(11) Course to India -- Portuguese, Rio Janeiro [[51-55]]
[] The work whence the present compilation has been greatly abbreviated, contained long descriptions of, and digressions upon, the successive places of resort for India-men, both on the outward and homeward voyages, including their natural and political history. Such statistical accounts are little calculated for a Vade-Mecum, however necessary in those several publications that are met with in every select library, whether by land or sea; and which almost every passenger, while on board ship, has an opportunity of consulting leisurely, in books entirely dedicated to the objects of research.
Even an ordinary geographical dictionary, will be found to contain, from the commencement to the termination of the journey, enough upon the Cape de Verds, Canary Islands, Ascension, St. Helena, &c., to satisfy the wants and wishes [] of most eastern adventurers, till a more minute detail be deemed worthy of their acquisition on such themes by the careful perusal of those local authorities enumerated in all catalogues of eastern works, sea voyages, &c., many of which have probably been studied long previous to the determination of visiting the shores of British India.
Every season teems with these literary productions; and the latest, when otherwise reputable, may constantly be preferred for the most accurate and recent intelligence respecting the ports, coasts, islands, seas, and climes that intervene from any given point of the occidental to the oriental hemispheres; some of which, such as the Cape of Good Hope, have been yearly improving long posterior to the first appearance of Captain Williamson's lucubrations on these distinct heads.
It should he noticed, for the benefit of those who may touch at Ascension, either on their way to St. Helena outward-bound, or in coming homeward from that rendezvous, that several very fine fishes, especially the much admired bull's-eye, may be hooked by trailing a bait,about fifty or sixty yards astern, while sailing round the island. Close in shore, among the crags, just beyond reach of the surf, half a boat load of old-maids might be caught in very little time.
The modern course of ships proceeding to India, usually carries them near the Cape de Verde and Canary Islands; where, if wine is to be shipped, a detention may happen of ten or twelve days. This being in all probability the first opportunity of going on shore after leaving England, the young adventurer may be properly cautioned not to ridicule, nor in any way to treat with disrespect, the religious ceremonies of the Roman Catholics who possess those islands.
Under the exercise of prudence and discretion, all persons landing among the Portuguese are certain of receiving [] every civility and attention; but when insulted, none are more irascible or vindictive: the offender is sure to fall a victim to their unrelenting vengeance! At either of these islands, but especially at St. Jago, fresh provisions may be obtained in abundance. In all of them the tropical fruits abound, but should not be immoderately eaten; lest a dysentery ensue, which in those latitudes is peculiarly fatal.
Many vessels proceed down the Atlantic in a mid direction, between the Azores and the Canaries, till they catch the trade-winds, which in that part blow constantly from the north-east, or nearly so. They then stretch over to the coast of Brazil, along which they run to about 30° south, to avoid the south-east trade-wind prevailing to the southward of the line. Being now in the way of variable winds, they shape their course towards the Cape of Good Hope.
Few quit this coast without putting in to some port for a supply of wood, water, and a variety of fresh provisions. Rio Janeiro is most frequented by British Indiamen, for its safe harbour and abundant supplies. Being in latitude 23°, it will be requisite to guard against the great heats, and carefully to avoid the nightly dews, which are here extremely heavy, and produce the most dangerous species of fever.
The custom of the inhabitants throughout this coast being nearly alike, a description of one portion may suffice for the whole.
The natives of this part of South America appear to be of a middling stature, and well-proportioned; their complexions dark, and their hair lank and black. At Pernambuco and Olinda, which lie in about 7° south, the houses of the better class seem well calculated to counteract the powerful influence of the sun; which for six months is nearly vertical, and does not form a very acute angle with the northern horizon at any time of the year.
[] Notwithstanding the intense heat of the climate, the Portuguese inhabitants omit no religious duties. Nor do they ever appear in that dishabille we should expect to prevail among an effeminate people, under such local circumstances. It must prove highly amusing to behold boys of about six or seven years of age, full dressed according to court etiquette, with bags, ruffles, swords, &c., representing the more ancient part of their population, in miniature. These young gentlemen, as well as their seniors, and especially the ladies, are seen everywhere, riding in vehicles very strongly resembling the chair-palanquins of India, but carried by only two men; one before and one behind.
The provision of compliments, and of real civilities, experienced on these hospitable shores, become absolutely burdensome. Strangers are every where welcomed in the most kind and liberal manner; barges, rowing from twelve to thirty oars, being always at command, to take them to and from the ships, which cannot pass the Bar of Pernambuco, but may be full four miles from the shore, in seven fathoms. Fruits, fish, vegetables, and poultry may be had to any amount, of the first quality.
Their beef and mutton are not, however, much to be praised, and their pork, without being firm, is intolerably fat. This, in every quarter of the globe, is one of the principal viands at the tables of the Portuguese, and is dressed in various ways, all equally offensive to a delicate stomach. In serene weather the acquisition of a supply of excellent water is rendered very easy: the casks being floated to and from the shore; all fastened to ropes, and towed by large boats.
The land lying low towards the beach, though backed at some distance
by hills, brings vessels within a few leagues before their proximity to
the continent is discovered; and they would probably often run into shallow
water, were not large flouting objects generally seen at some distance
[] from land. Glasses will speedily distinguish persons moving on low
frames that might readily be taken for nothing less than some great fragment
of a wreck. This may ultimately prove to be an Indian catamaran, stowed
with a variety of fine fishes, chiefly rock-cod, taken by the industrious
Indians, whose floating raft will often be mistaken for the remains of
some unfortunate vessel.