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without even the exception of mercury. Superb timberand an abundanceof iron and copperwould favour the progress of Mexican navigation; but the state of the coasts and the want of ports from the mouth of the Rio Alvarado to the mouth of the Rio Bravo, oppose obstacles in this respect which would be difficult to overcome.
These obstacles, it is true, do not exist on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco in New California, San Blas in the intendancy of Guadalaxara, near the mouth of the river Santiago, and especially Acapulco, are magnificent ports. The last, probably formed by a violent earthquake, is one of the most admirable basins in the whole world. In the South Sea there is only Coquimbo on the coast of Chili which can be compared with Acapulco; yet in winter, during great hurricanes, the sea becomes very rough in Acapulco. Farther south we find the port of Rialexo, in the kingdom of Guatimala, formed, like Guayaquil,-by a large and beautiful river. Sonzonate is very much frequented during the fine season, but it is merely an open road like Tehuantepec, and is consequently very dangerous in winter.
When we examine the eastern coast of New Spain we see that it does not possess the same advantages as the western coast. We have already observed, that, properly speaking, it possesses no port; for Vera Cruz, by which an annual commerce of fifty or sixty millions of piastres is carried on, is merely a bad anchorage between the shallows of la Caleta, la Gallega, and la Lavandera. The physical cause of this disadvantage is easily discovered. The coast of Mexico, along the Mexican gulf, may be considered as a dike against which the trade winds, and perpetual motion of the waves from east to west, throw up the sands which the agitated ocean carries along. This current of rotation runs along South Americafrom Comana to the isthmus of Darien; it ascends towards Cape Catoche, and after whirling a long time in the Mexican gulf, issues through the canal of Florida, and flows towards the banks of Newfoundland. The sands heaped up by the vortices of the waters, from the peninsula of Yucatan to the mouths of the Rio del Norte and the Mississipi, insensibly contract the basin of the Mexican gulf. Geological facts of a very remarkable nature prove this increase of the continent; we see the ocean every where retiring. M. Ferrer found near Sotto la Marina, to the east of the small town of New Santander, ten leagues in the interior of the country, moving sands filled with sea shells. I myself observed the same thing in the environs of Antigua and New Vera Cruz. The rivers which descend fromsthe Sierra Madre and enter the Atlantic Ocean have in no small degree contributed to increase the sand banks. It is curious to observe that the eastern coasts of Old and New Spain are equally disadvantageous for navigation. The coast of New Spain, from the 18" to the 26* of latitude, abounds with bars; and vessels which draw more than 32 centimetres* of water, cannot pass over any of these bars, without danger of grounding. Yet obstacles like these, so unfavourable for commerce, would at the same time facilitate the defence of the country against the ambitious projects of a European conqueror.
The inhabitants of Mexico, discontented with the port of Vera Cruz, if we may give the name of port to the most dangerous of all anchorages, entertain the hope of finding out surer channels for the commerce with the mother country. I shall merely name the mouths of the rivers Alvarado and Guasacualco to the south of Vera Cruz; and to the north of that city the Rio Tampico, and especially the village of Sotto la Manna, near the bar of Santander. These four points have long fixed the attention of the government; but even there, however advantageous in other respects, the sand banks prevent the entry of large vessels. These ports would require to be artificially corrected ; but it becomes necessary in the first place to inquire if the localities are such as to warrant a belief that this expensive remedy would be durable in its effects. It is to be observed, however, that we still know too little of th* coasts of New Santander and Texas, particu
• 12,598, say 12^ inches.
larly that part to the north of the Lake of S. Bernard or Carbonera, to be able to assert that in the whole of this extent nature presents the same obstacles and the same bars. Two Spanish officers of distinguished zeal and astronomical knowledge, MM. Cevallos and Herrera,have engaged in this interesting and useful investigation. At present Mexico is in a military dependence on the Havannah, which is the only neighbouring port capable of receiving squadrons, and the most important point for the defence of the eastern coast of New Spain. Accordingly, the government, since the last taking of the Havannah by the English, has been at enormous expenses in increasing the fortifications of the place. Sensible of its true interests, the court of Madrid has wisely laid it down as a principle, that the dominion of the island of Cuba is essential for the preservation of New Spain.
A very serious inconvenience is common to the eastern coast, and to the coast washed by the. Great Ocean, falsely called the Pacific Ocean. They are rendered inaccessible for several months by violent tempests, which effectually prevent all navigation. The north winds (los nortes), which are north-west winds, blow in the gulf of Mexico from the autumnal to the spring equinox. These winds are generally moderate in the months of September and October: their greatest fury is in
the month of March; and they sometimes last to April. Those navigators who have long frequented the port of Vera Cruz know the symptoms of the coming tempest as a physician knows the symptoms of an acute malady. According to the excellent observations of M. Orta, a great change in the barometer, and a sudden interruption in the regular recurrence of the horary variations of that instrument, are the sure forerunners of the tempest. It is accompanied by the following phenomena. At first a small land wind (terral) blows from the west-north-west; and to this terral succeeds a breeze, first from the north-east and then from the south. During all this time a most suffocating heat prevails; and the water dissolved in the air is precipitated on the brick walls, the pavement, and iron or wooden balustrades. The summits of the Pic d'Orizaba and the Cofre de Perote, and the mountains of Villa Rica, particularly the Sierra de San Martin, which extends from Tustla to Guasacualco, appear uncovered with clouds, while their bases are concealed under a veil of denritransparent vapours. These cordilleras appear projected on a fine azure ground. In this state of the atmosphere the tempest commences, and sometimes with such impetuosity, that before the lapse of a quarter of an hour it would be dangerous to remain on the mole in the port of Vera Cruz. All communication between the city