SAILING FOR SENEGAL
THE ISLAND OF MADEIRA.—SAILING FOR SENEGAL.—A HUGE SHOAL OF PORPOISES.—THEY SWIM SO
FAST.—HARPOONING PORPOISES.—REJOICING ON BOARD.—HOW PORPOISE MEAT TASTES.
 SOME years ago I visited the beautiful island of Madeira, where we had come to revictual after a most severe storm,
under the violence of which our ship almost foundered. Our boats had been carried away, the livestock had been
washed off by the waves, our provisions had been partly destroyed, and for a few hours we were in danger of
going to the bottom of the ocean. It was the first great storm I had experienced at sea, and the waves
appeared frightful to me, for I was no sailor at all.
How beautiful was that island of Madeira, with its hills covered with grape-vines, and trees bearing all kinds
of fruits. Bananas, pears, apples, chestnuts, walnuts, oranges, lemons, and grapes were to be found in great
abundance. In fact, almost, if not all the fruits belonging to the temperate zone seem to be there, with
others belonging to tropical climates.
Our vessel was called The Roland, commanded by a rough but good-hearted captain. I made great friends
with a sailor by the name of John, who was always ready, when off duty, to do any thing for me.
For several days after leaving the island, when ready to continue our voyage, the breeze was fair and the sky
 clear. Only a few white, fleecy clouds were tossed about by the wind. The sun shone upon the sails of our ship
all day, and made them appear of a snowy whiteness. The beautiful blue sky seemed to give its color to the
sea, which appeared more blue by the contrast of the white caps of its gentle waves. How I enjoyed the breeze
as it blew upon my face! I could feel that it made me strong. What an appetite it gave me. In the evening I
would watch the wake of the ship, which was like a line of fire.
The Roland was a good sailer, and many a time we were going at the rate of ten miles an hour. We
were bound for West Africa. The Senegal country was the first land we intended to put our feet upon after
leaving the vessel. A few days brought us to the leeward of the island of Teneriffe. I shall never forget the
time when I got a sight of the high-towering and snowy peak. It was in the morning. Not a cloud hung over the
land. The island, for about a third of its height, was covered with snow. It rose before us like an enchanted
land—a land which seemed to rise so high that it looked as if it wanted to kiss the sky. It rose right
from the sea to a height of more than 12,000 feet.
It was a sight never to be forgotten. To this day I have this island before me. I remember well that when the
shades of evening cast their gloom over the sea, this tall, giant-like island appeared to me like a ghost
gradually fading away from my sight. My eyes were riveted upon the spot, though I could see nothing, till the
captain called to me, "What are you doing there? You seem as still as a statue." He was right. I was thinking,
when he awoke me from my deep thoughts, of the
 tremendous volcanic outburst that must have taken place to raise the island from the bottom of the
sea—what a powerful uprising of the fiery elements below; for Teneriffe is entirely of volcanic origin.
As the island faded from sight, I knew that I should probably never see it again, and I silently said good-by
to it. That very same night a gale of wind blew, which made the ship roll and pitch in a way that was not
comfortable. Happily, the storm lasted only a few hours.
My heart, during the voyage, was bounding with joy, for I was going to a country which I had never seen, and
of which I had read so much. Senegal was to be one point we were to visit. We were going to sail along the
coast which forms the boundary of the great Sahara. The navigation was dangerous, and woe to the poor
shipwrecked mariner who is cast upon that inhospitable coast.
I shall see the wild Arab, or Moor; I shall ride on the back of a camel; I shall get a glimpse at the huge
baobab-tree, and probably meet with all kinds of adventures.
I feel in high spirits. The voyage has thus far been prosperous. The wind has been fair a great part of the
time. The health of the crew is good, and all the damage the great storm has done to the ship has been
repaired; so you will not wonder that I feel happy and hopeful.
One afternoon a dead calm overtook us. There was not a ripple on the water, which was as smooth as a mirror,
but the heavy swells of the sea made the vessel roll in the most fearful manner, for the sails were of no use
in steadying her. They only flapped and flapped against
 the mast with such force that I really thought the whole rigging, with mast, would break down. Happily, every
thing on board was lashed carefully to the bulwarks or to the iron rings in the deck, which were fastened to
the beams underneath.
The rays of the sun were pouring down upon us with great force.
When thus becalmed, the vessel became unmanageable, the rudder was of no use whatever, and the poor ship was
literally swinging round and round in a circle.
We did not like it at all. We knew that we might be becalmed for several days, and the prospect of a fair
passage to Senegambia became blue as the sea. The captain hoped, however, that after sunset a breeze would
spring up. We were disappointed. After sundown it did not come. I was tired out, for it was impossible for a
man to stand up. I had to hold fast to a rope in order not to be flung to the other side of the vessel head
That night it was impossible for any body to sleep, and as for eating at the table, I gave it up; but I
managed to eat what I could, in a very uncomfortable manner, on deck. I can tell you that in such a time we
did not care for hot coffee or soup.
Oh glad was I when the morning came. At sunrise a light breeze greeted us, and soon after we were under good
headway again. I was sitting at the bow of the vessel, holding fast to a rope with one hand, and watching the
vessel as she went through the water, which she seemed to cut in two. Oh, how beautiful is a fine morning at
sea in that region! The tropical breeze was fanning us, and seemed to come from balmy lands to
wel-  come me. The sky was blue, and the water seemed still bluer than the sky; and the sun, as it shone upon the
sea, seemed to say, "I am the source of all life in this world." The sailors, meantime, were busy washing the
deck, in which the captain took great pride, it was so white and clean. The cook was busy preparing breakfast,
and every thing was alive on board the good ship Roland.
While sitting at the bow, as I have described, I suddenly spied ahead of us an immense number of porpoises,
swimming and jumping out of the water, and seeming to be migrating to some other region in the ocean. As they
were moving from east to west, they were going to cross our bows, and I shouted, "Captain, porpoises are ahead
of us!" He gave a look, and answered, "That is so—that is so; let us see if we can not kill one for
dinner." The porpoises were moving along like a vast army, thousands and thousands of them together. Onward
they swam, stopping for nothing in their migration, every now and then springing clear out of the water. And
how fast they did swim! I believe the porpoise to be one of the fastest fishes in the sea.
"Get the harpoon ready!" shouted the captain. "John, take the harpoon, go under the bowsprit, and harpoon one
of these fellows if you can."
"Captain," I shouted, "let me have a harpoon too; I must try to harpoon one of these porpoises."
"If you try," said he, "you must be tied fast with a cord round your waist, for, as sure as you live, if you
are not made secure with a rope, you will drop into the water, and that will be the end of you. John," said
he, "fasten a rope round your waist also." It was hardly said when the captain had a rope round me, as he
want-  ed to make sure himself that I was safe. John had made himself secure. My harpoon was a real nice one, which
had done good service before in harpooning porpoises, and had also gone into the bodies of a good many sharks.
By the time we were ready we were in the midst of the porpoises. They did not seem to be frightened at all by
the ship, and they swam so fast that they seemed to skim through the water. Some of them must have really gone
at the rate of fifteen or twenty miles an hour. I was perfectly amazed. They must have thought our ship was a
big floating rock, for many would swim round and round us, and that when we were going at the rate of nine
knots (miles) an hour, and seemed to make no effort to accomplish the feat. They would pass under our bowsprit
with the rapidity of an express train. Three times John had sent his harpoon at them, and three times he had
missed them. I had sent mine twice, and, of course, I had missed.
"John," said I, we must harpoon one of these fellows, for I hear they are good to eat." "I bet they are," said
John; "the liver is splendid eating, cooked with onions. The meat has no taste of fish, and looks somewhat
like beef." This splendid prospect of a good meal made me feel more than ever that one of these porpoises must
be harpooned. I was tired of pork and salt beef, and then I had never tasted of a porpoise, and wanted to know
if they were really good. Some of them did not swim so fast as others. See, one is coming! John's eyes are
upon it, and his harpoon is ready. I am watching; I am ready too. Down goes John's harpoon; mine goes down at
the same time. I have struck a porpoise! The captain, who by this time is by me, seizes the line
 of the harpoon. The blood of the porpoise darkens the blue sea as we slowly draw him in over the side of the
John, too, has harpooned a big fellow, and the crew comes to assist in hauling him in.
There is a desperate struggle from the porpoises. It is of no avail. They are on deck. I am wild with
excitement. I shout, "I have harpooned a porpoise!" I really thought I had done a wonderful thing. This
porpoise measured over six feet, and what a beautiful color!
 I really do not think it belongs to the same species which we have at home, for I do not remember having seen
a single specimen near the African coast similar to this. These are always met in the middle ocean. The color
on the back was grayish-black, while the sides were somewhat grayer, and the abdomen was whitish. It must have
weighed two or three hundred pounds.
There was great rejoicing on board, for we were to have plenty of food. The cook came with his huge knife to
help the sailors, and the two poor porpoises were soon cut to pieces. They had no fat whatever. The flesh was
red, and not unlike that of beef. The liver, being considered by the sailors as the best part of the fish, was
given to the captain.
For dinner we had porpoise steak, and it was not bad at all. Sailors being fond of onions, the steaks were
surrounded with them. I did not care, as there were no ladies on board; as for the liver, it was perfectly
exquisite. We had a glass of good wine after dinner that day. The sailors had a jolly time, and ate ad
libitum of the flesh.
In the evening they felt quite jolly, and smoked their pipes with great delight, and sang a great many songs.
I felt very happy to see these good sailors enjoying themselves. These poor fellows have a hard life, and we
do not know how much we are under obligations to them for fetching to us from distant climes many of the
luxuries we enjoy.
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