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William Allen's Narratve of the 1841 Niger expedition
|► The 1841 Niger expedition ► Book||Chapter VIII Chapter X|
EXPEDITION TO THE RIVER NIGER.
VOLUME I, CHAPTER IX.
Town of Amazuma - Ogulba - "Dash," or present from the natives - The "smoke-canoe" creates much alarm - Botany - Little Ibu, or 0'korotombi - Stirling Island - Indyama - Brass and Bonny canoes - Benìn branch - Town of Anyàh - Orissa and his wives - Ladies offended - African hair-dressers - Methods of catching fish - Granby, our interpreter recognizes an old friend - Native fishing-houses - Fishermen's Ju-jus, or idols - Ipàtani - Utok - Visit of the Chief - Beautiful birds - Arrival at Abòh - Prince Ejeh - Odd costume of a person of rank - Obi Ossaï, the Ezzeh or King, visits the 'Wilberforce' - Recognizes a former acquaintance - The royal dress - Native music - Harsh tones of the opé and eriki-riki - Obi's favourite wife and daughter - Prince Ejeh makes an addition to his wardrobe - The princes afraid of a sand-toy - The 'Albert' and ' Soudan' arrive - Honesty of a native woman - Amusing scenes - The pride of the Bimmenah people - Refuse to take the cowries because they were thrown on the ground - The 'Soudan' examines a creek opposite Abòh.
August 22.- Early this morning passed Amazuma - a large town on the left bank - containing about three hundred huts, it was most beautifully situated, about six feet above the water, and looked cheerful and clean. The natives were very suspicious, and notwithstanding our waiting some time, and holding out inducements in the shape of coloured handkerchiefs, &c., not one would venture off. They had little enclosures near the banks, staked off, as if for catching fish. Soon afterwards we came to another village on the right bank, Ogulba; here some of the natives paddled alongside with a few bananas, plantains, and a wretchedly lean goat; but nothing could induce them to leave their canoes, being contented with a distant admiration of all that was shown; but though probably secretly wishing for possession, we only obtained a few bananas for some needles.
In every little creek as we proceeded, the plantain and banana trees were seen growing most luxuriantly - in some places so thickly, as to prevent the proper development of the fruit - not having apparently much care bestowed on their cultivation. At 10 A.M. we passed another little village on the left bank, with which we had no communication; the natives merely taking one glimpse at the "smoke-canoe," or "devil-ship" and then starting off into the bush.
As we advanced further into this interesting country, how often did the words of Isaiah present themselves, as so applicable to these people! "Go ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from the beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down; whose lands the rivers have spoiled."
A little way above the town Ogulba, the branch we were in, received two others; or rather, we came to a bifurcation, where the streams united to form the 0'guborìh branch. As one went in a north-west and the other a north-east direction, we hardly knew which to choose; on hailing a canoe which still followed us, they said the north-east channel was the shorter, which we therefore took, not wishing to continue the separation from our companions.
But we first examined the north-west branch a little distance, and found it equally fine as that to the north-east. The depth was from twenty-eight to forty-two feet nearly all the way across; at "the meeting of the waters," the eddies had worked a hole of sixty feet. The point of separation was extremely beautiful, with large trees, covered by innumerable parasitical plants.
A boat was sent for some flowers overhanging the bank. One was probably a new Dalbergia, the other a creeper, which had been eagerly watched ever since leaving Sunday Island; it winds up the trees to the very top, and then drops, thread-like, flowering stalks, six feet long, covered at the ends with yellow flowers, frequently hanging down to the ground. It appears to be a new genus, closely allied to the Mucuna: Dr. Vogel called this plant, preliminarily, Mucuna Allenii. Both plants were unfortunately without fruit.
In the afternoon we arrived opposite a very pretty and apparently clean village, called Ibadi - anglicè, "Small Box." Several canoes came off during our short stay, and brought abundance of bananas and plantains, which were disposed of for needles and bottles. The headman also paid us a visit, receiving a "dash" or present of several small articles, which much gratified him; in return for these he gave a goat and some fruit. The bank on which Ibadi is situate, appeared to be raised artificially. The houses were well-built, of clay, and in good order. The inhabitants a fine athletic race. We here, for the first time, noticed the Ibu fashion among the women of wearing enormous anklets.
At this village a flag was flying, in which a fish and two birds were figured, and three bars united; it had also a black border. We could not, however, ascertain the meaning of the symbols. Fish probably forms one of the chief articles of food, and therefore may well rank as a national emblem.
At all the villages on the banks were seen nets, immersed fish traps, and various contrivances for capturing the finny tribe.
We were enticed by the extreme beauty of the flowers of the Mucuna, overhanging the river, to go close to a bank, where the water was so deep, that Dr. Vogel gathered some interesting specimens from the paddle-box: here we had five fathoms alongside. This was called Mucuna Point, from the profusion of those flowers which adorned it.
At 5.40 P.M. we rejoined the main, Nun branch, which we left on Saturday. Abreast of the junction were several villages, nearly joined; the largest of these is called Sabo-Krugga. The huts were somewhat different in their arrangement from those lower down, as they seemed to be built in such a manner as to enclose a small court. On enquiry, we found that the other vessels had not passed this place. A note was, therefore, left with the Chief to apprize Captain Trotter of our progress.
The river was here perhaps twelve hundred yards wide, contracting afterwards to seven hundred and eighty, but still a magnificent stream, the depth averaging thirty feet, nearly from bank to bank. The current was about two knots generally, but more in the middle of the river, and sometimes under the points hardly perceptible; it was not however always safe to take advantage of this, as the eddies caused shoals.
A gorgeous sunset shed a rich glow over the sombre and varied vegetation of the dense forest.
|22nd.-||3 A.M.||Ther||80°||Wet bulb Mason's Hygr.||76°|
23rd.- At 6.25 P.M. weighed and proceeded. The river was here divided by an island, having a channel of three hundred and fifty yards on one side of it, and on the other, one hundred and fifty. In the narrowest, we had nearly three fathoms of water. The banks entirely changed in appearance: - the mixture of sand and clay, altered to clay with fragments of red quartz, so coloured by oxide of iron. A prettily-situated village, called Momoti-miama, was surrounded on all sides by the most magnificent and umbrageous trees.
At 9.45 P.M. we passed the village called by Lander, Little Ibu, but properly, O'korotombi; where the natives having endeavoured to prevent the passage of the former Expedition, it was destroyed after a little fighting. Some of the inhabitants came on board, bringing plantains and fowls. They were evidently distrustful of our intentions, which might perhaps arise from the recollection of the unsatisfactory relations they had with our predecessors. They certainly quitted the vessel with more gratification than they evinced on coming on board.
In the middle of the day it rained heavily; but under good awnings, it caused little inconvenience, and tended to cool the air. During our passage hitherto the air and water have been tested regularly night and morning, but we could discover none of the much-talked-of sulphuretted hydrogen. A slight trace of carbonic acid was detected in the air. We observed for latitude near a place called on Allen's chart, Ofitulo; no trace of habitation was seen; but as there is good vegetable soil, mixed with clay and sand, the natives of some other part come here to cultivate the land with coco, yarns and capsicums. A Sorghum, apparently indigenous, ten or twelve feet high, was almost impenetrable. The river was here found, by measurement with the micrometer telescope, to be five hundred and twenty-seven yards wide, and it was from thirty to forty feet deep.
4.30. P.M.- Passed the end of the beautifully wooded Stirling Island. An hour afterwards, we reached Indiàma, a village on the right bank, the largest we had yet seen; judging from the number of natives assembled. One canoe, with a few men, came alongside, having with them some bananas, yams, and a goat. The fruit was disposed of very reasonably; but a musket was asked for the latter. They were evidently pleased to see us, although at first a little apprehensive in their manner.
After leaving Indiàma, we met some large canoes, deeply laden with puncheons of palm-oil, on their way to Bonny.
The crews numbered from twenty to- thirty-four; in the bow a small iron gun was lashed, and ready for immediate use, as also the muskets, of which there were several. All this precaution was said to be necessary, as sometimes an attempt is made by the inhabitants of some of the villages to plunder them on the route, by way of exacting toll or port dues.
Most of these canoes belonged to King Boy; and the headmen in each wished to visit us. In one was a slave, who, aware perhaps that with us he would find liberty, was very anxious to come on board. He could not, however, prevail on his master to make such a gratuitous sacrifice. They declared that no steamers had passed. The forest scenery was here remarkably beautiful. Opposite this, on the left shore, there is a sandy beach. We anchored at dusk. The river was three hundred and sixty yards wide, and thirty feet deep, with a current of two and a quarter knots.
|3 A.M.||Ther||78°||Wet bulb Mason's Hygr.||75°|
24th.- A showery morning. Weighed at 5 A.M., and proceeded up the river, wondering why we did not see our companions; but in this unhealthy part, Commander W. Allen did not think it advisable to loiter to let them overtake us.
11 A.M.- A canoe came alongside, from which Mr. Wakeham, purser, purchased some yams, fish, &c. The people appeared to be delighted with the novelty, and curiosity was strongly written on their countenances.
About twelve, we reached the Benìn branch, and somewhat above it, on the right bank, the town of Anyah, or "Oniàh." The excitement on shore was very great, and many canoes pushed off, the largest of which, with twenty "pullaboys," or negro paddlers, contained Orissa, the chief, and his four favourite wives. The latter were pleasing in feature, and very prettily tattoed over the person, They only remained alongside, however, a very short time, retreating into some rather diminutive canoes, in which they moved towards the shore, talking very rapidly and vehemently, as if piqued at the want of gallantry shewn in not inviting them on board; and this was the more probable, as they took with them from the larger canoe, the yams, fruit and and fowls, which had, perhaps, been brought off as a "dash" or present, in return for the admiration they expected to receive.
The men here, as well as most of those we have seen of the true Ibu race, were stout and well made, of middling stature. The mark down the forehead is not general, appearing, as well as the various other tattoed lines, to depend more on individual caprice, than to be any national distinction. This app1ies also to the mode of arranging the woolly ornaments of their heads; in which taste assumed a variety of fantastic forms, as we had full opportunity of observing in the specimens - about two hundred and fifty - collected alongside. While some had them in full expansion, like a large wig, others went to the opposite extreme of fashion, and exhibited their closely-shaven crowns, glittering in the mid-day vertical sun like polished ebony. The major part, however, showed a happy medium. One of our visitors at Oniàh, a native of Ibu, and a relative of King Obi; begged for a passage with us. He remembered Commander W. Allen when on the former Expedition with Lander , and also Brown, the coloured clerk. He said, that after our departure, his royal relative was so anxious that the white men should come back, that he had prayed for it during three moons. One of the many curious coincidences that have occurred, was almost immediately on the arrival of this man on the quarter-deck; he and our interpreter, the "Marquis of Granby," after inquiring names, and a few moments' scrutiny, fell into each other's arms; a mutual and simultaneous recognition having taken place.
It appeared that Ukasa had the care of Granby when a little slave boy, while his master, Ukasa's brother, was ill, and had formed a parental regard for him. It was very pleasing to witness such genuine proofs of feeling in hearts supposed to be savage. But kind Nature is a better tutor than civilization, on occasions of deep emotion. Granby, having in his youth frequently attempted to run away, his master, to secure himself from loss, sold him to the white slave-dealers; he was re-captured, and during his service of several years on board a man-of-war, &c., had sufficient time to see some of the advantages of civilization, and to appreciate the exertions which are made by Englishmen in behalf of his brethren in affliction. He related all these things to his former friend, on whom they seemed to produce a very beneficial effect, as he frequently expressed his gratitude and wish to remain with us. On the way to Abòh, he readily answered all our questions relating to his country.
Tested the water and air with the various reagents provided, but could only discover a slight trace of carbonic acid in the air on exposure to barytic water. We procured some articles from a canoe; one was a native whip, the handle neatly worked, and furnished with several hard dry slips of goatskin.
The dress of the natives consisted merely of the usual body-cloth, passed round the loins so as to require the least quantity of material; but several were either too poor or too lazy to use even that scanty covering; so that an Ibu's toilet - his hair excepted - is not very elaborate. Here and there, a striped shirt of English pattern was seen; as also a few individuals with fantastic lines drawn with great care in yellow clay over their otherwise unadorned persons. They send down much of their palm-oil, trona, ivory, and slaves to the coast, by way of the Benìn branch. The Slave-trade forms one of their most important sources of wealth, which some of them admitted without hesitation; and they asked if we were inclined to purchase. On being told our mission was to abolish the traffic they were at first rather serious, but tried to laugh it off.
The point of divergence of the Benìn and Nun branches appeared to be increasing upwards; for, a sand-bank near it, was now almost joined, and had become covered with grass seen above water, the island being overflowed. We had great difficulty in getting through the narrowed channel, having five fathoms on one side and three feet on the other. In November, 1832, there was not any appearance of vegetation on the island.
The promontory, from the vessel, looked like an entire swamp; however, on landing, a great deal of dry land was seen, covered with plants, among which Sorghum, Cassia, Mimosaides, AEschynomene, and a Malvacea, were gathered. It is an admirable spot for cultivation containing about twenty-five square miles of land, almost free from forest; but the climate must be most pestilential, as, after the floods, a great deal of stagnant water always remains among the luxuriant vegetation, which is the case throughout the Delta: - though on the margin of the river the banks appear firm, beyond them there are no doubt large tracts, which if not, properly speaking, morasses, are intersected by creeks in all directions, in which the water is left by the falling river. But of course, this state obtains more in the neighbourhood of the mangrove portion of the Delta, where the sluggish water has not time to be carried off by evaporation in the dry season, and thus remains a permanent cause of fever.
We went a little way down the fine branch, called by Lander the Benìn, though without any reason than that, by an endless perplexity of creeks, the town of Benìn may be reached; or, with more probability, because a large portion of the water of the Niger is discharged by it into the Bight of Benìn by various mouths, as the Rio "Warree," or Formoso, the Escardos, Forcados, &c. We found the channel about six hundred and ninety-six yards wide, very much broken up by islands; the current not so strong as in the Nun branch, about one knot and a half, and the water not so regularly deep; though at one place, where we botanised from the paddle-box, it had five fathoms close to the bank.
The country at the lower part of this branch is called, by the Brass people, Senama; by the Aku, Takiri; and by those of Ibu, Iwenni. A canoe can reach the salt water in six days' hard pulling; but there is no passage to the higher parts of the Niger except by the main branch. The principal traffic consists in slaves, palm-oil, and trona. They do not profess to have much ivory. The Ibu people do not venture beyond this place, which is the lowest in Obi's dominion; and the natives of Oniàh do not go lower down than Senama, to which place the Benìn traders meet them by a creek called Egòa. The principal occupation of the Brass people is in conveying palm-oil, as the Slave-trade is "spoiled" for them. It was not thought prudent to descend this branch more than five or six miles: it doubtess has a communication with that fine one joining the Oguborih River at the "meeting of the waters." We returned, and continued our voyage up the main channel, which is of magnificent dimensions. The reach being about seven miles long, a mile and a half wide where the branches separate, but contracting at the upper end to half a mile.
The fishing-houses which we have seen along the banks, are rude but curious buildings. The natives generally select places where there is a little eddy, and here a look-out hut is built on four high posts. The net is a large circular one, suspended to a long pole, supported on two uprights. From time to time, small pieces of bruised yam, intestines of animals or fish, &c., are thrown over the net, and if the fishermen see the prey moving about, it is slowly lifted out of the water. They propitiate their gods by Fetiches emblematical of the employment, small carved fishes being hung in the huts, or fastened to the lines. Some few sorts of fish, one of which much resembled mullet, were brought off, cooked in native fashion, which is done in the following way: After withdrawing the inside, the head and tail are secured together with a bit of grass, then having been dipped in palm-oil and hot pepper, they are dried and smoked over a wood fire, which gives a not unpleasant flavour.
Sometimes the smaller ones are strung on a switch and prepared in the above way; palm-oil is certainly an improvement, the fish being mostly very dry.
It would be impossible to give a description of scenery which offered each mile we advanced some new and interesting feature, and a wildness of character which accorded not inaptly with the human denizens in its neighbourhood. The smooth surface of the water was in several places covered with tiny canoes, the possessors of which could not command sufficient courage to fulfil their earnest longings to traffic, yet they followed us at a little distance, paddling very rapidly, as if in mimic race with the object of their inquisitive fears. The females were equally expert as the men in using their little vessels, and some of them even ventured alongside to receive a few handkerchiefs and needles; the latter were apparently much prized, why we could not guess, as they had no clothes on which to use them. Perhaps they were to be converted into fish-hooks.
Our interpreter, who was not a little proud to be the mouthpiece for the "white men," issued his oral invitations on all sides, and also took advantage in presenting the "dashes," to say a few complimentary words to his countrywomen, on whom the "Marquis of Granby's" gallantry was not entirely lost, as we thought we could discover a sort of blush mantling their dark features. All those we noticed were happy-looking creatures.
We anchored at 6 P.M., and soon afterwards thought we heard the report of a large gun, supposed to be from the 'Albert.' Our twelve-pounder was therefore fired in answer. At Oniàh however we afterwards saw the flashes of several muskets, and it is probable that the louder report might have been from thence.
|3 A.M.||Ther||80°||Wet bulb Mason's Hygr.||77°|
Wednesday, August 25.- Weighed at 5 A.M. Squally weather, with some rain. We struck on a shoal called Abkono, lying nearly in the middle of the reach. It is very much in the way; the 'Alburkah' struck on the same spot on the former Expedition. It is possible that it may be a rock, as it is very "steep to," having great depth of water close to it. A village called Ipatàni is on the left bank. The inhabitants are of the Ethio tribe, who having been driven away from their former homes by intestine wars, settled here. They do not seem to have made a good choice of a location, as it appears swampy; but the numerous plantations and granaries bear favourable testimony to their industry. The grass on the banks here is not Sorghum, but some other species, which, however, we had not time to examine. A fig-tree grew close to the water-side bearing very small fruit.
At noon we passed a large village called Utok, inhabited by a mixture of the Ibu and Egaboh tribes. They are both celebrated for the cultivation of the yam, which is found in perfection in these districts. The chief of Utok came on board decked in a drummer's jacket, given him by Lander, and bearing in his hand his staff of office, an iron rod, ornamented with brass rings and terminating at the top in a sort of crescent.
The trees, with their richly diversified foliage, do not lose their interest, and at times we could observe some of the little playful inhabitants, of the Simia, or monkey tribe, but not near enough to ascertain the species. Frequently we noticed the Ispida bicincta, or double-collared king-fisher, with its distinctly marked black and white plumage, flitting from one small branch to another near to the water-side, and sometimes its scarcer, but more gaily attired rival, the Halcyon cyanotis, or little rufous-necked king-hunter, in its rich rufous-purple, violet and blue. Late in the evening the 'Wilberforce' anchored off the principal creek leading to Ibu, or Abòh. Tested the water and air carefully during the day and at night, but could not discover any appreciable gases so much anticipated at this locality.
|3 A.M.||Ther||80°||Wet bulb Mason's Hygr.||77°5|
August 26.- As soon as day dawned, Ukasa was sent to King Obi to announce our arrival, with an invitation to come and see us. But before he could reach the town, a large canoe was seen steering down the creek, in which was a deputation from the King to ascertain if our purposes were peaceable, and whether any of his friends of the former Expedition were on board. On coming alongside there was a mutual recognition between the Prince Ejeh and Commander William Allen, who remembered the former when he visited the 'Alburkah.' He was then a very nice interesting boy, particularly attentive to Allen, and carried his obsequiousness so far as even to insist on washing his feet. He had now become a remarkably fine young man, nearly six feet in height, well made, and with a pleasing expression of countenance. His voice was unusally strong and sonorous. Altogether his appearance was very commanding, innately so, for he owed but little to the "foreign aid of ornament," being dressed merely in a yellow-striped cotton shirt of European make, and for a waist-cloth, a blue handkerchief. As to his princely retinue, little could be expected from them, when the royal wardrobe had furnished so scanty a display.
He remained during the morning prayers, which were read by Mr. Schön, our respected missionary, and behaved with great decorum. After having executed his father's commands and partaken of a breakfast, to which he did ample justice, he returned to the town to report favourably of us, judging by the satisfaction he evinced, especially on the receipt of a few presents. We were now anxiously looking for the King himself, but nearly three hours elapsed before the royal cortège made its appearance, consisting of a large canoe, in which was hoisted a white flag, with a rude attempt at the Union Jack in the corner. The King was embarked in this, attended by several other canoes of various sizes; that belonging to our friend the Prince, carried an English flag given him by the former visitors. They came slowly down the creek, as if in doubt whether to trust the sacred person of the Chief of Ibu within the power of a canoe so formidable as the 'Wilberforce' must have appeared; though Obi was somewhat familiarized to the sight by the visit of the steamers under Lander and Laird. The King's canoe was very large, hewn in one piece out of the Cotton-tree. It was broad and capacious at the middle and after-part especially; but tapered to a sharp bow. On a flat piece extending from the stern stood the steersman, holding vertically a long paddle, and with a bamboo he occasionally admonished with a tap, not very lightly, on the head of the "pulla boys" or slaves, about forty in number, graduated in size from each extreme of the frail bark; the stoutest men being near the centre, where stood King Obi, under a large crimson umbrella, accompanied by Mr. Roscher, the mineralogist, who had gone with the Prince on his return to his father. His Majesty was dressed in a curious manner; a scarlet coat, with a few rude trimmings of bad lace, a pair of wide trowsers of white cotton, and a black velvet conical-shaped cap, decorated with a gold tassel; his sooty uncovered feet peeping out rather strangely beneath the white, where the assistance of his almost namesake, Mr. Hoby, would have been useful. During his approach, and while alongside, some musicians in the retinue performed the royal air on the opé, a sort of wind instrument formed
by hollowing out a young elephant's tusk: an oblong hole, is bored at the upper third, into which the performer blows strongly, and by compressing the fingers over the lower aperture, several notes are produced of anything but a pleasing character; the tone resembles more the discordant jar of a clarionet in the hands of a novice. On reaching the deck, Obi greeted Commander W. Allen as an old friend. His features are pleasing and his countenance expressive of kindness; with an air of dignity and self-possession like one used to command. He cannot, to judge from appearance, be much under fifty.
Obi brought with him two favourite wives and a daughter, one of the former probably was not more than thirteen, and was younger than the daughter. They were simply attired with a scanty waist-cloth; but two dresses of flaming red silk, and another of cotton print, supplied to the Expedition by their compassionate sisters of our own blest land, were presented to them, and very soon put on, but did not appear to add at all to their comfort, as they stood trembling between fear and joy. Commander W. Allen explained that he had returned to his country as a friend, and had brought other ships to do good to him and all the black people. That the Commander of the Expedition was on his way, and would soon be in sight. In the meantime, he would endeavour to satisfy Obi's curiosity by adverting to some of the objects of the Mission; but said he could not enter into details or conclude anything with him until the arrival of the other Commissioners. He was much astonished at being told, that the vessels could find their way, although they had nobody on board who had been in the river before. We showed him round the ship, and he appeared very much pleased, especially when he fired a detonating tube fixed on the long gun. His numerous attendants made such a clatter, that we were obliged to keep them to their canoes, except a few who were indispensable to his dignity.
In the evening the 'Albert' made her number, and on our signalizing that Obi was on board, Captain Trotter hoisted the royal standard. The 'Soudan' arrived soon after, having passed on the other side of the island opposite to Ibu Creek. Thus far, therefore, we had arrived in safety, and after our little separation the meeting was gratifying. As it was so near sunset when the 'Albert ' anchored, the King could not be persuaded to go on board of her, pleading fatigue, but he promised to visit Captain Trotter the next morning.
After remaining some time with us, the Ibu sovereign put off for the shore, much in the same formal state as when he came, his musicians making "plenty palaver," with the opés and eriki-rikis, or wooden tom-toms, which they belaboured with little sticks. Prince Ejeh had also been an anxious visitor; he had made an addition to his wardrobe in the shape of an old hat, and white waistcoat with tarnished uniform buttons, which, fastened up tightly to the throat, served to throw out more strongly the waving folds of the unwashed striped shirt. He had with him an uncle, brother to Obi, as also one of his sons. They all became much enamoured of the junior officers' compartment, where they partook of dinner quite in the English fashion - using knife and silver fork tolerably well, having first looked to see how the white men handled them. On being shown a little toy which moved by the agency of sand placed inside, their wonder amounted to fear, starting back at each movement of the tiny figure; they could not be prevailed on to touch it even when clearly explained that it was only a piece of human ingenuity.
Having seen our sable friends safely on shore, we must now go back to where the 'Albert' and 'Soudan' were left, at the entrance of the Agoborih branch, which the 'Wilberforce' was ordered to examine. It appears that Captain Trotter did not intend that we should do more than "look into it," and, therefore, on anchoring in the evening, expected us soon to rejoin him; but as Sunday passed without seeing us, not having heard our evening gun, and fearing we might have got into difficulties, he returned, on Monday morning, to the entrance of the branch, went up it several miles, and fired some guns to apprize us of his position;. but as we were by that time a day and a half in advance up the river, we were out of hearing. Therefore, receiving no answer, Captain Trotter rightly concluded that we had pursued that channel to its junction with, or more properly, to its separation from the main stream. He re-entered the Nun branch, and continued his voyage.
In the meantime the 'Soudan,' on Monday evening, had got up as far as Sabo-Krugga, where Commander William Allen's note was found, intimating that he had passed that place on the previous evening. On returning with this intelligence to Captain Trotter, the vessel unfortunately grounded, and remained fast until the 'Albert' came to her assistance.
Tuesday 24.- They were occupied till nearly eight o'clock, in getting the 'Soudan' off the shoal. They then proceeded, the 'Albert' towing the tender. A divergent branch was examined on the left, leading to Brass Town. It was one hundred and seventy-five yards wide; a large canoe, belonging to King Boy, was seen there, going from Ibu to Brass.
SeveraI villages were passed on either bank. When abreast of one of them, some handkerchiefs, as a little present, were thrown overboard for the natives to pick up, in order to avoid detention by sending them on shore. A trait of honesty was here exhibited, not much in accordance with the general character of the natives of this part. On seeing the handkerchiefs in the water, a canoe pushed off from the village, with a woman apparently of some consequence, who picking them up, asked if they had been lost by accident, or intended for them. She was still further rewarded for her disinterestedness.
At another village, a similar method was taken to save time, but here an amusing scene took place. Several canoes were immediately launched off after the handkerchiefs, some men also dashed into the river, and there was an animated and novel scramble on the water, between the swimmers and those in the canoes; the latter seemed to have the advantage, but lost it by their eagerness; for the canoes were capsized, and thus all had fair play. More prizes were thrown overboard, enticing more canoes and swimmers; till the surface of the river presented a scene of confusion and, one would apprehend, of some danger, but there was no time to await the result, which doubtless terminated in the capture of all the articles, without the loss of any of the half-amphibious scramblers.
At a village called Binnemah, the current swept the 'Albert' on a bank. The natives at first came out armed, but soon perceiving her predicament, very quickly laid their weapons aside, and cheerfully lent assistance to shove the vessel off. For this service, Captain Trotter threw them some cowries; which, however, most unaccountably, they trod underfoot in the mire. It was difficult to imagine what could be the motive for this, though it appeared to be something like pride; they were possibly indignant at presents being offered in such a way! since they were most eager to receive the cowries when offered by the hand, and there was soon as active a scramble for them, though not half so diverting, as had been before witnessed on the water. The village Binnemah contained about thirty-five huts, and with several others, belongs to the chief of a district, called Hippotiamah; but whether independent, or owing allegiance to the more powerful Chiefs, Obi, or Boy, was not ascertained. After again grounding for a short time, the 'Albert' anchored for the night, with the 'Soudan' and the 'Amelia' tender.
August 25.- The vessels proceeded at daylight; found the Nun branch very much wider, being then above some large divergents. The number of villages increased, and they were evidently larger and more populous: at some, the inhabitants appeared very desirous of visiting the white strangers, and the chiefs came off with small presents of yams, plantains, fowls, &c.: at others again, they exhibited every symptom of alarm, and took refuge in the bush as the steam-boat passed. At several places, Dr. M'William landed and administered the blessing of the "healing art" to some suffering natives. Nothing particular occurred till they arrived in the evening at the anchorage of the 'Wilberforce,' off Abòh Creek. On Captain Trotter coming in sight of the latter vessel, he complimented Commander W. Allen, by telegraph, on his chart of the river made on the former voyage, by which they had been much aided in their navigation.
The 'Soudan' on arriving at this point, before anchoring, explored the channel on the eastern side of a large island, called Afgab, abreast of Abòh Creek, and then rejoined the little squadron at this, the first place where the Commissioners would have the opportunity of exercising their diplomatic functions.
|3 A.M.||Ther||80°||Wet bulb Mason's Hygr.||76°½|
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