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rock, rising from twelve hundred to fourteen hundred feet above the sea; is about three miles in length, and from one-half to three-quarters of a mile in width, and is joined to the mainland by a low sandy isthmus, about a mile and a half in length. On the north side, fronting the isthmus, the rock is almost perpendicular, the east and south sides are also steep and rugged; but on the west side it slopes downward to a fine bay, nine miles long by four miles and a half broad. On this slope lies the town, containing a mixed population of sixteen thousand, and above rise the principal ramparts of the rocky fortress, which is generally garrisoned by from three to four thousand troops. The ordnance consists of more than seven hundred cannons fit for service.
Gibraltar derives its name from Tarif, the Moorish general, by whom it was taken from the Spaniards in 711–Gibel Tarif, the Mountain of Tarif. It remained in the hands of the Moors till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when it was recovered by the Spaniards. It was retaken by the Moors in 1333. In 1462 it finally fell into the hands of the Christians, after having been possessed by their adversaries for seven hundred and fortyeight years. On the 24th of July 1704 it was captured by the English, who fell on it suddenly, and stormed it—the garrison amounting to no more than one hundred and fifty men, the batteries mounting one hundred guns. From this time till nearly the end of the century, numberless attempts to wrest it from us have been made by the French and Spaniards, but in vain. During the late war, it seemed to be considered' idle to attempt to disturb us!
The town of Algesiras, a place of considerable importance, and remarkable as that at which the Moors first landed in Spain, lies across the bay about five and a half miles off, while the village of St Roque, at the upper end of the bay, is conspicuous on the slope. The high blue mountains of Granada fill up the background.
The winter climate of Gibraltar is extremely delightful. In December, the temperature varies from 60 to 75 degrees, clouds shading the piercing rays of the sun. In summer, it is occasionally extremely hot, especially when the wind blows from the African shore. The appearance presented by Gibraltar, viewed from the harbour, is peculiarly striking after nightfall
. The numberless lights, seen in all their brightness through the open windows, look as if issuing from apertures admitting to some bright cave or furnace in the centre of the rock, whose huge black mass towers on high, the houses in the town being, undistinguishable in the darkness. In summer, the surface of the sea is occasionally so closely covered with luminous particles, as to seem sheeted in phosphorus. The slightest ripple increases the intensity of the light, and the dolphins flash through the water, literally “ moving in light of their own making." In
winter, this in a great measure disappears, the luminosity being confined to a few bright masses which sweep by the ship. I have often taken up bucketsful of water brilliant with luminous particles when stirred, but though I have tried the experiment in a hundred different ways, I have never been so fortunate as to get a sight of the zoophyte or animalcule by which this is given forth, either with the naked eye or glass.
We landed at Gibraltar at noon, and embarked about fire o'clock on the evening of the 10th. Of this time—of which a good deal was made by the more active of our passengers-I was unable to avail myself, being occupied in duties which I could not properly desert. Some of the party provided themselves with mules, and made an interesting excursion over the rock. The view of the African shore from Gibraltar Bay is, towards sunset, peculiarly beautiful—the fortress of Ceuta, standing out purple and red in the setting sun, in mimic rivalry of that on the European shore. One huge mass of mountains, of the Atlas group on the African side, with the Sierras of Andalusia on the Spanish shore, “ fill the mind with beauty” for a long while on leaving
or on approaching Gibraltar. After staying but a few hours, our gallant vessel was again on her course. The weather, unfortunately, was not propitious. On leaving Gibraltar we encountered a heavy gale of wind, which lasted four days. The wind was westerly, and, as is usual in such circumstances, the mercury in the barometer kept rising as the gale increased. When at its height, the column stood at 30-114, and began steadily to descend as the storm abated. How useful is this instrument to the mariner-how faithful its prognostications of storm and calm!
.Pursuing our way up the Mediterranean, the vessel steers direct for Malta, by which we approach the
Áfrican shore. On the 14th we were off Algiers. The bay and town, with the villas around, were plainly visible by the naked eye: we were little more than six miles off. The country adjoining appeared fertile and well-cultivated, and we could see roads, gardens, and enclosures, with fields and vineyards, all looking in good condition. Cape Faroe, and the promontory of the Seven Capes, are jagged, irregular headlands, very distinctly visible. Cape Bon was another headland which came into sight. We likewise passed within piew of the dreary island of Pantellaria, which is evidently the huge tumulus of an extinct volcano. It is about thirty-six miles in circumference, and seems about three thousand feet in height. The ruptured craters and streams of lava are easily traceable, with beds of loose stones hurled down the mountain's side during some of its fiercer explosions. A large mass of cloud, which might readily be mistaken for the smoke of smouldering fires, almost constantly rests on the summit of the mountain. There is a considerable town, of the same name with the island, near the sea-shore on the western slope, and vineyards and gardens
appear scattered about in surprising abundance. It belongs to the king of Sicily, and is used as a penal settlement, whither the Sicilian convicts are sent.
Our coal had been so heavily taxed by the storm, which had only now abated, that we were at one time on the point of making for Tunis. The wind got round upon us, and it is astonishing how rapidly in these seas the swell goes down after a gale. Six hours after it had ceased to blow, the waves were nearly smooth, and the speed of the vessel almost doubled.
We reached Malta at daybreak on the 17th of December, and proceeded to land with as little delay as possible. Had we come in an opposite direction, we should have had to perform a troublesome quarantine. The island of Malta, which now belongs to England, is sixty miles from the nearest point in Sicily, and two hundred from the African shore. It is seventy miles in length, nine in width, and one hundred and sixty in circumference. It attains at one place an elevation of six hundred feet. The climate is fine and healthy, though hot in summer, and suffers occasionally from the sirocco, which blows from the southeast, and occurs chiefly in September. The mean annual temperature is 67 degrees; the variation of the yearly means from 1820 to 1840 was no more than 3 degrees; the extreme range during the year is about 24 degrees.
Malta consists entirely of calcareous rocks, with scarcely any soil, diluvium, or abraded matter. The country has rather an arid appearance, but it produces grapes in abundance, and other fruits. At a distance, the view is rendered lively by the great number of windmills perched on the heights, and employed for grinding corn. The inhabitants speak a language partly Arabic and partly Italian, the former predominating:
The port of Malta consists of two splendid harbours, separated from each other by the narrow promontory called Mount Xiberras. On this stands the capital, Valetta. Marsamuscetta is the name given to the western or quarantine harbour; the other is called Valetta, or the Great Harbour. The entrance to this last is guarded on the one side by the fortress of St Elmo, on the other by that of Ricasoli, both of remarkable strength.' On Fort St Elmo is one of the most brilliant lighthouses in the Mediter
The Great Harbour runs away into numerous creeks and inlets. In one of these is the dockyard, victualling-yard, and arsenal, with a wet-dock just finished, which is said to have cost the government not much under a million sterling. In another is the merchant shipping wet-dock and store-yards. A number of British, American, and French ships of war are commonly at anchor in the port; one British line-of-battle ship, of the largest size, with the admiral's flag on board, being of the number. The vast variety of forms, and diversity of appointments, of the mercantile vessels, especially of those from the Levant, present a most picturesque appearance.
It is seldom the traveller to or from the East can find leisure to examine the whole of the noble sights in or around Malta. There are abundance of excellent " guide-books," of which a supply can at all times be procured from the admirable library of Mr Muir, for those who have leisure and inclination for such things. I shall confine myself to a short notice of those which, during my brief visit now and on a former occasion, I was able to examine.
One of the principal objects of attraction is the cathedral of St John, the patron of the order of the famed Knights of Malta. It was built in 1580. Externally, it is a heavy-looking pile. It has a fine chime of bells, supposed to have been brought from Rhodes, and its internal decorations are rich and beautiful. The floor is mosaic marble pavement, chiefly composed of sepulchral monuments of the knights, whose figures are represented in white marble. The governor now resides in the palace of the Grand Master; it is a fine spacious building, well worthy of attention. The most striking object connected with it is the armoury. It contains ten thousand stand of modern infantry arms, fit for immediate use.
The most attractive portions of its contents are the arms and suits of armour of the middle ages : some of these are beautifully chased, and inlaid with gold. There is a singular piece of ordnance, an eight or ten pounder, made of a moderately strong
tube of sheet-copper, covered over with coils of tarred rope.
gun was really neatly formed, and at first the singular nature of the material of which it was made was not apparent. It seems to have been burst in firing. No great wonder that it should. The library is said, at the time of the expulsion of the knights, to have contained seventy thousand volumes. There are in the palace tables, slabs, vases, and ornaments of various kinds, cut from the marble of Valetta. The fortifications of Malta are most extensive and intricate; they are connected with the harbours; and on looking at their powers of defence, the mind sinks under the conviction that they are impregnable. Fort St Elmo, the most massive of these works, contains accommodation for two thousand men. Few things are more dazzling or trying for the eyes than the rocks and buildings around Malta harbour: they are of an intense yellowishwhite, without one particle of vegetation to relieve them. The waters of the harbour are singularly pure, so that the bottom is distinctly visible to the depth of thirty or forty feet. The Parlettario is the favourite resort for quarantine-bound passengers. It is a long narrow room, near the anchorage, divided by a barrier
, where the gold and silver filigree-work, for which Malta is famous, is sold. Here also are shell cameos, bracelets, and brooches in mosaic, and a vast variety
of bijouterie. The Maltese females are celebrated for the skill and delicacy with which they embroider in gold and coloured silks, as well as for the beauty of the knit silk gloves, &c. which they manufacture; and on these
a good deal of money is usually expended in the Parlettario for the benefit of friends at home.
There is a tradition that, from the time of the visit of St Paul, Malta has been devoid of serpents or other poisonous reptiles. During our stay, we had evidence of the baselessness of the tradition—having seen a snake killed by a soldier on duty close by his sentry-box. It was about three feet long, of a dingy brown, and had very much the hue and aspect of the common cobra. We had no means of determining whether it was poisonous or not. Close by the anchorage were several sentry stations, and the neat economical penthouse with which the soldier was protected from the sun, struck me as particularly suitable for India. It is a light wooden stand, not unlike a music stand in shape, with a movable board, which can be fixed at any degree of angle, to shelter the sentinel from the sun. Without such a protection in summer, the poor soldier would soon be broiled to death.
So many days had been lost in the storm after leaving Gibraltar, that the time allowed us at Malta was limited to eight hours. We quitted the shore at four o'clock, and were on board as speedily as possible. The Oriental Steam Navigation Company had at this time but one vessel for the Bombay Mail, as it is called, which plies constantly betwixt Malta and Alexandria—the Iberia. She is of five hundred tons burden, with engines of two hundred horse-power; a clever-going, clean, tidy little ship, with one of the most kind-hearted, attentive, and obliging captains that can be. And here I may be permitted a few passing remarks on the Tagus and Iberia, in which both my voyages were performed, belonging to the lighter class of the Oriental Steam Navigation Company's ships. The Tagus is a fine powerful vessel, of nine hundred tons and three hundred horse-power, well kept, and a stout sea-boat. Nothing can surpass the politeness and attention of her officers; and the whole attendance has that air of thorough respectability which imparts so much confidence, and assures so much comfort, to the passengers-contrasting strikingly in the latter with the ragamuffianly crew which, on the Suez side, constitutes the servants in the government steamers. The Oriental Company give high pay to their servants, so as to make their service eminently desirable. They keep the establishment always fully employed; the heaviest punishment that can be inflicted on either seaman or servant is dismissal, with the assurance that he will never be employed by them again. The provisioning of the vessel is let out to a provider, who receives five shillings a-day for each passenger: the officers have nothing to do with it, but to see that everything is abundant and of the best.
We had a beautiful run of six days from Malta to Alexandria ; our voyage bringing us within the farther limits of the Mediterranean, known as the Levant. The time occupied from Southampton to Alexandria was about twenty days, including stoppages.