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On the summit stands the pleasant-looking residence of the Chief Commissioner; the church, and the barracks (architecturally modelled on Windsor Castle) for European troops; both the latter built of a handsome brown stone quarried on the mainland. Below these come the mess, containing a fine library and some beautiful examples of wood-carving executed by Burmese convicts; then the brown-roofed bungalows of the Settlement officers, all bowered in tropic foliage, amongst which graceful palms and traveller's trees stand prominently forth; and lower still, near the sea, are the treasury, commissariat stores, and other Government buildings. The whole place-in itself of much natural beauty-is kept in most perfect condition by a practically unlimited supply of convict labour.
At first sight, it seemed an altogether delightful spot to find in such an isolated corner of the earth; but its melancholy aspect is quickly and forcibly brought home to one by a visit to the jail on Viper Island, and by the continuous presence of the convicts, who are rendered conspicuous by their fetters, or neck-rings, supporting the numbered badges by which the wearers are distinguished.
As usual with our countrymen, “when two or three are gathered together”in distant portions of the world, plentiful facilities for outdoor amusements have come into being. There are cricket and tennis grounds—the latter both concrete and grass-near which a band of convicts discourses very fair music several times a week. There is a sailing club too, and nearly every Saturday throughout the year races for a challenge cup are held in the breezy harbour, at which a score of various craft are often found competing; and the Volunteer Rifle Corps has some thirty members, who compete with gun and revolver for a numerous list of prizes and trophies. Good salt-water fishing is to be had with the rod, for fish in great variety are everywhere abundant; and on the mainland, near Aberdeen, golf and hockey are played. · With all this, it is probable that the gentler sex find things somewhat dull at times, for shopping, in the feminine sense of
the word, is impossible. There are no shops, and the wants of the community are supplied by a co-operative store, at which, it is reported, in more than one year recently, articles have been sold at a price considerably under cost. Besides this, there is only the native bazaar, which is, of course, ubiquitous in the East.
Before visiting the Nicobars, it is necessary for all vessels to obtain a permit, so, in duty bound, we called one morning on the Chief Commissioner, and to him we are indebted for much information that became valuable in the next few months.
Colonel Temple, who takes much interest in the natives of his district, particularly from a philological standpoint, possesses a very complete ethnological collection of Andamanese and Nicobarese articles, and an aviary containing a great number of the birds inhabiting the two groups of islands. All these objects we were fortunate enough to see, and so gained at the outset a very good idea of those things we were so anxious to obtain specimens of for ourselves.
One morning, in the company of Mr P. Vaux, acting port officer, we made a delightful tour round the harbour in one of the Government launches.
Port Blair is a long, ragged indentation, about seven miles from head to mouth, broken and diversified by numerous little bays and promontories. The shores—intersected by numerous roads - are almost entirely cleared from jungle, and since they have been in this condition, fever has been practically unknown amongst the European community.
Passing first close by the suburb of Aberdeen, which is on the mainland just opposite Ross, we obtained a good view of the Cellular Jail, a huge building of red-brown bricks, with long arms—three storeys in height-stretching from a common centre like the rays of a starfish. It has been built almost entirely from local resources, and with local establishment and labour, and holds 663 cells and the accompanying jail buildings. Here each newcomer is incarcerated in solitude for six months, with the double intention of such confinement acting both as a moral sedative and a warning of what may happen again if his behaviour is not satisfactory in future.
We steamed along past the brickfields; the kilns, where, from the raw coral, lime is manufactured; but as the salt cannot be thoroughly washed out, and subsequently effloresces from the mortar, the result is a rather inferior quality.
At Phænix Bay, a little farther up the harbour, where we landed to inspect the shipyard and workshops, are sheds fitted up with apparatus for blacksmiths and latheworkers, carpenters and woodcarvers, where occupation is provided for more than 600 skilled workmen. The numerous boats one sees passing to and fro in the harbour are built here, for the shipyard can undertake anything from a 250-ton lighter or 70-feet steamlaunch down to a half-rater or the smallest dinghy. The materials for construction are close to hand, since the woods used (padouk for the planking and pyimma for frames) are obtained from the neighbouring forests.
Some years ago Phoenix Bay was a swamp, but now large, brick, steam workshops and wooden sheds of the marine yard, in which the lighters and launches are constructed and repaired, stand on the land reclaimed; and connected with these is a slipway, one of the largest in India, that is entirely of local construction—the whole of the ironwork of the carriage, rails, wheels, and ratchet, having been cast on the spot.
Almost opposite Phoenix Bay, the station of Hopetown, conspicuous by its aqueduct, stands on the northern shore. It was here that in 1872 Lord Mayo, the most popular of Indian Viceroys, was murdered by a fanatical prisoner.
The Viceroy had visited Mount Harriet in order to judge of its suitability as a sanatorium, and had just finished the descent. "... The ships' bells had just rung seven; the launch, with steam up, was whizzing at the jetty stairs; a group of her seamen were chatting on the pierhead. It was now quite dark, and the black line of the jungle seemed to touch the water's edge. The party passed some large loose stones to the left of the head of the pier, and advanced along the jetty,