Chapter IV. The Cruise along Shore - The Granite Pillar of Kinsembo.
On August 22nd we left Loanda, and attacked the 180 miles separating it from the Congo mouth. Steaming along shore we enjoyed the vanishing perspective of the escarpment disappearing in the misty distance. The rivers Bengo, Dande, and Onze are denoted by densely wooded fissures breaking the natural sea-wall, and, as usual in West Africa, these lines are the favourite sites for settlements. The Onze or the Lifune of Mazula Bay - which the Hydrographic Chart (republished March 18, 1869) changes into "River Mazulo," and makes the mouth of the "River Onzo" - is chosen by Bowdich and writers of his day as the northern boundary of Angola, greatly to the disgust of the Portuguese, whose pretensions extend much farther north. Volumes of daily smoke and
048 - - nightly flame suggest the fires of St. John lighted by the goatherds of Tenerife. They greatly excite the gallant "Griffons," who everywhere see slaver-signals, and the system is old upon this coast as the days of Hanno and Herodotus. At this season they are an infallible sign that the dries are ending; the women burn the capim (tall grass) for future forage, and to manure the land for manioc, maize, and beans. The men seek present "bush-beef:" as the flames blow inland, they keep to seaward, knowing that game will instinctively and infallibly break cover in that direction, and they have learned the "wrinkle" of the prairie traveller to make a "little Zoar" in case of accidental conflagration.
At 2 P.M. on the 24th we were abreast of Ambriz, an important settlement, where a tall red and white cliff, with a background of broken blue hill, showed a distinct "barra," or river mouth, not to be confounded with the English "bar." The north point of the Rio dos Ambres, of the "green" or "raw copal," is low and mangrove-grown, throwing into high relief its sister formation, Ambriz Head or Strong-Tide Corner, which stands up gaunt and bluff.
A little to the south-east lies the fort, flying the argent and azure flag, and garrisoned by some 200 men; five large whitewashed houses and the usual bunch of brown huts compose the settlement. This nest of slavers was temporarily occupied in May 15, 1855. The Governor-General, Senor Coelho de Amaral, reinforced by 1,000 soldiers from home, and levying 2,500 "Empacasseiros,"[FN#3] embarked from Loanda in the "Dorn Fernando" frigate, landed here, once more burnt the barracoons, and built the fort. In 1856 a force was sent under Colonel Francisco Salles Ferreira, to re-open a communication with the Bembe mines of copper and malachite. That energetic officer marched on Sao Salvador, the old capital of Congo, and crowned Dom Pedro V., whose predecessor died the year before. He there fell a victim to fever, and his second in command, Major Andrade, was nearly cut off on his return. Shortly afterwards the natives blockaded, but were driven from, Bembe, and they attempted in vain to carry Ambriz.
The far-famed copper mines were granted to the Portuguese in the sixteenth century by the King of Congo. They were the property of his feudatory, the (black) "Marquess of Pemba" (Bembe): Barbot mentions their being mistaken for gold, and feels himself bound to warn his readers that the metal was brought "from Sondy, not from Abyssinia or the empire of Prester John." They lost all their mystery about A.D. 1855, when they were undertaken by an English company, Messrs. John Taylor Co. of London, after agreement with the concessionists, Messrs. Francisco A. Flores and Pinto Perez of Loanda. Between Ambriz and Bembe, on the Lunguila (Lufula?) River, and 770 feet above sea-level, the Angolan government built four presidios, Matuta, Quidilla, Quileala, and Quimalenco. But the garrison was not strong enough to keep the country quiet, and the climate proved deadly to white men. The 24 sappers and 60 linesmen extracted nearly 4,000 lbs. of gangue per diem, when the English manager and his assistant, with four of the ten miners died, and the plant was destroyed by fire. I was assured that this line (Ambriz-Bembe) was an easy adit to the interior, and so far the information is confirmed by the late Livingstone-Congo Expedition under Lieutenant Grandy.
In 1863 the coast was still in confusion. The Portuguese claimed too much seaboard according to the British: the British government ignored the just claims of Portugal, and the political bickerings were duly embittered by a demoralized race of English traders, who perpetually applied for cruisers, complaining that the troops interfered with their trade. Even in the seventeenth century the Portuguese had asserted their rights to the Reino do Congo, extending between the great stream of that name and the Ambriz, also called the Loge and Doce River. In the older maps - for instance, Lopes de Lima - the Loge is an independent stream placed north of the Ambriz River; in fact, it represents the Rue or Lue River of Kinsembo, which is unknown to our charts. Within the Doce and the Cuanza lies the Reino de Angola, of which, they say, the Congo was a dependency, and south of the Cuanza begins the Reino de Benguela. The Government-General of Loanda thus contained four provinces-Congo (now reduced to Ambriz), Angola, Benguela, and Mossamedes. The English government has now agreed to recognize the left or southern bank of the Ambriz as the northern frontier of Angola and of Portuguese rule.
Passing the river mouth, we were alongside of independent lands, and new to us. Boobies (Pelecanus sula), gulls, petrels, and men- of-war birds (P. aquila), flew about the ship; according to the experts, they were bound for fetid marshes which outlie the Loge River. Before nightfall we were off the Lue or Rue River of Kinsembo, which disputes with Landana (not "Landano"[FN#4]) the palm of bad landing. At this season boats are