*Section 1* -- Portuguese Transactions in India, from the Siege of Diu by the Turks, to the Expedition of Don Stefano de Gama to Suez
*Section 2* -- Journal of the Voyage from Goa to the Straits of Bab-al-Mandab
*Section 3* -- Continuation of the Voyage, from the Straits of Bab-el-Mandub, to Massua
*Section 4* -- Digression respecting the History, Customs, and State of Abyssinia
*Section 5* -- Continuation of the Journal of De Castro from Massua to Swakem
*Section 6* -- Continuation of the Voyage from Swakem to Comol
*Section 7* -- Continuation of the Voyage from the Harbour of Comol to Toro or Al Tor
*Section 8* -- Continuation of the Voyage from Taro or al Tor to Suez
*Section 9* -- Return Voyage from Suez to Massua
*Section 10* -- Return of the Expedition from Massua to India
*Section 11* -- Description of the Sea of Kolzum, otherwise called the Arabian Gulf, or the Red Sea; Extracted from the Geography of Abulfeda
Don Juan or Joam De Castro, the author of the following journal, was a Portuguese nobleman born in 1500; being the son of Don Alvaro de Castro, governor of the Chancery, and Donna Leonora de Noronha, daughter of Don Joam de Almeyda, Count of Abrantes. In his youth, Don Juan de Castro served with reputation at Tangier, and on his return home had a commandery of 500 ducats of yearly revenue conferred upon him, which was all he was ever worth, though a man of high birth and rare merit. He afterwards served under the Emperor Charles V. in his expedition against Tunis, and refused his share of a pecuniary reward from that prince to the Portuguese officers on the expedition, saying that he served the king of Portugal, and accepted rewards only from his own sovereign. After this he commanded a fleet on the coast of Barbary, and was sent to join the fleet of Spain for the relief of Ceuta. On hearing that the Moors were approaching, the Spaniards wished to draw off, on pretence of consulting upon the manner of giving battle, but Don Juan refused to quit his post; and the Moors retired, not knowing that the fleets had separated, so that he had all the honour of relieving Ceuta.
When Don Garcia de Noronha went viceroy to India, Don John was captain of one of the ships in his fleet; and when about to embark, the king sent him a commission by which he was appointed governor of Ormuz, and a gift of 1000 ducats to bear his charges till he obtained possession. He accepted the latter, because he was poor; but refused the government, saying that he had not yet deserved it. After the expedition to Suez, contained in the present chapter, he returned into Portugal, and lived for some time in retirement in a country house near Cintra, giving himself up entirely to study. He was recalled from this retreat by the advice of the Infant Don Luys, and sent out governor-general to India in 1545; where he died with the title of viceroy in 1548, when 48 years of age. We shall hereafter have occasion to speak farther of this great man, who made himself illustrious in the second siege of Diu by the forces of the king of Guzerat. In his life, written by Jacinto Freire de Andrada, there is a particular account of this siege, with a map to illustrate its operations. The author also treats of the Discoveries, Government, Commerce, and affairs of the Portuguese in India. This book was translated into English, and published in folio at London in 1664.
Such was the illustrious author of the following journal, which was never published in Portuguese; but having been found, if we are rightly informed, on board a Portuguese ship taken by the English, was afterwards translated and published by Purchas. Purchas tells us that the original was reported to have been purchased by Sir Walter Raleigh for sixty pounds; that Sir Walter got it translated, and afterwards, as he thinks, amended the diction and added many marginal notes. Purchas himself reformed the style, but with caution as he had not the original to consult, and abbreviated the whole, in which we hope he used equal circumspection: For as it stands in Purchas, it still is most intolerably verbose, and at the same time scarcely intelligible in many places; owing, we apprehend, to the translator being not thoroughly acquainted with the meaning of the original, if not to the fault of the abbreviator. These two inconveniences we have endeavoured to remedy the best we could, and though we have not been always able to clear up the sense, we presume to have succeeded for the most part; and by entirely changing the language, except where the places were obscure, we have made the journal more fit for being read, and we hope without doing it any manner of injury.
This expedition was undertaken for two important purposes. One, to carry succours to the emperor of Habash or Abyssinia; and the other, to endeavour to destroy the Turkish ships at Suez. For, soon after the retreat of Solyman Pacha from Diu, it was rumoured that another fleet of the Rumes or Turks was on its way to India; but as Don Stefano de Gama was afterwards informed that the Turks could not set out during the year 1540, he determined to be before hand with them, in some measure to be revenged for the late siege of Diu, and to prevent a second attack by burning the fleet they had prepared for that purpose. The governor's liberality brought more men to enlist under his banners than he desired, so that he was enabled to select the best. The fleet consisted of 80 sail of different sorts and sizes, and carried 2000 soldiers, besides mariners and rowers.
On coming into the Red Sea, he found most of the cities and islands abandoned, the inhabitants having notice of his coming. At Suakem, the sheikh or king, who had retired a league up the country, amused [[=deceived]] De Gama with pretences of peace, that he might not destroy the town and island. In consequence of this delay, De Gama was prevented from carrying his design into execution, of destroying the ships at Suez; as it afforded time for the Turks to receive intelligence of the expedition. This is the account given by De Faria; but Bermudas gives a different reason for the want of success in that design: as De Gama could not get at the ships, which were all drawn up on the land, which we have already seen to have been the case, in the journal of the voyage of Solyman Pacha, in the immediately preceding chapter.
In revenge for the duplicity and delay of the sheikh of Suakem, De Gama marched into the interior with 1000 men, accompanied by his brother Don Christopher, and defeated the sheikh with great slaughter. He then plundered the city of Suakem, where many of the private men got booty to the value of four or five thousand ducats, and then burnt it to the ground. From thence, he went towards Suez with only sixteen katurs or Malabar barges, and sent back the fleet to Massua under the command of Lionel de Lima. On this occasion there was a great dispute, as everyone strove to go on this expedition; whence the bay got the name of Angra de los Aggraviadas, or bay of the offended. Many gentlemen went in the barges as private soldiers or volunteers, willing to go in any capacity if only they were admitted. The number of men on this fruitless expedition was 250. They plundered and burnt Cossier or Al Kossir; whence crossing to Tor or Al Tur, they took some vessels belonging to the enemy. At first the Turks opposed their landing; but some of them being slain, the rest abandoned the city, in which nothing was found of value. De Gama did not burn this town, in reverence for the relics of St. Catharine and the monastery and religious men there, which he visited at their request.
He was the first European commander who had taken that city, where he knighted several of his followers, an honour much prized by those who received it, and which was envied afterwards even by the emperor Charles V. From thence De Gama proceeded to Suez; and after many brave but fruitless attempts to sound the harbour, De Gama determined to go himself in open day to view the galleys. He accordingly landed and saw the enemies; but endeavouring to force his way towards them, the enemies' shot poured thick from the town, and 2000 Turkish horse broke out from an ambush, by which the Portuguese were reduced to great straits. Though the Portuguese cannon slew a good many of the enemy, their numbers were so much superior that the Portuguese were obliged to retreat with some loss, and much grieved that the object of their expedition was frustrated. Thus far we have deemed necessary to premise, relative to the design and success of the expedition, from De Faria and other authors; because the journal of Don Juan de Castro is almost entirely confined to observations respecting the places visited in the voyage, and gives little or no information respecting these particulars.
The rutter or journal must be allowed to be very curious. --The author, like an exact and diligent navigator, has not only given the course and distance from one place to another, with the latitudes of the principal ports and head-lands; but has noticed the minute windings of the coast, and the situations of islands, with observations on the tides, currents, shoals, sand-banks, and other particulars respecting the Red Sea. Yet far from confining himself to mere nautical remarks, he has given an account of all the places at which he touched, together with accounts of the countries and the inhabitants, so far as he was able to collect from his own observations, or the accounts of such as he was able to converse with, particularly the natives. Don John hath gone farther yet, and has even attempted to draw a parallel between the ancient and modern geography of this sea. If in all points of this last he may not have succeeded, the great difficulty of the task, owing to the obscurity of the subject, is to be considered: most of the ancient places having been destroyed; the ancient names of others long since out of use and forgotten; and that very little is known of these coasts by Europeans, even at this day.
For these reasons, as the conjectures of the author are often erroneous respecting the ancient geography, and as at best they are very uncertain, we shall for the most part insert them by way of notes, with our own remarks respecting them. Whether the altitudes have been taken by Don Juan with that precision which geography requires, may also be in some measure questioned; since we find there was a crack in the instrument employed, the size of which is not mentioned; neither were all the observations repeated. Even if they had been, it is well known that the observations of those times were by no means so accurate as those made of late years. After all, however, the observations in this journal appear to have been made with a good deal of care, and they cannot fail to be of great service to geography.
It is alone by the observations contained in this journal that geographers are able to determine the extent of the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea from north to south, as well as the situation of its principal ports on the west side. The latitude of the straits was verified by the observations of Don Juan's pilot. But as most maps and charts give the situation of Suez, at the northern end of the Red Sea, very different from that marked in this journal, which is 29° 45' N., it may not be amiss to examine this point.
By several very accurate observations made in 1694, M. Chazelles of the Royal Academy of Paris found the latitude of Cairo to be 80° 2' 20". The difference of latitude therefore between Cairo and Suez, will be 17 minutes; which we conceive cannot be very far from the truth, if not quite exact, since the map published by Dr Pocock makes the difference about 20 minutes. It is true that in Sicard's map of Egypt, and in a late French chart of the eastern ocean, Suez is placed only two or three minutes to the southward of Cairo. But as these authors had no new observations made at Suez to go by, and seem to have been unacquainted with those of Don Juan de Castro, their authority can weigh very little against an express observation, and against Dr Pocock's map, which, among other helps, was constructed upon one made by the natives. Besides this, in his later maps De L'isle regulates the situation of Suez according to the latitude found by Don Juan. Indeed Sicard places Suez nearly in that parallel, but egregiously mistakes the latitude of Cairo, so that he seems to have given it that position more by chance than design.
This may suffice to support the credit of the observations of latitude as made by Don Juan, till new and better ones can be made, which we are not to expect in haste, as European ships now seldom sail any farther into the Red Sea than Mokha or Zabid, for which reason this journal is the more to be prized. In other respects it is full of variety; and if some parts of it be dry and unamusing, these make amends by their usefulness to geographers and navigators, while other parts are calculated to instruct and give pleasure on other accounts.--Astley.
* * * * *
So far the foregoing introduction is taken from Astley's collection. In our edition of the Journal of Don Juan de Castro, we have used the earliest known copy as given by Purchas, Vol. II. p. 1122-1148, under the title of A Rutter or Journal of Don John of Castro, of the Voyage which the Portugals made from India to Zoes, &c. and here abbreviated. The original of which is reported to have been bought by Sir Walter Raleigh, at sixtie pounds, and by him caused to be done into English out of the Portugal.
Of this Journal Purchas gives the following account in a marginal note, which is inserted in his own words: "This voyage being occasioned by sending the Patriarch Bermudez to Ethiopia, and relating how that state decayed, invaded by the Moores, and embroiled with civil discontents, contayning also a more full intelligence of the Red Sea, than any other Rutter which I have seene, I have here added; and next to it, Bermudez own report, translated, it seemeth, by the same hand (not the most refined in his English phrase, which yet I durst not be too busie with, wanting the original) and reduced to our method; here and there amending, the English, which yet in part was done, as I thinke, and many marginall notes added, by Sir Walter Raleigh himselfe." --In the present edition, while we have adhered closely to that of Purchas, with the assistance of that in Astley's Collection, we have endeavoured, little more busy than Purchas, to reduce the language to a more intelligible modern standard; and have divided it into Sections, in imitation of the editor of Astley's Collection of Voyages and Travels. On purpose to carry on the series of events, we have inserted as a necessary introduction, an account of the Portuguese Transactions in India, from the discontinuance of the siege of Diu and retreat of Solyman Pacha in November 1538, to the commencement of the expedition of Don Stefano de Gama to the Red Sea in December 1540, when the journal of Don Juan de Castro begins; which first section of this chapter is taken from the Portuguese Asia of De Faria.--E.
[Footnote 252: Astley, I. 107. Purchas, II. 1422.]
[Footnote 253: De Faria in his Portuguese Asia, says that Don Juan went up to Mount Sinai, where his son Don Alvaro was knighted. But this does not appear in his journal.--Astl. I. 107. a.]
[Footnote 254: Pilgrims, Vol. II. p. 1122, under the title of A Rutter, or Journal, &c. from India to Suez, dedicated to the Infant Don Luys.--Astl. I. 107. b.]
[Footnote 255: On the present occasion we have followed the example of the Editor of Astley's Collection, having employed the original abbreviated translation by Purchas modernized in the language and endeavouring to elucidate obscurities; using as our assistance the version in Astley.--E.]
[Footnote 256: In this edition, which has been taken from that by Purchas, these conjectures of Don Juan de Castro are restored to the text: but the remarks by the Editor of Astley's Collection are all retained in notes.--E.]
[Footnote 257: The modern knowledge of the Red Sea has been much augmented by the labours of Bruce, Nieubur, Lord Valentia, and others, which will be given in a future division of our work.--E.]
[Footnote 258: It is proper to remark here that the collection of Astley was published in 1745, sixty-seven years ago.--E.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 1 -- Portuguese Transactions in India, from the Siege of Diu by the Turks, to the Expedition of Don Stefano de Gama to Suez.
Soon after the retreat of Solyman Pacha from Diu in November 1538, but in the beginning of the subsequent year 1539, when the new viceroy Don Garcia de Noronha had returned from his tardy expedition to relieve Diu, Don Gonzalo Vaz Confino came with five small vessels from Onore, where he had been sent by the former governor Nuno de Cuna on the following occasion. One of the galleys belonging to the fleet of Solyman Pacha had been forced into the port of Onore, and it was thought the queen of that province, then a widow, had violated the treaty subsisting between her government and the Portuguese, by giving protection to that vessel. Gonzalo Vaz called her to account on this subject; when she declared that the vessel was there against her will, as she was not in condition to prevent it, but would be glad that it were taken by the Portuguese.
Gonzalo Vaz accordingly made the attempt, but was repulsed after a sharp engagement, in which he lost fifteen of his men, and among these his own son Diego Vaz. Gonzalo suspected the queen of having secretly assisted the enemy, and refused some refreshments she had sent for the wounded men, returning a rash and resentful answer mingled with threats. The queen cleared herself of the imputation, and again offered a treaty of peace with the Portuguese, which was concluded; and some Portuguese were left by Gonzalo at Onore, to observe what conduct was pursued by the queen for expelling the Turks.
Before leaving Diu, and having repaired the fortifications of the castle, the command of which was given to Diego Lopez de Sousa, pursuant to a commission from the king of Portugal, a treaty of pacification with the king of Guzerat was set on foot and concluded, very little to the advantage of the Portuguese, owing as was generally believed to the covetousness of Noronha.
The late success of the Portuguese terrified all the princes of India who had been their enemies. Nizam-al-Mulk and Adel Khan sent ambassadors to the viceroy to renew the former treaties of peace; and the Zamorin, to obtain the more favourable reception from the viceroy, employed the mediation of Emanuel de Brito, commandant of the fort at Chal. Brito accordingly promised his interest, and the Zamorin sent Cutiale as his ambassador to Goa, accompanied by a splendid retinue, where he was received by the viceroy with much courtesy and great pomp. Had not the viceroy fallen sick, he intended to have gone to Calicut, to perform the ceremony of swearing to the observance of the articles of pacification and amity which were agreed to upon this occasion; but he sent his son Don Alvaro on this errand, under the discretion of some discreet men, as Alvaro was very young. They came to Paniany with a numerous fleet, where they were met by the zamorin, accompanied by the kings of Chale and Tanor. The peace was confirmed and ratified with great demonstrations of joy on both sides, and lasted thirty years to the great advantage of the Portuguese.
The illness of the viceroy became serious and threatened to end fatally, insomuch that he could not attend to the affairs of government; for which reason he proposed that some worthy person might be chosen to supply his place, and even desired that the choice might fall upon his son Don Alvaro. This surprised all men as violating the public liberty of choice, and might have proved of dangerous consequence, had not the death of the viceroy prevented its adoption. On the death of the viceroy, the first patent of succession was opened in which Martin Alfonso de Sousa was named; but he had gone a short while before to Portugal. On the second being opened, Don Stefano de Gama was therein named, who then lived in retirement a short way from Goa.
Don Stefano de Gama, who was the son of Don Vasco de Gama the discoverer of India, entered upon the government in the beginning of April 1540. The first thing he did was to have his whole property publicly valued, that it might not be afterwards laid to his charge that he had acquired riches during his government; and indeed at his death, his fortune was found considerably diminished. Finding the public treasury very much exhausted, he advanced a large sum to it from his own funds. In the next place he refitted the fleet, which had been laid up by his predecessor after his return from Diu. He likewise founded the college of Santa Fe, or St. Faith, at Goa for the education of the heathen youth who were converted, appointing the vicar-general Michael Vaz as first rector. He sent his brother Christopher de Gama to attend to the repair of the ships at Cochin, and gave notice to several commanders to hold themselves in readiness to oppose the Rumes or Turks, whose fleet was reported to be again proceeding towards the western coast of India. But being afterwards credibly informed that the Turks would not set out this year, he attended to other affairs.
[Footnote 259: This section is added from the Portuguese Asia of De Faria, II. s. et seq. to connect the history of events.--E.]
[Footnote 260: The name of this commander is probably erroneous in the text, from an error of the press, and ought to have been Coutinho.--E.]
[Footnote 261: Probably the galley already mentioned in the Venetian Journal, as having separated from the Turkish fleet on the voyage to Diu, and for which the pilot was executed by command of Solyman.--E.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 2 -- Journal of the Voyage from Goa to the Straits of Bab-al-Mandab.
Having expedited all the affairs of his government, and collected an armament of 80 sail of different sorts and sizes, on board which 2000 soldiers were embarked, besides mariners and rowers, Don Stefano de Gama set sail from the bar of Goa at sunrise of the 31st December 1540, on his expedition to Suez. The wind was easterly, blowing from the land, and they advanced under an easy sail, coming to anchor about ten o'clock at the mouth of the river Chaparoa. Proceeding on their voyage till the 13th of January 1541, they saw in the morning of that day great quantities of weeds which grow on the rocks of the sea coast, and soon afterwards a sea-snake, being indications of the neighbourhood of land; and when the sun was completely risen, they descried the island of Socotora, whither they were bound in the first place, bearing due south.
After coming to anchor at this island, I inquired at [[=of]] the principal pilots of the fleet how far they had reckoned themselves from the land when we first came in sight. The chief pilot was 90 leagues short; the pilot of the Bufora galleon 100 and odd; those who made the least were 70 leagues short; and my own pilot, being only 65 leagues, was nearest in his reckoning. They were all astonished at this difference, and all affirmed in excuse for their short reckoning, that the way was actually shorter than was expressed on the charts; with them the Moorish pilots concurred in opinion, affirming that it was only 300 leagues from Goa to Socotora.
The island of Socotora is 20 leagues in length from east to west, and 9 leagues broad, being in lat. 12° 40' N. on its north side. This northern side runs east and west, somewhat inclined towards the north-west and south-east The coast is all very clear, without rocks and shoals or any other hinderance to navigation. The anchoring ground in the road is sand, stony in some places, but not of such a nature as to cut the cables. On this side the north wind blows with such force as to raise up great heaps of sand over the hills, even beyond their highest craggy summits. In the whole circuit of the island there is no other place or harbour where a ship may winter in safety. The sea coast all around is very high, and girt with great and high mountains, having many pyramidal peaks, and having a grand appearance. The tides on the coast of this island are quite contrary to those on the opposite shore of India, being flood when the moon rises in the horizon, and as the moon ascends the tide of ebb begins, and it is dead low water when the moon comes to the meridian of the island; after which, as the moon descends, the tide begins to flow; and when set it is full sea. I made this observation for many days by the sea side, and always found it thus.
If I am not deceived, this island of Socotora was in ancient times named Dioscorides, and had a city of the same name, as appears in the sixth table of Asia by Ptolemy. But by the situation which he has given it, he appears to have had bad information from navigators. The Socotorians are Christians, their ancestors as they say having been converted by the holy apostle Thomas. The island has many churches, in which there is no oracle except the cross of Christ. They pray in the Chaldean tongue; and are very ignorant, but as I was informed they are desirous of being instructed in the doctrines and ceremonies of the Romish church, which they confess to be alone good and worthy of being followed. The men have names like us, as John, Peter, Andrew, &c., that of the women being generally Mary. The manner of life of these people is singular, as they have no king, governor, prelate, or other person in authority, but live in a manner like wild beasts, without any rule, or order of justice or policy.
In the whole island there is no city or great town, and most of the people dwell in caves, though some have small thatched cottages, separated from each other, more savage than pastoral. Their food is flesh and wild dates, and their drink chiefly milk, as they taste water but seldom. They are much devoted to the cross, and you will hardly meet a single individual without one hanging from the neck. Their dispositions are good; their persons tall and straight, their faces comely but swarthy, the women being somewhat fairer, and of very honest behaviour. They have no arms either of defence or offence, except very short swords of dead iron. The men go entirely naked, except a clout of a certain cloth called Cambolis, a considerable quantity of which is manufactured in the island. The country is very poor, and produces no other merchandise than verdigris and sanguis draconis; but the verdigris is in great abundance, and is esteemed above all. All the island is mountainous, and breeds abundance of all kinds of cattle like those of Europe.
There is no wheat or rice or other provisions of that kind, which I believe is not the fault of the ground, but owing to want of skill and industry in the people; as the land within the external mountains is fresh, and has many valleys and plains, very convenient for culture. They have no manner of navigation, neither do they catch any fish, though the sea around their coast has an infinite quantity. They have very few fruit trees, among which the palm tree is chiefly esteemed, and produces a principal part of their food. The land produces all kind of garden and medicinal plants, and the mountains are covered with the herb basil and other odoriferous herbs.
Leaving Socotora, we were very near Aden in the morning of the 27th of January 1541; which was to the north-west, distant from us about 6 leagues. The wind being from the east and fair, we sailed W.S.W. and then knew that the land we had seen the evening before, thinking it an island, was the mountain of Aden. This mountain is very high and is full of crags on every side, with some very high peaks, like the hill of Cintra, having a noble appearance. This hill descends to the sea, into which it projects a very great and long cape or promontory; on each side of which there is a deep harbour or bay, the strong city of Aden being situated on that which is to the east of the cape. In ancient times the hill was called Cabubarra, famous among navigators, and the city of Aden was then known by the name of Madoca.
Within these three years, this city of Aden has fallen under the power of the Turks, being taken by the treachery of Solyman Pacha, governor of Cairo, in the following manner. At the request of the king of Cambaya and all the inhabitants of the Straits of Mecca, the grand Turk sent the governor of Cairo, Solyman Pacha [[the]] eunuch, with a great fleet of ships and galleys for India. On coming to Aden, the king and inhabitants, fearing the treachery of the Turks, refused to allow them to come into their city, but supplied them with all kinds of provisions and necessaries. As Solyman and his soldiers shewed no resentment, the king became reassured, and after many messages and declarations of friendship on both sides, consented to an interview with the Pacha on board his galley, that they might treat respecting the conquest on which the Pacha was bound. But the king was made prisoner by Solyman on board the galley; and the Turks, landing, possessed themselves of the city, before the gates of which the king was hanged next day. Whereupon Solyman left a garrison to keep possession of the city, and proceeded on his voyage to Diu.
From the Cape of Guardafu on the coast of Africa, anciently called Aromata, and from the opposite promontory of Siagros or Cape Fartak in Asia, all the sea to the city of the heroes, now Suez, is called the Arabian Gulf, vulgarly the Red Sea. The distance between these two promontories may be 58 leagues. From these promontories the coast on both sides of this sea extends towards the west, nearly at the same distance, till they come to the two cities of Aden in Arabia; and Zeyla in Ethiopia or Abexi; and from thence the two shores begin to approximate [[=come nearer]] rapidly, with desert coasts and little winding, till they almost meet in the straits which are formed by two capes or promontories; that on the Arabian side being named Possidium by the ancients, but I could never learn either the ancient or modern name of that on the side of Ethiopia.
This strait between the promontories is called by the neighbouring people and those who inhabit the coasts of the Indian ocean Albabo, which signifies the gates or mouths in the Arabic language. This strait is six leagues across, in which space there are so many islands, little islets, and rocks, as to occasion a suspicion that it was once stopped up. By those straits, sluices, and channels, there enters so great a quantity of water, which produces so many and great creeks, bays, gulfs, and ports, and so many islands, that we do not seem to sail between two lands, but in the deepest and most tempestuous lake of the great ocean.
Now returning to the mouths of the strait, which is the object of our description, we are to note that the land of Arabia at this place stretches out into the sea with a long and large point or promontory; and as there is a great nook or bay, it appears on coming from sea as if this cape were an island separate from the continent. This is what was named the promontory of Possidium by Ptolemy. Not more than a stone's throw from this promontory is a small islet called the Isle of the Robones. For Roboanin Arabic signifies a pilot, and in this isle dwell the pilots who are in use to direct ships coming from sea to the ports for which they are bound within the straits. This islet is round and quite flat, about the sixth part of a league in circuit, and the channel between it and the mainland of Arabia may be crossed on foot at low water; but at one-quarter flood it becomes too deep for being waded.
To seawards from this little island about a league from the coast is an island about a league and a half in length, which has a large haven on the side towards Ethiopia secure in all winds, where a large fleet of gallies may be safely harboured; but the side of this island towards Arabia has neither harbour nor landing-place. This channel is easily sailed in the middle, steering N.W. and by W., from S.E. and by E., having 11 fathoms all through. It is all clean in every place, without flats, shoals, or any other obstruction, so that it may be passed on either side or in the middle. The whole ground is a soft coral rock, with hardly any sand. Being far within the channel, and going to seek the road or haven for shelter from the east winds which are here very strong, the depth somewhat diminishes, but is never less than 9 fathoms.
Besides this channel of the Arabians, there are many others by which we may safely enter the straits; but we shall only mention one other, which they called the channel of Abyssinia, between the Island of the Gates, or Prin, and the promontory opposite to Possidium, which is on the Abyssinian shore, and is about five leagues broad; but in this space there are six great high islands, which being seen by sailors while without the straits, are apt to put them in fear that there is no passage that way; but between all these islands there are large channels of great depth all of which may be taken without danger, or leaving them all on the right hand, we may pass in safety between them and the coast of Abyssinia. At noon on the 29th of January 1541, I took the altitude of the sun, which at its great height rose 62 3/4 degrees above the horizon, the declination of this day being 15 degrees, whence the latitude of the promontory Possidium and mouth of the straits is 12° 15' N. The pilot took the same altitude with me, and being taken on the land, it cannot but be accurate.
[Footnote 262: We now take up the Rutter or Journal of Don Juan de Castro, but Purchas has chosen to omit the navigation from the Malabar coast to the Island of Socotora, to avoid prolixity.--E.]
[Footnote 263: The real distance is 430 marine leagues, and the difference may be easily accounted for by the operation of an eastern current, not observed or not sufficiently allowed for.--E.]
[Footnote 264: Don Juan omits all mention of the island of Abdal Kuria, about nine leagues E.S.E. of Socotora, with two intersposed small islands, called Las Duas Hermanas or the Two Sisters.--E.]
[Footnote 265: Probably meaning no images or Christian idols.--E.]
[Footnote 266: Since then they have been subdued by the Arabs.--Astl.]
[Footnote 267: By verdigris is probably meant the Socotorine aloes.--Purch.]
[Footnote 268: This singular expression certainly means the Red Sea, which the Arabs often call the Straits of Mecca, or more properly the Gulf of Mecca; sometimes Bahr-hejaz, or the Sea of Hejaz, one of the provinces of Arabia.--E.]
[Footnote 269: Meaning Abassi, Abyssinia, or Habash.--E.]
[Footnote 270: The cape on the Arabian shore is called Arrah-morah, or of St Anthony, and that on the African Jebul al Mondub, or Mandab, which signifies the Mountain of Lamentation, as formerly explained respecting Bab-al-Mandub, the name of the straits--E.]
[Footnote 271: In Arabic Al Bab is the gate; and Al Abwah, the gates. By the Turks it is called Bab Bogazi, a general name for all straits; and the babs by the English sailors.--Ast.]
[Footnote 272: Rather Roban or Ruban.--Ast.]
[Footnote 273: The island of Prin.--E.]
[Footnote 274: From this expression it is probable that Don Juan had described the channel between the island of Pria and the shore of Arabia, or rather the pilot island.--E.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 3 -- Continuation of the Voyage, from the Straits of Bab-el-Mandub, to Massua.
On the same night, two hours after midnight, we set sail from the mouth of the straits, and by daylight on the 30th we saw the land of both the Arabian and African coasts, being nearer to the latter. The wind blew hard at E.S.E. till noon, and we sailed to the N.W. and by W., making our way by a channel between the first islands and the coast of Abyssinia, till that day unknown to the Portuguese, being about 4 leagues distant from that coast. An hour after sunrise, we saw a range of islands along the coast, most of them low, stretching from S.E. to N.W., and which extended about 60 leagues. Continuing our course in this channel with a fair wind, we saw many little islands on either side, at whatsoever part we cast our eyes. In this channel of the Abyssins, as it is called, it is not proper to sail by night, nor unless the wind is in the poop, as if the wind should change there is not room to turn to windward, neither can we come to anchor till so far forward as the first of the first islands, when we shall observe to seawards nine little islands, and from thence forwards the sea remains free and open to seaward, but towards the land there still are many islands. Some of these islands are about two leagues distant from the coast, but the greatest part of them are close to the land. The length of this channel, between the three first islands and the coast of Abyssinia is about 8 leagues, and the safest navigation is nearer the continent than the islands: But in my opinion no one ought to venture upon this passage without a pilot of the country.
On the 31st day of January we came to a shoal with six fathoms water, and to seawards of which, over against certain islands called the Seven Sisters, there is a very dangerous rock, as I was told by the Moorish pilots; so that the safe navigations in this part is to go between the shoal and the land, and in no case to pass to seawards of the shoal. At night we came to anchor in a haven named Sarbo, or Sorbo, in 9 1/2 fathoms water; having all this day seen many little islands close to the coast. On the 1st of February I landed at the port in this island of Sarbo, taking the pilot and master along with me, that we might all three take the altitude of the sun. At its greatest height it was scarce 71° above the horizon, and the declination of that day being 13° 56', the latitude was 15° 7' N. About 24 leagues short of Massua, and 4 leagues from the Abyssinian coast, in lat. 15° N. there is a great cluster or archipelago of islands, some of which hardly rise above the surface of the sea, while others are so lofty that they seem to touch the clouds; and between these there are so many bays, ports, and harbours, that no wind can annoy us. All of these islands want water, except one very high island, called Whale Island by the Portuguese, because it very much resembles one, in which there is water and plenty of cattle, with a large haven in which ships may winter.
Of all these islands, that which is most out to sea is called in Arabic Sarbo, where we now lay at anchor. The island of Sarbo is about a league in length and half a league broad, all low land with many low barren trees, and covered with grass. In every place we found the marks of men and cattle, but we only saw one camel, for which reason our men called it the Island of the Camel. Though we sought the whole island with much diligence we could find no water, except in one well dug in a stone which seemed intended to contain rain water. Between these islands there are numerous arms of the sea, reaches, and channels.
At sunrise on the 4th of February, we set sail from the port of Sarbo. February 7th we sailed along many islands about three or four leagues distant from the main land, most of them very low, almost even with the sea. We passed to seaward of them all about a league, and about even-song time, we saw to seawards of us a very long range of islands about 5 leagues in extent and about 4 leagues from us, which lay N.W. and S.W. as far as I could discern. The coast all this day trended N.W. and by W. and S.E. and by E., so that the channel in which we sailed this day was about 5 leagues broad. The greatest part of this day I caused the lead to be constantly thrown, always having 25 fathoms on an ouze bottom.
Two hours after sunrise on the 8th of February we set sail, steering mostly to the N.W., and at sunset we were nearly entered into the channel between that point of Dallac, which looks to the continent, and an island called Shamoa. But as night was coming on, and many of the galleons were far astern, so that it might be difficult for them to hit the channel, and as besides the wind was now scarce, we took in our sails, and with our foresails only we went rummore, sailing to the south-east, and two hours after night-fall we cast anchor in 40 fathoms water, the ground ouzing. All this day we saw many islands along the coast, so low and flat that they seemed to have no surface above water. The coast stretched N.W. and S.E. to a low point which is as far forward as the island of Dallac. On doubling this point, a great bay or creek penetrates ten or twelve leagues into the land.
The Island of Dallac is very low land, almost level with the sea, having no mountain or any other height. In the common opinion it is 25 leagues long by 12 in breadth. The side of the island opposite to the south stretches E.S.E. and W.N.W., being all the coast which I could see; and along the coast lay great numbers of little islands, all very low, and having the same direction with the coast. I only went along this coast of the island seven leagues, at two leagues from the land, and though the lead was often cast I never found ground. The metropolitan city or chief town is situated almost on the point of the island which lies on the west side, and is a frontier to Abyssinia. It is called Dallaca, whence the island took its name. Dallac, in the Arabic language signifies ten lacs, because in former times the custom-house of this city yielded that sum yearly to the king. Every Arabian lac is 10,000 Xerephines; so that ten lacs are worth 40,000 crusadoes.
The west point of the island, opposite to Abyssinia, is distant from the continent about 6 or 7 leagues, and in this space there are five very flat islands. The first of these, one league from the point, called Shamoa, is two leagues in circuit, and contains some springs and wells. Between this island of Shamoa and the western point of Dallac, is the principal and most frequented channel for going to Massu. In this channel the water is 70 fathoms deep. The land of this island is red, and produces few trees, but plenty of grass. The king of it and all his people are Moors. He resides most part of the year at Massua, because of the trade which he carries on with the Abyssinians. At present this island and Dallac yields very little profit; for since the rise of Suakem, Massua, Aden, and Jiddah, it has lost its trade and reputation.
The 12th of February the whole of our fleet came into the harbour of Massua. Massua is a small island very low and flat, in which anciently stood the city of Ptolomaida of the wild beast. This island is in length about the fifth part of a league, and a caliver-shot in breadth, being situated in a large crooked nook or bay of the sea, and near the north-west head-land of the bay. The channel which divides it from the main land is about a falcon-shot across, and in some parts not so much, in which channel the harbour is situated, which is safe in all weathers, as all the winds that blow must come over the land, and it has not much current. The depth of water is eight or nine fathoms, with an ouze bottom. The proper entrance into this port is on the north-east by the middle of the channel, between the island and the main; because from the point which runs to the E.N.E. a shoal projects towards the land, and the continental point of the bay has another projecting towards the point of the island, both of which make it necessary for ships to avoid the land and to keep the mid-channel, which is very narrow and runs N.E. and S.W. Very near this island of Massua, towards the south and the south-west, there are two other islands, that nearest the main land being the larger, and that more out to sea being smaller and very round. These three islands form a triangle, being all very flat and barren, having no wells or springs; but in Massua are many cisterns for the use of the inhabitants. There are many shoals interspersed among these islands, but there is a channel through among them, through which galleys and rowing vessels may pass at full sea.
This island of Massua, with all the coast from Cape Guardafu to Swakem, was only a short time before under the dominion of Prester John; but within these few years the king or sheikh of Dallac has usurped it, and resides there the greater part of the year, because of the trade which he carries on with the Abyssinians, from whom he procures great quantities of gold and ivory. In the months of May and June, in consequence of excessive calm weather, the air of this island is exceedingly intemperate and unhealthy; at which season the sheikh and the other inhabitants go all to Dallac, leaving Massua entirely empty. All the coast of the bay of Massua on the main-land is extremely mountainous, till you come to a place called Arkiko by the sea-side, where there are many wells of water, where the coast is more clear and open, with many fields and plains. Arkiko is about a league from Massua to the south, and through all these mountains and fields there are many wild beasts, as elephants, tigers, wolves, wild boars, stags, and elks, besides others not known to us; whence Massua was called Ptolomaida of the wild beasts, which is farther confirmed, as the latitude of Massua is the same as that assigned to Ptolomaida.
[Footnote 275: In Purchas these two last mentioned places are named Dalaqua and Xamea, the Portuguese expressing our k by qu, and our sh by x; but we have preferred the more ordinary mode of spelling in modern geography.--E.]
[Footnote 276: This expression is absolutely unintelligible, but in the context the ship is said to have returned to the south-east. It is used on a subsequent occasion apparently in the same sense, and perhaps means beating to windwards or drifting to leeward.--E.]
[Footnote 277: A Xerephine being 3s. 9d., a lac is L.1875 sterling, and ten lacs are consequently L.18,750.--E.]
[Footnote 278: Arkiko, Arkoko, or Erkoko, by some erroneously called Erocco, and by De L'Isle, Arcua. In the edition of this journal by Purchas it is called Arquito.--Ast.]
[Footnote 279: These are no proofs that Massua is on the spot formerly occupied by Ptolomaida; for the whole coast of Abyssinia is full of wild beasts, and since Ptolemy fixed the latitude solely by computed distances, it is next to impossible that these should exactly agree with real observations.--Ast.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 4 -- Digression respecting the History, Customs, and State of Abyssinia.
Presbyter or Prester John, otherwise called Prete Jani, who is the king or emperor of the Abyssinians, is lord of all the land called anciently Ethiopia sub Egypto, or Lower Ethiopia; which is one of the most extensive dominions we know of in the world. This empire begins at Cape Guardafu, called anciently Aromata, whence running along the Red Sea, with desert and not very crooked coasts, it reaches to the boundaries of the rich city of Swakem. On the north side it borders on the warlike people of the Nubys, Nuba, or Nubians, who intervene between Abyssinia and the Theabaid or Upper Egypt. From thence it reaches a great way inland to the kingdom of Manicongo, including part of Lybia Inferior, and other interior parts of Africa towards the west; whence turning behind the springs and lakes of the Nile through burning and unknown regions, it ends in the south upon the Barbarian Gulf, now known to the Portuguese who navigate that gulf as the coasts of Melinda and Magadoxa.
The Nile is still known by its ancient name, being called Nil by the Abyssinians, Egyptians, Arabians, and Indians. The springs and lakes of this river are on the confines which separate the land of the Abyssinians from the Cafres that inhabit the continent behind Melinda and Mozambique, as I was informed by some great lords and other persons of Abyssinia, whence it appears that the ancients had little knowledge respecting the origin of this river. Inquiring from these people if it were true that this river did sink in many places into the earth, and came out again at the distance of many days' journey, I was assured there was no such thing, but that during its whole course it was seen on the surface, having great breadth and depth, notwithstanding of what we read in the fifth book of the Natural History of Pliny. I made many inquiries respecting the causes of increase and overflowings of this river, which has been so much disputed by all the ancient philosophers, and received the most satisfactory solution of this question never before determined. Thus almost jestingly, and by means of very simple questions, I came to learn that which the greatest philosophers of antiquity were ignorant of.
The principal lords of Abyssinia informed me that in their country the winter began in May, and lasted all June and July and part of August, in which latter month the weather becomes mild and pleasant. In June and July it is a great wonder if the sun ever make his appearance; and in these two months so great and continual are the rains that the fields and low grounds are entirely overflowed, so that the people cannot go from one place to another. That this prodigious quantity of water has no other issue or gathering-place excepting the Nile; as towards the Red Sea the country is entirely skirted by very high mountains. Hence that river must necessarily swell prodigiously and go beyond its ordinary bounds, as unable to contain such vast quantities of water, and overflows therefore both in Egypt and the other lands through which it passes. And as the territories of Egypt are the most plain of these, of necessity the overflowing there must be the more copious, as the river has there more scope and freedom to spread out its waters than in the high and mountainous lands of Abyssinia. Now, it is manifest that the inundations of the Nile in Egypt always begin when the sun is in the summer solstice, which is in June, while in July the river increases in greater abundance, and in August, when the rains diminish in Abyssinia, the river decreases by similar degrees to its former increase.
Hence the manifest cause of the increase of the Nile is from the great and continual rains that fall in Abyssinia during the months of June and July. I was myself in Massua in the month of June and part of July, where I saw great storms of thunder and rain; and we saw within the continent great and constant black clouds; though the Abyssinians said what we saw was little in comparison of what it was in the inland country. We likewise know that the months of June and July are the winter season at the Cape of Good Hope and all the coast of Africa, where the rains are continual. I was likewise told that the Nile formed many islands, especially one exceedingly large, in which was a great and rich city; which on due consideration must be the Island of Meroe. They told me also that on this great island, and all through the river, there were great numbers of fierce and pestiferous animals, which doubtless must be crocodiles. Enquiring if the river in a certain place fell from such a height, that with the noise of the fall those who inhabited the neighbouring towns were born deaf; they said that certainly in one place the river did fall over a great rock with a prodigious noise, but had no such effects.
As an extended account of the manners and customs of the Abyssinians would interfere with this journal, I must touch them only shortly, though most worthy of being known; more especially the causes of the overthrow and ruin of this empire in these our own days.
Atini Tingill, afterwards named David, Prete Jani, or Emperor of Ethiopia, reigning in the year 1530, became so cruel and tyrannized so much over his subjects that he incurred their universal hatred. At that time Gradamet, king of Zeyla, made war on Abyssinia, encouraged by the great enmity of the people against their sovereign, and perhaps secretly invited by some of the great lords of the kingdom. On entering into Abyssinia, and having reduced some towns and districts, Gradamet divided liberally the spoils among his warriors, among whom he had 300 Turkish arquebusseers who formed the main strength of his army. He likewise enfranchised all the inhabitants of the towns through which he passed, exempting the inhabitants from the taxes and impositions they had to pay to their sovereign, by which he gained to his party all the common people, and even many of the principal nobles of the kingdom.
King David sent an army against the king of Zeyla; but when the Turks began to shoot their calivers or arquebusses among the Abyssinians, by which some of them were slain, they were seized with an universal panic and took flight. Proud of this victory, the king of Zeyla overran the country, accompanied by a great number of Abyssinians, and advanced into that part of the south, towards Magadoxa and Melinda, where the vast treasures of the former kings of Abyssinia were secured on the top of an almost inaccessible mountain. Seeing every day the Abyssinians revolting to the Moors, David gathered a new army with which be marched against Gradamet and joined battle, but was again completely defeated, chiefly by means of the Turkish musqueteers: On which David withdrew to a strong post on a mountain, where in a few days he died, in the year 1539.
After this great victory Gradamet marched immediately to the mountain where the treasure was deposited, which he assaulted and took, gaining possession of the largest treasure that ever was known in the world. On the death of David, those of the nobles who had continued to adhere to him elected his eldest son in his stead, who was a young man under age; and that nothing might be wanting to assist the ruin of the kingdom, already almost irrecoverably reduced by the Moors, another party of the nobles appointed a different son of the late king to succeed to the throne. In this hopeless condition of his affairs, the unfortunate youth, having to contend at the same time against foreign invasion and domestic division, withdrew for personal safety to the mountain of the Jews.
In the interior of Abyssinia there is a very large and high mountain which can only be ascended by one very difficult path, and on its summit there is a large plain, having abundance of springs, with numerous cattle, and even some cultivation. The inhabitants of this mountain observe the law of Moses. Though I have carefully inquired, I could never learn how this people came into Abyssinia, and wherefore they have never descended from their mountain to mix with the other inhabitants of the country. The young king received a friendly entertainment from these Jews, who acknowledged him as their sovereign, and defended him against the king of Zeyla, who was unable to force his way up the mountain, and had to retire.
About this time we arrived at Massua, which put the Moors in great fear, and inspired new courage into the hearts of the Abyssinians, insomuch that the young king left the mountain of the Jews and took up his quarters with his adherents in other mountains towards the sea coast and nearer to Massua, whence he wrote many pitiful and imploring letters for assistance, to which favourable answers were returned giving him hopes of succour. We proceeded on our expedition to Suez; and being returned again to Massua, it was ordained to send an auxiliary force of 500 men under a captain, which was accordingly done and we set sail on our way back to India. Since that time, I have not learnt any intelligence whatever respecting the affairs of Ethiopia.
The Abyssinians are naturally ceremonious men, and full of points of honour. Their only weapons are darts, in which they figure to themselves the lance with which our Saviour was wounded, and the cross on which he died, though some wear short swords. They are very expert horsemen, but badly apparelled; and are much given to lying and theft. Among them riches are not computed by money, but by the possession of cattle and camels, yet gold is much valued. In their own country they are dastardly cowards, but in other countries valiant; insomuch that in India they say that a good Lascarin, or what we call a soldier, must be an Abyssinian; and they are so much esteemed in Ballagayat, Cambaya, Bengal, and other places, that they are always made captains and principal officers in the army. Their clothing is vile and poor. They wear linen shirts, and the great personages have a kind of upper garment called Beden. The vulgar people are almost quite naked. They eat bollemus and raw flesh; or if held to the fire, it is so little done that the blood runs from it. In the whole land there are no cities or towns, so that they live in the field under tents and pavilions like the Arabs. They pride themselves on believing that the queen of Sheba was of their country, alleging that she took shipping at Massua, though others say at Swakem, carrying with her jewels of great value when she went to Jerusalem to visit Solomon, making him great gifts, and returned with child by him.
It is alleged in the history of Abyssinia, that when one of the Soldans of Babylon in Egypt made war many years ago upon their emperor, he gathered a multitude of people and turned the course of the Nile, so that it might not run into Egypt. The Soldan, amazed at this vast enterprize, which he believed would entirely ruin the land of Egypt, sent ambassadors with great gifts, and made peace with the emperor, giving a privilege to the Abyssinians to pass through his country without paying tribute, when on their way to visit the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem, and the shrine of St Catharine on Mount Sinai. Some learned Moors whom I conversed with while in the Red Sea confirmed the truth of this relation.
[Footnote 280: That is Ethiopia below Egypt, or more properly to the south of Egypt. The expression below seems ridiculous, as Abyssinia or Ethiopia containing the sources of the Nile must be higher than Egypt at its mouth. But among Greek and Roman geographers, above and below meant respectively to the north and to the south.--E.]
[Footnote 281: Of the cruelties of David several examples are given in the journal of Alvarez, such as the death of two Betudetes, the chief justice, two Tigre mahons or governors of Tigre, and four Barnagassoes or governors of the maritime country, in six years. This disposition increased with his years, and perhaps he intended to force some alteration in the religion of the country; which indeed sufficiently appears by his sending Alvarez and Bermudez as his ambassadors to the Pope.--Purchas.]
[Footnote 282: The circumstances and fate of this Portuguese expedition into Abyssinia will be found in the next chapter of this work.--E.]
[Footnote 283: The word used here in the edition of Purchas is Alarbes.--E.]
[Footnote 284: According to Bermudez, this attempt was begun by Ale Beale, predecessor to Onadinguel or Atine-tingil.--Astl.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 5 -- Continuation of the Journal of De Castro from Massua to Swakem.
We set sail at sun-rising on the 19th of February from the bay which is half a league beyond Massua and half a league from the land. This day was very close and rainy, and numbering our fleet I found 64 rowing vessels; that is, 3 galliots, eight small galleys, and 35 foists. By night our north-west wind lulled, and it blew a little from the west. In the second watch it came on to rain; and in the middle of the morning watch we weighed anchor and rowed along shore till morning, during which time it rained hard. By evening of the 20th we were as far as the extreme point of the range of islands on the north side, about 14 leagues from Massua. The coast from Massua hither stretched N.N.W. and S.S.E. for these 14 leagues, and in some of the islands which lay to seaward we knew that there were cattle and water, with some few poor dwellings. The distance from these islands to the African coast might be about four leagues.
The islands in this range having cattle and water are Harate, Dohull, and Damanill, which are all low and surrounded with shoals and flats. All the first watch of the night, having the wind fair at east, we sailed N.N.W. At the beginning of the second watch we came suddenly to certain very white spots, which threw out flames like lightning. Wondering at this strange event, we took in our sails, believing we were upon some banks or shoals; but on casting the lead I found 26 fathoms. As this great novelty to us made no impression on the native pilots, and being in deep water, we made sail again. On the 21st at day light, we saw off to seawards a low island of which the Moorish pilot had been afraid in the night. At day light on the 22nd we again set sail, and at noon my pilot took the altitude of the sun, and found our latitude 18° 30' N. At this time we were abreast of a very long point of sand projecting from the main-land. After doubling this point, we found the sea very free, and sailed N.W. and by W.
One hour after noon we came to a haven called Marate. All the coast on our left hand during this day stretched N.N.W. and S.S.E., the land by the sea shore being very low with not even a hillock; but within the land the mountains rise to such a height that they seem to reach the clouds. Marate is a very low desert island and without water, 66 leagues beyond Massua, of a roundish figure, and a league and a half in circuit. It is about three leagues from the main, and on the S.W. side which fronts the Ethiopean coast it has a very good harbour, safe in all winds, especially those from the eastern points; as on this side two long points stretch out from the island east and west, one quarter N.W. and S.E,. between which the land straitens much on both sides, forming a very great and hollow bosom or bay, in the mouth and front of which there is a long and very low island, and some sands and shoals, so that no sea can come in. This haven has two entries, one to the east and the other to the west, both near the points of the island which form the harbour. The channel on the east stretches N. and S. one quarter N.W. and S.E., having three fathoms water in the shallowest place, after which it immediately deepens; and within the haven we have four and five fathoms near the shore, with a mud bottom. During the night the wind was from the east, but less than in the day, and we rode at anchor all night.
At sunrise on the 23d of February, we set sail from the island and port of Marate, finding seven fathom water and a sandy bottom. At eleven o'clock we came to two small islands far to seawards, one called Darata and the other Dolcofallar, from whence to Swakem is a day's sail. From noon we sailed N.W. by W. till even-song time, when we entered the channel of Swakem; in which, after sailing a league N.W., we had certain shoals ahead, on which account we altered our course to W. one quarter N.W. and sometimes W., to keep free of these shoals. We continued in this course about three leagues, till we saw a great island ahead of us; when we immediately tacked towards the land, and came to an anchor between certain great shoals of stone or sunken rocks, forming a good harbour named Xabaque, which in the Arabic means a net. It might be an hour before sunset when we came to anchor. This day my pilot took the sun at noon, and found our latitude scarce 19° N.
The shoals of Swakem are so many and so intermingled that no picture or information were sufficient to understand them, much less to sail through among them; the islands, shoals, banks, rocks, and channels are so numerous and intricate. At the entrance among these shoals, there is to seaward a shoal under water on which the sea breaks very much, and to landward a small island, these two ranging N.E. and S.W. a quarter more E. and W., the distance between being three quarters of a league. Immediately on entering, the channel seemed large and spacious, and the farther we advanced, so much more to seaward there appeared to us an infinite number of very flat islands, shoals, sand-banks and rocks, that they could not be reckoned. Towards the land side these were not so numerous; but it is the foulest and most unnavigable channel that ever was seen, in comparison with any other sea. What ought chiefly to be attended to in this channel, is always to keep nearer to the shoals that are to seawards, and as far as possible from those to landward. The breadth of this channel in some places is about half a league, in others a quarter, and in others less than a gun-shot. In the entry to this channel we had six fathoms, and from thence to the port of Shabak never less, and never more than 12. From the beginning of the shoals to Shabak may be about five leagues, and their whole length eight or nine. We have then another channel, more secure for ships and great vessels; and we may likewise pass these shoals leaving them all to seaward, going very close to the main-land, which is the best and most pleasant way.
On the 24th, at sunrise, we set sail from the port of Shabak, and rowed by so narrow a channel that our fleet had to follow each other in single line a-head, being only about a cross-bow shot over in the widest parts. In this narrow channel we were never more than a cannon shot from the main-land, and sometimes little more than a cross-bow shot; having shoals, rocks and banks on every side of us, all under water, yet we had always sufficient indications to avoid them; as wherever they lay, the water over them appeared very red or very green, and where neither of these colours appeared we were sure of the clearest channel, the water being there dark. Continuing by this channel among so many difficulties, we came to anchor at half an hour past eleven at a little low round island, in lat. 19° N.
In this latitude Ptolemy places the mountain of the Satyrs. Of this mountain the native pilots had no knowledge; but going about half a league into the land, I found the footsteps of so many kind of beasts, and such great flocks of pianets, as was wonderful. All these tracks came till they set their feet in the sea, and they occupied, the greatest part of the field. I believe the fable of the Satyrs to have arisen from thence, and that they were said to inhabit these hills and mountains. It is to be noted that in the channel of four leagues from the harbour of Shaba to this island, the water is never less than two and a half fathoms nor deeper than eleven, and also that the tide at this island does not ebb and flow above half a yard. It begins to flow as soon as the moon begins to ascend towards the horizon, in the same order as already mentioned respecting Socotora.
The 26th at sunrise we departed from the island, rowing along a reef of rocks that ran between us and the land to which it was almost parallel, all the sea between it and the land being full of shoals and banks; but to seawards there were neither shoals nor banks nor any other impediment. At nine o'clock we came to anchor at a small island encompassed by many flats and shoals, where there was a good haven. This island was a league and a half from that we left in the morning, and 5 leagues short of Swakem. The 27th at sunrise we set sail from this second island, and two hours within the night we came to anchor a league and a half farther on in 28 fathoms water. The 28th we bridled our oars and set sail. At nine o'clock we anchored about two leagues from the land in 23 fathoms, on soft sand, like ouze or mud. This morning we found some shoals under water, but the sea always showed itself very green or red over them. Two hours after noon we set sail again, and anchored at night in 37 fathoms on a sandy bottom, hard by an island a league and a half short of Swakem. The coast runs N.N.W. and S.S.E., having all along a shoal which extends near half a league into the sea. This land differs in nothing from that formerly described. The 1st March 1541, departing from this anchorage, and having doubled a point of land made by the shoal, we approached the land inwards by a channel, and came to anchor in the haven of the city of Swakem.
Swakem was called by the ancients the port of Aspi, as may be seen in the third table of Africa by Ptolemy. At this day it is one of the richest cities in the East. It is situated within the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea, on the coast of Ethiopia sub Egypto, now called the land and coast of the Abexii or Abyssinians. Among famous places, this may be reckoned equal or superior to them all in four things. The first is the goodness and safety of the haven. The second, in the facility and good service for lading and unlading ships. The third, in its traffic with very strange and remote people of various manners and customs. The fourth, in the strength and situation of the city.
As touching the goodness and security of the port I shall first speak. Nature has so formed this port that no storm from the sea can enter it in any direction. Within the haven the sea is so quiet, and runs so insensibly, that scarcely can we perceive it to have any tide. The ground is mud. The road in all places has five or six fathoms, and seven in some places; and is so large that two hundred ships may ride commodiously at anchor, besides rowing-vessels without number. The water is so clear that you may plainly perceive the bottom; and where that is not seen the depth is at least ten or twelve fathoms. The ships can be laden or unladen all round the city, merely by laying a plank from them into the warehouses of the merchants; while galleys fasten themselves to stones at the doors of the houses, laying their prows over the quays as so many bridges.
Now touching the trade and navigation of this port with many sorts of people, and with strange and remote countries, I know not what city can compare with it except Lisbon: as this city trades with all India, both on this side and beyond the Ganges; with Cambaya, Tanacerim, Pegu, Malacca; and within the Straits with Jiddah, Cairo, and Alexandria. From all Ethiopia and Abyssinia it procures great quantities of gold and ivory. As to the strength and situation of this city enough can hardly be said; since to come to it, the inconveniences, difficulties, and dangers are so great, that it seems almost impossible: as for fifteen leagues about, the shoals, flats, islands, channels, rocks, banks, and sands, and surges of the sea, are so many and intricate that they put the sailors in great fear and almost in despair.
The situation of the city is this: in the middle of a great nook or bay, is a perfectly flat island almost level with the sea and exactly round, being about a quarter of a league in circuit, upon which the city of Swakem is built; not one foot of ground on the whole island but is replenished with houses and inhabitants, so that the whole island is a city. On two sides this insular city comes within a bow-shot of the main land, that is on the E.S.E. and S.W. sides, but all the rest is farther from the land. The road, haven, or bay surrounds the city on every side to the distance of a cross-bow shot, in all of which space ships may anchor in six or seven fathoms on a mud bottom. All around this bay there is a great shoal; so that the deep water is from the edge of the city all round to the distance of a bow-shot, and all beyond is full of shoals.
In this bay there are three other islands on the land side to the north-west. The two which lie farthest in are small, but that nearest to the channel is about as large as the city. Between this island and the main sea, there is a large and very long channel, having seven fathoms water, all along which a great navy might safely ride at anchor, without any danger of annoyance from the city, whence only their masts could be seen. When the moon appears in the horizon it is full sea, and as the moon advances it ebbs till the moon comes to the meridian, when it is dead low water; and thence it begins again to flow till the moon sets, when it is again full sea. The entire ebb and flow of the sea at this city does not exceed a quarter of a yard. The most that it rises along the coast is a yard and a half, and in some places less than three quarters of a yard. But when I made this observation it was neap tide.
[Footnote 285: The particular enumeration comes only to 46 vessels, so that the number of 64 in the text seems an oversight or transposition.--E.]
[Footnote 286: Perhaps this refers to the west channel of the harbour, though not so expressed in the text.--E.]
[Footnote 287: Named Daratata and Dolkefallar in Astley.]
[Footnote 288: More properly Shabak.--Ast.]
[Footnote 289: Purchas in a side-note makes this the latitude of the harbour of Xabaque; but it is obvious that they had sailed a long way between noon, when the altitude was taken, and an hour before sunset, when they entered the harbour.--E.]
[Footnote 290: This mountain of the Satyrs may more properly be generally referred to the high range of mountains on this part of the coast, perhaps from abounding in the baboon called Simia Satyrus, or the Mandrill.--E.]
[Footnote 291: I know not what to make of the pianets; but the footsteps of beasts reaching to the edge of the water may probably refer to amphibious animals, while the flocks of pianets may have been water-fowl of some kind.--E.]
[Footnote 292: This is to be understood of 1541, when visited by De Castro. Since the Turkish conquest, Mokha and other places have greater trade.--Purch.]
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