CHAPTER XXVII. TO SUEZ.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck; boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Tuesday, April 17th. - The breeze still continued and freshened, and we sailed along pleasantly before it, finding it a great relief to be rid of the thud and beat of the engine. There is no vibration, but the noise is unpleasant. About eleven o'clock we passed the island of Perim, a most desolate-looking place. I do not wonder that officers so much dislike being quartered there. It is an important position though, and is shortly to be strengthened, when water-tanks will be built, and attempts made to cultivate the soil. At present there does not appear to be a blade of vegetation, and on the side we passed, between the island and the coast of Arabia, nothing is to be seen but the little white lighthouse and the path leading up to it. On the southern side there is a very fair harbour and a moderate town. On the shore all round the island turtles are caught at the season when they land to deposit their eggs. To pass the island of Perim we sailed through the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, or 'Gate of Tears,' thus called on account of the numerous wrecks which took place there in former years. Once through the straits, we were fairly in the Red Sea. The colour of the Red Sea is certainly the bluest of ultramarines. In the afternoon the town of Mocha Yamen, celebrated alike for its breed of Arab horses and its coffee, was visible from the masthead. It is a large white town, full of cupolas and minarets, surrounded with green as far as irrigation extends, and looking like a pearl set in emeralds on the margin of the deep blue sea against a background of red and yellow sand-mountains. Later in the afternoon we passed Great and Little Hamish, where the P. and O. boat, 'Alma,' was wrecked some fifteen years ago, and during the night sailed by Jebel Zibayar and Tukar.
Wednesday, April 18th. - In the morning, at daylight, we were off Jebel Teir, Mussawa Island, Annesley Bay lying 60 miles to the west. Our position was about 60 miles to the south-west of Mussawa Zoulia, where the expedition under Lord Napier of Magdala landed in 1867. At noon we had sailed 221 miles, a most unexpected run in the Red Sea. In the afternoon it fell calm, but the wind freshened again, and we went on sailing until after midnight.
Thursday, April 19th. - We commenced steaming at 1 a.m., stopped, however, at 5 a.m., and sailed all day. Yesterday we were surrounded by some beautiful blue birds, who hovered about us and settled at intervals on the masts and yards. During the night two were caught napping by the men, and in the course of to-day two more, hotly pursued by a hawk, took refuge on board and were also captured. One was given to me. It appears to be a very beautiful kind of jay, with feathers of the most brilliant shades of blue. The men have killed their birds for the sake of the skins, but I mean to try and keep mine alive. At Colombo several birds and two curiously starred tortoises were added to our collection; and we took on board at Aden a gazelle, a black cockatoo, and a green monkey.
We passed Souakim to-day, the port of Nubia. It is about 275 miles, or 25 days' camel-journey, from thence to Berber on the Nile. The road passes through Korib, and among fine red granite and black basalt mountains, 4,000 feet high. We left one of the firemen, Tom Dollar, behind at Aden by mistake, and only found out yesterday that we had done so. It appears that he has a brother living there, whom he was most anxious to go and see directly the anchor was let go, in the morning. Unfortunately, he did not speak to us on the subject. He had never been in anything but a regular steamer before, and could not believe it possible that the 'Sunbeam' could spread her wings and be off without any preliminary 'fire-worshipping,' I am very sorry for the poor man, as he has left all his clothes and the wages he had earned on board the P. and O. steamer behind him. We must send them back from Suez, and telegraph to some one to look out for him. The heat is intense, and we all sleep on deck at night; the sunrises and sunsets are magnificent.
Friday, April 20th. - A little hotter still; there is no wind at all, and we are obliged to steam. In the morning we passed to the southward of Jeddo, the port of Mecca. Unfortunately it was so hazy that we could not distinguish anything whatever of the town or country, only a line of mountains rearing their heads above the clouds. We had hoped to be at Suez early on Sunday, but now I fear we shall not arrive until Monday.
Saturday, April 21st. - Hotter and still hotter every day, says the thermometer, and so we say also. Everybody told us these would be our two hottest days, and certainly the prediction has been verified. We did not see a single ship all day, but in the afternoon passed Zambo, the port of Medina. A little before midnight we made the light on the Daedalus shoal on the starboard bow.