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- Equinoctial Regions of America - 30/104 -

(* It has been long imagined, that the language of the Guanches had no analogy with the living tongues; but since the travels of Hornemann, and the ingenious researches of Marsden and Venturi, have drawn the attention of the learned to the Berbers, who, like the Sarmatic tribes, occupy an immense extent of country in the north of Africa, we find that several Guanche words have common roots with words of the Chilha and Gebali dialects. We shall cite, for instance, the words:


Column 1: Word.

Column 2: In Guanche.

Column 3: In Berberic.

Heaven : Tigo : Tigot. Milk : Aho : Acho. Barley : Temasen : Tomzeen. Basket : Carianas : Carian. Water : Aenum : Anan.

I doubt whether this analogy is a proof of a common origin; but it is an indication of the ancient connexion between the Guanches and Berbers, a tribe of mountaineers, in which the ancient Numidians, Getuli, and Garamanti are confounded, and who extend themselves from the eastern extremity of Atlas by Harutsh and Fezzan, as far as the oasis of Siwah and Augela. The natives of the Canary Islands called themselves Guanches, from guan, man; as the Tonguese call themselves bye, and tongui, which have the same signification as guan. Besides the nations who speak the Berberic language are not all of the same race; and the description which Scylax gives, in his Periplus, of the inhabitants of Cerne, a shepherd people of tall stature and long hair, reminds us of the features which characterize the Canarian Guanches.)

The greater attention we direct to the study of languages in a philosophical point of view, the more we must observe that no one of them is entirely distinct. The language of the Guanches would appear still less so, had we any data respecting its mechanism and grammatical construction; two elements more important than the form of words, and the identity of sounds. It is the same with certain idioms, as with those organized beings that seem to shrink from all classification in the series of natural families. Their isolated state is merely apparent; for it ceases when, on embracing a greater number of objects, we come to discover the intermediate links. Those learned enquirers who trace Egyptians wherever there are mummies, hieroglyphics, or pyramids, will imagine perhaps that the race of Typhon was united to the Guanches by the Berbers, real Atlantes, to whom belong the Tibboes and the Tuarycks of the desert: but this hypothesis is supported by no analogy between the Berberic and Coptic languages, which are justly considered as remnants of the ancient Egyptian.

The people who have succeeded the Guanches are descended from the Spaniards, and in a more remote degree from the Normans. Though these two races have been exposed during three centuries past to the same climate, the latter is distinguished by the fairer complexion. The descendants of the Normans inhabit the valley of Teganana, between Punta de Naga and Punta de Hidalgo. The names of Grandville and Dampierre are still pretty common in this district. The Canarians are a moral, sober, and religious people, of a less industrious character at home than in foreign countries. A roving and enterprising disposition leads these islanders, like the Biscayans and Catalonians, to the Philippines, to the Ladrone Islands, to America, and wherever there are Spanish settlements, from Chile and La Plata to New Mexico. To them we are in a great measure indebted for the progress of agriculture in those colonies. The whole archipelago does not contain 160,030 inhabitants, and the Islenos are perhaps more numerous in the new continent than in their own country.



We left the road of Santa Cruz on the 25th of June, and directed our course towards South America. We soon lost sight of the Canary Islands, the lofty mountains of which were covered with a reddish vapour. The Peak alone appeared from time to time, as at intervals the wind dispersed the clouds that enveloped the Piton. We felt, for the first time, how strong are the impressions left on the mind from the aspect of those countries situated on the limits of the torrid zone, where nature appears at once so rich, so various, and so majestic. Our stay at Teneriffe had been very short, and yet we withdrew from the island as if it had long been our home.

Our passage from Santa Cruz to Cumana, the most eastern part of the New Continent, was very fine. We cut the tropic of Cancer on the 27th; and though the Pizarro was not a very fast sailer, we made, in twenty days, the nine hundred leagues, which separate the coast of Africa from that of the New Continent. We passed fifty leagues west of Cape Bojador, Cape Blanco, and the Cape Verd islands. A few land birds, which had been driven to sea by the impetuosity of the wind followed us for several days.

The latitude diminished rapidly, from the parallel of Madeira to the tropic. When we reached the zone where the trade-winds are constant, we crossed the ocean from east to west, on a calm sea, which the Spanish sailors call the Ladies' Gulf, el Golfo de las Damas. In proportion as we advanced towards the west, we found the trade-winds fix to eastward.

These winds, the most generally adopted theory of which is explained in a celebrated treatise of Halley,* are a phenomenon much more complicated than most persons admit. (* The existence of an upper current of air, which blows constantly from the equator to the poles, and of a lower current, which blows from the poles to the equator, had already been admitted, as M. Arago has shown, by Hooke. The ideas of the celebrated English naturalist are developed in a Discourse on Earthquakes published in 1686. "I think (adds he) that several phenomena, which are presented by the atmosphere and the ocean, especially the winds, may be explained by the polar currents."--Hooke's Posthumous Works page 364.) In the Atlantic Ocean, the longitude, as well as the declination of the sun, influences the direction and limits of the trade-winds. In the direction of the New Continent, in both hemispheres, these limits extend beyond the tropics eight or nine degrees; while in the vicinity of Africa, the variable winds prevail far beyond the parallel of 28 or 27 degrees. It is to be regretted, on account of the progress of meteorology and navigation, that the changes of the currents of the equinoctial atmosphere in the Pacific are much less known than the variation of these same currents in a sea that is narrower, and influenced by the proximity of the coasts of Guinea and Brazil. The difference with which the strata of air flow back from the two poles towards the equator cannot be the same in every degree of longitude, that is to say, on points of the globe where the continents are of very different breadths, and where they stretch away more or less towards the poles.

It is known, that in the passage from Santa Cruz to Cumana, as in that from Acapulco to the Philippine Islands, seamen are scarcely ever under the necessity of working their sails. We pass those latitudes as if we were descending a river, and we might deem it no hazardous undertaking if we made the voyage in an open boat. Farther west, on the coast of Santa Martha and in the Gulf of Mexico, the trade-wind blows impetuously, and renders the sea very stormy.* (* The Spanish sailors call the rough trade-winds at Carthagena in the West Indies los brisotes de Santa Martha; and in the Gulf of Mexico, las brizas pardas. These latter winds are accompanied with a grey and cloudy sky.)

The wind fell gradually the farther we receded from the African coast: it was sometimes smooth water for several hours, and these short calms were regularly interrupted by electrical phenomena. Black thick clouds, marked by strong outlines, rose on the east, and it seemed as if a squall would have forced us to hand our topsails; but the breeze freshened anew, there fell a few large drops of rain, and the storm dispersed without our hearing any thunder. Meanwhile it was curious to observe the effect of several black, isolated, and very low clouds, which passed the zenith. We felt the force of the wind augment or diminish progressively, according as small bodies of vesicular vapour approached or receded, while the electrometers, furnished with a long metallic rod and lighted match, showed no change of electric tension in the lower strata of the air. It is by help of these squalls, which alternate with dead calms, that the passage from the Canary Islands to the Antilles, or southern coast of America, is made in the months of June and July.

Some Spanish navigators have lately proposed going to the West Indies and the coasts of Terra Firma by a course different from that which was taken by Columbus. They advise, instead of steering directly to the south in search of the trade-winds, to change both latitude and longitude, in a diagonal line from Cape St. Vincent to America. This method, which shortens the way, cutting the tropic nearly twenty degrees west of the point where it is commonly cut by pilots, was several times successfully adopted by Admiral Gravina. That able commander, who fell at the battle of Trafalgar, arrived in 1802 at St. Domingo, by the oblique passage, several days before the French fleet, though orders of the court of Madrid would have forced him to enter Ferrol with his squadron, and stop there some time.

This new system of navigation shortens the passage from Cadiz to Cumana one-twentieth; but as the tropic is attained only at the longitude of forty degrees, the chance of meeting with contrary winds, which blow sometimes from the south, and at other times from the south-west, is more unfavourable. In the old system, the disadvantage of making a longer passage is compensated by the certainty of catching the trade-winds in a shorter space of time, and keeping them the greater part of the passage. At the time of my abode in the Spanish colonies, I witnessed the arrival of several merchant-ships, which from the fear of privateers had chosen the oblique course, and had had a very short passage.

Nothing can equal the beauty and mildness of the climate of the equinoctial region on the ocean. While the trade wind blew strongly, the thermometer kept at 23 or 24 degrees in the day, and at 22 or 22.5 degrees during the night. The charm of the lovely climates bordering on the equator, can be fully enjoyed only by those who have undertaken the voyage from Acapulco or the coasts of Chile to Europe in a very rough season. What a contrast between the tempestuous seas of the northern latitudes and the regions where the tranquillity of nature is never disturbed! If the return from

Equinoctial Regions of America - 30/104

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