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THE HURRICANE OF 1842.
mountain-top, collected in the different water-courses, and emptied into the river, on the bed of which, at this season of the year, the inhabitants are in the habit of spreading out their clothes to dry. Some years ago a terrific torrent swept suddenly down from the hills, carrying away a church, several houses, and above 400 of the inhabitants. * Our own boats being unfit for such service, we went ashore in one of those adapted to the coast : they are of amazing strength and great breadth of beam, with high-peaked prows and sterns, from which spring posts a yard high ; these and the bottoms are shod with iron. The beach in front of the town is composed of shingle and loose rolled
* The soundings of the harbour have, it is said, been much diminished by the quantity of debris carried down by this disastrous flood, which occurred in October, 1803. Since the first edition of this work appeared, a hurricane most fearful in its visitation and disastrous in its consequences occurred at Madeira, on the 24th of October, 1842, and far exceeded in violence and duration any thing that history has recorded; the destruction of life and property has not been so great, however, as in 1803, owing to the mountain torrents having now freer egress to the sea. The effects of this are still visible in the island, and the town of Funchal in particular; and the rocks and debris carried into the water-course have not been yet (a year after) quite removed. This memorable event is thus described by an eye-witness :
“ The last summer was exceedingly hot, and almost without rain, the weather remaining beautifully fine until the 15th of October, when the clouds began to envelope the mountains, which brought on the following day severe thunder storins, accompanied with heavy rain, continuing almost without intermission until the morning of the 24th of October, when the rain partly ceased. At ten o'clock the Royal West India steamer Dee arrived, and landed fifty-two passengers for the island. She was, however, prevented from proceeding until the following day, as the admiralty agent who had come on shore with the mail could not get on board again. About mid-day the whole island appeared buried in a vast cloud, threatening total darkness; the barometer fell considerably. The air became very oppressive, with a strong sulphurous smell, and the wind veered about to nearly every point of the compass. At one o'clock the rain began to fall in torrents; and about an hour afterwards I perceived, at a distance of about a mile from shore, an immense rising in the sea, which was soon connected with a mass of dark clouds overhanging the bay, to all appearance charging themselves or drawing the water from the sea for the space of about ten minutes, followed immediately by a heavy swell or rising of the ocean, which swept towards the shore; and although I was at a considerable
gravel, and sinks very rapidly at the water's edge, so that even on the calmest day there is a heavy surf, that makes it necessary to haul up the boats high and dry. This is done, with the small ones, by throwing a rope ashore, and waiting for the highest swell to carry them up; when the people on the land think this sufficient, you are mounted on its crest, the boat rides upon
the wave, the men haul on the rope, and you are landed high upon
the shore. In like manner the embarkation is effected—you take your places in the boat, several men stand at the stern watching the highest swell, and when it reaches the prow, they shove her off with great force, sending her far out upon the wave.
eleration above the level of the sea, it appeared high enough to sweep over the city; its force was, however, broken, and it subsided on the beach. The rain still continued in torrents, and at four o'clock the roar of the water in the river, which was about forty feet in depth, began to give me some alarm; when, looking out of the window of my house, I perceived that the bridge was being swept away, and that the water was rushing into the streets. I immediately left the house, and on reaching the street the appalling sight that appeared in every direction was enough to make the stoutest heart quake with fear. The street in front of the garden of my house was upwards of three feet deep with water, and hundreds of men, women, and children were wading their way up the stream, flying towards the mountains; whilst others were flocking toward the town, not knowing where to go for safety, amidst the most dreadful shrieks and cries that can possibly be imagined. As I approached towards the river the scene became still more awful, the water having burst open the wine-lodges, and their contents being swept into the sea, whilst the streets in the neighbourhood were all overflowed with water, and the inmates of the houses escaping by ladders and over the roofs of the buildings. Upwards of two hundred houses have been destroyed or become untenantable by this disastrous food, and the quantity of wine, corn, &c. &c. swept into the sea and destroyed, is very great. The rain continued to fall during the night of the 24th ; but the following day gave signs of the weather moderating ; and in the afternoon it was fine, but with a strong breeze from the south-east, which continued until three o'clock p.M. on the 26th, when it blew a hurricane from the south, the sea rushing over the beach, and entering into the streets in the lower parts of the city. The wind being dead into the bay, most of the vessels lying off at anchor dragged their cables, and ran on shore; but owing to the generous exertions of the inhabitants, few lives were lost. The storm was general all over the island, and numbers of people were carried into the sea.
The damage has, however, long since been repaired, and the equality of the climate restored."
A FUNCHAL RESIDENCE.
boats a different method is pursued--these, laden with wine or merchandise, to the amount of several tons, are also hauled up high and dry by a capstan, worked by bullocks and placed some way up the strand. The whole scene along the beach is one of great animation; the water literally swarms with human beings of all ages, and nearly naked, either floating pipes of wine ashore, or engaged in pushing up some of the lighter boats; and the shouting of the men, the plashing of the waves, and the creaking of the lazy windlass, add much to heighten the effect.
Our friend, Mr. Shortridge, kindly offered us the use of his house, which we accepted : it is one of the best in the town, and is a good specimen of an English merchant's Funchal residence. The houses are constructed much after the Spanish fashion, and entered by low gateways leading into extensive yards, surrounded by offices, where the wine is stored, and the different processes of treatment are conducted. The under-part contains cellars, offices, and counting-house-above that are kitchens, and servants' rooms looking towards the street ; over these are drawing-rooms, their windows shaded by cool verandahs, or opening upon platforms that command a view of the lovely and picturesque sides of the mountains. These balconies are, so to speak, green-houses in the open air : the hoya carnosa clothes the walls; the passiflora quadrangularis hangs its glowing blossoms from the trellised roof; the cobwa scandens and other creepers twist round every cornice ; geraniums of every hue burst through the railings in wild luxuriance ; and the heliotrope and olea fragrans perfume the adjoining rooms. Above the drawing-room suite are the dormitories, and the whole is crowned by a high turret, which commands the sea-view. The houses of several of the merchants have towers of this description, containing good telescopes, to sweep the sea, and catch the first view of any vessel bound for their port, or in which they may have an interest. They are, generally, the coolest and the best rooms in the house : for, being raised above the neighbouring buildings, they catch whatever seabreeze
blow. Besides these, there are Quintas, or country houses, situated in the hills, at higher or lower elevations, so that the climate can be had of any temperature in those delightful retreats.
The town of Funchal is clean and well paved, with an air of bustle and business ; it has a fine cathedral, one good square, and
some handsome public walks. The wine which is landed from boats is carried in barrels, or, to speak more correctly, pipes, to the stores, on a rude narrow piece of wood, which acts as a sleigh, and is drawn by bullocks. The men run before with wet cloths, which they throw in its path, to facilitate its slipping over the smooth pavement, and prevent its catching fire; and in order to quicken the paces of the animals, they keep up fully as discordant a howl as that maintained by the wooden axle-trees of the carts I have already alluded to in Spain. Both here and at Teneriffe, a small carved horn of bone is hung on the forehead of the bullocks to preserve them from the influence of the evil eye. A quantity of the wine, which is the staple commodity of this land of the grape, is carried in skins from the interior, which look, when slung over the backs of the men, as if they were the carcases of so many dogs, pigs, and goats, &c., with their legs and necks sticking out in an extraordinary manner.
But we must turn to objects of greater beauty, and admire the lovely scene, in the midst of which we have taken up our residence. Never was a spot more formed to cheer the sufferings of the invalid, to heal the wounded spirit, to re-animate the sinking frame, and pour renewed life and vigour into every thought or action. The dry and balmy air which produces this neverending spring, soon makes the step buoyant, and raises the hopes of the sufferer, who a few days before left the choking fogs, the rains and chilly damps, of the Thames or the Medway. Here all is beauty, sunshine, and tranquillity; the waving palms, and green bananas, with their beautiful feathery tops, tell him he has bid farewell to Europe, and landed in a tropical clime; the orange trees hold out to him their branches laden with golden fruit,
“Green all the year, and fruits and blossoms blush
In social sweetness on the self-same bough." Plantations of coffee trees fill the spaces between the houses ; the splendid coral tree hangs its gorgeous blossoms over his head; and the snowy bells of the graceful tulip mingle with the scarlet plumes of the hibiscus. If he wishes for exercise, he has the most inviting walks, and the most tempting shades to shelter him : while wide-spreading plane trees, and willows of gigantic growth, bend their slender arms over the streams that murmur from the hills. If he leaves the town, and begins to ascend, the beauty increases, and the sea-view opens to his sight. The roads, though
SCENERY AND FOLIAGE OF MADEIRA.
steep, are well paved, and the horses trained to an easy pace. On one, and sometimes on both sides of the road, there is a little channel a foot broad, the Levada, by which the water is conducted to the different plantations from the hills, murmuring gently as it ripples by his side. He rides through a perfect vineyard, where, in many places, the vines are carried on trellises over the road, and the large bunches of delicious grapes hang within his reach. Hedges of geraniums, fuschias, and heliotropes, border those narrow paths, and shade him from the sun ; myriads of insects with golden wings sip the nectar from these delicate flowers, and add the music of their tiny wings to the melody of the surrounding woodlands. The breeze is perfumed with the fragrance of the myrtle, and the high vault above him smiles the azure of undying summer. The ficus indicus clothes the cottages, which are shaded by the most magnificent chesnuts; the salvia fulgens and the Guernsey lily sprinkle the vineyards; the beautiful capillus veneris creeps through the walls ; and the magnificent camellia Japonica, now in full bloom, adorns every Quinta.
As he ascends, the scene becomes still more varied, and expands beneath his eye. The deep valleys and hollow gorges are covered with the luxuriant light green foliage of the Inhame, or Eddo of the West Indies (said to be the arum peregrinum of Persoon); the aloe and the agave border the enclosures of sweet potato (the convolvulus batatus); and the New Zealand flax, or phormium tenax, grows here to a great size; rows of enormous hydranges flourish at this height, but, instead of their natural pink colour, are blue, owing in all probability to the ferruginous soil, and to their elevation. Small dragon trees and cedars appear among the quintas; and heaths and pines rise to the highest elevations. Huge prickly pears (cactus opuntia)grow along the cliffs and lower parts of the island ; and so inherent is the vitality in this singular plant, that it is only necessary to lay a single leaf, with a few stones over it on a wall, and it will commence growing; its fruit is much eaten by the inhabitants.
The large zebra spider, peculiar to this plant, weaves its immense thick
from thorn to thorn ; its cocoon, somewhat in the shape of a kettle-drum, is hung in the centre of this suspension bridge, and the insect incubates at night, sitting on the flat side of it; the cord of which its web is composed is so thick as to procure for it the name of epiera fasciata.