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in the port of the Isle of to avoid the Ess
count of a shoal which runs out nearly two leagues to sea from the north-north-western part of the island, on which there is but little water.
The 21st we entered the Strait of Banca, the currents then running out and in at the same time.
We reached the Strait of Sunda on the ist of April, and left it on the 3d, with a wind from the north-west, which afterwards veered to the north, increasing in violence till on the 14th it swelled to a tempest. For twelve hours we were driven along, the gunnel constantly under water, and were obliged to throw our guns overboard to lighten the vessel. The wind at length abating, we again hoisted fail, and continued our course towards the island Rodrigues, which we descried on the 28th. We kept to leeward of this island to avoid the English cruizers; and, after coasting under the south side of the Isle of France, during the whole of the ist of May, we cast anchor in the port in the evening.
The latitude of the island is twenty degrees nine minutes forty-five seconds; its longitude fifty-five degrees eight minutes east of Paris. From north to fouth its length is about fourteen leagues, its breadth ten, and its circumference forty.
The Isle of France has two ports; but though in my two voyages hither I made the circuit of the island, at only a short distance from the coast, I did not fee the Grand Port, or that on the eastern side of the island. The air is temperate, and even cool in the pens*; the heat of the climate is powerfully felt only in the town, where the sur-, rounding mountains prevent the cooling influence of the south-west wind.
The south-west generally prevails at the Ile of France, except from October to April, in which interval the winds are variable; this period also is the rainy season. At times violent hurricanes occur: the rivers are forced from their beds, plants and trees are torn up by the roots, and houses are levelled with the ground; vessels are not always in safety even in the port, I myself having seen some on these occasions driven on shore. The months in which hurricanes are common are those between the end of September and March; they owe their origin apparently to winds contending with the monsoons; and to a similar cause must the sudden gusts be attributed in the China feas.
The island is surrounded with reefs, which in some places extend more than a league from shore; the south side is more steep, and the sea breaks against it, except in some few spots.
Every thing denotes the existence, in some former time, of a volcano in this island; the ground is almost in every part overspread with volcanic stones, round, of various size, generally compact, but occasionally porous, and of a greyish colour, inclining to black. The mountains are numerous, and seem to have been convulsed, split, and broken by earthquakes, but they are not of volcanic origin; their strata are more or less inclined towards the horizon; according to the general disposition of the species of stone of which they are composed.
The foil is tolerably good, but dry; in many cantons it is of a reddish colour. The earth is not worked deep, and is broken up with a pick-axe: the roots of plants strike beneath the stones, and thus are kept cool and beyond the parching influence of the fun. Wheat is here cultivated, barley, oats, rice, maize, manioc (maniot Indorum), cotton of excellent quality, the sugar-cane, indigo, and coffee, the last inferior to that of Bourbon. Here also plantations of cloves are seen, surrounded by hedges of jam. rosa to defend them from the wind, by which they would otherwise be rea roken.
* A Creole term for houses and plantations in the country.
Nutmeg trees are not equally common: in the plains of Wilhem I distinguished some soap trees (saponaria Americana.)
in the gardens part of the vegetables of Europe are grown, and some sweet potatoes. The most common fruits are the banana, mango, ananas or pine-apples, panglemousse, guavas, the atè, papaya, and the peach. Cocoa-trees succeed well, but the number of mangoostans (mangoutiers) is inconsiderable. Oranges, which are very sweet in the Ide of Bourbon, are not good on this island.
The Isle of France is watered by a great many rivulets; some proceed from the center of the island, and are of sufficient size to obtain the name of rivers, the coasts furnish a moderate supply of fish..
The island was at one time wholly covered with wood, but part of the trees have gradually been felled, either for the sake of clearing the ground, for fawing into planks, or for the structure of houses; in felling the trees no management has been observed, and none are planted in succession. The soil, wholly in parts despoiled of its shelter, has in consequence become dry and arid, as much from its exposure to the great heat of the sun, as from nothing remaining to arrest the vapours necessary for the formation of clouds, and consequently of the rains which kept up its fertility. For this misma. nagement a remedy has been fought in the culture of a tree called black wood; but this tree is at best fit for nothing but firing, and has not every where succeeded, owing to the too great aridity of the soil, or from the earth having been washed away by the rains from the removal of the impediment opposed by the woods, and affording no long-r a sufficient sustenance for the roots.
Io the causes of the island being thinned of trees before noticed, others must be added. In the first place there grows in the Isle of France a thick and coarse grass, which serves as fodder, and which, after attaining a considerable height, becomes dry towards the close of August. This grass is set on fire by the negroes in the month of September, and the flame which spreads to a distance dries the trees and causes them to perish. Secondly, the allowance granted to the negroes to cut faggots in the mountains impedes much the growth of trees, as they lop off branches without paying any attention to whether or no they injure the tree. And lastly, the goats belonging to the Indians who inhabit camp Malabar, and which feed on the heights, brouze on and destroy every thing. From the aggregate of these causes the woods are gradually, but rapidly, destroyed.
Among the trees of the Isle of France must be noticed that which produces ebony, the tacamahaca, the milk tree, and the mat tree with large and small leaves, the cine namon tree, the olive, and the stinking tree. The wood of these is well adapted for cabinet and carpenters' work.
When I arrived in the Isle of France, in 1796, the hedges in every quarter were formed of the opuntia, or Indian fig; but some one since then having brought into the colony a quantity of the eggs of the kirmes, that insect multiplied with such ra. pidity, as to have entirely destroyed these trees.
The woods abound in stags, wild goats, wild hogs, hares, monkeys, and rats and mice in multitudes; the three last animals very destructive to plantations. In the woods also are found paroquets, pintados, bengalis (a little red bird), and a species of partridge.
The infe&ts most troublesome are carias kakerlaques, mufquitos, scorpions, scolopendræ, and wafps. It is affirmed that serpents cannot exist in the Isle of France. The affertion is difficult of proof; but, what is most sure, there are none to be found. 4