THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 204.
Notes by an Officer of H.M.S. Ulysses on a survey of Trinidad 1803.
Source :-Public Record Office. State Papers Admiralty.
Published by the courtesy of the Master of the Rolls and the
Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
January to July, 1803.
The Island of Trinidad was surveyed by a Spanish Naval
Officer in the year 1793 but he had more important work
to perform in Mexico so that not much attentionwas bestowed
on Trinidad. Captain Mallet's map was made from this
work and not from actual survey. Some of his rivers and
branches are non-existent and his division into lots is fanciful
and not based on the character of the ground itself.
"The foot of the mountains is here some distance from the
sea leaving a well cultivated plain at the southeast part of
which the town stands. It is large, regularly built, chiefly
of wood and is rapidly increasing. The roads near it are
extremely good, well laid out and bounded by hedges
of lime bushes, in some parts interspersed with rows of
Immediately to windward of it is a vast swamp of some
miles extent, chiefly overgrown with mangrove trees. The
air which is blown from it to Port-of-Spain is extremely
injurious but cutting down and clearing it unless by very
small pieces annually would be a dangerous experiment
as nothing proves more fatal in the West Indies than the
effluvium of the putrefying vegetable matter on newly
The Officer mentions Chaguaramas as the site of a strong
military and naval base. Monsieur Dert then owned the
estates in the main valley.
On passing through the Bocas, he refers to the wreck of
H.M.S. Dromedary which took place on a dark night as the
navigating Officers were complete strangers to the place.
In the Maracas Bay the land is the property of a Captain
in the Spanish Navy.
The valley of L'Escouvas is extensive with a good
stream of water in it. A considerable part of it is cleared
and some laid out in sugar. It is the property of the late
Spanish Governor, Don Chacon whose merit and friendly
disposition to the English makes it a subject of regret that
the persecution which he has suffered from the French
influence for the unavoidable capture of this Island, has
rendered his funds quite inadequate to the expenses of so
large a plantation in its infancy. It is consequently in a very
From Las Cuevas to Toco there are no inhabitants. He
found a few Carib Indians at Grande Riviere fishing. They
were very indolent and lazy.
"There are two villages of Caribs in this part of the
Island. One at Toco and the other at Cumana but their
numbers put together probably do not exceed three hundred
and they are on the decrease.
Their loss will not be felt, their indolence being extreme.
The greatest part of their time is spent in swinging in their
hammocks which the slavery of their wives enables them
to do, as all the work is done by the women, planting the
bananas, getting shell fish from the rocks and cooking for
their lazy husbands. Sometimes indeed the husbands will
condescend to go out in their canoes fishing and even take
the trouble to go to Port-of-Spain but it is not very easy to
get a boat's crew of them for that purpose as they find it less
troublesome to depend for their victuals on the labour of
These we repeatedly saw passing our tents with great
baskets of shell fish supported upon their backs by a band
pressing over their foreheads; men sometimes with them
but never sharing their labour.
Very few of either sex have any covering except a small
bit of cloth before and another behind. The women make
use of their lower lip for a purpose to which it does not seem
extremely well adapted namely to stick pins in. They are
put through holes in the lip and hang by their heads, the
points being outwards and if wanted, are drawn out by the
teeth with great readiness.
But their principal finery consists in hanging round their
necks as many strings of beads as they can get. They have
a custom also of tying narrow bandages of cotton as tight
as possible below the knees and above the ankles. They
never smile on any occasion and seldom speak except when
animated with Vico, a strange beverage which they make
by putting all the rum they can get into a quantity of banana
juice and coconut water.
Upon the whole I think them the most useless and
disgusting wretches I ever saw. Nor are they so harmless
as they are generally supposed to be.
One night while we were at Toco, a large pirogue manned
with these people and bringing a French lady, her niece,
an English gentleman and a Negress from Port-of-Spain,
was wrecked here and all the passengers drowned. It seems
that the chief Carib supposing them to be asleep, determined
not to neglect an opportunity so favourable to open a trunk
and rob them of some money but Madam Gaudet being
awake and detecting him, he leapt overboard and calling
his people to follow, left his passengers to inevitable destruction
amongst the breakers which there lay more than a quarter
of a mile from the shore.
There can be little doubt but that the Caribs might have
saved them all as they got on shore themselves without any
injury and brought one of their own people who was stone
blind as well as committing the barbarous mockery of putting
the poor Negress upon a rock and bidding her wait there
until they should return for her in the morning".
When off the Manzanilla Point they saw a ship at anchor
off Oropouche. She was evidently in trouble as the surf
was breaking right over her. They could not reach her by
boat so they landed and went down by the shore so as to
come opposite to the ship and to aid her. They found that
she was the Kate from Africa with slaves. She had
struck the shore at one in the morning; after making a raft
they had tried to reach the shore but only three seamen were
able to land while another six seamen had been drowned.
The ship was evidently breaking up.
Mr. Coulson, the gunner and Jones, a seaman of the
Brig Advice, managed to swim out and get on board and four
hours afterwards the ship had broken to pieces. Mr. Good
the Master, could not persuade the slaves to leave the ship.
However seeing people and fires on shore ready and having
seen people swim to and fro several times, most were eventually
got to shore with the Master last. Shortly afterwards the
ship went to pieces. Two hundred and twenty were saved
while five whites and thirteen slaves were drowned.
The Brig Advice took as many as possible to Port-of-Spain
while the rest camped at Manzanilla Point. All the slaves
who were left there, endeavoured to escape but hunger and
the impenetrable woods drove them back in a few days
while others were caught by the Caribs.
On July 27th ihey left L'Ebranche and went to Mayaro
as the Brig Advice had returned. There was no settlement
until they reached Mayaro, 30 miles to the south. The Mayaro
beach is well settled by people almost all French. These
French people until now have only cultivated cotton but
they were then converting three estates from cotton
to sugar. These French people are of' respectable families
who had been robbed by the republican rage ; they all had
a sincere attachment to the English Government.
This however is not so at Guayaguayare where there are
a number of French republicans growing cotton. About
two miles from the shore of the Bay in the spring of the year,
a short eruption of flame and smoke breaks out through these
throwing up a quantity of pitch with which the coast is after-
wards strewed. A few miles from Guayaguayare among
the woods is a pond whose surface is covered with liquid tar.
It is 55 miles to Icacos and there is no settlement along
the whole coast.
To Commodore Hood.