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Gibraltar (2)

Arrive at Gibraltar

Thursday 11th March – at 11 oClock last night we were fortunate enough to have the long expected fair wind and this morning at 8 oClock, we were only twenty one miles from the Rock. The breeze however was very variable in strength, sometimes dying away nearly, at other times blowing fresh – so that this hindered us much. But what more than all acted as a clog on our progress was the force of the current, which ran eastward at the rate of 4 miles per miles [hour] – and we saw the curious spectacle of a vessel apparently advancing 4 or 5 miles by the log, and yet not making way more than half a mile in the same time. Owing to the above concurrent causes, of retardation, we spent the whole day in traversing twenty miles – and it might have been much later than 10 minutes to 7 P.M. (when we came to anchor) had we not, when near the rock, had several heavy squalls, which made us dash thro’ the water in glorious style. The weather in the day was cloudy but pleasant – at 5 we had rain, & squalls, the horizon being clear, we saw a long line of coast of Spain from which we could judge that it was [not] nearly so mountainous as what we had seen from Cape Palos – tho’ still very hilly.

It being after sunset when the gates are finally shut, we could not land the Mail and must wait till next morning.

Effects of the Gale at Gibraltar – Pick up 3 Spaniards

Friday 12th March – about 5 oClock this morning a heavy gale of wind came on and all hands were turned up to let go our other anchor, and to be ready for any other measures which might be judged necessary. At 7 A.M. the Quarantine boat was alongside, and admitted us to free pratique. Shortly afterwards M.r Williams the Mate was sent on shore with the Mail, as the Captain did not wish the Master to leave the ship. The Weather all day was such that none of us could land, and we paced the deck, abundantly occupied in looking around us and observing the effects of the gale. The wind came from the eastward in fitful gusts with tremendous force – and is what is called a Levanter, because it blows from the Levant. Under its influence the whole Bay was covered with white curling waves, with little swell and the eddying gusts of wind descending from the gaps of the Rock, produced such an agitation in the water, that it ascended to an immense height in the form of spray, resembling large waterspouts & when it happened that two contrary gusts met in opposition, a perfect whirlwind of spray swept the surface of the Bay in diverging directions. Heavy clouds were every instant hurried with incredible velocity athwart the sky – and the confined limits of the horizon were enveloped in a thick mantle of misty vapour.

In such an insecure and open anchorage as the Bay of Gibraltar is, and amidst such an uproar, it could hardly be expected that no accident would occur. Not far from us a small Spanish boat of 5 or 6 tons parted her cable and drifted towards us, and had not our men kept her off by means of poles she would have run foul of us. There was no person on board and she was left to her inevitable fate. A similar mischance, within our knowledge befell another vessel of the same size – but at some distance from us. I heard afterwards that upwards of 14 Spanish boats run aground in the course of the night & day. Today a schooner came in with her boats and bulwarks completely washed away, and only three men in her.

This easterly wind had brought many vessels from the Mediterranean which had been long detained by the same adverse winds as ourselves; and I would not be far wrong if I said that nearly a hundred have passed thro’ in the course of the day, of all sizes and descriptions. What is very curious, the force of the gale carried along with it an immense quantity of sand from the neutral ground, so that, tho’ we were at a considerable distance from the shore, our sails and masts were thickly covered `with it. About 5 oClock this morning, we took on board three half drowned Spaniards, who had notwithstanding the hurricane, endeavoured to row over to Algesiras in a small cockle boat, but had been forced to put back, and would have been lost, if we had not taken compassion on them. When I first heard the story, I at once concluded that they must have had reasons more than commonly strong to urge them to their hazardous undertaking – and the contents of their boat were certainly very suspicious as Irish Butter- English Soap, Tea, &.c The men themselves, however, kept the matter properly concealed and made out a very plausible story. In consequence of the early hour at which they asked our assistance, they were amongst us before the Quarantine boat came alongside – and we were afraid that this circumstance would debar us from free intercourse with the shore. Nor did our apprehensions seem to be vain, for after the usual interrogatories had been put, the dreadful inquiry was made ‘Is that your boat astern, whose is it?’ So we were obliged to make the Spaniards appear and answer for themselves. They held a long confab with the officers in Spanish, which of course I could not comprehend, but whatever story they chose to tell, it seemed to be perfectly satisfactory – and we suffered no inconvenience on their account.

Excavations at Gibraltar

Saturday 13th March – this morning our Captain went on shore – and as he felt his legs to be but so so with the gout I accompanied him. We were an hour longer in landing, than we would have taken, had the sea been smooth – and besides that we took in no inconsiderable quantity of water. After going with the Commander to the house of M.r Henry, the American Consul here, I left him at last at his Hotel near the Exchange. Having learned from Major Grant that his lady, whom you may remember we carried to England last year, was well, I went and called upon her. I found her looking very well and extremely kind for the little attention I had had it in my power to show her. She pressed me to dine with them – but being anxious if possible to see the excavations, I mentioned that as  an excuse, upon which she instantly despatched the servants to procure the keys and a guide. All things were arranged and I felt highly delighted with the prospect of a work, which had been represented to one to be one of the most wonderful executed by the hand of man. I was not disappointed – but tho’ the impression made was great, I cannot pretend from the cursory glances I had, to give you any [thing] like a detailed account of what I saw. 

The road cut thro’ solid rocks led to the first entrance to the excavations, which was secured by a door. This door being opened, you entered a long gallery, with several small branches – and in every few yards of this gallery was excavated a full size port hole & a considerable platform for the gun and ammunition. Thro’ these port holes a great deal of light was admitted, so much so, as to enable you to dispense with a torch in threading the galleries.

Each of these stations for guns is numbered – and in several places you can observe the various periods at which different ports had been completed. The long gallery which we passed through is called the Windsor Gallery – and at the termination of it we issued out into the open air, and found ourselves near Willis battery, a good way up the rock. By a steep ascent, we were conducted to another gallery, presenting the same appearance as the first, and terminating in a large excavated Hall, called S.t George’s Hall. In it were several port holes & turntable guns - & at one extremity a winding stair led to the top of the Hall on the outside, from whence you saw from a giddy height hills & plains to an great extent.

The wind here blew so strong and in such eddying currents, that it was exceedingly dangerous to remain on the narrow platform of the rock for moiré than a few seconds. This concluded our ascent – and we returned to the Town by a different branch of the gallery, from which we had come. However much I saw to admire & wonder at – I am afraid that from our shortness of time we did not see nearly all – but I am satisfied with having been thro’ the best part. Well I think may Gibraltar be deemed impregnable on its North & Eastern side, since it has called in the all powerful assistance of nature to aid in his defence and converted that which might otherwise be useless, into a fine means of annoyance & destruction to an enemy. Every thing is here at hand in abundant supply for necessary use, & large stores full of every requisite. I had thought that the sound of the discharge must be dreadful to those near the cannon, - but it seems, that the contrary is the case & that the report is comparatively feeble close to the cannon fired, whilst at a distance in the galleries the din is most horrible.