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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 461 Volume 18, New Series, October 30, 1852   By:

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No. 461. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


On the 18th day of February 1850, Her Majesty's steamship Rattler was lying at anchor about twenty miles to the northward of Ambriz, a slave depĂ´t situated on the western coast of Africa. Week after week had passed away in dull uniformity; while the oppressive heat, the gentle breeze which scarcely ruffled the surface of the deep, and the lazy motion of the vessel as it rolled on the long unceasing swell that ever sets on that rocky shore, lulled the senses of all into a sleepy apathy. The only music that ever reached our ears was the eternal roar of that monotonous surf, as it licked the rugged beach with its snowy tongue.

A few miles off, a range of low brown hills, covered with a stunted vegetation, runs parallel with the shore along their undulating sides, angular spires of granite project through the parched and scanty soil; while on their highest brow one solitary giant stands, resembling an obelisk, from which the anchorage derives its name, 'The Granite Pillar.' No appearance of human life or labour exists around; the whole is a desert, over which these columnar formations resembling a city of the Titans, crumbling slowly into dust hold an empire of solitude and death. The imagination is oppressed with a sense of utter desolation that withers every mental effort.

This day was passing like so many before it; the sun was low on the horizon, and its yellow beams were throwing a brassy tint over the sea and sky; the sailors were engaged, some fishing with patient assiduity, others, grouped into small knots, listening to prosy yarns; while a few were prostrated round the decks in attitudes of perfect abandonment or sleep. The officers were leaning over the taffrail, trying, with a sportsman like anxiety worthy of better prey, to hook a shark, which was slowly meandering under the stern; or looking contemplatively into the dark brown waves, either watching the many forms of animal life which floated by, or recalling to memory the dear objects of distant lands. The officer of the watch, with his spyglass under his arm, was pacing languidly his narrow round, when 'Sail ho!' in clear and piercing tones, resounded from the mast head, and with electric speed filled the dreamers with life and energy.

'Point to her,' cried the officer of the watch; while all eyes were directed to the look out aloft, whose glass was immediately stretched to the north. Speculation now sits in every vacant eye, and conjecture on every silent tongue. The captain was at his post with vigilant alacrity. 'How is she standing? what sail is she under?' was soon answered, and the orders, 'Get the steam up, lower the propeller,' echoed round the decks, mingled with the shrill pipes of the boatswain's mates.

The men flew to their posts; and whilst the cumbrous screw was descending slowly into the water, the stokers had roused the smouldering embers into life.

'All hands up anchor!' The capstan revolves and creaks, as one and all of these willing men strain their starting muscles at the bars. The anchor reluctantly leaves its oozy bed; but the chinking of the cable, as it steadily ascends, reveals no change, until it swings at the bow.

'Go on ahead!' The steam whistles through its silent chambers, like sweet music, calling into life that ponderous mechanism, until it appears to dance with joy.

'Helm a port steady so!' The waves rise high on either bow as we dash through the foaming waters. Our distance from the object rapidly diminishes, while eager eyes are directed ahead, until it is seen from the deck. Hope fills the breast of the sanguine, despair that of the gloomy and desponding. Sure eyes and good telescopes soon descry the Yankee ensign floating aloft in lazy folds; and as we come still nearer, those accustomed to observe the shape of sails and set of masts, detect the peculiarities of an old acquaintance... Continue reading book >>

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