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There are few towns of the smallest importance in Abyssinia. Gondar, once the capital, is believed to be abandoned. Sokota to the south-east, Angol and Antalo to the east, Axum to the north-east. These are names of towns that appear on maps, but seem hardly to admit of description. The population has been estimated at between four and five millions, but this is probably a gross exaggeration. The inhabitants are the degenerate descendants of a civilized people, partly Jewish, partly Arab, partly Egyptian, who have once been Christians and still call themselves so, retaining the forms of a Christian church with many Jewish and Mohammedan customs. They are governed by a tyrant, now well known to us by name as Theodore II. He was born in 1818, and has led a turbulent existence, his so-called subjects being often in rebellion.
Much of the eastern side of Africa consists of a vast elevated plateau. Towards the northern part this presents the appearance of a ridge or wall of nearly 8000 feet, rising immediately from the sea, and often rapidly. When the plateau is reached, which is generally not without some difficulty, there is no corresponding descent on the side towards the interior of the continent. The summit of this great elevation is not indeed level, but it is everywhere very far above the sea. It is, however, frequently intersected by wide and deep ravines, sometimes descending 3000 feet to river valleys, and such valleys. are not only very numerous but characteristic of the whole country of Abyssinia. Their breadth is sometimes more than twenty miles. The lofty plateau is so broken, and the gorges so deep, so numerous, and so wide, that the traveller is induced to fancy that the intervening ridges are detached mountains, or mountain systems, and describe them accordingly. There is no doubt, however, that there are lofty mountains in the interior, rising to at least 15,000 feet. The plateau is to some extent covered with lava, and on the coast hot springs have been observed, no doubt connected with the presence of the saine rock.
The climate of Abyssinia is universally described as moderate, and, indeed, pleasant, and, with few exceptions, healthy. The nights are very cold, and the days, especially in summer, are hot, but the heat is nowhere excessive. There are rainy seasons, and the summer is generally dry, but in this respect there seems also no excess. During the four first months of Salt followed at the commencement of this century for the east coast, but did not reach far into the interior. Dr. Beke has made several trips from the east, and penetrated far into the country. Two Frenchmen, Ferrel and Galinier, reached Gondar from Mansowah (Red Sea) by another route. Mr. Mansfield Parkyns did not reach Gondar, but crossed, after reaching Adoua (half way), to the Nile below Sennar. There have been other travellers, but these have been the most adventurous.
the present year, at Magdala, where our fellow-countrymen are confined, the heat at sunrise was never less than 41° Fah., the usual range being from 44° to 55o. At noon the lowest point reached in the four months was 57°, and the highest 84°, from 60° to 80° being the general range. At sunset the extreme range was between 51° and 67°. There was rain on 19 days only out of the 120, and then chiefly at night. The air was generally calm. The sky was slightly clouded during January, March, and April, but clear in February. As Magdala is quite in the south, far in the interior of the country, and stands on an elevation by no means excessive compared with the general plateau, this may probably be taken as a fair estimate of the general weather of the winter and spring. Nearer the coast the rains are probably heavier, and the temperature more excessive, but there is nothing to render it likely that any serious difficulties will be incurred, either from heat or malaria, during the dry season. In May, however, the heavy rains begin, and from that time to October the country is less healthy.
It seems to be determined, from observations made by actual survey, that the best point to enter Abyssinia for a warlike expedition from India will be the island and port of Massowah, near Annesley Bay. The island is described by Mr. Mansfield Parkyns* as “a mere rock of coral, scarcely a mile long, and half that in breadth, without a vestige of vegetation to enliven its bare face" (Vol. i., pp. 77, 80). The climate in summer is detestable. Moncooloo, on the mainland, is about four miles from the anchorage of Massowah, and somewhat cooler and less unpleasant than the island. From this place the first terrace on the way up to the great plateau of Abyssinia is reached at Ailat, a distance of twenty-seven miles nearly due west. The plain of Ailat is already nearly 800 feet above the sea, and is reached with comparative facility by a gradual rise to an elevation of 989 feet, and then a descent of 200 feet. Water is obtainable about half way from a natural spring, but may always be found by digging a few feet. This terrace of Ailat is about five miles broad, and covered in winter with the richest verdure. Here are hot springs, that have been used from time immemorial for curative purposes, and are still frequented.
Without going so far as Ailat, it is easier to enter the high lands by branching at a certain point, and then the road is well marked by a number of stations, not more than ten miles apart, as far as Kiaguor, sixty miles from Moncooloo, and on the main plateau of Hamozeya, above 6000 feet above the sea. About thirty miles beyond is a very healthy spot, with a very
* “Life in Abyssinia," 2 vols, 1853.
strange name (Koodou-felassy on the maps), where every natural facility is afforded for a depôt. From here also several roads diverge, and this is the spot to which supplies from the interior seem naturally to come. It may be regarded as an admirable place for a first rendezvous, and might be reached in nine days by an army from Moncooloo.
Adowa is the next station, and is fifty miles beyond. It is reached after crossing the valley of the Mareb, one of the smaller of the deep and wide gorges alluded to. Adowa is upwards of 6000 feet above the sea, and is comparatively large, being the capital of the province of Tigré; and from this town the communication beyond would have to be made under any circumstances, as the various roads from the coast, of which there are several, all converge to it. The information concerning the roads up to this point has been obtained with a special view to the expedition, and is quite definite. There is a muclı shorter route from the head of Annesley Bay by Mahio and Dixan, traversed by Dr. Beke, and a third route, travelled by M. Munziger, which also appears to be practicable.
Up to this point it is not probable that any serious opposition could be made to an advancing army, but from here to Magdala, whether by way of Gondar, following the track of Ferrel and Galinier, or by a route more to the east, followed by Dr. Beke, to Debra Tabor, there seems as yet no settled plan of route. The distance hence to Debra Tabor cannot be much less than two hundred miles by any route, and may be more. To reach it, either the Taccazy River must be reached and ascended towards its source, or the eastern tributaries must be crossed, and the towns, Abiyad (40 miles), Autolo (30 miles), Samrie (15 miles), and Sokota (40 miles), made successive stations. Under any circumstances, there remains a considerable extent of little known and unknown country to be got over before Debra Tabor is arrived at. It may be that, along this line, the supply of water may fail, but this is not probable, judging from what is actually known of the country.
Debra Tabor would seem to be an important station, and a healthy and convenient summer resort. It is a town, built. on an escarped hill, or fragment of table-land, not very accessible. It has been the habitation of the king during many of the discussions relating to the captives, and would probably have to be reached and taken. At a place called Gaffal, three miles from the town or mountain of Debra Tabor, Mr. Rassam speaks of there being an “ European quarter,” but does not describe it. Beyond the escarpment, to the west, there is a vast depression in the plateau of nearly a thousand feet, to the level of Lake Tsana, a little to the north of which is Gondar.
Magdala, the place of actual imprisonment, is described as
fifty miles south-east from Debra Tabor, on a difficult road. It is on a plateau consisting of a small tongue of high land, about a mile long, and half a mile wide, level at the top, and only approachable from one extremity. A number of similar plateaux surround it, and they are described by Mr. Rassam as being formed (probably capped) with columnar basalt. They are separated from the country to the north by deep ravines and an intervening ridge, involving a double descent and rise within a comparatively short distance. There is reason to suppose that the way to Magdala from Sokota through the Lasta country, without approaching Debra Tabor, may be much easier and more accessible by an armed force than that described by Mr. Rassam as having been followed by him when obliged to go from Debra Tabor to the place of his present imprisonment in company with the king.
South of Magdala we are already in the country of the Gallas, well-known for their ferocity, and of Shoa, one of the most interesting countries of the Abyssinian highlands. It is not likely that the expedition could do more than reach and destroy a few of the hill forts, of which Debra Tabor and Magdala are examples. Nor does it seem that this task will be very difficult.
There is much natural wealth in Abyssinia. Dr. Beke describes good coal worked fifty miles from Gondar, to the west; and iron ore of extraordinary richness and excellent quality would seem to be so abundant in certain districts, that the whole country for long distances shows marks of it that cannot be overlooked. Copper also is talked of, although hitherto the localities where any available quantities may exist are not described. Gold is certainly abundant. Besides these and other metals, sulphur is plentifully distributed, and various salts are alluded to, some of which are present in vast quantities. The plains, enjoying different temperatures, according to their height above the sea, are capable of yielding crops to almost any extent, and the soil is almost universally good. Thus all the products of temperate, warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates appear united, and it is only for man to say what he desires to ensure possession.
The following extract from an able report by the late Consul, Walter Plowden, Esq., made to the Foreign Office in 1855, will show how rich is the country, and how melancholy the state in which it remains:
“The flat lands round Lake Tana (Isana or Dembea) are kept as pasture for cattle, or partially sown with grain, but are adapted for the cultivation of rice, sugar-canes, and indigo.
“The cold plains and mountains are fitted for the productions of northern latitudes. The more temperate provinces would yield pepper, spices, and coffee, and the hottest districts give crops of cotton. Barley, wheat, peas, oats, beans, maize, millet, linseed, saffron, and some grain unknown to us, are cultivated with little trouble. A small potato called 'dennich,' and the root of a very nourishing banana, form great part of the food of some districts.
“At present not a fiftieth part of the surface is cultivated, while Edjow and other provinces produce two crops per annum on the same ground.
“Fruit-trees—the plum, the orange, the lemon, and the peach-grow wild in the jungle; the vines are luxuriant, and the quality of the wine excellent. Numerous streams everywhere irrigate and adorn this agreeable land, whose rich meadows, lowing herds, sparkling waters, golden harvest, and shady trees often present a scene of European beauty to the traveller.” (“Correspondence respecting the British Captives in Abyssinia, presented to the House of Lords, 1866, p. 7.)
Note.—It may be interesting to the reader to be reminded in a few words of the history of the quarrel between Abyssinia and England. It is as follows:-Captain Cameron succeeded Mr. Plowden as Consul at Massowah, in February, 1861. At that time civil war had broken out in the country. Early in 1863 a letter from King Theodore to Queen Victoria was received and forwarded, in acknowledgment of some present that had been sent to the king, on account of kindness shown to the late Consul Plowden; and an embassy to England from Abyssinia was suggested in this letter. It was not till May, 1864, that a reply was despatched from England, Mr. Rassam, then Assistant Resident at Aden, being appointed to convey it. In February, 1864, however, news had arrived in England that Mr. Cameron, with seventeen other Europeans (chiefly missionaries and their families), were imprisoned at Gondar. Mr. Rassam in due time reached the king, and obtained release of the captives in March, 1866. They were, however, almost immediately recaptured, and, with Mr. Rassam himself, have since been in close confinement at Magdala.
The great archæological event of the month has been, doubtless, the opening of the BLACKMORE MUSEUM, IN SALISBURY. The munic ficent founder of this interesting institution, Mr. William Blackmore, is a native of the city of Salisbury, though he has been established during, we believe, the greater part of his life in Liverpool and London, where he has amassed the wealth which has enabled him to confer this great benefit on the place of his birth. In a very excellent address delivered on the occasion we are briefly describing, Mr. Blackmore gave a history of the formation of his museum. In a visit to New York towards the end of the year 1863, he found the remarkable collection of the primeval antiquities of the valley of the Mississippi, formed by two world-known American antiquaries and explorers, Mr. E. G. Squier and Dr. E. H. Davis, for sale and undisposed of, and he bought them. They had been well described