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the ship at Aden, and none of them discovered that Commanders are not usually sent out from England, vaguely, "for disposal" by the Admirals of stations; ner that my uniform outfit, for a three years' commission in Indian waters, was locked in two tin cases in my cabin, and consisted chiefly of theodolites, sextants, field note-books, and drawing instruments. At Bombay, having shaken everybody off successfully, I transferred myself darkly to the British India 8.s. Kistna, and sailed, almost at once, first for Karachi, and thence for the Persian Gulf.
The little Kistna was a great change from the ample Persia, and nearly every passenger by her was an Asiatic. The heat of the stuffy little cabins was too much even for them, and they all eamped, picturesquely, on the desk outside the saloon, on the tops of the cargo hatches, with their unsmiling wives and solemn families,for no polite Indian person ever laughs or looks happy, their pipes, their food, the dishes thereof, and their beds. Each family arranged itself in a neat and separate circle. They looked like a series of bored and exclusive picnic parties in Richmond Park on a crowded holiday. The importance of fresh air, and of propinquity to the ship's side, became apparent shortly after we got to sea, No doubt, sad previous experience had recommended to them the demooratio deck as a living place, even though first-class saloon
fare had been paid. Thus, there were not many available sleeping billets on deck for a lone European. On the first night out, having just dropped into a parboiled slumber in my cabin, I was awakened by a horrible, slow, erunching sound. It came from beneath my bunk, and investigation showed that it proceeded from the ship's cat, which was engaged there in supping off a large rat! I suppose that no cat has ever before (or since) travelled so quickly through space as this one, initial veloeity being imparted, with great effect, by means of the metal wind-scoop, seized out of the cabin seuttle, and suitably applied as a propellant to the hinder end of the intruder.
Four days later we arrived at Maskat, where I joined H.M.S. Sphinx, the Persian Gulf gunboat carrying the Senior Naval Officer for those waters, at that time Commander Kemp.
Maskat lies on the Oman coast of Arabia, and is the capital of that province, the abiding-place of its Sultan. Although actually outside the Persian Gulf, it occupies So commanding a strategie position near the entrance that it always has, rightly, been considered as an integral part of the "command.” It is possessed of a strange and even diabolical picturesqueness. The harbour is a small bay-almost a cove—about a mile deep, and less than half a mile wide. It has a semicircular head, where, on 8 narrow lunette of flat ground, the white little town.
of Maskat lies jammed in between the sea, which bathes its very front doors, and a steep uprising of dark fantastic hills, which curve round immediately behind the city wall at the back. As you enter the bay in a ship, you find yourself shut in immediately, on both sides, by a tattered wall of deep brown precipices, utterly bare, utterly savage, springing suddenly from the coast-line. It seems as if you had been transported into the crater of a volcano, not only through the outward resemblance, but also by the temperature. Every breath of free oceanic air is excluded, and you expect to see slow wreaths of mephitic vapour arising from the exquisitely blue water. It is as hot as the mouth of hell, and has as easy an entrance!
At the head of the bay, dominating the town, on the right hand and on the left respectively, are two fortifications, Meráni and Jaláli by name, so strangely un-Eastern in appearance, indeed so authentically European and medieval that, in the midst of surroundings which epitomise Arabia, they seem to be of the stuff produced by enchantment. They were built by the Portuguese after their capture of Maskat in 1508, and, still untouched by time's rude hand, picturesquely defy the world from their hill-tops with battlements, machicolated towers, and curtain walls. In the centre of the front of the town is the Sultan's palace, and on the left, as you look at
it from the sea, is the British Residency, large, square, and white, pressing itself closely into the only gap in the crater wall of the bay-thus getting the first and best of every breath of air that wanders in, having lost its way at sea.
At first sight you wonder why this scene of baking desolation, of hunger, and of drought should ever have been fixed on by man to be his dwelling-place; still less, that it should have become a capital city, even of a desert. After a little search, however, you can distinguish at the back of the town, in a recess among the bare rocky knees of the hills, a fringe of date-palms; and around them there actually exist a few wells, which are made to produce a small area of fertility. The water is levered up to the surface by immense beams, supported on high fulcrums, and poured into the irrigation trenches. All night long you may hear the melancholy groanings and squeakings of these waterhoists. The noise is intentional, It lulls to sleep the owner of the gardens; but if at any time it should cease, the said proprietor uneasily awakens, and becomes conscious that the man in charge of the bullocks that work the lever machinery has himself sought repose. Then he arises in his wrath, and goes forth to find out why the-what thewho the-all in Arabic, a language more delicately adapted to bring calm to the angry soul than probably any other form of speech. Its neatness
praise. "Truly," say the happy possessors of this language, "God oreated three perfect things-the endurance of the camel, the speed of the horse, and the tongue of the Arab."
and inventiveness in providing Kishm, 450 miles distant, at satisfying insults is beyond the mouth of the Gulf. The hot weather, when no may work, was already rapidly approaching; and as soon as the Perseus appeared Maskat to relieve the Sphinx, we got away at once for the fulfilment of the above fairly "tall" orders, and arrived off the bar of the river on April 28th. A buoy is moored to mark the position of the bar, and we anchored near it. The land, which was twenty miles distant, is very low, so that there could be seen of it only a dim outline of miraged datepalms, where the village and fort of Fao stand at the actual river-mouth. We were not anxious that our presence should be known, and did nothing, therefore, in the way of saluting the Turkish flag, or even of appearing within sight of the fort, as, normally, would have been polite and necessary.
Besides the food - gardens, there is another reason for the existence of Maskat on its present foundations-namely, the security of the position. There is only one pass-way through the wild hills at the back, from the deserts beyond, by which Bedouin raiders can reach the little city-a narrow defile, narrow defile, whose course is marked by watch-towers; and there is a second road by the beach, also closely defended. As you lie, sweating, on your deck-mattress at night, dreamily oursing the insistently complaining water-hoists, there rises suddenly on your unrest a long and wavering howl, as of a lost soul in its endless agony. It ceases, and is responded to by a second, a third, a fourth, and others in decreasing faintness, like an ugly echo. It is the sentinels of Meráni and Jaláli, of the city walls, and of the hill-towers beyond, proclaiming to each other every hour that they watch, that Allah is in His heaven, and that all's right with the world.
My orders were to examine the whole of the Persian coast, beginning at the Shatt - alArab-"the Arab boundary" -namely, the channel by which the Tigris and Euphrates reach the sea-and to work eastwards and southwards, thence to the island of
Instead, we sailed early next morning, eastwards towards Bushire, the first harbour of any importance on the Persian coast, but with intention of "taking a look around" en route at a somewhat enigmatio inlet twenty-five miles eastward of Shatt - al-Arab, named on the chart as "Khor Musa."
The word "khor" stands in Arabie for a long and narrow creek leading in from the sea. Fissures of this nature are a fairly frequent geological feature of the shores of the Gulf. This khor was shown on the ehart in "peoked line"— a symbol indicating vagueness
and want of knowledge gener- stretched on all sides of us ally, but its course was in- & brown sandy plain, flat, dicated as a wide straight smooth, devoid of life, reaching channel five miles long, whieh everywhere to the horizon, then forked into two narrow except at one point to the and divergent gulleys, fading north-eastward, where at a into "nothing." It was not, great distance a shadowy from the chart, a very hope- mountain range lay faintly ful spot, and the surround- quivering against the pale ing country was stated to be hot sky. The tide rose; and "morass, covered with reeds." when, at the top of high-water, Nothing but a sheer sense of we looked forth, behold, we duty took me into it. Nor were at sea once more! The was Kemp, Captain of the vast sandy plain had all disSphinx, at all enthusiastic appeared under a skin of about crossing the sand - bar, water, which, oceanic as it for it was shown as having seemed, was in reality only over it only fifteen feet of a few inches deep. Every inwater; and this might have dieation of the two wide chanbeen much less for all the nels had disappeared, and no chart knew! However, he got landmark was left but a tiny the old ship over it safely, islet, close to the ship, on which and soon we were paddling some one had built a cairn along happily in deep water of stones. up the straight channel until we arrived at the spot where the khor forked off into two smaller channels, and here we anchored in eleven fathoms. I had by now begun to feel considerably more interested in the place; for, instead of the five-mile length given to the kher on the chart, we had already penetrated northward for nearly nineteen miles in from the sea! The water was still quite deep, and the two diverging arms could be seen stretching away before us for a great distance-one to the north-eastward and one to the westward. We seemed to have hit on a "soft thing" at the very beginning of our investigation!
The scene was a strange one. It was half-tide; and, at the level of our eyes there
The tide turned; and, as it fell, the dry land gradually appeared, as it may have done on Ararat what time the Ark grounded, and the courses of the khers slowly became more and more clearly indicated, until, at low water, there lay the Sphinx, in the stream-way of a great channel, flanked by firm steep banks, with the ship's hull sunk to a depth of ten feet below the flat land surface. The oairned islet had new become an inland hillock, inhabited by sea-birds. It was spring-time, and they were hospitably engaged in providing us with eggs for that, and for many subsequent breakfasts. They never wearied in well-doing, and were a great support to the expedition throughout our stay.
From these tidal experiences
we realised that it would be necessary to explore while the water was low enough to let us see the banks of the khors, 80 as to indicate to us their shape, and the direction in which we should steer. At high tide we should have been obliged blindly to grope our way over the surface of what was apparently an inland sea, seeking with sounding - lead and line for the deep channels. Accordingly, seizing a proper moment, we set forth for a preliminary exploration in the Sphinx's steam cutter, towing a light skiff astern in case of accidents. Equipped with sextant, chronometer, compass, and sounding-machine, not to mention lunch, we felt equal to any emergency. It was a day of amazement. The northeastward khor, which was the first to be examined, led us first for five miles to the northeast, and then for fifteen miles more to the eastward, up into the heart, as it seemed to us, of the province of Khuzistan. The average width between the banks was half a mile; the depths in the middle of the kher extraordinarily great -namely, between twenty-five and forty fathoms. At the point where, on that first day, we stopped in the boat, we still could see the main khor stretching away in fascination before us, all unknown, untravelled. On our left hand a subsidiary khor, coming from the westward, joined the one in which we were anchored in the beat, while on our right a great shoal lagoon spread out, glistening for miles in the
setting sun. Ahead of us, at apparently about five miles distance, we could see a little village, ringed round with datepalms, the course of the waterway leading to which was indicated by the masts of "dhows," large native boats, whose hulls lay out of sight, grounded at various positions along the khor. These were the first indications of human life that we had beheld. We sounded with lead - and -line from the boat all round our position, and found that there was good anchorage water for the Sphinx. We determined, therefore, to take the ship up there next day, and stuck a couple of poles we had brought with us into the soft sandy mud of the bank abreast, in order to mark the best position in which to moor.
The following morning, at low water, we paddled her up, and anchored her in spot, thirty-five miles from the open sea. This gave us a new point from which to explore; and presently the steam outter, with her attendant skiff, were got alongside the gangway, to be loaded with my surveying instruments. Gum-boots and beathook staves were added to the equipment, by the aid of which the steep banks of soft mud might be elimbed; for we had quite made up our minds to land and visit the village. The khor, we now discovered as we ran up it in the boat, went on for another five miles, tapering and shoaling, until it ended in a muddy trickle. Several branches ran inland from its