Reiseliteratur weltweit

Geschichten rund um den Globus

1649 - Jean Baptiste Tavernier
Fresh Provisions
St. Helena

As soon as two of our anchors were cast into the sea the soldiers and sailors were summoned, and the crew made the vessel as tight as they could. They also fixed stages outside to scrape the hull and grease it; it was accomplished in two days. Then all the persons on board were divided into two parties, and the Vice-Admiral addressed them from the quarter-deck as follows: "Gentlemen, we shall remain here twenty-two days, arrange which of you desire to go first on shore to refresh yourselves and hunt, and let all return here on the eleventh day so that the others may also go (in turn)." Each of the men who went on shore was given a pair of shoes, and they carried large caldrons, and supplies of rice, biscuit, spirits, and salt. On reaching land they ascended the mountain, but three or four remained below to collect sorrel, which grows to 2 or 3 feet in height and is very good. When they had collected a load of it they went to find the others, who were in pursuit of wild pigs, which abound the island. When they had killed some they cooked the flesh with the rice and sorrel, which make a fairly good kind of soup, and purges insensibly without one's knowing it. While on shore they did nothing but sing, drink, and eat, and they had to send some of the pigs to the vessel every day. For each pig an écu and a pair of shoes were given them, because, on account of the mountain being high and steep, this chase gave the men much trouble. I have elsewhere spoken of the Persian greyhounds which are taken to St. Helena for hunting wild pigs, and after having been used they are thrown into the sea, not being carried farther for the reason I have pointed out in the same place.
   While those who are on land occupy themselves with this sport, those who remain in the vessel employ the time in fishing; for there is a great abundance of fish around this island, especially mackerel. Each sailor and soldier is given a measure of salt, with which they salt the fish, and then hang them to dry in the wind. They feed themselves upon this dried fish after leaving the island, and generally have sufficient for thirty or forty days, and each receives only a little oil and rice cooked in water; this saves the Company a quantity of food.
   All the pigs, sheep, geese, ducks, and hens which were on board were sent on shore, and as soon as these animals had eaten the sorrel, which purges them as well as it does man, in a few days became so fat that when we approached Holland it was almost impossible to eat them, especially the geese and ducks, on account of the fat.
   There are two places off the coast of St. Helena where one can anchor. The best of them is the one where we were, because the bottom is very good for anchorage there, and the (drinking) water which comes from the top of the mountain is the best on the island. In this part of the island there is no level ground, the mountain rising from the very shore. There is but a small place close to the sea, where formerly there was a chapel where a Portuguese priest of the sect of St. Francis lived for fourteen years; but at present this chapel is half ruined. While this priest lived there he made presents to the vessels which touched there, furnishing them with fish, which he caught and dried, and they gave him in exchange rice, biscuit, and Spanish wine. After we had dwelt there for the time I have said, and had lived a very austere life, he fell ill, and by good fortune it happened that a Portuguese vessel arrived just then. All that could be was done to relieve him, but he died five days after the vessel had anchored, and was interred by people of his own nationality.
   The anchorage is less good at the other roads, but on shore there is a beautiful plain where all that is sown arrives at maturity. The orders of the Dutch Company are at present, that, if a vessel takes cabbages, salad, or other vegetables, seeds must be sown for the benefit of those who may come afterwards. There are an abundance of lemon and some orange trees, which the Portuguese formerly planted. For this nationality has much good about it, that wherever it goes it seeks to do something for the benefit of whoever visits the same place subsequently. The Dutch act altogether otherwise and seek to destroy all, to the end that those who come afterwards shall find nothing. It is true that it is not the superior officers who act in this way, but the majority of the sailors and soldiers, who say to one another "We shall not return any more", and in order to obtain the fruit from the tree more quickly, they cut it down to the ground instead of plucking (the fruit itself).

Ball, V. (Ed.)
Travels in India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier
Translated from the Original French Edition of 1676
Vol II, London 1889

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