Sharks – Guadeloupe
Monday 26 August – nearly a calm all last night. We are still close to Dominique. The Island of Guadeloupe is in sight but indistinctly seen. The weather was lovely, with a cloudless sky and clear blue waves. The land of Dominique, as we see it now is as irregular as the other parts we have seen, but its masses of elevated land appear to be here of greater altitude.
During the whole morning we made but very little progress, and became impatient for a more stirring breeze. At 2.30 P.M. the wind sprung up fresh and favourable, and on we bounded thro’ the smooth water, in which several sharks were seen, attracted by the vessel, and perhaps the smell of meat. The monotony of our progress was greatly broken by the sport afforded us. Three of them we caught – huge monsters they were, whose agonies & flappings when on deck were matters of laughter & amusement to us all. One of them, the largest in point of size, was so voracious, that altho’ he escaped three times after being hooked, he yet a fourth time swallowed the bait & was captured.
At 3 when I looked around, I saw very plainly Martinique – Dominique – and Guadeloupe. As we approached closer to the latter, the first object which attracted our attention was a cluster of Islands called Les Saintes or the Saints, because they were discovered on Saint day. Close to these, but a little beyond is the Island of Guadeloupe. The Saints are an assemblage of small Islands, of different shapes and altitudes, with one in particular higher than the rest, round which the others appear like hummocks. They are inhabited, but they are very unproductive.
The Island of Guadeloupe, at the end we are nearing does not appear so rugged, broken or precipitous as the others we have seen. Large patches of level and highly cultivated land, and longer slopes were visible. The extreme point on the right is low, then gradually shooting up into a conical shape hill, which standing apart becomes a remarkable object to look at. Nearer and nearer we approached – passed the Saints and saw the passage between them and Guadeloupe. When opposite this passage, we saw the low Island of Marie Galante, so that we had in view at the same time Dominique, the Saints, Mari Galante & Guadeloupe.
We are now sailing along Guadeloupe silently and pleasantly, under the influence of a gentle breeze. Near us is a succession of long unequal ridges, resembling the undulating waves of the sea. Behind these there appears to be a broad and deep valley, the opposite side of which is formed by another ridge of greater altitude and boldness. Many pretty patches of cultivated lane are on the lowlands near the shore, on the slopes of the first mentioned ridges – nor are there wanting the Great houses of the Planter, & the humble buildings of the field negroes. As you gradually approach the Town of Basse Terre the scene is, if possible more beautiful. Houses and land cultivated high up the hills occupy every point of the prospect, till at last you come opposite the Town.
Nothing vexed me more than we should have been so unfortunate as to arrive at night-fall. We had just enough [light] to perceive that the Town was situated close to the water’s edge, that the houses indeed were erected so close to it, that [there] was no beach. The scene above the Town was eminently beautiful. Apparently a vast extent of level ground, highly cultivated was hemmed in by mountains, whose woody tops & irregular forms were an additional beauty in the picture.
At 6.40 P.M. I accompanied the Master, passenger & A. Snell with the Mail. By the time we landed an envious darkness shrouded every thing from our view. All that we could say was, that Basse Terre is greatly inferior to S.t Pierre – that its streets are excellently paved – that streams of crystal water poured down its streets – that it possesses a long promenade, in an avenue of trees – that some of the shops we saw open were handsomely tricked out – that its gendamerie were very strict – and having said this much, I have told you all that I know of Basse Terre. At 7.30 we proceeded on our return – and on our way set of [off] a blue light to guide our vessel to the place where we were. This light produced a brilliant & beautiful effect. By this saw the Town behind us – & our ship ahead, whilst the faces of one and all of us looked very blue in the glare.
As usual when we reached the old Duke, no time was lost in setting sail for our next Port in Antigua – littler wind.