Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea/13
FRIDAY, APRIL 21. Allowed all hands to sleep late this morning, in consequence of the great fatigue of yesterday. The sun rose at 5:29, a light wind from the westward.
A.M., busied in preparation for moving to the southward. The sea was smooth and weather clear, and after sunrise it became quite warm. Lofty arid mountains on both sides; a low flat shore to the northward and to the southward; the south-eastern and the south-western shores converging, with only water visible between them. In that direction, a light veil of mist was drawn above the sea. At 11, broke up camp, and commenced moving every thing to the boats, excepting a load for the only remaining camel, to be conveyed along the shore. The Rashayideh were very active in the labour of transportation from the camp to the boats. Their astonishing brevity of shirt, and lack of all other covering, save a dirty and faded koofeeyeh, rendered them peculiarly interesting to the anatomist. Several of them wore sandals, a rude invention to protect the feet. It was a thick piece of hide, confined by a thong passing under the sole, at the hollow of the foot, around the heel, and between the great toe and the one which adjoins it. Our baggage seemed too heavy for the boats, but it was necessary to make the attempt to get away. Our Jordan water was nearly expended, and that of the fountain was not only exceedingly unpalatable, but I feared unwholesome also. If it came on to blow, we would have to beach the boats to save them.
At 11:42, started; a light breeze from the southward and westward; the sea slightly ruffled. Steered S. ½ E., along the shore by Ras el Feshkhah. The ras (cape) about 200 yards distant from the shore; between it and our late camping-place is a low, narrow plain, skirted with cane. The precipitous limestone mountain towering a thousand feet above it.
At 1:15 P.M., passed Wady Mahras, or Ravine of the Guard. It was dry, with a solitary ghurrah-tree at its mouth, larger than any we had seen upon these shores. It was about the size of a half-grown apple-tree.
Half a mile beyond is the Wady en Nar (Ravine of Fire), which is the bed of the brook Kidron. The head of that ravine is the valley of Jehoshaphat, under the eastern wall of Jerusalem. Midway down the ravine, the convent of Mar Saba is situated. Between the outlets of the two ravines of Mahras and En Nar, the debris of the mountains has formed a plain, or delta, sloping to the southeast, and rounding again to the southward.
At 1:36, stopped to examine where the Kidron empties into the sea, in the rainy season. The bed, much worn and filled with confused fragments of rock, was perfectly dry. It is a deep gorge, narrow at the base, and yawning wide at the summit, which was 1200 feet above us.
The peak of Mukulla, immediately north of this ravine, was the loftiest of the range we had thus far seen on the Judean shore; and presented, even more than the rest, the appearance of having been scathed by fire. Its summit is less sharp and more rounded, and the rapid disintegration of its face towards the sea has formed a sloping hill of half its height, resembling fine dust and ashes.
The formation of this mountain, like the rest of the range to the north, consists of horizontal strata of limestone; the exterior, of an incinerated brown, is so regular in its stratification as to present a scarped and fortified aspect. The mountain-sides and summits, and the shores of this sea, thus far, were almost entirely devoid of vegetation; and the solitary tree, of which I have spoken, alone refreshed the eye, while all else within the scope of vision was dreary and utter desolation. The curse of God is surely upon this unhallowed sea!
Picked up fresh-water shells in the torrent-bed, and fragments of flesh-coloured flint upon the sea shore, and gathered some specimens of rock.
At 2:12, started again; scarce any wind; weather warm but not oppressive; the sky somewhat clouded with cumuli; the course, S. ½ W. The curve of the shore forms a bay between the delta we have just left, and a point bearing S.S.E.
At 3 P.M., abreast of the high cliff Hathurah, and the Wady Sudeir, immediately north of it. 3:15, under the mouth of a large cave, which was two-thirds up the cliff. The delta, which had narrowed since leaving the bed of the Kidron, began to spread out again from the mountains towards the sea.
3:25, abreast of Wady Ghuweir, which presented a singular appearance on its summits; the northern one resembling a watch-tower, and the southern one a castle.
3:30, low land visible to the southward; a fire on the eastern shore. The face and sides of this ravine are cut into terraces by the action of the winter rains.
Narrow strips of canes and tamarisks immediately at the foot of the cliff, a luxuriant line of green; save the solitary ghurrah-tree, the only thing we have seen to cheer the eye since leaving the tawny cane-brake of Ain el Feshkhah. A beach of coarse, dark gravel below, and barren, brown mountains above, throughout the whole intervening space.
At 4:15, half a mile from the shore, threw over the drag in ten fathoms water. It brought up nothing but mud.
4:30, a perfect calm. The clouds hung motionless in the still air, and their shadows chequered the rugged surface of the mountains of Arabia. It was the grandeur of desolation; no being seen-all sound unheard-we were in the midst of a profound and awful solitude.
4:41, approaching Ain Turabeh. On a point stretching out into the sea are a few ghurrah-trees and some tamarisk-bushes, and tufts of cane and grass, which alone relieved the dreary scene; all besides are brown, incinerated hills, masses of conglomerate, banks of sand and dust, impalpable as ashes, and innumerable boulders, bleached by long exposure to the sun.
4:43, rounded the point, which was low and gravelly, with some drift-wood upon it; rowed by a small but luxuriant cane-brake, and camped a short distance from the fountain.
The clear, shelving beach, the numerous tamarisk and ghurrah-trees, and the deep green of the luxuriant cane, rendered this, by contrast, a delightful spot.
The indentation of the coast formed here a perfect little bay; and the water of the fountain, although warm, is pure and sweet. Its temperature, 75°. It rather trickles than gushes from the north side of the bay, within ten paces of the sea.
We found here a pistachia in full bloom, but its pretty white and pink flowers yielded no fragrance. In the stream of the little fountain were several lily-stalks, and the sand was discoloured with a sulphureous deposit, as at Ain el Feshkhah. The Arabs formed a number of pools around by scooping out the sand and gravel with their hands. They brought us a species of large pea, growing each in a separate pod, a number of them clustering on a low, shrub-like plant. It is a product of cultivation, and must have come from beyond the desert of Judea, which stretches westward, from the cliffs above, nearly to the meridian of Hebron and Bethlehem, and much farther south than the first. The shell of the pea is coated with a furze, which resembles the down of the ice-plant when the dew is upon it, and is salt and bitter to the taste, — hence its name, “hamoos” (sour); when dipped in fresh water, the unpleasant taste is removed. The pea itself is like our large marrow-fat pea, but not so luscious. An Arab brought us some dhom apples, the fruit of the nubk, or spina Christi. They were then withered, and presented the appearance of a small, dried crab-apple. It had a stone like the cherry; but the stone was larger, and there was less fruit on it in proportion to its size. It was sub-acid, and to us quite palatable; and, reclined upon the shelving beach of pebbles, we took off the edge of appetite while our cook was preparing the second and last meal of the day.
The plants we found here, besides the lily, were the yellow henbane, with narcotic properties; the nightshade, or wolf-grape, supposed, by Hasselquist, to be the wild grape alluded to in Isaiah; the lamb’s quarter, used in the manufacture of barilla; and a species of kale (salicornea Europea). This plant is found wherever salt water or saline formations occur. It was here upon the shore of the Dead Sea, and Fremont saw it on the borders of the Great Salt Lake, west of the Mississippi. Besides the single pistachia tree, there were a great many tamarisks, now also in blossom; the flowers small and of a dull white colour: the wood of the tree makes excellent charcoal, and, in the season, the branches bear galls almost as acrid as the oak.
The pebbles on the beach, to-day, were agglutinated with salt, and the stones in the torrent-beds were coated with saline incrustations.
At 6:10, one of the party shot at a duck, a short distance from the shore; dark-grey body, and black head and wings. This was fully twelve miles from the Jordan. The bird, when fired at, flew but a short distance out to sea, where it alighted and again directed its course towards the shore. We therefore inferred that its haunt was among the sedges of the little fountain. At sunset, the temperature was 70°; light and variable airs.
Soon after us the camel arrived; and an Arab brought a huge fish, of the cat-fish species, from the Jordan.
It was a strange scene, to-night. The tents among the tamarisks, the Arab watch-fires, the dark mountains in the rear, the planets and the stars above them, and the boats drawn up on the shore. The night was serene and beautiful; the moon, now beginning to wane, shone on a placid sea, upon which there was not the slightest ripple. The profound stillness was undisturbed by the faintest sound, except the tread of our sentinels.
SATURDAY, APRIL 22d. Awakened early, with the intelligence that Dr. Anderson had arrived at Ain el Feshkhah, with the provisions, Sherîf having neglected to apprise him of our contemplated movement. Sent his tent and some of our Arabs to escort him to Ain Jidy, yet farther south upon this shore.
Early in the morning it was quite cool. At 6 A.M., temperature of the air 70° and very pleasant. Took our breakfast beneath some tamarisk trees in bloom, the grateful shade enhanced by their delicious fragrance. An Arab brought some specimens of sulphur picked up on the banks of the Jordan near the sea, most probably washed down from the mountains by the river torrents. Some flowers were gathered and placed in our herbarium for preservation. Our arms; instruments, and everything metallic, were bronzed by the saline atmosphere.
At 7:51 A.M., started for Ain Jidy (fountain of the kid); wind light from S.E., with a short troubled swell the heavily laden boats rolled unmercifully. A few clouds in the north-east; cumulus stratus; steered S. by E. to clear the point to the southward.
The point is a projection of a low, flat delta of sand and pebbles, like the deposit of a large water-course. Two deep wadys in the rear, Wady Ta’amirah and Wady Derajeh (ravine of the step); the mountains withdrawn at their point of junction.
At 8:20, abreast of the first named ravine, at the head of which is Bethlehem. Thus on one side is the sea, the record of God’s wrath; on the other the birth-place of the Redeemer of the world.
From Ain et Turabeh to this place is a range of conglomerate in thin horizontal strata, terminating in a range of sand-hills half the height of the burnt-looking mountains of limestone. The hills run south-east to a point with scattering tufts of grass and shrubs to their very summits.
8:30, Wady Husasah; 8:45, abreast of Wady Shukif; a low flat plain here extends half a mile south-easterly to a point. The ravine had water in it.
A thin, haze-like, heated vapour over the southern sea — appearance of an island between the two shores. Wind gone down; sun intensely hot. 9:35, Wady Muddebbeh Sa’id ‘Obeideh, a singular oval chasm; lofty cliffs, light and dark brown. 9:40, a light refreshing breeze from S.W. 9:45, Ras Mersed, high and rugged. 9:50, passed through a line of foam, curved to the north, and coloured brown by floating patches of what seemed to be the dust of rotten wood.
At 10:25, hailed by an Arab from the shore, but could not understand him. 10:40, passed through a line of white foam. Through the mist the peninsula looked like an island. 10:42, abreast of wady Mukaddam (ravine of the Advanced); sand cropping out near the summits on each side. At 11, under a high peak of a mountain, the escarpment furrowed with innumerable dry water-courses. The marks upon the shore indicated that the sea had fallen seven feet this season.
At 11:20, stopped to examine a ruin a short distance up the mountain side. It is an old wall of unhewn stones without cement. The wall is on the front and two sides; the rear is the mountain side, in the face of which are several caves, with apertures cut through the rock to the air above, most probably for the escape of smoke. The walls were evidently built to defend the entrance of the caves long subsequent to their excavation. The caves were filled with detritus, lime, and a deposit of salt in cubes. They were perfectly dry, without stalactites or petrifactions of any kind except the cubes of salt. The largest cave could contain twenty or thirty men, and has a long, low, narrow gallery running from one side, which would be invisible when the sun does not shine through the entrance. This is in the wilderness of Engaddi, and the fountain is just beyond the next ravine.
At 11:45, started again, and, at 12:10, stopped at Wady Sudeir, below Ain Jidy (Engaddi). Walked up the dry torrent bed, and finding no suitable place for encampment, directed the boats to be taken half a mile farther south, where they were hauled up, and our tents pitched near them, immediately in a line with, but some distance from where the fountain stream of Ain Jidy descends the mountain side and is lost in the plain; its course marked by a narrow strip of luxuriant green. The Wady Sudeir has water in it some distance up, but too remote for our purposes.
Instead of the fine grassy plain, which, from Dr. Robinson’s description, we had anticipated, we found here a broad sloping delta at the mouth of dry gorges in the mountains. The surface of this plain is dust covered with coarse pebbles and minute fragments of stone, mostly flint, with here and there a.nubk and some osher trees. The last were in blossom, but had some of the fruit of last year, dry and fragile, hanging upon them, and we collected some for preservation. The blossom is a delicate purple, small, bell-shaped, and growing in large clusters. The leaf is oblong, about four inches long by three wide, thick, smooth, and of a dark green, and except that it is smaller, much resembling the caoutchouc. The branches are tortuous like the locust, and the light brown bark has longitudinal ash-coloured ridges upon it, like the sassafras at home. The nubk or lotus tree, the spina Christi of Hasselquist, called by the Arabs the dhom tree, has small dark-green, oval-shaped, ivy-like leaves. Clustering thick and irregularly upon the crooked branches, are sharp thorns, half an inch in length. The smaller branches are very pliant, which, in connexion with the ivy-like appearance of the leaves, sustain the legend that of them was made the mock crown of the Redeemer. Its fruit, as I have before mentioned, is subacid, and of a pleasant flavour.
There were tamarisk trees and much cane in the bed of the ravine, besides many pink oleanders. About the plain we found the rock-rose, from one of the species of which the gum ladanum is procured; also the common pink; the Aleppo senna, which is used in medicine; the common mallow, and the scentless yellow mignonette.
On the upper part of the plain were terraces, which bore marks of former cultivation, perhaps cucumber-beds, such as seen by Dr. Robinson and Mr. Smith. They were owned by the Ta’amirah, and were destroyed a short time before by a tribe of hostile Arabs. We found a few small prickly cucumbers, or gerkins, in detached places. There were two patches of barley standing, which were scarce above the ground, perhaps, at the time of the hostile incursion. Yet, although it could have been but a few weeks since, the grain was nearly ready for the harvest. The whole aspect of the country, these few trees and patches of vegetation excepted, was one incinerated brown. The mountain, with caverns in its face, towered fifteen hundred feet above us; and one-third up was the fountain, in a grove of spina Christi. It was a spot familiar to the imaginations of all, — the “Diamond of the Desert,” in the tales of the crusaders.
Examined the boats for repairs. Found them very much battered, and their keels, stems, and stern-posts, fractured. Commenced a series of barometrical and thermometrical observations, and surveyed the ground for a base-line. Observed some branches of trees floating, about a mile from the shore, towards the north, confirming our impression of an eddy-current. At 6 P.M., an Arab brought in a catbird he had killed; like all the other birds, and most of the insects and animals, we had seen, it was of a stone colour.
In the evening, some of the tribe Ta’amirah came in a little more robust, but scarcely better clad, than the Rashayideh. They were warm and hungry, from walking a long distance to meet us. They had no food, and I directed some cooked rice to be given to them. They had seated themselves round the pot, and were greedily about to devour it, when one of them suggested that, perhaps, pork had been cooked in the same vessel. They rose, therefore, in a body, and came to the cook to satisfy their scruple. I never saw disappointment more strongly pictured in the human countenance than when told that the vessel had often been used for that purpose. Although nearly famished, they would not touch the rice, and we could give them nothing else. Fearing that our provisions would fall short, I advised them to return; not to their houses, for they have nothing so stable as to deserve the name, but to their migratory tents.
As in all southern nations of this continent, the principal food of the Arab is rice. Almost all other nations extract an intoxicating beverage from the plant, containing saccharine matter, which constitutes their principal article of nourishment. But the Arab scarcely knows what strong drink is, and has no name for wine, the original Arabic word for which is now applied to coffee.
Our Arabs were such pilferers that we were obliged to keep a most vigilant watch over everything, except the pork, which, being an abomination to the Muslim, was left about the camp, in full confidence that it would be untouched.
At 8:30, there was a light breeze from the south-west — no clouds visible-a, pale-blue misty appearance over the sea. At 9, the wind shifted to the north and blew strong; forced to strengthen the tent-stakes and pile stones upon the canvass eaves. The moon rose clear. Sea, rough. Weather, cool and pleasant; thermometer, 71°. A strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, which surprised us, as we knew of no thermal spring in this vicinity. At midnight, sky almost cloudless; thin strata of cirri, extending north-east and south-west. Thermometer, 70°. Wind ranging from north to north-east, and abating. Sherîf said that he had often heard of the tyranny of the Franks towards each other, but never thought they would have sent their countrymen to so desolate a place as this. Most of the Arabs, however, suspected that we came for gold; and Dr. Anderson’s hammering at the rocks was, to them, conclusive proof of this hypothesis.
We had this afternoon measured a base line of 3,350 feet across the plain, and angled upon all possible points. An Arab, with two camels loaded with salt, came from the south end of the sea, and was going up this pass to Gaza. Commerce extends even here, although her burnished keels have never ploughed this dreary sea.
Our water was brought the distance of a mile by the Arabs. There were about fifty of them around the camp, and we could not persuade them to go away. They were of the Raschayideh and Ta’amirah tribes-mere bundles of rags, very poor, and, so far, perfectly inoffensive. Some of them kissed our hands, and, pointing to their miserable garments, by comprehensible gestures solicited charity.
Our bread and rice falling short, and being uncertain about the arrival of provisions from Jerusalem, I this day sent some Arabs to Hebron for flour. Would that we could have gone there, too, and visited the cave of Macpelah, near Mamre!
One of my greatest anxieties was the difficulty of procuring provisions. Should our caravan , coming from Jerusalem under charge of Dr. Anderson and the Sherîf, be plundered on its way, and the emissary to Hebron procure but a small supply, we should have been in a starving condition. I would have also sent either Lieut. Dale or Mr. Aulick to Jerusalem, but that their presence was absolutely necessary. To sound the sea, take topographical sketches of its shores, and make astronomical and barometrical observations, gave full occupation to every one. This was to be our depot; here we were to leave our tents, and everything we could dispense with. It would be our home while upon this sea, and, in honour of the greatest man the world has yet produced, I named it “Camp Washington.”
APRIL 23, EASTER SUNDAY. Deferred all work that we could possibly set aside, until tomorrow. At 6 A.M., weather pleasant, thermometer standing at 70° in the tent. At 7, 84°; 7:30, 85°; the two extremities of the sea misty, with constant evaporation; sky cloudless, a light breeze from the north; the heat so oppressive in the tent, that we breakfasted “al fresco.” A.M. Walking along the beach, saw a hawk, and shortly after some doves, near the tent, all of the same colour as the mountains and the shore. Each day, in the forenoon, the wind had prevailed from the southward, and in the afternoon, until about midnight, from the northward; the last wind quite fresh, and accompanied with a smell of sulphur. After midnight, it generally fell calm. Although the nights were mostly cloudless, there was scarcely any deposit of dew, the ground remaining heated through the night from the intensity of the solar rays during the day.
Four young wild boars were brought in by an Arab; they escaped from him and ran to the sea, but were caught, and, because we would not buy them, they were killed.
Nearly out of provisions, and, anxiously looking for Dr. Anderson and the Sherîf, we gladly hailed their appearance shortly after noon, creeping like mites along the lofty crags descending to this deep chasm. Some of our party had discovered in, the face of the precipice, near the fountain, several apertures, one of them arched and faced with stone. There was no perceptible access to the caverns, which were once, perhaps, the abodes of the Essenes. Our sailors could not get to them; and where they fail, none but monkeys can succeed. There must have been terraced pathways formerly cut in the face of the rock, which have been worn away by winter torrents.
Although we saw the Doctor and Sherîf shortly after noon, they did not reach the camp until 3:30, P.M. The provisions they brought were very acceptable. With them, came four Turkish soldiers, to guard our camp while we should be absent.
P.M. We again noticed a current, setting to the northward along the shore, and one farther out, setting to the southward. The last was no doubt the impetus given by the Jordan, and the former its eddy, deflected by Usdum and the southern shore of the sea. Arranged with Sherîf that he should remain here, in charge of our camp. The scene at sunset was magnificent; the wild, mighty cliffs above us, the dull, dead sea, and the shadows climbing up the eastern mountains. And there was Kerak, castled upon the loftiest summit of the range. We never looked upon it but we deplored the folly and rapacity of the “Lord of Kerak,” which lost to Christendom the guardianship of the Holy Sepulchre.
We all felt a great oppression about the head, and much drowsiness, particularly during the heat of the day. In the evening, it was calm and sultry.
At night we visited Sherîf. A number of Arabs were gathered in front of the tent, and they gave us a dance. Ten or twelve of them were drawn up in a line, curved a little inwards, and one of them stood in front, with a naked sword. A mass of filthy rags, with black heads above and spindle legs below! Clapping their hands, and chanting a low, monotonous song, bowing and bending, and swinging their bodies from side to side, they followed the motions of the one in front. In a short time, one of them commenced chanting extempore, and the others repeated the words with monotonous cadence; he with the sword waving it to and fro in every direction, and keeping time and movement with the rest. Their song referred to us. “Lieut. Dale was strong and rode a horse well.” “Kobtan, (the captain) made much work for Arabs, with his head.” The dance was interrupted by an old man suddenly darting into the circle, and, bare-footed, with his aba gathered in his hands behind him, went jumping, hopping, crouching, and keeping time to the strange sounds of the others. The grotesque movements, the low monotonous tones, and the seeming ill-timed levity of the old Arab, gave to the whole affair the appearance of a wild coronach, disturbed by the antics of a mountebank. In the swaying of the body and clapping of the hands, some of us detected a resemblance to the war dance of the South Sea Islanders.
A calm, sultry night. At this hour, last night (11 o’clock), it blew a fresh breeze from the north. In the mid-watch there was a bright meteor from the zenith, towards the north-east. The same sulphureous smell, but less unpleasant than when the wind blew fresh. Molyneaux detected the same odour the night he spent upon the sea, whence he thought it proceeded. We have been twice upon the sea when the spray was driven in our faces; but although the water was greasy, acrid, and disagreeable, it was perfectly inodorous. I am therefore inclined to attribute the noxious smell to the foetid springs and marshes along the shores of the sea, increased, perhaps, by exhalations from stagnant pools in the flat plain which bounds it to the north.
MONDAY, APRIL 24. Called all hands at 4:46 A.M.; light wind from the north; clouds, cirro-stratus, in the south and east; temperature, 78°. Wrote a note to Mr. Finn, H.B.M. consul at Jerusalem, respecting provisions. This gentleman had been exceedingly kind and attentive. He had received our money on deposit, and paid my drafts upon him. By this means we kept but little money on hand, and avoided presenting a great temptation to the Arabs.
At 6, breakfasted luxuriously on fresh bread, brought, by the Doctor, from Jerusalem. The latter reported Hugh Reid (seaman), one of the crew of the Fanny Skinner, as unable to work at the oar. Determined to leave him in the camp, his affection being a chronic one, uninfluenced by the climate.
At 6:38, started with Dr. Anderson, in the Fanny Mason, for the peninsula, which had so long loomed, like Cape Flyaway, in the distance. Directed Mr. Aulick to pull directly across to Wady Mojeb (the River Arnon of the Old Testament), and sound as he proceeded.
I left Lieut. Dale and the rest of the party to make observations for determining the position of the camp, and measure angles for each end of the base-line. We steered, in the Fanny Mason, a south-east course, directly for the north end of the peninsula, sounding at short intervals. The first cast, near the shore, brought up slimy mud, but further out, a light-coloured mud, and many perfectly well formed cubic crystals of salt. These, as well as the mud, were carefully put up in air-tight vessels; greatest depth, 137 fathoms (822 feet). One of the deepest casts, the cup to Stelwagon’s lead brought up a blade of grass, faded in colour, but of as firm a texture as any plucked on the margin of a brook. It must have been washed down by one of the fresh-water streams, in connection with a heavier substance.
About midway across picked up a dead bird, which was floating upon the water; we recognised it as a small quail. At 11, reached the peninsula; the sun intensely hot. It is a bold, broad promontory, from forty to sixty feet high, with a sharp angular central ridge some twenty feet above it, and a broad margin of sand at its foot, encrusted with salt and bitumen; the perpendicular face extending all round and presenting the coarse and chalky appearance of recent carbonate of lime. There were myriads of dead locusts strewed upon the beach near the margin of the sea. The summit of the peninsula is irregular and rugged; in some places showing the tent-shape formation, in others, a series of disjointed crags. On the western side, the high peninsula with its broad margin extends to the southward until it is lost in the misty sea.
Dr. Anderson describes the peninsula as a loose, calcareous marl, with incrustations of salt and indications of sulphur, nitre, gypsum, marly clays, &c.; and the northern extremity, which he estimates one-third higher than I do, as chalky, with flints; the texture soft and crumbling.
There were a few bushes, their stems partly buried in the water, and their leafless branches incrusted with salt, which sparkled as trees do at home when the sun shines upon them after a heavy sleet. Such an image, presented to the mind, while the frame was weltering with the heat, was indeed like “holding a fire in the hand and thinking of the frosty Caucasus.” Near the immediate base of the cliffs was a line of drift-wood deposited by the sea at its full. Save the standing and prostrate dead trees, there was not a vestige of vegetation. The mind cannot conceive a more dreary scene, or an atmosphere more stifling and oppressive. The reverberation of heat and light from the chalk-like hills and the salt beach was almost insupportable.
Walking up the beach we saw the tracks of a hyena, and another animal which we did not recognise, and soon after the naked footprints of a man. To the eastward of the point is a deep bay indenting the peninsula from the north. We followed up an arched passage worn in the bank, and cutting steps in the salt on each side of the upper part, crawled through a large hole worn by the rains, and clambered up the steep side of the ridge to gain a view from the top. It presented a surface of sharp and angular points, light coloured, bare of vegetation, and blinding to the eye. We here collected many crystals of carbonate of lime. During our absence, the sailors had endeavoured to make a fire of the drift-wood as a signal to the camp, but it was so impregnated with salt that it would not burn.
At 1 P.M., started on our return, steering directly across to measure the width of the strait between the peninsula and the western shore. There was little wind, the same faint sulphureous smell, and every one struggling against a sensation of drowsiness. Arrived at the camp a little before 6 P.M., in a dead calm, very much wearied, temperature 92°. As we landed an Arab ran up, and gathering an armful of barley in the straw, threw it on the fire, and then husking the grain by rubbing it in his hands, brought it to me, and by gesture invited me to eat; it was excellent. The Fanny Skinner arrived shortly after. Mr. Aulick had sounded directly across, and found the width of the sea by patent log to be a little more than eight geographical, or about nine statute miles; the greatest depth 188 fathoms, 1,128 feet. He landed at the mouth of the “Arnon;” — a considerable stream of water, clear, fresh, and moderately cool, flowing between banks of red sandstone. In it some small fish were seen.
On our first arrival here, I had despatched a messenger to the tribes along the southern coast to procure guides. This afternoon he returned with the information that they had been driven away, and that the country was inhabited only by robbers. Sherîf was earnest in the advice to proceed no farther south; but we could not leave our work unaccomplished. A sheikh of the Ta’amirah agreed to walk along the coast in sight of the boats. We wished to visit the ruins of Sebbeh on our route southward, and prepared for several days’ absence. At night a fresh breeze sprang up from the northward and eastward. There were several large fires on the peninsula. Secured a partridge and several insects for our collection; and there was also gathered a specimen of every variety of flower for our herbarium. In the evening our Arabs had another entertainment. An improvisatore in Arabic poetry was engaged until a late hour reciting warlike narratives in verse; for the amusement of Sherîf — some from Antar, the celebrated poet of Arabia; others, unpremeditated, in praise of Ibrahim Pasha. At the end of each couplet, some one of the audience pronounced the final rhyming word after him. This was more endurable than the one-stringed rebabeh, and less stupid than the dance of last evening. In the night, killed a tarantula and a scorpion.
Oppressively sultry. A foetid, sulphureous odour in the night; felt quite sick. At daybreak, a fine invigorating breeze from the north; air over the sea very misty. Did not rouse the camp until 6:30, for the night had been oppressive. The Arabs becoming too numerous in the camp, I sent all away, except a few to bring water to Sherîf , and some to accompany us to show where water could be found along the shore.