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NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA.
Arrival at Greytown—The River San Juan —Silting up of the Harbour—Crossing the Bar—Lives lost on it — Sharks — Christopher Columbus — Appearance of the Town —Trade— Healthiness of the Town and its probable cause—Comparison. between Greytown, Pernambuco, and Maceio—Wild Fruits— Plants — Parrots, Toucans, and Tanagers — Butterflies and Beetles—Mimetic Forms— Alligators—Boy drowned at Blewfields by an Alligator—Their method of catching wild Pigs.
AT noon on the 15th February, 1868, the R.M.S.S. Solent, in which I was a passenger, anchored off Greytown, or San Juan del Norte, the Atlantic port of Nicaragua in Central America. We lay about a mile from the shore, and saw a low flat coast stretching before us. It was the delta of the river San Juan, into which flows the drainage of a great part of Nicaragua and Costa Bica, and which is the outlet for the waters of the great lake of Nicaragua. Its water-shed extends to within a few miles of the Pacific, for here the isthmus of Central America, as in the great continents to the north and South of it, sends off by far the largest portion of its
drainage to the Atlantic. In the rainy season the San - B
Juan is a noble river, and even in the dry months, from March to June, there is sufficient water coming down from the lake to keep open a fine harbour, if it were not that about twenty miles above its mouth it begins to dissipate its force by sending off a large branch called the Colorado river, and lower down parts with more of its waters by side channels. Twenty years ago the main body of water ran past Greytown ; there was then a magnificent port, and large ships sailed up to the town, but for several years past the Colorado branch has been taking away more and more of the waters, and the port of Greytown has in consequence silted up. All ships now have to lie off outside, and a shallow and, in heavy weather, dangerous bar has to be crossed. All we could see from the steamer was the Sandy beach on which the white surf was breaking, and behind a fringe of bushes with a few coco-nut palms holding up their feathery crowns, and in the distance a low background of dark foliage. Before we anchored a gun was fired, and in quick answer to the signal Some canoes, paddled by negroes of the Mosquito coast, here called “Caribs,” were seen crossing the bar, and in a few minutes they were alongside. Getting into one of the canoes with my boxes, I was rapidly paddled towards the shore. When we reached the bar we were dexterously taken over it—the Caribs waited just outside until a higher wave than usual came rolling in, then paddling with all their might we were carried over on its crest, and found ourselves in the smooth water of the river. Many lives have been lost on this bar. In 1872 the commander of the United States surveying expedition and six of his men were drowned in trying to cross it in