Journal of Paymaster Frederic Lucas RN
Anti-Slavery Patrols on the Coast of Africa
HMS Mutine 1845 to 1846.
Our passage from England to the Cape of Good Hope presented no event worthy of particular notice. In the Bay of Biscay we encountered one of those often described gales, which lasted two days. We had then fine weather and arrived at the depot for invalids ("Madeira") on the 29th January 1845. Madeira I shall say little about. I and every one else must have read so many glowing accounts of its vine clad mountains, its nunneries and its majestic scenery, that my descriptive powers would fall short of its deserts. We sailed again on the 31st January in company with the "Osprey" and "Waterwitch", the "Pantaloon" not having made her appearance since the gale in the Bay of Biscay, and stood toward Tenerife and passed the Island on the 1st February at about 7 in the evening. The weather was unusually clouded which deprived us of seeing one of the finest peaks in the world. After passing Tenerife we shaped our course towards the Cape Verde Islands, delightful weather running across the Trades, each day trying our respective sailing qualities, the "Mutine" invariably proving the fastest vessel rattling along at the rate of ten and eleven knots, the flying fish starting neath our bows in shoals as we ploughed through the water. Leaving cold England in January and then in less than a month to be in such a genial delightful climate was truly delicious.
Arrived at the Island of Boa Vista on the 6th February 1845. The appearance of this place is the superposing, a barren sandy Island. The reception we met with was most cordial and friendly in the extreme, so much so that on visiting the shore we were so happy that we nearly lost our passage as the vessels were to sail at daylight and we did not get off until about 3 in the morning, the greater part of us I am sorry to say rather merry, but who could resist the kindness of our host (an Irishman and a good fellow of the first order). We left the "Waterwitch" here and the "Osprey" and ourselves sailed for the Cape on the 7th February. On our way towards the equator we tried rate of sailing nearly every day, we beating her in splendid style upon every occasion. On the 16th February we crossed the line. I had capital fun, having crossed the line on a previous occasion I was exempted from the ordeal of novices. Indeed I took a prominent part in the mysteries of the presentation of strangers to Father Neptune. On nearing the line, perhaps the night previous to crossing it, the vessel is hailed (by a man on the Flying Jib boom end) and the Captain answers. The vessel is then hove to and Neptune walks over the side covered with sheep skin, oakum etc. Dripping with water and a trident in his hand, all the uninitiated flock on deck to pay their respects to his Majesty, for he is particularly jealous of his dignity and does not forget those who omit to pay him proper respect. However his coming over the side is a signal the knowing ones, who are prepared with buckets, tubs, etc filled with water, the gaps are likewise supplied with water during the day. When down comes a deluge of water upon the unsuspecting group gathered around the Ocean King, the fire engine finishes and scarcely one gets below with a dry stitch. Neptune walks aft to the Captain making polite and anxious enquires about his sister the Queen of England and her Royal family, but sometimes making a rude remark or two with regard her family, but this must be excused, Neptune seldom going to any court except his own. On his leaving the ship he tells the Captain that he will be ready to receive the homage of such as have never been presented to him before. At such a time on the morning of the morrow, he then walks over the side and is supposed to go into his car. A tub is then set fire to, filled with tar and other combustibles. This is told us is Neptune's car. Another shower of water finishes the evening. The tub is seen blazing away for a long time and at last is lost in the distance.
16 Feb 1845 This morning the hatches were put on and only those allowed on deck who had had the honour of a presentation to his Briny Majesty. A guard of about 10 men and numerous constables then besmear themselves with red ochre, tar and chalk. A car is made out of the 12 Pounder Cannonade Carriage. At about 10 o’clock the procession move around the deck, gunners and firers first, then the constables, the bears (most extraordinary looking animals) then the car drawn by some animals but I could not make out what they were intended to represent. On the car was seated Neptune, his wife Amphitrite and their child. After parading around the decks and receiving some rum from the Captain, of which I am shocked to say her Majesty partook with evident relish, they adjourned to the forecastle and seated themselves upon the throne prepared for them.
Now there comes the business of presentation; on the lee side a large sail was filled with water and was now occupied by the bears, who were roaring in a most inhuman manner. The officers are the first, they are brought up separately and a bandage is placed over their eyes. On first coming on deck they are saluted with buckets of water as they pass from aft to forward, the fire engine pipe playing incessantly into their face. This important branch I had charge of, and no one can say that I showed the least partiality or affection. On going up the ladder to the forecastle they are again assailed with buckets of water, and at last are seated in the presence of Neptune and his courtiers. His Majesty puts many questions and any attempt a taste of mess is put into your mouth. The razors are of many sizes and sorts from an iron hoop with gaps in it to the back of a sword. There is besides a smelling bottle, that is, a bottle with a cork full of pins, pills, draughts etc, but the smelling bottle and rough razor is only for the most turbulent and those disliked. After shaving they are pitched into the sail with the bears, and receive more or less a sound ducking. It all passed off very well and by 2 o’clock the brig was a Man-of-War again.
24 Feb. We passed the Martin Voez with a fair wind and on the 14 of March arrived in Simon’s Bay, Cape of Good Hope without a breeze of wind of any importance. Remained in Simon’s Bay until the 4th of April. I was necessitated to remain very quiet here this time, not going to Cape Town, or in fact anywhere, my treasury being rather low. I found many of my old cruising friends and we had a few evenings on shore. Simon’s Bay in itself is as desolate and dull a place as you can well imagine, no society on shore whatever, but having been here before I was not disappointed as many were, although I was heartily glad when we got under weigh and stood out of the bay on the morning of the 5th April. We had light and variable winds when working out of False Bay, and had great amusement fishing, the Bay abounding in fish of which we caught a great many. After getting clear of the Bay we had remarkably nice weather, fair winds and not at all strong, so very foreign to the Cape at this the winter time.
9th April. This morning a sail was observed and we gave chase. As usual in fresh breezes everything was seen to be a prize, and the first chase is always the scene of great excitement. However this vessel’s manoeuvres were very suspicious, she at about 12 o’clock began setting studding sails and our crew would have bet any money that it was alright. I myself was not so certain. I have been disappointed so many times, I make sure of nothing without I almost see the slaves on deck; I have then some hopes. However about 4 o’clock we came up with her and to the great disappointment of the majority of our ships company, she hoisted French Colours. We sent a boat on board to offer her any assistance and the Frenchmen were very civil. She was bound to the Island of Bourbon and had been an awful time in port. She had many female passengers who came on the poop of the barque and we amused ourselves by sighing and passing our remarks upon their supposed beauty, for she was too far off to make anything out distinctly.
From this time till the 17th, the weather remained very fine and we made the land about 10 o’clock and stood in towards the River Inhambane, a famous slaving depot. This river like most of those of Africa has a bar across the mouth on which a tremendous surf breaks. The land has a very pretty appearance, the hills all covered with verdure and there is no scarcity of trees. The water as we stood in was remarkably clear and of a beautiful brilliant blue, the bottom could be seen at nearly 40 feet. Finding no vessel off this place we hove up and ran along the coast. Its appearance is very varied, at some places the vegetation is most luxuriant and at others the coast presents nothing but barren and hills. Generally however the land appears plentifully irrigated, being totally different from the west coast.
20th April. In making the land near the River Quelimane, a sail was reported from the masthead, and all sail was instantly made in chase. As we came up with her we made her out to be a barque and she was making all sail for the entrance of the river. This at once stamped her to be a slaver. We opened fire on her but she was to far off for our shot to have any effect, and she at last succeeded in crossing the bar and ran up the river. She was now out of out reach as we are forbidden to interfere with any vessel when under the fort of any foreign nation, and the Portuguese have a fort and settlement there. However our Captain was determined to find out exactly what she was, and he wrote to the Governor of Quelimane stating his suspicions and requesting to prevent her taking slaves from that port. We were anchored outside the river in the brig and the boat was dispatched up to Quelimane a distance of 20 miles with the letters.
No satisfactory answer having been sent to our letters, the Captain wrote in a more positive tone, calling upon the Governor to assist him in suppressing the slave trade according to the treaty between Portugal and Great Britain. While we were waiting for an answer the barque came down the river and anchored inside the bar. We to prevent her escaping also weighed and on the afternoon of the 24th, crossed the bar and anchored close to her. The slave Captain it appears had received orders from the Governor of Quelimane (who was in a terrible funk for fear we would report him to his Government for giving his consent to slaving) to quit the river before the 27th or he would give us permission to take her. We did not know this, and we could not expect the Governor’s reply to our communication till the 26th.
25th April. We were watching the slaver with great attention, on board of whom great confusion appeared. The bar from where we were anchored presented itself in all its horror, for with the exception of about an hour at each high tide, the mouth of the river (a distance of about 2 miles broad) was a sheet of immense breakers, such as you see off Brighton in a strong gale of wind. This place too is infested with enormous sharks, and on the 26th, one of our men had a leg of mutton washed over board. It was rather strong and had been given to him by some of the Officers, being too high for them, but Jack is not very particular as long it is a fresh meal. When as he was washing this said leg over board, up comes a great brute of a shark and walks off with half of it. "Damn your eyes" says Jack, "You shan’t have the other half so easy". So he forthwith gets the shark hook and puts the remainder of the mutton upon it. As we expected the shark made his appearance again and made a grab at the mutton but was rather astonished to find a large hook sticking in his gills. Our men clamped on and raised him up to our forecastle rail, about 12 feet from the water. His tail was then just touching the water, when he gave a last struggle, and such was his strength that the hook straightened and he slipped off into the water again and escaped.
Shortly after this the barque got under weigh and stood out to sea. Our boat at this time was coming down the river with the letters from the Governor respecting the barque. We unfortunately waited for the boat being certain we could catch the barque afterwards; a delay of about ¼ of an hour took place. When the boat came on board with letters giving us permission to take the barque if she did not leave the river, and informing us that she was no longer under the protection of the Portuguese Colony, we now made all sail in chase, and when we were about ¼ of the way over the bar the brig struck. I was down below at the time and the shock sent me flying against a bulkhead. She then struck two or three times in quick succession. The slaver seeing our mishap gave a hearty cheer which was responded to by our wishing them all in the infernal region, but no time was left for inactivity. The tide was falling fast leaving us at every moment with less water, consequently with less chance of getting off. The utmost silence prevailed forward and aft, which speaks well for the discipline of the crew. We now started the fresh water from the tanks and commenced pumping it out, the shot at the same being passed up from below and thrown over board. Seeing that this had little effect, the First Lieutenant a cool magnificent Officer then ordered the guns to be thrown overboard. She then started a little ahead, but continued bumping very severely, the men and Officers working and cheering together in good style for this was the moment for everyone to exert themselves to the utmost.
The vessel was drawing ahead and we were almost congratulating ourselves that she would be in safety in a few minutes, when bang she went again, making our masts nearly jumping out of her, for which we were in great apprehension the shock being so severe. The remainder of the guns except one 18 Pnr, a great quantity of shot, the whole of the shell, and in fact everything we lay our hands upon was thrown over board. The most indifferent on board now saw their chance of escape almost hopeless. Still there was not a murmur except occasionally cheering. The breakers were momentarily expected to set in, the hatches were battened down and everything prepared for the worst, continuing however to lighten the ship of everything moveable, all this time she was bumping dreadfully. All sail had been set at the commencement, studding sails and in fact every sail that would draw on her, and at every thump she moved a little ahead, and at about 10 o’clock she gave a terrible thump, (which made everyone tremble for the masts) and away she went clear of the bar, everyone cheering heartily and congratulating one another on our miraculous escape.
If we had not got off, taking the lowest loss of life, I imagine that 60 would have drowned, no boat could live in the breakers, and few would have had strength enough to be hauled through them, and then those who were fortunate enough to escape the sea would have another and almost as great a danger to encounter on shore, namely the climate. At this place it is most pestiferous and few would exist long, inhaling as they would have done the brutal miasma from the swampy ground, but Jack don’t think of danger when it is over, or indeed while it exists. Our boats were now hoisted in, the main brace spliced by all hands and away we went in chase of our friend, now about 12 miles off, who must have been confoundedly astonished when he saw us clear of the bar and again in chase of him. If you had only heard half the blessings that were showered on him by our crew you would say that he was blessed in having so many friends to express so much anxiety on his account. We were now coming up with him fast and every hour made his chance of escape much less. Still he was along way off and cracking all sail upon his craft that she could think of, but it was no use, and at about 4 o’clock the first shots. Both fell short. At about ¼ to 5 we blazed away again; this time it was rather close and he hoisted Brazilian Colours, but refused to heave to, hoping I suppose that some accident would favour him. Another shot at about 5 o’clock settled the business for he put his helm down and hove to. Our men during the chase had had time for their passions to cool, and they only gave vent to a curse and enjoyed themselves chuckling at the crest fallen appearance of the slave crew, 20 in number. She is a fine barque called the "Princeza" of about 400 tons. She had everything ready for the reception of about 800 slaves. She had made 3 clear trips from the Mozambique, taking upwards of 2000 slaves, worth about 13,000 pounds.
27th April. We now sailed for the Island of Madagascar, to a place called Boyanna Bay in that Island as we expected to find some slaves that were intended for the barque, we having had information to that effect.
2nd May. We anchored outside Boyanna Bay sending the barque that had accompanied us into the Bay, hoping that, if the slaves were on shore, they would send them off on perceiving the barque, and a strong party of our men were onboard the barque ready to seize any boats that might come alongside. However the slaves had not arrived and we began to think that we had been hoaxed. As we were in want of water we ran into the Bay and began watering the ship. The King or Chief of the place would not, he said, allow us to take water without making him a present, whereupon our Captain sent word on shore to say that if any obstruction was thrown our way he would batter the town down for them. This had the desired effect, the King gave us no more trouble and even sent two bullocks off to us as a present. We in turn sent him some gun powder and rum which they prize very much. None of us landed, the natives are very treacherous, and but a short time ago murdered a Lieutenant belonging to the "Cleopatra".
5th May. This afternoon we had nearly completed water, when a sail was reported coming around the point. We were about 6 miles off up the Bay; the stranger however did not see us, as we were under the land. Our pinnace and gig was sent away and pulled out towards her, and was not perceived as the evening was now closing in. The stranger came up the bay never dreaming a Man-of-War was there. Our boats now (about ½ past 6) were not far from him. They separated so as to allow him to pass between them, and when close enough the gig which was to windward fired into and ran down upon him. He immediately put his helm up and endeavoured to get before the wind. In trying this he bore down upon the pinnace, he not seeing her before he could get his vessel before the wind. The pinnace fired and both boats pulled alongside and boarded him. Her crew consisted of about 20 Arabs who are notorious for their cruelty and do not fight badly. They saw it was no use resisting so they jumped over board leaving their muskets, spears and other weapons on deck. We tried to save some of them in the boats. This they seemed to have a decided objection to as they commenced diving and striking at the boats with their formidable knives.
We succeeded in saving, I think 9. Some reached the shore but more were swept out to sea and were drowned or devoured by sharks. 221 slaves mostly children were found on board besides about 10 Portuguese owners of the slaves. The vessel had not one drop of water on board and the poor creatures were so crowded that 60 of them were brought on board us the same night. The slaver was not able to come up the bay that night.
6th May. This morning our prize came up the bay with the slaves on her deck cheering and singing lustily, it having been interpreted to them that we should set them free. We took the whole of them on board us intending to set fire to the slaver as she was unfit to make a passage to the Cape. Our Portuguese passengers gave us information that another vessel with 350 slaves had sailed the same day as them and were coming to the same bay. This was just like them - if you take a prize and the prisoners happen to know of any other vessel they are sure to split and get as many into the mess as possible. Our boats were now sent out to lay off the point, the Captain himself in the gig. About 3 o’clock a sail was observed by them coming down before the wind and our boats pulled in amongst some large rocks and lay there concealed.
As the vessel approached, a man on shore supposed to be one of the Arabs that escaped the night before commenced shouting and making gestures in order to warn the slaver of his danger. Our people could not shoot him as the report of a musket would have frightened the slaver. As it was our boats were obliged to come from their concealment sooner than they otherwise would have done but they were much within musket shot, and as they came from behind the rocks they opened fire upon the vessel. The man in charge of the slaver was, unfortunately for us, a very gallant fellow and I believe is a Spaniard and was originally an Officer in the Spanish navy. He is the most notorious slaver going; however instead of giving up all hope, as a Portuguese would almost certainly have done, he boldly put his helm up and bore away, our boats pulling and sailing after him, keeping up a regular fire of musketry into him. This continued till about 8 o’clock, the boats gradually gaining ground, when the wind suddenly freshened and he again went ahead.
This Spaniard during the chase had recourse to that inhuman practice of throwing the slaves over board for the purpose of delaying the boats. Several poor creatures perished in this manner and we had the mortification of losing the slaver after all, having chased him to 12 o’clock when all sight of him was lost. The boats were now 40 miles from the land having come that distance since the commencement of the chase.
7th May. Our boats returned this morning, the men terrible worn out and in an awful rage at losing the slaver. From this day to the 11th we were watering and left Boyanna Bay in the afternoon with the captured vessel in company. We had some thoughts of making a tender of her, but she leaked too much and was so infested with rats that we altered our minds and on the 12th set the slaver on fire. The boat sent on this service remained alongside until she was well on fire, and it was amusing to see the consternation the nasty great rats were in. One absolutely jumped from the vessel and nearly sprung into the boat. When she was in a fine blaze we made sail away and could see the flames for a long time afterwards till she sank in deep water.
17th May. This morning before daylight seven of the slaves slipped over board and escaped to the shore.
23rd May. Arrived off Quelimane
28th May. Off Inhambane and falling in with no Man of War we started for the Cape.
31st May. Last night the weather looked very squally and a regular gale set in this morning. The sea rose rapidly and by 12 o’clock we were under a close reefed topsail in a heavy gale of wind.
1st June. The gale continued with unabated violence. It is impossible to convey to any one the horrors of the last two days, the slaves rolling about sick during the day. The wind kept up one continuous howl, never for one moment abating, never had any on board seen such a storm except in a regular hurricane which lasts but a short time. At night the slaves became frightened and commenced screaming and howling horribly. This combined with the wind made such a chorus that I shall never to my latest day forget.
2nd June. One slave was hauled out dead from among the rest this morning. He died of dysentery and was thrown overboard immediately.
3rd June. Weather much finer. Another slave died.
4th June. During last night another gale set in and it was blowing very heavily in the morning and during the day, but towards midnight it moderated.
5th June. A very heavy sea but not so much wind. One Negro was found dead in the morning.
6th June. Today one of our own men died. He had been ill for a few days of dysentery when the disease turned into typhus fever which carried him off rapidly. We buried him in the afternoon.
7th June. Tolerable fine weather and we are making great progress towards the Cape.
8th June. A horrid sight awaited those who were on deck this morning. When the slaves got out of the boats, which are nicely covered over during the night and make capital places for the slaves to sleep in, on turning them out two were found dead huddled up in the bows. Their bodies presented a most disgusting sight, covered with filth, blood and parts of their own entrails. In bad cases of dysentery it is not uncommon for parts of the intestines to come away from disease. It was the case with these poor creatures, and it was the most sickening sight I think I ever saw.
9th June. Last night another gale set in and by morning it was blowing a tremendous gale of wind accompanied with a very high sea. In the afternoon we were getting the top gallant yards out of the rigging and making everything snug as possible when our head krooman (a black) was washed or knocked over board A "man overboard" resounded through the ship and everyone rushed on deck. The krooman had taken a stool, unfortunately no line was attached to it and he floated away. Our boats are all in board but the men took the dinghy, the smallest boat but best adapted for a heavy sea, and launched her over our stern into the sea. She unfortunately filled and a man jumped into her with a bucket to bail her out. The brig was now hove to under a close reefed main top sail and the sea was running almost mountains high. The vessel now fell off and gathered way, tightened the line by which the dinghy was secured and carried it away, capsizing at the same time the boat and man. We were now fairly puzzled, the only boat that would have stood any chance in such a sea was stove in the night before and could not be launched overboard.
Our men went to the Captain and volunteered to go in the other boat, but the Captain told them it was no use as she would certainly be swamped and it was madness to make the attempt. We were now drifting fast from the men and our only chance was to make sail upon the brig. We shook a reef out of the main top sail and set the fore topsail treble reefed and main trysail. The brig now instead of going over the immense seas appeared to plunge through them, threatening at every lurch to carry away the masts. She was one sheet of foam and everyone had to hold on for their lives, the Negroes howling horribly with fright. We had stood on for some time when we wore round and stood towards the men. As we approached we saw that the krooman had left the stool and swam towards the boat and both men were now on her bottom waving their hands, making certain of soon being rescued.
We unfortunately passed about a hundred yards to leeward of them, so close were we that we could plainly distinguish their faces, and they were obliged to strike at the albatross and other birds to prevent their pecking them. We stood on for some time and again wore, when the men were reported from the masthead to be on our lee bow. This was cheering to us as we were certain of soon having them on board again. Alas our hopes were short lived, a tremendous squall nearly threw the vessel on her beam ends, seas rushing clean over us, threatening to sweep us all away. The brig stood it well and we held on but on the squall passing nothing could be seen either of the men or the boat. This was dreadful, the poor fellows had no doubt been washed off the boat during the squall. It was now getting dark, everyone was straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the men but to no purpose. We were now about the spot where the men were last seen. It was useless and dangerous to stand on any longer under so much sail.
We were obliged now to give up all hopes and just as it got dark took in all sail except a close reefed main top sail and hove to. What must have been the feelings of the two poor fellows. They were both excellent swimmers and very likely swam a long time after they were washed off the boat and very likely saw us (being so large an object), shorten sail and give them up. Any hope they may have had was now over, their fate indeed is too horrible to contemplate.
10th June. Gale continued. Two more slaves died.
11th June. Weather more moderate. One slave died
12th June. Fine weather, running for the Cape. Two slaves died
13th June. Fine weather. Two slaves died.
14th June. Saw the Cape of Good Hope, ran up False Bay, passed close to the "Winchester", our slaves cheering lustily which rather astonished the crew of that vessel. Anchored in the afternoon.
16th June. Landed 392 Negroes. This being Sunday a crowd of people mustered on the shore to see them land. They were soon put in wagons and started for Cape Town. We now commenced about repairing the brig. She was hove down and piece of keel put on, and in fact our crew as well as the "Winchester’s" have been constantly employed about the brig until the 31st July.
1st August. The brig now is in good order again. Captain Edan came on board and inspected the vessel and heartily glad was I when we up anchor and on the 2nd August, sailed from Simons Bay and after knocking about with light winds all night, on the 3rd August got the wind from the NW and ran away along the land.
4th August. The wind gradually freshening until the evening when it commenced blowing a gale. Fortunately it was fair for us and we rattled away at the rate of 12 knots an hour under topsails and foresail.
5th August. Same kind of weather but more sea. This is the first time we have had of trying the brig in a strong gale and heavy sea, but this may partly be accounted for by our light armament, our guns weighing 17 Cwt. each instead of 25 Cwt., that being the weight of our last guns. The land that we have just passed is very mountainous and thinly clothed with verdure. A terrible sea breaks all along the coast and the bays that afford a little shelter are few and very far between.
6th August. This has been a very exciting day. This morning at 9 o’clock a schooner was reported right ahead. The order for "hands make sail" was immediately given and the ship in a few minutes was covered with a cloud of canvas. The wind was very variable during the forenoon which occasioned the schooner to alter her course very often. This we construed into attempts to get away. I was not so sanguine as many but schooners and brigantines in these seas are always suspicious, few legal traders being rigged in that way. However about 3 o’clock we came up with her and to the disappointment of us she answered our hail in pure English. Portuguese would have been much more grateful to our ears.
About 5 this evening as we were running along at about 10 knots an hour, a sail was discerned on our port bow. We rounded the vessel to and stood on for a quarter of an hour. When we tacked, we had again lost sight of the stranger in standing from her. In about a ¼ of an hour after tacking we again caught sight of her; the wind at this time was blowing very strong and we had plenty of canvas on. She was going about 11 knots which is not so bad for a vessel close hauled. As we drew closer to the stranger we could see she was a ship and we gave her a gun to bring her to. This had not the desired effect and before we could load again we were close to her, nearly ran into her, passing not more than 6 yards on her weather quarter, giving her a musket at the same time. I never could suppose that one vessel could so rapidly pass another both standing the same way, but scarcely had Captain Crawford hailed her and before an answer could be given we were a long way past her. We then hove to and lowered a boat. When the boat returned the officer reported the vessel to be English, from Calcutta bound to Liverpool. He said the captain was in an awful funk as he took us for a pirate, and I dare say had we not boarded him he would have spun a fine yard about being chased and fired into by a piratical vessel.
7th to 12th August. The weather the last few days has been rather strong but as the wind was right aft it did not much matter, the little brig has been spinning through it at the rate of 11 and 12 knots.
13th August. This morning we made the land near the River Inhambane. We found the "Helena" here. She had sent a boat up the River for the purpose of procuring some fresh stock which is very cheap; fowls can be purchased at the rate of 3½d. each. Cocoa nuts and oranges and limes are also in great abundance.
19th August. Came in sight of Europa Island this morning and anchored about 2 in the afternoon. The Island is one mass of coral and the anchorage is insecure. It is partly covered with an almost impenetrable jungle, and the Island abounds in turtles. As soon as the anchor was down we took our guns and started on an expedition. I should fancy from the tameness of the birds the Island is very seldom visited. The birds would not actually move out of our way and I knocked many off the trees with stones. They are almost all seabirds but the names of them I do not know except the boatswain bird, one of which I shot, the plumages a delicate pink or blush and it had one long feather projecting from the tail about 16 inches, altogether a very handsome bird. During the afternoon we fell in with a flock of pigeons and we shot about 31 of them. I remained on shore this evening for the purpose of turning turtles, six were turned but only one was brought off, the surf beating on the coral reef too heavy for a boat to approach. The lightest of these turtles weighed nearly 300 weight. We were sorry to lose the five but we could not help it and we returned on board at about 5 in the morning very much fagged.
20th August. A party went ashore to attempt bringing the turtles off but after much labour they found the attempt to be useless the surf setting in too violently. We sailed in the evening intending to pay the Island another visit as early as possible.
21st August. About 12 o’clock a few sharks were seen about the ship and we hove to and put a bait over which was immediately seized by one of these voracious monsters and in our attempt to haul him in the hook broke. Another hook was put over and another shark seized it. This time we were more fortunate and after much trouble we got him on board; it measured 8 feet. On looking into the sea I saw we were absolutely surrounded by these brutes, I could say there could not be less than 50 of them varying from 6 to 10 feet. I thought then how poor a chance a man would have if he fell over board among these blood hounds of the sea. We caught another about 7 feet long and fired bullets into two or three more. The last one we caught struggled very much and on firing bullets into it three young sharks jumped out of its mouth. The young ones were about 18 inches long. Sharks when in any danger take the young ones into their stomach for safety. The two captured sharks were soon cut up by the men and I could hear the frying pans under weigh almost immediately afterwards.
23rd August. We fell in with the "Cleopatra" and the "Sappho" joined company in the evening. I was much pleased to see the "Sappho" again, we were such capital friends on the other coast and had many long yarns with them of old times.
25th August. "Sappho" sailed for the Cape, she having been down here for more than 5 months. We tried rate of sailing with the "Cleopatra" and beat her shamefully.
28th August. The "Cleopatra" left us to take a cruise among the Islands to the Northward and us to work back to Quelimane. That part of the coast abounds in small Islands affording good shelter to the slavers. We look close into them occasionally, anchoring when we amuse ourselves fishing and shooting.
31st August. We again fell in with the "Helena" today, she is called the crack brig on the station having beaten anything she has sailed with. When in Simons Bay the Helena’s expressed themselves perfectly satisfactory we would not stand the least chance with them, and the other cruisers told us the same. We never - the - less offered to try rate of sailing with them the other day but they refused as they had part of their crew away. This time we challenged them again (although we are but a cripple) and they accepted telling us that it was not the slightest use of our trying, however we did not despair. The "Helena" had been humbugging about all day without making any more sail and we began to think they funked it when about 4 o’clock in the afternoon she made the signal to try rate of sailing. We were then about a quarter of a mile astern to leeward of her. Our men got the canvas on the brig like lightening. They seemed determined to give this bouncing brig a thrashing, and to the "Helena’s" utter consternation the ‘Mutine" came up on her hand over hand and passed to windward of her at a slapping pace. We laughed heartedly to see the blank look of the "Helena’s" Officers for we passed close enough to see them distinctly and before sunset we were more than half a mile dead to windward of her. Horse racing does not present half the excitement and interest as a good sailing match between two crack brigs. We now hove to for the night the "Helena" in company.
1st Sept. September. This day was spent humbugging about.
2nd Sept. This is a sporting morning in England and it proved the same to us here on the Eastern Coast of Africa for at 8 o’clock this morning the Helena made a signal to try rate of sailing. She appeared determined by starting so early to have a good licking. At starting she was about half a mile dead to windward of us, a nice breeze springing up and the "Mutine" crawled up to her, both vessels tacking occasionally. At 9 o’clock we crossed to windward of her and continued gaining gradually till 3 in the afternoon when she gave up and acknowledged herself most unmercifully beaten. She parted company in the evening to go and mourn in private the loss of her laurels, taken from her by a cripple for we are not much better, leaking as we do, besides not having our proper guns on board.
3rd Sept. We anchored off the bar of Quelimane this afternoon, a bar that will always be remembered by us.
4th Sept. We sent our boat up the river this morning to get a few fowls and live stock.
7th Sept. Our boat returned bringing a few fowls and vegetables. There appeared a great scarcity of eatables in the town this time, however we got a fresh dinner or two which is a great treat. Continually being on hard salt meat and harder biscuits becomes tiresome, besides a fresh meal occasionally keeps the scurvy at a respectable distance.
From this date until 17th we have been cruising about running up and down the coast but no vessel blessed our sight. In fact it is becoming very tiresome, not even a chase to keep the excitement up, so we determined to pay a visit to one of the numerous little Islands that skirt this coast and stretch our legs a little. We accordingly worked windward towards Casarina Island and on the 18th we anchored off the Island.
These little islands are generally destitute of fresh water but never the less they are very thickly wooded with a large kind of Fir Tree, the wood of which is very hard. There are no birds here and the only quadrupeds are rats which afford us some amusement hunting them.
We remained here until 27th, a pretty good spell together. While laying here our pinnace was sent away to examine a river about 20 miles off, and when standing in shore the Officer in charge approached too near and the consequence was a large roller struck the boat and capsized her throwing the whole of the party into the surf. They however succeeded in getting on shore without the interference of Mr. Shark and after great difficulty got the boat off again, but they were in a pretty fix, their water and provisions were all lost or spoiled by the salt water, and as if to make matters worse the wind was foul and a strong current. For about 40 hours hard pulling part of the time in the hot sun they managed to get on board the brig. The poor fellows looked so tired as possible with a bad thirst raging. In a few days they were alright again.
We now ran towards a little river called Quezmigo and sent the gig and whale boat in to examine it. These rivers abound in hippopotamus, one of which they fired at. The enraged brute dived for a moment and then rose immediately under the gig tipping some inches in the water and drove his tusks through four planks. The crew had to pull as hard as they could for the shore and reached it just as the boat was sinking. They however patched the leak with a blanket and reached the ship in safety.
19th Sept - 13th Oct. We have been cruising up and down the coast. The weather remains remarkably fine nothing like as hot as on the East coast, but it is dreadfully dull never by any chance seeing a vessel. This day I went away in the pinnace with the 1st Lieutenant and Master to endeavour to make an entrance to a small river, but there being such a violent surf on the bar we returned to the ship without getting inside the river.
14th Oct. We arrived off the mouth of another river and in consideration of my disappointment last time I was again permitted to go away in search of an entrance. The river has no name but it is one of the safest entrances I have seen and we christened it Mutine River. We got in in safety. It appeared a magnificent place inside, the river winding its way among the trees in a most picturesque manner. The natives appeared very shy and ran away at our approach. As we had entered the river some time before high tide we followed the main branch for about 12 miles up. Nothing but mangrove trees could be seen. They had a very uniform appearance beautifully green and as regular as a clipped hedge only of course on a much larger scale, the green branches dipping and partly growing under the water.
Since leaving the sand at the entrance of the river we had seen neither native or canoe until we were about to turn down the river again when we fancied we heard some one speaking and on our straining our ears and peering into the bushes we saw some natives who had followed us a great way running along the roots of the mangroves in a manner that would astonish one who had witnessed nothing of the kind before. After much palaver and a few presents we succeeded in gaining their confidence and made them understand that we should be at the entrance of the river in the morning and that we wanted fowls etc. We left them as it was getting late, and dropped down with the tide. We saw innumerable creeks and some large area of this river branching in all directions and we likewise saw several of those huge animals the hippopotamus or sea cow. They are however harmless unless provoked. We anchored at the mouth of the river inside the breakers and after having had supper and a comfortable pipe or two and a glass of grog, picked for the softest plank and were soon fast asleep.
15th Oct. This morning very early some of the natives had come down, and we were soon among them. I took my gun and tried to shoot some curlews of which I saw many but they were so very shy that I could not get a shot and was obliged to content myself with a few doves. When I returned about half past eight our interpreter had found out that a slave vessel was close by, and her crew (Arabs) were stealing the natives right and left for the purpose of making them slaves. The poor devils were in a great terror of these Arabs who are exceedingly cruel, and they did not like to show us at first where this vessel was. After a time two or three said they would show us and they took us to a place I never should have thought a vessel could get into. We had to wade up to our thighs in mud every now and then having to fish for our shoes which came off at almost every step. At last we reached the vessel. She was closely concealed by the mangrove bushes, and her mast (she had but one) was lowered down on deck, her crew had decamped, so we made no more ado but set fire to her and she burned bonnily.
We now retraced our steps through the mud and on our way down from the boat set fire to some huts containing the provisions of these Arab slavers. On again reaching the beach we found the natives collected in great force apparently overjoyed at the destruction of their enemy’s vessel, and such was their confidence in us (after a few presents) that they informed us of another Arab vessel engaged in a similar occupation some distance off and the King’s brother and another native volunteered to act as pilots. No time was now lost as we embarked with our black friends and sailed away up the river with a fair wind and the tide and took our breakfasts leisurely after this, which I considered a good morning’s work. By the direction of our able pilots we turned into a branch or arm of the river and sailed merrily along, I never saw anything like the regularity of the trees, as you looked down one of the many branches of the river its appearance was like a broad and regular street, not one tree projecting beyond another.
We saw today numerous canoes, the owners not appearing in the least afraid. News travels with incredible speed here and I daresay they had heard of our friendly intentions towards them. We started this morning about 9 o’clock -- 12 o’clock came and still we were sailing nothing but water and green trees to be seen -- 2 o’clock, still the same 5 and 6 o’clock passed and we began to think the blacks were leading us a wild goose chase, but they appeared so much in earnest that we still trusted them. The branch of the river we had been sailing up had now joined another river and on looking at the land near the sea we knew it to be the same river we attempted to enter a few days ago. We were now sailing up on Lawrence lake at least 8 or 9 miles broad. It getting dark we again made signal to our pilots who assured us we were now close to the vessel and advised us to go closer to the shade of the bushes.
About ¼ to 7 the natives, who were in a small boat eastern, pointed to the bushes and we saw a large vessel in a creek or a basin as the same description as the last. We immediately dropped anchor in the large boat and hauled the smaller one up along side. The blacks seemed very anxious to get into the large boat and in their hurry nearly capsized me as I was stepping into the small boat with the first Lieut. and men. We were close in shore. A good push from the pinnace landed us when we all jumped to the land armed to the teeth. An Arab came out of a square building and presented to us a paper ejaculating something about the sultan. On our looking at this man attentively we recognized him as the person we had seen at Boyanna Bay during our last cruise, and whom we strongly suspected of being engaged in the slave trade. As soon as he perceived he was known he dropped the paper and started off like a deer into the woods. We were soon satisfied that the vessel was engaged in the slave trade.
While examining the vessel we heard a great hubbub in the bush as many people were talking very loud. This put us on our guard and in about 2 minutes a volley of musketry was fired up at us. This was immediately returned and divided our men to the right and left of the vessel while two or three more of our people had landed and were busily engaged setting fire to the vessel. I took the extreme left and while our people were at work an irregular fire continued from the bush. As the night was intensely dark we could only fire at the flashes of their muskets and after one volley that we returned some of the slavers sang out lustily and as it ceased suddenly we supposed that one of them had been shot. As the vessel began to blaze the Arabs had a capital chance at us if they had chosen to take advantage of it as we were placed between the blazing vessel and the wood that concealed them and they might of picked a good many of us off. However myself and our scouts or sharp shooters were called in and all embarked in safety after firing the house that contained the provisions. When we got well into the river a few more shots were fired. The vessel made a capital bonfire and we saw it two or three hours afterwards. The tide row favouring our return, we shaped our course back and as there was a little breeze I steered the boat till ½ past 3 next morning when I felt so tired I roused up one of our men to take the helm and laid down to sleep. During the hours I was steering everything was still (all our people, Officers and men being asleep in the bottom of the boat) that my mind wandered among you all and in that pleasing reverie I remained for hours not feeling the slightest inclination to sleep, occasionally puffing away with that inestimable weed (tobacco).
We arrived at our starting place at about 8 am having traversed since the same hour the day before not less than 70 or 80 miles, where I venture to say no European boat had ever been before. Crowds of natives were ready to welcome us back and the King’s brother and the other native (who I supposed was one of the Privy Council) landing their friends rushed into the water and shook them by the hand and I suppose paying them compliments for their bravery. We remained till four o’clock with these people who looked upon us and our crew with greater admiration than ever. After loading our boat with poultry, bananas, plantaine and casava root, we pulled away out of the river to the ship, got along side about 7 o’clock. Our men cheered very much when they heard of our success and after drinking a few glasses of grog to our better luck I turned in very tired and with quite enough grog aboard me.
17th October. We got under weigh very short of water intending to go to Mozambique to complete.
18th - 21st Oct. Foul winds with the current against us we were reduced to ½ a gallon of water for all purposes per man.
22nd Oct. Wind still foul, the current having set us the last 26 hours 50 miles the wrong way, we were now reduced to one quart a man per day. Water is now more precious than wine. Salt provisions and a quart of water in the 24 hours, thirsty times, this quart is for cooking and for every purpose.
23rd Oct. Finding we could make no headway against the formidable current that prevails on this coast we stood over to Madagascar. Saw that island on the 24th and worked up along the land to the northward and having got far enough to windward we stood across for Mozambique.
27th Oct. We have now been 6 days upon a quart of water a day. Some of our people complained very much of thirst, but for myself I did not suffer much inconvenience, except having to wash in salt water which after a few days become very unpleasant. We saw the land this afternoon but the weather was extremely hazy and we could not make out exactly where we were. We however were very anxious to get to Mozambique and stood close in upon this dangerous coast. It was about 4 in the afternoon the wind blowing very hard and a heavy sea running when the mast head man reported "breakers" close to us. They were immediately after seen from the Forecastle, "hands about ship", piped and sung out the boat swain and his mates, "helm a lee" and around the little craft come like a top. Five minutes more and we should have been on top of one of those fatal shoals with which the coast abounds. We stood off for the night and a brutal night it was, a terrible sea and the current setting us we knew not where. In the morning we found the current setting us in about 12 hours nearly 60 miles dead to windward and against a very heavy sea and wind.
28th Oct. We bore up this morning with a fine breeze and rattled along the coast at the rate of 12 knots an hour, saw an Island of Mozambique about 1 o’clock and ran into the harbour and anchored about 4 o’clock. As soon as the anchor was down the remainder of the water on board (only 100 gallons) was thrown over the men and I really thought some of them would burst themselves. There is I believe nothing so dreadful to endure than thirst. 7 days on a quart of water per day is a greater hardship in a tropical climate than you can imagine.
A serious and almost fatal accident occurred this afternoon to one of our seamen. We were firing a salute of 21 guns when one of the guns went off when in the act of reloading it. The man who was the loader was blown nearly overboard - in fact he would have gone over board had his leg not got caught with the breeching and tackle. I was close by to help him in. His right hand was in a terrible state; the whole of the hand except the thumb was blown right away, his arm was broken in two places and his leg severely fractured. We took him below and it was found requisite by the surgeon to amputate his right arm above the elbow. I stood by and assisted as much as I could. During the operation the poor fellow scarcely said a word, but bore the whole of the pain bravely, talking and even jesting about the figure he would cut with one flipper. He was a young man about 22 and generally beloved by everyone.
30th Oct. I went today upon a shooting excursion and shot many very beautiful little birds. The place we went to was a large coconut grove, thousand and thousands of coconuts hanging upon the trees. The unripe nut contains a great quantity of milk and is a pleasant drink in the heat of the day. We had only to point up to a nut and one of the natives would mount and cut it down for us, they have notches cut in the trees which are very high and they go up and down very nimbly. There were besides, the paw paw, mango, custard fruit and the cashew fruit. The nut of this fruit is called in England the firework nut. The pineapples were not ripe but were as common as pears are in England. We spent a very pleasant day, sailed down the river or bay in the evening and got on board fatigued from the exposure to the sun which was intensely hot on shore.
31st Oct. to 4th Nov. Going on shore shooting and visiting the town of Mozambique. It is a large town belonging to the Portuguese, but its inhabitants are mostly Moors and Arabs, the blacks having their huts on one side of the town. The nigger’s huts are placed as much like the cells in a piece of honey as anything I know, there must be some thousands of them. The town itself has fallen much into decay. Houses there are that formally were handsome buildings but now present nothing but ruins. The Governor’s house is a fine large place and in pretty good order.
Our suppression of the slave trade I fancy is the cause of the place falling so much into decay, but independent of the slave trade the country would with little pains produce almost everything, but the Portuguese do not like work. Coffee, sugar, cotton and many more articles of commerce grow here almost spontaneously. The natives are a fine inoffensive race of people and would easily be brought to work, but slaving is such profitable work that, until it is thoroughly put down ( and the Lord only knows when that will be) the Portuguese will not turn their minds to tilling the ground.
There is a most extraordinary mixture of religion in this place; Protestants, Catholics, Mohammedans, Brahmins, Fire Worshippers, some who worship the sun and moon etc. and many other sects. However they never interfere with each other’s religious opinions and I think it would be just as well if those who consider themselves far more civilized were to follow their example.
5th Nov. We sailed this morning very early and stood out to sea intending to go to the Northward if the current is kind enough to permit us.
6th to 9th Nov. We have been trying hard to get to the Northward. The current runs now at the rate of about 4 miles an hour and since the 5th I don’t think we have gone 20 miles to the northward. This is very tiresome and the weather is getting intensely hot.
10th Nov. This morning at daylight a sail was reported on our weather bow. We immediately made all sail in chase and as soon as the stranger made us out she hauled her wind, crowded all sail she could possibly make. This was suspicious and our hopes that she was a prize began to rise. We soon made her out to be a barque and although she sailed well we gradually crept up on her. About 9 o’clock we opened fire, but she took no notice. We continued firing and closing her till 10 o’clock when she was well within range. We now regularly opened fire, several struck her and many passed through her masts.
He now bore up intending to try his hand at running but we now out-generalled him and just as he bore up we gave him 6 or 7 gun at once. This settled his business. The shots fell so thick around him and we were so close that we should soon have sunk the barque, so she let sheets and halyards all go at once and there she was studding sails and other sails flapping and flying away, a good prize to the lucky "Mutine". We boarded and found her as expected well fitted for the slave trade. She was capitally found, lots of the good things of this world on board and a crew of 25 hands and ? Cannons. We brought the prisoners on board us and put a prime crew on board the barque with orders to make the best of her way up to Gomba Bay where we expected to find another prize.
11th to 16th Nov. Working up to windward against a most infernal current, this morning we saw a sail and as we closed our prisoners told us they thought she was the famous Spanish Piratical Brig named the "Emanuel". The stranger stood coldly on with out showing any colours. This looked as if the prisoners were right, and we beat to quarters and some rounds of grape and canister shot readied. As we approached almost within range she went about and hove to as if for the purpose of engaging us. You would have laughed to see how pleased our fellows were at the prospect of an engagement, when "oh diables" in the midst of our laughing up went the Portuguese colours and she fired a gun to leeward and to our utter disgust we made her out to be a Portuguese Brig of War "Villa Flor". We anchored in the evening and the Portuguese did the same, it being useless to attempt working up during the night.
17th Nov. The Portuguese Brig had the impudence this morning to get under weigh with us for the purpose of trying her hand at turning up with the crack "Mutine". She was sufficiently punished for before dark she was out of sight to leeward.
18th Nov. Anchored in Gomba Bay this morning and in the afternoon I went with our mate to examine the coast. My usual luck attended me for as I was walking along I stumbled suddenly right upon a slaver. We pushed off at once and reported the affair to the Captain. She is a small Arab craft and one of those with which this coat is infested, their employment being stealing Negroes and transporting them to Madagascar or other markets for sale.
19th Nov. Landed this morning and took possession of the slaver, the crew had run away but the surrounding bushes were filled with armed men. We saw the slaver could not get off before the spring tides set in as she was hauled up a creek and as we wanted a craft of this kind for a tender we let her remain until we can get her off which will be in a few days, she is a beautiful little craft. A village was hard by. The people I have seen are a mixed breed between Arabs and Natives, are well armed and I believe fight well. However we shall see when we take her away. I shall not be astonished if one or two of our people are killed.
20th Nov. This afternoon the Portuguese Brig of War came in and anchored, and this bay being considered in the Portuguese territory, ---- (one line missing)
This is a great nuisance and I think the Captain might just as well have said nothing about it and we could easily have taken her after the Portuguese had sailed. I was away when the Portuguese anchored, taking a sailing cruise around the bay to haul the seine and see if we could pick up anything else. I landed with my gun at a wild looking place and as I was going along I saw what I thought to be two dogs. However on looking more attentively I made them out to be two beautiful hyenas. They did not appear to be the least bit alarmed and walked quietly into the bush, I unfortunately only had my gun loaded with shot, I at once ran the ball in overall, but although I was very smart they were gone before I had my gun ready to fire. We returned in the evening after catching a very fair quantity of fish.
24th Nov. The Portuguese determined to destroy the slaver sent a party of 28 men to perform this service, and as they were firing the dhow the Arabs attacked them on all sides and came down in such force that the Portuguese were obliged to retreat with one man severely wounded. In the afternoon the Portuguese again landed with a larger force and a sharp fight ensued, the village was partly burned and one of the Portuguese was shot through the heart.
25th Nov. The Portuguese Commander having sent for our assistance to chastise the Arabs, we weighed at daylight and ran as close in as possible. Our boats were now hoisted out, manned and armed. Almost the whole of our Officers being absent in prizes Captain Crawford sent me to command the second boat. We pushed off about ½ past 8 and pulled to the Portuguese Brig who had also run close in. Their boats soon joined us and we pulled on shore, landing a force of about 100 men, the Brig opening a cannonade upon the town. We could not but notice the difference between the firing of the Portuguese Brig and the "Mutine". While every one of our shots told, scarcely one of the Portuguese reached home.
Our shore party formed in two divisions. I had charge of one. We now marched up to the first village in a very imposing manner, drums and trumpets kicking up a devil of a row, and fired the remaining of the huts the Portuguese could not do yesterday, and away we went up to the town. We had to cross a small river to reach it. It was the finest town I had seen, the houses were regularly built, some of them two stories. Our first division went the weather side and I with the second went the lee side. We now commenced regularly to fire the place. We started from a large house and burned from that until we again met.
The Portuguese divided themselves in the same way as we did and marched with us and they seemed to enjoy the fun amazingly. In about 2 hours there was not a house standing of this large town. We were rather burnt ourselves having the lee side to burn. Not a soul did we see during the whole of these operations, The Arabs are in a great dread of the English and our joining with the Portuguese I think was the occasion of their offering no resistance. I went on shore with the full expectation of having a little smart fighting but in this I was much disappointed. We left the shore about 1 o’clock having destroyed a village, a town and numerous canoes. The Portuguese Captain sent on board this evening to state how much he was pleased with the success of our operations, and that he should write to his Government and mention the Officers present. This evening the town is still burning.
26th Nov. Our prize having arrived we hauled alongside and took some water from her to prevent the chance of our being on such short allowance again.
27th Nov. Prize sailed for the Cape of Good Hope and we got under weigh shortly afterwards and shaped our course for Johanna and the Comoros Islands intending to overhaul them and see if a prize may be stowed away anywhere about them.
30th Nov. Saw the high land of Comoros this morning but the wind remaining very light we did not make much progress, the current setting us during the night as much to the Southward as we go to the Northward during the day. This evening although about 55 miles off, we saw fires quite plain upon the high land of the Islands.
1st and 2nd Dec. Although we got within 12 miles of Johanna we could not fetch up. The last few days there has been regular fight between us and the current. During the day we could work up very well but the next morning we always found ourselves about the same position as we started from. We were close enough to have a good view of the Islands which are about 40 miles apart. They produce almost everything ships require; excellent cattle and water and abundance of fruit. Johanna is the Island most visited, and from so many English and American ships touching there the natives have picked up many English words, amongst which is a terrible sprinkling of oaths. When they come on board they salute you something after this fashion: How you do, God damn my eye, a fine day God damn, suppose you want buffalo, have good yams God damn; but altogether they are very civil and obliging.
3,4,5,& 6th Dec. Light winds and drifting about 40 miles a day.
7th Dec. We saw a sail this morning and chased her into a fine large Bay and as we got closer in we made her out to be a large Country boat. Another boat soon joined her and there being very little wind our two light quarter boats were sent in chase, the Master had one and I the other, I soon caught the boat I was sent in chase of, put a man on board and sent her to the Brig. I then pulled away to assist the Master, his chase having run on shore. We soon got her off and towed her to the Brig. As they had no papers we detained them.
8th Dec. We ran over to the other side of the bay having found a good stream of water and commenced getting fresh water off to the ship.
9th Dec. I went this afternoon upon a foolish expedition, and the love of adventure I am sure will some day cost me my life. We were much in want of fresh stock and as none could be got on this side of the bay, I and one of our kroomen engaged with some Arabs (people noted for their treachery) to carry us over to the other side of the bay where the King lived. We took some barter cloth and some powder, and away we went in their boat with but one gun between us, while the Arabs had two. We landed just before dark and commenced our walk to the village, winding our way through swamps and mangrove bushes.
After walking about an hour we came to some huts and made a purchase of some fowls. On we went again for about another hour, winding along a path that if my life depended upon it I could not retrace. We now came to some more huts and I sat down very tired, surrounded by grinning savages. They seemed utterly astonished to see a white man in their country. After waiting about half an hour I had my attention suddenly directed to a person rapidly advancing, and as he came up to me, shook me by the hand and departed. While I was wondering who the devil this mysterious personage could be, a black came up to us and pointed in the direction of some huts and said the Rex or King wished to see us.
Away we went again and after a ten minutes walk were ushered into the august presence of his Sable Majesty. I made him a present of some cloth and powder, a very necessary preliminary upon which the Majesty gave me a very warm embrace. The odour of his skin would be very unpleasant to the European noses, and was not particularly pleasing to mine although a little more used to it. We were soon surrounded with natives bringing in their stack of fowls. Many of the natives appeared very drunk, particularly the King’s Prime Minister who was flourishing a very formidable knife, which the King thought expedient to take from him or he might in a drunken fit have whipped it into my ribs. We continued bartering until 3 o’clock in the morning by which time we had purchased all the poultry they had (about 120 head) besides some eggs.
After continued asking, the King at last showed us a hut where we were to sleep and I laid down intending to sleep, but although heartily tired I could not rest and now I had time to think. I could not but blame myself for being such a fool to trust myself among a set of savages almost unarmed. Thinking on in this way I laid my gun under my head and was just dozing off to sleep when I was suddenly roused by hearing the blade of a knife grating along the mat upon which I was lying. I, as you may suppose jumped up like a sky rocket and in the indistinct light saw a black in the hut, I was just about to smash his skull with the butt of my gun which I had kept possession of, when he spoke in such a mild manner that I hesitated and he at last made me understand that he came for the mat I was laid down upon, it being his. I did not however give up possession but turned him out of the hut and again laid down and was soon sound asleep being quite tired out.
After sleeping about an hour and a half the King came to the hut and I was forced to get up; made a few more purchases and commenced my walk back attended by a train of Negroes carrying the fowls etc. I saw some magnificent birds but being loaded with ball I did not like to discharge my gun of which the natives appeared in some awe. I also saw some very fine trees and some of those immense anthills about 10 or 12 feet high and a few more curios. The women as I passed ran away in great fear, but they are without exception the ugliest devils I ever saw. Their faces are scarified in a brutal manner.
We at last reached the boat and I again felt comparatively safe. We shoved off but had not proceeded more than two miles towards the Brig when one of those violent tropical squalls overtook us, nearly capsized the boat drenching us at the same time with rain and drowning several of the fowls. The Arabs were in great fear and wished to run the boat on shore, but not wishing to sleep without a fire all night in my wet clothes, I set to work, got some of the canvas off the boat, took the helm and got clear of the shore. After making several tacks we at last reached the ship and the first thing I did was to swallow a glass of grog that would choke any shore going person, for we started in such a hurry that like an idiot I forgot to take any with me, put on some dry traus and was again all right.
11th & 12th Dec. We are still watering, a party fishing occasionally and the officers shooting. I fancy our Brig is now good representation of purgatory. We are full of mosquitoes, and some big fellows, and bite so hard that there is not a man and hardly an officer who can sleep below. For the last week, I have not slept in my hammock but lay down on deck exposed to the dew and a petty rheumatism I expect to get through these blackguard insects. Some of our men who have scratched their legs after being bit are in a pretty state with large ulcers and as I am now writing a scoundrel will occasionally come and give me a smart sting. They bite through trousers as well so that no part is safe. A mosquito will sometimes settle on your face and you will very cleverly give yourself a smart smack on the cheek and miss him.
13th Dec. Sailed this morning intending to go to Mozambique. As soon as we got outside the Bay a sail was reported and we rattled away in chase. We came up with her about noon. She was a large Country boat bound to Mozambique.
15th Dec. Arrived at Mozambique, ran into the inner harbour and anchored pretty close to the shore. The rainy season is just setting in and the thunder and lightning is exceedingly violent sometimes. During our stay here I, on a fine day was invited by a Portuguese to go and see his Country house. Two more of our officers went also. We first were rowed in a boat by 6 fine slaves to the opposite side of the harbour where we found a number of slaves with palanquins to carry us to the house. It is delightful travelling, four slaves carry you and the swinging motion lends very much to make you sleep. Our slaves trotted merrily along for about 2 miles when we came to the house, a fine airy place with abundance of fruit trees around it. We had a magnificent breakfast, there were only 5 of us and there was enough to feed 30 people. After smoking a cigar and taking a little wine we started again in our palanquins and visited two more houses belonging to some of the Portuguese merchants. We returned to dine at our friend’s house and got on board at sunset. It was altogether a remarkably pleasant day. All the slaves I saw appeared to be very happy, laughing and chattering all day, plenty to eat and little work, with kind masters. They are in my opinion far better off as slaves than in their native state.
20th Dec. Sailed from Mozambique. We have information of some large slavers and if we have any luck we shall capture one before we go to the Cape.
25th Dec. Christmas Day, a very merry one in England but on the Mozambique Channel one cannot well persuade himself that it is Christmas. The weather is so hot and the mosquitoes so thick that it is impossible to live below, so we rigged an awning over the quarter deck, decorated it with flags and made a good dinner, in fact a better one than I thought we could get together. We have been 6 months from the Cape and our stock of good things have nearly vanished before our formidable appetites. It rained in torrents the best part of the day but the awnings kept us dry and we sipped our wine and drank the health of our absent friends amid lightning, thunder and rain.
The rainy season has fairly set in and about every two hours we have a squall attended by vivid lightning, heavy thunder and torrents of rain. During these tropical squalls we take in nearly all sail and lay quiet until it blows over. The showers you have in England can give you no idea of the rain we now get. It comes down in a perfect sheet of water and with lightning flashing through it, has a very curious appearance. The crashing of the thunder is very grand indeed, but I think the sooner we get out of this place the better, or we shall be after getting the ship set on fire by lightning or other unpleasant thing happening.
27th Dec. We have been running along the Madagascar shore down to the South, the same squally weather continuing. This evening a heavy squall took up. It came so suddenly we had not time to shorten sail. Our foretopsail and jib were torn to ribbons by the violence of the wind and the ship heeled over very much. These blackguard squalls will be serving us a trick yet, they are upon you before you see them.
28th to 31st Dec. Running along shore to the Southward, passed Coffin Island without seeing what we expected, namely the prize. We now hauled our wind and stood over to the Island Nova Bank. As we approached this sandy Island we saw thousands of sea birds.
1st Jan 1846. Sighted Juan de Nova and stood away for Boyanna Bay.
5th Jan. As we were running into Boyanna Bay a sail was reported to leeward. "Hands make sail" and we had the studding sails on the Brig like light, and the little beauty danced away as if she enjoyed the chase. We came up fast with the chase and made her out to be an Arab vessel who was cracking on through the squalls in a most daring manner. We began firing but he took no notice, excepting to out manoeuvre to get to wind side but the fast footed "Mutine" was too quick for him. He then bore up and ran his vessel in amongst the breakers, our boats were soon manned and I had charge of one. I pulled through the surf and was first on board. We soon satisfied ourselves of his being in the slave trade and made a bonfire of the Arab.
The slaver crew came up upon the beach and with some natives began firing upon us. We of course returned it and I knocked one fellow over with a ball, he howled terribly and the others got him into the bush. This rather awed them and very few approached within musket shot while we remained. We went on board and ran into Boyanna Bay. The pinnace went to overhaul the bay in the morning and I again went in charge of the whale boat, remained away all night and returned on board the next afternoon. I was glad to get on board. It had been raining, blowing, thundering and lightning all the forenoon. We sailed in the evening for Mayotta, one of the Comoros Islands.
13th Jan. Anchored at Johanna. Long before we came to an anchor we were surrounded with boats bringing pines and all sorts of fruit for sale. These people are allowed great liberties on board a man-of-war on account of their friendliness to the English whom they look upon as their protectors. Fruit and vegetables are very cheap. Six pence will buy 8 or 9 pineapples, and the other articles in proportion. We were much bored by the young princes and other actions of Royalty soliciting our washing and begging that they may supply us with what ever we wanted. I went on shore in the afternoon with my gun. I received the utmost attention from the natives who all speak a little English. It is a lovely Island. Abundance of most delicious water, sugar, coffee, arrow root etc, grow wild. The mountains are clad with grass and trees; their cattle is small but of exquisite flavour; they make here a very pretty kind of mat. I brought two or three specimens and a few shells.
The town is built in the Moorish style. It is walled round; their houses have no windows and they keep their women in the greatest seclusion. This being the unsafe season at the anchorage of Johanna, we got some water, sugar, rice, vegetables and sailed next day with enough fruit on board to supply a fleet.
19th Jan. Started today with the Captain. He was in the gig and I had charge of the pinnace. To examine the river Mozimba, we rattled away with a fine breeze and arrived at the entrance by sunset, having run about 30 miles in four hours. We landed and had some shooting but found no vessel in the river. The next morning we began to beat out and landed on one of the outer islands in the afternoon. The Brig being too far off for us to get on board that night, we made a jolly fire and had our dinner. Previous to dinner however we took a cruise around the island and I fell in with a large patch of fine oysters, and most of us ate until we were obliged to cry "hold enough". We returned to our boats at dark and after smoking and drinking a tolerable quantity laid down upon the thwarts to sleep.
21st Jan. This morning we saw a sail close in with the mainland and took no notice as she appeared very small and was approaching us. We were concealed by the high sand hills of the Island and the boat did not perceive us until very close, she then hauled her wind to escape, while we rushed to our boats and gave chase and soon came up with her. She was a large boat or launch and had 6 slaves on board, we of course made her a prize. Two of the slaves were so much frightened that they jumped over board, and in spite of the sharks succeeded in reaching the Island, where they first capsized our breakfast which was cooking, then stole our teapot and frying pan, and bolted into the thick bush. To follow was useless so we started with the boat, her crew and four slaves. How the runaways will exist I know not for I don’t think there is a drop of fresh water on the Island. It is a distant about 14 miles from the main and I did not see anything like a canoe on the place. Our prize had some money and a quantity of ivory on board. We reached the ship about noon and immediately weighed anchor again the same afternoon and I went away again in the pinnace, the Captain in the gig to examine the river Mosalo. Ran into the river just before sunset and dropped anchor for the night.
22nd Jan. At daylight we stood up the river and reached about 20 miles from the entrance, saw no vessel and amused ourselves shooting coming down. Shot several birds of different kinds, I also fired at a nice little monkey that I saw hopping from branch to branch, a cruel bit of sport as I could not get him, and poor little Jacko might only have been wounded. In rounding a point on our way to the ship we saw a small sail coming down before the wind. Before however we could lower our sail, she espied us and made for the shore. We gave chase but the stranger was very far off and she got on shore long before we got anywhere near her. Putting a large shoal between her and us, and seeing no possible means of getting over it, we gave up the chase and stood for the Brig which we reached at sunset.
23rd Jan. Up anchor and ran down along the Querimba Islands almost the whole of which are uninhabited but they afforded concealment inside for slavers.
24th Jan. Anchored off the Island of Ibo. The Portuguese have a fort here. It is a famous slaving place and the idea is ridiculous to suppose that the Governors of these small places will exert themselves to put an end to the slave trade. Their pay is about 100 pounds per annum. The slave traders give them about double that sum to wink at every cargo of slaves that is shipped.
25th Jan. Went on shore, called upon the Governor who was very civil and pressed us to stay to dinner with him. The Captain remained and the rest of us excused ourselves and rambled about the village and returned on board early.
26th to 29th Jan. Blowing too hard to hold any communication with the shore.
30th Jan. Weighed and ran along the coast towards Mozambique.
2nd Feb. Arrived at Mozambique. The Captain went on shore and returned almost immediately with information that a ship had been chased out of Pomba Bay two days before by the Portuguese Gunboat. And the Captain of the slaver had been captured when returning from the shore to his ship. We found out that this same vessel had been chased by and escaped from the "Helena" some time before. Everything was hurried and the next morning at daylight we were standing out of Mozambique Harbour. We stood out to sea first and then hauled our wind for Pomba Bay hoping that that slaver might venture back again.
4th Feb. Saw a vessel at sunrise, made all sail in chase certain that it was our friend, but on coming up with her she proved to be the infernal Portuguese Brig of War again. These brutes cannot catch a vessel when they see her and only serve to give us a long chase and then disappoint us.
5th Feb. Arrived at Pomba Bay keeping under low sail with a bright pair of eyes at the masthead.
6th Feb. This afternoon another expedition was planned. Two boats were to be left behind to watch the bay while the Brig stood over to the Comoro Islands to look out for the slaver. I was going away in charge of one of the boats. Just as we were getting ready the mast head man sang out "sail ho". That’s her said us all. "Hands make sail" shouted our skipper which was echoed by the boatswain and his mates, and the Brig was crowned with sail like magic. The stranger could only be seen from the topgallant yard, but we gradually brought her down, first to the top sail and then to the lower yards. We could now make out that she was ship rigged. This confirmed us that she was a prize. She was still a long way off and the sun would soon set. It was touch and go whether we should be able to keep sight of her. Not a soul moved, every stitch of canvas was set, and we were doubly anxious to catch this vessel because the "Helena" our sailing opponents had lost her through some slackness and we should have a fine laugh at them.
We gradually came up with our friend, and at sunset she was no more than two miles off and we rapidly closing, the wind having freshened. Night glasses were now got up, the fields cleaned, and everything showed intense excitement. We now commenced firing but she was out of range. As soon as we could no longer see her with the naked eye the night glasses were brought to bear and there was not a whisper when the Captain asked if they could see her with the glasses. For a minute not a soul spoke and I really think everyone held their breath to catch the answer. At length the officer with the glass sang out "I see her Sir, she has kept a little more away". Our spirits were raised again by this for we knew now that she was safe for us, once in sight we managed to keep her so, as there was a good moon. Our long gun again began to play directed by the officer looking out, and at about 10 o’clock we saw her with the naked eye. Bang, bang, bang went our guns and about half past ten she hove to.
We hailed her to know what ship it was although we knew pretty well and when she answered "Amelia" a hearty cheer broke from us. We knew her name before and we were so delighted to have captured one of the largest slavers that had been taken for many years, and one that had managed to elude our boasting friends the "Helena". I went on board the same night. I found her a fine large ship. She had a built slave deck, the only one I had ever seen. She would have easily have taken 800 or 900 slaves and not too much crowed then.
7th Feb. Amongst our prisoners was a Swede and he told us that it was very easy to induce the slave merchants to bring the slaves off. This we talked over and thought it was possible and an expedition was planned for the ship to go to the place where the slaves were and the Swede and one or two of the Portuguese were to land and endeavour to persuade the slavers to send the niggers off. I was dining in the gunroom on that day and I said I would much like to go and the Captain said I might if I liked, so immediately after dinner the Master and myself having put on our shooting coats as a disguise, went on board the prize and parted from the "Mutine". The place where we had to go was about 30 miles to windward and we expected to arrive in about two days at most.
8th Feb. Found ourselves further off than yesterday, a current having set us 40 miles to leeward.
9th to 18th Feb. The same kind of weather, light winds and strong currents, every day finding ourselves further off and at last perceiving it was useless to endeavour to work up in shore we struck out to sea to stand well over towards Madagascar where we hoped to find more favourable winds and currents.
19th Feb. One of the most terrific thunder and lightning storms I ever experienced broke over us today. The thunder positively shook the ship like a leaf while the lightning was truly fearful. The wind and sea suddenly rose and the squalls almost made us out the ship under bare poles. After every violent gust of wind a breeze would spring up and last about 10 minutes. This breeze was quite hot resembling highly heated air, when again it would blow, heavy dark clouds which made it nearly as dark as night would pass close over our mast heads vomiting forth thunder and lightning truly terrible.
This lasted all day and had it occurred during the night it would have been tenfold more awful. I expected every moment the lightning would strike us and set fire to the ship. Most of our sails were split by the violence of the wind and all of us were much tired. These squalls were sometimes on one side and then suddenly shift to the other, which made it necessary to be continually on the alert to prevent the ship being taken aback. During the night the weather moderated a little but still the thunder and lightning were severe.
20th to 22nd Feb. Stormy weather with lightning, thunder and rain, the wind now prevented our making the land and we found the current had changed and was running with equal velocity the contrary way. Everything appeared to conspire against our arriving at our destination.
25th Feb. This afternoon the wind was a little more fair and we were determined not to lose that which we had gained, by anchoring during the night and so avoid the sweeping current which we invariably found made us lose more during the night than we had gained all day. We were therefore standing close in with the islands intending to anchor about 9 o’clock when suddenly about ½ past 8 breakers were seen close to us. We had just time to haul out and thus save ourselves from shipwreck and perhaps a watery grave. The infernal current it appears had set us right towards the reef when we thought we were well clear of it.
27th Feb. At last we arrived at our destination having taken a round of some hundreds of miles to perform a journey which I have done in the "Mutine" in a few hours and which took us, through contrary winds and currents, 21 days, having run great risk of shipwreck and being struck by lightning and almost starved, for our prize was not well found in cabin stores and by the time of our arrival we were living principally upon rice and beans. We did not find the "Mutine" here as we expected, so we at once set to work endeavouring to get the slaves off.
28th Feb. This morning early, the Swede, a Portuguese, a Black and myself disguised as an American sailor left the ship for the shore. It was an expedition not with out danger and I in consequence took a brace of pistols with me, for should I have been discovered I would have been murdered at once and I was determined not to go out of the world alone, besides I was not certain the Swede or Portuguese would not play double. However after a very long pull in a scorching sun we got on shore. Our two informers went up to the village to see the slave merchant, while I and the Black looked after the boat.
After a while they returned with a stranger with them and came to the boat. The stranger looked very hard at me and made some inquires and I heard the word Americanos mentioned often. He soon took his departure and we shoved off, I then learned that the stranger was chief mate of our prize and had been left on shore to arrange about the slaves. He was very suspicious and said he heard the ship had been taken. This my two worthy companions told him was not the case. They said the Captain was taken and the men wished him to come and take charge, get the slaves and then sail for Rio, but he would scarcely credit it and wanted a letter from the head man on board, at the same time saying the slaves were not at that place but a little further to the Northward and if he got the letter he would write and order the slaves to be ready for shipping. After reaching the ship and comforting the inward man the best way we could, we set about returning to the mate with the letter he wanted, which was forged by the Portuguese. We did not reach the shore till late at night and did not find the proper place, being obliged to return, in consequence without performing anything except a great deal of work.
1st March. This morning we again left the ship at 4 o’clock. We did not get on board last night till nearly 12 so did not get too much sleep. Got on shore about 6 and commenced operations. The mate was perfectly satisfied with the letter and immediately sent off an order that the slaves should be in readiness. He then sent his traps down to the boat and at about 9 we shoved off. The Negroes I saw on shore were without exception the finest fellows I ever clapped eyes upon, standing more than 6 feet, some a little less. I also was much astonished by a sight that would gladden the heart of "Father Matthew" - a Negro absolutely refused some grog and said he never touch spirits of any kind, but his friends made up for him by drinking as much as they could get.
Wishing still to keep the mate in the dark made it necessary for me to pull an oar. The sun was boiling with not a breath of wind. So little did the mate imagine deception that he was not aware that everything was not correct until he jumped upon the deck and was received by the Officer in charge in uniform and saw himself surrounded by English sailors. The man looked as if he just awoke from a dream. He could scarcely believe his eyes he was so astonished. He was a Frenchman and his sallow face and big mouth looked rather comical, however we told him he was alright and asked him to breakfast but the astonishment had taken his appetite away. He was certainly a welcome visitor for he brought off with him plenty of fowls and fruit. As for myself the dress I borrowed so ill protected me from the sun that I had on both wrists an immense blister and my breast had another nearly the whole way across. These were very painful indeed and kept me for about a fortnight.
2nd March. We weighed and ran down to Arumba, the depot for the slaves. There is a fort at this place to prevent the slave traffic, quite a farce is it not. In running down an old Negro came off, I suppose to take the vessel in between the reefs. The old blackguard was suspicious and when he came pretty close and not seeing the mate he turned tail and pulled in shore. We could not make this out but we afterwards found out the reason. The "Mutine" it appeared had allowed the crew of the boat detained on the 19th to swim on shore at Obo. They immediately gave information that the "Amelia" was taken and messengers were dispatched off to the slave depot to prevent their being taken in.
The slave merchants must have received about the same time as the mate’s orders, so between the two they were puzzled and sent the black off as a feeler, and the sly old fox saw something wrong and that accounts for him not coming alongside. We tired some other manoeuvres but could not humbug them so we ran back to where we came from, viz Pomba Bay. Had the "Mutine" kept her prisoners we would have had 400 or 500 slaves before they could possibly have found out their mistake, everything was so admirably arranged. We anchored about 10 o’clock the same night. I forgot to mention that in working out this morning the ship struck upon a sunken rock, the closest shave I ever had.
3rd to 21st March. Our orders were that after endeavouring to get the slaves we were to return to Pomba Bay, and await the "Mutine’s" arrival. Obedient to orders, here we waited for 19 blessed long hungry days, our stores every day becoming less. First the beef was out then the bread, before so there was not much chance of a very favourable reception from them. Looking with longing eyes at the natives spearing fish one day we saw they used a kind of weir or trap to catch fish with. A bright thought struck us. We marked the spot where they set these traps and at night went and robbed them. This theft afforded us a good breakfast of fish. This repeated once or twice, enjoying the fun when we saw the natives come down and examine their traps and go away with so few fish. They shifted the ground and had no better luck for the same reason. At last I suspect they watched during the night for one day we saw with horror the natives take their traps into the bush. We were now done. I smoked immoderately to alleviate the cravings of hunger. At last we could stand it no longer. There was no likelihood of the "Mutine" so we up anchor and ran towards Mozambique. The cat we had on board escaped being devoured miraculously. Had we been one more day out she would have fallen a victim to our hunger.
24th March. Arrived at Mozambique, rushed on shore at once, ran up to our merchants house, seized some bread and began eating it voraciously to the utter astonishment of about a dozen negroes and negresses who doubtlessly thought I was mad. After a draught of wine I was a little less like a wolf and answered a few questions that were showering in. I then learned that the "Mutine" had sailed for the Cape at the commencement of the month. I was all astonishment. How Captain Crawford could think of leaving us to our fate in the way he did I cannot make out. However more of that anon. I got what I could for my famishing shipmates and returned on board and we spent rather a merry night.
Adapted by Ken Lucas from a transcript received in February 2006 from Peter Millais, another great grandson of Frederic Lucas RN.
With many thanks to Ken and Peter.
^ back to top ^