The New York Times, November 14, 1886, p.6:|
ARRIVAL AT THE CONGOBOMA, THE CAPITAL, AND DEATHS RECORDED THERE.
AN INTERESTING JOURNEY IN A STEAM LAUNCH--
FRENCH OBSTACLES TO TRADE--AMERICAN MISSIONARIES.
BANANA CREEK, Lower Congo, Aug. 16.-- Here we are on the Congo at last, or rather in a little sidepocket off the main stream of it, formed by one of those countless inlets that wind among the maze of wooded islands studding its course.
We have been here two days already, waiting in vain for a chance of getting up the river; but by some lucky accident a tiny steam launch belonging to the Congo International Association has come down from Boma (the new district Capital) and will carry us up thither to-morrow morning, provided we can manage to find standing room on her deck without tumbling overboard.
Everyone has been extremely kind to us both since we arrived, (a lady traveler being somewhat of a rarity in these parts), but I notice everywhere a slackness, a want of method, a general laxity of discipline, which shows how sorely Stanley's clear head and iron will are needed on the scene of his former triumphs.
It must be confessed that the news which has met us here is anything but encouraging. Whether the alleged unhealthfulness of the Congo is, after all, more real than I have hitherto considered it, or whether this last season has been an unusually sickly one, the havoc among the local residents during the present Summer has been almost unexampled.
One of the first deaths which we learned was that of poor young Count Possé, (highly commended by Stanley in his last book on the Congo,) who came back to Europe with us a year ago in the steamer that brought us from the scene of our shipwreck. One evening he complained of not feeling well, and the next morning he was dead!
A Scotch trader with whom I was talking this morning has lost two of his clerks by fever within the last few weeks, and a third has been sent down to hospital at St. Paul de Loanda suffering under a bad attack of temporary insanity.
Four men have died in another office here. Several deaths have occurred among the officials at Boma, a number more invalided, and the steam launch which has just arrived brings word of two more deaths--the one at Vivi and the other at Stanley Pool.
The local trade, too, seems as moribund as the local traders, and the bills of lading are as gloomy as those of mortality. But upon this subject I shall have more to say hereafter.
In the meantime I revert to the journal of our voyage hither down the southwest coast from Fernando Po [Bioko].
Aug. 7.--Just as afternoon was beginning to melt into evening, there arose along the southern sky a vast shadowy wall, turreted with mighty domes of sombre gray, beside which that of St. Paul's or of the Capitol at Washington would be as nothing.
This was Ilha do Principe, (Prince's Island,) the second of the great procession of volcanic islands that stretches slantwise across the Bight of Biafara into the South Atlantic. Smaller and less thriving than most of its brethren, it surpasses them all in grim and gloomy picturesqueness.
At Fernando Po, 111 miles to the northeast, the savage suggestiveness of charred cliffs and fireblasted gorges and yawning black gulfs hundreds of yards in depth is lost amid the rich tropical beauty of the gorgeous vegetation which has trailed itself so thickly over this great battleground of the elements that its former terrors are almost hidden from sight.
But Principe still bears the unmistakable tokens of its fierce birth hour far back in the dim ages before man had come to be...
Somewhere in that weird, unchronicled past there was a day when the sky grew dark and the sea boiled and mountain waves piled themselves mass on mass upon the rocking and heaving shore, and from the unknown depths beneath broke thunder louder than the cannon of Gettysburg, and up through the roaring whirl of waters sprang--more than a hundred miles apart--four great castles of molten rock, heated red hot by the unquenchable fires below.
Of these outlaws of the ocean Principe was one, and such as it was then such it remains even to this day--an extinct hell, scarred and branded forever by the devouring flames that have died out from it long ago. All along its southern shore extends a wild chaos of volcanoes heaped upon volcanoes into the very sky, tilted domes, and overthrown towers, and black obelisks standing up gaunt and grim against the golden sunset to a height beyond that of the Great Pyramid, in silent but terrible witness of the destroying might of those tremendous forces which could fling continents and oceans to and fro like toys.
A mile and a half beyond the southernmost point of the island we passed the famous "Dutchman's Cap"--called by the Portuguese inhabitants of Principe the Carocha (Mitre)--an enormous isolated rock, starting up out of the sea in one vast precipice of dark volcanic cliff, several hundred feet high and half a mile long.
Seen from the northward, it wore the unromantic aspect of a gigantic ape sinking into the sea, with nothing save his misshapen head and projecting jaw left above it. But when we had passed it and looked back the grotesque resemblance vanished, and the stern grandeur of the great rock's massive outline, towering darkly against the lustrous evening sky, came forth in all its fullness.
Aug. 8.--At sunrise this morning a great purple cloud was seen overhanging the sea away to the southwest, which, as we neared it, shaped itself into a bold mountain ridge, wooded to the very summit, while above it rose the dagger-like peaks of Caõ Grande and Maria Fernandez, and the other mountains of the Portuguese island of Saõ Thomé, irreverently corrupted into "St. Tommy" by English seamen.
The general panorama of the island as seen from an approaching vessel is best conveyed by imagining an enormous fur cloak spread out to its full extent, with a few ivory clasps and brooches hanging upon its lower edge; for between the forest on one side and the sea on the other there is barely room for the tiny white fort of Saõ Sebastian, the little town of St. Thomas stretching along the curving bay, the whitewashed chapel of St. John with its quiet little cemetary on a sloping ridge beyond the town, and higher up on the same slope the long low front of the barrack in which are quartered the negro soldiers employed in guarding the 400 convicts who form a very important item of the local population.
As we head toward the shore in one of the ship's boats, pulled by four black, bare-limbed Kroomen, we have a full view of the miniature capital, which is certainly very attractive at first sight. The long, white front of the Custom House, the great, yellowish brown mass of the Correio Geral, (general Post Office,) with its brightly painted venetians, the two square towers of the cathedral, the red-tiled roofs which form so marked a feature of the old Portuguese cities of Brazil--all these intermingled with the dark, glossy leaves of the orange or mango trees and the slender, graceful cocoa palms, with their wavering green plumes, form as pretty a picture as one can imagine.
Passing through the court and archway of the Custom House we settle ourselves upon one of the seats placed here and there under the trees in the neat little square beyond it, which bears the imposing title of Praca do Gobernador Mello, (Governor Mello Square.) Here we find more than enough to look at.
A sturdy negress, swathed from shoulder to knee in a cloth covered with broad blue and white stripes, comes marching majestically across the square with a bottle balanced upright upon her woolly head, as if to give some amateur William Tell a chance of shooting it off.
A diminutive mulatto soldier in a white sun helmet and dark blue uniform lounges lazily up to the native market round the corner, where the ground is already snowed over with piles of fruit and other local products, which are being priced and cheapened, with an amount of screaming, chattering, and gesticulating worthy of a political debate in France.
A long train of black porters laden with sacks come filing down toward the Custom House wharf like ants carrying grains of corn. One of these connoisseurs--probably with an eye to trade--accosts me in what he supposes to be English and seems considerably taken aback when I answer him in Malay.
But as we penetrate further into the town we meet at every turn the dirt and disorder of the tropics as well as their picturesqueness. The showy cathedral proves to be a mere roofless shell, surrounded with heaps of rubbish. The little church opposite the Post Office already shows visible marks of decay. On many of the larger houses the sun and rain have cracked and peeled off the whitewash in countless places. Most of the by streets look as if all the ash barrels in the settlement (provided it happens to have any) had been emptied into them at haphazard.
The tiny river that supplies the town with fresh water--in which a number of black women are washing their clothes with palm oil soap by way of making its waters more drinkable--is spanned by a queer little Tom Thumb of a stone bridge four or five yards long, upon which its proud constructor has engraved his name on two metal tablets--one at each end. On the same modest principle the stream itself, which an active boy could almost clear at a bound, is dignified with the title of Agoa Grande (Great Water.)
Aug. 9.--Noon to-day found us gliding up the smooth, broad gulflike mouth of the Gaboon--over which the French tricolor has fluttered since 1843--and anchoring opposite the tiny metropolis of Libreville...
[The second half of this article, which describes Libreville, Gabon, can be found at Gabon News and Links.]
See also: Cameroon News - Equatorial Guinea News|
Gabon News - Congo News
São Tomé and Príncipe is
one time zone at GMT,
with no Daylight Savings time.
São Tomé and Príncipe News
Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century.
While independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The country held its first free elections in 1991, but frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and two failed coup attempts in 1995 and 2003.
The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea promises to attract increased attention to the small island nation.
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