The Expedition to Botany Bay, by Watkin Tench

CHAPTER III.

From the Fleet’s Arrival at Teneriffe, to its Departure for Rio de Janeiro, in the Brazils.

There is little to please a traveller at Teneriffe. He has heard wonders of its celebrated Peak, but he may remain for weeks together at the town of Santa Cruz without having a glimpse of it, and when its cloud-topped head emerges, the chance is, that he feels disappointed, for, from the point of view in which he sees it, the neighbouring mountains lessen its effect very considerably. Excepting the Peak, the eye receives little pleasure from the general face of the country, which is sterile and uninviting to the last degree. The town, however, from its cheerful white appearance, contrasted with the dreary brownness of the back ground, makes not an unpleasing coup d’oeil. It is neither irregular in its plan, nor despicable in its style of building; and the churches and religious houses are numerous, sumptuous, and highly ornamented.

The morning of our arrival, as many officers as could be spared from the different ships were introduced to the Marquis de Brancifort, Governor of the Canary Islands, whose reception was highly flattering and polite. His Excellency is a Sicilian by birth, and is most deservedly popular in his government. He prefers residing at Teneriffe, for the conveniency of frequent communication with Europe, to the Grand Canary, which is properly the seat of power; and though not long fixed here, has already found means to establish a manufactory in cotton, silk, and thread, under excellent regulations, which employs more than sixty persons, and is of infinite service to the common people. During our short stay we had every day some fresh proof of his Excellency’s esteem and attention, and had the honour of dining with him, in a style of equal elegance and splendor. At this entertainment the profusion of ices which appeared in the desert was surprising, considering that we were enjoying them under a sun nearly vertical. But it seems the caverns of the Peak, very far below its summit, afford, at all seasons, ice in abundance.

The restless importunity of the beggars, and the immodesty of the lowest class of women, are highly disgusting. From the number of his countrymen to be found, an Englishman is at no loss for society. In the mercantile houses established here, it is from gentlemen of this description that any information is derived, for the taciturnity of the Spaniards is not to be overcome in a short acquaintance, especially by Englishmen, whose reserve falls little short of their own. The inland country is described as fertile, and highly romantic; and the environs of the small town of Laguza mentioned as particularly pleasant. Some of our officers who made an excursion to it confirmed the account amply.

It should seem that the power of the Church, which has been so long on the decline in Europe, is at length beginning to be shaken in the colonies of the Catholic powers: some recent instances which have taken place at Teneriffe, evince it very fully. Were not a stranger, however, to be apprized of this, he would hardly draw the conclusion from his own observations. The Bishop of these islands, which conjunctively form a See, resides on the Grand Canary. He is represented as a man in years, and of a character as amiable as exalted, extremely beloved both by foreigners and those of his own church. The bishopric is valued at ten thousand pounds per annum; the government at somewhat less than two.

In spite of every precaution, while we lay at anchor in the road, a convict had the address, one night, to secrete himself on the deck, when the rest were turned below; and after remaining quiet for some hours, let himself down over the bow of the ship, and floated to a boat that lay astern, into which he got, and cutting her adrift, suffered himself to be carried away by the current, until at a sufficient distance to be out of hearing, when he rowed off. This elopement was not discovered till some hours after, when a search being made, and boats sent to the different parts of the island, he was discovered in a small cove, to which he had fled for refuge. On being questioned, it appeared he had endeavoured to get himself received on board a Dutch East Indiaman in the road; but being rejected there, he resolved on crossing over to the Grand Canary, which is at the distance of ten leagues, and when detected, was recruiting his strength in order to make the attempt. At the same time that the boats of the fleet were sent on this pursuit, information was given to the Spanish Governor of what had happened, who immediately detached parties every way in order to apprehend the delinquent.

Having remained a week at Teneriffe, and in that time completed our stock of water, and taken on board wine, &c. early on the morning of the 10th of June we weighed anchor, and stood out to sea with a light easterly breeze. The shortness of our stay, and the consequent hurry, prevented our increasing much any previous knowledge we might have had of the place. For the information of those who may follow us on this service, it may not, however, be amiss to state the little that will be found of use to them.

The markets afford fresh meat, though it is neither plentiful nor good. Fish is scarce; but poultry may be procured in almost any quantity, at as cheap a rate as in the English sea-ports. Vegetables do not abound, except pumpkins and onions, of which I advise all ships to lay in a large stock. Milch goats are bought for a trifle, and easily procured. Grapes cannot be scarce in their season; but when we were here, except figs and excellent mulberries, no fruit was to be procured. Dry wines, as the merchants term them, are sold from ten to fifteen pounds a pipe; for the latter price, the very best, called the London Particular, may be bought: sweet wines are considerably dearer. Brandy is also a cheap article. I would not advise the voyager to depend on this place for either his hogs or sheep. And he will do well to supply himself with dollars before he quits England, to expend in the different ports he may happen to touch at. Should he, however, have neglected this precaution, let him remember when he discounts bills, or exchanges English money here, not to receive his returns in quarter dollars, which will be tendered to him, but altogether in whole ones, as he will find the latter turn to better account than the former, both at Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope.

The latitude of the town of Santa Cruz is 28 deg 27 1/2 min north, the longitude 16 deg 17 1/2 min west of Greenwich.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04