Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 The preparation
 The start
 The Mazaruni
 The diamond country
 The Illoma
 The Kurupung
 The heart of the diamond count...
 Buxton men
 Terry Hill
 The return

Title: On the diamond trail in British Guiana
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00074031/00001
 Material Information
Title: On the diamond trail in British Guiana
Physical Description: xi, 243, 1 p. : front., plates, ports. ; 20 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Richardson, Gwen
Publisher: Methuen & co., ltd.
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: [1925]
Subject: Diamond mines and mining -- Guyana   ( lcsh )
Description and travel -- Guyana   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Gwen Richardson; with twenty-three illustrations and a map.
General Note: Map on lining-paper.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00074031
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000621644
oclc - 24184142
notis - ADF1017

Table of Contents
        Page i
    Half Title
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    Table of Contents
        Page x
    List of Illustrations
        Page xi
    The preparation
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 10a
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 16a
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    The start
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 24a
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
    The Mazaruni
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 42a
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 46a
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 58a
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    The diamond country
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 78a
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
    The Illoma
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 94a
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 104a
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 116a
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
    The Kurupung
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 128a
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
    The heart of the diamond country
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 138a
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 160a
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
    Buxton men
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 176a
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
    Terry Hill
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
    The return
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 226a
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        A 1
        A 2
        A 3
        A 4
        A 5
        A 6
        A 7
        A 8
Full Text






. Y
, & 1-10 -1




First Published in 1925




ON arriving in New York after my expedition, I
was interviewed by a representative of a large
American newspaper syndicate. The New York
Natural History Museum Expedition had returned a
short time before from the Gobi Desert with the
dinosaur's eggs they had found there. This sensa-
tional discovery coloured the mind of the reporter, and
before I had time to speak he hurled the question at me:
"Did you find any prehistoric animals ? "
No, I did not I" I answered in amazement, for,
having been far away from civilization for so long, I
had not heard of the dinosaur's eggs.
He looked discouraged.
"Well, did you find any remains of prehistoric
animals ? "
"Not even an egg ?"
I'm afraid not. I went to look for diamonds."
"Oh I Then did you find a lost city ? "
"No. The wilds of British Guiana seem to have
been uncivilized since the beginning of time."
"Surely you found a lost tribe of Indians ?" he
asked in an aggrieved voice.
I certainly saw some Indians, but they were not
particularly lost.'"
He ruffled his hair in irritation. Then a new idea
came to him.
Perhaps the Indians kidnapped you, and set you
up as their queen ? "

"Ah They were fierce-they hated you. Per-
haps one crept into your tent, and you woke just in
time to see his knife raised above you, about to chop
off your head. You had the presence of mind to
snatch your revolver and shoot him."
No, the Indians of the Mazaruni are docile, charm-
ing creatures."
Here my interrogator gave me a reproachful look,
and deciding that I was a hopeless subject for an inter-
view, he listened to a few facts about my expedition.
When the article appeared it had gone through the
process of what is known in New York newspaper
circles as jazzing," and all my statements were so
distorted that hardly one word of truth remained.
I gave the paper a photograph of myself shooting
my automatic. When it appeared, the gun was rubbed
out, and in its place was a large snake with the angry
head held in my hand and the body coiled round my
arm; the caption was Gwen Richardson with the
Deadly Bush-master Snake she Caught Alive." The
amazing article was headed, "How I Fought with
Death for Blue Diamonds."
Although I did not experience any of these fashion-
able adventures, I had many others that made my six
months in the Mazaruni forests the most interesting
months of my life.
In this narrative I have carefully avoided sacrificing
truth to sensationalism. A journey up the rapids and
falls of the Mazaruni is inevitably accompanied by
danger, as is evidenced by the number of fatal accidents

there has been; and in the forests there are numerous
dangers from snakes, wild animals, falling limbs of
trees, shortage of food, fever, and all the disadvantages
of being so many months away from civilization; but
the fascination of life in those vast primeval wilder-
nesses, and the excitement of diamond digging, with
its ever-present possibility of a rapid fortune, far out-
weigh all dangers and hardships.
I came away filled with surprise that such a country,
larger than England, Scotland, and Wales, should be
developed and populated only for a narrow strip along
the coast, and that the interior, the Rupununi Savan-
nahs to the south, with their wonderful agricultural
and cattle possibilities, and the vast forests in which
gold, diamonds, platinum, and other valuable minerals
can be found, remain practically untouched and un-
known. The forests are full of most valuable timber,
and the rivers could supply limitless power.
Sir Walter Raleigh truly spoke of Guiana as This
land set in the midst of the most marchantable
quarters of the earth." And it remains almost as
unexploited as in his day-a country of undiscovered
For some of the photographs I have to thank Mr.
L. G. Huggins and Mr. C. Macdonnell, who have both
made expeditions to different parts of the interior;
also Major H. Hemming of the Aircraft Operating
Company, Ltd., London, who carried out an investiga-
tion of the Mazaruni River some months after I left
the colony for a company who proposed to operate an
air service to the diamond fields.
























S 74






(From a drawing by Lawrencs Iming)

S Front Endf


A BAD DROP ; i .





Myself-Diamonds in Georgetown-A chance to go diamond
hunting-Outfitting in London-Leaving England-The journey
out; Madeira and Paramaribo-Georgetown-Pork-knockers-
Odd applicants for the expedition-I engage a maid-The beauties
of Georgetown-Manatees-A horrible obeah crime-The various
races-Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition in search of El Dorado-I
am almost forced to abandon my expedition-Major Maurice B.
Blake-My Georgetown friends try to dissuade me from going
I THINK I must have inherited my taste for travel-
ling and mining from my grandfather. He was
the son of a Scottish clergyman, but while still a
young man he left Scotland, and during the next
fifteen or twenty years visited many countries then
little known, where he undertook a number of adven-
turous mining enterprises. He was in South America
when the Australian gold rush commenced. He
immediately set out for the goldfields of Victoria, and
before he'had passed middle age had made a substantial
My home was in Ballarat, and although gold mining
had ceased before I was born, the great waste heaps
of clay that lay all round the city spoke eloquently
of the exciting days of the rush. During our summer

holidays my brother, my sister, and I used to delight
in washing for gold in the sands of clear little bush
creeks; we used an old enamel basin for the purpose,
and I can still remember the thrill of finding on the
bottom pebbles coloured with gleaming spots of yellow.
For years we jealously hoarded this pretty, valueless
gravel as gold.
During the war I left Australia for England. I was
on the land in Kent for some time, and during the
summer had my first experience of living under canvas.
This increased my love of outdoor life, and the wish
I have always had to travel in wild, uninhabited
countries was intensified.
After the war I visited South America with some
friends. We went to Buenos Ayres, Rio de Janeiro,
Cartegena, and some other old towns of the Spanish
Main, and several of the romantically beautiful West
Indian islands that still echo with the inspiriting
adventures of buccaneers and pirates. We also made
a short stay at Georgetown, British Guiana.
The sleepy little equatorial town had, for the
moment, been stirred by reports of particularly rich
creeks being located in the interior by the negro
prospectors who form the mining population. Large
parcels of diamonds were continually being brought
down river, and many of the white inhabitants talked
seriously of leading an expedition up the Mazaruni
River themselves; but in most cases the enthusiasm
was surely wiped out by the prevailing atmosphere of
dolce far niente.
In Georgetown the magnificent hinterland is popu-

larly considered a death-trap for white men. Of those
few who knew it, some spoke of it with loathing, and
others gave glowing accounts of the beauties and
excitements and exhilarating dangers of life on the
wild Mazaruni River and in the primeval forests. I
felt my curiosity roused to such a pitch that I longed
to take an expedition myself. This desire was very
much strengthened when a buyer showed me a parcel
of diamonds weighing several thousand carat. I was
surprised to see that the rough stones were so very
beautiful, all but the broken ones being perfectly
faceted and throwing off alluring rainbow-coloured
shafts of sparkling light.
Soon after returning to England the opportunity
;ame, and I began preparations. Many delightful
days were passed choosing the outfit and equipment.
I got light khaki shirts, slacks, short skirts to my
knees, and high "field" boots; these boots looked
so very protective that I felt I should not mind actually
treading on snakes, the thought of which had previously
rather frightened me. Then a large green canvas
double-roofed ridge tent that looked the most delight-
ful dwelling in the world, especially when it had in it
its mosquito lining and camp bed, table, and chair.
I also had a small travelling medicine chest with an
assortment of tabloid medicines especially needed in
the tropical wilds.
While making the final preparations I was in a
whirl of excitement, but the evening before starting
nervous anticipation assailed me; I lay half awake
long into the night, and involuntary pictures of myself

in ridiculously dangerous predicaments-wrecked in
the midst of the river rapids, or attacked by impossible
numbers of snakes-passed before me like a nightmare
cinema film, and my excited brain concocted wildly
ingenuous means of saving myself.
For various reasons it was necessary to postpone
several times my date of sailing, which led many of
my acquaintances to believe I was never really going;
so when at last I was actually able to start I told
hardly anyone-consequently there was just one girl
friend to see me off. It was a cold, dark December
night, and a miserable drizzle added to the gloom.
Liverpool Street Station, thick with engine smoke kept
in by the rain, seemed the most miserable and un-
attractive place in the world. I needed to summon
all my imaginative faculties before I could realize that
all this black confusion was leading towards a land of
tropical sunshine and palms and adventure.
My boat, the Commewjyne," sailed from Amster-
dam, and the first part of the journey was all very
uncomfortable. I arrived in Amsterdam about half-
past five on an extremely cold morning, and when I
at last succeeded in having my numerous trunks and
myself conveyed to the dock I was told that it was
impossible to go on board until two o'clock. However,
I left my trunks, and filled in the time rushing around
the town trying to get warm, having meals, and seeing
the picture gallery.
The Commewjyne" was a small boat carrying
cargo. There was only one other white passenger-
a Dutch woman; all the rest were coloured or black

people returning to Surinam; but it did not matter-
the weather was too bad for social enjoyment. We
tossed about on our way through the Bay of Biscay
in a most horrible manner; my cabin was on deck,
and the waves were continually dashing against the
door; I had much ado to remain in my bunk, and
my muscles ached with the continual effort of keeping
myself wedged in. Then one morning, several days
later than the appointed time, I opened my eyes on
a scene of peaceful beauty; we had reached the lovely
sub-tropical island of Madeira. I am not a lover of
the sea. I find the ever-changing face of the ocean
extremely monotonous in its changefulness. I hate
the confinement and boredom of a long voyage on a
steamer; but I would tolerate the longest journey for
the delight of waking one morning in some small,
foreign port with a romantic name. Madeira I What
a memory the name conjures of lace, embroidery, wine,
fruit, sunlight, conveyances drawn by oxen, and
women with bare heads and shawl-covered shoulders!
For another week we glided through summer seas,
until we arrived at Paraplaribo in the estuary of the
Nickeri River, principal town and port of Surinam.
There the boat stayed for three days while the cargo
of Dutch produce was unloaded, and the hot air was
redolent with the sickly, pungent smell of sugar with
which the hold was being reloaded. I waited till the
cool of the evening to go on shore, and found the town
a charming vista of moonlit palms and avenues of
huge tropical trees, lined with little white sleeping
houses. The roads were covered with fine sea-shells,

and the bare feet of the inhabitants passing along
made a low, whispering sound that only accentuated
the sleeping silence. The women, in their enormous
stiffly-starched costumes and head-dresses, their black
faces merged into the surrounding night, were like
boats in full sail.
When I returned to the ship the tide was out and
it was lying at an angle, its mast headlights crookedly
reflected in the shining mud. That night the mos-
quitoes were appalling, and sleep was impossible.
On the third day, when the ship had completed
loading, we started off again on our two days' journey
to Georgetown. All the way the sea was thick with
mud washed down by the many great rivers from the
country the Elizabethans called Guiana-the land of
water. Late at night the low line of Georgetown
lights was visible, but owing to the bar off the mouth
of the Demerara River we could not land until high
tide next morning.
Georgetown lies so low that as a ship approaches,
one looks down on it from the deck. The vessel made
its way through the desert of yellow mud that is the
sea, towards the low, inexpressibly ugly line of corru-
gated iron sheds bordering the land. The rain came
down in torrents; everything was dull grey and dirty
yellow, and it came into my mind how much less ugly
had been my starting-point-Liverpool Street Station.
Inside the huge landing-shed the smell of sugar-
Demerara crystals-was apparent to an overpowering
degree, and I was pleased to be obliged to spend not
more than a few minutes with the customs officer and

to be out into the slightly fresher air of Water Street.
The rain had ceased; my luggage was rushed at and
fought over by a number of negro ragamuffins, but
at last one of them managed to get it on to a hand-
Water Street is the commercial quarter of the town.
It is in no way picturesque, as it is lined by small,
ugly shops and warehouses, dark and mosquito-
infested; donkey carts and motor-cars rattle over the
road that is a succession of warm mud puddles; and
even the motley population-Negros, Mongolians,
East Indians, Portuguese, Syrians, Levantines, and
every possible mixture of these races-fail to add
anything but greater squalor to the already sordid
scene. The crowning point of the street is Starbroek
Market, a pretentious and hideous edifice of--corru-
gated iron I
But Main Street, where Trent House, my delightful
boarding-house was situated, is very beautiful. Gardens
of tropical creepers and ferns and native orchids
surround and soften the outline of the rather erratically
shaped houses, and a magnificent avenue of huge,
flamboyant trees form a shady walk down the centre.
I immediately began preparations for the expedition.
There was no dearth of applicants. On arriving I was
interviewed by representatives of the two local papers,
and as a result there was a continual stream of pork-
knockers, with an occasional captain or bowman, all
wanting to sign on with me.
Pork-knocker" is a local term for a gold or
diamond digger. He holds a twenty-five cent mining

licence, which allows him to work only on other
people's claims. The man who holds the more
important prospecting licence is called a chebat."
Sometimes a number of pork-knockers join together
in hiring a boat of their own, but more often they
work their passages up river as boat hands. They
generally arrive at their destination with only the food
they have saved out of their rations on the journey.
A well-known and reputable pork-knocker can get
food on credit from some up-river store. When he
reaches the fields he obtains a position on someone's
claim, for which he or his crew of two or three men
usually pay rent of one carat a week. When a man
has a big stretch of new land he generally throws it
open to pork-knockers, for the more crews that are
working the sooner are the diamonds struck. The
owner reserves the right to work beside any crew that
has struck pay gravel.
These black men are great talkers, and will work
themselves up to a high pitch of oratorical excitement
when speaking on the subject of their rights and
wrongs, and some will almost burst into tears when
telling the beautiful story of their virtues and ability.
One captain who called on me had a subtle way of
advertising his excellent qualities. He began well.
"I am a modest man"; he continued: "go to
anyone and he will tell you that I am one of the
cleverest captains and most trustworthy men on the
river. I'll never tell you that-I don't brag-you
must go to other people to find out how good I am."
He would talk in this strain as long as he was allowed.

This modest fellow was actually a good captain, so
I sent for him again. The messenger returned with
the answer that the captain could not come until
next morning as he had a little alcohol in him" at
the moment. This is nearly always the case with
captains in town.
A Chinese called whose behaviour was in striking
contrast to that of the talkative blacks. He took up
his position in the middle of the room and stood there
with a bland smile, and from the few words he dropped
from time to time I gathered that he wished to be
engaged as a clerk. I told him that I had no such
position to offer him, but he went on smiling for some
time, and then said with an air of delivering a speech
of originality and deep wisdom, While there's life,
there's hope," and smiled more blandly than before.
He showed no sign of altering his position or moving.
A friend who was with me suggested that he should
try some diamond office where he would be more likely
to find the kind of employment he wanted, and as
the Chinaman still remained motionless, added, "I
shouldn't let the grass grow under my feet if I were
you." That amused me very much as he looked like
a quaint, smiling statue that would stand there until
not only grass but creepers and moss had quite over-
grown him. Eventually we left him there, and when
we returned he had vanished.
Among my numerous visitors were several coloured
Portuguese who wanted to sell me mysterious creeks
of fabulous wealth for a few pounds.
Mrs. Haynes, who was also staying at Trent House,

was most helpful and kind to me in many ways. She
was instrumental in finding me a maid. Her husband
was Commissioner for the Rupununi District and had
just returned to Georgetown. Mrs. Haynes asked him
to come to my assistance, and he found Leonora for
me. She was a young girl from the Demerara River,
the most civilized part of the colony; her mother was
pure Indian, but she could speak English. Leonora
was among the aristocrats of her river as her father
had a big timber grant there. She came each day to
do a little work for me; she was so extremely wooden
and stolid that I thought at first that she would prove
to be stupid, but she was far from that, and I learned
later her unresponsive demeanour was a mask she
often adopted to hide her very jolly nature. She had
charming manners and always shook hands with me
on leaving, saying, "Farewell, Mistress."
I was anxious to make a start as soon as possible.
Georgetown is built on part of the land reclaimed by
the Dutch from the sea; all such land is extremely
rich and produces wonderful rice and sugar crops, but
as it is six feet below sea level and scarcely seven
degrees north of the equator, it is hardly ideal for
habitation, and there are a number of canals and
repulsive open drains where various kinds of poisonous
mosquitoes breed. The general way to keep the spirits
up in Georgetown is by drinking swizzles, pink cock-
tails of extreme potency and more unpalatable to me
than any medicine. But the fresh breeze that blows
from the Atlantic and is called "the Doctor" is a
wonderful tonic, and it was exceedingly refreshing to



get out to the sea-wall where the full benefit of it can
be felt.
The only other place where one can walk with any
pleasure is the Botanical Gardens. They are very
beautiful with their magnificent tropical trees, green
grass, and brilliant flowers. There are several ponds
and canals there covered with water-lilies; the native
Victoria Regia, like the pale face of some Ophelia, lies
asleep on the dark water, and its leaves are huge circles
of red and green, large enough to support a baby.
Lotus flowers bloom everywhere. In one large pond
in the centre of the garden there are five or six mana-
tees, or sea-cows. They are unattractive creatures,
six or seven feet long, with seal-like bodies and ugly
heads; but little can be seen of them as they wallow
in the muddy water, nearly always completely sub-
merged; their heads, with the hideous snouts and
minute eyes, appear when they brouse on the cut grass
thrown into the pond for their food. In the middle
of this pond is a little tree-covered island where
innumerable white aigrettes and brown herons live;
it was fascinating to watch the deep curves and swoops
they took as they circled round their nests at evening
time, for their delicate outlines were such a contrast
to the hideous manatees-enormous, slug-like creatures
such as one imagines might have inhabited the primeval
The number of different races represented in George-
town is very extraordinary. I believe the East
Indians outnumber all the others, but they are mostly
on the sugar plantations, and the negroes, the descen-

dants of the African slaves, are by far the most in
evidence. They are for the most part amiable and
amusing, with the irresponsibility of children. Except
for the occasional practice of obeah they have lost all
their African ways. In the everyday life of the town
one would hardly believe that such savage practices
survive, but it was only a short time ago that a horrible
obeah crime was committed. A little girl was kid-
napped, and although she was immediately missed,
and the whole town helped in the search, no trace of
her was discovered until three days later. She was
then found in one of the most squalid quarters in
what appeared to be a deserted, nailed-up hut; but
it was being used as an obeah temple. The poor little
thing had been starved; she was set upon an altar
covered with red calico, and the obeah believers were
worshipping her; her eyes had been taken out;
mercifully she died shortly after. I believe eight men
were hanged for the murder. During the trial there
were continual cases of attempted poisoning of the
witnesses, and in many cases the black cooks and
servants were guilty. In this way it was revealed
how widely spread were obeah sympathies.
In sharp contrast to the negroes are the East Indian
coolies. They have great dignity, but are considered
very cruel by the coloured maidens of Georgetown.
There was a servant where I was staying who had a
little of every kind of blood in her veins. She confided
to me her matrimonial perplexities. She said she
couldn't marry a negro for fear of being poisoned, nor
a "coolie" because he might "cut her up," nor a

Chinese because he would very likely strangle her.
Each race has its favourite means of dispatching
nuisances. She decided it was safer to marry someone
of mixed race, like herself; now she has done it, and
instead of feeling safe, she is afraid of all three methods
of dispatch; she will probably be an exemplary wife
in consequence.
There are also a number of Chinese, many of whom
have become wealthy in trade, and whose sons are
among the most cultured men of the colony. The
fourth class is a large one, composed of the Portuguese
introduced from Madeira as labourers during the last
century; but since then they have managed to mono-
polize much of the business, and are a very influential
section of the population. Many of them are coloured
now, and if what is said of them by the pork-knockers
is true, their business methods could not bear too close
Native Indians occasionally come to town, and the
government provide accommodation for them near
Starbroek Market. They are usually called bucks,"
which word is a relic of the Dutch days when an
Indian was called bok," meaning barbarian, bushman
-figuratively, Pan. May these Pans of the Guiana
wilds never leave their beautiful forests for the sordid
medley of the Demerara suburbs !
Little is known in Georgetown of the greatest figure
in the history of British Guiana-Sir Walter Raleigh.
He led three expeditions, and financed several more,
to search for Manoa, the golden city of El Dorado
that stood on an island in "Lake Parima." The

certainty in the minds of sixteenth-century adven-
turers that there was such a city was based on facts
that they considered irrefutable. For me it added
charm to my adventure to know that their way lay
up the estuary of the Essequibo River, and then up
the Mazaruni, for Lake Parima was believed to lie
between the Mazaruni and the Cuyuni.
Raleigh suffered extraordinary hardships in his
search for this exhaustless mine of wealth, but until
the final disaster, when through the treachery of
James I, a Spanish fleet was waiting for him and
completely defeated him, he never lost faith in his
ultimate success. It shall be found a weak policy
in me either to betray myself or my country with
imaginations, neither am I so far in love with that
lodging, watching, care, peril, disease, ill savours,
bad fare, and many other mischiefs that accompany
these voyages, as to woo myself again into any of
them, were I not assured that the Sun covereth not
so much riches in any part of the world."
One of the most admirable facts about Raleigh's
policy in Guiana was his treatment of the Indians.
He allowed none of his men to do them any harm,
and before leaving a native village he always made
strict inquiries: even so much as a pine or a potato
root stolen was fully compensated for. All the credit
of his exemplary way of dealing with them he gave
to Queen Elizabeth, and they greatly admired her and
honoured the English nation. On his second voyage
he wrote to his wife, To tell you I might be King
of the Indians, were vanity. But my name hath still

lived among them here. They feed me with all the
country yields. All offer to obey me." He was
indeed the conqueror of Guiana. His first officer,
Captain Lawrence Keymis, christened the country
Raleana, and it was known by that name for some time.
There is no monument in the colony to its first
English explorer, who left such a fine ideal of fortitude
and humanity.
When I left England I had the details of my expedi-
tion clear in my mind. My intention was to buy a five-
ton paddle boat of the kind used for navigating the
British Guiana Rivers, hire a captain, a bowman, and
eight mining labourers, and with these and the full
number of boat hands made up with pork-knockers, who
work their way to the fields, to start off on my journey.
But the first thing I heard when I reached Georgetown
was that the captains now demanded at least a hundred
dollars for the journey instead of the sixty they had
asked when I was in British Guiana the previous year;
the wages of bowman and contract men had also
increased, and on going into figures I found my small
capital was hardly sufficient to cover expenses. But by
having fewer contract men and more pork-knockers
(who would leave me as soon as the fields were reached
and go their own way) and by buying a smaller boat
the expedition was still possible. I proceeded with
my preparation; then I encountered a second and
more serious obstacle in the form of a message from
the Governor of the Colony. In view of the fact that
no white woman had ever before led an expedition up
the Mazaruni, and that the region I intended going

to was completely out of touch with civilization, I
received a message from the Governor that my expedi-
tion would not be allowed to leave unless I were
accompanied by a white man-an officer of the militia
stationed at Georgetown was suggested. If I did this
it meant that I should have to bear the expense of
the escort's equipment and food, and my capital
would not stand that extra strain. I realized reluc-
tantly that I should probably have to give up my
venture and return ignominiously to England. My
friends would express their relief at my tame return,
but with a superior smile-most of them had thought
I would never really undertake the expedition-and
my disappointment at not being able to see the
wonderful land of the interior made me very unhappy.
Amongst the people I had met in Georgetown was
Major Maurice B. Blake, who had been in the R.F.C.
He had given me valuable advice about the equipment
of my expedition. Now he came forward with a
quick solution of my difficulty. On a previous
expedition he had taken up 2,oo000 acres of claims on
that part of the Upper Mazaruni near the distant
Illoma Creek. Rumours now reached him that his
land was being raided, and that 60,ooo dollars' worth
of diamonds had already been washed out. His
partner was in New York, and Major Blake did not
wait for his return as he was anxious to get up river
to stop the raiding. After several interviews with
him and his partner's power of attorney, a contract
was drawn up and signed whereby Major Blake was
to provide the boat and accompany my expedition.




I was to have the right of working on the lands he
had taken up during his last expedition.
After the expenses were paid the profits were to be
equally shared. It was a great advantage having
Major Blake, who had already had experience travel-
ling in the interior, to accompany me. His father,
Sir Henry Blake, had been Governor of Jamaica for
nine years, and at other times of the Bahamas, New-
foundland, Hong-Kong, and Ceylon, and from spending
holidays in these parts when a boy he had acquired
a great love of travelling. As a young man, when an
A.D.C. on his father's staff he travelled in little-known
parts of China. Later he accompanied an Argentine
exploring expedition through the Chaco (the Indian
country) to the Bolivian frontier. During a year in
Paraguay twenty years ago, when the country was
unexplored and very wild, he did a journey alone in
an Indian dugout from the Brazilian frontier to the
Argentine, a distance of 650 miles. While still at
Oxford he enlisted in the Yeomanry and went out to
the South African War; later he was big game shooting
in East Africa and India. He had successfully
prospected for tin in distant parts of West Africa and
had made camp among cannibals. In Nigeria, Arabia,
Russia, India, Colombia, Canada, Persia, Burma he
had had many unique adventures and experiences.
He had also had an interesting career at the Bar.
After the Jamaica earthquake cases, in which he was
one of the counsel for the policy-holders, he had
chartered a thirty-three-ton island schooner and had
gone diving for treasure, and raised pieces of eight-

some of the loot captured by Sir Harry Morgan the
buccaneer and lost in the Caribbean Sea some 300
miles south of Jamaica. He qualified as an aeroplane
pilot as early as 1913, and was flying in France from
November, 1914. After the war he was a sugar
planter in Jamaica. It is an interesting coincidence
that his father's home in Youghal, Ireland, is the
identical house and estate granted by Queen Elizabeth
to that other South American explorer Sir Walter
Raleigh, who actually fitted out an expedition from
It was almost a month before a satisfactory crew
was engaged, and everything ready. During my four
weeks in Georgetown I was a subject for profound
pity. People said the hardships would be too much
for me; they painted in vivid word-pictures the
horrors of snakes and scorpions and the dreadful
mosquito scourges. During the ten days before
starting, news of three boat accidents reached George-
town: first, a boat on its way up got swamped in the
whirlpools below Tatruba, the first rapids, and five
men were drowned; then a small boat running the
rapids hit a rock and eight men were drowned; the
last accident, reported three or four days before my
start, was that a large boat was swamped in the
rough water and whirlpools below Kabouri Falls, and
eighteen out of twenty men were drowned. The
accidents were freely used as examples of the dangers
of the river, and many declared with long faces that
I should never get through alive. Then it was said
that the overpowering silence and loneliness of the

primeval forests would terrify me. People were very
kind, and the advice was offered in the spirit of trying
to save me from what was believed to be a mad and
possibly fatal undertaking.. Owing to the flooded
state of the river, and the recent accidents, Major
Blake doubted the advisability of my going. I knew
I should regret it all my life if I let nervousness induce
me to give up my expedition, so I completed my
preparations and started off.


Leaving Georgetown-The coloured crowd on the ferry boat-
The railway journey through swamped fields-The little steamer to
Perika-The journey up the Essequibo estuary to Bartica in the
sweltering heat-Life on an Essequibo plantation in the slave-days
-The Mazaruni Penal Settlement-The mischievous delinquents
there-The vampire bat-Bartica-The Indiana-Engaging a
captain-The expedition leaves civilization

I LEFT Georgetown at nine o'clock on February
6th, accompanied only by my maid Leonora.
Major Blake had gone to Bartica several days
before so as to have the Indiana loaded and ready
to start on my arrival. Leonora, decked out in her
finest frills, with ruby ear-rings and pearl necklaces,
maintained her stolid, expressionless attitude, and
on our departure showed no feeling except perhaps a
slight snobbish resentment at my plain linen dress and
panama hat.
The first short stage of the journey is to Bartica,
a village situated where the Mazaruni and Cuyuni
Rivers flow into the Essequibo. It is from the little
town at the junction of the rivers that the boats are
loaded and the expeditions must start.
First there is a ferry at Georgetown that takes
passengers across the river to the railway station. It
was extremely difficult to board this boat. On
arrival at the quay numbers of black boys laid hold
of the luggage, all noisily proclaiming their separate

rights to carry it. Hundreds of black children tried
to force me to buy the morning papers. Hoards of
pork-knockers, carrying their prospect bags and their
diamond sieves, their pots and pans and live fowl,
and a miscellany of loose articles, struggled and yelled
Their way out on to the ferry; East Indians, bound
for the plantations along the river with even a more
conglomerate collection of belongings, did likewise;
a few native Indians, the women with great heavy
canisters or bundles supported on their backs by a
band hung round their foreheads, the men behind with
the lighter articles, added more silently to the chaos;
while the Chinese did their part by slowly and steadily
pushing. When the noise and crush was at its worst
and I felt that it would be impossible ever to reach
the steamer, I felt a mighty push from behind and
realized that the worst was over and I was actually
on board.
Next there is a short train journey to Perika. The
trains run through the great sugar estates where the
canes are grown and manufactured into the famous
Demerara crystals; it passes many paddy fields also,
where one sees the extraordinary sight of cows grazing
on water weeds up to their necks in the warm semi-
stagnant water.
The railway carriage on the way to Perika was
filled with blacks, evidently successful, for they were
expensively dressed; also a few East Indians and
Chinese. The blacks argued all the way about an
American who had just left the colony and whose
operations, buying diamonds at a hundred per cent

above the normal price, had gained him some notoriety.
One went so far as to say that this man had De soul
ob de Almighty He-self because he had given him a
hundred dollars for a carat stone; they nearly all
agreed with him, but another very oratorical fellow
was of an opposite opinion, and he became so very
vehement, pointing his remarks with wild gestures to
one and then another, that I thought he was going to
fight them all. A Chinese, with an enormous diamond
ring on his finger, bent back with half-closed eyes,
smiling, his placidity miles above their futile vapour-
ings. I felt decidedly out of place among these large,
noisy black orators, but their manners were excellent,
and we arrived at Perika without annoyance.
Perika consists of a few scattered palm-roofed huts
and a long dreary selling built from the mangrove
swamp that forms the bank out into the river where
one boards the little noisy steamer for Bartica.
Mr. G. E. Strickland, member of the Combined
Courts, and Mr. Bayley, the head of the Colonial
Transport, had very kindly arranged that I should
travel in all possible comfort as far as Bartica. Some-
one had been sent to see me on to the Perika train,
and on the Bartica steamer a delicious lunch was
prepared for me upon what was really the roof of the
saloon; it was shaded with a tarpaulin, and I had it
all to myself. At Perika there was the same jumble
of men and women, black, brown, and yellow; luggage,
wildly protesting fowls led on strings or carried in
diamond sieves, together with cooking utensils and
puppy dogs; the addition of cattle made the chaos

even greater than it had been at the Georgetown
All the way to Bartica the banks are low and edged
with mangroves, but after an hour's travelling hills
begin to rise in the distance and islands appear,
dotting the river. The air became fresher and I felt
that a weight had been lifted from my head so great
was the relief of escaping from the heavy atmosphere
of swampy Georgetown. As soon as we started off
up that great sluggish river, the heat quivering over
the distant low bank, I had a feeling that I was no
longer myself but some character out of a book,
perhaps by Joseph Conrad. When half an hour up
the river the boat gave a shrill whistle that echoed
over the swamps, and the little steamer made its first
stop at the selling of a minute dilapidated black
village, the feeling grew stronger. The tattered
inhabitants turned up in full force, and bunches of
bananas and calves and hens and pineapples that were
thrust on or pulled off the boat seemed to play a large
part in the proceedings. Up on the roof of the
steamer, under an awning, towards midday, there was
nothing to do but to sit still and frizzle.
.This part of the Essequibo, through which we were
slowly grunting and puffing our way, is one of the
most historically interesting spots in Guiana. The
Portuguese discovered it and built a fort there, which
has now quite disappeared in the warm mud of the
swamps; they named the river, then deserted it.
Then Sir Walter Raleigh took it and held it for England.
The Dutch tried to confiscate it but failed, and Lord

Willoughby was Governor over all the land from
Cayenne to Spanish Guayana." But in 1667 the
Dutch Admiral Cryssen took it at the same time that
England captured New Amsterdam, and in the treaty
of peace made in the same year each country retained
its conquests; the Dutch were delighted to have it
in exchange for the colony that was later called New
York. On the right bank of the river we passed the
ruins of the Dutch fort Kyk-over-al that was built at
this time. Not until August 13, 1814, did England
regain the Essequibo; then all the present British
Guiana became hers once more, ceded to her by
Holland for a valuable consideration. The Essequibo
was the only part of Guiana inhabited by whites, and
its history is a long tale of changes and failures. First
one trading company owned it, then another; Dutch
and English kept taking and re-taking the colony, and
for a short time the French held it. About the early
days of slavery there are glorious stories of men who
struggled there against terrible odds to establish
tolerable living conditions and some measure of
prosperity, and there are many tales of tragedy. Just
above the point where Bartica now stands was a
plantation called Poelwyk. One Sunday morning of
1731 the manager, whose name was Laman, set off to
service at the little church on Caria Island, just above
Katabo Point. He left his cooper in charge of the
stores and his slaves. The slaves became troublesome
and began to worry the cooper for presents of tobacco
and sugar, and when it was explained that only their
master could give them these they whined like a lot

'`I 'I



of naughty children and continued to beg and worry.
The cooper became annoyed, and when they took no
notice of him he got down his gun, merely to threaten
them. There was one huge negro who was ringleader.
At the first sight of the gun he gave a roar of rage;
he bounded forward, and striking the cooper down
wrested the gun from him and knocked him on the
head until he was insensible. The three or four white
men on the plantation came to the cooper's assistance,
but by that time the slaves had gone quite beyond
control. They attacked the whites and killed them
all; they took the rum, and then went mad with
drink, cutting the bodies of the white men to pieces
and playing football with the heads. When they
were tired of this they rushed towards the house, bent
on further destruction. The little house-boy escaped
towards the river with the pack of drunken murderers
after him, and leaping in evaded them and swam to
Caria Island to warn his master. The manager
immediately returned, accompanied by the little con-
gregation. By the time they arrived the manager's
house was a smouldering heap of ashes. The slaves
were easily caught and bound, for they were all too
drunk to effect their escape. The next day five of
the ringleaders were taken to the Council of Justice
and tried. Four were sentenced to a flogging, and
the instigator was condemned to be slowly burned at
the stake. Many of the negro slaves had colossal
vitality and power of endurance. When this man
was in the flames, with his body half charred, he asked
for a pipe of tobacco. He was given it, and continued

coolly to smoke until his head dropped forward on
his chest and he was dead. With the constant risk
of similar slave mutinies these early planters had
lived their lonely lives along the banks by which I
was passing. Now a wonderful second growth,"
many times as thick as the virgin forest, covers the
scene of their struggles.
By courtesy of the Colonial Secretary my maid
Leonora and I stayed at the Colony House on the
Mazaruni River Penal Settlement, which stands on
the crest of a high, grassy slope just opposite Bartica.
The early Dutch and English settlers were wise in
choosing this part of the colony. The air is fresh and
invigorating and the place is now beautified by stately
avenues of palms and bamboos; clusters of exotic
flowers and creepers perfume the air. Just before
sunrise I looked from my window across the broad,
unbroken surface of the water; the peace over all
nature was so profound, so tangible that the birds as
they rose from their nests, soaring into the opalescent
sky, seemed a mundane interruption. As the morning
clouds behind the high trees of the opposite bank
changed from palest pink to red, from red to gold,
the surface of the water turned to a shining mirror
of colours, echoing the beauty of the sunrise. I have
never discovered how much the negroes respond to
the beauties of Nature, but such as these must have
at least some subconscious effect upon them, and it
is no wonder they become very attached to their
prison. They are not very conscious of the disgrace
of being there; they have left behind all domestic

responsibilities and the necessity of earning a living.
They are extremely mischievous, and nearly every day
one of them is sentenced to solitary confinement; this
they are not quite so reconciled to. While I was at
the settlement there was one prisoner serving a long
term of solitary confinement for having incited the
convicts to a mutiny. To escape his sentence he tried
the time-honoured trick of pretending to be mad; he
said he was a canary, and hopped his great six and a
half feet round and round his cell, chirping and pecking
in a very amusing way. At length the Rev. Harvey-
Reid, the Anglican clergyman from Bartica, suggested
in his presence that as he was a canary he should be
fed solely on bird seed; the lunatic recovered immedi-
On the morning of my departure up river I attended
the early service in the little stone prison chapel that
stood on the crest of a hill looking towards the river.
The rays of the rising sun streamed in, and the sense
of peace all around and the heartfelt way the prisoners
sang the hymns I had known since childhood brought
to me vividly the uncertainty of human life, and the
possibility that I should never return did not seem so
remote. But as soon as the service was over the
excitement of the adventure on which I was starting
once more thrilled me. The Rev. Harvey-Reid took
me round the prison, and I was full of admiration for
the way he handled the prisoners, whose confidence
he entirely possessed. He impressed on them the
disgrace of being in the settlement, a point they seem
to miss, for many of them leave jail with the air of

leaving a pleasant house-party, and seem to look
forward to returning as soon as possible. One hardened
sinner who was most unsuitably named after a great
divine had served eight sentences. In his religious
observances he was very devout, and when I saw him
he had clasped to his dusky bosom a cumbersome old
hymn-book, and he was in a white heat of rage because
someone, he said, had torn from it his "Allelujah."
The clergyman lends the men books and helps them
to write letters, and talks with them about the work
they will take up when they leave the prison. The
people of Bartica are all friends of his, especially the
drunkards, whom he does much to reclaim; and chil-
dren of all colours hail him as an elder brother. He
has several Indian missions on creeks up country, and
is very much loved. I saw one boat of Indians enter-
ing Bartica from up-river who hailed him with shouts
of joy, a very unusual exhibition for these silent,
unemotional people.
At the settlement I first saw a vampire bat, one of
the many pests which I had been told to expect in the
forest. Leonora, my maid, found it hanging to a
dark corer of the bedroom. It seemed helpless enough
by daylight and flapped blindly about the floor, but it
had a most evil face and white, vicious teeth. I
ventured near it, and was leaning over to have a
look at it, when it suddenly rose and flung itself
towards me, but I stepped quickly aside and it fell
heavily. The vampire attacks men and animals
when they are asleep. It has a very rough tongue,
and with this it licks away the skin, which enables it

to suck the blood; all the time it fans its large wings
backwards and forwards, which in some way prevents
the victim from waking. At daylight he will probably
find that he is helpless from loss of blood. There are
a great many of these repulsive creatures in some parts
of the forest, and at night-time the men always have
a light burning under their tarpaulins to keep the
vampires away.
I was two days at the settlement, and the first day
I crossed over the river to Bartica in the prison launch.
It was run by two most amiable, jet-black convicts,
both serving time for manslaughter. Bartica is very
different from the peaceful settlement. It is a village
built on a little cleared point on the edge of the
primeval forest, and has little more than one long
straggling street which is liberally sprinkled with rum
shops. This street is crowded with pork-knockers, all
very noisy, and many of them drunk. There is a great
glamour about the place, however, as it is at the outlet
of the gold and diamond fields of the three great rivers,
the Cuyuni, the Mazaruni, and the Essequibo. People
move quicker there than they do in Georgetown, and
nearly all are excited, some because they are leaving
civilization for the diamond fields, others because they
have reached it again after months in the wilds, and
the rest are inspired by rum. Then there is a great
deal of fighting, mostly verbal, going on. Every one
is continually leaving someone else to look after some-
thing while he goes for a drink. He returns and finds
quite a different person in possession; then an argu-
ment follows, and by the tone of the voices and the

insults that fly one feels that it must result in murder ;
but these violent quarrels usually end as quickly as
they have begun, and all the combatants slouch off for
another drink. The cheering as the boats arrive and
depart, and the wonderful deep-throated chanties of
the paddlers, throbbing clear and loud across the
water, add to the glamour of Bartica. Major Blake
was superintending the loading of the Indiana."
The selling at Bartica is very small, and there were
ten or more boats all crammed together that were
being loaded. All the goods that arrive from George-
town are thrown into a small bond shed and no attempt
is made to keep apart goods belonging to different
people. Inside this baking, corrugated iron shed the
heat is appalling; it contains a jumbled mass of bags
of flour, rice, peas, and barrels of meat mixed with
tools, bundles of clothes, tents, and endless other
articles. Numbers of negroes yell and struggle inside,
looking for their property. When they find it they
push and scramble to the door to have it checked. It
was out of this seething mass of disorder that Major
Blake in some miraculous way extracted the provisions
and equipment of the expedition.
Our boat, the Indiana," was thirty-eight feet long
by seven feet broad, and, like all boats built for the
rapids, it had no keel and was curved underneath the
bows and stern so as to offer as little resistance as
possible to the swift currents. Towards the bows and
the stern there were five thwarts or benches for the
paddlers, and at the stern a small platform on which
the captain stood when steering the boat; for this

purpose a large, broad-bladed ten-foot paddle was
used, which was tied to the port gunwale two foot
from the stern. Between the fore and aft thwarts
there was a large well in which all the baggage was
loaded. By law no boat is allowed to draw more than
two feet six inches.
I had been unable to engage a captain in Georgetown,
but the bowman, Jones, promised to be useful. He
was a very tall, powerful man, and in Georgetown
always assumed an expression of gentle melancholy.
He always carried an umbrella. I had never seen it
open, but he held it lovingly as if it were his only
friend, and stroked it into a thousand pleats. Most
captains carry umbrellas, and it is a great mark of
respectability with them.
Before a man can become a captain he must have
been a certificated bowman for at least a year. He
then has to be examined by an examining board of the
most experienced captains, who are appointed by the
Commissioner of Lands and Mines. If satisfied with
his knowledge of the river and his competence, they
recommend him for his certificate to the Commissioner
of Lands and Mines. All captains and bowmen become
rural constables as soon as they are certificated. Bow-
man Jones proudly wore his constable badge, and as a
recommendation of himself when he first asked me to
employ him he said, Me useful man. Me well known
to de police."
A captain was soon engaged who was spoken of as
being reliable at his job. He was slightly drunk, but
in Bartica if one sees a man with an umbrella reeling

drunkenly down the road one can safely say he is a
captain. This tiresome man continued to imbibe rum
until the morning of departure, when he was very
drunk indeed. That would not have mattered as the
rapids are not reached on the first day's journey and
the bowman always steers through still waters, but as
the time of departure drew near this unreliable man
disappeared altogether, and it was some hours before
he was finally discovered huddled up asleep like a
stray dog in a remote corer of a dusty rum
shop, and brought aboard like a bundle of mer-
Before starting, every boat has to go to the Gold
Office selling with all the crew and passengers on board
to be inspected by the police. If the safety mark
amidships, which corresponds to the Plimsoll line on
steamers, is submerged, cargo has to be unloaded until
it shows above water. This inspection is often carried
out in the same happy-go-lucky way as everything else
in this irresponsible country, and often the men lean
over the opposite way to bring the side which is being
inspected out of the water. In the rapids an over-
loaded boat really imperils the lives of everyone on
board, and we went through the test conscientiously.
Unfortunately we were carrying too much weight, and
I felt unhappy at having to leave behind several bags
of flour and four of my chop boxes.
At last we were ready. We started off in the blazing
heat of the day across the unbroken surface of the
river in the Indiana," loaded to her safety marks in
the water. The sixteen men sat in their places, eight

forward and eight aft, their paddles raised ready to
dip into the water at a cry from the bowman; the
bowman stood at the stem, the great steering paddle
in his hands, his dog barking by his side with excite-
ment, and his three fowls in a box cackling at his feet.
The drunken captain carried on a low stream of
grumbling. Major Blake, myself, and Leonora were
perched on the tarpaulin that covered the cargo amid-
ships, and there we would remain in the tropical heat
and rains until we reached the Illoma.
The bowman gave his wild yell, the people on shore
waved and shouted Good-bye," the men dipped their
paddles and set up a rollicking chantey, and we were


A river chantey-Breakfast camp-Bovianders-A night camp-
The charm of a forest camp before sunrise-Tatruba, the first
rapids-A primeval Venice-Solomon, Bacchus, the Captain, and
Jones-The classic flavour of the venture-Guapo Rapids-The
unsatisfactory crew-Casseley returns for stronger men-Two days
on Maripi Island-The mighty ants-The Indiana returns with
a new crew-We face the larger rapids-Three men nearly drowned
in Popekai-Camp on a small island in the midst of roaring rapids-
A mainland camp-Howling baboons "-Forest graves-Solomon
saves our lives in Mary Falls-Crossing Pybakash and Kaburi
Falls, the most fatal part of the river-The Sunday camp-Illness
among the crew-Old Man Makari-A punched boat-Attacked by
bees-Our painful progress-We narrowly escape disaster in Itaki-
We taste fresh food.

THE first chantey was worthy of the buccaneers
of the old Spanish Main. The tune was rollick-
ing and full of swing, and the words of many
verses, most of which, perhaps fortunately, I could not
understand as the men's English is much more broken
when they are singing, but one verse I gathered was
something like this:
I bought a chicken for eighteen pence.
Chorus : Hurrah, boys, hurrah I
I bought a chicken for eighteen pence.
Chorus : Hurrah, boys, hurrah I
I bought a chicken for eighteen pence,
And the son of a gun jumped over the fence.
Chorus: All dead blind drunk, nobody to open the door.

The words probably convey little, but the tune and the

tremendous energy with which the men sing it, keeping
perfect time with their paddles, is really very inspiring.
Many of their songs are about sailors' doings on land
and in the bush, and some of them are old sea-chanties,
probably first sung in these rivers by the adventurers
of Raleigh's day.
As they sing they work their paddles with tremen-
dous rhythmic energy, sending a glittering shower of
spray high into the air at the end of each stroke, then
ending the stroke with a bang on the gunwale.
Our first stop was made at 12.30 for the hour allowed
for breakfast, at an island just round the bend from
Bartica. At meal-times the bowman opens the stores
and serves out to each man his ration of salt beef,
pork, and fish, and his flour and rice. This is generally
an occasion for much "contention," as the men call
arguments, and until everyone settled down and knew
everyone else, "contentions" were rife. There was
one peace-loving lad, however, and I heard him gently
expostulating: "Now den, boys-now den, boys,
don't make de bowman ignorant "-which means,
"Don't make him lose his temper and use bad
Every man cooks his own food. They all know the
woods that burn, and fires are soon alight.
After breakfast we continued our journey. Up to
Tatruba, the first big rapids, the river is tidal. Two
small rapids just below Tatruba-Simmering Point
and Duban Stream-must be crossed at high water
owing to the dangerous whirlpools which form when
the tide is ebbing. We were not able to reach this

crossing at high water, so our first day's journey was
a short one. About 3 o'clock we made camp on a small
island above Baracarra, a little Boviander settlement.
The word Boviander" is a contraction of above
yonder." Bovianders, from whom nearly all the river
captains and bowmen are recruited, are the people
who frequent the rivers and penetrate into the far parts
of the interior. They are very picturesque, with
copper skins and regular features, and are half negro
and half native Indian. From childhood they wander
up and down the rivers, running the falls and creeping
round shady itabus in their canoes or ballahoos, and
they know by experience the most intricate passages
through the rapids.
Since the diamond rush many camp clearings have
been made along the banks under the forest trees by
expeditions going up-river, and now it is rarely neces-
sary to clear the undergrowth for the nightly camp.
There is generally a frame-work of slim tree trunks to
be found there, over which the men can throw their
tarpaulins, and under this roof they sling their ham-
mocks. As the boat draws near the clearing, and the
bank is within leaping distance, the men spring from
their benches and make a furious rush for the frame;
each one ties his brilliantly coloured sash at the best
available place on the cross bar, so reserving a good
position for his hammock. In the meantime paddles
drop into the water, and are lost if they are not swum
for, and the captain works himself up into a frenzy of
rage because the boat has not been moored, and is
threatening to drift down-stream.

It is hard to describe the thrill and pleasure of that
first night, with its realization of being at last in the
wilds. No meal ever tasted more delicious than that
dinner on the sandy shore of the little island where we
camped. I remember the sun was just sinking as we
started our meal and the lamp had to be lit before it
was over, so quickly did night come. During the whole
length of the meal, Jones, the tall black bowman, was
engaged with his fowls. They resented the indignity
of being put to sleep on a bough, and preferred to
choose their own time for retiring. Jones spoke to
them with friendly expostulations; but when they
persisted in hopping to earth each time he put them
on their perch, he became quite tearful, and let them
know by loud, wordy protest that he was really
offended and hurt by their conduct.
It was all so new: the mighty black river, gliding
silent to the sea, reflected the stars; the dim light
from the lamps and the flickering fire did but accentuate
the deep gloom of the forest. Only a few bare tree
trunks came into sight as the light caught them, and
then faded into the dark again; it was as if they were
executing a weird dance, invisible to us, but for these
momentary leaps into our plane of vision.
For the river journey I had brought a small alpine
tent, six feet by six feet, and this, with the other tents
and the men's tarpaulins, made a tiny but picturesque
village under the vast forest trees. It was all strange
and fascinating to me, but before long, tired out with
the excitement of the start and the first day's journey,
I dragged myself away and was asleep almost before

I was in bed. It seemed but a moment after that I
was wakened by a loud shout : Strike a light-strike
a light "; this was the captain's signal for the camp
to spring to life.
It was still pitch-dark when I came from my camp
into the cool, fragrant air. The men were all out of
their hammocks and busy about the camp. Already
tall columns of smoke rose from the breakfast fires
and mingled with the branches, and the aromatic
scent of the burning wood was delightful. While the
tents and tarpaulins were being rolled up Leonora
cooked the breakfast-porridge, cocoa, and hot-
buttered toast-that tasted most delicious slightly
flavoured with the fragrant smoke. But no time is
wasted on river journeys, and soon the whole big camp
was packed into the little Indiana and a start was
made just as the sky was growing light. The small
clearing, still dark, looked quite lonely and deserted.
When a boat is loaded there are only a few inches of
freeboard, so it is very easily swamped. Just round
the point from Bartica the river is frequently rough,
and soon after we left we heard from a crew that over-
took us that a boat had been swamped there; three
men were drowned, and the provisions lost. The
danger of having one's expedition brought to an
untimely end in this way is always present, more
especially between Tatruba the first and Tiboku the
last of the larger falls. During the first day's journey
we reached Tatruba. All the tales I had heard of
disasters in the rapids swept across my brain, and in
anticipation of fear I steadied myself. The men pulled

fiercely, with short, quick strokes, and in a minute we
were surrounded by dark, swirling waters; dangerous
currents and cross currents and treacherous kyamus
(whirlpools) were on every side, while ripples and breaks
in the water declared the presence of sharp-edged
rocks that threatened to rip open the bottom of the
" Indiana." Although the danger was evident, I
found that it did not affect my nerves at all; the
interest of watching the bowman cunningly avoiding
the more perilous places by steering the bow off sub-
merged rocks with his large six-foot bow paddle, which
with great skill he shifted from one side to the other,
and the excitement of situations of danger we found
ourselves in, counterbalanced fear. The men pulled
strenuously, but in spite of their fierce paddling, with
backs bent and great muscles working, the boat some-
times stood still, or slipped back a few inches, and we
were threatened with disaster. The bowman, when
necessary, leapt out into the water, bracing the boat
off some submerged rock, while the captain stood in
the stern shouting orders. Sometimes the current was
too strong for paddling; then the boat was taken to
the nearest bank. At an order from the captain the
men leapt out, and the greatest number of them went
ahead with the one hundred foot bow warp; the forty-
foot bow brace was manned by three men (the object
of this brace is to prevent the bow being swept out too
far) ; a couple of men were left to the stern brace, by
which the stern is controlled in the rapids. In three
hours we found ourselves in the still waters above the
rapids; we had accomplished safely the crossing of

the first, and one of the least of the sixty-eight rapids
that must be negotiated before our destination would
be reached.
After Tatruba the river is cut up into numbers of
itabus; an itabu is an Indian word given to the small
channel of water between two islands, or an island and
the mainland. At this part of the Mazaruni they are
countless. For I know all the earth doth not yield
the like confluence of streams and branches," said
Raleigh. The river has become a primeval Venice,
that Nature has planned and built; the houses, hotels,
and palaces are of intertwining fecund life; the
cathedrals, of trees towering majestic to the sky, their
pillars of mighty trunks, their roofs of gracious arches
of green. Some of the itabus are very narrow; the
branches meet and intermingle overhead; no ray of
sunlight touches the pure, cool, murmuring water, and
only an occasional trail of white orchids or a wandering
butterfly disturbs the entrancing gloom. Sometimes
the rush of water in these narrow places is too swift
for the men to paddle against, then they leap over-
board and haul the boat, wading through the cool
water. When the water is too deep for this, they
clamber up the slippery bank, hanging on by the tree
roots, then climb from bough to bough of those that
overhang the water, enjoying themselves tremendously.
Towards II o'clock, we stopped to cook lunch on one
of these little dream-islands. My head felt as if it
would fall in twenty pieces." Part of the journey had
been in the sun, and I really thought that I had had a
stroke. I said nothing, for I feared above everything

to be advised to return to Georgetown. If I were to
be ill, I felt the cool, clean jungle was better than the
muggy heat of the coast. But after consuming a great
number of sardines and several cups of hot tea I
recovered, and once more felt ready for anything that
might happen.
At first the crew seemed composed of so many black
men more or less alike, but soon their characteristics
differentiated them and each one assumed a person-
ality. One of the first to stand out from the rest was
Solomon, an old captain of the Essequibo, Cuyuni, and
Mazaruni Rivers. He had captained numbers of gold
and diamond expeditions and many bolata boats up
these rivers. He had to give up his work as captain
because he now has only one eye. When steering a
down-going boat through an itabu during a flood a
spike on a branch of an overhanging tree struck him
and deprived him of the other. He is a small man but
enormously strong, and if occasion demanded he was
able to take the weight of the whole loaded boat on
his shoulders and alone brace it off a rock. In a
difficult place he leaped from side to side of the boat,
jumping in and out of the water, pushing it here and
there when hauling in dangerous places, and encourag-
ing the men in his hoarse voice with cries repeated
many times at a very great rate of Come on, sweet-
heart-come on, honeycomb-come on, sweetheart "-
tender expressions that sound incongruous uttered by
him. Then there was Bacchus, one of the contract
men, a very merry and picturesque individual, especi-
ally when leaping through the water wearing only a

bright yellow loin-cloth to relieve the deep brown of
his body. He was like a large black baby with his
carefree antics and sudden unaccountable whistles and
yells of joy. He was at the end of the bow brace and
struggled with it through whirls of water and currents,
up slippery banks, over tacubes, and again up to his
neck in the river. Tacuba" is an Indian word
always used in the forest for the fallen tree that is
everywhere to be found.
I asked Bacchus one day if he knew who the first
Bacchus was, and when he said he didn't, I told him;
he listened only for a minute. Ah, mistress," he
said, interrupting me, you make fun wid me; me no
understand dem ole-time jokes-me one ob de young
The captain, once he was away from the gay delights
of Bartica, proved to be most competent, and took the
boat through the dangerous places with sureness and
safety. The position of captain on the Mazaruni
River is a highly responsible one, and one that needs
much judgment and experience. The safety of the
many different channels varies according to the height
of the river; if it is flooded, many channels will be
too swift; if it is low, others will be rendered
impassable by the presence of submerged rocks. The
captain must know exactly which channel to take at
all different heights of the river. It would be an
impossibility for a captain to know every submerged
rock, and the bowman's work is to stand on the gun-
wale of the bow and to keep a sharp look-out for these
rocks, steering the bow off with his paddle.



Jones, the bowman, was a personality from the first.
He soon cast off the gentle melancholy that had been
his characteristic in Georgetown, and became a very
jovial individual; he combined a fiery and ungovern-
able temper with an extreme fondness for the gentle
art of fishing. He is a very tall, powerful black man,
well over six feet, with great shoulders and arms, and
when he was quivering with rage, which was nearly
always once a day, he was quite a remarkable sight.
He was a great leader of chanties, and also
something of a soloist; sometimes in still waters
(" rotten water" the men call it), or at night-times,
one would hear him meandering through an end-
less labyrinth of tune, about boats, the river, and
the rapids.
Our difficulties began to Tatruba, and each morning
the men had to look forward to a strenuous day in the
falls. When the channel was dangerous and the swift
stream threatened to sweep the Indiana" back on
to rocks which meant destruction, the captain and
bowman urged on the paddlers with strange cries of
encouragement. The bowman would shout, See
what comin' to you my bullies-Manday." Manday
Manday," they all shout together. "I hear your
cry, my hearties. Water me, water me-Manday."
And once more the men answered Manday and
paddled with all their might. If the place were
especially dangerous the captain's voice would thunder
above the tumulf, Draw me-draw me--draw bateau
-let she go-Manday." The whole journey reminded
me of the heroic Grecian days. These wild calls of the

captain and bowman and the responses of the crew,
their great muscular strength, the journey in the open
boat through wild, untraversed country, and the songs
-all had a Homeric flavour. Many times we passed
through narrow passages between a threatening rock
on one side and a wild whirlpool on the other, steering
the only way that did not mean disaster, as Ulysses
steered his "Argo" between Scylla and Charybdis;
or, as Jason's boat, ours made a quest for treasure-it
ventured for the Golden Fleece; the Indiana," for
On the third day we reached Guapo Rapids. On
each side of the boat the deep water rushed swiftly by.
The men, with bent backs, paddled strenuously, but
in spite of this we made slow headway. In the midst
of our struggle with the current the sound of paddling
and loud shouting reached us from down-stream;
soon a boat of our own size appeared round the bend
with its cheery black crew. It slowly caught us up
and passed us, and its crew flung at our men gibes and
derisive laughter, for we were hardly moving at all.
Twice the same thing happened, and often our men
had to resort to drawing the boat along by means of
the overhanging branches, which is known as monkey
We proceeded in this unsatisfactory way until we
reached Maripi Island, which stands, a fragment of
tree-covered land, in the centre of the fierce Maripi
Falls. It was Saturday evening, and every one looked
forward to the following day of rest. Complete peace-
fulness was rather marred, however, by thoughts on

the inefficiency of the crew. The falls we had already
passed were small compared with the ones we were
soon to face, and the men had not done well. As they
had been hardly able to hold their own against the
lesser currents, it seemed likely that they would fail
altogether in the greater ones, and the expedition end
with the shattering of the boat midstream in some
turbulent part of the river, with the inevitable loss of
cargo and life. Our doubts were confirmed that even-
ing when Casseley, the captain, came to me and
declared that it would be extremely dangerous to con-
tinue the journey with our present weak crew; so it
was decided that next morning the expedition would
return to Bartica to find stronger boat hands. But
when morning came Casseley had quite changed his
mind and was lost in praise of our weaklings; so I
asked Major Blake to speak to him, and to find out his
real opinion. Major Blake stated that he himself
considered the crew inefficient. No, no, chief,"
Casseley answered, de men dey do bettah soon-dey
get harder."
Well, I have made myself personally responsible
for Miss Richardson's safety. The river is dangerous
enough, and with her and Leonora on board I will have
no unnecessary risks taken."
Oh, no, no, chief, de mistress, she be safe-safe;
de men dey do well soon."
You are the captain," said Major Blake; it rests
with you; but should any accident occur while Miss
Richardson is on board, I shall see to it as soon as we
return to Georgetown that you lose your captain's

licence, and that you serve a good long sentence at the
Penal Settlement."
Well, chief, now me think hard, me think de men
dey not so good. P'r'aps, Major, me go Bartica; me
get new men who be strong--strong."
So the Indiana" was unloaded and the cargo
placed under a tarpaulin, and soon, emptied of her
weight, she was skipping gleefully with the stream on
her way to Bartica. I with my maid remained behind,
keeping one man to look after the stores.
Maripi Island, not more than one hundred feet
across the broadest part, is typical of the great number
of islands that cut up the lower parts of the Mazaruni.
The undergrowth is very dense; tall trees pierce
through the thick bush and mount to the sky, and
they are covered with parasitic plants. One that
stood by my camp was decorated with strange ferns
and orchid-like bulbs, and where the trunk began to
branch a sarsaparilla plant had taken root, and at
night its huge leaves caught the light from the lamp
and made a shining, decorative pattern against the
starry sky. The leaves of this plant are much used by
Indians as a covering when it rains while they are
asleep in their hammocks. Leonora, with her little
bit of education and her knowledge of Georgetown,
considered herself a thorough woman of the world,
and affected to be vastly amused at the manners and
customs of the wild Indians of the forests. Major
Blake used often to say to her, What do you need
with a tent and a blanket, Leonora ? You should curl
up to sleep under a sarsaparilla leaf," which was to her


/ fl llO NCll NDi~(ll SIN

an irresistibly funny remark and never failed to send
her into peals of raucous laughter.
For the first time since leaving Bartica I had the
opportunity of watching some of the myriads of insects
that make the Guiana forests an endless source of
interest. Among the most remarkable forms of life
are the ants, which differ from the English variety in
having stings like wasps. The first I especially noticed
were the Drogher or Cousis ants; they are small and
harmless-looking enough, but in reality are a power to
be reckoned with, as they are capable of cutting into
and carrying off a half-bag of rice in one night. The
Droghers I saw on Maripi Island were in a procession
of millions; each one carried a piece of leaf several
times its own size, and from the appearance it presents
while doing this it is often called the umbrella ant."
The procession passed over a long trail, down into a
hole that must have been already very deep, judging
by the fat roll of earth that surrounded it; the excava-
tion party was still bringing up large pieces to add to
the fortification. I have often seen a bare path about
six inches broad worn by these ants right through the
thick layer of leaves that covers the ground of the
forest, a sort of Piccadilly of ant-land, only propor-
tionately very much broader. The most powerful ant
is the Munoorie; it is large and black and often an
inch long. The Munoorie is much feared by the
negroes, who say that its sting is as painful and
dangerous as the scorpion's, and invariably causes a
bad attack of fever. I have been told that a torture
devised in West Africa, and later used by the slave-

owners in British Guiana in the early days, was to
plant an offending slave in a nest of these fierce
creatures and leave him to be stung to death. When
an Indian has fever he makes deep scratches on his
arm with the sting of a dead Munoorie, holding the
ant in a little holder-a remedy that is apparently
effective. I rather admire the Munoorie, for he is a
king among ants-an aristocrat, with his immaculate
costume of shiny jet black; he doesn't come in such
vulgar crowds as the smaller ants, but walks in digni-
fied, well-preserved rank, single file. The Ahnee,
" first cousin to the Munoorie," as Leonora solemnly
called it, has a sting almost as painful. The Jacarais,
the hunting ants, travel in huge hoards, and attack
anything they encounter. Their approach is antici-
pated by a certain little bird with a peculiar whistle
that follows them everywhere, feeding on their millions.
These little Jacarais are creatures to be reckoned with.
To my knowledge the stores of one camp in the Kuru-
pung were so systematically robbed by nocturnal
visitations from them that the camp had to be aban-
doned. The little red Haracuris and the ordinary
small black ants that hurry along their thoroughfares
in a stream of busy millions can give offensive nips
when encountered singly, but if they are roused to a
massed attack they can cause a great deal of pain.
One evening after dinner I was sitting writing when
both my feet and ankles suddenly felt as if a thousand
tiny pins were sticking into them, almost as if they
were asleep." I hit the side of my mosquito boot
with my hands, and when I raised it, it was black with

these minute ants. I held the lamp to the ground,
and the whole place was one swirling mass of them.
My boots were covered inside and out, and I think I
was really more appalled than I would have been at
the attack of a tiger. I called wildly for the kerosene,
as that is the only thing that will drive them away.
The innumerable tiny nips were having a more painful
effect, and standing in a seething black sea of ants,
with ants all over my feet and legs, I felt that they
considered me a tasty meal and had taken entire
possession of me. Major Blake, who had been writing
his diary at the same table, was in a similar plight.
There was no escaping them, as they formed a com-
plete covering of the ground as far as the small circle
of light that the lamp threw. I was just beginning to
feel rather panic-stricken when one of the men arrived
with a tin of kerosene, and when it had been freely
sprinkled over the ground the horde vanished, and not
one ant was left behind to show that such a thing
existed. They had come and gone as suddenly as a
The little wood ants, with their nasty fat bodies,
are repulsive in their swarming hordes, but they do
not sting. They build for themselves hard nests on
the sides of trees, and one swarm will eat out a whole
trunk, causing the tree to die. White wood ants
attack any wood they can find, and all tent-pegs and
poles or wooden boxes are soon demolished by them;
they can finish off a large tent-peg in a few days. The
flying ants, although harmless, are exceedingly
unpleasant. Luckily they only appear en masse

occasionally, but when they do the air is thick with
large clouds of them; everything is covered with their
wings as they shed them, and then the wingless ants,
with their disgustingly wriggling bodies, run over and
into everything. When they do appear, it is invari-
ably on a fine evening after rain, and it is necessary to
take refuge under a mosquito net and have meals
there. The vitality of ants is amazing : trample them
into the earth and they will shake themselves and run
off happily; pour on them masses of boiling water,
and they come out of it looking more lively than ever.
Kerosene is the only effective weapon against them,
but all such commodities are very valuable in the bush,
and it is trying to be obliged to pour away quantities
of it to combat these apparently insignificant though
actually powerful creatures.
The delightful peace of the two days on Maripi
Island was broken only by the passing of a few expedi-
tions of negroes on their way up-river. Their shouts
and yells were heard many minutes before their
arrival; first one black, loin-cloth-clad figure appeared
dragging the warp after him, then a number of them,
each directing every one else in his loudest tones, and
apparently at the highest pitch of excitement, and
lastly the boat with the bowman and the men on the
bow brace and stern line, all equally noisy, while the
captain stood at the back of the boat in a frenzy,
screaming and bawling above every one, waving his
arms frantically in the air, and letting off a stream of
wildly vindictive sentences. After a boat had vanished
round the corer of the island, it took at least half an

hour before this extraordinary noise faded away into
the distance. The passage up this itabu is a com-
paratively easy one, but running water that necessi-
tates hauling will rouse any crew to this pitch of
I had some delightful bathes shooting down the
swift itabu that sweeps by the island into the more
peaceful pool beyond. I loved bathing in the river;
it was fascinating to look through the thickly inter-
laced roof overhead, and under the green bridge of
branches that arch across the itabu to another little
island beyond. During the day my tent was unbear-
ably hot, and I could not enter it for a moment without
coming out as if I were emerging from a Turkish
bath. I spent most of the day in my chair under the
shade of the thick trees reading my Bible. Even for
those who are not interested in the Bible from a religious
point of view, I think it is the very best book to take
to the wilds ; no other book contains such a wonderful
collection of stories of beauty and interest.
In three days the boat returned from Bartica with
a new crew that looked much more fit for the task
before us; one of them was quite a giant, and during
the whole journey he was known to the men as Big
The Indiana was soon reloaded, and on February
14th we started off to face the fiercer and more danger-
ous rapids. I was sorry to leave Maripi Island-I
should have enjoyed a month or more there.
The men pulled well, and after passing Aretaki
Rapids and Kara-Kara without any unusual happening

we faced the more formidable Popekai just before
sundown. The first half of Popekai is a wide stretch
of water rushing over partly and wholly submerged
rocks; some of them are large boulders, but the more
dangerous are smaller, with razor-like edges or sharp
points. The presence of these rocks causes innumer-
able whirlpools and tremendously fierce currents and
undercurrents, which are a continual menace; but the
captain avoids these where possible, and steers the boat
into the passage of water, thrown off by whirlpools
and currents, that is flowing up-stream and is known
as the suck tide." In many places where the river
is too deep for hauling it would be impossible to make
any progress if it were not for these suck tides."
In Popekai Rapids, when the men were bravely
making headway through the churning water, the boat
suddenly grounded on a rock, which was, luckily, fiat
and smooth, otherwise a wreck would have been
inevitable. The men got out on to the submerged
rocks with the ropes, and all prepared to set the boat
afloat again. Three of them leaped from rock to rock,
of those that appeared just above the foaming water,
with the long bow warp, until they were out of hearing
of the captain's orders, for the excitement caused the
men to utter wild yells and shouts, and the roar of
the water was tremendous. The boat was braced off
the rock, but the men on the bow warp did not notice
what was happening, but went gaily on until they were
separated from the boat, now launched, by a very
rough piece of water. Two of the men, realizing the
danger, came back and were able to get aboard, but

the impetus, as the second one tumbled in, sent it
floating a little down-stream. The third, a wild youth,
still unconscious of his danger, held in his hand the
frayed end of the rope. All the men yelled at him in
unison. He saw his danger, and immediately lost his
head. He was swept into the furious water, and those
strands of frayed rope-end stood between him and
death. He kicked and spluttered and yelled, letting
unnecessary quantities of water down his throat;
holding on like grim death he was slowly hauled
towards the boat, his head still under water, and was
finally lifted in. He spluttered, shook himself like a
wet dog, and recovered almost immediately.
Soon after this a down-going boat passed us on the
far side of the river in the deeper channel; it was
travelling at a tremendous rate, and looked more like
a piece of wood tossed about in the stream than some-
thing containing human freight. A little while before,
a boat running Popekai hit a rock, and the entire crew
of twenty-two were drowned.
Having passed this, the first and least difficult part
of Popekai, we camped on the sandy, silver beach of a
small rocky island that stood in the midst of it.
I felt I would wake up during the night to find it
adrift; it seemed too small to hold its own against
those roaring waters. My tent faced the sun as it
was sinking behind the fierce, lovely torrents, and it
tipped the seething water with flashes of gold
Next day we crossed the remainder of Popekai, and
struggled up the long, swift-running itabu known as
Tramway Hole, and at night made our first mainland

camp. The different feeling there is between camping
on an island and on the mainland is very marked; I
felt physically conscious of the thousands of miles of
primeval forest that stretched away into Brazil. The
overpowering silence of the wilds is often spoken of
with awe, and I had been told that it would frighten
me. At midday, sometimes, on a very hot day,
nothing can be heard but a few cicada, and the occa-
sional long, clear cry of the ma'am bird; but as
evening approaches this comparative silence is broken
by the fussy flying parrots and noisy flocks of chatter-
ing parakeets, and the more dignified, raucous-voiced
macaws in pairs all going to their homes. At night the
noise rivals that of a great city; nearby one can hear
many crickets singing their hearts out, whistling frogs,
croaking frogs, singing frogs, and frogs with voices
like motor engines making their presence evident;
innumerable flies, beetles, insects, and mosquitoes
combining in a loud chorus, and sometimes a creature
that one of the men described as an overgrown frog "
making a sound that resembles the bark of a large dog
in the distance. Always at 9 o'clock the clear, long
notes of the ma'am echoes through the forests, and
often the sloth sends its piteous, weird cry out into the
night. Suddenly, in the midst of this chorus, there
will be an abrupt pause, and not a sound can be
heard; then, as if some conductor had given the
signal, the mighty music begins again. Besides these
several and particular noises that are distinguishable
there is a low, deep note made up by the sounds of the
stupendous animal and insect life that spreads over

the endless miles of jungle wilderness, with the deep
roar of the river as an undertone.
Greatest of all sound-makers of the jungle are the
little red howler monkeys, locally called baboons."
They usually begin their wild, unearthly song just at
the weirdest time of the day, as the faint grey of dawn
appears, and as night can be seen almost in concrete
form, slowly and reluctantly creeping into the far-away
depths of the forest. First they can be heard in the
distance, like the rush of a great gale; then, as they
swiftly come closer, they sound like several infuriated
lions roaring with full voice. The noise rolls over and
over like tremendous thunder until it is unbelievably
huge. Suddenly the roaring will cease, and will be
followed by two deep sounds-" Wough-Wough."
As I lay warm in bed listening to them I sometimes
tried to create a mind-picture of the creature that
should own such a voice; it seemed to belong to the
far-away Dark Ages : it might have suited an infuriated
mob of Neanderthal men. Since leaving Bartica I had
seen few fire-flies, but that night, probably owing to its
being a fine night after evening rain, the whole forest,
as far as one could see, was lit up by millions of
little flashing lights, which are unromantically called
" candle-bugs by the pork-knockers.
At this mainland camp we saw the first of many
graves that are scattered along the river-side-a
pathetic, nameless mound, looking very small under the
tall trees, and marked only by a little cross of unhewn
wood. Later at a camp farther up we saw one that had
the dead man's mug at the head to mark it, and then

three more together, carelessly made, for although the
river was quite low one of them was partly under
water. To bury bodies in the soft sand is forbidden,
but the men do it to avoid the harder work of digging
through the hard earth that is always entangled with
tough tree roots.
The thought of lying for ever buried in the profound
tenebrous jungle made me shiver; and yet I would
rather that than some overcrowded cemetery, which
has always seemed to me a kind of after-life subway,
with all the dull people one sees in trains and buses for
neighbours. Pork-knockers quite enjoy a funeral in
the bush ; they love saying long prayers, and find great
sentimental enjoyment in singing the dead hymn,"
as they call their dirge. Later on, in the Kurupung,
I heard the sad, beautiful harmonies as they glided
through the trees to my camp; Leonora, who was with
me, heard them too, and, overcome with superstitious
misgivings, was for days after terrified of being left
alone for fear that that dead man's ghost would visit
her. But the mournful pleasure of a burial service
is sometimes foregone. On the river a crew may
suddenly meet the remains of a dark body floating
towards the boat. All pretend not to see it, for by
law all drowned bodies seen in the river must be
Next day-the eighth day of the journey-we
passed through Topeku Falls with no more than the
usual difficulties. We made breakfast camp early to
gather our strength for the crossing of Mary Falls.
The men have a catch-phrase that is always considered

by them a bon mot. If it rains they'll say, Rain in
name and rain in nature." Topeku is "Topeku in
name and Topeku in nature." Mary" is a gentle,
peaceful name, so I can say of these falls, Mary in
name, but not Mary in nature," and it really means
something. Right in the midst of this wild, mad
mixture of swirls and currents, submerged rocks and
whirlpools, the Indiana grounded with tremendous
force, and its timbers shivered. It hung at a horrid
angle; the current was sending it over still more, and
the water was already up to its gunwale. I began to
look round for a likely rock to leap to when little
Solomon, the man with gorilla muscles, jumped into the
raging water, and, taking the whole boat on his square
shoulders, heaved it afloat again.
After Mary Falls came still waters broken only by
smaller rapids, dangerous in themselves, but tame
compared with Popekai and Mary. Then we camped
and prepared ourselves for facing, next day, Pybakash
and Kaburi Falls, which together have cost more loss
of life than any other falls in the river.
Early next morning we made the dangerous crossing
below Pybakash called Sapira to the lower end of
Pybakash itabu. Here the boat had to be unloaded
and everything droghed across the island. The boat
was then hauled empty up the itabu.
It was a cloudy day, with many showers, and we
had an anxious time droghing the flour and rice across
the island during the short dry intervals, for if the rice
gets damp it quickly becomes uneatable.
In about four hours the empty boat rounded the

corer. The men were working furiously to get it up
the wild itabu that rushed and foamed over its rocky,
irregular bed. Some of them worked at each side,
practically lifting the boat in places, while others were
on the bow and stern braces. The captain, stripped
to the waist, stood in the stern waving his arms and
wildly shouting instructions. There was a final drop
of five feet, over which it was very difficult to drag the
boat, and until Major Blake lent his assistance it seemed
as if the men would never manage the task.
After breakfast the boat was reloaded for the Pyba-
kash crossing. Here the river forms a round lake of
broken, swirling waters ; and as the river was in flood
the whirlpools were more than usually dangerous. It
was here that but three weeks before a boat making
the crossing had been swamped in the whirlpools and
eighteen were drowned. Before leaving, the captain
urged the men to make every effort, but they, with the
recent accident in their minds, needed no encourage-
ment to paddle their hardest. It was a very exciting
crossing, but we made the Rock in fine style.
We had now reached what appealed to me as the
most spectacular place on the river. Kaburi Rock
is a bare, desolate, little island surrounded on all sides
by wild waters that make a tremendous roar. The
Rock is part of a bar that stretches from bank to bank;
over this the river flows in three falls-Anisette,
Kaburi, and Looking Glass. These are from twelve to
fifteen feet vertical drops, and the only navigable
channels are over Pyramap, which flows wildly over a
series of terraces and looks completely unnavigable,




I---*Ww fakB^ '* "4
' ... H B H B B'

and a very narrow strip of water to one side of the
Kaburi Rock. Again the laborious work of unloading
and droghing had to be undertaken, and the work of
hauling the boat over the Rock-an incline of from two
to three hundred feet-is extremely heavy, and is
naturally liable to damage the keel.
By evening everything had been dragged and hauled
across the Rock; the "Indiana," lying in a little
cove, was now unloaded, and every one was alert for
the most dangerous crossing on the river. A short
time ago a boat was swept over Kaburi and a number
of men were drowned, while on the edge of Pyramap
is a broken derelict boat telling the tragic end of an
expedition and the death of many of the crew.
On the right a terrific current rushes round a turning
called Behind the Station," dangerous at all times,
and in the then state of the river impassable. Beyond
this Pyramap thundered over her terraces. There is
a V-shaped whirl of water leading into a thin line of
less swift stream between the two currents; this thin
line, only a few feet from the fall over Kaburi, must
be kept if the boat is to cross without disaster. A
smashed skeleton of a boat lying stranded on a rock at
the base of the falls was horribly suggestive of disas-
trous possibilities. Everything was ready, the painter
was untied, the men sat erect, their paddles lifted to
take the first long stroke. For once they were silent;
only the deafening roar of water filled the air. The
captain gave a mighty shout. We were off The
men murmured tensely, "Draw she up, boys. She
say yes. She say yes." All was going well-then the

Kaburi current caught the bow and she headed
straight for the fatal falls. The sky was rent with
yells, "Draw she up, boys. Come-come--come,
sweetheart. Come sweetheart-come!" She fell
back a little; she was sickeningly near the drop. My
mind began to invent wildly ingenuous plans for
saving myself. Then all yelled together, mighty
strokes sent two walls of glistening spray into the air,
the Indiana" gave a leap forward-and all was
well. A few hundred yards farther on we made camp
on an island. It was Saturday night, and after a week
of this strenuous travelling from sunrise to sunset,
with its manifold dangers, a Sunday rest was delightful.
It was nice to be able to take time about rising, and it
was peaceful to hear the men as they lay in their
hammocks singing hymns, harmonizing quite beauti-
fully, and to potter about, developing photographs,
and putting in order things that had become mis-
placed during the week on the river. There was quite
a homelike feeling in having a dwelling stationary for
so long a time as thirty-two hours.
Next day we passed, among others, Mora and Hiawa
Falls, having a very stiff pull up the latter in places
where hauling was impossible. As a result of drinking
the river water unboiled four men a day on an average
were too ill to paddle, and the reduction of man-power
as well as the extra dead weight made progress slower.
The work of paddling in the fierce sun made the crew
very thirsty, and no enumeration of dire results would
prevent their continually dipping their mugs into the
river and drinking the water that was so full of decaying

tropical life that it was practically poisonous. I
became accustomed to seeing several men each day
sitting motionless in their places with bent heads and
inexpressibly miserable looks. I had my medicine
chest always at hand, and dosed them from time to
time. Often a man would be stricken suddenly, and
curl up on his bench, uttering heart-rending groans.
There were two brothers, great stalwart negroes, who
fell ill shortly after we left Maripi Island, and they
never recovered sufficiently to do one hour's work, so
when we met a down-going boat we asked the captain
to take them back. It was a great relief to see them
go, for they were so weak that they might have died
at any moment.
On Monday we were off before dawn, as usual. We
spent the whole morning crossing Mora Falls, which
necessitated unloading again. Soon after breakfast we
passed through Hiawa Falls and approached Makari
Rock, a large pillar of rock like the petrified head of a
giant, for which reason it was called Old Man
Makari." It looks like a strange river-god raising its
head above the water. It is a custom on the river for
those who have hats to take them off to it, for when
this is done one ceases to be a tenderfoot." The
men called out to it, hailing it as an old friend and
asking it for luck and its blessing. Old Man Makari
is just at the start of Makari Falls, which are long,
Troublesome, and difficult, and luck is certainly needed
to pass them. Half-way through we came on a boat
that was hauling up a particularly difficult place; it
ran on a sharp rock, which punched" it and the

water began to rush in. It looked as if the cargo
would be lost. Two boat hands were bailing bucket
after bucket of water, and yet the boat continued to
sink. The men formed a line to the bank, which,
fortunately, was neither far off nor steep, and threw
the heavy bags of food and bales of goods from one to
the other. Our boat was quickly tied up and our crew
went to their assistance; it was invigorating to see
the men work really fast for once, and the boat was
unloaded within a few minutes; at Pybakash and
Kaburi Rock a similar task had taken quite an hour.
The food was all saved, and we left them hauling the
boat up to repair the punched plank. We were
travelling so slowly with our sick men that we had the
ignominy of seeing this boat pass us next day.
The breakfast camps in the thick forest shade were
always a delightful rest after the hours on the river in
the blazing, glaring sun. At a breakfast camp on this
part of the river one of the men was, as usual, chopping
down a bough for firewood when a cloud of angry bees,
disturbed by the blows, swarmed out of the hollow
trunk and flew quickly towards me. I got up and ran
madly through the forest, but the undergrowth was in
my way and the clouds of bees swarmed round me.
Numbers of them climbed into my sleeves and down
my back, and quantities were entangled in my hair.
I continued to run, and the bulk of them left me.
Fortunately they proved to be only little brown sugar
bees and their sting was very slight; but it was some
time before I could free my hair and clothes from their
wriggling, fat bodies. Many kinds of bees in the

Mazaruni, which attack in numbers if they are dis-
turbed, have a most horribly painful sting, which
causes an immediate attack of fever; and when I had
seen the cloud of bees coming towards me I had
anticipated the worst.
We passed through the next two rapids-Tancobine
and Kusuwai-without any mishap. As is unavoid-
able in every crossing, the boat grounded on several
rocks. I had become quite used to these sudden
stops, but since actually seeing a boat punched and
narrowly escaping being swamped, the anxiety became
greater, as many of our groundings took place mid-
stream, where disaster would have been inevitable if
our boat had been pierced by a rock. The efficiency
of our crew was becoming more and more lessened by
sickness, and it was now weaker than the one we
originally started with from Bartica. The pork-
knockers usually depend on what they can save out
of their rations on the journey up to feed them when
they arrive, until they can strike diamonds, so it is in
their interests to make the journey last as long as
possible; our pork-knockers were very much alive to
this, and the captain had difficulty in making them do
a reasonable day's work.
Between each rapids there is generally a stretch of
rotten" water, but every now and again there is a
swift flow caused by a bend in the river, or a sub-
merged tacuba or boulder. All such parts are called
"bumps," and a boat full of good paddlers can
negotiate themZwith extra effort; but our crew had
become so weak that as a rule the boat stood still for

some time, or else slipped slowly backwards, and we
often had to cross to the bank and monkey haul by
the overhanging branches.
At length we reached Little Itaki Falls, the first
small rapids of Itaki, one of the broadest and fiercest
stretches of rapids in the river. First, a sharp fall
had to be negotiated. The men got out, and, by
means of rocks, climbed with the ropes above the fall.
Leonora and I stood on a small, very slippery rock at
the side of the swirling water under the fall. The
men, standing in the less wild upper waters, proceeded
to haul up the Indiana "; there was evidently an
over-strain on one of the ropes, for it slowly heaved
over until the water was rushing in over the gunwale
on one side. It was a tense moment, and I held my
breath as I stood by helpless, while the fate of all my
stores hung in the balance. The captain, the only one
left in the boat, yelled his instructions from the stem,
where he was being threatened with certain death in
the furious waters; Solomon, always alert, was on
the spot to see his orders carried out, and so the boat
was righted, but once above the fall much bailing had
to be done.
Then we faced the main part of Itaki, a broad stretch
of foaming, rushing water full of wild whirlpools and
currents which tell the presence of dangerous, sub-
merged rocks. The crossing of Itaki was one long,
deadly anxiety; the worst moment came when the
fierce current swept Jones the bowman's great oar
aside, and the bow began to swerve rapidly round; it
looked as if we had at last reached the moment when

we were to be smashed on to the rocks, but, just in
time, Jones, with his great length of limb, took a leap
with the bow brace in his hand, and landed on a partly
submerged rock. He was so strong that he was able,
with the help of the furiously paddling crew, to hold
the bow until we were righted. The sudden alarm
and excitement of the moment gave the almost
exhausted men an impetus, and we reached a promon-
tory of the mainland in safety. Here the boat was
again unloaded, and the goods droghed to a place
beyond the falls. In about an hour's time the rest of
Itaki had been negotiated by means of hauling the
empty boat. Breakfast was very welcome indeed, and
we thoroughly enjoyed some delicious fish that Leonora
caught during our wait-the first fresh food I had
tasted since leaving Bartica thirteen days before.


Major Blake hears of raiders in the Illoma-Water-mama Falls
and river myths-Some sugar is stolen-Tabali, Crapaud, and
Katauri Falls-The dangerous crossing at Ekuresi-Alligators in
Eknresi-More sickness-We post letters-Tiboku; the captain
leaves us-I find a ballahoo-Still waters-Alligators and electric
eels-The wall of the forest-Life in still waters-We meet some
Indians-The sun bird-Diamonds-A bush store-A fierce quarrel
-At the mouth of the Kurupung-A tiger fish-We travel after
dark-Piper Falls-A search in the dark for a landing-We reach
the Illoma.

W E were now approaching the diamond
country. The first camp we had seen was at
the point where we unloaded. All the crew
but one man were inland prospecting, but he greeted
our men and gossiped with them. He told one of
them that he had been invited to join a party of pork-
knockers on their way up to raid Major Blake's Illoma
.lands, but having heard that Major Blake would shortly
be up-river he had refused. This little piece of gossip
made us all the more anxious to reach our destination
quickly so that we might track down and catch the
In the afternoon we had a stiff pull through Kuri-
buru Rapids, and later we faced the beautiful and
dangerous Water-mama Falls.
To the older generation of negroes in British Guiana,
and even to the younger ones who are country-born,
the existence of the water-mama" is regarded by

them not as a superstition, but a fact. When we
passed through the falls I thought it was merely an
old Indian legend that water-mamas or mermaids
waited under the ledges of the large rocks that are on
either side of the falls to drag any passing boat and
crew under the water; but later I discovered that the
negroes still believe they are there. One day, after
seeing a large and hungry looking alligator slip off the
bank into the river, I remarked to my maid that I
should not care to bathe in the main stream; she
answered me that the water-mamas were much more
dangerous than alligators. When I asked her what
she meant by water-mamas," she said, with evident
belief in the superstition, that the water-mamas live
in families, some of them black and some white;
many have feet, but the most dangerous kind have
fishes' tails. Their desire is to draw humans down to
their homes on the floor of the river, where their
victims are taught to live as they do themselves. If a
prisoner is not acquiescent and attempts to escape, he
is killed and eaten. Leonora declared that she and
her mother, when fishing from the bank near their
home on the Demerara River, had actually seen a
white baby water-mama sitting on a dead tacuba.
They crept up behind hoping to catch it, but it slipped
into the water just as they were within arms' length.
Later I rather laughingly mentioned my maid's super-
stition to one of the men, but he was most serious about
it and said that he also had seen a water-mama, he
and a whole crew of men when they were going up the
Essequibo River. This was a dark-skinned one, a

woman, with hair like a coolie, long and black, and she
was combing it; since that the rock where she was
seen has been known as Fair-maid Rock. It is curious
that in this superstition of the South American rivers
the mermaids should behave just as those in the
European fairy-tales have done for hundreds of
generations. There are many tales of these mythical
creatures. I was told by an old gold-digger of an
unfortunate man on the Essequibo River who was
attacked by a water-mama when he ventured too near
the water's edge. After a fierce struggle he escaped,
but to his horror he discovered that he was in posses-
sion of her comb. She visited him nightly, offering
him untold wealth if he would give it back to her; he
did not dare to do so because he knew that if once
she had it she would repay him by immediately break-
ing his neck. These visits preyed upon his nerves, for
he feared that at any one of them she might lose her
temper and kill him, so he moved to a distant part of
the country, where he burned the comb; but this
device was of no use, and shortly afterwards he was
found dead and a long strand of dank, black hair was
round his throat.
A superstitious pork-knocker told me that in a
village on the east coast there is a curious woman who
has a mysterious alliance with the water-mamas. She
talks with no one, nor does her strange, long-haired
child; both of them are always dressed in red, and
everything in her house is of the same sinister colour.
Sometimes her child disappears alone for weeks, and
even months, and at other times she vanishes also.

They are shunned by the whole village, for it is gener-
ally believed they go to their other home under the
When the old gold-digger who related one of these
stories to me saw I was interested, he went on to tell
me of a whale that had been caught along the Deme-
rara coast, and he seemed to consider it a more
uncommon and amazing creature than the water-
It was from the bowman that I first heard of the
existence of the water-tiger. This mythical animal is
supposed to be exactly like the jaguar or land-tiger,
except that it has webbed feet. He said he once left
a large fish for a few minutes; when he returned its
flesh had been all torn away and only the bones
remained--obviously, he said, the work of the water-
But to me the most horrible of their legendary
water-monsters is the Matchikouri, a huge, black, hairy
creature with human-shaped body and features, but
with burning red eyes and mouth and a blazing red
chest. One of these imaginary horrors was supposed
to live in the river about Bartica. He snatched people
from the land when he could, and then tore them to
pieces and ate them. Some of my men said they had
seen him. One day several negroes were walking
towards the selling when they suddenly realized that
they were within a few feet of the brute. They had
guns, and fired at it, but the bullets were not powerful
enough to harm it, and it leapt back into the water,
unhurt. In the earlier days several men in a gold

expedition, or sometimes a whole party, might vanish
mysteriously, and such disappearances were attributed
by the negroes to the Matchikouri.
The men seemed to think there was a good chance
of the water-mamas getting us as we made our tortuous
way up the Water-mama Falls. There was just as
much chance, I suppose, as there is of its drawing
down any boat crossing the whirlpools. or dragging up
the steep falls between the dark, slippery boulders;
but we providentially escaped and made camp after
having crossed little more than half a mile of perilous
rapids. I love to think that all these fearsome,
mythical creatures really exist. One can imagine
them so well, gliding about in the mysterious depths
of the dark river.
That night we discovered thirty pounds of sugar
had been stolen. Like true Demerarans, all the men
are extremely fond of sugar, and it was obvious that
it had been taken by one or more of them, most
probably the pork-knockers. I was in my tent when
they were accused and the noise that followed was
amazing. Not one word of their talk could I catch,
for they were all chattering at once, like a pack of
monkeys. The noise began loudly, and grew stronger
and stronger, until it was a massed roar of voices, the
sixteen men making quite a phenomenal uproar. In
the general flow of incriminations someone had the
temerity to suggest Solomon as the culprit; he shot
from the boat, where he slept, like an angry dog from
a kennel, and accomplished a remarkable vocal feat,
talking so loudly and with such extreme volubility of

the vengeance he would wreak on them for their
slander that the men were frightened into silence.
After a lengthy and impassionate oration containing
touching passages about what his own mudder now
" deaded would have felt if she had heard her dear
son so slandered, he returned in triumph to the
Next day we crossed big Tabali Falls, then passed
the Crapaud Rock, looking like a huge grey frog turned
to stone, through the Crapaud and Katauri Falls,
travelling laboriously the whole time, much hampered
by our sick men, hauling through parts where we
should have had more than strength to paddle, until
we camped on a lonely, sandy beach below the larger
Ekuresi Falls.
Next morning we made our usual early start, and
were soon in the disturbed waters below Ekuresi.
Casseley, the captain, considered the crossing we were
about to make one of the most dangerous in the river,
for here it is full of extremely sharp submerged rocks.
As we slowly approached the falls the merry sound of
a stirring chantey reached us, and soon a boatload of
cheery blacks approached us. All the men were
paddling, and our miserable crew made a sorry
spectacle beside them. Suddenly the other boat
stopped dead still, and her captain yelled, She
punched." It was quickly braced off the rock, and
the crew paddled furiously towards the shore, while
three men bailed desperately, throwing out bucket
after bucket of water; but even that did not prevent
the boat slowly sinking. They reached the shore in

time, however, and the boat was unloaded with
amazing rapidity.
Ekuresi seemed to be a favourite haunt for alli-
gators, for we saw quite a number sunning themselves
on dry rocks at the side of the falls.
That afternoon we had a miserable time. One of
the pork-knockers was extremely ill, and so when a
down-going boat appeared round a bend we hailed it
and asked the captain to take him down-river. When
the boat approached it was evident that there was no
room for another sick man, for the place amidships
reserved for cargo on the way up-river was packed
with prostrate negroes, some of them groaning and
others lying dead still, all in a serious condition. So
we had to continue with our desperately ill pork-
In the heat of the afternoon we toiled slowly under
the direct equatorial sun through the leaden, heat-
reflecting water; depressing thoughts possessed us as
we realized that the protracted journey was making
serious inroads on our supplies. Suddenly Big-man,"
one of our few useful paddlers, dropped his paddle, and
curling up on his bench, uttered groan after groan. I
dosed him, and he was soon easier, but he was fit for
no more work that day. We were now moving so
slowly that the stopping-time arrived before we had
covered a reasonable distance, so we kept on long after
sundown, and it was 8.30 before we made camp.
Next day we fortunately met another down-going
boat that was able to take our sick pork-knocker, and
we handed letters we had written to the captain to

post for us at Bartica. This is the only way of posting
letters on the Mazaruni, and as the captains generally
get drunk immediately on landing the possibility of the
letters ever reaching their destinations is very un-
That afternoon we reached Tiboku, the last of the
larger rapids. At this point the river takes a hair-pin
turn from south to north; it narrows considerably,
and the water swerves round the sharp turn at a great
pace. The left bank towers to several hundred feet, and
at its sharp summit, rising above the other tree-tops,
is a tall, graceful toro palm, the landmark of Tiboku.
We first saw it some way below Tiboku, and a few
hours later, when we had reached the far side of the
ridge round which the river bends, it was still
Next day was Sunday, and as we had passed all the
large rapids the captain was to return to Bartica. Late
in the afternoon a down-going boat appeared that was
able to take him, and we said good-bye to him with
appreciation of the skilful way he had brought us
through so many dangerous places.
At this camp I found a derelict ballahoo-a small
flat-bottomed, roughly made punt-lying half sunk in
the water. Little fishes and water-plants had made
their homes in it. When it was patched and mended
a bit it was quite usable, and later on it proved of
tremendous value to us.
On Monday we started out with a feeling that we
were at last within reasonable distance of Major Blake's
" Landing," our destination in the Illoma. And yet

we had many days more of travelling before us-days
of still water, of the soft morning light and wonderful
reflections, of blazing sunrises, of long, peaceful, broil-
ing hours, when we stretched out upon the tarpaulin
that covered the cargo, gazing at the tangled banks for
strange flowers and reptiles; and many more bur-
nished evening suns when the last vanishing golden
rays blended with the first cool gleams of the strong
equatorial moon.
After hours of lying in the sun watching the banks
as the boat slowly glided by one might suddenly realize
that a grey thing floating in the gloomy water under
the branches was no log, but a sleepy alligator. I shot
the first one I saw with my automatic, and was sorry
as soon as I had done it. I never shot another in the
big river, they are so much in keeping with their
surroundings. Often an alligator would be sitting
right out of the water, completely motionless on a
rock or on the bank, looking at the boat with an
unblinking stare. The strength of these creatures is
enormous, and even a very small one, a few inches
long, has power and teeth enough to bite off a finger
or toe.
Even more repulsive than the alligators are the
electric eels. We often saw them, generally two or
three together-fat-bodied, slimy, slate-grey things
with an abominable way of writhing in and out of the
water and making it appear like oil. These fish-
reptiles, unlike so many creatures in the wilds that
become dangerous only when hungry or frightened or
in self-defence, will actually attack anything they see.

One touch from any part of an electric eel will give a
man a shock that may paralyse him for as long as
fifteen minutes, and if he is in the deep water it will
cause him to drown. One day, as we passed close by
an electric eel, a pork-knocker lifted his paddle to hit
at it, but the captain called to him to stop, for he would
get a shock if he did so. The sight of an unusually
large or brightly coloured lizard scuttling along a tree
trunk or gazing at the boat, or an occasional family of
funny little water-dogs paddling across the broad
river, or a monkey up in the trees looking as if he had
escaped from a zoo or a barrel-organ to my unaccus-
tomed eyes, the unbelievably strange and highly
coloured insects that dropped on to the boat or perched
there for a moment in their flight, made these quiet
days delightful and full of interest.
The jungle at the water's edge seemed, at first glance,
just a solid wall of solitary vegetation ; but as I gazed
at the wonderful, variegated tapestry, many motives
in the pattern sprung into life. Under the shade of
nearly every bare old tacuba or tree root was a branch
of dull grey leaves; a splash from the paddle sprinkled
it as we passed, and there suddenly sprung to life a
family of little bats that blindly flapped into the
friendly depths of the jungle.
The brilliant birds of Guiana too were a never-ending
source of delight to me. Numbers of parrots and
macaws crossed the river chattering noisily to each
other; and the toucans, flying clumsily with their huge
orange bills, looked like aeroplanes about to crash. It
was delightful to see a large black or white heron,

looking like a Japanese illustration, as it stood on the
end of a long tacuba; or a very large kingfisher, smart
and brilliant beyond words. I saw innumerable other
kinds of birds as they paused at the river's brink, for
a moment set like jewels in the dark background of
leaves. But it was most thrilling of all to see a grey
or brown snake slip up the bank into the bush, or a large
handsome red one-a matafi-coiled on the over-
hanging branches sunning himself; and once I saw
a fat, twenty-foot, wonderfully marked camoodi, a
constrictor snake, in the water under the trees.
Along the banks the forest appeared to be an
impenetrable wall of vegetation interwoven with
creepers and lianas of every size and description, some
as thick as a man's body, others as delicate as a thread ;
they encircle the tree trunks and hang down in graceful
festoons and trails from the branches. These creepers
are called bush ropes by the negroes. Some bush
ropes flower magnificently; one kind throws out long
waxen flowers of brilliant lacquer red, and I have
seen tall trees standing like flaming fires, completely
covered by it. Sometimes for a hundred yards along
the river's edge the dark wall of the jungle is turned to
delicate mauve, quite covered by a tapestry of soft
blossoms; trails of them hang down into the black
water that breaks into silver ripples as it touches
There were many strange, exotic parasite-flowers
clinging to the dead trees and branches along the
banks. The commonest and most lovely was a delicate
starlike white and pale gold orchid; another that

flowers in drooping golden sprays is appropriately
named the golden shower.
Now in the gloom and cold of England the memory
of those lazy, peaceful days of blazing sunshine and
the shady forest camps on the way is a very pleasant
one. During the hot afternoons the men sang their
chanties, their paddles beating in time to the tunes,
while the boat glided along in the shadow of the dark
trees. In the early afternoon I usually fell into a deep
sleep, intoxicated by the soft rocking of the boat, the
hot quivering air, and the rhythmical beat of the paddles.
When the clouds overhung the sky and the rain came
down in slow drizzles or tropical torrents I sat huddled
on the tarpaulin hour after hour in a fast-growing pool
of water; the unpleasantness was more than compen-
sated for by the added delight I had in the sunshine
when it reappeared.
One chantey that the men were continually singing
comes to my mind as I write. It was not rollicking,
like most of the others, but it had a lovely sad melody
and rhythm, and the words were something like

Juliana, my dear. Juliana, my love,
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.
Juliana so fair with her black curly hair.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.

Blue mountains so high, and blue mountains so blue.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.
Blue mountains so high that the marwash can't fly.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.

Blue mountains so high that the barley rot" dry.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.
Blue mountains so high that a sailor can't climb.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.
Then a hip-hip-hurray and away we must go.
Chorus : The girl from over the mountains.
Juliana, my dear. Juliana, my love.
Chorus: The girl from over the mountains.

And over and over, again and again until the
whole boat became mesmerized by the rhythm of
On the way up we passed several Indian families in
their wood-skin canoes. A wood-skin is the frailest
craft imaginable, being simply one piece of bark off a
large tree. It is not closed in at either end, and being
heavier than water will sink very easily; indeed, it is
more difficult to balance than a racing skiff, yet we
saw an Indian man, his wife, and little girl in one,
with chattels as well. The woman had her face
tattooed with blue bars, and she and the little girl had
on rough garments, while the man wore a skimpy loin-
cloth and a very sporting cap that he had probably
acquired from some passing boat in exchange for
game. This Indian was anxious to sell us something.
He had several plucked birds and some fish. What-
ever the size or worth of the thing we pointed out he
always answered Three shillings ; in fact, they
were the only two English words he uttered, and
probably the only two he knew. I bought a sun-bird
from him, a charming little creature with large deli-
cately marked wings of red, black, and brown feathers.



He looked very miserable at first, as he had been shot
through one shoulder; but after several days of sun-
ning himself, which he did by spreading out his wings
and rocking gracefully in the quaintest manner, his
appearance brightened up considerably. I loved
following the patterns on his wings, as he had them
spread out in the sun; the lines were continued from
one feather to another, making perfect circles and
tracings of shining black. It is a miracle that each
feather, springing from its own separate little cell,
should bear the continuation of the markings of its
neighbour. When the sun-bird was half tame he flew
off the boat into the water; we caught him again
easily, but the poor little thing never recovered, and
died of cold or shock or disappointment at not having
escaped. I put him in a little closed Indian basket
and hung him high up on the trees.
After that we often saw Indians gliding silently along
in the black shade of the banks, or sitting motionless
fishing. They faded into the background, with their
golden-brown skins and black hair, almost as com-
pletely\as the birds and animals.
Above Tiboku-the last rapids-we were in the
diamond country, and nearly every day passed a camp.
Occasionally there was a boat-load of negroes at our
breakfast camps, and sometimes one would slouch
over to me, and pulling out from his pocket a cartridge
case with a cork stopper, he would empty a little
cascade of diamonds into his hand for my inspection :
" dimarns they call them. Everywhere that word
permeated the air: dimars," murmured and whis-

pered in a tense undertone; dimarns introduced
into fierce arguments; dimarns" yelled from
group to group, or across the river to a passing
boat, until the river, the jungle, the whole atmos-
phere seemed to ring with that alluring word-
" dimarns."
On the twenty-first day we reached Buckcanister,
the first bush store. The clearings where these
isolated stores stand are very picturesque, with their
few great pale-barked trees still standing, and a vista
of the cool, dark forest beyond the sun-drenched camp.
The logies are generally thatched with manicold
palm leaves, and the stores themselves have the same
attractive roofing, while the walls are of interlaced
saplings. The pork-knockers go to these stores to sell
their diamonds or exchange them for food. Owing to
the tremendous difficulty of freighting the food up-
river it is at least two hundred per cent. more expensive
than in Georgetown. There is a great feeling of
romance about these places, set as they are so far from
civilization, in the heart of the primeval forest. From
them men set out to take a gambler's chance looking
for diamonds in the mysterious, unexplored back-
dam," as any part of the forest away from the camp is
called; to them they return with their finds,
getting what money or goods they can for them.
There every one is on the alert, as a matter of
course, to cheat and swindle when and where he
There were four men of the same name in the boat,
and two of them had a deadly hatred for each other.

One evening just before dinner I was startled from my
tent by sudden wild yells of rage from both men as
they flung them at each other across the length of the
camp. I don't know what had upset them, I expect
they had both suddenly realized how they hated each
other. Their "contention" ran something like
this :
You bad man. Me cut you up."
"Yah! Yah! "
You no live another day. Me cut you up into
little bits."
"Yah! Yah! YahI"
These senseless yells had a maddening effect on his
adversary, who, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, rushed
forward, threatening murder with his bush-knife. A
fight was imminent, and both, with knives held tight,
crouched for an attack. Major Blake heard the
disturbance, and came from his tent just in time to
come between them. He talked firmly to them, and
after a little they were persuaded to return to their
hammocks, but not before they assured each other
that the cutting up would take place first thing
in the morning. Before dawn, shortly after the camp
was roused, yells of rage rang through the camp once
more. The two men were rushing at each other; one
great negro had the huge six foot bow paddle raised
above his head ready to strike, while the other dashed
forward brandishing his knife. They made a wild
picture in the flickering light of the breakfast fires,
with their gleaming white teeth and rage-distorted,
black faces. Major Blake hurried to the scene of

action, and drawing his revolver, he vowed he
would shoot them both if they did not drop their
weapons immediately. This cooled their passion,
and after a moment's hesitation, they both returned
to their breakfast fires in an extreme state of
Some of the pork-knockers were very troublesome,
so we decided to put them off at the next bush store
landing; they were quite pleased to be dropped, as
the distant Illoma was several days' journey from the
nearest store; they had to be carefully watched as
pork-knockers feel justified in stealing everything they
That night we camped on a deserted clearing on a
hill that stood at the mouth of the Kurupung Creek;
the clearing was on a very high bank that over-topped
even the trees around. Our tents faced the river and
as I lay in bed I could see a great stretch of the black
Mazaruni, now glittering silver under the full moon
-sometimes broken into shining rings by the leaping
of a large fish.
At this camp one of the men caught the strangest
fish I have ever seen. It was like the legless body of
a leopard crushed flat; it was scaleless, and its skin
was spotted black and yellow. Its greenish eyes were
set slanting in the flat head, and it had feelers that
were exactly like long whiskers; it was a young fish,
but it weighed sixty-five pounds.
Next day we started off on the last few days of the
journey. Most of the mining is done in the Kurupung,
and we saw no more boats except one or two wood-

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