« EelmineJätka »
afterwards that balsam-capivi is liable to spontaneous combustion by the constant motion on a voyage, and it is for that reason that it is always carried in small kegs and imbedded in damp sand in the lowest part of the hold. Captain Turner had never carried any before, and knew nothing of its properties, and when at the last moment another boat-load of small kegs of balsam came with no sand to pack them in, he used rice-chaff which was at hand, and which he thought would do as well ; and this lot was stored under the cabin floor, where the flames first burst through and where the fire, no doubt, originated.
Captain Turner had evidently had no experience of fire in a ship's cargo, and took quite the wrong way in the attempt to deal with it. By opening the hatchways to pour in water he admitted an abundance of air, and this was what changed a smouldering heat into actual fire. If he had at once set all hands at work caulking up every crack through which smoke came out, making the hatchways also air-tight by nailing tarpaulines over them, no flame could have been produced, or could have spread far, and the heat due to the decomposition of the balsam would have been gradually diffused through the cargo, and in all probability have done no harm. A few years later a relative of mine returning home from Australia had a somewhat similar experience, in which the captain adopted this plan and saved the ship. When in the Indian Ocean some portion of the cargo was found to be on fire, by smoke coming out as in our case. But the captain immediately made all hatches and bulkheads airtight; then had the boats got out and prepared for the worst, towing them astern; but he reached Mauritius in safety, and was there able to extinguish the fire and save the greater part of the cargo.
On the receipt of my letter Dr. Spruce, who was then, I think, somewhere on the Rio Negro or Vaupés, wrote to the "Joao de Lima," referred to by me (and usually mentioned in my “Travels” as Senhor L.), giving him a short account of my voyage home; and a few months later he received a reply from him. He was a Portuguese trader who had been many years resident in the upper Rio Negro, on whose boat I took a passage for my first voyage up the river, and with whom I lived a long time at Guia. I also went with him on my first voyage up the river Vaupés. He was a fairly educated man, and had an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes of his early life in Portugal, and would also relate many “old-time" stories, usually of the grossest kind, somewhat in the style of Rabelais, or of Chaucer's coarsest Canterbury tales. Old Jeronymo was a quiet old man, a half-bred Indian, or Mameluco as they were called, who lived with Senhor Lima as a humble dependent, assisting him in his business and making himself generally useful. It was these two who were with me during my terrible fever, and who one night gave me up as certain not to live till morning. Dr. Spruce gave me this letter, and as it mainly refers to me, I will here give a nearly literal translation of it.
“San Joaquim, June 7, 1853. “ILLUSTRISSIMO SENHOR RICARDO SPRUCE,
"I received your greatly esteemed favour dated the 26th April last, and was rejoiced to hear of your honour's health and all the news that you give me, and I was much grieved at the misfortunes which befell our good friend Alfredo ! My dear Senhor Spruce, what labours he performed for mankind, and what trouble to lose all his work of four years ; but yet his life is saved, and that is the most precious for a man! Do me the favour, when you write to Senhor Alfredo, to give my kind remembrances. The mother of my children also begs you to give her remembrances to Senhor Alfredo, also tell him from me that if he ever comes to these parts again he will find that I shall be to him the same Lima as before, and give him more remembrances from the bottom of my heart, and also to yourself, from “ Yours, with much affection and respect,
"JOAÕ ANTONIO DE LIMA.
“N.B.-Old Jeronymo also asks you to remember him to Senhor Alfredo, and to tell him that he still has the shirt that Senhor Alfredo gave him, and that he is still living a poor wanderer with his friend Lima."
On reaching London in the condition described in my letter to Dr. Spruce, and my only clothing a suit of the thinnest calico, I was met by my kind friend and agent, Mr. Samuel Stevens, who took me first to the nearest ready-made clothes shop, where I got a warm suit, then to his own tailor, where I was measured for what clothes I required, and afterwards to a haberdasher's to get a small stock of other necessaries. Having at that time no relatives in London, his mother, with whom he lived in the south of London-I think in Kennington—had invited me to stay with her. Here I lived most comfortably for a week, enjoying the excellent food and delicacies Mrs. Stevens provided for me, which quickly restored me to my usual health and vigour.
Since I left home, and after my brother John had gone to California in 1849, my sister had married Mr. Thomas Sims, the elder son of my former host at Neath. Mr. Sims had taught himself the then rapidly advancing art of photography, and as my sister could draw very nicely in water-colours, they had gone to live at Weston-super-Mare, and established a small photographic business. As I wished to be with my sister and mother during my stay in England, I took a house then vacant in Upper Albany Street (No. 44), where there was then no photographer, so that we might all live together. While it was getting ready I took lodgings next door, as the situation was convenient, being close to the Regent's Park and Zoological Gardens, and also near the Society's offices in Hanover Square, and within easy access to Mr. Stevens's office close to the old British Museum. At Christmas we were all comfortably settled, and I was able to begin the work which I had determined to do before again leaving England.
In the small tin box which I had saved from the wreck I fortunately had a set of careful pencil drawings of all the different species of palms I had met with, together with notes as to their distribution and uses. I had also a large number of drawings of fish, as already stated, carefully made to scale, with notes of their colours, their dentition, and their fin-rays scales, etc. I had also a folio Portuguese note-book containing my diary while on the Rio Negro, and some notes and observations made for a map of that river and the Vaupés. With these scanty materials, helped by the letters I had sent home, I now set to work to write an account of my travels, as well as a few scientific papers for which I had materials in the portion of my collections made in Para, Santarem, and the Lower Rio Negro. These I had sent off before leaving Barra on my first voyage up the Rio Negro, and they had arrived home safely; but I had reserved all my private collections for comparison with future discoveries, and though I left these to be sent home before starting on my second voyage up the Rio Negro, they were never despatched, owing to the Custom House authorities at Barra insisting on seeing the contents before allowing them to go away. I therefore found them at Barra on my way home, and they were all lost with the ship.
I had sent home in 1850 a short paper on the Umbrella Bird, then almost unknown to British ornithologists, and it was printed in the Zoological Society's Proceedings for that year. The bird is in size and general appearance like a short-legged crow, being black with metallic blue tints on the outer margins of the feathers. Its special peculiarity is its wonderful crest. This is formed of a quantity of slender straight feathers, which grow on the contractile skin of the top of the head. The shafts of these feathers are white, with a tufted plume at the end, which is glossy blue and almost hair-like. When the bird is flying or feeding the crest is laid back, forming a compact white mass sloping a little upward, with the terminal plumes forming a tuft behind ; but when at rest the bird expands the crest, which then forms an elongated dome of a fine, glossy, deep blue colour, extending beyond the beak, and thus completely masking the head. This dome is about five inches long by four or four and a half inches wide. Another almost equally remarkable feature is a long cylindrical plume of feathers depending from the lower part of the neck. These feathers grow on a fleshy tube as thick as a goose-quill, and about an inch and a half long. They are large and overlap each other, with margins of a fine metallic blue. The whole skin of the neck is very loose and extensible, and when the crest is expanded the neck is inflated, and the cylindrical neck-ornament hangs down in front of it. The effect of these two strange appendages when the bird is at rest and the head turned backwards must be to form an irregular ovate black mass with neither legs, beak, nor eyes visible, so as to be quite unlike any living thing. It may thus be a protection against arboreal carnivora, owls, etc. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most extraordinary of birds, and is an extreme form of the great family of Chatterers, which are peculiar to tropical America. Strange to say, it is rather nearly allied to the curious white bell-bird, so different in colour, but also possessing a fleshy erectile appendage from the base of the upper mandible. The umbrella bird inhabits the lofty forests of the islands of the lower Rio Negro, and some portions of the flooded forests of the Upper Amazon.
About the time when I was collecting these birds (January, 1850) a new species (Cephalopterus glabricollis) was brought home by M. Warzewickz from Central America, where a single specimen was obtained on the mountains of Chiriqué at an elevation of eight thousand feet. This is a similar bird, and has a crest of the same form but somewhat less developed ; but the main distinction is that a large patch on the neck is of bare red skin, from the lower part of which hangs the fleshy tube, also red and bare, with only a few feathers, forming a small tuft at its extremity. This species is figured in the “Proceedings of the Zoological Society for 1850" (p. 92), and will serve to explain my description of the larger species in the same volume (p. 206). Nine years later a third species was discovered in the eastern Andes of Ecuador, which more resembles the original species, but has the feathered dewlap so greatly developed as to be nearly as long as the whole bird. This is figured in The Ibis (1859, Pl. III.). The white species which I was told inhabited the Vaupés river has not been found, and may probably have been confounded by my informants with the white bell-bird.