Details of Explorations of the Old Calabar River, in 1841 and 1842

Captain Becroft, J. B. King
1844 Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London  
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Our tra(1lng occupations on the coast, an(l from our having subsequently been calle(l upon to proceed up the Niger to the assistance of her l\ajesty's stealner Albert in (listress there, it svas so late as the 23r{l of October when we arrive(l of Duke's Toss-n in the prosecution of our purpose. Deeming it necessary to acquaint the chief who resifles here ('; Eyaml)a V., King for all black man," as he stles himself) with our object in coming to the river, we immediately lancle(l to wait upon him. Our communication did not appear at a11 tv please him. He expresse(l his apprehension that our explorations of the river would lead to consequences injul ious to the tla(le of his town; an(l said, " I hear your countryman done spoil \Vest Indies. I think he want come spoil we country all same."t We assured him we only wanted to see "where all the water of the river came from." We next waited on the chief who resixles at Cleek Town, in the imme(liate neighlJourl-lood (King Eyeo Honesty), to acquaint him also of our purpose in coming to the river. He made no objection, but told us that the brancll above Duke's Town ;no go long way," and that the water of the other branch (Cross Ri^7er) was already falling so fast, that if "steamer once catch groun(l, him stay there till risTer rise a^,ain next year" Oct. 25th. --All neeciful preparations being made, *.e wei>he(l anchor to t)roceed up the branch abonTe Dulte's Town. Very shortly afterwards we passed Btillie Tom's, or O1d Town, prettily situated on an elevateel san(lhill on our right. Here the stream makes a sudden an(l rather angular turn from N.E. by E., coming up to W. N .W. 1 W. greatly contracte(l, anel forming, on its o)posite side from O1d Town, an alluvial elbow. Above, it widens again into an expansive reach, rolinding at its upper en(l * The chart of the river, whicil accompanies this paper, was also prepared by Mr King, and obligingly cornmunicated by Mr. Jamieson.-ED. t It may be 1lecessary to explaill, that on the west coast of Africa the English language is spoken by the natives in this imperfect manner, and that, lvhen illter preters are carried lrlto the lnterlor, they must be spoken to in a similar style, in order to convey your meanirig in the way they are most likely to comprehelld itr ;261 Dute's Totvz Little and Biq Guizea Comparly. to the eastwar(l, anel havint, throughout a depth of 6 and 7 fathoms at low zvatel. In thlis zouncl we passed on our left the entrance of the creek leadint, to Creek Town; and immediately after, that of asnotller, leading, as our ?ilots inforlnecl us, to a srnall torn nalne(l Elouncltl, a short (listance in the bush. Proceeding on^rards in from 9 to 1G fathoms, we rlext turned into a beautiful reach running in a N. 2 E. (lirection, 200 to '250 yards wide but havinn somewhat valw;;ng antl irret,ular soun(lint,s. The bank here on our right was firm, an(l ele+zated into a sandy hill, which was picturesquely sol lioned out into natixJe plantations. A few of the slolles were cow-ereel with winf? palms, from many of which, xve oleserve(l calal)ashes susy)endel near to their sumrnits, to receive the minniefot they gixe when tappe(l. At 10 oclocli we were abreast of a tORX'Ii situateel on our rifflht, in the upper end of this reach, naIne(l bn the people of Olel Ccllabar " Little Guinea Com-pany57 antl leint, an:;ioUs to see what a town svith so imposing a name was like, sve anchored, an(l glroceeded on shore. We ande(l, untlel the slladowing l)ranclles of a laree l)ombaxn amongst a eros-(l of -eople, w-llo stared at us in silent astonishInent; antl, walking to the house of the chief or hcad-man, named sc Otoo," we 5-ele inlroelucetl to him ly our interpreter as Aakarra (sxllite man) coIne to see him. His countenance expressed anything I)ut satis&;action at our visit; neverthelessn a piece of cotton cloth having l)een spread upon a small ebony table, and minniefot and hollands placed uponit, we were askecl to (lrinl; Otoo havillg first partaken of both himselfS l)y way, as is the custom in tllese partss of taking what is calle(l "(loctor of it." Having drank, we asked hiIn to accept of a small present we had larougllt for him, which he did, an(l ;; (lashed" us, in return, a goat, a hun(lred yauls, ancl a calabash of minniefot. After soine conversati(n on the nature an(l extent of traele done ly his people with the neie,hlsouring towns and villages, and an irltimation that we sllould be hapr)y to see him on board, if he pleaseci, on our return (losvgl the risrer, we took our leave, anal retracell our steps to the boat at the landing. This town may consist of 80 to 100 hollses, with a ol?ulation of perhaF)s 1000 inhabitants. The houses are greatly inferior to tllose at l)uke's Town, anel, excepting Otoo's, but very scantily and misrably furnishe(l. We vveighed wittl tlle young floocl, which here overtook us, and in half an hour we were abreast of BiF Guinea ComFztny, or '; Guinea CompanyX' proper. The distance between the two * Pallll wille, callefl by the old Calabar peo)le i' mirllliefvt,' obtailled [)y tapping l;he uSone palnz (a species of the 64Reca) Ilear to its suxnmit, a21:1 att;3chill(r ab caWlabash to collect tlle liquor as it exueles from the illC}S;OII. A SilililAl' liquor is also obtairled from the tSI6/JO. 262? C aptain B E C R O F1r'S Explorutiolls of the Old CaZa6urw places may be about 3 miles, the river winding in a N.W. direction. T1;e banks are low alluviurn, densely covered with palms and other trees, and skirted with patches of young mangrove. Our depth of water was 5, 6, and 7 fathoms. As we passed, the natises crowded in hundreds to look at us, a few of the men coming armel with muskets antl other weapons. Beint anxious to get forward as fast as possible, we did not stop, but signified to them, through our interpreter, that we were friendly, and would visit them on our return down the rlver. Continuing our coulse, therefore, we turned sudtlenly round at the uppermost of the towns just nlentione(l, into a fine reacl running about '2 miles in an E S.E. elirection, with soundings close along its southern side of from 4 to 7 fathoms; we then roun(led again to the north, passiny, on our right, a mean-looking village named Imbarra; and shortly after, on our right also, the entrance of a creek lea(ling tc) what is called the Little fIooieong Country. The river now begins to narrow, and to shoal to less than 2 fathoms. We here observed the last patch of snangrove, skirting the bank for about 20 yards on our left, anll marking perllaps the tide's limits. The water was almost still,-just perceptiluly running down in the centre of the channel. Passing a small islan(l on our left, we had only 7 feet water, and immediately after we grounded. By lightening the vessel a little forwarel an(l rexersing the engine, +\7e got off again, an(l ploceeded slowly, the stream narrowing to about o5 yar(ls an(l winding. At 5h. 30m we arrived off Cooieong, a small tonTn, conceale(l amongst trees, on the VV. bank, and deeme(l it prutlent, from the greatly reduce(l depth of tvater, to come to an anchor for the nitht, purposing t examine the channel the next mornir)g in our gig. 26th.-Having landed for a fes minutes to see Cooieong, which we bund in ruins and (leserted, xve returne(l to our gig to examine the channel. As lve ascendecl, the stream narrowe(l, dwin(lling in fact into a mere creek, having only 6 feet water, with the trees on the opposite leanks in lnany places freely interweaving their branches over us. To attempt further progress in the steamer, therefore, was altogether out of the question, and we returned on board to r etrace our course to Dukevs Town. Having got steaul up, we weigheel, and, by means of a warp astern made fast to a tree on shore, swung the vessel round and proceeded, but had not gone far when we grounde(l, and it was not till after several hours' exertion that we succeede(l in getting afloat again. This aecotnplished, we proceeded slowly, and came to an anchor of "Big Guinea Company," where, according to promise, we lande(l. This place (called Guinea Company by the early English slavers) consists of half a dozen miserable-looking towns or YillageS, with a population anlongst them of perhaps 5000 in-
doi:10.2307/1798060 fatcat:kn6a74micnh5thdbje3g7o5hbm