Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/85

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59
On the Columbretes.

the limestone range which separates the alluvial plains of Valencia and Tortosa, and in a bearing with the northern capes of Majorca, is a group of rugged rocks, sometimes termed Monte Colibre—a name adopted by d'Anville, and also by the recondite editor of the 'Quarter Waggoner:' but they are more generally known amongst Mediterranean navigators as the Columbretes, though, as no plan has hitherto been published, geographers have had very indistinct uotions of their extent and geognosy. Tosiňo, the author of the best description we have of the Spanish coasts, remarks— 'It is said that the small islands and rocks amount to fourteen;' from whence, as well as from the erroneous position he has assigned them, his stating the bay to be on the N.E. side, and his describing the smaller islets as lying S.S.E. of the large one, we may infer that he did not personally visit them. The industrious Coronelli, in his lsolario, dismisses them thus:—' Tra la Majorica, e le foci del fiume Ebro, si vede la Mammeolibra, si piccola, e povera, che non havendo cos' alcuna di considerabile, non merita altra descrittione.'

My attention was first attracted to these rocks from perceiving a xebec at anchor in the port, while we were passing them in chase of a stranger; and I then admired the picturesque forms of the broken masses, which presented the appearance of being the wrecks of a more considerable island. But on a second visit I was so struck with their peculiarities that I examined them with some interest; and although giving appellations on such a coast may seem intrusive, I was led to call the highest hill by the well known name of Monte Colibre, and also to denominate the several rocks after those Spanish officers to whom geography and science are deeply indebted, in order that future visiters may distinguish them in description.

The largest of the Columbretes, from its comparative magnitude, may merit the name of island. A reference to the plan will at once show how evidently it has resulted from igneous causes, and that its harbour is the mere mouth of an ancient crater, though now forming a tolerably secure anchorage for vessels, in westerly winds. Here privateers, and especially, the corsairs of Barbary, have been known to lurk; and as the summit of the hill commands an extensive horizon, they have pounced upon their prey very unexpectedly. The port is somewhat more than a quarter of a mile across at the entrance; and as it forms a capacious basin, would hold several vessels, in case of need, in from five to twelve fathoms, on an indifferent bottom of mud, weed, and rocks. It is tolerably secure from all winds but those from N.E., E., and S.E.; though, in the latter case, craft might find shelter close to the Mammeolibre, the channel between which and the point is practicable for boats, having nowhere less than