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province of which Calcutta is the capital, through the country of the stern Rajputs, among the wild Goorkha horsemen, through the pleasant vale of Kashmir, or even in the land of the fierce Afgban tribesmen—we shall hear our own tongue, and find the “Sahib” lord. But before setting foot on the continent, we may sail a little while longer among the islands that lie off India, in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. The
first-named sea, into which we have emerged from the Straits of Malacca, is a great stretch of almost unbroken water. From Balasore to Chittagong, the northern extremity of this ocean quadrangle, measures some 250 miles ; while from Coromandel to Malacca, the southern side, is about five times that length. From India its waters receive the drainage of half of Southern Asia. The Ganges, the Brahmapootra, the Irrawaddy, the Mahunuddy, the Godavery, the Kistna, and the Cauvery all flow into this great “bay,” while the extensive harbours on its eastern side attract ships from every part of the world. The climate of the bay is warm, the evaporation in the hot season sometimes amounting to one inch per diem; but the north-east and south-west monsoons—those modifications of the
trade winds—blow over it, often fiercely, while the wild typhoons which sometimes sweep its low alluvial shores leave great havoc in their track. But the Bay of Bengal is not an unbroken stretch of tropical sea. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie in it; and at the southern extremity, like the dot at the end of a point of exclamation—!- lies Ceylon, a rich island colony, also under the English rule.
From Cape Negrais to Atcheen Head, in Sumatra, there lies a broken line of
islands, which point to the probability of this 700 mile curve, dotted here and there with the Nicobars, the Andamans, and the small Preparis and Coco Islands, having at one time been a bridge between Sumatra and India, of which only these imperfect fragments now remain. The Andamans are the chief links in this shadowy chain, . The “Great Andaman ” is, in reality, not one, but four islands, end to end, but very close together, and each measuring from eleven to fifty-nine miles in length, the middle one being the largest. The Little Andaman is thirty miles long and about seventeen broad, and lies twenty-eight miles south of the others, but in addition to the land patch mentioned, consists of a number of smaller islets in its close vicinity. Seen from the sea, the Andamans appear like a number of low hills, densely wooded by a
thick jungle of tropical forest. Saddle Mountain, in North Andaman, is 3,000 feet in height; but southward the hills sink, until they attain an inconsiderable elevation. The scenery of the islands is in places very beautiful, but as a rule the dense vegetation gives a sameness to the low-lying country. The shores of the bays are in most cases fringed with mangroves. Behind the mangroves rise palms, and in places, great forest-trees, their stems covered with climbers and their branches thick with clustered orchids. The west coast, however, has not, as a rule, such lofty trees; and the places where deciduous-leaved species prevail are, Colonel Yule remarks, of a “grey, sterile aspect during the hot season." Whole tracts are covered with the Andaman bamboo, out from among which, here and there, tall forest-trees rise ; while in other districts the arborescent euphorbias, screw pines, and a species of Cycas, "give a remarkable aspect to the coast vegetation.” Further in the interior the jungle is so dense that in places it is all but impossible to force a way, so that the geology of the country is very imperfectly known. Sandstone of a good building quality is found, and traces of coal are met with. The useful timbers are believed to be numerous, but as yet no trade is done in this reserve of Andaman wealth. The islands too narrow to afford play for rivers ; accordingly, though the general aspect of the vegetation is, according to Mr. Kurz, Burmese, it has been altered by the scarcity of running water and other unfavourable circumstances. Malay types not found in the neighbouring continent also occur, but there are no tree-ferns; and though edible fruits abound, the cocoa-nut palm, so abundant in the Cocos and Nicobars, is not indigenous here. Animal life in its higher forms is not common in the Andamans, and, as might be expected, mammals are especially few in number. None of the monkey tribe, so abundant on the mainland, have been detected in the group; and, indeed, with the exception of a peculiar rat with spiny hairs, a small fruit-eating bat, and a diminutive pig, believed to be identical with the one on the Nicobars, there are no members of this group of quadrupeds of any note.
more numerous; but, according to the late Mr. Edward Blyth, they do not approximate so closely to the species of India as those of the Malay Islands, the Philippines, and in one even to China. The swallow which builds the famous edible nests inhabits caves on the coast, and pigeons, woodpeckers, and kingfishers are numerous.
numerous. Reptiles and fishes are abundant, both as to individuals and species; and among the former is the turtle, which is imported in great numbers for the Calcutta market.
But the Andamans are never likely to be colonised by any visitors save those of the peculiar type for whose temporary home the Indian Government has selected them. In other words, the islands have since 1858 been a convict settlement, the only European residents being the officials, garrison, and possibly a stray white who may have “got into trouble." The climate is very wet, and, indeed, only four months' fair weather
be relied on. When the convicts first arrived, the mortality among them was enormous ; but of late, owing to the clearance of the jungle and the reclamation of the swamps, the health of the settlement has wonderfully improved. It is also to be hoped that the presence of a civilised colony on the islands may in time react favourably upon the natives. These are of a very low type; and though the islands are only 590
miles from the mouth of the Ganges and 160 from Cape Negrais, in British Burmah, and have been visited more or less for 2,000 years, the aborigines are to this day rude savages, who have never in even the least appreciable manner shared in the civilisation of the ancient empires off whose shores they live.* Their very numbers are unknown, the different estimates varying so widely as to have put them at all figures, from 3,000 to 15,000. As early as 1789 the Bengal Government attempted to establish a penal colony on the islands, but the settlement was finally abandoned in 1796. But in 1855, owing to the repeated outrages by the natives on the crews of wrecked vessels, the scheme was again taken up; and though for a time it was interrupted by the Mutiny, the great number of prisoners which fell into the hands of the Government made its urgency evident as soon as that episode in the history of India had passed away. Accordingly, in 1858 the present colony at Port Blair was established. Cattle have been introduced, and large gardens have been laid out, in which mangoes, oranges, pommeloes, pine-apples, and jack-fruit are grown in great luxuriance. In 1872 the Andamans obtained an unhappy notoriety as the scene of the murder of Lord Mayo, the Governor-General, when on a visit to the settlement. They and the Nicobars are governed by a Chief Commissioner, residing at Port Blair.t
THE NICOBAR ISLANDS.
Ser Marco Polo tells us that “when you leave the Island of Java (the lesser) and the Kingdom of Lambri, you sail north about 150 miles, and then you come to two islands, one of which is called Necuveran. In this island they have no king or chief, but live like beasts. And I tell you they go all naked, both men and women, and do not use the slightest covering of any kind. They are idolaters." I
But long before the day of the great Venetian traveller, the Nicobars are mentioned in the early Sanskrit writings, being classed, like all islands placed in line, as the remains of bridges made either by the gods or "by the devils for some particular purpose.” Though in 1711 two Jesuit priests went to the islands to convert the people (and got killed, after a stay of two years and a half), it was not until 1754 that the first settlement on them was made by the Danish authorities, who in those days had a colony in India, not far from where Calcutta now stands. Fever, drunkenness, bad officers, improper food, indifferent shelter, and a quarrel with the natives, ended the experiment in a couple of years. In 1768 the Moravians landed; but in 1787 even these self-denying men, though supported by the Danish authorities, had either left or died. Indeed, so rapidly did the missionaries fall victims to the climate that they had not time to learn the language, and in consequence converted no natives. Still, up to 1807 (when England seized the islands, and held them up to 1814), Denmark kept a small garrison there to play the part of “the men in possession.” But
* “ Races of Mankind,” Vol. II., pp. 127-129. Mouat: Journal of the Anthropological Institute (1873), &c.
+ Mouat : “ Adventures and Researches in the Andaman Islands” (1873); Kurz: “ Report on the Vegetation of the Andaman Islands” (1870); Hamilton: “New Account of the East Indies” (1727); Yule : Encyclopædia Britannica (1875), &c.
“ The Book of Ser Marco Polo," by Colonel Yule, Vol. II., p. 248.
though this costly farce was enacted until 1831, there were no colonists on the islands ; however, in that year another missionary attempt was made, and in 1837 this fresh departure also came to the old end. In 1815 a final attempt was made ; but except that through it Dr. Rink, afterwards Governor of South Greenland, was enabled to write his account of the islands, the experiment ended miserably in 1818, and up to 1869 the islands were
without a master; for even the long-suffering Danes bad tired of the farce of keeping their flag floating in a region which it was evident they could never make any use of. But the frequent outrages committed on seamen compelled the Government of Bengal to take over the islands; and in 1869 they were affiliated to the Port Blair Penal Settlement of the Andamans. Sepoys, convicts, and building materials were landed at Nancowry Harbour ; and since that date perseverance has been rewarded by the village now presenting a pleasant appearance, with its barracks, stores, houses, cotton plantations, clearances in the old pestilential swamps planted with cocoa-nut trees and flower and vegetable gardens. Cocoa-nuts and the oil made from them form the