of eggs for some biscuit and a couple of pounds of tobacco. Late in October a schooner from the Cape of Good Hope called at the island, and on leaving, promised to return for them, as they had decided to quit the island, not having had any success in obtaining peltries or anything else that is valuable; but she did not re-appear, and in November their supplies were again at starvation-point. Selecting a calm day, the two Crusoes determined to swim round the headland to the eastward, taking with them their rifles and blankets, and towing after them an empty oil-barrel containing their clothes, powder, matches, and kettle. This they repeated later on several occasions, and, climbing the cliffs by the tussock grass, were able to kill or secure on the plateau a few of the wild pigs. Sometimes one of them only would mount, and after killing a pig would cut it up and lower the hams to his brother below. They caught three little sucking-pigs, and towed them alive through the waves, round the point of their landing-place, where they arrived half drowned. They were put in an enclosure, and fed on green stuff and penguin’s eggs—good feeding for a delicate little porker. Attempting on another occasion to tow a couple in the same way, the unfortunate pigs met a watery grave in the endeavour to weather the point, and one of the brothers barely escaped, with some few injuries, through a terrible surf which was beating on their part of the coast. Part of their time was passed in a cave during the cold weather. When the Challenger arrived their only rifle had burst in two places, and was of little use, while their musket was completely burst in all directions, and was being used as a blow-pipe to freshen the fire when it got low. Their only knives had been made by themselves from an old saw. Their library consisted of eight books and an atlas, and these, affording their only literary recreation for two years, they knew almost literally by heart. When they first landed they had a dog and two pups, which they, doubtless, hoped would prove something like companions. The dogs almost immediately left, and made for the penguin rookeries, where they killed and worried the birds by hundreds. One of them became mad, and the brothers thought it best to shoot the three of them. Captain Nares gave the two Crusoes a passage to the Cape, where one of them obtained a good situation; the other returned to Germany, doubtless thinking that about a couple of dozen seal-skins—all they obtained—was hardly enough to reward them for their two years’ dreary sojourn on Inaccessible Island.

[pg 42]

Chapter III.

The Men of the Sea.

The great Lexicographer on Sailors—The Dangers of the Sea—How Boys become Sailors—Young Amyas Leigh—The Genuine Jack Tar—Training-Ships versus the old Guard-Ships—Sea-goers and Waisters—The Training Undergone—Routine on Board—Never-ending Work—Ship like a Lady’s Watch—Watches and Bells—Old Grogram and Grog—The Sailor’s Sheet Anchor—Shadows in the Seaman’s Life—The Naval Cat—Testimony and Opinion of a Medical Officer—An Example—Boy Flogging in the Navy—Shakespeare and Herbert on Sailors and the Sea.

Dr. Johnson, whose personal weight seems to have had something to do with that carried by his opinion, considered going to sea a species of insanity.31 “No man,” said he, “will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail: for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” The great lexicographer knew Fleet Street better than he did the fleet, and his opinion, as expressed above, was hardly even decently patriotic or sensible. Had all men thought as he professed to do—probably for the pleasure of saying something ponderously brilliant for the moment—we should have had no naval or commercial superiority to-day—in short, no England.

The dangers of the sea are serious enough, but need not be exaggerated. One writer32 indeed, in serio-comic vein, makes his sailors sing in a gale—

“When you and I, Bill, on the deck
Are comfortably lying,
My eyes! what tiles and chimney-pots
About their heads are flying!”

leading us to infer that the dangers of town-life are greater than those of the sea in a moderate gale. We might remind the reader that Mark Twain has conclusively shown, from statistics, that more people die in bed comfortably at home than are killed by all the railroad, steamship, or other accidents in the world, the inference being that going to bed is a dangerous habit! But the fact is, that wherever there is danger there will be brave men found to face it—even when it takes the desperate form just indicated! So that there is nothing surprising in the fact that in all times there have been men ready to go to sea.

Of those who have succeeded, the larger proportion have been carried thither by the spirit of adventure. It would be difficult to say whether it has been more strongly developed through actual “surroundings,” as believed by one of England’s most intelligent and friendly critics,33 who says, “The ocean draws them just as a pond attracts young ducks,” or through the influence of literature bringing the knowledge of wonderful voyages and discoveries within the reach of all. The former are immensely strong influences. The boy who lives by, and loves the sea, and notes daily the ships of all [pg 43]nations passing to and fro, or who, maybe, dwells in some naval or commercial port, and sees constantly great vessels arriving and departing, and hears the tales of sailors bold, concerning new lands and curious things, is very apt to become imbued with the spirit of adventure. How charmingly has Charles Kingsley written on the latter point!34 How young Amyas Leigh, gentle born, and a mere stripling schoolboy, edged his way under the elbows of the sailor men on Bideford Quay to listen to Captain John Oxenham tell his stories of heaps—“seventy foot long, ten foot broad, and twelve foot high”—of silver bars, and Spanish treasure, and far-off lands and peoples, and easy victories over the coward Dons! How Oxenham, on a recruiting bent, sang out, with good broad Devon accent, “Who ’lists? who ’lists? who’ll make his fortune?

“ ‘Oh, who will join, jolly mariners all?
And who will join, says he, O!
To fill his pockets with the good red goold,
By sailing on the sea, O!’ ”

And how young Leigh, fired with enthusiasm, made answer, boldly, “I want to go to sea; I want to see the Indies. I want to fight the Spaniards. Though I’m a gentleman’s son, I’d a deal liever be a cabin-boy on board your ship.” And how, although he did not go with swaggering John, he lived to first round the world with great Sir Francis Drake, and after fight against the “Invincible” Armada. The story had long before, and has many a time since, been enacted in various forms among all conditions of men. To some, however, the sea has been a last refuge, and many such have been converted into brave and hardy men, perforce themselves; while many others, in the good old days of press-gangs, appeared, as Marryat tells us, “to fight as hard not to be forced into the service as they did for the honour of the country after they were fairly embarked in it.” It may not generally be known that the law which concerns impressing has never been abolished, although there is no fear that it will ever again be resorted to in these days of naval reserves, training-ships, and naval volunteers.

The altered circumstances of the age, arising from the introduction of steam, and the greatly increased inter-commercial relations of the whole world, have made the Jack Tar pure and simple comparatively rare in these days; not, we believe, so much from his disappearance off the scene as by the numbers of differently employed men on board by whom he is surrounded, and in a sense hidden. A few A.B.’s and ordinary seamen are required on any steamship; but the whole tribe of mechanicians, from the important rank of chief engineer downwards, from assistants to stokers and coal-passers, need not know one rope from another. On the other hand, the rapid increase of commerce has apparently outrun the natural increase of qualified seamen, and many a good ship nowadays, we are sorry to say, goes to sea with a very motley crew of “green” hands, landlubbers, and foreigners of all nationalities, including Lascars, Malays, and Kanakas, from the Sandwich Islands. A “confusion of tongues,” not very desirable on board a vessel, reigns supreme, and renders the position of the officers by no means enviable. To obviate these difficulties, and furnish a supply of good material both to [pg 44]the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine, training-ships have been organised, which have been, so far, highly successful. Let these embryo defenders of their country’s interests have the first place.

Of course, at all periods the boys, and others who entered to serve before the mast, received some training, and picked up the rest if they were reasonably clever. The brochure of “an old salt,”35 which has recently appeared, gives a fair account of his own treatment and reception. Running away from London, as many another boy has done, with a few coppers in his pocket, he tramped to Sheerness, taking by the way a hearty supper of turnips with a family of sheep in a field. Arrived at his destination, he found a handsome flag-ship, surrounded by a number of large and small vessels. Selecting the very smallest—as best adapted to his own size—he went on board, and asked the first officer he met—one who wore but a single epaulet—whether his ship was manned with boys?” He was answered, “No, I want men; and pray what may you want?” “I want to go to sea, sir, please.” “You had better go home to your mother,” was the answer. With the next officer—“a real captain, wearing grey hair, and as straight as a line”—he fared better, and was eventually entered as a third-class boy, and sent on board a guard-ship. Here he was rather fortunate in being taken in charge by a petty officer, who had, as was often the case then, his wife living on board. The lady ruled supreme in the mess. She served out the grog, too, and, to prevent intoxication among the men, used to keep one finger inside the measure! This enabled her to the better take care of her husband. She is described as the best “man” in the mess, and irresistibly reminds us of Mrs. Trotter in “Peter Simple,” who had such a horror of rum that she could not be induced to take it except when the water was bad. The water, however, always was bad! But the former lady took good care of the new-comer, while, as we know, Mrs. Trotter fleeced poor Peter out of three pounds sterling and twelve pairs of stockings before he had been an hour on board. Mr. Mindry tells the usual stories of the practical jokes he had to endure—about being sent to the doctor’s mate for mustard, for which he received a peppering; of the constant thrashings he received—in one case, with a number of others, receiving two dozen for losing his dinner. He was cook of the mess for the time, and having mixed his dough, had taken it to the galley-oven, from the door of which a sudden lurch of the ship had ejected it on the main deck, “the contents making a very good representation of the White Sea.” The crime for which he and his companions suffered was for endeavouring to scrape it up again! But the gradual steps by which he was educated upwards, till he became a gunner of the first class, prove that, all in all, he had cheerily taken the bull by the horns, determined to rise as far and fast as he might in an honourable profession. He was after a year or so transferred to a vessel fitting for the West Indies, and soon got a taste of active life. This was in 1837. Forty or fifty years before, the guard-ships were generally little better than floating pandemoniums. They were used partly for breaking in raw hands, and were also the intermediate stopping-places for men waiting to join other ships. In a guard-ship of the period described, a most heterogeneous mass of humanity [pg 45]was assembled. Human invention could not scheme work for the whole, while skulking, impracticable in other vessels of the Royal Navy, was deemed highly meritorious there. A great body of men were thus very often assembled together, who resolved themselves into hostile classes, separated as any two castes of the Hindoos. A clever writer in Blackwood’s Magazine, more than fifty years ago, describes them first as “sea-goers,”i.e., sailors separated from their vessels by illness, or temporary causes, or ordered to other vessels, who looked on the guard-ship as a floating hotel, and, having what they were pleased to call ships of their own, were the aristocrats of the occasion, who would do no more work than they were obliged. The second, and by far the most numerous class, were termed “waisters,” and were the simple, the unfortunate, or the utterly abandoned, a body held on board in the utmost contempt, and most of whom, in regard to clothing, were wretched in the extreme. The “waister” had to do everything on board that was menial—swabbing, sweeping, and drudging generally. At night, in defiance of his hard and unceasing labour, he too often became a bandit, prowling about seeking what he might devour or appropriate. What a contrast to the clean orderly training-ships of to-day! Some little information on this subject, but imperfectly understood by the public, may perhaps be permitted here.

[pg 46]

It is not generally known that our supply of seamen for the Royal Navy is nowadays almost entirely derived from the training-ships—first established about fourteen years ago. In a late blue-book it was stated that during a period of five years only 107 men had been entered from other sources, who had not previously served. Training-ships, accommodating about 3,000, are stationed at Devonport, Falmouth, Portsmouth, and Portland, where the lads remain for about a year previous to being sent on sea-going ships. The age of entry has varied at different periods; it is now fifteen to sixteen and a half years. The recruiting statistics show whence a large proportion come—from the men of Devon, who contribute, as they did in the days of Drake and Hawkins, Gilbert and Raleigh, the largest quota of men willing to make their “heritage the sea.”

Dr. Peter Comrie, R.N., a gentleman who has made this matter a study, informs the writer that on board these ships, as regards cleanliness, few gentlemen’s sons are better attended to, while their education is not neglected, as they have a good schoolmaster on all ships of any size. He says that boys brought up in the service not merely make the best seamen, but generally like the navy, and stick to it. The order, cleanliness, and tidy ways obligatory on board a man-of-war, make, in many cases, the ill-regulated fo’castle of most merchant ships very distasteful to them. Their drilling is just sufficient to keep them in healthy condition. No one can well imagine the difference wrought in the appearance of the street arab, or the Irish peasant boy, by a short residence on board one of these ships. He fills out, becomes plump, loses his gaunt, haggard, hunted look; is natty in his appearance, and assumes that jaunty, rolling gait that a person gifted with what is called “sea-legs” is supposed to exhibit. Still, “we,” writes the doctor, “have known Irish boys, who had very rarely even perhaps seen animal food, when first put upon the liberal dietary of the service, complain that they were being starved, their stomachs having been so used to be distended with large quantities of vegetables, that it took some time before the organ accommodated itself to a more nutritious but less filling dietary.”

You have only got to watch the boy from the training-ship on leave to judge that the navy has yet some popularity. Neatly dressed, clean and natty, surrounded by his quondam playmates, he is “the observed of all observers,” and is gazed at with admiring respect by the street arab from a respectful distance. He has, perhaps, learned to “spin a few yarns,” and give the approved hitch to his trousers, and, while giving a favourable account of his life on board ship, with its forecastle jollity and “four bitter,” is the best recruiting-officer the service can have. The great point to be attended to, in order to make him a sailor, is that “you must catch him young.”36 That a good number have been so caught is proved by the navy estimates, which now provide for over 7,000 boys, 4,000 of the number in sea-going ships.

[pg 47]

Governments, as governments, may be paternal, but are rarely very benevolent, and the above excellent institutions are only organised for the safety and strength of the navy. There is another class of training-ships, which owe their existence to benevolence, and deserve every encouragement—those for rescuing our street waifs from the treadmill and prison. The larger part of these do not enter the navy, but are passed into the Merchant Marine, their training being very similar. The Government simply lends the ship. Thus the Chichester, at Greenhithe, a vessel which had been in 1868 a quarter of a century lying useless—never having seen service—was turned over to a society, a mere shell or carcase, her masts, rigging, and other fittings having to be provided by private subscriptions. Her case irresistibly reminds the writer of a vessel, imaginary only in name, described by James Hannay:37“H.M.S. Patagonian was built as a three-decker, at a cost of £120,000, when it was discovered that she could not sail. She was then cut down into a frigate, at a cost of £50,000, when it was found out that she would not tack. She was next built up into a two-decker, at a cost of another £50,000, and then it was discovered she could be made useful, so the Admiralty kept her unemployed for ten years!” A good use was, however, found at last for the Chichester, thanks to benevolent people, the quality of whose mercy is twice blessed, for they both help the wretched youngsters, and turn them into good boys for our ships. Some of these street arabs previously have hardly been under a roof at night for years together. Hear M. Esquiros:—“To these little ones London is a desert, and, though lost in the drifting sands of the crowd, they never fail to find their way. The greater part of them contract a singular taste for this hard and almost savage kind of life. They love the open sky, and at night all they dread is the eye of the policeman; their young minds become fertile in resources, and glory in their independence in the ‘battle of life;’ but if no helping hand is stretched out to arrest them in this fatal and down-hill path, they surely gravitate to the treadmill and the prison. How could it be otherwise?... The question is, what are these lads good for?” That problem, M. Esquiros, as you with others predicted, has been solved satisfactorily. The poor lads form excellent raw material for our ever-increasing sea-service.

The training of a naval cadet—i.e., an embryo midshipman, or “midshipmite” (as poor Peter Simple was irreverently called—before, however, the days of naval cadets)—is very similar in many respects to that of an embryo seaman, but includes many other acquirements. After obtaining his nomination from the Admiralty, and undergoing a simple preliminary examination at the Royal Naval College in ordinary branches of knowledge, he is passed to a training-ship, which to-day is the Britannia at Dartmouth. Here he is taught all the ordinary acquirements in rigging, seamanship, and gunnery; and, to fit him to be an officer, he is instructed in taking observations for latitude and longitude, in geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. He also goes through a course of drawing-lessons and modern languages. He is occasionally sent off on a brig for a short cruise, and after a year on the training-ship, during which he undergoes a quarterly examination, he is passed to a sea-going ship. His position on leaving depends entirely on his certificate—if he obtains one of the First Class, he [pg 48]is immediately rated midshipman; while if he only obtains a Third Class certificate, he will have to serve twelve months more on the sea-going ship, and pass another examination before he can claim that rank.38

The actual experiences of intelligent sailors, or voyagers, written by themselves, have, of course, a greater practical value than the sea-stories of clever novelists, while the latter, as a class, confine themselves very much to the quarter-deck. Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast” is so well known that few of our readers need to be told that it is the story of an American student, who had undermined his health by over-application, and who took a voyage, viâ Cape Horn, to California in order to recover it. But the old brig Pilgrim, bound to the northern Pacific coast for a cargo of hides, was hardly a fair example, in some respects, of an ordinary merchant-vessel, to say nothing of a fine clipper or modern steam-ship. Dana’s experiences were of the roughest type, and may be read by boys, anxious to go to sea, with advantage, if taken in conjunction with those of others; many of them are common to all grades of sea service. A little work by a “Sailor-boy,”39 published some years ago, gives a very fair idea of a seaman’s lot in the Royal Navy, and the two stories in conjunction present a fair average view of sea-life and its duties.

Passing over the young sailor-boy’s admission to the training-ship—the “Guardho,” as he terms it—we find his first days on board devoted to the mysteries of knots and hitch-making, in learning to lash hammocks, and in rowing, and in acquiring the arts of “feathering” and “tossing” an oar. Incidentally he gives us some information on the etiquette observed in boats passing with an officer on board. “For a lieutenant, the coxswain only gets up and takes his cap off; for a captain, the boat’s crew lay on their oars, and the coxswain takes his cap off; and for an admiral the oars are tossed (i.e., raised perpendicularly, not thrown in the air!), and all caps go off.” Who would not be an admiral? While in this “instruction” he received his sailor’s clothes—a pair of blue cloth trousers, two pairs of white duck ditto, two blue serge and two white frocks, two pairs of white “jumpers,” two caps, two pairs of stockings, a knife, and a marking-type. As soon as he is “made a sailor” by these means, he was ordered to the mast-head, and tells with glee how he was able to go up outside by the futtock shrouds, and not through “lubber’s hole.” The reader doubtless knows that the lubber’s hole is an open space between the head of the lower mast and the edge of the top; it is so named from the supposition that a “land-lubber” would prefer that route. The French call it the trou du chat—the hole through which the cat would climb. Next he commenced cutlass-drill, followed by rifle-drill, big-gun practice, instruction in splicing, and all useful knots, and in using the compass and lead-line. He was afterwards sent on a brig for a short sea cruise. “Having,” says he, “to run aloft without shoes was a heavy trial to me, and my feet often were so sore and blistered that I have sat down in the ‘tops’ and cried with the pain; yet up I had to go, and furl and loose my sails; and up I did go, blisters and all. Sometimes the pain was so bad I could not move smartly, and then the unmerited rebuke from a thoughtless officer was as gall and wormwood to me.”

Dana, in speaking of the incessant work on board any vessel, says, “A ship is like a lady’s [pg 49]watch—always out of repair.” When, for example, in a calm, the sails hanging loosely, the hot sun pouring down on deck, and no way on the vessel, which lies

“As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean,”

there is always sufficient work for the men, in “setting up” the rigging, which constantly requires lightening and repairing, in picking oakum for caulking, in brightening up the metal-work, and in holystoning the deck. The holystone is a large piece of porous stone,40 which is dragged in alternate ways by two sailors over the deck, sand being used to increase its effect. It obtains its name from the fact that Sunday morning is a very common time on many merchant-vessels for cleaning up generally.


The daily routine of our young sailor on the experimental cruises gave him plenty of employment. In his own words it was as follows:—Commencing at five a.m.—“Turn hands up; holystone or scrub upper deck; coil down ropes. Half-past six—breakfast, half an [pg 50]hour; call the watch, watch below, clean the upper deck; watch on deck, clean wood and brass-work; put the upper decks to rights. Eight a.m.—hands to quarters; clean guns and arms; division for inspection; prayers; make sail, reef topsails, furl top-sails, top-gallant sails, royals; reef courses, down top-gallant and royal yards. This continued till eight bells, twelve o’clock, dinner one hour. ‘All hands again; cutlass, rifle, and big-gun drill till four o’clock; clear up decks, coil up ropes;’ and then our day’s work is done.” Then they would make little trips to sea, many of them to experience the woes of sea-sickness for the first time.

But the boys on the clean and well-kept training-brig were better off in all respects than poor Dana. When first ordered aloft, he tells us, “I had not got my ‘sea-legs’ on, was dreadfully sea-sick, with hardly strength to hold on to anything, and it was ‘pitch-dark’ * * * How I got along I cannot now remember. I ‘laid out’ on the yards, and held on with all my strength. I could not have been of much service; for I remember having been sick several times before I left the top-sail yard. Soon all was snug aloft, and we were again allowed to go below. This I did not consider much of a favour; for the confusion of everything below, and that inexpressibly sickening smell, caused by the shaking up of bilge-water in the hold, made the steerage but an indifferent refuge to the cold, wet decks. I had often read of the nautical experiences of others, but I felt as though there could be none worse than mine; for, in addition to every other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the first night of a two years’ voyage. When we were all on deck, we were not much better off, for we were continually ordered about by the officer, who said that it was good for us to be in motion. Yet anything was better than the horrible state of things below. I remember very well going to the hatchway and putting my head down, when I was oppressed by nausea, and felt like being relieved immediately. We can fully recommend the example of Dana, who, acting on the advice of the black cook on board, munched away at a good half-pound of salt beef and hard biscuit, which, washed down with cold water, soon, he says, made a man of him.

Some little explanation of the mode of dividing time on board ship may be here found useful. A “watch” is a term both for a division of the crew and of their time: a full watch is four hours. At the expiration of each four hours, commencing from twelve o’clock noon, the men below are called in these or similar terms—“All the starboard (or port) watch ahoy! Eight bells!” The watch from four p.m. to eight p.m. is divided, on a well-regulated ship, into two “dog-watches;” the object of this is to make an uneven number of periods—seven, instead of six, so that the men change the order of their watches daily. Otherwise, it will be seen that a man, who, on leaving port, stood in a particular watch—from twelve noon to four p.m.—would stand in the same watch throughout the voyage; and he who had two night-watches at first would always have them. The periods of the “dog-watches” are usually devoted to smoking and recreation for those off duty.

As the terms involved must occur frequently in this work, it is necessary also to explain for some readers the division of time itself by “bells.” The limit is “eight bells,” which are struck at twelve, four, and eight o’clock a.m. or p.m. The ship’s bell is sounded each half-hour. Half-past any of the above hours is “one bell” struck sharply by itself. At the hour, two strokes are made sharply following each other. Expressing the strokes by signs, half-past twelve would be | (representing one stroke); one o’clock would be || (two strokes [pg 51]sharply struck, one after the other); half-past one, || |; two o’clock, || ||; half-past two, || || |; three o’clock, || || ||; half-past three, || || || |; and four o’clock, || || || ||, or “eight bells.” The process is then repeated in the next watch, and the only disturbing element comes from the elements, which occasionally, when the vessel rolls or pitches greatly, cause the bell to strike without leave.

Seamen before the mast are divided into three classes—able, ordinary, and boys. In the merchant service a “green hand” of forty may be rated as a boy; a landsman must ship for boy’s wages on the first voyage. Merchant seamen rate themselves—in other words, they cause themselves to be entered on the ship’s books according to their qualifications and experience. There are few instances of abuse in this matter, and for good reason. Apart from the disgrace and reduction of wages and rating which would follow, woe to the man who sets himself up for an A.B. when he should enter as a boy; for the rest of the crew consider it a fraud on themselves. The vessel would be short-handed of a man of the class required, and their work would be proportionately increased. No mercy would be shown to such an impostor, and his life on board would be that of a dog, but anything rather than that of a “jolly sea-dog.”41

There are lights in the sailor’s chequered life. Seamen are, Shakespeare tells us, “but men”—and, if we are to believe Dibdin, grog is a decided element in their happier hours. “Grog” is now a generic term; but it was not always. One Admiral Vernon—who persisted in wearing a grogram42 tunic so much that he was known among his subordinates as “Old Grog”—earned immortality of a disagreeable nature by watering the rum-ration of the navy to its present standard. At 11.30 a.m., on all ships of the Royal Navy nowadays, half a gill of watered rum—two parts of water to one of the stronger drink—is served out to each of the crew, unless they have forfeited it by some act of insubordination. The officers, including the petty officers, draw half a gill of pure rum; the former put it into the general mess, and many never taste it. “Six-water” grog is a mild form of punishment. “Splicing the main-brace” infers extra grog served out for extraordinary service. Formerly, and, indeed, as late as forty odd years ago, the daily ration was a full gill; but, as sailors traded and bartered their drinks among themselves, it would happen once in awhile that one would get too much “on board.” It has happened occasionally in consequence that a seaman has tumbled overboard, or fallen from the yards or rigging, and has met an inglorious death. Boys are not allowed grog in the Royal Navy, and there is no absolute rule among merchant-vessels. In the American navy there is a coin allowance in lieu of rum, and every nation has its own peculiarities in this matter. In the French navy, wine, very ordinaire, and a little brandy is issued.

There are shadows, too, in the sailor’s life—as a rule, he brings them on himself, but by no means always. If sailors are “but men,” officers rank in the same category, and occasionally act like brutes. So much has been written on the subject of the naval “cat”—a punishment once dealt out for most trifling offences, and not abolished yet, that the writer has some diffidence in approaching the subject. A volume might be [pg 52]written on the theme; let the testimony of Dr. Stables,43 a surgeon of the Royal Navy, suffice. It shall be told in his own words:—

“One item of duty there is, which occasionally devolves on the medical officer, and for the most part goes greatly against the feeling of the young surgeon; I refer to his compulsory attendance at floggings. It is only fair to state that the majority of captains and commanders use the cat as seldom as possible, and that, too, only sparingly. In some ships, however, flogging is nearly as frequent as prayers of a morning. Again, it is more common on foreign stations than at home, and boys of the first or second class, marines, and ordinary seamen, are for the most part the victims.... We were at anchor in Simon’s Bay. All the minutiæ of the scene I remember as though it were but yesterday. The morning was cool and clear, the hills clad in lilac and green, sea-birds floating high in air, and the waters of the bay reflecting the blue of the sky, and the lofty mountain-sides forming a picture almost dream-like in its quietude and serenity. The men were standing about in groups, dressed in their whitest of pantaloons, bluest of smocks, and neatest of black-silk neckerchiefs. By-and-by the culprit was led in by a file of marines, and I went below with him to make the preliminary examination, in order to report whether or not he might be fit for the punishment.

“He was as good a specimen of the British mariner as one could wish to look upon—hardy, bold, and wiry. His crime had been smuggling spirits on board.

“ ‘Needn’t examine me, doctor,’ said he; ‘I aint afeared of their four dozen; they can’t hurt me, sir—leastways my back, you know—my breast, though; hum—m!’ and he shook his head, rather sadly I thought, as he bent down his eyes.

“ ‘What,’ said I, ‘have you anything the matter with your chest?’

“ ‘Nay, doctor, nay; it’s my feelings they’ll hurt. I’ve a little girl at home that loves me, and, bless you, sir, I won’t look her in the face again nohow.’

“I felt his pulse. No lack of strength there, no nervousness; the artery had the firm beat of health, the tendons felt like rods of iron beneath the finger, and his biceps stood out hard and round as the mainstay of an old seventy-four.... All hands had already assembled—the men and boys on one side, and the officers, in cocked hats and swords, on the other. A grating had been lashed against the bulwark, and another placed on deck beside it. The culprit’s shoulders and back were bared, and a strong belt fastened around the lower part of the loins for protection; he was then firmly tied by the hands to the upper, and by the feet to the lower grating; a little basin of cold water was placed at his feet, and all was now prepared. The sentence was read, and orders given to proceed with the punishment. The cat is a terrible instrument of torture; I would not use it on a bull unless in self-defence; the shaft is about a foot and a half long, and covered with green or red baize, according to taste; the thongs are nine, about twenty-eight inches in length, of the thickness of a goose-quill, and with two knots tied on each. Men describe the first blow as like a shower of molten lead.

“Combing out the thongs with his five fingers before each blow, firmly and determinedly was the first dozen delivered by the bo’swain’s mate, and as unflinchingly received.

[pg 53]

“Then, ‘One dozen, sir, please,’ he reported, saluting the commander.

“ ‘Continue the punishment,’ was the calm reply.

“A new man, and a new cat. Another dozen reported; again the same reply. Three dozen. The flesh, like burning steel, had changed from red to purple, and blue, and white; and between the third and fourth dozen, the suffering wretch, pale enough now, and in all probability sick, begged a comrade to give him a mouthful of water.

“There was a tear in the eye of the hardy sailor who obeyed him, whispering as he did so, ‘Keep up, Bill; it’ll soon be over now.’

“ ‘Five, six,’ the corporal slowly counted; ‘seven, eight.’ It is the last dozen, and how acute must be the torture! ‘Nine, ten.’ The blood comes now fast enough, and—yes, gentle reader, I will spare your feelings. The man was cast loose at last, and put on the sick-list; he had borne his punishment without a groan, and without moving a muscle. A large pet monkey sat crunching nuts in the rigging, and grinning all the time; I have no doubt he enjoyed the spectacle immensely, for he was only an ape.”

Dr. Stables gives his opinion on the use of the cat in honest and outspoken terms. He considers “corporal punishment, as applied to men, cowardly, cruel, and debasing to human nature; and as applied to boys, brutal, and sometimes even fiendish.”

The writer has statistics before him which prove that 456 cases of flogging boys took place in 1875, and that only seven men were punished during that year. There is every probability that the use of the naval cat will ere long be abolished, and important as is good discipline on board ship, there are many leading authorities who believe that it can be maintained without it. The captain of a vessel is its king, reigning in a little world of his own, and separated for weeks or months from the possibility of reprimand. If he is a tyrannical man, he can make his ship a floating hell for all on board. A system of fines for small offences has been proposed, and the idea has this advantage, that in case they prove on investigation to have been unjustly imposed, the money can be returned. The disgrace of a flogging sticks to a boy or man, and, besides, as a punishment is infinitely too severe for most of the offences for which it is inflicted. It would be a cruel punishment were the judge infallible, but with an erring human being for an irresponsible judge, the matter is far worse. And that good seamen are deterred from entering the Royal Navy, knowing that the commission of a peccadillo or two may bring down the cat on their unlucky shoulders, is a matter of fact.

We shall meet the sailor on the sea many a time and again during the progress of this work, and see how hardly he earns his scanty reward in the midst of the awful dangers peculiar to the elements he dares. Shakespeare says that he is—

“A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, hath made the ball
For them to play on”

that the men of all others who have made England what she is, have not altogether a bed of roses even on a well-conducted vessel, whilst they may lose their lives at any moment by shipwreck and sudden death. George Herbert says—

“Praise the sea, but keep on land.”
[pg 54]

And while the present writer would be sorry to prevent any healthy, capable, adventurous boy from entering a noble profession, he recommends him to first study the literature of the sea to the best and fullest of his ability. Our succeeding chapter will exhibit some of the special perils which surround the sailor’s life, whilst it will exemplify to some extent the qualities specially required and expected from him.


Perils of the Sailor’s Life.

The Loss of the Captain—Six Hundred Souls swept into Eternity without a Warning—The Mansion and the Cottage alike Sufferers—Causes of the Disaster—Horrors of the Scene—Noble Captain Burgoyne—Narratives of Survivors—An almost Incredible Feat—Loss of the Royal George—A great Disaster caused by a Trifle—Nine Hundred Lost—A Child saved by a Sheep—The Portholes Upright—An involuntary Bath of Tar—Rafts of Corpses—The Vessel Blown up in 1839-40—The Loss of the Vanguard—Half a Million sunk in Fifty Minutes—Admirable Discipline on Board—All Saved—The Court Martial.

England, and indeed all Europe, long prior to 1870 had been busily constructing ironclads, and the daily journals teemed with descriptions of new forms and varieties of ships, armour, and armament, as well as of new and enormous guns, which, rightly directed, might sink them to the bottom. Among the more curious of the ironclads of that period, and the construction of which had led to any quantity of discussion, sometimes of a very angry kind, was the turret-ship—practically the sea-going “monitor”Captain, which Captain Cowper Phipps Coles had at length been permitted to construct. Coles, who was an enthusiast of great scientific attainments, as well as a practical seaman, which too many of our experimentalists in this direction have not been, had distinguished himself in the Crimea, and had later made many improvements in rendering vessels shot-proof. His revolving turrets are, however, the inventions with which his name are more intimately connected, although he had much to do with the general construction of the Captain, and other ironclads of the period.

The Captain was a large double-screw armour-plated vessel, of 4,272 tons. Her armour in the most exposed parts was eight inches in thickness, ranging elsewhere downwards from seven to as low as three inches. She had two revolving turrets, the strongest and heaviest yet built, and carried six powerful guns. Among the peculiarities of her construction were, that she had only nine feet of “free-board”i.e., that was the height of her sides out of water. The forecastle and after-part of the vessel were raised above this, and they were connected with a light hurricane-deck. This, as we shall see, played an important part in the sad disaster we have to relate.

On the morning of the 8th of September, 1870, English readers, at their breakfast-tables, in railway carriages, and everywhere, were startled with the news that the Captain had foundered, with all hands, in the Bay of Biscay. Six hundred men had been swept into [pg 55]eternity without a moment’s warning. She had been in company with the squadron the night before, and, indeed, had been visited by the admiral, for purposes of inspection, the previous afternoon. The early part of the evening had been fine; later it had become what sailors call “dirty weather;” at midnight the wind rose fast, and soon culminated in a furious gale. At 2.15 in the morning of the 7th a heavy bank of clouds passed off, and the stars came out clear and bright, the moon then setting; but no vessel could be discerned where the Captain had been last observed. At daybreak the squadron was all in sight, but scattered. Only ten ships instead of eleven could be discerned, the Captain being the missing one. Later, it appeared that seventeen of the men and the gunner had escaped, and landed at Corbucion, north of Cape Finisterre, on the afternoon of the 7th. All the men who were saved belonged to the starboard watch; or, in other words, none escaped except those on deck duty. Every man below, whether soundly sleeping after his day’s work, or tossing sleeplessly in his berth, thinking of home and friends and present peril, or watching the engines, or feeding the furnaces, went down, without the faintest possibility of escaping his doom.

Think of this catastrophe, and what it involved! The families and friends of 600 men plunged into mourning, and the scores on scores of wives and children into poverty! In one street of Portsea, thirty wives were made widows by the occurrence.44 The shock of the news killed one poor woman, then in weak health. Nor were the sad effects confined to the cottages of the poor. The noble-hearted captain of the vessel was a son of Field-Marshal Burgoyne; Captain Coles, her inventor; a son of Mr. Childers, the then First Lord of the Admiralty; the younger son of Lord Northbrook; the third son of Lord Herbert of Lea; and Lord Lewis Gordon, brother of the Marquis of Huntley, were among the victims of that terrible morning. The intelligence arrived during the excitement caused by the defeat and capitulation of Sedan, which, involving, as it did, the deposition of the Emperor and the fate of France, was naturally the great topic of discussion, but for the time it overshadowed even those great events, for it was a national calamity.

From the statements of survivors we now know that the watch had been called a few minutes past midnight; and as the men were going on deck to muster, the ship gave a terrible lurch to starboard, soon, however, righting herself on that occasion. Robert Hirst, a seaman, who afterwards gave some valuable testimony, was on the forecastle. There was a very strong wind, and the ship was then only carrying her three top-sails, double reefs in each, and the foretop-mast stay-sail. The yards were braced sharp up, and the ship had little way upon her.45 As the watch was mustered, he heard Captain Burgoyne give the order, “Let go the foretop-sail halyards!” followed by, “Let go fore and maintop-sail sheets!” By the time the men got to the top-sail sheets the ship was heeling over to starboard so much that others were being washed off the deck, [pg 57]the ship lying down on her side, as she was gradually turning over and trembling through her whole frame with every blow which the short, jumping, vicious seas, now white with the squall, gave her.46 The roar of the steam from her boilers was terrific, “outscreaming the noise of the storm,” but not drowning the shrieks of the poor engineers and stokers which were heard by some of the survivors. The horrors of their situation can be imagined. The sea, breaking down the funnel, would soon, no doubt, extinguish the furnaces, but not until some of their contents had been dashed into the engine-room, with oceans of scalding water; the boilers themselves may, likely enough, have given way and burst also. Mercifully, it was not for long. Hirst, with two other men, rushed to the weather-forecastle netting and jumped overboard. It was hardly more than a few moments before they found themselves washed on to the bilge of the ship’s bottom, for in that brief space of time the ship had turned completely over, and almost immediately went down. Hirst and his companions went down with the ship, but the next feeling of consciousness by the former was coming into contact with a floating spar, to which he tied himself with his black silk handkerchief. He was soon, however, washed from the spar, but got hold of the stern of the second launch, which was covered with canvas, and floating as it was stowed on board the ship. Other men were there, on the top of the canvas covering. Immediately after, they fell in with the steam-lifeboat pinnace, bottom-up, with Captain Burgoyne and several men clinging to it. Four men, of whom Mr. May,47 the gunner, was one, jumped from off the bottom of the steam-pinnace to the launch. One account says that Captain Burgoyne incited them, by calling out, “Jump, men, jump!” but did not do it himself. The canvas was immediately cut away, and with the oars free, they attempted to pull up to the steam-pinnace to rescue the captain and others remaining there. This they found impossible to accomplish. As soon as they endeavoured to get the boat’s head up to the sea to row her to windward to where the capsized boat was floating, their boat was swamped almost level to her [pg 58]thwarts, and two of the men were washed clean out of her. The pump was set going, and the boat bailed out with their caps, &c., as far as possible. They then made a second attempt to row the boat against the sea, which was as unsuccessful as before. Meantime, poor Burgoyne was still clinging to the pinnace, in “a storm of broken waters.” When the launch was swept towards him once, one of the men on board offered to throw him an oar, which he declined, saying, nobly, “For God’s sake, men, keep your oars: you will want them.” This piece of self-abnegation probably cost him his life, for he went down shortly after, following “the six hundred” of his devoted crew into “the valley of death.” The launch was beaten hither and thither; and a quarter of an hour after the Captain had capsized, sighted the lights of one of their own ships, which was driven by in the gale, its officers knowing nothing of the fate of these unfortunates, or their still more hapless companions. Mr. May, the gunner, took charge of the launch, and at daybreak they sighted Cape Finisterre, inside which they landed after twelve hours’ hard work at the oars.


One man, when he found the vessel capsizing, crawled over the weather-netting on the port side, and performed an almost incredible feat. It is well told in his own laconic style:—“Felt ship heel over, and felt she would not right. Made for weather-hammock netting. She was then on her beam-ends. Got along her bottom by degrees, as she kept turning over, until I was where her keel would have been if she had one. The seas then washed me off. I saw a piece of wood about twenty yards off, and swam to it.” In other words, he got over her side, and walked up to the bottom! While in the water, two poor drowning wretches caught hold of him, and literally tore off the legs of his trousers. He could not help them, and they sank for the last time.

Many and varied were the explanations given of the causes of this disaster. There had evidently been some uneasiness in regard to her stability in the water at one time, but she had sailed so well on previous trips, in the same stormy waters, that confidence had been restored in her. The belief, afterwards, among many authorities, was that she ought not to have carried sail at all.48 This was the primary cause of the disaster, no doubt; and then, in all probability, when the force of the wind had heeled her over, a heavy sea struck her and completely capsized her—the water on and over her depressed side assisting by weighting her downwards. The side of the hurricane-deck acted, when the vessel was heeled over, as one vast sail, and, no doubt, had much to do with putting her on her beam-ends. The general impression of the survivors appeared to be that, with the ship heeling over, the pressure of a strong wind upon the under part of the hurricane-deck had a greater effect or leverage upon the hull, than the pressure of the wind on her top-sails. They were also nearly unanimous in their opinion that when the Captain’s starboard side was well down in the water, with the weight of water on the turret-deck, and the pressure of the wind blowing from the port hand on the under surface of the hurricane-deck, and thus pushing the ship right over, she had no chance of righting herself again.

[pg 59]

It is to be remarked that long after the Captain had sunk, the admiral of the squadron thought that he saw her, although it was very evident afterwards that it must have been some other vessel. In his despatch to the Admiralty,49 which very plainly indicated that he had some anxiety in regard to her stability in bad weather, he described her appearance and behaviour up till 1.30 a.m.—more than an hour after her final exit to the depths below. In the days of superstitious belief, so common among sailors, a thrilling story of her image haunting the spot would surely have been built on this foundation.

In the old fighting-days of the Royal Navy, when success followed success, and prize after prize rewarded the daring and enterprise of its commanders, they did not think very much of the loss of a vessel more or less, but took the lesser evils with the greater goods. The seamanship was wonderful, but it was very often utterly reckless. A captain trained in the school of Nelson and Cochrane would stop at nothing. The country, accustomed to great naval battles, enriched by the spoils of the enemy—who furnished some of the finest vessels in our fleet—was not much affected by the loss of a ship, and the Admiralty was inclined to deal leniently with a spirited commander who had met with an accident. But then an accident in those days did not mean the loss of half a million pounds or so. The cost of a large ironclad of to-day would have built a small wooden fleet of those days.

The loss of the Captain irresistibly brings to memory another great loss to the Royal Navy, which occurred nearly ninety years before, and by which 900 lives were in a moment swept into eternity. It proved too plainly that “wooden walls” might capsize as readily as the “crankiest” ironclad. The reader will immediately guess that we refer to the loss of the Royal George, which took place at Spithead, on the 28th of August, 1782, in calm weather, but still under circumstances which, to a very great extent, explain how the Captain—at the best, a vessel of doubtful stability—capsized in the stormy waters of Biscay. The Royal George was, at the time, the oldest first-rate in the service, having been put into commission in 1755. She carried 108 guns, and was considered a staunch ship, and a good sailer. Anson, Boscawen, Rodney, Howe, and Hawke had all repeatedly commanded in her.

From what small causes may great and lamentable disasters arise! “During the washing of her decks, on the 28th, the carpenter discovered that the pipe which admitted the water to cleanse and sweeten the ship, and which was about three feet under the water, was out of repair—that it was necessary to replace it with a new one, and to heel her on one side for that purpose.” The guns on the port side of the ship were run out of the port-holes as far as they would go, and those from the starboard side were drawn in and secured amidships. This brought her porthole-sills on the lower side nearly even [pg 60]with the water. “At about 9 o’clock a.m., or rather before,” stated one of the survivors,50 “we had just finished our breakfast, and the last lighter, with rum on board, had come alongside; this vessel was a sloop of about fifty tons, and belonged to three brothers, who used her to carry things on board the men-of-war. She was lashed to the larboard side of the Royal George, and we were piped to clear the lighter and get the rum out of her, and stow it in the hold.... At first, no danger was apprehended from the ship being on one side, although the water kept dashing in at the portholes at every wave; and there being mice in the lower part of the ship, which were disturbed by the water which dashed in, they were hunted in the water by the men, and there had been a rare game going on.” Their play was soon to be rudely stopped. The carpenter, perceiving that the ship was in great danger, went twice on the deck to ask the lieutenant of the watch to order the ship to be righted; the first time the latter barely answered him, and the second replied, savagely, “If you can manage the ship better than I can, you had better take the command.” In a very short time, he began himself to see the danger, and ordered the drummer to beat to right ship. It was too late—the ship was beginning to sink; a sudden breeze springing upheeled her still more; the guns, shot, and heavy articles generally, and a large part of the men on board, fell irresistibly to the lower side; and the water, forcing itself in at every port, weighed the vessel down still more. She fell on her broadside, with her masts nearly flat on the water, and sank to the bottom immediately. “The officers, in their confusion, made no signal of distress, nor, indeed, could any assistance have availed if they had, after her lower-deck ports were in the water, which forced itself in at every port with fearful velocity.” In going down, the main-yard of the Royal George caught the boom of the rum-lighter and sank her, drowning some of those on board.

At this terrible moment there were nearly 1,200 persons51 on board. Deducting the larger proportion of the watch on deck, about 230, who were mostly saved by running up the rigging, and afterwards taken off by the boats sent for their rescue, and, perhaps, seventy others who managed to scramble out of the ports, &c., the whole of the remainder perished. Admiral Kempenfelt, whose flag-ship it was, and who was then writing in his cabin, and had just before been shaved by the barber, went down with her. The first-captain tried to acquaint him that the ship was sinking, but the heeling over of the ship had so jammed the doors of the cabin that they could not be opened. One young man was saved, as the vessel filled, by the force of the water rushing upwards, and sweeping him bodily before it through a hatchway. In a few seconds, he found himself floating on the surface of the sea, where he was, later, picked up by a boat. A little child was almost miraculously preserved by a sheep, which swam some time, and with which he had doubtless been playing on deck. He held by the fleece till rescued by a gentleman in a wherry. His father and mother were both drowned, and the poor little fellow did not [pg 61]even know their names; all that he knew was that his own name was Jack. His preserver provided for him.


One of the survivors,52 who got through a porthole, looked back and saw the opening “as full of heads as it could cram, all trying to get out. I caught,” said he, “hold of the best bower-anchor, which was just above me, to prevent falling back again into the porthole, and seizing hold of a woman who was trying to get out of the same porthole, I dragged her out.” The same writer says that he saw “all the heads drop back again in at the porthole, for the ship had got so much on her larboard side that the starboard portholes were as upright as if the men had tried to get out of the top of a [pg 62]chimney, with nothing for their legs and feet to act upon.” The sinking of the vessel drew him down to the bottom, but he was enabled afterwards to rise to the surface and swim to one of the great blocks of the ship which had floated off. At the time the ship was sinking, an open barrel of tar stood on deck. When he rose, it was floating on the water like fat, and he got into the middle of it, coming out as black as a negro minstrel!

When this man had got on the block he observed the admiral’s baker in the shrouds of the mizentop-mast, which were above water not far off; and directly after, the poor woman whom he had pulled out of the porthole came rolling by. He called out to the baker to reach out his arm and catch her, which was done. She hung, quite insensible, for some time by her chin over one of the ratlines of the shrouds, but a surf soon washed her off again. She was again rescued shortly after, and life was not extinct; she recovered her senses when taken on board our old friend the Victory, then lying with other large ships near the Royal George. The captain of the latter was saved, but the poor carpenter, who did his best to save the ship, was drowned.

In a few days after the Royal George sank, bodies would come up, thirty or forty at a time. A corpse would rise “so suddenly as to frighten any one.” The watermen, there is no doubt, made a good thing of it; they took from the bodies of the men their buckles, money, and watches, and then made fast a rope to their heels and towed them to land.” The writer of the narrative from which this account is mainly derived says that he “saw them towed into Portsmouth Harbour, in their mutilated condition, in the same manner as rafts of floating timber, and promiscuously (for particularity was scarcely possible) put into carts, which conveyed them to their final sleeping-place, in an excavation prepared for them in Kingstown churchyard, the burial-place belonging to the parish of Portsea.” Many bodies were washed ashore on the Isle of Wight.

Futile attempts were made the following year to raise the wreck, but it was not till 1839-40 that Colonel Pasley proposed, and successfully carried out, the operations for its removal. Wrought-iron cylinders, some of the larger of which contained over a ton each of gunpowder, were lowered and fired by electricity, and the vessel was, by degrees, blown up. Many of the guns, the capstans, and other valuable parts of the wreck were recovered by the divers, and the timbers formed then, and since, a perfect godsend to some of the inhabitants of Portsmouth, who manufactured them into various forms of “relics” of the Royal George. It is said that the sale of these has been so enormous that if they could be collected and stuck together they would form several vessels of the size of the fine old first-rate, large as she was! But something similar has been said of the “wood of the true cross,” and, no doubt, is more than equally libellous.

It is said, by those who descended to the wreck, that its appearance was most beautiful, when seen from about a fathom above the deck. It was covered with seaweeds, shells, starfish, and anemones, while from and around its ports and openings the fish, large and small, swam and played—darting, flashing, and sparkling in the clear green water.


There is probably no reasonable being in or out of the navy who does not believe that the ironclad is the war-vessel of the immediate future. But that a woeful amount of [pg 63]uncertainty, as thick as the fog in which the Vanguard went down, envelops the subject in many ways, is most certain. The circumstances connected with that great disaster are still in the memory of the public, and were simple and distinct enough. During the last week of August, 1875, the reserve squadron of the Channel Fleet, comprising the Warrior, Achilles, Hector, Iron Duke, and Vanguard, with Vice-Admiral Sir W. Tarleton’s yacht Hawk, had been stationed at Kingstown. At half-past ten on the morning of the 1st of September they got into line for the purpose of proceeding to Queenstown, Cork. Off the Irish lightship, which floats at sea, six miles off Kingstown, the Achilles hoisted her ensign to say farewell—her destination being Liverpool. The sea was moderate, but a fog came on and increased in density every moment. Half an hour after noon, the “look-out” could not distinguish fifty yards ahead, and the officers on the bridge could not see the bowsprit. The ships had been proceeding at the rate of twelve or fourteen knots, but their speed had been reduced when the fog came on, and they were running at not more than half the former speed. The Vanguard watch reported a sail ahead, and the helm was put hard aport to prevent running it down. The Iron Duke was then following close in the wake of the Vanguard, and the action of the latter simply brought them closer, and presented a broadside to the former, which, unaware of any change, had continued her course. The commander of the Iron Duke, Captain Hickley, who was on the bridge at the time, saw the spectre form of the Vanguard through the fog, and ordered his engines to be reversed, but it was too late. The ram of the Iron Duke struck the Vanguard below the armour-plates, on the port side, abreast of the engine-room. The rent made was very large—amounting, as the divers afterwards found, to four feet in width—and the water poured into the hold in torrents. It might be only a matter of minutes before she should go down.53


The vessel was doomed; a very brief examination proved that: nothing remained but to save the lives of those on board. Captain Dawkins gave the necessary orders with a coolness which did not represent, doubtless, the conflicting feelings within his breast. The officers ably seconded him, and the crew behaved magnificently. One of the mechanics went below in the engine-room to let off the steam, and so prevent an explosion, at the imminent risk of his life. The water rose quickly in the after-part, and rushed into the engine and boiler rooms, eventually finding its way into the provision-room flat, through imperfectly fastened (so-called) “water-tight” doors, and gradually over the whole ship. There was no time to be lost. Captain Dawkins called out to his men [pg 65]that if they preserved order all would be saved. The men stood as at an inspection—not one moved until ordered to do so. The boats of both ships were lowered. While the launching was going on, the swell of the tide caused a lifeboat to surge against the hull, and one of the crew had his finger crushed. This was absolutely the only casualty. In twenty minutes the whole of the men were transferred to the Iron Duke, no single breach of discipline occurring beyond the understandable request of a sailor once in awhile to be allowed to make one effort to secure some keepsake or article of special value to himself. But the order was stern: “Boys, come instantly.” As “four bells” (2 p.m.) was striking, the last man having been received on the Iron Duke, the doomed vessel whirled round two or three times, and then sank in deep water.54

It is obvious, then, that the discipline and courage of the service had not deteriorated from that always expected in the good old days. Captain Dawkins was the last man to leave his sinking ship, and his officers one and all behaved in the same spirit. They endeavoured to quiet and reassure the men—pointing out to them the fatal consequences of confusion. Captain Dawkins may or may not have been rightly censured for his seamanship; there can be no doubt that he performed his duty nobly in these systematic efforts to save his crew. However much was lost to the nation, no mother had to mourn the loss of her sailor-boy; no wife had been made a widow, no child an orphan; five hundred men had been saved to their country.

[pg 66]

One of the officers of the Vanguard, in a letter to a friend, graphically described the scene at and after the collision. After having lunched, he entered the ward-room, where he encountered the surgeon, Dr. Fisher, who was reading a newspaper. “After remarking on the thickness of the fog, Fisher went to look out of one of the ports, and immediately cried out, ‘God help us! here is a ship right into us!’ We rushed on deck, and at that moment the Iron Duke struck us with fearful force, spars and blocks falling about, and causing great danger to us on deck. The Iron Duke then dropped astern, and was lost sight of in the fog. The water came into the engine-room in tons, stopping the engines, putting the fires out, and nearly drowning the engineers and stokers.... The ship was now reported sinking fast, although all the water-tight compartments had been closed. But in consequence of the shock, some of the water-tight doors leaked fearfully, letting water into the other parts of the ship. Minute-guns were being fired, and the boats were got out.... At this moment the Iron Duke appeared, lowering her boats and sending them as fast as possible. The sight of her cheered us up, as we had been frightened that she would not find us in the fog, in spite of the guns. The scene on deck can only be realised by those who have witnessed a similar calamity. The booming of the minute-guns, the noise of the immense volume of steam rushing out of the escape-funnel, and the orders of the captain, were strangely mingled, while a voice from a boat reported how fast she was sinking.”

When the vessel went down, the deck of the Iron Duke was crowded with men watching the finale of the catastrophe. When she was about to sink, she heeled gradually over until the whole of her enormous size to the keel was above water. Then she gradually sank, righting herself as she went down, stern first, the water being blown from hawse-holes in huge spouts by the force of the air rushing out of the ship. She then disappeared from view. The men were much saddened to see their home go down, carrying everything they possessed. They had been paid that morning, and a large number of them lost their little accumulated earnings. These were, of course, afterwards allowed them by the Admiralty.


The Vanguard and the Iron Duke were two of a class of broadside ironclads, built with a view to general and not special utility in warfare. Their thickest armour was eight inches, a mere strip, 100 feet long by three high, and much of the visible part of them was unarmoured altogether, while below it varied from six inches to as low as three-eighths of an inch. It was only the latter thickness where the point of the Iron Duke’s ram entered. Their advocates boasted that they could pass through the Suez Canal, and go anywhere.

Every reader will remember the stormy discussion which ensued, in which not merely the ironclad question, but the court-martial which followed—and the Admiralty decision which followed that—were severely handled. Nor could there be much wonder at all this, for a vessel which had cost the nation over a quarter of a million of pounds sterling, with equipment and property on board which had cost as much more,55 was lost for ever. [pg 67]It was in vain that the then First Lord of the Admiralty56 told us, in somewhat flippant tones, that we ought to be rather satisfied than otherwise with the occurrence. It was not altogether satisfactory to learn from Mr. Reed, the principal designer of both ships, that ironclads were in more danger in times of peace than in times of war.57 In the former they were residences for several hundred sailors, and many of the water-tight doors could not be kept closed without inconvenience; in the latter they were fortresses, when the doors would be closed for safety. The court-martial, constituted of leading naval authorities and officers, imputed blame for the high rate of speed sustained in a fog; the public naturally inquired why a high rate of speed was necessary at all at the time, but their lordships declined to consider this as in any way contributing to the disaster. The Court expressed its opinion pretty strongly upon the conduct of the officers of the Iron Duke, which did the mischief, and also indirectly blamed the admiral in command of the squadron, but the Admiralty could find nothing wrong in either case, simply visiting their wrath on the unfortunate lieutenant on deck at the time. So, to make a long and very unpleasant story short, the loss of the Vanguard brought about a considerable loss of faith in some of our legally constituted naval authorities.58



Perils of the Sailor’s Life (continued).

The Value of Discipline—The Loss of the Kent—Fire on Board—The Ship Waterlogged—Death in Two Forms—A Sail in Sight—Transference of Six Hundred Passengers to a small Brig—Splendid Discipline of the Soldiers—Imperturbable Coolness of the Captain—Loss of the Birkenhead—Literally Broken in Two—Noble Conduct of the Military—A contrary Example—Wreck of the Medusa—Run on a Sand-bank—Panic on Board—Raft constructed—Insubordination and Selfishness—One Hundred and Fifty Souls Abandoned—Drunkenness and Mutiny on the Raft—Riots and Murders—Reduced to Thirty Persons—The stronger part Massacre the others—Fifteen Left—Rescued at Last—Another Contrast—Wreck of the Alceste—Admirable Conduct of the Crew—The Ironclad Movement—The Battle of the Guns.

It is impossible to read the account of any great disaster at sea, without being strongly impressed with the enormous value of maintaining in the hour of peril the same strict discipline which, under ordinary circumstances, is the rule of a vessel. Few more striking [pg 68]examples of this are to be found, than in the story of the loss of the Kent, which we are now about to relate. The disaster of the Medusa, which we shall record later, in which complete anarchy and disregard of discipline, aggravated a hundredfold the horrors of the situation, only teaches the same lesson from the opposite point of view. Though the most independent people on the earth, all Englishmen worthy of the name appreciate the value of proper subordination and obedience to those who have rightful authority to command. This was almost the only gratifying feature connected with the loss of the Vanguard, and the safe and rapid transference of the crew to the Iron Duke was due to it. But the circumstances of the case were as nought to some that have preceded it, where the difficulties and risks were infinitely greater and the reward much less certain. The Kent was a fine troop-ship, of 1,530 tons, bound from England for Bengal and China. She had on board 344 soldiers, forty-three women, and sixty-six children. The officers, private passengers, and crew brought the total number on board to 640. After leaving the Downs, on the 19th of February, 1825, she encountered terrible weather, culminating in a gale on the 1st of March, which obliged them almost to sail under bare poles. The narrative59 by Sir Duncan MacGregor, one of the passengers, created an immense sensation at its first appearance, and was translated into almost every language of the civilised world. He states that the rolling of the ship, which was vastly increased by a dead weight of some hundred tons of shot and shells that formed a part of its lading, became so great about half-past eleven or twelve o’clock at night, that the main-chains were thrown by every lurch considerably under water; and the best cleated articles of furniture in the cabin and the cuddy were dashed about in all directions.

It was a little before this period that one of the officers of the ship, with the well-meant intention of ascertaining that all was fast below, descended with a lantern. He discovered one of the spirit-casks adrift, and sent two or three sailors for some billets of wood to secure it. While they were absent, he unfortunately dropped the lamp, and letting go his hold of the cask in his eagerness to recover it, the former suddenly stove, and the spirits communicating with the light, the whole deck at that part was speedily in a blaze. The fire spread rapidly, and all their efforts at extinguishing it were vain, although bucket after bucket of water, wet sails and hammocks, were immediately applied. The smoke began to ascend the hatchway, and although every effort was made to keep the passengers in ignorance, the terrible news soon spread that the ship was on fire. As long as the devouring element appeared to be confined to the spot where the fire originated, and which they were assured was surrounded on all sides with water-casks, there was some hope that it might be subdued; but soon the light-blue vapour that at first arose was succeeded by volumes of thick, dingy smoke, which ascended through all the hatchways and rolled over the ship. A thorough panic took possession of most on board.

The deck was covered with six hundred men, women, and children, many almost frantic with excitement—wives seeking their husbands, children their mothers; strong men appearing as though their reason was overthrown, weak men maudlin and weeping; many good people on their knees in earnest prayer. Some of the older and more stout-hearted soldiers and [pg 69]sailors sullenly took their seats directly over the powder-magazine, expecting momentarily that it would explode and put them out of their misery. A strong pitchy smell suddenly wafted over the ship. “The flames have reached the cable-tier!” exclaimed one; and it was found to be too true. The fire had now extended so far, that there was but one course to pursue: the lower decks must be swamped. Captain Cobb, the commander of the Kent, was a man of action, and, with an ability and decision that seemed only to increase with the imminence of the danger, ordered the lower decks to be scuttled, the coverings of the hatches removed, and the lower ports opened to the free admission of the waves. His instructions were speedily obeyed, the soldiers aiding the crew. The fury of the flames was, of course, checked; but several sick soldiers and children, and one woman, unable to gain the upper deck, were drowned, and others suffocated. As the risk of explosion somewhat diminished, a new horror arose. The ship became water-logged, and presented indications of settling down. Death in two forms stared them in the face.

No sail had been seen for many days, the vessel being somewhat out of the regular course. But, although it seemed hopeless, a man was sent up to the foretop to scan the horizon. How many anxious eyes were turned up to him, how many anxious hearts beat at that moment, can well be understood. The sailor threw his eyes rapidly over the waste of howling waters, and instantly waved his hat, exclaiming, in a voice hoarse with emotion, “A sail on the lee bow!” Flags of distress were soon hoisted, minute-guns fired, and an attempt made to bear down on the welcome stranger, which for some time did not notice them. But at last it seemed probable, by her slackening sail and altering her course, that the Kent had been seen. Hope revived on board; but there were still three painful problems to be solved. The vessel in the distance was but a small brig: could she take over six hundred persons on board? Could they be transferred during a terrible gale and heavy sea, likely enough to swamp all the boats? Might not the Kent either blow up or speedily founder, before even one soul were saved?

The vessel proved to be the Cambria, a brig bound to Vera Cruz, with a number of miners on board. For fifteen minutes it had been very doubtful to all on the Kent whether their signals of distress—and the smoke issuing from the hatchways formed no small item among them—were seen, or the minute-guns heard. But at length it became obvious that the brig was making for them, and preparations were made to clear and lower the boats of the East Indiaman. “Although,” says Sir Duncan MacGregor, “it was impossible, and would have been improper, to repress the rising hopes that were pretty generally diffused amongst us by the unexpected sight of the Cambria, yet I confess, that when I reflected on the long period our ship had been already burning—on the tremendous sea that was running—on the extreme smallness of the brig, and the immense number of human beings to be saved—I could only venture to hope that a few might be spared.” When the military officers were consulting together, as the brig was approaching, on the requisite preparations for getting out the boats, and other necessary courses of action, one of the officers asked Major MacGregor in what order it was intended the officers should move off, to which he replied, “Of course, in funeral order,” which injunction was instantly confirmed by Colonel Fearon, who said, “Most undoubtedly—the juniors first; but see that any man is cut down who presumes [pg 70]to enter the boats before the means of escape are presented to the women and children.” To prevent any rush of troops or sailors to the boats, the officers were stationed near them with drawn swords. But, to do the soldiers and seamen justice, it was little needed; the former particularly keeping perfect order, and assisting to save the ladies and children and private passengers generally. Some of the women and children were placed in the first boat, which was immediately lowered into a sea so tempestuous that there was great danger that it would be swamped, while the lowering-tackle not being properly disengaged at the stern, there was a great prospect for a few moments that its living freight would be upset in the water. A sailor, however, succeeded in cutting the ropes with an axe, and the first boat got off safely.

The Cambria had been intentionally lain at some distance from the Kent, lest she should be involved in her explosion, or exposed to the fire from the guns, which, being all shotted, went off as the flames reached them. The men had a considerable distance to row, and the success of the first experiment was naturally looked upon as the measure of their future hopes. The movements of this boat were watched with intense anxiety by all on board. “The better to balance the boat in the raging sea through which it had to pass, and to enable the seamen to ply their oars, the women and children were stowed promiscuously under the seats, and consequently exposed to the risk of being drowned by the continual dashing of the spray over their heads, which so filled the boat during the passage that before their arrival at the brig the poor females were sitting up to their waists in water, and their children kept with the greatest difficulty above it.” Happily, at the expiration of twenty minutes, the cutter was seen alongside their ark of refuge. The next difficulty was to get the ladies and children on board the Cambria, for the sea was running high, and there was danger of the boat being swamped or stove against the side of the brig. The children were almost thrown on board, while the women had to spring towards the many friendly arms extended from the vessel, when the waves lifted the boat momentarily in the right position. However, all were safely transferred to the brig without serious mishap.

It became impossible for the boats, after the first trip, to come alongside the Kent, and a plan was adopted for lowering the women and children from the stern by tying them two and two together. The heaving of the vessel, and the heavy sea raising the boat one instant and dropping it the next, rendered this somewhat perilous. Many of the poor women were plunged several times in the water before they succeeded in landing safely in the boat, and many young children died from the effects—“the same violent means which only reduced the parents to a state of exhaustion or insensibility,” having entirely quenched the vital spark in their feeble frames. One fine fellow, a soldier, who had neither wife nor child of his own, but who showed great solicitude for the safety of others, insisted on having three children lashed to him, with whom he plunged into the water to reach the boat more quickly. He swam well, but could not get near the boat; and when he was eventually drawn on board again, two of the children were dead. One man fell down the hatchway into the flames; another had his back broken, and was observed, quite doubled, falling overboard; a third fell between the boat and brig, and his head was literally crushed to pieces; others were lost in their attempts to ascend the [pg 71]sides of the Cambria; and others, again, were drowned in their hurry to get on board the boats.

One of the sailors, who had, with many others, taken his post over the magazine, at last cried out, almost in ill-humour, “Well! if she won’t blow up, I’ll see if I can’t get away from her.” He was saved—and must have felt quite disappointed. One of the three boats, swamped or stove during the day, had on board a number of men who had been robbing the cabins during the confusion on board. “It is suspected that one or two of those who went down, must have sunk beneath the weight of their spoils.”

As there was so much doubt as to how soon the vessel would explode or go down, while the process of transference between the vessels occupied three-quarters of an hour each trip, and other delays were caused by timid passengers and ladies who were naturally loath to be separated from their husbands, they determined on a quicker mode of placing them in the boat. A rope was suspended from the end of the spanker-boom, along the slippery top of which the passengers had either to walk, crawl, or be carried. The reader need not be told that this great boom or spar stretches out from the mizen-mast far over the stern in a vessel the size of the Kent. On ordinary occasions, in quiet weather, it would be fifteen or twenty feet above the water, but with the vessel pitching and tossing during the continuous storm, it was raised often as much as forty feet in the air. It will be seen that, under these circumstances, with the boat at the stern now swept to some distance in the hollow of a wave, and now raised high on its crest, the lowering of oneself by the rope, to drop at the right moment, was a perilous operation. It was a common thing for strong men to reach the boat in a state of utter exhaustion, having been several times immersed in the waves and half drowned. But there were many strong and willing hands among the soldiers and sailors ready to help the weak and fearful ones, and the transference went on with fair rapidity, though with every now and again some sad casualty to record. The coolness and determination of the officers, military and marine, the good order and subordination of most of the troops, and the bravery of many in risking their lives for others, seems at this time to have restored some little confidence among the timid and shrinking on board. A little later, and the declining rays and fiery glow on the waves indicated that the sun was setting. One can well understand the feeling of many on board as they witnessed its disappearance and the approach of darkness. Were their lives also to set in outer gloom—the ocean to be that night their grave?

Late at night Major MacGregor went down to his cabin in search of a blanket to shelter him from the increasing cold. “The scene of desolation that there presented itself was melancholy in the extreme. The place which, only a few short hours before, had been the scene of kindly intercourse and of social gaiety, was now entirely deserted, save by a few miserable wretches who were either stretched in irrecoverable intoxication on the floor, or prowling about, like beasts of prey, in search of plunder. The sofas, drawers, and other articles of furniture, the due arrangement of which had cost so much thought and pains, were now broken into a thousand pieces, and scattered in confusion around.... Some of the geese and other poultry, escaped from their confinement, were cackling in the cuddy; while a solitary pig, wandering from its sty in the forecastle, was ranging at large in undisturbed possession of the Brussels carpet.”

[pg 72]

It is highly to the credit of the officers, more especially to those who had deck-cabins, from which it would be easy to remove many portable articles, and even trunks and boxes, that they entirely devoted their time and energies to saving life. They left the ship simply with the clothes they stood in, and were the last to leave it, except, of course, where subordinate officers were detailed to look after portions of the troops. Captain Cobb, in his resolution to be the last to leave the ship, tried all he could to urge the few remaining persons on board to drop on the ropes and save themselves. But finding all his entreaties fruitless, and hearing the guns successively explode in the hold, into which they had fallen, he at length, after doing all in his power to save them, got himself into the boat by “laying hold of the topping-lift, or rope that connects the driver-boom with the mizen-top, thereby getting over the heads of the infatuated men who occupied the boom, unable to go either backward or forward, and ultimately dropping himself into the water.” One of the boats persevered in keeping its station under the Kent’s stern, until the flames were bursting out of the cabin windows. The larger part of the poor wretches left on board were saved: when the vessel exploded, they sought shelter in the chains, where they stood till the masts fell overboard, to which they then clung for some hours. Ultimately, they were rescued by Captain Bibbey, of the Caroline, a vessel bound from Egypt to Liverpool, [pg 74]who happened to see the explosion at a great distance, and instantly made all sail in the direction whence it proceeded, afterwards cruising about for some time to pick up any survivors.

After the arrival of the last boat at the Cambria, “the flames, which had spread along the upper deck and poop, ascended with the rapidity of lightning to the masts and rigging, forming one general conflagration, that illumined the heavens to an immense distance, and was strongly reflected on several objects on board the brig. The flags of distress, hoisted in the morning, were seen for a considerable time waving amid the flames, until the masts to which they were suspended successively fell, like stately steeples, over the ship’s side.” At last, about half-past one o’clock in the morning, the devouring element having communicated to the magazine, the explosion was seen, and the blazing fragments of the once magnificent Kent were instantly hurled, like so many rockets, high into the air; leaving, in the comparative darkness that succeeded, “the deathful scene of that disastrous day floating before the mind like some feverish dream.”

The scene on board the brig beggared description. The captain, who bore the honoured name of Cook, and his crew of eight, did all that was in their power to alleviate the miseries of the six hundred persons added to their number; while they carried sail, even to the extent of danger, in order to make nine or ten knots to the nearest port. The Cornish miners and Yorkshire smelters on board gave up their beds and clothes and stores to the passengers; and it was extremely fortunate that the brig was on her outward voyage, for, had she been returning, she would not, in all probability, have had provisions enough to feed six hundred persons for a single day. But at the best their condition was miserable. In the cabin, intended for eight or ten, eighty were packed, many nearly in a nude condition, and many of the poor women not having space to lie down.

The gale increased; but still they crowded all sail—even at the risk of carrying away the masts—and at length the welcome cry of “Land ahead!” was reported from mouth to mouth. They were off the Scilly lights, and speedily afterwards reached Falmouth, where the inhabitants vied with each other in providing clothing and food and money for all who needed them.


The total loss from the Kent was eighty-one souls; namely, fifty-four soldiers, one woman, twenty children, one seaman, and five boys of the crew. How much greater might it not have been but for the imperturbable coolness, the commanding abilities, and the persevering and prompt action of Captain Cobb, and the admirable discipline and subordination of the troops!


Another remarkable instance of the same thing is to be found in the case of the Birkenhead, where there were desperate odds against any one surviving. The ship was a war-steamer, conveying troops from St. Simon’s Bay to Algoa Bay, Cape Colony, and had, with crew, a total complement of 638 souls on board. She struck on a reef, when steaming at the rate of eight and a half knots, and almost immediately became a total wreck. The rock penetrated her bottom, just aft of the fore-mast, and the rush of water was so great that most of the men on the lower troop-deck were drowned in their hammocks. The commanding officer, Major Seton, called his subordinate officers about him, and impressed upon them the necessity of preserving order and perfect discipline among the men, and of assisting the commander of the ship [pg 75]in everything possible. Sixty soldiers were immediately detailed for the pumps, in three reliefs; sixty more to hold on the tackles of the paddle-box boats, and the remainder were brought on the poop, so as to ease the fore-part of the ship, which was rolling heavily. The commander of the ship ordered the horses to be pitched out of the first-gangway, and the cutter to be got ready for the women and children, who were safely put on board. Just after they were out of the ship, the entire bow broke off at the fore-mast, and the funnel went over the side, carrying away the starboard paddle-box and boat. The other paddle-box boat capsized when being lowered, and their largest boat, in the centre of the ship, could not be got at, so encumbered was it. Five minutes later, the vessel actually broke in two,” literally realising Falconer’s lines:—

“Ah, Heaven! Behold, her crashing ribs divide!
She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o’er the tide.”

“She parted just abaft the engine-room, and the stern part immediately filled and went down. A few men jumped off just before she did so; but the greater number remained to the last, and so did every officer belonging to the troops.” A number of the soldiers were crushed to death when the funnel fell, and few of those at the pumps could reach the deck before the vessel broke up. The survivors clung, some to the rigging of the main-mast, part of which was out of water, and others to floating pieces of wood. When the Birkenhead divided into two pieces, the commander of the ship called out, “All those who can swim, jump overboard and make for the boats!” Two of the military officers earnestly besought their men not to do so, as, in that case, the boats with the women must be swamped; and, to the honour of the soldiers, only three made the attempt.

The struggles of a part of them to reach the shore, the weary tramp through a country covered with thick thorny bushes, before they could reach any farm or settlement; the sufferings of thirty or more poor fellows who were clinging, in a state of utter exhaustion, cold, and wretchedness, to the main-topmast and topsail-yard of the submerged vessel, before they were rescued by a passing schooner, have often been told. The conduct of the troops was perfect; and it is questionable whether there is any other instance of such thorough discipline at a time of almost utter hopelessness. The loss of life was enormous, only 192 out of 638 being saved. Had there been any panic, or mutiny, not even that small remnant would have escaped.

Turn we now to another and a sadder case, where the opposite qualities were most unhappily displayed, and the consequences of which were proportionately terrible.

On the 17th of June, 1816, the Medusa, a fine French frigate, sailed from Aix, with troops and colonists on board, destined for the west coast of Africa. Several settlements which had previously belonged to France, but which fell into the hands of the English during the war, were, on the peace of 1815, restored to their original owners; and it was to take re-possession that the French Government dispatched the expedition, which consisted of two vessels, one of which was the Medusa. Besides infantry and artillery, officers and men, there was a governor, with priests, schoolmasters, notaries, surgeons, apothecaries, mining and other engineers, naturalists, practical agriculturists, bakers, workmen, and thirty-eight women, the whole expedition numbering 365 persons, exclusive of the ship’s officers and company. Of these the Medusa took 240, making, with her crew and passengers, a total of 400 on board.

[pg 76]


After making Cape Blanco, the expedition had been ordered to steer due westward to sea for some sixty miles, in order to clear a well-known sand-bank, that of Arguin. The captain, however, seems to have been an ill-advised, foolhardy man, and he took a southward course. The vessel shortened sail every two hours to sound, and every half-hour the lead was cast, without slackening sail. For some little time the soundings indicated deep water, but shortly after the course had been altered to S.S.E., the colour of the water changed, seaweeds floated round the ship, and fish were caught from its sides; all indications of shallowing. But the captain heeded not these obvious signs, and the vessel suddenly grounded on a bank. The weather being moderate, there was no reason for alarm, and she would have been got off safely had the captain been even an average sailor. For the time, the Medusa stuck fast on the sand-bank, and as a large part of those on board were landsmen, consternation and disorder reigned supreme, and reproaches and curses were liberally bestowed on the captain. The crew was set to work with anchors and cables to endeavour to work the vessel off. During the day, the topmasts, yards, and booms were unshipped and thrown overboard, which lightened her, but were not sufficient to make her float. Meantime, a council was called, and the governor of the colonies exhibited the plan of a raft, which was considered large enough to carry two hundred persons, with all the necessary stores and provisions. It was to be towed by the boats, while their crews were to come to it at regular meal-times for their rations. The whole party was to land in a body on the sandy shore of the coast—known to be at no great distance—and proceed to the nearest settlements. All this was, theoretically speaking, most admirable, and had there been any leading spirit in [pg 77]command, the plan would have been, as was afterwards proved, quite practicable. The raft was immediately constructed, principally from the spars removed from the vessel as before mentioned.

Various efforts were made to get the Medusa off the sandbank, and at one time she swung entirely, and turned her head to sea. She was, in fact, almost afloat, and a tow-line applied in the usual way would have taken her into deep water; but this familiar expedient was never even proposed. Or, even had she been lightened by throwing overboard a part of her stores temporarily—which could have been done without serious harm to many articles—she might have been saved. Half-measures were tried, and even these were not acted on with perseverance. During the next night there was a strong gale and heavy swell, and the Medusa heeled over with much violence; the keel broke in two, the rudder was unshipped, and, still holding to the stern-post by the chains, dashed against the vessel and beat a hole into the captain’s cabin, through which the waves entered. It was at this time that the first indications of that unruly spirit which afterwards produced so many horrors appeared among the soldiers, who assembled tumultuously on deck, and could hardly be quieted. Next morning there were seven feet of water in the hold, and the pumps could not be worked, so that it was resolved to quit the vessel without delay. Some bags of biscuit were taken from the bread-room, and some casks of wine got ready to put on the boats and raft. But there was an utter want of management, and several of the boats only received twenty-five pounds of biscuit and no wine, while the raft had a quantity of wine and no biscuit. To avoid confusion, a list had been made the evening before, assigning to each his place. No one paid the slightest attention to it, and no one of those in authority tried to enforce obedience to it. It was a case of Sauve qui peut! with a vengeance: a disorderly and disgraceful scramble for the best places and an utter and total disregard for the wants of others.

It is, and always has been, a point of honour for the officers to be among the very last to leave (except, of course, where their presence might be needed in the boats), and the captain to be the very last. Here, the captain was among the first to scramble over the side; and his twelve-oared barge only took off twenty-eight persons, when it would have easily carried many more. A large barge took the colonial governor and his family, and the governor’s trunks. His boat wanted for nothing, and would have accommodated ten or more persons than it took. When several of the unfortunate crew swam off and begged to be taken in, they were kept off with drawn swords. The raft60 took the larger part of the soldiers, and had in all on board one hundred and fifty persons. The captain coolly proposed to desert some sixty of the people still on board, and leave them to shift for themselves; but an officer who threatened to shoot him was the means of making him change his mind, [pg 78]and over forty were taken off in the long-boat. Seventeen men, many of whom were helplessly intoxicated, were, however, left to their fate.

On the morning of the 5th of July the signal was given to put to sea, and at first some of the boats towed the raft, which had no one to command it but a midshipman named Coudin, who, having a painful wound on his leg, was utterly useless. The other officers consulted their own personal safety only, and, with a few exceptions, this was the case with every one else. When the lieutenant of the long-boat, fearing that he could not keep the sea with eighty-eight men on board, and no oars, entreated three of the other boats, one after the other, to relieve him of a part of his living cargo, they refused utterly; and the officer of the third, in his hurry to run away, loosed from the raft. This was the signal for a general desertion. The word was passed from one boat to another to leave them to their fate, and the captain had not the manliness to protest. The purser of the Medusa, with a few others, opposed such a dastardly proceeding, but in vain; and the raft, without means of propulsion, was abandoned. As it proved afterwards, the boats, which all reached the land safely, sighted the coast the same evening; and the raft could have been towed to it in a day or two, or at all events sufficiently near for the purpose. The people on it could not at first believe in this treacherous desertion, and once and again buoyed themselves up with the hope that the boats would return or send relief. The lieutenant on the long-boat seems to have been one of the few officers possessing any spark of humanity and manliness. He kept his own boat near the raft for a time, in the hope that the others might be induced to return, but at length had to yield to the clamour of some eighty men on board with him, who insisted on his proceeding in search of land.

The consternation and despair of those on the raft beggars description. The water was, even while the sea was calm, up to the knees of the larger part on board, while the horrors of a slow death from starvation and thirst, and the prospect of being washed off by the waves, should a storm arise, stared them in the face. Several barrels of flour had been placed on the raft at first, along with six barrels of wine and two small casks of water. When only fifty persons had got on it, their weight sunk it so low in the water that the flour was thrown into the sea, and lost. When the raft quitted the ship, with a hundred and fifty souls on her, she was a foot to a foot and a half under water, and the only food on board was a twenty-five-pound bag of biscuit, in a semi-pulpy condition, which just afforded them one meagre ration.

Some on board, to keep up the courage of the remainder, promulgated the idea that the boats had merely made sail for the island of Arguin, and that, having landed their crews, they would return. This for the moment appeased the indignation of the soldiers and others who had, with frantic gesticulations, been wringing their hands and tearing their hair. Night came on, and the wind freshened, the waves rolling over them, and throwing many down with violence. The cries of the people were mingled with the roar of the waves, whilst heavy seas constantly lifted them off their legs and threatened to wash them away. Thus, clinging desperately to the ropes, they struggled with death the whole night through.

About seven the next morning, the sea was again calm, when they found that twelve or more unfortunate men had, during the night, slipped between the interstices of the raft [pg 79]and perished. The effects of starvation were beginning to tell upon them:61 all their faculties were strangely impaired. Some fancied that they saw lighted signals in the distance, and answered them by firing off their pistols, or by setting fire to small heaps of gunpowder; others thought they saw ships or land, when there was nothing in sight. The next day strong symptoms of mutiny broke out, the officers being utterly disregarded by the soldiers. The evening again brought bad weather. “The people were now dashed about by the fury of the waves; there was no safety but in the centre of the raft,” where they packed themselves so close that many were nearly suffocated. “The soldiers and sailors, now considering their destruction inevitable, resolved to drown the sense of their situation by drinking till they should lose their reason;” nor could they be persuaded to forego their mad scheme. They rushed upon a cask of wine which was near the centre, and making a hole in it, drank so much, that the fumes soon mounted to their heads, in the empty condition in which they were; and “they then resolved to rid themselves of their officers, and afterwards to destroy the raft by cutting the lashings which kept it together.” One of them commenced hacking away at the ropes with a boarding-hatchet. The civil and military officers rushed on this ringleader, and though he made a desperate resistance, soon dispatched him. The people on the raft were now divided into two antagonistic parties—about twenty civil officers and the better class of passengers on one side, and a hundred or more soldiers and workmen on the other. “The mutineers,” says the narrative, “drew their swords, and were going to make a general attack, when the fall of another of their number struck such a seasonable terror into them that they retreated; but it was only to make another attempt at cutting the ropes. One of them, pretending to rest on the side-rail of the raft, began to work;” when he was discovered, and a few moments afterwards, with a soldier who attempted to defend him, was sent to his last account. This was followed by a general fight. An infantry captain was thrown into the sea by the soldiers, but rescued by his friends. He was then seized a second time, and the revolters attempted to put out his eyes. A charge was made upon them, and many put to death. The wretches threw overboard the only woman on the raft, together with her husband. They were, however, saved, only to die miserably soon afterwards.

A second repulse brought many of the mutineers to their senses, and temporarily awed the rest, some asking pardon on their knees. But at midnight the revolt again broke out, the soldiers attacking the party in the centre of the raft with the fury of madmen, even biting their adversaries. They seized upon one of the lieutenants, mistaking him for one of the ship’s officers who had deserted the raft, and he was rescued and protected afterwards [pg 80]with the greatest difficulty. They threw overboard M. Coudin, an elderly man, who was covered with wounds received in opposing them, and a young boy of the party, in whom he took an interest. M. Coudin had the presence of mind both to support the child and to take hold of the raft; and his friends kept off the brutal soldiery with drawn swords, until they were lifted on board again. The combat was so fierce, and the weather at night so bad, that on the return of day it was found that over sixty had perished off the raft. It is stated that the mutineers had thrown over the remaining water and two casks of wine. The indications in the narrative would not point to the latter conclusion, as the soldiers and workmen were constantly intoxicated, and many, no doubt, were washed off by the waves in that condition. A powerful temperance tract might be written on the loss of the Medusa. On the morning of the fourth day after their departure from the frigate, the dead bodies of twelve of the company, who had expired during the night, were lying on the raft. This day a shoal of flying-fish played round the raft, and a number of them got on board,62 and were entangled in the spaces between the timbers. A small fire, lighted with flint and steel and gunpowder, was made inside a barrel, and the fish, half-cooked, was greedily devoured. They did not stop here; the account briefly indicates that they ate parts of the flesh of their dead companions. Horror followed horror: a massacre succeeded their savage feast. Some Spaniards, Italians, and negroes among them, who had hitherto taken no part with the mutineers, now formed a plot to throw their superiors into the sea. A bag of money, which had been collected as a common fund, and was hanging from a rude mast hastily extemporised, probably tempted them. The officers’ party threw their ringleader overboard, while another of the conspirators, finding his villainy discovered, weighted himself with a heavy boarding-axe, and rushing to the fore part of the raft, plunged headlong into the sea and was drowned. A desperate combat ensued, and the fatal raft was quickly piled with dead bodies.

On the fifth morning, there were only thirty alive. The remnant suffered severely, and one-third of the number were unable to stand up or move about. The salt water and intense heat of the sun blistered their feet and legs, and gave intense pain. In the course of the seventh day, two soldiers were discovered stealing the wine, and they were immediately pushed overboard. This day also, Leon, the poor little boy mentioned before, died from sheer starvation.

The story has been so far nothing but a record of insubordination, murderous brutality, and utter selfishness. But the worst has yet to come. Let the survivors tell their own shameful and horrible story. There were now but twenty-seven left, and “of these twelve, amongst them the woman, were so ill that there was no hope of their surviving, even a few days; they were covered with wounds, and had almost entirely lost their reason.... They might have lived long enough to reduce our stock to a very low ebb; but there was no hope that they could last more than a few days. To put them on short allowance was only hastening their death; while giving them a full ration, was uselessly diminishing [pg 81]a quantity already too low. After an anxious consultation, we came to the resolution of throwing them into the sea, and thus terminating at once their sufferings. This was a horrible and unjustifiable expedient, but who amongst us would have the cruelty to put it into execution? Three sailors and a soldier took it on themselves. We turned away our eyes from the shocking sight, trusting that, in thus endeavouring to prolong our own lives, we were shortening theirs but a few hours. This gave us the means of subsistence for six additional days. After this dreadful sacrifice, we cast our swords into the sea, reserving but one sabre for cutting wood or cordage, as might be necessary.” Was there ever such an example of demoniacal hypocrisy, mingled with pretended humanity!

(After the celebrated Painting by Géricault.)

One can hardly interest himself in the fate of the remaining fifteen, who, if they were not all human devils, must have carried to their dying days the brand of Cain indelibly impressed on their memories. A few days passed, and the indications of a close approach to land became frequent. Meantime, they were suffering from the intense heat, and from excessive thirst. One more example of petty selfishness was afforded by an officer who [pg 82]had found a lemon, which he resolved to keep entirely for himself, until the ominous threats of the rest obliged him to share it. The wine, which should have warmed their bodies and gladdened their hearts, produced on their weakened frames the worst effects of intoxication. Five of the number resolved, and were barely persuaded not to commit suicide, so maddened were they by their potations. Perhaps the sight of the sharks, which now came boldly up to the edges of the raft, had something to do with sobering them, for they decided to live.

Three days now passed in intolerable torments. They had become so careless of life, that they bathed even in sight of the sharks; others were not afraid to place themselves naked upon the fore part of the raft, which was then entirely under water; and, though it was exceedingly dangerous, it had the effect of taking away their thirst. They now attempted to construct a boat of planks and spars. When completed, a sailor went upon it, when it immediately upset, and the design of reaching land by this means was abandoned. On the morning of the 17th of July, the sun shone brightly and the sky was cloudless. Just as they were receiving their ration of wine, one of the infantry officers discerned the topmasts of a vessel near the horizon. Uniting their efforts, they raised a man to the top of the mast, who waved constantly a number of handkerchiefs tied together. After two hours of painful suspense, the vessel, a brig, disappeared, and they once more resigned themselves to despair. Deciding that they must leave some record of their fate, they agreed to carve their names, with some account of their disaster, on a plank, in the hope that it might eventually reach their Government and families. But they were to be saved: the brig reappeared, and bore down for them. She proved to be a vessel which had been dispatched by the Governor of Senegal for the purpose of rescuing any survivors; though, considering the raft had now been seventeen days afloat, there was little expectation that any of its hundred and fifty passengers still lived. The wounded and blistered limbs, sunken eyes, and emaciated frames of the remnant told its own tale on board. And yet, with due order and discipline, presence of mind, and united helpfulness, the ship, with every soul who had sailed on her, might have been saved; and a fearful story of cruelty, murder, and cannibalism spared to us. The modern Medusa has been branded with a name of infamy worse than that of the famous classical monster after which she was named. The celebrated picture by Géricault in the Louvre, at Paris, vividly depicts the horrors of the scene.

The wreck of the Medusa has very commonly been compared and contrasted with that of the Alceste, an English frigate, which was wrecked the same year. Lord Amherst was returning from China in this vessel, after fulfilling his mission to the Court of Pekin, instituted at the instance of the East India Company, who had complained to Government of the impediments thrown in the way of their trade by the Chinese. His secretary and suite were with him; and so there was some resemblance to the case of the Medusa, which had a colonial governor and his staff on board. The commander of the Alceste was Captain (afterwards Sir) Murray Maxwell, a true gentleman and a bluff, hearty sailor. Having touched at Manilla, they were passing through the Straits of Gaspar, when the ship suddenly struck on a reef of sunken rocks, and it became evident that she must inevitably and speedily break up. The most perfect discipline prevailed; and the first efforts of the captain were naturally directed to saving the ambassador and his subordinates. The island of Palo Leat [pg 83]was a few miles off; and, although its coast at this part was a salt-marsh, with mangrove-trees growing out in the water so thick and entangled that it almost prevented them landing, every soul was got off safely. Good feeling and sensible councils prevailed. At first there was no fresh water to be obtained. It was

“Water, water everywhere,
Yet not a drop to drink.”

In a short time, however, they dug a deep well, and soon reached plenty. Then the Malays attacked and surrounded them; at first a few score, at last six or seven hundred strong. Things looked black; but they erected a stockade, made rude pikes by sticking their knives, dirks, and small swords on the end of poles; and, although they had landed with just seventy-five ball-cartridges, their stock soon grew to fifteen hundred. How? Why, the sailors set to with a will, and made their own, the balls being represented by their jacket-buttons and pieces of the glass of broken bottles! Of loose powder they had, fortunately, a sufficient quantity. The Malays set the wreck on fire. The men waited till it had burned low, and then drove them off, and went and secured such of the stores as could be now reached, or which had floated off. The natives were gathering thick. Murray made his sailors a speech in true hearty style, and their wild huzzas were taken by the Malays for war-whoops: the latter soon “weakened,” as they say in America. From the highest officer to the merest boy, all behaved like calm, resolute, and sensible Britons, and every soul was saved. Lord Amherst, who had gone on to Batavia, sent a vessel for them, on board which Maxwell was the last to embark. At the time of the wreck their condition was infinitely worse than that of the Medusa; but how completely different the sequel! The story is really a pleasant one, displaying, as it does, the happy results of both good discipline and mutual good feeling in the midst of danger. Nil desperandum was evidently the motto of that crew; and their philosophy was rewarded. The lessons of the past and present, in regard to our great ships, have taught us that disaster is not confined to ironclads, nor victory to wooden walls; neither is good discipline dead, nor the race of true-hearted tars extinct. “Men of iron” will soon be the worthy successors of “hearts of oak.”

Having glanced at the causes which led to the ironclad movement, and noted certain salient points in its history, let us now for a while discuss the ironclad herself. It has been remarked, as a matter of reproach to the administrators and builders of the British ironclad navy, that the vessels composing it are not sufficiently uniform in design, power, and speed. Mr. Reed, however, tells us that la marine moderne cuirassée of France is still more distinguished by the different types and forms of the vessels; and that ours by comparison wears “quite a tiresome appearance of sameness;” while, again, Russia has ironclads even more diversified than those of France. The objection is, perhaps, hardly a fair one, as the exigencies of the navy are many and varied. We might have to fight a first-class power, or several first-class powers, where all our strength would have to be put forth; some second-class power might require chastising, where vessels of a secondary class might suffice; while almost any vessel of the navy would be efficient in the case of wars with native tribes, as, for example, the Maories of New Zealand, or the Indians of the coasts of North-west America. In a great naval conflict, provided the vessels of our fleet steamed pretty evenly as regards speed, there would be an advantage in variety; for it might rather puzzle and [pg 84]worry the enemy, who would not know what next would appear, or what new form turn up. Mr. Reed puts the matter in a nutshell; although it must be seen that, among first-class powers with first-class fleets, the argument cuts both ways. “In the old days,” says he, “when actions had to be fought under sail, and when ships of a class were in the main alike, the limits within which the arts, the resources, and the audacities of the navy were restricted were really very narrow; and yet how brilliant were its achievements! I cannot but believe that, if the English ironclad fleet were now to be engaged in a general action with an enemy’s fleet, the very variety of our ships—those very improvements which have occasioned that variety—would be at once the cause of the greatest possible embarrassment to the enemy, and the means of the most vigorous and diversified attack upon the hostile fleet. This is peculiarly true of all those varieties which result from increase in handiness, in bow-fire, in height of port, and so forth; and unless I have mis-read our naval history, and misappreciate the character of our naval officers of the present day, the nation will, in the day of trial, obtain the full benefit of these advantages.”


It needs no argument to convince the reader that the aim of a naval architect should be to combine in the best manner available, strength and lightness. The dimensions and outside form of the ship in great part determine her displacement; and her capacity to carry weights depends largely on the actual weight of her own hull; while the room within partly depends on the thinness or thickness of her walls. Now, we have seen that in wooden ships the hull weighs more than in iron ships of equal size; and it will be apparent that what is gained in the latter case can be applied to carrying so much the more iron armour. Hence, distinguished authorities do not believe in the wood-built ship carrying heavy armour, nearly so much as in the ironclad, iron-built ship.63 The durability [pg 85]and strength are greater. The authority of such a man as Mr. J. Scott Russell, the eminent shipbuilder, will be conclusive. In a pamphlet,64 published in 1862, he noted the following ten points: 1, That iron steam ships-of-war may be built as strong as wooden ships of greater weight, and stronger than wooden ships of equal weight. 2, That iron ships of equal strength can go on less draught of water than wooden ships. 3, That iron ships can carry much heavier weights than wooden ships [hence they can carry heavier armour]. 4, That they are more durable. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, That they are safer against the sea, against fire, explosive shots, red-hot shots, molten metal; and 10, That they can be made impregnable even against solid shot.


The last point, alas! is one which Mr. Scott Russell himself would hardly insist upon to-day. When he wrote his pamphlet, five or six inches of armour, with a wood backing, withstood anything that could be fired against it. When the armour of the Warrior, our [pg 86]first real ironclad, had to be tested, a target, twenty feet by ten feet surface, composed of four and a half inch iron and eighteen inches of teak backing—the exact counterpart of a slice out of the ship’s side—was employed. The shot from 68-pounders—the same as composed her original armament—fired at 200 yards, only made small dents in the target and rebounded. 200-pounders had no more effect; the shot flew off in ragged splinters, the iron plates became almost red-hot under the tremendous strokes, and rung like a huge gong; but that was all. Now we have 6½-ton guns that would pierce her side at 500 yards; 12-ton guns that would put a hole through her armour at over a mile, and 25-ton guns that would probably penetrate the armour of any ironclad whatever. Why, some of the ships themselves are now carrying 30-ton guns! It is needless to go on and speak of monster 81 and 100-ton guns after recording these facts. But their consideration explains why the thickness of armour has kept on increasing, albeit it could not possibly do so in an equal ratio.

Mr. Reed tells us: “This strange contest between attack and defence, however wasteful, however melancholy, must still go on.”65 Sir W. G. Armstrong (inventor of the famous guns), on the other hand, says, “In my opinion, armour should be wholly abandoned for the defence of the guns, and, except to a very limited extent, I doubt the expediency of using it even for the security of the ship. Where armour can be applied for deflecting projectiles, as at the bow of a ship, it would afford great protection, without requiring to be very heavy.”66 Sir William recommends very swift iron vessels, divided into numerous compartments, with boilers and machinery below the water-line, and only very partially protected by armour; considering that victory in the contest as regards strength is entirely on the side of the artillery. Sir Joseph Whitworth (also an inventor of great guns) offered practically to make guns to penetrate any thickness of armour. The bewildered Parliamentary committee says mournfully in its report: “A perfect ship of war is a desideratum which has never yet been attained, and is now farther than ever removed from our reach;”67 while Mr. Reed68 again cuts the gordian knot by professing his belief that in the end, “guns will themselves be superseded as a means of attack, and the ship itself, viewed as a steam projectile—possessing all the force of the most powerful shot, combined with the power of striking in various directions—will be deemed the most formidable weapon of attack that man’s ingenuity has devised.” The contest between professed ship and gun makers would be amusing but for the serious side—the immense expense, and the important interests involved.

[pg 87]


Round the World on a Man-of-War.

The Mediterranean—White, blue, green, purple Waters—Gibraltar—Its History—Its first Inhabitants the Monkeys—The Moors—The Great Siege preceded by thirteen others—The Voyage of Sigurd to the Holy Land—The Third Siege—Starvation—The Fourth Siege—Red-hot balls used before ordinary Cannon-balls—The Great Plague—Gibraltar finally in Christian hands—A Naval Action between the Dutch and Spaniards—How England won the Rock—An Unrewarded Hero—Spain’s attempts to regain It—The Great Siege—The Rock itself and its Surroundings—The Straits—Ceuta, Gibraltar’s Rival—The Saltness of the Mediterranean—Going aloft—On to Malta.

In this and following chapters, we will ask the reader to accompany us in imagination round the world, on board a ship of the Royal Navy, visiting en route the principal British naval stations and possessions, and a few of those friendly foreign ports which, as on the Pacific station, stand in lieu of them. We cannot do better than commence with the Mediterranean, to which the young sailor will, in all probability, be sent for a cruise after he has been thoroughly “broken in” to the mysteries of life on board ship, and where he has an opportunity of visiting many ports of ancient renown and of great historical interest.

The modern title applied to the sea “between the lands” is not that of the ancients, nor indeed that of some peoples now. The Greeks had no special name for it. Herodotus calls it “this sea;” and Strabo the “sea within the columns,” that is, within Calpe and Abyla—the fabled pillars of Hercules—to-day represented by Gibraltar and Ceuta. The Romans called it variously Mare Internum and Mare Nostrum, while the Arabians termed it Bahr Rüm—the Roman Sea. The modern Greeks call it Aspri Thalassa—the White Sea; it might as appropriately be called blue, that being its general colour, or green, as in the Adriatic, or purple, as at its eastern end: but they use it to distinguish it from the “Sea of Storms”—the Black Sea. The Straits—“the Gate of the Narrow Passage,” as the Arabians poetically describe it, or the Gut, as it is termed by our prosaic sailors and pilots—is the narrow portal to a great inland sea with an area of 800,000 miles, whose shores are as varied in character as are the peoples who own them. The Mediterranean is salter than the ocean, in spite of the great rivers which enter it—the Rhone, Po, Ebro, and Nile—and the innumerable smaller streams and torrents.69 It has other physical and special characteristics, to be hereafter considered.

The political and social events which have been mingled with its history are interwoven with those of almost every people on the face of the globe. We shall see how much our own has been shaped and involved. It was with the memory of the glorious deeds of British seamen and soldiers that Browning wrote, when sailing through the Straits:—

“Nobly, nobly, Cape St. Vincent to the north-west died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish, ’mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest north-east distance dawned Gibraltar, grand and gray;
[pg 88]
‘Here, and here, did England help me—how can I help England?’—say
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turns to God to praise and pray,
While Jove’s planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.”

And the poet is almost literally correct in his description, for within sight, as we enter the Straits of Gibraltar, are the localities of innumerable sea and land fights dating from earliest days. That grand old Rock, what has it not witnessed since the first timid mariner crept out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic—the Mare Tenebrosum,—the “sea of darkness” of the ancients? Romans of old fought Carthaginian galleys in its bay; the conquering Moors held it uninterruptedly for six hundred years, and in all for over seven centuries; Spain owned it close on two and a half centuries; and England has dared the world to take it since 1704—one hundred and seventy-three years ago. Its very armorial bearings, which we have adopted from those given by Henry of Castile and Leon, are suggestive of its position and value: a castle on a rock with a key pendant—the key to the Mediterranean. The King of Spain still includes Calpe (Gibraltar) in his dominions; and natives of the place, Ford tells us, in his “Handbook to Spain,” are entitled to the rights and privileges of Spanish birth. It has, in days gone by, given great offence to French writers, who spoke of l’ombrageuse puissance with displeasure. “Sometimes,” says Ford, “there is too great a luxe de canons in this fortress ornée; then the gardens destroy ‘wild nature;’ in short, they abuse the red-jackets, guns, nursery-maids, and even the monkeys.” The present colony of apes are the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Rock. They have held it through all vicissitudes.

The Moorish writers were ever enthusiastic over it. With them it was “the Shining Mountain,” “the Mountain of Victory.” “The Mountain of Taric”70 (Gibraltar), says a Granadian poet, “is like a beacon spreading its rays over the sea, and rising far above the neighbouring mountains; one might fancy that its face almost reaches the sky, and that its eyes are watching the stars in the celestial track.” An Arabian writer well describes its position:—“The waters surround Gibraltar on almost every side, so as to make it look like a watch-tower in the midst of the sea.”

The fame of the last great siege, already briefly described in these pages,71 has so completely overshadowed the general history of the Rock that it will surprise many to learn that it has undergone no less than fourteen sieges. The Moors, after successfully invading Spain, first fortified it in 711, and held uninterrupted possession until 1309, when Ferdinand IV. besieged and took it. The Spaniards only held it twenty-five years, when it reverted to the Moors, who kept it till 1462. “Thus the Moors held it in all about seven centuries and a quarter, from the making a castle on the Rock to the last sorrowful departure of the remnants of the nation. It has been said that Gibraltar was the landing-place of the vigorous Moorish race, and that it was the point of departure on which their footsteps lingered last. In short, it was the European tête de pont, of which Ceuta stands as the African fellow. By these means myriads of Moslems passed into Spain, and with them much for which the Spaniards are wrongfully unthankful. It is said that when the Moors left their houses in Granada, which they [pg 90]did with, so to speak, everything standing, many families took with them the great wooden keys of their mansions, so confident were they of returning home again, when the keys should open the locks and the houses be joyful anew. It was not to be as thus longed for; but many families in Barbary still keep the keys of these long ago deserted and destroyed mansions.”72 And now we must mention an incident of its history, recorded in the “Norwegian Chronicles of the Kings,” concerning Sigurd the Crusader—the Pilgrim. After battling his way from the North, with sixty “long ships,” King Sigurd proceeded on his voyage to the Holy Land, “and came to Niörfa Sound (Gibraltar Straits), and in the Sound he was met by a large viking force (squadron of war-ships), and the King gave them battle; and this was his fifth engagement with heathens since the time he came from Norway. So says Halldor Skualldre:—

“ ‘He moistened your dry swords with blood,
As through Niörfa Sound ye stood;
The screaming raven got a feast,
As ye sailed onwards to the East.’

Hence he went along Sarkland, or Saracen’s Land, Mauritania, where he attacked a strong party, who had their fortress in a cave, with a wall before it, in the face of a precipice: a place which was difficult to come at, and where the holders, who are said to have been freebooters, defied and ridiculed the Northmen, spreading their valuables on the top of the wall in their sight. Sigurd was equal to the occasion in craft as in force, for he had his ships’ boats drawn up the hill, filled them with archers and slingers, and lowered them before the mouth of the cavern, so that they were able to keep back the defenders long enough to allow the main body of the Northmen to ascend from the foot of the cliff and break down the wall. This done, Sigurd caused large trees to be brought to the mouth of the cave, and roasted the miserable wretches within.” Further fights, and he at last reached Jerusalem, where he was honourably received by Baldwin, whom he assisted with his ships at the siege of Sidon. Sigurd also visited Constantinople, where the Emperor Alexius offered him his choice: either to receive six skif-pound (or about a ton of gold), or see the great games of the hippodrome. The Northman wisely chose the latter, the cost of which was said to be equal to the value of the gold offered. Sigurd presented his ships to the Emperor, and their splendid prows were hung up in the church of St. Peter, at Constantinople.


In the year 1319, Pedro, Infante of Castile, fought the Moors at Granada. The latter were the victors, and their spoils were enormous, consisting in part of forty-three hundredweights of gold, one hundred and forty hundredweights of silver, with armour, arms, and horses in abundance. Fifty thousand Castilians were slain, and among the captives were the wife and children of the Infante. Gibraltar, then in the hands of Spain, with Tarifa and eighteen castles of the district, were offered, and refused for her ransom. The body of the Infante himself was stripped of its skin, and stuffed and hung over the gate of Granada.

The third siege occurred in the reign of Mohammed IV., when the Spanish held the [pg 91]Rock. The governor at that time, Vasco Perez de Meira, was an avaricious and dishonest man, who embezzled the dues and other resources of the place and neglected his charge. During the siege, a grain-ship fell on shore,73 and its cargo would have enabled him to hold out a long time. Instead of feeding his soldiers, who were reduced to eating leather, he gave and sold it to his prisoners, with the expectation of either getting heavy ransoms for them, or, if he should have to surrender, of making better terms for himself. It availed him nothing, for he had to capitulate; and then, not daring to face his sovereign, Alfonso XI., he had to flee to Africa, where he ended his days.

Alfonso besieged it twice. The first time the Granadians induced him to abandon it, promising a heavy ransom; the next time he commenced by reducing the neighbouring town of Algeciras, which was defended with great energy. When the Spaniards brought forward their wheeled towers of wood, covered with raw hides, the Moors discharged cannon loaded with red-hot balls. This is noteworthy, for cannon was not used by the English till three years after, at the battle of Creçy, while it is the first recorded instance of red-hot shot being used at all.74 It is further deserving of notice, that the very means employed at Algeciras were afterwards so successfully used at the great siege. After taking Algeciras, Alfonso blockaded Gibraltar, when the plague broke out in his camp; he died from it, and the Rock remained untaken. This was the epoch of one of those great pestilences which ravaged Europe. Fifty thousand souls perished in London in 1348 from its effects; Florence lost two-thirds of her population; in Saragossa three hundred died daily. The sixth attack on the part of the King of Fez was unsuccessful; as was that in 1436, when it was besieged by a wealthy noble—one of the De Gusmans. His forces were allowed to land in numbers on a narrow beach below the fortress, where they were soon exposed to the rising of the tide and the missiles of the besieged. De Gusman was drowned, and his body, picked up by the Moors, hung out for twenty-six years from the battlements, as a warning to ambitious nobles.

At the eighth siege, in 1462, Gibraltar passed finally into Christian hands. The garrison was weak and the Spaniards gained an easy victory. When Henry IV. learned of its capture, he rejoiced greatly, and took immediate care to proclaim it a fief of the throne, adding to the royal titles that of Lord of Gibraltar. The armorial distinctions still borne by Gibraltar were first granted by him. The ninth siege, on the part of a De Gusman, was successful, and it for a time passed into the hands of a noble who had vast possessions and fisheries in the neighbourhood. Strange to say, such were the troubles of Spain at the time, that Henry the before-named, who was known as “the Weak,” two years after confirmed the title to the Rock to the son of the very man who had been constantly in arms against him. But after the civil wars, and at the advent of Ferdinand and Isabella, there was a decided change. Isabella, acting doubtless under [pg 92]the advice of her astute husband, whose entire policy was opposed to such aggrandisement on the part of a subject, tried to induce the duke to surrender it, offering in exchange the City of Utrera. Ayala75 tells us that he utterly refused. His great estates were protected by it, and he made it a kind of central depôt for his profitable tunny fisheries. He died in 1492, and the third duke applied to Isabella for a renewal of his grant and privileges. She promised all, but insisted that the Rock and fortress must revert to the Crown. But it was not till nine years afterwards that Isabella succeeded in compelling or inducing the Duke to surrender it formally. Dying in 1504, the queen testified her wishes as follows:—“It is my will and desire, insomuch as the city of Gibraltar has been surrendered to the Royal Crown, and been inserted among its titles, that it shall for ever so remain.” Two years after her death, Juan de Gusman tried to retake it, and blockaded it for four months, at the end of which time he abandoned the siege, and had to make reparation to those whose property had been injured. This is the only bloodless one among the fourteen sieges.

In 1540 a dash was made at the town, and even at a part of the fortress, by Corsairs. They plundered the neighbourhood, burned a chapel and hermitage, and dictated terms in the most high-handed way—that all the Turkish prisoners should be released, and that their galleys should be allowed to take water at the Gibraltar wells. They were afterwards severely chastised by a Spanish fleet.

In the wars between the Dutch and Spaniards a naval action occurred, in the year 1607, in the port of Gibraltar, which can hardly be omitted in its history. The great Sully has described it graphically when speaking of the efforts of the Dutch to secure the alliance of his master, Henry IV. of France, in their wars against Philip of Spain. He says: “Alvares d’Avila, the Spanish admiral, was ordered to cruise near the Straits of Gibraltar, to hinder the Dutch from entering the Mediterranean, and to deprive them of the trade of the Adriatic. The Dutch, to whom this was a most sensible mortification, gave the command of ten or twelve vessels to one of their ablest seamen, named Heemskerk, with the title of vice-admiral, and ordered him to go and reconnoitre this fleet, and attack it. D’Avila, though nearly twice as strong as his enemy, yet provided a reinforcement of twenty-six great ships, some of which were of a thousand tons burden, and augmented the number of his troops to three thousand five hundred men. With this accession of strength he thought himself so secure of victory that he brought a hundred and fifty gentlemen along with him only to be witnesses of it. However, instead of standing out to sea, as he ought to have done, he posted himself under the town and castle of Gibraltar, that he might not be obliged to fight but when he thought proper.

“Heemskerk, who had taken none of these precautions, no sooner perceived that his enemy seemed to fear him than he advanced to attack him, and immediately began the most furious battle that was ever fought in the memory of man. It lasted eight whole hours. The Dutch vice-admiral, at the beginning, attacked the vessel in which the Spanish admiral was, grappled with, and was ready to board her. A cannon-ball, which wounded him in the thigh soon after the fight began, left him only a hour’s life, during which, and till within [pg 93]a moment of his death, he continued to give orders as if he felt no pain. When he found himself ready to expire, he delivered his sword to his lieutenant, obliging him and all that were with him to bind themselves by an oath either to conquer or die. The lieutenant caused the same oath to be taken by the people of all the other vessels, when nothing was heard but a general cry of ‘Victory or Death!’ At length the Dutch were victorious; they lost only two vessels, and about two hundred and fifty men; the Spaniards lost sixteen ships, three were consumed by fire, and the others, among which was the admiral’s ship, ran aground. D’Avila, with thirty-five captains, fifty of his volunteers, and two thousand eight hundred soldiers, lost their lives in the fight; a memorable action, which was not only the source of tears and affliction to many widows and private persons, but filled all Spain with horror.”76


England won Gibraltar during the War of the Succession, when she was allied with Austria and Holland against Spain and France. The war had dragged on with varied results till 1704, when it was determined to attack Spain at home with the aid of the Portuguese. The commanders of the allied fleets and troops—i.e., the Landgrave George of Hesse-Darmstadt, Sir George Rooke, Admiral Byng, Sir Cloudesley Shovel, Admiral Leake, and the three [pg 94]Dutch admirals—determined to attack Gibraltar, believed to be weak in forces and stores. On the 21st of July, 1704, the fleet, which consisted of forty-five ships, six frigates, besides fire and bomb-ships, came to an anchor off the Rock, and landed 5,000 men, so as to at once cut off the supplies of the garrison. The commanders of the allied forces sent, on the morning after their arrival, a demand for the surrender of Gibraltar to the Archduke Charles, whose claims as rightful King of Spain they were supporting. The little garrison77 answered valiantly; and had their brave governor, the Marquis Diego de Salinas, been properly backed, the fortress might have been Spain’s to-day. The opening of the contest was signalised by the burning of a French privateer, followed by a furious cannonading: the new and old moles were speedily silenced, and large numbers of marines landed. The contest was quite unequal, and the besieged soon offered to capitulate with the honours of war, the right of retaining their property, and six days’ provisions. The garrison had three days allowed for its departure, and those, as well as the inhabitants of the Rock, who chose, might remain, with full civil and religious rights. Thus, in three days’ time the famous fortress fell into the hands of the allies, and possession was taken in the name of Charles III. Sir George Rooke, however, over-rode this, and pulled down the standard of Charles, setting up in its stead that of England. A garrison of 1,800 English seamen was landed. The English were, alone of the parties then present, competent to hold it; and at the Peace of Utrecht, 1711, it was formally ceded “absolutely, with all manner of right for ever, without exemption or impediment,” to Great Britain.

The Spaniards departed from the fortress they had valiantly defended, the majority remaining at St. Roque. “Like some of the Moors whom they had dispossessed, their descendants are said to preserve until this day the records and family documents which form the bases of claims upon property on that Rock, which, for more than a century and a half, has known other masters.”

Rooke went absolutely unrewarded. He was persistently ignored by the Government of the day, and being a man of moderate fortune, consulted his own dignity, and retired to his country seat. The same year, 1704, the Spanish again attempted, with the aid of France, to take Gibraltar. England had only three months to strengthen and repair the fortifications, and the force brought against the Rock was by no means contemptible, including as it did a fleet of two-and-twenty French men-of-war. Succour arrived; Sir John Leake succeeded in driving four of the enemy’s ships ashore. An attempt to escalade the fortress was made, under the guidance of a native goat-herd. He, with a company of men, succeeded in reaching the signal station, where a hard fight occurred, and our troops killed or disabled 160 men, and took the remnant prisoners. Two sallies were made from the Rock with great effect, while an attempt made by the enemy to enter through a narrow breach resulted in a sacrifice of 200 lives. A French fleet, under Pointé, arrived; the English admiral captured three and destroyed one of them—that of Pointé himself. To make a six months’ story short, the assailants lost 10,000 men, and then had to raise the siege. Although on several occasions our rulers have since the Peace of Utrecht proposed to cede or exchange the fortress, the spirit of the people would not permit it; and there can be [pg 95]no doubt whatever that our right to Gibraltar is not merely that of possession—nine points of the law—but cession wrung from a people unable to hold it. And that, in war, is fair.

Twenty years later Spain again attempted to wring it from us. Mr. Stanhope, then our representative at Madrid, was told by Queen Isabella: “Either relinquish Gibraltar or your trade with the Indies.” We still hold Gibraltar, and our trade with the Indies is generally regarded as a tolerably good one. In December, 1726, peace or war was made the alternative regarding the cession; another bombardment followed. An officer78 present said that it was so severe that “we seemed to live in flames.” Negotiations for peace followed at no great distance of time, and the Spaniards suddenly drew off from the attack. Various offers, never consummated, were made for an exchange. Pitt proposed to cede it in exchange for Minorca, Spain to assist in recovering it from the French. At another time, Oran, a third-class port on the Mediterranean shores of Africa, was offered in exchange; and Mr. Fitzherbert, our diplomatist, was told that the King of Spain was “determined never to put a period to the present war” if we did not agree to the terms; and again, that Oran “ought to be accepted with gratitude.” The tone of Spain altered very considerably a short time afterwards, when the news arrived of the destruction of the floating batteries, and the failure of the grand attack.79 This was at the last—the great siege of history. A few additional details may be permitted before we pass to other subjects.

The actual siege occupied three years and seven months, and for one year and nine months the bombardment went on without cessation. The actual losses on the part of the enemy can hardly be estimated; 1,473 were killed, wounded, or missing on the floating batteries alone. But for brave Curtis, who took a pinnace to the rescue of the poor wretches on the batteries, then in flames, and the ammunition of which was exploding every minute, more than 350 fresh victims must have gone to their last account. His boat was engulfed amid the falling ruins; a large piece of timber fell through its flooring, killing the coxswain and wounding others. The sailors stuffed their jackets into the leak, and succeeded in saving the lives of 357 of their late enemies. For many days consecutively they had been peppering us at the rate of 6,500 shots, and over 2,000 shells each twenty-four hours. With the destruction of the floating batteries “the siege was virtually concluded. The contest was at an end, and the united strength of two ambitious and powerful nations had been humbled by a straitened garrison of 6,000 effective men.”80 Our losses were comparatively small, though thrice the troops were on the verge of famine. At the period of the great siege the Rock mounted only 100 guns; now it has 1,000, many of them of great calibre. In France, victory for the allies was regarded as such a foregone conclusion that “a drama, illustrative of the destruction of Gibraltar by the floating batteries, was acted nightly to applauding thousands!”81 The siege has, we believe, been a favourite subject at the minor English theatres many a time since; but it need not be stated that the views taken of the result were widely different to those popular at that time in Paris.

Gibraltar has had an eventful history even since the great siege. In 1804 a terrible epidemic swept the Rock; 5,733 out of a population of 15,000 died in a few weeks. The climate is warm and pleasant, but it is not considered the most healthy of localities even [pg 96]now. And on the 28th of October, 1805, the Victory, in tow of the Neptune, entered the bay, with the body of Nelson on board. The fatal shot had done its work; only eleven days before he had written to General Fox one of his happy, pleasant letters.

The Rock itself is a compact limestone, a form of grey dense marble varied by beds of red sandstone. It abounds in caves and fissures, and advantage has been taken of these facts to bore galleries, the most celebrated of which are St. Michael’s and Martin’s, the former 1,100 feet above the sea. Tradition makes it a barren rock; but the botanists tell us differently. There are 456 species of indigenous flowering plants, besides many which have been introduced. The advantages of its natural position have been everywhere utilised. It bristles with batteries, many of which can hardly be seen. Captain Sayer tells us that every spot where a gun could be brought to bear on an enemy has one. “Wandering,” says he, “through the geranium-edged paths on the hill-side, or clambering up the rugged cliffs to the eastward, one stumbles unexpectedly upon a gun of the heaviest metal lodged in a secluded nook, with its ammunition, round shot, canister, and case piled around it, ready at any instant.... The shrubs and flowers that grow on the cultivated places, and are preserved from injury with so much solicitude, are often [pg 97]but the masks of guns, which lie crouched beneath the leaves ready for the port-fire.” Everywhere, all stands ready for defence. War and peace are strangely mingled.

Gibraltar has one of the finest colonial libraries in the world, founded by the celebrated Colonel Drinkwater, whose account of the great siege is still the standard authority. The town possesses some advantages; but as 15,000 souls out of a population of about double that number are crowded into one square mile, it is not altogether a healthy place—albeit much improved of late years. Rents are exorbitant; but ordinary living and bad liquors are cheap. It is by no means the best place in the world for “Jack ashore,” for, as Shakespeare tells us, “sailors” are “but men,” and there be “land rats and water rats,” who live on their weaknesses. The town has a very mongrel population, of all shades of colour and character. Alas! the monkeys, who were the first inhabitants of the Rock—tailless Barbary apes—are now becoming scarce. Many a poor Jocko has fallen from the enemy’s shot, killed in battles which he, at least, never provoked.

The scenery of the Straits, which we are now about to enter, is fresh and pleasant, and as we commenced with an extract from one well-known poet, we may be allowed to finish with that of another, which, if more hackneyed, is still expressive and beautiful. Byron’s well-known lines will recur to many of our readers:—

“Through Calpe’s Straits survey the steepy shore;
Europe and Afric on each other gaze!
Lands of the dark-eyed maid and dusky Moor
Alike beheld beneath pale Hecate’s blaze;
How softly on the Spanish shore she plays,
Disclosing rock, and slope, and forest brown,
Distinct though darkening with her waning phase.”

In the distance gleams Mons Abyla—the Apes’ Hill of sailors—a term which could have been, for a very long time, as appropriately given to Gibraltar. It is the other sentinel of the Straits; while Ceuta, the strong fortress built on its flanks, is held by Spain on Moorish soil, just as we hold the Rock of Rocks on theirs. Its name is probably a corruption of Septem—Seven—from the number of hills on which it is built. It is to-day a military prison, there usually being here two or three thousand convicts, while both convicts and fortress are guarded by a strong garrison of 3,500 soldiers. These in their turn were, only a few years ago, guarded by the jealous Moors, who shot both guards and prisoners if they dared to emerge in the neighbourhood. There is, besides, a town, as at Gibraltar, with over 15,000 inhabitants, and at the present day holiday excursions are commonly made across the Straits in strong little steamers or other craft. The tide runs into the Straits from the Atlantic at the rate of four or more knots per hour, and yet all this water, with that of the innumerable streams and rivers which fall into the Mediterranean, scarcely suffice to raise a perceptible tide! What becomes of all this water? Is there a hole in the earth through which it runs off? Hardly: evaporation is probably the true secret of its disappearance: and that this is the reason is proved by the greater saltness of the Mediterranean as compared with the Atlantic.

In sailor’s parlance, “going aloft” has a number of meanings. He climbs the slippery shrouds to “go aloft;” and when at last, like poor Tom Bowling, he lies a “sheer hulk,” and—

[pg 98]
“His body’s under hatches,
His soul has gone aloft.’ ”

“Going-aloft” in the Mediterranean has a very different meaning: it signifies passing upwards and eastwards from the Straits of Gibraltar.82 We are now going aloft to Malta, a British possession hardly second to that of the famed Rock itself.



Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


Calypso’s Isle—A Convict Paradise—Malta, the Flower of the World—The Knights of St. John—Rise of the Order—The Crescent and the Cross—The Siege of Rhodes—L’Isle Adam in London—The Great Siege of Malta—Horrible Episodes—Malta in French and English Hands—St. Paul’s Cave—The Catacombs—Modern Incidents—The Shipwreck of St. Paul—Gales in the Mediterranean—Experiences of Nelson and Collingwood—Squalls in the Bay of San Francisco—A Man Overboard—Special Winds of the Mediterranean—The Suez Canal and M. de Lesseps—His Diplomatic Career—Saïd Pacha as a Boy—As a Viceroy—The Plan Settled—Financial Troubles—Construction of the Canal—The Inauguration Fête—Suez—Passage of the Children of Israel through the Red Sea.

Approaching Malta, we must “not in silence pass Calypso’s Isle.” Warburton describes it, in his delightful work on the East83—a classic on the Mediterranean—as a little paradise, with all the beauties of a continent in miniature; little mountains with craggy summits, little valleys with cascades and rivers, lawny meadows and dark woods, trim gardens and tangled vineyards—all within a circuit of five or six miles.

One or two uninhabited little islands, “that seem to have strayed from the continent and lost their way,” dot the sea between the pleasant penal settlement and Gozo, which is also a claimant for the doubtful honour of Calypso’s Isle. Narrow straits separate it from the rock, the “inhabited quarry,” called Malta, of which Valetta is the port. The capital is a cross between a Spanish and an Eastern town; most of its streets are flights of steps.

Although the climate is delightful, it is extremely warm, and there is usually a glare of heat about the place, owing to its rocky nature and limited amount of tree-shade. “All Malta,” writes Tallack,84 “seems to be light yellow—light yellow rocks, light yellow fortifications, light yellow stone walls, light yellow flat-topped houses, light yellow palaces, light yellow roads and streets.” Stones and stone walls are the chief and conspicuous objects in a Maltese landscape; and for good reason, for the very limited soil is propped up and kept in bounds by them on the hills. With the scanty depth of earth the vegetation between the said stone walls is wonderful. The green bushy carob and prickly cactus are [pg 99]to be seen; but in the immediate neighbourhood of Malta few trees, only an occasional and solitary palm. Over all, the bright blue sky; around, the deep blue sea. You must not say anything to a Maltese against it; with him it is “Flor del Mondo”—the “Flower of the World.”

The poorest natives live in capital stone houses, many of them with façades and fronts which would be considered ornamental in an English town. The terraced roofs make up to its cooped inhabitants the space lost by building. There are five or six hundred promenadable roofs in the city. Tallack says that the island generally is the abode of industry and contentment. Expenses are high, except as regards the purchase of fruits, including the famed “blood,” “Mandolin” (sometimes called quite as correctly “Mandarin”) oranges, and Japan medlars, and Marsala wine from Sicily. The natives live simply, as a rule, but the officers and foreign residents commonly do not; and it is true here, as Ford says of the military gentlemen at Gibraltar, that their faces often look somewhat redder than their jackets in consequence. As in India, many unwisely adopt the high living of their class, in a climate where a cool and temperate diet is indispensable.

The four great characteristics of Malta are soldiers, priests, goats, and bells—the latter not being confined to the necks of the goats, but jangling at all hours from the many church towers. The goats pervade everywhere; there is scarcely any cow’s milk to be obtained in Malta. They may often be seen with sheep, as in the patriarchal days of yore, following their owners, in accordance with the pastoral allusions of the Bible.

What nature commenced in Valetta, art has finished. It has a land-locked harbour—really several, running into each other—surrounded by high fortified walls, above which rise houses, and other fortifications above them. There are galleries in the rock following the Gibraltar precedent, and batteries bristling with guns; barracks, magazines, large docks, foundry, lathe-rooms, and a bakery for the use of the “United” Service.

To every visitor the gorgeous church of San Giovanni, with its vaulted roof of gilded arabesque, its crimson hangings, and carved pulpits, is a great object of interest. Its floor resembles one grand escutcheon—a mosaic of knightly tombs, recalling days when Malta was a harbour of saintly refuge and princely hospitality for crusaders and pilgrims of the cross. An inner chapel is guarded by massive silver rails, saved from the French by the cunning of a priest, who, on their approach, painted them wood-colour, and their real nature was never suspected. But amid all the splendour of the venerable pile, its proudest possession to-day is a bunch of old rusty keys—the keys of Rhodes, the keys of the Knights of St. John. What history is not locked up with those keys! There is hardly a country in Europe, Asia, or Northern Africa, the history of which has not been more or less entangled with that of these Knights of the Cross, who, driven by the conquering Crescent from Jerusalem, took refuge successively in Cyprus, Rhodes, Candia, Messina, and finally, Malta.

The island had an important place in history and commerce long ere that period. The Phœnicians held it 700 years; the Greeks a century and a half. The Romans retained it for as long a period as the Phœnicians; and after being ravaged by Goths and Vandals, it was for three and a half centuries an appanage of the crown of Byzantium. Next came the Arabs, who were succeeded by the Normans, and soon after it had become a German possession, Charles V. presented it to the homeless knights.

[pg 101]

In the middle of the eleventh century, some merchants of the then flourishing commercial city of Amalfi obtained permission to erect three hostelries or hospitals in the Holy City, for the relief of poor and invalided pilgrims. On the taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, the position and prospects of the hospitals of St. John became greatly improved. The organisation became a recognised religious order, vowing poverty, obedience, and chastity. Its members were distinguished by a white cross of four double points worn on a black robe, of the form commonly to be met in the Maltese filigree jewellery of to-day, often to be noted in our West End and other shops. Branch hospitals spread all over Europe with the same admirable objects, and the order received constant acquisitions of property. Under the guidance of Raymond du Puy, military service was added to the other vows, and the monks became the White Cross Knights.85 Henceforth each seat of the order became a military garrison in addition to a hospice, and each knight held himself in readiness to aid with his arms his distressed brethren against the infidel.

Slowly but surely the Crescent overshadowed the Cross: the Holy City had to be evacuated. The pious knights, after wandering first to Cyprus, settled quietly in Rhodes, where for two centuries they maintained a sturdy resistance against the Turks. At the first siege, in 1480, a handful of the former resisted 70,000 of the latter. The bombardment [pg 102]was so terrific that it is stated to have been heard a hundred miles off, and for this extraordinary defence, Peter d’Aubusson, Grand Master, was made a cardinal by the Pope. At the second siege, L’Isle Adam, with 600 Knights of St. John, and 4,500 troops, resisted and long repelled a force of 200,000 infidels. But the odds were too great against him, and after a brave but hopeless defence, which won admiration even from the enemy, L’Isle Adam capitulated. After personal visits to the Pope, and to the Courts of Madrid, Paris, and London, the then almost valueless Rock of Malta was bestowed on the knights in 1530. Its noble harbours, and deep and sheltered inlets were then as now, but there was only one little town, called Burgo—Valetta as yet was not.


In London, L’Isle Adam lodged at the provincial hostelry of the order, St. John’s Clerkenwell, still a house of entertainment, though of a very different kind. Henry VIII. received him with apparent cordiality, and shortly afterwards confiscated all the English possessions of the knights! This was but a trifle among their troubles, for in 1565 they were again besieged in Malta. Their military knowledge, and especially that of their leader, the great La Valette, had enabled them to already strongly fortify the place. La Valette had 500 knights and 9,000 soldiers, while the Turks had 30,000 fighting men, conveyed thither in 200 galleys, and were afterwards reinforced by the Algerine corsair, Drugot, and his men. A desperate resistance was made: 2,000 Turks were killed in a single day. The latter took the fortress of St. Elmo, with the loss of Drugot—just before the terror of the Mediterranean—who was killed by a splinter of rock, knocked off by a cannon-ball in its flight. The garrison was at length reduced to sixty men, who attended their devotions in the chapel for the last time. Many of these were fearfully wounded, but even then the old spirit asserted itself, and they desired to be carried to the ramparts in chairs to lay down their lives in obedience to the vows of their order. Next day few of that devoted sixty were alive, a very small number escaping by swimming. The attempts on the other forts, St. Michael and St. Angelo, were foiled. Into the Eastern Harbour (now the Grand), Mustapha ordered the dead bodies of the Christian knights and soldiers to be cast. They were spread out on boards in the form of a cross, and floated by the tide across to the besieged with La Valette, where they were sorrowfully taken up and interred. In exasperated retaliation, La Valette fired the heads of the Turkish slain back at their former companions—a horrible episode of a fearful struggle. St. Elmo alone cost the lives of 8,000 Turks, 150 Knights of St. John, and 1,300 of their men. After many false promises of assistance, and months of terrible suspense and suffering, an auxiliary force arrived from Sicily, and the Turks retired. Out of the 9,500 soldiers and knights who were originally with La Valette, only 500 were alive at the termination of the great siege.

This memorable defence was the last of the special exploits of the White Cross Knights, and they rested on their laurels, the order becoming wealthy, luxurious, and not a little demoralised. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the confiscation of their property in France naturally followed; for they had been helping Louis XVI. with their revenues just previously. Nine years later, Napoleon managed, by skilful intrigues, to obtain quiet possession of Malta. But he could not keep it, for after two years of blockade it was won by Great Britain, and she has held it ever since. At the Congress of [pg 103]Vienna in 1814, our possession was formally ratified. We hold it on as good a title as we do Gibraltar, by rights acknowledged at the signing of the Peace Treaty.86

The supposed scene of St. Paul’s shipwreck is constantly visited, and although some have doubted whether the Melita of St. Luke is not the island of the same name in the Adriatic, tradition and probability point to Malta.87 At St. Paul’s Bay, there is a small chapel over the cave, with a statue of the apostle in marble, with the viper in his hand. Colonel Shaw tells us that the priest who shows the cave recommended him to take a piece of the stone as a specific against shipwreck, saying, “Take away as much as you please, you will not diminish the cave.” Some of the priests aver that there is a miraculous renovation, and that it cannot diminish! and when they tell you that under one of the Maltese churches the great apostle did penance in a cell for three months, it looks still more as though they are drawing on their imagination.


The great catacombs at Citta Vecchia, Malta, were constructed by the natives as places of refuge from the Turks. They consist of whole streets, with houses and sleeping-places. They were later used for tombs. There are other remains on the island of much greater antiquity, Hagiar Chem (the stones of veneration) date from Phœnician days. These include a temple resembling Stonehenge, on a smaller scale, where there are seven statuettes with a grotesque rotundity of outline, the seven Phœnician Cabiri (deities; “great and powerful ones”). There are also seven divisions to the temple, which is mentioned by Herodotus and other ancient writers.

To come back to our own time. In 1808, the following remarkable event occurred at Malta. One Froberg had raised a levy of Greeks for the British Government, by telling the individual members that they should all be corporals, generals, or what not. It was to be all officers, like some other regiments of which we have heard. The men soon found out the deceit, but drilled admirably until the brutality of the adjutant caused them to mutiny. Malta was at the time thinly garrisoned, and their particular fort had only one small detachment of troops and thirty artillerymen. The mutineers made the officer of artillery point his guns on the town. He, however, managed that the shots should fall harmlessly. Another officer escaped up a chimney, and the Greeks coming into the same house, nearly suffocated him by lighting a large fire below. Troops arrived; the mutineers were secured, and a court-martial condemned thirty, half of whom were to be hanged, and the rest shot. Only five could be hanged at a time: the first five were therefore suspended by the five who came next, and so on. Of the men who [pg 104]were to be shot one ran away, and got over a parapet, where he was afterwards shot: another is thought to have escaped.

Colonel Shaw tells the story of a soldier of the Sicilian regiment who had frequently deserted. He was condemned to be shot. A priest who visited him in prison left behind him—purposely, there can be little doubt—his iron crucifix. The soldier used it to scrape away the mortar, and moved stone after stone, until he got into an adjoining cell, where he found himself no better off, as it was locked. The same process was repeated, until he at last reached a cell of which the door was open, entered the passage and climbed a wall, beneath which a sentry was posted. Fortunately for the prisoner, a regular Maltese shower was pouring down, and the guard remained in his box. The fugitive next reached a high gate, where it seemed he must be foiled. Not at all! He went back, got his blanket, cut it into strips, made a rope, and by its means climbed the gate, dropped into a fosse, from which he reached and swam across the harbour. He lived concealed for some time among the natives, but venturing one day into the town, was recognised and captured. The governor considered that after all this he deserved his life, and changed his sentence to transportation.

Before leaving Malta, which, with its docks, navy-yard, and splendid harbours, fortifications, batteries, and magazines, is such an important naval and military station, we may briefly mention the revenue derived, and expenditure incurred by the Government in connection with it, as both are considerable. The revenue derived from imposts of the usual nature, harbour dues, &c., is about £175,000. The military expenditure is about £366,000, which includes the expenses connected with the detachments of artillery, and the Royal Maltese Fencibles, a native regiment of 600 to 700 men. The expenses of the Royal Navy would, of course, be incurred somewhere, if not in Malta, and have therefore nothing to do with the matter.

Our next points of destination are Alexandria and Suez, both intimately identified with British interests. On our way we shall be passing through or near the same waters as did St. Paul when in the custody of the centurion Julius, “one of Augustus’ band.” It was in “a ship of Alexandria” that he was a passenger on that disastrous voyage. At Fair Havens, Crete (or Candia), we know that the Apostle admonished them to stay, for “sailing was now dangerous,” but his advice was disregarded, and “when the south wind blew softly” the master and owner of the vessel feared nothing, but

“The flattering wind that late with promis’d aid,
From Candia’s Bay th’ unwilling ship betray’d,
No longer fawns beneath the fair disguise,”

and “not long after, there arose against it a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon,” before which the ship drave under bare poles. We know that she had to be undergirded; cables being passed under her hull to keep her from parting; and lightened, by throwing the freight overboard. For fourteen days the ship was driven hither and thither, till at length she was wrecked off Melita. Sudden gales, whirlwinds, and typhoons are not uncommon in the Mediterranean; albeit soft winds and calm seas alternate with them.

On the 22nd May, 1798, Nelson, while in the Gulf of Genoa, was assailed by a [pg 105]sudden storm, which carried away all the Vanguard’s topmasts, washed one man overboard, killed an unfortunate middy and a seaman on board, and wounded others. This ship, which acted her name at the Nile only two months afterwards, rolled and laboured so dreadfully, and was in such distress, that Nelson himself declared, “The meanest frigate out of France would have been an unwelcome guest!” An officer relates that in the middle of the Gulf of Lyons, Lord Collingwood’s vessel, the Ocean, a roomy 98-gun ship, was struck by a sea in the middle of a gale, that threw her on her beam-ends, [pg 106]so much so that the men on the Royal Sovereign called out, “The admiral’s gone down!” She righted again, however, but was terribly disabled. Lord Collingwood said afterwards that the heavy guns were suspended almost vertically, and that “he thought the topsides were actually parting from the lower frame of the ship.” Admiral Smyth, in his important physical, hydrographical, and nautical work on the Mediterranean, relates that in 1812, when on the Rodney, a new 74-gun ship, she was so torn by the united violence of wind and wave, that the admiral had to send her to England, although sadly in need of ships. He adds, however, that noble as was her appearance on the waters, “she was one of that hastily-built batch of men-of-war sarcastically termed the Forty Thieves!”

Many are the varieties of winds accompanied by special characteristics met in the Mediterranean, and, indeed, sudden squalls are common enough in all usually calm waters. The writer well remembers such an incident in the beautiful Bay of San Francisco, California. He had, with friends, started in the morning from the gay city of “Frisco” on a deep-sea fishing excursion. The vessel was what is technically known as a “plunger,” a strongly-built two-masted boat, with deck and cabins, used in the bay and coast trade of the North Pacific, or for fishing purposes. When the party, consisting of five ladies, four gentlemen, the master and two men, started in the morning, there was scarcely a breath of wind or a ripple on the water, and oars as large as those used on a barge were employed to propel the vessel.

“The sea was bright, and the bark rode well,”

and at length the desired haven, a sheltered nook, with fine cliffs, seaweed-covered rocks, and deep, clear water, was reached, and a dozen strong lines, with heavy sinkers, put out. The sea was bountiful: in a couple of hours enough fish were caught to furnish a capital lunch for all. A camp was formed on the beach, a large fire of driftwood lighted, and sundry hampers unpacked, from which the necks of bottles had protruded suspiciously. It was an al fresco picnic by the seaside. The sky was blue, the weather was delightful, “and all went merry as a marriage bell.” Later, while some wandered to a distance and bathed and swam, others clambered over the hills, among the flowers and waving wild oats for which the country is celebrated. Then, as evening drew on, preparations were made for a return to the city, and “All aboard” was the signal, for the wind was freshening. All remained on deck, for there was an abundance of overcoats and rugs, and shortly the passing schooners and yachts could hear the strains of minstrelsy from a not altogether incompetent choir, several of the ladies on board being musically inclined. The sea gives rise to thoughts of the sea. The reader may be sure that “The Bay of Biscay,” “The Larboard Watch,” “The Minute Gun,” and “What are the Wild Waves saying?” came among a score of others. Meantime, the wind kept freshening, but all of the number being well accustomed to the sea, heeded it not. Suddenly, in the midst of one of the gayest songs, a squall struck the vessel, and as she was carrying all sail, put her nearly on her beam-ends. So violent was the shock, that most things movable on deck, including the passengers, were thrown or slid to the lower side, many boxes and baskets going overboard. These would have been trifles, but alas, there is something sadder to relate. As one of the men was helping to take in sail, a great sea dashed over the vessel and threw him overboard, and for a few seconds only, his stalwart form was [pg 107]seen struggling in the waves. Ropes were thrown to, or rather towards him, an empty barrel and a coop pitched overboard, but it was hopeless—

“That cry is ‘Help!’ where no help can come,
For the White Squall rides on the surging wave,”

and he disappeared in an “ocean grave,” amid the mingled foam and driving spray. No more songs then; all gaiety was quenched, and many a tear-drop clouded eyes so bright before. The vessel, under one small sail only (the jib), drove on, and in half an hour broke out of obscurity and mist, and was off the wharfs and lights of San Francisco in calm water. The same distance had occupied over four hours in the morning.

In the Mediterranean every wind has its special name. There is the searching north wind, the Grippe or Mistral, said to be one of the scourges of gay Provence—

“La Cour de Parlement, le Mistral et la Durance,
Sont les trois fléaux de la Provence.”

The north blast, a sudden wind, is called Boras, and hundreds of sailors have practically prayed, with the song,

“Cease, rude Boreas.”

The north-east biting wind is the Gregale, while the south-east, often a violent wind, is the dreaded Sirocco, bad either on sea or shore. The last which need be mentioned here, is the stifling south-west wind, the Siffante. But now we have reached the Suez Canal.


This gigantic work, so successfully completed by M. Lesseps, for ever solved the possibility of a work which up to that time had been so emphatically declared to be an impossibility. In effect, he is a conqueror. Impossible,” said the first Napoleon, n’est pas Français,” and the motto is a good one for any man or any nation, although the author of the sentence found many things impossible, including that of which we speak. M. de Lesseps has done more for peace than ever the Disturber of Europe did with war.

When M. de Lesseps88 commenced with, not the Canal, but the grand conception thereof, he had pursued twenty-nine years of first-class diplomatic service: it would have been an honourable career for most people. He gave it up from punctilios of honour; lost, at least possibly, the opportunity of great political power. He was required to endorse that which he could not possibly endorse. Lesseps had lost his chance, said many. Let us see. The man who has conquered the usually unconquerable English prejudice would certainly surmount most troubles! He has only carried out the ideas of Sesostris, Alexander, Cæsar, Amrou, the Arabian conqueror, Napoleon the Great, and Mehemet Ali. These are simply matters of history. But history, in this case, has only repeated itself in the failures, not in the successes. Lesseps has made the success; they were the failures! Let us review history, amid which you may possibly find many truths. The truth alone, as far as it may be reached, appears in this work. The Peace Society ought to endorse Lesseps. As it stands, the Peace party—well-intentioned people—ought to raise a statue to the man who has made it almost impossible for England to be involved in war, so far as the great East is concerned, for many a century to come.

[pg 108]

After all, who is the conqueror—he who kills, or he who saves, thousands?

To prove our points, it will not be necessary to recite the full history of the grandest engineering work of this century—a century replete with proud engineering works. Here it can only be given in the barest outline.

Every intelligent child on looking at the map would ask why the natural route to India was not by the Isthmus of Suez, and why a canal was not made. His schoolmaster answered, in days gone by, that there was a difference in the levels of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. That question has been answered successfully, and the difference has not ruined the Canal. Others said that it was impossible to dig a canal through the desert. It has been done! Lord Palmerston, the most serious opponent in England that Lesseps had,89 thought that France, our best ally to-day, would have too much influence in Egypt. Events, thanks to Lord Beaconsfield’s astute policy, by purchasing the Khedive’s interest, have given England the largest share among the shareholders of all nations.

It would not be interesting to follow all the troubles that Lesseps successfully combated. The idea had more than once occurred to him, when in 1852 he applied to Constantinople. The answer was that it in no way concerned the Porte. Lesseps returned to his farm at Berry, and not unlikely constructed miniature Suez Canals for irrigation, thought of camels while he improved the breed of cattle, and built houses, but not on the sand of the desert. Indeed, it was while on the roof of one of his houses, then in course of construction, that the news came to him of the then Pacha of Egypt’s death (Mehemet Ali). They had once been on familiar terms. Mehemet Ali was a terribly severe man, and seeing that his son Saïd Pacha, a son he loved, was growing fat, he had sent him to climb the masts of ships for two hours a day, to row, and walk round the walls of the city. Poor little fat boy! he used to steal round to Lesseps’ rooms, and surreptitiously obtain meals from the servants. Those surreptitious dinners did not greatly hurt the interests of the Canal, as we shall see.

Mehemet Ali had been a moderate tyrant—to speak advisedly. His son-in-law, Defderdar, known popularly as the “Scourge of God,” was his acting vicegerent. The brute once had his groom shod like a horse for having badly shod his charger. A woman of the country one day came before him, complaining of a soldier who had bought milk of her, and had refused to pay for it. “Art thou sure of it?” asked the tyrant. “Take care! they shall tear open thy stomach if no milk is found in that of the soldier.” They opened the stomach of the soldier. Milk was found in it. The poor woman was saved. But, although his successor was not everything that could be wished, he had a good heart, and was not “the terrible Turk.”

In 1854, Lesseps met Saïd Pacha in his tent on a plain between Alexandria and Lake Mareotis, a swamp in the desert. His Highness was in good humour, and understood Lesseps perfectly. A fine Arabian horse had been presented to him by Saïd Pacha a few [pg 110]days previously. After examining the plans and investigating the subject, the ruler of Egypt said, “I accept your plan. We will talk about the means of its execution during the rest of the journey. Consider the matter settled. You may rely on me.” He sent immediately for his generals, and made them sit down, repeating the previous conversation, and inviting them to give their opinion of the proposals of his friend. The impromptu counsellors were better able to pronounce on equestrian evolutions than on a vast enterprise. But Lesseps, a good horseman, had just before cleared a wall with his charger, and they, seeing how he stood with the Viceroy, gave their assent by raising their hands to their foreheads. The dinner-tray then appeared, and with one accord all plunged their spoons into the same bowl, which contained some first-class soup. Lesseps considered it, very naturally, as the most important negotiation he had ever made.


Results speak for themselves. In 1854, there was not a fly in that hideous desert. Water, sheep, fowls, and provisions of all kinds had to be carried by the explorers. When at night they opened the coops of fowls, and let the sheep run loose, they did it with confidence. They were sure that next morning, in that desolate place, the animals dare not desert the party. “When,” says Lesseps, “we struck our camp of a morning, if at the moment of departure a hen had lurked behind, pecking at the foot of a tamarisk shrub, quickly she would jump up on the back of a camel, to regain her cage.” That desert is now peopled. There are three important towns. Port Saïd had not existed before: there is now what would be called a “city,” in America, on a much smaller basis of truth: it has 12,000 people. Suez, with 15,000 people, was not much more than a village previously. Ismaïlia, half-way on the route, has 5,000 or 6,000 of population. There are other towns or villages.

A canal actually effecting a junction between the two seas viâ the Nile was made in the period of the Egyptian dynasties. It doubtless fulfilled its purpose for the passage of galleys and smaller vessels; history hardly tells us when it was rendered useless. Napoleon the First knew the importance of the undertaking, and appointed a commission of engineers to report on it. M. Lepère presented him a report on its feasibility, and Napoleon observed on it, “It is a grand work; and though I cannot execute it now, the day may come when the Turkish Government will glory in accomplishing it.” Other schemes, including those of eminent Turkish engineers, had been proposed. It remained to be accomplished in this century. The advantages gained by its construction can hardly be enumerated here. Suffice it to say that a vessel going by the Cape of Good Hope from London to Bombay travels nearly 6,000 miles over the ocean; by the Suez Canal the distance is 3,100, barely more than half the distance.

To tell the history of the financial troubles which obstructed the scheme would be tedious to the reader. At last there was an International Commission appointed, which cost the Viceroy of Egypt £12,000, and yet no single member took a farthing for his services. The names are sufficient to prove with what care it had been selected. On the part of England, Messrs. Rendel and MacClean, both eminent engineers, with, for a sufficiently good reason, Commander Hewet of the East India Company’s service, who for twenty-seven years had been making surveys in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. France gave two of her greatest engineers, Messrs. Renaud and Liessou: Austria, one [pg 111]of the greatest practical engineers in the world, M. de Negrelli; Italy, M. Paléocapa; Germany, the distinguished Privy Councillor Lentzé; Holland, the Chevalier Conrad; Spain, M. de Montesino. They reported entirely in favour of the route. A second International Congress followed. The Viceroy behaved so magnificently to the scientific gentlemen of all nations who composed the commission, that M. de Lesseps thanked him publicly for having received them almost as crowned heads. The Viceroy answered gracefully, “Are they not the crowned heads of science?”


At last the financial and political difficulties were overcome. In 1858, an office was opened in Paris, into which money flowed freely. Lesseps tells good-naturedly some little episodes which occurred. An old bald-headed priest entered, doubtless a man who had been formerly a soldier. “Oh! those English,” said he, “I am glad to be able to be revenged on them by taking shares in the Suez Canal.” Another said, “I wish to subscribe for ‘Le Chemin de Fer de l’Ile de Suède’ ” (The Island of Sweden Railway!) It was remarked to him that the scheme did not include a railway, and that Sweden is not an island. “That’s all the same to me,” he replied, “provided it be against the English, I subscribe.” Lord Palmerston, whose shade must feel uneasy in the neighbourhood of the Canal, could not have been more prejudiced. At Grenoble, a whole regiment of engineers—naturally men of intelligence and technical knowledge, clubbed together for shares. The matter was not settled by even [pg 112]the free inflow of money. The Viceroy had been so much annoyed by the opposition shown to the scheme, that it took a good deal of tact on the part of its promoter to make things run smoothly. For the first four years, Lesseps, in making the necessary international and financial arrangements, travelled 30,000 miles per annum.

At length the scheme emerged from fog to fact. The Viceroy had promised 20,000 Egyptian labourers, but in 1861 he begged to be let out of his engagement. He had to pay handsomely for the privilege. Although the men were paid higher than they had ever been before, their labour was cheap: it cost double or treble the amount to employ foreigners.

The Canal, in its course of a shade over 100 miles, passes through several salt marshes, “Les Petits Bassins des Lacs Amers,” in one of which a deposit of salt was found, seven miles long by five miles wide. It also passes through an extensive piece of water, Lake Menzaleh.

At Lake Menzaleh the banks are very slightly above the level of the Canal, and from the deck of a big steamer there is an unbounded view over a wide expanse of lake and morass studded with islets, and at times gay and brilliant with innumerable flocks of rosy pelicans, scarlet flamingoes, and snow-white spoonbills, geese, ducks, and other birds. The pelicans may be caught bodily from a boat, so clumsy are they in the water, without the expenditure of powder and shot. Indeed, the sportsman might do worse than visit the Canal, where, it is almost needless to state, the shooting is open to all. A traveller, who has recently passed through the Canal en route to India, writes that there are alligators also to be seen. The whole of the channel through Lake Menzaleh was almost entirely excavated with dredges. When it was necessary to remove some surface soil before there was water enough for the dredges to float, it was done by the natives of Lake Menzaleh, a hardy and peculiar race, quite at home in digging canals or building embankments. The following account shows their mode of proceeding:—“They place themselves in files across the channel. The men in the middle of the file have their feet and the lower part of their legs in the water. These men lean forward and take in their arms large clods of earth, which they have previously dug up below the water with a species of pickaxe called a fass, somewhat resembling a short, big hoe. The clods are passed from man to man to the bank, where other men stand with their backs turned, and their arms crossed behind them, so as to make a sort of primitive hod. As soon as each of these has had enough clods piled on his back, he walks off, bent almost double, to the further side of the bank, and there opening his arms, lets his load fall through to the ground. It is unnecessary to add that this original métier requires the absence of all clothing.”90

Into the channel thus dug the dredges were floated. One of the machines employed deserves special mention. The long couloir (duct) was an iron spout 230 feet long, five and a half wide, and two deep, by means of which a dredger working in the centre of the channel could discharge its contents beyond the bank, assisted by the water which was pumped into it. The work done by these long-spouted dredges has amounted to as much as 120,000 cubic yards a-piece of soil in a month. By all kinds of ingenious appliances invented for the special needs of the occasion, as much as 2,763,000 cubic yards of [pg 113]excavation were accomplished in a month. M. de Lesseps tells us that “were it placed in the Place Vendôme, it would fill the whole square, and rise five times higher than the surrounding houses.” It would cover the entire length and breadth of the Champs Elysées, and reach to the top of the trees on either side.


Port Saïd, which owes its very existence to the Canal, is to-day a port of considerable importance, where some of the finest steamships in the world stop. All the through [pg 114]steamers between Europe and the East—our own grand “P. & O.” (Peninsular and Oriental) line, the splendid French “Messageries,” the Austrian Lloyd’s, and dozens of excellent lines, all make a stay here of eight or ten hours. This is long enough for most travellers, as, sooth to say, the very land on which it is built had to be “made,” in other words, it was a tract of swampy desert. It has respectable streets and squares, docks, quays, churches, mosques, and hotels. The outer port is formed by two enormous breakwaters, one of which runs straight out to sea for a distance of 2,726 yards. They have lighthouses upon them, using electricity as a means of illumination. Messrs. Borel and Lavalley were the principal contractors for the work. The ingenious machinery used cost nearly two and a half million pounds (actually £2,400,000), and the monthly consumption of coal cost the Company £40,000.

The distance from Port Saïd to Suez is 100 miles. The width of the Canal, where the banks are low, is about 328 feet, and in deep cuttings 190 feet. The deep channel is marked with buoys. The mole at the Port Saïd (Mediterranean) end of the Canal stretches out into the sea for over half a mile, near the Damietta branch of the Nile. This helps to form an artificial harbour, and checks the mud deposits which might otherwise choke the entrance. It cost as much as half a million. In the Canal there are recesses—shall we call them sidings, as on a railway?—where vessels can enter and allow others to pass.

The scenery, we must confess, is generally monotonous. At Ismaïlia, however, a town has arisen where there are charming gardens. We are told that “it seems only necessary to pour the waters of the Nile on the desert to produce a soil which will grow anything to perfection.” Here the Viceroy built a temporary palace, and M. de Lesseps himself has a châlet. At Suez itself the scenery is charming. From the height, on which is placed another of the Khedive’s residences, there is a magnificent panorama in view. In the foreground is the town, harbour, roadstead, and mouth of the Canal. To the right are the mountain heights—Gebel Attákah—which hem in the Red Sea. To the left are the rosy peaks of Mount Sinai, so familiar to all Biblical students as the spot where the great Jewish Law was given by God to Moses; and between the two, the deep, deep blue of the Gulf. Near Suez are the so-called “Wells of Moses,” natural springs of rather brackish water, surrounded by tamarisks and date-palms, which help to form an oasis—a pic-nic ground—in the desert. Dean Stanley has termed the spot “the Richmond of Suez.”

Before leaving the Canal on our outward voyage, it will not be out of place to note the inauguration fête, which must have been to M. de Lesseps the proudest day of a useful life. Two weeks before that event, the engineers were for the moment baffled by a temporary obstruction—a mass of solid rock in the channel. “Go,” said the unconquerable projector, “and get powder at Cairo—powder in quantities; and then, if we can’t blow up the rock, we’ll blow up ourselves.” That rock was very soon in fragments! The spirit and bonhomie of Lesseps made everything easy, and the greatest difficulties surmountable. “From the beginning of the work,” says he, “there was not a tent-keeper who did not consider himself an agent of civilisation.” This, no doubt, was the great secret of his grand success.


The great day arrived. On the 16th of November, 1868, there were 160 vessels [pg 115]ready to pass the Canal. At the last moment that evening it was announced that an Egyptian frigate had run on one of the banks of the Canal, and was hopelessly stuck there, obstructing the passage. She could not be towed off, and the united efforts of several hundred men on the bank could not at first move her. The Viceroy even proposed to blow her up. It was only five minutes before arriving at the site of the accident that an Egyptian admiral signalled to Lesseps from a little steam-launch that the Canal was free. A procession of 130 vessels was formed, the steam yacht L’Aigle, en avant, carrying on board the Empress of the French, the Emperor of Austria, and the Viceroy. This noble-hearted Empress, who has been so long exiled in a country she has learned to love, told Lesseps at Ismaïlia that during the whole journey she had felt “as though a circle of fire were round her head,” fearing that some disaster might mar the day’s proceedings. Her pent-up feelings gave way at last; and when success was assured, she retired to her cabin, where sobs were heard by her devoted friends—sobs which did great honour to her true and patriotic heart.

The Viceroy on that occasion entertained 6,000 foreigners, a large proportion of whom were of the most distinguished kind. Men of all nationalities came to honour an enlightened ruler, and witness the opening of a grand engineering work, which had been carried through so many opposing difficulties; to applaud the man of cool head and active brain, who had a few years before been by many jeered at, snubbed, and thwarted. To suitably entertain the vast assemblage, the Viceroy had engaged 500 cooks and 1,000 servants, bringing many of them from Marseilles, Trieste, Genoa, and Leghorn.

Although the waters of the Canal are usually placid—almost sleepily calm—they are occasionally lashed up into waves by sudden storms. One such, which did some damage, occurred on December 9th, 1877.

And now, before leaving the subject, it will be right to mention a few facts of importance. The tonnage of vessels passing the Canal quadrupled in five years. As many as thirty-three vessels have been passing in one day at the same time, although this was exceptional. In 1874, the relative proportions, as regards the nationalities of tonnage, if the expression may be permitted, were as follows:—

English 222,000 tons.
French 103,000
Dutch 84,000
Austrian 63,000
Italian 50,000
Spanish 39,000
German 28,000
Various 65,000

The present tonnage passing the Canal is much greater. All the world knows how and why England acquired her present interest in the Canal, but all the world does not appreciate its value to the full extent.

Suez has special claims to the attention of the Biblical student, for near it—according to some, eighteen miles south of it—the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; 2,000,000 men, women, and children, with flocks of cattle went dryshod through the [pg 116]dividing walls of water. Holy Writ informs us that “the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.”91 The effect of wind, in both raising large masses of water and in driving them back, is well known, while there are narrow parts of the Red Sea which have been forded. In the morning “the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.” We know the sequel. The waters returned, and covered the Egyptian hosts; “there remained not so much as one of them.” “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown in the sea. * * *

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

“The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.”

[pg 117]


Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


The Red Sea and its Name—Its Ports—On to the India Station—Bombay: Island, City, Presidency—Calcutta—Ceylon, a Paradise—The China Station—Hong Kong—Macao—Canton—Capture of Commissioner Yeh—The Sea of Soup—Shanghai—JackAshore there—Luxuries in Market—Drawbacks: Earthquakes, and Sand Showers—Chinese Explanations of Earthquakes—The Roving Life of the Sailor—Compensating Advantages—Japan and its People—The Englishmen of the Pacific—Yokohama—Peculiarities of the Japanese—Off to the North.

The Red Sea separates Arabia from Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia. Its name is either derived from the animalculæ which sometimes cover parts of its surface, or, more probably, from the red and purple coral which abound in its waters. The Hebrew name signifies “the Weedy Sea,” because the corals have often plant-like forms. There are reefs of coral in the Red Sea which utterly prevent approach to certain parts of the coasts. Many of the islands which border it are of volcanic origin. On the Zeigar Islands there was an alarming eruption in 1846. England owns one of the most important of the islands, that of Perim, in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. It is a barren, black rock, but possesses a fine harbour, and commands one entrance of the Red Sea. It was occupied by Great Britain in 1799, abandoned in 1801, and re-occupied on the 11th of February, 1857. Its fortifications possess guns of sufficient calibre and power to command the Straits.


The entire circuit of the Red Sea is walled by grand mountain ranges. Some of its ports and harbours are most important places. There is Mocha, so dear to the coffee-drinker; Jiddah, the port for the holy city of Mecca, whither innumerable pilgrims repair; Hodeida, and Locheia. It was in Jiddah that, in 1858, the Moslem population rose against the Christians, and killed forty-five, including the English and French consuls. [pg 118]On the African side, besides Suez, there are the ports of Cosseir, Suakim, and Massuah. The Red Sea is deep for a partially inland sea; there is a recorded instance of soundings to 1,000 fathoms—considerably over a mile—and no bottom found.

After leaving the Red Sea, where shall we proceed? We have the choice of the India, China, or Australia Stations. Actually, to do the voyage systematically, Bombay would be the next point.

Bombay, in general terms, is three things: a city of three-quarters of a million souls; a presidency of 12,000,000 inhabitants; or an island—the island of Mambai, according to the natives, or Buon Bahia, the “good haven,” if we take the Portuguese version. The city is built on the island, which is not less than eight miles long by three broad, but the presidency extends to the mainland.

In 1509, the Portuguese visited it, and in 1530 it became theirs. In 1661, it was blindly ceded to our Charles II., as simply a part of the dowry of his bride, the Infanta Catherine. Seven years after Charles the Dissolute had obtained what is now the most valuable colonial possession of Great Britain, he ceded it to the Honourable East India Company—though, of course, for a handsome consideration.

Bombay has many advantages for the sailor. It is always accessible during the terrible south-west monsoons, and possesses an anchoring ground of fifty miles, sheltered by islands and a magnificent series of breakwaters, at the south end of which is a grand lighthouse. Its docks and dockyards cover fifty acres; ship-building is carried on extensively; and there is an immense trade in cotton, coffee, opium, spices, gums, ivory, and shawls. Of its 700,000 inhabitants, 50,000 are Parsees—Persians—descendants of the original Fire-worshippers. A large proportion of them are merchants. It may not be generally known to our readers that the late Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy—who left wealth untold, although all his days he had been a humane and charitable man, and who established in Bombay alone two fine hospitals—was a Parsee.

Calcutta, in 1700, was but a collection of petty villages, surrounding the factories or posts of the East India Company, and which were presented to that corporation by the Emperor of Delhi. They were fortified, and received the name of Fort William, in honour of the reigning king. It subsequently received the title of Calcutta, that being the name of one of the aforesaid villages. Seven years after that date, Calcutta was attacked suddenly by Surajah Dowlah, Nawab of Bengal. Abandoned by many who should have defended it, 146 English fell into the enemy’s hands, who put them into that confined and loathsome cell of which we have all read, the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Next morning but twenty-three of the number were found alive. Lord Clive, eight months later, succeeded in recapturing Calcutta, and after the subsequently famous battle of Plassey, the possessions of the East India Company greatly extended. To-day Calcutta has a “Strand” longer than that of London, and the batteries of Fort William, which, with their outworks, cover an area half a mile in diameter, and have cost £2,000,000, form the strongest fortress in India.

Across the continent by railway, and we land easily in Calcutta. It has, with its suburbs, a larger population than Bombay, but can never rival it as a port, because it is a hundred miles up the Hooghly River, and navigation is risky, although ships of 2,000 [pg 119]tons can reach it. It derives its name from Kali Ghatta, the ghaut or landing-place of the goddess Kali. Terrible cyclones have often devastated it; that in 1867 destroyed 30,000 native houses, and a very large amount of human life.


The sailor’s route would, however, take him, if bound to China or Australia, round the island of Ceylon, in which there are two harbours, Point de Galle, used as a stopping-place, a kind of “junction” for the great steamship lines, of which the splendid Peninsular and Oriental (the “P. & O.) Company, is the principal. Point de Galle is the most convenient point, but it does not possess a first-class harbour. At Trincomalee, however, there is a magnificent harbour.

Ceylon is one of the most interesting islands in the world. It is the Serendib of the “Arabian Nights,” rich in glorious scenery, equable climate, tropical vegetation, unknown quantities of gems and pearls, and many minerals. The sapphire, ruby, topaz, garnet, and amethyst abound. A sapphire was found in 1853 worth £4,000. Its coffee plantations are a source of great wealth. Palms, flowering shrubs, tree ferns, rhododendrons, as big as timber trees, clothe the island in perennial verdure. The elephant, wild boar, leopard, bear, buffalo, humped ox, deer, palm-cat and civet are common, but there are few dangerous or venomous animals. The Singhalese population, really Hindoo colonists, are effeminate and cowardly. The Kandyans, Ceylonese Highlanders, who dwell in the mountains, are a more creditable race, sturdy and manly. Then there are the Malabars, early Portuguese and Dutch settlers, with a sprinkling of all nationalities.

There, too, are the outcast Veddahs, the real wild men of the woods. With them there is no God—no worship. The Rock Veddahs live in the jungle, follow the chase, sleep in caves or in the woods, eat lizards, and consider roast monkey a prime dish. The Village Veddahs are a shade more civilised.

One reads constantly in the daily journals of the India, China, or Australian Stations, and the reader may think that they are very intelligible titles. He may be surprised to learn that the East India Station not merely includes the ports of India and Ceylon, but the whole Indian Ocean, as far south as Madagascar, and the east coast of Africa, including Zanzibar and Mozambique, where there are dockyards. The China Station includes Japan, Borneo, Sumatra, the Philippine Islands, and the coast of Kamchatka and Eastern Siberia to Bering Sea. The Australian Station includes New Zealand and New Guinea. The leading stations in China are Hong Kong, Canton, and Shanghai. Vessels bound to the port of Canton have to enter the delta of the Pearl River, the area of which is largely occupied with isles and sandbanks. There are some thirty forts on the banks. When the ship has passed the mouth of this embouchure, which forms, in general terms, a kind of triangle, the sides of which are 100 miles each in length, you can proceed either to the island of Hong Kong, an English colony, or to the old Portuguese settlement of Macao.

The name Hong Kong is a corruption of Hiang Kiang,92 which is by interpretation “Scented Stream.” Properly, the designation belongs to a small stream on the southern side of the island, where ships’ boats have long been in the habit of obtaining fine pure [pg 120]water; but now the name is given by foreigners to the whole island. The island is about nine miles in length, and has a very rugged and barren surface, consisting of rocky ranges of hills and mountains, intersected by ravines, through which streams of the purest water flow unceasingly. Victoria, Hong Kong, is the capital of the colony, and the seat of government. It extends for more than three miles east and west, part of the central grounds being occupied by military barracks and hospitals, commissariat buildings, colonial churches, post-office, and harbour-master’s depôt, all of which are overlooked by the Government-house itself, high up on the hill. Close to the sea-beach are the commercial houses, clubs, exchange, and market-places.

It was the shelter, security, and convenience offered by the harbour that induced our [pg 121]Government to select it for a British settlement; it has one of the noblest roadsteads in the world. Before the cession to England in 1841, the native population on the island did not exceed 2,000; now there are 70,000 or 80,000.

Macao (pronounced Macow) is forty miles to the westward of Hong Kong, and an agreeable place as regards its scenery and surroundings, but deficient as regards its harbour accommodation. Dr. Milne, himself a missionary resident for fourteen years in China, says, writing in 1859: “To some of the present generation of English residents in China, there can be anything but associations of a comfortable kind connected with Macao, recollecting as they must the unfriendly policy which the Portuguese on the spot pursued some sixteen or seventeen years since, and the bitterly hostile bearing which the Chinese of the settlement were encouraged to assume towards the ‘red-haired English.’ ”

Macao is a peninsula, eight miles in circuit, stretching out from a large island. The connecting piece of land is a narrow isthmus, which in native topography is called “the stalk of a water-lily.” In 1840 a low wall stretched across this isthmus, the foundation stones of which had been laid about three hundred years ago, with the acknowledged object of limiting the movements of foreigners. This was the notorious “barrier,” which, during the Chinese war of 1840-1, was used to annoy the English. As large numbers of the peasantry had to pass the “barrier gates” with provisions for the mixed population at Macao, it was a frequent manœuvre with the Chinese authorities to stop the market supplies by closing the gate, and setting over it a guard of half-starved and ravenous soldiery.


Leaving Macao for Canton, the ship passes the celebrated “Bogue Forts,” threads her course through a network of islets and mud-banks, and at last drops anchor twelve miles from the city off the island of Whampoa, where the numerous and grotesque junks, “egg boats,” “sampans,” &c., indicate a near approach to an important place. The name Canton is a European corruption of Kwang-tung, the “Broad East.” Among the Chinese it is sometimes described poetically as “the city of the genii,” “the city of grain,” and the “city of rams.” The origin of these terms is thus shown in a native legend. After the foundation of the city, which dates back 2,000 years, five genii, clothed in garments of five different colours, and riding on five rams of different colours, met on the site of Canton. Each of the rams bore in its mouth a stalk of grain having five ears, and presented them to the tenants of the soil, to whom they spake in these words:—

“May famine and death never visit you!”

Upon this the rams were immediately petrified into stone images. There is a “Temple of the Five Rams” close to one of the gates of Canton.

The river scene at Canton is most interesting. It is a floating town of huts built on rafts and on piles, with boats of every conceivable size, shape and use, lashed together. “It is,” says Dr. Milne, “an aquarium of human occupants.” Canton has probably a population of over a million. The entire circuit of city and suburbs cannot be far from ten miles.

Canton was bombarded in 1857-8 by an allied English and French force. Ten days were given to the stubborn Chinese minister, Yeh, to accede to the terms dictated by the Allies, [pg 122]and every means was taken to inform the native population of the real casus belli, and to advise them to remove from the scene of danger. Consul Parkes and Captain Hall were engaged among other colporteurs in the rather dangerous labour of distributing tracts and bills. In one of their rapid descents, Captain Hall caught a mandarin in his chair, not far from the city gate, and pasted him up in it with bills, then starting off the bearers to carry this new advertising van into the city! The Chinese crowd, always alive to a practical joke, roared with laughter. When the truce expired, more than 400 guns and mortars opened fire upon the city, great pains being taken only to injure the city walls, official Chinese residences, and hill forts. Then a force of 3,000 men was landed, and the city was between two fires. The hill-forts were soon taken, and an expedition planned and executed, chiefly to capture the native officials of high rank. Mr. Consul Parkes, with a party, burst into a yamun, an official residence, and in a few seconds Commissioner Yeh was in the hands of the English. An ambitious aide-de-camp of Yeh’s staff protested strongly that the captive was the wrong man, loudly stammering out, Me Yeh! Me Yeh!” But this attempted deceit was of no avail; the prize was safely bagged, and shortly afterwards the terms of peace were arranged. The loss of life in the assault was not over 140 British and 30 French.

Shanghai is a port which has grown up almost entirely since 1844, the date of its first occupation by foreigners for purposes of commerce. Then there were only forty-four foreign merchant ships, twenty-three foreign residents and families, one consular flag, and two Protestant missionaries. Twelve years later, there were, for six months’ returns, 249 British ships, fifty-seven American, eleven Hamburg, eleven Dutch, nine Swedish, seven Danish, six Spanish, and seven Portuguese, besides those of other nationalities. The returns for the whole year embraced 434 ships of all countries; tea exports, 76,711,659 pounds; silk, 55,537 bales.

Shanghai (“the Upper Sea”) has been written variously Canhay, Changhay, Xanghay, Zonghae, Shanhae, Shanghay, and so forth. Its proper pronunciation is as if the final syllable were “high,” not “hay.”

“Sailing towards the north of China,” says Milne, “keeping perhaps fifty or sixty miles off the coast, as the ship enters the thirtieth parallel, a stranger is startled some fine morning by coming on what looks like a shoal—perhaps a sand-bank, a reef—he knows not what. It is an expanse of coloured water, stretching out as far as the eye can reach, east, north, and west, and entirely distinct from the deep-blue sea which hitherto the vessel had been ploughing. Of course, he finds that it is the ‘Yellow Sea;’ a sea so yellow, turbid, and thick, certainly, that you might think all the pease-soup in creation, and a great deal more, had been emptied into one monster cistern.” The name is therefore appropriate, as are the designations of several others:

“The Yellow Sea, the Sea that’s Red,
The White, the Black, the one that’s Dead.”

Between the thirtieth degree of north latitude, where the group of the Choosan Islands commences, and the thirty-seventh degree, this sea of soup, this reservoir of tawny liquid, ranges, fed by three great rivers, the Tseen-Tang, the Yangtsze-Kiang, and the Hwang-Ho, the greatest of which is the second, and which contributes the larger part [pg 123]of the muddy solution held in its waters. Forty-five miles from the embouchure of the Yangtsze-Kiang, you reach the Woosung anchorage, and a few miles further the city of Shanghai, where the tributary you have been following divides into the Woosung and Whampoa branches, at the fork of which the land ceded to the British is situated. Here there is a splendid British consulate, churches, mansions, and foreign mercantile houses.

The old city was built over three centuries ago, and is encircled, as indeed are nearly all large Chinese cities and towns, by a wall twenty-four feet high and fifteen broad; it is nearly four miles in circumference. Shanghai was at one time greatly exposed to the depredations of freebooters and pirates, and partly in consequence of this the wall is plentifully provided with loop-holes, arrow-towers, and military observatories. The six great gates of the city of Shanghai have grandiloquent titles, à la Chinoise. The north gate is the “calm-sea gate;” the great east gate is that for “paying obeisance to the honourable ones;” the little east one is “the precious girdle gate;” the great south is the gate for “riding the dragon,” while another is termed “the pattern Phœnix.”

Its oldest name is Hoo. In early days the following curious mode of catching fish was adopted. Rows of bamboo stakes, joined by cords, were driven into the mud of the stream, among which, at ebb tide, the fish became entangled, and were easily caught. This mode of fishing was called hoo, and as at one time Shanghai was famous for its fishing stakes, it gained the name of the “Hoo city.” The tides rise very rapidly in the river, and sometimes give rise to alarming inundations. Lady Wortley’s description of the waters of the Mississippi apply to the river-water of Shanghai; “it looks marvellously like an enormous running stream of apothecary’s stuff, a very strong decoction of mahogany-coloured bark, with a slight dash of port wine to deepen its hue; it is a mulatto-complexioned river, there is no doubt of that, and wears the deep-tanned livery of the burnished sun.” Within and without the walls, the city is cut up by ditches and moats, which, some years ago, instead of being sources of benefit and health to the inhabitants, as they were originally intended to be, were really open sewers, breathing out effluvia and pestilence. In some respects, however, Shanghai is now better ordered as regards municipal arrangements.

The fruits of the earth are abundant at Shanghai, and “Jack ashore” may revel in delicious peaches, figs, persimmons, cherries, plums, oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, while there is a plentiful supply of fish, flesh, and fowl. Grains of all kinds, rice, and cotton are cultivated extensively; the latter gives employment at the loom for thousands. On the other hand there are drawbacks in the shape of clouds of musquitoes, flying-beetles, heavy rains, monsoons, and earthquakes. The prognostics of the latter are a highly electric state of the atmosphere, long drought, excessive heat, and what can only be described as a stagnation of all nature. Dr. Milne, reciting his experiences, says: “At the critical moment of the commotion, the earth began to rock, the beams and walls cracked like the timbers of a ship under sail, and a nausea came over one, a sea-sickness really horrible. At times, for a second or two previous to the vibration, there was heard a subterraneous growl, a noise as of a mighty rushing wind whirling about under ground.” [pg 124]The natives were terror-struck, more especially if the quake happened at night, and there would burst a mass of confused sounds, “Kew ming! Kew ming!” (“Save your lives! save your lives!”) Dogs added their yells to the medley, amid the striking of gongs and tomtoms. Next day there would be exhaustless gossip concerning upheaval and sinking of land, flames issuing from the hill-sides, and ashes cast about the country. The Chinese ideas on the subject are various. Some thought the earth had become too hot, and that it had to relieve itself by a shake, or that it was changing its place for another part of the universe. Others said that the Supreme One, to bring transgressors to their senses, thought to alarm them by a quivering of the earth. The notion most common among the lower classes is, that there are six huge sea-monsters, great fish, which support the earth, and that if any one of these move, the earth must be agitated. Superstition is rife in ascribing these earth-shakings chiefly to the remissness of the priesthood. In almost every temple there is a muh-yu—an image of a scaly wooden fish, suspended near the altar, and among the duties of the priests, it is rigidly prescribed that they keep up an everlasting tapping on it. If they become lax in their duties, the fish wriggle and shake the earth to bring the drowsy priests to a sense of their duty.

[pg 125]

A singular meteorological phenomenon often occurs at Shanghai—a fall of dust, fine, light and impalpable, sometimes black, ordinarily yellow. The sun or moon will scarcely be visible through this sand shower. The deposit of this exquisite powder is sometimes to the extent of a quarter of an inch, after a fall of a day or two; it will penetrate the closest venetian blinds; it overspreads every article of furniture in the house; finds its way into the innermost chambers and recesses. In walking about, one’s clothes are covered with dust—the face gets grimy, the mouth and throat parched; the teeth grate; the eyes, ears, and nostrils become itchy and irritable. The fall sometimes extends as far as Ningpo in the interior—also some 200 miles out at sea. Some think that it is blown all the way from the steppes of Mongolia, after having been wafted by typhoons into the upper regions of the air: others think that it comes across the seas from the Japanese volcanoes, which are constantly subject to eruptions.


The population of Shanghai, rapidly increasing, is probably about 400,000 to 450,000 souls. It swarms with professional beggars. Among the many creditable things cited by Milne regarding the Chinese, is the number of native charitable institutions in Canton, Ningpo, and Shanghai, including Foundling Hospitals, the (Shanghai) “Asylum for Outcast [pg 126]Children, retreats for poor and destitute widows, shelters for the maimed and blind, medical dispensaries, leper hospitals, vaccine establishments, almshouses, free burial societies,” and so forth. So much for the heartless Chinese.

The sailor certainly has this compensation for his hard life, that he sees the world, and visits strange countries and peoples by the dozen, privileges for which many a man tied at home by the inevitable force of circumstances would give up a great deal. What an oracle is he on his return, amid his own family circle or friends! How the youngsters in particular hang on his every word, look up at his bronzed and honest face, and wish that they could be sailors,—

“Strange countries for to see.”

How many curiosities has he not to show—from the inevitable parrot, chattering in a foreign tongue, or swearing roundly in English vernacular, to the little ugly idol brought from India, but possibly manufactured in Birmingham!93 If from China, he will probably have brought home some curious caddy, fearfully and wonderfully inlaid with dragons and impossible landscapes; an ivory pagoda, or, perhaps, one of those wonderfully-carved balls, with twenty or so more inside it, all separate and distinct, each succeeding one getting smaller and smaller. He may have with him a native oil-painting; if a portrait, stolid and hard; but if of a ship, true to the last rope, and exact in every particular. In San Francisco, where there are 14,000 or more Chinese, may be seen native paintings of vessels which could hardly be excelled by a European artist, and the cost of which for large sizes, say 3½ by 2½ feet, was only about fifteen dollars (£3). What with fans, handkerchiefs, Chinese ladies’ shoes for feet about three inches in length, lanterns, chopsticks, pipes, rice-paper drawings, books, neat and quaint little porcelain articles for presents at home, it will be odd if Jack, who has been mindful of the “old folks at home,” and the young folks too, and the “girl he left behind him,” does not become a very popular man.

And then his yarns of Chinese life! How on his first landing at a port, the natives in proffering their services hastened to assure him in “pigeon English” (“pigeon” is a native corruption of “business,” as a mixed jargon had and has to be used in trading with the lower classes) that “Me all same Englische man; me belly good man;” or “You wantee washy? me washy you?” which is simply an offer to do your laundry work;94 or “You wantee glub (grub); me sabee (know) one shop all same Englische belly good.” Or, perhaps, he has met a Chinaman accompanying a coffin home, and yet looking quite happy and jovial. Not knowing that it is a common custom to present coffins to relatives during lifetime, he inquires, “Who’s dead, John?” “No man hab die,” replies the Celestial, “no man hab die. Me makee my olo fader cumsha. Him likee too muchee, countoo my number one popa, s’pose he die, can catchee,” which freely translated is—“No [pg 127]one is dead. It is a present from me to my aged father, with which he will be much pleased. I esteem my father greatly, and it will be at his service when he dies.” How one of the common names for a foreigner, especially an Englishman, is “I say,” which derived its use simply from the Chinese hearing our sailors and soldiers frequently ejaculate the words when conversing, as for example, “I say, Bill, there’s a queer-looking pigtail!” The Chinese took it for a generic name, and would use it among themselves in the most curious way, as for example, “A red-coated I say sent me to buy a fowl;” or “Did you see a tall I say here a while ago?” The application is, however, not more curious than the title of “John” bestowed on the Chinaman by most foreigners as a generic distinction. Less flattering epithets used to be freely bestowed on us, especially in the interior, such as “foreign devil,” “red-haired devil,” &c. The phrase Hungmaou, “red-haired,” is applied to foreigners of all classes, and arose when the Dutch first opened up trade with China. A Chinese work, alluding to their arrival, says, “Their raiment was red, and their hair too. They had bluish eyes, deeply sunken in their head, and our people were quite frightened by their strange aspect.”

Jack will have to tell how many strange anomalies met his gaze. For example, in launching their junks and vessels, they are sent into the water sideways. The horseman mounts on the right side. The scholar, reciting his lesson, turns his back on his master. And if Jack, or, at all events one of his superior officers, goes to a party, he should not wear light pumps, but as thick solid shoes as he can get; white lead is used for blacking. On visits of ceremony, you should keep your hat on; and when you advance to your host, you should close your fists and shake hands with yourself. Dinners commence with sweets and fruits, and end with fish and soup. White is the funereal colour. You may see adults gravely flying kites, while the youngsters look on; shuttlecocks are battledored by the heel. Books begin at the end; the paging is at the bottom, and in reading, you proceed from right to left. The surname precedes the Christian name. The fond mother holds her babe to her nose to smell it—as she would a rose—instead of kissing it.

What yarns he will have to tell of pigtails! How the Chinese sailor lashes it round his cap at sea; how the crusty pedagogue, with no other rod of correction, will, on the spur of the moment, lash the refractory scholar with it; and how, for fun, a wag will tie two or three of his companions’ tails together, and start them off in different directions! But he will also know from his own or others’ experiences that the foreigner must not attempt practical jokes upon John Chinaman’s tail. Noli me tangere,” says Dr. Milne, “is the order of the tail, as well as of the thistle.”

Now that most of the restrictions surrounding foreigners in Japan have been removed, and that enlightened people—the Englishmen of the Pacific in enterprise and progress—have taken their proper place among the nations of the earth, visits to Japan are commonly made by even ordinary tourists making the circuit of the globe, and we shall have to touch there again in another “voyage round the world” shortly to follow. The English sailors of the Royal Navy often have an opportunity of visiting the charming islands which constitute Japan. Its English name is a corruption of Tih-punquo—Chinese for “Kingdom of the Source of the Sun.” Marco Polo was the first to bring [pg 129]to Europe intelligence of the bright isles, whose Japanese name, Nipon or Niphon, means literally “Sun-source.”

On the way to Yokohama, the great port of Japan, the voyager will encounter the monsoons, the north-east version of which brings deliciously cool air from October to March, while the south-west monsoon brings hot and weary weather. On the way Nagasaki, on the island of Kiusiu, will almost certainly be visited, which has a harbour with a very narrow entrance, with hills running down to the water’s edge, beautifully covered with luxuriant grass and low trees. The Japanese have planted batteries on either side, which would probably prevent any vessel short of a strong ironclad from getting in or out of the harbour. The city has a population at least of 150,000. There are a number of Chinese restricted to one quarter, surrounded by a high wall, in which is a heavy gate, that is securely locked every night. Their dwellings are usually mean and filthy, and compare very unfavourably with the neat, clean, matted dwellings of the Japanese. The latter despise the former; indeed, you can scarcely insult a native more than to compare him with his brother of Nankin. The Japanese term them the Nankin Sans.

The island of Niphon, on which Yokohama is situated, is about one hundred and seventy miles long by seventy broad, while Yesso is somewhat longer and narrower. Japan really became known to Europe through Fernando Mendez Pinto, a Portuguese who was shipwrecked there in 1549. Seven years later the famous Jesuit, Francis Xavier, introduced the Catholic faith, which for a long time made great progress. But a fatal mistake was made in 1580, when an embassy was sent to the Pope with presents and [pg 130]vows of allegiance. The reigning Tycoon95 had his eyes opened by this act, and saw that to profess obedience to any spiritual lord was to weaken his own power immeasurably. The priests of the old religions, too, complained bitterly of the loss of their flocks, and the Tycoon determined to crush out the Christian faith. Thousands upon thousands of converts were put to death, and the very last of them are said to have been hurled from the rock of Papenberg, at Nagasaki, into the sea. In 1600, William Adams, an English sailor on a Dutch ship, arrived in the harbour of Bungo, and speedily became a favourite with the Tycoon, who, through him, gave the English permission to establish a trading “factory” on the island of Firando. This was later on abandoned, but the Dutch East India Company continued the trade on the same island, under very severe restrictions. The fire-arms and powder on their ships were taken from them immediately on arrival, and only returned when the ships were ready for sea again.


Yokohama, the principal port, stands on a flat piece of ground, at the wide end of a valley, which runs narrowing up for several miles in the country. The site was reclaimed from a mere swamp by the energy of the Government; and there is now a fine sea-wall facing the sea, with two piers running out into it, on each of which there is a custom-house. The average Japanese in the streets is clothed in a long thin cotton robe, open in front and gathered at the waist by a cloth girdle. This constitutes the whole of his dress, save a scanty cloth tied tightly round the loins, cotton socks and wooden clogs. The elder women look hideous, but some of their ugliness is self-inflicted, as it is the fashion, when a woman becomes a wife, to draw out the hair of her eyebrows and varnish her teeth black! Their teeth are white, and they still have their eyebrows, but are too much prone to the use of chalk and vermilion on their cheeks. Every one is familiar with the Japanese stature—under the general average—for there are now a large number of the natives resident in London.

Jack will soon find out that the Japanese cuisine is most varied. Tea and sacki, or rice beer, are the only liquors used, except, of course, by travelled, Europeanised, or Americanised Japanese. They sit on the floor, squatting on their heels in a manner which tires Europeans very rapidly, although they look as comfortable as possible. The floor serves them for chair, table, bed, and writing-desk. At meals there is a small stand, about nine inches high, by seven inches square, placed before each individual, and on this is deposited a small bowl, and a variety of little dishes. Chopsticks are used to convey the food to their mouths. Their most common dishes are fish boiled with onions, and a kind of small bean, dressed with oil; fowls stewed and cooked in all ways; boiled rice. Oil, mushrooms, carrots, and various bulbous roots, are greatly used in making up their dishes. In the way of a bed in summer, they merely lie down on the mats, and put a wooden pillow under their heads; but in winter indulge in warm quilts, and have brass pans of charcoal at the feet. They are very cleanly, baths being used constantly, and the public bath-houses being open to the street. Strangely enough, however, although so particular in bodily cleanliness, they never wash their clothes, but wear them till they almost drop to [pg 131]pieces. A gentleman who arrived there in 1859, had to send his clothes to Shanghai to be washed—a journey of 1,600 miles! Since the great influx of foreigners, however, plenty of Niphons have turned laundrymen.

Their tea-gardens, like those of the Chinese, are often large and extremely ornamental, and at them one obtains a cup of genuine tea made before your eyes for one-third of a halfpenny.96


The great attraction, in a landscape point of view, outside Yokohama, is the grand Fusiyama Mountain, an extinct volcano, the great object of reverence and pride in the Japanese heart, and which in native drawings and carvings is incessantly represented. A giant, 14,000 feet high, it towers grandly to the clouds, snow-capped and streaked. It is deemed a holy and worthy deed to climb to its summit, and to pray in the numerous temples that adorn its sides. Thousands of pilgrims visit it annually. And now let us make a northward voyage.



Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


The Port of Peter and Paul—Wonderful Colouring of Kamchatka Hills—Grand Volcanoes—The Fight at Petropaulovski—A Contrast—An International Pic-nic—A Double Wedding—Bering’s Voyages—Kamchatka worthy of Further Exploration—Plover Bay—Tchuktchi Natives—Whaling—A Terrible Gale—A Novel Smoke-stack—Southward again—The Liverpool of the East—Singapore, a Paradise—New Harbour—Wharves and Shipping—Cruelties of the Coolie Trade—Junks and Prahus—The Kling-gharry Drivers—The Durian and its Devotees—Australia—Its Discovery—Botany Bay and the Convicts—The First Gold—Port Jackson—Beauty of Sydney—Port Philip and Melbourne.

Many English men-of-war have visited the interesting peninsula of Kamchatka, all included in the China station. How well the writer remembers the first time he visited Petropaulovski, the port of Peter and Paul! Entering first one of the noblest bays in the whole world—glorious Avatcha Bay—and steaming a short distance, the entrance to a capital harbour disclosed itself. In half an hour the vessel was inside a landlocked harbour, with a sand-spit protecting it from all fear of gales or sudden squalls. Behind was a highly-coloured little town, red roofs, yellow walls, and a church with burnished turrets. The hills around were autumnly frost-coloured; but not all the ideas the expression will convey to an artist could conjure up the reality. Indian yellow merging through tints of gamboge, yellow, and brown ochre to sombre brown; madder lake, brown madder, Indian red to Roman sepia; greys, bright and dull greens indefinable, and utterly indescribable, formed a mélange of colour which defied description whether by brush or pen. It was delightful; but it was puzzling. King Frost had completed at night that which autumn had done by day. Then behind rose the grand mountain of Koriatski, one of a series of great volcanoes. [pg 132]It seemed a few miles off; it was, although the wonderful clearness of the atmosphere belied the fact, some thirty miles distant. An impregnable fortress of rock, streaked and capped with snow, it defies time and man. Its smoke was constantly observed; its pure snows only hid the boiling, bubbling lava beneath.

With the exception of a few decent houses, the residences of the civil governor, captain of the port, and other officials, and a few foreign merchants, the town makes no great show. The poorer dwellings are very rough, and, indeed, are almost exclusively log cabins. A very picturesque and noticeable building is the old Greek church, which has painted red and green roofs, and a belfry full of bells, large and small, detached from the building, and only a foot or two raised above the ground. It is to be noted that the town, as it existed in Captain Clerke’s time, was built on the sand-spit. It was once a military post, but the Cossack soldiers have been removed to the Amoor.

There are two monuments of interest in Petropaulovski; one in honour of Bering, the second to the memory of La Perouse. The former is a plain cast-iron column, railed in, while the latter is a most nondescript construction of sheet iron, and is of octagonal form. Neither of these navigators is buried in the town. Poor Bering’s remains lie on the island where he miserably perished, and which now bears his name; while of the fate of La Perouse, and his unfortunate companions, little is known.

In 1855, Petropaulovski was visited by the allied fleets, during the period of our war with Russia. They found an empty town, for the Russian Government had given up all idea of defending it. The combined fleet captured one miserable whaler, razed the batteries, and destroyed some of the government buildings. There were good and sufficient reasons why they should have done nothing. The poor little town of Saints Peter and Paul was beneath notice, as victory there could never be glorious. But a stronger reason existed in the fact, recorded in a dozen voyages, that from the days of Cook and Clerke to our own, it had always been famous for the unlimited hospitality and assistance shown to explorers and voyagers, without regard to nationality. All is not fair in war. Possibly, however, reason might be found for the havoc done, in the events of the previous year.

In August, 1854, the inhabitants of Petropaulovski had covered themselves with glory, much to their own surprise. On the 28th of the month, six English and French vessels—the President, Virago, Pique, La Fort, l’Eurydice, and l’Obligado—entered Avatcha Bay. Admiral Price reconnoitred the harbour and town, and placed the Virago in position at 2,000 yards. The Russians had two vessels, the Aurora and Dwina, to defend the harbour, and a strong chain was placed across its narrow entrance. The town was defended by seven batteries and earthworks, mounting fifty guns.

It was not difficult to silence the batteries, and they were accordingly silenced. The townspeople, with their limited knowledge of the English—those English they had always so hospitably received, and who were now doing their best to kill them—thought their hour was come, and that, if not immediately executed, they would have to languish exiles in a foreign land, far from their beautiful Kamchatka. The town was, and is, defended almost as much by nature as by art. High hills shut it in so completely, and the harbour entrance can be so easily defended, that there is really only one vulnerable point, in its rear, [pg 134]where a small valley opens out into a plot of land bordering the bay. Here it was thought desirable to land a body of men.

Accordingly, 700 marines and sailors were put ashore. The men looked forward to an easy victory, and hurriedly, in detached and straggling style, pressed forward to secure it. Alas! they had reckoned without their host—they were rushing heedlessly into the jaws of death. A number of bushes and small trees existed, and still exist, on the hill-sides surrounding this spot, and behind them were posted Cossack sharp-shooters, who fired into our men, and, either from skill or accident, picked off nearly every officer. The men, not seeing their enemy, and having lost their leaders, became panic-struck, and fell back in disorder. A retreat was sounded, but the men struggling in the bushes and underbrush (and, in truth, most of them being sailors, were out of their element on land) became much scattered, and it was generally believed that many were killed by the random shots of their companions. A number fled up a hill at the rear of the town; their foes pursued and pressed upon them, and many were killed by falling over the steep cliff in which the hill terminates.

The inhabitants, astonished at their own prowess, and knowing that they could not hold the town against a more vigorous attack, were preparing to vacate it, when the fleet weighed anchor and set sail, and no more was seen of them that year! The sudden death of our admiral is always attributed to the events of that attack, as he was known not to have been killed by a ball from the enemy.97

The writer has walked over the main battle-field, and saw cannon-balls unearthed when some men were digging gravel, which had laid there since the events of 1854. The last time he passed over it, in 1866, was when proceeding with some Russian and American friends to what might be termed an “international” pic-nic, for there were present European and Asiatic Russians, full and half-breed natives, Americans, including genuine “Yankee” New Englanders, New Yorkers, Southerners, and Californians, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, and one Italian. Chatting in a babel of tongues, the party climbed a path on the hill-side, leading to a beautiful grassy opening, overlooking the glorious bay below, which extended in all directions a dozen or fifteen miles, and on one side farther than the eye could reach. Several grand snow-covered volcanoes towered above, thirty to fifty miles off; one, of most beautiful outline, that of Vilutchinski, was on the opposite shore of Avatcha Bay.

The sky was bright and blue, and the water without a ripple; wild flowers were abundant, the air was fragrant with them, and, but for the mosquitoes (which are not confined to hot countries, but flourish in the short summer of semi-Arctic climes), it might have been considered an earthly edition of paradise! But even these pests could not worry the company much, for not merely were nearly all the men smokers, but most of the ladies also! Here the writer may remark, parenthetically, that many of the Russian ladies smoke cigarettes, and none object to gentlemen smoking at table or elsewhere. At the many dinners and suppers offered by the hospitable residents, it was customary to draw a few whiffs between the courses; and when the cloth was removed, [pg 135]the ladies, instead of retiring to another room, sat in company with the gentlemen, the larger proportion joining in the social weed. After the enjoyment of a liberal al fresco dinner, songs were in order, and it would be easier to say what were not sung than to give the list of those, in all languages, which were. Then after the songs came some games, one of them a Russian version of “hunt the slipper,” and another very like “kiss in the ring.” The writer particularly remembers the latter, for he had on that occasion the honour of kissing the Pope’s wife! This needs explanation, although the Pope was his friend. In the Greek Church the priest is “allowed to marry,” and his title, in the Russian language, is “Pope.”

And the recollection of that particular “Pope” recalls a well-remembered ceremony—that of a double wedding in the old church. During the ceremony it is customary to crown the bride and bridegroom. In this case two considerate male friends held the crowns for three-quarters of an hour over the brides’ heads, so as not to spoil the artistic arrangement of their hair and head-gear. It seems also to be the custom, when, as in the present case, the couples were in the humbler walks of life, to ask some wealthy individual to act as master of the ceremonies, who, if he accepts, has to stand all the expenses. In this case M. Phillipeus, a merchant who has many times crossed the frozen steppes of Siberia in search of valuable furs, was the victim, and he accepted the responsibility of entertaining all Petropaulovski, the officers of the splendid Russian corvette, the Variag, and those of the Telegraph Expedition, with cheerfulness and alacrity.

The coast-line of Kamchatka is extremely grand, and far behind it are magnificent volcanic peaks. The promontory which terminates in the two capes, Kamchatka and Stolbevoy, has the appearance of two islands detached from the mainland, the intervening country being low. This, a circumstance to be constantly observed on all coasts, was, perhaps, specially noticeable on this. The island of St. Lawrence, in Bering Sea, was a very prominent example. It is undeniable that the apparent gradual rise of a coast, seen from the sea as you approach it, affords a far better proof of the rotundity of the earth than the illustrations usually employed, that of a ship, which you are supposed to see by instalments, from the main-royal sail (if not from the “sky-scraper” or “moon-raker”) to the hull. The fact is, that the royal and top-gallant sails of a vessel on the utmost verge of the horizon may be, in certain lights, barely distinguishable, while the dark outline of an irregular and rock-bound coast can be seen by any one. First, maybe, appears a mountain peak towering in solitary grandeur above the coast-line, and often far behind it, then the high lands and hills, then the cliffs and low lands, and, lastly, the flats and beaches.

It was from the Kamchatka River, which enters Bering Sea near the cape of the same name, that Vitus Bering sailed on his first voyage. That navigator was a persevering and plucky Dane, who had been drawn into the service of Russia through the fame of Peter the Great, and his first expedition was directly planned by that sagacious monarch, although he did not live to carry it out. Müller, the historian of Bering’s career, says: “The Empress Catherine, as she endeavoured in all points to execute most precisely the plans of her deceased husband, in a manner began her reign with an order for the expedition to Kamchatka.” Bering had associated with him two active subordinates, [pg 136]Spanberg and Tschirikoff. They left St. Petersburg on February 5th, 1725, proceeding to the Ochotsk Sea, viâ Siberia. It is a tolerable proof of the difficulties of travel in those days, that it took them two years to transport their outfit thither. They crossed to Kamchatka, where, on the 4th of April, 1728, Müller tells us, “a boat was put upon the stocks, like the packet-boats used in the Baltic, and on the 10th of July was launched, and named the boat Gabriel.” A few days later, and she was creeping along the coast of Kamchatka and Eastern Siberia. Bering on this first voyage discovered St. Lawrence Island, and reached as far north as 67° 18′, where, finding the land trend to the westward, he came to the conclusion that he had reached the eastern extremity of Asia, and that Asia and America were distinct continents. On the first point he was not, as a matter of detail, quite correct; but the second, the important object of his mission, settled for ever the vexed question.

A second voyage was rather unsuccessful. His third expedition left Petropaulovski on the 4th of July, 1741. His little fleet became dispersed in a storm, and Bering pursued his discoveries alone. These were not unimportant, for he reached the grand chain of the rock-girt Aleutian Islands, and others nearer the mainland of America. At length the scurvy broke out in virulent form among his crew, and he attempted to return to Kamchatka. The sickness increased so much that the “two sailors who used to be at the rudder were obliged to be led in by two others who could hardly walk, and when one could sit and steer no longer, one in little better condition supplied his place. Many sails they durst not hoist, because there was nobody to lower them in case of need.” At length land appeared, and they cast anchor. A storm arose, and the ship was driven on the rocks; they cast their second anchor, and the cable snapped before it took ground. A great sea pitched the vessel bodily over the rocks, behind which they happily found quieter water. The island was barren, devoid of trees, and with little driftwood. They had to roof over gulches or ravines, to form places of refuge. On the “8th of November a beginning was made to land the sick; but some died as soon as they were brought from between decks in the open air, others during the time they were on the deck, some in the boat, and many more as soon as they were brought on shore.” On the following day the commander, Bering, himself prostrated with disease, was brought ashore, and moved about on a hand-barrow. He died a month after, in one of the little ravines, or ditches, which had been covered with a roof, and when he expired was almost covered with the sand which fell from its sides, and which he desired his men not to remove, as it gave him some little warmth. Before his remains could be finally interred they had literally to be disinterred.

The vessel, unguarded, was utterly wrecked, and their provisions lost. They subsisted mainly that fearful winter on the carcases of dead whales, which were driven ashore. In the spring the pitiful remnant of a once hardy crew managed to construct a small vessel from the wreck of their old ship, and at length succeeded in reaching Kamchatka. They then learned that Tschirikoff, Bering’s associate, had preceded them, but with the loss of thirty-one of his crew from the same fell disease which had so reduced their numbers. Bering’s name has ever since been attached to the island where he died.

There is no doubt that Kamchatka would repay a detailed exploration, which it [pg 137]has never yet received. It is a partially settled country. The Kamchatdales are a good-humoured, harmless, and semi-civilised race, and the Russian officials and settlers at the few little towns would gladly welcome the traveller. The dogs used for sledging in winter are noble animals, infinitely stronger than those of Alaska or even Greenland. The attractions for the Alpine climber cannot be overstated. The peninsula contains a chain of volcanic peaks, attaining, it is stated, in the Klutchevskoi Mountain a height of 16,000 feet. In the country immediately behind Petropaulovski are the three peaks, Koriatski, Avatcha, and Koseldskai; the first is about 12,000 feet in height, and is a conspicuous landmark for the port. A comparatively level country, covered with rank grass and underbrush, and intersected by streams, stretches very nearly to their base.


And now, before leaving the Asiatic coast, let us, as many English naval vessels have done, pay a flying visit to a still more northern harbour, that of Plover Bay, which forms the very apex of the China Station. Sailing, or steaming, through Bering Sea, it is satisfactory to know that so shallow is it that a vessel can anchor in almost [pg 138]any part of it, though hundreds of miles from land.98 Plover Bay does not derive its name from the whaling which is often pursued in its waters, although an ingenious Dutchman, of the service in which the writer was engaged at the periods of his visits, persisted in calling it “Blubber” Bay; its name is due to the visit of H.M.S. Plover in 1848-9, when engaged in the search for Sir John Franklin. The bay is a most secure haven, sheltered at the ocean end by a long spit, and walled in on three sides by rugged mountains and bare cliffs, the former composed of an infinite number of fragments of rock, split up by the action of frost. Besides many coloured lichens and mosses, there is hardly a sign of vegetation, except at one patch of country near a small inner harbour, where domesticated reindeer graze. On the spit before mentioned is a village of Tchuktchi natives; their tents are composed of hide, walrus, seal, or reindeer, with here and there a piece of old sail-cloth, obtained from the whalers, the whole patchwork covering a framework formed of the large bones of whales and walrus. The remains of underground houses are seen, but the people who used them have passed away. The present race makes no use of such houses. Their canoes are of skin, covering sometimes a wooden and sometimes a bone frame. On either side of one of these craft, which is identical with the Greenland “oomiak,” or women’s boat, it is usual to have a sealskin blown out tight, and the ends fastened to the gunwale; these serve as floats to steady the canoe. They often carry sail, and proceed safely far out to sea, even crossing Bering Straits to the American side. The natives are a hardy race; the writer has seen one of them carry the awkward burden of a carpenter’s chest, weighing two hundred pounds, without apparent exertion. One of their principal men was of considerable service to the expedition and to a party of telegraph constructors, who were left there in a wooden house made in San Francisco, and erected in a few days in this barren spot. This native, by name Naukum, was taken down into the engine-room of the telegraph steamer—G. S. Wright. He looked round carefully and thoughtfully, and then, shaking his head, said, solemnly, “Too muchee wheel; makee man too muchee think!” His curiosity on board was unappeasable. “What’s that fellow?” was his query with regard to anything, from the donkey-engine to the hencoops. Colonel Bulkley gave him a suit of mock uniform, gorgeous with buttons. One of the men remarked to him, “Why, Naukum, you’ll be a king soon!” But this magnificent prospect did not seem, judging from the way he received it, to be much to his taste. This man had been sometimes entrusted with as much as five barrels of villainous whisky for trading purposes, and he had always accounted satisfactorily to the trader for its use. The whisky sold to the natives is of the most horrible kind, scarcely superior to “coal oil” or paraffine. They appeared to understand the telegraph scheme in a general way. One explaining it, said, “S’pose lope fixy, well; one Melican man Plower Bay, make talky all same San Flancisco Melican.” Perhaps quite as lucid an explanation as you could get from an agricultural labourer or a street arab at home.

Colonel Bulkley, at his second visit to Plover Bay, caused a small house of planks [pg 139]to be constructed for Naukum, and made him many presents. A draughtsman attached to the party made a sketch, “A Dream of the Future,” which was a lively representation of the future prospects of Naukum and his family. The room was picturesque with paddles, skins, brand-new Henry rifles, preserved meat tins, &c.; and civilisation was triumphant.

Although Plover Bay is almost in sight of the Arctic Ocean, very little snow remained on the barren country round it, except on the distant mountains, or in deep ravines, where it has lain for ages. “That there snow,” said one of the sailors, pointing to such a spot, “is three hundred years old if it’s a day. Why, don’t you see the wrinkles all over the face of it?” Wrinkles and ridges are common enough in snow; but the idea of associating age with them was original.

The whalers are often very successful in and outside Plover Bay in securing their prey. Each boat is known by its own private mark—a cross, red stripes, or what not—on its sail, so that at a distance they can be distinguished from their respective vessels. When the whale is harpooned, often a long and dangerous job, and is floating dead in the water, a small flag is planted in it. After the monster is towed alongside the vessel, it is cut up into large rectangular chunks, and it is a curious and not altogether pleasant sight to witness the deck of a whaling ship covered with blubber. This can be either barreled, or the oil “tryed out” on the spot. If the latter, the blubber is cut into “mincemeat,” and chopping knives, and even mincing machines, are employed. The oil is boiled out on board, and the vessel when seen at a distance looks as if on fire. On these occasions the sailors have a feast of dough-nuts, which are cooked in boiling whale-oil, fritters of whale brain, and other dishes. The writer has tasted whale in various shapes, but although it is eatable, it is by no means luxurious food.


It was in these waters of Bering Sea and the Arctic that the Shenandoah played such havoc during the American war. In 1865 she burned thirty American whalers, taking off the officers and crews, and sending them down to San Francisco. The captain of an English whaler, the Robert Tawns, of Sydney, had warned and saved some American vessels, and was in consequence threatened by the pirate captain. The writer was an eye-witness of the results of this wanton destruction of private property. The coasts were strewed with the remains of the burned vessels, while the natives had boats, spars, &c., in numbers.

But Plover Bay has an interest attaching to it of far more importance than anything to be said about whaling or Arctic expeditions. It is more than probable that from or near that bay the wandering Tunguse, or Tchuktchi, crossed Bering Straits, and peopled America. The latter, in canoes holding fifteen or twenty persons, do it now; why not in the “long ago?” The writer has, in common with many who have visited Alaska (formerly Russian-America, before the country was purchased by the United States), remarked the almost Chinese or Japanese cast of features possessed by the coast natives of that country. Their Asiatic origin could not be doubted, and, on the other hand, Aleuts—natives of the Aleutian Islands, which stretch out in a grand chain from Alaska—who had shipped as sailors on the Russo-American Telegraph Expedition, and a Tchuktchi [pg 140]boy brought down to be educated, were constantly taken for Japanese or Chinamen in San Francisco, where there are 40,000 of the former people. Junks have on two occasions been driven across the Pacific Ocean, and have landed their crews.99 These facts occurred in 1832-3; the first on the coast near Cape Flattery, North-west America, and the second in the harbour of Oahu, Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. In the former case all the crew but two men and a boy were killed by the natives. In the latter case, however, the Sandwich Islanders treated the nine Japanese, forming the crew of the junk, with kindness, and, when they saw the strangers so much resembling them in many respects, said, “It is plain, now, we come from Asia.” How easily, then, could we account for the peopling of any island or coast in the Pacific. Whether, therefore, stress of weather obliged some unfortunate Chinamen or Japanese to people America, or whether they, or, at all events, some Northern Asiatics, took the “short sea route,” viâ Bering Straits, [pg 141]there is a very strong probability in favour of the New World having been peopled from not merely the Old World, but the Oldest World—Asia.

The Pacific Ocean generally bears itself in a manner which justifies its title. The long sweeps of its waves are far more pleasant to the sailor than the “choppy” waves of the Atlantic. But the Pacific is by no means always so, as the writer very well knows. He will not soon forget November, 1865, nor will those of his companions who still survive.

Leaving Petropaulovski on November 1st, a fortnight of what sailors term “dirty weather” culminated in a gale from the south-east. It was no “capful of wind,” but a veritable tempest, which broke over the devoted ship. At its outset, the wind was so powerful that it blew the main-boom from the ropes which held it, and it swung round with great violence [pg 142]against the “smoke-stack” (funnel) of the steamer, knocking it overboard. The guys, or chains by which it had been held upright, were snapped, and it went to the bottom. Here was a dilemma; the engines were rendered nearly useless, and a few hours later were made absolutely powerless, for the rudder became disabled, and the steering-wheel was utterly unavailable. During this period a very curious circumstance happened; the sea driving faster than the vessel—itself a log lying in the trough of the waves, which rose in mountains on all sides—acted on the screw in such a manner that in its turn it worked the engines at a greater rate than they had ever attained by steam! After much trouble the couplings were disconnected, but for several hours the jarring of the machinery revolving at lightning speed threatened to make a breach in the stern.

No one on board will soon forget the night of that great gale. The vessel, scarcely larger than a “penny” steamer, and having “guards,” or bulwarks, little higher than the rail of those boats, was engulfed in the tempestuous waters. It seemed literally to be driving under the water. Waves broke over it every few minutes; a rope had to be stretched along the deck for the sailors to hold on by, while the brave commander, Captain Marston, was literally tied to the aft bulwark, where, half frozen and half drowned, he remained at his post during an entire night. The steamer had the “house on deck,” so common in American vessels. It was divided into state-rooms, very comfortably fitted, but had doors and windows of the lightest character. At the commencement of the gale, these were literally battered to pieces by the waves dashing over the vessel; it was a matter of doubt whether the whole house might not be carried off bodily. The officers of the expedition took refuge in the small cabin aft, which had been previously the general ward-room of the vessel, where the meals were served. A great sea broke over its skylight, smashing the glass to atoms, putting out the lamps and stove, and filling momentarily the cabin with about three feet of water. A landsman would have thought his last hour had come. But the hull of the vessel was sound; the pumps were in good order, and worked steadily by a “donkey” engine in the engine-room, and the water soon disappeared. The men coiled themselves up that night amid a pile of ropes and sails, boxes, and miscellaneous matters lying on the “counter” of the vessel, i.e., that part of the stern lying immediately over the rudder. Next morning, in place of the capital breakfasts all had been enjoying—fish and game from Kamchatka, tinned fruits and meats from California, hot rolls and cakes—the steward and cook could only, with great difficulty, provide some rather shaky coffee and the regular “hard bread” (biscuit) of the ship.

The storm increased in violence; it was unsafe to venture on deck. The writer’s room-mate, M. Laborne, a genial and cultivated man of the world, who spoke seven languages fluently, sat down, and wrote a last letter to his mother, enclosing it afterwards in a bottle. “It will never reach her,” said poor Laborne, with tears dimming his eyes; “but it is all I can do.” Each tried to comfort the other, and prepare for the worst. “If we are to die, let us die like men,” said Adjutant Wright. “Come down in the engine-room,” another said, “and if we’ve got to die, let’s die decently.” The chief engineer lighted a fire on the iron floor below the boilers, and it was the only part of the vessel which was at all comfortable. Noble-hearted [pg 143]Colonel Bulkley spent his time in cheering the men, and reminding them that the sea has been proved to be an infinitely safer place than the land. No single one on board really expected to survive. Meantime, the gale was expending its rage by tearing every sail to ribbons. Rags and streamers fluttered from the yards; there was not a single piece of canvas intact. The cabins held a wreck of trunks, furniture, and crockery.

In one of the cabins several boxes of soap, in bars, had been stored. When the gale commenced to abate, some one ventured into the house on deck, when it was discovered that it was full of soapsuds, which swashed backwards and forwards through the series of rooms. The water had washed and rewashed the bars of soap till they were not thicker than sticks of sealing-wax.


At last, after a week of this horrible weather, morning broke with a sight of the sun, and moderate wind. There were spare sails on board, and the rudder could be repaired; but what could be done about the funnel? The engineer’s ingenuity came out conspicuously. He had one of the usual water-tanks brought on deck, and the two ends knocked out. Then, setting it up over the boiler, he with pieces of sheet-iron raised this square erection till it was about nine feet high, and it gave a sufficient draught to the furnaces. “Covert’s Patent Smoke-Stack” created a sensation on the safe arrival of the vessel in San Francisco, and was inspected by hundreds of visitors. The little steamer had ploughed through 10,000 miles of water that season. She was immediately taken to one of the wharfs, and entirely remodelled. The sides were slightly raised, and a ward-room and aft-cabin, handsomely fitted in yacht-fashion, took the place of the house on deck. It was roofed or decked at top in such a manner that the heaviest seas could wash over the vessel without doing the slightest injury, and she afterwards made two voyages, going over a distance of 20,000 miles. Poor old Wright! She went to the bottom at last, with all her crew and passengers, some years later, off Cape Flattery, at the entrance of the Straits of Fuca, and scarcely a vestige of her was ever found.

And now, retracing our steps en route for the Australian station, let us call at one of the most important of England’s settlements, which has been termed the Liverpool of the East. Singapore consists of an island twenty-five miles long and fifteen or so broad, lying off the south extremity of Malacca, and having a city of the same name on its southern side. The surface is very level, the highest elevation being only 520 feet. In 1818, Sir Stamford Raffles found it an island covered with virgin forests and dense jungles, with a miserable population on its creeks and rivers of fishermen and pirates. It has now a population of about 100,000, of which Chinese number more than half. In 1819 the British flag was hoisted over the new settlement; but it took five years on the part of Mr. Crawford, the diplomatic representative of Great Britain, to negotiate terms with its then owner, the Sultan of Johore, whereby for a heavy yearly payment it was, with all the islands within ten miles of the coast, given up with absolute possession to the Honourable East India Company. Since that period, its history has been one of unexampled prosperity. It is a free port, the revenue being raised entirely from imports on opium and spirits. Its prosperity as a commercial port is due to the fact that it is an entrepôt for the whole trade of the Malayan Archipelago, the Eastern Archipelago, Cochin China, [pg 144]Siam, and Java. Twelve years ago it exported over sixty-six million rupees’ worth of gambier, tin, pepper, nutmegs, coffee, tortoise-shell, rare woods, sago, tapioca, camphor, gutta-percha, and rattans. It is vastly greater now. Exclusive of innumerable native craft, 1,697 square-rigged vessels entered the port in 1864-5. It has two splendid harbours, one a sheltered roadstead near the town, with safe anchorage; the other, a land-locked harbour, three miles from the town, capable of admitting vessels of the largest draught. Splendid wharfs have been erected by the many steam-ship companies and merchants, and there are fortifications which command the harbour and roads.

“A great deal has been written about the natural beauties of Ceylon and Java,” says Mr. Cameron,100 “and some theologians, determined to give the first scene in the Mosaic narrative a local habitation, have fixed the paradise of unfallen man on one or other of those noble islands. Nor has their enthusiasm carried them to any ridiculous extreme; for the beauty of some parts of Java and Ceylon might well accord with the description given us, or rather which we are accustomed to infer, of that land from which man was driven on his first great sin.

“I have seen both Ceylon and Java, and admired in no grudging measure their many charms; but for calm placid loveliness, I should place Singapore high above them both. It is a loveliness, too, that at once strikes the eye, from whatever point we view the island, which combines all the advantages of an always beautiful and often imposing coast-line, with an endless succession of hill and dale stretching inland. The entire circumference of the island is one panorama, where the magnificent tropical forest, with its undergrowth of jungle, runs down at one place to the very water’s edge, dipping its large leaves in the glassy sea, and at another is abruptly broken by a brown rocky cliff, or a late landslip, over which the jungle has not yet had time to extend itself. Here and there, too, are scattered little green islands, set like gems on the bosom of the hushed waters, between which the excursionist, the trader, or the pirate, is wont to steer his course. ‘Eternal summer gilds these shores;’ no sooner has the blossom of one tree passed away, than that of another takes its place and sheds perfume all around. As for the foliage, that never seems to die. Perfumed isles are in many people’s minds merely fabled dreams, but they are easy of realisation here. There is scarcely a part of the island, except those few places where the original forest and jungle have been cleared away, from which at night-time, on the first breathings of the land winds, may not be felt those lovely forest perfumes, even at the distance of more than a mile from shore. These land winds—or, more properly, land airs, for they can scarcely be said to blow, but only to breathe—usually commence at ten o’clock at night, and continue within an hour or two of sunrise. They are welcomed by all—by the sailor because they speed him on either course, and by the wearied resident because of their delicious coolness.”

Another writer101 speaks with the same enthusiasm of the well-kept country roads, and approaches to the houses of residents, where one may travel for miles through unbroken avenues of fruit-trees, or beneath an over-arching canopy of evergreen palms. The long and well-kept approaches to the European dwellings never fail to win the praise of [pg 145]strangers. “In them may be discovered the same lavish profusion of overhanging foliage which we see around us on every side; besides that, there are often hedges of wild heliotrope, cropped as square as if built up of stone, and forming compact barriers of green leaves, which yet blossom with gold and purple flowers.” Behind these, broad bananas nod their bending leaves, while a choice flower-garden, a close-shaven lawn, and a croquet-ground, are not uncommonly the surroundings of the residence. If it is early morning, there is an unspeakable charm about the spot. The air is cool, even bracing; and beneath the shade of forest trees, the rich blossom of orchids are seen depending from the boughs, while songless birds twitter among the foliage, or beneath shrubs which the convolvulus has decked with a hundred variegated flowers. Here and there the slender stem of the aloe, rising from an armoury of spiked leaves, lifts its cone of white bells on high, or the deep orange pine-apple peeps out from a green belt of fleshy foliage, and breathes its bright fragrance around. The house will invariably have a spacious verandah, [pg 146]underneath which flowers in China vases, and easy chairs of all kinds, are placed. If perfect peace can steal through the senses into the soul—if it can be distilled like some subtle ether from all that is beautiful in nature—surely in such an island as this we shall find that supreme happiness which we all know to be unattainable elsewhere. Alas! even in this bright spot, unalloyed bliss cannot be expected. The temperature is very high, showing an average in the shade, all the year round, of between 85° and 95° Fahr. Prickly heat, and many other disorders, are caused by it on the European constitution.


The old Strait of Singhapura, that lies between the island of Singapore and the mainland of Johore, is a narrow tortuous passage, for many centuries the only thoroughfare for ships passing to the eastward of Malacca. Not many years ago, where charming bungalows, the residences of the merchants, are built among the ever verdant foliage, it was but the home of hordes of piratical marauders, who carried on their depredations with a high hand, sometimes adventuring on distant voyages in fleets of forty or fifty prahus. Indeed, it is stated, in the old Malay annals, that for nearly two hundred years the entire population of Singapore and the surrounding islands and coasts of Johore subsisted on fishing and pirating; the former only being resorted to when the prevailing monsoon was too strong to admit of the successful prosecution of the latter. Single cases of piracy sometimes occur now; but it has been nearly stopped. Of the numberless vessels and boats which give life to the waters of the old strait, nearly all have honest work to do—fishing, timber carrying, or otherwise trading. “A very extraordinary flotilla,” says Mr. Cameron, “of a rather nondescript character may be often seen in this part of the strait at certain seasons of the year. These are huge rafts of unsawn, newly-cut timber; they are generally 500 or 600 feet long, and sixty or seventy broad, the logs being skilfully laid together, and carefully bound by strong rattan-rope, each raft often containing 2,000 logs. They have always one or two attap-houses built upon them, and carry crews of twenty or twenty-five men, the married men taking their wives and children with them. The timber composing them is generally cut many miles away, in some creek or river on the mainland.” They sometimes have sails. They will irresistibly remind the traveller of those picturesque rafts on the Rhine, on which there are cabins, with the smoke curling from their stove-pipes, and women, children, and dogs, the men with long sweeps keeping the valuable floating freight in the current. Many a German, now in England or America, made his first trip through the Fatherland to its coast on a Rhine raft.

The sailor generally makes his first acquaintance with the island of Singapore by entering through New Harbour, and the scenery is said to be almost unsurpassed by anything in the world. The steamer enters between the large island and a cluster of islets, standing high out of the water with rocky banks, and covered to their summits by rich green jungle, with here and there a few forest trees towering above it high in the air. Under the vessel’s keel, too, as she passes slowly over the shoaler patches of the entrance, may be seen beautiful beds of coral, which, in their variegated colours and fantastic shapes, vie with the scenery above. The Peninsular and Oriental Steamers’ wharfs are situated at the head of a small bay, with the island of Pulo Brani in front. They have a frontage of 1,200 feet, and coal sheds built of brick, and tile-roofed; they often [pg 147]contain 20,000 tons of coal. Including some premises in Singapore itself, some £70,000 or £80,000 have been expended on their station—a tolerable proof of the commercial importance of the place. Two other companies have extensive wharfs also. The passengers land here, and drive up to the city, a distance of some three miles. Those who remain on board, and “Jack” is likely to be of the number, for the first few days after arrival, find entertainment in the feats of swarms of small Malay boys, who immediately surround the vessel in toy boats just big enough to float them, and induce the passengers to throw small coins into the water, for which they dive to the bottom, and generally succeed in recovering. Almost all the ships visiting Singapore have their bottoms examined, and some have had as many as twenty or thirty sheets of copper put on by Malay divers. One man will put on as many as two sheets in an hour, going down a dozen or more times. There are now extensive docks at and around New Harbour.

On rounding the eastern exit of New Harbour, the shipping and harbour of Singapore at once burst on the view, with the white walls of the houses, and the dark verdure of the shrubbery of the town nearly hidden by the network of spars and rigging that intervenes. The splendid boats of the French Messageries, and our own Peninsular and Oriental lines, the opium steamers of the great firm of Messrs. Jardine, of China, and Messrs. Cama, of Bombay; and the beautifully-modelled American or English clippers, which have taken the place of the box-shaped, heavy-rigged East Indiamen of days of yore, with men-of-war of all nations, help to make a noble sight. This is only part of the scene, for interspersed are huge Chinese junks of all sizes, ranging up to 600 or 700 tons measurement. The sampans, or two-oared Chinese boats, used to convey passengers ashore, are identical in shape. All have alike the square bow and the broad flat stern, and from the largest to the smallest, on what in a British vessel would be called her “head-boards,” all have two eyes embossed and painted, glaring out over the water. John Chinaman’s explanation of this custom is, that if “no got eyes, no can see.” During the south-west monsoon they are in Singapore by scores, and of all colours, red, green, black, or yellow; these are said to be the badge of the particular province to which they belong. Ornamental painting and carving is confined principally to the high stern, which generally bears some fantastic figuring, conspicuous in which can invariably be traced the outlines of a spread eagle, not unlike that on an American dollar. Did “spread-eagleism” as well as population first reach America from China?

“It is difficult,” says Mr. Cameron, “while looking at these junks, to imagine how they can manage in a seaway; and yet at times they must encounter the heaviest weather along the Chinese coast in the northern latitudes. It is true that when they encounter a gale they generally run before it; but yet in a typhoon this would be of little avail to ease a ship. There is no doubt they must possess some good qualities, and, probably, speed, with a fair wind in a smooth sea, is one of them. Not many years ago a boat-builder in Singapore bought one of the common sampans used by the coolie boatmen, which are exactly the same shape as the junks, and rigged her like an English cutter, giving her a false keel, and shifting weather-board, and, strange to say, won with her every race that he tried.”

Passing the junks at night, a strange spectacle may be observed. Amid the beating [pg 148]of gongs, jangling of bells, and discordant shouts, the nightly religious ceremonies of the sailors are performed. Lanterns are swinging, torches flaring, and gilt paper burning, while quantities of food are scattered in the sea as an offering of their worship. Many of those junks, could they but speak, might reveal a story, gentle reader—

“A tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul.”


The chief trade of not a few has been, and still is, the traffic of human freight; and it is, unfortunately, only too lucrative. Large numbers of junks leave China for the islands annually packed with men, picked up, impressed, or lured on board, and kept there till the gambier and pepper planters purchase them, and hurry them off to the interior. It is not so much that they usually have to complain of cruelty, or even an unreasonably long term of servitude; their real danger is in the overcrowding of the vessels that bring them. The men cost nothing, except a meagre allowance of rice, and the more the shipper can crowd into his vessel the greater must be his profit. “It would,” says the writer just quoted, “be a better speculation for the trader whose junk could only carry properly 300 men, to take on board 600 men, and lose 250 on the way down, than it would be for him to start with his legitimate number, and land them all safely; for in the first case, he would bring 350 men to market, and in the other only 300. That this process of reasoning is actually put in practice by the Chinese, there was not long ago ample and very mournful evidence to prove. Two of these junks had arrived in the harbour of Singapore, and had remained unnoticed for about a week, during which the owners had bargained for the engagement of most of their cargo. At this time two dead bodies [pg 149]were found floating in the harbour; an inquest was held, and it then transpired that one of these two junks on the way down from China had lost 250 men out of 600, and the other 200 out of 400.”


The Malay prahus are the craft of the inhabitants of the straits, and are something like the Chinese junks, though never so large as the largest of the latter, rarely exceeding fifty or sixty tons burden. They have one mast, a tripod made of three bamboos, two or three feet apart at the deck, and tapering up to a point at the top. Across two of the bamboos smaller pieces of the same wood are lashed, making the mast thus act as a shroud or ladder also. They carry a large lug-sail of coarse grass-cloth, having a yard both at top and bottom. The curious part of them is the top hamper about the stem. With the deck three feet out of the water forward, the top of the housing is fifteen or more feet high. They are steered with two rudders, one on either quarter. In addition to the ships and native craft, are hundreds of small boats of all descriptions constantly moving about with fruits, provisions, birds, monkeys, shells, and corals for sale. The sailor [pg 150]has a splendid chance of securing, on merely nominal terms, the inevitable parrot, a funny little Jocko, or some lovely corals, of all hues, green, purple, pink, mauve, blue, and in shape often resembling flowers and shrubbery. A whole boat-load of the latter may be obtained for a dollar and a half or a couple of dollars.


Singapore has a frontage of three miles, and has fine Government buildings, court-house, town-hall, clubs, institutes, masonic lodge, theatre, and the grandest English cathedral in Asia—that of St. Andrew’s. In Commercial Square, the business centre of Singapore, all nationalities seem to be represented. Here, too, are the Kling gharry-drivers, having active little ponies and neat conveyances. Jack ashore will be pestered with their applications. “These Klings,” says Mr. Thomson, “seldom, if ever, resort to blows; but their language leaves nothing for the most vindictive spirit to desire. Once, at one of the landing-places, I observed a British tar come ashore for a holiday. He was forthwith beset by a group of Kling gharry-drivers, and, finding that the strongest of British words were as nothing when pitted against the Kling vocabulary, and that no half-dozen of them would stand up like men against his huge iron fists, he seized the nearest man, and hurled him into the sea. It was the most harmless way of disposing of his enemy, who swam to a boat, and it left Jack in undisturbed and immediate possession of the field.” The naval officer will find excellent deer-hunting and wild-hog shooting to be had near the city, and tiger-hunting at a distance. Tigers, indeed, were formerly terribly destructive of native life on the island; it was said that a man per diem was sacrificed. Now, cases are more rare. For good living, Singapore can hardly be beaten; fruit in particular is abundant and cheap. Pine-apples, cocoa-nuts, bananas of thirty varieties, mangoes, custard-apples, and oranges, with many commoner fruits, abound. Then there is the mangosteen, the delicious “apple of the East,” thought by many to surpass any fruit in the world, and the durian, a fruit as big as a boy’s head, with seeds as big as walnuts enclosed in a pulpy, fruity custard. The taste for this fruit is an acquired one, and is impossible to describe, while the smell is most disgusting. So great is the longing for it, when once the taste is acquired, that the highest prices are freely offered for it, particularly by some of the rich natives. A former King of Ava spent enormous sums over it, and could hardly then satisfy his rapacious appetite. A succeeding monarch kept a special steamer at Rangoon, and when the supplies came into the city it was loaded up, and dispatched at once to the capital—500 miles up a river. The smell of the durian is so unpleasant that the fruit is never seen on the tables of the merchants or planters; it is eaten slily in corners, and out of doors.


And Jack ashore will find many other novelties in eating. Roast monkey is obtainable, although not eaten as much as formerly by the Malays. In the streets of Singapore a meal of three or four courses can be obtained for three halfpence from travelling restaurateurs, always Chinamen, who carry their little charcoal stoves and soup-pots with them. The authority principally quoted says that, contrary to received opinion, they are very clean and particular in their culinary arrangements. One must not, however, too closely examine the nature of the viands. And now let us proceed to the Australian Station, which includes New Guinea, Australia proper, and New Zealand.


This is a most important colony of Great Britain, although by no means its most [pg 151]important possession, a country as English as England itself, tempered only by a slight colonial flavour. Here Jack will find himself at home, whether in the fine streets of Melbourne, or the older and more pleasant city of Sydney, with its beautiful surroundings.

When the seventeenth century was in its early youth, that vast ocean which stretches from Asia to the Antarctic was scarcely known by navigators. The coasts of Eastern Africa, of India, and the archipelago of islands to the eastward, were partially explored; but while there was a very strong belief that a land existed in the southern hemisphere, it was an inspiration only based on probabilities. The pilots and map-makers put down, as well as they were able, the discoveries already made; must there not be some great island or continent to balance all that waste of water which they were forced to place on the southern hemisphere? Terra Australis, “the Southern Land,” was therefore in a sense discovered before its discovery, just as the late Sir Roderick Murchison predicted gold there before Hargreaves found it.102

In the year 1606, Pedro Fernando de Quiros started from Peru on a voyage of discovery to the westward. He found some important islands, to which he gave the name “Australia del Espiritu Santo,” and which are now believed to have been part of the New Hebrides group. The vessel of his second in command became separated in consequence of a storm, and by this Luis vas Torres in consequence reached New Guinea and Australia proper, besides what is now known as Torres Straits, which channel separates them. The same year a Dutch vessel coasted about the Gulf of Carpentaria, and it is to the persistent efforts of the navigators of Holland that the Australian coasts became well explored. From 1616, at intervals, till 1644, they instigated many voyages, the leading ones of which were the two made by Tasman, in the second of which he circumnavigated Australia. “New Holland” was the title long applied to the western part of Australia—sometimes, indeed, to the whole country.

The voyages of the Dutch had not that glamour of romance which so often attaches to those of the Spanish and English. They did not meet natives laden with evidences of the natural wealth of their country, and adorned by barbaric ornaments. On the contrary, the coasts of Australia did not appear prepossessing, while the natives were wretched and squalid. Could they have known of its after-destiny, England might not hold it to-day. When Dampier, sent out by William III. more than fifty years afterwards, re-discovered the west coast of Australia, he had little to record more than the number of sharks on the coast, his astonishment at the kangaroos jumping about on shore, and his disgust for the few natives he met, whom he described as “the most unpleasant-looking and worst-featured of any people” he had ever encountered.

Nearly seventy years elapsed before any other noteworthy discovery was made in regard to Australia. In Captain Cook’s first voyage, in 1768, he explored and partially surveyed the eastern part of its coasts, and discovered the inlet, to which a considerable notoriety afterwards clung, which he termed Botany Bay, on account of the luxuriant vegetation [pg 152]of its shores. Rounding the western side, he proceeded northwards to Torres Straits, near which, on a small island off the mainland, he took possession of the whole country, in the name of his sovereign, George III., christening it New South Wales. It is still called Possession Island. Captain Cook gave so favourable an account of Botany Bay on his return, that it was determined at once to form a colony, in which convict labour should be systematically employed. Accordingly, a fleet of eleven vessels, under Captain Phillip, left Portsmouth on the 13th of May, 1787, and after a tedious voyage, reached Botany Bay the following January.

Captain Phillip found the bay was not a safe anchorage, and in other respects was unsuitable. A few miles to the northward he discovered an inlet, now named Port Jackson—from the name of the seaman who discovered it—and which had been overlooked by Cook. The fleet was immediately removed thither, the convicts landed, and the British flag raised on the banks of Sydney Cove. Of the thousand individuals who formed this first nucleus of a grand colony, more than three-fourths were convicted offenders. For some time they were partially dependent on England for supplies. It had been arranged that they should not, at first, be left without sufficient provisions. The first ship sent out after the colonists had been landed for this purpose was struck by an iceberg in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope, and might not have been saved at all, but for the seamanship of the “gallant, good Riou,” who afterwards lost his life at the battle of Copenhagen. He managed to keep her afloat, and she was at length towed into Table Bay, and a portion of her stores saved. Meantime, the colonists were living “in the constant belief that they should one day perish of hunger.” Governor Phillip set a noble example by putting himself on the same rations as the [pg 153]meanest convict; and when on state occasions he was obliged to invite the officers of the colony to dine with him at the Government House, he used to intimate to the guests that “they must bring their bread along with them.” At last, in June, 1790, some stores arrived; and in the following year a second fleet of vessels came out from England, one ship of the Royal Navy and ten transports; 1,763 convicts had left England on board the latter, of whom nearly 200 died on the voyage, and many more on arrival. The number of free settlers was then, and long afterwards, naturally very small; they did not like to be so intimately and inevitably associated with convicted criminals. In 1810 the total population of Australia was about 10,000. In 1836 it had risen to 77,000, two-fifths of whom were convicts in actual bondage, while of the remainder, a large proportion had at one time been in the same condition. Governor King, one of the earlier officials of the colony, complained that “he could not make farmers out of pickpockets;” and Governor Macquarie later said that “there were only two classes of individuals in New South Wales—those who had been convicted, and those who ought to have been.” Under these discouraging circumstances, coupled with all kinds of other difficulties, the colony made slow headway. Droughts and inundations, famine or scarcity, and hostility on the part of the natives, helped seriously to retard its progress. About the period of Sir Thomas Brisbane’s administration, there was an influx of a better class of colonists, owing to the inauguration of free emigration. In 1841, transportation to New South Wales ceased. Ten years later the discovery of gold by Mr. E. H. Hargreaves (on the 12th of February, 1851) caused the first great “rush” to the colony, which influx has since continued, partly for better reasons than gold-finding—the grand chances offered for stock-raising, agricultural, horticultural, and vinicultural pursuits.

[pg 154]

To the north and south of Sydney, the coast is a nearly unbroken range of iron-bound cliffs. But as a vessel approaches the shore, a narrow entrance, between the two “Heads” of Port Jackson, as they are called, discloses itself. It is nowhere greater than a mile in width, and really does not appear so much, on account of the height of the cliffs. On entering the harbour a fine sea-lake appears in view, usually blue and calm, and in one of its charming inlets is situated the city of Sydney. “There is not,” writes Professor Hughes, “a more thoroughly English town on the face of the globe—not even in England itself—than this southern emporium of the commerce of nations. Sydney is entirely wanting in the novel and exotic aspect which belongs to foreign capitals. The emigrant lands there, and hears his own mother tongue spoken on every side; he looks around upon the busy life of its crowded streets, and he gazes on scenes exactly similar to those daily observable in the highways of London, Liverpool, Birmingham, or Manchester.... ‘Were it not,’ says Colonel Mundy, ‘for an occasional orange-tree in full bloom, or fruit in the background of some of the older cottages, or a flock of little green parrots whistling as they alight for a moment on a house-top, one might fancy himself in Brighton or Plymouth.’ ”103 Gay equipages crowd its streets, which are lined with handsome shops; the city abounds in fine public buildings. In the outskirts of the city are flour-mills of all kinds, worked by horse, water, wind, and steam; great distilleries and breweries, soap and candle works, tanneries, and woollen-mills, at the latter of which they turn out an excellent tweed cloth. Ship-building is carried on extensively around Port Jackson. Although now overshadowed by the commercial superiority of Melbourne, it has the preeminence as a port. In fact, Melbourne is not a sea-port at all, as we shall see. Vessels of large burdens can lie alongside the wharves of Sydney, and “Jack,” in the Royal Navy at least, is more likely to stop there for awhile, than ever to see Melbourne. He will find it a cheap place in most respects, for everywhere in New South Wales meat is excessively low-priced; they used formerly to throw it away, after taking off the hides and boiling out the fat, but are wiser now, and send it in tins all over the world. Such fruits as the peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, fig, grape, cherry, and orange are as plentiful as blackberries. The orangeries and orchards of New South Wales are among its sights; and in the neighbourhood of Sydney and round Port Jackson there are beautiful groves of orange-trees, which extend in some places down to the water’s edge. Individual settlers have groves which yield as many as thirty thousand dozen oranges per annum. One may there literally “sit under his own vine and fig-tree.” If a peach-stone is thrown down in almost any part of Australia where there is a little moisture, a tree will spring up, which in a few years will yield handsomely. A well-known botanist used formerly to carry with him, during extensive travels, a small bag of peach-stones to plant in suitable places, and many a wandering settler has blessed him since. Pigs were formerly often fed on peaches, as was done in California, a country much resembling Southern Australia; it is only of late years they have been utilised in both places by drying or otherwise preserving. A basket-load may be obtained in the Sydney markets during the season for a few pence. The summer heat of Sydney is about that of Naples, while its winter corresponds with that of Sicily.

[pg 155]

But are there no drawbacks to all this happy state of things? Well, yes; about the worst is a hot blast which sometimes blows from the interior, known popularly in Sydney as a “brick-fielder” or “southerly buster.” It is much like that already described, and neither the most closely-fastened doors nor windows will keep out the fearful dust-storm. “Its effect,” says Professor Hughes, “is particularly destructive of every sense of comfort; the dried and dust-besprinkled skin acquiring for the time some resemblance to parchment, and the hair feeling more like hay than any softer material.”

Should Jack or his superior officers land during the heat of autumn, he may have the opportunity of passing a novel Christmas—very completely un-English. The gayest and brightest flowers will be in bloom, and the musquitoes out in full force. “Sitting,” says a writer, “in a thorough draught, clad in a holland blouse, you may see men and boys dragging from the neighbouring bush piles of green stuff (oak-branches in full leaf and acorn, and a handsome shrub with a pink flower and pale green leaf—the ‘Christmas’ of Australia) for the decoration of churches and dwellings, and stopping every fifty yards to wipe their perspiring brows.”

Before leaving Sydney, the grand park, called “The Domain,” which stretches down to the blue water in the picturesque indentations around Port Jackson, must be mentioned. It contains several hundred acres, tastefully laid out in drives, and with public walks cut through the indigenous or planted shrubberies, and amidst the richest woodland scenery, or winding at the edge of the rocky bluffs or by the margin of the glittering waters. Adjoining this lovely spot is one of the finest botanic gardens in the world, considered by all Sydney to be a veritable Eden.

Port Phillip, like Port Jackson, is entered by a narrow passage, and immediately inside is a magnificent basin, thirty miles across in almost any direction. It is so securely sheltered that it affords an admirable anchorage for shipping. Otherwise, Melbourne, now a grand city with a population of about 300,000, would have had little chance of attaining its great commercial superiority over any city of Australia. Melbourne is situated about eight miles up the Yarra-Yarra (“flowing-flowing”) river, which flows into the head of Port Phillip. That poetically-named, but really lazy, muddy stream is only navigable for vessels of very small draught. But Melbourne has a fine country to back it. Many of the old and rich mining-districts were round Port Phillip, or on and about streams flowing into it. Wheat, maize, potatoes, vegetables and fruits in general, are greatly cultivated; and the colony of Victoria is pre-eminent for sheep-farming and cattle-runs, and the industries connected with wool, hides, tallow, and, of late, meat, which they bring forth. Melbourne itself lies rather low, and its original site, now entirely filled in, was swampy. Hence came occasional epidemics—dysentery, influenza, and so forth.

[pg 156]



Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


Across the Pacific—Approach to the Golden Gate—The Bay of San Francisco—The City—First Dinner Ashore—Cheap Luxury—San Francisco by Night—The Land of Gold, Grain, and Grapes—Incidents of the Early Days—Expensive Papers—A Lucky Sailor—Chances for English Girls—The Baby at the Play—A capital Port for Seamen—Hospitality of Californians—Victoria, Vancouver Island—The Naval Station at Esquimalt—A Delightful Place—Advice to Intending Emigrants—British Columbian Indians—Their fine Canoes—Experiences of the Writer—The Island on Fire—The Chinook Jargon—Indian Pigeon-English—North to Alaska—The Purchase of Russian America by the United States—Results—Life at Sitka—Grand Volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands—The Great Yukon River—American Trading Posts round Bering Sea.

A common course for a vessel crossing the Pacific would be from Australia or New Zealand to San Francisco, California. The mail-steamers follow this route, touching at the Fiji and Hawaiian groups of islands; and the sailor in the Royal Navy is as likely to find this route the orders of his commander as any other. If the writer, in describing the country he knows better than any other, be found somewhat enthusiastic and gushing, he will at least give reasons for his warmth. On this subject, above all others, he writes [pg 157]con amore. He spent over twelve years on the Pacific coasts of America, and out of that time about seven in the Golden State, California.

It has been said, “See Naples, and die!” The reader is recommended to see the glorious Bay of San Francisco before he makes up his mind that there is nought else worthy of note, because he has sailed on the blue waters of the most beautiful of the Mediterranean bays. How well does the writer remember his first sight of the Golden Gate, as the entrance to San Francisco Bay is poetically named! The good steamer on which he had spent some seventy-five days—which had passed over nearly the entire Atlantic, weathered the Horn, and then, with the favouring “trade-winds,” had sailed and steamed up the Pacific with one grand sweep to California, out of sight of land the whole time—was sadly in want of coals when she arrived off that coast, which a dense fog entirely hid from view. The engines were kept going slowly by means of any stray wood on board; valuable spars were sacrificed, and it was even proposed to strip the woodwork out of the steerage, which contained about two hundred men, women, and children. Guns and rockets were fired, but at first with no result, and the prospect was not cheering. But at last the welcome little pilot-boat loomed through the fog, and was soon alongside, and a healthy, jovial-looking pilot came aboard. “You can all have a good dinner to-night ashore,” said that excellent seaman to the passengers, “and the sea shan’t rob you of it.” The fog lifted as the vessel slowly steamed onwards.

On approaching the entrance to the bay, on the right cliffs and rocks are seen, with a splendid beach, where carriages and buggies are constantly passing and repassing. On the top of a rocky bluff, the Seal Rock or “Cliff” House, a popular hotel; below it, in the sea, a couple or so of rocky islets covered with sea-lions, which are protected by a law of the State. To the left, outside some miles, the Farralone Islands, with a capital lighthouse perched on the top of one of them. Entering the Golden Gate, and looking to the right again, the Fort Point Barracks and the outskirts of the city; to the left the many-coloured headlands and cliffs, on whose summits the wild oats are pale and golden in the bright sunlight. Before one, several islands—Alcatraz, bristling with guns, and covered with fortifications; Goat Island, presumably so called because on it there are no goats. Beyond, fifty miles of green water, and a forest of shipping; and a city, the history of which has no parallel on earth. Hills behind, with streets as steep as those of Malta; high land, with spires, and towers, and fine edifices innumerable; and great wharves, and slips, and docks in front of all; with steamships and steam ferry-boats constantly arriving and departing. And now the vessel anchors in the stream, and if not caring to haggle over the half-dollar—a large sum in English ears—which the boatman demands from each passenger who wishes to go ashore, the traveller finds himself in a strange land, and amid a people of whom he will learn to form the very highest estimate.

That first dinner, after the eternal bean-coffee, boiled tea, tinned meats, dried vegetables, and “salt horse” of one’s ship, in a neat restaurant, where it seems everything on earth can be obtained, will surprise most visitors. An irreproachable potage: broiled salmon (the fish is a drug, almost, on the Pacific coasts); turtle steaks, oyster plant, artichokes, and green corn; a California quail “on toast;” grand muscatel grapes, green figs, and a cooling slice of melon; Roquefort cheese, or a very good imitation of it; black coffee, and [pg 158]cigars; native wine on the table; California cognac on demand; service excellent—napkins, hot plates, flowers on the table; price moderate for the luxuries obtained, and no waiter’s fees. The visitor will mentally forgive the boatman of the morning. Has he arrived in the Promised Land, in the Paradise of bon vivants? It seems so. In the evening, he may take a stroll up Montgomery Street, and a good seat at a creditably performed opera may be obtained. Nobody knows better than the sailor and the traveller the splendid luxury of such moments, after a two or three months’ monotonous voyage. And, in good sooth, he generally abandons himself to it. He has earned it, and who shall say him nay? The same evening may be, he will go to a 300-roomed hotel—they have now one of 750 rooms—where, for three dollars (12s. 6d.), he can sup, sleep, breakfast, and dine sumptuously. He will be answered twenty questions for nothing by a civil clerk in the office of the hotel, read the papers for nothing in the reading-room, have a bath—for nothing—and find that it is not the thing to give fees to the waiters. It is a new revelation to many who have stopped before in dozens of first-class English and Continental houses.

“Seen,” says Mr. W. F. Rae,104 “as I saw it for the first time, the appearance of San Francisco is enchanting. Built on a hill-slope, up which many streets run to the top, and illumined as many of these streets were with innumerable gas-lamps, the effect was that of a huge dome ablaze with lamps arranged in lines and circles. Those who have stood in Princes Street at night, and gazed upon the Old Town and Castle of Edinburgh, can form a very correct notion of the fairy-like spectacle. Expecting to find San Francisco a city of wonders, I was not disappointed when it seemed to my eyes a city of magic—such a city as Aladdin might have ordered the genii to create in order to astonish and dazzle the spectator. I was warned by those whom personal experience of the city had taught to distinguish glitter from substance, not to expect that the reality of the morrow would fulfil the promise of the evening. Some of the parts which now appeared the most fascinating were said to be the least attractive when viewed by day. Still, the panorama was deprived of none of its glories by these whispers of well-meant warning.” The present writer has crossed the Bay in the ferry and other boats a hundred times, and on a fine night—and they have about nine months of fine nights in California—he never missed the opportunity of going forward towards the bows of the boat when it approached San Francisco. As Mr. Rae writes, “The full-orbed stars twinkling overhead are almost rivalled by the myriads of gas-lights illuminating the land.” Less than thirty years ago this city of 300,000 souls was but a mission-village, and the few inhabitants of California were mostly demoralised Mexicans, lazy half-breeds, and wretched Indians, who could almost live without work, and, as a rule, did so. Wild cattle roamed at will, and meat was to be had for the asking. The only ships which arrived were like the brig Pilgrim, described by Dana in “Two Years before the Mast,” bound to California for hides and tallow. Now, the tonnage of the shipping of all nations which enters the port of San Francisco is enormous. The discovery made by Marshall, in 1847, first brought about the revolution. “Such is the power of gold.” Now, California depends far [pg 159]more on her corn, and wool, and hides, her wine, her grapes, oranges, and other fruits, and on innumerable industries. Reader, you have eaten bread made from California wheat—it fetches a high price in Liverpool on account of its fine quality; you may have been clothed in California wool, and your boots made of her leather; more than likely you have drunk California wine, of which large quantities are shipped to Hamburgh, where they are watered and doctored for the rest of Europe, and exported under French and German names; your head may have been shampooed with California borax; and your watch-chain was probably, and some of your coin assuredly, made from the gold of the Golden State.

This is not a book on “The Land,” but two or three stories of Californian life in the early days may, however, be forgiven. The first is of a man who had just landed from a ship, and who offered a somewhat seedy-looking customer, lounging on the wharf, a dollar to carry his portmanteau. He got the reply, “I’ll give you an ounce of gold to see you carry it yourself.” The new arrival thought he had come to a splendid country, and shouldered his burden like a man, when the other, a successful gold-finder, not merely gave him his ounce—little less than £4 sterling—but treated him to a bottle of champagne, which cost another ounce. The writer can well believe the story, for he paid two and a half dollars—nearly half a guinea—for an Illustrated London News, and two dollars for a copy of Punch, in the Cariboo mines, in 1863; while a friend—now retired on a competency in England—started a little weekly newspaper, the size of a sheet of foolscap, selling it for one dollar (4s. 2d.) per copy. He was fortunately not merely a competent writer, but a practical printer. He composed his articles on paper first, and then in type; worked the press, delivered them to his subscribers, collected advertisements and payments, and no doubt would have made his own paper—if rags had not been too costly!

A sailor purchased, about the year 1849, in an auction-room, while out on a “spree,” the lots of land on which the Plaza, one of the most important business squares of San Francisco, now stands. He went off again, and after several years cruising about the world, returned to find himself a millionaire. The City Hall stands on that property; it is surrounded by offices, shops, and hotels, and very prettily planted with shrubs, grass-plots, and flowers.

There was a period when females were so scarce in California that the miners and farm-hands, ay, and farmers and proprietors too—a large number of these were old sailors—would travel any distance merely to see one.105 At this present time any decent English housemaid receives twenty dollars (£4) per month, and is “found,” while a superior servant, a first-class cook, or competent housekeeper, gets anything from thirty dollars upwards.

Theatres at San Francisco were once rude buildings of boards and canvas, and the stalls were benches. A story is told that at a performance at such a house quite a commotion was caused by the piercing squall of a healthy baby—brought in by a mother who, perhaps, had not had any amusement for a year or two, and most assuredly had no servant with whom to leave it at home—which was heard above the music. “Here, you [pg 160]fiddlers,” roared out a stalwart man in a red shirt and “gum” boots, just down from the mines, “stop that tune; I haven’t heard a baby cry for several years; it does me good to hear it.” The “one touch of nature” made that rough audience akin, and all rose to their feet, cheering the baby, and insisting that the orchestra must stop, and stop it did until the child was quieted. Then a collection was made—not of coppers and small silver, but of ounces and dollars—to present the child with something handsome as a souvenir of its success.


San Francisco, as the most important commercial emporium and port of the whole Pacific, has a particular interest to the “man of the sea.” It has societies, “homes,” and bethels for his benefit, and a fine marine hospital. At the Merchants’ Exchange he will find the latest shipping-news and quotations, while many public institutions are open to him, as to all others. Above all, he will find one of the most conscientious and kind, as well as influential, of British Consuls there—and how often the sailor abroad may need his interference, only the sailor and merchant knows—who is also one of the oldest in H.B.M. consular service. No matter his sect, it is represented; San Francisco is full of churches and chapels. If he needs instruction and literary entertainment, he will get it at the splendid Mercantile Library, or admirably-conducted Mechanics’ Institute. There is a capital “Art Association,” with hundreds of members. He will find journalism of a new type: [pg 161]“live,” vigorous, generous, and semi-occasionally vicious. The papers of San Francisco will, however, compare favourably with those of any other American city, short of New York and Boston. The sailor will find the city as advanced in all matters pertaining to modern civilisation, whether good or bad, as any he has ever visited. The naval officer will find admirable clubs, and if of the Royal Navy will most assuredly be put on the books of one or more of them for the period of his stay. He will find, too, that San Francisco hospitality is unbounded, that balls and parties are nowhere better carried out, and that the rising generation of California girls are extremely good-looking, and that the men are stalwart, fine-looking fellows, very unlike the typical bony Yankee, who, by-the-by, is getting very scarce even in his own part of the country, the New England States.

If Jack has been to China, he will recognise the truth of the fact that parts of San Francisco are Chinese as Hong Kong itself. There are Joss-houses, with a big, stolid-looking idol sitting in state, the temple gay with tinsel and china, metal-work and paint, smelling faintly of incense, and strongly of burnt paper. There are Chinese restaurants by the dozen, from the high-class dining-rooms, with balconies, flowers, small banners and inscriptions, down to the itinerant restaurateur with his charcoal-stove and soup-pot. Then there are Chinese theatres, smelling strongly of opium and tobacco, where the orchestra sits at the back of the stage, which is curtainless and devoid of scenery. The dresses of the performers are gorgeous in the extreme. When any new arrangement of properties, &c., is required on the stage, the changes are made before your eyes; as, for example, placing a table to represent a raised balcony, or piling up some boxes to form a castle, and so forth. Their dramas are often almost interminable, for they take the reign of an emperor, for example, and play it through, night after night, from his birth to his death. In details they are very literal, and hold “the mirror up to nature” fully. If the said emperor had special vices, they are displayed on the stage. The music is, to European ears, fearful and wonderful—a mixture of discordant sounds, resembling those of ungreased cart-wheels and railway-whistles, mingled with the rolling of drums and striking of gongs. Some of the streets are lined with Chinese shops, ranging from those of the merchants in tea, silks, porcelain, and lacquered ware—a dignified and polite class of men, who are often highly educated, and speak English extremely well—to those of the cigar-makers, barbers, shoemakers, and laundry-men. Half the laundry-work in San Francisco is performed by John Chinaman. There is one Chinese hotel or caravanserai, which looks as though it might at a stretch accommodate two hundred people, in which 1,200 men are packed.

The historian of the future will watch with interest the advancing or receding waves of population as they move over the surface of the globe, now surging in great waves of resistless force, now peacefully subsiding, leaving hardly a trace behind. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s steamers have brought from China to San Francisco as many as 1,200 Chinamen—and, very occasionally, of course, more than that number—on a single trip. The lowest estimate of the number of Chinese in California is 70,000, while they are spread all over the Pacific states and territories, and, indeed, in lesser numbers, all over the American continent. One finds them in New England factories, New York laundries, and Southern plantations. Their reception in San Francisco used to be with brickbats and [pg 162]other missiles, and hooting and jeering, on the part of the lower classes of the community. This is not the place to enter into a discussion on the political side of the question. Suffice it to say that they were and still are a necessity in California, where the expense of reaching the country has kept out “white” labour to an extent so considerable, that it still rules higher than in almost any part of the world. The respectable middle classes would hardly afford servants at all were it not for the Chinese. All the better classes support their claims to full legal and social rights. The Chinamen who come to San Francisco are not coolies, and a large number of them pay their own passages over. When brought over by merchants, or one of the six great Chinese companies, their passage-money is advanced, and they, of course, pay interest for the accommodation. On arrival in California, if they do not immediately go to work, they proceed to the “Company-house” of their particular province, where, in a kind of caravanserai, rough accommodations for sleeping and cooking are afforded. Hardly a better system of organisation could be adopted than that of the companies, who know exactly where each man in their debt is to be found, if he is hundreds of miles from San Francisco. Were it possible to adopt the same system in regard to emigrants from this country, thousands would be glad to avail themselves of the opportunity of proceeding to the Golden State.

One little anecdote, and the Chinese must be left to their fate. It happened in 1869. Two Chinese merchants had been invited by one of the heads of a leading steamship company to visit the theatre, where they had taken a box. The merchants, men of high standing among their countrymen, accepted. Their appearance in front of it was the signal for an outburst of ruffianism on the part of the gallery; it was the “gods” versus the celestials, and for a time the former had it all their own way. In vain Lawrence Barrett, the actor, came forward on the stage to try and appease them. He is supposed to have said that any well-conducted person had a right to his seat in the house. An excited gentleman in the dress-circle reiterated the same ideas, and was rewarded by a torrent of hisses and caterwauling. The Chinamen, alarmed that it might result in violence to them, would have retired, but a dozen gentlemen from the dress-circle and orchestra seats requested them to stay, promising them protection, and the merchants remained. They could see that all the better and more respectable part of the house wished them to remain. After twenty or more minutes of interruption, the gallery was nearly cleared by the police, and the performance allowed to proceed. And yet the very class who are so opposed to the Caucasian complain that he does not spend his money in the country where he makes it, but hoards it up for China. The story explains the actual position of the Chinaman in America to-day. The upper and middle classes, ay, and the honest mechanics who require their assistance, support their claims; the lowest scum of the population persecute, injure, and not unfrequently murder them. Many a poor John Chinaman has, as they say in America, been “found missing.”

The sailor ashore in San Francisco may likely enough have an opportunity of feeling the tremor of an earthquake. As a rule, they have been exceedingly slight, but that of the 21st October, 1868, was a serious affair. Towers and steeples swayed to and fro: tall houses trembled, badly-built wooden houses became disjointed; walls fell. Many buildings, for some time afterwards, showed the effects in cracked walls and plastering, dislocated [pg 163]doors and window-frames. A writer in the Overland Monthly, soon after the event, put the matter forcibly when recalling the great earthquake of Lisbon. He said, “Over the parts of the city where ships anchored twenty years ago, they may anchor again,” for the worst effects were confined to the “made” ground—i.e., land reclaimed from the Bay. Dwellings on the rocky hills were scarcely injured at all, reminding us of the relative fates of the man “who built his house upon a rock” and of him who placed it on the sand. Four persons only were killed on that occasion, all of them from the fall of badly-constructed walls, loose parapets, &c. The alarm in the city was great; excited people rushing wildly through the streets, and frightened horses running through the crowds.

California possesses other ports of importance, but as regards English naval interests in the Pacific, Esquimalt, Vancouver Island, B.C., which has a fine land-locked harbour of deep water, dock, and naval hospital, deserves the notice of the reader. It is often the rendezvous for seven or eight of H.M.’s vessels, from the admiral’s flag-ship to the tiniest steam gun-boat. Victoria, the capital, is three miles off, and has a pretty little harbour itself, not, however, adapted for large vessels. Formerly the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, the mainland, were separate and distinct colonies; they are now identified under the latter name. Their value never warranted the full paraphernalia of a double colonial government—two governors, colonial secretaries, treasurers, attorney-generals, &c., &c.; for these countries, charming and interesting to the tourist and artist, will only attract population slowly. The resources of British Columbia in gold, timber, coal, fisheries, &c., are considerable; but the long winters on the mainland, and the small quantity of open land, are great drawbacks. Approaching Vancouver Island from the sea, the “inside channel” is entered through the grand opening to the Straits of Fuca, which Cook missed and Vancouver discovered. To the eastward are the rocks and light of Cape Flattery, while the rather low termination of Vancouver Island, thick with timber, is seen to the westward. The scene in the Straits is often lively with steamers and shipping, great men-of-war, sometimes of foreign nationalities; coast packet-boats proceeding not merely to Vancouver Island, but to the ports of Washington Territory, on the American side; timber (called “lumber” always on that side of the world) vessels; colliers proceeding to Nanaimo or Bellingham Bay to the coal-mines; coasting and trading schooners; and Indian canoes, some of them big enough to accommodate sixty or more persons, and carrying a good amount of sail. The Straits have many beauties; and as, approaching the entrance of Esquimalt Harbour, the Olympian range of mountains, snow-covered and rugged, loom in the distance, the scene is grandly beautiful; while in the channel, rocky islets and islands, covered with pine and arbutus, abound. Outside the Straits two lighthouses are placed, to warn the unwary voyager by night. Often those lighthouses may be noted apparently upside down! Mirage is common enough in the Straits of Fuca.

Victoria, in 1862, had at least 12,000 or 15,000 people, mostly drawn thither by the fame of the Cariboo mines, on the mainland of British Columbia. Not twenty per cent. ever reached those mines. When ships arrived in the autumn, it was utterly useless to attempt the long journey of about 600 miles, partly by steamer, but two-thirds of which must be accomplished on foot or horseback, or often mule-back, over [pg 164]rugged mountain-paths, through swamps and forests. Consequently, a large number had to spend the winter in idleness; and in the spring, in many cases, their resources were exhausted. Many became tired of the colony; “roughing it” was not always the pleasant kind of thing they had imagined, and so they went down to California, or left for home. Others were stuck fast in the colony, and many suffered severe privations; although, so long as they could manage to live on salmon alone, they could obtain plenty from the Indians, who hawked it about the streets for a shilling or two shillings apiece—the latter for a very large fish. The son of a baronet at one time might be seen breaking stones for a living in Victoria; and unless men had a very distinct calling, profession, or trade, they had to live on their means or have a very rough time of it.

These remarks are not made to deter adventurous spirits from going abroad; but we would advise them to “look well before they leap.” But how utterly unfitted for mining-work were the larger part of the young men who had travelled so far, only to be disappointed. There was no doubt of the gold being there: two hundred ounces of the precious metal have been “washed out” in an eight hours’ “shift” (a “shift” is the same as a “watch” on board ship); and this was kept up for many days in succession, the miners working day and night. But that mine had been three years in process of development, and only one of the original proprietors was among the lucky number of shareholders. A day or so before the first gold had been found—“struck” is the technical expression—his credit was exhausted, and he had begged vainly for flour, &c., to enable him to live and work. The ordinary price of a very ordinary meal was two dollars; and it will be seen that, unless employed, or simply travelling for pleasure, it was a ruinous place to stop in. Fancy, then, the condition of perhaps as many as 4,000 unemployed men, out of a total of 7,000 men, on the various creeks, a good half of whom were of the middle and upper classes at home. But for one happy fact, that beef—which, as the miners said, packed itself into the mines (in other words, the cattle were driven in from a distance of hundreds of miles)—was reasonably cheap, hundreds of them must have starved. Everything—from flour, tea, sugar, bacon, and beans, to metal implements and machinery—had to be packed there on the backs of mules, and cost from fifty cents and upwards per pound for the mere cost of transportation. Tea was ten shillings a pound, flour and sugar a dollar a pound, and so on. Those who fancy that gold-mining, and especially deep gravel-mining, as in Cariboo, is play-work, may be told that it is perhaps the hardest, as it is certainly the most risky and uncertain, work in the world; and that it requires machinery, expensive tools, &c., which, in places like Cariboo, cost enormous sums to supply. If labour was to be employed—good practical miners, carpenters, &c. (much of the machinery was of wood)—received, at that period, ten to sixteen dollars per day. This digression may be pardoned, as the sea is so intimately bound up with questions of emigration. Apart from this, from personal observation, the writer knows that quite a proportion of miners have been sailors, and, in many cases, deserted their ships. In the “early days” of Australia, California, and British Columbia, this was eminently the case.

A large proportion of the sailors in the Royal Navy have, or will at some period, pass some time on the Pacific station, in which case, they will inevitably go to Vancouver [pg 165]Island, where there is much to interest them.106 They will find Victoria a very pretty little town, with Government house, cathedral, churches and chapels, a mechanics’ institute, a theatre, good hotels and restaurants—the latter generally in French hands. He will find a curious mixture of English and American manners and customs, and a very curious mixture of coinage—shillings being the same as quarter-dollars, while crowns are only the value of dollars (5s., against 4s. 2d.). Some years ago the island system was different from that of the mainland; on the latter, florins were equal to half-dollars (which they are, nearly), while on the island they were 37½ cents only (1s. 7½d.). The Hudson’s Bay Company, which has trading-posts throughout British Columbia, took advantage of the fact to give change for American money, on their steamers, in English florins, obtaining them on the island. They thus made nearly twenty-five per cent. in their transaction, besides getting paid the passenger’s fare. Yet the traveller, strange to say, did not lose by this, for, on landing at New Westminster, he found that what was rated at a little over eighteenpence on Vancouver Island, had suddenly, after travelling only seventy miles or so, increased in value to upwards of two shillings!


Outside Victoria there are many pleasant drives and walks: to “The Arm,” where, amid a charming landscape, interspersed with pines and natural fir woods, wild flowers, and mossy rocks, there is a pretty little rapid, or fall; to Saanich, where the settlers’ homesteads have a semi-civilised appearance, half of the houses being of squared logs, but [pg 166]comfortable withal inside, and where a rude plenty reigns; or to Beacon Hill, where there is an excellent race-course and drive, which commands fine views up and down the Straits. In sight is San Juan Island, over which England and America once squabbled, while the two garrisons which occupied it fraternised cordially, and outvied with each other in hospitality. The island—rocky, and covered with forest and underbrush, with a farm or two, made by clearing away the big trees, with not a little difficulty, and burning and partially uprooting the stumps—does not look a worthy subject for international differences. But the fact is, that it commands the Straits to some extent. However, all that is over now, and it is England’s property by diplomatic arrangement. There are other islands, nearly as large, in the archipelago which stretches northward up the Gulf of Georgia, which have not a single human inhabitant, and have never been visited, except by some stray Indians, miners, or traders who have gone ashore to cook a meal or camp for the night.

Any one who has travelled by small canoes on the sea must remember those happy camping-times, when, often wet, and always hungry and tired, the little party cautiously selected some sheltered nook or specially good beach, and then paddled with a will ashore. No lack of drift-wood or small trees on that coast, and no lord of the manor to interfere with one taking it. A glorious fire is soon raised, and the cooking preparations commenced. Sometimes it is only the stereotyped tea—frying-pan bread (something like the Australian “damper,” only baked before the fire), or “slapjacks” (i.e., flour-and-water pancakes), fried bacon, and boiled Chili beans; but ofttimes it can be varied by excellent fish, game, bear-meat, venison, or moose-meat, purchased from some passing Indians, or killed by themselves. It is absurd to suppose that “roughing it” need mean hardship and semi-starvation all the time. Not a bit of it! On the northern coasts now being described, one may often live magnificently, and most travellers learn instinctively to cook, and make the most of things. Nothing is finer in camp than a roast fish—say a salmon—split and gutted, and stuck on a stick before the fire, not over it. A few dozen turns, and you have a dish worthy of a prince. Or a composition stew—say of deer and bear-meat and beaver’s tail, well seasoned, and with such vegetables as you may obtain there; potatoes from some seaside farm—and there are such on that coast, where the settler is as brown as his Indian wife—or compressed vegetables, often taken on exploring expeditions. Or, again, venison dipped in a thick batter and thrown into a pan of boiling-hot fat, making a kind of meat fritter, with not a drop of its juices wasted. Some of these explorers and miners are veritable chefs. They can make good light bread in the woods from plain flour, water, and salt, and ask no oven but a frying-pan. They will make beans, of a kind only given to horses at home, into a delicious dish, by boiling them soft—a long job, generally done at the night camp—and then frying them with bread-crumbs and pieces of bacon in the morning, till they are brown and crisp.

It was at one of these camps, on an island in the Gulf of Georgia, that a camp fire spread to some grass and underbrush, mounted with lightning rapidity a steep slope, and in a few minutes the forest at the top was ablaze. The whole island was soon in flames! For hours afterwards the flames and smoke could be seen. No harm was done; for it is extremely unlikely that island will be inhabited for the next five hundred years. But [pg 167]forest fires in partially inhabited districts are more serious, or when near trails or roads. In the long summer of Vancouver Island, where rain, as in California, is almost unknown, these fires, once started, may burn for weeks—ay, months.

The Indians of this part of the coast, of dozens of petty tribes, all speaking different languages, or, at all events, varied dialects, are not usually prepossessing in appearance, but the male half-breeds are often fine-looking fellows, and the girls pretty. The sailor will be interested in their cedar canoes, which on Vancouver Island are beautifully modelled. A first-class clipper has not more graceful lines. They are always cut from one log, and are finely and smoothly finished, being usually painted black outside, and finished with red ornamental work within. They are very light and buoyant, and will carry great weights; but one must be careful to avoid rocks on the coast, or “snags” in the rivers, for any sudden concussion will split them all to pieces. When on the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition, a party of men found themselves suddenly deposited in a swift-running stream, from the canoe having almost parted in half, after touching on a sunken rock or log. All got to shore safely, and it took about half a day of patching and caulking to make her sufficiently river-worthy (why not say “river-worthy” as well as “sea-worthy?”) to enable them to reach camp. The writer, in 1864, came down from the extreme end of Bute Inlet—an arm of the sea on the mainland of British Columbia—across the Gulf of Georgia (twenty miles of open sea), coasting southwards to Victoria, V.I., the total voyage being 180 miles, in an open cedar canoe, only large enough for four or five people. The trip occupied five days. But while there is some risk in such an undertaking, there is little in a voyage in the great Haidah canoes of Queen Charlotte’s Island (north of Vancouver Island). These canoes are often eighty feet long, but are still always made from a single log, the splendid pines of that coast107 affording ample opportunity. They have masts, and carry as much sail as a schooner, while they can be propelled by, say, forty or fifty paddles, half on either side, wielded by as many pairs of brawny arms. The savage Haidahs are a powerful race, of whom not much is known. They, however, often come to Victoria, or the American ports on Puget Sound, for purposes of trading.

“How,” it might be asked, “does the trade communicate with so many varieties of natives, all speaking different tongues?” The answer is that there is a jargon, a kind of “pigeon-English,” which is acquired, more or less, by almost all residents on the coast for purposes of intercourse with their Indian servants or others. This is the Chinook jargon, a mixture of Indian, English, and French—the latter coming from the French Canadian voyageurs, often to be found in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as they were formerly in the defunct North-West Company. Some of the words used have curious origins. Thus, an Englishman is a “King-George-man,” because the first explorers, Cook, Vancouver, and others, arrived there during the Georgian era. An American is a “Boston-man,” because the first ships from the United States which visited that coast [pg 168]hailed from Boston. This lingo has no grammar, and a very few hundred words satisfies all its requirements. Young ladies, daughters of Hudson’s Bay Company’s employés in Victoria, rattle it off as though it were their mother-tongue. “Ikte mika tikkee?” (“What do you want?”) is probably the first query to an Indian who arrives, and has something to sell. “Nika tikkee tabac et la biscuit” (“I want some tobacco and biscuit”). “Cleush; mika potlatch salmon?” (“Good; will you give me a salmon?”). “Naāāāwitka, Se-ām” (“Yes, sir”); and for a small piece of black cake-tobacco and two or three biscuits (sailors’ “hard bread” or “hard tack”) he will exchange a thirty-pound or so salmon.

The Chinook jargon, in skilful hands, is susceptible of much. But it is not adapted for sentiment or poetry, although a naval officer, once stationed on the Pacific side, did evolve an effusion, which the sailor is almost sure to hear there. It needed, however, a fair amount of English to make it read pleasantly. Old residents and visitors will recognise some of its stanzas:—

“Oh! be not quass of nika;
Thy seahoose turn on me;
For thou must but hyas cumtux,
That I hyas tikkee thee!
Nika potlatch hyu ictas;
Nika makook sappalell
Of persicees and la biscuit,
I will give thee all thy fill!”

which, addressed to a “sweet Klootchman,” a “forest maiden,” means, that loving her so much, all that he had was hers. Much greater absurdities have been put in plain English.

A bishop of British Columbia was, however, hardly so successful; not being himself a student of Chinook, the entire vocabulary of which would have taken him rather less time to learn than the barest elements of Latin, he engaged an interpreter, through whom to address the Indians. The latter was perfectly competent to say all that can be said in Chinook, but was rather nonplussed when his lordship commenced his address by “Children of the forest!” He scratched his head and looked at the bishop, who, however, was determined, and commenced once more, “Children of the forest!” The interpreter knew that it must make nonsense, but he was cornered, and had to do it. And this is what he said: “Tenass man copa stick!”—literally, “Little men among the stumps” (or trunks of trees). The writer will not comment upon the subject here, more than to say that Chinook is not adapted for the translation of Milton or Shakespeare; while the simplest story or parable of the Scriptures must be unintelligible, or worse, when attempted in that jargon.

The only other settlement on Vancouver Island which has any direct interest to the Royal Navy, is Nanaimo, the coal-mines of which yield a large amount of the fuel used by the steamships when in that neighbourhood and about all that is used on the island; a quantity is also shipped to San Francisco. The mines are worked by English companies, and are so near the coast that, by means of a few tramways and locomotives, the coal is conveyed to the wharves, where it can be at once put on board. It is a pleasant [pg 169]little place, and many an English miner would be glad to be as well off as the men settled there, who earn more money than at home, own their cottages and plots of land, obtain most of their supplies cheaper than in England, and have a beautiful gulf before them, in summer, at least, as calm as a lake, on which boating and canoeing is all the rage in the evenings or on holidays.

The Pacific Station is an extensive one, for it commences at the most northernmost parts of Bering Sea, and extends below Cape Horn. It embraces the Alaskan coast. Many English men-of-war have visited these latitudes, principally, however, in the cause of science and discovery.

In the old days, when the colony of Russian America was little better than are many parts of Siberia—convict settlements—the few Government officials and officers of the Russian Fur Company were, it may well be believed, only too ready to welcome any change in the monotony of their existence, and a new arrival, in the shape of a ship from some foreign port, was a day to be remembered, and of which to make much. The true Russians are naturally hospitably and sociably inclined, and such times were the occasion for balls, dinners, and parties to any extent. The writer well remembers his first visit to Sitka, which, although the capital of Alaska, is situated on an island off the mainland. On approaching the small and partially land-locked harbour, a mountain of no inconsiderable height, wooded to the top, appeared in view, and below it a little town of highly-coloured roofs, in the middle of which rose a picturesque rock, surmounted by a semi-fortified castle, which, in the distance at least, looked most imposing. Near this, but separated by a stockade, was the village of the Kalosh Indians, a powerful tribe, who had at times, as the members of the expedition learned, given a considerable amount of trouble to the Russians—in 1804 they murdered nearly the whole of the Russian garrison—while beyond on every side were rocky shores and wooded heights. An old hulk or two, lying on the beach below the old castle, itself principally built of wood, the residence of the Governor of Russian America, then Prince Maksutoff, which had been roofed in and were used for magazines of stores, and some rather shaky pile-wharfs, made up the town.

Soon was experienced the warmth of a Russian welcome, and for a week afterwards a succession of gaieties followed, which were so very gay that they would have killed most men, unless they had been fortified with a long sea-trip just before. Every Russian seemed to wish the party to consider all that he had at their service; the samovar boiled up everywhere as they approached; the little lunch-table of anchovies, and pickles, rye-bread, butter, cheese, and so forth, with the everlasting vodka, was everywhere ready, and except duty called, no one was obliged to go off at night to the three vessels comprising the expedition to which the writer was attached, for the best bed in the house was always at his service. There was only one bar-room in the whole town, and there only a kind of lager-bier and vodka were to be obtained. When the country was, for a consideration of 7,250,000 dollars, transferred to the United States, there was a “rush” from Victoria and San Francisco. Keen Hebrew traders, knowing that furs up country bore a merely nominal price, and that Sitka was the great entrepôt for their collection—a million dollars’ worth being frequently gathered there at a time—thought they would be able to buy them for next to nothing still. Parcels of land in the town, which had not at [pg 170]the utmost a greater value than a few hundred dollars, now ran up to fabulous prices; 10,000 dollars was asked for a log house! Hotels, “saloons”i.e., bar-rooms à l’Américaine—German lager-bier cellars, and barbers’ shops sprang up like mushrooms; a newspaper-office was opened, and everything reminded one of the sudden growth of mining-towns in the early days of California. Alas! everything else went up in proportion, excepting salmon, which must be a drug on that coast for many centuries to come;108 provisions greatly rose in price, and the competition for furs was so great that they became nearly as dear as in San Francisco. The consequence may be imagined; there was an exodus, and the following January the whole city could have been bought for a song. The Russian officials, of course, left it shortly after the transfer, and most of the others as speedily as they could. The “capital” has never recovered from the shock; for, although organised fur-companies are scattered over the country, in one instance the United States Government leasing the sole right—that of fur-sealing, on the Aleutian Islands—to a firm which has a Russian prince as a partner, Sitka is not the entrepôt it was; everything in furs is brought to San Francisco before being consigned to all quarters of the globe. The value of Alaska to the United States is at present very small, but so little is known about it that one can hardly form an estimate concerning its future. It possesses minerals, but these will always be worked with difficulty, on account of the climate. Its grand salmon-fisheries are, however, a tangible property; the cod in Bering Sea is as plentiful as it ever was on the Newfoundland banks; and there are innumerable forests of trees, easily accessible, reaching down to the coast—of pines, firs, and cedars, of size sufficient for the tallest masts and largest spars, so that Alaska has a direct interest for the ship-builder.

By its acquisition, the United States not merely extended its seaboard for, say, 1,500 miles north, but it obtained Mount St. Elias, by far the largest peak of the North American continent, and one of the loftiest mountains of the globe. “Upon Mont Blanc,” says an American writer,109 “pile the loftiest summit in the British Islands, and they would not reach the altitude of Mount St. Elias. If a man could reach its summit, he would be two miles nearer the stars than any other American could be, east of the Mississippi.... As a single peak it ranks among the half-dozen loftiest on the globe. Some of the Himalaya summits reach, indeed, a couple of miles nearer Orion and the Pleiades, but they rise from an elevated plateau sloping gradually upwards for hundreds of miles. As an isolated peak, St. Elias may look down upon Mont Blanc and Teneriffe, and claim brotherhood with Chimborazo and Cotopaxi.” It acquired also one of the four great rivers of the globe, of which the writer had the pleasure of being one of the earliest explorers. The Yukon, which renders the waters of Bering Sea fresh or semi-fresh for a dozen miles beyond its many mouths, is a sister-river to the Amazon, Mississippi, and, perhaps, the Plata; it has affluents to which the Rhine or Rhône are but brooks.

The Kalosh Indians of Sitka live in semi-civilised wooden barns or houses, with [pg 171]invariably a round hole for a door, through which one creeps. They are particularly ingenious in carving; and Jack has many an opportunity of obtaining grotesque figures, cut from wood or slate-stone, for a cast-off garment or a half-dollar. One brought home represents the Russian soldier of the period, prior to the American annexation, and is scarcely a burlesque of his stolid face, gigantic moustache, close fitting coat with very tight sleeves, and loose, baggy trousers. Masks may be seen cut from some white stone, which would not do dishonour to a European sculptor. But now, leaving Sitka, let us make a rapid trip to the extreme northern end of the Pacific Station.

Men-of-war proceeding north of Sitka—which, except for purposes of science or war, is not likely to be the case, although the Pacific Station extends to the northernmost parts of Alaska—would voyage into Bering Sea through Ounimak Pass, one of the best passages between the rocky and rugged Aleutian Islands. In the pass the scenery is superb, grand volcanic peaks rising in all directions. While there, many years ago, the writer well remembers going on deck one morning, when mists and low clouds hung over the then placid waters, and seeing what appeared to be a magnificent mountain peak, snowy and scarped, right overhead the vessel, and having a wreath of white cloud surrounding it, while a lower and greyer bank of mist hid its base. It seemed baseless, and as though rising from nothing; while the bright sunlight above all, and which did not reach the vessel, lit up the eternal snows in brilliant contrasts of light and shadow. This was the grand peak of Sheshaldinski, which rises nearly 9,000 feet above the sea level.

The Aleutian Islands are thinly inhabited, and the Aleuts—a harmless, strong, half-Esquimaux kind of people—often leave them. They make very good sailors. The few Russian settlements, among the principal of which was Kodiak, were simply trading posts and fur-sealing establishments. Since the purchase of Alaska, the United States Government has leased them to a large mercantile firm, which makes profits from the sealing. North of the islands, after steaming over a considerable waste of waters, the only settlements on the coast of the whole country are Michaelovski and Unalachleet, both trading posts; while south of the former are the many mouths of one of the grandest rivers in the world, the Yukon, almost a rival to the Amazon and Mississippi. That section of the country lying round the great river is tolerably rich in fur-bearing animals, including sable, mink, black and silver-grey fox, beaver, and bear. The moose and deer abound; while fish, more especially salmon, is very abundant. Salmon, thirty or more pounds in weight, caught in the Yukon, has often been purchased for a half-ounce of tobacco or four or five common sewing-needles. The coasts of Northern Alaska are rugged and uninviting, and not remarkable for the grand scenery common in the southern division.

Leaving the north, and passing the leading station already described on Vancouver Island, the sailor has the whole Pacific coasts of both Americas, clear to Cape Horn, before him as part of the Pacific Station. There is Mexico, with its port of Acapulco; New Granada, with the important sea-port town of Panama; Callao, Peru; and Valparaiso, in Chili: at any of which H.B.M. vessels are commonly to be found. Panama is, indeed, a very important central point, as officers of the Royal Navy, ordered to join vessels elsewhere, usually leave their own at Panama, cross the isthmus, and take steamer to England, viâ St. Thomas’s, or by way of New York, thence crossing to Liverpool. The [pg 172]railroad—which, during its construction, is said to have cost the life of a Chinaman for every sleeper laid down, so fatal was the fever of the isthmus—has the dearest fares of any in the world. The distance from Panama across to Aspinwall (Colon) is about forty miles, and the fare is £5! An immense amount of travel crosses the isthmus; and it is only matter of time for a canal to be cut through some portion of it, or the isthmus of Darien adjoining. Steamers of the largest kind are arriving daily at Panama from San Francisco, Mexico, and all parts of South America; while, on the Atlantic side, they come from Southampton, Liverpool, New York and other American ports.

Southward, with favouring breezes and usually calm seas, one soon arrives at Callao—a place which may yet become a great city, but which, like everything else in Peru, has been retarded by interminable dissensions in regard to government and politics, and by the ignorance and bigotry of the masses. Peru had an advantage over Chili in wealth and importance at one time; but, while the latter country is to-day one of the most satisfactory and stable republics in the world, one never knows what is going to happen next in Peru. Hence distrust in commerce; and hence the sailor will not find a tithe of the shipping in Callao Roads that he will at the wharfs of Valparaiso. Lima, the capital, is situated behind Callao, at a distance of about six miles. When seen from the deck of a vessel in the roadstead, the city has a most imposing appearance, with its innumerable domes and spires rising from so elevated a situation, and wearing a strange and rather Moorish air. On nearing the city, everything speaks eloquently of past splendour and present wretchedness; public walks and elegant ornamental stone seats choked with rank weeds, and all in ruins. You enter Lima through a triumphal arch, tawdry and tumbling to pieces; you find that the churches, which looked so imposing in the distance, are principally stucco and tinsel. Lima has a novelty in one of its theatres. It is built in a long oval, the stage occupying nearly the whole of one long side, all the boxes being thus comparatively near it. The pit audience is men, and the galleries, women; and all help to fill the house, between the acts, with tobacco smoke from their cigarettes.

The sailor, who has been much among Spanish people or those of Spanish origin, will find the Chilians the finest race in South America. Valparaiso Harbour is always full of shipping, its wharfs piled with goods; while the railroad and old road to the capital, Santiago, bears evidence of the material prosperity of the country. The country roads are crowded with convoys of pack-mules, while the ships are loading up with wheat, wines, and minerals, the produce of the country. Travelling is free everywhere. Libraries, schools, literary, scientific, and artistic societies abound; the best newspapers published in South America are issued there. Santiago, the city of marble palaces—where even horses are kept in marble stalls—is one of the most delightful places in the world. The lofty Andes tower to the skies in the distance, forming a grand background, and a fruitful, cultivated, and peaceful country surrounds it.

Valparaiso—the “Vale of Paradise”—was probably named by the early Spanish adventurers in this glowing style because any coast whatever is delightful to the mariner who has been long at sea. Otherwise, the title would seem to be of an exaggerated nature. The bay is of a semi-circular form, surrounded by steep hills, rising to the height of near 2,000 feet, sparingly covered with stunted shrubs and thinly-strewed grass. The town is [pg 174]built along a narrow strip of land, between the cliffs and the sea; and, as this space is limited in extent, the buildings have straggled up the sides and bottoms of the numerous ravines which intersect the hills. A suburb—the Almendral, or Almond Grove—much larger than the town proper, spreads over a low sandy plain, about half a mile broad, bordering the bay. In the summer months—i.e., November to March—the anchorage is safe and pleasant; but in the wintry months, notably June and July, gales are prevalent from the north, in which direction it is open to the sea.


Captain Basil Hall, R.N., gave some interesting accounts of life in Chili in his published Journal,110 and they are substantially true at the present day. He reached Valparaiso at Christmas, which corresponds in climate to our midsummer. Crowds thronged the streets to enjoy the cool air in the moonlight; groups of merry dancers were seen at every turn; singers were bawling out old Spanish romances to the tinkle of the guitar; wild-looking horsemen pranced about in all directions, stopping to talk with their friends, but never dismounting; and harmless bull-fights, in which the bulls were only teased, not killed, served to make the people laugh. The whole town was en carnival. “In the course of the first evening of these festivities,” says Captain Hall, “while I was rambling about the streets with one of the officers of the ship, our attention was attracted, by the sound of music, to a crowded pulperia, or drinking-house. We accordingly entered, and the people immediately made way and gave us seats at the upper end of the apartment. We had not sat long before we were startled by the loud clatter of horses’ feet, and in the next instant, a mounted peasant dashed into the company, followed by another horseman, who, as soon as he reached the centre of the room, adroitly wheeled his horse round, and the two strangers remained side by side, with their horses’ heads in opposite directions. Neither the people of the house, nor the guests, nor the musicians, appeared in the least surprised by this visit; the lady who was playing the harp merely stopped for a moment to remove the end of the instrument a few inches further from the horses’ feet, and the music and conversation went on as before. The visitors called for a glass of spirits, and having chatted with their friends around them for two minutes, stooped their heads to avoid the cross-piece of the doorway, and putting spurs to their horses’ sides, shot into the streets as rapidly as they had entered; the whole being done without discomposing the company in the smallest degree.” The same writer speaks of the common people as generally very temperate, while their frankness and hospitality charmed him. Brick-makers, day-labourers, and washerwomen invited him and friends into their homes, and their first anxiety was that the sailors might “feel themselves in their own house;” then some offering of milk, bread, or spirits. However wretched the cottage or poor the fare, the deficiency was never made more apparent by apologies; with untaught politeness, the best they had was placed before them, graced with a hearty welcome. Their houses are of adobes, i.e., sun-dried bricks, thatched in with broad palm-leaves, the ends of which, by overhanging the walls, afford shade from the scorching sun and shelter from the rain. Their mud floors have a portion raised seven or eight inches above the level of the rest, and covered with matting, which forms the couch for the invariable siesta. In the cottages Hall saw young women grinding baked corn in [pg 175]almost Scriptural mills of two stones each. From the coarse flour obtained, the poor people make a drink called ulpa. In the better class of houses he was offered Paraguay tea, or mattee, an infusion of a South American herb. The natives drink it almost boiling hot. It is drawn up into the mouth through a silver pipe: however numerous the company, all use the same tube, and to decline on this account is thought the height of rudeness. The people of Chili, generally, are polite to a degree; and Jack ashore will have no cause to complain, provided he is as polished as are they. He generally contrives, however, to make himself popular, while his little escapades of wildness are looked upon in the light of long pent-up nature bursting forth.


Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


The dreaded Horn—The Land of Fire—Basil Hall’s Phenomenon—A Missing Volcano—The South American Station—Falkland Islands—A Free Port and Naval Station—Penguins, Peat, and Kelp—Sea Trees—The West India Station—Trinidad—Columbus’s First View of it—Fatal Gold—Charles Kingsley’s Enthusiasm—The Port of Spain—A Happy-go-lucky People—Negro Life—Letters from a Cottage Ornée—Tropical Vegetation—Animal Life—Jamaica—Kingston Harbour—Sugar Cultivation—The Queen of the Antilles—Its Paseo—Beauty of the Archipelago—A Dutch Settlement in the Heart of a Volcano—Among the Islands—The Souffrière—Historical Reminiscences—Bermuda: Colony, Fortress, and Prison—Home of Ariel and Caliban—The Whitest Place in the World—Bermuda Convicts—New York Harbour—The City—First Impressions—Its fine Position—Splendid Harbour—Forest of Masts—The Ferry-boats, Hotels, and Bars—Offenbach’s Impressions—Broadway, Fulton Market, and Central Park—New York in Winter—Frozen Ships—The great Brooklyn Bridge—Halifax and its Beauties—Importance of the Station—Bedford Basin—The Early Settlers—The Blue Noses—Adieu to America.

And now the exigencies of the service require us to tear ourselves away from gay and pleasant Valparaiso, and voyage in spirit round the Horn to the South-East American Station, which includes the whole coast, from Terra del Fuego to Brazil and Guiana. Friendly ports, Rio and Montevideo, are open to the Royal Navy as stations for necessary repairs or supplies; but the only strictly British port on the whole station is that at the dreary Falkland Islands, to be shortly described.

Every schoolboy knows that Cape Horn is even more dreaded than the other “Cape of Storms,” otherwise known as “The Cape,” par excellence. In these days, the introduction of steam has reduced much of the danger and horrors of the passage round, though on occasions they are sufficiently serious. In fact, now that there is a regular tug-boat service in the Straits of Magellan, there is really no occasion to go round it at all. In 1862 the writer rounded it, in a steamer of good power, when the water was as still as a mill-pond, and the Horn itself—a barren, black, craggy, precipitous rock, towering above the utter desolation and bleakest solitudes of that forsaken spot—was plainly in sight.

Captain Basil Hall, and his officers and crew, in 1820, when rounding Cape Horn observed a remarkable phenomenon, which may account for the title of the “Land of Fire” bestowed upon it by Magellan. A brilliant light suddenly appeared in the north-western [pg 176]quarter. “At first of a bright red, it became fainter and fainter, till it disappeared altogether. After the lapse of four or five minutes, its brilliancy was suddenly restored, and it seemed as if a column of burning materials had been projected into the air. This bright appearance lasted from ten to twenty seconds, fading by degrees as the column became lower, till at length only a dull red mass was distinguishable for about a minute, after which it again vanished.” The sailors thought it a revolving light, others that it must be a forest on fire. All who examined it carefully through a telescope agreed in considering it a volcano, like Stromboli, emitting alternately jets of flame and red-hot stones. The light was visible till morning; and although during the night it appeared to be not more than eight or ten miles off, no land was to be seen. The present writer would suggest the probability of its having been an electrical phenomenon.


The naval station at the Falklands is at Port Stanley, on the eastern island, where there is a splendid land-locked harbour, with a narrow entrance. The little port is, and has been, a haven of refuge for many a storm-beaten mariner: not merely from the fury of the elements, but also because supplies of fresh meat can be obtained there, and, indeed, everything else. Wild cattle, of old Spanish stock, roam at will over many parts of the two islands. When the writer was there, in 1862, beef was retailed at fourpence per pound, and Port Stanley being a free port, everything was very cheap. How many boxes of cigars, pounds of tobacco, cases of hollands, and demijohns of rum were, in consequence, [pg 177]taken on board by his 300 fellow-passengers would be a serious calculation. The little town has not much to recommend it: It has, of course, a Government House and a church, and barracks for the marines stationed there. It is, moreover, the head-quarters of the Falkland Islands Company, a corporation much like the Hudson’s Bay Company, trading in furs and hides, and stores for ships and native trade. The three great characteristics of Port Stanley are the penguins, which abound, and are to be seen waddling in troops in its immediate vicinity, and stumbling over the stones if pursued; the kelp, which is so thick and strong in the water at the edge of the bay in places, that a strong boat’s crew can hardly get “way” enough on to reach the shore; and the peat-bogs, which would remind an Irishman of his beloved Erin. Peat is the principal fuel of the place; and what glorious fires it makes! At least, so thought a good many of the passengers who took the opportunity of living on shore during the fortnight of the vessel’s stay. For about three shillings and sixpence a day one could obtain a good bed, meals of beef-steaks and joints and fresh vegetables—very welcome after the everlasting salt junk and preserved vegetables of the ship—with the addition of hot rum and water, nearly ad libitum. Then the privilege of stretching one’s legs is something, after five or six weeks’ confinement. There is duck and [pg 178]loon-shooting to be had, or an excursion to the lighthouse, a few miles from the town, where the writer found children, of several years of age, who had never even beheld the glories of Port Stanley, and yet were happy; and near which he saw on the beach sea-trees—for “sea-weed” would be a misnomer, the trunks being several feet in circumference—slippery, glutinous, marine vegetation, uprooted from the depths of ocean. Some of them would create a sensation in an aquarium.

The harbour of Port Stanley is usually safe enough, but, in the extraordinary gales which often rage outside, does not always afford safe anchorage. The steamship on which the writer was a passenger lay far out in the bay, but the force of a sudden gale made her drag her anchors, and but for the steam, which was immediately got up, she would have gone ashore. A sailing-vessel must have been wrecked in the same position. Of course, the power of the engines was set against the wind, and she was saved. Passengers ashore could not get off for two days, and those on board could not go ashore. No boat could have lived, even in the bay, during a large part of the time.

The West Indian Station demands our attention next. Unfortunately, it must not take the space it deserves, for it would occupy that required for ten books of the size of this—ay, twenty—to do it the barest justice. Why? Read Charles Kingsley’s admirable work, “At Last”—one, alas! of the last tasks of a well-spent life—and one will see England’s interest in those islands, and must think also of those earlier days, when Columbus, Drake, and Raleigh sailed among the waters which divide them—days of geographical discovery worth speaking of, of grand triumphs over foes worth fighting, and of gain amounting to something.


On the 31st July, 1499, Columbus, on his third voyage, sighted the three hills which make the south-eastern end of Trinidad. He had determined to name the first land he should sight after the Holy Trinity, and so he did. The triple peaks probably reminded him.

Washington Irving tells us, in his “Life of Columbus,” that he was astonished at the verdure and fertility of the country, having expected that it would be parched, dry, and sterile as he approached the equator; whereas, he beheld beautiful groves of palm-trees, and luxuriant forests sweeping down to the sea-side, with gurgling brooks and clear, deep streams beneath the shade. The softness and purity of the climate, and the beauty of the country, seemed, after his long sea voyage, to rival the beautiful province of Valencia itself. Columbus found the people a race of Indians fairer than any he had seen before, “of good stature, and of very graceful bearing.” They carried square bucklers, and had bows and arrows, with which they made feeble attempts to drive off the Spaniards who landed at Punta Arenal, near Icacque, and who, finding no streams, sank holes in the sand, and so filled their casks with fresh water—as is done by sailors now-a-days in many parts of the world. “And there,” says Kingsley, “that source of endless misery to these harmless creatures, a certain Cacique—so goes the tale—took off Columbus’s cap of crimson velvet, and replaced it with a circle of gold which he wore.”

Alas for them! that fatal present of gold brought down on them enemies far more ruthless than the Caribs of the northern islands, who had a habit of coming down in their canoes and carrying off the gentle Arrawaks, to eat them at their leisure—after the fashion [pg 179]which Defoe, always accurate, has immortalised in “Robinson Crusoe.” Crusoe’s island has been thought by many to be meant for Tobago; Man Friday having been stolen in Trinidad.

No scenery can be more picturesque than that afforded by the entrance to Port of Spain, the chief town in the colony of Trinidad, itself an island lying outside the delta of the great Orinoco River. “On the mainland,” wrote Anthony Trollope,111 “that is, the land of the main island, the coast is precipitous, but clothed to the very top with the thickest and most magnificent foliage. With an opera-glass, one can distinctly see the trees coming forth from the sides of the rocks, as though no soil were necessary for them, and not even a shelf of stone needed for their support. And these are not shrubs, but forest trees, with grand spreading branches, huge trunks, and brilliant-coloured foliage. The small island on the other side is almost equally wooded, but is less precipitous.” There, and on the main island itself, are nooks and open glades where one would not be badly off with straw hats and muslin, pigeon-pies and champagne. One narrow shady valley, into which a creek of the sea ran, made Trollope think that it must have been intended for “the less noisy joys of some Paul of Trinidad with his Creole Virginia.” The same writer, after describing the Savannah, which includes a park and race-course, speaks of the Government House, then under repairs. The governor was living in a cottage, hard by. “Were I that great man,” said he, “I should be tempted to wish that my great house might always be under repair, for I never saw a more perfect specimen of a pretty spacious cottage, opening, as a cottage should do, on all sides and in every direction.... And then the necessary freedom from boredom, etiquette, and governors’ grandeur, so hated by governors themselves, which must necessarily be brought about by such a residence! I could almost wish to be a governor myself, if I might be allowed to live in such a cottage.” The buildings of Port of Spain are almost invariably surrounded by handsome flowering trees. A later writer tells us that the governors since have stuck to the cottage, and the gardens of the older building have been given to the city as a public pleasure-ground. Kingsley speaks of it as a paradise.

Jack ashore, who, after a long and perhaps stormy voyage, would look upon any land as a haven of delight, will certainly think that he has at last reached the “happy land.” It is not merely the climate, the beauty, or the productions of the country; nor the West Indian politeness and hospitality—both proverbial; but the fact that nobody seems to do, or wants to do, anything, and yet lives ten times as well as the poorer classes of England. There are 8,000 or more human beings in Port of Spain alone, who “toil not, neither do they spin,” and have no other visible means of subsistence except eating something or other—mostly fruit—all the live-long day, who are happy, very happy. The truth is, that though they will, and frequently do, eat more than a European, they can almost do without food, and can live, like the Lazzaroni, on warmth and light. “The best substitute for a dinner is a sleep under a south wall in the blazing sun; and there are plenty of south walls in Port of Spain.” Has not a poor man, under these circumstances, the same right to be idle as a rich one? Every one there looks strong, healthy, and well-fed. The author [pg 180]of “Westward Ho!” was not likely to be deceived, and says: “One meets few or none of those figures and faces—small, scrofulous, squinny, and haggard—which disgrace the civilisation of a British city. Nowhere in Port of Spain will you see such human beings as in certain streets of London, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Every one plainly can live and thrive if they choose; and very pleasant it is to know that.” And wonderfully well does that mixed and happy-go-lucky population assimilate. Trinidad belongs to Great Britain; but there are more negroes, half-breeds, Hindoos, and Chinese there than Britons by ten times ten; and the language of the island is mainly French, not English or Spanish. Under cool porticoes and through tall doorways are seen dark shops, built on Spanish models, and filled with everything under the sun. On the doorsteps sit negresses, in flashy Manchester “prints” and stiff turbans, “all aiding in the general work of doing nothing,” or offering for sale fruits, sweetmeats, or chunks of sugar-cane. These women, as well as the men, invariably carry everything on their heads, whether it be a half-barrow load of yams, a few ounces of sugar, or a beer-bottle.


One of the regrets of an enthusiastic writer must ever be that he cannot visit all the lovely and interesting spots which he may so easily describe. The present one, enamoured [pg 182]with San Francisco, which he has visited, and Singapore and Sydney, which as yet he hasn’t, would, if such writers as Charles Kingsley and Anthony Trollope are to be credited, add Trinidad to the list. Read the former’s “Letter from a West Indian Cottage Ornée,” or the latter’s description of a ride through the cool woods and sea-shore roads, to be convinced that Trinidad is one of the most charming islands in the whole world. Bamboos keep the cottage gravel path up, and as tubes, carry the trickling, cool water to the cottage bath; you hear a rattling as of boards or stiff paper outside your window: it is the clashing together of a fan-palm, with leaf-stalks ten feet long and fans more feet wide. The orange, the pine-apple, and the “flower fence” (Poinziana); the cocoa-palm, the tall Guinea grass, and the “groo-groos” (a kind of palm: Acrocomia sclerocarpa); the silk-cotton tree, the tamarind, and the Rosa del monte bushes—twenty feet high, and covered with crimson roses; tea shrubs, myrtles, and clove-trees intermingle with vegetation common elsewhere. Thus much for a mere chance view.

The seaman ashore will note many of these beauties; but his superior officers will see more. The cottage ornée, to which they will be invited, with its lawn and flowering shrubs, tiny specimens of which we admire in hot-houses at home; the grass as green as that of England, and winding away in the cool shade of strange evergreens; the yellow cocoa-nut palms on the nearest spur of hill throwing back the tender blue of the distant mountains; groups of palms, with perhaps Erythrinas umbrosa (Bois immortelles, they call them in Trinidad), with vermilion flowers—trees of red coral, sixty feet high—interspersed; a glimpse beyond of the bright and sleeping sea, and the islands of the Bocas “floating in the shining waters,” and behind a luxuriously furnished cottage, where hospitality is not a mere name, but a very sound fact; what on earth can man want more?

Kingsley, in presence of the rich and luscious beauty, the vastness and repose, to be found in Trinidad, sees an understandable excuse for the tendency to somewhat grandiose language which tempts perpetually those who try to describe the tropics, and know well that they can only fail. He says: “In presence of such forms and such colouring as this, one becomes painfully sensible of the poverty of words, and the futility, therefore, of all word-painting; of the inability, too, of the senses to discern and define objects of such vast variety; of our æsthetic barbarism, in fact, which has no choice of epithets, save such as ‘great,’ and ‘vast,’ and ‘gigantic;’ between such as ‘beautiful,’ and ‘lovely,’ and ‘exquisite,’ and so forth: which are, after all, intellectually only one stage higher than the half-brute ‘Wah! wah!’ with which the savage grunts his astonishment—call it not admiration; epithets which are not, perhaps, intellectually as high as the ‘God is great!’ of the Mussulman, who is wise enough not to attempt any analysis, either of Nature or of his feelings about her, and wise enough, also ... in presence of the unknown, to take refuge in God.”

Monkeys of many kinds, jaguars, toucans, wild cats; wonderful ant-eaters, racoons, and lizards; and strange birds, butterflies, wasps, and spiders abound, but none of those animals which resent the presence of man. Happy land!

But the gun has fired. H.M.S. Sea is getting all steam up. The privilege of leave cannot last for ever: it is “All aboard!” Whither bound? In the archipelago of the West Indies there are so many points of interest, and so many ports which the sailor of [pg 183]the Royal Navy is sure to visit. There are important docks at Antigua, Jamaica, and Bermuda; while the whole station—known professionally as the “North American and West Indian”—reaches from the north of South America to beyond Newfoundland, Kingston, and Jamaica, where England maintains a flag-ship and a commodore, a dockyard, and a naval hospital.


Kingston Harbour is a grand lagoon, nearly shut in by a long sand-spit, or rather bank, called “The Palisades,” at the point of which is Port Royal, which, about ninety years ago, was nearly destroyed by an earthquake. Mr. Trollope says that it is on record that hardy “subs” and hardier “mids” have ridden along the Palisades, and have not died from sunstroke in the effort. But the chances were much against them. The ordinary ingress and egress, as to all parts of the island’s coasts, is by water. Our naval establishment is at Port Royal.

Jamaica has picked up a good deal in these later days, but is not the thriving country it was before the abolition of slavery. Kingston is described as a formal city, with streets at right angles, and with generally ugly buildings. The fact is, that hardly any Europeans or even well-to-do Creoles live in the town, and, in consequence, there are long streets, which might almost belong to a city of the dead, where hardly a soul is to be seen: at all events, in the evenings. All the wealthier people—and there are a large number—have country seats—“pens,” as they call them, though often so charmingly situated, and so beautifully surrounded, that the term does not seem very appropriate. The sailor’s pocket-money will go a long way in Kingston, if he confines himself to native productions; but woe unto him if he will insist on imported articles! All through the island the white people are very English in their longings, and affect to despise the native luxuries. Thus, they will give you ox-tail soup when real turtle would be infinitely cheaper. “When yams, avocado pears, the mountain cabbage, plantains, and twenty other delicious vegetables may be had for the gathering, people will insist on eating bad English potatoes; and the desire for English pickles is quite a passion.” All the servants are negroes or mulattoes, who are greatly averse to ridicule or patronage; while, if one orders them as is usual in England, they leave you to wait on yourself. Mr. Trollope discovered this. He ordered a lad in one of the hotels to fill his bath, calling him “old fellow.” “Who you call fellor?” asked the youth; “you speak to a gen’lman gen’lmanly, and den he fill de bath.”

The sugar-cane—and by consequence, sugar and rum—coffee, and of late tobacco, are the staple productions of Jamaica. There is one district where the traveller may see an unbroken plain of 4,000 acres under canes. The road over Mount Diabolo is very fine, and the view back to Kingston very grand. Jack ashore will find that the people all ride, but that the horses always walk. There are respectable mountains to be ascended in Jamaica: Blue Mountain Peak towers to the height of 8,000 feet. The highest inhabited house on the island, the property of a coffee-planter, is a kind of half-way house of entertainment; and although Mr. Trollope—who provided himself with a white companion, who, in his turn, provided five negroes, beef, bread, water, brandy, and what seemed to him about ten gallons of rum—gives a doleful description of the clouds and mists and fogs which surrounded the Peak, others may be more fortunate.

The most important of the West Indian Islands, Cuba—“Queen of the Antilles”[pg 184]does not, as we all know, belong to England, but is the most splendid appanage of the Spanish crown. Havana, the capital, has a grand harbour, large, commodious, and safe, with a fine quay, at which the vessels of all nations lie. The sailor will note one peculiarity: instead of laying alongside, the ships are fastened “end on”—usually the bow being at the quay. The harbour is very picturesque, and the entrance to it is defended by two forts, which were taken once by England—in Albemarle’s time—and now could be knocked to pieces in a few minutes by any nation which was ready with the requisite amount of gunpowder.


Havana is a very gay city, and has some special attractions for the sailor—among others being its good cigars and cheap Spanish wine and fruits. Its greatest glory is the Paseo—its Hyde Park, Bois de Boulogne, Corso, Cascine, Alamèda—where the Cuban belles and beaux delight to promenade and ride. There will you see them, in bright-coloured, picturesque attire—sadly Europeanised and Americanised of late, though—seated in the volante, a kind of hanging cabriolet, between two large wheels, drawn by one or two horses, on one of which the negro servant, with enormous leggings, white breeches, red jacket, and gold lace, and broad-brimmed straw hat, rides. The volante is itself bright with [pg 185]polished metal, and the whole turn-out has an air of barbaric splendour. These carriages are never kept in a coach-house, but are usually placed in the halls, and often even in the dining-room, as a child’s perambulator might with us. Havana has an ugly cathedral and a magnificent opera-house.

Slave labour is common, and many of the sugar and tobacco planters are very wealthy. Properties of many hundred acres under cultivation are common. Mr. Trollope found the negroes well-fed, sleek, and fat as brewers’ horses, while no sign of ill-usage came before him. In crop times they sometimes work sixteen hours a day, and Sunday is not then a day of rest for them. There are many Chinese coolies, also, on the island.

Kingsley, speaking of the islands in general, says that he “was altogether unprepared for their beauty and grandeur.” Day after day, the steamer took him past a shifting diorama of scenery, which he likened to Vesuvius and Naples, repeated again and again, with every possible variation of the same type of delicate loveliness. Under a cloudless sky, and over the blue waters, banks of light cloud turned to violet and then to green, and then disclosed grand mountains, with the surf beating white around the base of tall cliffs and isolated rocks, and the pretty country houses of settlers embowered in foliage, and gay little villages, and busy towns. “It was easy,” says that charming writer, “in presence of such scenery, to conceive the exultation which possessed the souls of the first discoverers of the West Indies. What wonder if they seemed to themselves to have burst into fairy-land—to be at the gates of the earthly Paradise? With such a climate, such a soil, such vegetation, such fruits, what luxury must not have seemed possible to the dwellers along those shores? What riches, too, of gold and jewels, might not be hidden among those forest-shrouded glens and peaks? And beyond, and beyond again, ever new islands, new continents, perhaps, and inexhaustible wealth of yet undiscovered worlds.”112

The resemblance to Mediterranean, or, more especially, Neapolitan, scenery is very marked. “Like causes have produced like effects; and each island is little but the peak of a volcano, down whose shoulders lava and ash have slidden toward the sea.” Many carry several cones. One of them, a little island named Saba, has a most remarkable settlement half-way up a volcano. Saba rises sheer out of the sea 1,500 or more feet, and, from a little landing-place, a stair runs up 800 feet into the very bosom of the mountain, where in a hollow live some 1,200 honest Dutchmen and 800 negroes. The latter were, till of late years, nominally the slaves of the former; but it is said that, in reality, it was just the other way. The blacks went off when and whither they pleased, earned money on other islands, and expected their masters to keep them when they were out of work. The good Dutch live peaceably aloft in their volcano, grow garden crops, and sell them to vessels or to surrounding islands. They build the best boats in the West Indies up in their crater, and lower them down the cliff to the sea! They are excellent sailors and good Christians. Long may their volcano remain quiescent!

When the steamer stops at some little port, or even single settlement, the negro boats come alongside with luscious fruit and vegetables—bananas and green oranges; the sweet sop, a fruit which looks like a strawberry, and is as big as an orange; the custard-[pg 186]apples—the pulp of which, those who have read “Tom Cringle’s Log” will remember, is fancied to have an unpleasant resemblance to brains; the avocado, or alligator-pears, otherwise called “midshipman’s butter,” which are eaten with pepper and salt; scarlet capsicums, green and orange cocoa-nuts, roots of yam, and cush-cush, help to make up baskets as varied in colour as the gaudy gowns and turbans of the women. Neither must the junks of sugar-cane be omitted, which the “coloured” gentlemen and ladies delight to gnaw, walking, sitting, and standing; increasing thereby the size of their lips, and breaking out, often enough, their upper front teeth. Rude health is in their faces; their cheeks literally shine with fatness.

But in this happy archipelago there are drawbacks: in the Guadaloupe earthquake of 1843, 5,000 persons lost their lives in the one town of Point-à-Pitre alone. The Souffrière volcano, 5,000 feet high, rears many a peak to the skies, and shows an ugly and uncertain humour, smoking and flaming. The writer so often quoted gives a wonderfully beautiful description of this mountain and its surroundings. “As the sun rose, level lights of golden green streamed round the peak, right and left, over the downs; but only for a while. As the sky-clouds vanished in his blazing rays, earth-clouds rolled up from the valleys behind, wreathed and weltered about the great black teeth of the crater, and then sinking among them and below them, shrouded the whole cone in purple darkness for the day; while in the foreground blazed in the sunshine broad slopes of cane-field; below them again the town (the port of Basse Terre), with handsome houses, and old-fashioned churches and convents, dating possibly from the seventeenth century, embowered in mangoes, tamarinds, and palmistes; and along the beach, a market beneath a row of trees, with canoes drawn up to be unladen, and gay dresses of every hue. The surf whispered softly on the beach. The cheerful murmur of voices came off the shore, and above it, the tinkling of some little bell, calling good folks to early mass. A cheery, brilliant picture as man could wish to see, but marred by two ugly elements. A mile away on the low northern cliff, marked with many a cross, was the lonely cholera cemetery, a remembrance of the fearful pestilence which, a few years since, swept away thousands of the people: and above frowned that black giant, now asleep: but for how long?”

The richness of the verdure which clothes these islands to their highest peaks seems a mere coat of green fur, and yet is often gigantic forest trees. The eye wanders over the green abysses, and strains over the wealth of depths and heights, compared with which fine English parks are mere shrubberies. There is every conceivable green, or rather of hues, ranging from pale yellow through all greens into cobalt; and “as the wind stirs the leaves, and sweeps the lights and shadows over hill and glen, all is ever-changing, iridescent, like a peacock’s tail; till the whole island, from peak to shore, seems some glorious jewel—an emerald, with tints of sapphire and topaz, hanging between blue sea and white surf below, and blue sky and white cloud above.” And yet, over all this beauty, dark shadows hang—the shadow of war and the shadow of slavery. These seas have been oft reddened with the blood of gallant sailors, and every other gully holds the skeleton of an Englishman.

Here it was that Rodney broke De Grasse’s line, took and destroyed seven French ships of war, and scattered the rest: saving Jamaica, and, in sooth, the whole West [pg 187]Indies, and bringing about the honourable peace of 1783. Yon lovely roadstead of Dominica: there Rodney caught up with the French just before, and would have beaten them so much the earlier but for his vessels being becalmed. In that deep bay at Martinique, now lined with gay houses, was for many years the Cul-de-sac Royal, the rendezvous and stronghold of the French fleet. That isolated rock hard by, much the shape and double the size of the great Pyramids, is Sir Samuel Hood’s famous Diamond Rock,113 to which that brave old navigator literally tied with a hawser or two his ship, the Centaur, and turned the rock into a fortress from whence to sweep the seas. The rock was for several months rated on the books of the Admiralty as “His Majesty’s Ship, Diamond Rock.” She had at last to surrender, for want of powder, to an overwhelming force—two seventy-fours and fourteen smaller ships of war—but did not give in till seventy poor Frenchmen were lying killed or wounded, and three of their gun-boats destroyed, her own loss being only two men killed and one wounded. Brave old sloop of war! And, once more, those glens and forests of St. Lucia remind us of Sir John Moore and Sir Ralph Abercrombie, who fought, not merely the French, but the “Brigands”—negroes liberated by the Revolution of 1792.


But the good ship must proceed; and as British naval interests are under consideration, let her bows be turned to Bermuda—a colony, a fortress and a prison, and where England owns an extensive floating dock, dock-yards, and workshops.114 Trollope says that its geological formation is mysterious. “It seems to be made of soft white stone, composed mostly of little shells—so soft, indeed, that you might cut Bermuda up with a hand-saw. And people are cutting up Bermuda with hand-saws. One little island, that on which the convicts are established, has been altogether so cut up already. When I visited it, two fat convicts were working away slowly at the last fragment.” Bermuda is the crater of an extinct volcano, and is surrounded by little islets, of which there is one for every day of the year in a space of twenty by three miles. These are surrounded again by reefs and rocks, and navigation is risky.

Were the Bermudas the scene of Ariel’s tricks? They were first discovered, in 1522, by Bermudez, a Spaniard; and Shakespeare seems to have heard of them, for he speaks of the

“Still vexed Bermoothes.”

Trollope says that there is more of the breed of Caliban in the islands than of Ariel. Though Caliban did not relish working for his master more than the Bermudian of to-day, there was an amount of energy about him entirely wanting in the existing islanders.

There are two towns, St. George and Hamilton, on different islands. The former is the head-quarters of the military, and the second that of the governor. It is the summer head-quarters of the admiral of the station. The islands are, in general, wonderfully fertile, and will, with any ordinary cultivation, give two crops of many [pg 188]vegetables in the year. It has the advantages of the tropics, plus those of more temperate climes. For tomatoes, onions, beet-root, sweet potatoes, early potatoes, as well as all kinds of fruits, from oranges, lemons, and bananas to small berries, it is not surpassed by any place in the world; while arrowroot is one of its specialities. It is the early market-garden for New York. Ship-building is carried on, as the islands abound in a stunted cedar, good for the purpose, when it can be found large enough. The working population are almost all negroes, and are lazy to a degree. But the whites are not much better; and the climate is found to produce great lassitude.


It is the sea round the Bermudas, more than the islands themselves, perhaps, that give its beauty. Everywhere the water is wonderfully clear and transparent, while the land is broken up into narrow inlets and headlands, and bays and promontories, nooks and corners, running here and there in capricious and ever-varying forms. The oleander, with their bright blossoms, are so abundant, almost to the water’s edge, that the Bermudas might be called the “Oleander Isles.”

The Bermuda convict, in Trollope’s time, seemed to be rather better off than most [pg 189]English labourers. He had a pound of meat—good meat, too, while the Bermudians were tugging at their teeth with tough morsels; he had a pound and three-quarters of bread—more than he wanted; a pound of vegetables; tea and sugar; a glass of grog per diem; tobacco-money allowed, and eight hours’ labour. He was infinitely better off than most sailors of the merchant service.


St. George, the military station of the colony, commands the only entrance among the islands suitable for the passage of large vessels, the narrow and intricate channel which leads to its land-locked haven being defended by strong batteries. The lagoons, and passages, and sea canals between the little islands make communication by water as necessary as in Venice. Every one keeps a boat or cedar canoe. He will often do his business on one island and have his residence on a second. Mark Twain has a wonderful facility for description; and his latest articles, “Random Notes of an Idle Excursion,” contain a picturesque account of the Bermudas, and more particularly of Hamilton, the leading port. He says that he found it a wonderfully white town, white as marble—snow—flour. “It was,” says he, “a town compacted together upon the sides [pg 190]and tops of a cluster of small hills. Its outlying borders fringed off and thinned away among the cedar forests, and there was no woody distance of curving coast or leafy islet sleeping on the dimpled, painted sea but was flecked with shining white points—half-concealed houses peeping out of the foliage. * * * There was an ample pier of heavy masonry; upon this, under shelter, were some thousands of barrels, containing that product which has carried the fame of Bermuda to many lands—the potato. With here and there an onion. That last sentence is facetious, for they grow at least two onions in Bermuda to one potato. The onion is the pride and the joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure. In Bermudian metaphor it stands for perfection—perfection absolute.

“The Bermudian, weeping over the departed, exhausts praise when he says, ‘He was an onion!’ The Bermudian, extolling the living hero, bankrupts applause when he says, ‘He is an onion!’ The Bermudian, setting his son upon the stage of life to dare and do for himself, climaxes all counsel, supplication, admonition, comprehends all ambition, when he says, ‘Be an onion!’ ” When the steamer arrives at the pier, the first question asked is not concerning great war or political news, but concerns only the price of onions. All the writers agree that for tomatoes, onions, and vegetables generally, the Bermudas are unequalled; they have been called, as noted before, the market-gardens of New York.

Jack who is fortunate enough to be on the West India and North American Stations must be congratulated. “The country roads,” says the clever writer above quoted, “curve and wind hither and thither in the delightfulest way, unfolding pretty surprises at every turn; billowy masses of oleander that seem to float out from behind distant projections, like the pink cloud-banks of sunset; sudden plunges among cottages and gardens, life and activity, followed by as sudden plunges into the sombre twilight and stillness of the woods; glittering visions of white fortresses and beacon towers pictured against the sky on remote hill-tops; glimpses of shining green sea caught for a moment through opening headlands, then lost again; more woods and solitude; and by-and-by another turn lays bare, without warning, the full sweep of the inland ocean, enriched with its bars of soft colour, and graced with its wandering sails.

“Take any road you please, you may depend upon it you will not stay in it half a mile. Your road is everything that a road ought to be; it is bordered with trees, and with strange plants and flowers; it is shady and pleasant, or sunny and still pleasant; it carries you by the prettiest and peacefulest and most home-like of homes, and through stretches of forest that lie in a deep hush sometimes, and sometimes are alive with the music of birds; it curves always, which is a continual promise, whereas straight roads reveal everything at a glance and kill interest. * * * There is enough of variety. Sometimes you are in the level open, with marshes, thick grown with flag-lances that are ten feet high, on the one hand, and potato and onion orchards on the other; next you are on a hill-top, with the ocean and the islands spread around you; presently the road winds through a deep cut, shut in by perpendicular walls thirty or forty feet high, marked with the oddest and abruptest stratum lines, suggestive of sudden and eccentric old upheavals, and garnished with, here and there, a clinging adventurous flower, and here and there [pg 191]a dangling vine; and by-and-by, your way is along the sea edge, and you may look down a fathom or two through the transparent water and watch the diamond-like flash and play of the light upon the rocks and sands on the bottom until you are tired of it—if you are so constituted as to be able to get tired of it.”

But as there are spots in the sun, and the brightest lights throw the deepest shadows everywhere; so on the Bermuda coasts there are, in its rare storms, dangers of no small kind among its numerous reefs and rocks. The North Rock, in particular, is the monument which marks the grave of many a poor sailor in by-gone days. At the present time, however, tug-boats, and the use of steam generally, have reduced the perils of navigation among the hundreds of islands which constitute the Bermuda group to a minimum.

The recent successful trip of Cleopatra’s Needle in a vessel of unique construction will recall that of the Bermuda floating-dock, which it will be remembered was towed across the Atlantic and placed in its present position.

Bermuda being, from a naval point of view, the most important port on the North American and West Indian Stations, it had long been felt to be an absolute necessity that a dock capable of holding the largest vessels of war should be built in some part of the island. After many futile attempts to accomplish this object, owing to the porous nature of the rock of which the island is formed, it was determined that Messrs. Campbell, Johnstone & Co., of North Woolwich, should construct a floating-dock according to their patented inventions: those built by them for Carthagena, Saigon, and Callao having been completely successful. The dimensions of the dock for Bermuda, which was afterwards named after that island, are as follows:—

Length over all 381 feet.
Length between caissons 330
Breadth over all 124
Breadth between sides 84
Depth inside 53 „    5 in.

She is divided into eight longitudinal water-tight compartments, and these again into sets of compartments, called respectively load on and balance chambers. Several small compartments were also made for the reception of the pumps, the machinery for moving capstans, and cranes, all of which were worked by steam. She is powerful and large enough to lift an ironclad having a displacement of 10,400 tons, and could almost dock the Great Eastern.

The building of the Bermuda was begun in August, 1866; she was launched in September, 1868, and finally completed in May, 1869. For the purposes of navigation two light wooden bridges were thrown across her, on the foremost of which stood her compass, and on the after the steering apparatus. She was also supplied with three lighthouses and several semaphores for signalling to the men-of-war which had her in tow, either by night or day. In shape she is something like a round-bottomed canal boat with the ends cut off. From an interesting account of her voyage from Sheerness to Bermuda by “One of those on Board,” we gather the following information respecting her trip. Her crew numbered eighty-two hands, under a Staff-Commander, R.N.; there were also on board an assistant naval surgeon, an Admiralty commissioner, and the writer [pg 192]of the book from which these particulars are taken. The first rendezvous of the Bermuda was to be at the Nore.


On the afternoon of the 23rd of June, 1869, the Bermuda was towed to the Nore by four ordinary Thames tugs, accompanied by H.M.SS. Terrible, Medusa, Buzzard, and Wildfire. On arriving at the Nore off the lightship she found the Northumberland waiting for her. The tugs cast off, and a hawser was passed to the Northumberland, which took her in tow as far as Knob Channel, the Terrible bringing up astern. The Agincourt was now picked up, and passing a hawser on board the Northumberland, took the lead in the maritime tandem. A hawser was now passed to the Terrible from the stern of the Bermuda, so that by towing that vessel she might be kept from swaying from side to side. The Medusa steamed on the quarter of the Northumberland, and the Buzzard acted as a kind of floating outrider to clear the way. The North Foreland was passed the same evening, at a speed of four knots an hour. Everything went well until the 25th, when she lost sight of land off the Start Point late in the afternoon of that day. On the 28th she was half-way across the Bay of Biscay, when, encountering a slight sea and a freshening wind, she showed her first tendency to roll, an accomplishment in which she was [pg 193]afterwards beaten by all her companions, although the prognostications about her talents in this direction had been of the most lugubrious description. It must be understood that the bottom of her hold, so to speak, was only some ten feet under the surface of the water, and that her hollow sides towered some sixty feet above it. On the top of each gunwale were wooden houses for the officers, with gardens in front and behind, in which mignonette, sweet peas, and other English garden flowers, grew and flourished, until they encountered the parching heat of the tropics. The crew was quartered in the sides of the vessel; and the top of the gunwales, or quarter-decks, as they might be called, communicated with the lower decks by means of a ladder fifty-three feet long.


To return, however, to the voyage. Her next rendezvous was at Porto Santo, a small island on the east coast of the island of Madeira. On July 4th, about six o’clock in the morning, land was signalled. This proved to be the island of Porto Santo; and she brought up about two miles off the principal town early in the afternoon, having made the voyage from Sheerness in exactly eleven days. Here the squadron was joined by the Warrior, Black Prince, and Lapwing (gunboat), the Helicon leaving them for Lisbon. Towards nightfall they started once more in the following order, passing to the south of Bermuda. The Black Prince and Warrior led the team, towing the Bermuda, the Terrible being towed by her in turn, to prevent yawing, and the Lapwing following close on the heels of the Terrible. All went well until the 8th, when the breeze freshened, the dock rolling as much as ten degrees. Towards eight o’clock in the evening a mighty crash was heard, and the whole squadron was brought up by signal from the lighthouses. On examination it was found that the Bermuda had carried away one of the chains of [pg 194]her immense rudder, which was swaying to and fro in a most dangerous manner. The officers and men, however, went to work with a will, and by one o’clock the next morning all was made snug again, and the squadron proceeded on its voyage. During this portion of the trip, a line of communication was established between the Bermuda and the Warrior, and almost daily presents of fresh meat and vegetables were sent by the officers of the ironclad to their unknown comrades on board the dock. On the 9th, the day following the disaster to the rudder, they fell in with the north-east trade winds, which formed the subject of great rejoicing. Signals were made to make all sail, and reduce the quantity of coal burned in the boilers of the four steam vessels. The next day, the Lapwing, being shorter of coal than the others, she was ordered to take the place of the Terrible, the latter ship now taking the lead by towing the Black Prince. The Lapwing, however, proved not to be sufficiently powerful for this service. A heavy sea springing up, the dock began to yaw and behave so friskily that the squadron once more brought to, and the old order of things was resumed.

On the 25th the Lapwing was sent on ahead to Bermuda to inform the authorities of the close advent of the dock. It was now arranged that as the Terrible drew less water than any of the other ships, she should have the honour of piloting the dock through the Narrows—a narrow, tortuous, and shallow channel, forming the only practicable entrance for large ships to the harbour of Bermuda. On the morning of the 28th, Bermuda lighthouse was sighted, and the Spitfire was shortly afterwards picked up, having been sent by the Bermudan authorities to pilot the squadron as far as the entrance of the Narrows. She also brought the intelligence that it had been arranged that the Viper and the Vixen had been ordered to pilot the dock into harbour. As they neared Bermuda, the squadron were met by the naval officer in charge of the station, who, after having had interviews with the captains of the squadron and of the Bermuda, rescinded the order respecting the Vixen and the Viper, and the Terrible was once more deputed to tow the Bermuda through the Narrows. Just off the mouth of this dangerous inlet, the Bermuda being in tow of the Terrible only, the dock became uncontrollable, and would have done her best to carry Her Majesty’s ship to Halifax had not the Warrior come to her aid, after the Spitfire and Lapwing had tried ineffectually to be of assistance.

By this time, however, the water in the Narrows had become too low for the Warrior; the Bermuda had, therefore, to wait until high water next morning in order to complete the last, and, as it proved, the most perilous part of her journey. After the Warrior and the Terrible had towed the dock through the entrance of the inlet, the first-named ship cast off. The dock once more became unmanageable through a sudden gust of wind striking her on the quarter. Had the gust lasted for only a few seconds longer, the dock would have stranded—perhaps for ever. She righted, however, and the Terrible steaming hard ahead, she passed the most dangerous point of the inlet, and at last rode securely in smooth water, within a few cables’ length of her future berth, after a singularly successful voyage of thirty-six days.

It says much for the naval and engineering skill of all concerned in the transport of this unwieldy mass of iron, weighing 8,000 tons, over nearly 4,000 miles of ocean, without the loss of a single life, or, indeed, a solitary accident that can be called serious. The [pg 195]conception, execution, and success of the project are wholly unparalleled in the history of naval engineering.

Leaving Bermuda, whither away? To the real capital of America, New York. It is true that English men-of-war, and, for the matter of that, vessels of the American navy, comparatively seldom visit that port, which otherwise is crowded by the shipping of all nations. There are reasons for this. New York has not to-day a dock worthy of the name; magnificent steamships and palatial ferry-boats all lie alongside wharfs, or enter “slips,” which are semi-enclosed wharfs. Brooklyn and Jersey City have, however, docks.

Who that has visited New York will ever forget his first impressions? The grand Hudson, or the great East River, itself a strait: the glorious bay, or the crowded island, alike call for and deserve enthusiastic admiration. If one arrives on a sunny day, maybe not a zephyr agitates the surface of the noble Hudson, or even the bay itself: the latter landlocked, save where lost in the broad Atlantic; the former skirted by the great Babylon of America and the wooded banks of Hoboken. Round the lofty western hills, a fleet of small craft—with rakish hulls and snowy sails—steal quietly and softly, while steamboats, that look like floating islands, almost pass them with lightning speed. Around is the shipping of every clime; enormous ferry-boats radiating in all directions; forests of masts along the wharfs bearing the flags of all nations. And where so much is strange, there is one consoling fact: you feel yourself at home. You are among brothers, speaking the same language, obeying the same laws, professing the same religion.


New York city and port of entry, New York county, State of New York, lies at the head of New York Bay, so that there is a good deal of New York about it. It is the commercial emporium of the United States, and if it ever has a rival, it will be on the other side of the continent, somewhere not far from San Francisco. Its area is, practically, the bulk of Manhattan or New York Island, say thirteen miles long by two wide. Its separation from the mainland is caused by the Harlem River, which connects the Hudson and East Rivers, and is itself spanned by a bridge and the Croton aqueduct. New York really possesses every advantage required to build a grand emporium. It extends between two rivers, each navigable for the largest vessels, while its harbour would contain the united or disunited navies, as the case may be, of all nations. The Hudson River, in particular, is for some distance up a mile or more in width, while the East River averages over two-fifths of a mile. The population of New York, with its suburban appendages, including the cities of Brooklyn and Jersey City, is not less than that of Paris.

The harbour is surrounded with small settlements, connected by charmingly-situated villas and country residences. It is toward its northern end that the masts, commencing with a few stragglers, gradually thicken to a forest. In it are three fortified islands. By the strait called the “Narrows,” seven miles from the lower part of the city, and [pg 196]which is, for the space of a mile, about one mile wide, it communicates with the outer harbour, or bay proper, which extends thence to Sandy Hook Light, forty miles from the city, and opens directly into the ocean, forming one of the best roadsteads on the whole Atlantic coasts of America. The approach to the city, as above indicated, is very fine, the shores of the bay being wooded down to the water’s edge, and thickly studded with villages, farms, and country seats. The view of the city itself is not so prepossessing; like all large cities, it is almost impossible to find a point from which to grasp the grandeur in its entirety, and the ground on which it is built is nowhere elevated. Therefore there is very little to strike the eye specially. Many a petty town makes a greater show in this respect.

Those ferry-boats! The idea in the minds of most Englishmen is associated with boats that may pass over from one or two to a dozen or so people, possibly a single horse, or a donkey-cart. There you find steamers a couple of hundred or more feet long, with, on either side of the engines, twenty or more feet space. On the true deck there is accommodation for carriages, carts, and horses by the score; above, a spacious saloon for passengers. They have powerful engines, and will easily beat the average steamship. On arrival at the dock, they run into a kind of slip, or basin, with piles around stuck in the soft bottom, which yield should she strike them, and entirely do away with any fear of [pg 197]concussion. “I may here add,” notes an intelligent writer,115 “that during my whole travels in the States, I found nothing more perfect in construction and arrangement than the ferries and their boats, the charges for which are most moderate, varying according to distances, and ranging from one halfpenny upwards.”

The sailor ashore in New York—and how many, many thousands visit it every year!—will find much to note. The public buildings of the great city are not remarkable; but the one great street, Broadway, which is about eight miles long, and almost straight, is a very special feature. Unceasing throngs of busy men and women, loungers and idlers, vehicles of all kinds, street cars, omnibuses, and carriages—there are no cabs hardly in New York—pass and re-pass from early morn to dewy eve, while the shops, always called “stores,” rival those of the Boulevards or Regent Street. Some of the older streets were, no doubt, as Washington Irving tells us, laid out after the old cow-paths, as they are as narrow and tortuous as those of any European city. The crowded state of Broadway at certain points rivals Cheapside. The writer saw in 1867 a light bridge, which spanned the street, and was intended for the use of ladies and timid pedestrians. When, in 1869, he re-passed through the city it had disappeared, and on inquiry he learnt the reason. Unprincipled roughs had stationed themselves at either end, and levied black-mail toll on old ladies and unsophisticated country-people.

[pg 198]

So extreme is the difference between the intense heat of summer and the equally intense cold of winter in New York, that the residents regularly get thin in the former and stout in the latter. And what a sight are the two rivers at that time! Huge masses of ice, crashing among themselves, and making navigation perilous and sometimes impossible, descending the stream at a rapid rate; docks and slips frozen in; the riggings and shrouds of great ships covered with icicles, and the decks ready for immediate use as skating-rinks. The writer crossed in the ferry-boat from Jersey City to New York, in January, 1875, and acquired a sincere respect for the pilot, who wriggled and zig-zagged his vessel through masses of ice, against which a sharp collision would not have been a joke. When, on the following morning, he left for Liverpool, the steamship herself was a good model for a twelfth-night cake ornament, and had quite enough to do to get out from the wharf. Five days after, in mid-Atlantic, he was sitting on deck in the open air, reading a book, so much milder at such times is it on the open ocean.


But our leave is over, and although it would be pleasant to travel in imaginative company up the beautiful Hudson, and visit one of the wonders of the world—Niagara, to-day a mere holiday excursion from New York—we must away, merely briefly noting before we go another of the wonders of the world, a triumph of engineering skill: the great Brooklyn bridge, which connects that city with New York. Its span is about three-quarters of a mile; large ships can pass under it, while vehicles and pedestrians cross in mid-air over their mast tops, between two great cities, making them one. Brooklyn is a great place for the residences of well-to-do New Yorkers, and the view from its “Heights”—an elevation covered with villas and mansions—is grand and extensive. Apart from this, Brooklyn is a considerable city, with numerous churches and chapels, public buildings, and places of amusement.


Halifax is the northernmost depôt of the whole West India and North American Station, and is often a great rendezvous of the Royal Navy. It is situated on a peninsula on the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, of which it is the capital. Its situation is very picturesque. The town stands on the declivity of a hill about 250 feet high, rising from one of the finest harbours in the world. The city front is lined with handsome wharfs, while merchants’ houses, dwellings, and public edifices arrange themselves on tiers, stretching along and up the sides of the hill. It has fine wide streets; the principal one, which runs round the edge of the harbour, is capitally paved. The harbour opposite the town, where ships usually anchor, is rather more than a mile wide, and after narrowing to a quarter of a mile above the upper end of the town, expands into Bedford Basin, a completely land-locked sheet of water. This grand sea-lake has an area of ten square miles, and is capable of containing any number of navies. Halifax possesses another advantage not common to every harbour of North America: it is accessible at all seasons, and navigation is rarely impeded by ice. There are two fine lighthouses at Halifax; that on an island off Sambro Head is 210 feet high. The port possesses many large ships of its own, generally employed in the South Sea whale and seal fishery. It is a very prosperous fishing town in other respects.

The town of Halifax was founded in 1749. The settlers, to the number of 3,500, largely composed of naval and military men, whose expenses out had been paid by the [pg 199]British Government to assist in the formation of the station, soon cleared the ground from stumps, &c., and having erected a wooden government house and suitable warehouses for stores and provisions, the town was laid out so as to form a number of straight and handsome streets. Planks, doors, window-frames, and other portions of houses, were imported from the New England settlements, and the more laborious portion of the work, which the settlers executed themselves, was performed with great dispatch. At the approach of winter they found themselves comfortably settled, having completed a number of houses and huts, and covered others in a manner which served to protect them from the rigour of the weather, there very severe. There were now assembled at Halifax about 5,000 people, whose labours were suddenly suspended by the intensity of the frost, and there was in consequence considerable enforced idleness. Haliburton116 mentions the difficulty that the governor had to employ the settlers by sending them out on various expeditions, in palisading the town, and in other public works.

In addition to £40,000 granted by the British Government for the embarkation and other expenses of the first settlers, Parliament continued to make annual grants for the same purpose, which, in 1755, amounted to the considerable sum of £416,000.

The town of Halifax was no sooner built than the French colonists began to be alarmed, and although they did not think proper to make an open avowal of their jealousy and disgust, they employed their emissaries clandestinely in exciting the Indians to harass the inhabitants with hostilities, in such a manner as should effectually hinder them from extending their plantations, or perhaps, indeed, induce them to abandon the settlement. The Indian chiefs, however, for some time took a different view of the matter, waited upon the governor, and acknowledged themselves subjects of the crown of England. The French court thereupon renewed its intrigues with the Indians, and so far succeeded that for several years the town was frequently attacked in the night, and the English could not stir into the adjoining woods without the danger of being shot, scalped, or taken prisoners.

Among the early laws of Nova Scotia was one by which it was enacted that no debts contracted in England, or in any of the colonies prior to the settlement of Halifax, or to the arrival of the debtor, should be recoverable by law in any court in the province. As an asylum for insolvent debtors, it is natural to suppose that Halifax attracted thither the guilty as well as the unfortunate; and we may form some idea of the state of public morals at that period from an order of Governor Cornwallis, which, after reciting that the dead were usually attended to the grave by neither relatives or friends, twelve citizens should in future be summoned to attend the funeral of each deceased person.

The Nova Scotians are popularly known by Canadians and Americans as “Blue Noses,” doubtless from the colour of their nasal appendages in bitter cold weather. It has been already mentioned that Halifax is now a thriving city; but there must have been a period when the people were not particularly enterprising, or else that most veracious individual, “Sam Slick,” greatly belied them. Judge Haliburton, in his immortal “Clockmaker,” introduces the following conversation with Mr. Slick:—

“ ‘You appear,’ said I to Mr. Slick, ‘to have travelled over the whole of this province, [pg 200]and to have observed the country and the people with much attention; pray, what is your opinion of the present state and future prospects of Halifax?’ ‘If you will tell me,’ said he, ‘when the folks there will wake up, then I can answer you; but they are fast asleep. As to the province, it’s a splendid province, and calculated to go ahead; it will grow as fast as a Virginny gall—and they grow so amazing fast, if you put one of your arms round one of their necks to kiss them, by the time you’ve done they’ve growed up into women. It’s a pretty province, I tell you, good above and better below: surface covered with pastures, meadows, woods, and a nation sight of water privileges; and under the ground full of mines. It puts me in mind of the soup at Treemont house—good enough at top, but dip down and you have the riches—the coal, the iron ore, the gypsum, and what not. As for Halifax, it’s well enough in itself, though no great shakes neither; a few sizeable houses, with a proper sight of small ones, like half-a-dozen old hens with their broods of young chickens: but the people, the strange critters, they are all asleep. They walk in their sleep, and talk in their sleep, and what they say one day they forget the next; they say they were dreaming.’ ” This was first published in England in 1838; all accounts now speak of Halifax as a well-built, paved, and cleanly city, and of its inhabitants as enterprising.


[pg 202]


Round the World on a Man-of-War (continued).


Its Extent—Ascension—Turtle at a Discount—Sierra Leone—An Unhealthy Station—The Cape of Good Hope—Cape Town—Visit of the Sailor Prince—Grand Festivities—Enthusiasm of the Natives—Loyal Demonstrations—An African Derby—Grand Dock Inaugurated—Elephant Hunting—The Parting Ball—The Life of a Boer—Circular Farms—The Diamond Discoveries—A £12,000 Gem—A Sailor First President of the Fields—Precarious Nature of the Search—Natal—Inducements held out to Settlers—St. Helena and Napoleon—Discourteous Treatment of a Fallen Foe—The Home of the Caged Lion.

And now we are off to the last of the British naval stations under consideration—that of the African coast. It is called, in naval phraseology, “The West Coast of Africa and Cape of Good Hope Station,” and embraces not merely all that the words imply, but a part of the east coast, including the important colony of Natal. Commencing at latitude 20° N. above the Cape Verd Islands, it includes the islands of Ascension, St. Helena, Tristan d’Acunha, and others already described.

Ascension, which is a British station, with dockyard, and fort garrisoned by artillery and marines, is a barren island, about eight miles long by six broad. Its fort is in lat. 70° 26′ N.: long., 140° 24′ W. It is of volcanic formation, and one of its hills rises to the considerable elevation of 2,870 feet. Until the imprisonment of Napoleon at St. Helena, it was utterly uninhabited. At that period it was garrisoned with a small British force; and so good use was made of their time that it has been partly cultivated and very greatly improved. Irrigation was found, as elsewhere, to work wonders, and as there are magnificent springs, this was rendered easy. Vast numbers of turtle are taken on its shores; and, in consequence, the soldiers prefer the soup of pea, and affect to despise turtle steaks worth half a guinea apiece in London, and fit to rejoice the heart of an alderman! The writer saw the same thing in Vancouver Island, where at the boarding-house of a very large steam saw-mill, the hands struck against the salmon, so abundant on those coasts. They insisted upon not having it more than twice a week for dinner, and that it should be replaced by salt pork. The climate of Ascension is remarkably healthy. The object in occupying it is very similar to the reason for holding the Falkland Islands—to serve as a depôt for stores, coal, and for watering ships cruising in the South Atlantic.

Sierra Leone is, perhaps, of all places in the world, the last to which the sailor would wish to go, albeit its unhealthiness has been, as is the case with Panama, grossly exaggerated. Thus we were told that when a clergyman with some little influence was pestering the Prime Minister for the time being for promotion, the latter would appoint him to the Bishopric of Sierra Leone, knowing well that in a year or so the said bishopric would be vacant and ready for another gentleman!


Sierra Leone is a British colony, and the capital is Free Town, situated on a peninsula lying between the broad estuary of the Sherboro and the Sierra Leone rivers, connected with the mainland by an isthmus not more than one mile and a half broad. The colony [pg 203]also includes a number of islands, among which are many good harbours. Its history has one interesting point. When, in 1787, it became a British colony, a company was formed, which included a scheme for making it a home for free negroes, and to prove that colonial produce could be raised profitably without resorting to slave labour. Its prosperity was seriously affected during the French Revolution by the depredations of French cruisers, and in 1808 the company ceded all its rights to the Crown. Its population includes negroes from 200 different African tribes, many of them liberated from slavery and slave-ships, a subject which will be treated hereafter in this work.

One of the great industries of Sierra Leone is the manufacture of cocoa-nut oil. The factories are extensive affairs. It is a very beautiful country, on the whole, and when acclimatised, Europeans find that they can live splendidly on the products of the country. The fisheries, both sea and river, are wonderfully productive, and employ about 1,500 natives. Boat-building is carried on to some extent, the splendid forests yielding timber so large that canoes capable of holding a hundred men have been made from a single log, like those already mentioned in connection with the north-west coast of America. Many of the West Indian products have been introduced; sugar, coffee, indigo, ginger, cotton, and rice thrive well, as do Indian corn, the yam, plantain, pumpkins, banana, cocoa, baobab, pine-apple, orange, lime, guava, papaw, pomegranate, orange, and lime. Poultry is particularly abundant. It therefore might claim attention as a fruitful and productive country but for the malaria of its swampy rivers and low lands.

And now, leaving Sierra Leone, our good ship makes for the Cape of Good Hope, passing, mostly far out at sea, down that coast along which the Portuguese mariners crept so cautiously yet so surely till Diaz and Da Gama reached South Africa, while the latter showed them the way to the fabled Cathaia, the Orient—India, China, and the Spice Islands.

In the year 1486 “The Cape” of capes par excellence, which rarely nowadays bears its full title, was discovered by Bartholomew de Diaz, a commander in the service of John II. of Portugal. He did not proceed to the eastward of it, and it was reserved for the great Vasco da Gama—afterwards the first Viceroy of India—an incident in whose career forms, by-the-by, the plot of L’Africaine, Meyerbeer’s grand opera, to double it. It was called at first Cabo Tormentoso—“the Cape of Storms”—but by royal desire was changed to that of “Buon Esperanza”“Good Hope”—the title it still bears. Cape Colony was acquired by Great Britain in 1620, although for a long time it was practically in the hands of the Dutch, a colony having been planted by their East India Company. The Dutch held it in this way till 1795, when the territory was once more taken by our country. It was returned to the Dutch at the Peace of Amiens, only to be snatched from them again in 1806, and finally confirmed to Britain at the general peace of 1815.

The population, including the Boers, or farmers of Dutch descent, Hottentots, Kaffirs, and Malays, is not probably over 600,000, while the original territory is about 700 miles long by 400 wide, having an area of not far from 200,000 square miles. The capital of the colony is Cape Town, lying at the foot, as every schoolboy knows, of the celebrated Table Mountain.

[pg 204]

A recent writer, Mr. Boyle,117 speaks cautiously of Cape Town and its people. There are respectable, but not very noticeable, public buildings. “Some old Dutch houses there are, distinguishable chiefly by a superlative flatness and an extra allowance of windows. The population is about 30,000 souls, white, black, and mixed. I should incline to think more than half fall into the third category. They seem to be hospitable and good-natured in all classes.... There is complaint of slowness, indecision, and general ‘want of go’ about the place. Dutch blood is said to be still too apparent in business, in local government, and in society. I suppose there is sound basis for these accusations, since trade is migrating so rapidly towards the rival mart of Port Elizabeth.... But ten years ago the entire export of wool passed through Cape Town. Last year, as I find in the official returns, 28,000,000 lbs. were shipped at the eastern port out of the whole 37,000,000 lbs. produced in the colony. The gas-lamps, put up by a sort of coup d’état in the municipality, were not lighted until last year, owing to the opposition of the Dutch town councillors. They urged that decent people didn’t want to be out at night, and the ill-disposed didn’t deserve illumination. Such facts seem to show that the city is not quite up to the mark in all respects.”

[pg 205]

Simon’s Bay, near Table Bay, where Cape Town is situated, is a great rendezvous for the navy; there are docks and soldiers there, and a small town. The bay abounds in fish. The Rev. John Milner, chaplain of the Galatea, says that during the visit of Prince Alfred, “large shoals of fish (a sort of coarse mackerel) were seen all over the bay; numbers came alongside, and several of them were harpooned with grains by some of the youngsters from the accommodation-ladder. Later in the day a seal rose, and continued fishing and rising in the most leisurely manner. At one time it was within easy rifle distance, and might have been shot from the ship.”118 Fish and meat are so plentiful in the colony that living is excessively cheap.


The visit of his Royal Highness the Sailor Prince, in 1867, will long be remembered in the colony. That, and the recent diamond discoveries, prove that the people cannot be accused of sloth and want of enterprise. On arrival at Simon’s Bay, the first vessels made out were the Racoon, on which Prince Alfred had served his time as lieutenant, the Petrel, just returned from landing poor Livingstone at the Zambesi, and the receiving-ship Seringapatam. Soon followed official visits, dinner, ball, and fireworks from the ships. When the Prince was to proceed to Cape Town, all the ships fired a royal salute, and [pg 206]the fort also, as he landed at the jetty, where he was received by a guard of honour of the 99th Regiment. A short distance from the landing-place, at the entrance to the main street, was a pretty arch, decorated with flowering shrubs, and the leaves of the silver-tree. On his way to this his Royal Highness was met by a deputation from the inhabitants of Simon’s Town and of the Malay population. “This was a very interesting sight; the chief men, dressed in Oriental costumes, with bright-coloured robes and turbans, stood in front, and two of them held short wands decorated with paper flowers of various colours. The Duke shook hands with them, and then they touched him with their wands. They seemed very much pleased, and looked at him in an earnest and affectionate manner. Several of the Malays stood round with drawn swords, apparently acting as a guard of honour. The crowd round formed a very motley group of people of all colours—negroes, brown Asiatics, Hottentots, and men, women, and children of every hue. The policemen had enough to do to keep them back as they pressed up close round the Duke.” After loyal addresses had been received, and responded to, the Prince and suite drove off for Cape Town, the ride to which is graphically described by the chaplain and artist of the expedition. “The morning was very lovely. Looking to seaward was the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Hanglip, and the high, broken shores of Hottentot Holland, seen over the clear blue water of the bay. The horses, carriages, escort with their drawn swords, all dashing at a rattling pace along the sands in the bright sunshine, and the long lines of small breakers on the beach, was one of the most exhilarating sights imaginable. In places the cavalcade emerged from the sands up on to where the road skirts a rocky shore, and where at this season of the year beautiful arum lilies and other bright flowers were growing in the greatest profusion. About four miles from Simon’s Bay, we passed a small cove, called Fish-hook Bay, where a few families of Malay fishermen reside. A whale they had killed in the bay the evening before lay anchored ready for ‘cutting in.’ A small flag, called by whalers a ‘whiff,’ was sticking up in it. We could see from the road that it was one of the usual southern ‘right’ whales which occasionally come into Simon’s Bay, and are captured there. After crossing the last of the sands, we reached Kalk Bay, a collection of small houses where the people from Cape Town come to stay in the summer. As we proceeded, fresh carriages of private individuals and horsemen continued to join on behind, and it was necessary to keep a bright look-out to prevent them rushing in between the two carriages containing the Duke and Governor, with their suites. Various small unpretending arches (every poor man having put up one on his own account), with flags and flowers, spanned the road in different places between Simon’s Town and Farmer Peck’s, a small inn about nine miles from the anchorage, which used formerly to have the following eccentric sign-board:—

‘Multum in Parvo! Pro bono publico!
Entertainment for man or beast, all of a row,
Lekher kost, as much as you please;
Excellent beds, without any fleas.
[pg 207]
Nos patriam fugimus! now we are here,
Vivamus! let us live by selling beer.
On donne à boire et à manger ici;
Come in and try it, whoever you be.’

This house was decorated with evergreens, and over the door was a stuffed South African leopard springing on an antelope. A little further on, after discussing lunch at a half-way house, a goodly number of volunteer cavalry, in blue-and-white uniforms, appeared to escort the Sailor Prince into Cape Town. The road passes through pleasant country; but the thick red dust which rose as the cavalcade proceeded was overwhelming. It was a South African version of the ‘Derby’ on a hot summer’s day. At various places parties of school-children, arrayed along the road-side, sung the National Anthem in little piping voices, the singing being generally conducted by mild-looking men in black gloves and spectacles. At one place stood an old Malay, playing ‘God Save the Queen’ on a cracked clarionet, who, quite absorbed as he was in his music, and apparently unconscious of all around him, looked exceedingly comic. There was everywhere a great scrambling crowd of Malays and black boys, running and tumbling over each other, shouting and laughing; women with children tied on their backs, old men, and girls dressed in every conceivable kind of ragged rig and picturesque colour, with head-gear of a wonderful nature, huge Malay hats, almost parasols in size, and resembling the thatch of an English corn-rick; crowns of old black hats; turbans of all proportions and colours, swelled the procession as it swept along. When the cavalry-trumpet sounded ‘trot,’ the cloud of dust increased tenfold. Everybody, apparently, who could muster a horse was mounted, so that ahead and on every side the carriage in which we were following the Duke was hemmed in and surrounded, and everything became mixed up in one thick cloud of red dust, in which helmets, swords, hats, puggeries, turbans, and horses almost disappeared. The crowd hurraed louder than ever, pigs squealed, dogs howled, riders tumbled off; the excitement was irresistible. ‘Oh! this is fun; stand up—never mind dignity. Whoo-whoop!’ and we were rushed into the cloud of dust, to escape being utterly swamped and left astern of the Duke, standing up in the carriage, and holding on in front, to catch what glimpses we could of what was going on.... Some of the arches were very beautiful; they were all decorated with flowering shrubs, flowers (particularly the arum lily) and leaves of the silver-tree. In one the words Welcome Back119 were formed with oranges. One of the most curious had on its top a large steamship, with Galatea inscribed upon it, and a funnel out of which real smoke was made to issue as the Duke passed under. Six little boys dressed as sailors formed the crew, and stood up singing ‘Rule Britannia.’ ” And so they arrived in Cape Town, to have levées, receptions, entertainments, and balls by the dozen.

While at the Cape the Duke of Edinburgh laid the foundation of a grand graving-dock, an adjunct to the Table Bay Harbour Works, a most valuable and important addition to the resources of the Royal Navy, enabling the largest ironclad to be repaired at that distant point. The dock is four hundred feet long, and ninety feet wide. For more than forty years previously frequent but unsuccessful efforts had been made to provide [pg 208]a harbour of refuge in Table Bay; now, in addition to this splendid dock, it has a fine breakwater.

Officers of the Royal Navy may occasionally get the opportunity afforded the Prince, of attending an elephant hunt. From the neighbourhood of the Cape itself the biggest of beasts has long retired; but three hundred miles up the coast, at Featherbed Bay, where there is a settlement, it is still possible to enjoy some sport.

To leave the port or town of Knysna—where, by-the-by, the Duke was entertained at a great feed of South African oysters—was found to be difficult and perilous. The entrance to the harbour is very fine; a high cliff comes down sheer to the sea on one side, while on the other there is an angular bluff, with a cave through it. As the Petrel steamed out, a large group of the ladies of the district waved their handkerchiefs, and the elephant-hunters cheered. It was now evident, from the appearance of the bar, that the Petrel had not come out a moment too soon. A heavy sea of rollers extended nearly the whole way across the mouth of the harbour, and broke into a long thundering crest of foam, leaving only one small space on the western side clear of actual surf. For this opening the Petrel steered; but even there the swell was so great that the vessel reared and pitched fearfully, and touched the bottom as she dipped astern into the deep trough of the sea. The slightest accident to the rudder, and nothing short of a miracle could have saved them from going on to the rocks, where a tremendous surf was breaking. Providentially, she got out safely, and soon the party was transferred to the Racoon, which returned to Simon’s Bay.


On his return from the elephant hunt, the Prince gave a parting ball. A capital ballroom, 135 feet long by 44 wide, was improvised out of an open boat-house by a party of blue-jackets, who, by means of ships’ lanterns, flags, arms arranged as ornaments, and beautiful ferns and flowers, effected a transformation as wonderful as anything recorded in the “Arabian Nights,” the crowning feature of the decorations being the head of one of the elephants from the Knysna, surmounting an arch of evergreens. Most of the visitors had to come all the way from Cape Town, and during the afternoon were to be seen flocking along the sands in vehicles of every description, many being conveyed to Simon’s Town a part of the distance in a navy steam-tender or the Galatea’s steam-launch. The ball was, of course, a grand success.

This not being a history of Cape Colony, but rather of what the sailor will find at or near its ports and harbours, the writer is relieved from any necessity of treating on past or present troubles with the Boers or the natives. Of course, everything was tinted couleur de rose at the Prince’s visit, albeit at that very time the colony was in a bad way, with over speculation among the commercial classes, a cattle plague, disease among sheep, and a grape-disease. Mr. Frederick Boyle, whose recent work on the Diamond-fields has been already quoted, and who had to leave a steamer short of coal at Saldanha Bay, seventy or eighty miles from Cape Town, and proceed by a rather expensive route, presents a picture far from gratifying of some of the districts through which he passed. At Saldanha Bay agriculture gave such poor returns that it did not even pay to export produce to the Cape. The settlers exist, but can hardly be said to live. They have plenty of cattle and sheep, sufficient maize and corn, but little money. Mr. Boyle describes the homestead of a Boer substantially as follows:—

[pg 209]

Reaching the home of a farmer named Vasson, he found himself in the midst of a scene quite patriarchal. All the plain before the house was white with sheep and lambs, drinking at the “dam” or in long troughs. The dam is an indispensable institution in a country where springs are scarce, and where a river is a prodigy. It is the new settler’s first work, even before erecting his house, to find a hollow space, and dam it up, so as to make a reservoir. He then proceeds to make the best sun-dried bricks he can, and to erect his cottage, usually of two, and rarely more than three, rooms. Not unfrequently, there is a garden, hardly worthy of the name, where a few potatoes and onions are raised. The farmers, more especially the Dutch, are “the heaviest and largest in the world.” At an early age their drowsy habits and copious feeding run them into flesh. “Three times a day the family gorges itself upon lumps of mutton, fried in the tallowy fat of the sheep’s tail, or else—their only change of diet—upon the tasteless fricadel—kneaded balls of meat and onions, likewise swimming in grease. Very few vegetables they have, and those are rarely used. Brown bread they make, but scarcely touch it. Fancy existing from birth to death upon mutton scraps, half boiled, half fried, in tallow! So doth the Boer. It is not eating, but devouring, with him. And fancy the existence! always alone with one’s father, mother, brothers, and sisters; of whom not one can do more than write his name, scarce one can read, not one has heard of any event in history, nor dreamed of such [pg 210]existing things as art or science, or poetry, or aught that pertains to civilisation.” An unpleasant picture, truly, and one to which there are many exceptions. It was doubtful whether Mr. Vasson could read. His farm was several thousand acres. The ancient law of Cape Colony gave the settler 3,000 morgen—something more than 6,000 acres. He was not obliged to take so much, but, whatever the size of his farm might be, it must be circular in shape; and as the circumference of a property could only touch the adjoining grants it follows that there were immense corners or tracts of land left waste between. Clever and ambitious farmers, in these later days, have been silently absorbing said corners into their estates, greatly increasing their size.

The Cape cannot be recommended to the notice of poor emigrants, but to capitalists it offers splendid inducements. Mr. Irons, in his work on the Cape and Natal settlements,120 cites several actual cases, showing the profits on capital invested in sheep-farming. In one case £1,250 realised, in about three years, £2,860, which includes the sale of the wool. A second statement gives the profits on an outlay of £2,225, after seven years. It amounts to over £8,000. Rents in the towns are low; beef and mutton do not exceed fourpence per pound, while bread, made largely from imported flour, is a shilling and upwards per four-pound loaf.

So many sailors have made for the Diamond-fields, since their discovery, from the Cape, Port Elizabeth, or Natal, and so many more will do the same, as any new deposit is found, that it will not be out of place here to give the facts concerning them. In 1871, when Mr. Boyle visited them, the ride up cost from £12 to £16, with additional expenses for meals, &c. Of course, a majority of the 50,000 men who have been congregated at times at the various fields could not and did not afford this; but it is a tramp of 750 miles from Cape Town, or 450 from Port Elizabeth or Natal. From the Cape, a railway, for about sixty miles, eases some of the distance. On the journey up, which reads very like Western experiences in America, two of three mules were twenty-six hours and a half in harness, and covered 110 miles! South Africa requires a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, one would think. Mr. Boyle also saw another way by which the colonist may become rapidly wealthy—in ostrich-farming. Broods, purchased for £5 to £9, in three years gain their full plumages, and yield in feathers £4 to £6 per annum. They become quite tame, are not delicate to rear, and are easily managed. And they also met the down coaches from the fields, on one of which a young fellow—almost a boy—had no less than 235 carats with him. At last they reached Pniel (“a camp”), a place which once held 5,000 workers and delvers, and in November, 1872, was reduced to a few hundred, like the deserted diggings in California and Australia. It had, however, yielded largely for a time.

The words, “Here be diamonds,” are to be found inscribed on an old mission-map of a part of the Colony, of the date of 1750, or thereabouts. In 1867, a trader up country, near Hope Town, saw the children of a Boer playing with some pebbles, picked up along the banks of the Orange River. An ostrich-hunter named O’Reilly was present, and the pair of them were struck with the appearance of one of the stones, and they tried it on glass, scratching the sash all over. A bargain was soon struck: O’Reilly was to take it to Cape Town; and there Sir P. E. Wodehouse soon gave him £500 for it. Then came an [pg 211]excitement, of course. In 1869, a Hottentot shepherd, named Swartzboy, brought to a country store a gem of 83½ carats. The shopman, in his master’s absence, did not like to risk the £200 worth of goods demanded. Swartzboy passed on to the farm of one Niekirk, where he asked, and eventually got, £400. Niekirk sold it for £12,000 the same day! Now, of course, the excitement became a fevered frenzy.

Supreme among the camps around Pniel reigned Mr. President Parker, a sailor who, leaving the sea, had turned trader. Mr. Parker, with his counsellors, were absolute in power, and, all in all, administered justice very fairly. Ducking in the river was the mildest punishment; the naval “cat” came next; while dragging through the river was the third grade; last of all came the “spread eagle,” in which the culprit was extended flat, hands and feet staked down, and so exposed to the angry sun.

In a short time, the yield from the various fields was not under £300,000 per month, and claims were sold at hundreds and thousands of pounds apiece. Then came a time of depression, when the dealers would not buy, or only at terribly low prices. Meantime, although meat was always cheap, everything else was very high. A cabbage, for example, often fetched 10s., a water-melon 15s., and onions and green figs a shilling apiece. Forage for horses was half-a-crown a bundle of four pounds. To-day they are little higher on the Fields than in other parts of the Colony.

That a number of diggers have made snug little piles, ranging from two or three to eight, ten, or more thousand pounds, is undeniable, but they were very exceptional cases, after all. The dealers in diamonds, though, often turned over immense sums very rapidly.

And now, before taking our leave of the African station, let us pay a flying visit to Natal, which colony has been steadily rising of late years, and which offers many advantages to the visitor and settler. The climate, in spite of the hot sirocco which sometimes blows over it, and the severe thunderstorms, is, all in all, superior to most of the African climates, inasmuch as the rainfall is as nearly as possible that of London, and it falls at the period when most wanted—at the time of greatest warmth and most active vegetation. The productions of Natal are even more varied than those of the Cape, while arrowroot, sugar, cotton, and Indian corn are staple articles. The great industries are cattle and sheep-rearing, and, as in all parts of South Africa, meat is excessively cheap, retailing at threepence or fourpence a pound.

Natal was discovered by Vasco da Gama, and received from him the name of Terra Natalis—“Land of the Nativity”—because of his arriving on Christmas Day. Until 1823 it was little known or visited. A settlement was then formed by a party of Englishmen, who were joined by a number of dissatisfied Dutchmen from the Cape. In 1838 the British Government took possession. There was a squabble, the colonists being somewhat defiant for a while, and some little fighting ensued. It was proposed by the settlers to proclaim the Republic of Natalia, but on the appearance of a strong British force, they subsided quietly, and Natal was placed under the control of the Governor of the Cape. In 1856, it was erected into a separate colony.

To moderate capitalists it offers many advantages. Land is granted on the easiest terms, usually four shillings per acre; and free grants are given, in proportion to a settler’s capital: £500 capital receives a land order for 200 acres. An arrowroot plantation and [pg 212]factory can be started for £500 or £600, and a coffee plantation for something over £1,000. Sugar-planting, &c., is much more expensive, and would require for plant, &c., £5,000, or more.

And now, on the way home from the African station, the good ship will pass close to, if indeed it does not touch at, the Island of St. Helena, a common place of refreshment for vessels sailing to the northward. Vessels coming southward rarely do so; sailing ships can hardly make the island. It lies some 1,200 miles from the African coasts, in mid-ocean. St. Helena has much the appearance, seen from a distance, of the summit of some great submarine mountain, its rugged and perpendicular cliffs rising from the shore to altitudes from 300 to 1,500 feet. In a few scattered places there are deep, precipitous ravines, opening to the sea, whose embouchures form difficult but still possible landing-places for the fishermen. In one of the largest of these, towards the north-west, the capital and port of the island, James Town, is situated. It is the residence of the authorities. The anchorage is good and sufficiently deep, and the port is well protected from the winds. The town is entered by an arched gateway, within which is a spacious parade, lined with official residences, and faced by a handsome church. The town is in no way remarkable, but has well-supplied shops. The leading inhabitants prefer to live outside it on the higher and cooler plateaux of the island, where many of them have very fine country houses, foremost of which is a villa named Plantation House, belonging to the governor, surrounded by pleasant grounds, handsome trees and shrubs. In the garden grounds tropical and ordinary fruits and vegetables flourish; the mango, banana, tamarind, and sugar-cane; the orange, citron, grape, fig, and olive, equally with the common fruits of England. The yam and all the European vegetables abound; three crops of potatoes have been often raised from the same ground in one year. The hills are covered with the cabbage tree, and the log-wood and gum-wood trees. Cattle and sheep are scarce, but goats browse in immense herds on the hills. No beasts of prey are to be met, but there are plenty of unpleasant and poisonous insects. Game and fish are abundant, and turtles are often found. All in all, it is not a bad place for Jack after a long voyage, although not considered healthy. It has a military governor, and there are barracks.

The interior is a plateau, divided by low mountains, the former averaging 1,500 feet above the sea. The island is undoubtedly of volcanic origin. It was discovered on the 22nd May (St. Helena’s Day), by Juan de Nova, a Portuguese. The Dutch first held it, and it was wrested from them first by England in 1673, Charles II. soon afterwards granting it to the East India Company, who, with the exception of the period of Napoleon’s imprisonment, held the proprietorship to 1834, when it became an appanage of the Crown.

The fame of the little island rests on its having been the prison of the great disturber of Europe. Every reader knows the circumstances which preceded that event. He had gone to Rochefort with the object of embarking for America, but finding the whole coast so blockaded as to render that scheme impracticable, surrendered himself to Captain Maitland, commander of the English man-of-war Bellerophon, who immediately set sail for Torbay. No notice whatever was taken of his letter—an uncourteous proceeding, to say the least of it, towards a fallen foe—and on the 7th of August he was removed [pg 213]to the Northumberland, the flag-ship of Sir George Cockburn, which immediately set sail for St. Helena.

On arrival the imperial captive was at first lodged in a sort of inn. The following day the ex-emperor and suite rode out to visit Longwood, the seat selected for his residence, and when returning noted a small villa with a pavilion attached to it, about two miles from the town, the residence of Mr. Balcombe, an inhabitant of the island. The spot attracted the emperor’s notice, and the admiral, who had accompanied him, thought it would be better for him to remain there than to go back to the town, where the sentinels at the doors and the gaping crowds in a manner confined him to his chamber. The place pleased the emperor, for the position was quiet, and commanded a fine view. The pavilion was a kind of summer-house on a pointed eminence, about fifty paces from the house, where the family were accustomed to resort in fine weather, and this was the retreat hired for the temporary abode of the emperor. It contained only one room on the ground-floor, without curtains or shutters, and scarcely possessed a seat; and when Napoleon retired to rest, one of the windows had to be barricaded, so draughty was it, in order to exclude the night air, to which he had become particularly sensitive. What a contrast to the gay palaces of France!


In December the emperor removed to Longwood, riding thither on a small Cape [pg 214]horse, and in his uniform of a chasseur of the guards. The road was lined with spectators, and he was received at the entrance to Longwood by a guard under arms, who rendered the prescribed honour to their illustrious captive. The place, which had been a farm of the East India Company, is situated on one of the highest parts of the island, and the difference between its temperature and that of the valley below is very great. It is surrounded by a level height of some extent, and is near the eastern coast. It is stated that continual and frequently violent winds blow regularly from the same quarter. The sun was rarely seen, and there were heavy rainfalls. The water, conveyed to Longwood in pipes, was found to be so unwholesome as to require boiling before it was fit for use. The surroundings were barren rocks, gloomy deep valleys, and desolate gullies, the only redeeming feature being a glimpse of the ocean on one hand. All this after La Belle France!

Longwood as a residence had not much to boast of. The building was rambling and inconveniently arranged; it had been built up by degrees, as the wants of its former inmates had increased. One or two of the suite slept in lofts, reached by ladders and trap-doors. The windows and beds were curtainless, and the furniture mean and scanty. Inhospitable and in bad taste, ye in power at the time! In front of the place, and separated by a tolerably deep ravine, the 53rd Regiment was encamped in detached bodies on the neighbouring heights. Here the caged lion spent the last five weary years of his life till called away by the God of Battles.


The Service.—Officers’ Life on Board.

Conditions of Life on Ship-board—A Model Ward-room—An Admiral’s Cabin—Captains and Captains—The Sailor and his Superior Officers—A Contrast—A Commander of the Old School—Jack Larmour—Lord Cochrane’s Experiences—His Chest Curtailed—The Stinking Ship—The First Command—Shaving under Difficulties—The Speedy and her Prizes—The Doctor—On Board a Gun-boat—Cabin and Dispensary—Cockroaches and Centipedes—Other horrors—The Naval Chaplain—His Duties—Stories of an Amateur—The Engineer—His Increasing Importance—Popularity of the Navy—Nelson always a Model Commander—The Idol of his Colleagues, Officers, and Men—Taking the Men into his Confidence—The Action between the Bellona and Courageux—Captain Falknor’s Speech to the Crew—An Obsolete Custom—Crossing the Line—Neptune’s Visit to the Quarter-deck—The Navy of To-day—Its Backbone—Progressive Increase in the Size of Vessels—Naval Volunteers—A Noble Movement—Excellent Results—The Naval Reserve.

In the previous pages we have given some account of the various stations visited by the Royal Navy of Great Britain. Let us next take a glance at the ships themselves—the quarter-deck, the captain’s cabin, and the ward-room. In a word, let us see how the officers of a ship live, move, and have their being on board.

Their condition depends very much on their ship, their captain, and themselves. The first point may be dismissed briefly, as the general improvement in all descriptions of vessels, including their interior arrangements, is too marked to need mentioning. The ward-room of a modern man-of-war is often as well furnished as any other dining-room—handsomely carpeted, the sides adorned with pictures, with comfortable chairs and lounges, [pg 215]and excellent appointments at table. In the ward-room of a Russian corvette visited by the writer, he found a saloon large enough for a ball, with piano, and gorgeous side-board, set out as in the houses of most of the northern nations of Europe, with sundry bottles and incitives to emptying them, in the shape of salt anchovies and salmon, caviare and cheese. In a British flag-ship he found the admiral’s cabin, while in port at least, a perfect little bijou of a drawing-room, with harmonium and piano, vases of flowers, portfolios of drawings, an elaborate stove, and all else that could conduce to comfort and luxury. Outside of this was a more plainly-furnished cabin, used as a dining-room. Of course much of this disappears at sea. The china and glass are securely packed, and all of the smaller loose articles stowed away; the piano covered up in canvas and securely “tied up” to the side; likely enough the carpet removed, and a rough canvas substituted. Still, all is ship-shape and neat as a new pin. The few “old tubs” of vessels still in the service are rarely employed beyond trifling harbour duties, or are kept for emergencies on foreign stations. They will soon disappear, to be replaced by smart and handy little gun-boats or other craft, where, if the accommodations are limited, at least the very most is made of the room at command. How different all this is to many of the vessels of the last century and commencement of this, described by our nautical novelists as little better than colliers, pest ships, and tubs, smelling of pitch, paint, bilge-water, tar, and rum! Readers will remember Marryat’s captain, who, with his wife, was so inordinately fond of pork that he turned his ship into a floating pig-sty. At his dinner there appeared mock-turtle soup (of pig’s head); boiled pork and pease pudding; roast spare rib; sausages and pettitoes; and, last of all, sucking-pig. He will doubtless remember how he was eventually frightened off the ship, then about to proceed to the West Indies, by the doctor telling him that with his habit of living he would not give much for his life on that station. But although Marryat’s characters were true to the life of his time, you would go far to find a similar example to-day. Captains still have their idiosyncrasies, but not of such a marked nature. There may be indolent captains, like he who was nicknamed “The Sloth;” or, less likely, prying captains, like he in “Peter Simple,” who made himself so unpopular that he lost all the good sailors on board, and had to put up with a “scratch crew;” or (a comparatively harmless variety) captains who amuse their officers with the most outrageous yarns, but who are in all else the souls of honour. Who can help laughing over that Captain Kearney, who tells the tale of the Atta of Roses ship? He relates how she had a puncheon of the precious essence on board; it could be smelt three miles off at sea, and the odour was so strong on board that the men fainted when they ventured near the hold. The timbers of the ship became so impregnated with the smell that they could never make any use of her afterwards, till they broke her up and sold her to the shopkeepers of Brighton and Tunbridge-wells, who turned her into scented boxes and fancy articles, and then into money. The absolutely vulgar captain is a thing of the past, for the possibilities of entering “by the hawse-hole,” the technical expression applied to the man who was occasionally in the old times promoted from the fo’castle to the quarter-deck, are very rare indeed nowadays. Still, there are gentlemen—and there are gentlemen. The perfect example is a rara avis everywhere.

[pg 216]

The true reason why a captain may make his officers and men constitute an agreeable happy family, or a perfect pandemonium of discontent and misery, consists in the abuse of his absolute power. That power is necessarily bestowed on him; there must be a head; without good discipline, no vessel can be properly handled, or the emergencies of seamanship and warfare met. But as he can in minor matters have it all his own way, and even in many more important ones can determine absolutely, without the fear of anything or anybody short of a court-martial, he may, and often does, become a martinet, if not a very tyrant.

The subordinate officer’s life may be rendered a burden by a cantankerous and exacting captain. Every trifling omission may be magnified into a grave offence. Some captains seem to go on the principle of the Irishman who asked, “Who’ll tread on my coat tails?” or of the other, “Did you blow your nose at me, sir?” And again, that which in the captain is no offence is a very serious one on the part of the officer or seaman. He may exhaust the vocabulary of abuse and bad language, but not a retort may be made. In the Royal Navy of to-day, though by no means in the merchant service, this is, however, nearly obsolete. However tyrannically disposed, the language of commanders and officers is nearly sure to be free from disgraceful epithets, blasphemies, and scurrilous abuse, cursing and swearing. Officers should be, and generally are, gentlemen.

A commanding lieutenant of the old school—a type of officer not to be found in the Royal Navy nowadays—is well described by Admiral Cochrane.121 “My kind uncle,” writes he, “the Hon. John Cochrane, accompanied me on board the Iliad for the purpose of introducing me to my future superior officer, Lieutenant Larmour, or, as he was more familiarly known in the service, Jack Larmour—a specimen of the old British seaman, little calculated to inspire exalted ideas of the gentility of the naval profession, though presenting at a glance a personification of its efficiency. Jack was, in fact, one of a not very numerous class, whom, for their superior seamanship, the Admiralty was glad to promote from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, in order that they might mould into ship-shape the questionable materials supplied by parliamentary influence, even then paramount in the navy to a degree which might otherwise have led to disaster. Lucky was the commander who could secure such an officer for his quarter-deck.

“On my introduction, Jack was dressed in the garb of a seaman, with marlinspike slung round his neck, and a lump of grease in his hand, and was busily employed in setting up the rigging. His reception of me was anything but gracious. Indeed, a tall fellow, over six feet high, the nephew of his captain, and a lord to boot, were not very promising recommendations for a midshipman. It is not impossible he might have learned from my uncle something about a military commission of several years’ standing; and this, coupled with my age and stature, might easily have impressed him with the idea that he had caught a scapegrace with whom the family did not know what to do, and that he was hence to be saddled with a ‘hard bargain.’

“After a little constrained civility on the part of the first lieutenant, who was evidently not very well pleased with the interruption to his avocation, he ordered me to [pg 218]‘get my traps below.’ Scarcely was the order complied with, and myself introduced to the midshipman’s berth, than I overheard Jack grumbling at the magnitude of my equipments. ‘This Lord Cochrane’s chest? Does Lord Cochrane think he is going to bring a cabin aboard? Get it up on the main-deck!’


“This order being promptly obeyed, amidst a running fire of similar objurgations, the key of the chest was sent for, and shortly afterwards the sound of sawing became audible. It was now high time to follow my property, which, to my astonishment, had been turned out on the deck—Jack superintending the sawing off one end of the chest just beyond the keyhole, and accompanying the operation by sundry uncomplimentary observations on midshipmen in general, and on myself in particular.

“The metamorphosis being completed to the lieutenant’s satisfaction—though not at all to mine, for my neat chest had become an unshapely piece of lumber—he pointed out the ‘lubberliness of shore-going people in not making keyholes where they could most easily be got at,’ viz., at the end of a chest instead of the middle!” Lord Cochrane took it easily, and acknowledges warmly the service Jack Larmour rendered him in teaching him his profession.

Later, Lord Cochrane, when promoted to a lieutenancy, was dining with Admiral Vandepat, and being seated near him, was asked what dish was before him. “Mentioning its nature,” says he, “I asked whether he would permit me to help him. The uncourteous reply was—that whenever he wished for anything he was in the habit of asking for it. Not knowing what to make of a rebuff of this nature, it was met with an inquiry if he would allow me the honour of taking wine with him. ‘I never take wine with any man, my lord,’ was the unexpected reply, from which it struck me that my lot was cast among Goths, if no worse.” Subsequently he found that this apparently gruff old admiral assumed some of this roughness purposely, and that he was one of the kindest commanders living.

In 1798, when with the Mediterranean fleet, ludicrous examples, both of the not very occasional corruption of the period, and the rigid etiquette required by one’s superior officer, occurred to Lord Cochrane, and got him into trouble. The first officer, Lieutenant Beaver, was one who carried the latter almost to the verge of despotism. He looked after all that was visible to the eye of the admiral, but permitted “an honest penny to be turned elsewhere.” At Tetuan they had purchased and killed bullocks on board the flagship, for the use of the whole squadron. The reason for this was that the hides, being valuable, could be stowed away in her hold or empty beef-casks, as especial perquisites to certain persons on board. The fleshy fragments on the hides soon decomposed, and rendered the hold of the vessel so intolerable that she acquired the name of the “Stinking Scotch ship.” Lord Cochrane, as junior lieutenant, had much to do with these arrangements, and his unfavourable remarks on these raw-hide speculations did not render those interested very friendly towards him. One day, when at Tetuan, he was allowed to go wild-fowl shooting ashore, and became covered with mud. On arriving rather late at the ship, he thought it more respectful to don a clean uniform before reporting himself on the quarter-deck. He had scarcely made the change, when the first lieutenant came into the ward-room, and harshly demanded of Lord Cochrane the reason for not having reported himself. [pg 219]His reply was, that as the lieutenant had seen him come up by the side he must be aware that he was not in a fit condition to appear on the quarter-deck. The lieutenant replied so offensively before the ward-room officers, that he was respectfully reminded by Cochrane of a rule he had himself laid down, that “Matters connected with the service were not there to be spoken of.” Another retort was followed by the sensible enough reply, “Lieutenant Beaver, we will, if you please, talk of this in another place.” Cochrane was immediately reported to the captain by Beaver, as having challenged him: the lieutenant actually demanded a court-martial! And the court-martial was held, the decision being that Cochrane should be admonished to be “more careful in future.”

Lord Cochrane was soon after given a command. The vessel to which he was appointed was, even eighty years ago, a mere burlesque of a ship-of-war. She was about the size of an average coasting brig, her burden being 158 tons. She was crowded rather than manned, with a crew of eighty-four men and six officers. Her armament consisted of fourteen 4-pounders! a species of gun little larger than a blunderbuss, and formerly known in the service as “minion,” an appellation quite appropriate. The cabin had not so much as room for a chair, the floor being entirely occupied by a small table surrounded with lockers, answering the double purpose of store-chests and seats. The difficulty was to get seated, the ceiling being only five feet high, so that the object could only be accomplished by rolling on the lockers: a movement sometimes attended with unpleasant failure. Cochrane’s only practicable way of shaving consisted in removing the skylight, and putting his head through to make a toilet-table of the quarter-deck!

On this little vessel—the Speedy—Cochrane took a number of prizes, and having on one occasion manned a couple of them with half his crew and sent them away, was forced to tackle the Gamo, a Spanish frigate of thirty-two heavy guns and 319 men. The exploit has hardly been excelled in the history of heroic deeds. The commander’s orders were not to fire a single gun till they were close to the frigate, and he ran the Speedy under her lee, so that her yards were locked among the latter’s rigging. The shots from the Spanish guns passed over the little vessel, only injuring the rigging, while the Speedy’s mere pop-guns could be elevated, and helped to blow up the main-deck of the enemy’s ship. The Spaniards speedily found out the disadvantage under which they were fighting, and gave the orders to board the little English vessel; but it was avoided twice by sheering off sufficiently, then giving them a volley of musketry and a broadside before they could recover themselves. After the lapse of an hour, the loss to the Speedy was only four men killed and two wounded, but her rigging was so cut up and the sails so riddled that Cochrane told his men they must either take the frigate or be taken themselves, in which case the Spaniards would give no quarter. The doctor, Mr. Guthrie, bravely volunteered to take the helm, and leaving him for the time both commander and crew of the ship, Cochrane and his men were soon on the enemy’s deck, the Speedy being put close alongside with admirable skill. A portion of the crew had been ordered to blacken their faces and board by the Gamo’s head. The greater portion of the Spanish crew were prepared to repel boarders in that direction, but stood for a few moments as it were transfixed to the deck by the apparition of so many diabolical-looking figures emerging from the white smoke of the bow guns, while the other men rushed on them from behind [pg 220]before they could recover from their surprise at the unexpected phenomenon. Observing the Spanish colours still flying, Lord Cochrane ordered one of his men to haul them down, and the crew, without pausing to consider by whose orders they had been struck, and naturally believing it to be the act of their own officers, gave in. The total English loss was three men killed, and one officer and seventeen men wounded. The Gamo’s loss was the captain, boatswain, and thirteen seamen killed, with forty-one wounded. It became a puzzle what to do with 263 unhurt prisoners, the Speedy having only forty-two sound men left. Promptness was necessary; so, driving the prisoners into the hold, with their own guns pointed down the hatchway, and leaving thirty men on the prize, Cochrane shaped the vessel’s course to Port Mahon, which was reached safely. Some Barcelona gun-boats, spectators of the action, did not venture to rescue the frigate.

The doctor on board a man-of-war has, perhaps, on the whole, better opportunities and, in times of peace, more leisure than the other officers for noting any circumstances of interest that may occur. Dr. Stables, in his interesting little work,122 describes his cabin on board a small gun-boat as a miserable little box, such as at home he would have kept rabbits or guinea-pigs in, but certainly not pigeons. He says that it might do for a commodore—Commodore Nutt. It was ventilated by a small scuttle, seven inches in diameter, which could only be raised in harbour, and beneath which, when he first went to sea, he was obliged to put a leather hat-box to catch the water; unfortunately, the bottom rotted out, and he was at the mercy of the waves. This cabin was alive with scorpions, cockroaches, and other “crawling ferlies,”

“That e’en to name would be unlawfu’.”

His dispensary was off the steerage, and sister-cabin to the pantry. To it he gained access by a species of crab-walking, squeezing himself past a large brass pump, edging in sideways. The sick would come one by one to the dispensary, and there he saw and treated each case as it arrived, dressing wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores. There was no sick berth attendant, but the lieutenant told off “a little cabin-boy” for his use. He was not a model cabin-boy, like the youngster you see in the theatres. He certainly managed at times to wash out the dispensary, in the intervals of catching cockroaches and making poultices, but in doing the first he broke half the bottles, and making the latter either let them burn or put salt into them. Finally, he smashed so much of the doctor’s apparatus that he was kicked out. In both dispensary and what Dr. Stables calls his “burrow,” it was difficult to prevent anything from going to utter destruction. The best portions of his uniform got eaten by cockroaches or moulded by damp, while his instruments required cleaning every morning, and even this did not keep the rust at bay.

And then, those terrible cockroaches! To find, when you awake, a couple, each two inches in length, meandering over your face, or even in bed with you!—to find one in a state of decay in the mustard-pot!—to have to remove their droppings and eggs from the edge of your plate previous to eating your soup! and so on, ad nauseam. But on small vessels stationed in the tropics—as described by the doctor—there were, and doubtless sometimes are now, other unpleasantnesses. For instance, you are looking for a book, and [pg 221]put your hand on a full-grown scaly scorpion. Nice sensation! the animal twining round your finger, or running up your sleeve! Dénoûment: cracking him under foot—joy at escaping a sting!


“You are enjoying your dinner, but have been for some time sensible of a strange, titillating feeling about the region of your ankle; you look down at last, to find a centipede on your sock, with his fifty hind legs—you thank God not his fore-fifty!—abutting on your shin. Tableaux: green-to-red light from the eyes of the many-legged—horror of yourself as you wait till he thinks proper to ‘move on.’

“To awake in the morning, and find a large, healthy-looking tarantula squatting on your pillow, within ten inches of your nose, with his basilisk eyes fixed on yours, and apparently saying: ‘You’re awake, are you? I’ve been sitting here all the morning, watching you.’

“You think, if you move, he’ll bite you somewhere—and if he does bite you, you’ll go mad, and dance ad libitum—so you twist your mouth in the opposite direction, and ejaculate—‘Steward!’ But the steward does not come; in fact, he is forward, seeing after breakfast. Meanwhile, the gentleman on the pillow is moving his horizontal mandibles in a most threatening manner; and just as he moves for your nose, you tumble [pg 222]out of your bed with a shriek, and, if a very nervous person, probably run on deck in your shirt!”

The doctor’s last description of an accumulation of these horrors is fearful to even think about. The bulkheads all around your berth are black with cock and hen-roaches, a few of which are nipping your toe, and running off with little bits of the skin of your leg; while a troop of ants are carrying a dead one over your pillow; musquitoes and flies attacking you everywhere; rats running in and rats running out; your lamp just flickering and dying away into darkness, with the delicious certainty that an indefinite number of earwigs and scorpions, besides two centipedes and a tarantula, are hiding themselves somewhere in your cabin! All this is possible; still Dr. Stables describes life on other vessels under more favourable auspices.

The important addition of a chaplain to the establishment on board our ships of war seems, from the following letter of George, Duke of Buckingham, to have been first adopted in the year 1626:—

The Duke of Buckingham to the University of Cambridge.

“After my hearty commendations. His Majesty having given order for preachers to goe in every of his ships to sea, choyce hath been made of one Mr. Daniel Ambrose, Master of Arts and Fellow of your College, to be one. Accordingly, upon signification to me to come hither, I thought good to intimate unto you, that His Majesty is so careful of such scholars as are willing to put themselves forward in so good actions, as that he will expect—and I doubt not but that you will accordingly take order—that the said Mr. Ambrose shall suffer noe detriment in his place with you, by this his employment; but that you will rather take care that he shall have all immunities and emoluments with advantage, which have been formerly, or may be, granted to any upon the like service. Wherein, not doubting of your affectionate care, I rest,

“Your very loving friend,
G. Buckingham.

Sailors, in spite of their outbursts of recklessness, have frequently, from the very nature of their perilous calling, an amount of seriousness underlying their character, which makes them particularly amenable to religious influences. The chaplain on a large modern ironclad or frigate has as many men in his charge, as regards spiritual matters, as the vicar of a country town or large village, whilst he has many more opportunities of reaching them directly. Many of our naval chaplains are noble fellows; and to them come the sailors in any distress of mind, for the soothing advice so readily given. He may not dare to interfere with the powers that be when they are in danger of punishment, except in very rare cases; but he can point them out their path of duty, and how to walk in it, making them better sailors and happier men. He can lend them an occasional book, or write for them an occasional letter home; induce them to refrain from dissipation when on liberty; cheer them in the hour of greatest peril, while on the watery deep, and give them an occasional reproof, but in kindness, not in anger. To his brother officers he has even better opportunities of doing good than to the men. On the smaller classes of vessels—gun-boats and the like—the captain has to perform chaplain’s duties, by reading prayers on the Sabbath. This is the case also on well-regulated steamships or passenger sailing-vessels of the merchant service. The fine steamers of such lines as the Cunard, or White Star, of the Royal Mail Company, or of the P. and O., have, of course, frequently, some clergyman, minister, or missionary on board, who is willing to celebrate divine service.

[pg 223]

A Committee of the Lower House of Convocation has recently collected an immense amount of statistics regarding the provision made by private ship-owners for the spiritual welfare of their men, and the result as regards England is not at all satisfactory. In point of fact, it is rarely made at all. The committee seeks to encourage the growth of religion among sailors by providing suitable and comfortable church accommodation at all ports, and urges owners to instruct their captains as to conducting divine service on Sundays, and to furnish Bibles, prayer-books, and instructive works of secular literature. Too much must not, however, be expected from Jack. The hardships and perils through which he passes excuse much of his exuberance ashore. It is his holiday-time; and, so long as he is only gay, and not abandoned, the most rigid must admit that he has earned the right to recreation. A distinguished French naval officer used to say that the sailor fortunately had no memory. “Happy for him,” said he, “that he is thus oblivious. Did he remember all the gales and tempests, the cold, the drenching rain, the misery, the privations, the peril to life and limb which he has endured, he would never, when he sets foot on shore, go to sea again. But he has no memory. The clouds roll away, the sea is calm, the sun shines, the boat bears him to land; the wine flows; the music strikes up; pretty girls smile: he forgets all the past, and lives only in the present.”

While the chaplain may, and no doubt generally does, earn the respect and esteem of the men, woe to any example of the “Chadband” order who shall be found on board. This is, in the Royal Navy, almost impossible; but it sometimes happens that, on passenger ships, some sanctimonious and fanatical individual or other has had a very rough time of it. He is regarded as a kind of Jonah. In a recent number of that best of American magazines, the Atlantic Monthly, the woes and trials of one poor Joseph Primrose, a well-meaning minister who went out to America in 1742, are amusingly recounted. There were, aboard the Polly, the vessel in which he took passage, several of the crew who viewed their religious exercises askance. “These men,” says he, “had been foremost in a general indignation uprising that had ensued upon the stoppage of their daily allowance of rum; which step had been taken on my earnest recommendation. For this injurious drink we had substituted a harmless and refreshing beverage concocted of molasses, vinegar, and water, from a choice receipt I had come upon in a medical book aboard the vessel. The sailors, to a man, refused to touch it, egged on by these contumacious fellows, and more especially by one Springer, a daring villain, who reviled me with bitter execrations. In fine, the captain was obliged, for our own safety, to restore the cherished dram; and I had the mortification to find myself, from that time forth, an object of dislike and suspicion to these men, who were kept within decent bounds only by respect for their master. I became convinced, on reflection, that I had gone the wrong way about this unfortunate piece of business; having, in fact, made a very serious error in the beginning, gentle argument and good example being more apt to bring about the desired end than compulsory measures, these dulling the understanding by rousing the temper, especially among persons of the meaner sort. All my efforts—and they were not few—to place myself on a friendly footing with these men were of no avail: they had conceived the notion that I was their enemy, and met all my advances with obstinate coldness. As Captain Hewlett exacted the daily attendance at prayers of every soul on board, these [pg 224]knaves were compelled to be on hand with their fellows; but they rarely failed to conduct themselves with such indecent levity as made me rue their presence, playing covertly at cat’s-cradle, jack-straws, and what not; besides grinning familiarly in my face, whenever they could contrive to catch my eye.” This unseemly behaviour was as nothing to what followed ashore. While addressing a large assemblage, he noted the advent of a number of unmannerly fellows, who, with a great deal of clatter, elbowed their way to the front. “The moment I clapped eyes upon them,” says poor Primrose, “I knew them for the sailors who had so persecuted me aboard the Polly, and my heart sank at the bare sight of them.” They sung, or rather bawled, ribald words to the music of the hymns; and one of them, when rebuked by some gentleman present, whipped out his cutlass, and a general row ensued, which broke up the assembly. A little later, Primrose induced a tavern-keeper to allow him to preach on his premises. “A West Indian vessel coming into port about the middle of April, and a horde of roystering sailors gathering in the common room of the ‘Sailor’s Rest’ to drink, I announced a discourse on the subject of ‘gin-guzzling,’ choosing one that I had delivered aboard the Polly, and which seemed to fit the occasion to a nicety. No sooner had the landlord seen the notice to this effect that I had attached to his door-cheek, than he sends for me to repair to the tavern without loss of time; and on my appearance, in great haste, comes blustering up to me in a most offensive manner, demanding whether I purposed the ruin of his trade, by putting forth of such a mischievous paper; adding, with astounding audacity, that he should certainly lose all the custom I had been the means of fetching to his house, did I persist in my intent. Mark the cunning of the knave! He had encouraged my labours for none other purpose than the bringing of fresh grist to his mill; and here was I, blindly leading precious souls to destruction, the poor dupe of a specious villain—a wretch without bowels! My agony of mind on being thus suddenly enlightened was of such a desperate sort, that, gnashing my teeth, I leapt upon the miscreant, and, bearing him to the ground with an awful crash, beat him about the head and shoulders with the stout cane I carried; and with such good will, that I presently found myself lying in the town gaol, covered with the blood of my enemy, and every bone in my body aching from the unaccustomed exercise.... Truly was I as forlorn and friendless a creature as the world ever saw. My clothing had been rent beyond repair in the shameful struggle, and, yet worse, one of my shoes was gone—how and where I knew not; and although I promised the gaoler’s little lad a penny in the event of his finding it, nothing was ever heard of it from that day to this. One thought alone cheered me in the dark abyss into which I was fallen. I had administered wholesome and righteous correction in proper season: hip and thigh had I hewed my enemy; and, to reflect upon that, was as a healing balm to my sore bones.” Mr. Primrose was at length released, and returned to England.

Another officer of the Royal Navy—the engineer—deserves particular notice, for his position is becoming daily of more and more importance. It is not merely the care and working of the engines which propel the vessel in which he is concerned; the chief and his subordinates have charge of various hydraulic arrangements often used now-a-days on large vessels, in connection with the steering apparatus; of electrical and gas-producing apparatus; the mechanical arrangements of turrets and gun-carriages; pumping machinery; [pg 225]the management of steam-launches and torpedoes. Take the great ironclad Thunderer (that on which the terrible boiler explosion occurred) as an example: she has twenty-six engines for various purposes, apart from the engines used to propel the vessel, which have an actual power of 6,000 horses. The Téméraire has thirty-four engines distinct from those required for propulsion. A competent authority says that, “with the exception of the paymaster’s and surgeon’s stores, he is responsible for everything in and outside the ship (meaning the hull, apart from the navigator’s duties), to say nothing of his duties while under weigh.” And yet engineers of the navy do not yet either derive the status or emoluments fairly due to them, considering the great and increasing responsibilities thrown upon them of late years. Sir Walter Scott makes Rob Roy express “his contempt of weavers and spinners, and sic-like mechanical persons, and their pursuits;” and in the naval service some such feeling still lingers.


The first serious introduction of steam-vessels into the Royal Navy occurred about the year 1829, the Navy List of that year showing seven, of which three only were commissioned, and these for home ports. No mention is made of engineers; they were simply taken over from the contractor with the vessel, and held no rank whatever. In 1837 an Admiralty Circular conferred warrants on engineers, who were to rank immediately below [pg 226]carpenters; they were to be assisted by boys, trained by themselves. Three years later, the standard was raised, and they were divided into three classes; in 1842 a slight increase of pay was given, and they were advanced to the magnificent rank of “after captains’ clerks,” and were given a uniform, with buttons having a steam-engine embossed upon them. In 1847 the Government found that the increasing demands of the merchant and passenger service took all the best men (the engineers’ pay, to-day, is better on first-class steamship lines than in the Navy), and they were forced to do something. The higher grades were formed into chief engineers, and they were raised to the rank of commissioned officers, taking their place after masters. The first great revolution in regard to the use of steam in the Royal Navy took place in 1849, by means of the screw-propeller. In that year Dupuy Delorme constructed the Napoleon, a screw-vessel carrying 100 guns, and with engines of 600 horse-power, and England had to follow. Then came the Russian War, the construction of ironclad batteries, and finally, the ironclad movement, which commenced in England in 1858, by the construction of the Warrior and similar vessels.

It becomes a particularly serious question, at the present time, whether the system, as regards the rank and pay of engineers, does not deter the most competent men from entering the Royal Navy. Many very serious explosions and accidents have occurred on board ironclads, which would seem to indicate that our great commercial steamship lines are far better engineered. The Admiralty has organised a system for training students at the dockyard factories, followed up by a course of study at the Naval College, Greenwich; and it is to be hoped that these efforts will lead to greater efficiency in the service. A naval engineer of the present day needs to be a man of liberal education, and of considerable scientific knowledge, both theoretical and practical, and he should then receive on board that recognition which his talents would command ashore. At present, a chief engineer, R.N., ranks with a commander, and other engineers with lieutenants. It is probable that, at some date in the not very distant future, higher ranks will be thrown open to the engineer, as his importance on board is steadily increasing.

The seamen of all nations, it has, in effect, been said, resemble each the other more than do the nations to which they belong. “As,” says a well-known writer, “the sea receives and amalgamates the waters of all the rivers which pour into it, so it tends to amalgamate the men who make its waves their home.... The seaman from the United States is said to carry to the forecastle a large stock of ‘equality and the rights of man,’ and to be unpleasantly distinguished by the inbred disrespect for authority which cleaves, perhaps inseparably, to a democrat who believes that he has whipped mankind, and that it is his mission, at due intervals, to whip them again. But, on board, he, too, tones down to the colour of blue water, and is more a seaman than anything else.” The French sailor is painted, by Landelle, as the embodiment of the same frolicsome lightheartedness, carelessness of the future, abandonment to impulse, and devotion to his captain, comrades, and ship, with which we are familiar in the English sailor, on the stage. But although depicted as much more polished than, it is to be feared, the average sailor could be in truth, he finishes by saying: “Il est toujours prêt à céder le haut du pavé à tout autre qu’à un soldat.” It would seem, then, that the French sailor revenges the treatment of society on the soldiers of his country. Is there not a similar [pg 227]feeling existing, perhaps to a more limited extent, between the sailors and soldiers of our own country? It hardly, however, extends to the officers of the “United Service.”

Another trait of the British sailor’s character: Jack will forgive much to the officer who is ever ready, brave, and daring, who is a true seaman in times of peace, and a sailor militant in times of war. Lord Nelson, the most heroic seaman the world ever saw, it is pleasant to remember, was equally the idol of his colleagues, of his subordinate officers, and of his men for these very reasons. After he had explained to his captains his proposed plan of attack, just prior to the commencement of the battle of Trafalgar, he took the men of the Victory into his confidence. He walked over all the decks, speaking kindly to the different classes of seamen, and encouraging them, with his usual affability, praising the manner in which they had barricaded certain parts of the ship. “All was perfect, death-like silence, till just before the action began. Three cheers were given his lordship as he ascended the quarter-deck ladder. He had been particular in recommending cool, steady firing, in preference to a hurrying fire, without aim or precision; and the event justified his lordship’s advice, as the masts of his opponents came tumbling down on their decks and over their sides.”123 After the fatal bullet had done its work, and Nelson was conveyed below, the surgeon came and probed the wound. The ball was extracted; but the dying hero told the medical man how sure he was that his wound was fatal, and begged, when he had dressed it, that he would attend to the other poor fellows, equal sufferers with himself. A boatswain’s mate on board the Brilliant frigate, shortly afterwards, when first acquainted of the death of Nelson, paid a tribute of affection and honest feeling, which shows how clearly he had gained the hearts of all. The boatswain’s mate, then doing duty as boatswain, was ordered to pipe all hands to quarters; he did not respond, and the lieutenant on duty went to inquire the cause. The man had been celebrated for his promptness, as well as bravery, but he was found utterly unnerved, and sobbing like a child. “I can’t do it,” said he—“poor dear fellow, that I have been in many a hard day with!—and to lose him now! I wouldn’t have cared so much for my old father, mother, brothers, or sisters; but to think of parting with poor Nelson!” and he broke down utterly. The officer, honouring his feelings, let him go below. Who does not remember how, when the body of Nelson lay in state at Greenwich, a deputation of the Victory’s crew paid their last loving respects, tearful and silent, and could scarcely be removed from the scene? or how, when the two Union-Jacks and St. George’s ensign were being lowered into the grave at St. Paul’s—the colours shattered as was the body of the dead hero—the brave fellows who had borne them each tore off a part of the largest flag, to remind them ever after of England’s greatest victory and England’s greatest loss? Many an otherwise noble and brave officer has utterly failed in endearing himself to his men; and there can be no doubt of the value of being thoroughly en rapport with them—the more as it in no way need relax discipline. It is an implied compliment to a crew from their commander, to be taken, at the proper time, into his confidence. The following anecdote will show how much an action was decided by this, and with how little loss of life.

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The Bellona, of 74 guns and 558 men, with a most valuable freight on merchants’ account, and commanded by the celebrated Captain R. Faulkner, and the Brilliant, a 36-gun frigate, Captain Loggie, sailed from the Tagus in August, 1761. When off Vigo, three sail were discovered approaching the land, and the strangers continued their approach, till they found out the character of the English vessels, and then crowded on all sail, in flight. Upon this, the Bellona and Brilliant pursued, coming up with them next morning, to find that they would have to engage one ship of 74 guns, the Courageux, with 700 men, and two frigates of 36 guns each, the Malicieuse and Ermine. After exchanging a few broadsides, the French vessels shot ahead; when Captain Loggie, seeing that he could not expect to take either of the smaller vessels, determined to manœuvre, and lead them such a wild-goose chase, that the Bellona should have to engage the Courageux alone. During the whole engagement, he withstood the united attacks of both the frigates, each of them with equal force to his own, and at last obliged them to sheer off, greatly damaged. Meanwhile, the Courageux and Bellona had approached each other very fast. The Courageux, when within musket-shot, fired her first broadside, and there was much impatience on the Bellona to return it; but they were restrained by Faulkner, who called out to them to hold hard, and not to fire till they saw the whites of the Frenchmen’s eyes, adding, “Take my word for it, they will never stand the singeing of their whiskers!” His speech to the sailors just before the action is a model of sailor-like advice. “Gentlemen, I have been bred a seaman from my youth, and, consequently, am no orator; but I promise to carry you all near enough, and then you may speak for yourselves. Nevertheless, I think it necessary to acquaint you with the plan I propose to pursue, in taking this ship, that you may be the better prepared.... I propose to lead you close on the enemy’s larboard quarter, when we will discharge two broadsides, and then back astern, and range upon the other quarter, and so tell your guns as you pass. I recommend you at all times to point chiefly at the quarters, with your guns slanting fore and aft; this is the principal part of a ship. If you kill the officers, break the rudder, and snap the braces, she is yours, of course; but, for this reason, I desire you may only fire one round of shot and grape above, and two rounds, shot only, below. Take care and send them home with exactness. This is a rich ship; they will render you, in return, their weight in gold.” This programme was very nearly carried out; almost every shot took effect. The French still kept up a very brisk fire, and in a moment the Bellona’s shrouds and rigging were almost all cut to pieces, and in nine minutes her mizen-mast fell over the stern. Undaunted, Faulkner managed to wear his ship round; the officers and men flew to their respective opposite guns, and carried on, from the larboard side, a fire even more terrible than they had hitherto kept up from the starboard guns. “It was impossible for mortal beings to withstand a battery so incessantly repeated, and so fatally directed, and, in about twenty minutes from the first shot, the French colours were hauled down, and orders were immediately given in the Bellona to cease firing, the enemy having struck. The men had left their quarters, and all the officers were on the quarter-deck, congratulating one another on their victory, when, unexpectedly, a round of shot came from the lower tier of the Courageux. It is impossible to describe the rage that animated the Bellona’s crew on this occasion. Without waiting for orders, they flew again to their guns, and in a moment [pg 229]poured in what they familiarly termed two ‘comfortable broadsides’ upon the enemy, who now called out loudly for quarter, and firing at length ceased on both sides.” The Courageux was a mere wreck, having nothing but her foremast and bowsprit standing, several of her ports knocked into one, and her deck rent in a hundred places. She lost 240 killed, and 110 wounded men were put ashore at Lisbon. On board the Bellona only six men were killed outright, and about twenty-eight wounded; the loss of her mizen was her only serious disaster.


One more possibility in the officer’s existence, although now nearly obsolete. The ceremonies formerly attendant on “crossing the line”i.e., passing over the equator—so often described, have, of late years, been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. On merchant vessels they had become a nuisance, as the sailors often made them an opportunity for levying black mail on timid and nervous passengers. In the Royal Navy, they afforded the one chance for “getting even” with unpopular officers; and very roughly was it sometimes accomplished. They are for this reason introduced in this chapter, as the officers had a direct interest in them. With trifling exceptions, the programme was as follows. The men stripped to the waist, wearing only “duck” unmentionables, prepared, immediately after breakfast, for the saturnalia of the day—a day when the ship was en carnival, and discipline relaxed. Early in the day, a man at the masthead, peering through a telescope, would announce a boat on the weather-bow, and soon after, a voice from the jibboom was heard hailing the ship, announcing that Neptune wished to come on board. The ship was accordingly hove-to, when a sailor, in fashionable coat, knee-breeches, and powdered hair, came aft, and announced to the commander that he was gentleman’s gentleman to the god of the sea, who desired an interview. This accorded, the procession of Neptune from the forecastle at once commenced. The triumphal car was a gun-carriage, drawn by half-a-dozen half-naked and grotesquely-painted sailors, their heads covered by wigs of sea-weed. Neptune was always masked, as were many of his [pg 230]satellites, in order that the officers should not know who enacted the leading rôles. The god wore a crown, and held out a trident, on which a dolphin, supposed to have been impaled that morning, was stuck. He had a flowing wig and beard of oakum, and was, in all points, “made-up” for Neptune himself. His suite included a secretary of state, his head stuck all over with long quills; a surgeon, with lancet, pill-box, and medicines; his barber, with a razor cut from an iron hoop, and with an assistant, who carried a tub for a shaving-box. Mrs. Neptune was represented by the ugliest man on board, who, with sea-weed hair and a huge night-cap, carried a baby—one of the boys of the ship—in long clothes; the latter played with a marline-spike, given it to assist in cutting its teeth. The nurse followed, with a bucketful of burgoo (thick oatmeal porridge or pudding), and fed the baby incessantly with the cook’s iron ladle. Sea-nymphs, selected from the clumsiest and fattest of the crew, helped to swell the retinue. As soon as the procession halted before the captain, behind whom the steward waited, carrying a tray with a bottle of wine and glasses, Neptune and Amphitrite paid submission to the former, as representative of Great Britain, and the god presented him the dolphin. After the interview, in which Neptune not unfrequently poked fun and thrust home-truths at the officers, the captain offered the god and goddess a bumper of wine, and then the rougher part of the ceremony commenced. Neptune would address his court somewhat as follows: “Hark ye, my Tritons, you’re here to shave and duck and bleed all as needs it; but you’ve got to be gentle, or we’ll get no more fees. The first of ye as disobeys me, I’ll tie to a ten-ton gun, and sink him ten thousand fathoms below, where he shall drink nothing but salt-water and feed on seaweed for the next hundred years.” The cow-pen was usually employed for the ducking-bath; it was lined with double canvas, and boarded up, so as to hold several butts of water. Marryat, in the first naval novel he wrote, says: “Many of the officers purchased exemption from shaving and physic by a bottle of rum; but none could escape the sprinkling of salt water, which fell about in great profusion; even the captain received his share.... It was easy to perceive, on this occasion, who were favourites with the ship’s company, by the degree of severity with which they were treated. The tyro was seated on the side of the cow-pen: he was asked the place of his nativity, and the moment he opened his mouth the shaving-brush of the barber—which was a very large paint-brush—was crammed in, with all the filthy lather, with which they covered his face and chin; this was roughly scraped off with the great razor. The doctor felt his pulse, and prescribed a pill, which was forced into his cheek; and the smelling-bottle, the cork of which was armed with sharp points of pins, was so forcibly applied to his nose as to bring blood. After this, he was thrown backward into the bath, and allowed to scramble out the best way he could.” The first-lieutenant, the reader may remember, dodged out of the way for some time, but at last was surrounded, and plied so effectually with buckets of salt water, that he fled down a hatchway. The buckets were pitched after him, “and he fell, like the Roman virgin, covered with the shields of the soldiers.” Very unpopular men or officers were made to swallow half a pint of salt water. Those good old times!

Pleasant is it to read of life on board a modern first-class man-of-war. Where there are, perhaps, thirty officers in the ward-room, it would be hard indeed if one cannot [pg 231]find a kindred spirit, while on such a vessel the band will discourse sweet music while you dine, and soothe you over the walnuts and wine, afte