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MAURITIUS, or the isle of France, is situated about 600 miles E. of Madagascar, and is estimated to contain 1,300 square miles. It was settled by the French in 1712. About the middle of the last century they strongly fortified it, and made it their principal naval station in the Indian seas. It preserved its importance even after Britain annibilated the French power on the continent of India, and became then a grand privateering station against the British shipping. It was estimated at Calcutta that, in ten years, prizes to the value of £2,500,000 bad been taken and carried into Mauritins. In 1810 it was taken by the English and may now be considered as permanently belonging to them. Oranges, pine-apples and other tropical fruits grow here in the highest perfection. Coffee, cotton, indigo, sugar and cloves are also exported to a great amount, but for provisions the inhabitants are almost entirely dependent on Bourbon. The population in 1807 was 70,000, a large proportion of whom were blacks.
St. Helena is on the S. W. side of Africa, in the Atlantic ocean, in lat. 15° 5' S. Jon. 5° 49' W. about 1,200 miles from the coast of Africa and 1,800 from South America. It is 10 miles long and 7 broad, and presents to the sea, throughout its whole circuit, nothing but an immense wall of perpendicular rock, from 600 to 1,200 feet high, like a castle in the midst of the ocean. The island be longs to the British, and is principally remarkable as the prison of Napoleon Bonaparte from 1815 till his death in 1821. It is also frequently resorted to as a place of refreshment by ships returning from India.
Ascension is a small island, situated to the N. W. of St. Helena, in lat. 8° 8' S. lon. 14° 28' W. It is entirely barren and uninhabited; but is frequented by the homeward bound shipping, on account of its excellent harbor, and the fish, sea-fowl and turtle which it affords. The island of St. Matthew lies N. of Assension island in lat. 1° 24' S.
GUINEA ISLANDS. 1. Annobon is a small island in lat. 1° 32' S. about 300 miles west of cape Lopez. It contains about 4,000 inhabitants, who are a mixture of Portuguese and negroes. The island was ceded to the Spaniards in 1778, but the Portuguese appear to be still in possession of it. 2. St. Thomas is a Portuguese island, situated under the equator in lon. 6° 25' E. Its soil is fertile, producing maize, rice and tropical fruits in abundance, but the climate is very unhealthy. The population, consisting of 15,000 or 18,000, is composed of a mixture of Portuguese and negroes. St. Thomas, the capital, has 3,000 inhabitants. 3. Prince's island, situated in the gulf of Bedin, about 100 miles from the coast, in lat. 1° 50' N. belongs also to the Portuguese. 4. Fernando Po, lying 150 miles north of Prince's island, is fertile and beautiful, but is little frequented by Europeans, the inhabitants being rude and uncivilized.
The CAPE VERDE ISLANDS, 14 innumber, are about 400 miles west of Cape Verde, between 15° and 18° N. lat. The climate is upwholesome and the soil for the most part rocky and barren. The principal exports are goat skins, tropical fruits, salt and saltpetre. The islands belong to the Portuguese, and the inhabitants, about 40,000 in number, are a mixture of Portuguese and negroes. The principal islands are St. Jago, which contains the capital, and St. Nicholas.
The CANARIES are a group of islands near the west coast of Af rica, hetween 29° 39' and 29° 26' N. lat. They are 13 in nuaber, of which the most noted are Teneriffe, Grand Canary and Ferro. This group was celebrated in antiquity, under the appellation of the Fortunate islands, and was considered as the ex. tremity of the world.
The island of Ferro, the most westerly of the group, was originally employed by all geographers as their first meridian. The aspect of all these islands is elevated and full of mountains, some of which rank among the loftiest on the globe, particularly the peak of Teneriffe, which rises to the height of 12,176 feet above the level of the sea. The sides of the mountains which incline towards the west and north, make a profuse display of vegetation, and exhibit, rising above each other, the plants of the torrid, the temperate and even tbe frigid
The most fertile and verdant islands are Grand Canary and Teneriffe. The most valuable production of the Canaries is wine, of which Teneriffe yields from 20,000 to 24.000 pipes annually. Wheat, maize and potatoes are also cultivated.
These islands belong to the Spaniards, and the present inhabitants are entirely of European origin, the natives having long since been exterminated. The number of inhabitants is estimated at 160,000. They are of a roving and enterprising disposition, which impels them to emigrate; and they have established themselves in all the Spanish settlements in the New world, and in the East Indies.
MADEIRA, lying off the N. W. coast of Africa, between 32° and 33° N. lat. is 54 miles long, and is estimated to contain 1,100
The island consists altogether of a collection of lufty mountains, the highest of which rises upwards of 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. On the declivity of these mountains all the prosluctions of the island are raised. The lower slopes are covered with vines, the loftier summits with forests of pine and chesnut. The soil produces wheat, barley and oats ; but two thirds of the grain consumed in the island is derived from abroad. The commerce of the island consists almost entirely in the export of its wine to the annual amount of from 15,000 to 17,000 pipes. The best is that called London particular Madeira ; the second, which is inferior, is called London inarket; the third is that suited 10 the India market; the fonrth is tnr the New-York market; and there is a fifth, and still inferior kind, which is called cargo.
The principal trade is with the British and Americans. The island belongs to the Portuguese, and the inhabitants, estimated at 90,000, are almost wholly of Portuguese origin. Funchal is the capital of the island. Adjacent to Madeira are Porto Santo and the Desert isles. These, with Maderia itself, compose the group called the Madeiras.
The AZORES or WESTERN ISLANDS, 9 number, lie in the Atlantic ocean, almost midway between Europe, Asia and Africa. They extend from 37° to 40° N. lat. and from 25° to 32° W. lon. The principal islands in the group are St. Michael, Fayal and Tercera. The surface of these islands is covered with hills of various forms and dimensions, all, apparently, the product of volcanic agency. The most terrible convulsions of nature seem to have been exhibited here on a stupendous scale. The islands have been at different times laid waste by earthquakes, of which the most formidable on record is that of 1591, which continued 12 days without interruption. The traces of these shocks appear in the mountains, many of them having been split in two, leaving a wide path between. Another phenomenon, still more extraordinary, is that of new rocks or islands, which have repeatedly emerged from the bosom of the ocean. The effect of subterra. neous fire is also visible in numerous hot springs. The soil throughout these islands is exceedingly fertile, producing wheat, barley and maize much beyond the consumption of the inhabitants, gether with vines, oranges, and other fruits. The best vines are raised on the lofty sides of mount Pico, which rises, in the island of the same name, to the height of 7,000 feet above the level of the sea. Angra, the capital of Tercera, is the seat of government. The islands belong to the Portuguese, and the population, estimated at 160,000, is almost entirely of Portuguese origin.
NORTHERN POLAR REGIONS.
New Discoveries.] The regions within the Arctic circle have been rendered interesting from the recent discoveries effected by the expeditions sent out by the British government in search of a north-west passage. The most successful of these expeditions was that under command of captain Parry, who left England in the spring of 1819, and passing through Davis's strait into Baffin's bay, reached the western shore of that bay in lat. 74° N. at a place which had been named by former voyagers Lancaster Sound. But instead of a Sound, captain Parry ascertained that it was a strait, leading directly into the Polar sea. It extends about 150 miles in a direction east and west, the shores, bounding it to the north and south, being nearly parallel, at an average distance of 10 or 50 miles. To the now-ascertained
strait the name of Barrow's strait was given. In this the water was deep, and clear from ice; but on entering the Polar sea, the barrier of ice preventing further progress westward, capt. Parry bent his course in a southerly direction, and entered a large Sound or inlet, 25 miles in breadth. Having sailed 120 miles down this inlet, the ships were obstructed by ice, and returned to the western extremity of Barrow's straits, where the ice was found broken ap to such an extent that they were enabled to proceed westward), ind the ships pursued their course between the parallels of 74o and 75°, passing a number of islands, one of wbich, in about 104° W. !on. they named Byam Martin island. Proceeding still westward, a very large island was discovered, extending from 106° to 114° W. Ion, and from 74° 30' to nearly 76° N lat. This island was called Melville island. The polar winter now commenced, and the ships anchored in a harbor on the south side of this island, where they were imprisoned by the ice during a period of 310 days. Having sailed again on the 6th of Augost, 1820, they reached the western extremity of Melville's island, in lon. 114° W. where, owing to the immense and impermeable barriers of ice, further progress became impossible, and the ships returned to England.
Outline of the Ice. The ice in the northern Polar regions fills, on an arerage, a circle around the north pole of about 2,000 miles in diameter, and presents an outline, which, though subject to partial variations, is found at the same season of each succeeding year. to be generally similar and often strikingly uniform. With each recurring spring it presents the following general outline. Filling the bays of Hudson and Baffin, as well as the straits of Hudson and part of that of Davis, it exhibits an irregular, waving, but generally continuous line, from Newfoundland or Labrador to Nova Zembla.–From Newfoundland it extends in a northerly direction along the Labrador shore, generally preventing all access to the land as high as the mouth of Hudson's strait ; then, turning to the N. E. forms a bay near the coast of Greenland, in lat. perhaps 66° or 67° by suddenly passing in a southerly direction to cape Farewell at the extremity of Greenland. The quantity of ice on the east side of Davis's strait, being often small, the continuity of its border is liable to be broken, so as to admit of ships reaching the land: and sometimes the bay of ice in €6° or 67° does not exist, but the sea is open up the strait to a considerable distance beyond it.—After doubling the southern promontory, or cape Farewell, the line advances in a N. E. course along the east coast, sometimes enveloping Iceland as it proceeds, until it reaches the island of Jan Mayen. Passing this island on the N. W. but frequently inclosing it, the edge of the ice then tends a little more to the east, and usually intersects the meridian of London, between 71° and 73° N. lat. Having reached the meridian of 6° or 8° E. Ion. in 73° or 74° N. lat, it forms a remarkable promontory, and suddenly stretches to the north, sometimes proceeding on a meridian to the lat. of 80° N.: at other times, after running 2 or 3 degrees to the north, it turns and runs S.E. to Cherie
island, thus forming a deep bay. After passing Cherie island it assumes a more direct course a little S. of E. until it forms a junction with the Siberian or Nova Zemblan coast. To the east of Nova Zembla, the ice, during the winter and spring, seems clusely to embrace the whole of the northern shores of Russia, and filling in a great measure Behring's strait and the sea norib of it, continues in contact with the polar face of the American continent.
That remarkable promontory, midway between Jan Mayen and Cherie islands, formed by the sudden stretch of the ice to the north constitutes the line of separation between the east or whaling and the west or sealing ice of the fishers. The deep bay lying to the east of this promontory may be called the Whale fisher's bay, and invariably forms the only pervious tract for pro. ceeding to the most northerly fishing latitudes. When the ice at the extremity of this bay is so strong and compact as to prevent the approach to the shores of Spitzbergen, and the advance northward beyond the lat. of 75° or 76° it is said to be a close season; and on the contrary, it is an open season, when the navigation is uninterrupted along the whole western coast of Spitzbergen. In an open season, therefore, a large channel of water lies between the western coast of Spitzbergen and the ice, from 20 to 50 leagues in breadth, and extending to the latitude of 79° or 80° N.
- The place where whales occur in the greatest abundance is generally found to be in 78° or 79° N. lat.-In close seasons, though the ice joins the southern part of Spitzbergen, and thus forms a barrier against the fishing stations, yet it is often of limited extent, from 20 to 30 or 40 leagues across in the shortest diameter, and beyond this is an open sea forming the retreat of the whales. This formidable barrier, whenever it occurs, is regularly encountered by the whale ships in the month of April, though it costs the fisherman immense labor and anxiety to penetrate it. It is generally removed by natural means as the season advances, so that he rarely meets with any difficulty in his return.